There are dogs who are completely trained, but still refused to listen to their pet parents. Why? Do you think your dog’s not listening to you because he is moody? What and where are such pet parents going wrong?
As I trainer, I do not look at training dogs for ‘obedience’ as it simply underlines the reality of the situation that what I am using is kind of an enforcement, a means of going against the will of an animal. So I would rather use words like ‘work alongside’. We should work with another species to create an intangible bond that helps each one understand the other.
Training to be around each other should start as young as two and a half months of puppy age. Pup at this age too is genetically backed with adapting to his new environment. One must always do a proper research on breed specific nature and requirements before bringing the puppy home.
Communication is the key
Communicate with each other and hence training means training people to relate, to speak a language of a different species. Explain a bit of ours to them and understand a bit of theirs too.
When you start working alongside your pup, start with something as simple as a ‘recall’. Recall means to call your dog. Use your dog’s name first in a very encouraging happy tone of voice and suffix the command ‘come’. Initially start with a very close distance inside the house and gradually over time when you are sure and you get full response all the time, increase the distance. Start with a visual recall first; later call your dog from different rooms. Once you got this perfect, it’s time to practice it outdoors. When your dog comes to you encourage with loads of praises and treats. Rewards could range from praises, food upto toys.
Never call your dog when you are angry
Certain things to remember in recall trainings are, try not to use your dog’s name and command ‘come’ when you are upset with them as this creates a conflict in a dog’s mind as to whether coming to you would fetch them a praise or a reprimand.
Trainings should be fun
While teaching your dog, be alert to articles that the dog perceives as exciting then use them while working. This not only gives you an excited and eager dog, it also makes the earning faster with a happy dog at hand. Don’t train when you are stressed. Our energies reflect directly on our dogs. Never work with them when you are stressed.
End on a happy note
Always end trainings where the dog feels he has learnt something. End it on a positive note.
Build a bond
It’s lack of influence that your dog doesn’t listen. Build on influence, practice your basic commands, play on daily basis, groom your dog, and spend quality time with them to build a bond that they long for your time and company.
Let them sniff around
Stimulate them by physical exercise and mentally stimulate them by ensuring long walks in open areas where they can smell the world. Once you develop a bond with your dog, you sure will be blessed with a true canine companion. Happy training!
(Priti Chauhan is a canine behaviourist cum trainer who runs K9 Companions in Pune. She is passionate about training and behavioural correction to help pet parents build a better bond and understanding with their dogs)
Pet parents in Bengaluru looking for open and safe outdoor place for their pooches have a new reason to celebrate. Petboro, known for providing various quality pet services, has recently opened India’s first private off-leash dog park with agility equipment in Whitefield area of Bengaluru.
Spread over an area of 16,000 sq ft, Petboro playground like dog park is an outdoor space, designed exclusively for pets. It offers everything your furry kids need in order to keep them happy and healthy.
Need for dog parks…
Dogs need exercise on a regular basis in order to stay fit, healthy and active. Lack of physical activities and socialisation are the main causes for many behavioural and health issues in pet dogs. There aren’t many parks dedicated solely to dogs in India, so pet parents in Bengaluru don’t have many options when it comes to taking their four-legged friends out. However, with the opening of a new dog park in Bengaluru, that is all about to change.
Petboro dog park…
This dog park has been designed for dogs of all sizes. This completely fenced-in park features jump hoops, walk ramps, stepping paws, doggie crawl, weave posts, a doggie see-saw, and even a nice resting table where dog can go in order to rest. It is the perfect opportunity for pet parents to take their furry family members out and maybe even teach some new tricks. The off-leash dog park is a perfect place for canines to play their natural games. Pets can run around, jump, crawl, and play freely. The dog park also provides an opportunity for dogs to socialise and make new furry friends. “We visited Petboro with our senior dogs aged 10 years for their post birthday celebrations. Our kids had such a good time running wild & free, making new furry friends. It sure made us feel very nostalgic looking at the younger dogs frolicking around and reminded us of our babies when they were young and very energetic. Glad they have a concrete floor instead of grass to avoid any ticks and fleas incidents. The facility is very well maintained,” shares Mallika, a pet parent. Another pet parent Anirban remarks, “It was really a nice experience in that wonderful set-up. It’s a really pet-friendly set-up and the keepers too.”
