Dogs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, personalities and levels of intelligence. Some dogs have all the looks, the lifestyle of a king/queen, but let's face it; they may not be the brightest bulb (giggles). In contrast, other dogs have the brains of a human genius. Regardless of your personal dog's IQ, I've come up with a list of "five things every good dog should know." And, yes, there is a cat version (plug for future edition!).
1. Every good dog should know his/her name and reliably come when called. This is not only good manners; it is a safety issue! Our dogs are busy sniffing the ground, chasing a squirrel, or making a new friend. They do not always see the danger that may be in front of them. Having a good dog means they listen to you amid the chaos around them and return to you safely when you need them to do so.
2. Every good dog should be leash-trained. I know, I know, your dog sticks to you like Velcro even without a leash. Still, I believe that leashing should be an option. Dogs should know how to behave on leash and be comfortable while being guided by you, their mom or dad. Let me add to this that retractable leashes do not count. They just do not. Leashes that extend more than 2 feet in front of you offer no control over your dog's movement or interactions. I do not recommend them. I do not use them for my own dogs.
3. Every good dog should be trained to tolerate a kennel. This does not mean you have to utilize a kennel as part of everyday life. It just means that in a situation that requires confinement or activity restriction, you can accomplish that with very limited stress for your sweet boy or girl. I witness families who are unable to care for their sick, injured, or post-surgery pet without the use of sedatives. They are unable to board their dog while traveling. They have to lock them in a bathroom and listen to them bark when company comes over. A little planning during the training process can mean so much peace of mind.
4. Every good dog should be trained to behave well during a vet visit. You had to know this one was coming! Ha-ha. Seriously, though, trips to the vet, the groomer, or any service that requires your dog to be still and touched by strangers is not something that comes to them naturally. It is so important that your dog's doctor be able to perform a comprehensive exam. It is so important for that experience not be scary to your dog. To help, practice handling your dog's face and feet at home. Practice safe restraint if your dog will allow you to do so. Take them to your vet's office for a "happy visit." Did I say this is so important? If not, let me do so now. This is so important!
5. Every good dog should be able to safely travel in a vehicle. This means that they have spent enough time in the car to curb their anxiety about traveling. It also means they can sit quietly in a seat or in a kennel to allow you to drive safely and without distraction. I recommend kenneling or buckling into a pet safety harness while traveling. If your pet is riding in the rear compartment of your SUV, consider placing a screen barrier (made for this purpose) to keep them from jumping back and forth. There is nothing more important than your safety while in a vehicle! The dog's level of enjoyment takes a "back seat" (ha-ha) to your safety!
I hope you are able to beam with pride as you read this list and make check marks next to all five categories for your dog. For my personal dogs, well, four out of five isn't bad! Trust me when I tell you that you will enjoy your dog and share an even better bond with a little extra work up front. A few months of training makes the next 15 years so much more enjoyable! Dogs love to hear they are a "Good Boy!" or "Good Girl!" I hope you are able to say that!