Guide for Old and New dog owners

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  • Guide for Old and New dog owners

    I have been asked by many people over the years for dog advise (esp new puppy owners). I have kept a bit of a glossary of the basics. If anyone is interested here is a bit of a run down on raising a decent dog. I raise sport dogs a little differently to this but most of it is the same or at least has the principals. The desired end result with sporting dogs is a little different so you need to change a few things to get best results.

    (Note: I have used he/him in this - same applies for bitches she/her etc)


    Your dog will be a puppy then a young dog til its 2 – 3years old so expect it to be stupid and allow it to be a puppy.
    Any damage it does is YOUR fault for leaving stuff around or leaving it in an area where it can do damage.

    He is going to chew everything especially whilst teething.

    Dogs bite, that’s what they do, they will bite the kids and anyone who puts their hands near them, don’t need to tell them off just give them a toy. If kids want to pat and play with them and they don’t have a toy in their hands it’s the kids fault (or your fault for not instructing the child). If it continues to bite constantly (months down the track) a simple arrhhh should do – then give them the toy and say ‘good boy’.

    It won’t have a memory really of what it has done so don’t waste your time punishing it after the event (including toilet training).
    A raised voice correction should be enough for a puppy. Never need to hit a dog.

    Controlling Dominance

    Dominance does not only mean, strong headed aggressive dog, it can be a lot more subtle, essentially by it being in control rather than you being in control of them. It is the biggest problem people have with dogs, they can quickly establish dominance (some breeds are more susceptible to this than others). Dogs are pack animals and instinctively (particularly Alpha types) try to become the top dog. They do this slowly and subtly but it can easily be controlled by the following techniques.

    If you are a softer nature type person you will have to be anal about controlling everything in the pups/young dogs life. This starts with crate training.
    Essentially you will need to dictate to him his daily life - feed time, sleep time, play time (with you). He should always be either in the crate, on a lead or in a controlled area (small room and/or yard). Don’t let him wander around the house/yard. He does what you want him to do when you want him to do it. (I wish kids were that easy!)

    Always ignore wining/yelping. Wait till it stops for a couple of minutes before going to the dog – even if you think you really have to (only exception is if you think something serious/illness may be happening to the dog).

    Understanding subtle dominant behaviour in a dog help people learn how to establish themselves as the pack leaders in the home. Here are just a few behaviours many dogs will display that represent a dominant behaviour:
    • Sleeping in bed with the owner
    • Pushing you to pat him
    • Not allowing the husband into the bedroom after being gone on a trip
    • Growling near food or toys
    • Not allowing you to take toys away by showing aggression (not just playing keep away)
    • Always going through doors first (make sure you go through doors first)
    • Always going down stairs first
    • Being extremely dog aggressive
    • Resisting laying down when told to DOWN
    • Showing aggression to certain family friends and not others

    Sitting in elevated positions is another way to help your dog become dominant. Sitting on couches/beds and especially laps can encourage dominance. If everything else is controlled in his life it can be okay, only when you tell him, never when he wants to. IE if he sits next to you and looks up and whines or looks sad subtly telling you he wants to come on your lap do NOT let him. I would only allow him on your lap when you have established control and you are confident that he is following. Then he can sit there when you want him to and likewise he gets off when you want him to (if he jumps off put him back on your lap until he settles and you are happy that he can get off). Control everything possible in his life.

    As he gets older and knows his position you can start to relax the rules a bit. If he starts getting on top again (even a little) tighten up immediately.

    By the time he is around 3yrs (again dependant on specific dog and breed) he will not challenge you again and accept his position. Often they accept their role quite quickly but then challenge from time to time. Usually an intact male will have one last attempt after they reach full maturity (2.5yrs ish). My German Shepherd is about as arrogant, pig headed and alpha type you can get. He still doesn’t listen to anyone (wife included) but me. This is not recommended generally but that’s the way I have trained him for the work I was doing. He has not challenged me since he was about 3. I could do anything to him and he would accept it. He’s at the stage where I don’t really need to worry about the dominance rules. Same thing will happen when your boy/girl gets older (if you remain vigilant with the rules).

    Crate Training.

