Confidence comes with early socialisation

Often we hear, “My dog is great with humans, but he doesn’t take to other dogs that well.” This is most often because there is a culture of acquiring dogs but not consistently nurturing them and not knowing the proper ways to do the same. To remain healthy, happy and peaceful dogs need to be socialised sufficiently from an early age.

 

Adnan Khan

Adnan Khan

What is socialisation?
Socialisation, as a term, is not the same for humans as is dogs. In the case of humans, only interacting with fellow humans is often perceived as socialisation. But since the dogs are meant to comply in our habitats, all forms of exposure to stimuli are counted as socialisation.

Socialisation means exposing your dog to a plethora of new stimuli like objects, sounds, humans, dogs and other small animals. The main aim is to make the dog more comfortable in the environment we wish for them to live in with us. We can never guarantee that the dog will be sensitised with everything he is to encounter in the future but more socialisation always ensured the dog will be more confident in the future in many scenarios.

 

Why it’s important?
For a dog to be comfortable in their human habitat, we need to interact with them daily and set out a plan of action where they get to meet young children, friendly dogs of the neighbourhood, adults and other pets. Additionally, exposing them to new sounds and sights like doorbells, umbrellas, hats, wheelchair, etc would be an added benefit for them to have a stable temperament.
A well-socialised dog is calm, even-tempered, friendlier and generally happier. We also ensure the dog does not grow up to be shy, anxious, nervous, timid or aggressive in any way if regular socialisation is practiced from the beginning.
The age old ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate prevails in this context very appropriately. ‘Nature’ of a dog would be their genetics and breeding. Even the well-tempered inheritance of a dog can be compromised if left chained at home all day and having never socialised your pet. On the contrary, even the most temperamental or preconceived breeds can be trained to behave better and control their temperament if regularly socialised with humans, pets, things and activities.

Tips for socialising

 Here are some suggestions from a dog training enthusiast for pet parents to socialise their pets in urban lifestyles:

  • Most effective age for puppies is 4-12 weeks. This is when they learn the most and go through their first ‘fear period’.
  • Introducing the dog to one new experience every day can be the most effective strategy to follow.
  • Make sure the dog meets and plays with at least 3-4 different pets every week who are not regular pack members.
  • Allow dog to be handled by young children and promote feeding and sharing of toys to the young visitors at home. This also helps in educating and motivating children to handle dogs appropriately. But always supervise them.
  • Ensure regular reinforcement in the form of praise during all these encounters so the dog associates the experiences with happiness.

 

Ideas for socialising
Seeing that human lifestyles have developed to an overwhelming pace where most people do not have time for themselves during the week, let alone their dogs; all these things may sound time consuming to many. Here are some ideas that pet parents in cities can try for a more joyous socialisation journey with their pets.

 

  • Play Dates: Call over a dog from your friend circle or neighbourhood.
  • Group Class: Join your local obedience instructor for training classes in groups where your puppy gets to socialise and enjoy the training.
  • Dog Parties: Throw parties on regular occasions inviting all dogs with dog friendly pleasantries like cakes, treats, swimming pool, etc.
  • Dog Parks: Dog parks are still not a very prominent occurrence in India but do book a place in your neighbouring parks for a highly enjoyable romp for your pooches.
  • Involve Your Dog: Try and take your dog along to as many new places as possible such as to the market, in your car, to open fields, etc. This will also give you a chance to strengthen obedience of your dog.

Ways to keep your pooch busy ’n happy

A bored pooch can never be a happy pooch. Research has proven that dogs who spend majority of their waking hours alone doing nothing but wait for their pet parents to return home and spend some time with them are highly susceptible to behavioural problems like aggression, separation anxiety, irritability and destructive tendencies. Here’s how to keep your pooch occupied and happy.

Shuchi Kalra

Shuchi Kalra

 

Dogs are ‘pack animals’ by nature and virtually thrive on attention from their parents or other members of the same species. Here are few ways you can keep your dog happy:

  • Kick-start your doggie’s day with a good walk/run followed by a power-packed breakfast to keep them energetic and happy throughout the day.
  • Set a daily routine for your dog, especially if you stay out of the house for most of the day. A familiar routine instills confidence in a pooch and takes away the stress of dealing with new surprises every day.
  • You don’t necessarily have to shower attention all the time – just let them rest on your lap or sit by your side while you do your work.
  • Give him an occasional pat on the head. This way, your buddy will feel reassured and will probably not freak out when you are out of sight.
  • Spend some quality time with your doggie, which can include play activities, obedience training and going for walks or runs together.
  • Make sure that your pooch eats and sleeps at regular hours so that he is not tired or irritable when you get home.Untitled-6
  • Employ a ‘pet-nanny’ who can feed, bathe and walk your baby on time so that you and your pooch can spend
    all the remaining hours on fun-activities!

 

When you are away…
While you are away, indulge your best friend in any of these fabulous five pass-time activities to beat the blues and the boredom:

 

1. Toys and Playthings: Canines love their toys but can easily lose interest when made to play with the same toys for long periods Untitled-2of time. Stock your best buddy’s play pen with a variety of toys – all of different textures, sizes and shapes. Balls and stuffed dolls are all time favourites. Make sure that the toys are safe for your dog and do not cause injuries or choking hazards. While some dogs switch their pet-toys every few days, others are content with a single all-time favourite. Most dogs can keep themselves busy and entertained with playthings for as long as you would like them to.

 

 

 

2. Bones and Chews: Large-sized chew treats are excellent pass-times for hyperactive dogs and teething puppies. Make sure that Untitled-4the treats are not small enough to choke the dog. Raw-hide bones come in different sizes and are ideal for dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages. They are inexpensive and can keep a pooch engrossed for hours. You may hide the chews at times and urge your dog to look for it.

 

 

 

 

3. Outdoors and Physical Activity: Dogs are little bundles of energy and can get cranky if they don’t get to spend their calories effectively and regularly. A daily walk is an absolute must for your pooch’s physical health and mental well-being. Adequate physical activity prevents restlessness and irritability in dogs and also improves their sleep patterns. If you plan to go out for a few hours, it may be a good idea to have a rigorous play exercise with your pooch to tire him out. YourUntitled-1 pooch will most likely go to bed early and will have lesser time to feel lonely or bored when you are not around. If you happen to have the luxury of open space, it would be a great idea to spare a little digging space where your pooch could wallow and play in the dirt (dogs love to do that during summer). If the idea of getting your well-manicured lawn dug-up does not appeal to you, consider getting a portable sand box and fill it with your buddy’s favourite toys. Inflatable swimming pools can also be set up in the garden for a nice game of splash.

