Know Your Pooch
Make confinement a pleasure
As I write this, a neighbour’s dog is howling. His masters have gone out for some urgent work. They took all the precautions before acquiring a pet for an apartment living. They brought a Dachshund. It is a lovely breed for a small apartment. However, every breed has its own problems too. Plus every dog has his own psyche.
Let me elaborate. Dachshunds as a breed are highly possessive. They love to be cuddled and want to remain with the people all the time. All the dogs have a territorial instinct, which is linked with their possessive nature. In addition as I have oft repeated a dog is a pack animal and doesn’t want to be left alone. Imagine in wilderness, if a member of the pack is lost somewhere or left alone will feel highly insecure. He is a hunter by instinct. But in wild even a hunter is hunted upon. Jackals are cunning and don’t spare any animal with flesh. Left alone and when he is not able to find his way back to his pack, he has no option but to raise his head skywards and howl like the wolves who raised Mogli (Jungle Book)!
These instincts are carried forward. You may treat your pooch as your baby, clothe him with the costliest jackets, you may allow him to share your quilt or even eat with your fingers only, but in the heart of heart he is an animal and carries his wild instincts permanently. Mind you we too are animals, but with a much evolved brain. That is how we are able to discern between the animal and the human instincts.
The pack instinct tells him that he is safe as long as he is with the pack. When left alone at home, he first tries to search the other members and the leader; when he finds none, he begins to get worried. First he just whimpers, and then he sniffs underneath the main entrance. On finding no trace of the masters he begins to whimper aloud. And finally after having hurt his toe nails by scratching the door, he sits near the door and begins to howl. Some people in the high rise apartments leave a balcony door open for the dog, just as my neighbours did today. When howling at the door doesn’t work, he goes to the balcony and howls to his heart’s content. The owner, innocently says, ‘he cannot live without us even for a moment.’ They feel pride in saying that! However, what people do not realise that he actually feels insecure being left alone, he howls to give his location to his pack.
Yet another problem comes when the master has to tie his/ her dog, either to save a visitor’s trousers from his paws or just to keep the dog at one place, while the family is relaxing in the Sun. In other words due to some or other reason it becomes necessary to tie the dog. If not trained the dog will resent the bondage and he will try to jerk free. If not possible, he will whimper and then as usual howl.
Thus we see that we have two problems at hand. One, to ensure that the pooch remains quiet while we are away and second to ensure he sits and behaves when tied/kept in a crate. I will tackle the second problem first.
If you have just brought home a six to eight week old puppy, then it is very easy to teach the puppy to accept a collar and chain. Get a very light chain and a collar for the pup. For the first seven days, just hold the pup before serving him food. Place the food bowl in front of him, hold him and give the command ‘Bojo’ (or whatever the name be) ‘Stay.’ And count till five. Then repeat the procedure of name followed by the command ‘Eat.’ With each meal go on increasing the count by one and lo, in a week’s time your pup will learn the command ‘Stay.’ You will find that he not only stays but also anxiously looks at you for the command to ‘Eat.’
Now confidant that he has learnt the command, you can tie a collar around his neck and follow the routine of Stay and Eat. After he has finished his meal, remove the collar and keep it out of his reach. During the next meal, tie the collar a minute before and go on increasing this duration. He will accept the collar because it is followed by a meal. In addition, the meal also serves as a reward for the command ‘Stay.’ After seven days, it is time to add a chain to the collar. Hook up the chain on the collar and let the other end remain free. He will in any case wait patiently, because he will get food after this ritual. After three-four days, start tying the lose end of the chain on any object, like leg of a furniture or may be a hook on the wall! But yes at the time of giving the command to eat, just unhook the chain from the collar.
You dog may be of any breed. He may be just a stray adopted by you. The above procedure works on all and it is fool-proof. With a chain and collar a well-trained puppy can easily wait from 30 to 45 minutes. But for God’s sake never do the mistake of tying your dog with a choke chain. This chain is ideal for walking a dog or brief training sessions. But if you tie him with a choke chain, howsoever trained he may be, he can accidentally choke to death.
Problem comes when you have an adult dog and you have not taught him even the alphabets of training. In that situation, you will need a helper. Initially, the helper will hold the collar and dog will stay as usual for five seconds on your command. Thereafter, as you give the command to Eat, he will let go the collar. Unlike the puppy, an adult dog may take much longer to associate the command. But he will surely learn. Once he has learnt the command to ‘Stay’ and ‘Eat’ and with collar already in place, you start tying the other end of the chain. The procedure will remain the same, though it may be a test of your patience!
Once your pup or dog has learnt to remain quiet for 30 minutes when tied, he can gradually be tied for longer durations. But after each time he is untied and set free, he must be rewarded with a treat. Likewise, you may train your pooch to ‘Stay’ inside his crate with door shut and go out and ‘Eat’ on command. And soon you will find that your simple command of Bojo, Crate’ will ensure that he goes inside and waits patiently. Such training is essential to make your and his lives happier.
Leaving a dog alone and to train him for that needs a bit of drama. After having taught your dog to ‘Stay’ for 30 minutes or more, you may get ready, as you do for going out. Before leaving the house, just give him the command to ‘Stay’ and everyone should leave. You lock the door as usual. Go away for at least 100 meters. After 10 minutes return, unlock the door and profusely reward your doggy. However, in case the dog starts scratching the door or howling, the moment you leave, open the door and angrily ask him to ‘Stop.’ He will be shocked and become quiet. After a minute, open the door and praise him a lot. Again repeat the command and lock the door. No doubt it is cumbersome procedure, but at least your neighbours will be at peace!
Never tie your dog with a choke chain
(Picture curtsey, Rajeev Bhardwaj, Allahabad)