Sunday, January 15, 2012

Blog the Change, January 15 2012

Blog the Change (for animals) is something that I've been thinking about doing since I heard of it, but I wasn't sure what cause I was going to champion. I mean, thematically, I'm all into Dobermans here, but it doesn't mean I feel every household is suited for them. I'm anti Puppy Mill, but not actively spearheading anything against them, and I do applaud the people who do. Especial congrats go the Republic of Ireland, who just this month strengthened their laws regarding commercial breeding in an attempt to eradicate them.

But no, my cause is training. Sounds kind of minor and silly, right? To a lot of people, "trained" means your dog doesn't poop or pee in the house. To other people, "trained" means your dog will gait around the show ring with them and stand to be judged, hopefully garnering points towards a Championship. To other people, a trained dog is the difference between whether they feel able to leave their house, put on their sneakers, anticipate a seizure, ride out Post Traumatic Stress.

I'm having a difficult time finding the actual statistic, but I've heard in various places that the number one reason dogs are turned into shelters and subsequently euthanized in the United States is behavioral problems.

He won't stop jumping up.
She won't stop chewing.
He growled.
She snapped.
He doesn't get along with other dogs.
She doesn't like kids.
He pees in the house.
She pulls on the leash.
He barks.
She has too much energy.

Can every single dog in the world be "fixed" by training? I'm not qualified, really, to say yes or no to that. Can a whole lot of "broken" dogs be fixed by training, or could they have never been "broken" in the first place if their humans were trained to listen to them and work on their behavior together? Oh yes.  A dog who is worked on in obedience style commands, and even just household manners, is more likely to be a dog that's a pleasure to be around. She's a dog more likely to have the behavioral tools to deal with the things going on around her. Did I teach Elka to lay down when kids approach? No. Does she do it sometimes anyway, on her own? Yes, and it's endeared her to several parents who were obviously uncertain about this upcoming potential interaction. 

I see (and hear) many dogs who I think seem to be lacking in training, and stimulation. They bark. They pull on their leashes and dart around and bark, and never look at their owners. The owners never give them any cues (that I can see or hear), or talk to them in any way. They instead look embarrassed (or not) and say things like "I can't stop him" or "that dog would eat you in one bite" (meaning Elka). Elka has certainly had her pulling days, I assure you, and I imagine will have some again. But "freak on a leash" doesn't really apply to her anymore either.

A dog without training is a dog without mental exercise. A dog without exercise, physical or mental, is a bored dog. A bored dog is a destructive, frustrating dog who drives you crazy with whining and barking and chewing and getting into what she should not. Through the cold, Elka and I haven't really been getting on our walks; as a direct result, Elka has been whining more, and picking up things off of the coffee table, and pacing around. That kind of thing. A peanut butter Kong or Monster mouth helps with that, directly. A laser pointer is a fun way to blow off some of her energy, and for me to get some laughs. 

A trained dog is a pleasure to be around, and one who your friends and family enjoy as well. A trained dog has a home for life. Isn't that what we all want? A home for every dog? Keep dogs out of shelters; teach them how you want them to live in your house, and share your life.


  1. Thank you - one reason I keep my dog sanctuary small is to be able to do at least basic training with everyone. All sit before they get a treat or pet. Most know to go their crate for meals. Training is over-looked in the hoopla of bringing a dog home and it needs to start from the get-go.
    Having said that, I believe it but don't always practice it, either.

  2. I saw a guy practically choking his dog today to keep him from lunging at my dog. I couldn't go near him but I just wanted to shout: bring some treats, distract him, make him sit. He clearly loved the dog, in spite of the way that he was trying to control him, but I kept thinking this can't end well...

    Thanks for this post.

  3. "A dog without training is a dog without mental exercise. A dog without exercise, physical or mental, is a bored dog. A bored dog is a destructive, frustrating dog who drives you crazy with whining and barking and chewing and getting into what she should not."

    This is so true. It makes me feel guilty, I need to do more training with my Sheltie...I just don't have the time sometimes. He also doesn't get enough exercise but he NEVER wants to take walks!

  4. Oh Jen! Training is NOT such a little thing!

    You are right, dogs do get turned in for behavior issues that could have been resolved with exercise and TRAINING. I wish more people understood how important training is really is to having a healthy relationship with your dog. Dog training shows are popular for a reason.

