Choosing the Right Pet to Fit Your Lifestyle

man with cat, dogs

Nothing is more exciting than searching for the perfect pet. Getting to know and fall in love with a new, lovable companion and welcoming him or her into your life can be an extremely rewarding experience — one that will go smoother if you put some forethought into it. Adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment that requires us to seriously consider our needs, lifestyle, and resources.

When looking to adopt a pet, one of the first things we notice is their appearance. We might take into account their size, coat, and any obvious physical characteristics, but there are many other factors beneath the surface that can determine whether the pet will be a good match for us.

How do I know which pet is right for me?

When it comes to choosing the right pet for your lifestyle, it’s important to consider factors such as energy level, dietary needs, required training, common medical issues, and proper environment. These can all have an impact on your pet’s health and happiness, as well as your ability to properly care for them.

Energy level

A cat or dog’s energy level can be a critical determinant of whether or not your lifestyles will be compatible. Higher energy dogs are usually best suited for someone who lives an active lifestyle, or is able to take frequent walks. Lower energy dogs, however, typically do well under the care of a person who enjoys a lot of downtime, or a working professional who spends daytime hours away from home. Most dogs require 30 minutes to two hours of exercise per day, though this depends on the breed, age, and overall health of the dog. While cats can spend as much as 14 hours a day sleeping, engaging them in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes per day is usually recommended.


Like people, all animals have unique personalities and temperaments that are displayed in their habits or behavior. While some dogs are more outgoing, social, and crave attention, others can be more laid back, calm, or even shy. It’s important that the pet feels comfortable in their new home, so consider what your needs are and what type of environment the pet will be living in. For example, dogs or cats that are more low maintenance, patient, friendly, and gentle will usually make good family pets. On the other hand, more active, sensitive or protective dogs usually do best living with one individual who understands and accepts their needs.

Special Needs: Dietary or Training Requirements

Also, consider special dietary requirements based on age, size, and breed, as well as any formal training requirements. While many common breeds of dogs and cats require minimal or basic training, some may require more advanced or specialized training. This is particularly true with hunting dogs, service dogs, or high-maintenance breeds that have an intrinsic desire to work.

Common Medical Issues

While there is no guarantee, certain breeds of dogs and cats tend to share a propensity for developing particular medical issues. When looking to adopt a pet, it will be important to research the types of medical problems, if any, that are common among the breed of dog you’re considering. You’ll also want to consider things like lifespan, cost of any related surgeries, ongoing care or preventative maintenance, or other unforeseen events that could arise as a result of medical troubles. Don’t just assume you can deal with a medical issue if and when it arrives—be prepared and proactive.

Be Honest

Ask yourself honestly how much time, money and energy you are ready to devote to your pet.

Being a responsible pet owner goes beyond love. It sometimes involves sacrifices or changes in lifestyle, and it is a lifetime commitment. Of course, sometimes there are factors beyond our control that may necessitate finding our pet a new home. In that case, organizations like Get Your Pet can help to find the perfect new home for your pet.

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Calling Your Dog

Getting your dog to come to you on cue is one of the nicest things you can do for your dog.  Knowing that your dog will return whenever you want her to allows you to give her freedom to play and go where she wants to — within reason.  The recall, along with a solid “emergency down” may save her life one day, so it’s worth putting some time into training her to respond quickly.

So how to build this solid recall?  First, choose a word for the cue.  If your dog is a puppy, you can choose whatever you want, just stick to it.  If your dog is a rescue, you might want to pick something out-of-the-ordinary as your cue.  She might have bad associations with “come” from her previous guardian.  Just test it out, and she’ll tell you.  If she ignores you, that’s okay.  If she runs away, that’s a sign you should use a different word.

Let’s assume that your recall cue is “come.”  You want this to be one of the best words your dog knows.  It means, “run to me, there’s a party over here!”  The idea is to never let your dog know that there is something better than coming to you.  So never say “come” when you think your dog may not do it.  The second thing to be sure that you do not do is doing something scary after your dog comes to you.  When your dog comes when you call her, do not do anything that she does not like.  That includes nail-clipping, putting the leash to leave the park, or yelling at her for pouncing on the neighbor’s cat.  The last thing she did was come to you — you don’t want to punish that, you should reward it!  You’ll have to be satisfied with telling her, in a nice, upbeat voice, what a rotten dog she is.  Finally, the last bit of negative advice is to never chase after your dog.  You do not want her to think that running away from you is a fun game.  Whether she has a sock, you need to take her out of the park, or you just think its fun, chasing is not the answer.

