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You need to be very clear on the fact that your dog will primarily react to situations according to what his instincts/temperament tell him – unless these instincts are overridden by the constant training/conditioning and puppy and dog socialization he needs to receive throughout his life.
Nothing will help you in understanding your dog better than for you to keep in mind that he is a pack animal – ie: he needs an hierarchical system, and unless you establish yourself and the other humans in your home as dominant, your dog will quite happily assume this role for himself – much to the detriment of others in the family unit – with your children usually being the ones to bear the brunt of your dog’s misbehaviour.
We will be devoting an entire section to dog behavioural problems – and I have a lifetime’s experience of these – some were quite humorous – and others certainly were not! However, in this section we will be concentrating on how to ensure you have the best dog for your child. And the key to all of this – just as in bringing up children – is proper puppy and dog socialization and CONSISTENCY!
Leave No Room for Confusion!
Do not confuse your dog – you know how confusing instructions can be – especially if they are not in your own language? Well – just put yourself in your dog’s place!
You want your dog to KNOW what you mean – as intelligent as your dog is, she doesn’t actually “speak” your language! What she does do, is associate certain sounds, with certain tones of your voice, and she uses this, combined with your body language, to interpret exactly what you mean. Therefore, you should use specific words, with specific tones of voice, for specific situations – or else you will be making a difficult job even harder for your lovely canine friend.
For example, a command should be issued in a short, sharp, authoritative voice. Discipline should be expressed in a strong, gruff, controlled anger, sort of way. Praise should be administered in a happy, upbeat way and love – lots of it – should be shown in a soft, gentle, tactile way.
This is all part of puppy and dog socialization and clarifies everything for your dog, keeping your relationship nice and tidy! My dogs even know the difference between playful, “tousling the hair” kind of love and the gentle, one-on-one, “we’re making a connection here” kind of love – it’s a brilliant feeling!
Show Your Dog Who’s Boss!
One very important point to make here is that if you are starting off with a new puppy, start off just as you intend to go on. The sooner you implement the above advice and the sooner you start proper puppy and dog socialization – the sooner your dog will grasp the message – without picking up any bad habits which you will need to correct later.
In its natural situation, a puppy’s mother would not stand for any nonsense from her offspring – and a puppy will be subjected to frequent, sometimes fairly stern, disciplining from her. You are now puppy’s mum or dad – it’s your duty to take over this role and provide proper puppy and dog socialization to ensure a happy, well adjusted dog.
If you are the proud owner of an older dog – which thinks it is higher in your family structure than it should do – you have a battle on your hands! But don’t worry – providing you are committed to it – you can make a change by implementing proper puppy and dog socialization. You do, however, need to be very strong – and very committed.
This is where you start to make a difference:-
- Communicate with your dog in a clear, decisive way. Use the techniques described above. Teach your family to do the same. Enrol your dog – and your family! – in obedience training classes. However, do be sure to choose a good one, preferably one specific to your dog’s breed. Do remember, your dog will pick up bad habits just as quickly as she will learn new ones. In order to ensure proper puppy and dog socialization, first check the trainer and his or her credentials out thoroughly.
- Break the possessive cycle in connection with food, toys, etc. Your dog must easily tolerate his favourite toy or his food being taken away from him. If he becomes too possessive about a particular toy or object, take it away from him permanently. Many cases of dog attacks result from a child attempting to take away a dog’s favourite toy.
- It is pushing a dog to its limit to take his food away while he is eating and unless you are able to practice this with him from a tiny puppy, don’t try starting now unless you are very sure of your dog’s temperament. Our dogs just look at us very quizzically when we do this – you can see they’re wondering what in the world we’re up to! – but, because we have always ensured proper puppy and dog socialization, the thought of biting would not even cross their minds. However, if your dog is not accustomed to this, start with something fairly neutral – reward with lots of praise and treats – and gradually work your way up to the more important things. In other words, when starting puppy and dog socialization – pick your battles!
