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The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David


      Frenchwomen love their lapdogs.  They coddle and pet them, buy them designer-label fashion accessories, get their ears pierced, carry them round in prinky little handbags, dress them up in little tartan raincoats, and wheel them round the supermarkets in their trolleys.

      There’s even a baker in Paris whose entire stock is designed to tempt Fido’s fickle appetite: liver flavoured cookies, veal pastries, rabbit-shaped biscuits and little duckie baguettes.

      The flip side of the coin however is a huge population of abandoned dogs across the Hexagon.  Some are old, some are bad-tempered, but lots are simply not house-trained.  Their owners fail to get the message across, get sick of clearing up messes, start hitting the dog and very soon afterwards lose patience, drive it out to the countryside and tosh it out of the car to fend for itself. 

      The SPA (Société Protectrice des Animaux) does its best, but places in dogs homes are limited and a large number of these dogs end up being put down, which is a shame because although house-training takes time and patience, it’s not complicated.  There are various methods, but this is the one I use.

      First off, never punish or shout at the dog.  All this does is make him nervous - which makes him less able to control himself, and more likely to do puddles all over the floor.  The general principle of dog-training is all carrot and no stick: ignore behaviour you don’t like and reward behaviour you do like. 

      So take the dog out regularly.  Every hour or so if you’re training a puppy.  Always go out after meals and sleeps.  Watch Fido like a hawk, and the minute he does something, start repeating “go quickly”.  When he finishes, go loopy patting and praising him, and giving him treats.  This is very important.  Dogs will do anything for a bit of sausage or a doggie chew.

      It won’t take more than a day or two for your dog to understand that if he does a whoopsie outdoors, he’ll get yum-yums but if he does it indoors, he gets nothing.  He’ll soon he asking to go out for a quickie and a bickie. 

      Establish a favourite lavatory place so that any time you’re in a hurry, you can take him there, tell him to go quickly, and he’ll perform on command.

      If you catch him in the act indoors, don’t hit the dog, rub his nose in it, or shout at him.  He won’t understand.  He’ll just think you’re unreliable.  Instead, instantly start calling “walkies” and waving the lead around to distract him.  Then take him out (clear up afterwards) and the minute he does anything, praise and pat and get the yummies out.

      Incidentally, use a biological laundry powder like Persil to clean up, so as to break down the doggie enzymes and completely remove the smell which is so inviting to a dog.  Once you’ve cleaned up, spray the area with repellent spray (available in supermarkets) to discourage him thinking he can go there again.

      If you discover little accidents, there’s nothing you can do.  Just clear them up without comment.  If you punish the dog, he’ll just learn to be afraid of you.

      I find this method works in under 48 hours, although naturally there will still be the odd accident, especially if you leave the dog alone or he eats something revolting out on a walk.  It takes a couple of months for a dog to be 100% clean in the house.

      It is worth noting that it is usually quicker to train adult dogs than puppies, and sterilised dogs often learn faster than fully sexed ones who are likely to have half their brains elsewhere.

      If this method gets you nowhere try a trip to the vet because it may be possible that your dog has a urinary infection, kidney problems or some other medical reason for being incontinent.

      But as for training a dog to ride around in a handbag all day, I haven’t the faintest clue.  Blackmail?  Corruption?  Bribery?

      “Look, Pooch-face.  Get in the bag and I’ll buy you a Cartier diamond...”



Next column will be uploaded around 15th Sept.




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