Daughterly Advice

Last week I got a phone call from my father. He had recently installed an electric fence to keep his dog from running out onto the golf course. Even though they had followed the training protocol by posting flags around the property for a time before turning on the power, Buster had already been shocked twice when chasing squirrels. Dad was very distressed because now the dog did not like to go outside. We would never dream of shocking our children to teach them lessons (maybe we would like to, but we know it would be wrong) so why do we train our dogs this way?

The main reason is because children can understand concepts of danger- getting lost, or hit by a car if they stray into the road. Dogs need to learn about danger differently. It may sound cruel to let them get shocked for crossing a boundary, but it is better than letting them get injured. Most dogs will learn quickly from this experience and then will be perfectly fine staying in their yard. My father is one of the kindest people I know.  I could tell from his voice that he really felt terrible that Buster had gotten shocked, as if it was a horrible life-altering experience.  I knew Dad needed coaxing more than his dog did.

I tried to give him calm support and reassurance. My own dogs have been trained, with only a few corrections. They still love chasing squirrels in the yard, but they know when to stop. I have peace of mind in knowing I don’t have to walk outside with them in the rain or snow. I told my father to stick with the training, persuading him that it probably wouldn’t happen more than a couple of times; Buster is very intelligent. I also suggested that my father bring out treats for his dog and feed them to him in the yard. This could erase his negative association of being outside and Dad could use the treats to call his dog back from the flagged area as part of the training.

At the end of our phone call, I could tell that Dad was still worried but was at least more optimistic about the outcome. I am happy to report that within a week, Buster is a well-trained dog and is quite happy to search for bones in his yard, rather than pursue squirrels onto the golf course.  As for Dad, he is much happier too, knowing his dog is not going to run down the fairway chasing golfers. And for me, when I think back to all the times I have turned to Dad for advice and support, I am glad that I was able to return the favor.

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