Puppy training requires incentive, for the long haul.
A wild turkey was stranded in my yard while the rest of his flock was moving on. What does this have to do with puppy training you might ask? Read on, you’ll see.
This wild bird paced back and forth along the fence line as I watched through my kitchen window, trying to figure out how to get over the fence to be with them. They can fly, yet this bird wasn’t connecting the dots to get himself over the 4′ fence to join the group. Was he hurt? It’s early morn and the fence is new to them, put up only 2 days ago so is the confusion holding him back, is a wing damaged? He’s frantically pacing so his legs are fine… then what? Why won’t he just fly over the fence and be done with it? The pacing is causing such stress you’d think he’d just get over the damn fence but he’s stuck, in his mind, that is.
I watch a little longer as his flock is now out of sight so I figured I’d see if I could give him a little incentive. I open the door to let the dogs out knowing they’d see him and go for the hunt. Sure enough, they see him and off they go. Within a second the turkey is up and over the fence, off to join his flock.
I purposely chose to let the dogs out knowing the outcome yet what struck me is how similar this birds nature is to our own with regard to dogs. How often do we struggle with an unwanted behavior with our dogs only to have us live in worry, stress and frustration when doing the right thing is right there in front of our face? What is this phenomena? Why do we wait until the last minute or for something bad to happen for us to get the incentive to do something about it?
I’m not sure there is an answer to this query but I think it’s worth delving into because so many dogs are given up because the incentive wasn’t strong enough to take on the challenge until it’s often too late.
These issues: jumping, chewing, digging, barking, pulling on the leash and the list goes on are only issues because doggie guardians don’t take the raising of a puppy seriously enough, somehow thinking that their puppy will just grow up and grow out of it, right? WRONG! Puppies need guidance, nurturing, and training. Without these critical elements they develop issues that drive people crazy until they can’t take it any more. That’s when he finally bites someone, knocks someone over, runs into the street getting hit by a car and voila, the incentive is there but the damage has been done and now there’s much undoing to do.
What will it take for the dog culture to instill the incentive of early puppy training in new guardians?
It seems that accountability is at stake here. We must come together as a community of dog lovers and start being accountable for the sake of the dog not our pocketbook. This is a tremendously loaded statement because it speaks to breeders, shelters, veterinarians, trainers and dog training schools to step up to the plate in terms of education, as it truly is our responsibility.
Definition: Incentive: a thing that encourages or motivates one to do something
This then is the dilemma, eh? If our collective incentive were to be about the welfare of dogs there wouldn’t be overpopulated shelters, designer dogs, abusive training equipment, trainers arguing over which or whose method is best, etc.
NO, we would come to the table in the name of DOG and say YES let’s put the dog first and check our ego and purse at the door. There are many of us who are doing this already yet we need more of us and I know you’re out there. So, if you are reading this, share it and share it wide. We are their voice and their only hope.
Ways to help:
- Volunteer at a shelter but don’t just volunteer. Speak up if you see abuse. Demand a training program if there isn’t one already, making sure that a qualified person is heading the training program. Trained dogs are easier to place. Good incentive, right? You betcha.
- Ask your veterinarian if they have seen the new guidelines for canine and feline behavior from the AAHA. If not, ask them to check it out.
- Ask your local shelter to make an outdoor area where dogs can get out and play with each other reducing the stress making dogs more adoptable. Find out about Dogs: Playing for Life program.
- Ask your vet if they know about low stress handling and if not if they’ll take courses to learn and get certified.
- Don’t buy designer dogs.
- Learn to read dog body language so you can speak their language. They don’t understand ours so might as well learn theirs. Dog Decoder smartphone app about dog body language, ready when you need it.
- Purchase from reputable and ethical breeders and find out what that means.
- Better yet adopt a dog.
- Learn about babies and puppies before you get a puppy. Family Paws Parenting Education is a great resource.
- Bring education about dogs into your elementary school. The Dog Decoder smartphone app is a great, fun and easy way to teach children about how to read dog body language so they don’t get bitten. Ask your principal to make it part of the curriculum.
- Ask your children’s museum to bring dog body language education to their program. Dog Decoder is being used in many children’s museums already. See if yours wants to add it to their program. Kids love it.
- Teach children and puppies how to play appropriately and get help with Doggone Safe.
- Stop your pet store from selling puppies. They are supporting Puppy Mills.
- Do your due diligence when hiring a trainer.
- Do your due diligence when going to a dog training school. Look at their curriculum. Compare many schools before choosing which is best for you.
- Report any abuse; neglect, physical and emotional. Don’t turn a blind eye.
- Ask your dog day care facility if they have been trained in dog body language and if not show ask them to get certified by The Dog Gurus and get the Dog Decoder smartphone app a great learning tool in the palm of your hands ready when you need it. Make sure the staff is well equipped with the app even after they get certified with The Dog Gurus.
- Get involved any way you can and…
If you are reading this and have more to add to this list please feel free, in the comments section. We’re all in this together.