Cost for the fun…
The cost to go to this dog park is only Rs 200 for an hour of play time session, and the small amount of money that is spent is well worth it. The maximum capacity is 15 dogs per session, so pet parents can rest with the satisfaction of knowing there will be plenty of space to play. With the increased level of socialisation and physical activities, health and behavioural issues in pet dogs can be reduced. Pet parents who are interested in visiting Petboro Dog Park with their furry friends can go to www.Petboro.in in order to book a time slot online. Also, there’s a limited number of annual memberships available at a discount price for those pet parents who are serious about their canine’s health and would like to attend the park on a routine basis. The Petboro Dog Park is open every day, including weekends.
Why agility is important & some fun?
Agility sport is growing popularity worldwide because of its many benefits. It provides vigorous exercise which dogs need to expend pent-up energy, which helps reduce canine behavioural issues and keeps them healthy. Most importantly, agility training increases self-confidence and acts as a therapeutic tool for fearful or insecure dogs. Once trained, dogs can also participate in fun agility competitions. Any dog over the age of four months can learn this cool trick and have fun. Following are a few agility sports and how to train your dog to use them.
Agility Bar Jump – Stimulates both the dog’s mind and body, allowing him to have fun and burn off excess energy. Here’s how to train dog on agility bar jump.
- Setup the dog jump bar, according to your dog’s height. For example, lowest level for smaller dog and higher for medium and large dogs.
- Walk your dog quickly towards the jump and give voice command “Hup”. If he hesitates to jump or stop at the bar, gently lift him over the bar.
- Repeat until your dog jumps each time you say “Hup”.
- Reward a good jump with a treat and words of praise (for example: Good Job).
- As they master one level, raise the bar to the next level.
- Once your dog masters it, remove the leash.
- Give your dog the “Stay” command to keep him at starting point.
- Walk around the opposite side of the jump. Make sure your dog see you.
- Clap your hands over the bar while giving the “Come” command and when they reach close to the bar, give the “Hup” command.”
- Reward jumps with words of praise and/or a treat.
- Practicing it until your dog masters it.
Doggie Walk Ramp – This is like a hangout place for pooches when they play together or just want to be alone. Here’s how to train dog on walk ramp.
- Walk along your dog with the leash to make him feel secure.
- Use your hand or a treat to help your dog focus on the board in front of him.
- Pat the board a foot ahead to keep encouraging dog to walk ahead.
- Give verbal encouragement along the way.
- At the bottom, make sure dog does not jump off too early. Guide him to walk all the way to the bottom.
- Give your dog a treat when he touches feet at the ground.
- Repeat this few times.
- Remove leash and let your dog walk on the ramp.
Doggie Crawl – All sizes of dogs love to crawl. It is an amazing way for dogs to explore and have fun. Here’s how to train your dog on Doggie Crawl.
- Walk your dog to one end of the doggie crawl.
- Remove leash.
- Ask your dog to stay.
- Walk over to other end, with a treat in your hand, call your dog to walk towards you through the drum.
- Extend your hand half way in to the drum and guide your dog through the tunnel if he hesitates.
- Give your dog a treat if he walks through the doggie crawl.
- Repeat few times.
Doggie Rest Table – Canines would rather keep playing, but even the most active dogs need to rest in between. Doggie rest table is a perfect place pooches to take some rest in between games. Here’s how to train dogs on Doggie Rest Table.
- Walk your dog on a leash to the Doggie Rest table.
- Help your dog climb up to the table by gently lifting him with the leash
- Give your dog “Sit” command.
- Hold leash for 5 seconds to make sure the dog sits for at least 5 seconds on the rest table.
- Use “Let’s Go” command and help your dog get off the table.
- Give your dog a treat.
- Repeat this for 5-6 times.
- Remove the leash.
- Repeat the above steps without the leash.
Stepping Paws– Dogs love going on stepping paws. These are comfortable and fun, giving a perfect canine work out.
Three Hoop Jump– Hoop jumps provide hours of fun to dogs of all sizes and abilities.
Weave Posts– A great fun sport for dogs while making them burn off some energy.
Doggie Seesaw–Provides a great mental and physical exercise while working as a team.
Pets need to inculcate interpersonal skills, while interacting with other dogs. Here’s how.
Some canines are too shy or fearful to mingle with other dogs. Some dogs may be over-friendly and unable to respect the personal space of fellow dogs. Certain dogs may be aggressive or bully dogs. So, how do you raise your pooch to be well mannered with dogs without being imposing?
