The new family member will soon arrive home. This furry, four-legged friend, big or small, will have a lot to learn — and so does the family.
Having an obedient, well-adjusted dog, means both parents and kids have to “train” themselves first. Though the process might seem intimidating for busy families, the benefits that result from it far outweigh any difficulties it presents.
Be Leaders of the Pack
Each family member needs clear responsibilities in the training and adaptation process before bringing their new dog home.
Gayle Linamen, owner of Pet Matters, a local dog care service, says the most important qualification of bringing a dog into the family is that “the whole family has to be on the same page.”
“Parents need to be good models on how they treat the dog,” Linamen says. “The dog needs to know to take the lead from a member (of the family). Dogs can get confused if they’re getting mixed messages from various family members,” so once an obedience rule is introduced, all family members must enforce it.
No matter how cute, what type of dog or even where the dog comes from (pure breed or rescue), it has to learn the rules of the household early.
Paul Pollock, owner of the Northeast Ohio branch of Sit Means Sit dog training, cites examples of rescue pets and explains many owners “feel bad for the dog because it had a bad previous life. So they don’t want to give it any leadership, they just want to baby (it), when in reality, the dog needs leadership because it’s never had that.
”Such lack of leadership can create or reinforce problems like separation anxiety and aggression,” Pollock says.
Kelli Coleman, owner of K-9 Kingdom in Richmond Heights, says exercise and playtime are essential to keep your dog happy and healthy.
“All family members should walk or exercise the puppy or adult dog,” Coleman says. “If your time is restricted, there are local dog parks and doggie daycares in the region. I believe a tired dog is a good dog.”
She adds that in order to keep behaviorial problems down, it’s helpful for both dog and family to be consistant with the exercise program.
Training the Kids
Getting a dog likely ranks high on children’s “want” lists. While it’s a great experience for the whole family to bring in a pet such as a dog or cat, it does take time to cultivate a bond between parties.
“In developing the ‘children-pet relationship,’ a lot of it is training the children, more than the dog,” Pollock says.
Parents need to teach children what is appropriate behavior when interacting with the pet, not only at-home, but when visiting friends or relatives.
Terry Miller, owner of It’s a Dog’s Life in Cleveland, says children should be encouraged to not do anything to a dog that a human wouldn’t like (such as pinching, hitting, pulling food away,etc.) and to not run or make disturbingly loud noises near the dog.
Conversely, dogs must learn to be gentle near children. For example, parents can give a puppy (that’s in a typical teething stage) chew toys while the pet plays with the family so the puppy will use his teeth on the toys instead of nipping the children or others.
Many new pet owners might overlook another aspect of training — helping dogs feel comfortable about being groomed. The process can induce anxiety in many dogs.
Cassie Katz, owner of the local mobile grooming salon Katz & Dogs, says it’s important to get dogs (or cats) accustomed to hair cuts, baths and nail clipping from a young age because “practice makes perfect.”
She encourages “positive verbal reinforcement” to remind a puppy that grooming is OK.” Also, involving children in the grooming process is a great and simple way to incorporate them into pet care.
A reliable way to ensure successful dog training is to seek professional help. Local organizations offer training sessions, along with other services. For behavioral questions, free local resources are available such as the Geauga Humane Society’s behavior hotline, 440-338-4819 ext. 12.