Puppies are all “darlings” when they are young, and, given the right treatment, they will remain so for the whole of their too short lives. Treated too indulgently or inconsistently the best of puppies will finally earn the title of “that dratted dog.”
Start training a puppy from the moment you get him, teach him in this order to:
- Come when called.
- Refrain from barking.
- Walk at heel when told to.
- Stay home when told to (even if the gate is left open).
- Keep off all soft ground.
- To eat only off his own plate.
By the time he is four months old, he should know these basic facts, and will grow to be a friend and companion even if you never teach him any winsome “tricks.”
Our kelpie Hardy was an excellent example of the value of early training.
We bought Hardy when our first baby was on the way, and by the time she was crawling, he was a responsible, well-trained dog.
He learned first to know exactly where she was, even if he was not actually following her, as he usually did.
We taught him to come and tell us whenever she was near the front gate, and many were the times her ambition to go exploring alone was only foiled by his alertness.
Later, when the breadwinner was working near home, we taught Hardy to go and “get Max” when meals were ready, or when he was wanted on the phone.
Some kittens came into the family when Hardy was about and he lavished great care on them, washing their faces, catching their fleas, and even carrying them about. One of them took a fancy to sleep on the baby’s bed, so we taught Hardy, “Where’s that cat?” and he would go and haul it off the bed.
About the time our second baby was born, Hardy took a mate, a stray kelpie who had probably belonged to a drover.
To those who have had little experience in bringing up a dog to be a good-mannered member of the family, I would advise that the pitfalls of canine care come under four headings.
These are overfeeding, underfeeding, lack of patience, and, most importantly, prevention of wrongdoing as distinct from teaching what is wrong.
There is no hard and fast rule for feeding. Different climates or environments make variations necessary, but one law that should never be broken is “Never offer a dog more than it can eat.”
The easy way to know if your dog gets enough to eat is to look at his ribs. If they are just visible (or feelable in the case of a heavy-coated dog) he is getting the right amount of food.
What the dog says about it is neither here nor there, because some dogs will act hungry no matter how much or how often they are fed.
Half the time that eager, hungry look is gratitude for attention, and a little patting and loving is just as much reward as the piece of cake in your hand.
It is wise to control the impulse to feed your dog while you are eating. It only makes him pester you for titbits of food, mostly unsuitable, and if you never feed him while you are eating he won’t expect it and will cease to worry you. But you have to be strict with yourself and with kindly visitors.
Underfeeding is easy to detect because the dog becomes thin, anxious, and dull coated. In this event vary the type of food slightly and give three meals instead of two. If he still seems underfed, he probably has worms and needs an overhaul by a veterinary surgeon. Often in the case of an older dog, a tonic will work wonders, but that is a matter for the vet.
Now, in the matter of puppy training, it is so easy to do it the right way that it is amazing how few dogs really get a chance to grow as lovable as they should be.
To start with, you must have patience. Dogs have no sense of time as we know it, and teaching a dog to hurry is a matter for the grown dog, not the puppy.
Teach them “No”
You must keep on and on and on with the same lesson until it is properly learned. With a two months’ old puppy three or four minutes of teaching is plenty at a time but repeat the dose as often as the mistake is made.
The first word to teach them is “no.” This can be applied to house manners, walking in the garden, stealing slippers, to give a few examples. Your dog will provide you with many more.
Enforce the “no” with a thump from a rolled-up newspaper, but always make sure you land the thump.
Never make a wild swipe which the pup can dodge because that way you teach him that running away will help to avoid punishment.
Start from the beginning speaking in a quiet voice, and you will never have to shout. It is just as easy to teach obedience to a soft voice as to an angry shout.
The greatest of all mistakes in training your dog to become a model citizen is to prevent him by force from doing something, instead of teaching him not to do it.
It is quick and easy to tie or lock a dog up, but if you do you will never be able to go out without tying or locking him up.
If you take the time to teach him not to come when you say “No, you can’t come,” you will never need to humiliate him by using force.
This rule applies to digging in the garden, chasing vehicles, and all the other crimes in the canine calendar.
Tying or locking up is an excellent corrective punishment, but it is only an adjunct to teaching. It does not actually teach a dog anything.
You should issue the order and speak crossly if it is disobeyed. Then, if the dog is stubborn, smack him and tie him up for 10 minutes.
Let him off and go through the whole performance again until he gets the idea that if he disobeys he will be tied up.
It does take time to train a dog properly, but it is time well spent, because a dog that has to be tied up to enforce obedience is always just a tame animal, whereas a dog educated to obey a command is your companion, and develops greater intelligence.
Such bad habits as chasing cars, stealing shoes, and digging in the garden are often the result of boredom, and you should always see that your dog has his own toys.
If he loves your slippers, give him an old pair, and when he takes your new one exchange it for one of his until he gets the idea that he may chew his but not yours.
It DOES work, and most dogs will soon get into the way of keeping their toys in one place. Most dogs can be trained to be far tidier than junior ever will be.
A bone hung at nose level with a stout wire will give a puppy endless amusement, so will a sock filled with paper or fiber and a fairly large ball.
However, the best way to keep a dog happy is to give him work to do.
If there are youngsters in the house, teach him, as we taught Hardy, to be with them and to look for them by name.