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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Seeking help is the first step

Watching a re-run of "Grey's Anatomy" last night got me thinking about dogs of my past. The episode was an early one, where the interns decide to adopt a dog from the animal shelter. They subsequently realize that none of them has time, inclination, or knowledge to train the dog, so they make the wise decision to send him to another home.

When I was in college, I got a St. Bernard puppy. Stupid me. I had no business owning a dog of any kind. I thought St. Bernards were "cute," and that a puppy would cure the loneliness and hurt I felt from strained relations with my parents. For several months I loved that puppy to pieces, and tried to make it work. But I didn't know about crates, or cleaning dog poop out of a yard, or how to groom him, exercise him, or feed him. I didn't even understand the importance of neutering. It became increasingly difficult for me to find places to live that would accept such a dog, and I had precious little time to devote to him. So I gave him to some friends who lived in the country.

At 19 years of age, I simply wasn't ready for "parenthood."
Decades later, when I was a professional dog trainer and my dog knowledge became second-nature, I had to keep reminding myself that many of my students were as ignorant about dog ownership as I had been at age 19. But they were smarter; they were, for the most part, older than 19, they realized their ignorance, and were seeking the knowledge by coming to me.
There are millions of folks still out there who never seek training, and simply give up and dump the dog on someone else. If they don't have the time to begin with, that's probably okay. But if they truly want to live harmoniously with this dog, they need dog-parenting education. There really is more to having a dog than rescuing it, buying a leash, collar and bowl, and taking the dog for morning walks. It takes knowledge, practice, and a lot of commitment.

If you know someone who's thinking about getting a dog....or recently got one and is floundering with training and behavior issues...encourage them to seek a good dog trainer. Dog training classes don't cost much when you compare them to the price of a new rug or new blinds to replace the ones a new dog just destroyed in your absence.

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