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Dog Training 911

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Mary Green

Q We have a decent sized back yard, and our dog gets to run and play there as much as he wants. But I always hear that you should take your dog for a walk every day for exercise. Is that really necessary?

A There are a lot of reasons why walks are considered a necessary part of your dog’s behavioral wellness. If your dog just goes outside to “do his business” and doesn’t really rip and run, he may be under-exercised. If he is running the fence with neighbor dogs, he may be over stimulated. If he is left in the yard without human companionship, he is not getting necessary socialization.

The yard can become pretty boring if you aren’t adding interesting things like food delivery toys, or interactive toys on a regular basis. When he is out for a walk, your dog can learn about his neighborhood. Besides getting physical exercise, he is taking in all the sights and, more importantly, the scents of the area. A short walk can really tire him out.

There are indoor games as well that help alleviate boredom and give your dog mental exercise. Toys that deliver food are wonderful. There is a wide array from Kong toys, to Buster Cubes, to Kibble Nibble. Some food delivery toys are also chew-toys, but some are not. There are interactive puzzle toys in which the dog has to problem solve in order to get the treats. Any game that encourages a dog to use his nose is another great way to exercise your dog.

Q I have a puppy that is about 5 months old. This is not the first puppy that I’ve raised, and I’ve never had a pup this difficult. I’ve always trained them on my own at home, but I feel this one is more than I can handle. Should I take him to obedience classes?

A Puppies, like children, are as different as night and day. Your previous puppies may have been of a different breed. Your current puppy could be the same breed as you’ve had before, but could be atypical (or maybe your last puppy was atypical for the breed). And, as we get older we are perhaps less tolerant of puppy behavior. Difficult is hard to define. A pup could be difficult to house-train but easy to take for a walk. He could be difficult on a car ride but easily crate-trained.

Training classes are a great first step toward forging a better relationship with your pet. K9 Manners & More classes are full of people who are on their way to having that well mannered pet that is a real part of the family. There is also a social aspect of being in a class with other people who are going through your same challenges. It’s fun to see your friends in class whether you’re a dog or a person! Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a training class, and do your homework to find the class that is right for you.

Q Can dogs and cats ever get along?

A Sure! If the dog and the cat are both members of the family, it can take some work to get along, but it can work. The first step is careful introduction of the new pet to the established family pet. Say, for example, you are bringing home a dog that you don’t know is cat-safe or not. You must first ensure the safety of the cat. Be sure that the dog does not have any opportunity to chase the cat. He can be confined in a crate when supervision isn’t possible, and be carefully supervised—on leash— when introductions are being made. If the cat bolts, and the dog chases… it’s game on! Prevent the dog from being able to do chase.

Cats that are outdoors are particularly at risk of being attacked by dogs. Dogs view them as intruders the same as squirrels. And dogs outside tend to pack-up on cats, even if individually they seem to get along. 

The ABCs of Numbers One and Two

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

I am standing outside in my back yard at an hour I can only describe as dark-thirty in the morning. I am shivering in my pajamas and robe while asking… no, make that begging my darling puppy to go potty. Finally, she squats and does her business as I sing her potty skill praises and offer her a celebratory cookie.

Now take this scene and repeat it about 20 times during various hours of the day, and you have a small snapshot of my potty training routine with Brooke, my 10-week-old Dalmatian. It is not the glamorous part of puppy ownership, but it is essential to our happy future together.

As a professional dog trainer, you would think I might have some magical formula for teaching Brooke where and when she should and should not go potty. I do not. It takes patience, supervision and maybe a baggie of yummy treats placed strategically by the back door.

While house-training is one of the most basic lessons we teach our dogs, tales of potty-training woes are among the most common complaints I get from new puppy owners. In fact, I have had more than a few harried puppy parents ask me to whisk their little darlings off for a couple of weeks of toilet boot camp. In most cases, however, it’s not the puppies that need the bulk of the training.

