As someone who grew up with 20 dogs, I’m often asked: “How do you manage?” It’s quite simple really: while dogs don’t want to incur your displeasure, they’re even keener to see you happy. Here are a few pointers on dog training:

Greet them in a happy tone of voice: Talk to your dog regularly, say hi and bye to them, compliment them for doing the right thing etc.

Make eye contact: When one makes eye contact with their pet, what this does is give the pet an ideal to live up to. Consequently, when they do something that they ought not to do (they learn very fast that they ought not to do some things), they have difficulty making eye contact with you. Eventually, they give up doing the thing that prevents them from looking you in the eye.

Establish boundaries while the dog is still new to your life: The secret is to ensure that your dog knows about your rules. If you don’t want him jumping on you for example, then disallow it from the beginning. This can even be extended to you allowing them to jump on you when you’re wearing your home clothes, and them knowing not to jump on you in work clothes or formal clothes. The key, when pushing them down, is to do it kindly, using a simple “no”. If you have a rule, then maintain it from the start. Don’t expect the dog to sense your mood and react accordingly!

Avoid habitual tying: When a dog is always tied up, it leads to him trying to compensate for the restriction of movement when he’s free, as well as a growing sense of anger towards the people who keep tying him up.

Don’t hit them: This is simple psychology. If you hit your dog, you teach him to get accustomed to violence, and then it’s just a matter of time before he turns violent towards others. And if you’re one of those who want a “vicious dog” to assuage your own feelings of inadequacy, though you may claim it’s to protect your home, you’re going to be stuck with an unhappy dog who won’t give you the endless quantities of love that he is capable of.

(The writer is a novelist and animal welfare activist)

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