Author Archives: Mary Green

TRAINING 411

posted October 15th, 2009 by

Q&A By MARY GREEN

Q .

We have a year old half Great Pyrenees, half Labrador retriever mix. He is afraid of stormy weather. Do you have any tips on how to re-teach him not to be afraid?

A .

With all the storms we have here in Oklahoma, we do see a lot of dogs with storm-related anxiety. The symptoms will vary with the severity of the anxiety. You might see the dog panting, drooling, pacing, whining, shaking, hiding, or even digging in order to escape the environment. In a mild case, there may be nothing more than panting. The anxiety is so severe in some dogs that they are medicated at the drop of the barometer!

As a concerned pet owner, your natural response is to soothe and comfort your dog. You may have heard, or been advised not to coddle an animal that is afraid; that you would be reinforcing his fear. While it may be true that you could be reinforcing the physical responses to fear (such as the shaking and panting) you aren’t reinforcing the fear itself. In fact, according to Dr. Patricia McConnell*, “No amount of petting is going to make it worthwhile to your dog to feel panicked (meaning, the dog is not going to prefer a storm as a way to get attention). Fear is no more fun for dogs than it is for people. The function of fear is to signal the body that there is danger present, and that the individual feeling fearful had better do something to make the danger, and the fear that accompanies it, go away.” There are a few techniques that you can easily use that may help your dog be less frightened of storms.

  • Stretch out on the couch yourself, and take a nap! Yawn, stretch, relax – your dog may lie down and do the same thing.
  • If the flashes of lightening are bothering your dog, move him to an interior room where he can’t see it. You might even hang out in the bath room.
  • Try a homeopathic remedy for your pet. HomeoPet has an anxiety formula, which has Chamomile and other natural calming ingredients. Bach Flower Remedies has a similar product called Rescue Remedy.
  • Spray his bedding and crate if he uses one, with diluted fabric softener to reduce static electricity.
  • Try the Storm Defender cape! Check out www.stormdefender.com for this uniquely designed cape which “defends” your dog against the static charge of an electrical storm.

* Both Ends of the Leash: Fear Reduction: A gentle hand or a tasty treat doesn’t reinforce fear, it reduces it. By Patricia B. McConnell, PhD.

Q .

We lost our elderly dog recently and would like to adopt another dog, but we’re unsure of how to introduce a new dog to our cat. Our old dog and cat got along well.

A .

Since your cat and your previous dog had a good relationship, you should be able to introduce a new dog into the household – carefully! Ask the rescue group or shelter if the dog has been “cat tested.” They may know whether or not the dog is safe with cats. When you bring the new dog home, meet and greet the cat in a very controlled manner. Ideally, you should do a “scent swap” before you bring the dog into the home. Rub the dog and the cat each with a different towel, then place the dog’s towel under the cat food bowl, and feed the cat her favorite meal. Take the cat’s towel and allow the dog to lie on it, smell it, and eat off of it.

Once you bring the dog indoors, be sure that the cat is confined behind a door. Bring the dog on leash to the door, and allow him to sniff. After the dog has acclimated to the environment (still on leash), open the door and allow the cat to come out if she wants to. It’s absolutely imperative that the dog not chase the cat on the initial meeting. Both animals need to understand that from the very beginning. If you are crate training your new dog (which we would highly recommend), put the dog in his crate to relax. Let the cat wander as close as she wants to. Each time the dog looks at the cat and does not react, reward the dog with a treat.

Frequent, short meet and greet sessions are better than one long one. Time the arrival of your new dog so that you will be home and able to spend a considerable time with both animals monitoring their interactions. Q. My dog used to be great on walks and would even go running with me. Recently, he has been balking on leash. He stops and refuses to continue, and no amount of coaxing gets him to move ahead. I end up dragging him, or just going back where we came from. What’s up with this? A.

Where is my crystal ball? I can’t give a definite answer – but I can make some guesses! Maybe there was something environmental that scared him; a car back-fire, a house under construction with lots of banging noises, even scary dogs or kids. Or, perhaps he had an injury that you may not have been aware of. It could be a stone bruise, bee or wasp sting, or even him getting overheated.

Regardless of the reason – try helping him overcome his objections.

  • Try a different piece of equipment: switch from a head halter to a front clip harness or martingale collar. Ditch the traditional choke chain or prong collar if you are using these.
  • Take along your yummiest treats and leave a “trail of breadcrumbs” for him to follow. Toss treats ahead of you and tell him to get it.
  • Try walking with a friend. If you know someone with a dog that’s a good walker and friendly with dogs, ask them to go with you.

