You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

FOCUS ON PETS

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Training makes such a difference in our relationship with our dog and in our dog's ability to fit in to our household. We can all imagine how it would be to live with a child who has never been taught any basic manners. How awful.

With a child, we cannot throw him out into the back yard or return him. With a dog, that is way too often what happens.

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Every dog and owner should take part in a basic obedience class. Lori Chandler and Margie Mansell will teach the classes at the Humane Society. Working on the basics here are, from left, Karen Flocker with Spice, Paul Lange and Roz, Margie and John Lange with Gibson.

Dogs are turned into the humane society because they are said to be untrainable. Rarely is it the dog's fault. It is just that nobody has ever taken the time to work with him. Basic obedience is one of the responsibilities that comes with adopting a dog.

Basic obedience should begin the day you bring the new puppy or adult dog into your home. The Payson and Pine libraries have several good basic training books. One of my favorites is "How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With" by Rutherford and Neil, which is available at the Payson Public Library. Although this is geared for new puppy owners, the information works for dogs of all ages. Naturally, with a puppy, you will take baby steps but an adult dog may have had no prior training. Take it one step at a time. Patience is key. Puppies and untrained adult dogs can quickly learn to sit and lie down on command, especially if the treats are tasty and plentiful.

Training should be fun. Treats should be wonderful, small and not require chewing. I use fresh liver, which I boil and cut into bitty bites. But hot dogs work well also. Thinly slice them, cut them in half and microwave for as long as necessary to get them just a little crispy.

Many have asked about dog obedience classes and suddenly there are several in Payson. Except for puppy classes, dogs should be six months old and have all their shots before being with a group of other dogs. But there is no top age.

The myth that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks is not only false but deprives those older guys of the chance to have fun and new challenges. Dogs of any age love to learn and receive that individual attention. Give those mature dogs a chance. They will surprise you.

There are three obedience classes getting under way. One is at the Payson Humane Society and begins soon. Call the Humane Society for more information. Payson Parks is also offering an obedience class this spring. Call them for information. Payson Feed runs classes throughout the year. Stop by or call.

Before signing up for an obedience class, you should consider your expectations. Do you eventually want to compete in AKC obedience? Would you like to be able to take your dog to schools, libraries and senior centers and be active with pet therapy? Or do you simply want a nice dog that will come when you call him and sit and stay while you welcome guests into your home. Know your expectations and then seek out the class to meet those needs. If possible, observe a class ahead of time. But if that is not possible, once you are in the class, make sure the methods used are comfortable for you. If not, find another class.

Remember, training should be fun.

Taking part in an obedience class requires a commitment, not only for class time but also for practice time. Fifteen minutes a day can make a big difference but several short sessions throughout the day are best. You can work on the sits, downs, heels and stays as part of your daily walk. A short session before mealtime, featuring tasty treats, is also good.

Rally, agility, flyball and musical freestyle are some of the terrific activities available to people and their pets. Hopefully, we will have some of these available in this area soon. But before taking part in any of these, the dog must have the basics. A good "sit," "down," "stay" and a fairly decent "heel" are necessary.

The dog needs to pay attention to you. Sign up for a basic obedience class. You will begin to discover how much fun you can have with your dog.

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