- Ensure every member of the family becomes involved with your dog’s training regime. Also ensure your dog is dependent on each one of you for one of his vital needs – ie: one person can take him out, you can feed him, other family members can give him his treats and all of you need to provide him with proper puppy and dog socialization. A dog who knows his place in the pack is a happy, well adjusted, secure dog.
- Puppy and dog socialization includes getting your dog accustomed to being around children as early as possible. Let him join in your children’s playtime, take him to parks and fairgrounds. Let him sit and watch a game in progress, gently walk him through kiddies coming home from school. If he is ok with it, let them gently stroke him. Do protect and look out for him at all times, though – you don’t want him taking a dislike to children because one of them has been silly with him.If, however, your dog is already nervous of children – keep him away from these situations and provide him with proper puppy and dog socialization in more controlled situations.
Changes won’t happen overnight – remember the CONSISTENCYwe spoke of earlier? Keep your new puppy and dog socialization regime going and you will begin to notice a difference fairly soon – it wont be easy – but it will certainly be worth it.
Insist on Respect
Proper puppy and dog socialization also meant teaching our dogs that they could not get away with pushing a child or taking something out of a child’s hand (soooo easy for a GSD to do!) No threatening behaviour was tolerated EVEN if it was justified. The dog was told off both by the adult in charge – and the child with the adult’s support. This established the correct pecking order in the dog’s mind.
In private, the children were also told off if they had given cause! We couldn’t help making a big fuss of our dogs later – because they can be really sensitive and take a scolding to heart.
My all time favourite German Shepherd, Cassie, wouldn’t “talk” to me for the best part of a day if I had hurt her dignity. An invitation to go for a long walk usually got me back into her good books though!
And now, our Scottish Terrier, Holly will give you deep, soulful looks from under her brow if she has been chastised – try keeping to your resolve faced with a sulking Scottie – it’s just the funniest thing ever.
Where to Draw The Line?
On a more serious note, however, your instincts will tell you whether your dog has just a bad attitude– or a genuinely bad nature. A bad attitude can be fixed – a genuinely bad natured dog is another matter – puppy and dog socialization just may not help. In this case, I would seek the help of a professional.
Your vet is a good place to start. He will check your pet out for any health issues which may be causing its problems. Castration in male dogs solves many, many problems – territory marking, aggression, hyperactivity and mounting everything in sight to name but a few!
A qualified dog trainer will also be able to help you and last but not least a dog therapist. Sometimes it is a habit which is so deep-seated, and which involves the entire family, that it cannot be seen by anyone within the existing circle. A trained, qualified professional will be able to put their finger on the right spot straight away and Bingo! – with a little bit of correction and some proper puppy and dog socialization, the problem is solved – and peace reigns in your family once more!
However, having exhausted all other avenues, you may seriously have to consider re-homing your dog. This is a painful, soul destroying road to have to go down – but one that has to be considered, especially if your child is at risk. We had to face just this kind of situation once – it was the hardest decision we have ever had to make.
If you do decide to go down this route – don’t beat yourself up about it. Do however, make it as constructive as possible for your dog. It really isn’t his fault – his temperament is the result of careless breeding – if anything, I would contact the person or people you got him from and let them know the consequences of their carelessness. Your dog probably needs very specialized handling – not something he can generally receive in his current role of family pet.
Also, think twice – no ten times, before you get another dog. Read all the information we have in these pages to help you choose a suitable dog. Learn all about providing proper puppy and dog socialization right from the very start. Making the same choices and mistakes as you did the first time will only result in the same situations arising again. Get your groundwork solid – you really don’t want to go through all the hassle and heartache again.
Dogs make such rewarding family pets – they are intelligent and loving, provide hours of companionship and fun – not to mention extreme excitement every time you walk in that front door – even if you have only been away for a few minutes!
They are well worth the commitment of providing proper puppy and dog socialization amongst other things, the expense and the heartache of finally losing them. Dogs are one of life’s big bonuses. This is what we have enjoyed for years – and this is what we want for you.