 

 

4. Frozen Favourites: A great summer idea is to freeze your doggie’s favourite treat (a piece of chicken or a vegetable) in a blockUntitled-3 of ice. Keep a corner of the treat exposed so that your pooch is tempted to lick off the ice to get to the ‘hidden’ treat. This little exercise is mentally stimulating and helps cool off your pooch during the awful summer months. You may also replace the edibles with your dog’s favourite toy.

 

5. Television and Music: Many dogs love watching television. Though pooches do not understand what’s going on behind the screen, they are certainly fascinated by the moving objects and the flashing lights. Any activity that stimulates their senses is bound to grab their attention – if only for a while. If you plan to leave your pooch home alone for a while, play some soothing music so that your buddy does not feel overwhelmed by the deafening silence inthe house.

Ways to introduce your dog to joyride and leash walk at ease

Ramachandran

Ramachandran

Get set and ride!
Start early: As soon as you get your puppy or dog, ensure that they get a good idea about the sight, smell and sound of the car before you even put them in.
Introduce slowly: Just open the rear door and reward (treat) your dog for any interaction with the car. If he tries to get in on his own, give him lots of praise and reward.
Let them get the feel: Gradually increase the time he is inside the car.
Teaching obedience training: Teach a ‘Down’ command outside the car and ask him to lie down once he is inside the car. This is important for his safety. Treat him for good behaviour.
Have patience: If he does not do it, do not be afraid to go back a few steps and start from there.
Making him comfortable: Always put his favourite blanket on the car seat before you ask him to get in.
Safety commands: Teach your dog to be inside the car even if you open the door. He should get out only when asked by you AFTER you attach his leash. This is very important for his safety.
Keep it short. Start off by taking very small trips, may be round your street or to the vegetable market. Keep them short, not more than 15 minutes.
Bon voyage! As he grows up and your confidence in him grows, you can take him for long hours. Just remember to give him a bathroom break every 2 to 3 hours.

Let the leash walk begin!

Start early: Introduce leash to your dog during puppyhood.
Never pull: Never ever pull your dog towards you. The leash is there just as an emergency safety device. The dog should choose to walk with you even without the leash.
Stay still: If your dog pulls, just stop walking. Stand like a statue. The moment he turns to pay attention to you or relaxes the leash tension, reward him (with treats).Untitled-22
Calm down: Initially you may be able to walk only a few meters on a loose leash. It may seem very time consuming. Do not worry, do not lose heart. DO NOT GET ANGRY!
Change direction: If you feel that your dog is about to lose his attention on you, suddenly change directions, this teaches the dog to be alert and always cued on you.
Make shorter: Train in 3 or 4 short sessions rather than one long session.
Be focused: Always remember, you need to be mentally 100 percent focused on your dog during the walk. If you are not focused, he will not be focused on you.

(Ramachandran Subramanian is an IT professional who has been training dogs for the past 15 years. He currently lives in Chennai).

Correct & Control Behavioural problems in your dog!

A behavioural problem is actually any behaviour displayed by a dog whom co-inhabitants think of a problem! Let’s see how to identify behavioural problems in dogs and why they occur.

 

Philip A Butt

Philip A Butt

Pet parents obviously differ in how much they endure diverse behaviours in their pets. So what several people consider a ‘problem’, others are pretty pleased to live with. Hence, behaviour problems can vary from innocuous acts like dogs jumping up to welcome their pet parents as they return, to acute forms of aggression, or behaviours that appear ‘hallucinatory’ such as snapping at imaginary flies. The expression ‘behaviour problem’ includes a broad range of problems from situations where dogs have not been socialised on how to respond to a particular stimulus, to behaviours which are connected to medical problems.

 

Training vs behavioural problems
As pet parents, it is important that we recognise training/obedience problems and able to differentiate between them and behavioural problems. As a rule, if your pet shows obedience schooling problems such as pulling on the leash or refusing to come when called, then it would be a training problem. The severity of the disobedience and our tolerance levels sometimes make us believe that it could be a behavioural problem, but it is not.
A behavioural problem on the other hand can be recognised by the pattern. Is it repetitive? Does the dog act predictably react in a certain situation? If your dog exhibits actions such as aggression, withdrawal from or evading particular sounds or events, excessive barking or destruction when left alone, then it is a behavioural problem. These behaviours are usually signs that your pet is in a negative emotional state (such as anxiety or fear) in certain situations.

 

Wangchuk

Wangchuk

Identifying behavioural problems
Having said that, what all pet parents need is to understand that adaptation takes time, particularly for young pets or older dogs in new situations. We should not get too anxious easily. Basic common sense socialising usually alleviates such problems. What should worry you is if the behaviour is repetitive over a long time or if the problem is new in a dog who was otherwise fine in the same situation.

 

Rule out medical issues: The first thing you do when you identify a behavioural problem in your dog is to take him to a veterinarian. Behavioural changes can be an indication of a medical problem. There are a plethora of diverse conditions that first appear as noticeable ‘behaviour problems’ but which turn out to be signs of disease. For example, neurological disease in the brain or spinal cord, swelling of the bladder, hormonal disorders or malfunctioning of the liver can all first become noticeable as behavioural changes. Also, medical symptoms occasionally influence the development of behaviour even where they are not the sole cause of the problem. For example, a painful ear may be the reason behind a hostile reaction to petting on the head. Medical symptoms can only be diagnosed by a vet, and may require additional tests to recognise the precise disorder. Because many of these conditions are very serious, it is important that your vet sees your dog first so that any necessary treatment is started as soon as possible.

Untitled-6

Breed-specific …No! Very often I am asked if these problems like aggression are more prevalent in certain breeds. Well, the answer is NO – every dog in a certain breed will not show this problem. And definitely, you will see it in other breeds too. However, it must be said that in an abusive environment more dogs of certain breeds WILL react aggressively as compared to other breeds.

