Tips on Common Behavior Problems – Better yet, avoiding them from the start. See below for: Mouthy, Nipping at Clothing, Jumping, Digging, Stealing, Free Feeding (Don’t), & Preparing for Baby’s Arrival, Housetraining, Why Exercise Pens are great!
Teach puppies early on – no teeth on skin! If you do this right, you will never have to worry about your dog biting a person or another dog. This is called “Good Bite Inhibition” and they must learn it when they are young puppies. Don’t play with your puppy unless you have a toy or you will become the toy because dogs play with their mouths. If your puppy puts teeth on skin, no matter how hard, say “OUCH” and walk away to the far side of the room for 3 seconds. Act like they truly hurt you, then turn and ask “where’s your toy?” Go and get a toy with your puppy and resume play until teeth contact skin again and repeat the process. Practice this routinely and set up a training session by repeating this 5-10 times in a row every day for a week and your puppy will learn not to put teeth on skin. Yeah! If your puppy keeps jumping and snapping at you while you walk away, use an exercise pen and lean over to play or use a tie-down, a leash tied to a chair, and practice over and over again. (Never leave a puppy unattended on a tie-down.) This teaches your dog to go get a toy to initiate play. And more importantly, don’t bite people! Nipping at Clothing? Stand still like you were a fence post and redirect your dog to a toy. Do not pull on whatever your dog is grabbing (like your pant leg) as this starts the tug-o-war game. If your puppy is continually doing this consider putting your puppy safely away in an exercise pen to ward off bad behavior like this. (For some pups, saying ‘ouch’ is too stimulating and needs to be omitted from the above described exercise.)
Aggressive Biting, Growling, and Snapping
Set up an evaluation with us. We need to see if your dog’s aggression is triggered by fear of people, fear of other dogs, frustration, lack of leadership-agreement by the owners, food, or taking the alpha role in the household. After the evaluation, follow the recommended steps to start changing your dog’s behavior.
Do not give your dog any attention for jumping on you. Attention includes eye contact, pushing down with hands, and saying, “no”. Instead, turn so that your dog’s paws fall to the ground. Keep your arms folded. Don’t use arms and hands to push away dogs – they see them as playthings. When all four paws are on the floor, make eye contact with the dog and wait for a sit and then reward the dog with calm praise and a pat on the chest or under the chin. Teach your dog to bring a toy. Dogs do what works, so teach them and make it worth their while. All visitors need to follow the same instructions – consistency is crucial. Dogs do not generalize well. The rules must be the same for all people and in numerous places.
Observe the location of the digging site. Look for any motivations for the digging such as:
- Tree/Shrub roots: Remove the tree, put a fence around tree, or fence off that part of the yard.
- Sprinkler heads: Dogs sometimes dig at these due to over-watering or leaking sprinkler heads – when the ground is wet, your dog’s sense of smell is magnified so the curiosity goes deep into the soil.
- Gopher holes: Take action to exterminate gophers on your own. Fence your dog temporarily to the other side of the yard if using gopher traps that may harm your dog if he digs.
- Escaping the yard: Find out where the dog is going. Is he bored? Do you walk him every morning – even if it’s for only ten minutes? Does he have a playmate down the street? Try feeding your dog’s boredom by stuffing or freezing their food inside of Kong dog toys, or use the Kong Time device to dispense Kongs automatically at erratic intervals. He won’t want to leave the yard in case a Kong is dispensed. We have more tips on how to build a good fence to keep your dog inside your yard. E-mail us for more information.
- Is your male dog neutered? If not – nature is calling and your dog will want to escape the yard by digging or jumping the fence. Consider neutering your male to keep him in the yard and calm.
Do not put value on the item by getting angry or chasing the dog. Make an appropriate item that you have appear more fun or valuable. When the dog has lost interest in his item, replace it with the appropriate item. Prevention of the old habit will be key – put things away or if young, use an exercise pen (see below). Rotated toys keeps interest and value. If your puppy is continually doing this consider putting your puppy safely away in an exercise pen to ward off bad behavior like this.
