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Understanding what a dog is thinking and house training

What is a dog thinking? My be quantum mechanics or could it be simply regular food, warmth, companionship, safety, protection, sleep, defecate, sex, its position in the hierarchy of the pack and to do as little work as possible. I suppose not much different to us.

In the very early times dogs combined with our talents of the hunter gatherer were able to use the dogs agility, sense of smell and natural herding instincts to each others advantage. Man could kill and plan the best ways of obtaining the most regular supplies of food for all including the dogs. Man could make fire producing warmth and the added protection against wolves and other animals afraid of fire allowing a safer deeper sleep. Whilst our old brain still runs some of our basic instinctive responses, we have evolved beyond them whilst the dogs have not. To a major degree, we have forgotten how to communicate with the dog’s simplistic view on life. If I do this for you what is in it for me? It is possible to make a dog do almost anything by using pain as a teaching aid or food but it is far better to see a dog work because it enjoys what it is doing with its reward being in pleasing its handler and its obvious pleasure it receives in the mutual companionship. So strong can the bond become that the pain is so obvious in a dog whose’ owner has died.

First of all basics of a dog is its position within the pack hierarchy but how big is the pack and this is one of the most fundamental lessons a dog must learn to being sociable. The pack is infinity but all those that walk on two legs are ALWAYS higher in the hierarchy than any dog. If you teach the dog that just his family is the size of the pack then all those outside are another pack and aggression tendencies will form. Once such tendencies begin to show, the owners begin a protection regime to keep people at a distance and so producing a kill zone of your personal and property boundaries. As people require access to you, they see the dog and they display fear stances that make the dog feel bolder, so the dog is locked away or chained up and again producing resentment by the dog. So begins the subsequent training for a dangerous dog. The numbers of attacks that have followed this type of involuntary training are very common. Dogs will do one of three things freeze flee or fight to the sight of possible aggression. The number of times a small child waddling towards a dogs basket with full eye to eye contact with arms swinging in the air for balance has been miss-read by the dog as aggressive behaviour and having no where to go has attacked the child. Trying to understand the way a dog thinks helps us to speed up the training of dogs and correct any problems we find along the way. One common question has been why do dogs seem more aggressive on a lead than off. This goes back to the bitch protecting a bullied pup from the other pups. By lifting the pup up by the scruff of the neck creating a supportive tightness so, the pup with the aid of the bitch feels bolder and can now take on the world. Consequently, the tightness felt by pulling on the collar and close proximity of the handler gives the same feeling of support to the older aggressive dog.

When we start to train a dog or puppy there is one basic law that dogs will only do things that produce a pleasant consequence and will repeat these but to those that do not these will not be repeated. It is then up to us to teach with immediate praise and punishment. If you praise or punish even two seconds after the event is doomed to failure. (Thanks John)

If we look at the one exercise we, all have to teach a dog is house training. The bitch trains the puppy not to foul it bedding. That is fine but the puppy soon realise that to save standing in a puddle a carpet soaks it up just fine. We have to continue the training and teach the puppy the type of surface we want the puppy to use. If we look at the commonest scene and see if you recognise it. The puppy wakes up staggers about for a moment then usually over the carpet it lets flow as if it were attached the cold water supply. Up jumps this raging bull, fire flowing from the nostrils shouting Noooooooooooooooooooo and grabbing the pup still in full flow throws it through the open door to give the pup it first flying lesson. Yelp, yelp, and yelp so the landing needs improvement. The next time the pup wakes up and gets as far as the carpet and once flow has commenced thinks I have been here before and takes flight still in full flow being chased all round the house and again grabbed up and slung out the door again taking flying lesson number two. Yelp, yelp so the landing improving. Next time the pup wakes up it remembers and wonders off with legs squeezed together until it arrives at the back of the settee, and commences with the water works once again. If the sound of running water was not heard over the television the smell will probably start about half an hour later and the now sleeping pup is grabbed up again taking flying lesson number three. Yelp landing improved. We also have the incidence of a puddle found sometime later, the pup is once again grabbed, and for a nose so sensitive that it seems it can now detect cancer cells has this shoved into the mess. Having got the dog to dive outside every time it needs the loo it goes a little further with the dog doing its toilet now out in the garage on the path in the flowerbed or on the lawn and then probably booted out onto the street. Then the street becomes a no fowling zone so even here is wrong. This is the tried and tested method and it appears to work. What has the pup learned? It has learned that the house garden etc are a kill zone for this huge bull that charges like a steam train every time it needs the loo. Defiantly such behaviour will not get the owner onto the pups Christmas card list. The dog would have gained muscle control quite quickly and gone outside naturally but because of the mess the owners have simply retaliated with a show of anger. You can tell the dogs walking in the street that have had their noses rubbed in the excrement because as soon as they see any in the street they jump to one side in fear.

