Behavior & Training Article
5 Ways To Live Well With Your Dog
Author: Wiki Pet
Many times, people forget the most basic of all rules in the human/dog companion relationship - dogs just want to be dogs. They have no desire to be humans, they love doing what they do best, sniffing, running, playing, eating, and sleeping. Fortunately for Duke, his owners are committed to providing him with ample appropriate attention, and plenty of tasks to keep his life fulfilling. Not every breed of dog was developed to work in fields, provide protection, search and rescue, or pull sleds but there are 5 ways to keep your pets on the path toward a rewarding life in your home.
These rules apply to every dog, in every home or apartment. The old saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is simply a myth and in many cases, pets will show global behavioral improvements after training sessions at any age. Dogs much like humans, do not enjoy being bored. The interaction time you spend with them during training is one of the best ways to show you are committed to their well being.
Start with the right training
Proper training is essential to living well with dogs. Although dogs have long been domesticated, they are not born with a code of etiquette that explains how to interact with humans in ways that are non-intrusive to modern life.
The fast track to a stress-free pet life is proper training. Make a plan with your family to set clear and consistent expectations for your dog and ensure that everyone is providing your pet with the same experiences.
Don't allow pets to jump up. While it may be cute for a 6 week old pup to jump up and beg for attention, when he or she fully matures to a sturdy 70lbs and jumps up, knocking you down (or a guest), you may be rather angry with the dog, especially if you are injured. If you scold the dog at this point, he will have no idea what he has done wrong because he was allowed to jump up in the past. Don't forget that small dogs are not exempt from this training. A 10 pound Pomeranian can be incredibly annoying when jumping up on the back of your knee over and over again as you try to walk around the house. Be considerate of your guests who will generally not enjoy this experience.
Be sure to put an immediate end to anything resembling guarding or aggressive behaviors toward food, toys, or other dogs. Aggression in these areas can lead to aggression in other aspects of life and will increase in severity as the dog ages and loses his young flexibility and patience.
Teach your dog to walk on a leash
Whether you own a dainty Yorkie or a burly Mastiff, all dogs appreciate a little adventure from time to time. Exercise requirements vary drastically from breed to breed, but there are few better ways to bond with your pet than a good spirited walk.
Most pet owners would prefer to walk without being dragged down the street or have uncomfortable tension constantly tugging on the leash, but many don't know exactly how to get there. The path to enjoyable walks begins with proper leash training from an early age to help your pet understand the rules of the adventure, proper walking etiquette, and a comfortable walking pace.
The ideal location for your pet to remain while walking is on your right side away from traffic, with their front shoulder near your waist area. If your pet pulls, stop walking. If they are falling behind for no apparent reason (legitimate reasons are: fatigue, injury, dehydration, overheating, ect) it is completely safe to gently drag them along until they once again match your pace. A word of caution here, carefully watch that your pet doesn't back out of their collar and get themselves in dangerous situations. I prefer the use of a standard body harness to prevent this from happening.
The main rule to remember for walks is that YOU set the pace, direction, and the duration of the journey. Heavy sniffers will want to stop at every post, tree, and stop sign along your path causing you to stop abruptly over and over again. I usually allow around 3 seconds of sniff time if the object is particularly interesting, then back to walking at my pace once again.
Anyone that has ever watched a very young puppy knows that dogs instinctually want to follow the leader of the household. Most young puppies will not leave your side, even while un-teathered, with no training at all. If you can preserve this instinct, you will have no problem on daily walks.
Teach your pet house manners
House manners apply to dogs just the same as other members of your house. Dog nails can cause significant damage to fancy wood floors in just a matter of minutes after running crazy through the house while playing fetch or other athletic games. If you now have (or ever expect to have) nice flooring or carpeting that can be damaged by pets, you may want to consider putting an end to athletic playtime in the house. A dog has no perception of the value of materials in your house and will find new flooring (especially exotic materials) extremely intriguing which may cause even more spirited activities.
Barking to alert you of a visitor knocking on your door can come in handy sometimes, but many dogs will get into the habit of barking at everything. Every noise, neighbor, and outside bark can cause some dogs to go into a barking fit that is difficult to stop.
