Oddly enough, very few people, experienced trainers as well as novices, take any trouble to teach a puppy to remain quietly where he is left until his owner returns. This may seem a very trivial and unnecessary exercise. However, when one considers the number of dogs, including winners in obedience classes, which create pandemonium when left on the bench at a show, and the number of people who cannot go from home without their dogs in case of complaints from neighbours, one realizes how necessary it is.
The trouble usually starts the very first night a puppy goes to a new home. Everything is all right until the household retires to bed. Then the puppy realizes that he is all alone, away from his brothers and sisters in strange surroundings; so he begins to howl. Here the fatal mistake is usually made by some kind-hearted member of the family getting up to console the puppy.
It does not take an intelligent puppy long to realize that all he has to do is make a noise and someone will arrive to cuddle him and perhaps give him tit-bits. To save the owner the trouble of getting up, the puppy may be allowed to sleep in the bedroom, and thereafter refuses to sleep anywhere else. This state of affairs usually goes from bad to worse. It is very nice to have a dog that is one’s ‘shadow’, but there are occasions when the average civilized human being does not want a dog with him.
It is no use scolding the puppy at this stage, as he will not understand you and you will only make him more miserable and probably distrustful of you. I hope, too, that very few of my readers would be so unkind as to scold a puppy just because he is miserable. You can, however, leave him alone. Some people may consider that a bit unkind, too, but if you put a puppy in a box with a comfortable bed, he may howl for a bit, but the chances are that he will soon settle down and go to sleep. A hot water bottle will almost invariably encourage him to do so.
- A mild sedative or tranquillizer obtained from your vet is a good stand-by. This can save a puppy (not to mention yourself and your neighbours) a worrying and sleepless night or two. It should, of course, be reduced and discontinued as quickly as possible.
- Never go back to him when he is actually making a noise or you may give him the idea that he has only to make a noise to attract attention. Wait for a break (probably a short one) then go back and praise him for being quiet.
- The other common example of the dog which cannot be left alone is the one which has been reared in kennels, always in the company of other dogs. If he goes tO a new home, or is taken out on his own and left by his owner — as on the show bench — he will often create pandemonium.
This very bad habit can often be prevented by teaching the puppy, when quite young, to stay in all sort of odd places, either shut up or tied up. Do not at this stage try to teach the ‘Sit’ or ‘Down’ but simply teach the puppy to stay and see that he has no option but to do so. Go out of the room, turn round as you leave, give a firm command ‘Stay’, and shut the door. If the puppy scratches at the door or starts to bark, rush back to him and scold him severely. If you have been training him on the right lines, he will now understand the meaning of ‘No’. If not, this is a good opportunity to make him understand. Repeat this as often as necessary, scolding more severely each time, until he remains quiet. When he does, do not leave him too long, but go back and praise him before he starts barking again.
Soon he should associate a severe scolding with making a noise. He should also learn that you are only leaving him temporarily and that, if he remains quiet, you will return to praise him. This treatment can be adapted to a wide variety of conditions. Tie him to a peg whilst you do a bit of gardening; or shut him in your car; or leave him tied up in all the odd places you can think of.
If you follow this advice, your puppy should grow into a dog that you can leave anywhere without your feeling ashamed of him. If you always use the same command, by the time you come to teach the Long Down, your dog will know the command ‘Stay’. You will then only have to teach him the Down, and are likely to have much less trouble than the average trainer when you come to the ‘Down out of Sight’.