Housetraining Tips for Your New Puppy – April 24,2012

It’s up to you to make sure your puppy does not make mistakes indoors in the first place. The more that happens, the more he’ll think it’s OK. This means that good and constant observation on your part is essential to preventing indoor accidents. To help with supervision, loosely tie his leash to you or tether him where you can see him. (Do not leave him tethered while unsupervised!).

Restrict his Movements
Make sure you never leave your puppy loose and unsupervised during the housetraining period. This means that 100% of time you are either watching him, or he is in his crate or X-pen.

Feeding Times
It is important that you regulate your dog’s food and water intake. Pay closer attention to your dog for the hour or so after feeding so you can be ready to take him out. Most puppies will want to relieve themselves 15 minutes after eating. Leave food out for 20 minutes, then remove it, whether your dog has finished or not. Don’t worry if he doesn’t finish – he won’t starve himself.

Reward your dog every time he eliminates outside. Be there to praise while he’s going (low key praise so you don’t interrupt him) and treat immediately afterwards. You may want to save his very favorite treats for these rewards and use these treats only for housetraining rewards for now. Use going for a walk as an additional reward. If puppy does not eliminate, bring him back inside, and try again in 10 minutes. Then go for your walk – the walk is a reward for going outside, not a bribe to entice him to go.

Go With Him
Make sure you go with your puppy every time so you are present to praise and reward. Also, this way you know for sure whether or not he has eliminated. Also, you don’t want him to learn that it is OK to go when you’re not there (as in indoors when he’s unsupervised!). Go to the same spot or area every time so your puppy associates this as his potty area.

Adding a Cue
When you see your dog about to relieve himself you can add a cue such as ‘good pee’ or ‘hurry up’ or ‘do your business’. Make sure to say this only when you know he is about to go. After a while, you can use this cue to get him to go right away (very handy for the 11 pm and bad weather potty trips).

He’s Just a Puppy
A general rule of thumb is that a puppy can ‘hold it’ about 1 hour for every month of age. So a 4 month old puppy can hold it for 4 hours. This is breed dependent and smaller dogs will need to go more often. Plan your training schedule accordingly.

Eliminate Odors
Make you thoroughly clean and deodorize any indoor accidents. Any remaining scent will entice your puppy to go in the same spot. You can try feeding on accident areas – puppies do not like to eliminate where they eat – which is why the crate is effective.

Record Keeping
Keep a chart on your refrigerator of you puppy’s elimination schedule so you can start to detect patterns and take him out based on those patterns.

It will take time for your puppy to fully understand that he is not allowed to go inside. Your dog may have an occasional accident when he is 6-12 months old. Be diligent and patient.

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Introducing the Crate to Your Puppy – April 18, 2012

Using a crate for your puppy will help you with housetraining and general management when you don’t have time to supervise him. It also provides a place for your puppy to relax, nap, get away from the kids or keep out of trouble when you leave home.

In order that your puppy associate his/her crate with comfort, security and enjoyment, please follow these guidelines:

1. Occasionally throughout the day, drop small pieces of kibble or dog biscuits in the crate. While investigating his new crate, the pup will discover edible treasures, thereby reinforcing his positive associations with the crate. You may also feed him in the crate to create the same effect. If the dog hesitates, it often works to feed him in front of the crate, then right inside the doorway and then, finally, in the back of the crate.

2. In the beginning, praise and pet your pup when he enters. Do not try to push, pull or force the puppy into the crate. At this early stage of introduction only inducive methods are suggested. Overnight exception: You may need to place your pup in his crate and shut the door upon retiring. (In most cases, the crate should be placed next to your bed overnight. If this is not possible, the crate can be placed in the kitchen, bathroom or living room.)

3. You may also play this enjoyable and educational game with your pup or dog: without alerting your puppy, drop a small dog biscuit into the crate. Then call your puppy and say to him, “Where’s the biscuit? It’s in your room.” Using only a friendly, encouraging voice, direct your pup toward his crate. When the puppy discovers the treat, give enthusiastic praise. The biscuit will automatically serve as a primary reward. Your pup should be free to leave its crate at all times during this game. Later on, your puppy’s toy or ball can be substituted for the treat.

4. It is advisable first to crate your pup for short periods of time while you are home with him. In fact, crate training is best accomplished while you are in the room with your dog. Getting him used to your absence from the room in which he is crated is a good first step. This prevents an association being made with the crate and your leaving him/her alone.