The major steps in teaching the recall are to introduce the cue and then practice in a huge number of different circumstances.  Vary how far away you are from the dog and how many distractions there are.  When you make one aspect harder, make the other one easier.  You might use a long line for safety or as a gentle reminder of your existence, but don’t use it to tug your dog to you.  If you need the line very often, you are pushing her too fast. Set your dog up for success.

  1. Introduce the cue to your dog.  Do this somewhere where you know the dog will come to you.  Have a treat handy, behind your back, for example. Have your dog about two or three feet away.  In a friendly voice (not a command or a question, but an invitation), say “Puppy, come” (the dog’s name here is Puppy). Then show her the treat and take a step backward.  Lean away from her, not into her.  Leaning in is doggish for “stop.”  Puppy runs over, gets clicked for showing up, and gets her treat.  Not just one treat, but several, one at a time (only one click).  Make it a real party. If she likes to be petted, now is a good time.  But be careful — she may often like petting, but maybe not all the time.  Watch what she does.  If she ducks away from your hand, now is not a good time. 
  2. Practice from further away. Do the same activity from 6 feet away. You say “Puppy, come,” then get her to come to you somehow.  She doesn’t fully know the cue yet, so you want to make sure that she comes to you. Legal moves on your part are: waving the food in front of her face and running away; making kissy noises; clucking with your tongue; clapping your hands, etc.  Illegal moves: walking over and grabbing her by the scruff of the neck or in some other way making “come” a scary word.
    You don’t have to have a party every time now, but at least twice a day, take a full 30 seconds to reward her for coming to you. Continue that procedure for a long time, at least a few months.  On times when you just give one treat, you can practice a few times in a row.  To get her to go away from you, throw a treat and make sure she sees it fly.  Then you can call her again. 
  3. Practice not luring her to you.  When your dog has a clue about what “come” means, start calling her without waving food around or making smoochy noises, from the same distance as before, or closer.  If she doesn’t start coming to you in a few seconds, make noise or get her attention and run away.  Toss the treat to make her leave you, then call her as soon as she’s gulped it down.
  4.  Practice as part of living.  Call her to you whenever you are about to do something good to her or for her.  Feeding time is a great example.  If you want to take her for a walk or let her out into the yard, those are good times, too.  If she knows sit, then call her to you, ask for a sit, then give her dinner, let her out, or clip on the leash.  Remember, only call her for the fun stuff, so don’t call her to give her a bath!
  5. Practice from even further away. Work up to ten feet, or fifteen, if she’ll do it.  All indoors, with low distractions.  Reward generously.
  6. Practice with distractions, closer in. Now make it harder for her by increasing the distraction level.  We don’t want to make it too hard, so have her closer to you, say 5 feet away.    

Keep increasing the level of distraction and the distance until you have the recall you want.   Make sure that any time you call her, you are willing to do what it takes to get her to come to you.  This may mean running away (one of my favorites) or running up to her, showing the treat, and then running away (safer method).  It may mean waiting her out, if she’s not entertaining herself by not coming.  When she doesn’t come when you call her, you are simply moving beyond what she is ready for.  Simply make it easier for her in some way and build reliability slowly.  

Here are a few examples of recall games that you can play with your dog:

(LOW distraction) Have a friend make noise to attract your dog over to him.  After she runs over, call your dog: “Puppy, come.”  The friend then shuts down and becomes the most boring human that Puppy knows, so she will eventually run over to you, the interesting one.

(HIGHER distraction) Have a friend make noise with a squeaky toy to attract your dog over to him.  After she runs over, call your dog: “Puppy, come.”  The friend then shuts down and holds the toy to his chest, again becoming the most boring human that Puppy knows, so she will eventually run over to you, the interesting one.  Then you give him a treat and run back over to the friend, who presents him with the toy and a fun game.

(possibly HIGHER distraction) Have a friend hold a container of extra-good treats and attract your dog over to him in some way.  After she runs over, call your dog: “Puppy, come.”  The friend then shuts down and holds the treats above dog level, yet again becoming the most boring human that Puppy knows, so she will eventually run over to you, the interesting one.  Then you give him a treat and run back over to the friend, who presents him with the even better treats.  Puppy learns that coming to you is the way to get what she wants.

(EVEN HIGHER distraction) When Puppy is playing with dogs, look for a break in the game and call her over to you.  Give her a yummy treat and send her back into the fray.

