Dog talk with Uncle Matty: Wrangling Kiwi

By From page A8 | October 12, 2012

We adopted Kiwi, so we don’t know her history, but she’s definitely a Labrador and about 1 year old, give or take. She was a stray picked up wandering the streets. She is very sweet and loving — but totally untrained. Despite her age, she is still a puppy in a dog’s body! 

We have only had her for two weeks, and I don’t see signs that she was abused, but I think she was neglected. Who would own a dog without teaching her anything? I trained our last dog, and I have tried to work with Kiwi, but she is going to take a lot of work, and I just don’t have the time. She pulls and tugs on the leash, and for a small Lab, she is pretty strong. She does not come when called, and she ran into the street in front of a car last week. Inside the car, she is wild — an absolute danger. The only way to transport her is in a crate in the back of the truck, but she barks nonstop. I used to think it was because she wanted out of the crate, but now I think she is barking at other cars on the road.

I am not sure I have the time and patience to train this dog, and that is why I am looking for some help.

Bravo to you for adopting this stray in need of a good home! And kudos for reaching out for help early on.

Being so young and of a naturally sweet temperament, Kiwi is likely to respond well to professional training. Her past will always be a mystery, but whatever it entailed, it is just that: the past. Due diligence on your part, coupled with patience and professional assistance, will soon relegate her wild and unruly days to the past, as well.

First, to answer your question: Some people, no matter how well-intentioned, never get around to truly teaching their dog much of anything. There are thousands of totally untrained dogs in this country. Of course, my definition of a trained dog means the dog responds to a command every time, without fail. There are probably millions of dogs who are trained to the tune of “he’ll do it most of the time.”

Since you have time constraints and limited patience for the type of behaviors Kiwi is demonstrating, I’ll skip over the DIY training options of books and DVDs and offer the following options for professional training:

• Since none of the behaviors you mention are “in the home” problems (e.g., housebreaking, chewing on furniture, greeting visitors), “board and train” might be a great option. In short, you take your dog to a boarding facility run by or in tandem with a professional trainer, and over the course of two to four weeks, your dog learns basic to advanced obedience commands and is taught good behavior. At pick-up time, the owner typically works with dog and trainer to learn the commands and continue the dog’s education at home.

• Hiring a professional trainer to come to your home on a weekly basis is also an option. This is a more hands-on experience for those willing to devote time between sessions to working with the dog on that week’s commands and exercises. It’s also a great bonding experience for you and your dog.

• You could also attend training classes. These offer the benefit of added socialization and the challenge of learning to respond to you despite the distractions of other dogs and people.

Each option has its merits, and the good news is that Kiwi is young and sweet and, due to the good sense of her new owner, poised for success! Kiwi is one lucky dog. With a little training, you’ll soon feel lucky, too!


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, and visit him at Send your questions to[email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at PO Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.

Copyright 2012 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Matthew Margolis

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