We’ve had a lot of strays in this week and all ages, shapes and sizes. When they are not claimed it’s usually easy to see why – because they are hooligans! They jump up, won’t walk on the lead, aren’t responsive, chew, bark….. and so on. Dogs don’t train themselves although some people obviously expect them to do this. Our job is to tame these tearaways and help them to be happy and well adjusted members of society, then they can be re-homed. What about the older dogs who are set in their ways? It’s a myth that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – all dogs can learn to behave well, it sometimes take a bit longer when they are already teenagers!
Understanding your dog and learning to communicate with him is the key. It’s important to accept that dogs are a different species (although lots of people treat them like humans) and they have an entirely different view of the human world in which they find themselves. They are perfectly adapted to running wild and living rough and hunting and this would be a natural and very enjoyable life for them. Now we want them to live in a house and only eat when we allow it and burying bones and fighting with other dogs is not allowed. What sort of crazy place is this? We are asking them to go against a lot of their instincts but dogs are friendly souls and well disposed to pander to the strange ways of humans.
We must have realistic expectations of them though. Choosing the right breed or type of dog is essential; you can train all you like but if the temperament and personality are at odds with your lifestyle, you will find it hard going if not impossible. That same dog may well be perfect for a different set up. Helping your dog to understand what you want him to do is the first stage and all training should be positive and enjoyable. Rewards are an important part, when he gets a treat he knows he’s done well. After a time a hug or praise and ‘good boy’ will be enough a lot of the time. Talking to your dog and praising him is very important. The titbit you give as a reward should be something very tasty. What does your dog absolutely grovel for? A piece of bacon? A sliver of cheese? Chopped chicken? Whatever it is, that’s what should be in your goody bag. Yum, yum! This is one time when a dry biscuit won’t do.
If your dog is feeling slightly hungry when you start a training session that is all to the good. He shouldn’t be starving though as he will then be too focused on food. Be consistent with the training words - sit, good boy. To me, good boy. The tone of voice is important too – down (a bit growly), good boy. Shouting at him or bullying him and hitting him (heaven forbid) are all things you should never do. How does a dog communicate with another dog? Facial expression is one way and this is something your dog will pick up quite quickly. When you’ve reached the peak of your dog training just one dont-do-that glance will be enough!
We don’t find that training is something to make a huge fuss about, it goes on around daily life and dogs learn to understand and behave themselves fairly quickly. Some ingrained behaviour, such as biting and endless barking, is more problematic and takes longer to solve. Keeping it fun and friendly and laid back is the answer, most behavioural problems sort out in a few weeks, sometimes with aggression and extreme nervousness it can take up to a year. Suddenly you realise that the former problem dog has let all his cares fall away and life is good again.
Please help us to go on with our work rehabilitating the stray dogs, we never put any healthy dog to sleep but sometimes the only answer is patience. We always need dog food, blankets, towels and bedding and if you can manage even a small donation that is greatly appreciated. We have a standing order form and £2.00 per month is a great help. Let us have your name and address and we’ll send you the form. Many thanks. [donate]