(WAY HIGHER distraction) When Puppy is playing with dogs, call her over to you (the difference here is that she is actively playing). Give her a yummy treat and send her back into the fray.  Be careful not to go past what she is ready for.  You don’t want her learning that she can say “in a minute” and go back to playing.

(SUPER distraction) Squirrels.  You may never get to the level where Puppy will come running to you if you call her during a squirrel chase.  There is a possibility that you can teach her to drop on cue so well that she will do that during a chase.  Then you can get her to calm down and, after a minute, call her to you.  Consult a professional.

Chase — chase is fine, as long as you are the one running away.  Call your dog, then sprint away as fast as you can.  She will catch you.  Turn and run a different direction.  She’ll catch you again.  Ask for a sit and give her a treat.  You don’t necessarily have to treat this one — chase is rewarding in and of itself.

Hide-and-seek.  Hide in a closet in the house and call your dog.  You may have to make a noise so she can find you, but don’t make it too easy for her.  Give her a nice reward when she finds you, maybe even a 30-second party.  You can play this at the park, too, when she’s ready for it.

Two-dog recall.  If you have multiple dogs, give a treat to the first one who shows up.  This also helps speed up responses to other cues.  Treat the first one to sit, lie down, etc.
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Patient is Key when Training

You know most of us nowadays have WAY too much to do in life in general. I don’t know about you but it seems like if I get to sit down and do nothing for even just a little while it’s a luxury!

You have a job and/or a family or maybe you have another business or volunteer work or you are active in your community or church. Or maybe you just have an active social life.

Anyway sometimes you can be so busy that you wish the dog was just EASIER to deal with!  “I don’t have time for all of this right now!”

Have you ever said this? Maybe your dog is starting to “act up” or misbehave and you feel like, “I don’t need this right now!”

Once you start feeling or thinking this you need to go on high alert! You may be about to lose your patience!

A couple of things to remember: First, if your patience is thin, don’t even think about training your dog or trying to fix any behavior problems. Now is not the time to train!

Take a deep breath and get through the situation, whatever it is, without “losing it” and remember: Whatever is going on with your dog you can begin to make changes almost immediately but not if you’re pushed for time or impatient. Your dog will feel your tension and will also feel tense. This will make the situation worse!

Second, remember that one of the keys to getting your dog to behave is for you to be the leader. In the dog world the leader doesn’t “lose it”. The leader is calm and composed. 

When you get tired or impatient or pushed for time by your circumstances it’s easy to be frustrated when your dog doesn’t respond like you want.

So if you are having one of those frustrating moments or days when your dog is just not behaving well, don’t lose your patience. When you lose that then you’re not acting like a leader!

Get through the situation by reminding yourself that it can be fixed, but today is not the day. Wait until you have more time or your situation is more convenient to begin the training.

Be patient and be the leader!

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Training Tips!

A good trainer is: Fast, Patient, Generous, Unpredictable and Variable.

In the beginning, you must reinforce a behavior IMMEDIATELY every single time you give the cue. This is called the “acquisition” stage of the behavior. As the behavior becomes more reliable, you can begin to delay the reinforcement (treat, ball, affection), or go to variable reinforcement (reinforcing every few times). You must stop being predictable! Here are some tips to make you be a better dog trainer.

• Concentrate on and reinforce the things your dog is doing right. Try to ignore behavior you don’t want to see repeated. If you can’t ignore it, manage it.
• Remember that the reinforcement (treat, ball, toy) you use has to be reinforcing to your dog! Kibble (dog food) usually isn’t enough, unless the dog is starving. Experiment with different levels of reinforcement – from regular treats up to pieces of leftover meat or cheese. Save your most potent reinforcement for the behaviors that are most difficult for your dog.
• Placement of the reinforcement is extremely important. Where your treat goes, so goes your dog. Thus, if you want your dog to walk right beside you, make sure you deliver your treats next to your leg, at the dog’s head level. Try not to make the dog jump for a treat, unless you want the dog to do so – as in a trick.
• Marking a successful behavior. As you teach each exercise, make sure your dog knows exactly what you want him to do. Do this by MARKING the precise moment the behavior occurs. We call this a bridge. So, in teaching a Down, the instant her entire body touches the ground, you say “YES!!!” and deliver a treat. As the behavior gets more reliable, stop saying “yes” every time she does it. However, each time you say “YES” a treat should be forthcoming.
• Make it harder. When you began training your dog, you lured the dog into position. Once there you gave her a treat. Now we wish to prompt the behavior, mark the proper one, and reward intermittently from an unknown place.

