January is National Train Your Dog Month so I wanted to share the story of a rescued dog that was saved with a little patience and training and why training your dog is so very important.
I recently got a call from a rescue group I work with asking me to evaluate a 7 month old pit bull puppy. The puppy, a blue and white female named Butterball, had been jumping up and nipping at people, including children, and although never breaking skin she left bruises and frustration. When I met Butterball she was a typical pit bull puppy – full of boundless energy and excitement and want for affection. I watched as she was taken outside on a leash, jumping and nipping the whole way. The person on the end of the leash said things like “No!” and “Off!” to no avail; Butterball just kept jumping. We went inside and I took the leash and put it under my foot allowing Butterball only about 12-18 inches of leash. This prevented her from jumping up on me altogether. She bounced up and down a few times, then sat and looked at me – CLICK! I was ready with my clicker and treats, of course, to mark the behavior I wanted – four feet on the floor. After only 8 minutes of clicking for four on the floor, Butterball wasn’t even attempting to jump on me. I continued working with her, walking around her (letting her drag the leash) and clicking for following me politely, then walking her on-leash through other rooms of the building. For the next 30 minutes she didn’t jump up, nip or do anything inappropriate to me and she also was able (with well-timed clicks) to greet others politely as well. I discussed my opinion with the head of the rescue – Butterball is a lovely, normal pit bull puppy who is under-exercised and needs training and mental stimulation. With those simple needs met, she will be a wonderful life-long companion to someone. I’m happy to say that Butterball is now in a foster home and doing extremely well in her training! She is available for adoption through The Pet Doctor To The Rescue: http://www.thepetdoctorinc.com/rescue/
Now, why did I tell you Butterball’s story? For this reason: problem behavior is the most common reason for animals being surrendered to shelters and many pets end their lives in the shelters to which they were surrendered. “Nearly 50,000 animals enter into the shelter systems in St. Louis every year, and nearly 23,000 animals are put to sleep.” – statistics from the Animal Protective Association of Missouri. In fact, Butterball was being considered for euthanasia. My point is this: most problem behavior is relatively easy to resolve. All it takes is some training, time and patience. World-renowned animal trainer and executive vice president of animal collections and training at Chicago’s world-famous Shedd Aquarium, Ken Ramirez, said “Training is not a luxury but a key component to good animal care”. I could not agree more. The average owner dealing with common problem behavior doesn’t need to hire a professional trainer to come to their house for weeks or months. There are tremendous resources available to the average owner that need only be explored and utilized. Read books on force-free training – I have links to my favorite training books on my website: www.helpinghoundstraining.com/resources.html, register for group training classes with a force-free trainer in your area and if you have significant problems with behavior in your own home and reading and classes aren’t enough to solve those problems, consult with a professional force-free trainer.
It is my sincere hope that in 2012 more pets are able to stay in their homes with loving families who provide the training their pets need. So, get up, grab your leash and start training! You AND your dog will be glad you did!