Brrrr….It’s cold outside! The following guidelines will help you protect your companion animals when the mercury dips.
- Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm–dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.
- Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
- Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
- Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
- Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him–and his fur–in tip-top shape.
- Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for more information.
- Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
The holidays are a time to eat, drink, decorate and share good times with friends and family. However, the same treats and trimmings considered harmless for humans can be hazardous to your pet’s health. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is offering pet owners some helpful hints to keep their pets happy and healthy during the holiday season.
Christmas Trees: Pine needles can get lodged in an animal’s esophagus, making it painfully prickly for your pet to swallow. PETCO says that even drinking the water from the Christmas tree base is enough to cause diarrhea, mouth sores, vomiting and loss of appetite.
Deck the Halls: A bunch of mistletoe may tempt a festive kiss, but PETCO warns that eating this holiday greenery could cause a drop in blood pressure, as well as vomiting and swollen throat and mouth tissue. Other holiday foliage, including Holly and Poinsettias, contain toxins that could lead to severe stomach problems, as well as skin, mouth and eye irritation. Worse yet, Yew is extremely toxic, and one mouthful could be deadly.
Tinsel and Lights: A flickering flame and shiny decorations intrigue companion animals. When lighting the menorah, advent wreath or decorative candles, PETCO advises to keep pets in another room where paws and claws can’t reach them. With electrical lights, remember to tape exposed electrical cords to walls or floors to ensure no chewing or tripping. Tinsel and wrapping paper may look like fun toys, but they can cause choking, upset stomach or more serious problems.
Visions of Sugar Plums: PETCO knows that cookies and candies are as much about holiday tradition as a snowy street scene; however, some of them can be dangerous to your pets. For example, chocolate contains a chemical known as theobromine, which can be highly toxic to your four-legged friends.
Antifreeze Alert: The onset of winter often means new antifreeze for the family car, which is a substance that can be especially harmful to the family pet. PETCO notes that antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which causes rapid and permanent kidney damage to your companion animal if ingested in even small amounts.
Holiday sweets with chocolate are not for pets. Depending on the dose ingested, chocolate (bakers, semi sweet, milk and dark) can be potentially poisonous to many animals. In general, the less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it could be. In fact, unsweetened baking chocolate contains almost seven times more theobromine as milk chocolate. Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate can be seen with the ingestion of as little as 1/4 ounce of baking chocolate by a 10-pound dog. Keep your pet on its normal diet. Any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals that have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. Don’t give pets holiday leftovers and keep pets out of the garbage. Poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages. Greasy, spicy and fatty foods can cause stomach upset; spoiled or moldy foods could cause food poisoning signs, tremors or seizures.
- Alcohol and pets do NOT mix. Place unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot reach them.If ingested,the animal could become very sick and weak and may go into a coma, possibly resultingin death from respiratory failure.
- Keep aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers away from pets. They can cause vomiting and intestinal blockage.
- Be careful with holiday floral arrangements. Lilies are commonly used and all varieties, including Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Stargazer and Casa Blanca can cause kidney failure in cats. Safe alternatives can include artificial flowers made from silk or plastic.
- Common Yuletide plants such as mistletoe and holly berries can be potentially toxic to pets. Should a cat or dog eat mistletoe, they could possibly suffer gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Holly can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and lethargy if ingested.
- Poinsettias are considered to be very low in toxicity. However, they could cause mild vomiting or nausea if ingested by your pet. Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers, which if ingested, can cause stomach upset. Stagnant tree water can also act as a breeding ground for bacteria and if ingested a pet could end up with nausea,vomiting and diarrhea.
- If ingested, decorations such as ribbons or tinsel can become lodged in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction. This is a very common problem, particularly with cats. Consider decorating your tree with ornaments that are relatively less enticing to pets, such as dried non-toxic flowers, wood, fabric or pinecones.
- A Christmas tree should stand on a flat, wide base. You may also want to anchor the tree with fishing line tied to a drapery rod, a ceiling or wall hook. Cats often see trees as excellent climbing posts. Whether your tree is live or artificial, both kinds of needles are indigestible.
- Cover your tree stand tightly with skirting. The water from the tree base can cause mouth sores,vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.
- If you plan to entertain, provide a “safe haven” to which your pets can retreat when they get overly excited and there is a possibility of escape.
- If you are going away for the holidays: make sure pet enclosures are secure, your pets are wearing proper identification, and arrangements have been made for their care.
- While your pet is safe in a loving home, remember those less fortunate. Millions of pets, nationwide, will be homeless this holiday season. Our shelter animals appreciate toys,treats, and especially love and attention as much as yours. So visit and bring your holiday cheer.
Leaving a dog alone in a car on a hot day can prove to be a fatal mistake. Often, people don’t realize just how quickly a car’s internal temperature can rise, putting a pet’s life at risk.
- Never leave your pet in a parked car. Even cracked windows won’t protect your pet from overheating or suffering from heat stroke during hot summer days.
- Exercise your dog in the early morning or evening hours, instead of during the middle of the day when it’s the hottest.
- If your dog is out during the day, remember that asphalt and concrete can get very hot and burn the pads of your pet’s feet. Your pet must always have shelter available to protect it from extreme temperatures and inclement weather. Keep in mind, too, that pets who are older or overweight are more likely to overheat during hot weather.
- Since many people treat their lawns with pesticides at this time of year, keep your pet away from unfamiliar yards and grassy areas.
- Provide your pet with fresh, cool water every day in a tip-proof bowl.
- Keep your pet well-groomed, but resist the temptation to shave off all of his hair in an effort to keep him cool. A pet’s coat will protect him from getting sunburned. The coat also acts as cooling insulation for most animals.
- Keep your pet away from spots or puddles of auto coolant in the garage, driveway, or parking lots. The sweet taste of this poisonous liquid is tempting to animals, but could lead to a fatal result.
- Don’t let your dog ride in the back of an open vehicle, like a pick-up truck. Unless your dog is riding in the cab with you, your dog could bounced or jump out of the moving vehicle. If your pet must travel in the back of an open vehicle, make sure he’s safely tethered to the center of the bed where he’s unable to reach the sides and is able to stand or sit on a slip-proof and cool surface. Metal or even plastic beds or tool boxes can easily get hot enough to burn their feet.
Spring is here, and the summer traveling season is just around the corner. Families will be hitting the road to explore the country, visit family and friends, and enjoy summer days away from home. If leaving Rover at home or at a kennel is not your idea of a family vacation, bringing your canine companion along can be a fun and enjoyable experience as long as you plan ahead, and make special arrangements to ensure that Rover’s comfort and best interest are at heart.
Is Your Pet a Good Traveler in the Car?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself. A healthy, well-behaved pet can be a fun traveling companion. But pets that are very young, very old, pregnant, sick, prone to biting, excessive barking, or motion sickness may not be happy on a long trip.
Inquire about pet policies before making your reservations. Properties may have restrictions on the type or size of pet allowed. There may also be a limited number of pet-friendly rooms available at any given time, so it’s important to call several weeks before your trip. Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA Pet Book, 3rd edition is an excellent resource for planning your trip. It has listings for more than 10,000 pet-friendly, AAA-rated lodgings throughout the United States and Canada. It also includes fees and other pet-specific information, advice on traveling by car or plane, international travel tips, animal clinic addresses and phone numbers, national public lands that allow pets, and contact information for pet-friendly organizations. Other wonderful pet-friendly travel guides are Travel With or Without Pets: 25,000 Pets-R-Permitted Accommodations, Pet sitters, Kennels & More! (Pets-R-Permitted, 8th Ed) by M. E. Nelson (Editor), Take Your Pet Along: 1001 Places to Stay With Your Pet by Heather MacLean Walters, and Pets Welcome: A Guide to Hotels, Inns and Resorts That Welcome You and Your Pet by Kathleen Fish.
In the car
For most pets, a hard-sided crate with plenty of ventilation is the safest way to travel. Consider covering the carrier with a light sheet or blanket as cats get pretty concerned when they see the world moving by. Also, many pet supply stores carry safety harnesses for your dog that simply connect to the seat belt, and allow Rover to sit up and watch out the window. A restless, unrestrained dog can be very dangerous for both you and him. Also, safety restraints reduce the risk of your pet jumping out at a stop and getting away.
On your departure day, place your cat and other small animals in their carriers, and confine your dog to one room or your backyard while you pack up the car. Only after everything is packed should you load the animals in your car. Don’t forget to pack a bag for your companion containing food, water, first aid kit, and his favorite toys and treats. If you control the intake, you can usually control the output, and cats can usually go eight to ten hours without using a litter box, but it may be handy to pack a disposable litter box for overnight trips or extra long road trips. Also in this bag should be a current health certificate and vaccination records, especially when traveling from state to state. Make sure that your animals’ vaccinations are up to date as well.
Do dogs get carsick? Absolutely. If you already know your pet gets carsick give diphenhydramine (generic Benadryl) at 1 mg per pound of body weight up to twice a day. Start half an hour before you leave for your trip. This dose will lightly tranquilize your dog and settle the tummy. Just like people, some dogs are queasier than others, and puppies are especially sensitive to motion. Wait a couple hours after your dog has eaten to begin the trip. If your pooch gets sick, sugar can help. Give a tablespoon of honey before beginning the trip. NEVER give chocolate, which is toxic to your canine companion.
Never leave your pet inside the car unattended. On a warm day, the air inside can quickly top 110-120 degrees, which are life-threatening temperatures for any pet. On cold days, the temperature can drop just as quickly, creating the danger of hypothermia.
Make sure that you stop every two to three hours to give your pet an opportunity to stretch and answer the call of nature. It’s also a great time for the driver and any passengers to get a breath of fresh air. When you arrive in your hotel room, check for hazards such as dangerous hiding spaces or exposed electric cords. Also, ensure that all doors and windows are secured before letting your animal out of her crate or off her leash. Many dogs drink toilet water, and many lodgings have chemically treated toilet water, so it’s very important to always keep the lid closed on the toilet. Make sure that there is plenty of fresh water accessible to your pet, as she may be thirsty afterthe car trip.
Traveling with your pet is a lot of fun, especially when exploring the great outdoors. As long as simple, but important, precautions are taken, there should be no reason why the family vacation can’t be enjoyed by all.
Imagine that you are unable to understand where all the explosions are coming from and the flashing lights that appear out of nowhere. There is no way to help you understand that these frightening displays of vision and sound are ‘FUN’. Your pet goes through that terrifying experience every Fourth of July. Fourth of July fireworks can frighten pets, and that fear can cause your dog or cat to panic and try to escape the confines of your yard or house.
- Please keep your pet indoors on the Fourth of July in a quiet and isolated room with covered windows, or the basement where there are no windows, to help her feel safe and secure.
- Turn on a fan, a radio or television to muffle the sound of fireworks. They’ll provide familiar indoor sounds and may help soothe her if she must be alone on this noisy holiday.
- Don’t take your pet to a fireworks display.
- If your pet behaves nervously by pacing, whining or crying, distract her by playing with her or doing something she enjoys.
- Don’t stroke, pet or reassure her by saying, “Don’t worry, it’s okay.” This may actually reinforce her nervousness or fright.
- Make sure she always wears an appropriately-fitting collar. If your pet is a dog, you should be able to slip no more than two fingers beneath her collar. If your pet is a cat, she should be wearing a stretch or safety collar.
- Your pet should always wear an identification tag with your current phone number and address, as well as a current license/rabies tag.
- You may want to talk with Lewis Clark Animal Shelter about providing her with a microchip identification implant, in case she loses her collar and tags.
- If your pet does stray away from home, it’s important that you visit The shelter to find out if your pet has arrived safely. You can find addresses and phone numbers of shelters in other cities and states listed in the front section of the “white pages” telephone book and on the internet. Provide a photo and specific description of your pet. These steps will greatly increase your chances of finding your animal friend!
Developmental Stages Of Puppy Behavior
Although feeding time is important, it’s also vital to include petting, talking and playing, in order to help your puppy build good “people-skills.” Well-socialized mothers are more likely to have well-socialized puppies. Puppies “feed” off of their mothers calm or fearful attitude toward people.
Puppies are usually weaned at six or seven weeks, but are still learning important skills as their mother gradually leaves them more and more. Ideally, puppies should stay with their littermates (or other role-model dogs) for at least 12 weeks.
Puppies separated from their littermates too early often don’t develop appropriate “social skills,” such as learning how to send and receive signals, what an “inhibited bite” means, how far to go in play wrestling and so forth. Play is important to help puppies increase their physical coordination, social skills and learning limits. Interacting with their mother and littermates helps them learn “how to be a dog” and is also a way to explore ranking (“who’s in charge”).
