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Pooch needs training

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Dear Uncle Matty: My dog, Frederick, is a real sweetie pie. He is so well-trained, you wouldn't believe it. When I first got him (he was 2 years old), he wouldn't listen to anything. Now, he sits when I ask him to almost all the time, and he can heel when I walk him.

But he still barks a lot — inside and especially in the yard. He is a Jack Russell Terrier, and I understand they are prone to barking. And I can't stop him from jumping up on people when they come to the house. He likes visitors a lot. Any advice? — Margaret S., Redding, Pa.

Dear Margaret: You think Frederick is well-trained? I hate to burst your bubble, but a well-trained dog is one that always responds to every command and doesn't bark excessively, jump on people, dig or chew. In other words, a well-trained dog understands you and wouldn't dream of yapping all the time, knocking someone down or running out the door if you say "Sit" or "Down" and "Stay."

A dog that sits, stays and heels most of the time but digs, jumps and chews is still going to drive you crazy, and that's not the case with a trained dog. If there is comfort in numbers, be assured you are not alone. A lot of dog owners think because their dog has had a little education, can obey a few commands most of the time and only has a couple of bad habits, that that is OK and their dog is well-trained, and they pound their chests with pride.

So ask yourself these questions: If you open the door, will your dog always sit and stay on command and never run out the door even though there are distractions like children running by, traffic or another animal? If a stranger comes to the door or approaches you when you are walking your dog, do you have complete control, or do you have to put your dog in another room or grab his collar?

Can you leave your house and know that your best friend will be as good when you are gone as when you are there, or does your pooch bark forever and drive the whole neighborhood nuts? Does your dog respect what's yours and understand what toys are his, or does he chew, shake and run with anything he can get his paws on? Are you starting to get the picture?

A well-trained dog means you have control over your canine, and this is crucial to the safety of your dog, your family and others. It is one of the key issues with insurance companies today as well, because they know that a dog that always "sits" and "stays" on command can't do that and be out of control at the same time. They know that a well-trained dog and a responsible owner are less likely to have an aggressive dog problem rear its ugly head, providing the dog was trained and unacceptable behavior was modified.

Of course, not all types of aggressive behavior can be changed, and that's why professional help and advice are often necessary.

So back to your question, "Any advice?" Yep! It's back to the drawing board for you. Get out the training books and the videos, or call your local dog trainer for some one-on-one help. This pooch just needs some paw-by-paw instruction on a regular basis until he always responds to your commands. You need to work with him every day and employ appropriate correction techniques to end those pesky problems. Then, your dog will be well-trained. Frederick is like a child that needs to be taught not to yell and scream, run out the door or run up to strangers.

By the way, the new episodes of "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life" are already airing on some PBS stations and coming soon to others. Call your local PBS station for air dates and times. There's a lot to learn about your dog when you watch "WOOF!" See you then.


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!" WEB SITE: www.unclematty.com; © Creators Syndicate