Secrets Revealed

-to bond with your groomer

Grooming is essential, make it a great experience. Here are a few tips to prepare your puppy for a great grooming experience.

Pet grooming is a visible expression of your love for your pet. Starting early and establishing a lifelong routine will contribute to the future health and welfare of your puppy.

Start ASAP! It’s never too early to get your puppy ready for the grooming experience. Bring her to the groomer as often as you can to get her used to the place and environment.

Groom at home: Practice in small sessions at home by putting your puppy on a table to get her used to holding still and combing with a steel comb. Your puppy should be able to trust you and let you maneuver her body without a lot of struggle. Teaching your puppy good manners will help her and her groomer have a pleasant grooming experience.

Train: Teach your puppy “bite inhibition,” meaning that she can nibble but must learn not to bite hard and to stop when the playtime is over. Puppies need to learn they are not always the ones in control and how to trust others who are.

Follow good mannerisms at your groomer’s place: As natural pack animals, dogs will look to their pet parents as pack leaders for cues about new situations. It is important to know that they watch every move of yours and can detect your hints of fear, anxiety and nervousness. Walk tall, smile, and be friendly. Say “Follow me, Sarah!” Don’t feel bad for your dog! Realise that grooming is not a punishment, but can be more like an indulgent trip to the spa. If you feel clean and happy after a refreshing shower, your dog will most likely feel that way too. Say “My dog is going to love this.” Avoid negative phrases like, “I’m so sorry you have to go to the groomer, baby, but you’ll feel better and you’ll get lots of treats when you’re done.” Think calm, happy thoughts when stepping into the grooming shop to let your pet know that you’ve arrived at a welcoming place. “You are going to look great.”

Let the groomer get comfortable with your pooch: Most groomers pet down a new dog before admission to check the condition of the coat. Let the groomer know if your dog doesn’t like her head scratched or if she prefers to sniff first. “Sarah, this is Shweta. Shweta, Sarah prefers to sniff and lick your hand first.”

In safe hands: Lastly, when it’s time for you to leave, firmly hand the leash over and walk away calmly. Don’t try to sneak out or stay on because it can give your dog an impression that something bad is going to happen to her. Do remember that most groomers are also pet parents and dog lovers who will treat your dog like their own. Saying this last phrase out loud as you hand off the leash will boost your dog’s confidence: “I know you’ll be fine”.

(Shweta Munjal is professional pet groomer at Prince of Tails – pet grooming salon, Bengaluru).


Training secrets by commando kennels

The concept of using food to train is often considered a form of bribery. The fact is that dogs adapt to whatever works best! If you know how to use food, your dog will offer the right behaviour to get it. Else you might end up with a dog who demands a treat or an assurance of one for everything you ask him to do. Here’s the right way to use food/treats to train your dog.

Is using treats good or bad? I would say it is good if you know how to use it. The idea being that you make it another tool in your armoury of training aids. Over dependence on any one tool is not good for training in any case. Just like us, dogs learn what is right and wrong from their experiences. Dog training involves encouraging the ‘right’ behaviour and discouraging the wrong/undesirable behaviour. This means there should be a substantial difference in what the dog experiences when he offers the right behaviour as compared to the wrong behaviour.

The positive reinforcement…

Traditional training methods involved giving strong corrections so that this difference would be clear to a dog. Using treats adds value to your praise, this makes the difference between desirable and undesirable behaviour clear to the dog without the use of excessive force. Using food to praise the dog when he does right reduces the need for strong corrections.

Of course, treats are the main tool in training with the positive reinforcement techniques. You lure and manipulate the dog to do what you want and then reward him at the right time. The key is timing; the dog needs to understand clearly exactly which behaviour you are marking (that is where a clicker is very handy). The key is that the behaviour should bring out the treat and not the other way around. Avoid luring your dog in to a command, except in the forming stage where you are teaching him the basics of what is ‘sit ‘ or a ‘down’. At other times the dog should just perform the command given, the treat should be like a bonus.

