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Dog Training 411

posted April 15th, 2009 by
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By Mary Green

Q- One of our beloved dogs was killed in an accident. We had 2 dogs and they had been together since puppies, 5 years. Our lab seemed ok after the loss but now she acts bored or depressed. We thought our surviving dog was ok but she just lies around unless we walk her (which we do twice a day). Is it possible that she misses the other dog and is depressed? The dog we lost was the one that kept things going… checking out the yard, watching and chasing squirrels, playing. We have talked a lot about getting another dog but we have questions. We are still very hurt over the loss – should we wait? Will our 5 year old accept another dog? Would a puppy be better? A female or male dog?

A- Losing a beloved pet is hard on everyone, including the other pets. Just as you go through a period of grief, so does your dog. It may take some time for her to get back to her old self. It may also be that being responsible for her own entertainment is new to her. Step up her exercise by increasing the duration of her walks, or increasing the frequency. This may give her more stimulation. Play soccer or fetch with her in the yard. You could even make the yard more interesting by hiding food toys, such as Kongs, in the yard that she can “hunt.” Some people get very creative in their dog-friendly yards and gardens.

If you decide to add another pet to your household, be sure that you are doing it for the right reasons; because you are ready, not just because your dog is lonely! Since your dog was raised along with another dog, she should be accepting of a new dog. Probably, in this case, an older dog would be a better fit than a puppy. We generally recommend that the next pet be of opposite sex to the current pet. When you are selecting your next dog, be sure to watch how he likes to play. There are some distinctive play styles among dogs. Some, such as sporting dogs, like to play rough. They enjoy charging at one another, then body slamming, hip checking, and physical contact. Others, particularly like the herding breeds, enjoy games that are chase and be chased. Many dogs like to mouth wrestle, or face fight, one standing up and one lying down, mouths open and often vocalizing, too. The last group is the scare-and-be-scared group. These guys aren’t afraid of other dogs, but like to play with a freeze…then poke. They burst into spontaneous activity. Generally, the rough and physical players do not play well with the other styles, but play well with same-style of players.*

Q- We have a six-month old male Shih Tzu who is a handful. When he is upset or corrected, or bored with your tones, he launches into a breathtaking run (inside or outside) that would surely win any agility contest. His final lap is to throw a shoulder into your thigh at full speed. It could be a head butt but he’s so fast I’m not sure. Anyway, is this behavior common in Shih Tzus and if so will he calm down with age?

A- Most six-month old puppies are a handful – regardless what breed! He is actually entering the adolescent period, which lasts from six to eighteen months, and can really represent trying times. I suspect that his breathtaking runs are just his blowing off steam, or pent up energy. I have seen this behavior continue into adulthood in many breeds, including Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, and Maltese. It may be borne out of frustration, or joy! A good way to channel this energy would be to teach the dog to play fetch. Even if he doesn’t bring the toy back, toss it so he has to run, and then toss a second one for him to chase if he’s hanging onto the first one. In order to better control your puppy while he’s in the house, use the leash. When you just want to sit for a bit and read the paper, or check your email, put the puppy on leash, sit down in your chair, and settle him down with a stuffed Kong toy, or chew bone. Inside manners are important to learn – not racing through the house can be one of them. Direct these activities to the outdoors, unless of course it’s too hot. Find other games for him to play.
If he is on one of his high speed runs, try to intervene before he has a chance to body slam you. You might be able to distract him by tossing a toy for him to fetch. Body slamming into people is a pretty dangerous practice for any dog or human. Preventing the hot laps, or moderating the intensity would be a good start.

*An excellent resource on choosing a shelter dog to join your family is, “Successful Dog Adoption” by Sue Sternberg.

For More Information Contact:

Mary Green, Certified Pet Dog Trainer, is the owner of K9 Manners & More in Broken Arrow. She is a consultant for the Tulsa SPCA, trainer for TheraPetics Service Dogs of OK, and is a monthly guest on the KOTV Noon News. www.k9-manners.com

Dog Training 411

posted January 15th, 2009 by
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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
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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
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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
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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. 

