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Scott Rall: Summer will eventually come around

About the only thing that is getting me through this stint of voraciously cold temperatures is the thought of spring and summer, which they say is coming. But I sure cannot see it from here. With warmer temperatures comes the ability to spend time in the outdoors with my dogs.

I have three Labradors and one house dog, which is a rat terrier.

My dogs are trained to a high level and to keep them there takes ongoing attention. A great dog will turn into a so-so dog in about six months if the owner does not maintain their talents with constant and ongoing refresher training.

I have been involved either directly or indirectly in the training of about 250 different hunting dogs in my association with Round Lake Kennels.

We deliver trained dogs to clients after they have spent about 90-120 days in our care. The dogs go home as high and tight Marine Corps. recruits just out of 12 weeks of basic training.

They listen and obey our commands with great consistency. But if the owner takes the dog home and does not continue to use repetition and command enforcement, that dog will figure out that in as little as a week the rules have changed. When you tell a dog to sit and then do not enforce that command if they do not comply, they will soon discover that this human does not need to be listened to.

This is why some dogs listen and obey the dad of the house but won’t do one single thing for mom.  One human requires compliance and the other one may not.

This is called pack hierarchy. All dogs are descendants of wolves and the packs they have operated in for thousands of years. They know who is the boss and where they fit in the group.

In your home, each dog must also understand where they fit in your pack. In my house, each dog is the lowest member of the pack.  Each human in my family is a higher-ranking member.

It means that every human needs to be listened to.

The key to a dog loving their life is to know exactly where in the pack they fit. Dogs love routine, in fact they thrive on routine.

I have a saying that if what the dog does today is OK, then if they do that exact thing tomorrow it has to be OK tomorrow as well. The same is true for the opposite. Whatever they do that is not OK today, then that same act has to be not OK tomorrow as well.

I call this playing fair with the dog. How can a dog understand their lot in life if the human is constantly changing the rules as to what is OK and what is not?

Young kids can make this very difficult.  A child will tell the dog to do five things all in about five seconds. They yell, they sit, heel, roll over and hear commands one right after the other. The dog does exactly none of these because it is confused. The dog learns that no commands need to be followed. This situation exists even if the dog is doing everything in its power to do the right thing.

Humans need to play fair with the dog, and the way to do that is not to let the kids participate in this manner. A dog is not like a computer keyboard. We have all seen where you type several characters and the cursor does not keep up. A few seconds later the letters appear just as you typed them but in a delayed fashion. A dog can’t operate like that.  A dog can only do one thing at a time.

Give the dog a command.  Let it execute that command.  When complete, give a second command and when that command is completed you can issue the third command.

An example: Tell the dog “Here.”  When it gets to you, then issue the “heel” command. When it completes the heel command and is at your side, you can issue the “sit” command and the dog will sit. See how this works?

It takes this fair and organized approach to have a great dog who listens and loves his or her life living in your pack.

A dog will test his place in the pack regularly. It will test the higher member to see if it can move up in rank. This is a natural characteristic for the dog to attempt. It is when consistency is needed the most.

Dog training is one of my greatest passions. Everyone can do it, but it does take time to properly train a dog and then keep it operating at a high level. If you have a dog training question, drop me an email at scottarall@gmail.com and I will be glad to try and help you.

Waiting for summer is hard. Dreaming of dog works to helps pass the time till we can actually see it.