Owning a dog is a delight for many families. At their best, dogs are affectionate companions who teach adults and children valuable lessons about responsibility, compassion and empathy. From guard dogs to running companions, and lap dogs to show dogs, it’s no doubt they have helped make many lives happier and healthier. But dog ownership can go horribly awry for people who lack the time, resources, or know-how required to train their pets properly.
For a start, many people dump their pets after becoming exasperated with their “problem behavior.” Dennis Schenk, a Beijing-based canine behaviorist, reckons that about 50 percent of new dog owners end up getting rid of their pets because they fail to successfully potty train them.
A US-certified canine behaviorist, Schenk has been working with dogs for more than 20 years. He is the CEO of Doggy Thoughts Canine Training and cooperates with Doctors Beck and Stone Pet Health Care Center.
At the more serious end of the scale, behavioral problems can have dire consequences if they’re not tackled. Last year in Beijing more than 200,000 people were bitten by dogs and the vast majority of victims were children. Even more worrisome is that 80 percent of these people were bitten by their own dogs. To prevent your family from joining these disturbing statistics, Schenk recommends training the dog to respect your leadership every day from day one.
”You have to start telling the dog what to do every day; otherwise, the dog will start telling you,” says Schenk. He claims that 95 percent of the behavioral problems he sees is a result of either lack of exercise or lack of leadership. Dogs – like children – need exercise, discipline, structure, leadership, guidance, motivation and love from a very young age. They need to learn their place in the family’s hierarchy.
“This is our problem: People treat their dogs like humans,” says Schenk. “We want to shower the dog with love and affection but that won’t fulfill what the dog needs. Dogs are pack-oriented, so they need a leader. We need to teach dogs that we’re the leader and we’re in charge.”
Frank Fan is a canine behaviorist and obedience trainer, and the co-founder of International Center of Veterinary Services (ICVS). Beijing-born Fan started training dogs more than 20 years ago in New York, when he received training from the RSPCA. Upon moving back to China in 2006, he helped open ICVS with co-founder Mary Peng.
Like Schenk, Fan stresses the importance of establishing your leadership with your dog. Dog owners must establish rules to teach dogs that the humans are at the top of the hierarchy in the house, suggests Fan. The first house rule people need to teach their dogs is that they cannot touch anything belonging to humans, be it human bodies or human possessions. This means shoes are off limits to chewing and beds are off limits to jumping. Another golden rule is to feed the dog at a separate time and space from the family.
“The pack leader must naturally eat first,” Fan says. “If you eat with the dog, you send a signal to the dog that you can negotiate your leader status. From a behavioral view, you need to draw a clear line between where the dog and the leader is situated. You need to give the dog a clear place to sleep and eat.”
Fan also advises his clients to use a simple trick to stop their dogs but they don’t understand dog psychology. Dogs are pack animals. They need a leader. The leash is the symbol of the leader. If you use a leash, the dog must follow your direction,” says Fan.
These tips may save your relationship with the dog and prevent many behavioral problems but unfortunately they cannot make a dog completely safe around young children. Even well-behaved and apparently placid dogs need to be watched carefully around children, especially young children who often move in erratic and unpredictable ways.
Dr. Sara Platto, PhD, is a veterinarian and animal psychologist and the CEO of Human Animal Interaction. Dr. Platto says parents should teach children how to “read” dog signals, so that they know when to approach a dog and when to back off. She cautions parents against giving their dog the curse of “the good dog” – allowing children to play with the dog in inappropriate ways because the dog is so good he does not react even if the child sits on it.
“Your dog can maybe stand the improper behavior of your child for a long time, looking at you for help, but one day your ‘good dog’ will bite your child,” says Platto. “This is not the dog’s fault, but the mistake of parents [who have not taught]the child how to recognize and respect the ‘signals’ the dog has sent to him.”
Children should participate in dog training programs to help them learn how to handle their pets. This is difficult with very young children, but by the time most kids are 10 years old, they are mature enough to take a more active leadership role with the dog.
“Everyone who handles the dog should receive training,” says Schenk. “There are no bad dogs, only untrained humans.”
Canine behaviorist and CEO of Doggy Thoughts Canine Training Schenk offers a range of services, including group training, group courses, puppy foundation courses and ayi training. He also offers free advice every Saturday at Doctors Beck and Stone Pet Health Care Center.
(137 1802 7490, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Co-founder of ICVS and canine behaviorist and obedience
Fan offers a range of services, including individual and group training.
Contact ICVS (8456 1939/1940/1941, email@example.com) to
get in touch with Frank Fan.
Dr. Sara Platto, PhD
Animal psychologist and veterinarian, and CEO of Human Animal Interaction
Established in 2007 by Dr. Platto, Beijing-based Human Animal Interaction runs a range of programs, including puppy classes, obedience training, and family safety around dogs.
(135 2131 7865, firstname.lastname@example.org)