Training your K9 Kid

A dog’s personality depends on various factors, like her neonatal experiences, hormones, and her exposure to various stimuli from the day she is born till the time you bring her home. Even though you may or may not have control over these critical periods in your puppy’s life, but you can still mould her into a properly behaved dog by training her at the right age. Here are a few tips on puppy socialisation and winning your puppy’s trust, respect and confidence.

Assessing your bundle of joy

Before you get the pup, ask the breeder what socialisation techniques she adopts to ensure that the pup is confident and outgoing. Ideally, put your pup through a puppy aptitude test (PAT) to ensure she has the characteristics you desire. The PAT is a series of ten tests that must be administered between the 6th and 8th week of life. Tests such as pinching the skin between the pads of the feet while counting to ten, throwing an object and having the puppy retrieve it or not, elevating the puppy and determining her reaction…. The puppy is scored using a point scale and based upon the test and the score, a personality profile is arrived at.

You need to ensure that the pup’s personality is a “good fit” to your family structure. An outgoing puppy in a home with older folks who don’t want a lot of activity, isn’t a good fit. An apprehensive puppy in a home with small children will most likely become a fear biter instinctively. An outgoing, “here I am” attitude in a show home is a perfect fit. A puppy that is a bit laid back, but doesn’t over-react to situations is good for a home with young children.

A pup is very impressionable. It is really easy to get the dog adjusted to our lifestyle and requirements; at the same time it is equally easy to let ‘bad habits’ set in. While formal training (commands like sit, down etc.) can wait, here are a few things which need to be given priority at this age?:

  • Puppy socialisation
  • Winning your pup’s love and respect
  • House training
  • Preventing puppy chewing
  • Preventing jumping
  • Preventing biting and mouthing
  • Leash training

Puppy socialisation :

Socialisation and puppy training are of utmost importance as puppyhood is the most important and critical time in your dog’s development. A properly socialised dog is well adjusted and makes a good companion. She is neither frightened nor aggressive towards anyone or anything she would normally meet in a day-to-day living. An un-socialised dog can be a fear-biter or fight with other dogs, besides being difficult to train. They cannot adapt to new situations and a simple routine visit to the vet is a nightmare not only for the dog herself, but for everyone involved. Don’t let this happen to you and your dog. Start socialising your new puppy NOW!

The socialisation period lasts up to about 12 weeks (3 months) of age. However, even after 12 weeks, the puppy must continue socialisation to refine her social skills. Make sure that each of the following events are pleasant and non-threatening. If your puppy’s first experience with something is painful and frightening, you will be defeating your purpose.

DOs?:

    • Invite friends over to meet your pup. Include men, women, youngsters, elders etc.
    • Invite friendly, healthy, vaccinated dogs, puppies and even cats to your home to meet and play with your new puppy. Take your puppy to the homes of these pets, preferably with dog-friendly cats.
    • Carry your pup to shopping centres, parks, school playgrounds, etc; places where there are crowds of people and plenty of activity.
    • Take your puppy for short, frequent rides in the car. Stop the car and let your puppy watch the world go by through the window.
    • Introduce your puppy to umbrellas, bags, boxes, the vacuum cleaner, etc. Encourage your puppy to explore and investigate her environment.
    • Get your puppy accustomed to seeing different and unfamiliar objects by creating your own. Set a chair upside down. Lay the trash can (empty) on her side, set up the ironing board right-side up one day and upside down the next day.
    • Introduce your puppy to new and various sounds. Loud, unbearable sounds should be introduced from a distance and gradually brought closer.
    • Accustom your puppy to being brushed, bathed, inspected, having her nails clipped, teeth and ears cleaned and all the routines of grooming and physical examination.
    • Introduce your puppy to stairs, her own collar and leash. Introduce anything and everything you want your puppy to be comfortable with and around.
      • Do not put your puppy on the ground where unknown animals have access. This is where your puppy can pick up diseases. Wait until your puppy’s shots are completed. Do not let your pup socialise with dogs who appear sick or dogs you don’t know and who may not be vaccinated.
      • Do not reward fearful behaviour. In a well meaning attempt to soothe, encourage or calm the puppy when she appears frightened, we often unintentionally reward the behaviour. It’s normal for the puppy to show some signs of apprehension when confronting anything new and different. Do not allow the experience to be harmful, painful or excessively frightening. This can cause lifetime phobias in your dog.
      • Do not force or rush your puppy. Let your puppy take things at her own pace.
      • Do not do too much at one time. Young puppies need a lot of sleep and tire quickly. It is much more productive to have frequent and very brief exposures than occasional prolonged exposures.
      • DO NOT DELAY!! Every day that goes by is an opportunity of a lifetime that is lost forever. You can never get these days back. If socialisation does not happen now, it never will.

DON’Ts?:

Winning your puppy’s trust, respect and confidence :

Many people try to win their new puppy’s love by letting the puppy always have her way. The pup is showered with affection and attention because she is so cute and cuddly.

Loads of affection is a wonderful thing for most puppies, but it must be tempered with respect. If you give in to your puppy’s every whim, your pup will never learn self-control and self-discipline. She will never learn to respect you. If your puppy does not respect you, she will have no reason to do anything for you. Your relationship will be like two 5-year-olds bossing

each other around.

Just as a child needs a caring parent; an athletic team needs a coach; your puppy needs a leader and a clear social hierarchy. If you do not take up the role of leader, your dog will; and you will end up with an unruly, disobedient, out of control, often an aggressive dog. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU AND YOUR DOG! Some people have an equally erroneous misconception of this issue. Instead of showering the dog with love and affection, they think that to earn the dog’s respect they must bully, dominate and terrorise the dog into being submissive. But, this is not respect. Respect is not something that is forced. It is won. A dog will not respect someone she does not trust. The old fashioned method of dominance via the alpha roll over does not win respect.

(Philip A. Butt is a chief trainer at Commando Kennels, Hyderabad (www.commandokennel.com). He has also trained and donated service dogs for the handicapped at the Kids and Dogs Carnival. He is also Joint Secretary of the Hyderabad Canine Club, conducting one of the country’s best dog show – HyCan at Hyderabad. He can be contacted at: commandokennels@yahoo.com) (To be continued in next issue . . .)

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