This is a guide for educating a pup, a little creature still unknown, but after having completed the entire route, the both of you not only did get to know each other better, you also have formed a long-lasting relationship that will benefit both your physical and mental well-being.
First the different stages of life a dog is going through from birth to his physical adulthood, at about three years old, will be set out.
Next there is a description of the daily practice with your pup inside and outside your home, starting with an explanation of bench and house training important for dealing with your dog inside your home and followed by a number of exercises being trained by you with your puppy, in order for you and your puppy having a lot of fun with each other outside your home too.
At last some tips are offered to you for grooming your puppy, as a result of which a visit to the veterinarian will also become a pleasure.
Part 1 From pup to adult dog
1.1 The movements
To sleep and to eat, these are the puppy’s main functions during this period. He must be able to move so well that he can start drinking. To this end he has available various modes of movement which are present from birth onwards. Some of these movements are the abdominal position and the orientation what is front and back and the capability to crawl to both directions. The puppy is moving in small circles which somewhat will lead him to his starting point in case he might not meet his mother on the move. In addition to this he has a search urge in order to reach his goal fast. That is the puppy is waving his little head back and forth regularly from left to right. In this way he continuously gauge his environment and this waving in search is most of the time sufficient to get to a place of the mother body, because the bitch, lying on her side, is taking the greater seat of the nest.
1.2 The senses
A healthy pup is able to sense heat and his urge to crawl unto the source of this heat is fully developed. The most important heat source is his mother’s fur in which her nipples are located. As soon as the puppy reaches the fur, he presses his little nose from bottom to top in the coat and is pushing up the hairs until he has found the nipple. This ‘coat drilling’ is taken place with considerable intensity and power. The nude nipple is operating as a kind of ‘key stimulus’ that releases a so called hereditary coordinate, that is the puppy is including the nipple with its specially designed mouthpiece for this purpose. Than this touch works again as a key stimulus, causing to remove a blockage and to follow the ‘lick sucking’ which is so typical for the dog. This is a way of sucking in which the tongue is making massaging movements. Next the little animal is setting off with his hind legs against the ground in order to stay pressed close to the nipple and to punch powerful with his head against the mammary gland, so that the milk production is getting going. Also we can observe the ‘milk kicking’ in which the sucking puppies are pushing their front legs alternately against the nipples environment in order to massage vigorously the mammary glands.
Shortly after birth the puppy is able to smell. At the first sucking the mother’s smell image is being imprinted. An association between ‘suction satisfaction’ and ‘nipple scent’ is being established. The puppy’s sense of smell mainly determines its taste perception.
It is very important for his protection that he is withdrawing from certain unpleasant sensing and smelling things. Also his pain sensitivity is playing a main role in this matter. A puppy may endure a lot and his pain sensitivity is certainly not highly developed, however being picked up too roughly, he is not only trying to get away, but he is also letting his little voice be heard, which is serving as an emergency signal for the mother, as an expression tool for pain and reluctance and maybe also for dissatisfaction.
1.3 The transition period
During the transition of the first stage to that of a young dog the hearing and sight senses are awakening. There is no sharp line here. The American behavioral researcher J.P. Scott is speaking of a transitional stage between the neonatal and primary socialization period.
The first thing to be observed in this transition period is the opening of the eye lids. However there are strong fluctuations between different dogs. Some of them open their eyes already after nine days, others only after 19 days. In most cases this is taking place between the 12th and 15th day. At the beginning they can’t see yet, but one is able to distinguish a reflex of the pupils. The eyes, still pale blue, are moving without any coordination and the puppies are often looking oblique and they have an extremely stupid expression on their face. On the 21st day their vision has to be fully developed.
The puppy’s hearing also hasn’t been fully developed before the 21st day. Only from that moment on the pup is responding to sounds. We are being able to perceive this clearly, because his ears are moving and he is crawling or shying away from loud noises. Therefore we must be careful of scaring the pup by loud noises. Each new sound, a bang or a scream, can be very creepy for a pup, switching from the quietness to a world full of sounds.
The odorance too is fully coming to development during this period, which is already completed at the 16th to 18th day. The dog is a scented animal, so one can’t be surprised that the odorance is the first to be fully developed. The dog’s nose is telling him about its environment as much as men’s eye is doing with binoculars and magnifier. The dog’s hearing sense and its sense of sight, in doing so, are fulfilling a supported function.