5. Leave the room for short periods of time when he is in the crate. Come back and praise for quiet, calm behavior. Leave for longer periods of time – then vary the times – so he’ll get used to being alone in the crate first while you are home.

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Welcoming Visitors to Your Home – April 11, 2012

To help your shy/fearful/reactive dog to relax and accept visitors, begin your training routine with only one person. After your dog will relax with that person, you can invite another and then two more and so on until your dog can be comfortable with a group.

Make sure that your dog is somewhat hungry and invite your helper over to train at a time when you can do this without other distractions going on. Have two bags of treats ready (one for you and one for your helper) which should be something special that your dog really loves such as bits of cooked chicken, thinly sliced hot dogs, etc. A variety of treats is even better. If you think your dog will try to jump up and grab the treat bag or bowl, keep the treats in a handy pouch/fanny pack.

If your dog behaves aggressively at the door: When the door bell rings, confine your dog in another room until your visitor is settled. Then, if your dog is able to attend to your direction, bring him out on leash. (Otherwise, allow your dog time to calm down, then run him through a few Sits and Downs behind the closed door before bringing him out on leash). Choose a seat several feet away from your guest. Place your dog in a Down-stay by your side. Your guest should ignore the dog and both of you should maintain a low key manner. If your dog begins to bark or growl or show other signs of distress or tension, calmly but quickly take him back to his crate or safe room. If your dog behaves well and remains calm and quiet on his Down-stay, praise him and feed him some treats. When he seems relaxed, allow him to approach (while you loosely hold the leash) to within 3 feet of the visitor, who should avoid staring and NOT try to pet him. Ask your visitor to tell your dog to Sit, and if your dog complies, you and your visitor can praise him and toss him a treat. Then return him to his resting spot.

Now drop the leash and allow your dog to freely wander around the room. Meanwhile you and helper should talk to one another and pay little attention to the dog as you drop treats on the floor. If the dog only takes your treats and not your helper’s, slow down your treat delivery and ignore his attempts to solicit your attention.

If your dog begins to eat your helper’s treats, she/he should continue to ignore the dog. If the dog seems to be getting more comfortable with your helper, then the helper may try offering a treat from her hand without making any attempt to touch or pet the dog.

If your dog seems relaxed, call your dog back to your side and have your visitor stand up. Allow your dog to approach your standing visitor for tossed treats. If this goes well, your standing visitor may offer treats from her hand. Before your visitor turns to walk away and leave, call your dog back to your side and pick up his leash. If your dog shows any signs of arousal, put him away before escorting your visitor to the door.

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Help for Fear Aggression – April 4, 2012

If you have a fearful dog that shows aggressive behavior towards strangers or other dogs, you should seek professional help. Here are some tips in the meantime:

What To Do: You should remain calm, upbeat, and pleasant when your dog is around unfamiliar people since they will feed off of your body language- good or bad. You need to help your dog to focus on you and try to prevent them from reaching an extreme state of anxiety or reactivity around their triggers. When working with your dog be upbeat and confident (or pretend to the best of your abilities).

Your dog is trying to drive people away with their aggressive displays. They will be much more comfortable when they can learn that with distance and you being their advocate by keeping them safe and providing distance from the person they fear, nothing is going to hurt them. When you are with your dog around people that make them anxious be their advocate and set them up for success.

Reward your dog with treats, petting, and praise for non-reactive and calm behavior around people. People can toss them treats from a distance so they have a good association with them. If your dog is accepting of a person they would normally react to or is indifferent, make sure to reward them! Besides letting your dog know what is not acceptable you need to teach them what you would like them to do.

The treats you use for training your dog calm and non-reactive behavior around people should be their very favorite and only given when unfamiliar people are around or when you have guests over. Favorite treats include hot dogs, lunchmeat, cheese, and freeze-dried liver. I highly recommend using the clicker training method to teach your dog calm and non-reactive behavior around people. Clicker training is the best training method for getting anxious dogs to focus and learn in stressful situations. Owners I see who rely on using a Gentle Leader head collar alone and don’t use clicker training never reach the same level of success with this issue as owners who utilize both methods.

What Not To Do: Some people may advise “socializing” your fear aggressive dog to people they fear and surrounding them with people or going to public places. This is bad advice. The sensitive period for socialization in dogs is 3-12 weeks of age. After this if fear aggression develops, slowly desensitizing your dog one at a time to people they fear is the best approach. Forcing your dog to be surrounded by what they fear will only reinforce their fear making them uncomfortable and also more likely to use aggression to drive the scary people away. Don’t let strangers approach or pet your dog unless they are comfortable. Just tell them that they are in training and need some space. Watch out for “All Dogs Love Me” people. Assure them that your dog doesn’t love them and head for the hills if they keep insisting.