 

Age-related: Another factor that brings in the onset of behavioural problems is age. Like people, old dogs get cranky, are impatient and need our love. As mentioned earlier, a medical check up could reveal the cause of the irritability. Even without that as dogs age, the likelihood of a behavioural problem increases. After a certain age, training and socialisation problems are over. Any problems emerging after five years of age usually have a deep rooted basis and would most probably be behavioural issues.
Here are few tips to help you minimise the possibility of behavioural problems in your dog:

 

Socialisation: Socialise your puppy from a very young age. Expose him to as many sounds, sights, situations as you can. This will help prevent fear from sounds/surfaces and new situations at a later age.

 

Managing separation anxiety: Teach him to spend some alone time in his kennel/crate every day. Increase the time gradually till he is able to stay in the crate for a couple of hours every day, irrespective of whether any one is at home or not. This will help prevent separation anxiety and incessant barking when he gets older.

 

Be the pack leader: Let him know who is the head of the house by being firm, not harsh. The dog has to realise his place in the hierarchy of the family. He needs this structure for him to function better. This will be a big step in preventing territorial aggression and other forms of aggression stemming out of a misplaced sense of ownership.

 

Handling aggression: Teach him to accept and permit your interrupting him when he eats. Take away the bowl mid meal and praise him for waiting. Any sort of aggression should be reprimanded. This will prevent a whole lot of aggression problems as he matures.

 

Basic obedience: Train him basic obedience at the right age using positive reinforcement methods. Having a trained dog is not about a dog who follows your commands. More importantly it is about having a dog you can communicate to and who understands you.

 

Never reward undesired behaviour: Unknowingly parents reward unwanted behaviour by sounding more caring/loving when the pet displays such behaviour or rushing to the dog to pacify him. Such reactions encourage the dog mistakenly and create lifelong behaviour problems.
Most times, behavioural problems in dogs are due to silly mistakes committed by pet parents. Be smart and bring up your pet responsibly.

 

(Philip A Butt is CEO and Chief Trainer at Commando Kennels (P) Ltd, Hyderabad. He is also Certified Dog Trainer from AES, UK; Certified Detection Dog Instructor, Germany, Certified Protecting Dog Instructor, Germany and Show Secretary of the HyCan Dog Show).

Get your pet parenting Formula just right!

Dog parenting should be fun, not just for the pet parent but definitely for the dog as well. You may be surprised to learn that this is also true for service dogs. Dogs are little different to us and we all learn best when the learning is conducted in a fun and interesting way.

David Davies

David Davies

I like to use formulas for everything. This is because I forget easily, so with simple formulas I find it very easy to structure things I do. This works well with dog training as the one thing dogs as a species need from us is consistency. This word crops up repeatedly with me as it is probably the biggest area where we as a species fall short and let our good friend the dog down badly!
How we live with our dogs on a daily basis severely affects how they behave. Here’s a formula for maintaining a contented dog is:
Activity – Provide and instigate all physical and mental stimulation. By you the pet parent providing these things (for the most part, not another dog!), it causes the dog to look to you for fun and entertainment. It also exercises the dog, so she is satisfied and sleeps and rests when not actually doing anything. She will be calm and will also eat her meals better, if normally a poor eater. Make life an adventure – with new things to learn all the time and you being the teacher!
Bond – The above leads to a better relationship between the dog and her human counterpart. In case of more than one dog, this interaction will help the dogs to look to the human rather than the other dogs. The correct relationship is also maintained by establishing the status of humans and dogs. Do not allow the dogs to steer the humans, but rather the other way around, particularly if the dog is naturally a pushy individual.
Control – This is not only control over the dog who is obviously a must, but also self control, ensuring we humans are consistent in what we do when it comes to the dogs. Consistency is probably one of the prime things to remember when it comes to working with animals, but unquestionably with regard to dogs.
Diet – Correct, consistent use of diet can make all the difference with canine issues. Consider the time of day to feed. It needs to be at least one hour after exercise and never prior to exercise to prevent medical issues, especially bloat! It can be used as a reinforcer to help establish required behaviour. In other words, the dog earns her food. For example, the reluctant returnee will soon scurry back if she realises her meal follows returning to her per parent and home. At meal times, feed only a small portion of the daily intake and use the remainder for rewards to reinforce and not lure the dog. Although luring is ok in early stages when showing a dog what is required from it. Vary what your dog gets to eat. Would you like to be on the same diet for the remainder of your life?
Environment – A dog must have off territory exercise. If not, she may become territorial and possibly aggressive. She may also be inadequately socialised as a result. Remember off territory means somewhere different. Your dog doesn’t care that you don’t own the area she patrols. If she walks, pees and marks there regularly, then she thinks she owns it! Marking or peeing, especially with un-neutered males is property marking. Each time something else masks your dog’s signature with his own, then your dog has to scratch out this rivals mark and re scent with his own.
Fun – Ensure your dog’s life is full of fun provided by you and that she is free from fear and frustration which underpin almost all forms of aggression! And please – you the pet parent provide this fun and not another dog! If you want your dog to look to you, YOU HAVE to be her provider.
Groom – Your dog DAILY. This is a daily health check. Your dog ‘should’ love the contact. If she doesn’t, you have a lot of work to do on the relationship between you and your dog! With a new dog who struggles when groomed, the sheer fact you are holding her and carry on with the grooming teaches the dog she can’t pull you around and that she needs to stay when you say. This is all conducted without confrontation and made enjoyable for the dog. Two of my rescued dogs (Terriers) hated being groomed when I took them on, one actively would bite. Now they compete to get on the grooming table first. One of these Terriers was rewarded for not chasing my hens by carrying his grooming kit around the hen run and grooming him periodically near the hens. He now walks about with them like they are his sisters. In fact, I wish I hadn’t done it because he now no longer sees the need to chase off the rabbits which are taking over my land!
A well-trained dog is a delight for all pet parents.