As an example, if you were trying to get your dog to lie down, you would begin by luring, then rewarding the behavior. By now, when you say “Down”, she lies down – but she does it much better when she sees the treat in your hand. So we have to teach her the ZEN of TREATS – in order to get the treat, she must give up the treat. Hold your treat in the hand that is not doing the signal. Show the dog your hand without the treat. Tell or signal the dog to Down, and wait for the dog to do so. Wait until she does. Don’t go back to the lure yet. When she does lie down, give her a wonderful treat from the other hand. You are teaching the dog that the treats she can’t see are even more potent than the ones she can. And it’s teaching her she doesn’t have to see the treat to do the exercise. (If she doesn’t down, she may not understand; go back to the beginning, and review until you get a good down with a lure).

Do that for a while. Then, delay the treat for a tad, and when you do deliver it, do so from a desk or counter. Then give it for two downs (twofer), then three, then four. But never go to no rewards. Try to vary your reward as well; different kinds of treats, a tug toy, or ball playing after a short session.

• Never take a behavior completely for granted. That leads to the Straight A Student Syndrome. If no one pays attention to you when you’re being good….you’ll be bad! F students get a great deal of attention when they make a C, and they learn that creating havoc leads to more attention. Pay attention to the correct behavior!
• Targeting. If you want your dog to follow your hand cues, one of the ways to accomplish that is by the use of a Target. This technique also fades the use of the treat quickly. You teach your dog to watch your hand for instructions. Begin by showing him your palm. Put your other hand behind the back of your first hand with a treat in it, and stick them both in front of his nose. Most dogs are curious; when he touches your palm, say “YES!” and give him the treat. Do that 20 times. The 21st time, put your treat hand behind your back. When and only when he touches your Target hand, say “YES!” and give him the treat. Do that many, many times. Now move the treat someplace else, and do it again. Now have the dog follow your hand, and when he touches say “YES!” (the yes is a MARKER word that means “you got it!”) Now say “Touch” or “Target” when he touches your palm. When he’s got that, stop giving him a treat when he touches your palm with no signal. When he’s got that, make him do two touches for one treat…then three then four, etc., but never stop giving rewards completely.

Crime and Punishment

A word about the use of punishment. Punishment ONLY WORKS if it’s appropriate, delivered at the instant the erroneous behavior occurs, and is identifiable with that behavior. It is very difficult to appropriately punish a dog, since you CANNOT EXPLAIN TO THE DOG WHAT HE DID WRONG.
Most people punish at the wrong time. For instance, if you were going to punish the dog for not sitting, you must do so as the dog is getting up. Not after he has done so. Not after he is walking away. Not after he sneezes, or scratches. If you wait, he will identify the punishment with the sneeze, scratch or walking, and it will not be effective.

At its best, punishment focuses on what the dog did wrong, and doesn’t tell him what to do. This is why it is much more effective to just give a Negative marker (wrong, or uh-uh, or OOPS or Too Bad) and go back to the behavior, preparing to reinforce correct behavior.

In the home, punishment is virtually always counter-productive, since the timing is almost always way off, and the dog identifies the punishment with the punisher — you. She will begin to cower or act submissive whenever a certain set of criteria are met. For instance, you walk in the door after being gone for a long time and look around. Sometimes you then begin yelling, sometimes you don’t. What follows is very predictable — the dog goes into a submissive posture (“that guilty look”), just in case. She also may begin refusing to come when called (would you come to an unpredictable punisher?), or she will crawl, and sometimes submissively urinate.

Not effective.

Punishment is also ineffective because it teaches animals to suppress milder warning signals (growling, raising of hackles). Aggression always occurs after a series of warning signals.
Go for positive reinforcement. It works better, and produces a happy, obedient dog.

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Teaching Your Dog to Take Food Gently

It’s important to teach your puppy to take treats gently, not to snap or grab or bite your hand.  If your puppy tends to do this, teach him to lick for treats using the “fist of Kong” method.

1. Put a smear of peanut butter or cream cheese in the palm of your hand.

2. Make a fist and then relax you hand and move your thumb so that there is an opening near your thumb. You hand should be shaped like a kong.

3. Present your hand to the dog.

4. The dog will sniff and then use their tongue to get to the stuff in your fist. When the dog licks your hand, click (if you use a clicker) and then open your fist and allow him to take another lick or two.

After the dog gets the pattern, you can transition to solid foods, by using a peanut butter smear and also put a treat in your hand. When he licks, open your hand and let he eat the treat. The treat should be presented in a open hand with the treat resting on your palm (don’t present a treat between the finger tips).

