The Other Dog. No, it isn’t the latest salacious kibble out of Hollywood. At least not yet. It’s the excuse many people cling to in order to avoid accepting responsibility for their ill-mannered pooch.
But the other dog didn’t chew up the sofa cushions.
But the other dog never attacked the mailman.
But the other dog knew not to, ahem, “hug” the neighbor’s leg.
If that’s true, if the other dog really knew so much more, then you’re in great shape. All you have to do to get the new pooch up to speed is teach him all that great stuff you taught the other dog. After all, if you don’t teach him, he won’t know.
Then again, the other dog simply might not have shared the new pup’s appetite for upholstery, postal carriers and great gams.
It defies logic to believe any one dog will behave like any other dog just because they’re both dogs. Most dogs don’t instinctively know to stay off the BarcaLounger and out of the fajita meat.
Angel or devil. Sometimes in the beginning, it can feel like nothing more than a coin toss. But either way, dogs, just like children, need discipline and guidance from their “parents” in order to become good citizens with whom the rest of us enjoy sharing space. In other words, we have to train them.
I’ve attended many dog shows in my time. I’ve met beautiful dogs, groomed to the hilt, with textbook temperaments. I’ve met proud and dedicated dog owners who had dropped thousands on handling and grooming. I also met a 160-pound Neapolitan mastiff who pulled so hard on the leash that his owner couldn’t walk him and a 15-pound terrier who continually bounced off my kneecaps.
Beautiful show dogs, but still not trained.
Perfect teeth and bones and super-shiny coats, but still not trained.
These animals were quite literally the champions of their breed. And still they had bad manners.
It’s relatively easy to teach a dog good manners; there’s no ego factor to negotiate when teaching a dog. But you’ll need to do some homework first. For some dog owners, everything they know about dogs is based on the other dog. They don’t know about teething, they don’t know about crate training, they don’t know about housebreaking. They don’t know about temperament testing, tone of voice, personality or the particulars of one breed versus another. And they don’t hold these truths to be self-evident: that while all dogs may be created equal, all dogs are not the same.
A good way to drive that point home is to go to a dog show. You’ll see beautiful specimens from every breed imaginable, but for some up-close one-on-one with the dog and his or her owner, attend a “benched” show. Those are shows where the competing dogs are required to stay in specific areas — on benches — when they aren’t being judged. This allows for interaction between spectators and participants, and it’s a great way to ask questions of breeders and do some homework when trying to decide what breed of dog best suits your lifestyle.
The International Kennel Club has two benched shows every year, and an online search of your area will reveal other benched shows open to the public. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, dog shows are a great way to get a lot of homework done in one sitting.
Whatever you do, don’t get a new dog with the other dog in mind. Even if he’s the same breed, even if he’s the same litter, even if he’s the twin brother, he won’t be the same dog. So the next time you find yourself dangling “the other dog didn’t do that” from the tip of your tongue, remember: That’s why he’s called “the other dog.”
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.
Copyright 2013 Creators Syndicate Inc.