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CANINE CONNECTION: Take a moment this fall to paws and reflect

It was philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote that “autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.

It was philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote that “autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.”

His words of wisdom are often meant to help enlighten those who are seeking a deeper connection to their personal growth and although I suppose that quote can be interpreted many ways, for me it means that fall is the season of introspection.

It is a time to go within and hibernate, like the bears who retreat to digest the spoils of the past season. During this time of reflection we can make the necessary changes to our lives through our choices so that when spring arrives we are rejuvenated, invigorated and ready to blossom from the healing energy of fall’s dormancy.

This past summer has had its share of dog-related problems and we all know that a problem dog is the result of a problem owner.

A dog owner who is astute enough to recognized their failures during the summer months and wishing to prevent themselves from making the same mistakes in the future would reflect on how they may have contributed to their dog’s problematic behaviour and make the necessary changes during the fall and winter to ensure that next spring Fido was a much better behaved dog and they themselves a much better behaved human.

But change is not easy for everyone. It often means letting go of something that you are very comfortable with and learning how to adapt to something new and different. But to quote another great philosopher by the name of Shrek: “change is good, Donkey.”

If upon reflection you have decided that your leadership is lacking with your dog, sign up for an obedience class. Even if you have taken an obedience class in the past, there is no shame in repeating a class, and brushing up on your basic obedience skills or maybe take a more advanced class to challenge yourself and your dog. The mental stimulation from participating in group classes will strengthen your bond with your dog. 

Never taken an obedience class with your pup? Well it’s never too late to start because contrary to a popular old wives’ tale, you can indeed teach an old dog a new trick! 

Maybe your dog has a couple of issues that need to be addressed independently from an obedience class such as learning how to be respectful on leash and not leading the walk by pulling. Fall would be the time to hire a trainer and learn how to walk your dog on a loose leash properly, as well as teaching it how to come into heel position. Heel is the command used to have a dog come to your side and stay there while you walk together. If you have any plans of walking your dog off leash in the summer, then having it learn how to heel properly is a must!

Having a dog with a reliable recall – also referred to as coming when called – is a life-long training regime. I practice my recall drills with my dogs along my walks every single morning. I do this because I know how easily even the best trained dog can get distracted and run off. So, every morning I have a recall routine that I run through with my dogs to ensure they remain reliable. Fortunately, most trainers now offer special classes designed for training a reliable recall that will give you the tools to set up recall drills of your own to practice with your dog along your daily walks. If you want to walk your dog off leash you must have a reliable recall. Every single municipality has a bylaw that requires that a dog is able to immediately come when called, or risk a hefty fine.

Does your dog jump on people, bark at them or other dogs? Does it react to skateboarders or bikers? Does it lack the ability to remain calm in public settings or at home? If so, it’s time to hire a private trainer and deal with your dog’s lack of impulse control and reactivity while teaching your dog how to remain calm and focused amongst other dogs and people. Or if you prefer a class, then enrol in a reactive dog class to learn the skills to help your dog become less reactive.

Fall is the best time to reflect on the past, set your goals and get down to business in the present to properly train your dog so that you can responsibly enjoy the bounty of the future that spring and summer offers.

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at