When dog owners initially contact me, the conversation often begins with, "I want to stop my dog's..." followed by a description of undesirable behaviors. When we think of the need for training, we naturally tend to focus on eliminating the things our dogs do that we don't like. Correction collars and other "interrupters" such as shaker cans are often used as quick fixes to stop the undesirable behaviors. Corrections and interrupters have their place in certain training programs, but eliminating a frustrating behavior without replacing it with a desirable behavior only leaves room for another undesirable behavior to develop. Instead of focusing on the behaviors they don't like, I ask owners to first focus on what they would rather their dog do instead. Many times we can train the dog to do something that is incompatible with the problem behavior, therefore solving the problem.
For example, many dog owners ask me how to stop their dog's excited jumping behaviors when visitors enter their home. Not only is an over-excited and jumping dog frustrating to deal with, but he or she can be dangerous to small or frail guests. When I ask the owner what they would like their dog to do instead, they usually describe the perfect greeting as a calm dog who politely sniffs visitors and accepts pats on the head while all four of his or her feet remain on the ground. However, once a dog has developed an over-excited greeting behavior, it can be difficult to calm the dog while still allowing contact with visitors.
In the vast majority of cases, the most successful outcome is achieved when we train the dog to go to a particular place and stay there until the dog is calm and can safely be around the visitors. This video shows the results of training a dog to do this. "Beju" is a high energy dog who loves meeting people. Her natural tendency is to leap up to kiss their faces. Although friendly, this behavior was frightening to some visitors. We solved this problem by training her to go to a dog bed near the door and stay there while people safely entered the home. Over time, she realized that the arrival of visitors was a time to be calm, and her behavior has improved immensely!
Can't see the video? Click HERE.
Training a dog to go to a place (typically a dog bed or dog hammock) has many benefits. When they are lying calmly on a dog bed, they can't jump on visitors, can't beg for food at the table, can't steal food off the countertops, etc. This type of training can also help owners control excited and hyperactive dogs at home. After being properly exercised outside, we can send an excited dog to his or her place while in the house. Very quickly the dog will learn that the house is a place to be calm.
Does your dog jump up or act innapropriately to greet visitors? Is your dog hyperactive in the house? Call us to chat about your dog's problem behaviors, and we'll tell you if this type of training is right for your situation.
When we make the decision to purchase or adopt a puppy, we envision a fuzzy, warm, wiggly bundle of cuddling and fun times. We imagine playing with our new companion and developing a bond that will be rewarding and worthy of cherished memories.
In reality, the first few months of puppy ownership can have some frustrating moments. While the fun times definitely make bringing a new, young, canine companion into our homes totally worth it, puppy training can seem like a daunting task if our puppy starts to use the house as a toilet or chews on the furniture.
How can we make puppyhood easier to navigate? One thing that helps immensely is to have a structured housebreaking plan. Our primary role in this plan is to prevent accidents from occurring, and to guide the puppy to the correct toilet spot. We need to create a habit for the puppy of using the outdoors as a toilet.
A puppy's ability to "hold it" is very limited at 8 weeks of age, and gradually improves as he or she matures. A good rule to follow is this:
For every month a puppy is in age, we can expect the puppy to hold it for that many hours. So, a 2 month old puppy can go 2 hours without eliminating, a 3 month old puppy 3 hours, and so on.
This rule applies during the day, and the time between outside visits can be extended at night. And we should expect to take an 8 week old puppy outside at least once in the middle of the night to eliminate.
Some puppies can hold it longer than our rule, but it's a good place to start to prevent accidents from occurring. Puppies also usually have to eliminate immediately after waking up, after eating, after drinking a lot, and after a rowdy play session. So, trips outside to potty should occur at those times too. That's a lot of trips outside during the day, but it is what's required to prevent your puppy from developing the habit of using the house as his or her toilet.
Using a crate (cage) is also a great way to prevent a puppy from using the house as a toilet during the times when you can't directly supervise him or her. Most puppies naturally do not want to potty in a crate if they can help it, and we can use that to our advantage. Gating a puppy into an area or room where you can directly supervise him or her when not crated is also a great idea.
