Living up to Lassie’s Legacy

Oh, Lassie, what have you done? You set the bar so high and the dogs of the world just can’t reach your hallowed heights.

If you grew up watching Lassie, as I did, or saw any of the movies, you know just what I mean. Lassie was perfect. Lassie didn’t shed, didn’t tear up the furniture, didn’t pee in the house, didn’t chew up Timmy’s shoes, didn’t fight with other dogs (unless someone was in danger) and she immediately understood everything people said to her. She even knew more than the humans around her most of the time.

So, is it any wonder people come into a shelter to choose an animal and the first thing they say is “sit?” Unfortunately, most of the time the dog on the other end of the leash does anything but sit. Thankfully everyone seems to realize that the dog isn’t immediately going to go out and save someone from a well. But, for some reason, people think any dog they meet immediately understands simple commands such as “sit.” I hear it as I walk the halls of IndyHumane all of the time. I see it when I walk the Monon and watch people try and get their dogs to sit beside the trail. And, I see it in stores that allow pets. (Picture an owner trying to juggle a dog bouncing everywhere while trying to pay for their purchases and keep their cool while repeating “sit” over and over.)

As we dog trainers like to say, “Dogs don’t come trained.” It takes some  time and a little effort. As a matter of fact, Pal, the collie who portrayed that first Lassie was brought to trainer Rudd Weatherwax because the dog  barked constantly and chased motorcycles. According to Wikipedia, Weatherwax couldn’t get Pal to stop chasing motorcycles and the dog’s owner gave Pal to Weatherwax in exchange for the money owed for training. And the rest as they say is history.

While training your dog might not turn it into a film star, a little training will go a long way to helping you have a wonderful family pet. Training helps strengthen the bond you will be creating with your dog and it is fun for both of you. Seeing a dog and its owner complete a training exercise with the owner smiling and the dog all wiggly is one of the greatest joys of my life.

Dog training doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. In this blog we will explore dog behavior, communication and training, as well as just have some fun along the way.

So, get some popcorn, rent a Lassie movie and instead of saying, “I wish my dog could do that,” think, “wow, it would be fun to train my dog to do that.”

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