Let me clarify that this article is by no means a guide to train your dog. You’ll find a ton of those on the web, some very helpful and some totally useless. I don’t want to add to the latter. This is just a simple guide to have a happy and satisfied dog, which in turn will lead to a happy and satisfactory relationship between the two of you.
I have had some experience with dogs and in the process learnt a bit about what THEY need from you. And it’s not just limited to food. My dogs probably eat a more nutritious diet than I do. But a healthy diet or walks in the park do not a happy dog make. So what does? Before you read any further, note that I’m no expert on this topic. I currently have three dogs and this list is simply based on my own mistakes and experiences. So, here goes! (I prefer not to refer to pets as ‘it’, so I’ll just say ‘he’ for now)
You lead, I’ll follow
For your dog, he, you and your family members are a pack. Every pack needs a leader. Most dogs are born followers. They’re happy to follow the leader. You’d think they’d be proud to lead, but no, leading stresses dogs out. If your dog gets the impression that you cannot lead the pack, he’ll step in and then by golly, you’re going to have a tough time asserting your position. Cute little Bruno will live his life in strain and anxiety and you’re going to be helpless. Here are some do’s and don’ts to assert your pack leader position. Bruno cannot think in terms of long-term happiness so he may sulk at first. Ignore that.
- Eat before your dog. Leaders always eat first. If a meal is not possible, even a single morsel will do. Don’t just act like you’re eating something. Oscar isn’t dumb.
- If you haven’t seen your dog for a few hours, don’t coo and cuddle as soon as you enter the door. He isn’t back from war. Give it about five minutes before you acknowledge him. He has to understand that you’re the boss and you will give him attention when you want to.
- Call him over to show him affection. Don’t go to him. Decide when you want to do that. It should be on your terms, not his.
- Do enter or exit the house (or lift, car etc.) first. Don’t let Fido bound ahead. Remember, he always follows.
- Once you set rules, be consistent about him following them. You cannot allow him to sleep in your bed today and then yell at him when he does it tomorrow. It’s just going to confuse him and lead to erratic behaviour.
- When he tries to chew on furniture, ‘Oscar, baby, I love you, please don’t do that’ is going to get you nowhere. A stern ‘No’ is enough to get your point across.
Once your four-legged friend knows you’re the boss, he will be happy and secure under your control. It’s best if these steps are followed from the day you bring him home. The later you begin, the tougher it’ll get (tougher, but not impossible). And once your pack position is determined, it will be much simpler to train the little brat. It isn’t a must, but I strongly advise going in for basic obedience training.
Commands like ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Stop’ really come in handy. The Paws Pack team in Pune trained two of my dogs and I must say, they’ve been a huge help. Training can really be a lot of fun, for your puppy and you, as long as he’s prepared for it. But first, you need to give him a reason to listen to you.