Skills not acquired during the first eight weeks may be lost forever. While these stages are important and fairly consistent, a dog’s mind remains receptive to new experiences and lessons well beyond puppy-hood. Most dogs are still puppies, in mind and body, through the first two years.
The following chart provides general guidelines for the stages of development.
- 0 – 2 weeks = Neonatal. Most influenced by their mother. Touch and taste present at birth.
- 2 – 4 weeks = Transitional. Most influenced by their mother and litter mates. Eyes open, teeth erupt, hearing and smell developing. Beginning to stand, walk a little, wag, bark. By four or five weeks, sight is well-developed. During this period, puppies need opportunities to meet other dogs and people.
- By four to six weeks they’re most influenced by their litter mates and are learning about being a dog.
- From four to 12 weeks they’re most influenced by their littermates and people. They’re also learning to play, including social skills, inhibited bite, social structure/ranking and physical coordination.
- By three to five weeks they’re becoming aware of their surroundings, companions (dogs and people) and relationships, including play.
- By five to seven weeks they’re developing curiosity and exploring new experiences. They need positive “people” experiences during this time.
- By seven to nine weeks they’re refining they’re physical skills/coordination (including housetraining) and full use of senses.
- By eight to ten weeks they experience real fear — when puppies can be alarmed by normal objects and experiences and need positive training.
- By nine to 12 weeks they’re refining reactions, social skills (appropriate interactions) with litter mates and are exploring the environment, spaces and objects. Beginning to focus on people. This is a good time to begin training.
- 3 – 6 months = Ranking - Most influenced by “litter mates” (playmates now include those of other species). Beginning to see and use ranking (dominant and submissive) within the pack, including humans. Teething and chewing. At four months they experience another fear stage.
- 6 – 18 months = Adolescence – Most influenced by human and dog “pack” members.
- At seven to nine months they go through a second chewing phase — part of exploring territory. Heightened exploration of dominance, including challenging humans. If not spayed or neutered, beginnings of sexual behavior.
Breeding Your Pet?
Don’t Want to Have Your Pet Spayed or Neutered?
Are you thinking of breeding your pet? Are you unsure as to whether you want to have your pet sterilized or don’t think that it’s necessary? Then here’s something you should know: Spaying or neutering your pet can help it live a longer, healthier life. It’s true!
Studies have shown that spayed or neutered pets are less likely to develop reproductive-related health problems. In fact, the earlier in life that a dog or cat is altered, the better.
Another benefit to having a spayed or neutered dog or cat is that your pet won’t stray away from home to search for a mate. Also, without the urge to mate, your pet is more likely to focus on you, resulting in a closer bond with your animal companion.
Consider this: If your pet roams away to find a mate, it faces the dangers of getting hit by a car, encountering people who might abuse it, getting in to a fight with another animal, catching a disease from another animal and other perils.
Spaying or neutering your pet also helps to eliminate the pet overpopulation problem. Since there are not enough good homes for all of the pets that are born, it’s important that you prevent your pet from reproducing.
Even if you can place all of the puppies or kittens that your pet may have, you cannot guarantee that those animals won’t reproduce. If they do, you won’t be able to control whether those litters will be placed in good homes.
Another benefit to having your dog or cat spayed or neutered is that most animal control agencies offer reduced licensing fees for sterilized pets. Also, spaying or neutering your pet is affordable! Look through the “yellow pages” and ask for references
from other pet owners you know to find the veterinarian whose services and fees are just right for you.
Q: Isn’t it dangerous for “Shadow” to undergo a spay or neuter surgery?
A: No. Millions of cats and dogs have been safely spayed or neutered by veterinarians across the country. The surgery is common and routine for most veterinarians. If you’re concerned about the procedure, be sure to have your veterinarian thoroughly explain the steps of the surgery to you.
Q: If I have “Sammy” sterilized, won’t he become fat and lazy?
A: Pets that have been spayed or neutered can be just as active as unsterilized pets. Remember that any pet can gain weight if it’s not provided with appropriate nutrition and adequate exercise.
Q: Isn’t it healthier for “Misty” if I breed her once?
A: No. Female dogs and cats are less likely to develop medical complications in their senior years if they’ve never been bred or experienced any estrus cycles.
Q: Won’t “Jake’s” personality change if I have him neutered?
A: No. The basic personality of your dog or cat won’t change when it’s sterilized.
Q: Wouldn’t it be great for my kids to witness the miracle of life by letting "Bitsy” have a litter?
A: The birth of a litter of puppies, kittens or other small pets is truly miraculous. However, it’s equally important to teach children about being responsible for these lives. Since this litter will add to the pet overpopulation problem and there’s no guarantee that they or any of their future litters will have good, permanent homes, what other lesson will your child be learning from this experience? Homeless pets that already exist desperately need your help in teaching kids about responsibility to animals and respect for all life. Find out how you can help prevent pet overpopulation by visiting the Pet Overpopulation fund website.
If you have someone watch your pet while you go away, make sure that the pet sitter has a list of emergency numbers, including a number where you can be reached, the number of your veterinarian, and the number to your local animal shelter. Your sitter should also have your dog’s or cat’s rabies certificate, so you should be sure it is licensed before you leave. Should your dog or cat become involved in a potential rabies situation while you’re gone (e.g., he bites someone or gets into a fight with a raccoon), the vaccination and license information becomes crucial.
Make sure that your dog or cat is wearing some sort of ID. Pets are more likely to run off when left without their owners. If he’s wearing an ID when he runs off, it’s much easier for anyone who finds him to get him back home safely.
Make sure that your pet sitter knows to call the animal shelter if the pet does get lost. It’s best to leave the sitter a complete written description of the pet or at least some color pictures so that the sitter can provide a detailed description of the pet should a lost report need to be filed.
Many pet sitters don’t even know to file a lost report with the shelter. Other sitters who know to call the shelter if the pet gets lost can file only a general description of the lost pet (“sort of a medium-size brown dog”) and may not even know whether the animal was male or female. Since we may have around 300 animals at the shelter at any one time, we need as accurate a description as possible to search our kennel for your pet.
Dog Toys And How To Use Them
There are many factors that contribute to the safety or danger of a toy. Many of those factors, however, are completely dependent upon your dog’s size, activity level and personal preference. Another factor to be considered is the environment in which your dog spends his time. Although we can’t guarantee your dog’s enthusiasm or his safety with any specific toy, we can offer the following guidelines.
The things that are usually the most attractive to dogs are often the very things that are the most dangerous. Dog-proof your home by checking for: string, ribbon, rubber bands, children’s toys, pantyhose and anything else that could be ingested. Toys should be appropriate for your dog’s current size. Balls and other toys that are too small can easily be swallowed or become lodged in your dog’s mouth or throat.
Avoid or alter any toys that aren’t “dog-proof” by removing ribbons, strings, eyes or other parts that could be chewed and/or ingested. Avoid any toy that starts to break into pieces or have pieces torn off. You should also avoid “tug-of-war” toys, unless they’ll be used between dogs, not between people and dogs.
Ask your veterinarian about which rawhide toys are safe and which aren’t. Unless your veterinarian says otherwise, “chewies” like hooves, pig’s ears and rawhides, should be supervision-only goodies. Very hard rubber toys are safer and last longer. Take note of any toy that contains a “squeaker” buried in its center. Your dog may feel that he must find and destroy the squeak-source and could ingest it, in which case squeaking objects should be “supervision only” toys.
Check labels for child safety, as a stuffed toy that’s labeled as safe for children under three years old, doesn’t contain dangerous fillings. Problem fillings include things like nutshells and polystyrene beads, however, even a “safe” stuffing isn’t truly digestible. Remember that soft toys are not indestructible, but some are sturdier than others. Soft toys should be machine washable.
Toys We Recommend
Active Toys: Very hard rubber toys, like Nylabone-type products and Kong-type products. These are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and are fun for chewing and for carrying around. “Rope” toys that are usually available in a “bone” shape with knotted ends. Tennis balls make great dog toys, but keep an eye out for any that could be chewed through and discard them.
Distraction Toys: Kong-type toys, especially when filled with broken-up treats or, even better, a mixture of broken-up treats and peanut butter. The right size Kong can keep a puppy or dog busy for hours. Only by chewing diligently can your dog access the treats, and then only in small bits – very rewarding! Double-check with your veterinarian about whether or not you should give peanut butter to your dog.
“Busy-box” toys are large rubber cubes with hiding places for treats. Only by moving the cube around with his nose, mouth and paws, can your dog access the goodies.
Comfort Toys: Overstuffed toys are good for several purposes, but aren’t appropriate for all dogs. For some dogs, the stuffed toy should be small enough to carry around. For dogs that want to shake or “kill” the toy, it should be the size that “prey” would be for that size dog (mouse-size, rabbit-size or duck-size).
Dirty laundry, like an old t-shirt, pillowcase, towel or blanket, can be very comforting to a dog, especially if it smells like you! Be forewarned that the item could be destroyed by industrious fluffing, carrying and nosing.
Get The Most Out Of Toys!
Rotate your dog’s toys weekly by making only four or five toys available at a time. Keep a variety of types easily accessible. If your dog has a huge favorite, like a soft “baby,” you should probably leave it out all the time, or risk the wrath of your dog! Provide toys that offer a variety of uses – at least one toy to carry, one to “kill”, one to roll and one to “baby.”
“Hide and Seek” is a fun game for dogs to play. “Found” toys are often much more attractive than a toy which is blatantly introduced. Making an interactive game out of finding toys or treats is a good “rainy-day” activity for your dog, using up energy without the need for a lot of space.
Many of your dog’s toys should be interactive. Interactive play is very important for your dog because he needs active “people time.” By focusing on a specific task, like repeatedly returning a ball, Kong or Frisbee, or playing “hide-and-seek” with treats or toys, your dog can expel pent-up mental and physical energy in a limited amount of time and space. This greatly reduces stress due to confinement, isolation and/or boredom. For young, high-energy and untrained dogs, interactive play also offers an opportunity for socialization and helps them learn about appropriate and inappropriate behavior with people and with other animals, like jumping up or being mouthy.
It’s Flea Season Again. Are You Ready for Battle?
Every year you watch helplessly as fleas torment your pet and drive you crazy. Besides being downright annoying, the pesky insects can do plenty of harm to your pet. They can cause allergies, skin infections, anemia, and even tapeworm infestations.
Feel like giving up? Feel like dousing your pet with every pesticidal shampoo, dip, spray, powder, or collar on the shelf? Don’t do either. Instead, try this safe, effective flea-control regimen.
Know Your Opponent
Fleas can vary their egg-to-adult life cycle anywhere from 18 days to 20 months, depending on how hot and humid it is. They may also spend as little as 10% of their lives on your pet. Put the two together, and you’ll realize that soon after you rid your pet of fleas, more of the little pests will hop onto its fur and you’ll be back to square one. The solution? Treat the home as well as the animal.
Clean Your Quarters
Begin with a thorough cleaning, which will eliminate most of the eggs and adult fleas lurking in your home. Wash all pet bedding in hot, soapy water. Mop hard floors. Vacuum everywhere–carpets, upholstery, drapes, corners, crevices. Seal the vacuum cleaner bag immediately in a plastic bag. Once you start, don’t let up or you’ll lose ground! Vacuum and clean once a week until you begin to see results. Then you can do it less frequently.
Commission New Weaponry
If you have a heavy infestation, apply an environmental insecticide after vacuuming. You can use a fogger “bomb,” but a pump spray is better for all but extreme infestations, since it will allow you to apply insecticide only where your pet sleeps and plays. Don’t apply it to your pet! Products that kill developing fleas (called insect growth regulators) are the safest and most effective–look for the word “methoprene” on the label. Follow directions to see how often you can apply it.
Liberate Your Pet
On the same day you first vacuum and clean, shampoo your pet with a non-medicated product or mildly medicated “flea” shampoo to rid the pet of fleas. After that, use a flea comb (available in most pet supply stores) on a daily basis. Dip it in a dish of soapy water after each stroke to drown the fleas. Shampoo the animal periodically according to labeling instructions, and keep grooming daily with the flea comb. You’ll quickly begin to see results.