Treat vs. other tools…

One could argue that you could use a toy (ball/tug) instead of food. I agree, but for that you need an experienced trainer and a highly driven dog. For a new trainer and a distracted dog – food works best. Also with a toy, you need to first get the dog on to a toy, and then make him feel it is of such value that he will offer to do anything for it. The skills required for training with a toy are more complex too. You cannot use it to make a ‘sad’ dog ‘happy’ – you would end up rewarding ‘sad’ behaviour! Additionally, when you reward with a toy you are forced to break the behaviour the dog is offering (picture a dog running after his toy) as against food where the dog can continue offering the behaviour (dog is on stay, gets his treat and continues on stay). So, no matter what training method you use, if your dog is keen on food – use it. It will only make your job easier. The trick is to use it well.

Tips on how to use food in training…

  • Right timing: The dog should be hungry when you take him out. There is no sense in offering food or treats to a dog who is satiated before you get him out.
  • Love thy treat: The treat you offer should be of high worth to the dog. If your dog gets ‘biryani’ for all his meals, there is no way he’s going to be lured by ‘plain rice’. Few suggestions are – cheese, boiled egg white, premium food kibble, liver, steak, etc.
  • Treat size: When we offer treats to our dogs they should not be too big or too small. Too small will be insignificant for the dog, and the dog might not find it worth to offer behaviour for it. On the other hand, if the chunks are too big, the dog tends to spend too much time chewing on it. This stops you from keeping him on track and breaks the momentum.
  • The fun factor: When offering food, make it exciting for the dog. “What’ve I got,” “Yippee” or some other phrase that gets the dog going and then play a bit with the dog when you offer the food. Don’t just shove it into the dog’s mouth.

All the best and happy training!

(Philip A Butt is CEO of Commando Kennels – Hyderabad, India’s premier dog training kennel. He has pioneered many new dog sports and training techniques in India – Schutzhund, Flyball, Heel walk to music, Agility, French ring sports, to name a few. He is trained in “Arms explosive search dog training and Methods” at the United Kingdom Training Centre of Corporate Search Limited, Nottingham, UK. He also learnt techniques in positive reinforcement training at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition. UK. As Joint Secretary of the Hyderabad Canine Club, he is an astute dog show organiser)

Dog Training

Training secrets by Commando Kennels

Two is better than one?

So you’ve decided to expand your family and get a dog. Wow great, but then you think- wait a minute, what if I get two? That would mean double the fun, double the excitement at almost the same cost – right? Wrong!

Why two?

Often prospective pet parents tend to believe that adopting two puppies would be better than having just one. With the busy schedules they have, they find it hard to give time to our dogs. The logical conclusion is that if there are two of them, they would miss them lesser in the day. Probably true, but this one solution creates a whole gamut of other problems.

Here are the top reasons why a pet parent would like to adopt two pups instead of one:

  • Company for the pups when pet parents are away at work or otherwise busy.
  • Since pet parents plan to have two dogs ultimately, they think it’s better to get two at once as the pups would grow to be best friends.
  • Breeder offers a discount on buying two puppies.
  • Social compulsions like neighbours have two dogs or two dogs would look so nice on your Facebook page!!

Two is not always better than one…

My advice to prospective pet parents is that raising two pups together is not a good idea. There are many reasons for the same. To understand why it’s a bad idea, we need to have a basic understanding of dog behaviour especially with regards to their pack drive. Dogs are essentially pack animals, as in you will find them moving, hunting and living in packs in the wild. By pack drive, I mean they are internally wired to fit into a social structure. Without going into too much detail, I would like to emphasise that the pack has a leader. When the dog enters our family, he needs to know where his position is in this pack. Believe me, almost all ‘dog biting pet parent’ cases would be avoided, if only the pet parent had taken little extra care to get this message across to his dominant dog.

What happens usually, when you get a puppy, is that the dog soon realises that he is in a new pack. He also identifies who is the leader of the pack and where is his position in the pack. He just picks it up from the way we interact with each other and the pup. However, when we get two pups at once, they tend to over bond, often to the extent of ignoring the human pack. While the single puppy looks at you for all its social need, the pair feed off each other. On the surface this may seem fine, but it leads to larger problems. Some of which could be:

  • Disciplining becomes an issue as they are always playful.
  • Training becomes difficult as you cannot get their focused attention.
  • Little or no bonding with the pet parent.
  • Dogs fight to establish rank in the pack.
  • Display of dominance to other dogs, family members and guests.
  • Separation anxiety related behaviour when the dogs are separated for a short time.

