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How to Maintain Your Love Affair With Your Dog: Part One - Training

Training Tips for a Happy and Healthy Relationship with Your Canine Companion

When I first laid eyes on my little ball of black fluff at an adoption fair, I knew there was no turning back. My husband and I had been looking for just the right dog for months, and all the research and networking had finally paid off. There was no doubt in my mind that we had found the most perfect, precious four-legged family member in the world.

As luck would have it, the adoption fair was right around the corner from our home, this gave us a great opportunity for a home visit at the end of the event. I ran home, scrubbed and cleaned and did everything I could to make sure our home was 'puppy worthy'. As soon as she arrived with her foster mom, the puppy made sure to let us know she was in the right place?but more about that later.

Because both of us had lived with dogs before, I was sure we knew everything we needed to start off on the right foot and have a loving and healthy relationship with our dog. I was only partially right. Through lots of hands-on experience and a great deal of patience and training, I've learned a number of ways to maintain that original love-at-first sight feeling.

Training and Behavior

* Train your dog. Whether you are 'dogs should always walk appropriately on leash,' type of person, or one who lets your canine companion cuddle up in bed with you, you will benefit from appropriate training. Not only do you want to potty train your puppy so that he understands the appropriate place to relieve himself (not on the new carpet!), you also want to establish and maintain a set of expectations early. Good training is based on positive reinforcement and takes into consideration the age and breed of your dog. You may find a trainer through referrals of friends and family, through your vet, or pet-specialty store. You can also read a number of excellent books on dog training. Some great books are, "How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend," and "The Art of Raising a Puppy," by the Monks of New Skete, "The Power of Positive Dog Training," by Pat Miller, and "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia B. McConnell, PhD. (Any book by these authors are great places to start your self education.) A good place to look for more information about training your dog is the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

* Be Consistent. According to Training through Positive Reinforcement, "learning consists of trying out new behaviors and seeing what happens as a consequence of those behaviors." If your dog has been taught to avoid jumping on people, allowing him to jump just this once on his favorite person is going to confuse him ? he'll think the behavior is okay. However, by withholding attention or treats from him until he learns to sit and wait for a stranger or his favorite person you are maintaining consistency in his training regimen. As long as your pet understands what you expect and you behave in a consistent manner throughout your relationship, you will have a blissful relationship.

* Learn a New Trick. Just because you and your dog have been maintaining your earlier training and sticking to the basics, doesn't mean that you can't find something new to do together. Clicker training and agility training are quite popular and are a great deal of fun for you and your dog. You can find local classes through your Parks and Recreation Department or visit The Dog Agility Page on the internet.

* Introduce Your Dog to Strangers. The time will eventually come when you and your pet will need to be separated ? at least for a short time. If you ever plan to vacation, travel for business or even attend to a family emergency, your dog is going to be under the care of someone other than you. Prepare for this by introducing him to many new people throughout his life. The simple act of letting your pet meet and greet new people will help socialize him in the event that you need to leave. Also, if you live in an adults-only household, you may want to take the time to introduce your dog to children. The more positive experiences he has around kids, the better off you are when your sister's kids come to visit. But remember ? never leave children alone unattended with dogs.

* Take A Ride. Teach your dog early that riding in the car is a fun way to go places. Take them on short trips in your car and always make the destination a fun or interesting place for them to be. Make sure you have proper pet-carriers for smaller dogs and appropriate seat belts or harnesses for larger breeds. You want your car rides to be safe and fun for both of you. If the only time your dog gets in a car they end up at a vet, it won't take them long to decide that cars are bad -- making it difficult to crate them or load them into the car when you need them to come with you.

* Establish Your Pecking Order. Your dog needs you to let them know where they stand in the family order. It may sound cruel to say that you are the Alpha or the Leader of the Pack. But the truth is if you do not set up a plan to show your dog who is boss, he will walk all over you. It may seem cute when your 8 pound puppy demands your attention by pawing you while you work, but when your puppy is an 80 pound dog who is demanding you drop everything to play with them, it can be distracting at best and dangerous if you are carrying a hot pot to the table or healing from a medical procedure of your own.

? 2004-2005 by Peggie Arvidson-Dailey

Peggie Arvidson-Dailey, The Pet Care Business Expert, is author of "Surprisingly Simple Sales Steps: What Every Pet-Care Business Owner Needs to Know to Build Their Business in a BIG Way!" To learn more about her book and sign up for tips, hints and 'sneak peeks' at ways to run your pet-care business smarter (and make more money and have more time for your life) visit her site at http://www.peggiespets.com/wst_page9.htm

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