Living with a dog

The chances are that living with a dog and what your life would be like if you had one is something that you’ve already thought a lot about.

But apart from the romanticised version of walking your dog in the park and your dog lying by your feet when you sit down for the evening, there are practical things to be considered.

Balancing Commitments

Getting a dog is like getting a new member of the family. The dog will have needs such as walks, play, affection and training. In all likelihood, owning a dog is not the only commitment that you have, so you need to work the dog’s schedule around that of your own. Include family commitments, work, and time for yourself and see if you really do have the space to factor in a canine companion.

It is imperative that you train your dog to ensure that you and those who live with you have a peaceful time with the dog. Some people like to teach their dog all manner of things, others feel that it takes away from their dog characteristics. Whatever camp you fall into, every dog should have a few basic commands such as sit, down, stop, bed and stop talking. A badly behaved dog is difficult to lived with, and if a dog doesn’t understand what it is being asked to do it can be very stressful. Dogs work best with clear guidelines of what they are expected to do.

Basic Training

Before you take your puppy out

Introduce your puppy to his collar and lead. Start with a light collar and let him get used to wearing it on its own. Don’t buckle it too tightly – just enough to stop it slipping over his head. First accustom him to the lead rather than trying to make him walk with it on.

Taking your puppy out

The lead is essential for keeping your puppy under control in public places and for the basic training every young dog MUST be given. Coax him to follow you by praise but if he tries to get away just hold the lead until he realises there is no escape. An extending lead is a useful adjunct to training on open ground.

Once your dog has got used to his collar and has been persuaded by gentle manipulation of the lead that he cannot win a tug-of-war either by pulling ahead or hanging back, you can begin the basic training, designed to turn him into a quiet, obedient, social animal.

The basic rules

Training should be done by all members of the household, but make sure that the approach is consistent. Reward him with a show of affection and by stroking him when he does well. Do not punish a dog for not obeying a command. Simply withhold the reward of he will associate the command with punishment. Keep the lessons short-five minutes is enough and at regular times. Make it FUN for the dog to learn.

Use short words of command with vowels that sound clearly different. The first four essentials are HEEL – SIT – COME – DOWN. Training a dog needs patience and self control, but the bond of affection between you and your pet and his eagerness to please should overcome all difficulties.

The Irish Kennel holds Training Classes at the National Show Centre, Cloghran, Co Dublin. Click here for details.

Knowing Your Dog

In order to live in harmony with your dog, it is important to learn the rudiments of dog behaviour. There are plenty of books and free online resources that can teach the basics. It is vital that everyone in the household is able to tell when the dog is happy, afraid, nervous and angry.

Make sure your dog has safe toys to play with to stop him getting bored. A bored dog can damage your house out of nothing else to do. It’s also important that a dog’s bed is far away from the front door. If the bed is near the door, the dog has to make a quick decision. If the bed is further away, the dog can watch you interact with any new person who arrives, minimising the chances of any unwanted aggression.