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Diligence and three simple steps help train well-behaved dogs

WORTHINGTON -- Last weekend I spent some time with family and friends at the state park on the shores of Lake Shetek. I stayed at the wolf campground and was really impressed with the facilities and the set up in general.

I took my three musketeers and the other house dog Tina along, as pets are allowed as long as they stay on a leash.

I was not the only one who thought that bringing fido along would be fun. There must have been at least 50 other dogs in the campground that weekend.

I was able to enjoy watching and studying those dogs and their owners as my site was on the perimeter, and everybody that went for a walk crossed just a few yards from my lawn chair.

It is really sad to see just how badly behaved most dogs are. I saw a few owners who were walking their dogs, but for the most part the dogs were walking their owners. The majority of dogs were straining and pulling on the leash. It would not be a stretch to say that most were on the verge of being out of control.

There was a lot of barking accompanying the dogs' attempts to separate the shoulder of the human participant. I can see why most dogs are overweight as the owners can't afford enough doctor visits or walk the dog enough to keep its weight in check.

In my association with Round Lake Kennels, which is a professional breeding and training facility based in Round Lake, I have been able to acquire some of the best trained dogs in the area and have learned a lot about how to train and maintain a well behaved hunting dog.

This time of year, many newly trained dogs head back home to their owners. They go home with more than a few owner instructions, but there are three basic rules or commandments of dog ownership that will insure a well-behaved dog. The dog owners camped at Lake Shetek should take note.

The first one is the most difficult for most owners. Remember, the dog is a dog and is to be treated like one.

They are not four-legged people with longer hair, eating from a dish and sharing your last name.

Many owners treat their dog like a child and, from what I see in the grocery store, many of those kids are really spoiled. Treat your dog like a spoiled kid, and it will reward you by acting one.

This does not bode well in the desire to have a well-behaved dog.

The dog must first, and foremost, understand that you are the leader of his/her pack and that total obedience to your wishes is not optional. Unless this leader/subordinate relationship is crystal clear, you will never have a well-behaved dog. It bears repeating, "treat your dog like it is a dog"

The second commandment in having and maintaining a well-behaved dog is; never give a command that you are not willing or able to enforce.

If you are driving down the road and your dog is barking in the back, and you say quiet, what will you do if the dog doesn't stop barking?

The answer is nothing. At that moment there is nothing that you can do. By the time you stop the vehicle, get out, open the dog kennel and try to quiet the dog the opportunity to teach the dog is over. The correction must occur at the moment of the infraction. Making a correction 30 seconds later does not work.

Every time you give a command that you are not in a position to enforce, the dog learns it only has to listen every once in a while. This is no different than telling the dog to sit and doing nothing about it when it doesn't. This situation results in an owner-created bad habit. I see this all the time, and it should be avoided at all cost. You should have a desire to own a dog that always listens, not just some of the time.

The third commandment is; never repeat your commands over and over.

I have heard owners to tell their dog to sit at least 10 times in a 30-second period. Each time they give the command sit, they get louder and louder until the dog finally complies.

This teaches the dog that it really doesn't have to sit until it has been told at least 20 times to do so, and then maybe it will comply if it feels like it.

When you give a command, follow through the first time and every time. This will teach the dog that your word is the law and not just a suggestion that it can take if it chooses.

When I give my dogs the command to sit, it means sit. They should continue sitting until I tell them to do something different. It doesn't mean sit for 30 seconds and go running off to smell something interesting. The command lasts until you, the pack leader, give another command.

Many other training rules of thumb exist and can help you have a better trained dog, but if you follow these three important ones, they will go a long way to helping you achieve your goals.

Nothing is more satisfying to me than when a stranger approaches me and comments that my dogs are the best behaved dogs they have ever seen. This doesn't happen without effort on my part, but the time I spend helping my dogs behave like good dog citizens is well worth the outcome.

A Labrador will live for about 12 years. Why wouldn't every owner want 12 enjoyable years with an obedient dog as opposed to 12 frustrating years with a spoiled, rotten one?

If you need or want professional training assistance, Round Lake Kennels can be reached by sending an email to