If taught fairly and consistently, puppies are quite happy to learn proper potty etiquette. So it falls on us as humans to understand how the puppy mind works, so we can best teach our little four-legged prodigies the ways of our rule-filled world.

Perhaps more important than discussing how to properly train a young puppy is discussing the many ways people make a mess of this vital step. All too often, people still seem to focus on techniques for correcting a puppy when it eliminates inappropriately.

Rub your puppy’s nose in the mess? Find a puddle and return your puppy to the scene of the crime for a good scolding? Catch your puppy in the act, yell at her and give her a little swat with a rolled newspaper? What is the proper punishment? The simple answer is that there is no proper punishment.

What will punishment accomplish in the house training process? Nothing but a huge set back. It simply does not make sense to correct a puppy for something it absolutely does not understand. It certainly does not make sense to the puppy.

A puppy simply cannot understand why you are upset about a soggy spot on the carpeting that happened five minutes ago, which might as well be five hours ago in puppy time. Punishment does not remind a puppy that she is to go potty outside only. The puppy just perceives it as a senseless attack by the human she generally trusts the most.

But what if you actually catch your puppy in the act of having an accident somewhere in the house? Well, if you get angry, yell at the puppy and scare it while it is going potty, what you have taught her in that moment is that it is very dangerous to potty while the human is watching.

This means you will likely now have a puppy that is afraid to potty while you are present. You just made your house training mission a lot harder, didn’t you? Because your puppy is afraid, she will now become very adept at sneaking off in the house, perhaps in your closet or behind your favorite chair to take care of business. And when you go outside with your puppy hoping for the opportunity to praise her? Well, your puppy does not yet understand that there is a difference between relieving herself inside versus outside. She only knows that when you caught her in the act, you punished her, so now she‘s not willing to potty with you present—inside or out. Since being right there to praise and tell the puppy she’s doing the right thing is key to house training, incorporating any type of correction could lead straight to a tricky little problem.

Instead of looking for ways to correct a puppy, a far more effective and positive route to potty nirvana is to create and maintain a safe routine for teaching your puppy when and where to do her business.

If you watch a litter of tiny puppies— even so young their eyes have barely opened—you will see them squirm their way off their immediate bedding when they need to eliminate. This is the first thing you have working in your favor. Puppies have a natural desire to keep their bed clean if given the opportunity. The trick is that we have to convince them that our entire house is their bed.

This is the stage I am currently in with Brooke. She is very good at keeping her bed tidy. She understands that she should not potty on my bed when she is having her snuggle time. As for the rest of the house, it’s still fair game in her mind, but that’s where I come in.

Brooke has to be supervised 100 percent of the time. I will leash her to me if need be to ensure that I can keep an eye on her. While we are in the training process, I must be diligent to keep accidents inside to a minimum and to create as many good experiences outside as I can.

If she is playing with a toy and then gets up and starts to wander, I know I need to scoop her up and head out the door for a potty break. If she takes a nap, I have to be right there when she wakes up to once again head outdoors with her. When she finishes eating a meal, we go outside. When she gets a big drink of water, we go outside. What goes in seems to come straight back out.

If I can’t keep an eye on her or if I need to be away, she is confined in her crate but only for a limited amount of time. A good rule of thumb to follow is that your puppy can hold her bladder in a crate about one hour for every month of age. That means a 2-monthold puppy can be crated for about two hours. I can’t rush a young bladder, and I sure don‘t want her to be forced to have an accident in her crate. If I have to leave Brooke longer than an hour or two, she stays in her puppy pen with a piddle pad to allow her an appropriate alternate potty spot. I feed her three consistent meals a day, so that we can establish a poop routine (there are no delicate words for it). I know that when I take her out first thing in the morning, I should not be fooled when she comes to celebrate with me after “number one.” Yes, we celebrate; but then we stay outside, not playing, but focusing on “go potty” again, because number two can’t be far behind.