In case where you can’t outlast the dog because he is chewing your fist, remove the fist, turn your back and walk away for 5 seconds. It might be necessary to tether the dog so that you can walk away. This doesn’t happen all that often because most dogs quickly learn that they can lick the peanut butter. For the first rep, present an open hand – this makes it more likely that he’ll lick when you present the fist (and it tests whether he’ll be interested in the smear you are using).

Once you’ve started doing this, use the lick for treats method for delivering treats while doing other training. So when you deliver a treat when luring a sit, use the fist of Kong.

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Teaching Your Puppy to Ring a Bell for Housetraining

This is an easy, useful thing to teach your puppy so he can let you know he has to ‘go’.   Do this after you’ve built up a ‘reward history’ for your puppy to eliminate outdoors in his ‘spot’.

Begin by hanging a bell or bells over the door handle of the door where your dog goes outside.  It’s even better if he goes out one door to eliminate but another door for walks or play.

Every time you take your dog or puppy outside to go to the toilet physically get him to nudge the bell with his nose or paw. To begin training make sure he is in a calm state and preferably in the sit position. You can gently take his paw and make him touch the bell or gently position him to nudge the bell with his nose. I say ‘gently’ because we don’t want any fear associated with this procedure. As soon as the bell rings say the words ‘Go Potty’ or whatever words you choose. Praise him lavishly or give him a small food reward and then go outside immediately.

For a young puppy take him outside once an hour or a couple of minutes after eating or waking. Stand with him but don’t distract him at all. Let him sniff around. If he goes to the bathroom while outside tell him what a good dog he is while he is actually peeing or pooping.

It is important to choose a word or phrase for your dog’s elimination. You can call it what ever you want as long as you are consistent with it. For example: While he is peeing say, “Do a pee, good boy, well done” or “Go potty, great work, good dog’ By saying these words your puppy will then be able to learn these words and associate them with the the action. Say the same words when he rings the bell to go outside.

DO NOT let him ring the bell if you are going out for a walk or a game in the yard. This would be a recipe for disaster. You don’t want him ringing the bell every time he wants to go out to have fun.
Good luck with your door bell training. One thing to remember is be consistent and do it every single time your dog or puppy goes out to potty.

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Introduction to Clicker Training

The use of marker signals, like clickers, to train animals has been in use for over 60 years so it’s hardly a new concept. However if you haven’t clicker trained an animal before, it’s brand new to you, so here’s how you can comfortable using a clicker to train your dog.

If you have ever seen the animal acts at places like Sea World and Marine Land, you have seen how effective this sort o training can be. Clicker training has its roots in the science of classical conditioning – think Pavlov’s Dogs. Because it’s based in science, you will find it a fast, effective and efficient method training. While dogs of different breeds can behave differently, no dog is immune to the principles of learning theory and it is using those principles, that we will train our dogs.

Clickers are not ‘magic’ – they are just simple tools. Their main advantage is that they are cheap, easy to carry and use, and they produce a unique sound that can be used as a marker signal. Owners of deaf dogs will often use a small flashlight as a marker signal and marine mammal trainers use whistles. All these markers perform the same task; they provide the animal being trained with information. In order to be an effective training tool, your maker signal needs to meet certain requirements.

Unique: Its unique signal sounds stands out from the everyday background sounds like human speech.

Consistent: It sounds the same no matter who is training the dog.

Immediate: It needs to pinpoint the exact behavior at the precise moment the dog does it. Mechanical markers are more precise than verbal ones when you want to pinpoint a behavior.

Charging the Clicker

By pairing the ‘click’ marker signal with a reward (small food treats), the dog learns that the sound predicts a treat. This process is called charging the clicker. You click and immediately give the dog a small treat. Repeat 20 times. At this stage we don’t care what your dog is doing; they just have to learn that the click predicts a treat. After one or two sessions your dog will learn to associate the click sound with a treat.

How Does the Clicker Help Me Train My Dog?

When your dog does something you like, you mark it with a click and give the dog a treat. Rewarded behaviors will be repeated so the dog will continue to do things that earned him a click in the past. The clicker communicates the following information:

• I like the behavior you just did
• You have earned a reward for that behavior
• That behavior is now over

For example:
The dog starts to go into a sit position. The dog hears the click as he is sitting and gets a treat. You can either repeat that cycle or move onto a new behavior. If you accidentally click, just feed the dog and start again.

