The subject of behavior has been addressed before in this column but it continues to pop up in discussions and observations of people and their pets.
Dog owners are frequently embarrassed and annoyed by their pet's behavior and it results in pets spending too much time in the back yard or dropped at the humane society's shelter. It is a subject worth repeating.
People allow behavior from their pet that is annoying until it finally gets to them and then they overreact and respond in a way that is too harsh and inappropriate -- or ineffective. Putting the dog out in the back yard is totally ineffective because the dog is banished from the family and has no idea why and has no way to know how to avoid this banishment in the future. With proper training, the dog knows what is appropriate behavior and if he does not obey the rules, he knows he risks banishment.
Often pet owners put up with unacceptable behavior because they do not know how to change it or they do not think it is correctable. Most every behavior is changeable -- whether for the better or the worse. We can train dogs to attack and fight other dogs. We can also train them to be wonderful companions.
Some feel that dogs are meant to be dogs and should simply be allowed to do dog things, totally their natural behavior. However, we have removed dogs from their wild environment. The things they did in the wild and the lessons they learned from the other members of the pack kept them busy and disciplined. Today our dogs are bored. They sit around the house, sometimes all by themselves, waiting for a meal or some attention from a human. They do not get enough exercise and some dogs never get the opportunity to run. And because they have not been trained, they misbehave.
Dogs love to learn, whether it be silly tricks or simple obedience. They love the time and attention from us that it brings. There are a few simple commands that all dogs should know and respond to. These are sit, down and stay. Whether you have one dog or several, these commands will bring order and peace to your household. You will appreciate it when the doorbell rings or you are sitting down to a meal. You give the command down/stay and all is quiet. If your dog or dogs are roughhousing in the middle of your living room, rather than send them away, insist on a down/stay.
Most dogs have been taught the sit and the down. The stay is a bit more of a challenge and might be taught more easily to one dog at a time for starters. Give the command to sit and stay and make him stay for just a few seconds. Praise him, give a treat and release him. Do the same with down/stay. Increase the length of the stay -- until he will stay five minutes. If he is on a sit/stay, he is not allowed to lie down or move so reserve this for short time periods. One should not ask a dog to sit for half an hour. If he moves, you must put him back into position. With one or several dogs, you have to keep your eyes on them until they get the idea that stay means stay until you release them. While you are preparing a meal or watching the news is a good time to practice this behavior. In order for the training to be effective, response must be immediate to each lapse. If one dog gets up, we must immediately put him back in place with the command -- down/stay. You must slowly build up to long stay. Do not forget to release and praise. Treats are always good to reinforce excellent behavior. Sliced and microwaved hot dogs are a tasty treat to keep on hand. However, it is not necessary to always give treats. It is very important to give praise.
Simple training gives our dogs the opportunity to please us and feel proud of themselves. That is what they live for. A well-behaved dog is always a welcome member of the family.
Remember Dog Day in the Park is this Saturday, Oct. 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Payson Off-Leash Dog Park across from the library in Rumsey Park. Bring your dog on leash for a day filled with fun, contests, games, entertainment, activities, food, arts and crafts, photo opportunities, dog art projects and much more.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.