Train Dogs For Safety

I was worried. It could have been a carjacking.

The SUV was parked crossways in the road ahead of me, and the 4-wheeled all terrain vehicle (ATV) was headed right for me.

Fortunately, the ATV went right on by and when I got abreast of the SUV I figured out the whole story: It was tragedy waiting to happen.

Inside the SUV was the happy, smiling, panting face of a Golden Retriever. She eagerly awaited the return of her mate, who was galloping ahead of the ATV, just out of reach.

Apparently the mate had escaped and was insufficiently trained to return to his owner on command. So, he made a wonderful game of chase out of the situation. Although he was having a terrific time, terrified were his human parents who were frantically trying to corral him with the two vehicles.

Endangered in this scenario were the male dog escapee, the female driver of the SUV and the male, unhelmeted driver of the ATV, along with any number of drivers who were on their way to work and could have collided with dog, person or vehicle.

Today’s column is about training your dog for fun, safety, a long life, and avoidance of tragedy and heartache.

Even though this is a true story, let’s repaint it. I’m guessing that some irresistible force, object or creature lured the male Golden out of the SUV. At that point, in pursuit of the irresistible, compounded by a fabulous game of chase with his owners, he became out of control.

It didn’t have to be that way. Of course, he should have been properly restrained or tethered inside the vehicle, but prevention should have started long before that day. It could have started at a young age with good obedience training, training that would have had him under voice control, doing his master’s bidding without the chase, and even without a leash if he should find himself in that circumstance.

Regular readers will recall that I’m a huge fan of the training book by Brian Kilcommons: Good Owners, Great Dogs. Now available in paperback, it’s more accessible than ever, and still with all the great content. The book makes it so easy to learn by starting out with the basics of his method, which is based on the instincts your pet is born with: pack behaviour. For example, when your puppy is just a few months old, he already instinctively knows not to urinate or defecate close to where he sleeps, drinks and eats. You quickly learn how to capitalize on that instinct to speed housetraining.

You should teach your dog to see you as a leader, an alpha dog, if you will. In the wild, underlings rarely challenge the leaders, the alphas. Instead, they work together in hunting and protection of the pack for the overall good of the pack.

And that’s the way it should be with you and your best friend. If you are in a populated area or walking on the street, he should have a leash on, and he should walk beside you, not tugging you down the street.

Under those circumstances where it’s safe for your pet to run wild and free, the Kilcommons method will teach you how to have him under voice control. He will come to you when you call, and, if you practice regularly, you will call only once. He will sit when you tell him to, and not move again until you so instruct him. If visitors come to talk, he won’t be jumping all over them.

Your visitors will enjoy your dog’s training as much as you will.

Most of all, it’s a lifesaving knowledge you and your dog will attain.

Did you know that the single biggest reason that pets are given up to shelters is behavioral problems? What a preventable condition! All it takes is a little time spent every day with your best friend to ensure a lifetime of fun and trust.

For behavioral problems involving training and beyond, your pet’s doctor can advise ways to resolve them.

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