Add More Weaponry
For most infestations, the cleaning/shampoo/flea comb system is all you’ll need to achieve flea control. If your problem is severe (or if you can’t shampoo your cat without a major fight), you can add other non-pesticidal alternatives to your program. Many pet owners swear by brewer’s yeast (added to the pet’s food in small dosages), or prefer to rub diluted oils or herbal powders into the animal’s fur. If you decide to use a pesticide, products containing “pyrethrums” are the safest. Consult your veterinarian about prescription flea medications such as Advantage, Frontline or Revolution.
Heed These Warnings
If they are misused, pesticides can sicken or kill your pet. If you feel you must use a pesticidal product, whether it’s a shampoo, dip, spray, powder, or collar, ALWAYS read the label and follow directions. NEVER use pesticides (including flea collars) on kittens and puppies or old, sick, pregnant, or heartworm-infected animals. And as a rule of thumb, use only one pesticide at a time on your pet.
The first few days in your home are special and critical for a pet. Your new dog will be confused about where he is and what to expect from you. Setting up some clear structure with your family for your dog will be paramount in making as smooth a transition as possible.
Before You Bring Your Dog Home:
- Determine where your dog will be spending most of his time. Because he will be under a lot of stress with the change of environment (from shelter or foster home to your house), he may forget any housebreaking (if any) he’s learned. Often a kitchen will work best for easy clean-up.
- If you plan on crate training your dog, be sure to have a crate set-up and ready to go for when you bring your new dog home.
- Dog-proof the area where your pooch will spend most of his time during the first few months. This may mean taping loose electrical cords to baseboards; storing household chemicals on high shelves; removing plants, rugs, and breakables; setting up the crate, and installing baby gates.
- Training your dog will start the first moment you have him. Take time to create a vocabulary list everyone will use when giving your dog directions. This will help prevent confusion and help your dog learn his commands more quickly.
- Bring an ID tag with your phone number on it with you when you pick up your dog so that he has an extra measure of safety for the ride home and the first few uneasy days. If he is microchipped, be sure to register your contact information with the chip’s company, if the rescue or shelter did not already do so.
- We know moving is stressful — and your new dog feels the same way! Give him time to acclimate to your home and family before introducing him to strangers. Make sure children know how to approach the dog without overwhelming him.
- When you pick up your dog, remember to ask what and when he was fed. Replicate that schedule for at least the first few days to avoid gastric distress. If you wish to switch to a different brand, do so over a period of about a week by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days; then switch to half new food, half old, and then one part old to three parts new.
- On the way home, your dog should be safely secured, preferably in a crate. Some dogs find car trips stressful, so having him in a safe place will make the trip home easier on him and you.
- Once home, take him to his toileting area immediately and spend a good amount of time with him so he will get used to the area and relieve himself. Even if your dog does relieve himself during this time, be prepared for accidents. Coming into a new home with new people, new smells and new sounds will throw even the most housebroken dog off-track, so be ready just in case.
- If you plan on crate training your dog, leave the crate open so that he can go in whenever he feels like it in case he gets overwhelmed.
- From there, start your schedule of feeding, toileting and play/exercise. From Day One, your dog will need family time and brief periods of solitary confinement. Don’t give in and comfort him if he whines when left alone. Instead, give him attention for good behavior, such as chewing on a toy or resting quietly.
- For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your dog, limiting too much excitement (such as the dog park or neighborhood children). Not only will this allow your dog to settle in easier, it will give you more one-on-one time to get to know him and his likes/dislikes.
- If he came from another home, objects like leashes, hands, rolled up newspapers and magazines, feet, chairs and sticks are just some of the pieces of “training equipment” that may have been used on this dog. Words like “come here” and “lie down” may bring forth a reaction other than the one you expect.Or maybe he led a sheltered life and was never socialized to children or sidewalk activity. This dog may be the product of a never-ending series of scrambled communications and unreal expectations that will require patience on your part.
- People often say they don’t see their dog’s true personality until several weeks after adoption. Your dog will be a bit uneasy at first as he gets to know you. Be patient and understanding while also keeping to the schedule you intend to maintain for feeding, walks, etc. This schedule will show your dog what is expected of him as well as what he can expect from you.
- After discussing it with your veterinarian to ensure your dog has all the necessary vaccines, you may wish to take your dog to group training classes or the dog park. Pay close attention to your dog’s body language to be sure he’s having a good time — and is not fearful or a dog park bully.
- To have a long and happy life together with your dog, stick to the original schedule you created, ensuring your dog always has the food, potty time and attention he needs. You’ll be bonded in no time!
- If you encounter behavior issues you are unfamiliar with, ask your veterinarian for a trainer recommendation. Select a trainer who uses positive-reinforcement techniques to help you and your dog overcome these behavior obstacles.
Congratulations! If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to having a well-adjusted canine family member.
*Written by Sara Lippincott, Director, Shelter Outreach, Petfinder.com
What would you give to make your pet’s behavior problems disappear? Believe it or not, most issues can be resolved in three simple steps. Follow along, and your pet will be humming “Ain’t Misbehavin’” in no time!
Rule Out Medical Problems
Be careful not to confuse a behavior problem with a health issue. For instance, cats with feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) often urinate outside their litter boxes. Prescribed medications can also have behavioral side effects. Consider the commonly prescribed medicine prednisone, an anti-inflammatory steroid. Side effects include increased water consumption and, as a result, increased urine output. Some of the cleanest dogs I know have house-training lapses when taking prednisone, unless their guardians provide additional elimination walks. Whenever medication is prescribed for your pet, ask about the side effects so you can be prepared.
Watch Your Reward Process
To paraphrase Thorndike’s Law of Effect, rewarded behavior is likely to increase in frequency and unrewarded behavior is likely to decrease in frequency. Take Miss Puss. Each morning, she taps you on the face at four o’clock, letting you know that she’d like a can of kitty morsels. She seems in dire need of a meal, so you do her bidding—and unwittingly reward her behavior. You can bet she’ll be back the next morning! She has learned that tapping yields tasty treats. However, if you had turned a cold shoulder to her early-morning pleas, Puss would have had no reward and no reason to try that tactic again.
What to do? You resolve to hang tough and ignore Miss Puss’s entreaties from now on. But be warned: what started out as a gentle love tap may now escalate to a forceful, extended-claw swat. This worsening behavior is called an “extinction burst.” The animal throws everything she’s got into the behavior that once netted her a reward, testing what it may take to garner a payoff before she gives up and moves on. Her poor guardian must remain unmoved in order to extinguish the misbehavior. Giving in teaches the animal that a concerted effort just might work.
Sometimes, figuring out what rewards an animal can be tricky. Consider canine greeting behavior. You walk through the front door, and Bouncing Betty greets you with a well-placed slam to your solar plexus. You double over in pain and holler a few choice expletives. Is this rewarding to Betty? Yes—you have lowered your face closer to her, and she has your attention. Dogs are like children—both prefer negative attention to no attention at all. Withdrawal of attention (walking back out the door or turning to face the wall) whenever her paws are off the floor would remove Betty’s rewards. To encourage appropriate behavior, teach her to sit, or pay attention to her only when she has all four paws on the floor. Note: Sometimes we are so relieved when bad behavior has stopped that we don’t acknowledge good acts. Don’t forget to add a quiet “good pup” or slip Betty a tidbit to celebrate a job well done.
Consider Environmental Management
Some guardians are training junkies—in the best sense. For them, resolving problems by teaching alternate behaviors is a pleasure. Others are less committed to training and more interested in keeping things simple. If that is your philosophy, environmental management may suit you better. Does one really need to spend countless hours creating setups to teach Snoopy to stay out of the garbage, when just keeping the trash can out of reach would suffice? Don’t want the cat on the bed? Close the bedroom door. Hate it when the puppy eats the kids’ toys? Put the toys away when the pup is out and put the pup away (in a crate or gated area) when the toys are spread all over the living room. It’s quick and easy and may be just what the overscheduled guardian needs to resolve certain problems. Note: Please make sure not to abuse this solution by socially isolating your companion animal in a crate, garage, yard, or basement for long hours every day.
These three steps can make most perplexing pet problems vanish. But if yours persist, contact a Certified Pet Dog Trainer or an applied animal behaviorist to learn what other tricks they have up their sleeves.
*Written by Jacque Schultz, C.P.D.T., ASPCA, Sr. Director Community Initiatives
Getting Your Dog Used to Being Groomed
Zookeepers are well aware of the value of husbandry training for their animals. Animals in zoos often need to be weighed, have blood drawn, get their nails clipped, and various other maintenance activities. Gone are the days when animals are anesthetized or pressed into squeeze cages for this work. Now trainers teach the animals to stand quietly while their bodies are handled or medicated. Elephants open their mouths to have their teeth inspected, giraffes stand still on a weigh scale, and dolphins swim up and hold out their fins to have blood taken. How do trainers accomplish this? It’s actually quite simple. The animal is taught to climb on the weigh scale or present its ear for the reward of a treat. The behavior is well established without exposing the animal to any unpleasant experiences. An impressive example is the story of a diabetic baboon living in a California zoo. The baboon needed daily insulin shots but he was so aggressive, he had to be sedated each time. This was taking a toll on his health, because of both the sedative and the chronic stress. The zoo brought in animal trainer Gary Priest to see what could be accomplished. Progressing in very small steps, Gary was able to teach the baboon to extend his arm through the bars of the cage and grasp a bar while a technician applied alcohol to his arm, presented a needle, and applied a quick pinch. Eventually, the baboon was happy to go through the whole routine for his favorite reward. Several times a day, the procedure was repeated and, once a day, the baboon was given his insulin. To ensure the baboon’s continued cooperation, the number of mock injections had to be much greater than the number of real injections.
If it’s possible to teach baboons and elephants to tolerate annoying and even painful procedures, why does the average dog turn into Kujo when he needs his nails clipped or his ears medicated? Zoo trainers take the time to go through mock procedures over and over, following each repetition with food rewards. Only very rarely do they actually include the painful part. Puppy and dog owners would do well to subscribe to the same type of training. Teach the dog to stand or lie quietly while having his ears, eyes, mouths, and feet handled. Intersperse with frequent treats. Start when the dog is settling down for a nap so he’ll be relatively calm. With sufficient repetitions, the dog will eventually habituate and even come to enjoy the handling.
Two or three times a day, play “air” nail clipping. Have your puppy or dog sit and stay. Lift one paw and pretend to clip all the nails but just clip air! Do the same with all four feet. Once a day, clip ONE nail (only if they need it). Intersperse treats throughout. If you do this religiously, your dog will be well mannered and calm during nail clipping. Now, I don’t continue to do this throughout my dog’s life. Once you’ve established a solid foundation, your dog will only need occasional practice.
If your dog is already averse to nail clipping, you’ll have to break the procedure down to miniscule steps. You may have to start by just holding your dog’s paw and touching each nail, with the nail clippers sitting on a nearby table. Treat frequently. Once the dog is comfortable with this, hold the nail clippers in one hand, while holding the dog’s paw with the other. Next, “air clip” only one nail, give an amazing treat, and quit. Resist progressing until the dog is completely comfortable with the step you’re working on. Again, it’s advisable to do this when the dog is sleepy so you’ll meet with less resistance. Be patient – it can take months to reform an intractable nail “clippee”. If all else fails, trot your dog on pavement every day and your nail clipping activities will be restricted to his dewclaws!
Every dog is likely to need medication at some point in his life. It’s a good idea to accustom your puppy to having his mouth handled so that you can give pills or liquid medicine. For this, I recommend the “baby bird” routine. You’ve probably seen how a baby bird opens its mouth wide to receive a meal from its parent. The baby trusts that food will end up in its mouth. You can teach your puppy to also expect a prize when you open his mouth. Hold the puppy in your lap and place one hand over the top of the puppy’s muzzle. Pry his jaw wide open. With the other hand, pull his bottom jaw down and place a tasty treat on his tongue. Release his mouth. He’ll immediately discover and eat the treat. Make sure you don’t place the treat so far back that the puppy might choke. Repeat numerous times. Pretty soon your puppy will welcome you handling his mouth and, if you occasionally stick a pill inside the treat, your puppy will be unlikely to notice. You may not ever need this training to successfully administer pills but it sure is handy if you have to give liquid medicine or poke around in there to retrieve a chicken bone.
Is there a better way to give pills? Dogs that love food are pretty easy to give pills – just hide the pill in a piece of cheese or wiener and the chowhound is happy to take his medicine. More discriminating dogs chew their food, detect the unwanted pill, and leave it lying on the kitchen floor. For these pill-savvy dogs, here’s a trick that often works. Teach the dog to catch treats tossed to him. Most dogs don’t bother to chew if you get them expecting to catch treats one after the other. On pill days, toss a series of yummy treats, with the pill hidden amongst them. Your dog will never suspect!