I know that even if she just went, she may well go again within the next 10 minutes. I cannot let my guard down. Puppies pee a lot, and they pee often.

At night, I take her out for a last potty break. Once she is settled in bed, she is generally good to go until early the next morning. However, occasionally she will get restless in the night, and I take that cue to get her out the door for a quick toilet visit and then straight back to bed.

If I ever catch her starting to squat in the house, I am very quick to say “uhoh!” followed by “outside,” said in an easy, encouraging voice. I don’t scare her; I don’t make a huge deal. I pick her up and head out the door to help her do the right thing. It is only through keeping our routine safe, positive and consistent that I am going to soon see the little light bulb of understanding go off over her head.

What it boils down to is this: I chose to get a young puppy. It is no secret that puppies have to be taught where to potty, and it should not be a shock that they will have accidents in the house. I have a job to do. It will likely take several weeks for me to feel that she really understands the difference between the right place to potty and another-indoormess- I-have-to-clean-up. But Brooke is worth every minute. She is worth every freezing trip outside. This is but a small blip on the road to hopefully 15 or 16 years of joy. I can handle this.

So be patient, be positive, buy some good enzyme cleaner and relax. Your puppy will catch on. Technically, we are willing to house train human babies for two to three years, right? What are a few weeks with a darling little puppy? Oops! I have to run. Brooke just woke up… ABC fix

Training 911

posted November 24th, 2012 by
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 Q. Can a biting dog be rehabilitated?

 A. Without a crystal ball, I can’t answer that.

 On a daily basis, I talk with pet owners who have dogs that bite. They don’t always disclose this information, but they must know they have a problem or else they would not have picked up the phone. They may have been told by their vet, friend, or family member that they need help. They are often embarrassed and may feel they have failed Pet Parenting 101.

Here are some recent calls:

Dog A “He has never really bitten anyone, but he has nipped at several people, even our grandchildren. Though we trust him completely not to hurt either of us.”

Dog B “My two dogs were fighting and one bit me on my thumb when I was trying to break it up. But she thought she was biting the other dog.”

Dog C “I was walking my dogs, and my neighbor was driving by. He rolled his window down and stuck his finger out and was calling my dog’s name. My dog nipped his finger.”

Dog D “A teenage girl was running from my dog because he was barking at her, and he caught up with her and nipped at her leg.”

Dog E “I was cleaning up around my dog’s food bowl, and he growled and nipped at me.”

Dog F “My dog bit a vet tech that was trying to trim his toenails. He didn’t break the skin, but they muzzled him and held him down to finish.”

Dog G “I have a 9-monthold puppy that grabs my arm when we are on a walk. When do they grow out of the mouthing stage?”

If these are not bites, then what is a bite? The owners can call it “nipping,” “mouthing” or “grabbing,” but they are bites. The owner of Dog E was smart enough not to push the dog into biting.

Dr. Ian Dunbar, PhD, BV etMed MRCVS1, has classified dog bites on a scale of 1 to 6. Through an objective evaluation of wound pathology, Dr. Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale* is a tool for pet owners, veterinarians and trainers to evaluate the severity of a biting problem and the prognosis. A Level 1 bite is classified as “obnoxious or aggressive behavior but no skin-contact by teeth,” and Level 2 is “skin-contact by teeth but no skin-puncture. However, [there] may be skin nicks (less than one-tenth of an inch deep) and slight bleeding caused by forward or lateral movement of teeth against skin, but no vertical punctures.”

If the owner statements above are true, most of these bites fall into Level 1 and Level 2 classification. These comprise nearly 99 percent of incidents and most have an excellent prognosis.

Dunbar identifies Level 3 and 4 bites as punctures and bruising. A Level 3 has a fair to good prognosis (with caveats); Level 4 has a poor prognosis. Level 5 is a multiple-bite incident or a multiple- attack incident, and a Level 6 bite victim is dead—these are extremely dangerous dogs.

