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Catch Me If You Can!

For first three months puppy follows everyone in the home. He comes running to you at the slightest hint. It looks as if nothing else exists for the puppy except you and your family! In the morning as you get up, he is there, trying to jump on the bed, coaxing you to come out and play. He strolls with you on the lawn, may run after a butterfly or a grasshopper or sniff here and there, but every few minutes he rushes back to you. You feel elated, ‘Ah, how intelligent is my pup!’ you imagine.
 
Alas your elation is short lived. The pup is barely four months old when during one of the morning trips to the park; he does not come to you when you call him to return home. He keeps looking back and keeps running away. Out of sheer reflex you run after him. He runs faster and then slows as he sees you slow down. You make another attempt but he reaches the other end of the park in a jiffy, leaving you panting. With lots of running and shouting and with the help of others in the park, you catch hold of your pup. Your anger is high by then and you just grab the pup and give him a nice thrashing while you shout at him. Finally he is dragged home and tied. ‘Don’t talk with him and do not offer him food’ you angrily instruct the family members.
 
Poor pup has his tail tucked between his hind legs and ears slink behind. His tail quivers for a while on seeing you, but seeing your angry looks he just slinks down and goes off to sleep. ‘See how guilty he was feeling!’ You tell your wife. In reality he was not feeling guilty at all, because he had done nothing wrong. He was just scared of your shouts and beating. By his standards catch me if you can is a simple game which he loves to play.
 
After the punishment you think that things will be normalized. Next trip to the park is even worst. He keeps playing nearby, but the moment you pick up the leash he is ready to bolt. Your shouts apparent have no effect on him. He just bolts and tries to entice you in a game of catch me if you can.
 
Each day the problem worsens. It begins to tell upon your nerves. You stop releasing him in the park, instead keep the leash on. Lack of exercise and constant leash impacts his behavior at home. He starts doing weird things-like digging his mattress till it is torn to shreds.
 
Well the problem is not that serious as you are thinking. His game of catch me if you can be reversed easily. Take him in the park and release him as usual. Once he begins to run away you run in the opposite direction. Dumb dog forgets that he is much lower in the evolutionary ladder. He may be able to outrun you, but he can not outsmart you. Once he comes to you. Do not lunge at him, just sit on your haunches, pet and caress him a lot and let him go. Let him play the game again, each time you repeat the procedure. Soon he knows that going to you is after all not that bad. Actually this is a game that he has been playing with his litter mates and dam since infancy. Chasing is picked up by dogs at a very early age of about six weeks. This is a part of the hunting instinct. Running away is a part of that instinctive training where chasing a prey or running away from an adversary both is equally vital for survival.
 
But that is not going to be a permanent solution. Because till now pup has only realized that going to you during the play is a nice experience, but at the end of it he gets tied and has to go home where he remains tied.
 
Actually many things happened in the life of the puppy in these last few days. Firstly he developed the ‘bolt complex’ as he realized that he can out run you. Secondly you got fed up with his mischief and started to tie him continuously. So the problem has two dimensions. One is his age and power to run faster and second is your ignorance about how to teach him to accept the leash.
 
I have already described the leash training in one of the earlier blogs ‘A for Apple’ therefore I will not elaborate here. Before taking your dog out please ensure that he learns to accept the leash and also learns to Stay on command. Before the pup develops the bolt complex also let him master the command to Come. Though most of the pups break the discipline when they develop bolt complex, still it makes things lot more easy for you.
 
Once you are convinced that the pup will come to you when called, where ever he, you can unleash him in the park. After a few minutes call him to you, once he comes, fuss with him a lot, leash him, walk a bit and let him go again. Repeat this procedure a few times. This makes him believe that he will not be leashed and dragged home. Finally when you take him home he comes happily on leash, to be unleashed and praised again after reaching home.
 
As I have often said a pup learns by experience. If he associates something with a good experience he does it willingly. If the experience was bad, like those initial trips to the park, when he was leashed after a while and dragged home, he develops ways and means to disobey such commands or avoid such situations. Therefore you have to convince him that coming to you and getting leashed is one the best experiences he can imagine. Soothing words with all the honey in your voice and sometimes delectable rewards do the trick.
 
While going through these narratives you must have noticed that a dog is after all like a computer. You can get any thing done by him, provided you have ‘programmed’ him well. You have to devise small programmes initially and gradually as he learns more and more you can link the programmes. For example, if you have a Labrador retriever he will love to carry a ball or a toy in his mouth. He can be trained to do so. While returning from park with leash on and his favorite toy in his mouth as he walks with you, a command like Home or whatever you choose makes him connect the toy and home as a signal to go back home with you. The toy here becomes his reward for being obedient.
 
Dog training is after all not that difficult as thought to be. It needs a bit of patience and a bit of observation, what your pup is trying to say. If you have these qualities go ahead.


Image (c) Gettyimages.com

More By  :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

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