By Linda Stein of Stein-Way Dog Training
Many people who choose shelter dogs are reluctant to train them because they believe it will be traumatic to the dog. Actually, when done correctly, without yelling, it gives the dog a sense of comfort to know the rules.
Rightfully so, our hearts go out to dogs who have lost their first home because of neglect or abuse or abandonment. But if you do not give a clear sense of the rules of the house, things can get bad quickly. The dog that appeared timid in a shelter situation can rise to become dominant in your house within days if the new owner is not educated in how to calmly establish loving authority.
New dog owners interpret jumping as a friendly behavior but it can lead very quickly to problems of chewing, messing or running away. In fact, they may be the reasons the dog lost his or her home initially.
It is not hard to explain fair house rules about sleeping places, furniture and mealtime rules and how to respect family and human property. You have a right to a good night sleep and a peaceful lifestyle even though you have done the good deed of rescuing a dog.
Don’t let your good intentions add stress to your household. A dog in good health of ANY age can be trained and generalizations about breeds are NOT TRUE. Most dog owners have read books that contradict themselves and actually give misinformation. For instance, dogs can live nicely with people who work all day. They have for years and years. A puppy does not mean you have to suffer chewing on property or destructive messing in the house. By 12 weeks dogs can be trained to learn everything they need. The mother dogs start training even earlier than that. It is not true that “old dogs cannot learn new tricks”. Over 2000 shelter dogs I have trained have adapted quickly and nicely to new home environments. They don’t need to be permanently in a cage to be trustworthy. Messing and chewing can be stopped when you are not home.
Within a week of arriving in your house, the dog or puppy can learn quiet rules without yelling or repeating commands. The earlier in your relationship that you start, the less you have to change later on.
Often because a dog was sickly early on, the owner continues to view them that way even though they have emerged into vigorous (and sometimes defiant) health.
Your dog can be loved and well mannered. Everyone who meets or lives with him/her will appreciate that. Your shelter dog deserves a second chance at good manners.