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Dog’s Eye View: Adopted by Martians

Sandra Kruczek/For Steamboat Today
Steamboat Pilot & Today
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Have you ever considered what it might feel like to be taken to a place where no one speaks your language or understands your culture and yet expects you to conduct yourself by an unspoken set of rules? I often ask people this question when I am starting them on their journey toward living with a new dog.

I heard a profound statement while watching the movie “Platoon.” The new young soldier has been sent to a forward position to join a group of men he does not know. He writes this statement in a letter to his grandmother: “Hell is the impossibility of reason. You don’t know what to do. They don’t tell you what to do. They just yell at you.”

It struck me that this is the position we put dogs in when we bring them into our home without first learning about dog behavior, language and the principles of learning. Fortunately, help is readily at hand in the form of books, DVD’s, classes and certified professional trainers who enjoy nothing more than to impart this knowledge to prospective and current dog owners.

Notice I said “prospective,” because, in an ideal world, we would all prepare ourselves in advance of actually bringing a dog into our home. Think of a young couple expecting their first child. You might find their bookshelves full of the most current information available on bringing up children as the prospective parents seek knowledge to get this young child off to a good start.

Usually, we get calls from pet owners when things start to go wrong, or they realize they just need some help. However, any time is a good time to seek knowledge. Always strive to be proactive rather than reactive.

Following are some resources to help you on your journey. Check out dogwise.com for books and DVD’s.

• Total Teamwork Training LLC offers group classes and one-on-one, in-home training. Staff includes Laura Tyler, ACDBC, CPDT/KA, CNWI, and Sandra Kruczek, CPDT/KA.

• Jean Donaldson, “The Culture Clash,” 2013, is a great foundational read about the dog/human relationship.

• Ian Dunbar, Ph.D., BVetMed, MRCVS — dogstardaily.com — includes books and DVDs, including downloadable “Before you Get Your Puppy” and “After You Get Your Puppy.”

• Sophia Yin, DVM MS, “The Art and Science of Animal Behavior” — drsophiayin.com. I have recommended her books in previous articles, including “Perfect Puppy in Seven Days” and “How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves.”

• Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., “The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs,” and, with Brenda Scidmore, “The Puppy Primer.”

• Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. and Daniel Estep, Ph.D., “Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy,” Animal Behavior Associates, Inc., 2005.

• Sarah Kalnajs, “The Language of Dogs” DVD, 2007.

You can from this list that resources are available. The internet has opened a new world of information, but be careful as you research online. There are training methodologies out there from the dark ages of “force training.”

If you look at the credentials of some of these authors, you won’t see a nationally recognized or accredited background. Certified professional trainers and behavior consultants are required to participate in yearly continuing education.

Science is devoting more time to the human-canine bond and all the aspects of canines and people living and working together. Choose your information wisely, and don’t be afraid to say, “no” to a training technique that uses punishment as part of the learning process.

Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC, with more than 30 years of experience.


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