The behavioural problems…

The recessive one: You can imagine the plight of the recessive puppy, who is growing up with this bully of a sibling. He would have been so much better off in another family. He would have grown into an independent, well adjusted and happy adult. Instead he is left to be bullied for the rest of his life. This pup will never reach his potential as an individual.

The dominant one: It’s not too much better for the dominant pup. He lives in this false sense of security. His energy comes from the fact that he has this push over sibling around. Such dogs show extreme anxiety when alone. They also show aggression towards other dogs.

The facts…

More pups, more time: As for the ‘logical’ reasons for buying two puppies – If you are too busy to rear one pup, rearing two will need more of your time and not less…more potty training, more socialisation, more walks, more play, more tired pet parent!

Friends: you or someone else: Yes, your dog will have a ‘best friend’, but wouldn’t you prefer that best friend to be you?

Sale…he’s not a product, he’s a life: If a breeder offers two pups, I would advise you look somewhere else. No responsible breeder would suggest two pups for the same household. As for the cost, you might save a bit on the puppy, but double everything else – vaccinations, training charges, kennels, travel, boarding, accessories, the list goes on…

Don’t adopt for social compulsion: You are obviously getting a dog for the wrong reasons. Such pet parents usually end up with dogs in the garages and not in their homes. The only difference for them would be that they would be ruining two lives instead of one. Forget two, I would not recommend even one dog!

Rearing two puppies together…

However, if you feel confident, two puppies together is still an option you can consider, provided you bring them up responsibly and follow some rules:

  • Crate/kennel them separately.
  • Take them out for walks separately.
  • Define and assign their together time with structured play.
  • Lots of ‘only human’ interactions.
  • Train separately.

The operative word is ‘separately’. The purpose being, you want them to bond with you more than they bond with each other. You want them to grow individually into confident fully bloomed individuals away from the influence of the other.

Goes without saying that it is going to be lot more effort. Do you want to put yourself through this? It takes a lot of time, commitment and effort to raise two pups together. If you decide to get just one, you will soon realise that it is a lot of fun. Happy rearing!

(Philip A Butt is CEO of Commando Kennels – Hyderabad, India’s premier dog training kennel. He has pioneered many new dog sports and training techniques in India – Schutzhund, Flyball, Heel Walk to Music, Agility, French Ring Sports, to name a few. He is trained in ‘Arms explosive search dog training and methods’ at the United Kingdom Training Centre of Corporate Search Limited, Nottingham, UK. He also learnt techniques in positive reinforcement training at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, UK. As Joint Secretary of the Hyderabad Canine Club, he is an astute dog show organiser).

dog Training

Wagging secrets revealed!

Do you know why your pooch wags his tail? The most obvious reply would be that dog wags when he’s excited or happy about something. But that’s not all… the way your pooch wags his tail shows how he is feeling… sometimes happy, sometimes sad and sometimes even angry. Here’s more on wagging tails.

As per Darwin’s Theory of Existence… all living organisms have to struggle for their existence. So, quest fordog Training food was the paramount issue for all organisms. And our pooches’ ancestors being pack animals developed this habit of tail wagging as a silent signal to express their feelings. Actually wagging tail is body’s physiological response for dissipating excess energy. Over the years, this habit became intimately intertwined with expressions, be it happiness, excitement, fear or anger.

The balancing act…

Centuries ago, tail movement played a crucial role in the dog’s ability to balance. When the weight of dog’s body was shifted to one side, the tail moves to other to counterbalance. To support this fact… let us take example of new born puppies. They never wag their tails until they are six or seven weeks old. Once they start interacting with the outer world… they start using their tails as a means of communication and social interaction.

A wag speaks louder than words

While we interpret what our pooch actually tries to say, we have to keep many other aspects in mind as well. The speed of the wag, the height of his tail and the stance of the rest of the dog’s body together helps to actually sum up what he’s communicating… is it happiness, anger, fear or anxiety?

I’m happy! When your pooch comes wagging his tail fast, he’s actually too happy to see you. He is sharing his inner delight with you.

I’m confident! And hey watch out for tail–wagging wide… our pooch means ‘I’m confident, happy and interested’.

I’m interested! While doggie’s relaxed horizontal tail, wagging slowly means he’s actually interested in you and wants to know more about you. If your pooch wags like this… just pat on his back and share a few words.

