VERO BEACH â Freedom of choice is currently a big topic in animal care and training.
If you think about, many of our pets do not have choices when it comes to many aspects of their lives.
We choose their food and when to feed them. We decide when and where to walk them. We frequently refuse to allow our pets to indulge in natural behaviors.
While some of this control is necessary, I see many pets that rarely get a chance to enjoy even the possibility of a choice.
I have met dogs that get only two opportunities a day to relieve themselves. Drink too much water? Too bad, you have to wait!
I’ve met dogs that spend 18 hours a day in a crate.
I’ve met dogs that wear Invisible Fence collars inside the house to prevent them from leaving or entering specific areas. Yes, these dogs get an electric shock on their neck if they forget about that doorway and want to follow their owner to another room. That doesnât seem very fair.
It isn’t hard to empower your pet.
On a recent walk with Sally and Rio, we saw a stranger coming toward us down a dirt road.
Sally is frightened by new people. This was a circumstance where she might start barking due to her stranger danger anxiety.
Because I had a lot of space, I just followed Sally. I let her decide how to deal with the situation.
She slowly moved off the road, creating lateral distance so she could be as far as possible from the man as he walked by. No barking, no stress, no treats and no one shouting commands or forcing the dog into a sit. We just meandered peacefully along, even getting a compliment from the gentleman.
It was a good learning experience. I trusted my dog and she made the right choice.
Maybe you want to think about ways you can empower your dog.
Let Spot pick the direction for the next walk. Let Spot pick a toy or a game to play. Allow Spot to be a dog by barking and ripping up some useless paper. Give your dog a chance to sniff on his walks or allow him to avoid the dog he doesn’t like.
Your dog is like a child. He needs structure, but he needs choices too.
New Pet Dog Manners classes begin Nov.Â 7 in Vero Beach and Nov.Â 8 in Sebastian.Â Private training is available by appointment.
Cissy Sumner of Best Behavior Pet Training is Veroâs first Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed and Certified Behavior Counselor Canine-Knowledge. If you have a training or behavior question, email Cissy at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 772-978-7863 or visit www.bestbehaviorpettraining.com for information.
MORE:Â Â Cissy Sumner’s ASK THE DOG TRAINER’s columns offer good advice