The Old Trainer: Dog sellers a breed apart

March 31, 2012 

Dear Old Trainer:

I share your assessment of the way dog breeders grub for money, but I think you are being too hard on them. I get my dogs from the shelter now, but I got my oldest from a breeder who told me he was in the business of breeding Corgis because he was an expert. Probably most people in the breeding business are experts.

-- Ron, Palo Alto

A: A lot of people claim to be experts, Ron.

One of my favorite stories about experts concerns English Bishop Reginald Peacock, a brilliant and respected cleric, who got in over his head when he was appointed by the archbishop in 1450 to cleanse the language of words with a Latin base and come up with "pure" English words to replace them.

He came up with some dandies, like "ungothroughsome" to replace impenetrable, but his topper was inventing "nottobethoughtuponable" to take the place of unthinkable.

There may be a responsible breeder out there somewhere, but to consider people in the dog-selling business to be experts on anything is nottobethoughtuponable.

Dear Old Trainer: Our mini Schnauzer, Given, is 18 months old with no training. When my husband and I both work days, she is left alone all day. When we come home things are torn up, books, rugs, whatever. What can we do?

-- Nancy, Merced

A: The first thing is, don't scold Given when you come home. She will connect the punishment with the opening of the door. It does no good to discipline a dog unless you catch her in the act.

Given is 18 months old, you haven't trained her, and she is left alone in the house. You can't expect her to act like a trained dog unless you train her.

She gets lonely and bored when the two people she loves the most in the world are gone, so she invents ways to entertain herself. Like every puppy in the world, the first thing she thinks of is to chew something, preferably something with your scent on it.

A combination of training and maturation with solve the problem. Start teaching her the sit-stay-come series of commands immediately. It has appeared many times in this column so I am emailing the process to you instead of printing it again. The training will help her maintain discipline when you are gone. Work with her every day. Love on her every time she does something right. Walk her every day to burn off excess energy.

Consider leaving her in the back yard if it is fenced. Make sure she has plenty of water and shade. Tell your neighbors so they can keep an eye on her and tell you if she starts to bark too much.

Wherever you leave her, place her favorite toys, especially chew toys, where she can find them, and leave clothing with your scent with the toys. Leave some treats for her to chew.

Another solution is to add a second dog to keep Given company and relieve the loneliness.

Don't get discouraged. It won't take long to train her if you work at it.

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