The other day I received a call from a couple who was completely stressed out about adopting a dog. Waiting until they felt ready, they’d researched, consulted with breeders, and considered several rescues. But the more they looked, the more daunting it seemed. How to make a good choice or to know what was important about that choice? Should the dog be big or small? Would he bark and disturb their neighbors? Would she fit their lifestyle? What about if they decided to have a child in the future? As they barraged me with questions, I could feel their mounting anxiety.
But the truth is, their call made my day. While their perplexity isn’t all that unusual for new adopters, their willingness to educate themselves before bringing a new dog home is a rarity. They presented an absolutely wonderful opportunity. Here are people who want to make a commitment to a relationship that could last 15+ years and they really cared about making the best, most informed choice they could. Bringing home a good match is not only good for them, it gives the new adoptee the best possible chance at being happy in this new home, for life. I’m absolutely delighted to help them relax and figure out what types of dogs they should focus on finding.
I’m a teacher, dog trainer, and animal behaviorist. I teach people how to train their cats and dogs. My goal is to encourage people and show how obtainable it is to build a strong foundation, one that provides well-mannered, happy dogs and cats, harmonious homes, and the lifelong relationships that come from love and mutual respect. The techniques I use are straightforward and simple, and I strive to educate, motivate, and communicate, while sharing as much useful information as possible.
When it comes to initially educating themselves about their animals, what I often find is that people actually feel embarrassed. They think they should somehow already know how to train a dog. They think they should automatically be able to communicate, be understood, and get the response they want. They don’t realize that training is a learning process for both human and animal!While it’s true that a few people do well on their own, much more often than not, most don’t. Invariably, the result is a very frustrated caretaker and a stressed, unhappy dog. Our shelters are overflowing with dogs who were once adorable — for a few months, then they grew up without real training and “became too much to handle.”
So, when faced with a dog guardian who is dubious about learning techniques and structures that will give their dog his or her basic training, I quickly try to allay their apprehension. Sometimes, I put things into a perspective that’s easier for some to relate to: would you have the same hesitation about educating yourself if that process involved proven, surefire, successful techniques in bringing up your children? We all want happy, well-adjusted kids who are confident in their self-expression yet who behave appropriately. Well, that’s what I want for your animal!
And I know it’s obtainable. With a good teacher and the basis of patience, practice, and praise, pretty much anyone with the will can master dog training. In exchange for your investment in the process, by the way, you’ll find enormous amounts of fun, the reclaimed enjoyment of real “play,” and more than a few instances of unadulterated joy. And, your happy, well-adjusted, well-behaved, and loving animal will be the lifelong proof of your effort.
About the Author
Revered by a long list of four-legged clients and their appreciative caretakers, Sharon Mear is recommended by leading veterinarians, animal care professionals, and organizations throughout New York City. A certified Canine Behaviorist and Trainer, her Manhattan-based practice, Training Cats and Dogs, has been in operation since 2001.