The Third Annual Pet Fair is over for another year and seems to have been a success. It is wonderful to see all the young people with their dogs having a good time. The adults seem to have enjoyed themselves also.
As a final column for Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, the emphasis is on training. Whether you rescue a dog from the shelter, find one wandering in the street, which happens way too often in our neck of the woods, or buy a purebred dog from a breeder, they all need training. The more training they have, the better the bonding and the more they will become a part of the family.
This month's columns began with tips from Ken Desch. He stressed the importance of allowing shelter dogs a few weeks to settle in and learn the rules of our homes, and at the same time, including a training program, preferably in a class situation.
Ken made one extremely interesting comment during our visit. During the war years, dogs were trained quickly and sternly to work on the front lines with our soldiers. hey needed to be reliable. Choke chain collars were the accepted training device and jerk and pull were the common training methods. It seemed to be the only way. This trend lasted way too long.
When our ancestors were domesticating wolves, they lured them to the campfire with good smelling morsels of food. During the process of luring, the wolves gained confidence and trust in human beings. They loved the tasty morsels and came begging for more. Imagine trying to bring a wolf into the community using a choke chain and yelling and jerking. It would have been a painful and unsuccessful experience. Whether it be a shelter dog or a pup we purchase from a breeder, it is important to gain that confidence and trust. Luring is a proven way to do that. A tasty morsel will win them over every time. The dogs are happy and training time is fun. Ken emphasized that with luring, dogs are willing to do most anything we ask of them.
But what we ask must be made clear. As I watched the kids at the Pet Fair, I observed them sending confusing messages to their dogs. These kids are doing a great job and I commend them for the time they spend with their dogs. But they would enjoy a higher level of success and less confusion if they would adopt a few basic principles.
Tell and show the dog what you want him to do. Use a one word command. Be sure he understands what you are asking of him. When he does it, praise him profusely and give him some wonderful treat. For example -- We want the dog to lie down. We tell him lie down or down. When he jumps on us, we tell him "down." So what does down really mean? When we want to teach the dog to lie down, it is best to use one word -- down. We lure him into this down position and then tell him he is absolutely wonderful and give him a terrific treat. But then, when the dog jumps on us, we must use another word, like "off." What we want is not for him to lie down, but to not jump on us.
We do not realize how capable dogs are of learning words. When they are barking, instead of just saying "No," say "no bark". They soon will understand what you mean if you always follow through and insist that the barking stops. A rolled up newspaper slapped against a leg or tree helps make the dog realize that the barking is the behavior frowned upon. During house training, take the dog to the same spot in the yard and say, "go bathroom," or what ever, but keep it consistent. The dog will understand our words. Do you think your dog understands the words "go for a walk" and "Do you want to go for a ride in the car?" It becomes clear very quickly how well our dogs comprehend words.
So when you want your dog to speak, say "speak." And when you want your dog to stand on his hind legs, say, "high" or "beg" or some other word. But do not give the same signal and expect your dog to know what you are asking him to do.
Be sure that training sessions include play time. A ball on a rope is a great toy because you keep hold of the rope. Let the dog tug for a while, most dogs love to tug, and then work some more. Dogs are much more interested in training when they know there will be a play time. laytime and training build trust and confidence.
This ends Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month. But let us not forget those dogs, cats too. Let's work to eliminate them. Spay, neuter and make a lifelong commitment when adopting a dog and encourage your relatives, friends and neighbors to do the same. And then train the animal. Never stop training. Just like education, it continues throughout a lifetime.
Dog Day in the Park winners
Top Tail Wagger: first, Josie and Diane; second, Trout and Terri; third, Sheba and Deanna; fourth, Lucy and Sam.
Creative Costume winners were: first, Jessica and Gus; second, Sharon and Sadie; third, Mary and Ginger; fourth, Kendra and Angel.
Most Adorable Dog and Child: first, Sheba and Deanna; second, Charlie and Landan; third, Chichi and David; fourth, Milo and McKenzie.
Top Canine Vocalists: first, Sheba and Deanna; second, Gus and Jessica; third, Yak Yak and Laverne; fourth, Trout and Terri.
Clever Pet Trick Winners were: first, Sarah and Sadie; second, Jessica and Gus; third, David and Taffy; fourth, Kendra and Angel.
Tennis Ball Retrieve: first, Ira and Ginger; second, Kendra and Angel; third, Dottie and Denise; fourth, Clint and Ruby.
Musical Chairs: first, Clint and Ruby; second, Jessica and Gus; third, Christin and Baley; fourth, Sara and Lucy.
Costume Race winners were: first, Jessica and Gus; second, Kendra and Angel; third, Tyler and Mack; fourth, Hannah and Precious.
Jessica Ruttle and Gus won the Junior Obedience and top Junior Handler.