By Alane Lachowicz
SO YOU WANT TO BUY A PUPPY?
You want to buy a puppy? Are you sure? Have you thought about this? Do you know what is really involved in getting a puppy? A little untrained, cuddly, trouble maker. Let's step back. Let's walk away from that cuddly, little fluff of joy that bounces around a room and looks so cute playing. Let's take a look at what is really involved.
First off, you get this little puppy, usually at about eight weeks of age. You do know it comes untrained. This is not a package deal. The puppy does not know to potty outside; does not know not to play in the mud; does not know to sit, stay, come when called; doesn't even know its name. Remember, it hasn't gotten one yet. With all this in mind and all the work that has to be done: the training, the potty training, the going outside in the cold, wet, damp days, the earlier morning hours, the late nights. You sure you want a puppy?
Think of all the training classes that you will have to go to (and don't think you are going to buy this puppy and it is going to be completely trained already). I don't know of any puppy who comes complete with instruction guides on how to sit, stay, stand, come when called, down, or even to eat nicely out of its bowl, not to chew on things, not to tear things apart.
How cute do you think your puppy would look with an electrical cord hanging out of its mouth? Yes, this does happen. Puppies get into things quicker than you can ever imagine. "Oh, you are just going to go to the bathroom", you say. How fast can that puppy destroy a table leg, a couch, a pillow, and yes, an extension cord or a plug, plugged into an outlet? Puppies, like babies, are never to be left unattended. You have this much patience, time, are you willing to devote the effort it takes to train this puppy?
Yes, they are cute. They are a lot of fun. They are enjoyable. They are company. They grow up to be great companions, as long as you remember all of the work that goes along with them. The first year is the toughest, after that it gets a little easier because the puppy develops into a young adult and learns to be respectful. Even then, we have problems, but they are easily dealt with.
Think about this carefully. Consider everything. Look at your house and the items in it. Are you going to be really upset because this puppy just ate your leather couch? Think about it. This can happen. "Oh", you say, "not my puppy". Yes. We have all been there, those of us who have had puppies. We know how fast they can get into things. You favorite pair of shoes. Mind you, it is never both pairs, it is just one. And it is always in a place that cannot be fixed. I remember looking at a pair of leather boots, that my puppy destroyed. Just the back of it, just one small hole, in a spot that was very noticeable. So much for a good pair of shoes!
Yes, puppies get into everything. And also, let us not forget potty training. Puppies can stop and piddle quicker than anyone can imagine. They will be running and playing and all of a sudden, dead still. Oops, we've had an accident. Well, whose fault is that? You have to remember, the puppy has to be trained, kept on a schedule, taken outside, and told when he is good. Can't yell at him for going potty before he learns, and everything is a learning process. We must remember this.
don't instinctive know when there good or bad.
Some people will say, "ha, but he understands". No, all he knows is that the tone of your
voice, the last time he heard it, it wasn't pleasant. He either got spanked or grabbed or he heard
this booming voice come out of your mouth that scared him. He didn't know what he did. All he knows is that he did not like the
sound of that. We must learn to train
our puppies. Take time, patience, a lot
of energy involved. A lot of love.
If after reviewing all this, you still say, "Yea, I can do it. I can handle this and I am in this for the life of the puppy". (Which could extend to 15+ years, depending on the breed). If this is a lifetime commitment for you, and not something that you are going to discard in a couple of years because you have grown tired of it, and you have taken a look at everything that can happen, and you have taken a look at your house, your routine, your life, if you are ready to devote your time and effort. Then go for it, and go get that puppy!
Make sure you buy the puppy from a reputable breeder. Try to get a good sound breeding. See the puppies when they are little, before you bring them home. Watch them interact and pick out a good pup with the help of the breeder. Don't just go into a pet store and fall in love and say, "Oh, yes, this is it". No. Look around. Be selective. Then choose your puppy. And after you have chosen your puppy, and it is time for the puppy to come home, we find a good training class, and let the games begin.
O.K. We've brought our puppy home. We've got its little toys. A leash, a collar for it, a little bed, hopefully, a crate (that's your choice). I like crate training a puppy because it gives a nice safe place for the puppy to be when I can't watch it. But that's your choice.
