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|Elsa Larsen and her wonderful dog, Lincoln|
Author: Elsa Larsen, Dog Trainer & Behaviorist
Owner, My Wonderful Dog
It’s Spring and now that the snow has melted (for most of us), many would be dog owners are turning their attention to rescue lists, shelters and breeders. As I look at my own dog, a 10 year old Labrador Retriever named Lincoln curled up on the couch next to me, I cannot help but think about the time when she will no longer be around. Who will come after her? I find myself vacillating back and forth between pup or older dog, pure bred or mixed breed. Though I may be unclear about which direction I would go in choosing a dog, I know for certain which skills that I would like to teach my new dog—any dog for that matter, be she young or old.
Before I go into what I would consider my top five skills for dogs, I think it’s important to understand some of the things that may influence how you teach a particular skill. Factors such as age, confidence, physical limitations, and motivation will each play a part in how you train. Let’s address each one of these factors individually.
If you choose to adopt an older dog, you may have to spend some time resolving and managing problem behaviors first. Your ability to socialize a dog beyond its "critical period" (to 12 weeks) is limited, so while you may be able to influence somewhat your dog’s confidence, pretty much what you see is what you get. But unlike puppies an older dog may already have progressed through their super destructive chew period and with proper supervision should have the capacity to be easily housetrained.
|TWP President's dog Tucker (R)
Both she & Tucker were trained by Elsa
Training an adolescent dog comes with its own set of challenges. Dogs hit adolescence around 5 months and adolescence can last until the dog is two or three depending on the breed and individual animal. Adolescence is characterized by more independent thinking; dogs will become less interested in you and more interested in the environment. Dogs go through their final phase of teething during this time. There is also a fear period associated with this phase - confident dogs may suddenly turn shy and fearful. Acquiring an adolescent dog will require that you be consistent in your management and training. Doing so will insure that you both make it through this time happy and whole.
About Elsa Larsen:
Elsa started her dog training career as a volunteer for an organization in Santa Rosa, California that trained dogs for people with disabilities. In June 2000, Elsa moved to the east coast and created My Wonderful Dog, a non profit that that engaged at risk youth in the care and training of service dogs. Sadly, the non profit had to close its doors in 2008 due to lack of funding, but under the original banner of My Wonderful Dog, Elsa continues to bring her expertise and knowledge to bear in her quest to create harmony between pet dogs and their owners in and around Portland, Maine and the greater Boston area. With over 15 years experience, Elsa has had the pleasure of working with hundreds of dogs on issues as diverse as dog aggression to puppy management and care.
To follow Elsa and My Wonderful Dog on Facebook, click here.