10 Challenges in the work with a dog
Dozens of books have been written about training as well as hundreds of lances have been broken over this subject in virtual and real discussions. Actually most commonly both participants of such a dispute are right, simply dogs have different temperaments and therefore require different training approaches. I will tell you ten stories from my practical experience and each of them concerns one specific situation in the work with dogs. Nonetheless every single dog handler and lots of dog owners have to get into such situations from time to time. Of course you may never encounter all ten difficulties, but you will surely meet one or two of them during many years of life with your dog.
1. The dog with the delicate nervous system
There are countless instructions and recommendations as to how handle an aggressive or dominative dog. But what principles should the trainer apply in the work with the dog which has the weak nervous system? It’s quite natural that if such dogs are trained for military or police service, eventually they get harvested. But in case of a household and already beloved dog the owner wants to work exactly with it instead of searching for a substitute of his friend. What should he do in this situation?
Lately I have had yet another chance to meet such a dog and want to share my totally fresh impressions with you. First of all, the dog with the delicate nervous system requires a boost to self-esteem and confidence and it should feel itself comfortably in the places where it walks or lives. For example if fear makes the dog to urinate in the elevator, then bring it there more frequently, even you don’t need to go up, and feed and stroke your pet there. It’s advisable to perform this training in evenings when all your neighbours are already at home and you won’t prevent them from getting home by occupying the elevator. But you must make time for this task. The same method is equally effective in weaning the dog from having a horror of your car.
You have to train such a dog to be in the company of other people and near cars. At first it will create the greatest stress for the dog so it may take you up to half an hour to walk with it the short distance of just 300 meters long. If you notice that the dog feels deep stress, namely it’s quivering, putting its tail between the legs and squatting, then you should come to a stop, give it a break and let it make itself familiar with at least this place. Stroke it behind the ears, along its sides, belly and rub above its tail. These actions will help your dog to relax. And as soon as you see that it calms down a bit, you should keep on going. You have to repeat this procedure several times a week, then during the second week it’s necessary to increase the amount of such strolls to two, then to three with simultaneous reduction of expended time. Afterwards you should change directions and goals of the movement. It’s important that each exercise should never take more than 20 to 30 minutes otherwise the nervous system of your dog won’t be able to handle it. Later on it’s essential to give it a rest in some familiar place as well as to let it run off-leash.
At some point fear will make the dog to switch over to the aggressive mode and but you shouldn’t be afraid of such a reaction since it’s absolutely normal. Its nervous system is gradually overcoming the stress and the tension is looking for the way out. If you are able to shift its panic fear to aggression, it will become much easier to handle the situation. There are lots of books and articles about the ways of arresting canine aggression, including the materials on this subject on our forum.
2. The dog is too timid
Excessive cowardice and the fear which is induced by weakness of the nervous system are not the same things. In the first case the dog will squat, fall on its paws and literally urinate with fear, but in the second case it will become dangerous since fear can make it to snap if it decides that «i would rather bite this large and scary person than to wait for him to attack first». The dog thinks roughly this way if one can draw an analogy which is understandable for humans. Of course literally such thoughts don’t occur to your canine but this pretty accurately describes the logic of its actions.
On the one hand, it’s essential to show such a dog meaninglessness of aggressive actions by suppressing them. On the other hand, you should let it know that the «large and scary ones» don’t plan to attack. This situation is impossible to manage without the usage of large yet even-tempered dogs. You will have to find minimum several large dogs, both males and females, which can be brought to interact with the too apprehensive dog. So the dog will develop calm attitude to potentially dangerous objects and eventually its fear of them will lessen. But it’s important to watch closely that such a dog doesn’t become an instigator of conflicts otherwise even a very calm dog will respond to this aggression so all your efforts will be brought to nothing and additionally lead to injuries.
After you will manage to achieve calm reaction of the too timid dog to the presence of other animals, you should do the same thing with humans as well. You will need to invite several different people whose the dog doesn’t know to the canine park with only one purpose – to stroke the dog. The task of the owner is to suppress any possible aggression and make sure that the dog won’t object to being stroked without its muzzle and that it will accept treats from the guest. Since such dogs can’t be turned into guardians or watchers, this training is acceptable and sometimes it’s even necessary as it helps to form positive attitude of the dog to humans instead of excessive fear or aggressive defensive reaction. It should associate strange people with pleasant experience rather than with some negative emotions.