Now it is time to find a school for the puppy and yourself. There are several different types of school. There are places you can send the puppy to and it comes back in about two to three weeks, depending upon on the length of training, and the puppy is supposed to come back to you all trained. This is an interesting concept. I think this is best for people who do not want to get involved with their dog's training and they just want it to come back nice, neat, and ready for them.
The concept is good but it doesn't really work well. You figure you have obtained this nice little puppy and it has just become used to your home and now you are going to cart it off to somebody who doesn't know this puppy or you don't know that well either. The trainers are going to have your puppy for x amount of days living with them, day in and day out, and they're going to be training your puppy for you and they're going to bring puppy back to you completely trained.
get puppy back, you know stuff they told you to you to do, and puppy doesn't
quite listen. That is because the person
who did the training is a professional who knows how to use the commands, show
the puppy, and work with the puppy. You
have no idea how to do this. It makes it
rough. You call the trainer back and
say, "It's not working. The puppy
still broken." The trainer comes
out and shows you have to do the commands and this and that. Puppy works fine now. O.K.
Well, you can consider this process will go on for quite a while,
because, until you learn the knack of all these commands and different hand
signals and different ways to hold your leash, the puppy is not going to really
respond to you the way he did with the instructor.
Another type of training is in-house training. When the instructor comes to your house, once a week or so, depending upon what you can afford, and this does get costly. And they show you how to work with your dog. This is better, because you are learning first-hand how to teach the puppy the different commands, how to work with the puppy, how to sit, stand, walk with the puppy, how to hold your leash, and walk with the puppy. The puppy learns better.
only thing lacking with this is the sociability that the puppy gets by going to
class with other dogs. It is like school
with children: they learn how to interact with their own peer groups, they
learn to socialize, and they learn to be accepted by society. Same concept is applied for dogs. They need to learn how to interact with other
dogs and other people, so that when you take them outside of your house, they
do not become wild maniacs, or feverish barkers, or scared. They learn to deal with different
Another option is going to an outside training facility where YOU take your dog, usually once a week, for an hour lesson. You and learn the different commands and the sociability. There are usually anywhere from 10-15 dogs in a class and they learn to interact with each other. They learn that barking and growling is not acceptable towards other dogs and humans. They learn that play is O.K. in moderation but when it is time to get down to business and learn, they pay attention to you, the owner. This is all learned in these types of classes.
That is why I highly recommend that you take your dog to a class and work with it at that class. It teaches you the discipline that you need and the know-how, the hands on experience, and it teaches your dog how to interact and to become sociably acceptable.
Again too, remember, all the training in the world does not help if you do not follow through. YOU are the sole responsibility of how well your dog becomes trained. It is not the fault of the instructor no matter which message you use, it becomes your fault if the puppy is not trained well, because, again it is your dedication, time, and effort that is put forth in training this puppy. I am not talking about yelling and screaming and making this puppy cower to every one of your commands, but teaching, learning, and showing it HOW to react to your command…what is expected from each command. We will cover this later in the article. And also, too, it is an enjoyable time to be with your puppy because it is a dedicated time for you and your pup.
So, research your classes well and pick something your doggy and you will attend faithfully. Attend all the classes, follow the instructions, learn and learn well, because the end result will be a well-trained puppy, one that you can be proud of.
NEW FAMILY MEMBER
Your have researched your breed, and you know what you want to get. You've found your breeder or the store at which you want to buy the puppy. You are getting ready to buy all the puppy things, spend a couple hundred dollars probably on just puppy items: collars, leashes, food, toys, a bed, a blanket, a crate…. Oh, it's so much fun; it's like shopping for a new baby. And, you are.
get in, get all this stuff ready, and get your house done and set-up for the
puppy to come. Figure out where are you going to have this little one sleep, although
you are not really sure yet. You'll
change your mind several times. You get
ready to bring the baby home. What a
happy day! Bring the puppy home!
Oh, yes, let him romp and play, watch him run through the house, watch him stop and piddle on the floor. Watch him run to chew on the telephone cord. Oh, yes, the excitement of bringing puppy home. Yes, as you're wiping the spot off of your living room carpeting, you've decided, "I don't think we want the puppy to be here". That's O.K. You don't have to allow your dog in every room of the house. You don't have to allow your dog on the couches, chairs, and things. Maybe the best place for the dog is on the floor, or a select chair that it can lay in that's older and you don't really care about.
The constant jumping on and off of the furniture isn't good for the puppy’s bones anyhow. Remember, they're young and they're fragile. They don't break easily, but their bones are soft, so you want to take care. You don't want them jumping in the air and jumping on and off things frequently.