Getting the Behavior to Happen

We use 3 primary methods to get desired behaviors.
• Luring
• Capture
• Shaping

Luring: Holding a food lure in your hand you motion the dog into a position such as sit or down. Luring techniques are useful when first teaching a behavior but they must be faded quickly in order for the dog to truly learn.

Capture: Good trainers are observant. By observing the desired behaviors as they naturally occur and click/treating them, they will occur more often. An example would be clicking as you notice your dog going into a down and then rewarding him.

Shaping: By shaping you would click and treat small portions of the desired final behavior. For example if you were shaping a sit you would click/treat any small movement starting with the dog’s head coming up and the butt heading towards the floor. Finally you get the complete sit behavior and click and treat for that.

Naming the Behavior

With new behaviors that the dog does not know well, we train the behavior first before we call it anything. Naming the behavior (putting the behavior on Cue) is the last piece of the puzzle. Dogs are not verbal and do not understand English! So be patient and get the behavior to happen reliably before giving it a name.

Training a Simple Behavior – “Touch”

Charge up your clicker and then hold your non-clicker hand with a flat palm facing your dog, holding your target hand close to their nose. As they touch their nose to your target hand, C/T. Using the concept of shaping, you may need to start by clicking and rewarding for just initial interest in the target hand, or just turning towards it. Be patient. Eventually your dog will move his nose to your open palm. Once they are freely touching the target hand, only click for actual touches. Repeat 10 times, moving your hand slightly to the left and right and gradually further away by taking a couple of steps. Keep repeating the variations.

Your dog is learning that it’s their actions that are causing you to C/T and the desired action is the nose to palm touch. Your dog has now learned their first clicker behavior and you have had a chance to practice your clicker timing and treat delivery. Once the dog can do several touches with you moving your target hand you can add the verbal cue “Touch” to the behavior. Only say the cur once as the dog is in the process of touching the target hand.

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Adolescent Dogs

A dog leaves puppyhood and enters adolescence at about the age of 6 months, and doesn’t leave it until it is 2 and a half or 3 years old. The most challenging age is usually between 9 and 18 months (which is when most dogs are surrendered to shelters). Some dogs pass through the phase with little trouble, but most drive their owners crazy! During this phase, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Adolescent dogs have insatiable curiosity about the world, which they explore through all their senses, including taste. They have no idea what things are supposed to look like, or how much they cost. They don’t know what cars can do to them, or that people on bicycles are really people – to the dog, they can be moving objects, and moving objects were put there to be chased and nipped. Other bad behaviors can include:

Digging – this is when they’re on their way to China by way of your lawn.
Chewing – a brand new set of molars needs exercise, and furniture seems like a good place to start.
Jumping up – many adolescents are extremely rough – they greet and play with you and each other as though both of you are made of steel.
Running away – remember when your three month old puppy stuck to you like glue? Well, no more – this dog has places to go and people to jump on.
Growling or snarling – some dogs figure this is as good a time as any to challenge authority – you.
Obedience – Obedience? They’ve never heard of the word and don’t understand the concept.
Not doing homework, taking your car, dying their hair – oops, that’s teenage people! However, dogs go through the same thing, in their own way.

So…what do you do about it? Wring your hands, clean up the mess…and MANAGE YOUR DOG.
Start by thinking of your dog as a phenomenally active two-year-old child. Parents expect to have to childproof their home against the damage a little-one can do; multiply it by ten and you have some of the damage that can be inflicted by your dog.

Here are some rules you might want to set to help keep your house (and sanity) intact.

1. Earn the right to roam. Many people crate train their puppies to help housetrain them. Continue to use your crate for sleeping purposes, and to put your dog in when you need some time to yourself. But don’t stop there. Limit your dog’s space in the house to a manageable size until you are pretty sure he’s trustworthy – a kitchen, or family room blocked by baby gates is one alternative. Then you can CATCH him as he begins to chew on that table-leg. And you can take ALL potentially attractive items off low tables – or even high ones if he’s a big dog!
Though many people use a doggie door, it’s usually not a good idea to let the dog have complete in and out privileges, certainly not at night. That gives him a very large space to protect, and encourages such behaviors as barking and fence fighting. Instead, let him use his doggie door when you are home, and confine him when you’re gone. Give him more space as he proves himself worth it.

2. Learn to play politely. If he has a habit of jumping on guests, even if he’s just overly friendly, take away his greeting privileges. Many – if not most – people don’t like to be greeted by paws on their chest. Set up a tie-down – a short leash attached to an immovable object – and when guests arrive ask them to wait a couple of minutes while you attach the dog to his tie-down. When he’s quiet and they’ve settled in, you can let him off his tie-down (though you may wish to leave a leash on for control), and he can socialize. This is better than putting him outside, where he will feel ostracized and may whine and bark, which you certainly can’t control while you’re entertaining your guests. If he whines or barks on the tie-down, say “quiet” and squirt water on him, or use a can filled with pennies to intimidate him.