If we review the above scenarios, here’s my assessment:

Dog A Be very, very watchful… especially around the grandchildren. Don’t allow the dog and the kids to play chase-and-be-chased games. Nipping is considered a Level 1 bite, and while the prognosis for rehabilitation is quite good, you should not tackle this on your own.

Dog B When dogs are fighting, and a person is bitten while trying to intervene, it’s not likely that the dog “accidently” bit. More likely is he was getting you to back off, so he could continue. Your dog probably showed bite inhibition by only giving you a mild bite. The fighting is more the problem than the biting.

Dog C Was your dog off leash? If your neighborhood is within city limits, and your dog is off leash on a walk, you may be violating the leash laws. If he was on leash, you should not have gotten close enough to the car for him to jump up and nip. It sounds like a Level 1, but could possibly be a Level 2. Most likely, some management on your part can prevent this from recurring

Dog D This is a scary scenario. If your dog was barking at the girl, she was right to be scared. His bark might have been a warning to stay away, and he was not comfortable. I don’t know if he was off leash, or broke free in order to chase her, but chase/nip of a person is predatory behavior. Enlist a qualified trainer.

Dog E This is a pretty clear picture of Resource Guarding. Read the book “MINE! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding In Dogs,” by Jean Donaldson. This is a practical how-to guide, which would help a pet owner determine if this is a behavior problem he or she can tackle or should seek the help of a qualified trainer.

Dog F I have no idea what level bite this was, but if you desensitize him to the handling and actual nail trimming, you should have a good prognosis. He may have already been stressed out, and this put him over the top.

Dog G This adolescent dog still mouthing at 9 months of age is not going to outgrow the behavior. But you have an excellent prognosis with some basic obedience and the help of a good trainer.

There are many factors to consider when arriving at a prognosis:

Behavior modification is more difficult for an adult dog.

Are there children in the household?

Can the owners use solid management practices?

Poor health and medical problems can compromise behavior modification.

It is hard to rehabilitate a dog that doesn’t get enough exercise.

Is the owner even in the picture, or is someone else caring for the dog? …and so on.

Our society seems to have zero tolerance when it comes to biting dogs. The dog’s owner says, “The dog nipped her;” (perhaps a Level 1 Bite on the Dunbar scale), but the victim’s statement is, “The dog bit me.” Depending on the circumstances, I might say that the dog showed remarkable restraint and bite inhibition. I have known owners who elected to euthanize the dog to avoid litigation.

I have known owners who felt euthanasia was easier than behavior modification. And I have known owners who were in denial as to the severity of the dog’s biting problem and chose to do nothing.

It’s not possible to say with 100 percent certainty that a dog will not bite. No one can make such guarantees. We do know that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The good news is that most “nippers” can become much more reliable with proper training and management and can be good citizens of society.

Veterinarian, Animal Behaviorist, and Dog Trainer, Dr. Ian Dunbar received his veterinary degree and a Special Honors degree in Physiology & Biochemistry from the Royal Veterinary College (London University) plus a doctorate in animal behavior from the Psychology Department at UC Berkeley.

*Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale (Official Authorized Version)

An assessment of the severity of biting problems based on an objective evaluation of wound pathology can be found at: http://www.apdt.com/veterinary/ assets/pdf/Ian%20Dunbar%20 Dog%20Bite%20Scale.pdf

Mary Green

Dog Training 411

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Mary Green

Q Is there any way I can stop my dog from barking at everyone and ev­erything that goes down my street? I like to leave my solid door open and the storm door closed, but Lacey spends the day barking. She doesn’t charge the door, thank goodness, but the barking needs to stop.

A It’s hard to completely extinguish barking, and perhaps that’s not what we want to do. One benefit of hav­ing dogs, even small ones, is that they can sound the alarm to warn you of a threat. It is possible, though, to teach a dog to stop barking when you tell her and maybe help her discriminate be­tween what is and isn’t bark-worthy.

