Training Your Keeshond

Puppies do not come into this world understanding human language or house rules. Dogs are NOT small, furry human beings. They do NOT think like we do. They do NOT reason things out, but they are experts at recognizing patterns and they learn by repetition. Examples:

  • On Thursdays, Fluffy is especially excited when his owner gets off work because he knows he has agility class that evening. Fluffy doesn’t know or understand that it is Thursday, but he knows the cleaning lady comes in the morning of the class. It is a pattern he recognizes.
  • In agility training, Fluffy will NOT learn how to walk a teeter-totter by watching other dogs. His owner will have to guide him over it many times before he learns how to do it.
  • His owner teaches Fluffy to enter the right-hand side of a U-shaped tunnel. Then, the owner tries to get Fluffy to enter the left-hand side of the tunnel, but Fluffy won’t go in. To a human, a tunnel is a tunnel, but to Fluffy, this is a new obstacle.

It is NOT enough to just love your dog, feed him well, and give him good medical care. A dog will NOT love you and behave just because you treat him kindly. Dogs are descended from wolves and still have many of their instincts. Wolf packs are tightly structured groups in which the alpha wolf is in charge and the other wolves take subordinate positions. If you want a happy, loving, well-behaved dog, you MUST take the place of the pack leader in your dog’s eyes. If you don’t take control, your dog will instinctively either try to take the alpha position and challenge you continually, or he will act out from the stress of not having a pack leader, probably destructively. Either way, he will be very difficult to live with.

There are several easy things you can do to show your dog you are his boss:

  • If you see your dog doing something wrong, tell him “No” or “Stop” in a firm, not angry, tone. When he stops, immediately praise him for stopping: “Good stop,” or something similar. Don’t chatter at your dog. It’s just meaningless noise to him. Use short, consistent words and phrases.
  • Feed your dog after you and your family eat.
  • From the time he is a young puppy, make a game of turning him on his back and petting his tummy. This is a submissive position. (But keep it fun.)
  • Walk through doors and narrow passages before your dog. The leader goes first.
  • Periodically take toys and chew bones away from your puppy. Then you can give them back, if you want. You can make it a game, but your dog knows the pack leader can take what he wants whenever he wants.

TRAINING TIPS:

  1. A tired puppy is a good puppy. Make sure your puppy gets lots of exercise to burn off his puppy-energy. It helps to teach him to fetch, so you can toss a toy for him to bring back to you. Fetch doesn’t require a lot of energy from you, but will be fun and tiring for him.
  2. Just the way babies put everything in their mouths, it is normal for a puppy to chew on anything within his reach. If he chews on something you don’t want him to, scold him, but remember, it is your fault for leaving it where he can get it. He doesn’t know any better and one or two scoldings probably won’t be enough for him to learn.
    Puppies have baby teeth, which are replaced by adult teeth, just like humans. They begin losing their puppy teeth when they’re about 2 months old and get their adult teeth by the time they’re about 9 to 10 months old. Chewing is part of the teething process, so expect your puppy to chew, especially during this time.
  3. Begin training your puppy right away. If you can, take a puppy training class. Look for one that uses positive reinforcement. Clicker training also works very well. Your puppy should learn how to walk on a leash, and basic commands including come, sit, down (lie down), off (get off or don’t jump), and wait or stay.
  4. “Come” is the most important command you can teach your dog. It can save his life. Call your dog to you, grab his fur while you praise him, and give him a treat. It’s a good idea to use a special treat just for “come.” Don’t be concerned about relying on treats—it is more important that your dog comes to you consistently. When he gets loose outside and it really matters, you want to be sure he’ll come when you call. And be sure to include grabbing/petting his fur as part of your training. You don’t want him just to take the treat and run away again.
  5. If your puppy gets loose, don’t chase him. Call him to you. If he won’t come, jump up and down like you’re having a lot of fun, act like an idiot, make funny noises, get down on the ground and kick your feet in the air, anything to make you more interesting than whatever he sees around him. If you move toward him, he’ll just think it’s a game and run farther away.
  6. Never call a puppy to you in order to scold him. You don’t want him to associate coming to you with punishment. You want to teach your puppy to always come when called, so always praise him as soon as he comes to you. Even if he ran out in the yard and you want to scold him, don’t. You can yell “no” or “stop” as he runs by, but once he is outside, cheerfully call him to come, and when he does, praise him. If necessary, show him the treat. Don’t worry that he will associate the praise with running outside—he will associate it with the last thing he did, which was to come to you. After that, be very careful when you open the door so he doesn’t turn running outside into a game. Tell him “wait” or some other command so he learns not to run out the door uninvited.
  7. Always praise your puppy for being good. Keeshonden are playful dogs, so approach a new command as a game you play together and you’ll get better results than if you treat the training session as a serious activity. Keeshonden are sensitive and usually respond to verbal discipline. It is rarely necessary to physically punish your Keeshond. If you do have to discipline him, show him that you love him shortly after. Puppies have extremely short attention spans, so he won’t understand if you are angry for more than a minute or so. It will just confuse him.
  8. Be patient. Your puppy may seem to have learned a command, only to forget it the next day. He may also seem to know a command for a week or so, and then forget it. This is normal. Keep working at it and praise him whenever he gets it right. Eventually, he will learn it and not forget.
  9. Be consistent. For example, when your puppy chews on your shoelaces, if you say “no” some of the time but not all the time, it will just confuse him.
  10. Regardless of what you may have been told, your Keeshond does have a conscience and knows when he’s been bad. You may come home to find him looking guilty and then find the trashcan he emptied, or the toilet paper he’s pulled off the roll, for example. Don’t let him get away with anything or he’ll learn to manipulate you.
  11. Keeshonden are extremely clever. Keeshonden have been known to open gates, refrigerator doors, cabinet doors, and sliding doors. Make sure your puppy can’t get to cleaning supplies or medicines. Use childproof latches, if necessary. Check your yard carefully for escape routes. If there’s a hole in your fence or a way to get over your wall, they will find it.
  12. Barking: A good way to stop a puppy from barking is to squirt him in the face with a squirt gun or spray bottle. The water won’t hurt him but the surprise usually breaks his concentration. Use a command like “quiet,” or “no bark.” A citronella bark collar works well for training many dogs not to bark. Another useful tool is Direct Stop, citronella in a small, pepper-spray type can.

Finally, it may take awhile for your puppy to learn the meaning of the words “no” or “good dog,” but he will respond to the tone of your voice, your body language, and even your mood. If you are in a bad mood, for example, your dog will know and respond to it, even while you say “good dog.” When you feel an emotion, the chemistry of your brain changes, and dogs most likely can sense it. (Dogs senses are extremely acute – some dogs have been proven to detect cancer by smell, for example.) As you train your dog, try projecting feelings of happiness, calmness, etc. You may be surprised at the results.