The dog, preeminently being a scented animal, has an enormous need to be able to continue stimulating its amazing olfactory organ. That’s why he has to go out very often and visit different environments. Obviously he is needing physical exercise, however ‘mental exercise’ is equally important.
Up to now the puppies were only eating and sleeping, but during this third week they are showing an increasing need for movement. At first it is a hesitant start, they are walking purposeless around in the nest. Later on we can observe more and more movement: shaking back and forth the short little tail (from which one day will come the real wagging), hitting the little paws, little bite games with its fellow puppies and exploring each other browsing.
Everything is occurring at a slowed pace and it makes a funny and relaxed impression.
At the end of this third week for the first time we are being able to hear the little dogs growling and even barking. They are beginning to chew on everything that is loose and stuck, because at this moment the incisors have come through and also the milk corner teeth, still needle thin. Although they start to chew on little pieces of meat, they can’t really eat those. For this reason the mother vomits half pre-digested food, which the puppies eagerly lick. They are forcing her by a begging posture to vomit the food: again and again they are pushing against her mouth corner. Towards the end of the transition period this begging by pushing may be interpreted already as a social reaction: asking which results in giving. This indicates the young’s strong learning capacity, because already after they have been supplementary fed for the first time, they have learned that this behavior, pushing their noses against the mouth corner, is delivering something nice.
This specific behavior differs from the milk kicking and coat drilling both which have nothing to do with experience. By the way this begging by pushing might be nothing else than changing the coat drilling into a deliberate, led by experience, and perfectioned behavior. The begging with the parents, returning at the nest, is becoming a greeting and affection ritual, which at a later time too the pup is showing towards people, whom he is going to regard as congeners (see below at ‘primary socialization’). He wishes to give us too a little push against our mouth corner, but because our head is too high, there is nothing else for him but jumping against us in order to achieve his goal. The same thing can be said about the coat drilling. At a later point this behavior becomes the nose’s pushing against our hands.
2.1 The pup is leaving the nest
Leaving the nest for the first time, the pup enters a new phase of life, which approximately lasts until the end of the third month. The period of growth inside his mother’s womb in fact continued the first tree weeks in the secureness of the nest, be it under very different circumstances. However at this moment the pup is beginning to participate actively in ‘the struggle for existence’. Only now he is aware of the things around him. At the beginning of the fourth week one can observe a number of behaviors, which until now didn’t occur. At the same time the pup is learning a lot at an amazing tempo. During this period the life of the puppies is characterized by curiosity and eagerness in learning. They are exploring everything and everything they can get hold of they are trying to chew.
2.2 The congenital learning disposition
Through his groundbreaking work the behavioral scientist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt has shown to us that in an animal’s life a congenital learning disposition is playing an important role. Animals have a talent for learning things vital to life in a very quick and easy way. In most cases these specific talents complement the hereditary coordinates already present and are expanding their activities.
2.3 Distinction primary and secondary socialization
In modern literature the period between the moment the pup is leaving the nest for the first time and the end of the third month is called the socialization period. Its first part, approximately until the end of the seventh week, is clearly characterized by a learning phenomenon so typical, that one may regard this period as a separate phase. Many programmed learning talents, strongly bound to this phase, are playing an essential role in the learning process and they record what is learned for the rest of life. That which is not being learned during this phase, can’t never be caught up. The socialization hereafter operates more from the pup itself and from that moment on his kingpins, in teaching and demonstrating, mainly determine the pup’s learning.
That’s why scientists distinguish a separate primary or canine socialization (4th until 7th week) and a secondary socialization.
2.4 Relationship dog and man
During this primary socialization period the future relationship between dog and man is also being determined. The young ones, giving the opportunity concerning with our hands on a daily basis, are growing up to dogs wishing to be in contact with man. Not getting this opportunity enough, they are becoming ‘contact poor’ animals. If during this period we are taking completely away the opportunity for the pup to sniff us, there will not be any possibility for contact between animal and man in the future, even though we are still so busy with him. The best we can achieve is a certain kind of tameness. However behaving a little clumsy, we may make the dog a fear biter.
Seeing people on a daily basis and getting food out of people’s hands is not enough. The pup needs unconditional touching contact from humans, in which scent may be the most important. It is necessary that he is being caressed by several different people, only then he will regard all people as his kingpins in the future and be able to show to them the same behavior as to other dogs.