Be proactive with your dog. Teach him to enjoy all the things that will inevitably happen to him. He’ll be handled by groomers, poked and prodded by technicians, given needles by veterinarians. You’ll need to check his teeth, inspect his ears and eyes, clip his nails, and give him medication. None of these experiences are naturally pleasant for the dog so teach him to enjoy them. Your dog will be so much easier to care for if you do the foundation work.
Courtesy of ASPCA
424 East 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128-6804
The Power of Positive Dog Training
Twenty years ago, the prevailing method for training dogs involved the use of force and physical punishment. We used choke chains, prong collars, commands and corrections to impose our will on our canine companions. Times have changed.
In the late 1980′s, a dolphin trainer named Karen Pryor introduced the dog-training world to a gentler training method in her landmark book, Don’t Shoot the Dog. This unassuming little paperback explained the scientific principles of behavior and learning developed earlier in the 20th century by behavior scientist B.F. Skinner, and suggested that with the help of a “clicker” – a small noisemaker used to mark the instant of rewardable behavior – dogs could be trained without the use of verbal and physical force.
The application, which had been used with animals like dolphins and whales for decades, is simple. Teach the dog that every time he hears the “Click!” of the clicker, he gets a treat. Then teach him that the “Click!” happens when he does a specific behavior, such as “sit.” He soon learns that he can make the clicker work by offering to sit without being asked. Once he figures that out, add the cue (not command) – the word “sit” to teach him that the behavior he is offering you is called “sit.” Apply the clicker technique to all of the things you want the dog to do, and he quickly learns to do the behaviors you want – the ones that make good things – Click! and treat — happen when he does them.
When Pryor wrote her book, you could count the number of positive dog trainers in the country on one hand. Today there are thousands, all over the world. The use of old-fashioned punish-based methods is fading as dog owners rejoice to learn that they don’t have to hurt their dogs to train them. There is even an organization with over three thousand members – The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) – that promotes the use of positive training methods and encourages the ongoing education of dog trainers. The APDT offers a trainer search list on its website at www.apdt.com, where you can look to find APDT member/trainers near you. Since even APDT members may use a variety of methods, the website also offers suggestions to help you find the trainer best suited to you and your dog’s needs. Happy positive training!
-Pat Miller, Petfinder.com
The Power of Positive Dog Training is a New Book!
The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001; soft cover, 241pp; $18.99
For Quantity Orders: Jack Bussell, Howell Book House; 317-572-3197
Pat Miller is dog trainer in Chattanooga, Tennessee, owner of Peaceable Paws Dog & Puppy Training in Hixson, and has written hundreds of articles for a variety of publications, including The Whole Dog Journal, Your Dog, Bark, Dog & Handler, Dog Fancy, The AKC Gazette, CatNip, The Whole Cat Journal, Cat Fancy, The Whole Horse Journal, Shelter Sense, Animal Tracks, and more. She is also a Board member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, a national non-profit organization that promotes dog-friendly training and the ongoing education of dog training professionals, and President of FOCAS – Friends of Chattanooga Animal Services.
A combination of training philosophy, principles of learning and behavior, step-by-step basic training and discussions of general behavior challenges, The Power is written in the same readable and engaging style offered in Miller’s dog training and behavior articles that delight more than 80,000 readers monthly in the Whole Dog Journal (of which Miller is training editor) and Your Dog (from Tuft’s University). Dog trainers all over the country are recommending this book to their clients.
The modern philosophies of positive reinforcement training that encourages a relationship between dog and owner based on mutual trust and respect is fast overtaking the old-fashioned methods that rely on punishment and the use of force to get dogs to obey. Many books are available for dog trainers and behaviors that explain and teach these principles, methods and philosophies. This is the first one written for the dog owning reader who is not necessarily a training professional. It is the book your dog is asking for.
You can cyber-chat with Miller, Peaceable Paws students and other positive trainers on her Peaceable Paws e-mail list by sending a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some other useful articles you might enjoy!
- Tips for a Successful Relationship with your Dog
- Barking Dogs
- Positive Reinforcement Training
- Stop Mouthing
- K-9 Escape Artist
- Separation Anxiety
- Come When Called
- Puppy Chewing
- Fearful Dog
- Digger Dog
- Crate Training
- Cat to Dog Introductions
- Dog to Dog Introductions
- Benefits of and Educated Dog
- A tired dog is a good dog! Offer appropriate daily exercise, both physical and mental. Daily walks, off leash romps with other dogs and the use of toys such as Kongs and Tricky Treat Balls allow your dog to burn off that extra energy.
- Living by a Nothing In Life Is Free philosophy will motivate your dog to want to respond to you and teach him that your request is an opportunity to earn a reward.
- Offer clear and consistent leadership. Establish the house rules and offer constant follow through. Dogs thrive on structure and routine. All members of the family should be directed to act accordingly so that the dog doesn’t become confused.
- Practice makes perfect. If your dog is doing something you don’t like you must manage him so he doesn’t get better at his performance.
- Spend more time telling your dog when he is doing it right and less time trying to teach him right from wrong. Punishment doesn’t predict future behavior.
- Dog training is not something that you do once per week. Living successfully with a dog is a lifestyle where every moment is an opportunity for your dog to learn. Use known commands as a vocabulary to communicate with your dog. Be consistent with your expectations.
- Well socialized dogs are comfortable being around different people, dogs, situations and environments. These dogs are free to explore the world with their people and are less likely to develop behavior problems.
- Positive doesn’t mean permissive. Dogs need feedback and you should immediately interrupt any undesirable behavior. When your dog is doing something right or fixes the mistake you should offer feed back such as food, attention and praise.
- Life with you doesn’t come with a manual. Spend time teaching your dog what you want him to know and how to respond in varying situations.
- Aggression begets aggression. Dogs are not wolves and you are not a dog. Trying to dominate your dog will always lead to further problems.
HARK, HARK, THE DOG DOTH BARK:
Silencing the Dog That Barks When Left Alone
Of all dog behavior problems, perhaps the most distressing one is the dog who barks when left alone. Incessant volleys of yips, woofs and whines are an irritant to those who live in close quarters or for those who need some peace and quiet in their life! These latchkey barkers fit several profiles. It is important to determine which one or more describes your dog; misreading the dog may result in a failure to extinguish the problem.
1. The Genetically Prone Bark
Virtually all terriers and many small dogs, particularly Maltese, Poodles and miniature Schnauzers, fit into this category. These breed types have been pre-programmed to bark at movement or noise within their range. Sensitive alarm barkers once bred to alert the farmer of the fox in the hen house now announce that the phone is ringing, the neighbors are home or that the elevator has arrived. They must be trained to limit their barking. Training them to bark on command gives you control; you can turn it “on” or “off” on your orders! It’s not that you don’t want them to bark; you just want them to be appropriate. Find a suitable place or time where the yappy dog can bark to his heart’s content.
2. The Alpha/Territorial
These barkers are most often unneutered males and/or guarding breed types. They believe that they are protecting their yard, house and general “air-space” from intruders such as the mailman, a squirrel, a passing dog or a neighbor. Neutering may take the overprotective and/or territorial edge off the intact dog. Training will get the genetically protective dogs’ instincts in line. Blocking the dog’s view of the property lines (stockade
instead of chain-link fencing) and keeping him from patrolling the area around the front door or front porch may assist in cutting down the owner-absent barking. Monitor this type of dog carefully; do not permit him to bark at passersby when you are home. If you cannot silence him when you are there, you can’t expect much when you’re not.
3. The Demanding Barker
This confident soul does not want to be left alone because the fun stops. He stands at the door and commands you to return to play with him. Both barking set-ups (explained below) and engaging toys work well to quiet this imp’s demands, as does the citronella anti-bark collar.
4. The Bored Underexercised
Sporting, hound and herding breed types were bred to work all day long. Many retrievers, pointers, setters, collies and the like now find themselves sadly under-exercised, especially in the urban environment. These dogs need to be kept busy. If not, boredom turns into barking (not to mention chewing, pacing and digging). Most need at least two hours of vigorous, aerobic exercise a day. If you are going to be gone for an extended period of time (over six hours,) an hour of mentally challenging and physically active fun and games is mandatory. You should leave behind a panting, heaving, utterly exhausted dog as you set off for the day. Offering them breakfast from a stuffed KongTM or food-dispensing toy can also keep them busy.
5. The Fearful, Anxious Dog
Some of these dogs fall into the category of toy and miniature breed types. Dogs that have been passed around from home to home and shelter rescues also fit into this group. Their histories may include coddling and over-protective handling, lack of proper socialization or isolation. Dogs that have never been out of the back yard or permanently paper trained apartment dwellers are candidates for anxiety behaviors if placed in a new home environment. These dogs suffer from separation anxiety when left behind, even for brief periods. Chewing, barking, house soiling and digging at doors or window sills are some typical responses. The majority of these dogs need to be properly socialized to the world around
them. Obedience work with plenty of praise builds confidence, yielding a more stable dog; a dog with a better ability to cope.
5. Environmental Changes to Minimize Owner Absent
The anxious dog may feel less stressed-out when home alone if he’s confined to a kennel crate —either the enclosed airline type (molded plastic) or a wire crate draped with a sheet or a tablecloth. With less space to worry about —just the ed and a chew toy —many dogs just curl up and calmdown. A word of warning regarding dogs with severe anxiety problems (often a rescue/shelter dog): some dogs may go to pieces in a crate; they will shake, slobber, struggle and exhibit extreme escape behavior. In these instances you must seek the counsel of a professional dog trainer or applied animal behaviorist who is well versed in canine behavior problems and can customize a program for the dog that may include
short-term drug therapy.
6. Barking Set-Ups
- Keep the dog in the quietest part of the house. A dog with behavior problems has not earned “the run of the house”.
- Keep curtains and/or shades drawn. If you don’t have adequate window coverage, get some; hang a sheet or blanket across the window. A darker environment has a calming effect on most dogs. Additionally, there is no visual stimuli to provoke the territorial or bored dog. Curtains muffle sounds from the outdoors for alarm barkers.
- Leave a radio or TV on as “white noise.” In many households, the stereo/TV/radio is on from morning ’til night as long as someone is home. Imagine how “loud” the silence is when everyone is gone and the sound system is turned off! Beyond masking outside noises, leaving the stereo/TV/radio on gives the aural appearance of your presence.
- As you leave, give the dog an “only-when-I’m-gone” chew toy with your scent imparted on it. This toy should be something spectacular – a sterilized beef bone stuffed deeply and thoroughly with canned dog food or cheese spread (served frozen or chilled), a flavorful beef-basted knotted rawhide bone, or a stuffed KongTM. Give it to the dog upon leaving; rub it between your palms several times before you go. Not only is this a diversion tactic, it actually makes being left alone not so bad, as this is the only time the “most-wonderful-thing-in-the-world” appears!
If you have tried all of the above and you are still finding notes from your neighbors, you must desensitize the dog to your departures with “barking set-ups.” Set-ups take time; slow incremental progress is a necessary part of the program. Be prepared to use a long week-end or some vacation time for the program.
First, imitate your daily departure routine. Do you usually put on make-up, search about for keys, gloves, etc. pack a gym bag or throw out the garbage? Make the dog think that this is just like any other daily departure. Second, while giving him his special goodbye toy, get eye contact and tell him in a firm and matter-of-fact manner to be quiet until you return. Please, no longwinded emotional scenes; no begging, pleading or whining for him to be quiet. It will only serve to emotionally charge the situation and further stress-out the dog. Leave — for a brief period of time. Just a minute or two to start out with. If you wait for an elevator, ring for it and get in. Go one floor down and come back up using the stairs. Wait 1-2 minutes. If the dog has not barked, return and gently praise. If you hear him begin to bark, mark the behavior by a sharp rap on the door with a solid object like a brass key ring and start timing again. Each time the dog barks, rap on the door and set the timer back to zero. It may take a half hour to get 1-2 minutes of silence. When you do, go in and praise. Leave 15-30 minutes later and repeat.
The goal, of course, is to be able to stay away for longer and longer periods of time without having to correct the dog for barking. The time away must be built up in small intervals. Set goals ( 5, 10, 15 minutes) and go back in and praise the dog if he remained quiet for the set amount of time. Don’t wait for an undetermined amount of time and correct the dog for finally barking. Silence must be praised. Appropriate behavior must be acknowledged.