Helping the reticent dog to befriend dogs
To acclimatise your dog with fellow dogs, you need to take him out to dog parks. If your dog is extremely fretful of spending time with other dogs, then initially maintain a distance between your dog and other canines. Gradually reduce the distance between the other dogs. Reward the dog if you see that he is being able to relax in the presence of dogs and is diverting his attention to them. Praising him in a calm voice will boost his confidence. Appear cheerful when the distance with another dog decreases, that may help your dog to believe that meeting another dog is a pleasant experience. When your dog has mustered the courage to come close to another dog, you may start the process of positive association. You need to take the permission of the pet parent with whom you want to introduce your dog to. The dog whom you want your pet to interact with should ideally be of calm demeanour (not exhibiting aggression). Both of the dogs need to be on leash, so that pet parents have control over them. When two dogs seem to be in a friendly mood, allow them to sniff one another. Loosen the leash of the dog to facilitate his mobility. At the sniffing stage, try not to stand still as that can escalate the t ension between the dogs. Keep moving and permit the other dog to sniff your dog as well. You may notice your dog sniffing the excreta of the dog he meets. Instead of taking it as bizarre, consider it as a natural way in which the dogs are taking note of one another’s scent. Once the dogs can get along well in the open, you may arrange a play date at home. Ensure to supervise them.
Helping the aggressive dog to be cordial with other dogs
Genetic makeup and upbringing can make some dogs unduly aggressive. Symptoms of aggression usually occur when a dog hits puberty, and is more prevalent in dogs who haven’t been neutered. The root cause of aggression must be ascertained and be eliminated. Dhananjay Dighe, a veterinarian who has a clinic at Vasai in Maharashtra, says, “A dog may be aggressive if he is tied. Belligerent dogs are seen as snapping, growling, snarling and lunging at dogs threateningly. If the dog prances at another canine, distract him with motion or sound. Fierce dogs try to be pack leader and dominate other dogs through aggression. Dog trainers turn the tables around by being the pack leaders. By directing with the voice and controlling the dog’s behaviour, they gradually take over a particular dog and teach them various commands. Gradually, dog starts listening to the commands. When the dog gets a reward, he starts obeying the trainer. Abide by a calm demeanour to mentor the dog, facilitate by making it a positive experience by voice appreciation & treats.
Helping your over-friendly dog to strike the right balance with other dogs
If your dog is overzealous in his friendliness, then other dogs may steer away from his company. Dogs may actually be petrified of other dogs who unexpectedly pounce on a stranger dog and start licking, inspecting and following him. Your dog needs to imbibe the friendship quotient which is socially permissible in the canine world. Dr Dighe says, “Certain dog breeds like Labradors are over-friendly. Over pampering may also lead to extra friendly behaviour. A dog needs to be disciplined to obey a trainer’s orders. If a dog is too outgoing, he may approach a passing dog without being given the permit to do so. You need to stop him from doing so.” A dog needs to be taught that he needs the nod of both his pet parent and the other dog’s pet parent, before trying to befriend the other dog. If he disobeys this rule, the pet parent needs to censure him with his voice. The body language of the trainer is also important. A dog may be overfriendly as he is high on energy. You can channelise his energy by involving him in other activities. For instance, if he enjoys an active playtime or goes on long walks; then much of his boundless energy may be fruitfully spent. When you see him inclined to greet another dog without permission, you may try to distract him, so that he doesn’t do so. Never shout at the dog intending to achieve the same. So, let’s nurture a social and happy dog.
Family emergencies, travel or sickness can disrupt the normal pet care routine, leaving pet parents confused about what to do with their pets. With pet boarding facilities available, pet parents can be assured their pets are well taken care of. Here’s how to find the right pet boarding facility for your pooch.
Every pet parent must have gone through a dilemma of where to leave your pet while travelling. Sometimes, we take our pets along, only to discover that restrictions on the stay of pets in hotels, travel induced pet illness and runaway pets can turn our trip into a nightmare. Leaving the pets with well meaning but untrained neighbours yields unsatisfactory results as lack of reliable supervision on the part of such part time custodians often leads to serious pet illnesses, or worse still, incidences of pets escaping. Pet parents have come to recognise that experienced and full time kennel operators offer a dependable pet care available. Boarding kennels give pets a chance to avoid the long and stressful car or plane rides to various destinations, apart from letting them stay in a place where they are truly welcome.