After we've gotten our puppy home, we are going to want to feed it and want to play with it. Just remember, it’s a baby. It needs rest, even if it does not think so. It is best to play with the puppy for a while; let it get all active, take it outside to go potty, and then let it rest for a while. If you are crate training, put it in its crate. No, the puppy won’t like it (at least that's what it will try to make you think). It will look at you with those BIG eyes, "but I don't want to be in here". Well, no, it doesn’t—it would much rather be out playing and chewing on things and tearing things up. It's more fun. You know, it's like when you were told to go to bed when you were younger. It was your bedtime and you didn't want to go to bed. You'd rather be up. Well, same thing.
But don't let those big, sad eyes fool you. Put the puppy to bed. Don't give in. Set a bed time every night for the baby. Give him cookies and water before he goes to bed, but remember he will have to go outside again. The rule is, what goes in, must come out. After every eating, you want to take the puppy out. So, just take care, be cautious.
Watch your puppy. Don't give in to those big, brown eyes because he is going to use those things on you after you having just eaten your shoe, or part of the furniture, or the wooden chair leg. Don't give into them, because, it's like looking at a little baby who has just done something and you go to yell at them, and they look at you with their big eyes and they smile at you. But they’re so... cute, how can you yell? Just remember, they must be corrected.
We're not talking beating here; we're talking a firm no. You know, to let the dog know that this is not acceptable. But enjoy them. Give them a couple of weeks to get adjusted to you and then take them to their dog training classes. This should be done around 12 weeks of age, not six months. By the time a puppy is six months old, it has already formed habits. BAD habits. So you want to be able to teach them from the beginning. So consider taking your puppy at 12 weeks of age to puppy kindergarten.
BEGINS WITH SIT
First day. Puppy kindergarten. You’re excited. The little one is excited. You get his collar and leash on and you go to class. You get to see everyone else with their puppies and know which people have what kind of dog. You all sit and chit-chat and oh, such excitement. Puppies excited, romping and playing. You watch and some people carry their puppies into the ring. Other people walk their puppies. And some are dragging their puppies. Yeah, not all puppies learn to walk on leashes right away.
Some people forget that a puppy isn’t born knowing how to walk on a leash. Could you imagine what it must feel like to this little puppy? They've been running free and all of a sudden you put this thing around their neck, and that bothers them because it is rubbing and itching and it's like, "what is this???” Then you hook a long line to it, and you start walking away from them and start pulling and it's like, "Oh, my God." This thing is pulling around the puppy’s neck. Just imagine that. The puppy has only one opinion about that leash, and it’s "Oh, no, no".
human beings, a dog’s instinct is to pull away from what is hurting or
bothering it. This is not to necessarily
say that the puppy is in any type of pain with the collar being around its
neck, but it's a foreign object to the pup.
It's just like a horse having a saddle put on or a bridle put on for the
first time. They get very upset about
it. They have to learn that if they walk
with you, it will be O.K. instead of pulling away from you, which makes matters
worse. It is always instinctive for the
animals to pull away from what is giving it the unpleasant feeling.
Remember. Now you’re sitting in puppy class. Oh, yes, waiting for the instructor to come in. You have your leash and your collar and there are puppies running around by your side. Maybe it piddled or maybe it didn't. And you see the other puppies and they’re playing. Some are giving a little growl, some are climbing around, some owners are holding their puppies in their lap, and some are sitting on the floor, all chit-chatting.
In most classes, you are either sitting on the floor or in chairs. The instructor walks in and introduces herself. She has an assistant, who she also introduces. They usually have a grown dog with them. Not a puppy. Oh, yah, remember this too: as you go through your classes, you are going to be watching this grown dog. They are going to be using this dog as a demo dog, to show you how to sit your dog, and all the different commands you are going to learn. Keep in mind that this is a grown dog. This dog has been through a lot of training classes. This dog is owned by an instructor of training classes. Don't think your dog is going to be like this dog at the end of the eight or ten week course. It doesn't work that way.
Instructors bring their dogs out to show owners that, with the work and dedication, this is what you can get. It just doesn't come in eight weeks. So, don't get upset by this. Don't say, "Oh, God, I wish my dog was like that". With time and effort, it will be.
