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23 April 2014

Pooch etiquette

Want to teach your pooch some basic manners and tricks but don't have the time or money to take him to puppy school? Here's what to do.

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Want to teach your pooch some basic manners and tricks but don't have the time or money to take him to puppy school? Health24 spoke to Animal Behaviour Consultant, Scotty Valadao, for some training tips to turn misbehaving Missy into disciplined Daisy.

You can teach an old dog new tricks, according to Valadao. "The ideal age is to get them started at 8 weeks, but dogs of all ages can continually learn and be taught new behaviours," Valadao explains.

Before you even start with the training you have to make it clear to the dog that you are in control. This will help establish the Human/Canine Hierarchy. "When a dog feels that the owner is not taking control, the dog will automatically try to and various behaviours develop," says Valadao. "A dog that knows the owner is in charge is a much calmer, well-behaved dog."

Now that Fifi knows who is in charge, let the teaching begin:

Stop your dog from jumping up against you

The reason this behaviour develops is because owners allow it when dogs are small. But as the dogs grow up and get bigger (and heavier!), owners don't like it so much anymore when their full-sized Great Dane jump up against them.

"This is easily corrected, but takes time, practice and consistency," says Valadao. She recommends you take some of the dog's daily food allowance, call the dog, and ask for a sit. If he complies, reward him with a few pieces of kibble. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Once the dog "gets" the exercise and sits every single time, start to fade the reward by calling the dog, asking for a sit and rewarding with verbal praise. Next time, call and reward with food. Then with verbal praise, and so forth. Mix it up so that he doesn't know what to expect, and keep on repeating the exercise.

If the dog is a "seasoned" jumper, then start this exercise on lead. This will help the owner control the dog's jumping behaviour. If the dog is too familiar with the owner and gets his way all the time, get a friend to come over and help with the training. The dog will behave differently around less familiar people. And remember: repeat, repeat, repeat.

No begging at the table

If Fido always stares, yelps or jumps up against you when you are at the dinner table, here's what you should do: stop feeding them from the table! "This may sound overly simple, but the most important thing here is management," says Valadao. "Never feed a dog from the table and the behaviour will soon stop."

"I was called out to see people a few years ago that had a Rottweiler that had actually gauged holes in the fridge," tells Valadao. "I told them to stop feeding the dog from the fridge and hey presto, it stopped!"

If the dog comes and sits next to you, say the dogs name and "away" in a louder-than-normal voice while pointing away with your arm. When the dog moves away, say "good dog" in a quiet voice to show your approval, but don't encourage the dog to come back.

If he doesn't budge, stand up without saying a word, take the dog by the collar (still no interaction from the owner) and calmly walk the dog out of the room and then shut the door. Wait 30 seconds and then open the door and allow the dog back in, but still no interaction with the dog. If the dog starts begging again, just repeat the exercise. "One of the worst things you can do to a dog is to ignore it."

Wait

Do you get bulldozed by Rover at feeding time? Or he cuts you off every time you head for the door. It's time to teach him the "wait" command.

The easiest way to teach this to your dog is to get him to sit and wait for his food, Valadao explains. Here's what to do:

Have the dog sit in front of you and have the food bowl in your hand. Hold out your hand in front of the dog's nose and say "wait". Keep your hand outstretched and repeat the cue while you slowly lower the bowl to the floor. If the dog moves in any way, quickly lift the bowl up to the starting position, tell the dog to sit and repeat. As the bowl gets to the floor, wait a few second, with hand in policeman position and then tell the dog to "get it".

"This really is the easiest way to teach a dog as he is rewarded for waiting by getting at the food," says Valadao. Repeat daily, building up the time period to about 30 seconds.  When the dog is proficient at this, the 'wait' cue can be used at doors, steps, in and out of the car, etc.

It's extremely important to note that when the cue is given in a new location, the owner should reduce the time period to a few seconds and then gradually build it up.

- (Wilma Stassen/Health24, May 2011)

Have a question? Ask CyberVet or Health24's Dog Behaviour Expert.

Or visit the Pet Health Centre for more information.

 
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