Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Dog Whisperer

I recently welcomed a new Shetland Sheepdog puppy named Butter into the household. I have had three dogs prior to Butter but that was about ten years ago. With the new puppy, I wanted to have the right information on how to train and raise an obedient dog, one that is balanced and happy. Many dog owners came forward with helpful information, and one owner mentioned the name Cesar Millan.

After some quick search on google, I found out that he is the guy people called "The Dog Whisperer", from a popular series on National Geographic channel. It became my crash course into dog psychology and training. I am really thankful for the knowledge I have gained watching the series, as I had many misconceptions in the past about dog training and behaviour.

Cesar exercising his pack of dogs

If you are planning to buy a new puppy or have just acquired one, I would recommend Cesar's book 'How to raise the perfect dog - through puppyhood and beyond'. It contains useful info on how to select a puppy, how to introduce the puppy to its new home, how to communicate with it, etc. His formula is simple: exercise, limitations (discipline), and then affection. Puppyhood is the most crucial period to set the foundation right, so as to avoid behavioral problems in future.

Most of the time, we humans created the problems as we see dogs as humans. It is not fair to expect your dog to think and behave like humans. The dogs in their natural habitats will usually have a pack leader who will look after them and keep them safe, but will not hesitate to correct disrepectful behaviours. You may provide food, shelter and affection for your dog, and what you get in return from your furkids is trust. Respect is another thing and it must be earned. For your furkids to respect you, you need to be perceived by them as calm and assertive, and being a good pack leader. To learn more about how to be a pack leader, I am watching 'The Dog Whisperer', as well as reading Cesar's books.

What I have learnt is that dogs like structures. They need their daily walks (even if you live in a house with a huge garden, you still need to walk your dog), you must set boundaries for them (if not the dog will think it is the boss of the household) to follow, and only to shower them with affection when they are in the right state of mind (calm and submissive state and NOT aggressive). You might say it's easy for me now as I have a puppy and it's easy to train them from young. However, you can teach old dogs new tricks. Dogs move on fast and don't hold on to the past. As long as you start teaching, they start learning good behaviour and unlearn bad habits.

There are 2 camps out there: love Cesar or hate Cesar. You can be the judge after you watch his shows. I have not seen him being cruel or violent to any of the dogs. Instead, he uses a simple method to teach the dogs to respect boundaries and be calm-submissive. At the rate I am learning, I think I will be ready to adopt a dog when I get another dog in a few years' time as Butter's companion. In the meantime, I have also bought another of Cesar's books titled Cesar's Way.

I leave you now with some pics of Butter, my new puppy. She is from Australia and is a real smart dog. Why the name Butter? Well, we love butter and all the food we love are made with butter... croissant, pastries, desserts. Lol.

A calm submissive state of mind makes a happy dog. Affection should be given only when dogs are in this state. Never reward a dog with treats or affection when it is excited, aggressive or misbehaving.

Exercise is a daily ritual. It is what makes a dog healthy and happy.

Exercise dispenses the energy of the dog to prevent unwanted behavioral problems at home. Butter is too tired from her exercises to be up to much mischief. When she is restless, I take her out for a walk to work it off.

Tipping the ears of shelties and collies is a common practice. My secret trick is to use double eyelid glue to stick the ears down. It is non toxic and won't hurt the doggies.

We made the mistake of letting Butter roam the entire apartment on the first day. However, we quickly corrected it by setting up boundaries, by using a baby gate to confine her to her room (which is like a huge crate to her). She is not allowed to roam the apartment without supervision for now.

We were bombarded with too many options when we were choosing a bed for Butter. We got lucky and chose one that she really loves. This bed is soft and has a wall to keep her from falling off. It is like she is sleeping in a cocoon.

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