Now you are sitting there. The instructor gets up and starts telling you they want you to use a leather or nylon collar for puppies. Most classes do not ask for “choke chains” until the end of the sessions, as puppies’ necks are too delicate until they are a bit older. Then they will also tell you to get a six foot (6') leather leash. You will be sitting there looking at your really bright nylon leash and going, "hmmmmm."
Let's put it this way, by the time this first class ends, you'll probably have to re-buy much of your equipment, unless you already bought leather leashes, collars, and things like that. You'll be surprised at how much equipment goes with training your puppy. Then the instructor will go on to tell you everything you will begin to learn in the next so many weeks of class. Any you be like, "Wow!!" Some places hand out homework sheets or study sheets so that you can go over everything that you learned in class.
Most classes will also give you a session on the different types of grooming, utensils you could use, nail cutting, ear cleaning, and different things like that. They might cover nutrition, shots, what you should and shouldn't do, vets, and many different topics. After they get done with this lecture, then you'll gather around and start doing one or two exercises.
Well, this is where it gets interesting folks, because now, we have different size people with different size puppies. The instructor will probably ask you to get on the floor with your puppies and they will start showing you some of the things you are going to learn. Depending upon the type of classes that you have, or where you are taking your classes, you may learn puppy massage, or a test of dominance over your puppy to see if it submits to you or bites you, to see what you are dealing with. You'll learn to sit your dog; you'll learn to have your dog lie down--the down command. They will teach you how to stand your dog, teach you how to tell your dog to wait, stay, come when called, and how to walk by your side.
One thing you should always keep in mind though: this is an 8-week course. You will learn the basics. Unless you apply the basics you learn, the training will not work.
Remember to have fun and enjoy all this! Listen to what the instructor says. Ask questions if you need help. Don't be afraid, but go for it. Most puppy classes include some play time. This helps the puppy learn to socialize, to interact with other dogs, without being aggressive or over-excited. The timid ones come out of their shells and learn how to interact with other dogs and people. It also gives you a chance, the owner, to see your dog interact, learn what needs to be corrected, and learn what needs to be worked on.
Also, you get to compare your puppy to other people's puppies. Ha, ha we all do it! Go home and say, "You should have seen that lady with the big ...... It was just all over the place, no control. This one was growling at this, etc." So you have a good time at the class and you get to meet people too. People who are in the same situation you are: they have a new puppy too.
One of the first things the instructor will probably show you is how to sit your dog. Sitting a puppy is different from sitting a grown dog, because again, the puppy bones are soft and more pliable, and you don't want to put a lot of pressure on them. So, usually the instructor will have you get down on the floor by your puppy. Have the puppy stand by your side, and they'll have you slide your left arm behind the puppy under his rump into what would be considered the knee bisection of the puppies. While you do this, you will have your right hand either in the collar or at the chest and they will tell you to slide your left arm under the puppy to kind of bend the back legs.
Now, if you sit back and observe this, it actually looks like you’re trying to bend this puppy in half! And a puppy that normally has very collapsible legs, all of a sudden, has the most ridged set of legs you could ever imagine. They don't bend. I have seen people with the tiniest of puppies trying to bend their puppy and it just won't give. It is amazing how strong these little legs can become and how frustrating it can be as you are trying to bend this puppy into a sitting position. Our instincts want us to put our hands over their hind ends and push down, but we've learned that this can damage the hip sections so we try not to do that. But, trust me. You'll go home; you'll try this folding method, get very aggravated and probably end up pushing the dog down anyway. But, try to stay with the folding method, because it does work.
With all those folding, you also have to be coordinated enough to say the word, "Sit". Actually, you usually start with the dog’s name, "Fido, sit" (command), then collapse the dog. Then tell that little dog: you’re a good boy or you’re a good girl--good job!
Praise is a big deal. Let's let them know they are doing the right thing. After we practice the sit for a while, an instructor will come over to help you out, demonstrate the command, and show you exactly what to do. And it is really quite funny to watch the people with the bigger dogs. They're usually struggling because the dog wants to lick them in the face, give them paw, possibly piddle, and get scared. Sometimes every time you put your arm around the dog, it goes to turn around. It won't stand up, it won't sit down. It collapses on the floor; legs become boards. It does get to be quite funny. And frustrating. But stay with it. Keep practicing. Then we'll move on to the next step. But remember, puppies are fun.
