Learn to ‘speak’ in your dog’s language

2014-06-12 00:00

CORRECT litter-departure age, socialisation and habituation, is really just a matter of following procedure and ensuring exposure of the puppy to appropriate stimuli. One of the biggest events in a puppy’s existence is the time when they change location from the litter to a new home controlled by humans.

Providing food, water and a place to sleep is fairly simple. The challenge comes in the various languages that are “spoken” by different species. A puppy does not know how to solve this problem due to an inability to think or reason. Thus the responsibility lies with its owners.

How do humans converse with another species in a manner which the recipient is capable of understanding? Let’s add cats, a few rabbits, plus a parrot, to the mix and now the pack consists of five different species, all “speaking” different languages.

Problems arise because the parties involved do not understand messages sent during any interaction which occurs via sound, body language or even release of pheromones. When owners do have the necessary experience or knowledge to integrate parties successfully, it is thanks to homework having been done and trouble taken in achieving a happy outcome.

I say this due to the many human-canine relationships brought to my attention where pet owners did not know how to establish and maintain successful pack hierarchies, or were shown ineffectual methods.

When puppies are introduced to strange hierarchy structures, they have to rely on knowledge attained from mother and siblings when finding their position of rank in a new pack.

Stable, resident older dogs will know instinctively how to teach new younger canine members, but people are designed differently and so problems always begin as a result of owner-pet communication being the same as with other humans. As a result, in a very short period, all the good work completed during the early developmental months, begins to unravel.

For instance, when Tiny, the large or giant-breed puppy jumps up against us at nine weeks, the behaviour produces hugs and kisses, but at 12 months, and weighing 60 kg, his size and strength are not cute any more. Unfortunately, the big guy has learnt that by merely using his bulk and power, people tend to give him a wide berth. Not only does he jump up against his owners, but also counter tops, to sample food prepared for family members and guests. Lawns turn into sand patches while visitors are intimidated by his rough behaviour and thunder-like growls. Initially, his owners had control, but as he grew bigger and stronger, even simple tasks such as feeding and walking, became a struggle.

Bought from a responsible breeder at eight weeks, socialisation and environmental enrichment were adequate. He even attended puppy school. All the requirements for future stable behaviour were met, but as happens in so many cases, our pup’s new owners never learnt their pet’s language and incorrect responses only exacerbated the already failing relationship.

This is not just a body mass issue. Small and medium breeds may among many others for example, defecate on beds, urinate on owners’ laps, or produce ear-splitting barks.

In summarising, it is extremely important therefore to provide, not only physically, but also mentally, in order to have long, enjoyable friendships with our pets.

However, to make this possible, we need to know the correct formula.

• Steve van Staden is a canine behaviour specialist and can be contacted via his website at www.dogtorsteve.co.za Advice is only dispensed in face-to-face meetings with owners and their pets.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.