Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Obedience training comes first when you adopt an adolescent dog

Many dogs who come in to shelters as "lost" are adolescents - and I suspect that it's often more a case of abandonment than loss.

People get a cute, fuzzy little puppy and take it home to play with. But they ignore their responsibility to train that puppy - and it becomes an unruly adolescent. It might be a very nice dog - loving and wanting to please. But it has no idea what it should do to please. No one has ever given it any rules or let it know what kind of behavior is expected.

So, the dog jumps up on everyone, chews what shouldn't be chewed, digs in the trash, chases cars (or bicycles or chickens or cats), steals food from the kitchen counter, and generally makes a nuisance of itself.

Then, since the dog is no longer fun to have around, they drop it off at a shelter or simply drive out on some country road and kick it out of the car. After all, shelters often charge turn over fees, and dumping is free.

Later they wander past a grocery store, see kids giving away puppies, and start the cycle all over again.

Unfortunately, they also fail to spay or neuter, so the cycle of unwanted pets starts over again too. But that's the subject for a different post.

The bottom line for you as the adoptive parent of an adolescent dog is that you've got some serious training to do. And you'll have to begin at the beginning, because it's likely that your new dog doesn't even know that it should come when it's called.

We've been talking about calling your dog by his or her name and teaching it to pay attention when you speak that name. That's important when you've raised your dog from a pup - but it's difficult when you adopt an adolescent, because you don't even know what his or her name used to be. You'll have to be extra-careful to use that name often and praise your dog every time he responds.

Patience will be the name of the game, but your effort will be worth it. Your new dog will appreciate knowing the rules and being praised for following them - and you'll be blessed with the best friend a human could ever have.

Yours for happy pets,

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