Dog’s behaviour myths busted

Myth: You can’t train a puppy for the first six months Reality: Puppies begin learning from their mother and siblings almost immediately after birth. They are capable of learning basic commands, being potty trained, learning how to walk on a leash, socialising with new people etc. Sights and sounds become clear as early as eight weeks. But a puppy’s attention span is shorter than adults. So it requires more patience and positive reinforcement. But the sooner you start basic training, the better.

Myth: Food reward as good as bribery
Reality: When learning something new, whether it’s dog or human, a reward is a motivating factor to want to be successful. Most canines are motivated by food rewards during training sessions, and when the pet reliably complies with a command, you should treat him.

Myth: Harsh technique must to train aggressive dogs
Reality: It’s likely to result in a more aggressive or fearful pet, and it won’t change bad behaviour. Positive reinforcement training is the only way of earning respect.

Myth: Playing tug-of-war can make dogs aggressive
Reality: Dogs love to play tug-of-war. It’s used as a reward by professionals, who train canines for dog sports. However, there are two rules you need to enforce. Never let your dog put his teeth on your skin when he’s tugging the toy, and he should know and obey the ‘Drop It’ command.

Myth: It’s a phase
Reality: Bad behaviour is never a phase. Dogs learn what we teach them conditionally, and what we teach them unintentionally.
When you let your pet get away with growling over his food bowl, it’s not something he will outgrow. You need to be strict to teach your little one the right way.

Myth: My dog isn’t intelligent
Reality: Regardless of the breed, all dogs learn commands. Some just require a bit more patience and time. It can be a challenge to figure out what motivates your pet to learn and how long his attention span is. But with positive reinforcement and persistence you can teach your pet all commands and life skills.

Myth: My pet is too stubborn
Reality: Some breeds can be stubborn, but there could be a good reason for their lack of desire to listen. A dog may be in pain, feeling anxious, fearful, or simply doesn’t understand what you want, or you haven’t found the right reward to motivate him/her. Understand the reason that’s becoming a hindrance in his learning, and you’ll be able to help your pet.

Myth: You lead, your pet follows
Reality: This myth is based on the behaviour of wolf packs. But dogs aren’t wolves, and the belief that you have to do everything first to establish yourself as leader comes from a debunked study done on a captive wolf pack made up of unrelated wolves. It doesn’t matter if your pet goes first through a door or walks a bit out in front on a walk. You establish yourself as the leader by building a bond and earning your pet’s trust and respect.

- By Poorvi Anthony, a pet expert

Are you a proud pet parent? Have a cute cat story to share? Maybe your guinea pig is giving you trouble? Whatever is your creature companion, we are here to listen to you. Send your photos, queries and stories to [email protected]

Reader’s corner
Rusty’s my life
Last year, I got a call from a friend who deals with pets. She asked if I could foster a Labrador puppy (30 days old). She asked me to keep the puppy for a while before she found a good house for him. I said ‘okay’ and took him home. He was very tiny, and adorable. Within a month, he became my life, not just a part of it... Inspite of a hectic schedule, I’d spend maximum time with him. Then, my friend called me because she had an interested client.
I was shocked for a while. Then I went running to the puppy and stared at his face. I felt like he was saying, “I know you can’t live without me”. I started crying, cuddling him, called my friend and told her I was keeping him for life.
Rusty is one and half years old now. And everyone treats him like my son. We can’t imagine our life without him. I didn’t know I was a hardcore pet lover before I met Rusty. I have a tattoo on my shoulder of his initial ‘R’.
— Dr Pooja Pidiha

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