February 29, 2012

How to Make Your Dog Truly Happy - Some Simple but Vital Information

Our new dog Sammy
I began writing today's entry because we recently added another dog to our 2-dog and 3-cat household. The latest addition was rescued from the RSPCA and is a year old maltese with the most loving, gorgeous nature. 

The first couple of weeks proved interesting as the dogs struggled to find their place in the pack. At first our second dog was jealous of the new intruder but the two have now developed a lovely friendship and enjoy a good tussle several times a day. 

Initially our second dog was very keen to show the new dog that it was superior to it, but a few weeks down the track, the two now accept an almost even level within the dog hierarchy. This was demonstrated recently when the two walked through the door together at the same time.

How to Make Your Dog Truly Happy - Some Simple but Vital Information

Contrary to popular belief, cats do not think they are superior to human beings - they accept that they are simply different. When God created the original dog species, they were instilled with a 'pack mentality' or instinct, ie the need to belong in a pack and to clearly know their place. This instinct has not changed much since then, though dogs now accept human beings and often other pets into their 'pack.' This pack instinct has to be followed for them to be truly happy.

Anyone that obtains a dog with the desire to treating them like a human being, or a cat etc is going to create  both an unhappy family and even more miserable dog. To make a dog happy it is the human being that must change their thinking and adjust their understanding - a dog cannot.

To make them happy you must actively seek to show a dog its place in your family. You must behave in a way that the dog understands and everyone in your home must adjust their behaviours for this to work.

Humans must always behave in a way that the dog sees as the right of its superior. For example, you can do this by ensuring that you always walk through the door first. If the dog rushes ahead of you or walks beside you, make the dog go back out through the door, and then allow them to follow after you. This will not make them feel bad or inferior - it will simply show them their place in the dog pack. Once a dog is reassured of its place and knows what is expected of them, they can relax. If they received mixed signals, it will only make the dog confused and unhappy.

Smiling Sammy

Training is essential - not just training of the dog, but training of the humans as well. The basic training a dog requires are: sit, stay, come, wait and heel. Once these are mastered, then you can focus on other techniques and tricks. Along with a simple voice command, also include a hand signal so that the dog can obey you if background noise blocks out the sound of your voice. All humans in the family must learn the same phrase and hand commands for consistency and be included in the training process.

Many times during its life, a dog will test its family members to see if it can become the lead dog in the pack. This is an instinct. You must firmly and consistently show the dog its place to reassure it that it still belongs.
What Else Should a Dog be Taught?

Genevieve as a pup
Have consistent meals times and feed your dog several times a day

In the morning I let the dogs out for their toilet time, saying 'pee pee' as I open the door. After that, I then give them a small meal of biscuits to start their day. In fact my dogs wait for my signal of "Ok" before they are allowed to start eating.

My pets (both dogs and cats) know that the evening meal is at 6pm. Around 5.30pm they hang around me like a pack of vultures in anticipation of their food.

During the first year of its life, you should give your pup several small meals a day, slowly cutting that back to 2 or 3 meals a day by the time a dog is a year old.

I always feed my pets food that has no artificial flavouring or colouring as it often reduces or stops allergic reactions. More expensive food doesn't necessarily mean that it is superior food. Sometimes the costs for producing the more expensive products stems from its expensive advertising rather than a higher quality of ingredients.

Regular play time is essential

Play with your dog at least once a day. If you are too busy to play, then don't get a dog. Get a fish or a photo of a fish.

Buy good quality, durable toys for your dog as they will last for longer and your dog is less likely to choke on pieces that it chews off. Make sure that the toy is a right fit for your dog's mouth and is not likely to be swallowed.

Should I smack my dog?

Stanley the cat playing
with Genevieve

Smacking a dog often only confuses it because it would never happen in a dog pack in real life
Worse, it may make a dog trust you less.

Never allow a dog to nip or bite

It would be a HUGE mistake to allow a dog to believe it is acceptable to nip or bite. Oftentimes dogs start out nipping as a fun activity - it does this with its siblings and lower dogs in a dog pack. If allowed to continue, it can often lead to more serious and long-term biting. A dog must be taught to understand that ALL humans who come through the door are its superiors and it is never ok to nip or bite them.

One simple technique is to command the dog to sit BEFORE it bites, such as when visitors come to the door, then stand with your head over the dog. This is a signal to the dog that you are its superior.

