Obedience training is a must for each pet. Training is all about setting up a daily routine for your pet and teaching her certain habits and this routine should be followed by all family members. Here are a few training tips towards your well behaved pooch:
Teaching ‘sit’ command…
You can teach this simple command by using treats or toys to start with. Once the pet starts responding, praise her and offer a reward in the form of treats, toys or your attention. Most of the pet parents make a mistake of withdrawing the rewards (treats/praise/toys), once the pet knows the command. This really affects your pet’s enthusiasm and interest to obey you and then obeying commands becomes a bribe game, in which the pet will respond only when you have a treat/toy in hand. Pet parents must understand that along with food rewards, praising your pet using positive body language, cheerful tone of voice and your enthusiasm is also equally important.
Good table manners…
Entire family should contribute to teaching good food habits to their pets, right from when you get your pet home.
Meal routine: One can consult vets to decide meal routine for pets depending on their breed, age and weight. Stick to the feeding pattern and avoid giving human snacks or food prepared for people when family members are eating, no matter how tempting it is for you to offer your pet a tit bit.
Begging at table: I agree that some breeds are greedy and will possibly do anything to get food. But it’s our responsibility as a pet parent from the start not to encourage bad habits like offering food while you are eating, giving them table leftovers etc. If you can avoid over pampering your pet right from the beginning, it will always be helpful to you and healthy for your pet rather than worrying about your pet’s begging habits later.
Staying for food: It’s natural for any pet to get excited when their food is being prepared. There is nothing wrong with it. Pet parents should understand that there is no point in getting angry or upset with them while they are jumping up to the food bowl. Instead be patient and teach them to sit every time you offer food or until you keep their food bowl down. To get them into this habit, offer them food in small portions (5 to 6 portions). Initially you can ask them to sit for 5-10 seconds and offer one part of food immediately. Follow the same routine for remaining portions. After few days of practice, ask them to wait for food for a little longer time i.e. half a minute. Gradually increase the waiting period and continue praising them verbally as well.
Stealing food from counter: Pets always find a way to get to the food. They usually know that food is stored on the kitchen counter or dining table etc. If your pet has a habit of stealing food, start working of getting rid of this habit slowly by teaching them to stay for food. Praise them with lot of enthusiasm and be patient. If you catch your pet stealing food, you can always show them from your body language and tone of voice that this is wrong and you are very upset with them. If your pet is stubborn and continues to steal food in your absence, you must keep the food out of her reach. It also helps to startle your pet with sudden loud sound or movement just when you catch her in the act.
You can use metal vessels/spoons, arrange them at the edge of table/kitchen platform so that they would suddenly drop on floor and startle your pet while he is trying to steal food. You can also use plain water pistols or air sprays to startle your pet from a distance. You may have to practice this few times by “setting up a trap” i.e. purposely arranging food on table/ platform within your pet’s reach. You have to use your training aids smartly and tactfully or else your pet will get used to that object and these techniques will no longer deter her from stealing food after a few times.
Hey….it’s walk time…
As pet owners are usually pressed for their time, most of the pets get to go out of home only 2-3 times a day, so it’s quite natural for them to get excited when they see their leash/collar being taken out and it’s time to go for a walk. Pet parents need to understand that this is natural dog behaviour and if you lose your patience things can only get difficult. If your pet gets over excited every time you take her out, try to distract her. You can teach her to carry her leash before you open the main door or let her carry her favourite toy with her on the walk or ask her to sit for few seconds every time before you open the door to let her out. These small things will help you distract her for few minutes and reduce her excitement. Pet parents should try to be as patient as possible while being firm at the same time.
The doorbell is
It’s common for the pets to get excited when the doorbell rings, as they are eager to see/greet the person who is at the door. Pet parents should teach their dog to sit just before you open the door. Use treats to reward them. You can practice with family members to begin with and then ask your friends or neighbours, who are not scared of pets to help you with this. As a habit, you can ask all family members to avoid greeting your pet just at the door, as this only encourages their jumping up on people. If you know that the person who is at the door is scared of dogs and will react looking at your pet, it’s best to put your pet on leash and keep her away from the door for sometime. You should also teach her to sit and stay when you have to attend to strangers like courier boys, milkman etc at the door. You have to use restriction and training in the best way possible to avoid the jumping up behaviour.
Manners in front of guests…
It’s natural for pets to get excited around new people. Pet parents must remember that in order to control your pet’s behaviour around guests, you will need help from your guests as well, as pet’s reaction depends a lot on your guest’s reaction. Most people are scared of dogs or they don’t understand the dog’s behaviour, so they get scared and start screaming. As a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to handle your pet as well as to make your guests feel comfortable. Try to keep your pet on leash or restrict her access to the living room for some time till your guests settle down. You can also request guests to ignore your pet, avoid eye contact and not to talk to her for 10-15 minutes till she settles down. This will help to cut down on the pet’s excitement level and then you can distract her with a toy, treat, chew bones etc.
Most pets enjoy car rides and get very excited to get in the car and stick their head out of the window. Many pets also get restless due to over excitement and it becomes difficult to control them. Pet parents should get their pets used to sitting in the back seat from the beginning. Leash them to restrict access to front of the car (especially the driver’s area) as it can be unsafe to have your pet moving around while the car is in motion (both for the pet as well as the others). It’s also advisable not to let them stick their head out of the window as they may get hurt during traffic or try to jump out of the car in the excitement.
For pets who are scared of car rides or nervous during it, pet parents can get them used to smaller rides initially until they get comfortable. Also many pets are scared of car rides as they think it’s time to go to the vet as that’s probably the only time they are taken in the car. These pets should be taken for smaller and more fun car rides otherwise as well. A good example would be to take your pet for a short five minute drive before taking her out for a walk. The pet will start to think that car rides end in a walk/play time and hence be less afraid and in fact look forward to it. It’s also advisable not to feed pets immediately before or after the car ride.
If all the family members contribute to follow these simple rules, handling pets can be much easier and more fun. Also remember that training sessions should be short and fun for the pets and regular practice is a must. Pet parents can also seek help from professional trainers in the initial stages of their pup’s life to understand their behaviour and avoid making common mistakes. Just like kids, the earlier you imbibe good habits and avoid bad ones, it saves a lot of trouble in the future.
(Pooja Sathe runs ‘Crazy K9 Campers’, a Mumbai-based group formed for pet dogs and owners to provide them with unique opportunities to spend quality time together, through weekend pet camps. For more details, log on to: www.crazyk9campers.com)