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  • How dogs learn

    (Part 2: the human pack)


    A bit like Big Brother, dogs are ALWAYS watching us and reading our body language. I’m ever more convinced that dogs must have a second pair of eyes, for when they are asleep, because when ANYTHING happens they go from what appears to be a deep sleep to being wide awake and ready to take on the world in a split second! My point in all this is that dogs observe and interpret whatever is happening so, if you want a good outcome, make sure how you act is aligned with the outcome you want. “Monkey see, monkey do” is the expression that comes to mind.

    So 8 weeks have come and gone and puppy finds itself having to get used to a new pack, this time of the human kind. Going from the comfort and mentoring of its mom (and siblings), puppy has to adapt to a very different world. Whilst letting the puppy acclimatize to its new surroundings in those first few days at home, now is a good time to start setting boundaries in the home so the puppy begins to understand how this new pack lives. “Firm but kind” is the way to go, making sure that every time the puppy does what you want it to do it is praised and rewarded for a job well done. It is also critical that, at every stage of training, you and the family are consistent with how you communicate to the puppy The last thing you need at the onset of training is mixed messages, so convene a family meeting and discuss (and agree!) on words to use, actions to take and things that are acceptable or not. Don’t forget those ever watchful eyes and ever listening ears! It’s important to remember that each puppy has its own unique personality and ability to learn, so what one puppy can learn may take another puppy a shorter or longer time to understand. Learning is a result of the puppy’s intelligence and your ability to communicate to the puppy, as well as the time you choose to invest in teaching your puppy.

    Once your puppy has all the necessary shots, it is time to think of puppy training classes and venturing out into the big wide world. Being in a class rather than one-on-one training will help with your puppy’s socialization, as well as the opportunity for you to observe how other puppies respond to training. Talking of socialization, try getting your puppy around as many people as possible, preferably of both sexes, and different ages so that the puppy starts to appreciate that humans come in various sizes, shades and temperaments. You want to try and avoid your puppy becoming stressed by, for example, men wearing hats or children making loud noises.

    Dogs are amazing creatures but they do need a reminder sometimes on how to behave. Training and learning is on-going. Treat it this way and you’ll set yourself up for success with your furry friend!