How to raise a companion dog?

A companion dog will always stay beside you and will want to interact with you. It doesn’t run away, looks intently in the eyes of its master and hangs on his each and every look. These dogs develop much deeper attachment to us than considerably more independent sporting dogs and have more companionable disposition than ever-vigilant service dogs. They thrive on human companionship, like meeting new people and learning new things.  Those canine lovers who want to bring up a companion dog will find following recommendations useful.

Companion dogs photo
Swedish Vallhund ©

Do you really want to have a companion dog?

In the first place you should decide if you seriously want to raise your dog as a companion. Naturally, it seems sweet from the side-lines but think hard if you are personally comfortable with incessant attention of your dog and its acute need for your presence and contact.  Are you ready to dedicate several hours every day to active interactions with your pet or would you rather prefer more distant relationships? Think it over properly before answering these questions since you adopt a dog for at least ten years of your life and for its entire life rather than for only one year. And the dog that has been raised as a companion animal will suffer from a separation anxiety if it lacks your attention. So than, do you still want to own a companion dog?  If your answer is yes, after all, than read on.

Choosing the breed

It’s possible to raise as a companion dog by no means all breeds. For example, Eskimo dogs are too inherently self-dependent and won’t suit for this role. Caucasian Ovcharkas are also bad candidates as they like spending most of their spare time in human company but have strong protective instinct, which may suddenly wake up even without any special training. It can cause very disagreeable situations.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Caucasian Shepherd Dog ©

So which breeds will be right for this role? Besides representatives of the FCI group 9 (international all-breed classification), which is called companion or toy dogs, traditionally Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are considered to be companion dogs.  Furthermore German Shepherds from modern bloodlines, Collies, and Bernese Mountain Dogs can become good companions. In short, such dogs should possess mild friendly temperament and moderate stamina but the breed’s characteristics shouldn’t include any form of defensive aggression or imply extensive grooming requirements. Once you choose the breed and the puppy from the suitable litter, you may initiate the training of your dog.

Bernese Mountain Dog photo
Bernese Mountain Dog ©

The upbringing of a companion dog

The training of your prospective companion should begin from its first days in the house and it’s recommended to adopt a young puppy, right after puppy assessment (when all vaccinations are done).

As soon as the puppy arrives at your house you should spend maximum time with it but there is more to it than that. A companion is the dog that is always willing to help you and wants to be involved in your activities. As your puppy grows older, quality time with it should be filled not only with games but with some meaningful tasks as well. The dog can fetch you sticks, slippers or perform other tricks. The more you engage your dog in interesting activities, train it and gain its obedience, the stronger your bonding with it will be.

In contrast to service dogs, it’s absolutely ok for canine companions to sleep with their masters.  Of course, it’s referred to the dog without well-developed dominative aggression but such a dog will never make a good companion. And if you choose a puppy correctly, sleeping in your bed won’t noticeably affect its behaviour. But it’s essential to stick to a proper feeding schedule – you should eat first and only then you should feed the dog. While you are eating, you may give your pet a few pieces of canine treats or your food if it is harmless for the dog. Such actions strengthen bonds between you and your puppy. Once again it’s unacceptable in the work with dominative dogs or with the dogs that are bred for more practical purposes. This concept is rather a common knowledge but the upbringing of a companion animal is a different story.

Companion dogs photo
Labrador Retriever ©

Once you begin taking your puppy for walks, make sure to visit as many various places as possible. Your future companion should get used to the thought that you can go anywhere rather than to habituate itself to one particular route. From time to time you should allow your dog to rest and give it some water, so gradually its stamina and readiness to outdoor exercises will grow. Before you know it, your one or two-years-old dog will lie waiting for you and politely hurry you up in anticipation of a stroll. At the same time your pet will never run away from you.

While on a walk make sure that the puppy follows your commands and keeps walking beside you as long as possible. Eventually the dog gets accustomed to walk in such a way even without any additional instructions.  It’s important to train a companion dog exclusively with reward-based methods or clicker methods (when you reward your dog wit click sound). The more you apply negative reinforcement the worse the relationship between you and your pet will be. Of course, sometimes this strategy is beneficial (for example, stringent prohibition to run out on the road), but such situations should be kept to a minimum and vast majority of commands should be performed with ensuing positive reinforcement.

Alaskan Malamute photo
Alaskan Malamute ©

If you want to raise a gregarious and out-going dog, regularly exhibit your pet to the company of other dogs and people. Such an all-around socialisation is a crucial aspect of the upbringing of any companion dog. After all, in perspective you will need to take your pet to various public places so your sociable and well-mannered dog will become an agreeable companion.

If you belong to those people who like attending cafes with the dog then start training your pet to such visits since an early puppyhood so you will be able to mould an acceptable and convenient behavioural patterns in such types of establishments.

Dachshund Standard Wire-haired photo
Dachshund Standard Wire-haired photo ©

Author: Alena Morgunovskaya
Translation: Olga Kosenko

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