A Preventable Emergency

The other night I was quietly reading my latest copy of JAVMA in the ER, when all of a sudden I heard “Triage stat to the parking lot with a gurney!”.

This announcement always makes my heart sink.  It means that there is a dog that is significantly hurt and too big to carry.

Two minutes later, our awesome vet techs come rushing into the treatment area with an 89 lb Rottweiler. This poor soul had just been hit by a car and had multiple lacerations and head trauma as well as a broken hind leg.

Prevention Through Training

This scenario plays out every night all over the country and it can be easily prevented with good dog training. Dogs that are taught to come when they are called, sit and stay when doors are opened and behave well on a leash are much less likely to get into trouble.

Training and behavior modification can really help reduce a lot of problems that people encounter every day. Problems such as aggression, separation anxiety, getting in dog fights or being hit by cars can be avoided with proper training.

Keys To Dog Training

There are a few real keys to dog training that are important when training your dog.  Understanding these keys are critical to your success in making your dog happier and improving the bond you share.


The biggest key is that you have to have your dog’s full attention and trust. If you don’t achieve this, you will continue to struggle. Your dog won’t respect you as their leader and it will be difficult for you to change his or her behavior. If you don’t know how to do this, take lessons from a positive dog trainer.

If they don’t see you as their leader, they won’t listen to you in those crucial moments when you need them to stay out of trouble. If you want to have a dog that listens to you all the time, you have to win their mind.

The second key to success is to motivate your dog. Each dog is different in the way they are motivated. Some are motivated by food, some are motivated by attention and some are motivated by play. If you can discover their motivation, you can make any experience more enjoyable and they will look forward to training.

Some dogs love to fetch, others love agility, and other dogs simply love obedience training, or swimming out into the water and retrieving. Start by finding out what your dogs love and help them develop this and make training enjoyable.



There are several categories or rewards you can give your dog.

  • Food – this can be anything from pieces of dog food, Cheerios or small bits of cheese or meat.
  • Affection – petting, cuddles, lots of high verbal praise
  • Toys – games, throwing a stick or object, chasing your dog etc

If you want to use food rewards then always follow these simple tips:

Vary the treats and when you give them. In the beginning of a new training, offer treats frequently, then begin to offer them less often and randomly.If your dog doesn’t come or do the behavior you are training first time then do not give them the reward.

The third key to achieving perfection is practice! Learning how to encourage behavior that is closer to what you want than the last is the third key to success. Again this is where rewards come in so handy! Motivate and then show your dog what it is that you want and there is no need for any negative training!

Training Resources

High Five

Since I am a veterinarian and not a trainer, a lot of clients ask me for a recommendation for training. If you want in-person, local training, ask friends with well-trained dogs. Only use trainers that utilize POSITIVE reinforcement with very minimal negative corrections.

If you are looking for an online program, there are several dog training programs to choose from. Look for free sample videos before you buy to make sure you like the trainer and their methods.


Back to our Rottweiler friend… He was treated successfully for his wounds, had his fracture repaired by a surgeon 2 days later and went home the next day.

Hopefully, this owner learned his lesson and prevented this in the future through training or controlled activity on a leash. Dogs don’t learn to stay out of the road from being hit by a car. The scary thing is that most people don’t learn either. Invest in training; your dog’s life depends on it.