The Correction Of Bad Habits
The innumerable requests received
from dog owners asking about the best method of correcting bad habits
have prompted me to explain my experiences along this line, in the hope
that they may prove of some definite advantage to all concerned.
AUTOMOBILES, BICYCLES, ETC.
Many a dog has paid with his life for
the dangerous habit of chasing everything that moves. There is no real
trick in curing this habit quickly, only a little patience and
conscientious work will do it.
Several dog owners brought to me pets which they claimed had acquired
the auto chasing habit, but from the moment I began systematic training
as described in Lessons 1—12, I had not the slightest trouble with
them. This success. I attribute especially to HEELING ON THE LEASH
because, whenever I cross the street, regardless of whether or not an
automobile is approaching, I invariably stop and induce the dog to take
the SIT position. When he has executed this correctly, I then proceed
to cross the thoroughfare.
After a little practise, the dog will stop as soon as he reaches the
curb even without the leash or in HEELING FREE. Bolting is nothing more
than a lack of obedience, because the dog has been given the command
HEEL and therefore he must HEEL. If he tries to run away, even after an
automobile, it is a sign that he does not understand the command in
which case the heeling will have to be practised more in places where
there is the necessary temptation of passing cars.
The same applies to the chasing of bicycles. Practise in the face of
temptation is the only cure for this habit and if punishment is
unavoidable, get the chainette into action the moment the dog shows the
slightest sign of disobedience by bolting after bicycles, cars, etc.
For some hunting dogs I have utilized a special device of my own
invention, a bunch of small chains to which, at the end of each chain,
a small ball of lead is attached. Usually five chains will do the
trick. The bundle is fastened to the collar as soon as the dog starts
running without command, the balls hitting his legs and forcing him to
stop to avoid self-inflicted punishment. My pupils have reported that
this works even for dogs that chase cars and bicycles.
Also, I have cured dogs of chasing chickens, cows, goats and cats by
fastening the long leash to the training collar, after which I tempt
the dog by the sight of any one of these animals. In such
cases, it is necessary that every command be avoided, but the moment
the dog makes the attempt to chase, a sharp NO is given, nothing else.
As a rule the dog will ignore the order and rush right up to the
animal, but the chase ends suddenly in a double somersault because the
end of the long leash in the guide's hand stops the culprit as soon as
he reaches the end of the rope. Perhaps this appears a trifle drastic.
However, it has never had any bad effect on the dog for the simple
reason that the moment he is called to HEEL, he is praised even though
he comes with his tail between his legs.
Many are the requests that come to me about correcting the bad habit of
stealing. Only recently I received word that a large dog had "beat the
family to it" by stealing a full-sized turkey prepared and ready for
serving. Despite the fact that the dog was provided regularly with the
best obtainable food, he took every advantage to steal which presented
itself. He stole only when left alone, and as he was not alone very
often, he could not have resorted to stealing on the basis of
loneliness. Unfortunately, the dog's master did the worst possible
thing. He called the culprit to him and administered a beating with the
inevitable result: the dog refused to come for several days, though up
to then he had been a most obedient animal.
It is natural that the dog should consider everything within reach as
his property, whether it be real estate or things edible. The real
estate of course is his to guard; the food, his to eat.
Now to break a dog of stealing food is not as difficult as it appears;
the most successful method, I have found, a leading into temptation. On
the table I place a good sized piece of fine, juicy steak attached,
with several strands of string, to three, four or five tin cans. The
meat I place so that it is bound to attract the dog's attention when he
is left alone. Then I leave the room, close the door and remain outside
awaiting events. In just a few minutes I hear the inevitable clatter of
falling tin cans! Now is the time for action. Usually the dog is so
concerned by the sudden racket that he loses all appetite for the
steak, and the sight of his irate master causes him to look for the
farthest corner he can reach. Here is an opportunity to use a stick or
a whip, but not to beat him!
Go to the dog. Do not call him to you. In your left hand, hold the meat
and command DOWN. Drop the meat in front of the dog, then grab him by
the collar so he cannot run away. Now go ahead with the beating,
striking the ground, never the dog, with the whip close beside him,
several times, as you say SHAME in a dis- gusted voice. Then release
him, and once released, all is over.
Repeat this the next day, and we will notice that a longer time elapses
before the noise of the "crime" becomes audible, if there is to be any
noise at all. As a rule it requires only one or two experiences of this
kind to keep a dog strictly away from the bait.
FOOD FOUND ON THE GROUND
One of the most deplorable faults a dog
can develop is the picking up of food found on the ground. Because of
it, many dogs are the victims of poisoning, and many veterinary bills
result from an otherwise unaccountable "stomach trouble." Sometimes,
too, vets are wrongly blamed for not curing a dog because the origin of
the gastric disturbance is unknown. Uncounted cases of stomach upset
arc brought on by picking up food that is in bad condition.