What about "puppy pads" (elimination pads) to give the puppy a place to go indoors if we can't get him or her outside right away? Puppy pads certainly do have their place in some training situations, however, using these pads teaches your puppy that going to the bathroom inside is an acceptable practice. If your schedule allows for it, you are much better off taking your puppy outside for every potty trip.
If you are experiencing housebreaking or puppy training issues, or just want to chat about your dog, please feel free to comment, call, or email. We'd love to hear from you!
Have you ever heard that you should "let a puppy be a puppy," and not to start training until the puppy is a young adult? Have you ever heard that you shouldn't take a puppy anywhere until the puppy has been fully vaccinated?
What if I told you that this well intentioned misinformation has the potential to cause you more headaches than any other bad training advice?
Follow me though some scientific jargon for a moment. The single most important period of the developing puppy's life is called the "imprinting period," and it generally describes the first 16 weeks of the puppy's life. The portion of this period relevant to this discussion is from approximately 3 weeks to 16 weeks, and is divided into the First Socialization Period and the Second Socialization Period. The First Socialization Period is from 3 to 7 weeks and is ultimately the responsibility of a litter's mother and their breeder. A stable, comfortable environment with positive, age appropriate exposure to new things can set the stage for a great temperament later on. (And stay tuned, because I'll cover the importance of selecting - and how to select! - a great breeder in a later blog.)
The Second Socialization period, from 7 to around 16 weeks, starts at the time that many people bring home their new puppy. At this point, it is entirely up to you to help them navigate and understand the world around them. What a puppy learns during this period (both good and bad!) will likely last a lifetime. Positive and negative impressions are developed, and the puppy can easily learn new things. This is actually the period of fastest learning, and habits are quickly formed. Once this period is over, socialization becomes much more difficult and learning slows. The next period is the Juvenile Period (which includes teething), followed by the sometimes nerve-wracking Adolescent Period.
Still with me? Good, because we're now getting to the most important part of this blog entry.
In essence, if your new puppy arrives in your home at around 8 weeks of age, you only have 8 weeks to teach your puppy the necessary social skills to ensure that you'll end up with a well-adjusted, socially stable adult dog. This means that, aside from some genetic or early environmental influences, you are completely and totally responsible for preventing anti-social behavior such as aggressive barking, biting, shy behavior, and environmental issues such as fear of loud noises or new things.
I'm not saying that you can't fix behavior problems later on in a dog's life (you can), but wouldn't it be easier to address socialization and training when the puppy is in a prime state for learning that lasts a lifetime? It is definitely easier. I'm also not saying that the risks of common puppy diseases (such as parvovirus) should be completely dismissed in favor of taking your puppy everywhere. Safe socialization is critical.
Wait a minute, you ask, do you mean great dogs aren't "born that way?" Pretty much! The responsibility to ensure that you end up with an enjoyable canine companion for the next decade or more is completely yours. Proper training AND socialization at an early age are incredibly important.That's a lot of pressure on you, the new puppy owner, to make sure you get it right!
1) Have never raised a puppy before, or
2) Have raised a puppy and it grew up to be a dog with behavior or training issues, or
3) Have already seen behavior issues brewing in your new puppy, or
4) Have raised a puppy successfully, but know that all puppies are different so additional guidance might be necessary
then your best bet is to seek guidance from an expert. I've helped many people to successfully raise their puppies, and I've raised many of my own. I understand the pressure you feel to raise your puppy the right way, and I'm happy to share my techniques with you through our Rock-Star Puppy Program.
This Program includes 4 lessons in the comfort of your own home and scheduled at your convenience. The information I can share with you in just 4 lessons is more than you can get in a crowded and generic group puppy class. We'll cover everything from housebreaking to safe socialization to manners and more. The lessons are personalized so you know you'll be getting information that will be helpful to your situation.
Enrollment in this program also qualifies your puppy for our "Price Rate for Life," which means that your puppy will get a discounted rate for any future private training lessons - FOR LIFE! And, for your peace of mind, I also include 30 days of FREE phone and email support. Contact us to tell us about your new puppy and to hear more about our Rock-Star Puppy Program. We'd love to hear from you!