Who’s The Trainer In The Relationship, You or Your Pet?
Few things brings the gut reaction “What was I thinking?” more than a new puppy in the house.
There are enough naïve people in the world who take on puppies. I’ve always only taken in already grown dogs. With a dog, you know what you’re getting, and you can leap right into the relationship you expect to have, without the year or two of constant hassles a puppy brings.
Last month, I was asked to bring an abandoned puppy to the SPCA.OK, no problem. I agreed. I just had to last two days with that bumbling creature, whom I had no place to confine, the entire Sunday and Monday until the SPCA opened on Tuesday.
Then a miraculous thing happened. My dog and that puppy hit it right off. Rather than being bothered by a puppy, suddenly I was left alone by my clingy dog.
The family dog used to tug at our hands, arms and legs constantly for attention. The puppy provided it.
We gave it a week, then another. Then we bought the identification collar with the puppy’s name and our address on it.
However, by then the puppy was less shy, and she was getting bigger and clumsier, getting into scuffles with the cats and chewing our stuff.
Yet despite the hassles we experience daily with the puppy, there’s a shining truth behind it all that will make everything alright.
Dogs live to please, and they learn quickly. All we humans have to do is learn how to communicate with our dogs, and things run smoothly.
After all, think of service dogs and law enforcement K-9s. The dogs and their handlers get along very well because they have learned how to communicate with each other.
We’ve already figured our adult dog would make a great service dog. She is completely attentive and wants to play a role in whatever is going on. For example, when I am getting my daughter dressed in the mornings, our dog opens the hamper or reaches into the dresser, pulls out some clothes and brings them to us.
My 7-year-old had taken the dog-training camp this summer at the Spencer-Penn Centre, so she hit the ground running training the puppy. Books and YouTube videos give us the rest of the information we need.
Plenty of treats and praise work wonders, but so does something else: competition. Two dogs together learn faster and more intently than one dog alone, because each is motivated by the other.
Training doesn’t take long at all, just a few short minutes a couple of times every day. In one week, the puppy has learned what the older dog already does: Come, Sit, Lay Down and Stay (even when we walk away, out of her sight), both by words and hand signals.
Dogs are marvelous companions, but most people don’t capitalize on what the relationship can be. The teaching doesn’t take long. All it requires is consistency and small dog treats. Thanks to the library and the internet, it’s easy to learn how.
And sure, the puppy is a constant chewing machine. However, we look at the silver lining around that cloud.
The puppy also is training us — to keep our stuff picked up.
Holly Kozelsky writes for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at [email protected]