Good Relationships Are Built on Good Training

As a dog obedience instructor, I see many dog owners who are having problems with their dogs. Their dogs won't come when called, they drag their owners down the street when walked on leash, they jump up on company, they chew on furniture, and they urinate on the carpets. These owners are frustrated and confused by their dogs. Some are very angry. Even though the owners and dogs love each other, they do not understand each other. Both are unhappy.

At least the owners and dogs I see as an obedience instructor are getting help. As a volunteer worker at an SPCA shelter, I have seen the dissolution of many poor dog-owner relationships—death for the dog. Millions of dogs are euthanized every year in the United States. While overpopulation is a part of the problem, many dogs are disposed of by their owners because of behavior problems that could have been solved with good training. I hope through this book to prevent some of these deaths.

I have been teaching dog obedience for 28 years. I got started by taking my first dog, Shauna, an Irish Setter, to a dog obedience class. We weren't having any problems; it just seemed like a fun thing to do. The obedience training allowed us to do a lot more things together. I could take her to my college classes because she would lie down and stay for 50 minutes. (She had to be very good because dogs weren't supposed to be in the college buildings.) She would ride quietly in the elevator. We could play Frisbee because she would come when called. Best of all, the obedience training helped Shauna and me cope with her timidity, which was the result of poor breeding. When we finished the class, we were awarded a ribbon for being the most improved. At the time I didn't stop to think that being most improved probably meant that we were the worst at the beginning of the class. I was thrilled and decided to pursue an American Kennel Club (AKC) obedience title.

After a lot more work, I showed Shauna in obedience competition. At our second show, we won first place in our class and a big trophy. Now I was really hooked. I continued showing, joined an obedience training club, and was asked to help teach classes. My husband was in medical school and gone a lot of the time, so teaching obedience classes seemed a good way to spend evenings. I discovered that I liked helping people solve their problems with their dogs and was good at it. It was tremendously satisfying to help an owner who came into class threatening to take his dog to the SPCA if things did not improve and left the class pleased with his dog's behavior.

Over the years, I continued to learn about dogs and dog training. I learned by experience, by reading everything I could find on dogs, and by attending many dog training seminars. My best teachers were my dogs. Besides my Irish Setter, I had a Borzoi (also known as a Russian Wolfhound) and a Greyhound. I learned so much from them. I currently have another Irish Setter. (You can see I don't choose easy-to-train breeds.) My husband is training his third Belgian Tervuren. The fact that a busy family physician could put multiple titles on his dogs tends to discourage arguments from my dog training students that they don't have time to train their dogs. While we enjoy the challenge of showing our dogs, our primary enjoyment of them is their companionship. I am just as proud of the way they behave at my parents' home when the family gathers for holidays as I am of any show ring performance.

I want to help you develop a good relationship with your dog by teaching you to train and understand your dog. My relationships with my dogs over the years have greatly enriched my life. I want to share what I've learned about training dogs so that you, too, can experience the joys of sharing your life with a dog.

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