Most dogs who can remain silent for two hours can usually stay quiet for an 8 to 10 hour work day. It is building up to that first hour or so that may take several days of set-ups to achieve. Barking problems are rarely solved in a day.
Barking set-ups can be tedious, but they usually work if you take the time to do them properly. Let your neighbors know that you are not ignoring their complaints; that you understand their discomfort and you are taking steps to correct the problem. Quite often, they will cut you a little slack if they know that their complaints have not fallen upon deaf ears.
Training your Dog or Cat with Treats and Praise
Positive reinforcement is the presentation of something pleasant or rewarding immediately following a behavior. It makes that behavior more likely to occur in the future, and is one of the most powerful tools for shaping or changing your pet’s behavior.
Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement. The reward must occur immediately, or your pet may not associate it with the proper action. For example, if you have your dog “sit,” but reward him after he’s already stood up again, he’ll think he’s being rewarded for standing up.
Consistency is also essential. Everyone in the family should use the same commands. It might be helpful to post these where everyone can become familiar with them. The most commonly used commands for dogs are “watch me,” “sit,” “stay,” “down” (means lie down), “off” (means off of me or off the furniture), “stand,” “come,” “heel,” (or “let’s go” or “with me”) “leave it” and “settle.” Consistency means always rewarding the desired behavior and never rewarding undesired behavior.
For your pet, positive reinforcement may include food treats, praise, petting or a favorite toy or game. Food treats work especially well for training your dog. A treat should be enticing and irresistible to your pet. It should be a very small, soft, piece of food, so that he will immediately gulp it down and look to you for more. If you give him something he has to chew or that breaks into bits and falls on the floor, he’ll be looking around the floor, not at you. Small pieces of soft commercial treats, hot dogs, cheese, cooked chicken or beef, or miniature marshmallows have all proven successful. Experiment a bit to see what works best for your pet. You may carry the treats in a pocket or a fanny pack on the front of your belt. There are even special treat packs available in many pet stores. Each time you use a food reward, you should couple it with a verbal reward (praise). Say something like, “Good boy” in a positive, happy tone of voice.
Note: Some pets may not be interested in food treats. For those pets, the reward could be in the form of a toy or brief play.
When your pet is learning a new behavior, he should be rewarded every time he does the behavior (continuous reinforcement). It may be necessary to use “shaping,” with your pet (reinforcing something close to the desired response and gradually requiring more from your dog before he gets the treat). For example, if you’re teaching your dog to “shake hands,” you may initially reward him for lifting his paw off the ground, then for lifting it higher, then for touching your hand, then for letting you hold his paw and finally, for actually shaking hands with you.
Intermittent reinforcement can be used once your pet has reliably learned the behavior. At first, you may reward him with the treat three times out of four, then about half the time, then about a third of the time and so forth, until you’re only rewarding him occasionally with the treat. Continue to praise him every time, although once he’s learned the behavior, the praise can be less effusive – a quiet, but positive, “Good boy.” Use a variable schedule of reinforcement, so he doesn’t catch on that he only has to respond every other time. Your pet will learn that if he keeps responding, eventually he’ll get what he wants. If you have a dog who barks until you reward him by paying attention to him, you’ve seen the power of
By understanding reinforcement, you can see that you’re not forever bound to carry a pocketful of goodies. Your pet will soon be working for your verbal praise, because he really does want to please you and he knows that occasionally, he’ll get a treat, too! There are many small opportunities to reinforce his behavior. You may have him “sit” before letting him out the door (helps prevent door-darting), before petting him (helps prevent jumping up on people) or before giving him his food. Give him a pat or a “Good dog” for lying quietly by your feet or slip a treat into his Kong toy when he’s chewing it, instead of shoe.
Punishment, including verbal, postural and physical, is the presentation of something unpleasant immediately following a behavior which makes it less likely that the behavior will occur again. To be effective, punishment must be delivered while your pet is engaged in the undesirable behavior, in other words, “caught in the act.” If the punishment is delivered too late, your pet will feel “ambushed.” From his point of view, the punishment is totally unpredictable, and he’s likely to become fearful, distrusting and/or aggressive. This will only lead to more behavior problems. What we humans interpret as “guilty” looks, are actually submissive postures by our pets. Animals don’t have a moral sense of right and wrong, but they are adept at associating your presence and the presence of a mess, with punishment.
If you’ve tried punishment and it hasn’t worked, you should definitely stop using punishment and use positive reinforcement instead. Physical punishment usually involves some level of discomfort or even pain, which is likely to cause your pet to bite, as that is the only way he knows to defend himself. Scruff shakes and “alpha rolls” are likely to result in bites, especially if the dog doesn’t perceive you to be his superior. Also, punishment might be associated with other stimuli, including people, that are present at the time the punishment occurs. For example, a pet that’s punished for getting too close to a small child may become fearful of or aggressive to that child.
NIP MOUTHING IN THE BUD !!
Do you have a puppy that would rather use your arm than a bone as a chew toy? While it is normal for puppies to use their mouths when playing with each other, this behavior becomes a problem when it carries over into their interactions with us.
Many breeds are genetically inclined to use their mouths to do a job. Sporting breeds are the retrievers and the carriers of items. Working and the Herding breeds use their mouths to control the movements of humans or other animals. Terrier breeds are motion-activated and will chase anything they perceive as small rodents, including your feet. Understanding these tendencies in your own puppy, whether a mixed breed or purebred, can help in dealing with the problem of mouthing.
At a very young age, puppies begin to learn how much pressure with their mouths is too much by the reactions of their mothers and litter mates. When puppies play, they chomp each other’s ears and chew each other’s necks until one bites down too hard. Then, the bitten puppy lets out a piercing “iey, iey, ieeyyy” (referred to as the wounded puppy noise), gets up and walks away. This teaches the biting puppy that when he is too rough, play ends. Since dogs are social animals, this in itself is a correction. The puppy learns bite inhibition through these play fighting sessions when allowed to remain with his litter until at least seven weeks of age. This is one of the most important lessons puppies carry into adulthood, especially concerning their relationship with people.
As a new puppy owner, it is necessary to establish what is and isn’t acceptable behavior from the very first day. Puppies benefit from expectations that are consistently enforced. Teething lasts from four to six months, so mouthing is quite common then. If mouthing has not gotten under control by the time the puppy enters adolescence at six months, not only will you have a less cooperative teenager to handle, but a larger, stronger
jaw to deal with as well. Mouthing can become a way for your puppy to try to control you, allowing him to take that first step towards assuming a leadership role within your home. The following techniques are recommended for most puppies up to four months of age, depending upon their size and the severity of the problem.
Initially, a puppy will use his mouth to investigate his environment. Throughout the teething process, it gives a puppy relief to chew on all manner of items, soft and hard. Providing appropriate items for your puppy to focus his attentions on can sometimes be a simple way of solving a mouthing problem. Indestructible chew toys like large nylon bones or hard rubber KongsTM can provide a positive outlet for mouthing. Large rawhide bones and carrots can be placed in the freezer and given to a teething puppy. Braided fiber knotted tugs dipped in chicken broth or water and then frozen are also a good option.
If your puppy is chewing on you, the moment the pressure increases use your “wounded puppy” noise leaving your hand in their mouth. Once the pressure is released, slowly remove your hand. You may wish to offer the back of your hand for your puppy to lick. By doing this, not only are you teaching him that your skin is tender, but also that you expect a sign of deference (licking your hand) from him. Praise him in a calm manner if his cooperation is immediate and offer him an appropriate chew toy. Do not offer a toy while your hand is still in his mouth, or you will be rewarding the wrong behavior. You may also choose to assign a command like “no bite” or “no mouth,” so he will associate his behavior with your correction. This method should work with the average, eager-to-please puppy. For piranha puppies, a squirt of breath spray (such as BinacaTM) in the mouth when mouthing may serve as a negative reinforcer. To avoid the minty freshness, the puppy will keep his mouth closed.
Does your puppy start mouthing you if you don’t play when HE wants to? Is he constantly tripping you up or trying to play tug-o-war with the leash when you’re walking in the direction YOU want to go? Is he uncooperative when you ask him to do something like get off the couch or wait for you to go through the doorway first? If your answer is “yes” to these questions, you may have a bossy or dominant puppy. With this type of puppy, you may need to exercise a little more discipline.
Discipline does not mean physical punishment, it means correcting an unwanted behavior and teaching a new, more desirable one. In this case, we want a puppy that understands by our reactions that his behavior is unacceptable. Since he may not look for as much guidance from you, the puppy needs to learn to accept you as a leader. The first step in letting a bossy puppy know you are in charge is to handle him in a variety of ways. Touching the paws and tail of a confident puppy often stimulates a mouthing response. Rather than forcing him to accept being handled, the goal is to increase his comfort level. Touch a toe and give a treat if he has not already mouthed you. If he does, use your “no mouth” or similar command and try again. Continue on until you are able to gently squeeze his paw in a non-threatening manner. This will help later with nail trimming as well.
As a prelude to good dental care, your puppy should also get used to fingers in his mouth. Begin by sliding your finger coated in tuna fish oil or one of the commercially prepared dog toothpastes, into the pouch created by his jowls on the side of his muzzle. Try to briefly massage his gums, praising all the while. If this presents no problem, slip back towards the molars, actually letting your finger run over the surface of the tooth. If, at this point, your puppy bites down too hard, use one of the corrections previously mentioned, again offering the back of your hand to lick.
With a puppy that is really being obnoxious, a more direct approach may be needed. For this method, your puppy should be wearing a well-fitted buckle collar. Should he begin to mouth you, slip your fingers under his collar just under the jaw on either side. Looking directly into his eyes, say “no mouth” or similar command in a growly voice. Wait for him to look away or to put his ears back slightly as a sign of submission. Release him
and walk away or briefly close him in another room for a few minutes as a “time out.” There is no need to shake or strike the puppy, he will get the message.
For the lunging, snapping puppy, you need to be aware of how you may be motivating him to mouth. Beware that movement inflames the behavior. Never encourage games involving your hands or feet as targets. Hold your leash so that it never dangles. Until you have started to retrain your puppy, it is a good idea to avoid wearing loose, flowing garments. It is natural to raise our arms when we feel physically threatened. Unfortunately with a lunging puppy, this may lure him closer to your face.
Instead of pulling your hand away when your puppy mouths you, push your hand a little further into the puppy’s mouth. This creates a bit of discomfort causing him to “spit” you out. You regain control of the situation by reversing his action. Once your hand has been released, praise. Spraying your hands and leash (cotton web preferably) with a commercially prepared, bitter tasting spray can act as a deterrent. Diluted lemon juice can be used in a pinch.
If the above methods don’t work, you may need to become a “statue.” Instead of your puppy playing “tag, you’re it,” cross your arms across your chest, turn your back to your puppy, and become motionless. When you do not respond, your puppy gets no reward for his behavior. When done consistently, this should extinguish the “game.” This method also works for a puppy that tries to initiate games of “tug-o-war.” If the leash goes slack instead of pulling back, the fun goes out of it for the puppy.
If you are having a serious biting problem, especially with an older puppy, consult your veterinarian and consider bringing in a private trainer or behaviorist to help you solve the problem. To find a trainer, ask your veterinarian for a referral or call a local obedience club or humane society. Ask what methods they use and speak to former clients if possible. Contact The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) at www.apdt.com for a list of trainers in your area. Rule out any trainer that advocates harsh corrections, as they can have a long lasting negative effect on your relationship with your puppy. They could make matters worse. Guidance and consistency are key when training, even when those needle-sharp teeth are gnawing away at your patience.
Escaping is a serious problem for both you and your dog, as it could have tragic consequences. If your dog is running loose, he is in danger of being hit by a car, being injured in a fight with another dog, or being hurt in a number of other ways. Additionally, you’re liable for any damage or injury your dog may cause and you may be required to pay a fine if he’s picked up by an animal control agency. In order to resolve an escaping problem, you must determine not only how your dog is getting out, but also why he is escaping.
Why Dogs Escape
- Social Isolation/Frustration Your dog may be escaping because he’s bored and lonely if:
- He is left alone for long periods of time without opportunities for interaction with you.
- His environment is relatively barren, without playmates or toys.
- He is a puppy or adolescent (under three years old) and doesn’t have other outlets for his energy.
- He is a particularly active type of dog (like the herding or sporting breeds) who needs an active job in order to be happy.
- The place he goes to when he escapes provides him with interaction and fun things to do. For example, he goes to play with a neighbor’s dog or to the local school yard to play with the children.