Dog Training 411

posted July 15th, 2009 by

Mary Green answers your questions

Q

I have a Corgi puppy that is now about 10 months old. She is a very loving and affectionate dog – most of the time. Recently, she has snapped at both of my children. I have 2 daughters, 7 and 9 years old. What has me really concerned is that she snapped right in their faces. She growled at me one time when I went to get her off the sofa, but she has not snapped at me. I’m not sure what happened with the girls, because I didn’t see it, but I do know that Rosie was on the sofa.

A

Young children and dogs should never be unsupervised. At 7 and 9 your children are too young to be playing with Rosie unless you are right there to monitor their interactions. While it is never acceptable for dogs to bite, sometimes we can understand why they want to! Little girls especially like to pick up puppies, hold them, and carry them around. They tend to treat them like living dolls. Puppies often grow tired of being pursued by children, and may use their teeth to defend themselves. Little boys like to play wrestling and chase games with dogs, which can have disastrous consequences! While it may be cute that the 10 week old Lab puppy chases the kids, and they fall down and wrestle, it’s not such a cute behavior at 10 months of age when the dog now weighs 60 pounds or more.

I have counseled parents whose child was bitten when they bent down to hug a sleeping dog. There is truth in the old adage “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

Rosie may be territorial about the sofa, too. Teach her that she is not allowed up there unless you have invited her. Train her to jump off the sofa to get a treat when you tell her. Don’t pick her up and remove her from the sofa, or drag her off. Make sure that she is willingly jumping down when asked.

Teach your daughters how to play with Rosie. Have short play sessions that are toy oriented, and eliminate chase and wrestling games. Instruct the children not to pick up Rosie, or pursue her. Teach her to come when called, and sit politely for petting. Treats are a great motivation for these behaviors!

Q

Do no-bark collars work?

A

Unfortunately, there’s no short answer to your short question! There are various types of anti-bark, or bark control collars, and many drawbacks to using them. One type is considered a shock collar, which delivers a jolt when the dog barks. These collars are marketed with misleading descriptions of “levels of stimulation” or “light touch correction.” The barking dog receives a shock that he may or may not associate with his barking! He may associate the “unpleasant feeling” with the presence of another dog or person. He may become fearful about going into the yard.

There are no-shock solutions that may be effective. One option is a device which emits an ultrasonic “correction” tone when dogs bark. They can be mounted on the fence, wall, or pole. They have adjustments for frequency and sensitivity. The biggest drawback with these devices is that all the dogs within range (which can be as much as 50 feet) are affected. So, the non-barkers are corrected just the same as the barkers! There is a wide range of sensitivity to this among dogs. The ultrasonic tone is hugely aversive for some dogs, while others are oblivious.

If I were to use an anti-barking collar, I would use a citronella collar. The collar, when triggered by the dog barking, delivers a burst of citronella spray near his nose. Citronella, while not harmful to the dog, is still very unpleasant. One of the drawbacks is that once the dog has stopped barking, the citronella scent is still in his nose. As with the ultrasonic tone, some dogs are not terribly deterred by citronella.

Before making the decision to use an anti-bark device, you really need to identify the underlying cause of his barking. Using a no-bark device without incorporating a behavior modification program might put an end to the barking, and turn into a bigger problem like escaping, or even aggression.

Dog Training 411

posted January 15th, 2009 by

Story by Mary Green

Q: My Jack Russell Terrier is six years old, and I have never taken him to training.  Is he too old at this point?

AHe may be too old to have a long career as an agility dog, or disc dog, but he is not too old to learn!  If you follow training methods that use positive reinforcement, such as treats, and you avoid harsh corrections, he may well enjoy the challenge of learning new things.  Dogs love to go on a walk – this is more enjoyable for both of you if he isn’t pulling and out of control.  As he learns to sit to greet people, he will be more mannerly when you have company. Chances are that he will enjoy the car ride to training class and be happy to see dog friends.

I have not found a dog that was too old to begin training provided that they are healthy, and you find the right motivation.  They may not be snappy performers, but older dogs have a good attention span, and retain information well.

Longstanding behavior problems are not so easy to resolve.  When a dog has a long history of undesirable behavior, such as aggression or house soiling, he has effectively been practicing and perfecting this behavior.  Changing these behaviors can be a lengthy process.

