Tag: new dog

Choosing A Best Friend: What to Consider When Finding a New Dog

00Helpful Hints, PuppiesTags: , ,

There are so many choices when it comes to adding a new dog to your household. There are hundreds of breeds to choose from, not to mention the thousands of wonderful dogs in shelters across the country. If you have never had a dog before, or haven’t had one since childhood, it can be overwhelming! Here are some things to consider when adding a dog to your family.

Not all dogs would be so tolerant of this child’s advances! (Photo Credit: Giulio Nepi)

Do you have children? Dogs weighing less than ten pounds are not recommended for homes with very small children as they will not handle roughhousing well.

Terrier breeds can get nippy with small children due to their heightened “prey drive” – they have a strong desire to go after small, fast moving things that make high pitched noises. Toddlers fall into that category. For that reason, I also don’t recommend terriers for households with small pets.

When choosing a dog for a home with young children, consider a medium to large sized dog with a stable, easy-going, happy-go-lucky temperament. Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, and mixes of those breeds, are popular choices because they tend to fit this description.

If you are a busy parent, consider adopting or purchasing an older puppy or an adult dog. Puppies require lots of socialization and training, and most working parents are just too busy to add that to their to-do list.

Consider the dog’s energy level and compare it to yours. If you are busy and don’t have a lot of time to be active with your dog, consider a smaller laid back dog like a Bassett Hound or some of the larger toy breeds.

If you’re just looking for a buddy to hang out with around the house, consider adopting a senior dog. Older dogs are often dumped into shelters once their owners decide they can’t handle their special needs such as increased vet costs, medication, and physical ailments. They are less likely to be adopted than younger, spritely dogs, but they make wonderful companions.

If you are active and love to go for walks or hikes, or could imagine spending your evenings playing fetch in the backyard, consider a dog from the Herding group, such as a Border Collie or Shetland Sheepdog. Shelters are full of these high-energy dogs that are surrendered for being “crazy” or “too much dog” for their laid-back owners. In reality, most of those dogs just need more exercise and a bit of training.

Dalmatian in Window

Not all dogs are suitable for apartment living. (Photo Credit: Daniel Sancho)

What are your living arrangements? Many home owners’ insurance policies have a “blacklist” of breeds they will not cover. Check with your insurance agent before adding a dog to your household. (I cannot have a Yorkshire Terrier under my policy!) This also makes renting tricky. I spoke with a dog-friendly landlord who grew up with German Shepherds but cannot allow them to live on her properties due to her insurance policy.

Are you living in an apartment now, or could be in the future? Often apartment complexes have policies that dogs must be under 20 or 25 pounds, so consider a small dog. Avoid breeds that are known for excessive, loud barking. Many hounds are notorious for barking and are not a good choice for apartment living.

What kind of grooming are you prepared to provide? So-called “non-shedding” dogs (which actually DO shed) such as Poodles and Poodle mixes require frequent grooming as their hair type mats easily and must be trimmed often.

Professional grooming costs vary from location to location, but expect to spend about $50 plus a tip for a good grooming for almost any dog in this area (Rhode Island). Long coated breeds such as Irish Setters, English Springer Spaniels, and Collies need to be brushed out a couple of times per week, and professionally groomed every 5-6 weeks. And don’t forget the drool that comes with many giant breed dogs such as Newfoundlands and Great Danes!

Before bringing any dog home, be sure you are committed to caring for that dog for its entire lifetime. Ask yourself: am I financially prepared for a sudden vet bill? Do I have the time to devote to training this dog? Is this dog a good fit for my lifestyle? Is now a good time to add a dog to my household? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you are setting yourself and the dog up for failure. Dogs are not disposable! Surrendering a dog to a shelter should only be done as an absolute last resort. Be sure you are truly ready for the responsibility of dog ownership.

Top Tips for Housebreaking

02TrainingTags: , , ,

At Spring Forth Dog Academy, I work with a lot of dogs that are relieving themselves in the house. Housebreaking seems to be one of those things that either goes smoothly or is really troublesome. A lot of it depends on how your dog was raised, both before and after you acquired him.