3. The grown-up dog can’t fully define its place in the pecking order
There are situations then the masters of the dog refuse for whatever reason to mold hierarchal behavior of its pet or they simply don’t know that it’s necessary. Lately I have had a chance to train the dog whose owner sincerely tried to form with her male so-called «equal relationship». As the result of such attitude, the average-sized dog began to perceive itself as the alpha in their domestic «pack» in spite of its non-dominative character and overall unwillingness to perform this role. And the owner faced with inexplicable and presumably unmotivated aggression of her dog towards other dogs.
Firstly it’s important to work necessary changes of the behavior of its owners both indoors and outdoors rather than with aggressive behavior of the dog itself. In particular it’s essential to rectify such frequent mistakes as feeding the dog before its owners eat themselves or allowing it to sleep on the bed or on easy-chairs (more detailed information on how to form hierarchical behavior can be found on our site and forum as well we in the articles of other writers). It takes much more time and efforts to shape hierarchical behavior in an adult dog than in a puppy since the dog will actively resist its dismissal from the role that has already become habitual. However without this work it’s impossible to correct the unwanted behavior that causes difficulties. And only as soon as you form proper hierarchy in your relationship with the animal, you can more effectively deal with the consequences, including undesirable aggression. At this point your actions will be more logical and understandable for your dog.
4. The sporting dog and emergence of the cat in the house
It’s a hard yet real task to buy a cat in the house with the pre-existing hunting dog that has already been in several hunting expeditions. Although at first the masters should oversee the animals very intently in order to avoid a tragedy. It’s advisable to adopt only a small kitten not older than a month, because as any animal, a sporting dog treats a baby animal differently. Baby animals smell noticeably differently than their parents so they remain unharmed. That’s why the small kitten won’t be instantly perceived by the hunting dog as a prey. Nonetheless as soon as it’s three to four months old, the situation may start to change and by the age of halve a year the kitten will be perceived as a grown-up specimen so the owners will have to give the dog to understand that it represents the pack member rather than the prey. Hold the kitten in your hands and stroke it as often as possible, it should sleep with you or on your worn clothing (for example, on your shirt or on the rug, under which you have previously sat). In a word it should always retain the smell of the dog’s owners which is untypical for the animal that is considered to be a prey.
5. How to adopt the adult dog in the family with a child
It’s always difficult to take home a grown-up dog and it’s especially troublesome in case of the family with kids. Often dog shelters refuse to give animals in such families but dogs still can be taken right off the street or from former owners, so such situations arise anyway. My own opinion is that such families shouldn’t face total rejection of the chance to take a dog from a dog shelter since oftentimes they become loving and considerate owners. Nonetheless this situation definitely requires much more attention and efforts than the vast majority of other cases.
You should introduce the adult dog to your child as soon as you arrive home. The dog should immediately understand that the child has already been living in this area for quite a while. It smells similarly to the grown-ups and they in turn carry its smells, for example, the parent’s embraces make it sufficiently perceptible for the dog. In the beginning it’s better to disallow your kid to feed the dog since it should be done by the grown-ups in order to teach the dog to regular habits. But after a while it’s on the contrary important to make sure that the child feeds it from time to time. It’s irrelevant whether it eats with you or not but it must eat before the dog so it won’t think that it can disobey the younger member of the family. It’s positively prohibited to feed the dog treats off your table, at least until you feel certain in its equability and the child grows up sufficiently.
6. The outdoor dog should be carried into the house
There are times when it’s necessary to take the outdoor dog into the house or city apartment. Grown-up children take their senile parents to the city or they pass away so the dog can no longer stay in the yard and it has to be conveyed to the city.
The hardest part in this case is to house train the dog. If the dog lived both in the yard and in the house, then it’s could be worse, in this case it’s essential to train it to hold back from urinating longer than it has already got used to. But if it was kept in the yard in the dog-house, then at first the dog won’t simply understand why it should want out in order to do its business but it can easily want out for no particular reason, to roam or run. You should arm yourself with patience and work with the adult dog as if it was a puppy, namely you should take it for a walk after each and every feeding, which should be performed several times a day. And as soon as the dog will get accustomed to come out into the street then you can cut back on the amount of feeding to normal two times a day.
