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Before we even picked up our puppy last month, there was one thing I knew for sure: as a first-time dog owner, I wanted to make sure we got the dog trained. I looked at the puppy like a brand new can of Play-Doh. He had the potential to be molded into anything. He could be molded into a responsive, obedient dog, or he could be the equivalent of when you mix all of the Play-Doh colors together in the Play-Doh meat grinder.

I wanted the training not so that the dog could do party tricks like rolling over or giving me his paw. I was more concerned about the dog fitting into our family unit and keeping him safe.

For example, if our untrained dog tears apart our furniture and keeps us up all night barking and biting, that will make it more difficult to fit into our pack.

More importantly, though, obeying the command to "come" when called or to stop could be a life-saving skill to a dog running out into the street as a car is approaching.

Our first lesson was to sit, down, and stand. We brought him again last night to learn how to walk on a leash, something with which our young pup has been struggling. Our trainer, Eric Letendre from Westport, showed us how to use treats to get him to walk alongside. In less than 30 minutes he had accomplished what we've been trying for a month to do. The dog not only walked next to the trainer, but he also walked next to us on his leash. In fact, this afternoon, I took him out to practice his new skill and it's like walking a totally different dog.

The biggest lesson I quickly learned is that more often than not with dog training, it was our behavior that needed to change. In fact, the term "dog training" is pretty misleading. Human training might be a more accurate term.

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