Fire Hydrant by Rachael Voorhees (rachaelvoorhees on Flickr)

Photo Credit: Rachael Voorhees

Puppies raised on wire floor pens, such as dogs sold in pet stores, learn to relieve themselves where they sleep, making crate training and housebreaking difficult. Often new owners bring their puppy home and set them up in a playpen or crate with newspaper covering the entire floor, encouraging him to go anywhere he likes, whenever he pleases. These mistakes can create a habit of pottying in the house that can be tough to break.

Here are some of my favorite tips for teaching dogs to go potty outdoors.

Pick up the food bowl. “Free-feeding” your dog – leaving the bowl full of food all the time – is a bad idea for a myriad of reasons. Switching to feeding your dog two or three times a day, at the same time every day, is an easy way to regulate your dog’s “#2” schedule. Basically: scheduled input means scheduled output. Dogs typically relieve themselves shortly after eating a meal, but if your dog is picking at his food dish whenever he pleases, there is no way to take advantage of this function. Check out my post on free-feeding for tips on fixing this problem.

Clean up well. Even if it’s on a tile or linoleum floor, simply wiping up an accident with a paper towel isn’t going to cut it. A dogs’ sense of smell is approximately a thousand times better than ours, and they can still sniff out the spots where they have gone in the house unless you use an enzymatic cleanser such as Nature’s Miracle to clean it. Dogs establish preferred “potty spots” quickly – don’t let your living room rug become one! Every dog owner should have an enzymatic cleaner on hand for accidents.

Newspaper Photo by Nadia Szopinska (Flickr)

Photo Credit: Nadia Szopinska

Get rid of the newspaper. This tip is a twofer. First, punishing a dog for an accident just teaches the dog to not potty in your presence – which means your dog will pee behind the sofa or under the bed, not on a leash walk next to you. (It also will make your dog hand-shy and fearful of you. Just don’t do it!)

If you are serious about teaching your dog to relieve himself outside, pick up any newspaper or “pee-pee pads” you have in the house. Your rule must be that pottying is only acceptable outdoors, it is never acceptable indoors. Putting down a substrate for your dog to go potty on in the house is terribly confusing to the dog. I often find that dogs trained to use newspaper or pads generalize this behavior to relieving themselves on bath mats, towels, door mats, throw rugs, and clothing on the floor.

(If you want to teach your dog to use one specific indoor dog potty area – not pee-pads – a trainer can help you come up with a plan to achieve this. I have even helped clients do this through phone consultations, so contact me if that’s something you’re interested in.)

Be ready to get outside. Set yourself up for success by having your leash, clicker, treats, and slip-on shoes right next to the door, so that when it is time to get your dog outside, you are not wasting time looking for things. Why the clicker and treats? You can speed up the housebreaking process by clicking just as your dog finishes eliminating, then giving a treat.

Labrador Retriever Puppy by Andrew Magill (AMagill on Flickr)

Photo Credit: Andrew Magill

Know when he goes. Dogs typically develop a schedule of relieving themselves. As an example, my adult dogs wake up and immediately go outside and pee. They eat breakfast, then go outside again and do both #1 and #2. They are crated during the day while I am at work. When I arrive home in the mid-afternoon, they go out and pee. They eat dinner at the same time every evening, then immediately go outside and do #1 and #2. I take them out one more time before I go to bed and they will pee. It’s like clockwork.

Keep a record of when your dog gets a meal (or a really big treat), when he pees, and when he poops. Your record should distinguish between going outside or inside, so you can track your progress over time. Once you have kept records for a week or two, compare each day and see if you notice any patterns that you can take advantage of. You might notice that your dog is often having an accident at 7PM, so you start taking him outside at 6:30PM to prevent that.

Get professional help. If you are really struggling with teaching your dog to potty outdoors, or if your previously housetrained dog has suddenly begun eliminating in the house, contact your veterinarian. It could be a symptom of a larger problem. Teaching your dog to eliminate outdoors requires consistency, proper management, and a bit of patience! Once you have ruled out any health problems, get in touch with a positive reinforcement trainer who will help develop a plan if you still need help. Happy training!

Puppy Nipping: A Plan to Stop It

10Helpful Hints, Puppies, Training, Tutorials and How-To GuidesTags: , , , , , ,

Puppy nipping is one of the most frustrating behaviors that new owners report. It hurts! But you’ll see a big reduction in puppy nipping in a short period just by getting some human cooperation.