How to select a boarding?
Veterinarians deal with pet parents all day and can provide important scoop on reliable boarding kennels. Friends, neighbours or even random strangers in the park who own pets can also be a good source of information about such kennels. Dog behaviourists and trainers can also guide pet parents to trustworthy kennel operators, as can the staff in a nearby animal shelter. Pet parents can also check the Yellow Pages or seek information online regarding such services in nearby areas.
What to look for in a kennel?
Boarding kennels ensure that leaving pets under the care of a third party need not be stressful for the pet parents or the pets anymore. However, pet parents should take note of various factors that will help them decide whether a kennel is suitable to house their pet or not.
Appearance: Proper sanitization is very important for a kennel to be deemed good. The living and playing areas should look and smell clean. They should be free of waste, faeces and urine to prevent diseases from spreading. They should be free of parasite infestation as well. A strict disinfecting schedule should be followed to sanitize the kennel. The boarded animals should look calm and content. Kennels with a strict ‘No Visitors’ policy should at least provide pet parents a glimpse of the area where their pet will be staying. Certain facilities may have web cams set up to allow pet parents to check in on their animal through the computer while they’re away.
Provision for animal comfort: The kennel should be well lit and adequately ventilated to prevent airborne microbes from spreading. The temperature should be maintained within comfortable limits for the pets. Pet parents should ask if special provisions can be made in case of older pets and pets that require warmer or cooler temperatures than what is normally provided. In addition to resting platforms, beddings should be provided to allow dogs to rest off the concrete floor. The primary enclosure or sleeping area should be spacious enough for the pet to stand, turn and stretch out comfortably, in addition to being clean and dry. Clean drinking water should be made available to each animal in individual containers.
Staff attitude: The attitude of the kennel staff is more important than any animal handling certification. The staff should demonstrate a high level of understanding and concern for the pets through their way of handling the animals and addressing the owner’s concerns. They should be able to provide details about every animal under their care. Besides being friendly and welcoming, they should take notes about information such as the pet’s diet, exercise needs, medications and favourite toys.
Pet supervision: Overcrowded kennels are a strict ‘no-no’. The higher the human to animal ratio at any given point of time, the better is the likelihood of the pet getting more individual attention. Proper supervision of the pets is extremely important. It is, therefore, important to know if someone will be on the premises at all times to check on the animals regularly. Pets should be frequently monitored by staff members trained to recognise the signs of illness and distress, which requires experience and practical knowledge. Untrained personnel may not be able to detect or interpret significant symptoms as lethargy, loss of appetite or urinary problems, leading to serious health concerns.
Hours of operation: Days and hours of business should be clearly posted for the visitors to see. Certain kennels are also closed on weekends or holidays, which the pet parents should keep in mind. Kennels are usually fully booked during holidays and vacations. Hence, making an early reservation is important. Pets should be checked in during business hours.
Healthcare provisions and veterinary services: A good kennel should require all pets to be current on their vaccinations before boarding them, as it helps in protecting them from diseases. The commonly required vaccinations for dogs are rabies, distemper, hepatitis , parvovirus, adenovirus, bordetella, leptospirosis and canine influenza. Preventatives for fleas, ticks and heart worm are also strongly advised. Personal attention, time and patience should be devoted to disabled pets. Arthritic pets should receive soft bedding on which to rest. If a pet is on medications, pet parents should make sure that the kennel has a routine to ensure that timely medications are given and there is no chance of overdose or missed doses. Pet parents should inquire if the boarding has stocks of such medications or if they are supposed to bring it themselves. Some kennels have a veterinarian on their premises while others prefer to use the pet’s original veterinarian to ensure continuity of care.
Exercise needs: Kennels should have adequately sized runs and exercise schedules for each dog. Exercise areas should be properly shielded against rain, direct sunlight and wind. A good kennel should have a system in place to segregate dogs by their size, age and playing style to ensure their safety and happiness. Kennels should also offer dog walking services for energetic dogs that require more exercise.