QI feel like a failure as a dog owner!  In a weak moment, I bought a yellow lab puppy for my 6-year old son.  He promised he would take care of the puppy and he wanted him really badly.  This puppy chews up my son’s toys, knocks him down, and uses my house as a bathroom.  He is so destructive and so big now that I can’t let him in the house.  I really didn’t know what I was getting into.  At this point, I just don’t want to deal with the dog.

AAs I’m reading your email, I don’t actually hear a question, but certainly a tone of desperation!  

In retrospect, I’m sure that you realize that getting a pet should never be an impulse, and that a six year old is generally too young to be responsible for a pet.  You also probably know that you missed out on some crucial early training by not attending a puppy kindergarten class, where you would learn about house training and chew training.  Hopefully, you are realizing that a dog cannot live a solitary life outside.  So if you are looking for options, here’s what I see:  

  • Contact the person you got the dog from and ask to return him.  You should expect to forfeit your purchase price.
  • If any of your friends or family has dogs, likes your puppy, have expressed concern about your puppy, or seem interested in his welfare, ask if they would like to have him. 
  • A local rescue group or shelter may be able to take your dog, but you will need to pay a surrender fee. 

How about teaching your child to be a responsible pet owner?  Get into a training class, or work with a trainer that can help you teach your dog about crate training, housebreaking, chew training, exercise, and proper interaction with kids and dogs!  You might end up with the family pet that you envisioned.

QI have adopted a former puppy-mill-breeding-mother … a 4-year old Chihuahua.  She knows nothing about humans, the concept of having a name, freedom in the house, grass, etc.  This makes training for a novice complicated.  I don’t want to put her in a crate to housetrain her as she has spent years in a small cage.  Is there any other effective way to teach her?  Right now I have the entire carpet covered in several layers of puppy pads.  This poor little mother doesn’t even know about getting petted!  She’s learning that part fast though!

ACongratulations on your new addition!  While you do face many challenges with a puppy mill survivor, you also can make a huge difference in the quality of her life, so the rewards are great.  

Reliable house training can be achieved without confining her to a crate.  You will, though, need to otherwise contain or confine her with a baby gate, or an exercise pen.  When you are gone, she should be confined to a small area which would house her dog bed, chew toys, water and ONE puppy pad!  By covering the entire carpet, you are actually teaching her that she can go anywhere.  When you are at home, take her to the puppy pad area, or outside, and encourage her to go potty.  Don’t let her have an opportunity to sneak away and eliminate elsewhere.  Supervision is critical to preventing mistakes.  

With rescued dogs, we tend to excuse or enable their undesirable behavior because of their past experience.  It is much healthier for the dog/owner relationship to be in the present. 

Dog Training 411 Training

posted October 15th, 2008 by

By Mary Green

Q Two years ago I adopted a little frightened cock-a-poo from the shelter. Some time (during his life) he received a broken leg that never was treated but had mended crooked on its own. My little guy will come to me and other females but will not come to my husband. My husband feeds him (but he waits) till hubby leaves the room to eat. He is excited to see hubby come home from work (and even runs to him) but will not let hubby reach down & touch him. I am wondering if the broken leg incident could have been related to a male. In any event, my husband loves this little guy as much as I do and wants a positive relationship with him. How can I convince my little cock-a-poo to trust and let my husband love him?

A I know that your heart goes out to this little guy! You certainly can be sympathetic to his fears, but two years into his new life, he may actually be as friendly toward your husband as he can. It sounds like he does have a positive reaction when he sees your husband coming home from work, so build on that. Every time your husband comes home, he can give the dog a really good treat upon greeting. Instead of reaching down to touch him, have hubby sit in a chair or on a sofa so he is not intimidating. If your little guy likes to come and sit on a lap, hubby should sit down, and then invite him up. He may be more willing to come up for attention on those terms.

Many little dogs, whether they have been abused or not, shy away from people reaching toward them, or trying to pick them up. Often this behavior is seen when children pursue puppies or little dogs to pick them up. This can also provoke a snap or worse; a bite. By inviting the dog to come into your space, rather than reaching for him, he will be more relaxed. Your husband could try walking back into the room when your dog is eating, and toss him a bite of something really yummy; leftover chicken, steak, etc., and walk back out. If all goes well, his emotional response when he sees “dad” will be “yippee!”…treat guy is home!

Q I have a wonderful little Website, about nine months old, who has chewed up five pairs of my work shoes in the past month! He doesn’t mess with any one else’s stuff – just my shoes! As soon as I get home, I take off my shoes, and when my back is turned, he snags them.

