Training key for pets

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Ahhh ... autumn is upon us which means cooler weather, shorter days, football and the annual celebration of all parents - time for school to start! For many of us, our pets are our kids. Pets are the kind of kids that never miss curfew or ask for allowance. Hopefully, they do not stay in the "terrible two" or "terrible teen" stages for long. However, one important part of pet parenting is teaching them the appropriate manners that will last them a lifetime.

Whether you have recently adopted a puppy or an adult dog it is a good idea to enroll them in a Basic Training style class. The curriculum may vary from school to school but this entry level class should cover basic commands such as, sit, down, stay, wait, leash manners and come. The foundation of communication for you and your pet is also established through these types of courses. I have taught many Basic Training classes and find that the pet will find these commands very easy to understand once the pet parent is able to learn the language. Remember, dogs do not come to us speaking the human language. It is up to the pet parent to learn how to teach them. Pets, especially dogs, are eager to meet your requests because it helps them get their needs met, too. They thrive on positive reinforcement and love. So be consistent, patient and most of all - positive.

Canines are a very social species. An additional benefit to a beginner class is that it provides the vital social exposure your pet must have to be a stable part of a family and community. If possible, consider enrolling in a class that meets somewhere public and has at least 2-5 other pet/parent participants. This allows you to learn how your pet does in these situations and provides a social experience that most animals find thrilling. Do not be discouraged if your pet is not the class clown - or for that matter, IS the class clown. Use this experience to gauge the kinds of outlets that will best suit your pet's needs. A dog that is outgoing at home may be more timid in a social situation. A confident dog may find that he is not the only kid on the block with confidence. I encourage you to complete a beginner class before venturing out to the dog park or the local pet-friendly event. Having a good basis of communication (otherwise, knowing each other's language) and a base line of your pet's needs (social skills) in a controlled environment will be extremely handy when encountering the variables that exist at the parks and social events.

If you and your dog have already completed a beginner class, you may want to consider an advanced or "trick" class. Pet sports have also grown in popularity over the last few years and include Fly Ball, Agility, Splash Dog and Lure Coursing. These types of classes can provide some much needed exercise for your active dog. There are competitive teams out there but many are non-competitive and are simply meant to be a fun activity for pets and their people. Keep in mind that all of these activities will require, at a minimum, a successful completion of a Basic Training style class.

A pet requires a commitment for the life of that animal. Build a strong foundation by investing in some basic skills. This will help you and your dog gain the confidence and communication skills it takes to create a strong bond that ensures a lifetime of fun you and your dog. A beginner class will benefit any age dog; even one that already knows how to "sit". Various classes are now enrolling at The Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA. Visit our website, www.aawl.org or call 602-273-6852 ext. 121 for more information and to enroll in the next class. Get off to the right "paw" and have a tail-wagging good time in the process.