2.5 Primary socialization not a selective process
As demonstrated by the ethologist Fox, putting chihuahua puppies with a litter of kittens during the primary socialization period, this process is not very selective. Cats became kingpins of the chihuahuas and when later these were confronted with dogs of their own race, ‘normally’ growing up, they didn’t know how to behave in front of them. One might be acquainted with the experiments of Konrad Lorenz, imprinting some geese on dotted boots and other on striped ones. The one group were following exclusively a person wearing dotted boots, the other a person wearing striped ones. In this respect it is nice to mention that for instance in Abruzzo, a mountainous region in Italy, shepherds leave the pups of their Abruzzese mountain dogs amidst the sheep during the primary socialization period. As a result these dogs are almost exclusively imprinted on sheep, regarding them as their kingpins, in fact as their own pack.
Choice of food, traffic density, driving, crowds in the city, these are just a handful of situations the pup can be imprinted on during this period, regarding those in his later life as fully normal and responding to those in a ‘normal’ way.
3.1 The start of education
In nature we are able to observe the puppies’ world getting bigger and bigger, ever further they are leaving the nest. That is why this is the perfect moment for the pups to leave for their new owners. Now the pup must be involved in the human community and he needs learning to know its social conventions. He has to get his own social place within the pack, at his new owners, and has to learn social manners. In short the actual education is getting started.
In this period the pup’s learning ability has been optimally developed in such a way that he is able to learn several new behaviors easily making these its own. We must use this ability and departing from and taking into account his natural behavior, we can learn him those things which make him behave properly in a human environment.
3.2 Play and discipline
We take in our hand the learning playfully, however alternating this with disciplinary measures. We are following the natural pattern, as this is taking place within the pack, the father mainly being responsible for the pup’s education. In dealing with man the pup has to develop safety and self confidence; the necessary discipline needs therefore to be comprehensible for the animal. This is the case when the little one immediately declares his affection after being punished inevitably. Punishment has to be applied little, the pup needs to be very clear in what we are expecting from him and if we are punishing at all, this must occur immediately after the shown behavior. We only succeed in this, if we keep an eye on the pup at all times, such as the father male dog is doing. If not being capable of this, we put the pup in a place where he cannot violate any of the taboos necessary in human society.
Completed this period, the dog has been fully included in our pack and he ‘knows’ society’s basic social conventions. In part 2 ‘Behavior’ I discuss extensively how to realize this.
In nature each pack has its own ranking order which is hierarchically organized and in which each member takes a certain unique position, accompanied by privileges but also by duties. Each dog has by nature a tendency to strive for a position as high as possible within the pack. If possible he needs even more a clear position and we have to give him this clarity during this period. Only then there won’t arise any problems when the pup reaches adulthood.
We can observe our little dog increasingly pushing the boundaries of what is possible and is allowed. Using the arsenal of behaviors, discussed in part 2 Behavior, we tell our pup plainly where the boundaries are and so its place in the pack is becoming clear. Calmness, assertiveness, consistency and responsibility, these are the key concepts which should apply to us in this period. Those are exactly the features decorating a good leader of the pack.
The social conventions and its position within the pack once being clear, the pup can start his training that brings him to his task within the pack. Whatever task that may be, the owner obviously decides for himself, but one may well realize that our young dog is definitely needing a task. This way his life is getting more meaning, importance and content. We might think at hunting assistance, companionship in jogging, camping or longer mountain hikes. It doesn’t matter as much, as we offer him something more than the daily little walks around our house.
The seventh month can generally be characterized as the phase of adolescence. Slowly the dogs are passing to sexual maturity. Having taken in our hand adequately the pup’s education in the preceding months, probably we don’t notice anything of its adolescence. However having dropped some stitches, we are now being confronted with it and we will have to dot our i’s again. Naturally it depends on the dog’s character too.
From a month or seven onwards the little male dogs are starting to lift up their paws while urinating and the little females can become on heat. It is a sign of sexual maturity arriving.
At the end of the second year our dog is undergoing a final maturation, that will make him more steady, almost more worthy than before. Now he has finally become a fully grown personality.
Part 2 Everyday practice - the pup at home
We are driving home in the car with the puppy lying on our lap. Just having him picked up from the breeder, we are now his new pack leaders. In a moment we are coming home and life with a young dog is beginning.
