La Plata County Humane Society
Buster your well-trained dog spends most of his day home alone, sleeping.
You arrive home from work, school or wherever you spend your day, and Buster, it’s time to walk (no matter how much you may not feel like it). This is exactly what he’s been waiting for all day long, so he’s excited and ready to go!
Buster, being a well-trained friend, leaves your yard on his leash, but soon will be off-leash and free to roam and sniff. He generally stays close and comes when called. Well, most of the time, anyway.
You’re into your walk when a wild critter jumps up in front of Buster, and the chase is on! Off Buster goes, ready to burn some energy. Who wouldn’t after sleeping most of the day? You give the “Come” command, but Buster doesn’t seem to hear you. You start to repeatedly yell the command, each time becoming less and less patient with your usually obedient dog. The squirrel is up a tree, and Buster returns to your side. Meanwhile, you’re frustrated and your voice is hoarse from repeated yelling. What’s the first thing Buster hears as he returns to your side? “Bad Buster, you come when I call you.” Buster is shocked and dumbfounded; he came and now he’s being admonished for obeying. What’s a poor dog to think?
Buster is house-trained, but every once in a while, he may have an “accident” in the remotest corner of his home. Buster hates when he has no choice and must go. Was it something he ate? Nerves? Probably the same things that require an unusual occurrence in our daily routine. Unless Buster is caught in the act, he has no clue why he is being scolded. What’s a dog to think? Give him a break, clean it up, give him a pat on the head and move on.
Dogs do not live in the past or future – well, maybe in the future when they are anticipating a walk. The point is, if you can’t praise or scold your four-legged friend within five seconds of the act, he won’t understand your point. Scolding for bad behavior or praising for good behavior needs to happen within five seconds of the action. If you can’t do that, let it go until next time or set up the situation with a little planning.
So, if you want to let Buster know that you are smarter than he/she, follow the five-second rule for a happier relationship. Out-think your canine friends and they will think you are smarter and a great owner.
Al Winzerling is director of the La Plata County Humane Society, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.