By Dorice Stancher
Time flies, and the years pass so quickly, especially in dog years. Is there any one of us who hasn’t let out a sigh upon realizing that their dog is no longer a puppy, and fast advancing into adulthood and finally the “golden years”? Whether you are a breeder, competitor, or pet owner, the thought remains the same.
This is not a time for melancholy, however. Certainly not! My Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers remind me that life is to be lived and that every moment counts. If you’re already an involved “dog person,” every wonderful, delicious waking hour presents you with an opportunity to make your time together with your dogs truly special.
But what about new puppy owners? How do we awaken in them the passion for exploring life accompanied by “a heart on two feet”?
When a Wheaten puppy arrives home into the typical household, it is not unlike when a family arrives home with a new baby. However, once the excitement wears off there is that pivotal point where the puppy either becomes firmly interwoven into the pulse of everyday life, or is relegated to being just another responsibility.
How can we create a vision of their happy future together and have the owner see it too? How do we ignite the fire and keep it burning?
In order to increase the odds that the puppy will work out well in his new home and be loved and appreciated, training needs to be introduced early. And when we train the humans positively, they learn to treat their dog respectfully and to integrate learning among all family members. They find empathy and understanding in a group class as they realize that their puppy’s mouthing and biting are normal, that housebreaking too shall pass, and that socialization is just another word for fun.
With children, parents need to not only supervise but to have a plan in place for creative play that discourages chasing and nipping. There is a better chance of children taking responsibility for the puppy if they see him as a smart playmate instead of a biting and mouthing little maniac.
Blankets draped over chairs and cardboard boxes become tunnels, and tricks with the dog, including dancing, take center stage. Simple ideas like muffin pans filled with tennis balls hiding secret treat prizes often work the best and are inexpensive.
My favorite games for family obedience include indoor hide and go seek, “rebound recall” (where the family takes turns calling the dog and rewarding while in a circle), and nose work (where the dog has to find the treat). Sometimes I play a three-card Monte type of game with three large, plastic cups and a hidden treat.
Wouldn’t you agree that some of your favorite moments with your own dogs revolve around your participation in AKC competition and events? The typical family is often unaware that they too can participate in AKC events and clubs. In most cases the bridge to participation is a “dog person” who has made them feel welcome.
And for those pet owners who “just want to have fun,” there are so many opportunities.
With spring upon us the weather beckons us to get outdoors and hike with our dogs, dine with them al fresco, take family vacations with them, or even have them join us on a kayak or paddleboard.
All dogs should have every opportunity to experience the joy of companionship and a life fully lived.
—Dorice Stancher, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America (May 2014 AKC Gazette)
Bottom three photos courtesy the author