Initially puppies have little control over them selves but do not wish to foul their bed or home but when you have to go you have to go. Puppies if you feed food in one end then something comes out the other usually just a little latter. After feeding, your pup let them rest then take them for a walk and get into a regular routine. Puppies that have just woken up usually go almost immediately. Therefore, with this knowledge what are our aims for a clean dog? You can train to litter trays for dogs that stay in the house you can even train them to use the toilet and pull the chain. You can train them to only go in long grass wasteland or over drains. However, best of all you can train them to go on command. Most Police and competition dogs need this command for obvious reasons. I would not walk a dog round the town if I knew the dog had not relieved its self so I find a rough area and give the command. When complete I can take my dog into town. Dogs trained to use particular types of surface will indicate to the handler that they need to go and will hold on until the right surface is found. Most male dogs and particularly un-neutered dogs do try to save their urine for scent marking of their territory so this practice should be completely discouraged. If your dog does try then say no and pull the dog over a drain then let it relieve itself then give praise. It will grow out of this habit quite quickly. How many owners do you see suddenly come to a halt as a dog wee up a telegraph pole or tree. If allowed to continue there can be a problem if there is another dog that also claims the same territory so a conflict can arise and result in a fight. This is also an exercise in domination training that help the dog understand its place in the family.

So, be vigilant on the times the puppy needs the loo and having decided now on where you want your dog to go. When you believe they need to go take them outside or to rough ground over a useful drain over the litter try or over the outside toilet if you have one or if you’re brave try the ordinary house loo and wait. Tip running water somewhere does seem to make the waterworks start. Once the dog has commenced repeat the command clean or wee for whichever or any words you like and stick to them. Once finished give uncontrollable praise not just good dog in a monotone voice. Let the dog know unequivocally that you are over the moon with pleasure. Dog thinks I like this as it is comfortably relived and sees it has given you pleasure. It will opt for this next time. Soon you will find the dog nudging you can we do it again please because I like that. Eventually you can go to where ever, give the command and your dog will go and then receive praise. Shortly the praise will not be so over the top as the dog will begin to recognise that a simple smile and or touching is all that the dog requires to see it has pleased you. Remember dogs in the wild do not use words but body language. You can train older dogs to do this just use praise each time. A training aid here is to take some of your dogs’ excrement from your garden, take it, and leave it in an area where you want your dog to go. Also, do not let your dog see you cleaning (not ammonia products) up any mistakes, as some dogs will leave a mess to gain your attention.

When you are house-training your puppy getting angry serves no purpose. Use the No command but do not frighten the pup to death in the process. If you failed to catch the pup just accept you were just not quick enough and be more vigilant. As to how you want your dog go to the toilet is up to you the training is the same. I have used two commands here “wee” and “clean” but they are unimportant to body language signs. I use hand over fist for clean and praying hands for wee standing face onto the dogs. As you need to hold the dog initially, hand signs are impossible but later you can replace the word command for visual commands. Dogs can handle about 100 to 150 single word commands but can handle far more body language commands. It also looks good. I had thoughts of someone one day saying to me that he had just seen a big German Shepherd sat on my toilet reading the paper. To which my reply would be that I must teach him to bolt the door. You never know.

Next week I will look at training to walk without pulling.

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