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Responsible Dog Ownership

Why Should You Train Your Dog?

A) So he'll listen when you tell him to do something

B) So you can take him wherever you go

C) So you can show off all kinds of neat tricks to your friends

D) So you can enter fun competitions and maybe even win


Training is essential to having a good relationship with your dog. It's not just about tricks and showing off: it's about communicating with your pet so both of you are happier.

Sadly, many pets are relinquished every year for behavior problems. These problems can usually be fixed if people would take some time to train their dog. Remember, dogs don't know how you want them to act, you have to teach them! 

By seeing a dog on a regular basis, a veterinarian can spot any abnormalities or differences much more easily. Combine regular checkups with necessary immunizations. Keep in mind that puppies require immunizations every few weeks, so stick to the schedule your veterinarian recommends. Adult dogs should make an annual visit to the vet for good care.


A properly balanced diet includes carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. Dry dog foods are the least expensive maintenance diet for a healthy adult dog, who is relatively inactive and lives in comfortable conditions. But this diet may not contain an adequate percentage of high quality protein for growth or stress conditions. Semi-moist foods cost two or three times more than dry, and canned foods that contain high quality protein and fats are four or five times as expensive as dry foods. One of these higher cost diets is necessary when conditions demand a higher level of performance, for example, puppy growth and showing or competition. You may wish to combine dry and canned foods. Be sure to read ingredients and nutrition labels, and follow the charted instructions for proper quantities and feeding times, to avoid obesity. Puppies and older dogs will have altered diets.


All dogs need some kind of regular daily exercise to keep in shape. The amount will vary according to size and genetics. Here are a few guidelines. Walking your dog is the most common form of exercise. In the city or suburbs, where dogs are indoors most of the time, a walk on a leash several times a day is necessary for sanity, as well as for exercise. Larger and more energetic dogs need longer walks or a free run in a large open space. If it's not possible to run your dog, play fetch, catch or tug of war. Don't exercise any dog strenuously less than two hours after it eats a large meal. Before embarking on a vigorous exercise or training routine, a dog should have a physical exam to rule out cardiac or circulatory problems and skeletal or joint disorders.


It is often very difficult for a caregiver to judge whether or not a pet requires veterinary care. Your dog may exhibit signs of pain, such as not being hungry, limping or sleeping excessively. Severe pain will be more obvious, as a dog may cry, collapse, hide, growl, snap, or pant excessively. If a dog is ill, there are obvious signs. The most obvious is a change in habits, personality or activity level. When concerned or simply in doubt, take your dog to see a veterinarian.


The best preventive medicine for dogs is periodic vaccination for serious infectious diseases, such as distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, rabies, and heartworm. Keep your dog's health records and stick to your veterinarian's recommended immunization schedule. Remember that puppies require regular immunizations every few weeks, but adult dogs typically require vaccinations annually.


Regular grooming is a good routine to establish with your dog. Not only will frequent brushing keep your dog clean and free from snarls; it will also do a great deal to keep your dog's skin and coat healthy and free from problems. Grooming can also reveal abnormalities. Grooming usually entails brushing and combing, and on a less frequent basis, nail clipping, bathing and trimming. Once in a while, it's a good idea to do a thorough head to toe examination of your dog. Check his eyes, nose, ears, and mouth; lift his tail and look at the anal area for soreness, redness or dried fecal matter. Carefully look at his foot pads, which should be hard and leathery. Check his mouth and teeth. Healthy gums are pink and firm, and the teeth should be firm and free from any bad stains. Brush or clean your dog's teeth regularly with salt and baking soda to remove tartar and plaque. Any abnormalities discovered during this routine should be checked out with your veterinarian.
Basic Obedience

Training starts with basic obedience. You don't have to go to an obedience class, but it's a good idea. Your dog will get extra socialization and you will have an expert right there, able to answer your questions.

Natural Instincts

Things like chewing and jumping are things that dogs just do! Basic obedience helps them learn when it is appropriate and when it is not. For example, if you find your dog chewing something they shouldn't be, don't just tell them "no" and take it away, tell them “no” and give them something more appropriate like a rawhide or chew toy.

Positive Reinforcement

When training your dog, or looking for a trainer or obedience class, the method of training should be positive reinforcement. This means you reward the dog when he does something right, and ignore the behavior when he does something wrong. Having a good relationship with your dog and not yelling and punishing him increases the likelihood he will listen to you.

Essential Commands

These commands are a must for any dog and dog owner and may even save your dog's life.


Usually the first "trick" people teach their dogs. Just knowing this "trick" will help you teach your dog not to jump on people.


