Singapore Specials: Escape Artist

There’s always a problem when a dog is an escape artist. Oh yes, Singapore Specials are our very own local cross breed strays, or some call them mongrel.

Knowing that your dog will run out from your house when you open the door or your house gate can be a stressful thing for any dog owners. Then… how do we eliminate this problem?

Mistakes…

The mistake most people make when bringing home a new dog or adopted dog are:-

1. Failure to take a good long walk with the dog before introducing into the home

2. Letting the dog enter the house first

3. Letting the dog roam freely around the house with no boundaries

4. Giving too much excitement and affection overstimulating the dog

5. Giving/portraying too much excitement when putting on the leash to go for walks

6. Not enforcing discipline before going out from the door for the walk

7. Letting the dog walk out from the door

8. Letting the dog lead you during the walk

9. Letting the dog tell you what he/she wants during the walk without good proper structured discipline

10. Not consistent with training and discipline

All sounds familiar?

I understand some of you will ask, ‘why restrict the dog so much, so poor thing.’ Try understanding from the dog’s point of view and understand the psychology of how dogs actually views discipline. Yes, dogs are not wolves, but their ancestors are the wolves. Somehow, they carry almost the same instincts with the ability to read, smell and sense human’s body language, scent, emotions and intention from a distance.

Canine have always carried the instinct of being in a pack, having a pack leader, seeking a structured routine, learning boundaries and working for their food. Therefore, because of their instincts, we use it to help them live a fulfilled life everyday. Not by babying them, or showering them with tones of treats and toys, but by being a pack leader to them. Being a pack leader is like being a parent. A parent disciplines the child, drawing discipline and boundaries for the child. When the child act on the discipline and boundaries well, the parent reward the child with praise, affection or buying toys/computer games. Translate it to dog terms, it’s the same. The only thing we do not do is to cane the dog or ask the dog to go to their room and reflect. Dog’s don’t rationalize, they react to the situation base on what their instinct tells them.

I’m not going to talk too much about the psychology of dogs, but I’ll talk more about being a pack leader so that your dog will always remain in the house even if you or your guest happen to leave the door or gate open by accident.

1. Always bring your new dog for a long, stimulating walk before bringing him/her home. When I talk about stimulating, I meant fast walks with disciplines which stimulate the dogs mind to follow the leader. This means, your dog MUST walk beside or behind you at all times (not applicable for search and rescue dogs, or guard dogs). Ever witnessing a pack of 19 dogs led by a pack leader (an alpha dog) – It’s amazing how all 18 dogs stay behind the pack leader. And non of them stop to mark or do their own things. They follow the leader..

2. In a dog’s world, the pack leader enters first. Therefore, your dog should be sited outside until invited in (of course you’ll have to tie your leash to the gate for a start), or you leading your dog into the house behind you. I will always advocate sitting the dog down outside first, so that the line is drawn clearer for the dog.

3. Never let the dog roam freely around the house. This is to enforce boundaries and structure for the dog to help prevent future behaviour problems and, the dog will learn that there is a leader in the house whom he/she can respect and feel safe because their is discipline and boundaries in their instinctual mind.

4. You can give affection to your dog, but over doing it can cause an adverse effect on your dog resulting in unwanted behaviour. Always, very often, dogs try communicating with humans by showing us certain body language telling us it’s enough. But understandably, most won’t know how to read it. There are many actions a dog can communicate through which I won’t cover here. The safest is not to create too much excitement giving too much affection that the dog jumps or walk away from you. It’s tough not to cuddle and hug your dog tight, but we want their good behaviour to be present for the long haul. You will notice, dogs to dogs don’t go licking one another excessively or hugging another dog. They lick another dog to show affection, but never prolong period of time. Majority of dogs shows affection to one another with a silent presence of approval being around one another. This works for human to dog too..

5. Some people tell me that their dog get over-excited when they take the leash out. From taking the leash to putting it on will determine how the discipline will be at the door and the walk. Leash should represent calmness and discipline for the dog. A little excitement but controlled is fine, but you must know when to stop the excitement. So the safest will be to wait until the dog calms down (easier said then done- takes patience). I will only put the leash on the dog when he/she sits and remains calm. After putting the leash on, the dog must still be calm and wait for my invitation to move-on. This is a lead-up to helping your dog understand the leadership structure around the door area and going out. It enforces a discipline for the dog to always wait and look upon you for an invitation to exit out from the door.

6. Enforcing discipline and calmness at the door is very important as it’ll determine your walk with your dog. Always get your dog to sit and wait. Again, this takes patience initially. Once your dog sits and wait, you exit your door first.

7. When you exit your door, your dog shouldn’t rush out with you. You invite your dog out. When your dog is out of the house with you, sit your dog down before moving off. This will help enforce calmness and respect for you, the leader at the door.

8. When walking your dog, your dog MUST be beside or behind you. Having them beside or behind doesn’t mean they don’t have freedom. Whats freedom to us humans is not to them. Again, I repeat – dogs nature, they need to be led by a pack leader who can lay down structure and boundaries for them like a real alpha dog will do. Therefore, having them walk beside or behind you is their form of respect to you, the leader. This is how dog trainers are able to train dogs to walk off-leash.

9. Always let your dog pee and poop before the walk, never during. Dogs travel for miles before hunting for food and resting. With the same concept, being a pack leader, we let them pee and poop before we start traveling so that the walk will be focus. Dogs are always waiting for a pack leader to take them on a focus walk. Importantly, YOU must enjoy the walk FIRST, and your dog will enjoy the walk feeling fulfilled and trusting you more and more as his/her pack leader. This will aid in the training process of them not running of of the house but always waiting for your invitation.

10. Lastly, everything for a dog is about consistency in the discipline. Even if it’s so difficult, consult a professional and take a deep breath and continue on the training. Patience is the key to consistency and success for a fulfilled and happy dog.

I look forward to lesser lost dogs and more pack leaders in Singapore!

* I talked about alpha dog and pack leader, but I don’t mean pinning down your dog to a submissive position if your dog takes a longer time to understand what you want him/her to do at the door.

** Consult a professional if you face difficulty understanding why your dog takes longer with the discipline.

*** You can use a slip leash, semi-slip collar or a collar to help enforce the discipline, but be very careful not to injure your dog. Consult a professional if you have doubts about the various training aids.

**** You can use reward base training to enforce positiveness in the behaviour. Again, consult a professional if unsure, as you don’t want to reward the wrong behaviour by accident.

Ezra Koh

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