Learning to speak dog.

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Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the disservices that we humans bestow upon our so- called best friends…dogs. I have known for a long time that there are lots of people out there who didn’t take the time to get to know or train their dogs and that there are also lots of people who have dogs who aren’t even interested in it. What I don’t think I truly appreciated was the toll that this takes on dogs.
I am currently enrolled in “The Academy for Dog Trainers”, a training program run by Jean Donaldson, who is considered by many to be a guru among those in the know about dog behavior. In the short time I have been taking this course, I have learned so much that really should seem like common sense, but, just isn’t for a lot of people. About 10 years ago, I took a training course through Animal Behavior College, and, though I learned a lot, that was much more focused on the mechanics of dog training, rather than the behaviors, thought processes and motivations behind it for the dog. I had some success training after completing ABC, but, this program is taking things to a whole new level for me. Taking the course now is helping me in my volunteer work at Philadelphia Animal Care & Control, too, because it is helping me see how many dogs are surrendered or given up on for behavior issues that are totally fixable. The numbers are staggering. Way too many people give up on their dogs for issues I can pretty much guarantee you are their own fault. Take, for instance, lovely Ella (seen below), who was returned because she started peeing in the house about a month after being adopted from the shelter. Her owner stated that he wouldn’t have a dog that didn’t listen to him. I’m willing to bet Ella thought “why won’t my owner listen to me?” herself. House training is a pretty easy fix, but it takes something a lot of people are not willing to extend to their dog: patience. In fact, most issues with dogs take two simple things: patience and a little bit of knowledge. A little of both can go a long way towards ensuring that your dog remains your best friend. Too many people make the assumption that a dog should just “know” how to do something. Really?? There are so many factors to consider, not the least of which is that dogs are a different species and don’t speak human. Seems like a big “duh” to me.
Looking back at my own life, it seems like dumb luck that so many of the dogs in my family got by at all. None had professional training  and a few were shelter dogs that were less than perfectly behaved, but, somehow, they learned the ropes and lived out the rest of their lives happily and well-loved. I look at my current dogs in a whole new light. They are far from perfect, but, I see how much happier they are when I am consistent and they know what to expect. Plus, I am currently working with a trainer to get Savannah her Canine Good Citizen certification and Rocco has joined in on the fun, and I see how much they enjoy working. How much they are capable of. How much they will do for some love and treats.
Dogs put up with a lot from us. They don’t ask for much. Really, they just want to be safe and be able to pee and poop away from where they sleep and eat. So, that brings me back to poor Ella. I just wonder what signals she was sending that were ignored and based on my interactions with her, how much she could thrive in the right environment. She is young, friendly and holds no grudges against people for her situation. Now, if only I could be that forgiving.

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