If he jumps on you, try this method to discourage the behavior: REPLACE the behavior with a more
acceptable one, and only reinforce that. For instance, if you come home from work and he’s jumping all
over the place, stay calm, protect your body (!), tell him to sit (once! does no good at all to repeat the
command to an excited dog) and when he backs off and sits, pet and praise him. Many of the other
techniques we use teach the dog what NOT to do, not what TO do…and they need to learn what we want.
To help you with that, ask him to sit before petting him ever…before throwing the ball…before giving food.
It should be his way of saying “please.”

3. Control that mouth. If your dog chews on you, it’s called “mouthing,” and you should treat it as a serious
problem. It’s an instant signal that playtime is over. If a dog is under three months of age, you can squeal
like another puppy and stop playing for a few seconds… but for any dogs over three months, make sure
they know it’s serious. Stop playing abruptly, freeze and growl “NO” (one of the few times you should say
that word, which loses its value the more it’s over-used). When the dog backs off, smile and begin playing
again. If the dog continues to mouth, go through the whole thing again, then walk away. Alternatively,
freeze, place your hand around the dog’s mouth, hold it gently and apply pressure downwards (this is not
violent or hard – it’s just a sign that you are displeased).

Your dog should learn that though he shouldn’t play roughly with you, he can play roughly with OBJECTS.
So the same time you teach him not to mess with your skin (or any other human’s), teach him to play tug
of war with a toy he likes. The tug part is easy (!) – teaching him to drop it can also be easy. You just
have some treats handy, and while the dog is tugging, you say, “drop it,” and push a treat in the side of the
dog’s mouth. As he tastes the food, he’ll let the toy go. Praise him, and start the game over again. Within
minutes, he’ll be tugging and letting go at your command – after all, this is a win-win situation!

4. Sharing is good. Ever try to take something from a toddler when they don’t want you to? Expect a battle –
it can be hard! Same with adolescent dogs. In the dog world, what’s mine is MINE, and they need to
learn that food and objects are really yours – but you’re very generous with them. With food, as your dog
finishes eating, walk up to him, tell him to sit, and offer him better food. Put a bit in his mouth, and a bit in
his bowl. You don’t need to take food away from him if you play this game a lot.

5. Exercise is essential. The only good adolescent is a tired adolescent. Two long runs a day are good.
Dogs were designed by nature to be active in the morning and evening hours, and we can help that by
exercising them at that time, and encouraging rest in between.

6. Learn to say please. Teach your dog to sit before he gets anything he wants – food, attention, petting,
whatever. Better yet, take him to school¸ where he can learn how to behave in a civilized manner.
Obedience classes often improve a rocky relationship, and can be fun for both owner and dog.

The best news is that things will get better with your management, time, and age, and by the time your dog is 3
or 4 years old, you’ll have the dog you always wanted.

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New Puppy Basics

Here is some great introductory information for all of you new puppy or dog owners out there!

1. Positive reinforcement training is the best way to teach your puppy good behavior and develop a great relationship in the process. Puppies learn by the consequence of their actions. That means rewarded behavior gets repeated. Behavior that doesn’t get rewarded diminishes. Attention is one of the most rewarding things you can give your puppy and withdrawing attention is one of the most effective negative consequences you can use to stop undesirable behavior.

2. As you interact with your puppy, you want to think about catching him in the act of doing something good. Reward spontaneous acts of good behavior. As your new puppy is jumping and chewing and biting and stealing, if you provide lots of attention during these episodes, your puppy is likely to find that attention rewarding – even if you are saying no – and he will continue to do these things. Then, when your puppy does get tired and lies down quietly, you think – oh good, let’s leave him alone. These are times that you want to go over and calmly praise your puppy and give him a tiny treat. He may get up and follow you, but ignore that and continue to reward him when he sits or lies down or looks at you on his own. Pretty soon your puppy will start doing these things automatically.

3. Another rule of thumb is to not focus on what you don’t want your puppy to do, but what you want him to do instead. So when your puppy is jumping, instead of saying NO, teach your puppy to SIT and you can teach him that sitting is more rewarding than jumping. He gets attention when he’s sitting, not when he’s jumping. If your puppy is chewing furniture, teach him that chewing a bone or playing with a toy is more rewarding. All of these things will help your puppy choose the right behaviors on his own.

