Pet Corner: Why training, structure and rules are important

How and why are training, structure and rules important to a dog’s health and well-being?

We love our dogs. We love them so much, that we humanize them. Have you ever found yourself saying, “She knew she was wrong,” “He peed on the floor out of spite,” or “She was mad because I was gone so long?” These are common interpretations of how dogs think and feel.

The reality is, and I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, dog’s brains are very simple. They do not have the ability for these complicated thoughts.

Here is a dog’s thought process: “If it smells good, eat it; if it smells bad, eat it or roll in it; if it feels good, do it again; if it feels bad, avoid it. If dad always feeds me, follow him around, if mom always feeds me, follow her around, the couch is more comfortable than the floor so sleep on it whenever possible.” You get the idea.

Dogs do not understand English and we do not understand dog. With 78.2 million dogs living in homes in the United States, what are we to do?

Train your dog.

Be clear with your rules.

Be consistent with your expectations.

Imagine the stress of being in someone’s house where they are speaking a foreign language and you do not understand a word they are saying, yet you are expected to live with them for the rest of your life. Welcome to your dog’s life. Dogs are not born understanding our language. They need to be educated. Training your dog, which teaches her basic English, allows you to communicate. This reduces stress for both you and your dog. Dogs do not need hundreds of commands, just the basics: sit, down, come, leave it, and stay.

People always ask me, “When should I begin training my dog?” My answer: The moment they walk in your house, regardless of age. Whether you’ve adopted an adult dog or a puppy, your clear rules and expectations will make your dog feel safe and secure in his new environment and it will prevent bad habits from forming.

Certified Professional Dog Trainer Denise Mazzola is the owner of Denise Mazzola’s Everything Dog. She has been training dogs and people for over 20 years. She offers private lessons, group classes in Rindge and Swanzey, board and train as well as day training services. She lives in Keene with her partner, Amy Willey. They share their home with five dogs and three daughters. For more information, see

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