A Dog Training Handbook - Part 1
How to Get Your Household Ready for Dog Training Success
In this handbook, we’ll teach dog’s human companions - that’s you - some lessons in cohabiting for dog obedience and mutual happiness, health & wellbeing.
Why Are We Training You First?
In 1815, an unidentified fisherman’s canine companion – a Newfoundland – rescued French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte when he was knocked off his boat into rough seas. The courageous dog was said to have kept Napoleon afloat until he reached safety.
“Here, Gentlemen, a dog teaches us a lesson in humanity,” – Napoleon Bonaparte, 1815
Your pet dog is entirely dependent on you to teach them lessons in humanity. At the same time, you will learn lessons about canine ways and behaviours. By taking the time to understand one another, you’ll grow a healthy, happy dog friendly and human friendly household.
Dogs need to be nurtured with consistency, love, regular exercise, practical grooming and health care, and good nutrition. With these basics in place while teaching your pet acceptable boundaries that cement their position in your pack, your dog will become your best friend, your friends and family’s best friend, effective watchdog, and in Napoleon’s case, your emergency services provider too.Puppies grow from playful nippers, to loyal and respected companions, in the company of well trained human housemates.
In this handbook, we’ll teach dog’s human companions – that’s you some lessons in cohabiting for dog obedience and mutual happiness, health and wellbeing.
”Every dog should have a man of his own. There is nothing like a well-behaved person around the house to spread the dog's blanket for him, or bring him his supper when he comes home man-tired at night.” – Corey Ford, American author and screenwriter.
Pet Companion Lesson
SMART goal setting is a proven motivator for driving humans towards achieving their aspirations.
SMART is an acronym for setting goals that are:
Human companions need to be consistent in meeting basic goals that set the right conditions for training puppies or dogs successfully. Setting smart goals will keep your household on track to nurture dog companions that are eager to be taught and respond positively to training.
Your Checklist: Essential Dog Care Goals To Nurture Willing Canine Learners
Once you work through the basic dog care activities below and define SMART goals for each, add them to your online calendar, with an automatic reminder. You’ll reach auto-pilot in caring for your puppy or dog well. Your dog will thrive and will be a very willing learner when all his or her pet care needs are met.
Essential Dog Care Goals: Nutrition And Dietary Habits
- Identify and source high quality food suited to your dog’s nutritional needs: seek advice from your vet to determine the right type and mix of dry, fresh and wet dog food; the right quantity for their weight, activity levels and dog breed – always measure it, it’s easy to find yourself doubling the amount your loved one really needs; and the frequency of meals. Armed with expert advice, it then comes down to finding an achievable and realistic dog food solution – for most people this will mean affordability with minimal preparation time.
- Provide fresh water in a clean bowl, always: your puppy or dog will enjoy a cool, fresh drink of water in a spot easily accessible to them 24 hours a day. Naturally, the warmer the weather, the greater the need to top up the water bowl. Make sure the water bowl is placed in a spot that won’t be used as a bird bath. If you wouldn’t drink it, your dog won’t want to either.
Essential Dog Care Goals: Health And Grooming
- Provide a sleep friendly area: you’ll find your four legged housemate needs a lot more sleep than you do. Depending on their breed and activity levels, adult dogs often need around 12 to 14 hours of sleep every day. While it feels like puppies play endlessly, they’ll sleep far more than they’re awake.
- Clean your dog’s ears regularly: this is critical for preventing ear infections. Check with your vet on the frequency, based on the age and breed of your dog eared companion. Once a week will ensure that you pick up on any unwanted visitors, such as ticks or fleas.
- Clean your dog’s teeth regularly: this is critical for preventing dental and bacterial problems. Water or baking soda with a clean cloth wrapped around your finger can work as effectively as a dog toothbrush. Once a week is great, but check with your vet. Don’t share your toothpaste, dogs stomachs aren’t used to foaming mint concoctions!
- Wash your dog regularly: bathing your dog too often will strip natural oils from their skin and coat. Every few months with a dog formulated shampoo is generally enough.