We recommend expanding your dog’s world and increasing his “people time” in the following ways:
- Walk your dog daily. It’s good exercise, both mentally and physically.
- Teach your dog to fetch a ball or Frisbee and practice with him as often as possible.
- Teach your dog a few commands and/or tricks. Practice these commands and/or tricks every day for five to ten minutes.
- Take an obedience class with your dog and practice daily what you’ve learned.
- Provide interesting toys (Kong-type toys filled with treats or busy-box toys) to keep your dog busy when you’re not home.
- Rotate your dog’s toys to make them seem new and interesting (see: “Dog Toys and How to Use Them“). Keep your dog inside when you’re unable to supervise him. If you have to be away from home for extended periods of time, take your dog to work with you or to a “doggie day care,” or ask a friend or neighbor to walk your dog.
Dogs become sexually mature at around six months of age. An intact male dog is motivated by a strong, natural drive to seek out female dogs. It can be very difficult to prevent an intact dog from escaping, because his motivation to do so is very high.
Have your male dog neutered. Studies show that neutering will decrease sexual roaming in about 90% of the cases. If, however, an intact male has established a pattern of escaping, he may continue to do so even after he’s neutered, so it’s important to have him neutered as soon as possible. Have your female dog spayed. If your intact female dog escapes your yard while she’s in heat, she’ll probably get pregnant. Millions of unwanted pets are euthanized every year. Please don’t contribute to the pet overpopulation problem by allowing your female dog to breed indiscriminately.
Fears and Phobias
Your dog may be escaping in response to something he is afraid of if he escapes when he is exposed to loud noises, such as thunderstorms, firecrackers or construction sounds.
- Identify what is frightening your dog and desensitize him to it. You may need professional help with the desensitization process.
- Check with your veterinarian about giving your dog an anti-anxiety medication while you work on behavior modification.
- Leave your dog indoors when he is likely to encounter the fear stimulus. Mute noise by leaving him in a basement or windowless bathroom and leave on a television, radio or loud fan.
- Provide a “safe place” for your dog. Observe where he likes to go when he feels anxious, then allow access to that space, or create a similar space for him to use when the fear stimulus is present.
Your dog may be escaping due to separation anxiety if:
- He escapes as soon as, or shortly after, you leave.
- He displays other behaviors that reflect a strong attachment to you, such as
- following you around, frantic greetings or reacting anxiously to your preparations to leave.
- He remains near your home after he’s escaped.
Factors that can precipitate a separation anxiety problem:
- There has recently been a change in your family’s schedule that has resulted in your dog being left alone more often.
- Your family has recently moved to a new house.
- There’s been a death or loss of a family member or another family pet.
- Your dog has recently spent time at an animal shelter or boarding kennel.
Separation anxiety can be resolved using counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques (see: “Separation Anxiety“).
How Dogs Escape
Some dogs jump fences, but most actually climb them, using some part of the fence to push off from. A dog may also dig under the fence, chew through the fence, learn to open a gate or use any combination of these methods to get out of the yard. Knowing how your dog gets out will help you to modify your yard. However, until you know why your dog wants to escape, and you can decrease his motivation for doing so, you won’t be able to successfully resolve the problem.
Recommendations For Preventing Escape
- For climbing/jumping dogs: Add an extension to your fence that tilts in toward the yard. The extension doesn’t necessarily need to make the fence much higher, as long as it tilts inward at about a 45-degree angle.
- For digging dogs: Bury chicken wire at the base of your fence (with the sharp edges rolled inward), place large rocks at the base, or lay chain-link fencing on the ground.
- Never punish your dog after he’s already out of the yard. Dogs associate punishment with what they’re doing at the time they’re punished. Punishing your dog after the fact won’t eliminate the escaping behavior, but will only make him afraid to come to you.
- Never punish your dog if the escaping is a fear-related problem or is due to separation anxiety. Punishing fear-motivated behaviors will only make your dog more afraid, and thus make the problem worse.
- Punishment is only effective if administered at the moment your dog is escaping and if he doesn’t associate the correction with you. If you can squirt him with a hose or make a loud noise as he is going over, under or through the fence, it might be unpleasant enough that he won’t want to do it again. However, if he realizes that you made the noise or squirted the water, he’ll simply refrain from escaping when you’re around. This type of correction is difficult to administer effectively, and won’t resolve the problem if used by itself. You must also give your dog less reason to escape and make it more difficult to do.
- Chaining your dog should only be used as a last resort, and then only as a temporary measure until a more permanent solution can be found. Chaining your dog doesn’t give him sufficient opportunity for exercise and can be dangerous if done improperly.
Don’t Leave Me This Way
Supposedly, absence makes the heart grow fonder. However, the absence of an owner sends some dogs into keen wailing and barking, frequent house soiling and self-destructive behaviors. These are all signs that a dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
The canines most likely to fall victim are second-hand dogs. Whether from a shelter, rescue group or greyhound-track adoption program, dogs re-homed in adolescence or older are at greater risk of suffering separation anxiety than puppies. This is probably because it is more difficult for these dogs to accept changes in their routine and environment. They cling to their new pack leader and panic when that leader leaves home to go about his or her daily business. For similar reasons, unemployed companion animal owners or those who take lengthy at-home vacations or recuperations may find that their dog becomes disoriented when they return to work. These distressed pets need help.
Separation anxiety is often a problem of over-bonding. It is not healthy for a dog to follow his caretakers’ every step, to be constantly in the same room, sharing the same piece of furniture, being in close contact all the time. Promote independence by teaching the dog to down-stay on his own bed while you go out of sight. Start with a few seconds, then build up to a length of time the dog can tolerate. Put up a gate and eventually close a door between the two of you. And, get family members involved in dispensing the “good stuff” to the dog. Walks, play sessions and feedings should not be provided by only one person, for that person’s absence means the end of all that is good in the world to the dog. Panic can ensue. If you live alone, perhaps a neighbor or relative will share the duties, or hire a pet-care professional to assist you.
The worst of a dog’s hysteria is often during the first hour after departure. Diffuse the emotion of your leave-taking by heartily exercising the dog right after you wake up. Then, after feeding him, scale back your attention to the point of ignoring him during the last 15 minutes before you leave. Turn off the lights and turn on the television, radio or white noise machine – whatever you play most when you are home. And, with no more than a whispered “Be Good,” leave the house.
Some dogs will read the signs of imminent departure and begin to work themselves into a frenzy. If putting on make-up, packing a lunch or shuffling papers in your briefcase distresses the dog, desensitize him to these or other actions by doing them frequently and at other times (such as before mealtime) so they lose their direct connection to the dreaded departure. Presenting a toy stuffed with goodies can draw the focus of less seriously afflicted canines toward cleaning out the item and away from your leaving. Buster cubes, Kong toys, Goodie balls/ships work well as canine diversions. The seriously afflicted dog, however, will not give the toy a second look until his pack is together again.
Separation anxiety can be severe and all-consuming to some dogs. I have known dogs to jump through second-story plate-glass windows, eat through sheetrock walls into neighboring apartments and bloody their paws and noses trying to dig through wooden doors or out of crates. These individuals need professional assessment by an Applied Animal Behaviorist or Veterinary Behaviorist, for they may need pharmacological aid while they undergo desensitization exercises. Some people choose to manage the problem by dropping off their dogs at day care or adopting a second dog, so they are never truly alone.
Luckily, the majority of dogs – if the earlier suggestions are followed – in no time will be howling “I Will Survive.”
The key to training your dog to eliminate outside (where you want him to) is to prevent accidents, and to reward success. Adult dogs have better bladder and bowel control, and can ‘hold it’ for a longer period of time than puppies. The rule of thumb with puppies i s:take their age in months, add one, and that’s the number of hours the puppy can ‘hold it’ during the day..(i.e. A 4 month old puppy can be expected to be clean for up to 5 hours during the day).
- Feed your dog on a schedule (he’ll eliminate on a schedule, too)
- Keep his diet simple and consistent (avoid table scraps and canned foods; a high Quality dry kibble produces the least waste).
- Choose an area, about ten square feet, outside, where you wish your dog to potty.
- Take your dog on leash to the area, pace back and forth (movement promotes movement) and chant an encouraging phrase (“do your business,do your business …”).
- Do this for maximum 3 minutes: -if he eliminates, huge praise and play! If he doesn’t eliminate, keep him on leash, go back indoors, keep dog on leash with you or confined in a crate.
- Try again in an hour eventually your dog will eliminate appropriately and uou can give huge praise and play.
- After each success, allow 15 minutes of freedom in house, before placing dog back on lead or back into crate.
- After each 3 consecutive days of success, increase freedom by 15 minutes.
- If there is an accident; decrease freedom by 15 minutes for 3 days.
REMEMBER! DO NOT PUNISH ACCIDENTS! IGNORE THEM, AND REWARD SUCCESS!
This is the probably the most important command your dog will ever have to follow. All members of your household should be using the same command, and your command should be just that – a command. Because if you casually get your dog to come when he’s in the yard by blowing kissing sounds and saying, “smooch, smooch, come here sweetheart”, I guarantee that is NOT how you will sound when you are driving on the thruway and stop at a rest area where you dog accidentally leaps out of the car and is careening down the highway. You need a consistent command that will be there for you in an emergency:
“Dog, come? Gooood dog, yay, gooooooood, wonderful …”
His name first. Then the command: “come”. Then praise and coach him in, let him know that it is the entire process of coming towards you that is just as great as getting to you, and you appreciate that the travel is the hard part. This also lets your dog know that you aren’t angry at him for being away in the first place (even if you are angry!) and it also motivates your dog that you are a good target to get to.
Model what you want your dog to do: Go right up to his nose with our hands filled with goodies. Command him and lure him to turn around and come just a few steps towards you.
Remember – he must TAG you – your treats/hands should be touching your pants at your dog’s height, so that you’re assured he will always come in close enough to be grabbed by his collar in an emergency.
When he gets to you, praise, pet, hug, and give one treat. Tell him “okay” and release him to go back to what he was doing. Repeat. Let your dog see your calling him as merely a delightful interruption of his fun, not an end all.
Gradually get further and further away before you call. Always run backwards a few steps so that you are enticing and fun, and your dog always learns to turn around, leave what he was doing and come to you.
As soon as your dog had the idea, don ’t give him a treat every time – vary it. You must always have the treat when you call him, until he is 2 years old and then he must always THINK you have something wonderful for him.
You must always praise and appreciate your dog for coming. As soon as you start to vary when you give your dog a treat, introduce the concept of a jackpot-something huge and excellent and unexpected for coming when called-like an entire pile of goodies, or a huge slab of liver, or a rawhide bone, or pull out his food dish and pour in his kibble and right then and there let him have his adored meal.
When you are calling him away from something distracting, like treeing a squirrel, or coming indoors from playing in the yard or park, let your dog believe that coming when called is merely an interruption: praise, treat, and then release, “okay” and send your dog back away to play. Then when you really do need your dog to come in and stop having fun, he won’t mind as much.
This is one command that can never be taken for granted. You must be willing to continue training and rewarding and motivating and jackpotting your dog from now till the day he dies. So he won’t die early from running away and being hit by a car…
Courtesy of Rondout Valley Kennels, Inc Sue Sternberg
Puppies may be just as much work as human babies – maybe more so because puppies can’t wear diapers and they have very sharp teeth! It’s definitely true that, similar to infants and toddlers, puppies explore their world by putting things in their mouths. In addition, puppies are teething until they’re about six months old, which usually creates some discomfort. Chewing not only facilitates teething, but also makes sore gums feel better. Although it’s perfectly normal for a puppy to chew on furniture, shoes, shrubbery and such, these behaviors can be a problem for you. A puppy won’t magically “outgrow” these behaviors as he matures. Instead, you must shape your puppy’s behaviors and teach him which ones are acceptable and which aren’t.
Discouraging Unacceptable Behavior
It’s virtually inevitable that your puppy will, at some point, chew up something you value. This is part of raising a puppy! You can, however, prevent most problems by taking the following precautions:
- Minimize chewing problems by puppy-proofing your house. Put the trash out of reach, inside a cabinet or outside on a porch, or buy containers with locking lids. Encourage children to pick up their toys and don’t leave socks, shoes, eyeglasses, etc.
- If, and only if, you catch your puppy chewing on something he shouldn’t, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise, then offer him an acceptable chew toy instead and praise him lavishly when he takes the toy in his mouth.
- Make unacceptable chew items unpleasant to your puppy. Furniture and other items can be coated with “Bitter Apple” to make them unappealing (see our handout: Sample Aversives for Dogs”).
