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Behaviour & Training

Behaviour & Training

Behaviour & Training

Training your new puppy can be a frustrating, expensive and messy process.

To help you out we’ve provided some great tips on obedience training, toilet training and basic commands for puppies. In this section you will also find information on swimming with your puppy or dog, as well as making sure that they are traffic aware.

Expert Answers

Our expert vet team posts answers to the more common questions. Some questions you may be interested in are :

Most dogs are scared of unfamiliar objects/beings (including other species of animals) and loud sounds. Thorough socialization when they are young can minimize this.

The most common reason is separation anxiety (SA). This simply means they are scared of being apart from their owner and alone. It can also be a result of pure boredom. So keep your dog entertained by placing some of their favourite toys around.

Getting angry doesn't usually solve anything. You will get better results and bigger changes using positive reinforcement.

Right away! Dogs are never too young or too old to train!
Effective training methods are taught by dog trainers at many dog obedience schools and puppy preschools at veterinary clinics. Lessons range from basic commands such as sit, stay, drop etc. to more advanced classes involving agility training and fun tricks.

Harsh punishments such as hitting and rubbing noses into their poo and urine is often very ineffective and counter-productive; it makes training in the future even more difficult. Positive reinforcement, using treats and praise, is the cornerstone behind successful puppy training. Please ask your veterinarian or dog schools for more details on training classes.

A successful training program will not only help you train your puppy quickly and effectively, but it will also enormously improve and develop the bond between you and your puppy!

Halter-type collars will give you the best control over your dog and are the most comfortable to wear. They give you control of your dog's head and when you have control of your dog's head, you have control of your dog. These collars work on the same principle as a horse halter. Even a smaller person can have good control over a large strong dog without hurting them. When you pull on the leash, your dog's head will either be pulled down or to the side - this makes it virtually impossible for your dog to move ahead or pull you forward. This also means you can control who your dog listens to by enabling you to make eye contact with your dog and draw their attention from distractions around them.

Puppies love to nip a lot in play and their young sharp teeth often hurt and scratch very easily. Aside from the pain factor, a nipping puppy that does not learn to curb this behaviour will often grow into a dog that uses his mouth for rough play. Dogs love to play tug of war and our natural instinct to pull away during nipping emphasizes this type of play. By starting young, you can easily teach your puppy or young adult that mouthing is just not acceptable. Here are a couple of techniques to try:

  1. Try and reverse the instinct to pull away from your puppies mouthing and gently pushing into the mouth a little. This isn't designed to hurt your puppy just confuse his play. While the puppy is expecting the usual ‘tug' away, instead the game is broken and they learn that that type of play isn't rewarding.
  2. Simply get up and remove yourself from the puppy and cease interaction. Your puppy longs to get attention from you and if a behaviour removes this attention swiftly then they soon learn not to do this again.

In short, you don't. Dogs can be hard to read and little things can change the dynamics between 2 dogs that don't know each other. Generally though, good signs are tails wags, relaxed bodies, smiley faces and no growling. Always try and ask the owner of the other dog how they interact with strange dogs before allowing close play. Walking with leads, meeting dogs you know and watching for problems in advance can really help reduce unwanted interactions. Also, well socialized puppies generally become well socialized adult dogs, so get the training in early. Puppy preschool is a great group to attend at your local veterinarian.

The best rewards for your dog are ones that are palatable, low fat and calorie and can be broken into small pieces. Some dogs can be sensitive or allergic to certain foods so this needs to be taken into consideration. Some common rewards that are appropriate are: dried liver treats, single kibble pieces from their regular food, vegetable pieces such as carrots or even small pieces of chicken, no skin). Rewards are an important part of a dog's training as they reinforce what you have taught them and they learn faster. But remember the best reward is usually a cuddle and praise straight from the one they love the most-YOU!

You're expecting a baby! Congratulations! Many people worry about introducing a baby to the family dog and how your dog will handle it. The majority of the time this is a smooth happy transition and with a little preparation everyone will be ready. Start teaching your dog before the baby arrives which areas are restricted. Spend time with your dog and even do an obedience refresher course to reinforce rules and boundaries. When baby arrives don't leave your dog out so that jealousy isn't a problem that grows. Never leave the two alone even if you are convinced it's safe and remember that your dog is part of the family too and will become an important part of your new arrival's life in time.

Dogs, like people, can suffer from anxiety. Anxiety isn't always a logical thing and can be difficult to understand in your dog. Many dogs who are rehomed once or more often develop some form of anxiety, especially when there has been some neglect or abuse involved. The most common form of anxiety in dogs is called Separation Anxiety (SA). SA can sometimes look like bad behaviour or illness such as excessive barking, destructive behaviour, house soiling, escaping, loss of appetite, excessive coat licking etc. The difference is that for SA the behaviours happen when the owner is not around or is out of reach, such as behind a closed door. SA can often be a hard condition to treat but much success has been gained through using a behaviourist who comes into the home, assesses the situation and offers tips to lessen the anxiety. Sometimes medication is also used. Talk to your local veterinarian if you require this type of intervention.

When dogs are deep in sleep they can look like they are dreaming. They often move their eyes, grunt, softly bark, move their legs and move their whiskers and lips. Some people get scared by this and think their dog is having seizures. The difference is that a dog can be roused from sleep but not from a seizure. Science is unsure as to whether dogs dream or not. They certainly appear to and if Hollywood has anything to say about it then they certainly dream just like us!

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