Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Let's start this soapbox

First let me mention that I am qualified (licensed) behavioral psychologist. I have trained many animals, anywhere from lizards up to Rhesus monkeys and children with behavioral problems. Never did dogs, although I had a good notion of the principles involved. Did my homework as far as dog ownership is concerned and have decided that I wanted a pit bull puppy. My main reason, after wanting a dog of my own for three decades, was to have a dog that needed a lot of work, one that had plenty of energy, intelligence, and character and one that was known for its loyalty to the human family. The fact that the whole breed is under attack because of morons like Vick and the sensation-seeking media was a plus, inasmuch as I wanted the challenge to show that a dog is just a dog, no matter what the breed and its behavior ALWAYS represents the effort and care the owner has put into owning a dog.

I studied everything I could lay my hands on pit bulls and dog raising: videos, TV shows (love the “Dog Whisperer”) books, discussion groups and forums, Web sites, and talked to as many owners and veterinarians as I could. Then, I read about training methods and philosophies. Several of my friends had variable experiences with several dog trainers and facilities and we discussed the pros and cons of each. I also talked to foster “parents” for the local pit bull rescue group and found out what my options were for training and working with a pit bull. I decided that the McDonald K-9 Academy in Birmingham, Alabama was what I wanted.

After only five training sessions, I will bet anyone that our not-quite-5 months old puppy is better behaved than 99% of the dogs I have ever met. He is also one of the most affectionate animals you will ever meet. Loves people, children, babies and gets along with cats. Sandor (Shahndor) will go around the house when he is let out of the crate first thing in the morning and “kiss” everybody “good morning” before he goes outside and before he eats, although he really wants to do both, badly.

All this due to Aaron McDonald who, patiently and kindly, has trained us (my wife and I) how to work with Sandor. Aaron is a genuine lover of dogs; however do not mistake that for a weakness, because the first sign of love he teaches you is that controlling your dog is an absolute must. A dog under control is easy to like. Many people love their dogs, but many don’t like them because the dog does whatever it wants. Just like a child, a dog that does not know the rules is uncomfortable. That discomfort will be expressed in a myriad of possible ways, like chewing, biting, dominant/aggressive behavior (jumping on you; sitting in hour lap when you have not given permission) and jumping on people or being afraid of people who visit you, barking, whining, doing its “business” all over the place, pulling on the leash, and just generally being a pain to own. All I have to do is look around the neighborhood (we have no leash laws) for examples of what I am talking about.

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