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Friday, August 28, 2015

Already sitting on a bus*

What have I gotten into?

With 4-month old Simba in the household now, I realize this is the first time I've had a puppy in my 32 years in the United States.

This is definitely new to me. although we have had a family dog when I was young, in the Philippines, I feel like I have never experienced living with a personal, pet dog. That means I have a lot to learn.

Pet training is Greek to me. Simba, like other pets and their owners like me, needs training. He and I, and sometimes my wife Freny, go to the nearest PetSmart for a weekly class, under Sarah, the pet store's professional dog trainer.

There are about four or five couples in regular attendance, and our dogs are as diverse as we are. But we're there together for a common goal: to get trained.

It's always a challenge for both Simba and me, and other members of the household, to learn new things. Of course we want him to become a well-behaved family member and good citizen---the ideal goal of everyone. But he's still stubborn and playful. (That's understandable because he's still a baby dog!) Nevertheless, he's learning, slowly but surely.

His behaviors and skills are not yet up to par with the rest of his friends in class. He's not consistent yet with regard to potty training. Accidents still happen at home and at PetSmart, at times, even if we have him eliminate before going to his class.

In the pre-obedience lessons or training, reward and reinforcement are necessary to achieve positive results, just like when we deal with our children. But when our pets misbehave or don't listen to us, we impose punishment. By punishment, I don't mean anything that might constitute or be construed as abuse or cruelty. It may be withholding a privilege, but not treats or toys or food.

As with people, there are slow and fast learners. There are individual differences. That creates challenges and opportunities for (meaningful) learning experiences.

In due time, I hope, Simba and we will be "trained."

As many are getting ready for back-to-school, we feel like we're already on the bus. Except we're bringing along a puppy named Simba.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Friday, August 28, 2015. For more information, visit

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