Got a dog you can’t con­trol? It’s likely your prob­lem is that you don’t un­der­stand its true na­ture. We asked an­i­mal be­hav­iour con­sul­tant John Faul to throw us a few bones on how to be the leader your dog de­serves.

Fairlady - - TOP DOG - By Anna Rich

If an an­i­mal walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you’re not likely to treat it as a budgie, right? That’s my rule of thumb,’ says John. ‘We’ve got a wolf in dog’s cloth­ing in our liv­ing room. If you give him a chance to ex­press that “wolf­dom”, he will. You might say, ‘But I can take a bone from my dog and he won’t do a thing.’ Of course you can, be­cause he’s well fed. Keep the dog hun­gry for a day or two, then try to take his food. He’ll stand rigid, telling you, ‘Come any closer to this food and I’ll fight you to the death. I need it to sur­vive.’ The point is this: if you’re go­ing to live with an an­i­mal, you need to un­der­stand it. We’re deal­ing with the wolf, a pack an­i­mal, one that knows what priv­i­lege, right of ac­cess and con­trol he (and you) ex­er­cises within the group. Most of the prob­lems of in­ter­species dom­i­nance in our homes arise be­cause we ap­ply hu­man traits of democ­racy, fair play and equal­ity. They’ve got noth­ing to do with an­i­mal traits, and we’re not even sure they work for us. So here’s how to lead your pack.

The four-sec­ond rule

If I asked you if you’d like some mus­tard-flavoured ice cream, you don’t have to taste it to know that you wouldn’t like it. In hu­mans, the pre­frontal cor­tex en­ables us to make pro­jec­tions like this. An­i­mals don’t have that. If you want to change the be­hav­iour of an an­i­mal, you have to do it within four sec­onds of the act for it to un­der­stand that its ac­tion brought about the re­ac­tion it did. You have to en­gage its sense of self-preser­va­tion within that short time frame for it to re­alise that it’s not a good idea to do that again. Or if you want the dog to re­peat a pos­i­tive be­hav­iour, the re­ward must come im­me­di­ately.

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