- Trim your dog’s coat around the top of their feet: keeping your dog’s coat away from the bottom of their feet will reduce trapping bits of stuff from the ground that can make them uncomfortable.
- Trim your dog’s nails regularly: if you can hear your dog clicking across the ground or floor, their nails are too long. Check them every couple of weeks. Get some expert advice from your vet, quality pet kennels or a professional dog groomer to show you how to clip them, pain free.
- Brush your dog’s coat regularly: your housemate’s coat can end up matted, hot and heavy quickly, the longer their coat. Regular brushing with a brush suited to your dog’s coat, will remove dead hair, dirt and dead or dry skin while stimulating natural oils that will keep their coat clean and healthy in between washes. Get some expert advice from quality pet kennels or a professional dog groomer to show you how to get your dog to love a good brushing.
- Feel your dog’s ribs to check their weight: regular brushing will help you identify any weight issues. You should be able to feel your dogs ribs, but they shouldn’t feel prominent, or be sticking out.
- Book in regular vet visits: a good quality vet will send you reminders about when procedures such as neutering or splaying, vaccinations and general check-ups are due. It is important not to over vaccinate, or over treat your dog for parasites and regular vet visit will keep this in check. Your dog’s vet will also keep an eye on maintaining a healthy weight, and help reset your SMART dog care goals, as they move through developmental years and stages.
Essential Dog Care Goals: Exercise And Play
- Have quality dog toys in easy access: find dog toys recommended by professionals that prioritise safety, and activity. Great dog toys, keep activity seeking dogs busy.
- Encourage adoption of a favourite toy that encourages activity: play with your dog regularly and experiment with a range of toys. Rewarding your dog the first time they accidentally throw a ball or toy from their mouth, is a great way to encourage a physical activity your dog will be able to initiate on their own.
- Commit to daily exercise with your dog: give your dog at least half an hour of exercise daily. You’ll benefit too!
- Commit to daily training with your puppy: you don’t need to commit a whole lot of time to see good results. 10 minutes each day is ample for a young dog learning new tricks.
Essential Dog Care Goals: Comfort, Handling And Socialisation
- Indulge in spending time with each other: don’t leave your four legged family member outside or alone for long stretches of time.
- Make car trips comfortable and safe: an unrestrained dog in a car is an uncomfortable dog, at risk of injury and distress.
- Make sure there is enough love to go around: while possessiveness from your pet can be seen as ‘cute’ at first, it is not good for your dog, or for you. Your puppy needs to get used to sharing you with other people and animals.
- Frequently touch your puppy’s food bowl, toys and bed: yes, dogs are territorial by nature. But when they are living with us as pets, we need to teach them to be comfortable with others touching, or being near, their possessions. This will prevent aggressive behaviour that could result in injuries. It will also ‘de-stress’ your dog as it will be one less responsibility for your pet to feel they have to constantly monitor their things.
- Spend time with your dog with people of all ages and genders: in a car, in a wheelchair, on crutches etc.
- Practice handling your dog regularly: touched on feet, ears and tail and practice regularly. Brushing regularly will help.
If you need advice or help on setting any of these goals, contact a quality pet kennel or experienced dog trainer, a professional pet groomer, or your veterinarian.
Pet Companion Lesson
“It is a truism to say that the dog is largely what his master makes of him: he can be savage and dangerous, untrustworthy, cringing and fearful; or he can be faithful and loyal, courageous and the best of companions and allies.” – Actor, Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Of all the essential dog care goals outlined, provided your puppy’s basic needs are met, socialisation of your puppy should be your highest priority in preparation for successful dog training, and happy times ahead.
Healthy socialisation of your dog in a range of environments and with a variety of people and situations is critical to prevent behavioural problems, and get your puppy ready for dog training and obedience.
Why Is Dog Socialisation Such A Big Deal?
