Pets

Who's in charge: You or your dog?

Author: Canadian Living

Pets

Who's in charge: You or your dog?

The rules you make for the dogs in your household are completely up to you. But there are some overall rules that I strongly recommend you follow in order to keep you pack leader status intact.

• Wake up on your terms, not his. Your dog is not your alarm clock. If your dog sleeps in your bed, condition him to get quietly off the bed if he wakes before you do and needs water or to stretch his legs. Then he needs to wait calmly for you to get up and start the structure of his day.

• Start the day with very little touch or talk – saving affection for after the walk. The walk is your bonding time together. If you walk, then try to walk for an hour every morning. If you are a runner, you run, if you are a biker or Rollerblader, you bike or blade. Ideally, you have chosen a dog that is fit enough for whatever your preferred activity may be, and if it's a very active sport, you can shorten its duration. But walking at a brisk pace is the best overall exercise for both human and dog – both on a physical and on a psychological-primal level. If you absolutely, positively don't have a full hour to walk, add a backpack to make a better workout for your dog, or put the dog on a treadmill for a half hour while you're getting ready for work.

• Feed your dog calmly and quietly, never giving him food when he is jumping up and down. He gets fed only when he's sitting down, calm-submissive. He never gets fed as a response to a bark. At the Dog Psychology Center, the calmest, mellowest dog always gets to eat first. Can you imagine what an incentive this is for the rest of the pack to act calm and submissive?

• Your dog doesn't beg for scraps or interrupt your mealtime. When the pack leader is eating, no one interrupts him. You set the distance your dog is allowed to be from the human dining table, and you stick to it. Don't buy your dog's pleading looks – his wolf forefathers never competed with their pack leaders for food and neither should he.

• After exercise and food comes affection time. Instruct your dog to be in a calm submissive position, and then love him till it's time to go to work. By doing this, you are conditioning your dog to have a beautiful, balanced, satisfying morning, every day of the week!

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Excerpted from Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems, copyright 2007 by Cesar Milan and Melissa Jo Peltier. Excerpted with permission from Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. • Never make a big deal about leaving the house – or coming home, for that matter. If you must leave a dog at home all day, practice going in and out of the house many times before the first few times you actually leave him alone. Make sure he is in a calm, submissive state whenever you leave or enter the house. Once he's in the position you desire, don't talk, touch, or make eye contact while you're leaving. As difficult as it may be for you, act cool toward your dog while projecting your calm-assertive energy. If you've properly exercised your dog and not nurtured his fear or anxiety, his natural body clock will tell him this is time for him to rest and be quiet for a while. Do not allow howling or whining when you leave. You may have to wait several minutes before your dog is calm enough for you to leave, but be patient, and make sure this routine sinks in for him. Don't worry; you'll be able to love him again when you come home.

• Once you return home, hold back as much affection as you can at first. Do not encourage overexcitement. Change your clothes, grab a snack to tide you over, and take your dog out again. This walk can be a bit shorter – a half hour – since you're going to be in for the evening together. After the walk, once again reinforce your mealtime rules, and then allow your calm submissive dog to be your best friend after dinner.

• Sleeping arrangements for a dog should be clear and unambiguous. A dog should have a regular place to sleep, and should not be able to choose it on his own. When your dog first comes to live with you, put him in his crate or kennel every night for the first week. This will get him accustomed to the new surroundings while providing limits. After the first week, replace the kennel with a pillow or dog bed. That is now his resting place. If you're a person who wants your dog to sleep in bed with you, fine. It's natural for dogs to sleep with other members of the pack, and it's a powerful way to bond with your animal. But don't let the dog take over the bed. Keep the rules clear. You invite the dog into the bedroom. Get in the bed for a few minutes, and then signal that your dog can come up. You choose the portion of the bed that the dog sleeps on. Sweet dreams.

• Every human in the household needs to be a pack leader. From your toddler to your elderly grandparents, your dog needs to respect everyone in the household as higher up on the dominance ladder than he is. This means that every human in the house has to live by the same set of rules, boundaries, and limitations. Discuss these together and make sure everybody considers them law. Remember, intermittent reinforcement creates an unpredictable dog that’s much harder to condition in the long run. So your 10-year-old can't sneak Max treats under the table if the family rule is no begging. You can't allow your dog to jump on the furniture when you're at home but not when your husband is in the house. Inconsistent leadership leads to an inconsistently obedient dog.

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Excerpted from Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems, copyright 2007 by Cesar Milan and Melissa Jo Peltier. Excerpted with permission from Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. • Scheduling playtime with your dog every week is a great way to add extra physical exercise to your walk routine. (Although by now you know it is never a substitute for the walk!) It is also a way to let your dog express the special needs and abilities of his breed. You can play fetch, swim in the pool, play with the Frisbee, and run an obstacle course – whatever your pleasure or your dog's special talent. Just make sure your dog has had at least one of his major walks before you play – don't do it first thing in the morning! – and set strict limits on the time you spend. Don't let your dog "talk" you into spending three hours throwing the tennis ball when you have set aside only one.

• Don't avoid or postpone bathing your dog just because he hates it. Though your dog probably doesn't care how clean he is, you deserve to have a dog you like to be near. There are many ways you can make bathtime a more pleasant experience for both of you. First, let your dog get to know the tub or sink in a relaxed, pleasant way, before you try to bathe him. Next, remember that in nature dogs don't wash themselves. They get in the water or roll in the mud in order to cool off when it's hot; that's a natural instinct. Use that instinct to your advantage and give your dog a good workout – a brisk walk, a run, a treadmill or Rollerblade session – before the bath. Get him good and hot (this is easier in the summer). Make the water lukewarm and appealing. You can also associate bathtime with treats, but don't rely on them. A tired, relaxed dog that's just worked up a sweat is your best bet for a happy bath.

• Don't allow out-of-control barking. If your dog has an excessive barking problem, most of the time it will be due to physical and psychological frustration. This is a dog desperate for more physical activities and a more proactive pack leader. Your dog is trying to tell you something with his bark. Listen to him!

Read more:
Choosing the right puppy
Slideshow: Canada's cutest pets
8 secrets every dog lover should know

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Excerpted from Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems, copyright 2007 by Cesar Milan and Melissa Jo Peltier. Excerpted with permission from Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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