Life without a dog?

Jan. 12, 2013 @ 04:48 PM

Life without a dog is less interesting. Life with a well-trained canine companion is a pleasure and a source of joy every single day. I know this because I see the reaction of people when they see a well-trained dog. The reaction is one of admiration and respect but I can often see a longing in their eyes for a similar relationship.

My desire for such a dog occurred about 25 years ago when a repairman came to my house. He had a black Labrador retriever in his truck and when he pulled up, he asked if the dog could get out and relieve himself. Of course, I said this was OK and he opened the truck door. The dog waited until he said OK and then jumped out and began sniffing around as all dogs do. The repairman told the dog to “hurry” and he quickly found an appropriate bush and completed his task. He then jumped onto the tailgate of the truck and stayed there the whole time the repairman was working. I was amazed and envious. If there was a singular moment when I decided I wanted to own a trained dog, it was then.
Since that time, I’ve owned two dogs that were the envy of most people who met them. Ernie, my first Lab, was a one-man dog, but he was obedient and traveled with me constantly. He was invited into people’s homes, into businesses I frequented, into the bank where I banked, and he was the center of attention everywhere we went. He allowed strangers to pet him, but he really only cared for me. We were best friends for 14 years and I miss him every day.
Larry is my current best friend. Larry is natured differently from Ernie in that he loves everyone he meets and wants to make friends with everyone from cats to cable guys. He never meets a stranger and loves kids and puppies. He is a sweetheart who can conduct himself at the head table of a dinner with 200 guests or he can work a field for chukars and pheasants. He’s been on TV and in front of hundreds of people in personal appearance situations. We’ve been best friends since the day I picked him up in Holland, Michigan when he weighed eight pounds. He is now a svelte 94 pounds.
Untrained dogs are also lovable, but a lot more trouble. I can never figure out why someone would have a dog that won’t come when called. It isn’t difficult to train a dog to come when called and it’s very difficult to chase a dog down, not to mention the number of dogs that don’t obey being hit by cars. The fact is, if you really care about the well-being of your dog, you’ll make sure the dog is sufficiently trained to deal with possible car incidents. If you can’t figure out how to get your dog to come when you call him, carry a pocketful of treats all the time. I promise it will work and eventually, the dog won’t even notice when you substitute a little rub down for a treat.
This is a time of Christmas puppies and the time to begin training them is now. Dog training is not rocket science. It’s a matter of being smarter than the dog. This week, I got a call from a friend who has a new puppy. She got the dog at eleven weeks and the dog was in a kennel with a suspended wire floor. This means that toilet functions were done on a screen and disappeared. She’s having trouble house training the puppy and her progress will be slower than if the dog had been picked up at seven weeks, the time when mother dogs stop cleaning up after pups.
Still, the problem isn’t insurmountable. Most likely, the dog would not soil a small kennel. If I had this puppy, I would keep the dog in a small kennel long enough that it was sure to need to go. I’d then let the dog out of the kennel and quickly lead it outside before it could soil the house. Repeating this will teach the dog that this kind of business is conducted outside. It will take longer than if the puppy had been picked up at seven weeks, but eventually, it will work.
Any dog training problem can be resolved with some patience and thought. Maybe you can’t come up with an answer but there’s always someone else with an idea.
Finally, I want new dog owners to consider training collars. I can’t imagine training a dog without a collar and I suspect 98 percent of well-trained dogs get at least part of their education wearing a training collar. Training collars are not painful unless they are turned up to high settings. At low settings, they tingle, and a tingle is uncomfortable, not painful. The tingle is no worse than your foot going to sleep. It’s uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hurt.
My dogs live within a buried fence enclosure. They wear the collar while learning their boundaries and rarely wear it afterwards. The containment collar beeps before there is stimulation and Larry hardly ever gets anything other than a beep. If I push the other button, I am certain he has willfully disobeyed my command. As a result of this slight amount of discomfort, Larry now leads the life of a canine celebrity. He’s invited and welcomed almost anywhere, and I think this is a wonderful trade off for him. His life is much better than the poor mutt who lives in the house and only gets outside for a walk on a leash.
Imagine what your current life would be without an education. The life of your dog is no different. Be kind to your dog. Give him a chance to live the good life; invest time in training him. You’ll not only improve his life, but your own as well, Larry and I promise.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. Larry is a Fox Red Labrador Retriever and Dick’s best friend. If you’d like to have them speak to your group, they can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com