K9 Corner, Nov. 28

Published 8:48 am Wednesday, November 29, 2017


A reader called regarding her new dog. She wants to have the perfect pet, one that is everything: companion, guardian willing to cuddle on command yet stays aloof when she is busy. “Now,” she asks, “How do I teach this to the dog?”

With my first dog, I wanted a pet that would alert me when someone entered my yard or stepped on the porch. I asked the man who trained me to train my dog and this is what he said. First, you need to bond with your dog. The quickest way is to have the dog sleep in the same room as you do. This does not mean on your bed. Schools for service dogs teach the animals to sleep at the foot of the bed on the floor, out of the way, yet close enough to be available if their physically challenged human needs them.

Email newsletter signup

Second, take your dog to a dog obedience school. This will teach you to communicate with your dog as well as teach the dog what is expected of him.

Third, to teach your dog to sound an alert, sit calmly in a room closest to the street and every time a car goes by or people pass by talking loudly, you should stage-whisper “What is it?” to the dog and repeat as often as needed to get a response such as a growl or whine or bark. (When I stage-whisper this phrase, it sounds something like a hiss. Acting alarmed will heighten the suspense for the dog.) Praise when there is any sort of response from the dog. If you live in the country or on a quiet street, talk some of your friends into coming to your house for the next five days to provide the needed activity outside for the training session. One successful practice is enough each time.

The caller wants a companion dog. By the time you have graduated from the obedience classes, you should be able to take your pet with you anywhere except where food is handled. Only service dogs are permitted by law to enter grocery stores and restaurants. Because some owners do not care what other people think of them, they do not clean up after their dogs and cause lawmakers and property owners to ban all dogs from those establishments. You, of course, are conscientious and want to keep the good will of such places as motels and parks, so you will clean up any dog hair and droppings so you will be welcomed again.

Teaching your dog to be quiet on command is also important when traveling with a dog, especially one that is taught to alert you to strangers nearby. One of my standard schnauzers would growl loudly every time anyone passed the door at the motel we were staying in.  Fortunately she stopped at the assurance “It’s OK, be quiet,” but it still made for a very wakeful night for me.

Remember to praise, reward and talk to your dog if you want your dog to respond to you.