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Socialising and Habituation with Kali

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By Sue Williams Bsc, GODT(MT), MCFBA, Chairwoman Guild of Dog Trainers 26 August 2014

Life with Kali is proving to be fun but also tiring. Puppies are really time consuming and it’s vital to be aware of this before you get one.

The saying:’ you get what you put in’ definitely applies to puppies. If you want an adult dog who is confident, happy and bombproof you need to be prepared to spend the time socialising and getting your puppy used to new situations and environments.

That said it is important that you do this in the correct way. This week has been packed with new experiences, meeting people and educating Kali. Puppies need lots of rest and good quality sleep throughout the day, Kali is no exception . With this in mind everything we have done has been dictated by her, if she is tired I let her rest. I am strongly of the opinion that short positive interactions are the most valuable.

The training I’ve been focusing on this week is getting her interested and attentive towards me. Many people go wrong by not being interesting to their dogs. When you think about it, if you can get your dog really motivated to you then training becomes very easy. My aim is to build up Kali’s focus on me, to the point where she becomes so interested in me that she will ignore anything going on around us and I will be the most important thing to her. By achieving this I will be able to teach her training and control exercises more easily as she will choose to look for direction from me.

To do this I need to really know Kali and understand her character. I have to discover what she really likes and what’s she’s not keen on. Doing this will also help with bonding. Remember all pups are individuals so you need to answer these questions for your own pup.

Here is a list of some of things I have discovered about Kali:

  •     What tone of voice does she respond to best? She loves an excited high pitched voice but does get over excited with it, so is better with it toned down !
  •     How does she like to be stroked? She loves cuddles and being hugged. She definitely prefers gentle stroking rather than patting.
  •     What games does she like best? Being a Malinois she’s tug crazy the only problem is it does over excite her and bring out her natural prey drive. To use this effectively I will need to teach her some rules to the game. She also enjoys chasing toys, but is very possessive and doesn’t bring them back. It’s important I can play retrieve games with her so I will need to teach her to fetch the toy.
  •     What is her favourite type of toy? Tug toys are top of the list but squeaky ones come close.
  •     What is her favourite food? She loves her raw complete Natural Instinct food, which means I will be able to use her meals as rewards for training exercises. In essence she will earn her food!
  •     What excites her? Movement really excites her but there is a fine line which when crossed she becomes over excited and her high prey drive is very apparent!


One of the things I must address urgently over the next week is her mouthing and puppy biting. She is a real nightmare especially once excited. The worse problem I have is that when excited she grabs my legs and hangs on tugging at my trousers, this behaviour is extreme and once she takes hold she locks on, she has ripped three pairs of jeans so far!

In order to stop this behaviour I am going to apply conditioning techniques. I have already been conditioning Kali to a positive cue word I am now going to teach her the word ‘No’ and this will tell her to stop what she is doing immediately. I will then be able to use this for the mouthing and reward her when she stops. In order for this to work effectively for this specific problem I need to teach her control in other areas. Puppy mouthing is probably the most common problem people ask me about at puppy classes so I will cover how I teach Kali not to do this in detail so you can follow it with your puppy.

Looking to next week , which is set to be really busy. I am hoping that Kali will make her debut with my dog display team when we perform at a Tattoo in Scotland. I’m off now to practice on her focus as I will definitely be needing it!

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