LIFESTYLE ADJUSTMENTS FOR A DOG AND ITS HUMANS
When a puppy is born, it arrives with genetics which will help to shape its life. However, it is the environmental stimuli that will eventually mould the puppy into an adult dog.
Puppies learn how to interact amongst their brothers and sisters with the mother in the guiding role. The first six to eight weeks in the litter is crucial as to how a puppy behaves with other puppies/dogs. Once it leaves the litter for the new home, a completely different set of guidelines now becomes part of its life.
Unfortunately, in far too many cases, the puppy is over-indulged and gets away with negative behaviour. What is cute in a puppy, fast becomes a huge behavioural problem in the adult dog. In the litter, it was the mother who would dictate the behaviour that was acceptable from the puppy, and in the new home it should be the humans who set the rules and boundaries right from day 1. Just as humans have to obey rules and regulations and have leaders - so too, all puppies and dogs need to obey rules and regulations and see their humans as a leader. If the puppy/dog doesn’t receive good leadership, it will do things that are natural to a dog, such as biting, barking, jumping etc.
WHAT TO DO: Most dogs know the basic command of sit - and sometimes down and stay, but they do not really understand the meaning of these words. Their effectiveness proves only the value of being consistent in providing information to your dog.
AT ALL TIMES THE OWNER NEEDS TO BE CONSISTENT AND CALM.
Shouting is a sure way to create a neurotic dog. An owner that is upset or agitated, does not instil confidence, and is less likely to have the dog obey what is required. Being quiet and calm will bring results.
UNDESIRABLE AND EXCESSIVE BEAVIOUR MUST BE IGNORED.
ALL POSITIVE BEHAVIOUR MUST BE PRAISED AND OR REWARDED.
To stop a dog from jumping - the best way is to stand totally still, fold arms, turn the head to the side and not speak. When the dog realises that it isn’t getting any attention for jumping, it will calm down, and this is the time that the human would QUIETLY greet the dog. If the dog starts getting excited again, the human must ignore, until the dog is calm again. Most dogs don’t take too long to learn this rule.
The next important step to follow is when visitors come to the door. Most dogs jump up on them, run around and make a terrible fuss. Shouting "stop" or "down" only exacerbates the situation. It is important to tell the visitors to IGNORE the dog when they come through the door. The best way to keep a dog under control is by putting it on a lead before opening the door to the visitor. If the dog tries to jump then give a firm tug on the lead to show that this behaviour is not acceptable. A dog can’t jump up when on a lead, and will learn the correct way to behave when greeting a visitor. When the dog is calm and quiet, then the visitor can greet it. Leave the lead on for a while, and when the dog is calmer, drop the lead. Having the lead on the dog, means that the owner can quickly grab it if the dog starts to misbehave. When things are really quiet and calm, the lead can be taken off.
Going out for a walk in the neighbourhood or to the park is another point to tackle. Dogs usually get extremely excited when the lead is brought out and continue this excitement by going straight to the walk. It is advisable that the dog is put on a lead and then totally ignored for however long it takes to calm down (have a cup of tea, or read something during this time). Once the dog is calm, then go for the walk. A dog in high excitement will bark, pull and generally not make the walk pleasant for the owner.
Remember to take nice treats and reward good behaviour if and when necessary. On the walk if the dog gets excited, stop and stand still until the dog calms down, before continuing. It might make a strange walk in the beginning, but the dog will eventually get the idea that being calm will get him the reward.
Selective hearing when a dog is off lead, is extremely frustrating. Do not just call and call for the dog to come, as all it is learning is to IGNORE its owner. Quietly walk as close as possible and call the dog to come. Always use a really tasty treat so that the dog realises that coming to the owner is rewarding. It is good to randomly call the dog for no reason and reward it for coming. The dog will learn that coming to the owner is not always for a reason (like going home, or coming away from socialising with other dogs). It can just come, get a treat and praise and then run off again. It takes courage - but running away from the dog, hiding or lying on the ground can usually get a dog to come running to its owner! (Praise and reward when it does come!)
A very important event in a dog’s life is feeding. NEVER allow free feeding. A puppy needs three feeds a day, up to six months of age; and after that a dog needs two meals a day for the rest of its life. A dog should be given 5 minutes a day (10 at the most). After that the food should be taken away until the next feeding time. This way a dog will never get fat - a problem that is often attributed to having been spayed or neutered. It is a quick and easy ritual which also bonds the dog to its owner - a time for the dog to sit quietly and then be given its food.
In order to further bond together as owner and dog, it is advisable to go to some training classes. Puppy Kindergarten for puppies between 8 weeks and 4 months of age and Basic Home Obedience for any dog older than 4 months. All dogs should know basic commands, and doing it in a group will help with social skills.
I am always available to discuss any problem behaviour/s that you might be having with your puppy/dog.