Grrrr… Stay away! And sometimes when we find a tail held high, stiff, possibly quivering or no movement, this clearly means that our furry chap is not in a very good mood… he’s agitated. Bow! Be careful. ‘Hey man I’m not in best of my moods, don’t mess with me,’ this is when the tail is held high.

Beware! A full tail wag can be a greeting, but if the tail stiffens to where only the tip is moving, then there is a greater chance that the dog is feeling challenged and may attack. The raising of the hackles, lowering of the ears, and sometimes a warning growl will accompany this tail behaviour.

Bow… I’m scared! Besides conveying ‘I’m happy’ or ‘Beware of me’ tail wag also indicates pooches’ fear and nervousness.

A tail tucked between the legs is evident of this emotion.

It’s me! Dogs wag their tail for identification purposes as well. While wagging anal glands are squeezed, this is an identification odour for distinct dogs, these pheromones help in identifying dog.

Thus, tail wagging is a far deep phenomenon than it appears… so next time your dog wags his tail, don’t just think that our pooch is too happy. Different wags have different messages to convey!

Dog Training

Pawsome secrets unravelled!

An holistic approach is to look at the underlying cause of a behaviour or training problem by looking at the whole-istic health issues of the dog, physically and mentally. In the last issue, we discussed diet, health, bodywork, relationships and communication. Here are a few more factors that affect the dog on a daily basis.

Exercise – too much, not enough

Too much or too little exercise can create health and behaviour problems with many dogs. It may be

Dog Training

Nicole Mackie

worthwhile visiting a therapist who may be able to create an exercise programme specifically for your dog working with your veterinarian.

We often see dogs who experience an excess of exercise rather than not enough. This can place a lot of strain on young dogs and their growing bones, especially the larger breeds of dogs. It is good to begin the exercise programme when your pup is around four months old. Before this, your dog probably needs very little exercise and is most likely getting enough playing around the home or garden.

When she is around four months old, start with just five minutes of slow calm walking on a soft padded harness or collar and long lead. At five months, increase the walking to 10 minutes daily, at six months increase it to 15 minutes daily and adding five minutes for each month after that up until the dog is walking about 40 minutes daily, give or take five minutes depending on your dog’s needs.

Make sure the dog and you are walking slowly and calmly.

The area should be reasonably quiet with little traffic, activity and excitement. You don’t want a wound-up dog who cannot rest after the walk. Take the dog on a long lead and she should be allowed to sniff and explore while walking. After all, the walk is for the dog. If you want a long fast walk, then it may be best to leave the dog at home. Keep in mind the health of the dog each day. We are not always in the right state of health for walking. Sometimes we don’t feel like it, sometimes we are not feeling well, sometimes we have pain in our body somewhere such as a headache or muscular pain. Our dogs can feel the same way and it is up to us as the pet parents to consider this daily before walking our dog, through regular observation.

Play: a must but in moderation

Ball chase or any chase games are generally more fun for the humans than for the dog. When playing ball and chase games with our dogs, we are encouraging strong hunting instincts such as chase and bite. When these instincts are strengthened, much other unwanted behaviour can develop such as chasing joggers, cyclists, cars and just about anything. In herding breeds, they may want to gather everything in sight.

It may be safer for dogs and humans to keep all balls or chase games to a minimum. I prefer not to play these games with my dogs at all and eliminate them from my programmes. Instead of chase or ball games, I prefer to strengthen other instinctive behaviours such as nose-work or brainwork games. This is putting their energy into using their natural senses. Games such as hiding treats, scent discrimination games, tracking, treat tree games, treat balls, stuffed kongs, hide/retrieve (not to be confused with throw/retrieve) and many more mentally stimulating games.

These games are placing your dog’s energy into more use and development of his/her confidence, senses and brain development. The dog is generally very tired after these games and more able to relax and enjoy a rest or sleep.

Choices to develop confidence

Dogs need choices just like we do. I see many dogs who are not given choices – their whole life is based around being told what to do without a choice. Imagine how we would feel if we were not given any choices in life, if we were told when we could or could not sleep, when we could or could not investigate or explore or read, if we could not choose whether or not we feel like a walk or if we could not tell someone when we were feeling unwell or had an un-noticed skeletal problem and were made to sit or walk in a position that caused us pain. If we think we could not live like that, then why do we expect our dogs to live that way?