You might start by covering the storm door with a decorative window film available at home improvement stores. There are lots of patterns avail­able, and you could select one that is opaque enough that she can’t see out, but the light comes through. Of course, you may only need to apply it to the lower portion of the door.

The most effective training option may be to teach Lacey the meaning of “that’s enough” or a similar signal. To do this, sit with her at the door, and when she barks, tell her, “That’s enough,” and give her a treat. It may feel like you’re rewarding her for barking—that’s OK, because at least for the second she is eating the treat, she isn’t barking. You can continue to give her treats until the person (distraction) is out of her sight. Pretty soon, she is barking one time and coming to you for her treat!

Teaching an alternate behavior is an­other option. When Lacey starts to bark at the door, call her to you and give her a toy, preferably something that squeaks and have her hold or carry it. When Parker, my Boxer, was a little guy, he would be so excited that he would grab whatever was handy, which often was a sock. We could say, “Parker, put a sock in it!” and he would grab a toy, bone or sock. To this day, nine years later, Parker still greets everyone with something in his mouth. At least the barking was muffled!

You might teach Lacey to go away from the door. At K9 Manners & More, we teach a “go to mat” skill that comes in very handy for this type of problem. By having Lacey go and lie down on her mat or dog bed, she is removing herself from the excitement of the door and us­ing self-control.

Q Are little dogs harder to train than regular size dogs?

A I’m not sure what you consider “regular size dogs” to be, since dogs come in all sizes! From toy and small dogs, such as Yorkshire Terriers or Chihuahuas to giant breeds like the Newfoundland and the Irish Wolfhound, the size of the dog’s brain will change, but the manner in which they learn is the same. There are perhaps notable differences in trainability.

In 1994, Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, wrote a book on dog intelligence, “The Intelligence of Dogs.” The book explains Coren’s theories about the differences in intel­ligence between different breeds of dogs. Coren published a second edition in 2006. He defines three aspects of dog intelligence in the book. Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, retrieving, guard­ing or supplying companionship. Adap­tive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems on his own. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans.

There are reasons why one might think little dogs are harder to train. Training little dogs may be physically hard on a person because of the need to bend over more than with a me­dium or large dog. A small dog’s tum­my fills up quickly on treats, making a training session very brief. Small dogs often are afraid of being stepped on or picked up, so they may stay out of arms’ reach. They also have a compara­tively small bladder, and housetraining may be more challenging than with a larger dog.

One thing is for certain in dogs… One size does not fit all!

Serving Those Who Have Served

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Stacy Pettit

Photography by Bob Foshay

   For some veterans, the battles continue every day even after the guns have qui­eted, and they have returned to what was once a peaceful home. In Afghani­stan and Iraq, each gun shot that stole away fellow soldiers and friends, and each IED blast that ripped away any chance of normality, left these veterans not only with obvious, external scars, but also with deep, hidden wounds. For these servicemen and women, the ghost of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continues to haunt their everyday lives, leaving some trapped in a dark world of war.

 

But one organi­zation is training its own team to battle PTSD’s effects on veterans by lead­ing them away from the unending battle with a little help from some four-legged friends. This past January, Thera­petics Service Dogs of Oklahoma began a pilot program to train a group of puppies to become service dogs for returning veterans suffering with the mental illness.

 

“Our goal in this program is the same as the goal in our main program,” says Susan Hartman, executive director for Therapetics. “We want our veterans that we serve through this program to be able to get their lives back, to do the things they want to do in life that they’re not able to do currently. If they just want to get out of the house and go grocery shopping, if they can achieve those goals with one of our ser­vice dogs, then we have met our goal.”

 

For the first time in its 20 years of serving individuals with physical disabili­ties, Therapetics is adding a program to include veterans without physical dis­abilities.

