Saturday, September 23, 2017

Housebreaking............Give It Time

Having raised alot of puppies I have very realistic goals when it comes to the housebreaking process. I do not expect any puppy to be housebroken, meaning absolutely no accidents until they are close to 6 months of age. This can vary based on breed as toy breeds tend to require even more time. Then you can factor in any health issues like UTI's or intestinal parasites and BAM.......all your best efforts can be derailed.

If there is one thing my puppy clients talk about it's the importance of getting their puppy housebroken immediately. Of course no one enjoys a puppy eliminating in the house, but most people have set the bar way to high for their little pup which results in frustration for all involved. It's just not realistic to expect a young puppy to be housebroken no matter what you've read on google :) If you are one of the very few people who've experienced a completely housebroken 8 week old puppy, you're in the minority. The average pet parent, myself included can plan on doing lots of 'clean ups' the first few weeks, if not months.

Let's first look at the process the puppy is going thru when learning to follow the rules for housebreaking. ]
  1.  They have to be physically able to hold their bladder/bowel for extended periods of time.
  2. They have to learn to connect and execute the message from their bladder/bowel to their brain that says 'hey I gotta go' 
  3. They have to share this information with the humans in a way that is understood 
  4. They need the humans to give them immediate access to the bathroom area
  5. The Humans need to be consistent and available for this process to work
When housebreaking goes sideways there may be a number of things happening: 
  1. The puppy may have too much freedom and/or lack of supervision. By using crates, gates and other barriers, you restrict your puppies ability to wander and have unsupervised accidents.  Being confined also allows them to feel the 'need' to go and notify the humans rather than just having accidents on the floor.  As your puppy slowly graduates to freedom you want to limit the area in your home to a single room, gradually expanding the area as the accidents decrease. 
  2. There is not a consistent schedule of getting the puppy outside as often as they need. Puppies need to have access to the bathroom area throughout the day and often at night for many weeks.  
  3. The puppy is being taken out too often......yep that can be problematic too as the puppy is not slowly learning to hold their bladder/bowel. Too often people think that by taking their puppy outside every 30-60 minutes during the day and waking them up at night, that they are speeding up the housebreaking process.   I personally never wake a sleeping puppy unless I'm going somewhere and need to give them the opportunity to eliminate before I leave. I don't wake puppies at night either, I let their body decide when they need to go out and act accordingly.
  4. Any type of infection or illness can make it physically impossible for a puppy to hold their bladder/bowel. If you were having good success and it suddenly goes backwards, a trip to the Vet is warranted.
Things you can do to help your puppy:

  1. Be patient and available :)  If you can't be home for long stretches of time get backup help
  2. Keep them away from areas that are hard to clean such as carpet and area rugs. This will keep them from smelling their scent and wanting to return for their next bathroom break
  3. Develop a clear exit route that has easy and quick access, using the same exit will help the puppy learn the routine 
  4. Keep them on a feeding schedule and remove water 1-2 hours before bedtime. 
  5. NEVER scold or punish them for having accidents
  6. ALWAYS reward and praise them for getting it right! 
  7. Don't go barefoot for a while........*grin*
If you find yourself struggling with the process seek help from a dog professional, sometimes all you need are a few tweaks in your routine.  

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Ways We Frustrate Our Puppies

If you've welcomed a puppy into your home you probably already know it's not at all what you expected.  You may not have been prepared for the work involved, the sleepless nights, endless puppy bites and scratches, bathroom accidents, jumping, chewing, digging.....all perfectly normal for a puppy, but often stressful for the humans.   It can be easy to place the blame on the puppy......but I find it more productive to change our expectations, routine and management strategies.  Over the past 19 years I've raised 27 puppies and not two of them were the same, each had their own unique personality and challenges.  What they've taught me is how easy it is for humans to frustrate puppies, by simply not understanding how puppies learn and interpret their new world.