The next step in training is usually the down command. Not lay down, but down! As you proceed on with training you will notice that the commands that are given to the dog are one word commands. There are easier and straight-forward for the dog to understand. They hear the same command, "Rover, sit", "Rover, down", "Rover, come". Very simple. Not "Rover get over here, Rover sit down, Rover lay down, get off". One word commands.
The down command is where we teach our dog to lay down in a prone position on the floor. All four legs are under the dog.
To put a dog in the down position, you are first asked to sit your dog. So you will go through the procedure of sitting your dog. Once the dog is sitting (hopefully, still--don’t count on it though), you will be told to reach over your dog with your left hand to its left front leg and then reach with your right hand to its right front leg, grasping both legs slowly, lift and pull forward.
Now, can you imagine this? Hear you are, you’re sitting with your puppy, trying to keep it still in a sitting position, and you lean over it, and grab its paw. The first thing the puppy thinks is, "Hey, that’s mine, give it back" and a lot of them will go to chew on your hand, nibble at it, some of them will turn and just lick you in the face, some will pull away or jump up. You will have to re-sit your dog, and then try it again. Put your hand on the left leg, dog jumps up again. Sit the dog again. Repeat as often as it takes to get that dog in that position.
As you slowly glide the front legs outward, you say the dog’s name and "down". And when we get the dog into a down position whether, it is with its belly flat on the ground or its side flat on the ground--as long as it is some type of a down position. You tell the pup, "good, down. Good boy". You have now succeeded in getting the dog down. You just hold it down gently because the dog will undoubtedly attempt to pop up again. You just put it back down again and say, "down" one more time.
As we go through training classes, these exercises are repeated throughout. You will repeat the exercises usually five times in a row to get the hang of it, and practice. If you have trouble, an instructor will often come over to help you one-on-one. Or one of the instructors’ favorite tricks is to come up to the person who is having the most trouble in the class and taking their dog and showing the entire class how to do this. The struggling dog owner will watch with total embarrassment, because that instructor can get a dog to do the commands with no problem. But remember, they are experts and they LOVE doing this to people! At least once during a class they will borrow somebody’s dog to show them how to do the exercise.
When you are confident in what you are doing, you know the procedure, it’s very easy to have any dog follow because the dog can feel your confidence and therefore, they listen. You are unsure of yourself as you’re training your puppy, so the puppy becomes a little unsure of itself. Naturally it doesn’t know at first what you want and you’re trying to teach the dog, but you just learned it to. So it does make for some awkward moments. But, all in good time, it will come. The dog will understand, and you’ll get confident. It will work out great. Just remember, keep practicing!
Down is probably one of the hardest commands the dog learns because it does not want to go down when you want it to. Dogs want to lay down only when they want to. The only thing we have to remember in this whole episode: we train to sit and we train to down. Try to refrain from saying sit down because the dog is going to look at you going "well, what is it you want? A sit, down, something in between"? You might find it with its butt up in the air and its front end down. Half in between, sitting down. So that’s why you always want to be very careful with your commands and make them one word commands.
Stand is another command that is very commonly taught within puppy class. It is very useful. If you want to teach your dog to stand so that you can brush it, trim its nails, wipe its feet, and different things like that.
Considering we had the last two exercises of sit, when the dog wouldn’t bend right; down when the dog kept springing up; stand-- this should be accomplished with minimal effort, right?
To your surprise, you will find out that as soon as you want this puppy to stand on all four feet at the same time, it refuses to do it. All of a sudden the legs start collapsing underneath it and the pup falls down. You find yourself holding your puppy up.
In the past exercises, you couldn’t get the dog to bend. Now you can’t get it to stay straight. It’s like somebody pulled the pins out of the legs and they just collapsed. There on the floor, they roll over, they play, and they’ll do anything but stand for you. And then if they do get up to stand, good luck if you do get them to stand in one place. I have watched some owners with their puppies go in complete circles on their knees as they are trying to hold their puppy in a stand position just so they keep standing. It is absolutely amazing on how far a puppy can start traveling when you want it to stand still.
Heeling is a method of trying to get your puppy to walk nicely on your left side without cutting in front of you, tripping you, tangling you up in the leash, and whatever else it might dream up.
This is a very interesting feat, considering the puppy does not really want to stay in one spot and if you have ever tried to teach a little one to stay on one side and walk in a straight line, this is a challenge. Most humans don’t walk in a straight line, much less a puppy.