By the time your furry friend gets to this point of behavioral response, it will be very difficult to break the cycle. Your goal is to keep this behavior from ever happening. The best way to achieve this goal is to never reward your dog for barking in the house. Promoting un-warranted barking will not increase the ferocity of your house guard. A good, well cared for dog will protect your family regardless of his size, breed, or disposition.
There are a few different methods you can use to reduce nuisance barking. The method you choose will depend mostly on the severity of the barking. I always recommend attempting to correct the behavior by interrupting the barking fit with a loud noise (such as a clap) or by redirecting the dog physically (turning them away from the stimulus). Coddling, talking in complete sentences, or reassuring your dog is in fact reinforcing the very behavior you are trying to prevent. An example would be saying something like "its ok fluffy, it just your neighbor" which to a dog essentially means "good girl". Another method would be to remove the dog's ability to see, or hear the offending stimulus.
If the learned behavior has gotten to the point where none of your actions seem to have an impact on the behavior, you will want to consider a good quality PetSafe™ Bark Control Collar or an indoor bark control unit. These systems are extremely safe, and in most cases, will help you pet to learn to relax despite the external stimuli. Once your dog learns they are no longer able to enter the bark fit stage, they will begin to ignore the things that once drove them crazy. By suppressing barking, you are effectively limiting the nervous excitement and helping your pet to live more comfortably.
Another commonly overlooked area is dogs that overwhelm guests. Most people don't enjoy being overwhelmed by a friend's dog every time they visit. Give your guests a break by requiring your dog to stay down, stay calm, and to give your guest enough space to feel comfortable in your home. This is especially true for the crotch-sniffers and leg-humpers, which are both well.. violating to any guest. If your dog is unable to stop these actions, locking them in a room somewhere away from guests will always do the trick.
Keep your pet off the couches and beds
Dogs smell. You don't want them coming in from outside and jumping directly on your couch with dirty paws. Also, by allowing your pet to have the highest tier seating position in the house, many may start becoming confused as to where they fall in the household hierarchy. This can lead to a dog guarding his position on the furniture and refusing to move or get up when you are trying to sit or lay down. I have seen many toy and companion breed dogs that will actually growl, snarl, and attack someone who tries to move them off their spot on the couch. This behavior may seem humorous to some people due to the size of the breed, but small children can be easily injured by a 10 pound dog and are especially prone to bites and scratches on the face and arms.
You can pick up a comfortable dog bed at any local pet store. This will provide your pet with an appropriate place to lounge, while also providing them with a place of their own. Pets with designated sleeping quarters understand that humans will never come and kick them off their bedding, allowing your dog to feel more at ease when resting. You will also never have to deal with the complicated re-training situation you will encounter when you purchase new furniture that your dog is no longer allowed to lay on. Almost all dogs will sniff the new furniture, and once they realize that is doesn't smell like them (which is generally a good thing), will want to rub themselves all over it to fix it up for you. This is obviously not ideal treatment of your new furniture.
Don't feed table scraps
Besides being extremely unhealthy for dogs, feeding your pet table scraps (especially feeding directly from the table) will begin a cycle of unhealthy and potentially burdensome behavior that will last a lifetime. It is very difficult to re-train a dog that has learned to beg. Guests will be harassed to no end while trying to have dinner at your house, and although most people will pretend not to mind your pet staring at them from under the table or from behind, this intrusive action may leave you with less and less guests making time for dinner at your house in the future.
Human food is bad for dogs. Read our article on Obesity in Dogs for more information about the effects of human foods on dogs. You can get on the right track by separating the dogs from anything resembling food preparation or eating. Go to your local super store and pick up an adjustable baby gate to keep them locked out of the kitchen area (and preferably out of sight of the kitchen) until all the food has been prepared and eaten.
Another great idea to keep dogs from being interested in your meals is to feed them in a different room and at a different time (preferably before) from your family's scheduled meals.
Enjoy life with your pet
Dogs young and old can learn to be respectful of your house rules, and anyone can easily solve these 5 most common issues of pet ownership. Using fore-sight to eliminate future problems involving jumping up, possession issues, new furniture destruction, and pushy begging behavior is the best way to ensure your pet lives a healthy life free from confusion.
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