4. As you start to teach your puppy good manners, you need to be aware of his ability to learn in different situations. You want to think in terms of teaching your puppy each behavior first at Kindergarten level and working up very gradually to college level. The factors that determine these grade levels – or degrees of difficulty- are duration, distractions and distance.

When in a familiar or room, it’s easy for your puppy to learn. When there are no distractions, it’s easy for your puppy to focus on you. When you’re close to your puppy, it’s easier for him to pay attention. If any one of these things changes, you’ve just skipped a grade or two. So, if you move into a new room in the house, you’ve just increased the difficulty. If you’re in the familiar room but there are toys on the floor (distractions), then you’ve just made it harder for your puppy. And if you move 5 feet way, its now tougher for your puppy to focus on you. Be aware of these things as you teach your puppy any new behavior and always set up your training to allow your puppy to be successful. Then move gradually from Kindergarten to College by changing just one variable at a time.

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Adolescent Dogs

A dog’s adolescence is the time when everything starts to fall apart, unless you make a concerted effort to see it through to the stability of adulthood. Your dog’s adolescence is a critical time. If you ignore your dog’s education now, you will soon find yourself living with an ill-mannered, under-socialized, hyperactive animal. Here are some things to watch for.

Household etiquette may deteriorate over time, especially if you start taking your dog’s housetraining and other good behavior for granted. But if you taught your pup well in his earlier months, the drift in household etiquette will be slow until your dog reaches his sunset years, when housetraining especially tends to suffer.

Basic manners may take a sharp dive when puppy collides with adolescence. Lure/reward training your puppy was easy: you taught your pup to eagerly come, follow, sit, lie down, stand still, roll over, and look up to you with unwavering attention and respect because you were your pup’s sun, moon, and stars. But now your dog is developing adult doggy interests, such as investigating other dogs’ rear ends, sniffing urine and feces on the grass, rolling in unidentifiable smelly stuff, and chasing squirrels. Your dog’s interests may quickly become distractions to training, so that your dog will continue sniffing another dog’s rear end rather than come running when called. (What a scary thought, that your dog would prefer another dog’s rear end to you!) All of a sudden he won’t come, won’t sit, won’t settle down and stay, but instead jumps up, pulls on-leash, and becomes hyperactive.

Bite inhibition tends to drift as your dog gets older and develops more powerful jaws. Giving your dog ample opportunity to wrestle with other dogs, regularly hand feeding kibble and treats, and periodically examining and cleaning your dog’s teeth are the best exercises to ensure that your adolescent dog maintains his soft mouth.

Socialization often heads downhill during adolescence, sometimes surprisingly precipitously. As they get older, dogs have fewer opportunities to meet unfamiliar people and dogs. Puppy classes and parties are often a thing of the past and most owners have established a set routine by the time their dog is five or six months old. At home, the dog interacts with the same familiar friends and family, and is walked, if at all, on the same route to the same dog park, where they encounter the same old people and the same old dogs. Consequently, many adolescent dogs become progressively de-socialized toward unfamiliar people and dogs until eventually they become intolerant of all but a small inner circle of friends.

If your adolescent dog does not get out and about regularly and few unfamiliar people come to the house, his d-socialization may be alarmingly rapid. At five months your dog was a social butterfly with nothing but wiggles and wags when greeting people, but by eight months of age he has become defensive and lacking in confidence: he barks and backs off, or he snaps and lunges with hackles raised. A previously friendly adolescent dog might suddenly and without much warning be spooked by a household guest.

Puppy socialization was a prelude to your safe and enjoyable continued socialization of your adolescent dog. However, your adolescent dog must continue meeting unfamiliar people regularly, otherwise he will progressively de-socialize. Similarly, successful adolescent socialization makes it possible for you to safely and enjoyably continue to socialize your adult dog. Socialization is an on ongoing process.

Dog-dog socialization also deteriorates during adolescence, often at an alarming rate, especially for very small and very large dogs. First, teaching a dog to get along with every other dog is difficult. Second, it is unrealistic to expect a dog to be best friends with every dog. Much like people, dogs have special friends, casual acquaintances, and individuals they don’t particularly like. Third, it is quite natural for dogs (especially males) to squabble. In fact, it is a rare male dog that has never been involved in some physical altercation. Everything was fine with young pups playing in class and in parks, but with adolescent dogs, the scraps, the arguments, and even the play-fighting seem all too real.

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