A couple of months ago, my client, Jennifer, rescued a 4-year-old neutered male Lab/Pit mix named Max. It made me so happy for them both. Jen gave herself a priceless gift and at the same time, gave an abandoned dog a truly loving home. What could be a more wonderful, life-affirming action? And, Jen started out by taking her new responsibilities very seriously. She feeds Max twice a day, sees that he gets at least four good walks every day, and plays with him as much as possible. She couldn’t be a better guardian.
However, I know that many times, when I outline an initial plan of training and activities for new, or even experienced, dog owners who have come to me for guidance, they are put off by the amount of “work” they perceive care will involve. As I explain and show them the way Jen practices with Max, I aim to drive home that training your dog doesn’t have to usurp your life. In fact, lessons are best learned and are most easily followed when you incorporate them into your daily activities. Keep it simple!
Feeding and taking walks both present excellent opportunities to practice exercises like Sit and Stay. Early on, Jen realized how important it would be to have a well-trained dog, especially with one who is part Pit Bull. Teaching Max basic manners in order to build a strong foundation of obedience and trust was part of her plan from the beginning. She knew it would be essential to combat the disproportionate stereotyping of Pits, and that having the best behaved, sweetest, playful boy was the most convincing way to help people see Max for who he really is.
I helped Jen learn how to make training exercises fun and meaningful. Max is such a wag-a-doodle, always enthusiastic at the wonderful newfound affection and attention he gets, and he’s super excited when he knows it’s time for a walk. So right away, I taught Max to Sit when being leashed. Then, he learned to sit while waiting for the elevator and to sit once inside the elevator. Those simple steps helped Max learn to focus even when he’s excited, and they helped Jen maintain her ability to control him. Max also learned that when they’re outside walking, if Jen stops at a corner, he sits. Simple, right? But such effective tools for instilling a lifetime of good behavior.
After Max began mastering his sitting lessons, we began to work on Stay. Stay teaches Max to hold a particular position until he’s given permission to release. Again, learning Stay helps him focus and it acts as an intervention in case Max’s excitement gets too overwhelming. As Max does well with each stage of learning Stay, Jen rewards him with either a treat, a toy, or with loving strokes and praise. Not only did Max learn his lessons quickly — he’s smart as a whip — he is one happy pup!
So, simply put, I say, keep it simple when training a dog! Each of these lessons utilizes the daily activities that you invariably need to incorporate into your dog’s life, but they are most easily practiced and learned when incorporated into daily life. Like Jen, if you keep it simple, you’ll never have to worry about finding enough time to work endlessly on training your dog, because the more you incorporate techniques that teach dogs what is expected of them in actual life situations, the better behaved they become. Lessons simply become a part of life’s daily routines.
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.