- Don’t give your puppy objects to play with such as old socks, old shoes or old children’s toys that closely resemble items that are off-limits. Puppies can’t tell the difference!
- Closely supervise your puppy. Don’t give him the chance to go off by himself and get into trouble. Use baby gates, close doors or tether him to you with a six-foot leash so you can keep an eye on him.
- When you must be gone from the house, confine your puppy to a small, safe area such as a laundry room. You may also begin to crate train your puppy (see our handout: “Crate Training Your Dog”). Puppies under five months of age shouldn’t be crated for longer than four hours at a time, as they may not be able to control their bladder and bowels longer than that. Make sure your puppy is getting adequate physical activity. Puppies left alone in a yard don’t play by themselves. Take your puppy for walks and/or play a game of fetch with him as often as possible.
- Give your puppy plenty of “people time.” He can only learn the rules of your house when he’s with you.
Encouraging Acceptable Behavior
Provide your puppy with lots of appropriate toys (see:”Dog Toys“). Rotate your puppy’s toys. Puppies, like babies, are often more interested in unfamiliar or novel objects. Put out four or five toys for a few days, then pick those up and put out four or five different ones. Experiment with different kinds of toys. When you introduce a new toy to your puppy, watch him to make sure he won’t tear it up and ingest the pieces. Consider the various types of toys that can be stuffed with food. Putting tidbits of food inside chew toys focuses your puppy’s
chewing activities on those toys instead of on unacceptable objects. If your puppy is teething, try freezing a wet washcloth for him to chew on.
What Not To Do
Never discipline or punish your puppy after the fact. If you discover a chewed item even minutes after he’s chewed it, you’re too late to administer a correction. Animals associate punishment with what they’re doing at the time they’re being punished. A puppy can’t reason that, “I tore up those shoes an hour ago and that’s why I’m being scolded now.”
Some people believe this is what a puppy is thinking because he runs and hides or because he “looks guilty.” “Guilty looks” are canine submissive postures that dogs show when they’re threatened. When you’re angry and upset, the puppy feels threatened by your tone of voice, body postures and/or facial expressions, so he may hide or show submissive postures.
Punishment after-the-fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but could provoke other undesirable behaviors, as well.
Other Reasons For Destructive Behavior
In most cases, destructive chewing by puppies is nothing more than normal puppy behavior. Adult dogs, however, can exhibit destructive behaviors for a variety of reasons, which can occasionally be the cause of chewing problems in puppies, as well. Examples include separation anxiety, fear-related behaviors and attention-getting behavior. For helpwith these problems, contact our Behavior Helpline or a professional animal behaviorist.
Dogs may display a variety of behaviors when they’re afraid. A fearful dog will display certain body postures, including lowering his head, flattening his ears back against his head, and tucking his tail between his legs. He may also pant, salivate, tremble and/or pace. A frightened dog may try to escape, may show submissive behaviors (avoidance of eye contact, submissive urinating, rolling over to expose his belly), or he may freeze and remain immobile. Some dogs will bark and/or growl at the object that is causing their fear. In extreme cases of fearfulness a dog may be destructive (out of general anxiety or in an attempt to escape), or he may lose control of his bladder or bowels and, therefore, house soil.
Causes Of Fearful Behavior
Determining why your dog is fearful isn’t always essential to treating the fearful behavior, although the reason for his fear will dictate the relative success of the treatment. A dog that is genetically predisposed to general fearfulness, or a dog that was improperly socialized during a critical stage in his development, will probably not respond as well to treatment as a dog that has developed a specific fear in response to a specific
experience. It’s essential, however, to first rule out any medical causes for your dog’s fearful behavior. Your first step should be to take your dog to your veterinarian for a thorough medical evaluation.
What You Can Do
Most fears won’t go away by themselves, and if left untreated, may get worse. Some fears, when treated, will decrease in intensity or frequency but may not disappear entirely. Once medical reasons have been ruled out, the first step in dealing with your dog’s fearful behavior is to identify what triggers his fear. If he is afraid of startling noises see the page: “Helping Your Dog Overcome The Fear Of Thunder And Other Startling Noises.” If he is afraid of being left alone, see the page: “Separation Anxiety.” Most fears can be treated using desensitization and counter conditioning techniques, which require a lot of time and patience. You may need help from a professional animal behavior specialist to help you with these techniques (see the page: “When Information Isn’t Enough Help”).
Begin by exposing your dog to a very low level or small amount of whatever it is that’s causing his fear. For example, if he is afraid of bicycles, start with a bicycle placed at a distance of 100 feet from your dog. Reward him for calm, non-fearful behavior in the presence of the bicycle. Gradually move the bicycle closer to him. As long as your dog remains relaxed, reward him with treats and praise. If at any point he becomes anxious, move the bicycle further away and proceed at a slower pace. When your dog can remain relaxed in the presence of a stationary bicycle, move the bicycle 100 feet away again, but have someone ride it slowly by him. Again, gradually increase the proximity of the slowly moving bicycle, rewarding your dog for remaining calm and relaxed. Repeat this procedure as many times as necessary, gradually increasing the speed of the moving bicycle. This process may take several days, weeks or even months. You must proceed at a slow enough pace that your dog never becomes fearful during the desensitization process.
Counter conditioning works best when used along with desensitization and involves pairing the fear stimulus with an activity or behavior incompatible with the fear behavior. Using the desensitization technique example described previously, while your dog is exposed to the bicycle, ask him to perform some obedience exercises, such as “sit” and “down.” Reward him for obeying and continue to have him obey commands as the bicycle is moved closer to him. If your dog doesn’t know any commands, teach him a few using treats and praise. Don’t ever use punishment, collar corrections or scolding to teach him the commands, as the point of counter conditioning is for him to associate pleasant things with the thing that frightens him.
Some of the things that frighten dogs can be difficult to reproduce and/or control. For example, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, he may be responding to other things that occur during the storm, such as smells, barometric pressure changes and/or changes in the light. During the desensitization process it’s impossible for you to reproduce all of these factors. If your dog is afraid of men, you may work at desensitizing
him, but if an adult man lives in your household and your dog is constantly exposed to him, this can disrupt the gradual process of desensitization.
When To Get Help
Because desensitization and counter conditioning can be difficult to do, and because behavior problems may increase if these techniques are done incorrectly, you may want to get professional, in-home help from an animal behavior specialist (see the page: When Information Isn’t Enough Help”). It’s important to keep in mind that a fearful dog that feels trapped or is pushed too far may become aggressive. Some dogs will respond aggressively to whatever it is that frightens them (see the page: “Understanding aggression In Dogs”). If your dog displays any aggressive behavior, such as growling, snarling, snapping or baring his teeth, stop all behavior modification procedures and seek professional help from an animal behavior specialist as soon as possible.
Consult With Your Veterinarian
Medication may be available that can help your dog feel less anxious for short time periods. Your veterinarian is the only person who is licensed and qualified to prescribe medication for your dog. Don’t attempt to give your dog any over-the-counter or prescription medication without consulting with your veterinarian. Animals don’t respond to drugs the same way people do, and a medication that may be safe for humans could be fatal to your dog. Drug therapy alone won’t reduce fears and phobias permanently. In extreme cases, behavior modification and medication used together may be the best approach.
What Not To Do
Don’t punish your dog for being afraid. Punishment will only make him more fearful. Don’t try to force your dog to experience the object or situation that is causing him to be afraid. For example, if he is afraid of bicycles and you force him to stand in place while bicycles whiz by, he’ll probably become more fearful, rather than less fearful of bicycles. Never punish your dog after the fact for destruction or house soiling caused by anxiety or fear. Animals don’t understand punishment after the fact, even if it’s only seconds later. This kind of destruction or housesoiling is the result of panic, not misbehavior. Punishment will do more harm than good.
Do visitors whistle World War I tunes when laying eyes on the trenches in your backyard? Has your once lush green lawn begun to resemble a minefield? If so, your dog’s digging problem has gotten out of control. But short of paving over the yard, is there a way to manage this passion for excavation? Absolutely!
To Dig For
Different dogs dig for different reasons, so before looking for solutions, it’s important to determine why your dog digs. Many reasons for digging are often breed dependent. Heavy-coated, spitz-type dogs, such as sled dogs and chow chows, dig cooling pits during hot weather to make themselves more comfortable. Earth dogs—those bred to tunnel underground to dispatch prey, such as short-legged terriers and dachshunds—are simply obeying their natural impulses as they dig up the yard to find gophers, moles or other “vermin.” Scent hounds (beagles, bassets and coonhounds) and unneutered males of any breed type often dig along fence lines because the lures of small game, food or females in heat are especially strong. And adolescent diggers (dogs ages six to 18 months) do so because they’re loaded with youthful exuberance and have nothing to do. They dig because they’re outside unaccompanied and have motive, means and opportunity. The common denominator for all of these dogs, however, is that they dig because they find it rewarding.
By far the most common digger is the bored dog. Without anything to sustain his attention, the bored canine wiles away his time outdoors by excavating the yard. Why? Because it’s there, and digging gives him something to do. While often an adolescent, a bored digger can be nearly any age. Social isolation can also trigger this behavior.
Two options are available to stop the digging—extinguish the need to dig or channel the behavior into an appropriate outlet. If your hot husky is digging cooling pits, keep him inside in the air conditioning during the hottest times of the day, or set up a refreshing kiddie pool for him. If your Jack Russell terrier is on mole patrol, call in a professional pest removal service. For the intact (unneutered) male dog who digs to break free and
consort with “the ladies,” book him a date with the veterinary surgeon. Roaming is one of several behaviors considerably diminished by neutering.
If your dog digs because he’s bored or lonely, train him to behave when home alone, and keep him indoors. When you do give him backyard access, go out with him and throw a ball, toss a Frisbee™ or practice obedience commands. Hide biscuits around the yard and encourage him to track them down. Go for a walk together. Invite neighborhood dogs over for a play date. When a dog’s kept busy and mentally stimulated, he’s less apt to dig.
If your fence cannot contain the yearning for freedom, fortify the barrier. Attach chicken wire to the fence a foot or so from the bottom, sink the wire six to 12 inches into the ground and curve it two to three feet in toward the yard. When your digger dog hits the chicken wire, it should stop him.
Dig or Die
Some dogs, however, have such a strong innate desire to dig that little can dissuade them otherwise. Many earth dogs fall into this category—even if your yard is vermin-free, they’ll still dig because that’s what they were born to do. These dogs need an outlet for their drives. A digging pit provides the perfect compromise — your dog can dig to his heart’s content, while preserving your landscaping.
Choose a small patch in the yard where it’s okay for your dog to dig. Circle the area with stones or other visual markers. Loosen up the soil and mix in a little sand. Hide a few toys, chewies or biscuits in the soil to increase the rewards, then encourage the dog to dig in the pit. The first few times you let him out in the yard, make sure to accompany him so you can catch him in any mistakes and lure him over to dig in the appropriate
spot. If your dog attempts to dig anywhere except in the pit, mark the incorrect behavior with “wrong,” and call him over to the pit. Praise and reward him when he heads to the pit on his own. Fill in the pit when needed, and add goodies from time to time so that the pit will remain an attractive place for the dog to visit.
Once you’ve determined why your dog digs and have followed up by providing him with a cooling pool, fortified fence, plentiful play or a digging pit of his own, you can bid adieu to trench warfare and let the kids out in the yard once more—without fearing that they’ll disappear into a canine-constructed pothole.
Crate training your dog may take some time and effort, but can be useful in a variety of situations. If you have a new dog or puppy, you can use the crate to limit his access to the house until he learns all the house rules – like what he can and can’t chew on and where he can and can’t eliminate. A crate is also a safe way of transporting your dog in the car, as well as a way of taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely. If you properly train your dog to use the crate, he’ll think of it as his safe place and will be happy to spend time there when needed.
Selecting A Crate
Crates may be plastic (often called “flight kennels”) or collapsible, metal pens. They come in different sizes and can be purchased at most pet supply stores. Your dog’s crate should be just large enough for him to stand up and turn around in.
The Crate Training Process
Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog’s age, temperament and past experiences. It’s important to keep two things in mind while crate training. The crate should always be associated with something pleasant, and training should take place in a series of small steps – don’t go too fast.
Step 1: Introducing Your Dog To The Crate
Put the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Bring your dog over to the crate and talk to him in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is securely fastened opened so it won’t hit your dog and frighten him. To encourage your dog to enter the crate, drop some small food treats near it, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If he refuses to go all the way in at first, that’s okay – don’t force him to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If he isn’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days.
