How to be a Dog Owner and Good Neighbor

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Everyone knows that dog ownership is a responsibility. Most think of the duties owed to the four-legged family member. Owning a dog requires patience, training and providing for much more than food in their feeding dish. But there are additional obligations - those to your neighbors and others in the public who may encounter your dog. Being a dog owner means ensuring that your dog is a well-behaved neighbor. Here’s how to be the best dog owner for a content dog and happy neighbors.

Before you adopt, plan

Sometimes, people decide to get a dog without fully thinking through the process. Besides being a time obligation, there are considerable recurring expenses. Before taking the plunge into dog ownership, consider the following:

- Who will be the dog’s primary caretaker? With a family, it’s often necessary to dole out responsibilities, including care for the family dog. Training can be done with several members, but a dog usually performs best with someone taking the lead role as caretaker and trainer. Also, do you have small children, and if so, what role will they play in training and care?
- How will the dog affect your budget? Expenses go far beyond an adoption fee or purchase price. Dogs need quality food and equipment, such as a crate, leash, collar, harness, and toys and treats. They also need grooming and medical care - and sometimes, the vet bill can be considerable and unexpected.

The importance of obedience

A happy dog is one who has a purpose and a routine. An untrained and bored dog will likely be destructive and can tend to display behavior that will make the dog a blight on the neighborhood. From hole digging in the backyard to barking at every passerby, poor dog behavior develops in an untrained animal. Most of these destructive and undesirable behaviors are easy to modify through simple obedience training.

For example, neighbors often bemoan dogs that bark incessantly. In order to curb this behavior, there are generally two effective strategies. First, identify and eliminate the barking source. If a dog loves to sit in the front bay window of a house, barking at whatever person, dog, squirrel or wind-strewn leaf passes by, consider blocking the dog from accessing that window. If this vociferous pooch is kept in the rear part of the house that does not face the public, you may be able to solve this problem without training.

A second strategy, which requires some more work, is to train the dog to refrain from barking. There are a few ways to do this, including teaching the "quiet” command - where your dog is rewarded with a treat for being silent - ignoring the dog, and asking for an incompatible command when the dog begins to bark. This last tactic has you asking the dog to sit, heal, or some other obedience training routine when they begin to bark.

Encouraging good behavior in public

Obedience and removing stimuli are effective for a barking dog, but once your dog goes outside, he may revert to all of his bad traits. Neighbors and other members of the public, including children and other dogs, will interact with your dog on walks and at the dog park. If your dog is not trained, he will jump on people, scare some and possible hurt others. The answer, however, is not to keep the dog indoors. Here are some tips to make your dog a good member of the public:
- Walk the dog often.
- Keep him on an appropriate leash and maintain control at all times.
- Teach your dog to heal when others come nearby. This only takes a few weeks. Using a treat reward, tap your thigh and command him to “heel.” Eventually, he will understand and come right to you upon command. Use this trick during walks and any time he gets away from you and you want him to return to your side.
- Hold off on taking your pooch to the dog park until you’ve had some time to work with him on training and socialization. Even then, be sure to keep an eye on him while you’re there, especially when he’s frolicking off leash, and pay attention to his body language. If he seems nervous, head home for the day, and try visiting again on a less crowded day so he can get used to the environment.

A well-behaved dog is easier to train that many think. It takes time and diligence on an owner’s part, requiring a plan before adoption and a focus on eliminating temptation while also encouraging good behavior. And remember, a tired dog is peaceful, so walk and exercise your dog often.

By: Cindy Aldridge | OurDogFriends.org
Photo by SmallDogPlace and special thanks to 239Agent.com