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Discipline and Training

Hints & Tips

Dog Discipline and Routine

Like children, dogs need routines and they need to learn what they can and can't do. The sooner the training starts the better. Training will need to cover many areas; feeding, behaviour in the home, obedience outdoors, interaction with people and vets etc. Early, effective training will make for an easier life.

Your new dog or puppy must learn its place within your family, or as they see it, within their new 'pack'. They must be introduced to their new routine as quickly as possible when you get them home.

It is important that all your family members follow this same routine so that your dog can learn by repetition and not become confused. Also, make sure that everyone uses the same words for specific commands.

At first, training does not need to be too formal. Use a lot of praise and rewards, such as food treats, for good behaviour. If your dog misbehaves, tell them off using a stern voice, making sure they stop whatever it is that you do not want them to do and then ignore or leave them alone for a few minutes. They will soon learn that behaving in such a way is not much fun.

Dogs need to chew! However, it is your responsibility to make sure that your dog has access to things that you want them to chew and not the opportunity to chew your shoes or a table leg! Do not be tempted to give your dog an old slipper to chew instead of a proper toy as they will not know the difference between an old one and a new one!

If you catch your dog chewing something they should not, say 'No' firmly, move them away from the object in question, give the dog one of its toys or a food-flavoured chew and then give praise. Change these chews and toys often so that your dog does not become bored of them.

As well as chewing objects, you will find that your dog also likes to chew you! Hands, feet, arms etc are all at risk. The thing to remember is that this play biting is completely normal, but your dog needs to learn bite inhibition. If the bite is a little too hard, pretend to be hurt and turn away from them to 'nurse your wounds'. Over time they will learn to restrict the power of the bite and finally not to bite at all. Normally, this would be learned from the mother or siblings during play.

House training can be approached in much the same way as appropriate chewing. Make sure your dog is given plenty of opportunity to go in the 'correct' places and give them lots of praise when doing so.

Cat Discipline and Identification

As a rule, cats are far more independent than dogs. As a cat owner yourself, you like many others, may find this independence more appealing.

You can however train your cat not to do certain things, such as scratching the furniture, climbing on kitchen surfaces, eating house plants etc.

If you are experiencing behaviour problems, try using a spray bottle filled with water. Try not to let your cat see you when doing this, otherwise they could associate you with the unpleasantness, rather than the activity. This way, only their feelings are hurt and no physical damage is done.

You could also try throwing something near to your cat to startle it, such as a bunch of keys. Again, make sure they cannot see you. If your cat has taken a liking to nibbling on your houseplants, try spraying the foliage with diluted lemon juice. Your vet or an animal behaviourist can help with any ongoing problematic behaviour.

Once your cat has had the necessary vaccinations, you may decide that it's time to let them venture outdoors. Cats however do like to explore and can cover very large areas in short periods of time. Clearly it would be devastating if your cat should stray, get lost or even worse be involved in an accident.

It is therefore very important that you can be contacted if your cat is found or in an emergency.

There are many different ways that you can identify your pet, from microchips and tattoos or if you prefer something less invasive, pet discs or tags.

Puppy Socialisation and Habituation

Getting your puppy used to and interacting with the people and things they will encounter in life, now popularly known as socialisation and habituation is an important part of your puppy's development. There are few things more embarrassing for a dog owner than a dog that routinely tries to bite bicycle wheels or vets' arms!

It is important to recognise that there are limited periods in which a puppy can learn these essential skills. It is commonly thought that the best time to start introducing your puppy to stimuli such as people, cars, other dogs, cats, horses, loud noises etc is from six weeks of age, the most effective period being 12 to 14 weeks.

At first, your puppy will find many of these new experiences frightening. Without overwhelming them, introduce them to different people, animals and situations. By doing a little every day and by approaching the stimuli yourself calmly and confidently, you will show your puppy that they have no reason to be fearful.

Eventually, your puppy will be so used to such experiences that they will ignore them. The wider the variety of objects and situations you can introduce your puppy to, the less likely they are to be afraid of them and possibly act aggressively towards them in later life.

We've all heard horror stories about people taking their dogs to the vets. By daily examining your puppy, they will be used to a similar sort of attention from the vet.

Clean your puppy's teeth daily from the start. Daily grooming and examination of ears, paws and around the tail will result in a much less stressful situation for both you and your dog whenever you have to visit the vet.

Building your puppy's confidence in coming across new and strange objects and situations is the key to avoiding aggressive behaviour in the future?