espect the dog’s different nature and stop trying to humanize him!
So, great! After careful consideration and research on which dog would be happy in your family, depending on how you lead your life, the character traits of your family’s members, the free time you have each day, you finally decided to add a new member to this family. You bought the necessary supplies and “goodies”, you allocated your family’s time and responsibilities and generally, you “prepared the ground” for your new dog’s homecoming.
And what am I to do now, you ponder? your questions are many and you have no idea where to start from. And as you think of all this and brainstorm with your family members, your new puppy (or adult sometimes) friend and companion for life is chewing on your couch’s throw. Don’t panic, there is a way to make this relationship the best you ever had!
The following advice contains basically non-invasive methods that are nonetheless in tune with your dog’s basic instincts and subtly but clearly convey to him your ability to lead him in the right path. It helps hims adapt and become a member of your family and a balanced and true companion. And, isn’t it exactly that what you had in mind when you decided to be the guardian of a dog?
A word of caution: you’ll see the word “leader” being repeated again and again in the following advice. It is meant as the “capable” leader of a dog. Much like you would never ask a 3yr old to buy your weekly supply of groceries on their own, you would never fathom to burden your dog with “handling” on his onw, all stimuli our world contains (other peoplpe, visitors or paser by, animals, cars, sounds and smells). You are a capable leader through life for you dog, his teacher if you like!
- Do not greet your dog before you leave home and when you return. To be more specific, NO EYE CONTACT BEFORE YOU LEAVE FOR THE DAY OR WHEN YOU RETURN. If you want to greet him when you return, then do it the way dogs do. Allow him to lick you on the mouth or face by lowering to his height just for a few seconds without speaking to him and without letting him jump on you. Then , get up and ignore him . Give him a few minutes to unwind and ignore him until he starts doing something else (irrelevant to you). Then, call the dog by “dog’s name, come” , say “good boy/girl” when he comes to you, play with him for as long as you wish or put the leash on to take him for a walk or just let the dog free in the yard to relieve himself. Why? Because, quite simply, when you leave or return home in a “drum roll” you only teach your dog to be anxious while you are away. This is bad for the dog, and in order for him to overcome this feeling of anxiety he will chew on anything that he can find.
- The “command” “dog’s name, come”. The word “command” is in quotes because “come” is not actually a command, rather than an invite. It is quite foolish to shout “come” in a fierce and aggressive way, when all you need to do is to call the dog easily and effectively just by lowering the position of your body, saying the word softly and, if needed, lightly clapping your hands so as to attract the dog’s attention, always rewarding him with “good boy/girl” and a pat on the chest (not on the head, since dogs perceive that as scolding). When dealing with puppies at first you can also reward them with a food treat, after you have said “good boy/girl” and you have patted the dog. Warning: No bribing, the treat should appear after the dog has come to you. Respectively, you should never use the word “come” for unpleasant occasions, i.e. to confine your dog or to avert an unwanted behavior (i.e. to stop him from chewing the garden hose). For such occasions, read below. Finally, do not test your “power” by calling your dog to you, then leaving him with no reward because you have to run to the phone.
- To confine the dog, to give him a bath, or for any other “unpleasant” situation, try either one of the following: a) if the dog is close to you, go to him, hold his collar and lead him where you want to go (saying “let’s go”), b) if he is not too close, say “name, come”, reward him for coming, play for a few minutes so as to associate his response of coming to you with a pleasant thing (play) instead of the an unpleasant next “activity” (confinement, bath, etc), then use his collar to lead him where you want to go (saying “let’s go”). If you remember to reward your dog with a special treat after the “unpleasant” experience is over then, soon, no “unpleasant” moments will exist in his life. In other words, you can turn an initially unknown and, potentially, unpleasant experience into something pleasant! Just be careful when it comes to confinement: if, for example, you want to put the dog in its carrying/sleeping crate, do not reward him for getting in, because that would only “excite” the dog, resembling the “drum roll goodbye” (see advice #1). Instead, before putting the dog in the cage make sure you have placed a toy in it, a different one from time to time, and/or always abone for him to chew (chewable pet-shop bones please!).
- Feed the dog at specific hours every day and on a specific place. After 20 minutes have passed, always pick the bowl up, no matter if, or how much, he has eaten. Never offer food again in-between meals if he did not finish his previous meal. Why? Because in Nature food is never abundant and never wasted! The dog must never, ever eat with you (either from your food or his food, while you eat yours). The dog must always eat after you have finished eating. If, for example, you don’t eat breakfast but your dog’s first meal is in the morning, then, whoever is going to feed the dog should always eat something in front of him (just a bite of cheese or bread), before introducing the meal to the dog. Why? Because “leaders” always eat first and undisturbed .
