Dogs need to be well-behaved if they are to live within human society. Some dogs are naturally obedient while others require training. For this to be successful, the relationship between the dog and its carer should be based on trust and co-operation rather than fear. Carers need to be confident that their animal will control itself in all situations, even when they may not be present.
The first few weeks of a puppy’s life are crucial to its later development. During this time it will learn how to control itself and how it may behave in a group. If the puppy is without a mother, it will form a close attachment with someone who can provide it with comfort and warmth. The puppy will subsequently look to this person to teach it about the world, therefore making training easier.
Rather than helping a dog belong, the mistaken attribution of human characteristics to it can seriously hinder training. A dog doesn’t have the emotional or intellectual capacity of a human. Conversely, thinking of the dog as being without feeling or intellect can be equally damaging. The acceptance that a dog can only react according to its own level of understanding is essential in developing its innate abilities.
A dog’s senses are more highly developed than those of humans, with some breeds being particularly sensitive in one particular aspect. Gauging which sense a dog most relies on can greatly assist in developing a successful training program. German shepherds, collies, greyhounds and salukis are all dogs with outstanding eyesight. Terriers and fighting breeds are generally less sensitive to touch than other breeds, while collies and Shetland sheepdogs are particularly sensitive to sound.
Many dogs are frightened of thunderstorms and fireworks. More problematic are dogs that are afraid of everyday sounds such as traffic noise or groups of people. You can remove fear of noise by a process of desensitisation. This requires gradually exposing the dog to the sound in increments of volume.
Start at a low volume and provide the dog with treats or play a distracting game with it. If the dog is undisturbed, offer praise and increase the volume a little. Repeat the procedure until a volume is reached at which the sound would occur naturally. If at any point the dog seems disturbed, stop the sound and try again another day.