How is it that you asked Santa for a dog and he brought you a shoe chewing, jumping, Tasmanian Devil? All you wanted was a cute snuggly family dog. If you have reached the realization that you are over your head with your new dog and are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, you are not alone. Owner surrenders spike at animal shelters after Christmas.
The story often sounds like this: the dog escapes all the time, it jumps on everyone, you thought you could take it for walks but it won’t walk on a leash without pulling your arm out of the socket. It ate all of the new shoes the kids got for Christmas and now the dog is in the backyard digging up everything. You’re at your wits end. You have a busy family and there is just no time to get this new dog under control. Don’t despair, we have some good news. It takes less than 10 minutes a day to turn your dog into a behaved, loved family member. Really 10 minutes. You can give the dog the 10 minutes you were supposed to be working out…c’mon you know you have already stopped going to the gym. Take the dog for a walk and kill to bird with one stone.
But in all seriousness, we have some pretty compelling arguments for why you SHOULD take 10 minutes a day for a few weeks to work with your dog. People who have untrained dogs tend to let the dog make decisions. No, no, no. It’s a dog – they lick themselves and eat cat poo, they should not be in charge! Seriously, this is a very dangerous premise from everything from the dog getting loose, to playing with the family kids, to greeting other dogs and other people on walks. You should always be in charge. Training your dog with some simple commands is easy and effective and will allow you to be in charge at all times. It will teach your dog to look to you for guidance and direction.
Hand in hand with training, there are several things that make for better owners and neighbors when it comes to companion animals. Understanding how these things all build on each other to create an environment where your dog can succeed and both your pet and your family can be safe and happy is important. The things we will cover in this blog include:
- Come on command – your building block for controlling your dog
- The importance of leash laws and confinement laws
- Fence tips and tricks
- How to prevent dog bites
- How to safely interact with dogs and kids
- How spay and neuter prevents dog bites
- Doggie body language – know what your dog is trying to tell YOU
- Puppy training tips
- Behavioral and training resources
The good news is that the amount of training information now available online is unbelievable. There is something for every learning style. Dr Sophia Yin has some easy to follow steps and video for all kinds of basic training and behavioral issues. Training a dog to sit, stay, and come on command is super easy to do with a little focused time a few days a week. It is very important to get your dog to sit and to come on command for many reasons – starting with being able to safely open your front door.
Make sure your dog is confined or leashed- it’s the law:
Let’s start with a dog getting loose. If your dog is an escape artist, letting the dog decide to run through the neighborhood and come home “when it feels like it” is dangerous. Please do not get frustrated with the dog and have the complacent attitude that the dog will come back. That is probably true, but while the dog is out loose your dog can cross a road and cause a car accident (and kill someone), it can kill a cat, get in a dog fight, approach and be aggressive with someone who is simply walking their pet, it can jump on an elderly lady and knock her down, or the dog can be run over and injured or killed. You really have no idea what your dog is doing while it is running the neighborhood – we have seen all of these things happen.
Ultimately, your home owners insurance is responsible for what your dog does while it is out, so if for no other reasons: think about that your loose dog could hurt someone else (with or without intent) and cause a huge liability for you. And by the way keeping your dog confined is the law.
So where to start…why does your dog get out? There are some great tips online on how to fix your fence and landscaping so that your dog can not escape. Is your dog a runner? Does your dog bolt out the door? There are also some solid and easy to follow basic training tips on “Learn to Earn”. This technique can teach your dog not to go out the front or back doors without being invited. It is EASY and takes just a few minutes a day. Learn to Earn is one of OUR FAVORITE training techniques!!!! Dogs just get it and it can be broadly applied to many things.
When you walk your dog, your dog should be on a leash, it is the law. Leash laws protect your dog, other people, and other animals. Some dogs do not want to be approached by a strange dog and can be aggressive. People tend to think, “it’s ok, my dog is friendly” but what about the other dog? Is he friendly, does he need his space (DINOS)? In addition, some PEOPLE are afraid of dogs and don’t care to meet your dog off leash. An off leash dog could run in the road after a squirrel and be hit by a car, get in a dog fight, or chase and or bite a frightened child. Please show your neighbors the courtesy of leashing your pet. Here are some great leash training tips from Dr Yin and a great handout with a flowchart to help decide if your dog should be on a leash.