Here’s a formula for training…just right

Attention – Gain your dog’s focus. You can’t expect a dog to do something if she isn’t looking at you first. I use the dog’s name for this. Teach the dog this by using her name in a different tone to when you are simply having a chat with her. The moment she looks at you, reward her with a valued commodity, such as affection, toy, food or treat. Use a variety of treats – not just whatever comes to hand at the time, and make sure it is what your dog wants!
Cue – Select a word and or a non-verbal signal to tell the dog or cue the dog as to what you want her to do.
Guidance – At first the dog will not have a clue what you want from her. Show and guide her using a lead, lure with food, position with your hand, anything, but show her what to do and say the command.
Reward – Have the reward ready to go. A dog needs to know that what she just did is the reason the reward came along. This must be done as soon as possible. Reward before the dog does anything else. She will associate this pleasant incentive with the very last thing she did. Mistakes here are how people ruin training, for example, they call the dog to them, she returns as directed, then they make her sit and then reward the dog. The dog associates sitting with the reward. No wonder the recall doesn’t improve, but the sit is usually brilliant! Worse, the stubborn dog is punished once she does return; she then associates returning with unpleasantness, so becomes slow to return, until she just simply doesn’t return home at all! When administering the reward, also mark the moment with sound or word. I say “Good”, but you can use any word; it is only a sound, so long as it’s simple and consistent. A device used by Skinner in the 1960s called a Clicker is wonderful here if used properly. If you do this successfully, the sound or marker will tell the dog the precise moment she performs correctly. You can then follow up with the reward.
But let us not forget straight forward simple meaningful love and affection. This is important as it is one of the most underrated aspects of training in our time.

How dogs learn?
Dogs learn to do something by trial and error, once they realise what they did led to a pleasant result – they will do it again. Conversely they learn not to do something if it results in something unpleasant, however, if they try something several times and it consistently leads to no reward then they will eventually stop trying. This is often a much better way of stopping behaviour that we don’t like rather than looking at ways to punish a dog. For example, dog steals the mail when it drops through the letterbox. A remedy might be to put up a mesh cage to catch the post. Dog can’t get to mail, therefore finds the whole process unrewarding and in time it may well stop trying to take the mail. Remember the more successful repetitions we make of something we are learning the more proficient we will become at doing it, so to with the dog. Each time it does something which leads it to a reward the better it gets at it until the behaviour becomes habit and is difficult to eradicate. Great for teaching that which we want, not so good if it is something we don’t want.
Training a dog can be so easy and such fun, I am referring here to straightforward training and not complicated behavioural issues for which appropriate advice should be sought. Here are some examples of things we can do to entertain our dog whilst having fun. The advantage of these examples is the fact that the dog and pet parent are receiving physical as well as mental activity. The dog is also learning useful things to do at the same time. In many of these examples, food can be substituted for toys and vice versa. However, there is no substitute for the joy of an emotional connection between dog and handler. Be genuinely happy with your dog or show genuine disapproval at appropriate times.

Attention game
Say your dog’s name in an animated pitch and each time she looks at you feed her food or give a game with a cherished toy. Keep this simple and short in duration. (You should start the game and you should end it whilst your dog still wants more.)

Recall game
In a safe environment allow your dog to begin sniffing a smell, call the dog’s name and run or move rapidly away from it calling in an excited tone. When the dog returns to you, reward with treat or toy/game. A tuggy game is good here as it conditions the dog to come to you rather than simply chase by you. If using a toy, always reclaim this resource after the short fun activity. The dog will know you have this in your possession and will want it again. Control the resource, control the game, and control the dog (words borrowed and adapted from my friend and colleague, behaviourist John Rogerson). The above game can be adapted easily for use by several family members calling the dog from one to the other. I call this The Round Robin Recall.
By undertaking these things (you are only limited by your own imagination) your dog will view you as fun, entertaining, spontaneous, and more interesting than anything else. You can then apply these examples in situations you encounter. For example, your dog goes to examine something disgusting. Instead of screaming and shouting, why not try the fun recall. This will also be of use when your dog becomes distracted by another dog or well meaning person when you are in a hurry. Anything really when you want your dog to return to you quickly without fuss.
Train dog to walk along side or follow you
Try walking briskly, each time your dog looks up at you or does something you particularly like say ‘Good dog’ and reward it that second. If the dog runs ahead of you, turn and move in the opposite direction, when the dog comes after you, play and praise. Make the play worthwhile this is what will cause the dog to want to be with you.

Searching game
Hide objects of value to your dog in various places and encourage the dog to sniff them out. Hide and have your dog search for you using scent.

Tracking or seek-back game
Walk across a grass field with your dog on leash, place an item of value to the dog on the ground and continue to walk sliding your feet as if on skis thus creating a line of scent. After a few meters turn and encourage your dog to sniff her way along where you slid your feet to the location of the reward. As stated you are limited only by your own imagination.

A word on play/reward
I see many, many clients who just don’t know how or are too inhibited to openly and extrovertly interact with their dog. When I say play to reward and thus reinforce behaviour you want repeating by your dog I mean play! You must make the dog view you are pleased with it and make it view you as fun. Dropping food or a toy benignly or patting it on the head saying in a monotone voice ‘Good dog’ will not suffice. Get down on your knees with your dog and have it chase a toy that you pass from hand to hand, or around your body. Use an excited voice to build interest and excitement in your dog (unless the dog is over excitable).
I often find I have to give guidance on simply being an extrovert and having fun oneself prior to helping the pet parents train their dog. I cannot over emphasise the relevance of voice intonation, and quick stimulating movement when working with and motivating a dog. She will get her energy from you. This is a binary thing; you must give some input also!
Above all – love and have fun with your dog!

(David Davies is director, David Davies Dog Training (www.daviddaviesdogtraining.com) and CFBA (practitioner)-GoDT (master trainer)-BIPDT–DTIA-BPSCA, Darlington, County Durham, England, UK).

10 essential Life-Saving Commands for your pooch

Here  are ‘10 Essential Life-Saving Commands’ which every pooch must learn to get Alert and Avoid Accidents.

 

Imagine a situation where you have taken your dog out in your compound, left him off leash because it is an enclosed area and besides you have your eyes on him at all times. But what happens when you see him going to pick up a piece of food strewn around the corners? You run towards him to pull it out of his mouth but too late he has already consumed it. And then the worst happens…your watchman tells you he had put rat poison in the food strewn around because of the growing number of rats in the premises. Emergency visit to the vet…!
Such situations can be avoided if you have trained your pooch on life-saving commands and he is obedient enough to follow it once you utter the command.

 

 Huzannah Banajee


Huzannah Banajee

Now picture this real life situation. “I have had one situation where my dog’s collar broke and fell off in the middle of crossing a main road with lots of traffic. Thankfully, I told my dog to Stay till the traffic passed us, finished crossing the road safely with the Heel command and then asked her to sit on the other side of the road while I fixed her leash around her neck. I took her back home like that,” tells Huzannah Banajee Joseph thankfully. However, Huzannah cautions, “Different dogs respond differently in emergency situations. In these situations, the dog will respond in a positive manner to any commands if he has learnt and practiced them well before, and most importantly, if the pet parent maintains his cool and calmly talks to the dog. If the pet parent gets stressed out, the dog is bound to pick up on the stress too and act out rather than act calm.”

