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Let-It-Be Dog Training

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Like my late Great Aunt Yetta, may she rest in peace, a wonderful woman who used to work part time as a scarecrow back in the old country when she wasn't training Russian wolfhounds to hunt peasants, I'm from the “Let it Be” dog-training school of thought. If it's one thing obedience classes taught me, it's that there shouldn't be one cookie-cutter set of training rules for all dogs.

Breeds were developed with specific characteristics in mind, so that when you bought a terrier you'd grin and bear it when it tunneled under your backyard fence, or you weren't shocked when your beagle sniffed every behind it encountered.

Purebred dogs are specialists with as diverse a range of God-given talents as people. So one person is great at math, another has a mellifluous voice and someone else is a natural-born clown. A good teacher won't handle all these different types of characters in the same manner.

The clown may need a little extra attention to grasp his math exercises, while the math whiz might need a mentor with the patience of Job to get her to stand in front of the class and tell a joke. You get what I'm saying?

My point is this: let your dog do his own thing…within reason of course. For example, let your terrier dig up a weed or two, allow your pointer to tug at the leash when he sees a squirrel, chuckle when your beagle sniffs your neighbor's bum. After all, they're just dogs!

Fighting your dog’s natural instincts is not only an uphill battle, it's a soul-crushing exercise of futility that deprives it of expressing its true essence, of fulfilling your pet's bred-in-the-bone raison d’etre.

Understand that I'm not advocating an “Anything Goes” philosophy like my cousin, Cross-Eyed Fred, a retired fishmonger who allowed Ira, his rat terrier, to freely mark his territory in the fish market. All I'm saying is cut your pet some slack. So long as it can walk on a leash like a human being, behave like a mensch at a family picnic and do its business outside of the house, what more do you need? Trust me, your dog's not gonna win any Nobel Prizes.

A dog was born to be a dog, not a fashion accessory, or a slave, or a teddy bear. Master control over your dog, but don't go overboard. Like my late Great Aunt Yetta, blessed be her memory, said, (much to the chagrin of the local peasants), "Just let him be."

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