- Never let your dog jump on you, neither when you are standing nor when you are sitting. Why? Because each dog instinctively tries this behavior to asses his/her role/position in your family-pack. He might do that upon your return home in order to express a dog’s “natural” greeting (lick your mouth). However, such behavior can easily be expanded so, if you let him do it when you return home, will you use your knee on all other occasions? This is a bit risky and certainly unfair for your dog. If you prefer, when you return home you can say hello by lowering the position of your body to your dog’s height (see advice #1). The aversion way you should use differs depending on the dog’s age and size.
Puppies – small breeds: They get tangled at your feet and try to jump on you. You keep walking and, without saying a word, you “make your way” by pushing them aside with your feet or by touching them with the side of your leg, pushing them decisively to the side or to the back. Never use your hands because, firstly, your hands should never be associated with abrupt or, generally, “negative” actions (your hands should be “your dog’s magnets”) and, secondly, because our hands can “easily” become toys, especially for a dog that is teething or changing his teeth.
Adolescents, adults – large breeds: They jump higher in order to put their front legs on your thighs. Do they stop trying when you turn your back on them? If yes, that’s great. If not, then you should practice to abruptly avert them by holding your knee to their sternum (this movement has to be made decisively and immediately, as a reflex, but not too hard. Also, please keep you toew retracted to your other leg as you don;t want to hurt or kick the dog!) .You should also turn and face them if they try to jump on you from behind. Correct timing is very important, that’s why we use the word reflex: The moment that your dog’s sternum reaches the height of your knee, that’s exactly what it should touch (the knee). This way he doesn’t have the time to touch you with his front legs. If you do that in a correct and timely way, your dog will very soon stop trying. No force is needed, however you have to be firm and sudden in order to surprise him. Once again, never use your hands to avert your dog, simply because this will look like a game to him and he will continue repeating it all the time.
- When passing through doors or any narrow passage, make sure that the dog always passes after you (i.e. when going for a walk and you pass through the door or the garden gate). If he tries to go out first, tilt the door and “block his way” using your leg so that you are the first to pass. An even better way is to put on his leash, teach him to sit before you even open the door, and to stay still until you have passed through the door. Then say “let’s go” and have him sit until you close the door. Follow the exact same pattern when you return home after the walk. Why? Because, firstly, “leaders” always go first and “make way” as they pass. Secondly, compared to a standing dog, a sitting dog is, psychologically, less alert and quickly rush through the door. Finally, practically speaking a sitting dog that waits until you close, when leaving, or open, when returning, the door lets you calmly lock or unlock the door or put the keys in your purse.
- Never allow your dog to sit at the same level with you (armchairs, sofas, garden ledges, etc.). In any case, do not even let him put his legs on the chair that you sit or on your legs. If he does so, stand up abruptly and push him away with your knee in a very decisive manner. Then sit again. If he keeps trying repeat the procedure until he backs off (and does something else, irrelevant to you). Why ? Because “leaders” always sit higher! Those sitting on the same level are considered to be equal, and equality does not exist in the dog’s world, at least not in all aspects. There is always a ranking, a pecking order from higher to lower, each level assigned with a specific role. When dealing with puppies, touch them with the side of your leg or your ankle and then push them away. Remember, touch and push, do not kick!
- Do not isolate your dog, socialize him! Your dog can learn dozens of things when he is with you, but nothing away from you. He needs your company as well as that of your visitors. When he’s with you he can socialize and it’s within your power to give him lots of good experiences. Have him as your company but always under supervision. Make sure that you, not your dog, are the one to greet your visitors at all times, either at the door or at the garden gate. A visitor is considered anyone that doesn’t live in your house, even the rest of your relatives. So, ask your visitors to pay no attention to the dog (no greeting, no looking, no talking) on their first encounter in your house (or, as they are strangers to him, or even if they are not when you’re out for a walk). They should let him take his time to smell them and get used to their presence. When in the house you can have your dog stand behind you while you say “hello” to your visitor at the door. Follow the same pattern when outside for a walk: Talk and greet your friend from a distance, then allowing your dog to sniff the stranger. If you do that, not allowing your dog to greet – and, thus, judge – who enters your house when you are there, or who talks to you when you are out for a walk, then you can let in your house, or you can talk to, anyone you choose. Respectively, your dog is not obliged to accept any kind of behavior from your visitors. For example, it is not your visitors’ job to correct or command your dog. It is their obligation to listen to your suggestions and to help you socialize your dog in a proper way. Remember, your guests go home after having a good time but you are left with an irritated dog or even worse a dog fearful of visitors. Be very careful with children as they tend to perceive dogs as objects. For the necessary socialization with the outside world remember that during the walk you are the “leader” of the pack and anything new (a person, an object or sound that could scare your dog, another dog, etc,) should always be approached by you, with the dog standing beside you or, even better, behind you. The best way to help your dog learn about the outside world is to keep him in close contact with it but in a proper way, as a worthy leader would do. And one more thing: Please, always walk your dog on a leash. This is what the Law demands. In any case, today’s conditions on the city streets are very dangerous. So, even if your dog is willing to obey you, if something suddenly scares him he will very righteously “obey” his instinct and not you. And, of course, you should never forget – either in or outside the city – the poisons that your dog can come in contact with when not on a leash. There are many “popular” poisons that can kill a dog within a few minutes…