It may be necessary to put the dog in another room when guests arrive and allow them time to settle down before letting them greet the new people. If the dog then still rushes out and nips at them, put a lead on the dog and gently but firmly constrain them so they are allowed to sniff and meet the guests, but don't allow them enough lead to be able to nip. Keep the dog beside you in a sitting position, and when you feel it is calm, give them a little lead so they can more properly meet your guests. It may be necessary for the guests to stand over the head or neck of your dog, so that the dog understands its place in the human family.

How do I stop my dog from barking?

A very good question because dogs bark for different reasons, such as excitement, boredom, for protection etc. Some dogs are simply yappier than others because it is in their nature. Smaller dogs tend to be yappier.

One answer is to make a room in your home, such as the laundry, the "bark room." When the dog starts barking, say "No!" firmly and then add "bark room." Then immediately put the dog in the bark room until it settles down. When you release the dog repeat "bark room" so that it remembers what it was put in there for. While it is separated from its pack, the dog feels unhappy. Consistently and regularly do this and the dog will learn that barking leads to separation from its beloved family.

Bark collars should be a last resort, but are sometimes necessary in particularly obsessive barkers. Before you try a bark collar, try a water spray bottle filled with water and a squirt of lemon juice. When the dog barks, say "No!" firmly while at the same time squirting it in the face. Instead of spraying the dog, you may choose to use a high frequency device.in its place.

Should I allow my dog on my bed or on my furniture?

Cute Genevieve
Some trainers would suggest that it isn't good to allow a dog on your bed. It really depends on your situation. If you have a dog that is continually pushing to be the head of the household, then never allow it on your bed. Give it a bed of its own in your room if you wish or in another room such as the laundry.

Only ever allow a dog onto your bed if it understands that you are the leader of the pack and that it is only allowed on there after you are already on the bed. Then you can give it permission to go up. The same is true for other furniture. Only allow a dog onto human furniture if you or a family member is there first and then ensure you give dog permission to come up.

Once I train a dog then I never have to worry about training again do I?

Training of a dog is essential during its entire life. It will remind the dog that you are its leader and reinforce the training that it already knows.

The first six months of a dog's life are an important time for its training. For the first few months, you should be training your dog for around ten minutes every day, several times a day if possible. Once the dog understands and remembers its training, you can start doing it less often. Decrease the training as the dog gets older but still regularly take the dog through its paces. My 12 year old dog still gets excited at the word 'training' as the old routines give it comfort and reassurance and she loves the praise she receives.

My dog is dumb and can't seem to learn anything - what do I do?

Excuse my bluntness, but often times this situation is caused by a dumb and inconsistent human being rather than a dumb dog. Get some good and simple dog training books out of your local library. First train yourself so that you understands how a dog thinks and then introduce the basic commands one at a time: 
sit, stay, come, wait and heel.
Teach the dog one command at a time until it begins to master it before introducing a new command. Praise the dog continually and ensure you have some nice treats on hand to reward it with.

One of the main reasons that a dog can't be trained is because the human being is not taking the time nor showing the required patience needed for training to succeed. If you don't have the time or the patience, then don't get a dog.

Some dogs take longer to train than others, but all dogs can be trained. The same cannot be said for all human beings!

How do I stop my dog from messing inside my house?

The reasons that a dog messes inside a home can be complex. It may simply need more training or is just too young to get it right every time. Some dogs take longer to housebreak than others (smaller dogs can take more than a year.) It may be that the dog is confused about its position in the family pack and needs firm training - and not disciplining.

Never hit a dog or rub its nose in its mess. You will confuse it, because this is not the behaviour that a dog would receive in a real dog pack. 

When the dog is new or young, take it outside every hour and repeat a phrase that you have chosen such as "pee pee" so your dog learns that "pee pee' means toilet time.Once the dog has completed its business, repeat your toileting phrase and praise the dog outrageously, while patting it. Also add in another phrase such as "Good girl/boy" which will be remembered by the dog as right phrase to aim for.

Can I praise my dog too much?
Scout playing dead

Usually not, but sometimes yes. Vary the tone of your voice so that the dog knows that an excited voice means 'really good,' and an ordinary voice means 'everything is ok.'

My dog is naughty --- how can I ...?

If you have a naughty dog, feel free to add in your question in the comments, section and I will be happy to respond. I cannot agree to answer all questions, because sometimes I do not know the full details of the situation in your household and what else may be influencing your dog.

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