A Well…where are your shoes? The simplest answer would be to take them off and put them in the closet (and shut the door). He may be drawn to your belongings more than others in the family because he values you more. Or, maybe you work in a really interesting place, like a restaurant, or veterinary clinic? You could also practice greeting your puppy by handing him one of his favorite toys when you come home.

Q I am so excited about the opening of the Joe Station Bark Park! I have made several visits there with my Daisy, a Yorkie mix that I recently adopted. I have met some really great dog owners there, and would like to go for regular play dates, but Daisy seems to hate it. She stands at my feet, alternately cowering and growling at any dog that comes up to sniff her. How can I help her make friends?
A Does Daisy have friends other than at the dog park? If she hasn’t had the opportunity to socialize much, she may be very overwhelmed by the dog park. Be sure that you are keeping her in the small dog area! It may be helpful to start out with Daisy on leash on the outside of the fence, and as dogs approach the fence, give Daisy a treat, and an opportunity to sniff or be sniffed at a safe distance.

A cool aspect of the bark park is that people tend to go back when they know that their dog’s buddies will be there. So, if Daisy can make one friend, try to schedule your time to be there together. In time, she may make more friends.

Dog Training 411

posted July 15th, 2008 by

Story by Mary Green

Q: I have a Great Dane who is 15 months old.  He is fairly well behaved.  He has the sit, stay, lie down, shake hands, and basic commands down fairly well.  I have problems with getting him to come.  Sometimes he will even look at me quite obstinately and go on with what he is doing.  This makes me feel like he knows what I mean.  I always praise him when he obeys, but if he does not feel like coming to me, he will not!  Any ideas?

A: It seems as though you have done a nice job teaching your Dane some basic skills.  By rewarding his good behavior, you greatly increase the chance that he will repeat this behavior.  The problem with getting a dog to come when you call him is that whatever he is already doing (sniffing, digging, and running away) is inherently more rewarding to him than whatever you may offer.  His obstinate look and his return to whatever he was doing is probably because he knows if he comes to you it is “The End of Fun for The Dog.”  So the challenge is to change his mind about that! 

Teaching your dog a reliable recall may be the single most important skill he ever learns.  It could one day save his life.  

First of all, to begin teaching your dog to come when you call him, you must be prepared to reward him every time he comes to you.  The reward needs to be of very high value to the dog; something he really likes.  It may be food, it may be a belly rub, or a favorite toy.  If you are using food as a reinforcer, it needs to be something extraordinary.  Save the usual treats for reinforcing other behavior.  

You may find that changing your command from “come” to something else like “here” will speed him up.  If “come” means to him “The End of Fun for The Dog,” “here” could mean “cookie party!”

At first start indoors, or in a relatively distraction-free area.  Say his name in a happy voice followed by your new command (make it a happy “hee-year”) and praise him for any effort to pay attention to you.  Pet him, feed him his treat slowly, and let him go again.  He will soon learn that checking in with you may mean cookie party plus more freedom!  

When you practice outdoors in a fenced area, you may want to have a light weight drag line attached to his collar.  If he does not come when you call him, you can step on the line and prevent him from going further away.  Walk up the line a bit and try again a little closer.

Never stop randomly rewarding (reinforcing) your dog for coming when called.  Even if you have practiced 2,000 times, it might be the 2,001st time that is an emergency.

Q: I have a seven week old Rat Terrier/Chihuahua mix puppy.  He seems to be impossible to potty train.  I take him outside and we could sit for an hour and he does nothing but stand between my legs shivering, then the second we get inside he attempts to do it on the carpet.  I take him right back outside and he does the same thing for another 30 minutes.  That’s when I give up and put him in the bathroom with a puppy pad and he does his business on the tile.  I’m starting to wonder if he’ll come around.

A: Let’s drop back and regroup.  At seven weeks old, your little guy should probably still be with his mom and littermates.  Since he’s not, I suspect that he did not have any early experience with house training.  Standing shivering between your legs is clearly a sign that he is stressed – if not terrified.  Staying outdoors longer isn’t going to help.  And it is wrong to punish a puppy for having an accident.  It is up to the owner to establish good house training management.

The ideal setup for such a small dog would be a crate (for short-term confinement) placed inside of a puppy pen (for long-term confinement).  The puppy pen would contain the crate, a water bowl, chew toys and a puppy pad.  The puppy pad would be placed as far away from the crate as possible.  At eight weeks, a puppy’s bladder capacity is only about one hour.  By confining him to his pen for the long-term (for example while you are off to work) he can learn to sleep in his crate and eliminate on the pad.  The crate door is left open so he can choose to get a drink, go potty, chew his chew toys or go take a rest.