The attempt will be to have your dog sitting on your left-hand side, stand up straight, take your first step with your left foot, and as you do this, say the dog’s name and "heel". This piece of exercise requires a lot of coordination on your part to remember which is your right and your left foot. Believe me that can be difficult at times.
When the puppy heels, it should move with you, then start walking. When you stop, you are supposed to bend quickly down, tuck the puppy into a sit position and say to the dog, "sit". This is the end of the heeling process. The dog should sit every time you stop.
Trying to get the puppy to sit at your side when you come to a halt after walking is a bit of an aerobic routine. You stop walking, you bend down quickly, sit that little puppy, stand up straight, and nine out of ten times when you first start this, you keep bending down to sit this puppy. If you have a good-size puppy, you don’t have to bend as far. But if you have a little bitsy puppy, you have to be right on that ground! So you figure after you get done doing this training exercise you have a better workout then most aerobic classes give you. But with practice, you know, it comes in a little bit easier each time.
When we start this heeling, we’re going in a straight line. Just wait until you try to make turns with your dog. It’s a trip, and I do mean a trip. People end up tripping on their own feet, the dog’s feet, the leashes, and each other. Of course you don’t want to step on your puppy, but you probably will at some point in time. Just tell the little one you’re sorry and continue on. Remember, your puppy will probably be bouncing around, jumping in front of you, jumping on you, jumping at the other puppies around it, and having a gay old time. Don’t lose your cool. Just keep at it and remember a puppy is like a little kid, it is so much fun to romp and play then try to be serious about things because we don’t know what serious is yet. "And I would much rather run around and play with those other ones running and your dragging the leash and I want to chew on that, I’m going to help you with it and maybe I don’t want to walk with you either, so I am just going to sit down and you drag me along.” It could be a real comical site. Just keep at it, don’t step on the little one we’ll get there. Onward and upward.
DID YOU DO? AND OTHER THINGS WE ASK OUR DOGS
We as humans tend to ask questions of inanimate objects and animals as if they should respond to us.
Can you imagine what the animal is thinking? You come in, and the dog just tore up a piece of paper or chewed on a piece of furniture, table leg, or something and you look at the dog and ask, "What did you do"? Here you’ve got this dog sitting there, looking at you, with this expression on his face, thinking basically what I did was "I took that piece of paper and I shook it, and it just fell apart. And then I just kept grabbing big pieces and they just kept falling into little pieces. That’s just what I did." Or the all so popular, "did you do that"? as you are pointing to a puddle on the floor or something torn again, or something out of place. Again, this dog is sitting there, looking at you going, "nope, nope, I didn’t do that, maybe it was somebody else. Maybe it was dad. Maybe it was the cats. It wasn’t me. No. It wasn’t me."
One of the all-time favorites is, you know again something happened and you say, "what were you thinking?" Here again, "We’ll I thought I would have some fun. I would pick this object up, shake it around, you know. Chew on it a bit, maybe it would be tasty. Whatever, I thought it would be a good time. Maybe chewing on the leg wasn’t as tasty as I thought it would be, but tearing that shoe apart or chewing on the blanket or ripping up a piece of paper, well, that was a lot of fun. Yah, I had a lot of fun doing that. Yep, had a lot of fun doing that. I think maybe I’ll do it again later." It is amazing.
We ask these questions, what could our animals be thinking? There is a lot of times after our dogs just piddled on the floor, took a dump, we say to them, "Why didn’t you let me know"? And there standing there going, "I tried. I really tried. You weren’t paying attention, you know. I was looking at the door and standing at the door, and you weren’t coming out of the other room. I really did try to let you know! And, well, things took over, and this is what happens. So, don’t get mad at me. I did try to let you know." Next time, talk to your animal, watch it. Watch its expression. Look at its face and see the reaction from what you’re saying. You might be able to read into what the puppy is thinking after all.
They give you such interesting looks. A lot of people will say, "They know when they did wrong! I come in ‘what did you do?’ you know, and right away they have that look on their face." Well, let’s think about this. Wouldn’t you have the same look on your face if somebody came in with a real deep voice, kind of yelling maybe, saying, "what did you do?". Wouldn’t you have that kind of look on your face too? I don’t think that’s a guilty look. I think that more like, "Oh, my god, she’s at it again. She’s going to yell. Maybe if I just look pathetic, she’ll leave me alone.”
