If I was only able to give one piece of advice to someone adopting a new dog or puppy it would be this: always teach your dog the things you know he or she will never need to know.
My Dog Doesn’t Need To Know That
One Valentine’s Day my husband surprised me by making an appointment with a professional photographer to take pictures of Honey.
We spent the cloudy afternoon in the studio directing Honey this way and that.
Then the photographer asked me to get Honey to pose with her front paws on an upholstered bench.
No matter how many treats I promised, I couldn’t get Honey to do it. You see, when I was training Honey as a puppy, I couldn’t think of any reason I’d need her to put her front paws up on a bench. So I never taught it on a cue.
When we got home, it was the next thing we worked on with the clicker.
Now I’m really glad she finally knows the “paws up” cue. It led to some cute pictures and it’s a helpful skill on the boat.
To get Honey out of the cabin (our living area below the deck) and into the cockpit (the outdoor living area above deck), one of us has to lift her up to the opening.
Once we have her at the height of the opening, we tell Honey, “Paws up.” She then puts her front paws onto the top step and clambers into the cockpit.
Of course, when Honey was six months old, I couldn’t possibly think of a reason she’d need this skill.
And as I talk to other people raising their dogs, I realize I’m not alone.
Are You Sure Your Dog Doesn’t Need To Know That
I’ve heard it from lots of other dog people.
“My dog doesn’t need to learn how to sleep in a crate. He’s never destructive.”
“We never have people over. It doesn’t matter if our pup feels comfortable around visitors.”
“I’m a homebody who hates to travel. Our dog will never have to go anywhere.”
Okay, I get it. But if your dog doesn’t have to tolerate a crate at home, are you sure he’ll never need to stay in a crate at a kennel or vet’s office?
And you never have people over to visit. Until you do.
Those trips you never want to take? You might not have a choice if you take a job in another state and need to move everyone in the house.
Since life is full of surprises, maybe the best course is to spend at least some time training our dogs for some things they’ll never need to use.
I Thought My Husband Was Weird
I thought my husband was weird for liking to pick Honey up.
I understood it when she was a fuzzy little pup weighing 15 pounds. But as she grew bigger, he never stopped.
My husband liked swinging Honey in his arms. He liked lifting her onto his lap. And most strangely of all, he liked picking Honey up over his head.
I still think he was weird (from the look on her face, Honey agreed).
But now I’m also really, really, really thankful that he was.
You see, life on our boat means that we have to pick Honey up several times a day. And thanks to all the practice she’s gotten with my husband, Honey is perfectly at ease being picked up and carried around.
If my husband hadn’t spent so much time “training” Honey to feel comfortable with being carried, she would be much less happy today.
We’ll be staying put (except for short trips) in the Cambridge Marina until the end of hurricane season when we can head for warmer waters. It’s a great time to work on new training goals with Honey.
I plan to challenge me and Honey by working on skills I can’t expect she’ll ever need to use. Because I have a feeling that if I train them, we’ll use them.
Your Turn: Have you trained your dog to do something that was surprisingly useful? Do tell and maybe I’ll train Honey to do it too.