Puppy Nipping - Dachshund

If this is a familiar sight, it’s time for a new training plan! (Photo Credit: Renata Lima, Flickr)

Let’s start by examining why your puppy is putting his mouth on things. I don’t like to spend a ton of time pondering why a dog is doing what he’s doing, but puppy nipping is such a frustrating behavior for owners that I find it helps to consider the puppy’s point of view.

Beginning at a young age, puppies bite each other during play. This behavior starts before you bring your puppy home from the breeder or rescue organization. The puppies are play-fighting and learning their own strength. If they bite a littermate too hard, the other puppy will respond with a high-pitched yelp. This tells the biter to tone it down next time.

This is why a common nugget of advice is “If your puppy bites you, shriek in a high-pitched voice.” This sometimes causes the puppy to stop. But sometimes the puppy thinks your noises are fascinating and bites harder next time; it gets him excited and worked up!

It just depends on your puppy… and your ability to make a high-pitched puppy yelp, something most men can’t do. I prefer to use methods that work more reliably. Here is the plan we use with our clients, as well as in our Puppy Day School program.

Step One

Institute a new house rule: everyone interacting with the puppy is “armed” with a soft, biteable toy. It should be long enough to keep your fingers away from the puppy’s mouth when playing. This is always within the puppy’s reach when you’re petting her, playing with her, or snuggling together. Praise the puppy for interacting with the toy.

Set yourself up for success by keeping a soft toy in your back pocket, another in a basket on top of the puppy’s crate, and another in the room where you tend to hang out with your pup the most. I recommend braided fleece toys and “unstuffed” plush toys (the kind that resemble roadkill).

Puppy Chewing Shoelaces

Tuck in shoelaces, sweatshirt drawstrings, and other dangly bits of clothing and jewelry to set your puppy up for success. (Photo by Nicki Varkevisser, Flickr)

Step Two

Don’t tempt your puppy! For at least the first few weeks, avoid wearing nice clothing or anything loose-fitting or dangling around her. Change out of your nice work clothes before interacting with your puppy. Tuck in shoelaces and sweatshirt drawstrings, and remove large earrings and necklaces, too.

This eliminates the puppy’s opportunity to grab on to these things and elicit an exciting reaction from you. We don’t want the puppy to learn things we wish she wouldn’t, such as “grabbing my mother’s earrings makes her squeak and push me around. That’s fun!” Not a good lesson.

You can also use bitter-tasting spray on things that you’re not likely to touch often, such as your shoelaces. The bitter taste can transfer to your fingers, so if you use this method, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling food or touching your face.

Step Three

When your puppy mouths your hands, pull them away from her and keep them out of her reach for several seconds. I recommend sticking your hands in your armpits – your puppy can’t nip them there! Ignore your puppy for about 5 seconds. If she continues to try to nip during this time, it may be necessary to stand up or even leave the room.

After this little time-out, calmly present your toy to your pup and resume interacting with her. Praise and play with the puppy for engaging the toy, licking your hands, or just being polite. Repeat this step when the pup bites. Be consistent!

Remember that screaming or shouting at the puppy, pushing her away, or physically punishing the puppy by pinching her lips or clamping her mouth closed will either intensify the biting or scare the puppy, potentially leading to fearful and aggressive behaviors in the future.

If your pup bites on your clothing, gently remove the clothing from her mouth and prevent her access to that article of clothing. If she’s chewing on your shirt sleeve, stand up and roll up your sleeves. If she’s chewing on your pant leg, leave the room or step to the other side of a baby gate or puppy pen so she cannot reach you. Ignore her for a few seconds, then offer her the toy to play with.

Closing Thoughts

The purpose of these training steps is to teach the puppy that when she has the urge to put something in her mouth, she should pick an appropriate toy rather than your hands or clothing. Puppies need to bite, mouth, and chew as they grow, so rather than fight that instinct, channel it into appropriate items.

If you need to give your puppy a “time out” more than two or three times in a 10-minute period, she is either very wound up and needs a bit of exercise, or is overtired and needs to be put in her crate for a nap. Remember that the time out does not teach the puppy anything. It just provides an opportunity for your puppy to calm down enough to try other ways of interacting with you, which you must then reward.