Dogs get to know your moods. They know as soon as you are upset just by your body movement. Watch what happens when you yell at them or something. Better take off. Man, they’re out of there. They’re not stupid. They’re not going to hang around. And how many of us make the mistake to call your dog to you, to yell at it? Yah, "Rover, come here. Yell, yell, yell". They come over and then you yell at them. Or you shake them or whatever. After you do this a couple of times, you know the dog stops coming to you. And then you say, "You know, my dog doesn’t come when I call. I don’t understand it". Well, after you have yelled at the dog a couple of times when it comes, it turns out to be a bad experience.
So, maybe we kind of don’t want to yell when we call our dogs. I know, it can be a real effort to get up and go to the dog and yell at it or correct it for the bad behavior, instead of the dog coming to you. It’s the lazy side of human nature, I suppose. But, that’s one way you will get the dogs to come to you when you really want them to come. The more you yell at them for coming, the less they are going to do it. So, exert a little exercise. Go to the dog and correct them.
Watch the expressions on the dog’s face. If you really get in tune to your animal, you are going to know when it wants to go outside, and when it’s even thinking about doing something. My all-time favorite is, I will be sitting there, talking to somebody or even just walking with my dog, then all of a sudden I will sense they are going to try to do something, look at somebody the wrong way, growl, pick up their leg, and I’ll turn around and say, "don’t think about it!" and then we continue doing whatever it is we’re doing and all is happy.
Usually the person I’m with at that time says, "don’t think about what"? I tell them the dog was thinking about doing such or such. "How did you know?" Again, I know my dog’s body language. It helps a great deal. Get used to talking to your dog, from puppyhood on. As you’re going through your different routines and exercises you learned in classes, talk to the pup. It is amazing, how much a dog really does understand and how much it will pick up. And it is a lot of fun too, because dogs really start responding to you. In return, you become attuned to what they’re thinking.
Remember, when they’re sitting giving their slanted look of pity, they are probably thinking, "Oh, yes, here we go again. We’ll humor her. We’ll humor them. Just sit there like this and they’ll go away." And you know what? We usually do.
Through the course of training, as you go through your 8-10 weeks of class, you’ll be learning all your exercises, your sits, your downs, your stays, your stands, and your comes. As every week goes on, you be learning a new series of commands and learning how to tie them in together and learning how to move a little bit more and step away from your dog without it following you.
Let’s take a look at this point. When we’re doing these exercises, the instructor will tell you after you get done, praise the dog, tell him he’s good, whether we’re dealing with puppies or even grown dogs. We are being real serious: we’re sitting them, we’re putting them downwards, having them stand, or heel, come, whatever it is we’re doing. We’re being real serious about it. Then all of a sudden we go, "Yah, exercise finished, Yah", and we get the dog all riled up and they’re ready to go and play and two minutes later--boom, we’re back to being serious again.
Can you imagine what this has got to do to the dog’s mind? It’s like, "what do they want? First I’m being reprimanded. It’s real serious. And they get upset if I don’t do this right. I’m really working hard at this. I’m trying to stay with it. And then, they get all excited and happy and I start playing and then all of a sudden--boom, they want me to be serious again. I’d wish they would just make up their minds."
The one good point about all of this is that our dogs do tend to figure us out eventually. After a while, they do understand when we want them to be serious, playful, or just a little bit in between.
Most people want their dogs to walk nicely on their side and sit, stay, lie down, do some tricks. You know, a lot of things like that. So, a lot of people just go for one or two class sessions--puppy class and beginners to learn basics and get a little polished up. These folks don’t continue on for the sport of showing the dog. And that’s fine; there is nothing wrong with that. But what the funny part about this is, once we get done with the classes, we go home, and we still work with our dogs. Maybe. And when we use the commands of sit, stay, down, we forget some of our training and begin using a more conversational phrase like, "Rover, sit down. Rover, lay down." And if they jump up on the couch, "Rover, get down."
Well, do you know how confusing this gets for the dog? The down command is to lay flat on your stomach. Sit is one thing. When you tell a dog sit down, well, do you want sit, do you want down? Do you want something in between? He is not really quite sure what you want at this point. The dog gets this little mental picture of being half down, half sitting, half standing, and then they hear this, "stand up". "What is up? We don’t know up! Oh, up. That’s when my owner taps his leg and says up, boy, up, and I get to jump up. All right, that’s what they want. They want me to come up." And then, boom. You yell at them for jumping on you. "That’s not what I wanted". "You said stand up."