7. How to master fear of heights in dogs, including grown-up ones
In contrast to cats, dogs stand out for inherent fear of heights; but if it’s referred to a puppy, then it’s frequent led by curiosity so it gets over fear much easier than an adult dog. But even the puppy should be trained gradually and carefully to the things that it sees as scary. In case of the grown-up dog it’s essential to make it to pause in the scary situation and at that very moment you should soothe it in order to achieve overall overcoming of fear or at least relative peace of mind, the absence of panic reactions. In prospect your training technique depends on what factors provoke fear but it should be performed by easy stages and in the same fashion as it happens with the puppy. It’s important to remember that the above-mentioned stressful method which is suitable for the grown-up dog and even improves the learning process is ineffective in the work with the puppy. In this case you can simply damage its nervous system. And it’s also crucial to use caution in the training of the adult dog in order to avoid overstepping the mark.
8. The training of the aggressive dog to the temporary guide or temporary home
Occasionally the owners have to ask someone to walk their dog, to leave it temporarily with their acquaintances or to ask them to come around and walk the dog. If the dog has gregarious and calm disposition, this won’t cause any problems but the aggressive dog with strong defensive instinct can react to such situation inadequately. So it should be purposely trained to a new person in the capacity of its temporary guide, dog walker and so to speak the Acting master.
You must introduce you dog to the person who will have to temporarily keep or walk it; otherwise he or she runs the risk of being bitten by your pet if it’s prone to demonstrate aggression and to actively guard its territory. It’s better to initiate the meeting in sufficient time in advance, roughly two weeks before the intended temporary handover. Initially you should familiarize your dog with this person during walking, the next time invite him or her to your home, then let him or her to feed the dog in front of you. Your guest should keep feeding the dog during the following visits up until your departure. Eventually you should walk the dog together with its future temporary owner. At first the master should walk the dog himself, but subsequently he should give the leash to the one with whom the dog will have to live. The next time this person should walk the dog himself and the owner only stands by and steps in with commands whenever necessary. As soon as that done, you can allow the person to walk with the dog himself. If it’s alright and the contact has been made, the dog will listen to him on the walk.
Important notice! You must by no means check this by calling the dog! Of course it will respond to your calling and run to you. But this, for one thing, will worsen the control of your substitute over the dog and, for another thing, can create a dangerous situation when the dog will accidently jump out on the road.
9. The correction of undesirable feeding behavior
At this stage I’m referring to the cases when it’s easier to kill than to break the dog of a habit to gather up food rather than to training the classical command «phew». There are times when one adopts the grown-up dog with impaired feeding behavior or the masters find it difficult to wean their dog from gathering up food. If the traditional methods which are described in guides on training don’t work then you can resort to cunning. For example, if the dog all the time gathers up food, you can beforehand strew around on its walking path tasty pieces that were stuffed with mustard or hot pepper from within. This trick is ill-suited for puppies since it may damage their taste buds, but in case of the adult dog it’s acceptable (if other methods proved to be ineffective). Many dogs that have found such treats have already put by the habit of gathering up mouth-watering bits of food outdoors. Although it’s worth to notice right away that this manipulation should be performed minimum several times in order to create the sturdy association.
The other tricky variant is to startle the dog every time it tries to gather something up. It’s better if this is done by a stranger rather than by you. But you can also combine both variants.
It’s absolutely useless to try to fight unwelcome feeding behavior by depriving the dog of its meal if it has already eaten something outdoors. They are incapable of making such a logical connection and the hungry dog of course has to put up with its position but it won’t change the situation for the better and may even have the boomerang effect.
10. The training of the dog to unusual or extreme ways of transportation
It sometimes happens that the dog has to be trained to a completely unfamiliar and extreme way of movement. For example, you need to go by air with your grown-up dog. If you don’t want the flight to become a serious test for you, your pet and the airplane staff, then you should made some essential preparations beforehand. The fact is that the most difficult part for the dog in the flight is that it appears to be greatly taken off the ground and dogs are prone to be afraid of heights. This factor in complete with the pressure change made the flight an extremely unpleasant experience for the animal. Of course in ordinary living conditions we can’t train it to the pressure change but we still can accustom the pet to heights as well as to the situation when its paws are above the ground. You should look for fire escape staircases on the side walls of houses (such buildings can be found in almost every city) so you can use them to mount to the first or second floor or even higher. Ordinary staircases on space for learning and training also suits for this task, at least initially or for small dogs. In this case your goal is to make sure that the dog feels itself peacefully on high. At first it step by step lifts to this height, then you can give it to eat and drink there and finally you should bring the rug from home and lay your pet down there. After your dog has several chances to rest on high, the flight will trouble it in a much lesser degree, especially if you put this familiar rug in the container for air transportation.