Pet safety: Boarding kennels should have sturdy, well-maintained fencing and gates to prevent pets from escaping. Kennel areas should be free of sharp objects, torn fences, jagged edges and bent wires. Chew toys, harmful chemicals and objects pets might swallow should be kept safely out of their reach. Cats should be housed away from dogs. Dogs at a boarding should never wear collars to avoid serious strangulation hazards. Solid dividers should be provided between enclosures to ensure better pet safety, prevent aggressive territorial marking as well as enable pets to relax without feeling challenged by their neighbours. Surfaces should offer good traction and be non slippery. Fire-fighting equipment should be easily accessible.
Feeding schedule: Owners should determine the kennel’s policy and know if there are additional charges for special feeding arrangements. Certain kennels serve preferred brands of feed to all boarders. Some have a stock of popular brands and feed the pet as per the owner’s preference. Some kennels require food to be brought in by the pet parents when they check in.
Rate calculation: Boarding rates of the kennel should be clearly displayed. The method of calculating boarding charges differs from kennel to kennel. Some kennels have a checkout time, after which an additional day’s charges are levied. Others charge by the night or day.
Boarding contract: Kennels should have a boarding agreement which clearly states the pet parent’s rights and the kennel’s responsibilities. This form protects the pet parent and the kennel from any misunderstandings.
Other precautions: Pet parents should provide the kennel with a number where they can be contacted in case of an emergency, in addition to the number for a local contact. The number of the pharmacy from where the pet’s medications are bought should also be stated so that a refill can be purchased in case of delayed return of the pet parent. Kennel operators should be informed about any special problems that the pet has such as fear of thunder or epilepsy.
Preparing pets for being boarded: It is always a good idea to accustom pets to kennel stays by first boarding them during shorter trips. This allows pet parents to work out any problems before boarding them for extended periods of time as well as prevent separation anxiety. Long, emotional partings should be avoided to prevent pets from feeling unnecessarily anxious. Pets should not be overfed before being boarded as it could lead to an upset stomach. Lastly, pet parents should trust their gut when it comes to choosing the right kennel for their furry companion. If they feel comfortable there and get along well with the staff members, it’s likely that the pets will feel at ease there as well. If a kennel can come close to feeling like home for the pet, pet parents can go attend to their tasks without having to worry about their pet.
Here are the basics of leash training and some effective tips and tricks that’ll help you and your pet.
–by Kritika Manchanda
Leash training usually begins when your pup is about 16 weeks old. This is the time when all his core vaccinations are complete. Here’s how to get started.
Pick the right leash and collar
For a pup, a light collar is ideal for the first few months when he’ll not be stepping out of the house. Once your pup is little older, get him a light collar and a leash. For the naughty and the hyper active pups, body leash is a good idea. They won’t tug at the neck and this way the possibility of hurting also decreases.
It is a golden rule to introduce anything new to your pet very slowly. This holds true for training methods. With pups, you need to be extra cautious.Let him get accustomed to the leash and the collar. For the first few times, put the leash and the collar together.You can let the collar be tied for long times if it is soft and is not tied very tightly. In the initial stages if the collar is tied too tightly, your pup might develop a fear of the collar. Puppies grow very fast, so it is important to adjust the size of his collar as he grows. The rule is that you should be able to slip two fingers comfortably under the collar.
Practice walking with leash indoor
You should understand that the concept of leash is new for your pup and he needs time to adjust. It is a great idea to give him a couple of practice sessions indoor before going for an actual outdoor walk.Clip on the collar and the leash and walk indoor – around the house, porch, balcony, and garage. This would help your pup adjust to the leash and you’ll also know how much is he tugging or pulling.
Combine leash training with obedience training
Obedience training is a must for pups, and so is leash training. The basics like sit, stay, heel and down should be taught to the pup. Once your pup becomes used to the collar and the leash, you can begin obedience training.
Preventing leash tugging
If you dread walking your dog because his favourite is leash tugging, then we understand your pain. Leash tugging can be dangerous for your furry buddy. They can injure themselves and even injure somebody else. A little tugging is ok, but if your dog becomes super excited, then that is a matter of concern and needs to be controlled. Puppies tug due to excitement or fear, and both are dangerous. Teach him that pulling on the leash does not get him where he wants to go. Reward him with a treat when he walks in the direction you want.
Walk time=Leash time
Most dogs relate walk time to leash time. They become super excited and might start running around. Let the excitement settle, and let him run around for a while. After a few minutes, put on the leash and gently tug. This would be a signal to go out and slowly your little one will start relating to it.
