Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dog Owner Responsibilities

In the past few months, I have read numerous dog-related blogs, books and articles to help me better understand how to raise Curly well.  Today I came across this dog trainers blog - - and it inspires me to write about my thoughts on dog training.

I do believe it is the basic responsibility of a dog owner - to do his very best to teach the dog "right" from "wrong" in a manner understood and respected by the dog.  There is one school of thought emphasizing the importance of negative reinforcement coupled with positive reinforcement and there is another school of thought which only uses positive reinforcement (and condemns negative reinforcement).  Whichever the approach, for as long as the dog gets it, respects it, and doesn't suffer physical or mental damage, it's a good approach to me.

Like many dog owners I have talked to, I agree that dog training should start as early as possible before an undesirable behaviour gets too deep-rooted to unlearn.  I've seen how my puppy acted like an angry maniac, looking at me with such furious eyes, wishing he could bite my hand off.  And now he is a sweet puppy who can calm down if I do certain things to distract him.  When I go into the kitchen, and he is left outside the baby gate, he still sometimes barks - wanting me to let him in or go to him.  But unlike the nonstop loud barking before, now he barks very little and sits when I shush him, to try and wait patiently for me to finish whatever I am doing in the kitchen.  I can see how hard he's trying.  Sometimes he's body is shaking and he's trying so hard to hold back his bark, and I smile at him :)

My experience with dog training was that it really taught me how to communicate with my dog, and likewise.  How to encourage a calm mind, and trust in me that I knew better what was best for him.  Likewise, through this experience, I gained more respect for him as a dog - instead of yelling at him "it's my way or the highway!", I respect him that as a dog he may really want to do a certain thing, but it's not acceptable in my household or at that time so I would appreciate (with a pet, a praise, a treat) if he could stop.  My sweetie might pout a little if I become a party pooper, but he gets happy again when he has my attention.

I think it was after listening to The Dunbars when I started to understand that certain dog behaviours need to be respected by us humans (for instance, the need to chew during teething stage), and how we gain their respect when we, instead of just saying No to everything, we show them the other option we allow (for instance, chew on the Kong toy) so as to find middle ground.  I think my own Dog Trainer, Ben, mentioned in one of his blog entries that some of his own dogs did bark a bit.  Some dogs are naturally more vocal than others.  Barking in dog world is a natural behavior, it's their way to express their emotions.  Just like as humans, we talk.  If a dog isn't allowed to bark at all, why are we allowed to talk?

All in all, I enjoy the responsibilities of a dog owner.  Making sure he is healthy physically and mentally, and feels safe and content with his life with me.  Ensuring he has sufficient exercise to release his energy.  Socializing him with people and dogs.  Giving him guidance what is "acceptable" in the human world and what is not.  Teaching him obedience, not to stroke my ego, but to ensure that he doesn't become a wild uncontrollable dog in the future.  Giving him attention and affection.  It's a lot of responsibilities but they make me feel very fulfilled.

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