Adopting and owning a dog can be a rewarding and enjoyable thing both for you and your new pet. The unspoken contract between dog owner and dog is simple, but lasting and nearly unbreakable: the dog receives a caring and loving home and mountains of affection and in return his owner gets to learn to live with almost everything in his home having a little bit of damage done to it and carpet and furniture stains the origin of which he’s not quite sure, but suspects SOMEBODY made when he was being a BAD BOY.
In order for the relationship with your new best friend to be as rewarding as possible for both of you, it’s important to set the ground rules right at the outset. Establishing yourself as “dominant” in the relationship, the “master of the house,” so to speak, is critical in setting the tone for how much the dog will think he can get away with and not get yelled at and then stretching that boundary further and further out. You can do this most effectively by not letting your dog have his way when he decides to misbehave, even if he’s being so god damn cute that you can’t reach for your smart phone fast enough to take a picture because oh my god. Make sure that as soon as possible after you’ve captured the moment for Instagram that you firmly pick him up and tell him he’s a good boy, the best boy, the bestest boy of all time.
Now that you’ve established which one of you is the boss, it’s time to teach him some basic obedience behaviors. It is important that Fido be well behaved not only when he is alone with you, but also when he is around other people and other dogs. And don’t worry that obedience training will rob him of the personality that you fell in love with when you first saw him at the shelter or the breeder’s and thought I HAVE TO HAVE HIM OR I WILL DIE. He will still be the same lovable pooch you brought home that day and you, dear reader, will get to experience an illusory feeling of control.
Teaching a dog to sit for you is actually quite simple and will take you no more than the better part of your remaining years and more aggravation than you can even imagine. But do it anyway because the one time in ten that it works it might actually matter. Start with holding a treat in front of his nose. You can buy training treats at any pet store or you can use small bits of food that your pet enjoys but doesn’t regularly eat as part of his meals. After you’ve mastered the skill of pulling your hand back faster than he can snatch the treat from it you are ready to begin the training. Hold the treat in front of his nose and slowly raise it up and back over his head. As he raises his nose to follow the treat his rear end will naturally fall into a sitting position. As he sits, say the word “SIT” firmly. Once he is sitting, give him the treat and praise him. Repeat this anywhere from one to ten thousand times. Maybe more. Who knows? The hope is that he’ll eventually get it and will sit on command. When that will happen is anybody’s guess.
Dogs love to pick things up off the floor or the ground and chew on or even eat them if they taste good. This can be dangerous for your dog and also for anything, ANYTHING, that you leave on the floor. Training your dog to “leave it” on command is nearly impossible, but we’re going to try anyway. Again, have a treat ready in your hand. Then, place another treat on the floor and put your foot over it so that Fido can smell it but can’t get to it. When he goes absolutely ape-shit trying to get it, say the command “LEAVE IT” firmly. His attention will be diverted for a moment and he’ll look up. When he does give him the treat in your hand and praise him. Repeat this, until one of you is dead of old age.
This one is very easy to teach. First, lock yourself in a small room with your dog and wait. After a while, he may want to lay down. The moment you sense that he is about to lay down, say the command “DOWN” firmly. Then give him a treat and praise him. Repeat this until you literally can’t stay awake any longer. Then after sleeping for a while wake up and start again. You’ll want to take a vacation or, even better, a leave of absence from your job if you have one for this part of the training. Also, keep some sort of canister or other container suitable for going to the bathroom in nearby.
Yeah right. Are you fucking kidding?
There you have it. These simple, basic lessons should get you and your dog off to an excellent start. In no time at all, your feelings of disappointment and discouragement will be replaced by resignation and you’ll just accept him for who he is. Only then will you truly be happy together.
Next time, fun for both of you: potty training!