Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Walking the Line: Good Owner or Bad?

There's a saying in the dog world that there's no such thing as a good or bad dog only good and bad owners and the more I work with my dogs and host foster dogs in my home the more I am in agreement. The past week I realized that I am walking the line of a bad owner. No I don't yell at or beat my dogs, but I have let their daily training slide. Some might say that's not a bad owner but I disagree because I believe that training never ends. As an owner you might get to a place in your relationship where your dog needs only a few reminders but for most dogs regardless of breed they need training for their entire lives. Perhaps my dogs would tell anyone who might listen is they don't need the reminders as much as the humans they live with.

How do I know that I've slacked off? That's easy, all I have to do is listen and observe my dogs. Wyatt is my barometer of how well or not so well I am doing with my pack. When he's confused or bored he barks. When his behavior changes from calm, submissive to pacing and barking that is my red flag that I am not clearly telling him what I expect. Josie's signs are jumping and barging into personal space again her behavior stems from her not receiving a clear message of what is expected. Then there is Dexter, the more comfortable he becomes in our home the more I notice how much training he really needs.

If a greyhound owner says they need little training, don't accept that as fact. All dogs need training and all dogs need to have their rules and boundaries clearly set for them. The initial assessment of Dexter was calm, laid-back and cat safe. While he is much like that description he's not entirely cat safe, he's cat curious and he's more energetic than originally thought. If I've learned anything over the last four months with Dexter it's he needs as much if not more training than my other two dogs. Greyhounds are independent, calm and quiet for the most part but they are dogs. If you let them step over your leadership you'll end up with the same problems dog owners of any other breed deal with. The breakdown with Dexter isn't occurring so much with his interaction with me but with the rest of my family. He's starting to jump at them before walks and insert himself between human and the other canines in the house. That's a dominance ploy and not acceptable.

So what's an owner to do? Going back to the beginning is what I'm going to do. Each day I will spend at least 15 minutes of alone time with each dog to work on training the basics. I'll go back to giving them each at least one walk alone with me each day and of course playtime. How soon will I see a change will depend solely on me the owner and how much I want to improve my good owner status.

Until next time Woof, Woof, and a Roo.

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