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Pet Talk: Learning good behavior

Wednesday 30 August 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk

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Pet Talk: Learning good behavior
Puppies need care, attention and training, just like children. SIAN SOLOMON / 21121425

Puppies are cute, they are soft and their proportions are such that they appeal to the protective aspects of our nature, writes Dr Michael Baer, Te Are Manu Vet Clinic medical director.

.  The oversized heads and paddle-like legs are adorable.  Then they grow.  They start getting gangly and their coats change. They start exploring and have more energy.  They sleep less.  And they test the boundaries.   They become naughty.  Like children.

And like children they need to be taught how to act.  They need to learn when it is ok to jump up – when they are invited.  That biting people is not ok.  When it is ok to bark – when you want them to.  That it is ok for people to restrain them.  They need to learn where they can and can’t go – inside or outside the house, inside or outside the property.  They need to learn what is ok to eat and what isn’t – what you give them, not what they find.

And like children there are serious reasons for these lessons.  Safety.  Jumping dogs can and do knock people over, and cause serious injuries.  Bites from dogs do serious damage, not just to skin but to muscles and bones. When dogs leave your property they can cause road accidents, and people and dogs are often hurt.  Dogs cannot be held or be examined and often panic and bite as a result when children play with them.  Dogs that eat all sorts of things they find get food poisoning, and more serious chemical poisoning. 

And like children, learning the rules of good behaviour makes puppies acceptable to the neighbours and the wider community.  Barking all night annoys the neighbours and wandering dogs cause fights and make a mess.  Dogs that won’t come when called are dangerous for vehicles and dogs that chase chickens, ducks and goats are not acceptable.

And like children there are numerous ways of getting to the same end.  Training dogs is a skill, it requires patience and perseverance. It has to be consistent and repeated.  Like us, dogs make mistakes, so you need to keep going.  And like children, dogs will happily ask mum if dad said no.  Or ask dad if mum said no.  So, the whole family have to be on board with the programme.

Dog packs have a hierarchy.  The top dog rules, the bottom dog obeys.  In our mixed human-dog packs, the humans need to be the ‘top dog’.  Training is how we get there.

There are endless resources available for dog training, and if you want a new dog or puppy, do your research and protect your dog and your family from an overenthusiastic, animal that thinks it is the top dog in your pack.