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JoAnna Lou
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Making Obedience Class Mandatory
NY sought to require graduation from obedience school

In a perfect world, everyone would have great relationships with their dogs--teaching basic manners, providing lots of exercise, and participating in an activity together like agility or therapy work.

Last week, a bill was proposed in New York that would require people to successfully complete a basic obedience class with their dogs or risk having their pet taken away. 

The goal of the bill is to “minimize vicious dog attacks, the destruction of property and unnecessary human or canine deaths; to better acquaint dog owners with their dogs; to teach dog owners proper obedience techniques, which will help owners to have better control of their dogs; and to minimize aggressive dog behavior and negligent dog owner behavior.”

At first glance, the bill seems like a great idea. I only wish more people would take a basic obedience class and spend dedicated time each week bonding and working with their dogs.  But I can see many potential problems with the legislation. 

For one, not everyone lives in an area like New York City where there are many training classes available. Cost or distance could make a class prohibitive for some people. 

Second, the bill would allow the state to establish requirements for dog obedience schools. What and who would define successful completion?

Last of all, I could see this bill making people resent dog training. All of us positive trainers know that the fastest way to get someone to hate something is to try to force them to do it!   

New York’s bill has since been defeated, but what do you think about making obedience class mandatory?

 

 

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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Submitted by Andrea | April 11 2011 |

Not to mention that they could take dogs away from their owners. Where are they going to put those dogs? In the already horribly overcrowded shelters? I agree that owners should take responsibility for their pets and train them, but a bill like this concerns me. We don't need another reason for dogs to lose their homes.

Submitted by laurelin | April 11 2011 |

Rather than making it mandatory (they are still having problems with mandatory feline spay where I live, years after passing legislation), what about increasing incentives? You don't have to do it ... but your life sure will be cheaper/easier/better if you do. In some areas, dogs of restricted breeds that have their CGC are exempt from insurance bans, for instance. I know that this example is from a business as opposed to municipal standpoint ... but what could be taken from that? I'm sure we could work with it at a legislative level. I think that in many cases, blanket requirements are about as effective as blanket bans. Sure, in a perfect world, mandatory training sounds GREAT - and if anyone finds that perfect world, please let me know! I will point out that for a number of dogs/puppies adopted from shelters - including the one I work at - enrollment in a training course is mandatory for adoption, and that works... I'm just not sure about blanket legislation.

Submitted by Kim | April 19 2011 |

Great idea for cities, charging registration by level of obedience. It seems overkill for rural areas. Where I live in central Massachusetts a dog can have a great family life and be completely untrained.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 15 2011 |

Personally I think it was a great idea, but perhaps make it a one time mandatory obedience class for the owner/potential owner... Just to show that they have had some guidance in their lifetime for training a dog.

My first dog (German Shepard) had to be put down when I was a child because none of us knew that we had encouraged behaviors in it that had made it acceptable for the dog to play rough with any child it came across. If we had had some instruction, we would have known a little better.

Submitted by Carolyn | April 15 2011 |

There are many positives to the idea. Another negative however, is that people might refuse to adopt an animal if s/he felt compelled to attend a training class. I guess it could be argued that it might be good if people thought twice about adopting a dog anyway and it's all about creating responsible owners ... but I wonder how many dogs might remain homeless and unadopted if training was compulsory.

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