If your puppy could talk.....he might share some of these thoughts:

  • Provide me with adequate sleep as I need a minimum of 18-20 hours of sleep per day.  I'm growing at warp speed so sleep is essential to my physical and mental health. 
  • Help me learn to love my crate so that I have a safe and quiet place to sleep.  It's hard to get uninterrupted sleep laying under the kitchen table or wandering from place to place.  
  • Don't isolate me from the family, place my crate in an area that I can see what going on, all the noise and activity will become background noise over time.  
  • Teach me that the bathroom is outside and take me out frequently....I can't get outside on my own and I feel overwhelmed and scared when people yell at me for having accidents
  • Help me to develop healthy attachments to humans so that I don't develop separation anxiety
  • Teach me to speak English as it will become my second language.   Training me is not about making me obedient, it's to help us learn to communicate with each other.   
  • Expose me in a positive and fun way  to my ever changing world during the first 16 weeks of my life, it will have long lasting positive effects if you do and negative effects if you don't.   Fill me up with positive experiences so I can become a confident happy dog. 
  • Give me appropriate exercise based on my age and breed.   A lack of exercise makes life pretty boring but too much exercise can be exhausting and even painful.  I want to exercise until I'm content not exhausted.  
  • Help me make new dog friends, I miss my litter mates and all the fun we had running, chasing, jumping and romping around.  I need to learn to play with a variety of well socialized dogs so I can grow up to be confident well adjusted dog. 
  • Feed me healthy puppy food and make sure I'm getting enough to eat so that I'm less likely to eat things that aren't good for me. 
  • Don't set me up for failure by giving me too much freedom too soon, keep me on a leash outdoors so I don't run away and get hurt, use my crate when no one is able to watch me,  help me learn the house rules instead of assuming I should know better.
  • When I'm getting on your nerves......and I know I will.....put me in my crate with a fun toy to chew on rather than punishing me.....sometimes we just both need a break.
  • Know that this learning curve is hard for both of us but it will get better
If your dreams of having a puppy have been dashed by the cold hard reality of what having a new puppy is really like.....don't lose get's better.   In case no one's told you, the first two months are hard work and require patience and a good sense of humor.   The work you do now will have life long rewards and your dreams of having a wonderful dog will come true. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Socialization......Behavior Modification.......Are Not the Same Thing

When students enroll in class they often say they are enrolling in a group class to socialize their puppy/dog.    On my Intake Form I ask a number of questions, many related to your dogs social history.  Recently I had someone contact me wanting to socialize her 18 month old dog who has been attacking other dogs on walks.  The dog recently escaped from their home and attacked a neighbors dog requiring Veterinary care.   The owner felt that bringing her dog to a class would help him learn to 'like' other dogs.   Another person emailed asking to enroll his 2 year old dog who 'needs to learn to calm down around other dogs'.  Apparently his dog comes unglued when they see another dog on walks.....barking....lunging....spinning in the air.   The owner said he felt being in a class would teach his dog to behave around other dogs and help socialize him.

The common theme here is that most people do not understand what 'Socialization' is and that there is a specific time in a puppies life for optimal socialization.  From birth thru 16 weeks is when puppies are forming life long opinions of the world around them.  Everything they experience during this time is critical to their development.  It is important to note the genetics play a HUGE part in a puppy/dogs temperament, anxiety related behaviors are not going to resolve by forcing your puppy/dog into situations they are not equipped to handle.

The reason trainers strongly encourage ALL puppies attend a reward based class is to make the most of this critical developmental time in their life.  This is not to say that there is not some level of ongoing socialization thru out your dogs life, but true socialization happens during the first 16 weeks.   When puppies do not have proper socialization they are more at risk for problematic behaviors later in life.

By the time I meet an 6 month old dog who is reactive on leash...afraid of strangers and/or dogs....sound sensitive.......we are no longer talking about socialization we are talking about using behavior modification as a way to treat or manage  problem behaviors.   This can be a difficult conversation to have with clients as people don't always understand their dog is not suitable for a group class and needs a Behavior Consultation.    When I work with clients one-on-one we talk about the possibility of working towards a group class but we first have to lay a solid foundation for the handler and dog to prepare them to participate in a group class.  We also have to determine if the dog really wants to be in a group class, if their stress level is too high,  they are probably not benefiting from being in class and it may do more harm than good.  As an instructor I also have to take into account the other 5 people in class who may not appreciate having a dog bark the entire time, which is stressful for the other dogs and makes it hard for others to participate in class.

