Cheryl Wicks: The second hand dog | TheUnion.com

Cheryl Wicks: The second hand dog

Many of us adopt adult dogs, or even puppies, that have been previously homed with someone else.

Sometimes they have even lived in more than one other home. Imagine if you took in a child who had been displaced and lived in several different foster homes. The child might be confused. It's the same with your dog.

When you take a dog home from a shelter or adoption event it will often be on its best behavior. Why? Because (s)he's assessing the situation.

It's as if (s)he is asking (her)himself: What are the rules in this house? Who is top dog here? What am I allowed to chew? Where am I allowed to sleep? When do I have to obey these people and when can I get away with ignoring them?

Before you take the dog home you need to decide what the rules of the household are for the dog and then consistently follow them. The more you do not deviate from your own rules the better behaved your dog will be.

Dogs are incredibly astute creatures and can quickly deduce the rules of the road in your household. You are teaching your dog every minute whether you know it or not.

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For instance, if you don't want your dog on the furniture then you must never allow it. If you don't care then you can allow it. You just can't care one day and not the next without developing a dog with a behavioral problem. Having discipline and boundaries does not equal abuse.

You must not hit or scream at your dog. No one likes that. It scares the dog but doesn't build a strong relationship. Hitters and screamers are not seen as leaders, your dog needs leadership, (s)he does not need abuse.

I was the proud MaMa of Sammie, the Shar-pei. This is the famous Sammie of Sammie's Friends. The trainer I took him to as a pup taught me a very important lesson, that I have never forgotten.

The lesson — Never ask your dog to do something unless you are prepared to ride it out until (s)he does it. Shar-peis are strong willed, independent dogs who want things their way.

At Sammie's second dog training the task at hand was to get the dogs to lay down. Sammie would not do it.

John said, "If you let him get by with this, you will have the beginnings of a monster." I decided in that moment that if I had to stay all night Sammie was going to lie down. All the other dogs had left and I kept at it until he laid down.

He was panting, I was sweating on a cold, December night in a gym in Menlo Park at 9 p.m. I had Sammie for 16 years and from that moment he understood I would endure and there was no way around it.

He did not challenge me again. I never yelled or hit him; I was just tenacious.

If you do not have clear boundaries for your dog, you may notice a turn in his behavior for the worse along about the third or fourth week of his adoption.

That's when (s)he decided you don't know what you're doing and leadership is missing and so the dog will now do what he pleases. This is a little like allowing your children free reign and then when they become teenagers you decide to lay down the law. Yikes!

Of course some dogs, like some children, are just easy keepers no matter what you do. But others are a little more willful and will do much better with clear house rules.

Provide leadership and clear boundaries for your dog and you will receive respect and unfailing loyalty in return. Remember these tips and you will have a long happy and fun life with your dog.

Cheryl Wicks is the Co-Founder and President of Sammie's Friends.

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