Patience is the key
Like we always say, patience is the key to the lock of training. Whether it is leash training or any other training, you have to be patient with your pet. Make rules, but be flexible with them.
A pet parent thinks that his dog is an obedient dog, but does things at his own will. This is not the case. Here, a dog trainer shares what the actual problem is.
A typical conversation that happens between a pet parent and a dog trainer: Pet parent: Hi, I have a dog to train.
Trainer: Sure, how can I help you? What breed is the dog?
Pet parent: I have a Labrador. She is 8 months old.
Trainer: Fine. Could you please let me know your requirement?
Pet parent: Well, my dog is super cool. She does everything I ask her to do. She is obedient.
Trainer: Good to hear that. How can I be of help to you?
Pet parent: Yeah, the issue is that she does everything only when she likes.
Trainer: Don’t worry. I will help you. Before that, please let me know your actual requirement. For what purpose you bought the dog? How much space do you have in your home for the dog?
Pet parent: I bought this dog for guarding purpose. She is good at that.
Trainer: Oh! Really? Then why doesn’t she bark while seeing me? Have you trained her for that?
Pet parent: No No… But she does bark when a stranger enters home.
Trainer: Are you keeping the dog inside a kennel or inside the home?
Pet parent: Inside the kennel. My wife doesn’t like dogs and can’t keep her inside.
Trainer: How many hours a day is she free (released from the kennel)?
Pet parent: We release her occasionally. May be once in five days or a week.
This conversation – I have frequently with people. What is important is pet owners should become PET PARENTS- and understand that their Dogs are Social BEINGS- they have emotions, and want to be loved and cared. Dogs should be kept in homes- as family members.
Trust and respect the dog: In the ideal world, the dog should obey the pet parent. For that the dog should have the feelings of respect and attachment towards the pet parent. This can’t be done overnight by hurting them or intimidating them. This can be achieved only with patience. Dogs, too, are prone to making thousand mistakes. But we should patiently correct them with the proper training methods. Also the word “trust” is an important keyword when it comes to dogs. If all the above are done without “trust,” then dogs would just try to escape from the pet parent.
Match your requirement with the breed: Before selecting a breed, we need to reconsider our requirements – such as the purpose of having a dog, the space in the house for the dog, the capacity to spend for the dog etc. Only after giving proper thought to all these, select a breed which is suitable for the home.
Mental stress: Another mistake is that the dog gets a release outside the kennel occasionally. A dog needs a minimum of 3 hours to be left free outside his kennel every day. Otherwise there are chances of mental stress for the dogs, as in humans. In the above case, the dog barks because of that. Actually, he is pleading even to the strangers, trying to get their attention and to release him. But the pet parent can’t understand or communicate with his dog. Pet parent is content that the dog is doing his duty.
Family@pet: Pets should be kept at home as an another valuable and precious member of you family. Also all the members in the family should agree before getting the pet in. The responsibility of taking care of a pet is of each member.
Positive Training & Partner with your Trainer: be the leader of your pets pack- this will make her look up to you. Treat her kindly with love and respect. Train Positively, set a desired action of good behavior- and whenever your pet does it reward her with her favourite treat. Always partner with your Trainer and work together in training. Depending on your dogs age initially keep training session short and ensure to have fun with your pet. The pet responds to the tone of your voice and excitement level. Be patient with your pet. Look at the world from your Pets perspective. Always make her HEART HAPPY, in return you will get years of unconditional love, joy, happiness beyond compare.
Exercise, Walks, Play is a necessity: This is mandatory without it the dog gets depressed. Spend quality time with her and physically and mentally keep her active. You have the world but for your pet you are her world. Become her world and become the PERFECT PET PARENT!
(Pratheek Premkumar is professional dog trainer based in Kerala; since early years he has been fascinated by animals of all types and sizes).
Not socialising your pet is the number one reason for dogs being abandoned in shelters. Here’s how to socialise your pet and give him the required skill set to live harmoniously in this world.
Charlie was a two-year-old Labrador Retriever, who was well-behaved and friendly. He was the apple of the eye of his family and always led a sheltered life. He used the huge backyard in his home, as his personal bathroom and playground since childhood. When Charlie’s master got transferred to another city, they were forced to live an apartment. From being accustomed to relieving himself in an open yard, he was taken for walks on leash on a very crowded street filled with people and different noises. Charlie was not used to all this commotion, so he started withdrawing. He used to cringe every time the pet parent used to leash him to take him outside.
