Dog Training: An Endurance Test at Any Age
by Bonnie Sweebe
In this month’s issue of Your Dog, a newsletter from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, columnist Betty Liddick asks:”How Has Your Dog Trained You?”
Her column speaks to the issue of wonder dogs who excel at training and comprehend hundreds of words. It also speaks to the average dog owner who does not regularly train their dog.
In fact, their dogs train them. We’ve all had those days.
Like training a child well, training a dog well is an endurance test. Sometimes stubborn and oftentimes manipulative, dogs possess endless stamina for doggie interests, yet at times show little staying power for droning commands like “sit” or “come” sans a Scooby snack.
Forget the wonder dog. For me, a well behaved dog most of the time would suffice.
So how do we make progress with our dogs? Consistency and fortitude. We do our very best to endure and train right through their stubborn periods. We take our furry kids to classes. We practice what we learned at home. Then we end all training sessions on a positive note with the dog being successful. Sensible advice.
Now back to reality. We’re only human. We cave in. Sometimes, we surrender the car keys just to end the match, so to speak.
This can start at an early age. I remember Skye, my golden retriever, at three months old. To keep her quiet at night, I’d fill a puppy Kong with peanut butter. She’d lick it until she’d fall asleep–a win/win situation until we had to travel out of town and Skye had a sleepover at the breeder’s house.
It was like having a child all over again! Toys, blanket, crate and feeding instructions.
Skye was in the back of our minds during the entire trip. When we finally returned and picked her up, we were so thrilled to see her that we forgot to take home the Kong! (Flashback to the time my son lost Winnie-the-Pooh somewhere in K-Mart after closing.) Yowsers!
Of course we didn’t realize this until late at night when we were ready to put Skye to bed. Yes, the puppy whined throughout the night. Yes, we woke up every time she did. But we were determined to break this habit. We refused to rescue her.
The next day, we were exhausted.
In the afternoon, when the breeder called saying that Skye left her Kong and that it might be a few days before we received it in the mail, we didn’t worry. We had already purchased a new one.
In that “I lost my pacifier” moment of weakness, the dog had trained me!
But I suppose it was somewhat of a teachable moment. A few days later, the mail arrived. She had two Kongs.
Has your dog trained you? Feel free to share your story in the comment section below.
Bonnie Sweebe is a dog lover, dog owner, dog advocate, and rescue and service dog volunteer. She is also the owner of WelcomePup.com, an online dog gift delivery company.