WHAT’S AN URBAN DOG, ANYWAY?
She lifts her nose to catch a scent, darts to a tree where the sneaky gray squirrel is leaping from branch to branch, then relaxes to revel in the feel of squishy mud between her toes. She watches calmly as a skateboarder zooms by, then with one last hop in the mud she trots back to Dad.
THIS IS CHARLIE, a healthy, urban dog, enjoying her afternoon in a city park. It’s raining but she isn’t wearing a coat, she had a meaty bone for breakfast, and she enjoys getting a little dirty even though she was just groomed. Charlie is an urban dog whose dogginess is celebrated, embraced, and nurtured. She is given healthy food, lots of exercise, opportunities to explore nature and play with friends. Charlie is happy and well-behaved. Unfortunately, Charlie is the exception and not the norm.
FOUNDATIONS FOR SUCCSSFUL TRAINING
All the concepts that we recommend as foundations for successful training have the primary purpose of arming you, owner and trainer, with the “why” behind each training technique that is implemented later. By grasping these concepts first, training your pup can become a fun and intuitive process, so read them carefully and take them seriously!
Foundations #1: Holistic Approach
The first principle of training, and one that you should be well versed in at this point of the book, is the holistic approach. It is absolutely essential. If your dog is active, stimulated, healthy and socialized she will respond better to obedience training, she will exhibit fewer unwanted behaviors like chewing, and she is far less likely to develop intractable problems like aggression and anxiety.
The importance of dedicating time and energy to training your puppy cannot be overstated. The clock starts ticking as soon as you bring her home, and your responsibility is immense. But don’t be misled by the use of the word “training” here. This is not the time when you will be teaching your puppy to sit, stay and come. From birth to 6 months – by far the most important window of that being 8-16 weeks – your puppy will be learning much, much more important things. She will be learning about the world and how to feel safe in it, to be curious and comfortable in different environments, how to interact with dogs of different ages and personalities, and she will be learning to understand you and your language.
Puppy training can be roughly divided into categories of socialization, learning language (she yours and you hers), housetraining (where to poop and pee), and the formation of good habits (how to play, what to chew). We’ll take each in turn beginning with socialization because it is the most important and most time sensitive component of puppy training.
Obedience training is what most people think of when they hear the word “training.” It involves teaching your dog to respond with a specific act or set of actions when she is given a command, like “come.” We don’t start obedience training until puppies are about 6 months old, but dogs at any age can learn new commands. What obedience doesn’t include is tracking, protection, agility, and other specialized training.
OBEDIENCE TRAINING FOR AN URBAN DOG is essential for the obvious reason: keeping your pup under control in the crowded, chaotic, and sometimes dangerous environs of the city requires that your pup respond to basic commands like “come,” “sit,” and “stay.” However, it is also critical because through obedience training you will learn to communicate more effectively with your dog and to establish a set of norms and expectations. Your dog will learn to dependably listen to commands until given a release command. In addition, when you are displeased with your dog, you will know how to properly express yourself, and she will know what is expected of her.
In this book, we have focused on the right ways to raise a happy and balanced pup in an urban environment. By implementing a healthy, holistic lifestyle for your dog and by following our puppy and obedience training guidelines, you should be able to preempt any serious behavioral problems. Aggression and ingrained bad habits are the two categories that most behavioral problems fall within, and a guide to managing them is well outside the purview of this book; however, if unwanted behaviors do arise, we think it is important that parents are able to identify their source.
UNDERSTANDING WHY A DOG IS BEHAVING the way she is, is the first step in being able to properly manage the behavior. A dog who chews up the sofa because she has separation anxiety, for example, requires an entirely different remedy than a sofa-chewing dog with an overabundance of energy who may just need more exercise and stimulation. Our hope is that by using the information here to identify and intervene early, you will be able to nip any problems in the bud and raise a balanced pup.