 

Maliaka-Fernandes

Maliaka-Fernandes

First command to teach your pooch…
“The first thing we teach a dog is his Name. The dog’s Name has to be the best thing in the world for the dog; so whatever he gets (food, love, treats or toys) should come after his Name is said,” says Delano Henriques.
While Huzannah says, “I teach all my client dogs three things first – Their Name, Leave It (or No), and Come.”
Malaika Fernandes feels that all pooches should learn these three basic commands – Sit – Stay, Come and Down – Stay.

 

Best command for safe-walking on the street…
“Teaching a dog to walk with you in a subordinate manner (Heel) is the most important command on the streets of a busy city. If your dog pulls, you both could meet with an accident or if he is off the leash, he could meet with an accident, or injure someone else. Come and Stay could also help you in traffic, off leash and on leash. If your dog is well trained, you can use these commands to get through traffic or and other situation the environment has to offer,” tells Delano as a matter of fact.

 

Delano Henriques

Delano Henriques

Motivating dogs to learn…
Each dog is an individual, even in the same breed. “Each dog will have a different drive and temperament;
we need to identify the dog’s temperament and use his drive to motivate them while working. Temperament in dogs is similar to personality in humans. Drive is ‘will to work’ (pack drive, prey drive, play drive, food drive, defense drive, etc),” says Delano.
“To start with, we should work with a dog for 10 to 15 minutes maximum. Make it a game at first, work the actual training into your play. Give a command, make the dog execute it correctly, and then make a big to-do over it. Before his interest wanes, quit the lesson in the same cheerful note as when you started it, and with an exercise that the dog does well and enjoys,” she adds.
While Huzannah says, “Dogs who are interested in training are always excited and motivated to learn new things. We help create and enhance this interest with the help of treats and toys initially, but wean them off these soon. The dog then continues to want to learn because it is fun, and because this is a time for bonding with the pet parent.”

 

Malaika Fernandes gives a few tips to motivate your pooch.

  • Find the motivation: Find out what motivates your dog in the beginning by keeping these key factors in mind before you begin training.
  • Choose the most valuable reward: The key is to find out what drives your dog a little crazy – it can be a toy, praise or a very valuable treat. Once you know what works for your dog, it can be used to train him, which makes it fun for both you and the dog.
  • Train your dog at home first: Just as important it is to know what motivates your dog is how comfortable he is in an environment. So, begin by having his training sessions at home where he feels secure and safe to give you his undivided attention.

 Dog Training 1

  • Keep distractions to a minimum:Train him in a place where there are not many distractions so that your intended reward should be the only reward your dog gets, otherwise you will end up creating confusion and encouraging unwanted behaviours.

 

Life-saving commands…
Basic obedience is a must for all canine citizens and more so for canines in the cities, because they are the life saviours in the hustle-bustle of the city.  Here are a few life-saving commands for your pooch.

 

1 Dog’ s Name
“The first thing your puppy should learn is his Name. It means that he should respond by looking at you when you say his Name. The easiest way to teach him is by giving him a treat or praise, each time he looks at you, regardless of whether you call out his Name or not. He will soon learn that making eye contact is worth his while. Then once he makes eye contact, add his Name just prior to him making eye contact, follow it either by a treat or praise. He is now learning that the sound of his Name paired with eye contact results in a treat or praise. Remember do not use his Name when disciplining him, especially when he is first learning it,” shares Malaika.

 

2 Come
The Come command is one of the most important exercises you must teach your dog. “A dog who comes reliably when called can be called out of life-threatening situations like running across roads etc while chasing another animal/ball, etc. A dog who doesn’t come when called can also get lost if he manages to run off from the house or comes loose from his leash during a walk,” tells Huzannah.
“Inside and outside the house, it is important to train your dog to have a reliable recall command. This command allows your dog to be called away from potentially dangerous situations,” adds Malaika.

 

3 Stay
“A dog who can be trusted to Stay in a particular spot can be a big help in situations where a door is left open, or a leash or collar breaks during a walk. This command can also be used to prevent a dog who is free from running off,” tells Huzannah.

 

4 Sit
While walking on the street, it is a good idea to train your dog to Sit where a street and a sidewalk meet. This way, you will avoid situations that he will trot into the street when a vehicle is moving towards him.
“Move your reward from right in front of your dog’s nose backward and upwards at a 45-degree angle commanding Sit. Do not move your reward too fast and don’t lift it too high otherwise you will have the dog jumping and snapping at the reward. If this doesn’t work, then use the following method. Gently pull the lead upwards in your right hand and, simultaneously, push down the dog’s rear end with your left hand, using the treat like you did earlier at the same time. Give a crisp command Sit. Don’t push on the spine, instead push on the buttocks folding the dog’s back legs, and don’t grab at the dog’s fur,” tells Delano.

 

5 Down
Pet parents can avoid dangerous situations by asking their dogs to get Down when something dangerous approaches them. It gives them time to reach their dogs and save them.
Here’s how to teach the Down command. “Start always with the dog in the sitting position. Take your reward in your right hand and hold it right in front of the dog’s nose. Pull it downward in between the dog’s legs and once the dog bends down to sniff, give the command Down and pull the reward slowly forward in an ‘L’ away from the dog.  Stop about 250 mm away and get the dog to go down. Gently pull the dog down with your left hand on the training collar, only if it is necessary. Only once the dog is down, does he get his reward. If this method doesn’t work, gently pull the lead downwards with the right hand and give the command Down clearly and sharply. The dog should now be lying in a flat position, with his front legs stretched out in front of him. For a more placid method, move the dog’s front paws out in front of him, or simply roll him over to a side into a down position. Always praise lavishly when the dog obeys,” tells Delano.

 

Dog Training 26 Lie Down
Once the dog has learnt his Down command, give him the Lie Down command! “Lure him with the treat towards the back of his head (form the alphabet C) starting from his nose toward the side you want him to lie. Only reward and praise once in position,” adds Delano.

