Ok…so enough whining about the posting to Cold Lake and onto something more interesting :-) I’ve received quite a few interesting questions that I’m excited to contemplate and answer. If you haven’t yet asked me your burning questions about babies, natural living, love, life or the pursuit of happiness, be sure to check out this post and ask away!

I’ve decided to answer Tanya’s question first, because it’s somewhat time sensitive!.Just to fill y’all in – Tanya is a fellow Log Officer in the Canadian Forces and we met in 2006 on training at CFB Borden. I adore hanging out with her because she’s a tonne of fun and has a wicked sense of humour and is a super genuine and generous person. You can find her over at The Unforgiving Minute.

So Tanya asked “As you know, I am getting a new puppy. There is some concern on my part that I will not be home except on weekends for the first two weeks the puppy is in our home. Friends have told me that there’s no way that dog will listen to me after that since a dog can only have one master. What have your experiences been with Turner? Does he favour or listen to one of you more than the other?”

Now bear in mind that I am by no means an expert on dog training, but that being said I like to think that I have a fairly well trained dog. Not perfect – but definitely better than many! And in training him we have worked with 4 different but equally fabulous trainers. I would recommend each and every one of them without a second thought. Both Dale and I have also done a LOT of reading on dog training and even a bit on dog behaviour. So in the 3 1/2 years that we have had Turner I think I have acquired a fairly decent knowledge of dog training and behaviour patterns.

That all being said, in my honest opinion I think that with hard work and dedication and the help of a good dog trainer you shouldn’t have any trouble getting your new puppy to listen to you. A dog can definitely have more than one master – it may only view one of you as the ultiamte alpha at any given time, but you both can and should be “above” your pup in the pecking order of your household.  It may take a bit more time, but you can definitely make it happen! The key is consistency, consistency, consistency. You and Ritch need to be on the same page about how you are dealing with behaviours (good and bad) and deal with them in the exact same way EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. No if, ands or buts about it.

My best reccommendation for dealing with a new puppy is to buy the books “How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” and “The Art of Raising a Puppy” by the Monks of New Skeet. They are by far the best books on dog training you will ever find. Read them cover to cover. You can check out their website here.

Second, find a good trainer – not just the first trainer you hear about – but a truly qualified trainer. Ask friends for recommendations but ask the trainer about their credentials and look into them before deciding. A trainer who uses a combination of praise, play and timely appropriate correction is the best as far as I’m concerned. And remember that training your dog doesn’t stop after puppy school…it continues throughout the dogs life. You need to constantly kep working with your dog if you want them to continue to respond to you.

Dale and I have tagged-teamed Turner’s training right from the start, and although it often takes Turner a few days to a few weeks, to get back into the groove of listening to one of us when we’ve been away for a while, as long as we go back to basics and demand timely responses to commands, we have never had a problem. Even in agility, Turner will run with either Dale or I. You just need to be firm and show your puppy who is the alpha – you and/or Ritch. There are lots of ways of doing that and the Monks discuss a lot of them. They are important – especially if you’re planning to add kids to your family one day.

For example, Turner waits at doors, gates, in the car, at the top of the stairs, etc and doesn’t move until he is told he can with an “OK”. It is a godsend to have dog that will not run out of the house if the front door is left open while I carry in a stroller or lug groceries into the kitchen. It is way safer to have a dog that waits at the top of the stairs until I am safely at the bottom with baby in arms before he barrels down full throttle. It all took a lot of work, but it is definitely worth the effort.

My apologies if this post sounds preachy…it’s not meant to. People have been known to call Dale and I a little fanatical about dog training, but the reward is a dog who listens to us both without hesitation and who we can basically take anywhere and be assured (for the most part) of acceptable behaviour.

I can’t wait to hear all about your new addition Tanya! Don’t worry about being away at the beginning…it’s not the end of the world as long as you are consistent and make up for lost time in training once you’re home again for good! Good Luck!

P.S. The pics of Turner and I at the trial are the professional shots taken by Stephanie at SP Photo.  The rest of the pics are some of my favs of Turner over the years.