- Your dog doesn’t know how to “walk on a leash”? Well how can he know if you don’t teach him? Many times people tend to think that dogs were born only to follow humans. Well, it’s in the dogs’ genes to feel solidarity towards humans however no dog is ever born a “follower”. So, start by putting on the dog a light nylon collar and, just leave it on without holding it at all. Ignore any intense scratching around the collar area. On the 4 th day and after you have established\that the dog is not interested in the collar, attach a light nylon leash on the collar and let your dog drag it around the house (always at your presence, since it is possible that the leash could throw a small furniture down or on the dog’s head, or it could get caught somewhere making the dog panic, all of which could result to a dramatic experience for your dog). Ignore the fact that the dog could be playing with his leash. On the 7 th day take the leash in your hand and follow the dog around the house. On the 10 th day take the leash, ask him to come to you (if needed you can lightly pull on the leash) and, after you’ve said “good boy/girl” and patted him for coming to you, give him a treat. Then, stand in front of the dog and encourage him to follow you by saying “let’s go” and rewarding him for following you, more often at the beginning, less often as you progress. The purpose of this exercise is that before you start going on outside walks the dog should come to you in order to put on his leash and not chase him around the house, “battling” with him. The leash is for the dog’s own good, not a torture.
- What to do to deter any unwanted behaviors (i.e. peeing or pooping where he shouldn’t, chewing on things other than his toys, etc.): Get 2-3 soda cans and prepare them as follows: Empty their content, wash them well to prevent stickiness on the inside, fill about 1/3 of each can with very small pebbles and seal the opening with tape. Put them in easy-to-reach (by you, not your dog) spots in your house. As soon as you catch the dog doing something that you have decided is an unwanted behavior, throw the can near the dog (without leaving your spot), saying in a sharp and cold manner “NO”. Please don’t shout since that would only confuse the dog. Then, approach the dog in a calm, indifferent way, pick up the can and put it back in place. If the dog persists, repeat the procedure as many times as needed, in order to deter the behavior. These cans are very light and will not hurt the dog if they accidentally fall on him, although it is preferable that they fall on the floor in order to make a more disturbing noise. This way we succeed both in controlling the dog from a distance and in “interruptin” the dog’s thoughts and actual behavior so that he can hear and listen to “NO”. After a while, the cans are no longer needed, and a simple “NO” is enough. Being able to control your dog from a distance is very important since nothing amuses a dog more than being mischievous just to make you chase him (a play where, no doubt, the dog always wins!). Please note that in order for your dog to understand the DO’s and DON’Ts it is crucial that you “catch him in action”, and never correct him afterwards (then, he just won’t know why you correct him). If, for example, the can is not within reach, don’t waste time trying to find it, just make a loud noise before saying “NO” (i.e. throw a heavy book on the coffee-table or just hit the table hard with your hand). NOTE: If you use a carrying/sleeping crate, always keep in mind that this is your dog’s house, not his “punishment”.
- Every time your dog “relieves himself” during the walk or in the garden, reward him excessively!!!! (good boy/girl, pat on the chest and, now and then, a treat, especially while you are trying to teach him the right thing to do). When it comes to puppies, their bladder and bowel need to be emptied after sleeptime or naps, meals and play sessions.
- Are you experiencing taking your puppy on a 2km walk only for him to relieve himself on his diaper as soon as you return home? This happens because the puppies’ attention distraction is huge, so it is difficult for them to concentrate on doing what they “have to do” when they are distracted by all the interesting smells and animals, human or non-human, that they encounter while outside. What should you do? Simple: When going for a walk, hide, deep in your pockets, some food treats (along with the poo-poo bags to pick up after your dog) and lead him to soil, only if the Vet allows you to. Don’t move an inch and let your puppy sniff everything within the radius of his leash. At some point, the smells within this radius will end! They will have all been processed, right? Then you can be hopeful that your puppy will concentrate and relieve himself. Do not stare at the puppy since that will only act as a deterrent. Wait until he goes (either pie or poop) and reward him with “good boy/girl”, pat and treat, while you keep repeating “good boy/girl”. Then go on a long walk as an additional reward. Keep in mind that at the beginning and until this becomes a habit you should always go to the same spot in order to quickly have the desired result and then start off for your walk.
