Reader’s Query: Our two and a half year old Weimeraner, Roger, loves running out of the house and eating off the garbage bin in our compound. Every time the doorbell rings, he waits for the door to open and then dashes out. We have to go and get fetch him and if we don’t, he returns within an hour. Roger is well fed, but is fed a vegetarian diet. Do you think he is doing it to get bones? How can we stop him?
Shirin: Scavenging is a natural canine behaviour, but not acceptable where our domesticated dogs are concerned. This habit is not only dangerous to him, as he can get hurt or run out of the compound, but also to you as he can bring home a variety of horrible diseases from the garbage bin, which can easily be transmitted to you and your family. The first thing you need to do is to prevent your dog from dashing out of the house every time the door is opened. One way to do this is to erect a baby gate at your main door, so that you can interact with people at the door without him dashing out. Alternatively, put him on a leash so that he can be in your control when the door is opened. Just before opening the door, the person should loop the leash around a strong piece of furniture near the door. It would also be a good idea to get his diet checked by a vet. Vegetarian diets, if not balanced carefully can be deficient. And most importantly, get the garbage bin removed from your compound, or replace it with one that has a sturdy lid and make sure the garbage is emptied on a daily basis.
Q: We are the proud owners of a handsome one-year-old Rottweiler. He is very good-natured, even with children. He doesn’t even bark when the doorbell rings. However, my husband argues that it is unusual for a Rottweiler to be so mild natured and that our dog should be true to his breed and demonstrate aggression. I have read a few books which all say that the breed can be dangerous. Should we encourage our dog to be more aggressive?
Shirin: There is no place for an aggressive dog in today’s society and definitely no place for an aggressive Rottweiler. Most Rottweilers have an innate guarding instinct that will surface in time with maturity. A sensible owner will channel this in the right direction. To encourage a dog as powerful as this to be aggressive is asking for trouble. Poor breeding practices, lack of socialisation and failure to teach basic manners can lead to a dog that is aggressive and assumes control over his family. Such dogs often end up being abandoned or put to sleep. Be glad yours is good-natured and work hard towards keeping it that way. It is in breed temperament that the Rottweiler is often misjudged. Do quote to your husband the standard of the breed’s temperament, as stated by the American Kennel Club (AKC): “A dog that in the opinion of the judge menaces or threatens him/her, or exhibits any sign that it may not be safely approached or examined by the judge in the normal manner, shall be excused from the ring. A dog that in the opinion of the judge attacks any person in the ring shall be disqualified.”
Q: For the past two months we have hired a dog trainer who comes thrice a week to train our nine-month old Boxer. Initially, our dog was happy, but now whenever she sees the trainer she runs and hides below the bed. No matter how hard I try, she refuses to come out and has to be dragged out physically. Once I hand her over to the trainer, she follows him meekly. A couple of days ago, when I reached under the bed to force her out, she bit me on the hand. I am shocked as she is a normally sweet natured dog. Why did she do this to me?
Shirin: By hiding when the trainer comes, your dog is clearly telling you that she finds the training extremely unpleasant. This is probably because your trainer is using methods that are harsh on your dog. Since most city dogs only get to go for an extended walk when the trainer comes, they, initially, are happy to see the trainer. Later as the training progresses, most dogs grow to dislike it if the methods are abusive. For your dog to dislike it so intensively that she not only hides, but will even bite to prevent going with the trainer, says a lot. Ideally you should discontinue the trainer’s services – immediately. Do not force your dog to participate in something that is unpleasant. A dog that is cornered will bite if left with no other option. If you ignorantly allow your dog to be abused in the name of training, then you are equally to blame for the anguish your dog is put through and the problems that crop up because of this.
There are many trainers out there who use reward-based methods. Hire one that is willing to teach you how to train your dog; be wary of those that take the dog away from you under the excuse that your presence will distract it from its training. The truth is that he doesn’t want you to see the methods he uses to get your dog to obey him. As a loving and responsible owner, you can ensure that your dog does not suffer to learn. Training can be a lot of fun for the dog and the owner.