 

“For some time, veterans with physi­cal disabilities received priority status in our application process,” Hartman says. “The idea of serving our returning veter­ans has always been really important to Therapetics. PTSD was a medical condi­tion we were going to be faced with. We needed to learn about it.”

 

In fact, experts believe PTSD has im­pacted 11 to 20 percent of returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs website. PTSD is also associated with elevated rates of suicide and substance abuse among veterans.

 

After discussing the possibility of the pilot program with community mem­bers, Hartman says she discovered the overwhelming need for such a program for veterans in Oklahoma. The new pro­gram was not expected to begin for a few more months. However, when Thera­petics volunteers donated three German Shepherd puppies to be trained specifi­cally for veterans with PTSD, Hartman says she knew the time to begin serving veterans with hidden, but sometimes crippling, disabilities was now.

 

“You could be talking about working with a veteran who hasn’t even left his house in six months, or who hasn’t gone into a restaurant in a very long time,” she says.

 

That life of fear and isolation was ex­actly the world Shawn Wright had lived in for more than a decade before turning to Therapetics. After serving as a com­bat medic in Bosnia in the 1990s, Wright was not able to break free from the feel­ing that he needed to be aware of the potential threats around him. And any­thing could trigger a flashback says his wife, Julie. At one time, while ordering take-out from a restaurant, an employee dropped a plate in the kitchen. “He actu­ally hit the ground,” Julie says.

 

Wright continually avoided crowd­ed public places and could not keep a steady job, eventu­ally leading him to alcohol to deal with his dark world. Af­ter years of battling his life of fear, he was diagnosed with PTSD along with a traumatic brain injury. But having a name for his de­mons did not make life easier.

 

“Finding where you fit into society is kind of rough,” he says. Last sum­mer, after research­ing ways to deal with PTSD, Shawn and Julie contacted Therapetics to ask if they would be in­terested in training a service dog for Shawn. A few months later, Shawn was partnered with his service dog Jake.

 

Shawn says Jake has made an over­whelming difference in his life, allowing him to go out in public and live a life again. With ease, Jake will stand be­tween Shawn and another person dur­ing conversations, a situation that at one time brought Shawn anxiety when someone seemed to be too close. When Shawn has nightmares, Jake will turn on the bedroom light. And in times when Shawn is overwhelmed and in a panic, Jake will immediately bring comfort by standing against Shawn.

“Having Jake there reassures me that it’s OK to be in a crowd, and that no one will come behind me and attack me,” Shawn says. “He gives me a sense of security.” The success of Shawn and his dog last year were the roots for the new pilot program. Now, to ensure vet­erans like Shawn can get back to living a life free of fear, the donated German Shepherds for the new program are un­dergoing basic and advanced obedience classes. They are also working on learn­ing how to do certain tasks for the vet­eran, which Hartman says is imperative, even if the client does not have a physi­cal impairment.

“The service dogs that will be part­nered with a veteran with PTSD will do a lot more than simply provide emotional comfort through their existence,” she says. “It goes far beyond that. The dog can go into a dark room and turn on a light. In some programs, dogs are trained to wake up a person when they’re having a nightmare.”

 

Like Jake does for Shawn, service dogs can also learn how to help ease a panic attack by leaning on the person, placing a paw on him or her, or resting its head on the individual’s lap, which provides a physical feeling to ground the veteran.

 

Before moving to Oklahoma to be a service dog instructor for Therapetics, Donna Willis instructed service dogs in California, training many of them spe­cifically for PTSD service. Even though training a dog to be a service dog takes months of hard work, funding and dedi­cation, Willis says it is more than worth it once the dog is matched with the client.

 

For the past four months, she has been working with three volunteer pup­py raisers and trainers. These volunteers give their time to not only take care of the dog as their own pet, but also train it at home, in the Therapetics classroom, and out in the community.

 

Although the German Shepherds are quickly learning commands, the most difficult piece of training these dogs for the PTSD program will be socializing them in public, Willis says.

