Recently I posted an article on the big three, these were my most basic skills that all dogs should be taught. Skills that, if you practice nothing else in your dogs life, you will have a dog that is reliable in any situation. As part of the big three I also want to write about some of the background choices you can control that help make up a ‘bomb proof’ dog.
These choices will be made by you. When you bring your dog home they are ready to learn, good and bad behaviours, it is up to you how they grow and develop. It is so important to realise that the choices you make will have consequences. So long as you understand these consequences you can influence your dogs temperament.
Making an informed breed choice is probably the easiest thing you can do to make your life with your dog easier. There is a difference between loving the look of a dog and a dog being right for you. Many people fall in to the trap of choosing a breed based on looks and not considering the potential difficulties certain breeds bring with them. If you decide to adopt a breed of dog that you absolutely have to have despite the issues that may come along with it, then be prepared to overcome some hurdles.
One of the reasons I chose to share my life with an Irish Setter is that people will be much more forgiving of his behaviour than if he were a German Shepherd or Rottweiler. An Irish Setter approaching a dog or a person will be much better received, and this made my life a whole lot easier. Not having to worry about other people’s negative reactions was one less thing I had to contend with.
If you choose to adopt a Bull breed then you will have to be prepared for the stigma that goes along with such a breed. If you choose to adopt a spitz breed such as an Akita then you should be prepared for an independent soul who may only give you a small of window of opportunity for training each day. If you choose to adopt a working dog then be prepared to train them to focus on you rather than chasing moving objects, dogs, people and other animals.
Breed behaviours and people’s responses should never come as a surprise to you, be prepared for how your chosen breed will behave and be received by the community. Then your expectations will not be unrealistic and you can train them in anticipation for these behaviours and/or reactions.
Be kind on yourself, this may be your first dog, you are also learning, and will make mistakes, learn from them and be prepared to set up the environment for successful training. Dogs do not come to us knowing what the rules are. You should be guiding your dog through the human world by setting them up to succeed with skills in easy environments, then work up to more difficult distractions. Your training should be part of each and every day, training is socialisation.
Take your dog to as many places as possible to expose them to all of the different people and objects we have in our community. Take the time to think about what new things you will expose them to each day. As long as your dog has many good experiences to draw on, even when confronted with something scary, they will be able to cope far better.
Socialisation is something that should be worked on everyday for at least your dogs first year of life, preferably the first three years. You should allow your puppy to interact off lead (or at least on a loose lead) with other older, calmer dogs as much as possible, greetings with three new dogs each day would be wonderful.
The way your puppy learns to interact with other dogs will be the way they will continue to interact, if you allow your puppy to always play rough, they will be rough players. Your puppy should interact with other dogs but they should come back to you as their main play mate.
Allow your dog some time to interact with other young dogs but make the sessions short and positive. Standing around and allowing dogs to escalate in excitement will only end to a dog learning to behave in this ‘hyperactive’ way. Socialisation does not mean taking your dog to the park and forgetting about them. Pay attention, do not stand around too much, and reward any good behaviour you see from you dog.
So there are two examples of how you can influence your dogs temperament: breed choice and socialisation. Make the right choices, and your life with your dog will be so much easier. I still have two more ways to raise the best dog, and these will be covered in my next post.