January is a very special month: not only do we celebrate the life of an amazing civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., but we also get to spread the word about the number one thing that can keep dogs out of shelters and away from euthanization: training!
The Associaton of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) marks the month of January as National Train Your Dog Month in hopes of encouraging dog owners to train their pets. Famed animal behaviorist and veterinarian, as well as founder of APDT, Dr. Ian Dunbar, recently announced National Train Your Dog Month in a blog post on DogStarDaily.com, which he also founded and runs. In his blog, he notes the importance of emphasizing training with any pet, and suggests that every month should be National Train Your Dog Month.
In his post, Dunbar brings up a very important point, “Why on earth do we feel that we have to draw attention to something as enjoyable and captivating as dog training? Isn’t that like promoting chocolate? Why does dog training need promoting?”
It’s true that many dog owners avoid training like the plague; in fact, many will sometimes admit to lacking the patience to engage their dogs in obedience training. But Dunbar believes it’s more than just patience keeping training at bay. Dunbar writes that dog owners have a skewed image of just what dog training involves. He strongly believes this is due in part to dog training television programs in popular media that fail to show the fun side of training, or otherwise entirely focus too much on sensationalizing dog behaviors to the point of causing detriment to even the dog.
“With just a couple of notable exceptions, most television dog training programs are really pretty boring and some are downright fatuous —- repetitively presenting the same all-too-few facts with the assumption that either the viewing public changes channels every minute, or that they have the cumulative IQ of a Q-tip. Far too many programs severely underestimate the viewers’ intelligence,” says Dunbar.
In a continued effort to promote positive training, Dunbar goes on to encourage trainers to do their part in dispelling negative preconceptions. “As dog trainers, our goal is to devise a multitude of different training techniques for teaching and motivating people from differing backgrounds and with differing views. All dog owners need to learn how to teach and have fun with their dogs but we must present the information in a myriad of ways,” writes Dunbar, “Training is all about teaching dogs about the human way —- our rules and customs —- and especially, motivating dogs to want to be on our team. Dog training techniques are really no different than those we use to teach our children to read…”
In a recent interview with i Love Dogs writer Linda Chavez, Dunbar mentioned that training is one of the very best ways to keep dogs from ending up in shelters. He says that, though a lot of effort goes into calling people to adopt dogs from shelters, not enough work is invested in preventing dogs from ending up there, and that’s where training comes in. Most dogs arrive at shelters because of behaviorial problems and teaching dog owners to train their pets will keep those dogs in a happy home for years to come.
Here at i Love Dogs we’re doing our part to support National Train Your Dog Month by encouraging dog lovers to send their behavioral questions to our online Ask-A-Trainer, dog trainer and behavioral consultant Eugenia Vogel. Vogel is a member of APDT with over 20 years of dog training experience. If you’d like to submit a question, please do so here.