Free Feeding (Don’t)
Are you leaving your dog’s food bowl out all day for your dog to graze on? If so, this is called “Free Feeding.” Since it’s available all the time, it has little value. From your dog’s perspective, the food rains from the sky. It is no big deal. And perhaps even more importantly, you are missing an opportunity twice a day to show your dog that you are his leader. The reason we want to do that is because we like dogs relaxed in our domestic world. Low-status ranking dogs are good family pets. They are not always “on.” They can relax and wait for our direction and leadership. Your dog soon realizes that it could not survive without you who provides the food. Feeding on a set schedule will help establish this relationship. Always measure your dog’s food per the manufacturer’s directions (minus some if you give treats during the day) and put the food bowl down for twenty minutes. Whatever is still in the bowl after that time is food that needs to go back into the food bag or thrown out – it is lost food – your dog doesn’t want/need it. Do the same for each meal. Before you know it your dog will love eating each and every meal completely and love you for providing it!
Preparing for Baby’s Arrival
Introduce your dog to as many smells, sights, sounds that are baby related BEFORE the baby arrives home.
Start using baby shampoo on your own hair. Same with baby powder and any other smells you can think of that the dog will need to become familiar with before baby arrives.
Finish the nursery early and furnish it with all its toys and goodies sooner rather than later. Take your dog in routinely to get treats. Walk around the nursery and the house with a doll wrapped in a blanket. Rocking it, cooing it. Let the dog sniff the doll whenever the dog wants to and praise the dog for being gentle in a soft voice.
Purchase and play a CD of baby sounds to get your dog used to the noise babies make. “Sounds of Baby” is a good CD and can be purchased at our Training Center in the lobby or can be ordered at www.soundsofbaby.com.
If you do your work right, then your dog will only have to acclimate to one change when baby arrives – the baby itself and not all the other things that can over stimulate the dog’s senses and cause stress.
Dogs create toilet preferences by surface. Grass and carpet are the two favorites because they are absorbent. Did the breeder have the puppy on grass? Consistency and repetition creates a desire for one surface – take your dog out routinely (or see below how to bring a toilet indoors for your puppy). If you do this right, your puppy will want to use only the outside for potty by the age of five months.
Bladders don’t mature until they are 5 months old so your puppy will need to potty often.
At 8-12 weeks old, take your puppy outside every 2-3 hours.
At 12-16 weeks old, take your puppy outside every 3-4 hours.
At 16-20 weeks old, take your puppy outside every 4-5 hours.
At 5-6 months old, if your puppy is doing good this far, your pup can learn to hold it’s bladder for 6-7 hours at a stretch provided they haven’t drank a lot of water due to exercise or warm temperatures. To help your puppy go all night without having to get up and go potty, consider restricting water intake at night by picking up the water bowl at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. Of course, if your dog is playing hard or it’s unusually hot your dog will need a drink after these hours so he does not get dehydrated.
Crate training helps your dog learn how to exercise bladder control since they don’t want to potty where they sleep. Without crate training most pups will potty as soon as they feel pressure in their bladder regardless of where they are – inside or outside. So crate training is good for this reason. Crate training is also good because dogs need to be crated from time to time, like at the vet’s office. Or you may choose to crate your dog routinely at night and throughout your dog’s life which is fine if your dog learns to like his crate. Let your dog out of the crate every 3 hours to stretch unless its at night. So teaching your puppy that crates are safe and relaxing is a good thing.
Teaching your dog how to enjoy the crate
We want dogs to think their crate is the happiest place on earth! So put Kongs, chews, toys, and food in the crate. Consider feeding your dog his meals in the crate. Never put your dog in a crate as punishment or when angry! They will learn to hate the crate. Don’t open the crate door when dog is crying or pawing at door to get out. Open when he is quiet. Teach your dog to go in for treats – throw one to the back, feed the second through closed door. If dog has an accident in the crate, perhaps your crate is too large and your puppy has figured out to use the back as a toilet – away from him. If this is the case, make the crate smaller by putting a partition in the back or if one is not provided with the crate put a box in the back. Clean the crate thoroughly with white vinegar as it will effectively remove the smell of urine for your dog. As a side note: most puppies will chew up their bedding. In my opinion, puppies are young and their bodies do not need a cushy bed in their crate perhaps just a towel to keep them warm.
For added success in house training your puppy, teach him how to ring a bell to go outside. Once your dog has a preference for going potty outside they will need a vehicle to let you know when they need out. This life-long habit is very helpful and effective since you will be able to hear the bell and know to let your dog out. Otherwise, dogs will stand at the door quietly hoping you see them and when we don’t, accidents happen. Or you are continually looking at the door to see if your dog is standing there waiting to go outside. A bell is unmistakable and convenient. If you travel with your dog, consider keeping a bell in your car so you can hang it on the doors of friend’s houses, hotels, etc.