When you are home, you can confine him short-term in the crate, and take him outdoors every hour to go potty.  Even if you are playing with him, or training him, he needs to go outdoors every hour. A young puppy will generally urinate soon after waking up, so instead of waiting for your puppy to wake up, wake him up and take him directly outdoors.  Give him only a short time (less than five minutes) to do his business, and take him back indoors.  Be sure that you give him treats for eliminating outdoors.

As he gets older, he will have a greater bladder capacity (about two hours at 18 weeks of age) and you may be able to do away with the puppy pen and continue to use the crate.a

Dog Training 411

posted April 15th, 2008 by

Story by Mary Green

QMy male 8 month old bulldog seems to be like Oscar the Grouch when meeting new dogs. I went to visit a friend and meet her three-month old female bulldog and my bulldog growled at her and nipped her on the face. Then we were standing at the checkout buying dog food and an adolescent boxer pup came in and  my bulldog growled at him. My bulldog is so sweet at home. He loves all my children and always wants to be near me. We have a male Maltese who is neutered and they get along just fine.  I really must learn how to teach my bulldog to be kind and tolerant of animals.  

AThere are a lot of dogs that get along well with the dogs in their own family, but do not readily welcome outsiders.  The fact that he gets along with your Maltese is not necessary indicative of his sociability with other dogs.  It is good that he loves your children, but there are many dogs that love “their” children but may not love visiting children.  

Maybe when you were introducing your bulldog to the three-month old bulldog puppy, she came on too strong!  He may have been well within his rights to correct her.  He may have given her a warning that she didn’t heed.  He may have been more interested in exploring a new environment than meeting a new prospective friend.  It could be that when the young boxer came up to say “hi” your dog was minding his own business and was just telling the boxer to keep its distance.  Lots of adult and even adolescent dogs are not tolerant of puppies invading their space and coming on too boldly.

In order to increase your dog’s tolerance to other dogs, be careful not to force your bulldog to make friends.  It may be best to meet new friends in a neutral setting.  Use the leash for safety, but be careful not to telegraph your tension with a tight leash.  Try not to let visiting dogs overstay their welcome.  Be sure your dog has an escape route, or a place he can go to be alone.  

Do not punish, scold, reprimand, or correct him if he growls at another dog.  You never want to erase the growl; it is a warning sign that your dog is uncomfortable!  Instead, practice at a safe (comfortable) distance away from the other dog, and feed your dog something wonderful.  Instead of your bulldog becoming anxious or nervous at an approaching dog, he can learn that the presence of another dog means really yummy treats coming his way.  Say something like, “Look, Buddy!  Here comes a lovely boxer!”  Your jolly voice can convey the message of “all is well,” instead of a harsh “No Growling.”  Teaching your dog a cue that means to look at you is effective in breaking the eye contact that can often trigger an aggressive action between dogs. 

The behavior your dog is showing now at eight months could well be related to his early socialization experiences.  “Dogs have a sensitive period for socialization between the ages of 3 and 12 weeks. This means that pleasant exposures to people, other dogs and other animals during this time will have long-lasting influences on the sociability of your dog. Well socialized dogs tend to be friendlier and less fearful of the kinds of individuals they were socialized to.”1  

Still, that early experience should not be the end of your dog’s socialization.  There are lots of dogs that as puppies were well socialized and got along well with other people and dogs, and began showing fear or aggression later in their adolescent stage.

Whether or not your bulldog was adequately socialized to dogs as a puppy, you are right to take measures to help him become tolerant of other animals, and more dog-friendly, even if he does not want to be best friends!

QMy poodle, Chloe, is really a great dog except when I am on the phone.  If I stay on the phone for too long (in her opinion) she starts to get into trouble.  She will steal things and chew them up, or bark and carry on.  This can be very annoying.

AThat behavior would come under the category of Attention Seeking.  She knows that when you are distracted, she can engage in some naughty behavior that you can’t possibly ignore.  We have had good success using a “go to your place” cue and teaching the dog to stay on her mat while you are doing your activity.  Teach her to go to her mat by luring her with a treat a few times, then tossing a treat to the mat as you tell her to go to her mat, until you can say “Chloe, go to your mat” and she will go directly there, and you give her a reward.  To get her to stay on her mat while you are on the phone, have a supply of chew toys handy so that you can keep her interested in staying there.  She would not otherwise have access to these special chews.

1.  Socialization: It Isn’t Just for Puppies by Daniel Estep, Ph.D. and Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. 

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