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Training is essential
" Dogs live in an anxious and sometimes fearful state when they meet people or face new situations - if they have not been prepared for these everyday encounters."
- Donna Chicone

by Donna Chicone

I remember three distinct times I had [my dog] Jazz with me for therapy work at a children's hospital when an adult asked me, "Did he come like that?" The question surprised me each time, and I began to wonder if people thought dogs came programmed with trained behaviors. Unfortunately, they do not.

When Breezer [also, a dog that I had] came into my life, I did some initial training with him, but felt overwhelmed with the experience. At that time, I simply didn't understand the importance of training a dog. I thought it was a nice thing to do, but something I didn't have a lot of time for. And I didn't have enough insight into what Breezer needed.

Now, however, many years later, because Jazz and Jive [my current dog companions] have both had - and continue to have - a lot of training, it has made living with them a joyful experience. Other people can also enjoy being around them, and they are comfortable around people.

A great way to think of training is that it is preparing your dog to live in a human world comfortably and with respect. When we look at training from a pet parent perspective, we need to view training both as a dog's right and as our responsibility.

Consider for a moment that there are children who are neglected and don't get the emotional support and parenting they need. [They are less] comfortable in the world they live in. In seeking ways to cope with their stress, some hold everything in, some may not even speak, and others act out and have a hard time concentrating. They struggle to fit in, both in school and in society.

As responsible parents to our human children, most of us strive to provide the best developmental support and education possible. And, as deplorable as [neglect] is, it can happen even more easily with pets. As accountable pet parents, the commitment to train our dogs must be a part of the responsibility we assume when we bring them into our lives.

The reality of denying your dog training is that it creates a stressful life for [her]. Dogs live in an anxious and sometimes fearful state when they meet people or face new situations - if they have not been prepared for these everyday encounters. If you want your dog to be calm and confident, you need to commit to training, and that means spending quality time with [her].

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Just as you support your human child through the various phases of life, supporting your dog in learning behaviors and coping abilities in new situations throughout life will enhance [her] quality of life - and yours.

Donna Chicone is the author of "Being a Super Pet Parent." She lives in Woodbury. www.jazzandjive.com

Editor's note: This essay is excerpted from Chicone's book with permission.

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