    You want this to be a happy place. Don’t lock him in it right away. Put a bed in it and feed him there. After days/weeks (depending on dog) he should go there of his own accord to sleep. When he is comfortable lock the door. If he yelps don’t open it until he is quiet. Don’t force him back in it if he doesn’t want to get back inside - just feed him there. If you keep it a happy place for him he should ultimately be happy to be there with the door open or closed. Some dogs take to the crate immediately and you can lock them in there as much as you like as they feel secure in there. When hes comfortable you use the crate as a controlling measure, ie put him there whenever you like, a few times a day and take him out when it suits you. It’s not cruel, dogs instinctually love dens/caves etc.

    Very handy for car trips/vet visits/ visiting people etc. If he needs to stay overnight at the vet in the future he won’t be as stressed being locked up.


    I could write a thesis on training and still not cover everything (as many people have). Like people, each dog is different and training has to be adapted to suit that dog at that time. Below is a bit of an over view/ general guide.

    Best way to train is through positive reinforcement. No corrections until you are absolutely sure he knows what he’s supposed to do and is not doing it out of stubbornness.

    Everything you teach it from manners, respect, house rules, tricks should be by constantly making it do things how you want. The dog will then do it from habit. Bribery through food is usually best (if food driven) or ball / toy if prey driven (prey drive is how much they like to chase balls and things).

    Puppies will get scared from time to time. Do NOT comfort in anyway – be confident and encourage ‘come on mate’ and he will learn not to be scared. Make sure kids do same.

    Expose him to everything you can when he is young and teach him not to be scared and to ignore things. Shopping centres, car parks, beach, other animals, if you do he will have much less chance having issues when he’s older. Obviously have to wait till he has his shots for public places.

    Expose him to all types of dogs (big small in between) best dogs are older calm dogs that aren’t aggressive at all and don’t really want to play.

    Don’t let him play wildly with other dogs. It has become the lazy way for innercity folk to ‘exercise’ their dogs. This can create a dominant dog if not careful also he will become obsessed with other dogs and it can be very annoying. (in park with family and all the stupid mutt wants to do is play with every dog he sees.) IE let him have short (1-2min) plays with other dogs then take him away.

    Bad habits are very quickly learned, but they all (99%) can be undone.

    When training no more than a few minutes and always at home to begin with (no distractions). Much better with 3 x 3-5min sessions in a day than 1 x 30min to 60min session.

    They don’t know English only tones. Good boy in a bad voice means bad boy (even when hes old).

    Every command 1 word.

    (the below is from Leerburg - fantasitc website with a tonne of knowledge)
    The correct way to obedience train a dog involves three stages of training:
    1. In the Learning Phase the dog is taught the meaning of a command through motivational methods. This means guide him through different exercises by giving food or a toy reward when they do what you want.
    2. In the Correction Phase (NOT for young puppies) teach a dog that it will be corrected if it does not follow a command that it has learned in the LEARNING PHASE. We know the dog knows what we are telling him to do, but he refuses to do it.
    It would be unfair to correct a dog for not following a command that is does not know (also confuses the dog)
    3. In the Distraction Phase we teach a dog that it has to mind all the time - no matter what's going on around it. We do the training for the learning phase in a location the dog is totally familiar with (i.e. your kitchen or back yard)
    In the distraction phase increase the level of distraction the dog is expected to perform in. (i.e. in the park or in front of other dogs)

    Many obedience classes do a decent job teaching owners the LEARNING PHASE but they really drop the ball in the CORRECTION and DISTRACTION PHASE. Classes that focus on CLICKER TRAINING and training classes that focus on owners using HEAD HALTERS (Halties) or instructors that are against physical corrections are examples of this. Many of the pet warehouse training classes fall into this category - they want to appease the tree huggers and PETA terrorists.

    When a dog has not had a solid foundation in all three phases it will not mind all the time. When these dogs are faced with a high level of distraction they ignore commands.

    People who only take their dog to puppy classes also miss the training on corrections. Puppies should not get serious corrections until they are 6 to 8 months old (a serious correction is a poke in the side – never need to hit a dog).