Never punish your dog for showing fear aggression. Punishment includes the use of aversive corrections (jerk corrections on lead, prong collars, shock collars, spraying with water, yelling, holding your dog by the muzzle, putting your dog into a submissive position, staring at your dog, scolding, and choke collars). Punishment or severe corrections will only make fear aggression worse as pain and fear will be associated with someone that already makes your dog fearful and uncomfortable. Punishment will increase your dog’s anxiety and it will also undermine your relationship with your dog. It is best to reward your dog for calm and appropriate behavior around people so they know what to do. If you create a positive relationship with your dog they will want to please you.

On the flip side of things, if you soothe your dog with baby talk, reassurance, or petting when they are being reactive around people you could be feeding into their anxiety and inadvertently rewarding them for aggressive behavior. You should be upbeat, calm, and relaxed when people are around. Show your dog through your behavior that they have nothing to be anxious about.

Avoid Triggers for Your Dog’s Aggression Towards People: Do not push your dog into situations in which they are bound to be uncomfortable, such as in crowds or in close proximity to strangers. You need to be their advocate and keep the people away from them that they show fear aggression to.

Teach people how to behave around your dog. It is best for them to ignore your dog, to not initiate contact with your dog, to turn away from your dog while sitting, and to avoid direct eye contact with your dog to keep your dog more comfortable in their presence. Behaviors such as hugging, petting over the head, staring at, grabbing by the collar, and looming/standing over a dog are considered threats or dominance behaviors in the dog world and may make your dog more likely to behave aggressively. If you don’t trust that a person can follow your instructions or they really set your dog off, put your dog in a crate or another room with some fun things to do (food puzzles, toys, etc.- as long as they won’t guard them). Your dog doesn’t have to interact with everybody and you may find that everyone, including your dog, is more comfortable this way.

Fear aggressive dogs may be triggered when a person speaks excitedly, uses hand gestures, or moves suddenly. Let people know to be conscious of their body language. Make a point to hold your dog on leash when people get up or walk away (fear aggressive dogs will often lunge at a person as they get up to leave or turn away). Your dog should be wearing their Gentle Leader with a leash or drag line attached when you have new people over the house.

Learn to interpret your dog’s body language when they are showing anxiety or reactivity to people. Some signs that a dog is frightened (besides cowering, shaking, and freezing) include: ears back and to the side or flattened, lowered head, paw lifting, tail down or tucked, whites of eyes showing, cowering, shaking, freezing, tense drawn back lips, panting with spoon-shaped tongue, squatting rear legs, looking away or avoiding eye contact, squinting eyes, braced front legs, rigidity, pressing into wall, leaning, hiding, rounded back, lowered body position, submissive urination, sweating through footpads, turning away, forming a C shape with the body, and drooling excessively. A very fearful dog won’t accept food and they may drink excessively.

Signs that a dog may be aggressive include: stiffness, staring, forward center of gravity, lips C-shaped, teeth bared, lunging, sharp barking, freezing, and stillness. Make sure to keep in mind that dogs wag their tail when they are excited about something, not always because they are happy about it.

Some dogs may also show displacement behaviors (sometimes referred to as “calming signals”) when they are conflicted such as licking their lips, tongue-flicking, scratching themselves¸ sniffing the ground, shaking (like a wet dog shake), or frequent yawning.

If you notice your dog freezing or becoming very still around a person, be careful, as this could mean they are going to bite them. Do your best to remain calm and redirect your dog if possible. Try using a “Watch Me” command (reward your dog for direct eye contact) or “Check In” command (reward your dog for touching their nose to your closed hand).

Provide a Safe Place: Your dog needs a safe place to retreat to in your home so they can get away from people if they want to. If you have a crate I recommend putting a sheet over the sides and back of it (leave the front uncovered) to make it more den-like. Many people also opt to use a room in the house. Give your dog a bed, toys, and a water dish there. When your dog is in their safe space they should not be approached by anyone they are reactive to. Provide your dog with special toys and long-lasting treats to enjoy in their safe space while you have people over. You may find that both your guest and your dog are more comfortable. This is a good option when you don’t want to actively train and supervise your dog around guests and it will prevent your dog from honing in on their aggressive skills.

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