Know Your Pooch
Good dog, Bad owner
Apologies for a rather terse title, but often dog parents create such situations that I find their pooches were perfect, while the parents squarely blame them. ‘My dog has become nuisance,’ cried an owner on phone the other day. He was very upset, because he had spent a fortune in importing his Yorkshire terrier (Yorkie). He complained that his dog barks incessantly, chews off his own bed and makes puddles all over the house and above all he said that the dog doesn’t allow to be groomed at all. Imagine, after having spent more than Rs one lakh, you land into all these problems! But I don’t blame the dog. In my opinion no dog is bad; it is the owners who are to be blamed.
Take for example, this friend, owner of the Yorkie. Had he asked me beforehand, I would have advised him to read about the breed whatever information he can lay hands on. He and his daughter attended a dog show somewhere, and there a Yorkie with his hair on the forehead tied with a ribbon won their hearts. The dog walked with his owner in the ring, was placed upon a table for the Judge to examine and he allowed the Judge to examine his teeth, even run his hands on his back and sides and feel him all over. They were so much impressed that they took the address of the breeder in Yorkshire and imported this puppy. Things were okay for about first two months. But the moment they tried to groom their pup, he began to growl and bare his teeth. One day, the owner forced the dog to accept the brush, the dog snapped in retaliation. By the time the puppy was five months old he started barking and by another month he was barking incessantly at the guests, till they left the house.
The pup had arrived in a beautiful crate with cozy bedding. One fine morning the owner noticed the torn mattress with polyester fibers almost choking the interior of the crate. He hurriedly took out the puppy, which was coughing badly, yet did not permit the master to clean his mouth. The family still tolerated the dog and soon it became a year old, bundle of mischief. The owner noticed that after the dog passed urine, a few drops of blood often dribbled. A vet was consulted, it was impossible to administer any medicine orally, hence the vet advised injectable medicines, for which the dog had to be pinned down and injected. The moment he was freed, he would charge at the nearest person like a lion. The bleeding stopped, but the dog started making puddles all over the house. Despite all bad habits, the dog had been house broken, yet he began piddling all over. At that stage the owner rang me. Actually he rang me to help him in disposing off the dog. I told him that was not my job; instead I made him mail me details of all the bad habits. This was to help me find out the root cause of the problem. In addition to the problems mentioned by the Yorkie owner there are many more bad habits like Jumping up, Begging for food, Whining, Digging, Counter or dining table Surfing, Leash Pulling and chasing.
The list of bad habits as you have read is pretty long. There are still more bad habits that have not been included in this list. I will try to explain their causes and cures, one by one. If need be, in more than one article. It is necessary to understand the problems, their causes and cures otherwise often the family pet, like the Yorkie becomes a headache. In addition, many people remain under the belief that nothing wrong with it, they are dogs and we can’t expect them to behave normally. This last phrase is true to some extent, but if we understand the causes of such behavior, we can at least try to find a cure. Here I would like to point out that majority of the dog owners consult a Vet for many of the behavioral problems. Nothing wrong with that but a Vet may have solution for curing a behavior due to dog’s physical ailment, but he may not know about the problems arising out of other reasons.
Some of the causes of bad behavior are
Some Breeds like dachshund were bred to hunt burrowing animals like badgers and skunks. To facilitate their requirement they have large and wide, spade-like paws, jet shaped body, pointed and long muzzle, deep chest, and loud and shrillbark. Therefore, if you intend to buy a Dachshund, you must understand certain characteristics of the breed. For example, it would be against the breed’s character not to dig up your manicured lawn. He is always searching for animals that live in burrows. Once inside the burrow, he can terrorize the inmate with his shrill, loud bark. He has a large chest to accommodate large lungs and heart space to help him dig fast. His long pointed muzzle with highly powerful nose helps him locate his prey. And in case the prey is powerful enough to retaliate, the lose skin on his body helps him to take a swift ‘U’ turn and rush out.
Dachshunds do make lovely pet, but it takes lots of effort to train them to perfection. Their long elongated bodies are such that their urinary bladder is always stressed. Thus, they find it very difficult for them to hold back. By the way the animals that live in burrows are very swift and agile. Hence a Dachshund to be one up has to be more agile and swift. That is why the lose skin and large, deep chest. And you bring home such a bundle of energy and expect your puppy to sit idle and snooze all the time!
When I got my first Dachshund bitch I was unaware about all these details. If you recall my initial article/s I have mentioned that your pet must have a place of his own to live. Keep him in a cage that can open frontwards and keep this cage in an enclosure. I had a cage and an enclosure ready before I got home the Dachshund pup Minty. She was barely ten weeks old then. After introducing her to the house and the folks living there I placed her in her cage. She was probably tired and fell off to sleep after a brief investigation of the enclosure. I was much relieved. In the dead of the night I was awakened by loud barks of Minty. I went and saw to my horror that she had climbed to the top of the three feet high wire mesh cage and was struggling to come down. I tried to pacify her but nothing worked. It was summer season and my lawn was quite safe. I placed her in the lawn and watched her sniff around, make a few puddles then sniff in the flower beds etc. I went off to sleep. To my horror my almost entire lawn had been dug up in the night and Minty was peacefully sleeping under a bush, her nose and paws were covered with mud.
Her genes had made her do that. It was all instinct deeply engrained after several hits and trials by the German breeders where the breed originated. The problem became acute when she started piddling all over the house, despite my best efforts to house train her and if left alone, she would dig up the lawn, flower beds or any patch of ‘Kutchcha’ land. Then I decided to read about the breed and learnt the hard way how to ‘cure’ a Dachshund. Much damage had been done by then. Likewise, Terriers too are meant to make loud noise to frighten away the prey for the hunter. Therefore, never expect your Terrier, even the tiny Yorkie to remain quiet for long. It is always better that you read about the breed you are interested to acquire as a pet or a show dog. But you might say, ‘what if I adopt a stray dog?’ Well in that case you have to wish that the stray has less of bad qualities and more of good qualities in his genes and hope for the best. But the method to cure will remain the same.
Today we read about a breed like Dachshund and a Yorkie. Mind you both the breeds are hyper and so are the tiny Chihuahua, Miniature Pincher and even the Spitz. Apart from the character of these breeds you must understand that smaller breeds tend to be noisy. One of the reasons for their being noisy is simple. Try to lie down flat on the ground on a busy pavement and raise your head to the level of a small breed dog’s head. See how the world appears. You will yourself feel like shouting, oh no, please save me from this forest of moving legs!’ Now let us try to understand cures for some bad habits. In the last issue too I had mentioned about constant barking as a big nuisance. Today let me share the cure for the habit of unnecessary barking. You have to watch like a hawk and observe when your pup/dog barks maximum. Does it bark out of imaginary fear, some sounds from the TV or due to children playing in the neighborhood or howling in a chorus with dogs howling in the street! If you know the reason it gives you a leverage to be prepared before he barks. The moment he barks, you have to go to him and look straight in to his eyes, menacingly, and pointing a finger say ‘No’ in a sharp, hissing command. If the pup/dog quietens, caress him, and praise him a lot. The next time he barks you repeat the same procedure. You may also offer a tidbit as a reward. Very soon the pup/dog will understand and stop barking. But mind you once you say No, you should mean No. Any half-hearted attempt is not going to help you. If you are preoccupied, forget about the training session of that hour.
It is only the patience and perseverance that pays. If you don’t have either, you better tolerate the din. Mind you a Yorkie may not improve cent percent. But constant repetition of correction and reward will make him to remain quiet at least as long as you are around. Behavioral correction is very interesting and if you succeed, nothing to beat it. We will read more about it in the next issue.