“Animals deserve the best care we can possibly provide. Training should not be considered a luxury that is only provided if there is time; it is an essential part of good animal care. Just as one would never consider developing an animal care program without a veterinary component, a nutritional component, a social component, and an environmental component; nobody should consider caring for an animal without a behavioral management component integrated into the program.” – Ken Ramirez, from the introduction to Animal Training: Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement
I first heard Ken Ramirez actually speak this quote to an audience earlier this year at an amazing weekend of learning from his vast experience as an animal trainer with 35+ years of using positive training methods on all kinds under his belt. The instant he started talking about this, I got really excited, thinking, “He’s SO RIGHT! What a world we’d live in if everyone who got a pet understood the absolute necessity of proactive training, if it was viewed as a necessity and not just a luxury!”
Ever since then I’ve been thinking about this on a daily basis. Each day I’m working with people and their dogs, I’m thinking not only about how to motivate and teach the dog but also the people in his or her life, to enjoy and be invested in training. I am blessed with many kinds, from those who just got a puppy or dog and want to ensure success together to those who have been living with behavioral issues and are now at the end of their rope and want the problems to stop now.
When we bring an animal into our home, it is our responsibility to teach them how to live in our world. It’s no good to have expectations and not teach the dog what they are, or how to fulfill them. By teaching our dogs skills like sit, down, stay, wait, leave it, drop it, come and loose leash walking, we are helping them–and us–have a happy life together. By understanding and addressing their emotional needs, we can help them become confident and make the right choices.
And it goes beyond that. Even before an animal comes into its forever home, breeders, shelters, rescues and the like should also consider the behavioral needs of the animals as much as any other needs. Imagine if breeders were proactive with teaching stress-free handling and socialization with puppies before finding them homes? I’ve been amazed at how many breeders are also letting littermates go to homes together, given the knowledge we have about littermate syndrome. And if rescues and shelters knew more about how to make their environments calmer, and taught dogs basic manners, how much more appealing and prepared they would be to enter a home–and stay in it–successfully!
I dare all my readers to imagine a world like this, where we can be on the front end of helping us and our animals live happily together, instead of trying to catch up on the back end once problems start. I also want to challenge you to promote the idea that training is essential! If more of us present that viewpoint to each other, hopefully we can start a trend that can make a big difference in our lives and the lives of our furry friends.
Owner, Delightful Doggies