Now, let’s talk about protecting your family
Another reason to train your dog is that each year, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs in this country. Most of them are children. Sometimes these dogs are strangers, but, more often than not, they are family pets! Pay attention to these next statistic – they are dramatic and important:
The majority of dog attacks (61%) happen at home or in a familiar place and the majority of biting dogs ( 77% ) belong to the victim‘s family or a friend. When a child less than 4 years old is the victim, the family dog was the attacker half the time, (47% ) and the attack almost always happened in the family’s home (90% ). Almost two thirds of injuries among children 4 years and younger are to the face, head or neck area.
Of the 4.7 million people bitten each year, 2.82 million are children between the ages of 5 and 9. In addition to physical injuries from dog bites, people, especially children, can be emotionally scarred. They may become terrified of all dogs, and never learn to enjoy the human – animal bond. The results can be tragic for both children and pets, and even when injuries are not serious, children can be left with emotional scars. The family dog will most likely be surrendered and euthanized.
How to prevent dog bites
The most important thing is to train your dog with some basic obedience and simultaneously train your family about dog language. Dogs have a language just like we do. Most people claim that the sweet family dog just unexpected bit someone. That is probably not true. The dog was probably giving the signs all along. One way to prevent bites is for kids to learn how to greet and interact safely with dogs.
You need to educate yourself and your family on how to approach a dog and how to be able to read doggie body language. It is quick and easy. There are great resources on our links page. We have videos, training resources, and downloadable coloring books. It is important to remember, you have to train everyone!
Here is a great link for kids and parents on what NOT to do with your dog and examples of posititve interaction as well. It’s a great graphic resource to show how kids should and shouldn’t interact with dogs. Even if you don’t have a dog, but you have kids – kids should know how to interact with dogs.
Want to prevent dog bites: Spay and Neuter
Un-neutered dogs are 3 times more likely to bite and 8 out of 10 biting dogs are male. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, there is no means to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill. Check our links page for low cost spay and neuter resources.
- Here is a catchy song about how to speak dog
- This Toddlers and dog video is a guide to get other people’s kids to do what you want around your dog.
- This is a great informative video that identifies the dog’s cues and language as the dog is trying to communicate its discomfort with a baby jumping on the dog. It is hard to watch the dog clearly giving signs of distress and the adults ignoring the warning signs. It is easier to watch knowing the dog does not eat the child. What a good dog. If I was the dog, I would have eaten the child and then the parents for good measure.
- Here is a simple easy to understand link to doggie body language it covers
- Common Stress Signals
- Signs of Arousal
- Signs of Anxiety
- Signs of a Happy Dog
- Signs of Aggression
- Signs of Imminent Bite
- Bite Prevention
- Why Dogs Bite
- How To Meet a Dog
- Be A Tree
- Activities for Children
- More doggie body language videos here
Compilation of House training tips from the AVASB (American Veterinarian Society of Animal Behavior)
- More house training tips from OSU
General puppy training
- Excellent link on how to find a dog trainer
- My favorite trainer/ behaviorist:
- Suzanne Clothier
- Patricia McConnell, PhD.
- Grisha Stewart
- Nicole Wilde
- Dr. Sophia Yin
- Karen Pryor – clicker training
- Ian Dunbar, PhD.
- Nelson Hodges
Keep in mind that not every training method works on every dog. Dogs are individuals just like people – they all learn differently, they were all bred for different jobs. Be prepared to adjust and remember to try to make it fun for both of you.
Play and exercise time for Fido:
Just like kids, all dogs need play and exercise time so that they can learn and listen better. People that exercise their pets are healthier, happier, and live longer. Get out there and have some fun with your dog! And keep ’em busy with Kongs, balls, puzzle toys, and the like while you are away.
Praise and Love:
Dogs are built for praise and love. There is no other being that loves as unconditionally as a dog. The bond with the family dog is a unique. A lifetime of lessons about love, acceptance, and loyalty can be learned from a dog. Take care of your family dog and your dog will take care of you.
Owning a dog is lifetime commitment, it is worth a few minutes a day to make sure it is a positive experience for everyone – family and neighbors alike. What a dog will give back is immeasurable. It only takes a few minutes a day to turn your wild beast into a beloved family dog.