    People are starving for the info, but don't know where to go or what to do. In fact, if you get a chance, check out Leo's post on Kenzo the Hovawart's blog. He shares a video of a dog that was facing being imprisoned for months and possibly death if not for a group who worked to train him.

    I think your Blog the Change is perfect! it is definitely a need and something you, I and many others are passionate about. This one BIG thing could make such a huge difference.


  5. I agree with Mel - your choice, training, is so very important, and so very lacking in many households. With guidelines on how to behave, dogs would be far less likely to end up in shelters. It's no easy task, though, for the average person, without quality information on how they can help their dog. Thanks so much for all you do!

  6. You've hit the nail on the head Jen. Oh I can't even count the number of classified ads I come across in the paper
    each day with the excuses you stated above.

    I only wish I had the time to teach these people how easily the dog's "faults" can be corrected.

    I had to laugh at your laser pointer comment. I'm doing the same with Kyuss as of late. Right now it's -28°C (-18.4°F) outside. Poor Kyuss doesn't even want to go out to pee haha.

    I think you must film Elka chasing the red dot. XD

  7. When it comes to improving the lives of animals, I have come to learn nothing is too small or unimportant. Something that sounds as simple as teaching a dog to sit or to tolerate having his paws touched, can be huge. There are so many dogs suffering right now, just because their humans don't know how to train them. It's tragic. The answers would appear right front of them if they'd just look.

    How did you get Elka to chase the laser? My cat loves that game but my dog would rather bite at the object in my hand. She doesn't seem to even notice the light on the floor.

  8. It's the most obvious points that are adhered to the least. The answer truly is simple, isn't it? In a culture where instant access is everywhere, people have lost the concept of investing time, and really that's what training is about.

    Investing time saves lives in many ways, whether paying attention to safety, offering kindness, alleviating boredom, showing we care. This applies to dogs, people and even the environment. Thanks for reminding us of these things, especially when it comes to sparing beautiful pets from being unwanted.

    Kim C.

  9. I see so many owners who are teaching their dogs all the wrong things. I'm amazed at how quickly my dogs were able to understand the words i said to them. I talk to them all the time and if they don't know the words, they at least know the meaning I am conveying to them. Great Post.

  10. I think what you said about a bored dog being destructive and frustrating is also true for just about any animal. People get pets and then don't want to spend time with them - playing with them, training them, interacting with them. Companion animals are social animals - they need daily interaction - and like children, they will misbehave just to get attention, any attention. Many behavior problems that cause companion animals to end up in shelters could be alleviated by simply spending more time with your pet and giving acceptable outlets for their natural behaviors.

  11. Great post - training is so important!

  12. @ Roberta: I'm sure the dogs in your sanctuary appreciate you...I don't know that all of us are "good" at training ALL the time, but a lot of what we do works better than what we see others not doing.

    @Edie I see that once in awhile, and it makes me sad :( I was also at a store once and heard a customer ask an employee "Where are the collars that I use to choke my dog?"

    @Caren and Cody Never wants to take walks? What does he like to do? Maybe ball-herding would work!

    @melf Thanks so much! I meant "small" in that, a lot of we "dog people" don't think about it, but the "lay person" might not be able to understand how training could save and improve a dog's life. Or at least I think that's how I meant it? ^^

  13. @Kim Thanks! Spreading the availability of information is in my job description!

    @pennypup I see those excuses in Craigslist all the time (my fiance would prefer I not look at the doggy Craigslist ads) and it's hard not to reply to every one with "You know, you could try...."

    @Kristine Elka is funny in that she knows the laser comes from that thing in your hand. But she wants to chase it anyway. In fact, as soon as the pointer is present, she starts pouncing around on the floor without the button being clicked at all. It might also help that if she looks at the pointer, we turn it off and the game is over...I don't want to teach her to stare into lights/lasers, and hurt her eyes.

    @Kim C You're welcome, and thank you, as well, for your thoughtful comment!

    @Jan It's nice to be of the people who talk to their dogs, isn't it? I really feel like it helps with comprehension and training as well!

    @Vicki I think that a lot of people really underestimate just how social dogs are. They want to be with YOU. All the time. It's hardwired for them, and the boredom, and stress, just dont' seem to be acknowledged by a lot of pet owners.

    @Pup Fan Thank you!