Wednesday, March 3, 2010


There are many reasons why we should teach our canine companions good manners. Now I’m talking about the most basic commands of obedience training like “come, sit, down, stay, etc.” You don’t have to teach your dog to roll over or jump through hoops if you don’t feel like it. But in order for you to live with him and in order for him to interact with people that come to your home, these most basic of commands are a “MUST!”

Like many of you that bought your first German Shepherd, I took my girl to obedience school. She was a lively happy puppy, but like all puppies she loved to jump all over me and anyone else that I invited in to my home. I may have thought it was cute, but I can assure you that my company did not. Just because we choose a dog in our lives doesn’t mean that other people when they visit us wants them to slobber all over them. It’s like having an unruly child that a parent doesn’t have control over. Many people don’t want to come to your house anymore or invite you to theirs until you get some kind of control over your child. The same thing holds true for a dog. The “love me, love my dog” motto just doesn’t fit for most people.

I only own three dogs…….all lovely “ladies!!!” Well in reality they are lovely to look at, but only one of them is obedience trained. She’s my house dog. I put a lot of time in to her and taught her the basic commands of obedience training and like most German Shepherds she learned very quickly. One thing I notice about this breed. If you teach them something, they always remember it. You may not give them a certain command for months, and then all of a sudden you do, and they remember it. I trained her to know hand signals as well.

Now her two daughters are another story all together. I probably could write a book about them, and especially one of them. They are wild, hyper “nut cases!” (And I do say that with a lot of love)! However, they are without doubt the most uncontrollable of any dogs that I’ve ever owned. Now it’s not their fault that they misbehave so much. They don’t have any obedience training as their mother has had except for the command to sit. And that’s because they want a treat. They sit…..they get the treat. Ask them to sit when I don’t have a treat to give them, well it’s like they’re saying….”No treat… sit!” Anyway, it’s my fault. I’ve got to put more time into training them, but “Oh my aching back hurts just thinking about it!!!”

Besides having a peaceful environment to coexist with our animals, there are other reasons to put the time into doing basic obedience work with your dogs. The most important one is for safety. I believe that the most important obedience command that you can teach your dog is the command to “come!” This can literally mean the difference between life and death. If you teach him one thing, teach him to come to you when you call him. This may prevent him from running out in the street and getting hit by a car. This may prevent him from running after the neighbor’s cat. It may prevent him from going after another dog. As I said, this could be a life safer for your dog, yourself and any other animals or people that may be involved.

Then I think after the command to “come,” the next most important thing you can teach your dog is the command “No, or don’t touch.” Again this can be a life safer. If your dog is going after something that may be dangerous for him teaching him “no or don’t touch” could save his life.

Teaching your dog to “sit” is another important command. This can prevent him from jumping up on you or other people. This command can be followed by the command to teach him to lie down but using the word, “down.” These commands like all commands teach him that before you reward him with a treat that he has to earn it.

I also like to teach my dogs the command to “stay.” This teaches him that he can’t always go every place that you go. You can teach him this command for short periods of time at first and then lengthen the time you command him to stay in one place.

Teaching your dogs the basics of obedience doesn’t mean you want to put him in obedience trials (although that is certainly something that can be fun for you and your dog). What it means is that you want to be able to live peacefully with your dog. A well behaved dog is a joy to live with. Unruly, uncontrolled dogs are not. Just ask me what that’s like with two of my girls!

We are living with one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs and this means that they have the capacity to learn just about anything that we teach them. That’s the important word….teach! If we don’t teach them, then how the heck do we expect them to behave? They don’t!

Uncontrolled dogs are no fun to be around. You lose your temper. You scream and shout. They still run around like a wild animal because they’re doing what an untrained dog does. They’re having a party doing just about anything that they please. Up on the counters, up on the stove, in to the garbage, knocking over things……in other words total chaos! You grab another Excedrin for headache #888! Out the door they go with a few choice curse words…..until the next time and it’s a repeat performance of before. Oh my bad……my bad!!!

The ideal time to train a dog is when he is a puppy. If you teach him early in life, he’ll grow up to be a good adult dog. Does this mean that you can’t teach an old dog a new trick? No it doesn’t. You can teach a dog to learn something new at any age. However, remember that dogs are creatures of habit and once he gets into a bad habit, it’s that much harder to train him away from that which he already knows and does. But it can be done with much persistence on your part.

Oh I poke fun at myself, but I know I have to get serious and implement some of the things that I wrote about here if I ever want to make good “canine citizens” of my two uncontrollable fur kids. Oh their mother was so much easier!

I’ve heard some show dog people say they don’t want to break their dog’s spirit by obedience training him. They feel that they will ruin their dog’s attitude by obedience training him. That’s a lot of nonsense in this writer’s opinion. Either your dog is born with “attitude” or showmanship (energy and exuberance) or he’s not. This is not something that you can make him be. Either he has it or he doesn’t. Training him won’t destroy his spirit unless you are punishing him when you’re training him. Keep it fun and he’ll enjoy the rewards that you give to him. Many champion dogs are also obedience titled champions as well. This is a dog that can do it all!

There are different ways that your dog can learn basic obedience commands. You can teach him yourself. You can take him to obedience classes. Many local dog clubs offer these classes to their members. Also sometimes these classes are offered through an adult education class. If you don’t have the time to teach your dog his commands, you can always hire a professional that will do it for you. I also know that some places like the store “Petsmart” offers basic obedience classes for your dog. So no matter which way you want to do it, there really is no excuse to own and live with an untrained dog. You owe it to yourself, your dog and anyone else that comes in contact with you and your animal. Train your dog and everyone will be happy!

From the book: "Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog" Pat B. Miller Positive Perspectives covers a lot of helpful ground. You'll learn how dogs think and learn, puppy training including house training, basic training, preventing problems, and more. No yelling needed--just manage your dog's behavior to prevent him from doing the wrong things. When your dog is doing the right thing, reward him for it. It can be a challenge to figure out how to make the behaviors you want more rewarding than the behaviors you don't want. Positive Perspectives will help you learn how while you and your dog both have fun doing it. Positive Perspectives will show you: How management works in the world of dogs. One thing that prevents 75% of all problem behavior before it happens. Which leashes and collars create behavior problems and which ones don't. Why clicker training is so popular and effective. A toy no doggie household should be without.

My rating: teaching basic obedience commands: (4), living with unruly dogs: (1)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Barbara, So funny you should write this today. I just made my husband a sandwhich. I went into the kitchen and was going to put his dish in the sink. I asked if he was done and he told me he hadnt even started. Well I said I quess Genny just ate your sandwhich and is finishing off the popcorn. You just cant trust your dog now a days!! LOL.

    Sue Marchini