There are so many reasons to train your dog. Whether you just want a friendly and relatively obedient house-pet, or to be able to compete in dog sports, all signs point to training. A well-socialized, obedient dog is more pleasant to live with. You can bring that dog to so many more places and activities than you can bring the hell-hound who drags you down the street every time you try to take him for a walk.
And here’s another reason. Your dog is a representative of his species, and his breed. It isn’t your imagination – your dog is being judged. How many people have let a single bad experience with a dog of a recognizable breed (or type) influence their forever opinion of that breed? It’s easy enough to do.
Public opinion can be difficult to deal with. I know quite a few people with Rottweilers who find that people walking towards them on the street will cross the street to avoid them. These dogs that I know, in particular, are big softies. Given the opportunity, any one of them would come up to you and present his or her bum for a nice scratch session. These owners ‘get’ it. They are ambassadors to a breed that is labeled ‘tough’, and the amount of work they put into the training of their dogs shows it.
In the past few visits I have made to a dog park near my home, I have had a nearly identical conversation with fellow dog owners, and it is really disturbing.
“There’s just something about boxers, you know? I just don’t trust them. They seem to be playing nice, and then all of a sudden they’re in attack mode.”
“Yeah, I try to keep my dog from playing with them when we’re here and they show up.”
Sorry, are you talking about boxers? Boxers, those goofy, playful dogs – the ones who like to wrestle and run around and play? Boxers like the one on my street, Abby, Gwynn’s favourite wrestling buddy. Abby, who sits on her front lawn, leash-free, while her owner brings the recycling bins to the kerb, and waits for permission to come across the street to visit us on our walk?
Most of the boxers I’ve met at this park (and any other) play so nicely with other dogs. They love to wrestle, making them a perfect playmate for Gwynn. If their owners call, they come at least as often as Gwynn does when he is called. If they are playing too rough, their owners re-direct them. Like any dog owner should do if at a dog park. Gwynn sometimes needs intervention in play as well.
Most, but not Mocha. Mocha the 1ish year old Boxer doesn’t get it. It’s like she doesn’t speak ‘dog’ – she doesn’t pay attention to the ‘go away’ and ‘back off’ signals that dogs give off. She wrestles too hard, she pushes buttons, and she instigates scuffles. Her owner claims she is perfectly trained, but she has zero recall/obedience at the dog park. When she gets too excited, too pushy, too MUCH, he does nothing. No redirecting, no break time, no ‘let’s go for an on-leash walk for 10 minutes and come back and try again’. She focuses a lot on smaller or weaker dogs, and harasses them to no end. She runs wild, and yes, the dog park isn’t as fun while she’s there. I don’t run into her often, and am usually in the lucky position of already heading out when she’s coming in.
Her impact is being felt. The people at the dog park aren’t talking about their wariness towards Mocha the poorly trained and poorly socialized Boxer, owned by that jerk who doesn’t follow dog-park-etiquette. They’re talking about how they don’t trust Boxers. No differentiation between the Mochas and the Abby’s of the world.
So – train your dog. Train him to make a good impression. You want people to talk about how much they love Australian Shepherds after having met your Aussie – not about how they hate those jumpy, barky, over-energetic terrors. Pure-bred or mixed breed, your dog gives people an impression of all dogs. And don’t forget to pick up after that obedient dog, because otherwise, you’re giving all us dog owners a bad name too.