This post is prompted by my observations of dog owners and how they communicate with their dogs. As humans we talk, and we talk a lot. Overtime dogs learn to ignore most of our neverending blah-blah-blah. However if you want your dog to pay attention and do what you ask, make sure you don’t repeat these five common mistakes.
Not sure what to do with your new pup? Once you are able to resist the cuteness of your new family member, it is time to start training. Dogs can be trained from an early age, so begin teaching your puppy about your expectations and the world around them as soon as he or she arrives in your home. The sooner you begin teaching them good manners and social skills, the easier it will be for you when they hit the difficult period of adolescence.
Last week Milo had to endure yet another house move. He changed countries three times during the seven and half years of his life, and this move was his fifth house move. Despite being used to it, Milo hates moving. It seems that it isn’t the prospect of a new place that annoys him (after all, I don’t think he actually knows about our plans for a new home), but rather the whole process of packing, moving and disassembling furniture, things disappearing from their usual places and, no doubt, our stress. Milo’s way of expressing anxiety and frustration is stealing and guarding various things. In addition, his allergy always flares up when he is stressed.
It’s easy to teach one’s dog to sit on demand, because it is something that dogs tend to do naturally. Teaching your dog to sit and wait until you release him is another matter. This trick takes some patience, time and quite a few tricks. I often hear people telling their dogs to wait or to stay, assuming that this will make the dog stay in place. However, unless you specifically taught your dog to stay in position (sitting or lying down, or in any other position), your dog won’t know that he has to stay until released. Let’s fix it! Teaching the dog to stay is about teaching him self-control, which is also helpful for dogs having issues with excitability, meeting visitors etc.
A few days ago we received a letter from the local council stating that someone has complained about dog barking. To say that we were shocked is not enough. Milo is never left alone for long periods of time except for the two days this year, when we had to leave him for the whole day. The only people who could have complained are our upstairs neighbours. When we asked them about it, they said that they were concerned for Milo’s well-being because he barked almost every day for 10-15 minutes at a time. I was quite annoyed that they failed to tell us first. After all, how are we to know that he barks, if we’re not home? Moreover, I seriously doubt that Milo actually barks that often. Next day after receiving the letter we installed a camera. I was away for a few days, and Milo was home alone while my husband was at work. We haven’t seen or heard him bark once. He was sleeping like a log on the sofa, which is pretty much his favourite pastime. Anyway, I just wanted to share a few tips on how to make your dog comfortable while you’re gone. From now on I will make sure that I use these tips myself, although being home alone had never been an issue for Milo before.
Think about a recent situation which involved you seeing another owner walking towards you and your dog. What was your reaction? Did you hold your breath for a moment? Maybe you tightened your grip on the lead? Probably, you even pulled the lead a bit or started talking to your dog. Chances are, you did all three and something else, if you were walking a dog that is reactive on lead. The behaviours are not themselves a problem. The issues arise, when your dog learns to associate them with other dogs approaching him. After that you are trapped in a vicious cycle:
In addition to your behaviour and body language, there are other possible triggers for your dog. A common trigger is a certain type of dogs. For example, your dog has been attacked by a large white dog and will display aggression towards similar looking dogs. Another possible trigger is a certain place. For example, your dog may only react to other dogs on a narrow pathway or on a certain street corner.
Lead aggression is directly related to the dog’s perception of other dogs. Whether it is a learned bad habit or a result of a traumatic experience, aggressive or overly excited behaviour is a reaction to the presence of other dogs. Hence, you will have to change your dog’s associations with other dogs and to teach him an alternative behaviour.