Bearing in mind that our object is to train a dumb animal for companionship we can, by appeal through the three senses, hearing, sight and feeling, accomplish great things. We can, for instance, save the dog much unnecessary punishment brought about by our own impatience: we can save ourselves the physical strain of the dog’s constant pulling upon the leash. True, we do not want a mechanical robot, rendering blind obedience to our every command, but we do want a real companion as close to us in understanding as man and dog can ever be. The three senses, then, operate in combination by our use of short commands issued in varying intonations; by certain important signs of the hands made in conjunction with the voice, and by appeal to the sense of feeling by encouragement or punishment.
Perhaps right here I should caution the reader against the wrong impression which the word punishment may connote. Because punishment in this discussion does not mean whipping or starving the dog, I dislike using the expression at all. It signifies, rather, correction, so for present purposes let us employ the term correction as more exactly indicative.
Like bright colored threads predominating in a pattern, the use of the three mentioned senses will follow through the whole of our training. And just how important the combination of the three becomes, we will realize when we see how the dog associates with hearing, commands given by means of words; with seeing, commands given by means of signs; and with feeling, such things as petting and leash correction. Were the trainer to disregard even one of these senses, he would straightway find out why he, or the dog, failed in one or another lesson. Particularly are there signs, frequently almost unnoticeable to the layman and the amateur, which will mean the success or failure of the lesson.
And what of the trainer himself! There are three fundamentals with which he must be concerned – patience, concentration and seriousness of purpose.
Patience is probably the trainer’s most necessary tool. Nervousness, quick temper or the slightest impatience never go hand in hand with successful training, and a person subject to any one of these failings may well think twice before he undertakes to train a dog.
On concentration, many times have I been criticized for apparent rudeness when I have refused to take part in conversations during the training period. But a serious trainer must realize how much is involved in schooling a dog untried, and of character unknown: throughout each lesson, he must study his pupil without interruption, and his attention must be given equally, in succession, to each and every dog. Training periods are comparatively short; hence it is not unduly difficult to concentrate entirely upon the dog in hand.
Another consideration vital to successful training is seriousness of purpose. Ask yourself whether you are really determined to train your dog. Is this dog under your hand to become a well behaved animal? Or is he going to be a spoiled pest, inclined to destructiveness; vicious with people, an eternal barker, constantly committing nuisance!
You will find that the work of training entails some sacrifices, but they are sacrifices worth while. For in addition to the pleasure derived from participation in organized obedience test competition, you will discover before very long that your dog is admired and respected because he is so well behaved.
And if you are sufficiently interested to continue on with your training, who knows but that this dog of yours may some day prove to be a real, front page hero by virtue of some outstanding act! Dogs owned by several of my pupils have already served the public good by helping the police to find lost persons, and by trailing and so leading to the capture of criminals.
Founded upon a thoroughly tried and approved system, the patient training of a dog by his beloved master is a worthy and satisfying work which not alone actually benefits the dog but which reflects credit upon him and upon his owner. All this at a sacrifice of but fifteen or, at the most, thirty minutes a day!
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