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Mark and Denali with the diploma.

We all graduated from obedience school

Several months ago, in a sea of dog-ownership regret, I wrote that someone said there are no bad dogs, only misinformed owners. I scoffed. There are bad dogs. I've seen them on TV, on walks, heard stories. Their owners couldn't all be misinformed.

Now, I think that more owners are misinformed than I originally believed. It wasn't just Denali who graduated from obedience school – it was my husband and me.

For us, the training was about learning:

  • If you ask your dog to do something, make sure he does it. Before training, if Denali didn't sit, I'd give up. Wrong. You have to make your dog sit. He now has two chances to sit and then I grab his collar and tuck his rear end under.
  • One command can't mean many things. Mark and I would tell Denali "down," which meant to lie on the floor. I also would tell him "down" when I wanted him to stop jumping excitedly when I came home. Down means one thing to him – lie on the floor. I now use the command "Off" to mean "get your paws off my shoulders."
  • What motivates your dog. It's easy to ask Denali to sit when you have a treat in your hand. It's not so easy to ask him to come when his only reward is "Good boy" and a pat on the head.
  • With a little repetition, Denali can learn. Denali's not a bad dog nor a stupid dog. He just needs a little bit of time to figure things out and then a little more time to figure out if he really wants to do it.