We taught our dogs certain words and in time, they learn to understand us and how we speak. I’m not saying that they understand the concept of our English language, but they do understand what we mean. They pick out the key words that they have learned.
So, for your dog’s mental stability, let’s try to keep tuned to our training classes and stay with the one-word we’ve learned until they have it down pat. Give the dog a break. Make its little life easier. And things will go a lot better for you.
There’s a time in most training courses when they will teach you how to train your dog not to snap food out of your hands, and not to be aggressive around its food. You should be able to take its food away from it, a bone, and a chew toy, whatever. This in important in case a dog has something in its mouth it shouldn’t have. And believe me, most times it has something in its mouth it shouldn’t have!
With this method, it is usually you will have a bone for your dog and the instructors will have you put the dog in a down position. They’ll tell you to give the dog a bone, let the dog start chewing on it and get into it and then take the bone away from the dog. If the dog goes to snap at you or growl at you, you say, "no, bad dog". And if the dog just gives up the bone good with no fight, you say, "good dog".
As we’re doing this, it is very, very frustrating for the dogs because we give them the bone. They start chewing it. I mean, they really enjoy this! Then we take it away. Then we give it back. Then we take it away. Then we give it back. Do you know how aggravating this must be? I’d get upset myself if someone kept taking my food away or whatever and giving it to me and taking it away, giving to me, taking it away, it’s like "make up your mind. What do you want? Do you want me to have this or not."
Usually after you do this exercise a couple of times, a lot of dogs just stop chewing on the bone and people go, "why is he not chewing on it?" Well, he knows you’re going to take it away again, so "what difference does it make? I may as well just wait until they’re playing their game." And so the confusion for the dog is, "can I have it or not? And, well, I don’t think I am going to take it because they’re just going to take it from me again, so I’ll just lay here and pretend I don’t see it even though I really want it.”
The puppy takes a little bit of understanding on your part and his part to get their urge to chew on things under control. Puppies want to put everything in your mouth, is just like a human baby does. Did you ever notice first thing, baby get’s something in his or her hand, where does it go? Right to the mouth! Puppies are in the same class.
Puppies again go through teething, too, and chewing on everything helps gets those baby teeth out and the adult teeth in. So we have to watch it. You don’t want them chewing on things they’re not supposed to, because it’s their territory, folks. Anything is game within their reach. I have known dogs to drink glasses of wine, eat safety pins, straight pins, pens and pencil sets, telephone cords, electrical cords, couches, chairs, you name it. Remote controls are a good one. How many times we leave these things on our coffee table, which is very accessible to the dog and, O.K., well it’s gone.
We just have to understand that dogs do not know any better. Until we have taught them and explained to them in their terms, then they’ll understand. I am not saying they are going to be perfect, because I don’t care how long you’ve had your dog, they’re going to do something every once and a while just to test you, and see if they could get away with something. Remind them at that point again, that is not accepted and we continue on with life.
Dog Training classes are a unique experience. They’re fun, they’re tiring, they’re aggravating, they’re enjoyable, and they’re sociable, embarrassing, humiliating, and rewarding. Everything rolled up into one.
Don’t lose your patience. Go with it, enjoy it. Don’t let the instructor bully you or embarrass you. Laugh it off, remember it’s a puppy. It has to learn. Don’t get all frustrated because the dog isn’t doing something that the instructor showed you to do and the puppy next to you is doing it. Each breed develops at its own rate, its own time. Some of the bigger breeds learn more quickly than the smaller breeds. Some slow down, take a break in between, forget that they’re suppose to be learning, forget what they’re learning.
Some go through the whole class and just like, whoa, they’re the excellent student. I mean just wonderful. And some don’t look like they’re ever going to make it. But, you know what? At the end of the eight weeks, you’ll be totally surprised at how your puppy was from when you walked in to where it is now. And if you honestly sit down and look at it, and you’ve done your job and your work with that puppy, you’ll be amazed and this is the point what makes it all worthwhile.
You go down the street and walk with your puppy and someone says, "Oh, what a nice puppy, what a well-behaved puppy." It is so nice and you can say, "yes, I trained him. I went to class with him. I’m proud of him." And that’s what you should be. Proud of your puppy.