Dog & Puppy Training


Puppy socialisation and training

It is extremely important to socialise and train the puppy in his early days to ensure a happy and balanced relationship between him and his pet parents.

Period of socialisation…

Socialisation is a lengthy learning phase during which the puppy acquires all the behaviours needed for life in the pack. This stage begins at the age of six weeks and ends arbitrarily around the age of four months.

Imprinting the puppy…

The puppy is born into the world not knowing to which species he belongs. He has to identify with his species. He will acquire this information in a unique, almost irreversible learning process, which is called ‘imprinting’. A poorly imprinted animal is a lost cause for the species. This learning process occurs through games with his brothers and sisters and his mother. As an adult, this will enable him to recognise his sexual partner and to avoid rejection with other members of his own species.

If, however, a puppy is raised with other species (humans, cats, rabbits, even a stuffed animal), he may end up identifying with the species with which he lived. If there is a complete absence of other dogs between three and more or less sixteen weeks, the puppy will identify with the nearest species (human, cat, rabbit), or even a decoy (stuffed animal).

As an adult, this will lead to social preferences as well as courting behaviour and attempts to mate with the species he identifies with and aggressive behaviour towards his own species.

In order to avoid this type of situation, the puppy must be raised in a group, with his mother, until he is at least eight weeks old.

Socialising with other species…

Dogs are not programmed to interact socially with a foreign species (cat, human, rabbit). Hence, it is important for them to socialise with other species, especially with different types of people (men, women, children). This interaction must continue until after two months of age. The interactive presence of other species will lead to inter-specific socialisation and attachment that goes against predatory behaviour.

House-training a puppy…

Starting from the age of two months, that is, after the puppy’s first vaccinations, the puppy should be taken outside. He should be taken out every five to six hours when he first wakes up and after meals until the age of four months. At first, choose a place or even a newspaper that is saturated with the puppy’s own odour. In the beginning, as soon as the puppy relieves himself at the desired place, he should be systematically rewarded either through voice or by petting. The technique of using newspaper inside the house should be banished because the dog will associate this with the place of elimination and stick to it. Even if he goes out, he will wait until he goes back inside the house to take care of his needs. When out walking, never end the walk as soon as the dog has taken care of his needs, because he will quickly learn to associate needs with the end of the walk.

Training to obey by reward or punishment…

In order to be effective, the reward method must adhere to several principles. The reward should be significant for the dog. In other words, the pet parent should praise the dog through contact and abundant caresses and speak to him warmly. It should be exceptional in nature, such as giving unusual treats.

As for punishment, in order to be effective, it should be used when the dog is caught in the act and should be given out at the same time. It must be unpleasant in nature for the dog and must be meted out systematically for every punishable act, which is sometimes very difficult since the pet parents do not always catch the dog in the act. Punishment after-the-fact will cause anxiety and will aggravate the situation. Punishment can be direct, for example, grabbing the dog by the skin of his neck, which replicates the maternal behaviour and shaking him by lifting him up slightly. Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to give the dog a slap of the hand. It is also possible to punish a dog from a distance by throwing a non-dangerous object that will make noise at him.

Learning by reward requires more time than punishment, but on the other hand, it sticks longer. When punishing a dog, it is necessary to recognise the submission position because at that very instant, punishment must immediately stop.

Teaching obedience is easy…

Dogs must be taught to come when they are called and the ideal age to start is four to five months. Some dogs do not come when they are called. They come to within a few meters of their pet parent and stop. As soon as the pet parent approaches the dog to catch him, the dog runs away again. Do not become annoyed and certainly do not punish him or he will associate punishment with having come back to you. On the contrary, when he comes back, you should praise him, pet him and above all, you should not immediately put him back on the leash. Instead, let him go back to playing. If every time he is called, it means putting the leash on and going back inside, it will be a punishment for him.

The need to be “detached”…

When a puppy is brought into a home, he becomes attached to a person and vice versa. By the age of four to five months, you must prompt separation. If this is not done, as soon as the puppy is separated from the person to whom he is attached, he will become panicked and distressed. Start ignoring him 30 minutes prior to departure. When you return, if the dog jumps all over you, push him away and do not respond. As soon as he is calm, then act happy to see him and pet him. If he has caused damage, act as though you do not see him, even though you may want to punish him.

Rules of living in the house…

He must eat alone. He should not be allowed to beg at the table, but he should have the right to be present when his owners eat. He should not be allowed to jump up on beds or sofa without permission from his pet parents. His sleeping area should be located in a quiet spot where he can rest. If he nips at hands, you should stop him from doing so and firmly push him away. You should also avoid tug-of-war type games (with a toy, a piece of stick, a rag) because this encourages biting, which is far from desirable for a future companion animal. You should not pet a puppy on demand. As with play, it is up to you to decide when to play and to initiate contact and petting.

