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- In this week's pet edition, we deal will badly-behaved doggos and lonely budgie birds
This column is here to answer all your difficult or embarrassing questions about being a teenager. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to overcome particular situations at home, school, in your social lives, or even in the animal kingdom, our “Friend of a Friend” is an expert to help provide answers for you!
I’m in a bit of a conundrum. My one-year-old dog is lacking discipline! When he was tiny, we’d have a blast together. Soaking in the warm afternoon sunshine and playing fetch were just a few of the activities we’d enjoy. However, I’ve recently noticed that he seems a bit jumpy. The last time I gave him a dog biscuit, he hopped up like a pogo stick and snatched it out of my hand, almost taking my index finger along with him. That’s not the end of it. A few days ago, he walked into the house – covered from head to toe in a putrid concoction of mud and cow dung – and plopped down on the sofa. Now, I’m no stickler for corporal punishment, but his current behaviour is making me think that I’ve spoiled him a bit too much. How do you suggest I deal with him in an effective but pacifistic manner?
Thank you, All Out of Bones
Hi Bones, Well, first of all your dog is still a puppy, so that’s good. But it seems he’s lost some manners along the way, and as his dad, you’ll have to teach him with a lot of patience and praise.
A couple of phrases you need to learn: “Good boyyyyyyy” when he does something right; “Uh oh!” when he makes a mistake; and “No” to stop him from doing something. Please don’t use corporal, or physical, punishment! Better behaviour is all going to start with treats. You need something that is high in value to your dog, and low in calories and costs. Broken-up dog biscuits will do.
First, start by calling your dog – “Rufus, come!” – and if he even looks in your direction, give him praise and a biscuit. Soon he will associate you calling him with good things. Please don’t make your voice all squeaky, though, that’s just confusing to dogs. Low, firm and with patience, please.
Next time you decide to give him a random biscuit, tell him to “sit”. It’s a good idea to start using hand signals with each command, but keep them simple and consistent. If the dog is not very clued in to this sitting idea, tell him “sit”, hide the biscuit in one hand, and let him get a whiff of it before you take it over the top of his head. As his head comes up to follow the biscuit, and he tries to reverse, his bum will go down and he will sit. Tell him “sit” again, then reward and praise him. If your dog insists on jumping up, extend your hand, palm towards him, fingers splayed so that there is no room for him to jump. (We’ll call this the face-hand). Say “no” in a clear, firm, low voice. Tell him to sit. Make sure he sits and keeps his bum on the ground before you give him a biscuit. Always be consistent, and ask your family members to act the same way, otherwise they could undo all your hard work.
Smelly dog, smelly dog, why do you smell of poo?
If you feel yourself getting frustrated, walk away. Or, if he won’t stop jumping, turn away from him, with your arms folded. This tells him that you are not playing a game, and he will calm down in a few seconds. We’re guessing that cow poo is part of where you live and, ugh, no one needs to smell that in their home. But your dog thinks he smells like he just rolled in the most expensive perfume in the world and he won’t understand why you’re so excited about it. He can mistake it as the most wonderful game ever. You need to train him (when he is not smelly) that getting on the sofa is a “no”. If you parents don’t mind him on the sofa, then tell them that they need to give him permission to get on the sofa. They can pat it and say “up”. It’s best to do this when he’s just about to jump on the sofa, so he’ll get the idea pretty fast. He should not be allowed to take it for granted that he can just be anywhere. Like children, dogs need boundaries. So if he is on the sofa, give him the “down” command. You might need to do a bit of pushing before he is off, repeat the “down” command, and then praise him. When he goes to get up again, give him the face-hand and tell him “no”. He’s not going to get this immediately because he has obviously been allowed to do it before. But once you set new patterns of behaviour and reward and praise them, the old bad habit will fade.
Although you didn’t mention this, it’s good to bear in mind that you should never let your dog put his teeth on your skin, even in games. To teach him this, you need two toys. Give him one to hold in his mouth. Then hold up your finger and say “off”. Entice him with the other toy to release the first. Repeat the command, praise and reward! Do this back and forth with the two toys until he gets it. Remember that your dog loves you unconditionally; he just needs you to show him how to be the goodest boy, and he’ll try to do everything to please you!
Best of luck, Friend of a Friend
Dear Friend of a Friend,
I got a budgie for my birthday this year, after convincing my parents that I’d be responsible for it and take care of it. She is the most awesome bird ever and, as you can probably tell, I really love her. So when she recently started acting odd, I thought it would cheer her up if she had a partner, and my parents agree with me. However, here’s the issue: I think her current cage is too small for two birds, but my parents are convinced it’s big enough, especially since we live in an apartment. I don’t want to get another bird if we can’t keep it happy, but I can’t stand seeing my current one lonely either. Your advice would be very helpful to get me out of this dilemma.
Sincerely, Worried Parront
Hi Worried, It’s great to hear that you are aware of your feathery friends’ needs! Budgies are social creatures, and are much more content when they have a companion. But having enough space is also crucial for their happiness, as they need space to stretch their wings, fly around and perch in other areas.
I think your parents need to hear an expert’s opinion about the importance of space for your bird and her potential future companion. Call up an expert like a vet to explain to your parents why they need the space, or the next time your bird goes for a check-up, ask your parents to come along and ask your vet questions then! Further express your commitment by saving up for a larger cage. If they can see that you are prepared to pay for the cost for your birds’ comfort, they will understand that you are serious about caring for them.
Budgie wants to make sure you've loved yourself enough today.
In terms of where to keep the cage in your flat, is it possible to keep them in your bedroom? You may have to sacrifice some of your space for the cage. Alternatively, see if you can plan out where a larger cage would fit in your living room. Draw a layout of your living room and show it to your parents the next time you sit down for a meal. Don’t push your parents too hard, but consistently bring up the idea in a positive light. It sounds like they don’t understand your bird has feelings, so if you can encourage your parents to bond more with your budgie, perhaps you will be able to convince them if they grow to like her more! In the meantime, you can help your bird relax by finding “happy budgie sounds” on your phone, and letting her listen to them.
Hope things work out for you, Friend of a Friend
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