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How do I train my dog?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I have a four-month-old German Shepherd puppy. I have tried teaching him basic things like ‘heel’, ‘sit’, ‘jump’ etc. Though he seems to be understanding while I am teaching him, and repeats it a couple of times, he refuses to listen to my commands when I ask him to, say ‘heel’, in general. Is he too small to remember it at all times or am I not training him properly?   
— Shashank Pai

Hey Shashank,
It is good to know that you are a responsible pet parent and have taken up the onus of training your German Shepherd pup yourself for basic obedience commands, which will not only enhance the bond between you and your puppy but would also turn him into an obedient dog. For starters, yes, your puppy is young but this is the right age to inculcate commands in him, but a lot depends on the kind of technique you have incorporated to teach him to heel. Very often, once a puppy has a concrete idea of a command, owners tend to forget to positively reinforce the dog either with praise verbally or in the form of toys or food. Also continue to practice on a daily basis keeping training sessions short and ending them with either a play session, treats or grooming him with a brush. Also if your puppy is not obeying your command during a training session even after repeated attempts, its best to ignore him for a while and end the session. It’s best not to use the choke chain method teaching him to heel as you may end up gagging him. Instead one of the methods that you could use is a toy to get his attention to walk closer to you and remember to always praise him when he does.

My eight-month-old Siamese kitten has a knack of scratching furniture. I have got her a scratching post, and whenever she gets to scratching furniture, I take her to the post and tell her that she is to use the scratching post only. But she gets back to scratching furniture as soon as I am out of sight. What do I do?
        — Rumi Irani

Hey Rumi,
Yes, the method that you are using is correct but is just one of the techniques as every feline is an individual and what may work for one may not necessarily work for the other. Firstly the fabric on your upholstery differs greatly from the one on your scratch post, so the kitten will need to be enticed in to using it. One way of doing it is by turning the post to the side, stand your cat on it and with a string or other extremely appealing object, create a game by running it all around the post. When she has gotten the idea of scratching the post you can turn it the right side up again. Scratch the post with your finger nails again or use the string to entice your cats to use the post in its upright position. If she stretches up on the post but doesn’t scratch, gently stroke her back which will stimulate the scratching reflex.

Never push her claws on the post because cats hate forceful action. Catnip can also be used to entice your cat to use the scratching post. Also make sure that the scratch post is convenient for your cat to use and should not be hidden in a corner or a rarely used room.

If your cat has been scratching on a piece of furniture, put the post near it. Whenever she scratches the furniture tell her ‘NO’ and bring her to the post and always praise her when she uses it.

Malaika Fernandes, Walk Romeo, for canine grooming and behavioral classes,


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