What have we done so far to prepare for this? We are aware of the phases of life a pup is going through until reaching adulthood, as described in Part I above. If at all possible we have taken to us the theoretical background of a dog’s education too. So it’s okay with our knowledge. How to proceed with everyday practice now?
We have to prevent always that our pup can demonstrate unwanted behavior, that should be the starting point in dealing with the pup inside our home. So we must not give him any opportunity to do so. In fact we have to organize it in such a way that he is only showing wanted behavior that we can reward him for in order for him to repeat this, making it a habitual behavior that is very strong. We must our pup teach immediately that he has to lie on a fixed place at home. That is safe and clear for him as well as comfortable for us, because he can’t ‘stroll’ around and cause several problems that we have to respond to. We are going to lay him down in a bench, locating it in the living room on a place nice for him. Obviously he will not enter it by himself, we will have to seduce him, using a treat that he likes very much. We must always be careful not forcing but seducing him. It has to be his own choice. Lying in the bench he has to feel comfortable, only then he will repeat the specific behavior. In this way we are applying Skinner’s behavioral theory.
At first we let the door open, preventing however the pup to come out by itself, which is determined by us. Once our pup has entered the bench by itself, we are keeping him inside very shortly for the first time, next we take him out. Slowly we are going further, keeping him longer and longer inside the bench. At teaching the behavior ‘lying inside the bench’ we are applying the technique of ‘shaping’ too. It is crucial that each step in the learning process must be successful, we should not let the pup go wrong by wishing to go too fast.
Once becoming used to lie in a bench, the pup has been given a fixed place at home. A fixed place at home offers him a feeling of security and peace of mind. He doesn’t have to respond to all sort of things and as a result of this he is feeling like safe and comfortable. After some time (about one year or one and a half) you may replace the bench with a basket.
At the beginning each pup should be able to do its needs every two to three hours. The easiest way is to let him pee and poop close at home always in the same place if possible. Very soon he will only want to do his needs there, thus doing so we are teaching him a good habit. We should apply also the principle to avoid unwanted behavior at teaching a pup to be house-trained. Be careful he will not get the opportunity to pee or poop inside. Should this happen unexpectedly, do not punish him, it will not do anything good, it can even work counterproductive. A pup, not doing his needs outside due to distraction, even when one is very patient and has been giving him enough opportunity, probably will pee or poop after arriving home. One should be prepared for this and take the pup immediately outside again to the specific ‘peeing/pooping spot’, offering him the opportunity to do his needs. In the worst case scenario this should be repeated, because at all times one should avoid letting the pup peeing or pooping inside, and thus making a new, however unwanted behavior exist. All this implies that we should not losing sight of our pup indoors during the first period. Hence bench-training, as described above, is essential. Obviously the pup doesn’t like it yet to lie in the bench continuously. At times we are not ‘working’ with him indoors, it might be a good idea tying him around your waist with a thin line, in order for him to be near with you all the time.
A dog likes sleeping near his owners at nights, it offers him a sense of comfort and security and it connects with his natural behavior too, because in this way the pack stays together. Besides it benefits the house-training, after all we are easily be able letting him pee, sleeping near to us. One has to try at first, but one time a night mostly will be sufficient.
Teaching a good habit at once, that should be our motto! A pup, being trained from the beginning not to lead the walk and not to pull on the leash, will not do so in the future either. Indeed, he will not be able to do so! How to teach him this?
Let’s keep in mind that at all times we have to take the initiative, being pack leaders and higher in rank. So we are leading the walk and determine directions. The pup, being lower in rank, should watch us and should be paying attention continuously. In this way walking on the leash becomes an exercise in paying attention, not being a trick having to be perfectly executed by the pup. He doesn’t have to walk at our feet all the time and to look up to us. Paying attention to us is what matters, continuously he is watching us, he depends on us.
In doing so we are using a thin and light long line of about 6 meters. We start walking and observe how our pup responds to it. If he remains standing or he is going to sit, then we continue our walk, but we stand still before the line becomes taut. Now we turn around, and by making ourselves small we seduce the pup to get into motion. If he again remains standing or is going to sit we repeat this. After a while he really understands that he has to walk with us.
However there might be another possibility: he directly leads the walk, when we are getting into motion. At that point we stand still and observe how the pup is responding. If he stops, we turn around and are walking in the opposite direction. Each time he is leading the walk, we repeat this procedure.