Step 2: Feeding Your Dog His Meals In The Crate
After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding him his regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, put the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If your dog is still reluctant to enter the crate, put the dish only as far inside as he will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed him, place the dish a little further back in the crate.
Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat his meal, you can close the door while he’s eating. At first, open the door as soon as he finishes his meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until he’s staying in the crate for ten minutes or so after eating. If he begins to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving him in the crate for a shorter time period. If he does whine or cry in the crate, it’s imperative that you not let him out until he stops. Otherwise, he’ll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so he’ll keep doing it.
Step 3: Conditioning Your Dog To The Crate For Longer Time Periods
After your dog is eating his regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine him there for short time periods while you’re home. Call him over to the crate and give him a treat. Give him a command to enter such as, “kennel up.” Encourage him by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise him, give him the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to ten minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time, then let him out of the crate. Repeat this process several times a day. With each repetition, gradually increase the length of time you leave him in the crate and the length of time you’re out of his sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight the majority of the time, you can begin leaving him crated when you’re gone for short time periods and/or letting him sleep there at night. This may take several days or several weeks.
Step 4: Part A/Crating Your Dog When Left Alone
After your dog is spending about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving him crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put him in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave him with a few safe toys in the crate (see our handout: “Dog Toys and How to Use Them”). You’ll want to vary at what point in your “getting ready to leave” routine you put your dog in the crate. Although he shouldn’t be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate him anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don’t make your departures emotional and prolonged, but matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give him a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don’t reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to him in an excited, enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low key. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you’re home so he doesn’t associate crating with being left alone.
Part B/Crating Your Dog At Night
Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you’ll want to be able to hear your puppy when he whines to be let outside. Older dogs, too, should initially be kept nearby so that crating doesn’t become associated with social
isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer.
Potential Problems Too Much Time In The Crate
A crate isn’t a magical solution. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated. For example, if your dog is crated all day while you’re at work and then crated again all night, he’s spending too much time in too small a space. Other arrangements should be made to accommodate his physical and emotional needs. Also remember that puppies under six months of age shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can’t control their bladders and bowels for longer periods.
If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether he’s whining to be let out of the crate, or whether he needs to be let outside to eliminate. If you followed the training procedures outlined above, your dog hasn’t been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from his crate. Try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, he’ll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at him or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you’ve ignored him for several minutes, use the phrase he associates with going outside to eliminate. If he responds and becomes excited, take him outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you’re convinced that your dog doesn’t need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore him until he stops whining. Don’t givein, otherwise you’ll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what he wants. If you’ve progressed gradually through the training steps and haven’t done too much too fast, you’ll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes manageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.
Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won’t solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but he may injure himself in an attempt to escape from the crate. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counter-conditioning and desensitization procedures. You may want to consult a professional animal behaviorist for help (see: “Separation Anxiety“).
Dogs can kill a cat very easily, even if they’re only playing. All it takes is one shake and the cat’s neck can break. Some dogs have such a high prey drive they should never be left alone with a cat. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and cats usually become afraid and defensive. Use the techniques described above to begin introducing your new cat to your resident dog. In addition:
If your dog doesn’t already know the commands “sit,” “down,” “come” and “stay,” you should begin working on them. Small pieces of food will increase your dog’s motivation to perform, which will be necessary in the presence of such a strong distraction as a new cat. Even if your dog already knows these commands, work with obeying commands in return for a tidbit.
After your new cat and resident dog have become comfortable eating on opposite sides of the door, and have been exposed to each other’s scents as described above, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Put your dog’s leash on, and using treats, have him either sit or lie down and stay. Have another family member, or friend enter the room and quietly sit down next to your new cat, but don’t have them physically restrain her. Have this person offer your cat some special pieces of food or catnip. At first, the cat and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room. Lots of short visits are better than a few long visits. Don’t drag out the visit so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable. Repeat this step several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each other’s presence without fear, aggression or other undesirable behavior.
Let Your Cat Go
Next, allow your cat freedom to explore your dog at her own pace, with the dog still on-leash and in a “down-stay.” Meanwhile, keep giving your dog treats and praise for his calm behavior. If your dog gets up from his “stay” position, he should be repositioned with a treat lure, and praised and rewarded for obeying the “stay” command. If your cat runs away or becomes aggressive, you’re progressing too fast. Go back to the previous introduction steps.
Although your dog must be taught that chasing or being rough with your cat is unacceptable behavior, he must also be taught how to behave appropriately, and be rewarded for doing so, such as sitting, coming when called, or lying down in return for a treat. If your dog is always punished when your cat is around, and never has “good things” happen in the cat’s presence, your dog may redirect aggression toward the cat.
Directly Supervise All Interactions Between Your Dog And Cat
You may want to keep your dog on-leash and with you whenever your cat is free in the house during the introduction process. Be sure that your cat has an escape route and a place to hide. Keep your dog and cat separated when you aren’t home until you’re certain your cat will be safe.
Dogs like to eat cat food. You should keep the cat food out of your dog’s reach (in a closet or on a high shelf). Eating cat feces is also a relatively common behavior in dogs. Although there are no health hazards to your dog, it’s probably distasteful to you. It’s also upsetting to your cat to have such an important object “invaded.” Unfortunately, attempts to keep your dog out of the litter box by “booby trapping” it will also keep your cat away as well. Punishment after the fact will not change your dog’s behavior. The best solution is to place the litter box where your dog can’t access it, for example: behind a baby gate; in a closet with the door anchored open from both sides and just wide enough for your cat; or inside a tall, topless cardboard box with easy access for your cat.
A Word About Kittens And Puppies
Because they’re so much smaller, kittens are in more danger of being injured, of being killed by a young energetic dog, or by a predatory dog. A kitten will need to be kept separate from an especially energetic dog until she is fully-grown, and even then she should never be left alone with the dog. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but some cats don’t have enough confidence to do this. If you have an especially shy cat, you might need to keep her separated from your puppy until he matures enough to have more self-control.
When To Get Help
If introductions don’t go smoothly, seek professional help immediately. Animals can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Conflicts between pets in the same family can often be resolved with professional help. Punishment won’t work, though, and could make things worse.
Introducing Your New Dog To Your Resident Dog
Animals that live in groups, like dogs, establish a social structure within the group called a dominance hierarchy. This dominance hierarchy serves to maintain order, reduce conflict and promote cooperation among pack members. Dogs also establish territories, which they may defend against intruders or rivals. This social and territorial nature affects their behavior when a new dog is introduced to their household.
Choose A Neutral Location: Introduce the dogs in a neutral location so that your resident dog is less likely to view the newcomer as a territorial intruder. Each dog should be handled by a separate person. With both dogs on a leash, take them to an area with which neither is familiar, such as a park or a neighbor’s yard. If you frequently walk your resident dog in a park near your house, she may view that park as her territory, so choose another site that’s unfamiliar to her. We recommend bringing your resident dog with you to the shelter and introducing the dogs before adopting the new dog.
Use Positive Reinforcement: From the first meeting, you want both dogs to expect “good things” to happen when they’re in each other’s presence. Let them sniff each other, which is normal canine greeting behavior. As they do, talk to them in a happy, friendly tone of voice – never use a threatening tone of voice. Don’t allow them to investigate and sniff each other for a prolonged time, as this may escalate to an aggressive response. After a short time, get both dogs’ attention, and give each dog a treat in return for obeying a simple command, such as “sit” or “stay.”
Take the dogs for a walk and let them sniff and investigate each other at intervals. Continue with the”happy talk,” food rewards and simple commands.
Be Aware Of Body Postures: One body posture that indicates things are going well is a “play-bow.” One dog will crouch with her front legs on the ground and her hind end in the air. This is an invitation to play that usually elicits friendly behavior from the other dog. Watch carefully for body postures that indicate an aggressive response,including hair standing up on the other dog’s back, teeth-baring, deep growls, a stiff legged gait or a prolonged stare. If you see such postures, interrupt the interaction immediately by calmly and positively getting each dog interested in something else. For example, both handlers can call their dogs to them, have them sit or lie down and reward each with a treat. The dogs will become interested in the treats which will prevent the situation from escalating into aggression. Try letting the dogs interact again, but this time for a shorter time period and/or at a greater distance from each other.
Taking The Dogs Home: When the dogs seem to be tolerating each other’s presence without fearful or aggressive responses, and the investigative greeting behaviors have tapered off, you can take them home. Whether you choose to take them in the same, or different vehicles, will depend on their size, how well they ride in the car, how trouble-free the initial introduction has been and how many dogs are involved.
If you have more than one resident dog in your household, it may be best to introduce the resident dogs to the new dog one at a time. Two or more resident dogs may have a tendency to “gang up” on the newcomer.
Introducing Puppies To Adult Dogs
Puppies usually pester adult dogs unmercifully. Before the age of four months, puppies may not recognize subtle body postures from adult dogs signaling that they’ve had enough. Well-socialized adult dogs with good temperaments may set limits with puppies with a growl or snarl. These behaviors are normal and should be allowed. Adult dogs that aren’t well-socialized, or that have a history of fighting with other dogs, may
attempt to set limits with more aggressive behaviors, such as biting, which could harm the puppy. For this reason, a puppy shouldn’t be left alone with an adult dog until you’re confident the puppy isn’t in any danger. Be sure to give the adult dog some quiet time away from the puppy, and perhaps, some individual attention as described above.
When To Get Help
If the introduction of a new dog to a household doesn’t go smoothly, contact a professional animal behaviorist immediately. Dogs can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Conflicts between dogs in the same family can often be resolved with professional help. Punishment won’t work and could make things worse.
When you feel frustrated with your dog’s behavior, remember that someone must teach a dog what is acceptable behavior and what is not. A dog that hasn’t been given any instructions, training or boundaries can’t possibly know what you expect of him. By teaching your dog how you want him to behave, you’ll not only have a saner household, but a healthier and happier dog as well.
An Educated Dog:
- Allows you to handle every part of his body, to check for injury or illness and to give him medication.
- Has good manners, so he can spend most of his time indoors with his people. That means more supervision, less boredom and fewer opportunities for dangerous mischief. The more time you spend with your dog, the more likely you’ll be to notice when something is wrong with him, like a limp, a cough, a sensitive area or a loss of appetite. By recognizing such irregularities early, you can seek medical attention immediately and, hopefully, prevent more serious problems.
- Wants to stay near you, listening for instructions (and praise). This means he’ll have less opportunity to stray into danger.
- Will walk or run beside you on a leash without pulling, dragging or strangling, so you and your dog can get more exercise and spend more time together.
- Knows that “drop it” and “leave it alone” are phrases that mean business, so he’ll have fewer opportunities to swallow dangerous objects. He also can be taught what things and places are out of bounds, like hot stoves, heaters or anxious cats. However, you’ll still need to limit his access to dangerous places when you cannot supervise or instruct him.
- Will “sit” immediately, simply because you say so. No matter what danger may be imminent, a dog that is suddenly still is suddenly safe. And a dog that will “stay” in that position is even safer.
- Understands his boundaries, knows what’s expected of him and has fewer anxieties. Less stress means a healthier dog.
By training your dog, you can help prevent tragedy and develop a better relationship with him. Keep in mind, however, that even an educated dog needs supervision, instruction and boundaries –sometimes even physical boundaries. Allowing your dog, no matter how educated he may be, to walk, run or roam outside of a fenced area or off of a leash, is putting him in danger.
Selecting a Class
Here are some tips to help you select an obedience class that’s right for you:
Good obedience instructors are knowledgeable about many different types of training methods and use techniques that neither the dogs nor their owners find consistently unpleasant. Good training methods focus primarily on reinforcing good behavior and use punishment sparingly, appropriately and humanely. Excessive use of choke chains or pinch collars or using collars to lift dogs off of the ground (“stringing them up”) are not appropriate or humane training methods. Good obedience instructors communicate well with people and with dogs. Remember that they’re instructing you about how to train your dog.
Specific problems you may have with your dog may not be addressed in a basic obedience course. If you’re seeking help with house soiling, barking, aggression or separation anxiety, ask if the course covers these issues — don’t assume it will.
Ask the instructor what training methods are used and how they (the instructor and staff) were trained. Also ask to observe a class before you commit to one. If you’re refused an observation, or if your observation results in anything that makes you uncomfortable, look elsewhere.
Avoid anyone who: guarantees their work; whose primary methods focus on punishment; or who want to take your dog and train him for you (effective training must include you and the environment in which you and your dog interact).