Dog Training 411

posted January 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Mary Green

Q: My neighbor has informed me that my dog barks all the time, and she is going to report me to animal control.  What can I do?

AIf your dog is in the backyard home alone while you are gone, there may be lots of reasons for the barking.  In order to resolve the issue, you may have to do some detective work.  Ask the neighbor for specifics about the barking, such as what’s going on when he is barking.  Set up a video camera, tape recorder, or do “recon” from a neighbor’s house.  Leave your house, drive around the block, park and sneak back to observe.  Once you have determined a cause, or causes, for the barking you can take corrective measures.  This is applicable whether your dog is outdoors barking in the yard or inside your apartment. 

He may be lonely or bored, and spending too much time home alone without enough to do.  How can you tell if this is the problem?  His barking may be very repetitive and may include howling, and he may be standing in the middle of the yard.  Adolescent dogs (those under 2 years), sporting dogs and herding dogs are particularly notorious for boredom barking.  

You can combat boredom by creating a more interesting environment.  Instead of feeding dog food out of a bowl, use food-stuffing toys such as Kong®, Buster Cube®, or Premier Busy Buddy® and let your dog “hunt” for his breakfast.  You can even put a few dog biscuits in a brown paper sack and hide them in the yard for a scavenger hunt.  Create a digging area in a child’s sandbox, hang a tether-ball from a sturdy tree branch.  Leave a good-sized knuckle bone outside for him to chew.  For indoor dogs, leave the TV or radio on to mask outside noises.

Maybe he is becoming territorial, or protective of the area.  If his barking sounds like an alarm (sharp, rapid) and his body posture is erect and targeted at something, he may be guarding.  Sometimes these dogs create paths that follow the fence line.  If he is barking at traffic, people or dogs passing by, you may have to restrict his access to certain areas of the yard, or windows.  When you are home, teach your dog a stop-barking cue by calling him to come to you and giving him a really good reward.  If you have a privacy fence, he may be frustrated by looking at the world through a slit in the fence.  If that’s the case, try creating a window by cutting out a small portion of the fence and blocking it with wire screening.

He may be afraid of something.  I worked with a client whose dog barked frantically and continually when he was left outdoors.  This was a newly developing problem and we were able to determine that he was frightened by the construction going on at another house.  We successfully integrated crate training indoors, and the dog was fine left alone.

Take a good look at your dog’s typical day.  Is he isolated for a long period of time?  Are you taking him on daily walks, playing fetch, grooming him, taking him for car rides, or going to training class?  Every dog needs physical exercise, mental stimulation, and social time with their family.  

Regardless of the reason, nuisance barking causes bad feelings between neighbors, and can potentially lead to removing the dog from the home, or even retaliation.  Devices such as no-bark collars (citronella, high-frequency noise, or shock) may appear as a solution, but these do not address the underlying cause of the dog’s barking, and often result in developing other bad behavior.

Q: What do you do for a dog with separation anxiety?  

AFirst, you have to know what separation anxiety is, and if your dog really “has” it.  Destructive behavior that happens when the dog’s owner is absent may just be an issue of boredom or access.  True separation anxiety occurs every time the dog is left alone.  The dog may become anxious when he realizes the owner is preparing to leave — gathering car keys, coat, purse, etc.  When the owner is gone, the dog may pace, whine, salivate, and destroy things.  He may shake or tremble.  In severe cases the dog may urinate and defecate, and self-mutilate.  

Mild cases may be helped by altering your patterns of coming and going.  Keep all greetings very low-key.  Change your routine; put your keys in a different place.  Leave the radio or TV on for company.  Teach your dog not to shadow you from room to room.  Dr. Patricia McConnell, says “All your dog needs to learn is:  crate = feeling good.”  A good crate training routine can be a lifesaver for a home-alone dog.  In her booklet, “I’ll be Home Soon,” Dr. McConnell has written great information that the average pet owner can use for a mild case of separation anxiety.

Serious separation anxiety cases are not easily treated without professional help, and perhaps the addition of anti-anxiety medications.

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