Although it is not my intention to offer medical or feeding advice in
this book, still I will go so far as to suggest that ill balanced
feeding is the main reason why the dog often looks around him for
something different. A dog needs, above all things, variety—he would
not enjoy eating turkey every day any more than you or I. Picking up
food that has been left lying about is usually caused by the lack of
certain vitamins or necessary elements in the dog's diet. So
instinctively he attempts to find the missing elements for himself by
taking such food as he finds available. Unfortunately, his sense of
smell is of great assistance to him in the quest for discarded and
The only way to prevent trouble of this kind is to keep the dog under
constant control, under continuous observation. No dog should ever be
let out to shift for himself. He may be killed or injured by fast
moving vehicles; he can come in contact with sick dogs, and he can get
into fights with other dogs. Moreover, many a friendly dog has been
stolen because, through a lack of control, the owner actually invites
dog thieves to do their dirty work. Breaking the PICKING UP FOOD habit
is connected with the usual temptation method. The dog must be caught
in the act, and punished by means of the throwing chain. And when he
has already experienced the discomfort caused by the chain, he will
need only to hear its rattle to realize the punishment in store in case
he misbehaves. Here I would like to give credit to one of my pupils who
invented a very ingenious device to keep his dog from investigating
garbage cans. Over the cover of the can and invisible to the dog, he
connected a few throwing chains, so that the moment the dog managed to
uncover the can, the chains came clattering down to his great surprise.
As a result, this dog makes a wide detour whenever he sights a garbage
receiver. A little careful thinking will lead to many original methods
of breaking dogs of bad habits like the one with which this lesson is
While it is a sign of obedience when the
dog BARKS ON COMMAND, still the dog which barks continuously without
stopping is a nuisance to the neighbors and even to his owner.
Continued barking, which of course, constitutes disobedience, is the
result of giving a dog too much chance to do as he likes.
Observe a dog of this character and in him you will find a
disinclination toward obedience in other exercises: observe the owner
of such a dog and you will find laxity and even neglect. The dog always
knows with whom he deals. He knows exactly who will let him "get away
with it." Just a little hardening of the heart will serve to show him
who is boss and every dog, even the most deplorably spoiled, will very
soon realize that his master says what he means and means what he says
when he issues the command OUT and hurls the throwing chain in cases of
And how intensely annoying it is when, at the ring of the bell, the dog
rushes to the door and makes conversation with the visitor impossible.
This is the time for the command DOWN-STAY, the correct execution of
which must be enforced even with the help of the throwing chain.
Dogs left alone for any length of time in the house often develop
barking or howling habits to the discomfort of the neighbors. A dog
must learn to remain in the house by gradually extended periods of
absence on the part of the owner. In the great majority of cases, the
howling is caused by loneliness especially in dogs that love
companionship, and, it is perhaps needless to add, such howling is
answered by other dogs, innocent of the start of the noise but
nevertheless punished in the end for the sins of another. If only a
neighbor would throw a stone, or a throwing chain against the house
occupied by the first barking dog, the trouble would be stopped to the
satisfaction of the neighbor, the owner and the dog.
When two or more dogs accidentally get
into a fight, we can see the absolute helplessness of the owner who
tries to separate the battlers by hitting or kicking them. If this
proves unsuccessful, as it usually does, attempts arc made to get hold
of the dogs by their collars in order to pull them apart. This too
avails nothing more than that the owner, perhaps more than one owner,
is bitten sometimes even by their own dogs.
Methods of the sort are totally wrong. It must be realized, first and
foremost, that a dog imbued with the excitement of battle, has only the
destruction of his enemy in mind; that all commands, training rules,
and love of master are over-ruled by this passion. Experts have advised
sprinkling a solution of ammonia over the fighters' noses; they have
suggested frightening the dogs with water! I have never seen dogs
separated in this particular way because I know of no one who carries
such solutions around with him.
There is just one way, to my knowledge, to separate fighting dogs and
that is to take hold of the tail or the hindlegs and pull! As,
ordinarily, it takes some time before dogs have a mouthful hold on each
other, most of them can be separated in this manner without danger to
dogs or master. As soon as the dog, even when in the highest pitch of
excitement, feels some movement at his hindquarters, he will turn
around to see what goes on there. He loses his hold on his opponent and
the separation is effected. Provided the owner of the other dog is
familiar with the same method, no serious harm will he done. And the
spirit of sport should rule at once by forgetting the incident when it
happens on the training field.