Teaching your dog how to ring the bell
Tie a jingle-bell onto a string and hang on the door knob, at nose level. Each time you take your puppy out, pull the bell away from the door and let it bounce back making it ring. Say “outside” and open the door. When your dog rings the bell on his own, run to the door (don’t walk), open it and say “outside.” Each and every time your dog rings the bell he should find himself outside. This will create the association BELL=OUTSIDE. If your puppy is playing with the bell too often, put it away until you take your puppy outside. ACCIDENTS HAPPEN. DO NOT REPRIMAND YOUR PUPPY!
Your puppy doesn’t understand what you’re upset about! There is no association between the outdoors/grass and you screaming at your puppy. What they learn when you yell or put their nose in it is “Gee my owner doesn’t like my pee/poop but when I go behind the sofa it’s okay. So as long as they don’t see me doing it, its okay.” And so they learn to hide their potty activity. Sometimes puppies learn to eat their poop because they think we are upset about the poop itself – again they are not thinking of the outdoors as there is no association whatsoever when we are reprimanding them. If you see your puppy squatting in the house, say “Outside!” and calmly pick him up and walk him on to the grass and say “Go Potty.” Then follow up with a praise after your puppy’s bladder is completely empty with a “Good Boy/Girl.”
When accidents happen, and they WILL happen, clean with white vinegar. The white vinegar gets the smell out for dogs. Use paper towel to soak up urine and then poor the vinegar over the spot. Use enough to get down into the padding. For a pee spot the size of a quarter, for example, use 1/4 cup of white vinegar and let it soak in for 10 minutes. Then use more paper towel to absorb the vinegar. If you don’t clean with white vinegar, dogs will be able to smell it in the carpet and they have a “knee-jerk” type of reaction – i.e. “Oh, I smell a toilet” and squat automatically.
A note about Puppy Pads. Don’t use them. Since dogs learn to go on specific surfaces i.e. grass, concrete, etc. – you are teaching your dog to pee on fabric (cotton & polyester). I have heard of many dogs peeing on their owner’s bedding / sheets (cotton & polyester) because they have been taught to use this surface as their toilet. If you want the convenience of using a toilet indoors, read below.
How an exercise pen can make your life easy
When you get a puppy or retrain an older dog, get two exercise pens. One for indoors and one for outdoors on the grass. The outdoor one helps keep my puppy out of trouble – i.e. chewing on plants, sprinkler heads, digging, etc. The indoor pen also keeps the puppy from chewing on inappropriate items, stealing objects, and constantly demanding attention. Remember, puppies learn life-long habits – good and bad – when they are young. So if you don’t let them to get into trouble or continually pester you when young they don’t think to do these things when they grow up. Put the indoor ex pen in the corner of a room where the puppy can see you most of the time like in the far corner of the family room. Dogs hate to be isolated so avoid using the laundry room or a bathroom. Line the floor of the exercise pen with a heavy 3 mil plastic drop cloth like painter’s use. If the puppy pees on the plastic the urine travels to the puppy’s paws and they hate getting their paws wet with urine. Buy a strip of sod and cut it to fit into a cat litter box for small dogs or buy a cement tub for larger dogs. You can even use a plastic resin side patio table upside down because it is sturdy and easy to handle when taking out to hose off. After putting the sod into the container, in the beginning, put small pieces of your dogs poop along the edges of the sod to give your dog the idea that it is a toilet and not something to play with. Hose off and rotate sod pieces daily. You will need to purchase new sod every 1-2 weeks. The sod, drop cloth and plastic resin side patio table can typically be purchased at a Home Depot or Lowe’s. Restrict access to carpet/rugs unless your puppy has just eliminated and then allow access for only 10-15 minutes. Dogs two favorite surfaces to eliminate on are grass and carpet because they are absorbent. Now that you have an indoor potty and are teaching your puppy to eliminate on grass, you don’t have to take your puppy out when you need to leave the house or put your attention elsewhere. You can do this guilt free! For your puppy’s comfort, put his crate in the ex pen and leave the door open for napping. Be sure to leave water and plenty of toys in there too. All of your puppy’s needs are being met! And you are teaching your puppy good habits – i.e. how NOT to be destructive with household items, soil carpets/rugs, and continually demand your attention. What a Cool Dog!