Somehow over the last two days I heard people talk about domination and obedience a lot. They said that the dog must know who the leader is, even more – you, as a human being, must be the dominant one. Once they learn this rule, they will obey and follow you.
You see, this is where it ends with me. Obviously, I am not particularly obedient myself. And I love my dogs too much to punish them. In fact, I think that pushing your dog down to the floor and standing over him or constantly ensuring that you are the first one to enter the house isn’t going to do the dog, let alone, puppy, any good. Yes, it may not hurt physically, but imagine the amount of stress your pup will experience!
Admittedly, I am not a dog trainer. But I do believe that the dogs are a part of our family, so should be treated with respect. As a result, care and understanding will lead to friendship and the dog, with his idea of unconditional love, will do his best to make you happy.
Where am I coming from?
First of all, psychologically, a young pup taken away from his real mum will naturally seek and accept the next living object he spends most time with as his parent. This means he will see you as his mummy as long as you are prepared to dedicate your time and attention to the little one. Once it happens, and it happens very quickly, he will watch you and learn from you even without you knowing.
For example, Oscar carefully observed me over the years developing sweet little habits like drinking a little water just before he went to bed (I always keep a glass of water and take a few sips before turning off the light) or ensuring that his head always rests on a pillow.
On the other hand, being a mummy gives you the right to channel your pup’s behaviour in a right direction. Say, you aren’t happy about him biting you? Walk away without saying a word and stop playing with him for a few minutes.
If he sits on your spot – give him “the look” and gently push away (or say ‘move”) and he will.
Watch adult dogs dealing with pups – it will give you an idea of their communication, too.
And what about the problems you may ask?
Well, I believe that the problem never starts with a dog, but the person responsible for this dog. Say, a breeder doesn’t care of choosing the nice-natured dogs, crossing the wrong lines or bringing up pups in total isolation – of course, there’s a huge change that a puppy will have behavioural issues! How to avoid it? Choose the right breeder.
Your pup or even an adult dog leaves puddles and poops all over the place? Ask yourself if you took enough time to train him in the first place by taking him out after each meal and before his naps. Ask yourself if you gave enough outside time to your adult dog, so he could relieve himself. Ask yourself if your dog has a regular and easy access to your garden or is taken out 3 times a day (if you leave in a flat) to empty his bladder. Perhaps, your pup is sad, lonely, jealous or unwell? The truth is that teaching a dog to do his business outside takes a few days and a few occasional mishaps here and there, but they all learn to do it very quickly because your home becomes his home and dogs do not like messing their home (or nest) up. It is not natural for them.
Your pup bites? As a baby and while teething, he will definitely leave you looking like a victim of self-harming. But you can teach him to stop by using toys, you can distract him by playing or, when all fails, walking away (just like his mummy would). Any puppy-biting will eventually disappear. It is the aggression you need to be aware of, but any kind of aggression is a result of poor breeding or stressful atmosphere at home. Avoid the first, control the second.
Your pup doesn’t like grooming? It can be explained, too. My first dog hated it, but it happened because his very first session was with a person who wasn’t kind or patient enough. As soon as we discovered it, I began going it myself. He never quite warmed up to the process, but tolerated it.
It was very different with Oscar. I learnt about grooming a cocker spaniel months before he arrived. And as soon as he was here, he thought that brushing was a play, and so was the washing. He loved his blow-dries (again, he watched me do it to my hair and figured that it was a habit worth adopting) and knew where his tooth-cleaning supplies where. So if you start early and if you put your love, care and knowledge to it, you will never have any problems.
Your pup doesn’t come to you when you call him? Again, it’s not him being interested in other things… Spend enough time play-teaching him, use the right rewards (some pups love a toy or a cuddle, others may ask for a treat) and he will always return when called. Remember I said that he sees that very first and dedicated person as his mum? Well, Oscar did it with me, thus he could not imagine being away from me or not coming to me – the rest of the world, no matter how exciting it was, simply didn’t matter to him if I wasn’t around. I didn’t do anything special – I loved him, spend all my time with him as a pup and, alright, could not imagine my world without him either. We suited each other, basically.
Your dog pulls the lead all the time? It’s normal for pups and young dogs – they are excited and cannot wait to check things out, sniff and explore. They are learning about the world and have limited time to do that, so they use every opportunity and you are standing on their way, so to speak. The trick is to teach them patiently while they are still young, 2-4 months is perfect. Doing it as a part of a game is ideal, but once in a while a treat do a job, too. Things I would never recommend is using any kind of shocking/chocking devices, harness (I’ve seen many dogs who could not walk with a collar and lead after being taught on a harness) or punishment. Also, since cockers love to carry their favourite things, giving him a toy, tennis ball or stick during his walks may help to keep him focused on his own stuff.
Puppy chews your furniture? Give him toys, tons of toys instead (and never – your old clothes and shoes). He loves to explore, so let him explore the right stuff and he will leave the furniture alone. If he is teething, give him chews. You will need to teach him a “No” word sooner rather than later, but trust me, when he is teething, alone or lonely, he will go for the easiest target, words or no words.
Your dog sleeps in your bed? Well, you can teach him to go to his own and, you know, most of them well because they are going to feel safe there. Oscar certainly did. But he also slept next to me for some part of each night, cuddling and pressing against my back. And you know what? I would not want it any other way. Try it – and decide what works for you. After all, we are talking about cockers here, not exactly Great Danes.
So if you want to dominate the world – do it, but do it together with your cocker spaniel. It’s so much fun!