Though you have probably seen this list in one form or another, some recent events have compelled me to cover it again here.
1. My life is likely to last 10-15 years. Any separation from you will be very painful.
• We are all busy with life, but spend as much time with your dog as you can, even if it is just curling up and watching TV together.
2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.
• Be patient when training, and make it fun.
3. Place your trust in me. It is crucial for my well-being.
• Good training, and plenty of love will make this very easy.
4. Don’t be angry with me for too long, and don’t lock me up as a punishment. You have work, your friends, and your entertainment. I only have you.
• Dogs live in the moment, so you only have a few seconds for a reward, or a punishment, to have an affect on a behavior. You can never punish after the behavior has occurred, and “time-outs” never work on dogs. They cannot make long-term associations, so you will only be teaching Fido that you are untrustworthy and dangerous. Correct in the moment, and instantly forgive.
5. Talk to me. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice when it is speaking to me.
• Dogs can sense every emotion that we feel, and tone of voice is crucial when interacting with them. Being the only true bipeds on Earth, our body language is often contradictory to our intentions, so talk to dogs. It may even prevent a bite.
6. Be aware that however you treat me, I will never forget it.
• Very true. Fortunately, dogs have the most wonderful ability to forgive us clumsy, and/or misinformed, humans!
7. Before you hit me, remember that I have teeth that could crush the bones in your hand, but I choose not to bite you.
• Never hit your dog as punishment, unless it is to break up a fight or attack. Doing so will create hand-shyness. Some dogs flinch and cower, while others will lash-out and bite.
8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I am not feeling well, or I have been out in the sun too long, or my heart may be getting old and weak.
• Or they may just be having a ditzy day. Regardless, read your dog, and make adjustments to your expectations, and actions, accordingly. I have seen well-trained competition dogs, even our own, have “one of those days.” Forcing the issue will not only create negative associations with obedience, but will also fracture your bond with the dog.
9. Take care of me when I get old. You, too, will grow old.
• Enough said. Just put yourself in your dog’s place.
10. Go with me on difficult journeys, especially the last one. Never say, “I can’t bear to watch,” or “Let it happen in my absence.” Everything is easier for me when you are there. Remember, I love you, and have always been there for you.
• Your dog has been there to comfort you when you were sad, play with you when you were happy, and just be near when you needed it. You owe it to him. No excuses! He deserves to have you right in his face during his last moments, tears and all, telling him how much you love him. Not doing so is perhaps the cruelest thing that you could do to him. Don’t be that person.
Jim Beinlich and his wife Bianca own Cool K9’s Dog Training in Colorado Springs. Find them at www.coolk9s.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/coolk9s.