It’s a dog’s life—and you can make it better

It’s a dog’s life—and you can make it better

By Judd Spodek

Shep, an Old English Sheepdog, was a most enthusiastic pet. He jumped at exciting moments–especially when visitors or vendors came to the door. But not everyone enjoyed his enthusiasm, particularly when a dog of Shep’s size jumped so his front paws were on the visitor’s shoulders!

But Shep was smart (his owners thought him “brilliant,” but that’s probably stretching it). He was definitely trainable.

He learned how to differentiate among couches and furniture that were off-limits and those that welcomed him (the teenager’s bed, for one). He learned to sit and stay, even when some tempting food morsels were a few feet away. He learned tricks: when to roll over, when to play dead, when to shake hands (“give me your paw”) and so on.

The grandmother in the house taught Shep to follow commands in Italian. On a leash, Shep accompanied the father on bike rides around the neighborhood. And the dog learned to stand quietly when he was given a bath or during the frequent brushing that was required for his long haired-coat.

Shep and his family were not my clients, but I have heard for years about that dog’s exploits. You may not want your dog to have as complicated a repertoire as Shep’s, but should you train your pet? And why?

As a professional dog trainer on Long Island, for more than 20 years, I am often asked many of the same questions from my customers, as well as when the subject comes up in conversation.

I’m a firm believer and advocate that all dog owners—those who are new or those with years of pet ownership—should take their responsibility seriously. To me, there is nothing more enjoyable than a well-mannered pet that can be taken along with you and not left at home.

To enjoy the parks, trails, beach and when visiting friends or relatives: Why feel you should leave your pooch alone and miss all the fun?

Why exactly should you train a new puppy or any dog in the first place?

The simple answer: Your dog is training itself if you’re not providing it with the guidance and structure it needs. Without that, your pooch will just go about what it thinks is the right way to behave (or not!)

Since this is all they know, dogs’ instincts allow them to think they should take charge, which leads to behaviors such as barking, jumping and possibly destructive behaviors.

On the other hand, training your dog will build confidence, and provide mental and physical stimulation while strengthening your human-animal bond.

Future articles will review different types and theories of dog training and what may or may not be the right approach for you and your dog. Some questions you might ask a trainer include whether private in-home one-on-one lessons or group lessons are for your pet.

You could also look into the ever-so-popular “board and train” option. I discuss all these and more with my customers, and only after every question is answered and each option is fully explained, do we begin the process.

Judd Spodek runs Sit Happens Inc., in Roslyn. He trains dogs in many local areas, including Manhattan. Contact him at Sit Happens Dog Training, 516-523-8449;


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