One day, while he was on a walk, a ‘scary-looking’ stranger with an umbrella in his hand, approached Charlie and his pet parent. As the man came closer, Charlie withdrew but the stranger did not back – he petted his head instead. The scared dog looked at this gesture as a threat and bit him. The pet parent was shocked by the sudden behaviour; Charlie did not know how to react either. They thought it was isolated incident, but within few months, neighbour, watchman, milkman and pet parent himself had become victims to the dog’s bites. This got him a one-way ticket to the shelter, where he passed away in a few weeks due to mental trauma.
This catastrophe could have been prevented, had Charlie been socialised from an early age. He was brought up in a very constricted environment, and was not exposed to outsiders, noise, chaos, other pets or kids. He never gained the skill set that is required for any dog to be sociable.
What is socialisation?
“Socialisation is the process of installing a positive world view in puppies, by exposing them to a variety of people, places and things. Ensuring that he has good experiences in different environments is essential. The most important period, to socialise your pet is as young as four weeks through 12 to 14 weeks of age. However, it is a continual process – so if your pet hasn’t had exposure as a pup, remedial socialisation later in its life, can repair some of the damage done by lack of early socialisation. Chances are high that the dog will be somewhat significantly neophobic (fearful of new things) throughout his life, if early intervention isn’t done, in cases where the animal hasn’t gotten sufficient exposure,” says Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CDBC.
In simple words, socialisation is the association of two different stimuli and the reaction when interacted with. Many dog behavioural scientists have identified that puppies’ social development period is from 4 to 14 weeks of age. If they are exposed to different environments, living situations, people, dogs, sounds and objects within this time period, he will grow up to be a happy, confident and social adult dog, who believes the world is a safe place, which he loves living in.
If the exposure is not done within this time frame, they could grow up to be under-socialised or orneophobic – fearful dogs who are afraid of their own shadow. This could result in fear-related aggression as adults – Charlie’s case (as mentioned above) is an example of this. While, under or non-exposure to different stimulus is one thing, over exposure to stimulus can also have a negative impact.
The right ways
“Socialisation does not mean flooding the puppy with new experiences all at once. It is a gradual, positive process of exposure that encourages confident behaviour in the pup,” explains Dr Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian, animal behaviourist, author and public speaker. He’s also the creator of the world’s first off-leash puppy classes and founder of the APDT (The Association of Professional Dog Trainers).
Meeting new people: The puppy must meet at least 100 people of different ages, personalities, height, size and faces. By the time he is eight weeks old, make him mingle with another 100 people, and 100 more by the time the social development windows closes at 14 weeks of age.
Throw as many parties as you can – ‘meet my new pup parties’, kids birthday parties, office get-togethers, weekend interactions and so on. The little one has to be handled, passed around, carried and petted by as many people as possible, but monitor his safety carefully.
You have to make the pup feel that people are fun beings to play with and that they don’t mean harm. You could request your friends to give him his favourite special treat (in small quantities only) when he is being handled or played with. After few of these parties, he will start seeking out people he can be around.
Introducing new stimulus: Make a socialisation plan for the puppy. Each day introduce a new stimulus – be it another animal, a new child or the common area in the apartment complex. The number one rule to remember is it has to be an enjoyable experience, so shower praises and special treats (in moderation) to reward their confidence and curiosity. If they scrounge or try to hide behind you or jump on you to be picked up, resist this behaviour. By trying to comfort him, you will only be encouraging and rewarding this nervous behaviour. Instead, be neutral and move away from the situation, which is eliciting a fearful response. Once the puppy calms down, praise the puppy.
Making it a life-long process: A pet parent’s tendency is to become over-enthusiastic and push the puppy too hard, if he behaves well or listens – ensure this doesn’t occur, from day one of training. Always end on a positive note. Remember, socialising is a long-term effort, so even when your puppy becomes a teenager or an adult, they will still need ongoing socialising from time to time, to new as well as old stimulus and environments. Puppies who are socialised well from the beginning turn out to be adult dogs who are well behaved and adjusted to our human world.
(Rohini Sankar has done Diploma in Canine Behavior Counselling, Therapy and Training from The Association of Companion Animal Behavior Counselors (ACABC), USA; she has more than nine years of professional experience as a canine behaviour counsellor, trainer and therapist.)
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