Sunday, January 6, 2013

Take Your Dog to School!

Even though children hit the books several months ago, with this New Year and all the resolutions people make, now might be a good time to also think of schooling your dog. How is that possible, you might ask? Consider taking your dog through training.

Why Train My Dog?
Most dogs need activity to prevent boredom, especially the breeds of the herding, working and hunting classifications, such as border collies, German shepherd dogs, huskies, spaniels, setters and pointers. These and many other breeds respond well to training, to obedience, agility and hunting trials.

Keeping a dog occupied with instruction alleviates boredom and thus also lessens bad behaviors, such as chewing, howling, and jumping. Working dogs were bred to work, and many canine club events provide that opportunity. Dogs that are not trained in at least basic obedience are often the dogs left at animal shelters and rescue groups with the excuse, “I can’t handle this dog.”

Obedience training bonds a dog more closely with its owner, for that interaction time is quality time. Just like spending time with one’s children, focusing on their concerns, their joys, their interests creates a stronger parent-child relationship, so, too, does spending solid, quality time with our dogs bond them more closely to us. Dogs are pack animals; they are social, and they want to engage with their people. Obedience, agility, hunting, tracking, even search and rescue and animal assistance therapy training strengthens a dog’s bond with its human. According to animal behavior specialists training a dog has been shown to be the single most important thing that keeps a dog in its “forever” home. Training builds a mutual bond, enhances the pet-human partnership, and enriches the relationship a person shares with his/her dog.

Where Can I Go to Train My Dog?
A variety of prospects abound to enroll your dog in school. For example, some of the American Kennel Club's regional and local clubs provide obedience classes, tracking and agility trials, and Canine Good Citizen evaluations. To find a club in your area visit you will find a list of obedience, agility, tracking and training clubs.

Some community colleges offer classes through their Community Education programs, and several of the big box pet and pet supply stores, such as PetCo and PetSmart, also provide obedience and puppy training programs. Additionally, some smaller businesses, such as boarding kennels and grooming salons, provide opportunities for dog owners to train their dogs. Check with your local businesses, including your veterinarian – perhaps, if they don't offer obedience or other training sessions, they can provide a recommendation and give you a local trainer's contact information.

Specialized programs, such as Sit Means Sit, are found in various communities, and various pet experts, such as Cesar Milan (“The Dog Whisperer”) offers books and DVD to help pet owners train their pets at home.

Advantages of Training Your Dog
Having a pet in the home can be a physical and emotional health benefit to people. Scientists have documented the positive affects pets have on humans such as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol. Yet, if your dog doesn’t come when it’s called, jumps on people constantly, and takes the hamburger off the counter while you’re waiting for the grill to get hot, obviously your stress level is going to be high, not low.

But, if your dog sits and waits patiently, returns upon command, and doesn’t chase the neighbor’s cat, everyone will be happier, including your dog. The bond with your dog is strengthened when you positively interact with it, and training times offer that bonding opportunity.

Go Back to School!
So, consider taking your dog – and yourself – back to school this New Year! Become involved with a local obedience class, and perhaps even an agility, conformation, or track and field event. Learn together, become more deeply bonded, and enjoy the companionship, affection, and devotion your dog longs to give you… if you will only give your dog the time and opportunity it needs!

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