- Toys: Use different toys every 2 days so that he doesn’t get bored. It is easy to say “NO” to our dog when he chews on our things but this is not enough. Especially when it comes to puppies, the pain from the teeth that are changing and get rearranged in its mouth as the puppy grows is unbearable and chewing is necessary, depending on how bad the feeling is. So your dog must have toys and chewable bones! Even when the teeth are fully grown you should never forget that a dog will chew on things when the family is away, either out of boredom or out of their need to relieve tension.
- How can I play with my dog? Rubber toy or ball: You can throw it to him to fetch, and leave it with him when you leave the house, putting 2-3 biscuits in it. Knotted braid: Play tug-o-war (low-pulling and jerking from side to side) and take the toy away when you finish playing (this braid is yours and it can be a great way for your dog to relieve his tension in a constructive way with the family).
- Do not respond when the dog demands your attention. For example, you are sitting in the kitchen and the dog comes to you and starts pushing you with his muzzle. Completely ignore him or push him away with the side of your leg (touching and pushing) until he retreats. When he attends to something else (irrelevant to you), call him saying “come”, reward him for coming and give him all the attention you like. Why? Because playing, petting or any other interaction must be the leader’s initiative and, of course, it can (and must) be often. Otherwise, if the dog has the initiative he will say “play with me” and you will play. Then, if you don’t want to play, the dog will start pulling your sleeve or your pants or jump on you and he will generally demand what you have taught him that he is entitled to demand. Please keep in mind: There are times when due to our wrong behavior we see that this situation “cannot go on any longer” and we try to reverse it, without being really determined about it. So, we try to stop the dog’s annoying behavior just for a while, but we very soon give in, i.e. after the dog has pulled on our sleeve for 10 times, thus not realizing that we have taught our dog another wrong lesson: We taught him that if he persists (20 or even 100 times) he will finally succeed.
- Avoid repeating the same words again and again, and pay attention to the tone of your voice and the posture of your body. Useful examples: Say “come” in a sweet, inviting voice, lowering your body and reaching out to the dog, or softly clapping your hands. Say “NO” in a cold, sharp tone – no smiling- and, if that doesn’t work, do not repeat, just take a “threatening” step towards the dog or stand up, saying in a cold, sharp tone “What did I say to you?” Also, don’t use… synonyms (come, come here, sit, sit down, etc) especially while the dog is still learning the commands! Finally, never use one word meaning two or even more different things. We often say “stay” and we mean: a) “stay” (for the dog to sit and stay still), b) “wait here while I get your food” (the dog is not sitting, or actually staying, however he gets rewarded for it with his food) and c) “hold on while I pick up the phone” (again, the dog is not sitting but rather watches you wondering what to do as you rush off to pick up the phone). Think about it for a while and try to help your dog understand what you mean.
- Never underestimate the value of fair and timely reward! It is good to say “NO” whenever needed, however “good boy/girl” is much better; even if this doesn’t mean that the dog has properly executed your command. Of course, you will reward your dog when you say “fetch” and he fetches his ball but you should also consider this: You say “NO” so that your dog stops “trimming” your plants and the dog stops. Don’t say “good boy/girl” just because he stopped, say it after he has left the plants and he has started chewing on his bone! You did not ask for this but it is nevertheless an act worth rewarding. Another example: You are watching TV and, without calling him, the dog comes and lies, calmly and happily, by your feet. This time you must say “good boy” and pet him. If you try this line of thought, you will have clearly indicated to your dog what you also like him doing not only what you dislike.
- You should generally keep in mind that the dog is very happy when under a routine and within well-defined boundaries as far as basic things are concerned. This means that the dog cannot understand the injustice derived from the fact that “today I’m in a good mood so the dog can jump on me, but tomorrow when I’ll be tired I won’t let him do it”. In addition, a puppy jumping on us might not be very annoying, it might even make us laugh as, in our totally human way of thinking, we think: “such a happy puppy”. But what happens afterwards, when the puppy is all grown up? We have literally “taught” him to jump on us and, all of a sudden, we decide that “no, I don’t want this any more”. It is clear that on both occasions our “ego” is the driving force (while our dog’s well being is hidden at the back of our head). On the first occasion, we fueled our “ego” by rewarding the behavior while the dog was a puppy and then, when it was not “easy” for us due to the dog’s size, we re-fueled it by stopping, or even correcting our dog for demonstrating the exact same behavior, ourselves feeling … proud to be the true … leaders.
So, set the necessary boundaries and stick to them at all times and on all occasions with love, since this is the only way to be correct and responsible dog guardians (not owners) and your dog will know what to expect from you.
Christina Economou – Dimitris Liarikos
Dog Training Instructors
Phone or e-mail support of adopters
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