A qualified Obedience Instructor will have a good vetting process for group classes so that owners can make the most of their training time and the best use of the money.  Not all Trainers have experience or credentials to handle behavior related problems so be sure to work with someone who has legitimate credentials.

There are no short cuts or  fast tracking when raising and training dogs.  The time and training you put in during the early weeks will have life long benefits.  If your dog joins your family later in their life and already has established problems, don't loose heart, just understand that your training path will be different.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Things My Dogs Have Taught Me

This year marks my 19th year working with dogs......just a few things they've taught me..........
Stepping on a partially chewed Nylabone hurts almost as much as having an Elk Antler dropped on your bare foot
Slipping in dog drool on the ceramic tile floor will not end well

Tripping over the dog in the dark because he decided to sleep next to your bed instead of on his bed results in some profanity

Coming in too fast can result in getting a black eye instead of a dog kiss

Realizing your arm really does not bend ‘that way’ when your dog pulls on leash
Throwing too many bumpers at the lake will result in months of Physical Therapy
Having your phone fall out of your pocket and onto the ground, breaking the screen, because your puppy got into the laundry and chewed a hole in your shorts because you always have treats in your pocket
Seeing all the warning lights on your dashboard light up because the dog was not sleeping in the back seat he was chewing thru all the wiring under your seat
Seeing how far into the air you can fly when the dog hits you full steam from behind in the back yard
Learning that ‘bend at the knees’ is not a dance move it’s a survival technique during playtime
Wishing you had spent less money at the Pet Store and more money on the ‘better’ steam cleaner
The moment you realize you got Giardia from your dogs
Realizing your potential as a sprinter as you rush to get your dog off the carpet and onto the tile floor as their puking

Remembering that our time together will never be long enough so make every minute count

Saying goodbye really can result in a broken heart 
Knowing I wouldn't change a thing 

Friday, February 17, 2017

H.A. L. T.

HALT, this is the term I use when I work with Clients. Often puppies have been labeled with undesirable behavior without really understanding what's motivating the behavior. Here is a helpful way to "Halt' and assess your puppies behavior.

H is for Hungry: Is your puppy getting enough to eat? In our attempt to avoid overfeeding, which is a serious problem with some dogs, we tend to not feed our puppies the amount of food they need to keep up with their growing bodies. A hungry puppy will be more likely to scavenge, counter surf, eat non-food objects (PICA) and inhale their food. A puppies daily food ration should be based on their activity level not the chart on the dog food bag. It will also change from week to week as they grow so adjustments need to be made thru the first year of life.

A is for Anxious: Anxiety is often overlooked in puppies or misdiagnosed as being 'unruly' behavior. An anxious puppy can be timid, fearful of people/sounds/other animals, tremble, hide, reactive/aggressive, overly excited/aroused, mouthy, afraid of handling. Anxiety is often complex and needs to be assessed by a professional. There are many new supplements available to help decrease anxiety, L-Theanine, Composure, Adaptil, Solliquin. With the help of your Veterinarian and a qualified Behavior Consultant, you can help you're puppy overcome or cope with their anxiety.

L is for Lonely: Puppies are social animals, they do not thrive being isolated for long periods of time. They need mental stimulation every day, this can be training, playing, walks or just spending time with family. They don't need 24/7 attention, but leaving a puppy alone for extended periods of time is often stressful and can create a variety of behavior issues from excessive barking to separation anxiety.

T is for Tired: Puppies need on average, 18-20 hours of sleep per day. The belief that 'a tired puppy is a happy puppy' is not always true. How 'happy' are you when you've not had enough sleep?? A tired puppy will often exhibit behaviors such as excessive biting, barking, destructive behavior, rough play, humping, just to name a few. As the puppy fatigues their coping skills go right out the window and things tend to fall apart. *Refer to a previous post on the benefits of Crating*

Rarely do puppies solve their own behavior problems, they need our help. If you find yourself frustrated with your puppy........HALT.......and make sure their needs are being met