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 doesn't get along with other dogs.
She doesn't like kids.
He pees in the house.
She pulls on the leash.
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.