 

7 Sit-Stay
“If a dog is trained to follow this command, he will not indulge in behaviours like jumping up on visitors or either bolting out of an open door. This command can help save your dog’s life or from harm as it did in the case of my dog Prince. I had left Prince off leash during his night walk where he ventured quite far away from me. The Indian pariah in that territory had begun to chase Prince and would have bitten him. Since it would take me some time to get to where Prince was being chased, I shouted out the Sit command. As soon as Prince sat down, the pariah just sniffed at Prince from a distance and before matters could get worse I was there to rescue him,” tells Malaika.
Training your puppy to Sit and Stay should be started on leash. Stay is a stationary (passive exercise) command. Don’t move too far away from the dog too fast. Consistency is more important than distance in this exercise. Your results will be much faster if you work in small successive steps and in a positive way (for all obedience exercises). The Stay means getting your pup to Stay where you have left him and in the position until you return to him and praise him for staying there,” tells Delano.

 

Dog Training 38 Down-Stay
“This slightly more advanced command is often accompanied with a hand signal like an extended arm high up in the air which your dog can see from a distance. For instance, if your dog is on one side of the street and you on the other side and a car was coming. You would not want to call the dog to you, but instead would use this command to stop the dog in his tracks and make him lie Down and Stay until it was safe to call him to you,” tells Malaika.

 

9 NO or Leave It
“This is an essential skill for dogs, especially in our country where a regular walk involves lots of exciting smells and things on the road that might be unhealthy or even poisonous for the dog to eat or take in his mouth,” tells Huzannah.
“It can also translate it to a Do Not Touch command, a safety command that can be useful both indoors and outdoors. For instance, if you were to drop something that may be dangerous like medication,  cleaning chemicals, hot or sharp objects, toxic substances, etc this command can save your dog’s life,” adds Malaika.
“Randomly place one or two objects around when he goes to sniff it, you must give a stern loud NO that should get his attention. When he steps back he can be rewarded with love or treats,” adds Delano.

 

10 Heel
“Hold the lead in your right hand, and use the left hand only for guiding the dog into the Sit, to praise your dog, stand your dog and to control and get your dog back when he surges ahead or when you want to turn left. Measure the lead before moving. With the dog sitting at Heel, measure enough lead from the dog’s neck to your hand, which is hooked in your belt by your navel. Your lead must be short but not tight, and you must guide your dog, not pull him around. You must show your dog what you want, and guide him into doing it correctly. Never force him: he will only fight back, and not learn anything.
The first thing you want to do when you are walking with your dog is to get his attention. Let him know that something is going to happen. That he is going to move! Therefore, each time before you start walking, (Heeling) or whenever you want your dog to move, you will start the command with his name followed by the Heel command. You will walk forward with him, and he will be watching and listening for your ‘praise’! If you do not remind him of what he is supposed to be doing, his mind will wander. Be careful to keep him on your left. Remember, you know where he is supposed to be, he doesn’t. Therefore, you are going to teach him always to be on your left side by not letting him walk anywhere else. While Heeling, use his name occasionally to keep his attention. Do not nag, just keep up an ‘interesting conversation’. The lead must remain short. Stop often, and tell him how pleased you are of his performance, by petting him. Do not walk a mile the first time out. A few steps at a time will do.

 

(With inputs from Delano Henriques who started training dogs and counseling their pet parents professionally in 2005. He has done a dog training course in South Africa (2008) and started ‘Delriques Kennels’ in Mumbai, which is a boarding cum training centre for dogs; Huzannah Banajee is founder of Paw Pals in Pune and she is a dog trainer & behaviourist who trains therapy and pet dogs, and also works with aggression and behaviour problem cases. She runs the internationally recognised ‘Be a Tree, Dog & Baby, and Dog & Toddler’ programmes in India; Malaika Fernandes is a certified canine behaviourist & trainer (Northern Centre of Behaviour, UK) and is the director of Walk Romeo – Canine Training, Behaviour Modification, Grooming & Pet Sitting Services, Mumbai).

Ways to comprehend canine conversations

Our furry, four-legged friends understand us and even know how to express themselves; we just need to look for the right signals…

Canine communication…
a key!

Priya Savoor

Priya Savoor

The other day, I visited a friend with a gorgeous yellow Labrador named Mischief. As I entered the house and met Mischief for the first time, she greeted me with the customary wag, sniffed me to see if I was trouble and licked my hand (her seal of approval). My friend then started telling me all her habits. For example, she would scratch against a certain cupboard every time she wanted her toys. Once given the toy, she would walk to the other side of the house, and sit with it for a while, only to bring it back when she was bored. If she wanted to go for a walk, she would pace up and down the corridor. And the most adorable habit of hers was that every time my friend would try to leave the house, she would grab on to one of her legs, as plea for her to stay!
Like Mischief, all our pets are trying to converse with us. They tell us when they are glad to see us, by wagging their tail uncontrollably. They ask us to take care of them when they are scared, by tucking their tail between their hind legs and crying. They show us how protective they are, by raising their hackles and growling at strangers they don’t trust.
Much as we consider them a part of our household, they too consider our home their own, and us as family. So, they watch what we do, and how we behave, and slowly comprehend what all of it means. Their spectrum of understanding may not be as vast as ours, but they do get to know the small things, which are also the most endearing. They know that if we are putting on our shoes, we are getting ready to leave the house; or if we open a kitchen cabinet at a certain time, it is likely that they are about to be fed. Similarly, dogs are also very intuitive creatures. So, if you are having a bad day, it is very likely that your dog knows it.
Many times people fail to understand what their pets are trying to say to them. They just classify their behaviour under ‘what dogs do’ but never think about why they do it. This often leads to accidents and unhappy situations.  Let’s see how.
Separation anxiety: There are many families in which the young dog is left alone at home for long stretches of time. When the family returns, it finds some sort of disruption in the house caused by the pet. In such cases, it is a common practice to scold and punish the dog. However, you must understand that all this rowdy behaviour is a cry for attention. Dogs are children by heart, and to leave them alone is to make them feel deserted. They feel scared, and this rush of emotion makes them act out.
Attending to nature’s call: Dogs are toilet trained at a very young age. They know that doing their business inside the confines of the house is wrong, and they must only do so when taken for a walk or let outside. However, many times the urge consumes them. So, they try to tell us that they need to go out. They may do so by scratching at the front door, or pacing around it and whining. It is your duty to give this some attention, rather than scold them for being disorderly and look away.
Not well: Dogs may appear more sluggish when they are unwell. Their nose becomes dry due to the illness, and their ears are constantly drooping. Once you notice such signs in your pet, it is best to take him to the vet for a quick diagnosis.
Dogs are simple creatures. They have no hidden agendas or ulterior motives. They just ask for the most basic of their needs. If they act out, it’s not because they want to behave badly and be disciplined. It is because they have something to say. In their innocent heads, we understand them. However, many times we fail to do so. It is time for us to be more perceptive, and in the process, get to be more acquainted with our best friends of the other species.

