Training of Dogs

Of the two common pets or companion animals, only dogs can be trained and not the cats. This is known to many, but only a few would have thought of it seriously. This is because, dogs in the wild live in packs and there is a pecking order or hierarchy in the pack. The subordinates obey the pack leader. If you have ever seen a pack of dogs hunting in the wild, you will wonder how orderly they close-in on the prey. It is more meticulous than a cricket team fielding. Of course, there is no ‘match fixing’ in this ‘game’.

Cats in the wild live independently in a territory. Hence the old saying goes like this: ‘Cats never forget the house but the dog never forgets the master’. If there are more than two or three persons in a house, your dog is quick to realise the hierarchy in the respective order and you will observe that, level of obedience to their commands also vary accordingly. Basic requirement of any animal to be trained is it's adaptability, intelligence and memory to remember the commands. Dog having all these qualities can be trained to any level and the limit is the skill of the trainer and the trainee as well. However, for a domestic dog, only some basic commands need to be trained.

What is the best age for a dog to be trained?

More than the age, what matters is the level of confidence your dog has in his owner. Hence, the first step in training your dog is to gain his confidence by handling him gently; give him a lot of affection and make him to convince that you are his friend and guardian. The word ‘NO’ is not used except in house-breaking. So let your pet be with you for a week and become familiar with it's new surroundings. Do not expect too much from a pup which is hardly three months old. Pups which are less than three months old have very little capacity for retention of command words. Dogs learn by repetitive commands and associate his action with your pleasure or displeasure which they can easily 'read' from your face.

It is better to learn the basic rules of training before you start training. These 'Ten Commandments' are:

1. Make your commands short and clearly audible.
2. Language is not important. Often, short and crisp English words are used. Malayalam words are also equally good if they are short and crisp as in English.
3. Develop liking for your pup and have immense patience.
4. Praise every time he deserves it, which is often termed as ‘Positive Reinforcement’ in professional animal training parlance. Also, scold him every time he deserves it (‘Negative Reinforcement’).
5. Condone genuine mistakes.
6. Scold him immediately after the mistake. Otherwise, he may not remember for what he is being scolded.
7. Use the same positive words for praising and the same scolding words with stern tone when reprimanding.
8. Limit training session to not more than ten minutes, and after that, his mind 'tires'. Several short sessions are better than a single, lengthy class.
9. Never try to train your dog when he is distracted or excited; and this is very true about you as well.
10. Preferably use same time every day.

The basic training 'modules' that your dog should receive are: house-breaking, know his name, come when called; obey the commands- "Down", "Quiet", "Sit" and "Stay". He should also be trained to play gently, walk on collar and leash, to stay alone without barking, or being destructive. If he is allowed to roam freely, he should not develop habits like chasing of motorcycles or cars. Punishment during training sessions can be verbal scolding. A firm tone will make your displeasure obvious. In case a punishment is needed to a degree more than that of verbal, a light swat on the rump with hand or folded news-paper will do. It is not necessary to shout or scream while reprimanding. Also, a harsh corporal punishment is never warranted.

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