An enormous “thanks” to Mark Siebel and Sam Kabbel for their excellent articles on basic dog training and behavior (AFN, July 24). Ahwatukee is definitely a “dog-friendly” village, so receiving great advice about our canine companions via our local paper is most welcome. I applaud AFN’s inclusion of such informative articles.

Good citizenship aside, Siebel’s admonishment to teach our dogs solid recalls is crucial to our friends’ wellness; in our area, fast-moving cars, poisonous snakes, and other hazards could quickly injure or kill a beloved pet. Twice in the last year, a coyote ran by my dog and me while we were playing in a local park. Were it not for a rock-solid recall, my courageous canine would have chased his cousins into the sunrise, and quite possibly to his demise. I think about these incidences each time an unknown dog runs full-out toward mine, ignoring the frantic calls of its owner.

Kabbel’s “Five biggest mistakes” are equally vital, because while our dogs are clever, their understanding of rules is similar to a toddler’s — they comprehend “yes” and “no,” but lack an adult’s capacity to deal with “maybe.” Anyone who’s raised a child understands that negotiating with a 2-year-old is a losing proposition. We need to bear that in mind when dealing with our canine rug-rats (see mistakes No. 1, 2, and 5 — no training, too much freedom, and giving them everything they want).

Recently, while enjoying an early morning walk, an unknown neighbor scornfully accused me of exerting too much control over my dog; apparently, the sight of my dog walking calmly beside me in a casual “heel” position disturbed her. Perhaps she is ignorant about basic dog training. It’s just as likely, though, that she’s never considered the consequences of mistakes, particularly Kabbel’s No. 3: each of our dogs is unique and, consequently, our criteria for them should be distinct. I own a high-drive Aussie, who, without the physical and intellectual stimulation that our daily two hours of obedience, tricks, and agility training provide, would be prone to engage in destructive behavior. My expectations may not be appropriate or necessary for many dogs, but they work to keep both my canine partner and me happy and relatively stress-free.

Whether your goal is simply to grow a great family pet or to develop a competitive canine athlete, it makes sense to heed the advice of certified trainers, like Siebel and Kabbel. Our precious pets deserve nothing less!

Gary Hill

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