Bridging the vocabulary gap

Dog psychologists say that an average dog recognizes about 165 words and the number can go higher with appropriate training. The best part of it is that any pet parent can become a language trainer – find out how to make your dog learn in these ‘5 Ways’ that guarantee fun all the way!

 

Rashi Sanon Narang

Rashi Sanon Narang

1. Teach while
they play

Learning toy names is a great way to start your pooch’s vocabulary training exercises. Line up a few of her favourite toys, and ask your student to fetch one at a time on command. Start small, say, with just two toys and teach her to distinguish one from the other by the name of it.

 

2.  Keep voice modulations consistent while teaching commands

Your aim is to make the doggie respond to your command at a single instruction spoken in your regular tone. Therefore, ensure that, during the training, you speak out a command just once, and at your normal volume. Avoid yelling, even if she doesn’t get it in the first few times, else it will put her under the impression that she has to respond only when her master speaks at a loud pitch and it might even discourage your buddy from learning further.

 

3.  Utilise her strongest sense to aid learning

The more you teach her, the more are the benefits you reap. Your pooch is a natural retriever, and she does it by her incredibly strong sense of smell. Dab some droplets of an essential oil or perfume on basic items like mobile phone, keys and wallets and teach her to find these objects by associating them with their smell. Now the next time you can’t find your keys, you’ll have help handy!

 

4. Use her favourite food items to teach her numbers
Your canine is perfectly capable of understanding numbers to a small count. Keep one biscuit in one bowl and two of them in the other. Slowly teach her to fetch the bowl with the number of biscuits you ask her to fetch. Increase the count as she begins to progress. For doggies with weaker maths, you can teach how to compare between bundles of different sizes – the bowl with two biscuits can be referred to as small while the one with six biscuits can be called big; upon instruction, she fetches the small or the big lot

5.  Can we forget the treats?
Enthuse your dog to put in her best into the vocabulary training exercises by savory treats – she surely deserves a goodie for being a good student! Moreover, you can give the treats names too, so that she starts recognising her therapy foods in human ways.

 

Tips to follow

  • Canines are better poised to responding to hard syllables than soft ones. Therefore, use words starting in a hard syllable wherever an alternative is available.
  • Don’t confuse your beloved pet with synonyms – use the same word for an object at all times, and get all members of the family to do the same.

(Rashi Sanon Narang runs Heads Up For Tails- India’s label for ‘pawsh’ pet products in New Delhi. Visit: www.headsupfortails.com).

Decoding the ‘bow’dy talk!

You can easily understand a dog’s non-verbal communication, if you make an extra effort to learn and infer his body language. Once you are able to identify his signals of communication, you will be able to foresee his future actions and build a better relationship with him. You can also protect him and yourself from dangerous situations, once you are able to recognise his overall expressions.

Dogs are as expressive as human beings are. They have several emotions, which they convey in different ways. Dogs make use of their face, ears and tail to speak with you. The key in understanding your dog’s feelings and motives is to be aware of what each of these body parts are trying to get across to you. Here is a rundown on each of them.

Facial expressions tell all!

Eyes: Your dog’s eyes can tell a lot about his feelings. Dogs generally have round or almond shaped eyes. When your dogAlka Paul is calm and happy, his eyes will appear normal. However, when he is feeling threatened or unsafe, his eyes will appear larger than normal. In addition, if his eyes appear smaller than normal, he could be feeling afraid of something, or stressed out. When your dog is feeling unwell, you will notice a squint in his eyes.

The way your dog stares at other dogs, at people and at you, speaks a lot. Dogs avoid looking directly at each other since it is considered intimidating. Nevertheless, they feel that it is pleasant to look directly at people. When a dog looks at you with a peaceful facial expression, he is trying to be friendly with you. He wants you to be aware of his presence. When he fixedly stares at you, it means he is feeling threatened and you must immediately look away. A dog who turns his gaze away when you look at him is a sign of submission. It can also mean that he is not very comfortable interacting with you, as he may have had a bad experience with other people in the past. When your dog is chewing a bone or is playing with his favourite toy, he will refrain from looking at you directly. Instead, you will notice him looking at you from the corner of his eyes, wherein you will notice a great deal of his whites, called the ‘whale eye’. It is a signal that he can have an aggressive flare-up. When a dog is taking rest, he may open his eyes and look at you from the sides; here you will not see much of the white portion in his eyes, as he is not rigid, but at complete ease.

Mouth: In spite of not being able to speak with his mouth, a dog’s mouth yet does a lot of talking. The positioning of his jaws, teeth and lips can give you an insight about his feelings. You will find your dog’s mouth slightly opened or closed, if he is in a relaxed state of mind. When he is panting, his mouth will be open and teeth exposed. He needs to cool himself this way. When a dog is afraid or meek, his mouth is closed and lips are drawn back at the corners. He will take his tongue in and out, and he may lick a person or an animal, if he happens to meet them. When a dog is feeling anxious, he will yawn in an overstated manner.

Your dog can display a submissive grin, when he is feeling exceedingly submissive. He will pull his lips upward, wherein you will be able to view his frontal teeth. He will lower his head, bark or whine and his eyes will get squinty. Not all dogs grin in this fashion. People often misunderstand this grin to be aggression, whereas your dog is actually trying to express the opposite. An aggressive dog will always pull back his lips to flaunt his teeth. He will pull his lips up in a vertical direction, where you will see the front of his teeth. At the same time, he will wrinkle the top of his muzzle. This is a warning that you should not get any closer to him.

When a dog draws his lips backward in a horizontal direction, his lips get tight at the corners. His front and back teeth are exposed. This is a sign of a dog being scared. Nevertheless, when a dog is prepared to bite, he will pull his lips upwards and backwards, enabling his mouth to open and display his teeth.

Focus on ears

The shape and size of your dog’s ears show how well he can use them to express himself. A Beagle’s ears are usually drooped, a German Shepherd has prickled ears and the ears of a Basset Hound hang long. When your dog is peaceful and stress-free, he will hold his ears in a natural manner. The moment he becomes alert, he will raise his ears higher on his head and point them towards the object that is holding his attention. When your dog is in an aggressive state, he will raise his ears upward and forward. If he pulls back his ears faintly, he is giving the signal of being friendly. If he makes his ears flat or if he sticks them to the sides of his head, he is feeling submissive or afraid.