    2 x a day morning and night (anytime doesn’t matter). I tend not to do it to a strict routine (still now) just so if I’m low on food or busy the dog doesn’t hassle me as he never knows when hes getting fed, (this doesn’t really matter, just makes life easier).

    Bones every second day. Either replace the meat content or give him a bone during the day / night.
    If hes a pain at night give him a bone then as it will keep him occupied (if a pain in day vice versa) part of getting the dog to act how you want through positive training.

    Hold the puppy back for a few seconds after putting food down. Then let him go to it. Start trying to get the dog to relax a bit then let him go. Increase time as he gets used to it. He will learn – ‘when me relax me eat’. When he learns to sit get him before each meal. Sit and waits until you give him release commands.

    Pet shop.

    1. Puppy mince (in fridge area) its fattier than normal which is good
    2. Premium puppy kibble
    3. Brisket bones (these are the best for puppies) kangaroo tails (better later) chicken necks good now (other cartlidge/softish bones good).
    4. Puppy collar (he will grow out of)
    5. Training lead – about 2m soft cotton and cut off handle
    6. Walking lead
    7. Dog Crate

    He can have puppy food for quite a while and if you keep him really active he can be on it till hes quite old

    Can get brisket and other soft bones for dog.

    Never cooked bones of any kind especially chicken bones. Everything raw. Ham fat bones are NOT good either.
    Keep away from chocolate (the darker the worse) it will kill them (small quant makes them very ill)

    Be aware of snakes in the warmer months. Terrier type dogs cant resist them, they will often win, but if (when) they get bit, it generally means the end. Many great pups/dogs have been lost to snakes.

    Regulary check for ticks in tick areas (along the coast) and have up to date tick treatment. If the dog is listless in a tick area check them thoroughly and take them straight to a vet

    Vet/General Health

    Make sure you get all shots at vet and take their advice,
    Keep them up to date with worming.
    Dont over feed them (like people better off a bit thin than over weight).
    Keep an eye on their general health and well being, if in doubt take to vet.

  • #2
    great post mate. i hope you don't mind but i have printed it out and put in in the dog file in the filing cabinet for future reference and will be keen to read more of your posts.

    our GSP's are 11 months now (brothers and over 30kg) and have started to settle down. they are still a little wild and play fight aggressively in public and at home. Like you we feed them twice a day but fairly strictly 6:30am and 6:00pm (daylight saving is a challenge). they are stopping chewing random stuff but they have rope toys and get Kong's and rawhide chew things daily as we both work.

    we had them in the tent camping on the weekend and apart from making their own dog door beside the zipper they were well behaved. when walking they generally range out 30-40m before coming back or waiting for us. they haven't got much of an idea about game yet but they did manage to tear a head shot rabbit in half last trip out



    • #3
      Thanks for the positive feedback Steve. I hope it is helpful.
      Would love to swap some dog knowledge with more shooting knowledge (from what I’ve read it looks like you have plenty), there is so much to learn, but that is half the joy.

      I intend on posting a few more tips on obedience training, tracking and retrieving if anyone is interested. I have been lucky enough to train with some very competent European (world class) dog handlers and trainers, including a guy who won 3 x world titles (WUSV) with 2 different dogs, bloody awesome.

      Thanks for the positive feedback Steve. I hope it is helpful.
      Would love to swap some dog knowledge with more shooting knowledge (from what I’ve read it looks like you have plenty), there is so much to learn, but that is half the joy.

      I intend on posting a few more tips on obedience training, tracking and retrieving if anyone is interested. I have been lucky enough to train with some very competent European (world class) dog handlers and trainers, including a guy who won 3 x world titles (WUSV) with 2 different dogs, bloody awesome.

      They are fantastic dogs arent they. Be aware that Shepherds are genetically very closely related to wolves (one of the closest related dog breeds) and love to hunt and kill things. Once blooded (killed animals) they can be very difficult to control. I used to take a bitch I had a few years ago hunting often, she killed a few rabbits and the odd fox, but would try and kill anything that wasnt a dog (including neighbours cats ) Needless to say I wasnt very popular! I had to be careful with her around livestock (okay when I was around but wouldnt trust her on her own). She would rundown a mob of roos if I didnt have my wits about me.

      Two intact males will be very difficult to control if they get blooded.