If the pup doesn’t stop when we are standing still, but continues to walk, we turn around a little bit more abruptly and are walking in the opposite direction. He might get a little pull and this may scare him. Again we observe how he is responding to this. If he walks in our direction, we continue our walk smoothly without saying anything. If he is a bit more scared and is standing still or is going to sit, by making ourselves small we seduce him to get into motion. As soon as he is walking, we get up immediately and continue our walk.
It is crucial not to talk in any way during this exercise, only to use body language. We don’t need to reward him for following us, because we are connecting with a dog’s natural instinct, that is to follow a leader, a person taking responsibility and offering him protection and comfort.
These exercises in paying attention we don’t train them longer than ten minutes in a row, however we can repeat these about five or six times a day. Only when the puppy walks with us properly, we may walk a little further. Keep in mind that teaching good behavior is what counts and at all times we must prevent the pup learning bad behavior. Therefore the puppy’s daily schedule consists of letting him do his needs every two hours and afterwards training the exercises in paying attention. Walking with us on the leash, the pup always is paying attention to us and doesn’t take any initiative, but depends on our support and care, which will offer him clarity, security and peace.
At the learning of these behavioral actions we completely apply Pavlov’s and Skinner’s theories as described in ‘The dog’s education, theoretical backgrounds’.
First we are teaching the behavior without using any signal. We reinforce this behavior with food giving a signal, for instance a little word like ‘OK’, thus creating a conditioned reinforcement.
When the puppy quickly executes a behavioral act and in a proper way, a signal is being connected to it, for instance a little word whether or not accompanied by a nonverbal signal. We should pronounce this signal in a quiet and clear voice, just before the pup is actually executing the behavior. The right moment is very important, the signal should really enter the dog right before the behavior is occurring. Only in this way the dog associates the signal with the behavior. Next a positive reinforcement is given again. Being patient is crucial. Do not be convinced to fast the dog is ‘understanding’ the meaning of the signal and the association between the signal and the behavior has been made by him. We are testing this by pronouncing the signal only once and waiting for the dog’s response afterwards. Not showing the wanted behavior within a few seconds, he is being seduced or helped by us. In any case we should not repeat the signal, however tempting that may be. It simply means the connection between signal and behavior has not been established. This certainly won’t happen by repeating the signal, in fact in doing so we are making the signal less meaningful. We can only conclude that we should take a step back in the learning process.
Environment too has a great impact on behavior. We should choose a quiet environment when teaching our dog a behavioral act for the first time so he will not be distracted. One should choose the same environment every time. If the dog properly executes the behavior to be learned, this will not mean yet he masters this behavior everywhere. So we are changing the environment, but we should be conscious taking back a step in the learning process might be necessary. It also depends on our dog, we have to observe him well during the learning process in order to be able to estimate how strong his learning ability is.
When our dog controls the behavior in all kinds of different environments, we can make sure that this behavior remains intact by reinforcing him irregularly, meaning we do not reinforce him positively every time when he is demonstrating the wanted behavior, but every now and then and very irregularly. As a result the dog becomes addicted to, as it were, the reinforcer, just as we may become addicted to a slot machine rewarding us very rarely with the ringing of coins rolling off!
The last phase occurs the taught behavior becoming a habit. It is difficult determining when this happens, but when the time comes, he can’t do anything else but executing the wanted behavior at the given specific signal. Basically a reinforcement isn’t needed anymore. It suffices to reinforce him positively very occasionally. Having educated our dog in such a way that all wanted behavior has become a habit avoiding unwanted behavior to develop, both our dog and we are living actually together like a real pack filled with harmony.
We seduce the dog going to sit by slowly moving a treat backwards above his nose. The pup not going to sit by himself, is helped by us pushing down gently his rear body. When he finally sits, we reinforce this behavior by a treat giving a signal, for instance ‘OK’. In order to achieve a good result, it is crucial not to talk, this only will distract the pup from what it is all about, that is going to sit. We repeat this three or four times. After that we pick up the Paying attention exercises. Next we practice again the sitting several times.
The wanted behavior (to sit), once fast and easily executed, can be connected to a signal, for instance the word ‘SIT’. Just before the pup is going to sit, we pronounce this little word in a quiet, but clear voice. Next a positive reinforcement will follow. After a while when the dog is going to sit immediately after our signal ‘sit’ is given by us, the association has been established. Now we change the environment and observe our dog performing the wanted behavior there too. Possibly we need to take back a step in the learning process depending on our dog’s learning capacity. Finally we are applying the principle of irregular reinforcement, as discussed before, in order to keep the wanted behavior intact. Finally going to sit will become a habit and the dog can’t do anything else but automatically executing this behavior whenever the signal ‘SIT’ occurs.
