You and your dog
Here are a few suggestions to ensure you develop the right kind of relationship with your dog and get things off to a good start.
A dog is a pack animal and regards everyone in the home as part of the pack, animals and humans alike, so it is important that your new pet learns his place in the pecking order. If he (or she) does not, then he will become confused and strain the start of a lifelong friendship.
The best place for your dog in his new pack is at the bottom of the pecking order, ie all humans are the boss or the “top dog” in your pet’s eyes.
This state of affairs is quite easy to achieve as long as you follow these golden rules:
- Ground rules need to be implemented straight away otherwise the dog will only obey instructions when it wants to and ignore them if it does not like the ideas. Worse still, a dominant dog can respond with aggression when forced to do something it does not want to do. Always ensure your dog sleeps on the floor or in its own bed, never on the furniture or the bed you sleep in. Ideally place the bed in an area where the dog can rest undisturbed.
- When feeding a dog, always ensure it is fed after everyone else. In the dog’s eyes, whoever eats first is the top dog, so if it always has to wait until you have eaten, it will always look to you as the boss. Following this rule will make the dog less inclined to beg at the table as well. Feeding time is also a good time for basic training; making them sit before getting the food, leading on to making them wait until told when to eat, is all good obedience training. In a household with young children, it is often helpful to let the children feed the dog as this will increase their social standing in the dog’s eyes making the dog behave better with the children.
- A dog will play games for fun, but it will also learn from games who is the strongest. To a dog, whoever wins is the dominant or top dog. The most important game to win is any tug of war with an object – direct trial of strength. Any toy used in games must be back in the owner’s hand at the end of the play. If not, the dog will read the score as a canine victory, and behave accordingly. Avoid at all times wrestling with your dog, as they will invariably beat you, and it tends to make them aggressive.
- Many dogs will become very excitable when introduced into a new home, while some will be quite scared at the sudden change. To help your pet adjust to its new surrounding, encourage your pet to be calm and relaxed; do not force a frightened dog to do something against its will, gently coax it instead. If the dog is too excitable, speak calmly, and if that does not help, give it no attention for a while, this will have the calming effect desired.
- Never leave your dog – even if it appears to be of sound temperament – unsupervised with small children. Keep your dog on the lead for at least the first week, and especially keep him under control in public. When you let him off the lead for the first time, do so in an enclosed space so that if he will not return, you can catch him.
- No doubt our new four footed friend will occasionally be responsible for various misdemeanours that are unacceptable to us. The best punishment is to deny the dog attention for a period of time, from 10 minutes to half an hour. Physical punishment is often detrimental, as it may become frightened and confused. Distraction is also a good method for curtailing antisocial activity, by taking its mind off potential problems, but be careful not to “reward” bad behaviour.
- When leaving your dog unattended at home, it is often best to put the dog in a fairly indestructible environment in case of separation anxiety. Do not make a big fuss before leaving, as it will only excite the dog; it is better to ignore the dog for a couple of minutes before departure. On return, be a little aloof with the dog for a few seconds before fussing over him or her. This will teach our canine friend that attention is only given when you decide, and not when you return home. It will help to calm the dog as the time for your return approaches.
If you follow these rules, your dog will be a joy to own, and it will be happier, as it has a clear message from you as to who is the boss