You know, I love my dog. I really, really do. When we take walks together, I embarrassingly often catch myself making eyes with him, asking, “when did you get so perfect, huh?” or “who’s my best baby?” Of course, he answers, “Oooh! Oooh! Me! Me!” (at least that’s my translation of his sparkly eyes and waggy tail). And this makes me unbelievably happy-that I’ve got this gorgeous dog, whom everyone loves, who’s super cute, and I created him. Well, ok, I didn’t originally, but you know what I’m saying.
I taught Governor Monkey (who lives up to both parts of his name) how to walk beautifully on (and even off) a leash. I taught him how to sit patiently and await his meals. I taught him to be able to resist even the freshest pile of horse poop, as he obeys the command “leave it.” He’s a joy to walk, an exceptional cuddler, brilliant with other dogs, and even nuzzles with my two kitties. For all intents and purposes, he’s perfect.
However, don’t tell anyone this (because I’m a professional dog walker and my dog “should” be a model dog), there are also times that he’s not perfect. Like the fact that he goes positively bananas when someone rings my doorbell. Or the times when he’s just a liiiiittle too busy sleeping or sniffing to be bothered coming when I call him. There’s the fact that he lives for playing fetch – but prefers, once he catches the toy or stick, that I chase him for it rather than bringing it back to me for another toss. And don’t get me started on him giving himself permission to lie on the couch. That was never part of the original contract he and I signed.
If my story sounds at all like yours, good. Not good that we both have pups with manners we love and some we don’t love so much, but good in that we can know we’re not alone. We love our dogs so deeply it almost hurts; yet have things about them that we really wish we could change. What’s amazing, though, is that we can, and it’s honestly not that hard.
Given my profession, I have seen every range of behavior in dogs and I’ve seen virtually every different approach to shaping canine manners. In my opinion, praise-based training is the best approach, but we can save that discussion for another article. Much of the unwelcome conduct of our dogs is due to either a lack of exercise (aka, pent-up energy, boredom or lack of mental stimulation) or our own laissez-faire attitude toward certain behaviors – until we realize how annoying they’ve become. Now, here’s where my shameless plug comes in: of course, you want to hire my company, Queenie’s Pets, to come walk, hike, run or playdate your pup in the middle of the day for you so she’s good and tired when you come home!
But seriously, folks, whomever you choose as your walker – choose one, and go pro. A professional dog walker, as opposed to the neighbor’s kid, your mother, or the retiree next door, is going to have a set schedule, a code of conduct, a lot of experience and, most importantly of all, insurance (if they don’t, don’t hire them). Typically, a well-exercised dog is a well-behaved dog, and, in all likelihood, even if you work from home, you’re busy and don’t have time to give Rover the romp he really needs. Just imagine how relaxing it would be to come home, tired after your long day at work, to a calm dog who, rather than needing a high-energy walk straight away, is just ready to give you a snuggle, because she’s already had her grand outing for the day with her trusted, loving, professional walker.
Then, I invite you to begin to think of hiring a professional trainer (we love local, positive trainers CJ Hazell or Ruth Cionca) not just as something you do to begin your relationship with your dog, or, heaven forbid, after they’ve done something really ghastly (ie, bite someone or tear up your entire couch). Rather, think of bringing on a trainer as a sort of “maintenance plan,” helping you teach her better manners (wouldn’t it be just dandy if she actually came when you called her back to you to leave the park, or didn’t dart out the front door each time a guest arrived?) or games you can play to keep her from being bored. You can even learn how to teach your pup new tricks to wow your friends. She can learn to pick up her toys and put them away, or even to bring you a tissue when you have a cold!
Having a trainer in your back pocket, or, even better, as a regular part of you pet care team, you can hop right on those behaviors you don’t like as much (I am sure Governor Monkey is downstairs sleeping on the couch as I write this). You can even work on those little, annoying things Spot does before they drive you over the edge. Even better, a professional trainer can help you build an even stronger relationship with your dog, no matter if you have had him for years or have just adopted a new pup. No dog is too young or too old to learn something new!
So, here are the top three reasons to round out your pet care team with a professional trainer and professional walker/pet sitter:
- Your dog is learning all the time whether you’re training her or not. With training, you have control over what your dog is learning.
- If your dog has been walked by a pro during the day, you have a calmer, easier homecoming, re-gain hours of your life back and have less worry about rushing home because Fido’s been alone all day. Heck, maybe even meet some friends out for a happy hour straight from work!
- Combining training with exercise, especially amongst professionals who know and trust one another’s methods, ensures consistency for your beloved four-legged family members.
If we re-frame our thinking about our dogs’ behaviors, perhaps even take on the “it takes a village” mindset, and have a trainer, a walker, and a veterinarian we like and trust formulating a team approach throughout our dogs’ lives, we might just be able to say, “How’d you get so perfect, huh?!?”…. and have it be true.
For more information about how to create a relationship with a professional trainer and a professional dog walker, or to ask us any questions, visit www.queeniespets.com, call Queenie’s Pets at 215-248-9999 or contact trainer CJ Hazell at 215-848-2308 or email her at [email protected].