Socialisation is hugely beneficial for puppies, dogs and households. Socialisation makes a wide range of scenarios familiar and comfortable, reducing:
- Fearful behaviours driven by anxiety
- Stress for both your puppy, dog and companions
- Aggressive behaviours
- Hyperactive and fretful behaviour
Between one to six months of age, puppies are in a critical socialisation period that can shape the way they interact with other people and animals in the future. Proactively introducing your pet to people – familiar and unfamiliar - and events is fundamental preparation for more focused dog training and dog obedience and in turn, happier families.
If you’ve come into the care of an older dog, don’t despair. It is never too late to socialise your pet, it just requires more persistence and effort the older the dog, and sometimes professional dog training support. Socialisation of your dog is a lifelong commitment. It is not just a set and forget activity for puppies.
- Your sense of calm is your dog’s comfort: your puppy or dog will immediately sense any tension from you. Stay calm.
- Keep your dog’s leash loose: if on a lead, any tension will travel like electricity from your hand straight to your dog’s senses. Loose leash, relaxed breathing and don’t hurry or rush.
- Introduce your dog slowly but surely: Did we mention, don’t rush. Never rush should be the mantra for any time you spend with your dog. Don’t force an introduction to something or someone unfamiliar, or that your dog fears. If he wants to retreat, go with that. Just don’t panic. Slow down. Stay calm. Breathe easy. (...did we mention this is a handbook to train you, not your dog?)
Gradually introduce new people, animals and situations: socialisation needs to be mutually enjoyable to be successful. Don’t rush it.
- Each week, try at least one new scenario to introduce your dog to: one week you might take your dog for a visit with friends with children – in their home, and at another time, in a local park. Pop in and visit your vet’s waiting room or boarding kennel outside of appointment times to help them become familiar with these environments. Some boarding kennels offer a short stay service to help. If you have a friend in a wheelchair, or with a walking frame, or children that skateboard or ride bicycles, introduce your dog to them so that they don’t feel anxiety over unexpected props. You need to help your dog understand that different people and objects bring different tones and volumes of voice and activity. Loud noises are an experience to calmly introduce early. You don’t want your dog leaving home because of a thunder storm or fireworks.
- Socialisation includes getting comfortable with being handled, groomed hugged and petted: encouraging play with your dog that involves being handled in a variety of ways is a great way to socialise your dog. Play could involve gentle stroking or rough and tumble games. To get the full benefit of socialisation, guide and encourage new people – particularly children – in how to approach and handle your dog. Regular grooming by a variety of household members and friends is a great way to help your dog feel more comfortable about being handled.
- Gradually introduce new dogs and animals, in a variety of settings: once your dog is over four months old, or at the age recommended by your vet, you can start introducing them to other dogs and animals. Try a variety of settings, from having a friend’s dog over to your home, and vice versa to attending a puppy school; to heading across to a leash free area. Look for good quality dog day-care, or puppy training schools in your local area. If you have the opportunity, introduce them to other pets and farm animals too. Remember, slowly. One new situation at a time.
- Encourage your dog slowly to get used to the car or your main mode of transport: jumping up into an enclosed space that moves can be daunting for your dog. Start introducing your puppy to your car by encouraging them in to their car restraint, and offering a reward such as a food treat. Drive around the block first, rather than starting with a road trip!
- Be patient and keep focused on the end goal: remember, you are doing this gradually and calmly, so that your dog and your household can enjoy great times together, in a variety of situations because you’re all being well behaved! It will take time. It will be worth the investment of effort.
- Encourage socialisation wins by rewarding your dog: reward your dog for each positive step, whether it was staying calm, maintaining a loose lead or leash or obeying a simple command by you in a new situation.
- Don’t reward your dog for showing fear, aggression or timidness: if your dog doesn’t respond to a new situation or person positively, don’t reward them with soothing words or food treats! Punishment isn’t necessary but a firm word, and a retreat back home will send your dog the right message.
Your're On Your Way To A Happy Dog Friendly Home
The fact that you are investing time in reading this handbook is a clue that you will be successful in setting up a nurturing environment for your dog. A nurturing, comfortable and secure home will go a long way to helping get your dog ready for successful dog training and dog obedience.
Enjoy your pet. Statistics show you’ll live a longer, healthier life for doing so.
Read Part 2 Read Part 3