Swish of the tail

We are generally under the impression that when a dog wags his tail, he is trying to be friendly. Well, that is not the case. A dog can wag his tail for various reasons, such as when he is feeling happy or when he is aggressive. There are times he may not wag his tail and yet be friendly. Dogs have different kinds of tails, though the natural tail is the one that hangs down. Some dogs have tails that curl upward above their backs, such as a Pug. Then there are dogs whose tails are tucked in between their rear legs, such as the Greyhound. A few breeds have tails that are naturally short or are docked surgically due to cosmetic reasons, such as the Doberman Pinscher.

When your dog is feeling relaxed, you will see his tail held at its natural place. He will wag his tail lightly, when he is happy. And when he is immensely happy, he will wag his tail vigorously from side to side, which often happens when he greets you after being away from you for a while. Your dog will tuck in his tail between his rear legs, when he is tensed or submissive. When your dog is feeling afraid or extremely submissive, he will hold his tail tight up against his stomach. Sometimes you will notice that your dog’s posture becomes alert due to an unknown sound. At this time, he is feeling aroused and his tail will become stiff, it will not move and he will hold it higher than its natural position. When your dog wants to threaten another animal or a person, he will hold his tail high and stiff and will move it firmly, backward and forward.

So, next time your dog looks at you or says Woof Woof, you should be able to identify his state of mind!

Know Thy Feelings

It is very important for you to know when your dog is feeling happy, frightened, playful, submissive, anxious, dominant, aggressive and confident. When you begin to recognise these expressions, you can interact with him confidently and be his guardian angel when he needs you the most, especially during times of peril.
Happy: A happy dog will wag his tail, open his mouth and pant slightly. He will appear contented and you will not find anything anxious in his body posture.
Playful: A playful dog will be happy and excited. His eyes will shine, ears will be up and his tail will be wagging at a great speed. He will be jumping and running around with joy. His body posture will be signaling you to play with him.
Submissive: A submissive dog will flatten his ears, hold his head down and avoid looking at you. He will lower his tail and swing it slightly. He will roll on his back and show his belly. His body posture may appear small due to a hunch. A submissive dog is generally gentle and meek.
Anxious: An anxious dog will hold his ears a little backward and stretch his neck out. He may moan, yawn or even lick his lips. He will lower his tail and show the whites of his eyes. His posture is tense and he may tremble. At this time, he needs to be calmed down.
Scared: A scared dog will often whine and growl. He may show his teeth and even pass urine. His ears will be flat towards the back, his eyes will appear narrowed, and he will put his tail between his legs and shudder too. He will stand in an uptight position, very low to the ground. A fearful dog can become aggressive if he senses danger.
Dominant: A dominant dog will widen his eyes and make direct contact with you or any other dog. He will raise his ears upward and stay alert. He will appear threatening, rather than being friendly. He will try to claim himself over other dogs. His posture will stand tall and confident. It is best not to make eye contact with him during this time, as he can pose a serious threat.
Aggressive: An aggressive dog will pin his ears backward, feet will be firmly on the ground as if guarding his territory, head will be straight ahead, tail will be straight and held high up, and eyes will be narrowed with a piercing look. His hair along his back will stand on the edge. It is best to avoid making eye contact with him, and not to show any sign of fear. If your dog happens to be aggressive, it is advisable to seek help of a professional trainer to correct this behaviour.
Confident: A confident dog will stand tall, straight and with his head high. His eyes will appear bright and ears perked upwards. His tail will sway lightly or will be in a relaxed position. His mouth will open to a little extent, but he will be calm. He will be friendly and not a threat to his surroundings.

To bark or not to bark – How to teach?

How beautiful life would be if we can teach our dogs to bark or not to bark on a command! Well, it is possible…here’s how to teach your dog to bark and be quiet on command.

 

Teaching to bark on command

Malaika Fernandes

Malaika Fernandes

Find a trigger: Find a trigger that will cause your dog to bark such as the door bell ring, etc. An unknown source for the noise is best, so an assistant during this part of training will be helpful. Have the assistant ring the door bell. The minute the dog barks on hearing the door bell, say the command ‘speak’ and praise him.
Speak on command: The success for teaching any command depends upon how easily the dog makes the connection between the ‘behaviour’ and the ‘command’. Your timing for rewarding the desired behaviour is critical in order to make this connection happen. Praise and reward should happen instantly when the dog does the desired behaviour. Your dog will begin to learn the command when you tag the word ‘speak’ to your praise. Start to wean away from the trigger and only reward when he barks on ‘command’. If the dog does not understand the pairing between the ‘behaviour’ and the ‘command’, be patient. He needs more time to learn the behaviour you want before he can associate with the command. In this case, do more training sessions with the dog that automatically trigger the barking followed by the command ‘speak’. Give the command just once; do not repeat it over and over again like a chant. Growling and whining are all parts of speak and should be rewarded with praise and rewarded with heavy praise when he barks.
Teaching to be quiet on command
Reward quiet: To teach your dog to go quiet on command, timing is of critical value. Initially, your dog will not understand the ‘sshhh’ command for quiet, so at first, you will want to catch him doing it naturally. Give the ‘speak’ command and the minute he stops barking, give him praise followed by your command ‘quiet’. Choose one word for the command and stay with it or else you will end up confusing the dog. Remember to not over use the command and give your dog time to process the command. If he continues to bark, you turn your back on him or look away.
As soon as he stops barking, say quiet and praise him for being quiet on command.
Associate the command with a hand signal: Once the dog knows the ‘quiet’ command, you can teach the hand signal. Bring your index finger to your lips and say ‘quiet’. Also hold a treat in the hand you are using for the hand signal. The hand signal acts as a reinforcer to stop the barking and the treat acts as a motivator for the dog’s nose.
Teaching the dog to go quiet on command is not something that can be used in a scenario where the dog is exhibiting unwanted behaviour. You will want to train your dog to go quiet when you have his undivided attention
.
(Malaika Fernandes is a certified canine behaviourist & trainer (Northern Centre of Behaviour, UK) and is the director of Walk Romeo – Canine Training, Behaviour Modification, Grooming & Pet Sitting Services, Mumbai).