As a dog trainer, I believe that every puppy should be given a minimum of basic obedience training, and taught to respond to commands like sit, down, stay and walk politely on a leash. They should be housebroken, taught to bark only at appropriate times and to not destroy their owners' homes.
As a dog owner, I can only wonder that anyone would choose to live with anything less.
And yet when shelters across the country are polled, they indicate the overwhelming majority of dogs taken in have never received any training, which dramatically points out that irresponsible breeding, although a major contributor, is not the sole cause for shelter overcrowding.
Many people are just surrendering their dogs instead of doing anything about the behavior problems they've allowed to develop.
It's just a problem dog, an annoyance. Dispensable.
So why don't they train their dogs? Well, here are just some of the excuses I hear:
* "I don't have enough time to train."
We all lead busy lives, and heaven knows, I often feel like my dogs are the proverbial "shoemaker's children," but training should be fun for you and your dog, not a chore.
And since dogs learn best in short positive lessons, training for 10 minutes once or twice a day consistently will have more impact on a dog's learning than long boring sessions.
Is 10 minutes a day less on Facebook, watching TV or talking on the phone a lot to ask considering the payoff of having a well-trained dog?
* "I have nowhere to train."
People will often tell me they can't get to the park except on the weekend, or their yard is too small, or it's dark when they get home.
Since the average pet dog spends most of its time in the house, what's wrong with training there? I wish I had a dollar for every owner who has said, "I never thought of using a leash in the house!" You don't need a lot of room to teach sit, stay or down, and you can save walking lessons for when you have more time and daylight.
* "I never had to train my last dog."
Personally, I've never had the pleasure of owning a dog that didn't require or benefit from training, but I have heard they exist. Sort of like unicorns.
And people often put up with some very bad habits because in all other respects their dog is a wonderful pet.
For example, I recently worked with a family who called me because their new rescue dog was showing aggression whenever people came to the front door.
But what quickly became apparent was that prior to the aggressor's arrival, barking non-stop at the door by the family's three other "little angels," although annoying, had been tolerated. And their excitement, although not the core cause, was instrumental in triggering this newer dog's aggression.
* "I can't afford to pay for training."
As many of my clients who've had to purchase new sofas, rugs, cable remotes or reading glasses before calling me would tell you, "You can't afford not to train your dog."
If you wanted to get in shape you would have the option of going to a gym, hiring a personal trainer or even buying books or videos.
Well, dog training is very similar; you can hire a trainer to work with you privately or attend a group class, which costs less.
If neither is an option, finding a book or video to instruct you in the techniques needed to teach basic commands is, while not ideal, still better than no training at all.
And since training will help in the fight to end shelter overcrowding, isn't it time to stop with the excuses and get rid of the problems, and not the dogs?
-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at csi4k9s @yahoo.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californ ian's.