Early socialisation of puppies: a potential lifesaver

Intervet UK has developed a practical vaccination regime to help encourage early socialisation in puppies to avoid behavioural problems in later stage. Behavioural problems are treated by euthanasia in a large number of young adult dogs. Many of these problems may arise due to traditional vaccination regimes that encourage owners to keep puppies isolated and unsocialised during the sensitive developmental period (3-14 weeks old). As a result of these concerns, Intervet UK has developed a practical vaccination regime to help encourage early socialisation. Extensive research has now permitted a licence variation in the UK that permits final vaccination with Nobivac DHPPi+L at 10 weeks old in puppies.

Benefits of early vaccination:

A young pup, between the age of 3 and 14 weeks, is affected profoundly by his physical and social environment. What happens during this period will mould his behaviour and personality for the rest of his life. In order to produce a well-behaved and well-balanced adult dog, a young puppy must be exposed to a wide variety of physical, social and environmental stimuli when he is 3-14 weeks old. Puppies that are not socialised and habituated in this way may react with fear to unfamiliar stimuli that they encounter later in life. This can manifest as behaviour problems such as fear-related aggression.

A young pup should not be exposed to disease until he is vaccinated fully. The established vaccination regimes, with final vaccination at 12 weeks old or older, mean that pups often do not interact outside their home environment until 1-2 weeks after this final vaccination. They miss out on socialising fully during the sensitive developmental period. Many serious behaviour problems that arise later in life can be traced back to a relative lack of socialisation during the early developmental period.

Puppy training made fun

A well behaved dog and a happy owner make a perfect combination. Behaviour and training always go together. Training always leads you to understand your dog and also helps you communicate better with him.

A puppy’s first day at home is very exciting. But after a few days of excitement and joy, starts the actual struggle of bringing up the puppy. In most cases, problems start occurring, first being the toilet training extending to not obeying basic manners, teething, chewing habits, etc.

Puppy training should start from the time when she enters your home. Any form of training should always be fun to the dog as well as the owner. Keep it short and simple. It is also important to check the attention span of puppies during training. The owner should be completely involved in the training process, as it helps to create a strong bond between the owner and his dog. Even if you involve a professional, be a part of the training programme and understand the methods used for training. Always reward your lil’ one.

Training a pup requires a lot of concentration, practice, patience and persistence from the owner. Also, once you start, you need to progress gradually. The first part of training should be the basic training, which involves teaching good toilet habits, controlling a pup during teething period, getting her used to being around people and other dogs, teaching her good food habits, etc. Then come the basic commands such as Sit, Down, Stay, Fetch, etc.

Use of word “NO”:

Puppies, by nature, are very playful and mischievous. They tend to do many things, which are not acceptable to us, such as showing affection towards people by jumping up on them or by licking, stealing food, running away with things, etc. Therefore, you should teach the pup, what is acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour from day one.

Follow these simple tips to train your puppy:

  • If you don’t want your puppy to access certain areas of your home, be firm about it right from the beginning.
  • Give your pup lots of different textured items to chew while she is teething but don’t allow her to chew furniture, etc.
  • Make her a cosy bed to sleep.
  • Start using the word ‘NO’ firmly for things you don’t want your pup to do. But, do not scream or hit the puppy, as it will not solve the problem but make it worse.
  • If the pup picks up something and starts running, don’t run after her, instead call her towards you, and show her something more interesting. You can also distract her with favourite treat or toy.

Wonders of Training:

Training can transform an aggressive and possessive dog into a friendly and loving companion. Here’s a real life case file of a dog named Swami who was trained by Rajesh Bhat to become a more suitable companion.

Case history

Ritika and Rajat, on their way to work, spotted a lil’ pup on the road. They stopped their car to put him aside, but the pup came running back to them. Ritika immediately loved him for his big eyes. They started looking for a new home for him but eventually decided to keep him at their home and named him Swami. Rajat was little scared of introducing Swami to his two Dalmatians – Joey and Cheery but all went well. All the three dogs became our family members but over a period of time, Swami started behaving negatively. He became very aggressive, dominating and possessive about his toys and chew sticks. While eating or playing with his toy, if anyone came near him, he would suddenly snap. It first started with growling and then he started biting as well. It became difficult to even put a collar around his neck. They consulted a few doctors, family, and friends but the repeated advice that they got was to put him down or abandon him. They got him neutered but that also did not help. Then, they read about Rajesh Bhat, a trainer, who was very positive about Swami and felt that he could solve the problem.

Swami was ferocious towards strangers and would try to attack them. It was difficult to control him. He was very aggressive and did not let even his owners pet him. It started by growling and then went to biting. He overtly wanted to be at control of everything. It became difficult to take him out too. Abandoning the dog will not solve the problem. If puppy is taught discipline from the very first day, he grows up to be a lovely trained dog.

Involvement of the owner

Swami’s parents were very positive and really wanted Swami to change for the best. They had full commitment towards him. They followed what Rajesh told them and hence there were behavioural changes in him since day 1. Lots of people never get involved in training sessions and the dogs end up taking training from the trainer and refuse to listen to the owner.

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