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Training Is Essential

William Warby
Training can begin at an early age, but it's never too late to begin!

Several years ago, a friend of mine discovered a gap in her dog’s education.  Now, she had a pretty well-trained pet.  Among other things, she taught it to stay out of the kitchen while she was preparing dinner – a great idea to keep any animal from getting underfoot when you’re carrying a hot dish.  What she didn’t teach her dog, was to get out of the path when someone was walking through the house. 

Her husband, who recently had surgery, got out of bed in the middle of the night.  He didn’t bother to turn on a light, because he didn’t want to wake her.  After all he was very familiar with his own home, and knew he could find his way in the dark.  What he didn’t count on was tripping over a big furry animal. 

The good news was that he didn’t break anything – and the dog was okay, too – that time.  But either one of them could have been seriously injured.  It made my friend consider just how risky it could be to have a pet that is not properly trained.

     You may think that training is all about teaching your pet to sit up and beg, or to roll over on command.  Those tricks are cute, but real training involves teaching your pet some basic rules about your relationship.  For example, you should teach your dog to walk properly on a leash, not pulling and tugging the whole way.  It should learn to sit and stay on command, to come when called, and not to jump up on people.  And pets should be taught to move out of the way, for safety’s sake. 

One of the most common reasons pets are surrendered to animal shelters by their owners is behavior issues.  Even my friend, who dearly loved her dog, realized that she had to quickly retrain her canine buddy, to avoid having to choose between her aging husband’s health and safety and keeping their beloved pet.

January is National Train Your Dog Month, a reminder that training your dog is time well spent.  It is an investment that can make the difference between a problem animal and an animal that is a great companion, when you’re speaking of pets.

Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.