Broadly speaking we are following the same approach as when teaching the dog going to sit. For the most puppies lying down is hard to learn. They really have to surrender themselves and to become quiet, which isn’t always easy. Therefore we should be aware of the learning process taking a lot of time and we should building it gradually, slowly and with a lot of patience.
At first the dog has to sit. Next we are seducing him to lie down, above all we are not going to force him. We keep a treat before his nose and are moving this slowly towards the ground between his legs. We keep it there until the dog lies down. Only then we should give him the treat. When the dog isn’t responding to this, but remains seated, we keep the treat even closer to his nose and are moving it very slowly towards the ground again. Being patient is crucial in this! Having succeeded in letting him lie down, we should repeat this just once. If the dog had trouble lying down, we should just leave it there, for it is very important finishing each training session with a successful experience. Continuing for too long may result in not achieving that successful experience anymore, having a negative impact on the learning process.
The wanted behavior (to lie down), once fast and easily executed, can be connected to a signal, for instance the word ‘DOWN’. We are following the same approach as for teaching the dog to sit, as described above. Once the dog has well known the association between the signal ‘DOWN’ and the actual lying down, we are changing the environment again and continue are training there. We must continue to reinforce the dog positively every time for a longer period of time, precisely because it is a behavior difficult to learn. The irregular reinforcement we have to keep it up too for a longer time, until the phase of habitual behavior has arrived.
Our dog, finally controlling the behavior lying down in all circumstances, can be taught to stay lying down until he is picked up by us. For this purpose we use both a verbal signal, ´STAY´, as a non verbal one, a stop sign directing our palm of hand towards the dog.
After the dog has lied down, we are giving him both signals at the same time and wait for a few seconds. We must observe our dog very well and respond alertly to signs indicating he is going to stand up. We should not let it get this far, we are ahead of him. After these few seconds he is getting a positive reinforcement. Next he is allowed to stand up, we walk a bit and repeat the exercise. As said before, we should not repeat this to often, at all times we finish the training session with a successful dog experience.
Now we are applying the principle of shaping by letting the dog lie down increasingly a little longer standing next to him. Only when he is able to lie down for quite some time, we can make a start with leaving him. Again we are applying shaping, literally step by step we build this up. At first one step away from the dog and back. We repeat this until this is always going well. Next two steps and back again, etcetera. If the dog stays lying down well, when we are away from him a good number of meters, we can make the exercise heavier by disappearing from the dog´s sight. To observe a dog having enough stimulus control, that is staying to lie down in all kinds of distractions, is another strengthening of the exercise. I once saw a Benedictine monk training a Great Sint Bernard Dog this kind of stimulus control by jumping up and down in front of him, the dog laying on the ground, even jumping over him!
Teaching a dog, separated from the leash, to come from afar at a specific given signal, might be the most difficult behavioral act to teach. It is for this reason that it is so difficult because the dog is in fact beyond our control and we have no possibilities for correcting his behavior at a distance. So we must follow a very precise path, in order to achieve eventually a successful final result. At all times we should prevent the dog learning a wrong habit as is the case with all the behavior to be learned. We mustn’t drift into a situation not having any influence on our dog, which means in fact not releasing him in situations or environments where it is necessary to call him to us once. We can safely state that all our efforts will have been in vain when the dog isn’t coming to us just once when being called!
We start the exercise in a quiet environment. Our puppy is on a long leash and may go his own way for a while. When he is paying attention to us, we are going to squat and seduce him to come to us, expressing little high sounds or using inviting body language, in any case a treat. Using the signal ’COME’ we should not do. Slowly we are pulling the line letting our puppy come to us. Arrived in front of us, he is being seduced going to sit and a positive reinforcement is given. The total behavior sequence doesn’t only consist of the actual coming but added to this is the sitting before us. This will be important later when we wish to lead the dog to the leash, him sitting quietly before us makes this a lot easier.