Our dogs are often not given the choice. Our dogs look to us as their caretakers to meet their needs, to understand them, to learn what they are trying to communicate to us, they want to trust us and know we will help them out in every area of need and allow them to make some choices in their life. Choices help our dogs to develop confidence, independence, a better relationship with their owners and become a much happier dog. When a dog is happy, she is generally healthier.

Rest: important too

Rest is as important for dogs as it is for us. After exercise, eating or any activity, a dog should be able to relax and rest. If this is not happening after activity, then the dog is probably doing too much. It may be necessary to keep a daily log book of activity and times when the dog is unable to rest or relax. A log book can give a therapist a lot of information in order to help with a programme to help the dog relax.

Sleep – too much, not enough

It is important to understand that an adult dog needs 16–20 hours of sleep daily and a puppy may need more. Many dogs do not get enough, which can cause some behaviour issues.

This sleep should be deep sleep with eyes closed (unless it’s one of those dogs who can sleep with eyes partly open) and not just resting sleep where the dogs’ eyes are open and alert. If a dog is not getting enough hours of sleep each day, then he/she is probably doing too much or has too much stimulation in his/her daily routine.

Environment: in house,
outside air smells, pollution levels

Environment also plays a very important part in your dog’s behaviour. Many air fresheners used in homes today are often irritants to a dog’s nose. Before using any air fresheners in your home, first check if your dog likes it. A dog’s sense of smell is hundred times better than ours. Hold the freshener near the dog. If she takes a sniff then turns away or walks away, or maybe doesn’t even want to smell it, then she most likely does not like it and should not be made to live with the smell. Imagine having to live with a smell we did not like, it would soon affect our own behaviour. This is the same with dogs, smells can affect behaviour.

It is not just indoor smells that affect a dog’s behaviour but some outdoor smells can too, such as traffic pollution, incense, oils, fireworks, chemical smells near factories, food smells near restaurants or bakeries. Farm smells, tyre burning smells, incinerator smells and many more smells that can affect our behaviour and our dog’s behaviour, remembering that the dog’s sense of smell is hundreds of times stronger than ours. You may need to consider the environment for your dog and make whatever possible changes you can to help your dog out. Of course, some things are unavoidable but we can often do something to help our dogs. Keeping a dog indoors as much as possible could be a solution to an outdoor environmental problem we cannot change.

Perfume can also be a problem to dogs, many perfumes are strong for humans, so imagine how strong the smell would be for our dog. Our dogs often don’t get any choice but to live with irritating smells. If your dog keeps away from you when you have perfume on or have used any other strong smelling products then it may be the dog does not like the smell. This is easily solved by only wearing them when you go out without your dog.

Noise levels: keep them in limits

When looking at dogs in an holistic way, we need to consider all areas of the dog’s lifestyle. Noise levels need also to be considered, taking into account that dogs’ hearing is much more superior to our own, if a noise is quite loud or irritating for us, it is probably extremely loud or irritating for a dog.

It may be worth considering the noise levels in the house, the radio and television levels as well as times when there is construction going on in the house or nearby in the street. You may live near an airport, railway or in a busy street. Many of these noises cannot be changed and many of them you and your dog can probably accept living with, but be aware that anything new or overly loud in the house can be expressed in behaviour changes and health issues.

Escape routes: also a must

Dogs need escape routes and so do we. Many dogs who are confined, tied up outdoors or restricted on short leads can become fearful of environmental factors such as other dogs, animals or humans approaching and display their fear by lunging, barking, cowering or hiding.

Can you imagine the fear if you were in a place where you could not escape or had limited movement, when along came a lion, a bear or a bully you did not like from school? What would your feelings and reaction be? I am sure you would not be relaxed but maybe angry or afraid and you may even try to break loose of your restriction, scream, yell, or do whatever you can to escape the situation. Why do we think we can restrict dogs and expect them to cope and not react? Many may even appear to cope well but maybe it’s because there is a bit of shutting down.

Often when we know we cannot do anything about our situation, we shut down as a last coping strategy but that does not necessarily mean we are coping. We need choices and we need an escape route. Maybe we need to look at giving our dogs a few escape routes in order to help them out and make life a little easier to cope with.

(Nicole Mackie has over 14 years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying and sharing her life with dogs, gaining many qualifications, such as canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience veterinary nursing. She is a radio speaker and writer for magazines, works with behavioural problems in dogs and runs socialising groups for dogs with social problems).