An Education Opens Doors

“An education opens doors!”

Most of us have heard this phrase or something similar from our parents. For our human children a higher education opens doors to greater job opportunities, and often a better life.

But the same is true for our canine “children”. Where your dog can go and what he is allowed to do, has a lot to do with the education that he has received. I grew up in Germany and till this day seeing dogs in public and in stores, riding the street car or running off leash in a public park is still common sight. Dogs are part of the German society and for the most part accepted as such. Assuming that German dogs are not any smarter than American dogs, there is still a general expectation of German dog owners to educate their dogs to a level that allows them to function effectively with in human society.

One the other side of the world due to a variety of unfortunate circumstances and whiplash legislatures, the American pet dog has been banished from society. But Fido is making a comeback. More and more parks, stores, hotels and restaurants are allowing dogs unto their premises.

In order for this trend to continue, you, as the guardian of your dog, has to do your part to educate your dog. Want to take your dog to a store? He will need to know to sit stay or down stay for when you pay at the register. He will need to know how to greet people without jumping on them. He will need to accept the petting of strangers…and children. Or at least you need to know your dog’s limitations in case he does not like certain people and keep everyone safe: “I am sorry little Susie, but Fido has a headache and does not want to be petted.”

Want to take him to an outdoor cafe? He needs to know how to settle quietly under a table.

Here is an example of that not to do:

The owner of a very nice local restaurant that used to allow dogs to dine with their owners on the outdoor patio which was adjacent to a river, changed to a “No dogs allowed policy” after several dog owners allowed their dogs to take a dip in the river, which was followed by a nice complementary shake-off onto some of the other patrons and their food…. Really?!

Thank you for ruining it for me and my dogs and other responsible owners who take the time to educate their dogs! Whether it is barking, jumping, lunging, or just being generally uncontrollable – the responsibility lies with you, not your dog.

Education starts in puppy hood. If you do not properly socialize your puppy and teach him boundaries and how to behave in public, you are behaving like a parent who allows their children to do whatever.

For kids the consequences may take a long time to be seen. The day of reckoning for dogs usually takes less than 2 years. The puppy with improper guidance, especially if he has the misfortune to grow up into large size dog, will often end up homeless in a shelter or banished to the back yard. Puppies who have been educated to “The Way of Man” will have a lifetime of trips to the park, shopping sprees, road trips and family vacations.

Is your dog older? Your dog can still join the “Adult Education Program” ….yes, even grandma Bella can go to college!

What are some of the educational programs out there for you and your dog?

The AKC (American Kennel Club) offers the Star Puppy program, the Canine Good Citizen Program, the AKC Community Canine Program. THE APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) offers the Canine Life and Social Skills program with skill levels for Bachelors, Masters and PhD.

Two final thoughts:

First of all, just like a 6 week class in a foreign language, may at best teach you how to ask for the check and where the restroom is, so by the same token, your dog taking ESL (English as a Second Language – also known as Basic Obedience Class) will not learn all he needs to learn in a 6 week course in any setting. Becoming proficient at something takes time…and if you don’t use, you lose it!

And finally, make learning fun. Growing up, I had some awful teachers who left me discouraged and feeling stupid. Just like us, animals learn much better in an environment that is reward, rather than punishment based.

Happy Training, and see you out and about with your dog.