Know Your Pooch
At times shock treatment is necessary
“My perfectly trained Bozo sneaks into the kitchen at night, overturns the garbage bin and messes up the place,” lamented my neighbour. I asked her: “Have you tried to use something to which your dog is averse?” “No never, I never thought of that”, she replied. Many dogs are averse to vinegar, some hate tabasco sauce while some hate the smell of aloe gel. Try and apply these items on the garbage bin one by one and go to sleep as usual. I am sure one of them will work! In older days I used kerosene and it worked very well to save the garbage bin, but now its availability is difficult, plus it is not a very safe item to be used in a kitchen.
But at times none of these work then one has to use slightly harsher methods. One of the less harsh methods is the use of inflated balloons. Suppose your dog scratches your door, the moment you leave him alone in the house. His nails can damage your mahogany door permanently. The easiest way is to tie balloons at a height where his nails reach. He will in all probability stop scratching the door the moment the first balloon bursts! Likewise you can tape balloons on the sides of your bed to deter him from climbing on to the bed. Of course many a dog lovers will not like to do so, because they prefer that their ‘baby’ sleeps with them. However, I am follower of the dictum ‘love your dog like a baby, but don’t make him your baby.’
A slightly more harsh measure is the use of a water pistol filled with a mixture of citronella oil and water. In case you catch him doing a mischief a sudden squirt on his face deters him from venturing further. But always remember two things. Firstly, you should catch him during the act and squirt at that moment followed by a sharp ‘NO’. Secondly, the moment he stops and sits down like a good boy, go to him with a pleasing smile, of course not carrying the pistol and reward him with praise. Next time even if you point the pistol at him he will stop immediately, but please do not forget to reward him, if he does so.
However, in case you are aware and start training your dog from day one and he learns that when you say NO, you mean it, he will never commit a mistake. If you follow a routine, you will find that your dog will adhere to the routine more than you. For example, I had trained my dogs, never to go out of the house without a leash. And their leashes were hung at a convenient spot near the door, they waited near that point for me to come and put on their leashes. One of Labrador retrievers was so innovative that she used to bring her leash in her mouth and prompt me to take her out. Likewise, she was trained not to eat without command. Sometimes I forgot to give the command because at that moment a telephone call distracted me. Those were the days when there was one fixed phone (landline) in the house and not in every pocket. And after about half an hour when she whimpered, I had to rush and ask her to eat. I felt bad for my negligence, but imagine the patience of the dog!
I have found that not every dog requires an aversive. However, some dogs that are by nature frisky, shy or obstinate do need some surprise treatment at time. However, one must remember that the same technique does not work in a similar manner on all individuals. Some dogs are not scared of balloons bursting. Instead they enjoy bursting them. There are some who may sniff at tabasco sauce film on the garbage bin and run away while other may just ignore and topple the bin. An aversive mildly unpleasant smell for one dog may be terrifying for the other. Therefore, one has to be cautious in its use. Once terrified a dog can be ruined for life!
A well tried aversive is a tin can filed with stones or an old bunch of keys works equally well. Suppose your dog has a habit of nipping the ankle of a guest while he is leaving. Keep this rattling tin can ready and throw it near the dog with a sharp NO. The sudden rattling noise will slightly deter him and then as it falls near him, he will certainly forget his target and sniff at the can and above that your NO will have the desired effect. Of course there are other ways too to tackle such problems. For example if your dog is trained to remain in his crate till the guest leaves, you don’t have to rattle anything. Likewise if he trained to stay in his crate at night, you won’t need to apply various sauces or foul smelling things on your garbage can.
Therefore a lot depends upon how much time you give to your dog from day one and how much you understand him. He understands you in his own way. For example, he knows that when my master sleeps he sleeps like a log and I can make merry with the garbage bin! But if he knows that you can appear anywhere any time, he will not commit a mistake.