How to train a dog to make it useful


Maneka Gandhi


(Bihar Times) My cousin gave away the first dogs she had ever kept , a pair of dachshunds. When I asked her the reason for her wickedness , she defended herself by saying they had become vicious and bitten everybody. I did not believe her until my mother was bitten savagely by two Lhasa Apsos who cuddled up to her on the sofa and then, as she got up, attacked her legs.
Apparently this is so common that it has an official name “little dog syndrome” Cute little balls of fluff that turn into vicious, snarling monsters with strangers. Or stand barking endlessly at the gate when people and dogs pass. Or incessantly try climbing on furniture or laps and whine when not picked up Many people avoid small breeds, because it is thought that smaller dogs are by nature, yappy, aggressive, possessive, over protective and demanding. Not true. Much of this behavior is simply a failure by small dog owners to realize that a  Chihuahua needs to be trained as much as a German Shepherd.
We don’t allow a big dog to become snappy. A Great Dane or Rottweiler who bites or snarls aggressively is seen as a menace. A Miniature Pomeranian who does the same is seen as a delightful crackpot  ( except to the victim). Big dogs are trained from the beginning to be gentle and friendly. Little ones are left alone. Owners laugh indulgently as their small dog lunges forward growling at a Dobermann & never think to correct the behavior of the bratty dog, praising him for his fearlessness instead. Would they think it was so amusing if the Dobermann behaved in the same way? I think not.
Humans have a biological response to 'cute' things, especially baby animals. The need to nurture and protect perceived defenceless creatures is automatic ( except when you eat them). The owner overprotects the dog, carries him round, let him sleep on the bed, jump on the furniture, picks him up in the presence of strange dogs, and gives in to his demands for attention, all  through the misguided notion that the dog needs protecting, by virtue of his size and 'baby like' qualities.
According to Australian dog trainer John Richardson who was in Delhi last week small dogs bark and bite so much more than big dogs because “  Simply because a dog is cute and small doesn’t mean it knows it is cute and small, it’s still all canine in its mind and sees itself as a much larger creature. Our dog’s ancestors were wolves. We have changed their appearance, some traits, but have only slightly changed their mind, so the smallest dog will take on the biggest opponent with no fear of consequence, because it’s all in the mind.
A part of this instinctual blue print, comes the desire to be part of a group or pack. Although most dogs are happy to be the follower in their human pack, if the dog is getting signals from his owner that he is the leader of the pack, then the dog will have no option but to fill the role. A small dog with a stable temperament that is over indulged, given little or no obedience training and weak leadership, will behave in any way it pleases. Small dogs can become very aggressive when our interaction indicates that they are the leader of  “our pack”. One of the duties of a pack leader is to protect both the pack and the territory, hence the aggression. “

Over time, the dog may show behaviour that to the experienced eye would be considered dominant, however, to the dog’s owner this is seen as specific to small dogs and not considered serious. Some patterns of  'little dog syndrome' are:

Your dog sits on you, jumps on you, or next to you, when he pleases.
He does not allow you near him when he is eating or playing with a toy.
He barks excessively to get your attention.
He is over protective when other dogs or humans come near you.
He growls when you attempt to move him from his favourite resting place.
He is generally stubborn and refuses to follow commands given to him.
He displays an exaggerated reaction to being left alone, characterised by constant barking, or destructive behaviour.

Can we change their behaviour ?  Yes. Owners must realize that their small breed dogs are not baby humans. And that it is natural for dogs to be followers rather than leaders of the pack. Understanding these concepts will help reduce the problem.
 We need to be assertive (not aggressive), consistent and kind in our interaction.. If  we take back our role as leader, provider and protector then our small dog will realize that we can actually protect ourselves and its need to aggressively over-react will subside.
This can be done by controlling all of the dog’s resources, for example, food, toys, treats, walks, and favourite places of rest, and allowing the dog access to them when the owner decides. All demanding behaviour, for example barking for treats or to be picked up and so on, should be ignored, and all appropriate behaviour praised.

Aggressive and possessive behaviour towards other humans by the dog can be dealt with by having a place for the dog to go to when the owner is interacting with others. This may be to his crate, or a cushion in the corner of the room.

All dogs NEED obedience training. All you need to do is tell your dog "No" with a firm voice. No yapping when people come , no barking at the gate, no nipping people. Your dog will learn.  Never hit or spank, or yell at a small dog to train them, you will only receive a negative response.
Treat the dog like a big dog. Carrying the dog around, coddling it, not allowing it to interact with the pack creates a nasty little dog.  A dog is a dog not a fashion accessory or a baby. Let them deal with the world themselves on their own four feet.

In the beginning make him earn everything before you give him anything (make him sit before you pet him, or before you give him his food, or let him in the house). He must rely on you for everything. This will take time but have patience.

No dominant dog should sit on the sofa or bed. In the dog world, the dog that is lying equal to your level or higher up is the boss.
Never give a command you can’t or won’t enforce. If you give him an option, he will ignore you.

Never play tug-of-war . If you allow your dog to win a tug-of-war and take the toy off , as far as he is concerned, that is his prize and he may challenge you if you try to take it from him. If you play tug-of-war, you must always win.

Circling and excessive licking are signs of dominance. An occasional kiss is acceptable but stop excessive licking. If he is circling you or your guests, cut him off. To the dog, that is like “herding his flock”.

Never feed him scraps from the table.

 Doors and gates are very significant to dogs. Whoever goes through the door first is leader. Always go first.

 If your dog wants to be petted by nudging you with his nose or pawing at you, ignore him or you will have a pest on your hands.

Don’t pet him when he is growling or barking . You are reinforcing bad behavior.
If you remain calm and assertive, your dog will be calm and submissive and as dignified as a large dog.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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