To get him to sit, hold small treat in your hand at his eye level, but don't let him have it. Move your hand and the treat slowly behind him; he will look up to watch your hand, and his butt should touch the floor. If you do it too fast, your dog may just back up a couple steps to keep the treat in his sight.


Not to be confused with "Off" this is when the dog is laying on his belly. Down is a submissive position for your dog, so don't be surprised if there is some hesitation at first.


To get him "down" start when he is sitting. Hold a small treat in your hand and let him sniff, then slowly drop your hand to the ground and then away from your dog. Again, if you do it too fast, he may just stand up and walk toward the treat. You want him to reach for it so you can guide his actions.


When your dog is on the couch and he shouldn't be, tell him “off” instead of “down.” You don't want to use two different commands interchangeably because this can confuse your dog. For example, if he is on the couch and you tell him down, and he lays down, in his mind he is doing what you want.


As in "don't move from that spot!"


With your dog sitting, slowly take small steps away from your dog. If he gets up from the sit, ask him to sit again and start over. Start with just a few seconds and gradually add more time and distance between you and your dog.


Meaning "get over here right now!" You never want to tell your dog "come" and then punish him; he'll associate coming to you with bad things and never listen when you call him. "Come" should be equated with something good and fun so your dog will hear "come" and think "I wanna go over there!"


The importance of "come" can not be overstated. You may even want to come up with a special command that you know your dog will listen to (for example, I use my dogs nicknames when I want them to come running to me!) You want them to choose you over whatever else they may be doing!

Training Tips

Don't feel that you have to use any certain word for a command. Dogs don't know English; to them the words are just sounds that precede them doing a certain action. Make sure everyone in the house is training the dog the same way. For example, everyone should use the same command for the same action. Use hand signals along with verbal signals in training; if you are in a noisy place with your dog, you can use hand signals instead of trying to shout commands. Be consistent with what you ask of your dog. Master one command before moving on to the next. Keep training sessions short and fun.

Leash Training

Teaching your dog to walk on a leash can be one of the more frustrating parts of training, but with patience you will have a dog you walk and not one that walks you!


all you need are a collar and leash. Don't reach for a choke collar or prong collar unless you are working with a trainer or behaviorist. These training tools can cause injury to your dog if not used correctly.


you need lots of it! Leash training is not mastered in just one or two sessions.


Dogs pull because they want to get where they are going, usually faster than you want to go. When your dog pulls, stop. Stand still for a few seconds. Eventually he will learn that pulling doesn't get him there faster, it doesn't get him there at all! Don't spend the first part of your walk training and then the rest where you let your dog pull. This just teaches him that you will give in and let him pull you around.


Socializing your dog should be a life long process. You want your dog to be exposed to as many people, pets and situations as possible so he learns how to behave and react to different things. Take him to new places every few days or so and introduce him to family and friends.

Introducing To Other Pets

If your dog has been socialized growing up, he shouldn't have problems meeting other dogs. But you still want to take it slow and see how things go before letting him loose. The best way to start is by introducing your do to other dogs that you know are friendly and socialized. When introducing your dog to new dog friends, keep him on his leash so he can sniff the other dog, and you can reel him in if you need to. Try to keep the leash slack; if you pull too hard, you can trigger his "fight or flight" instinct. Always introduce dogs on neutral turf, so neither of them feels threatened.

How You Can Help


Dogs pick up on our attitudes and feelings. If you feel stressed, your dog will notice and react to it. If you sense a potential problem, try not to tense up or give your dog reason to panic.


Another tip is to divert his attention. Many dogs are hams and love to please their families, so ask your dog to sit, or give you his paw, or some other easy trick he has mastered. Give him lost of praise and attention (and treats if you have some!).

Set Your Dog Up For Success

If you don't know how well your dog has been socialized, always go slow and set your dog up for success. For example, don't take your dog to a park with lots of pets and people if you don't know how he will react. Start slowly, with one or two other people and one or two other dogs, for just a few minutes. Don't take your dog for a car ride only when going to the vet or dropping him off at a boarding facility. He will soon learn that car trips aren't always pleasant. Take him for a ride to get gas in your car, for example, or the drive through ATM. Your dog gets to stay with you and you don't have to worry about leaving him alone in the car.


Whether you take your dog to the park or for a walk around the neighborhood exercise keeps your dog's mind and body healthy. He can meet other people and dogs and burn off some energy. Less pent up energy means less distraction from you and overall, better behavior.

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Copyright America Against BSL 2007
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