Having trained our puppy coming to us quickly and easy, we connect the signal ‘COME’ to this behavior, giving this signal immediately after the dog is on its way to us. After a while we are giving the signal ‘COME’ first and observe our puppy responding to it. When he is not taking immediate steps coming to us, the association has failed and we have to go back in the learning process. However responding to us quickly enough after a while and coming to us each time at the signal ‘COME’, our pup is to be trained with this exercise in a different environment.
For a very long time, maybe a year, our dog will have to be trained coming to us on the leash. We strengthen the exercise constantly by looking for more and more distractions, the most difficult exercise being the dog coming to us amidst other dogs. At the beginning we only might release our pup in an environment where he can’t escape and we not having to call him, but having enough time waiting for him coming to us by himself. Only controlling the exercise ‘COME’ up to the highest perfection under all circumstances, our dog might execute this exercise being set loose. We need to make sure the dog is always executing this exercise successfully, again applying to it the shaping technique.
Part 3 Grooming your pup
It is important your puppy quickly get used to be groomed and examined. In the near future he will be examined by the veterinarian and it gives comfort both to your dog as to the veterinarian this going pleasantly and smoothly.
Immediately after having your puppy at home, you can start this. Twice a day will be enough.
Put the puppy on a table and start stroking over his back. Next you look into his little ears and gently touch his flanks. Similarly you examine his little paws. Finally you look at his teeth by gently holding his head and pulling up a little his lips. Do not do this too long, a couple of minutes will be sufficient. Finish the grooming things still going well!
When the pup is shying away a little and appears to be somewhat frightened, you talk to him in a friendly way and put him at ease. Obviously you might use a treat or a conditioned positive reinforcement (see ‘Handling your dog’, page 5 and beyond ‘Learned behavior’). However when he is responding restlessly and is resisting somewhat, more resolute action will be needed. Keeping calm and quiet however remains of the utmost importance.
Your pup needs also to get used to its fur being groomed. Take a soft brush and gently stroke its fur. You should observe well the pup’s responding to this and adjust your own behavior accordingly. When he is responding frightened and timid, you put him at ease using a cheerful voice accompanied with a treat and/or a positive conditioned reinforcement. When he is resisting, you act more resolute using a voice more strong possibly accompanied with a conditioned negative reinforcement.
Finally you might let your pup lie down on his back by holding him first and next turning him on his back gently but decisively. This is a very important experience for the pup, because in this way you are demonstrating to him clearly your own high ranking position and at the same time your pup is learning to trust you unconditionally being in a very vulnerable position. You are stroking gently his belly and speaking friendly words to him as he is undergoing this peacefully. The following also applies, act more decisively in the face of resistance and unrest without getting restless or even angry yourself.
You have taken a young creature into your home letting it grow up in your life situation. This little living creature will become your house mate, a member of your pack, you will have a lot of fun and be satisfied with and who will benefit your physical and mental well-being!
It is a dog and it has a right to be treated as such. As seen before a dog possesses a great deal of the natural behavior of his ancestor the wolf. Let us be careful seeing and treating him as a human being, as a child, how tempting that may be. A dog’s brain is really functioning at a whole different level other than a human one. He is not aware of himself at all and he has no conscience that prevents him from feeling guilty about anything. Neither he loves us, although obviously he is demonstrating signs of affection towards us. However, love is such an abstract concept that a dog’s brain cannot comprehend.
So we must not impute attributes to a dog, that he does not possess, and is not be able to live up to. In doing so we are doing him wrong. A dog is a beautiful creature having a large variation in behavior, being able to adapt to many situations and to share his live with us. Therefore let us return keeping seeing and treating him as a dog!
Finally a remark. Educating a dog is also a matter of patience and long breath. There will be moments in which you are thinking it will lead to nothing. At other times you are convinced you have made it, because everything is going so well. After all it is just about ups and downs. Stay a pack leader in control, be at certain times an animal trainer applying the techniques from the learning theory, but above all keep your patience and persevere. In the end you will get a house mate very comfortable to live with. He will understand you as you will understand him, the both of you together becoming more happier creatures on this planet!
Who am I
Joep de Keyzer
- Licensed dog behavioral therapist
- Experienced teacher and coach
- Expert in the field of behavioral science and the dog’s natural behavior
Having become curious? Having any questions? Or like to make an appointment? Please contact me!
Dog behavioral Practice Lykeios
- Peeskesweg 2, 7041 CB 's Heerenberg
Vetenerian Clinic de Pijp
- Ceintuurbaan 199, 1074 CV Amsterdam