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So why cant we just let dogs be dogs?
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DEAR DIDI: What is the point of having a dog if you have to keep it on a leash or in a crate all of the time? Can’t we just let them be dogs? -Manteca Citizen

DEAR CITIZEN:   Surveys of dog owners across America have shown that dogs that are well socialized and have  engaged in consistent training programs have more reliable manner and lead more fulfilled lives.  Unfortunately, letting a dog ‘be a dog’ without any parameters increases behavioral issues and the likelihood of ending up at the dog pound.  More dogs die in America due to lack of training and behavioral problems annually than from medical issues. This is not just a ‘big dog’ issue. Dogs of all sizes need rules and limitations.

The good news is that training strengthens your bond with your dog. I see it in just the first lesson with all of my clients. Training gives your dog greater freedom in life.  Well trained dogs are a pleasure to be with. Therefore, they get to go more places with their owners and get more attention from people they encounter. A dog that doesn’t jump on people is more welcome at social gatherings instead of being banished to the back yard or crate. A dog that comes when called enjoys off-leash hikes in safe areas. Training opens the doors to a whole host of super fun dog sports which enhance your canine’s life. Agility, obedience competitions, water sports, nose-work to freestyle competitions can all be super fun for a well mannered pooch.

Even more good news.  Today’s training methods are fun for both human and dog. Gone are the days of master/slave drills by way of yelling and intimidation. It doesn’t take a lot of time. Just five to ten minutes a day can produce amazing results! Dogs don’t come to us preprogrammed with the rules of human households any more than we would innately understand etiquette when visiting a foreign country. We have to be shown how to avoid offending people or inadvertently breaking laws.  Dogs don’t speak English, Spanish or German. We can’t sit down to a cup of tea and explain to them politely why we dislike having poop in the living room. Training today is all about mutual respect and good communication. We have to teach our canines how to be the kind of housemate we want them to be and it has to be taught in a way that they can understand.

Unfortunately, there are just as many people out there that are terrified of dogs as there are dog lovers.  Many people have experienced first-hand what dogs can be like without training.  Something as simple as an exuberant, but friendly, Beagle that knocks over a child in his eagerness to play can leave that child with a lingering fear and distrust of dogs.  In addition, the law requires that you maintain leash control over your canine when in public places. The American Humane Association reports 4.7 million dog bites in 2012. That is a staggering number!! Over 800,000 of those required medical intervention. Therefore, even your well trained friendly dog should be on a leash and under control at all times. Have the goal of making your canine an ambassador for their kind rather than be another statistic.  Training is the responsibility of all dog owners, but rest assured, when done correctly in positive ways, your dog will ‘get to be a dog’ and live a ‘dog’s life’.

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