 

“Socialization is such a key part, be­cause these dogs have to be pretty much bulletproof and 100 percent ap­propriate in public,” she says. “If you sat and thought about every place you as an individual might go, that’s what these dogs have to be exposed to.”

 

And because the clients for this pilot program might struggle with being in public due to their PTSD, Hartman says they plan to be patient when the time comes that the veteran begins work­ing and training with the dog out in the community.

 

“When you walk into Wal-Mart with a service dog, your anonymity goes out the window,” she says. “Going out into the community with a service dog will be different for a veteran with PTSD be­cause oftentimes they don’t want to be noticed. They don’t want to have to deal with the public.”

 

Hartman says the organization will be­gin taking applications for the dogs in a few months, and she expects to have the three dogs fully trained and placed in 18 months. Through donations, fundraising and grants, Therapetics will place these trained service dogs with individuals at no cost.

 

Volunteer puppy raiser and trainer Jennifer Bagley has been helping train one of these dogs, Trigger, for the past few months.

 

Although Bagley says Trigger has much more to learn before he can be placed with a client, she says she is proud to be part of such a needed pro­gram for veterans who have already giv­en so much.

 

“I have never served my country, so this is my way to actually do that,” she says.

Dog Training 411

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Mary Green

Q My mother, who is 80 years old, wants a companion dog. She re­cently lost her elderly little dog and is really lonely without him. I am con­cerned about her being able to house train a new dog, and I worry about a dog knocking her down or scratching her skin. I’m not really excited about the prospect, but I want my mom to be happy. Suggestions?  — Karen

ASeniors and pets have so much to offer each other; I hope you are open to supporting your mother in bringing a new pet into her household. Besides the companionship a pet can provide for your mother, being respon­sible for feeding and watering the dog and toileting him can really give her a reason to get up and going in the morn­ings. Dogs always seem to wake up hap­py and ready to get on about the daily business. Their happy attitude works wonders toward getting their humans motivated, too! Petting and stroking an animal has been proven to lower blood pressure—so there are even health ben­efits to pet ownership.

My recommendation would be to bring in an older dog rather than a puppy. I would also recommend a dog not over about 15 lbs. Some groups only adopt senior dogs to senior citi­zens. Dogs that are 7 or 8 years old are often overlooked at a shelter, but have a lot of living yet to do! As you meet prospective pets for your mom, look for a dog that is friendly and wants to be petted, or wants to sit in your lap, but is not “clingy.” A dog that can settle down with a toy or chew bone, or is crate trained, will give your mother suf­ficient space and time to do what she needs to do without having him underfoot.

I understand your concerns about an octo­genarian being responsible for house training a new dog. A small dog can learn to eliminate on the wee wee pads or in a litter box. You also might consider installing a doggie door if that is possible. If you fashion a small yard (maybe an exercise pen) just out­side of the doggie door, the dog can’t go through the doggie door and get to the remotest point in the yard! If a dog is in a foster situation, you might know if you are adopting a house-trained dog.

Could a family member volunteer to take mother’s dog to a training class? She could be included in doing the homework, and she might enjoy the class outings without having to manage the dog at the same time. Someone else could teach the dog how to greet properly without jumping up and how not to be underfoot. At K9 Manners & More, we have a Day Training program where the professional trainers work with the dogs, and then teach the own­ers what to do.

Don’t just rush out and get your mother a dog. Do your homework to find the right fit for her. The shelters are full of previously owned and loved family pets looking for a new family. Sometimes people lose their jobs and/ or homes, and move where they cannot take their pets. Not all dogs at the shel­ter are from hoarding situations, puppy mills or from the rough streets.

Lastly, have a plan in place for caring for your mother’s dog’s needs: veteri­nary transportation and care, purchas­ing food and supplies, and see to his or her grooming needs. And have a plan of who will take care of your mother’s dog should she be hospitalized short term, or long term, and who will be respon­sible for the dog in the event of your mother’s passing away

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