Know Your Pooch
Good Dogs Bad Owners part II
Actually the owners are not bad, they are generally ignorant. They believe that their dog is their baby and treat him like one. On the contrary, just watch a damn rear her puppies. She is gentle, yet very firm; she maintains a strict time schedule and plays with the pups, yet disciplines them if they cross the limits. And what does a human foster mom do? She pampers them, provides them the softest beds, feeds them the food which her own babies will have and seldom maintains a time schedule. In the matter of discipline she is so lax that even if the pup does a mistake she ignores it.
Gradually, the pup becomes an adult and then the complaints start pouring from the foster parent’s homes. ‘My puppy bites.’ ‘My puppy pees all over,’ ‘my puppy howls when left over,’ and like that the list goes on… Do you think a puppy doesn’t bite his damn? He does. But you may not have seen what a damn does at that moment. She knows it well that the puppies explore the world with their mouth. They often mouth her ear lobe or tail and then play bite. In beginning she tries to change her position. If that doesn’t work, she tries to lick and push away the pup. When that even doesn’t work, she gives a low growl and if the pup behaves she immediately licks him. But some puppies are naughty and they bite her again. But this time she doesn’t give a low growl, she gives a full-throated growl and even holds the pup by the scruff of the neck and pushes him away. Many puppies whimper and submit to her, she licks such puppies with lots of love. In short, if the pup behaves he gets licked as a reward and if he doesn’t he is shaken by the scruff of his neck. Puppies learn by reward and punishment. If an action is good and appreciated by the master the pup gets a reward, otherwise punished. But the punishment given by the bitch is not a corporal punishment; it is just a growl and followed by an immediate reward if the pup behaves well.
Likewise, you should try to understand why the pup is biting. If it is just an exploratory bite, he will be cured by a harsh ‘No’ followed by a reward of a tidbit if the pup behaves. But if the pup bites, because his new set of teeth are erupting then he may need a ‘chew stick’ or rather say a chewable toy to help him. The real problem comes when an adult dog starts attacking people and biting. This is generally due to two reasons. One is because dogs are territorial and if they think that their territory is under threat they attack. Secondly, dogs too have different personalities. Some are aggressive and dominant and others are shy and vicious. The shy and vicious ones are more of a problem. They need lots of socialisation and correction.
A shy dog will try to hide his tail between his hind legs and may often pee on seeing a stranger at the door. If the stranger comes nearer, the dog will escape, hide under something, bare his teeth if cajoled to come out and may bite the stranger’s ankle as he leaves the house. An even tempered dog will not do any such thing. Yes but he may bite or rather gnaw at other things. This could be due to boredom, infection in the gums or a bad habit developed during teething time, which was not corrected and has become a chronic bad habit. Therefore, if your dog is a biter correction is important. But after you have asked the dog to stop and he obeys then he must be rewarded immediately. Never try to correct the dog if you don’t have the time to reward it with a tidbit or with all the honey in your voice. A dam often rewards her pup with a caressing lick, which of course you cannot do!
Correcting a shy dog needs lots of efforts and may be an expert’s advice too. The best thing is to socialise such dog as a puppy. From early age shy dogs start showing their trait. Such dogs as they grow should be taken out gradually on a leash on the road. But before that they need to be trained to obey commands like come and stay. In addition, a shy dog needs to be treated very sympathetically and firmly. Generally shyness is inherited; hence it takes much longer than expected. I had a Minpin bitch named Chhotu. She was an absolute darling with the family. But even as a puppy she used to bare her teeth at the guests and slink under the sofa. It took me more than 14 months to cure her. I began to bring her with me on my lap. Since Minpins are toy breed one can easily carry them. But you cannot carry a 12 kg three months old Labrador puppy! I used to make her sit beside me on her mat and stroke her head, as I talked with the guest. The guests were instructed not to have an eye contact with her or try to talk with her. After about three months of continuous efforts, she began accepting tidbits from the guests from a distance. But after another three months she was not shy of them. It took much longer for her to accept the noise of the traffic on the road and barks of the strays.
Puppy peeing all over is a serious problem. If it is due to some infection the Vet can set it right. But if it is due to behavioural problem then only the owner can set it right. A puppy that receives the guests at the door, wagging his tail and as the guest approaches closer, the pup sticks to the ground and makes a small puddle there. This is actually a remnant of a wild trait. Peeing among dogs is not only a biological necessity but a social requirement too. A puppy peeing when approached or touched by a stranger means an abject surrender, because as per their social custom another dog can learn the pup’s physical condition, sex etc. through the odour of his urine only. By surrendering the pup tries to convey that I am too weak to stand against you, do whatever you wish to do with me! Such puppies should be best ignored by the guest the problem gets cured with age. Too much of cuddling at that stage aggravates the problem.
An adult dog or a bitch may pee all over sometime to show his or her territory or indicate her sexuality. A watchful owner can correct such dogs and reward as well and the problem is taken care of. Best way to stick to a particular time schedule for the dog’s food. After every meal tie the dog till he or she begins to whimper. Take him out; if he does his work praise him a lot. If he doesn’t do anything, bring him back home and tie him again. Repeat till he understands that he will get the reward of praise only if he pees outside. If you are rearing a dog, then be prepared to spend lot of time observing your dog. If you observe his habits, his expressions you will learn a lot. A knowledgeable owner can never be a bad owner!