Help — my puppy is wild!

Silva playing with a carpetDo you have a furry wild child on your hands? Here are a few tips to help calm that puppy!

The Witching Hour: Generally speaking, puppies get especially wound near dusk, or between 6 and 8 p.m., depending on where you live. When possible, see to it that your puppy is exercised and pottied before this time, so he or she can rest in the crate with a Kong stuffed with dinner (a high-quality canned food or soaked kibble) and frozen.

Jumping Up: The general rule of thumb must be, “Jumping makes all attention and fun activity stop.” If you are sitting and your puppy jumps on you, stand up, folding your arms and turning your back. Once your puppy has all four paws on the floor, sit back down, wait a few seconds, then pet her if she is sitting, standing, or laying down nicely. This also applies for when you are on walks. If you are walking your pup and she begins to bite, paw and jump up, stop walking, cross your arms and turn away. As soon as she has stopped, start walking again. Remember to keep those walks short for easily tired puppy legs!

Jumping / Scratching / Biting While Playing: Leashes, tethered to a sturdy object, can be a lifesaver, especially for supervised child-puppy play. Playing with your pup when he is tethered has some special rules, however: NEVER tease or frighten a tethered puppy, and NEVER leave your tethered puppy unsupervised.

While playing with your tethered pup, interrupt play before he gets over-stimulated by practicing a sit cue followed by a treat when he sits. Use “Go play!” to resume play. If he starts jumping or biting at you or your child, stop the playtime by stepping out of his reach and waiting silently until he calms down (sits or keeps all four feet on the ground). Once he calms down, ask him for a sit, then say “Go play!” and resume playing.

Relaxing Time for Your Puppy (and You!): If your puppy does settle nicely in her crate, take advantage of this and give her some alone time to relax in her crate during the day. Allow her about 30 minutes once or twice a day to be alone in her crate with a frozen Kong while you are in the house (at least one of these times can be The Witching Hour — see above). This will not only give you a break, but teach your puppy to settle herself for short periods of time. It will also teach her that her crate is a relaxing, safe place she can go when she is overwhelmed, tired, or stressed out, and that you don’t only put her in the crate when she’s about to be left alone.

Practice these tips and you may have your little Tazmanian Devil settled in no time!

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How can I get my puppy to stop biting?

TeethIf you have a new puppy, your hands and arms are likely covered in bite and scratch marks, and at least a few of your favorite sweaters have holes designed by sharp puppy teeth.

What can you do to keep your little shark from mouthing and biting all day long?

Here are a couple of effective strategies to get you started:

Let ’em bite. “What? I thought this article was about getting my puppy to stop biting!” It is, but bear with me: Your 2- to 5-month-old puppy is at an optimum age to learn bite inhibition, an all-important process that starts when a puppy is still with his or her mother and littermates. Those sharp teeth that we find so painful — well, they annoy mom and the pup’s brothers and sisters, too! Mom and littermates teach the puppy not to bite so hard. As the pups grow into adults with teeth that could do real damage, they learn  to use their mouths gently to avoid life-threatening injuries to one another. Humans can use this learning process to our advantage.

To teach bite inhibition, start with a biting puppy on a leash and a soft toy. Allow the puppy to mouth and play with the toy while you pet her. Then, if her teeth scratch your skin or she grabs your clothing, simply stop playing, step on the leash and cross your arms. Say nothing. Wait five seconds before offering to play with your puppy again. If she intentionally bites you, or bites hard, say “Ouch!” in an offended tone and walk away (tethering your pup first if necessary so she doesn’t follow you and bite your pants). Return and attempt to play again in 10 seconds. This teaches your puppy that calm, gentle mouthing does not end play, but hard bites or bites to clothing does. Do not encourage young children to teach puppies bite inhibition; see time-outs, below.

Time out! If you’ve laid a foundation by teaching bite inhibition (see above), time-outs can be an effective tool for teaching the puppy not to put his mouth on people. Around age five months, as the puppy’s adult teeth settle in, we can start to request that our puppies not mouth us during play. Time-outs can also be effective for those wild-child times when your pup is super-stimulated and can’t calm himself down.

The timeout area can be his crate, exercise pen, a small puppy-proofed room with a door, his leash or other tether, or outdoors if you have a fenced yard. Give time-outs when your polite requests to stop biting (by stopping play) aren’t working.

To use time-outs effectively, pick a word or phrase to use every single time you put your puppy in time out. Popular picks include “Uh-oh,” Oh no!” or “Too bad.” Use this word or phrase only when you’re about to give a time out, not at any other time. This prevents the puppy from running away from you any other time you reach for him, and helps him understand why he is being separated from you.

The time-out should last no longer than a minute, unless he is barking to leave the crate (wait for a bit of silence before opening the door), you are finished playing with him or need to leave the house. In the latter cases, he can rest in his crate with a Kong or other toy.

What kind of treats should I bring to class?

Choosing which kind of and how many treats, or food rewards, to bring to a dog training class is one of the most important factors in your training success during class time. Choosing the right treat can mean the difference between a “Wow!” training session and one where you struggle to hold your dog’s attention the entire class.

Before choosing a food treat for your dog, consult your veterinarian about your dog’s diet and make sure there is no food your dog cannot have, for health reasons. Most dogs tolerate “people food” relatively well, especially considering they will only be getting this food during class and occasional training outings, rather than every meal.

Which treat is best? I often find a combination of foods is the most likely to hold a dog’s attention throughout an entire class, with other dogs, new sights and scents and people all competing for your dog’s attention. Experiment at home with several different food rewards, and keep a list of which treats your dog likes best. (I like to rank them 1 to 10, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the most amazing treat that your dog will do anything to get!)

For example, kibble or dry dog biscuits might be ranked a 1 or a 2, even if your dog loves to eat. These offerings are typically ignored during a class by all but the most indiscriminate of eaters. Uncooked hot dogs and store-bought treats usually come in at a 3 or 4. This may surprise you, as it does a number of people who bring these treats to class, only to find their dog snubs them. “But he loves these at home!” is a typically surprised reaction.  

Level 5 treats and above are usually required to compete with the dog movie theater that is a training class. This could include anything from cheese to Natural Balance or Red Barn food rolls to boiled chicken breast, roast beef or even cooked liver!

A few more tips for using treats in class:

Use small treats. If your dog finds the treat appetizing enough, she should be willing to work for small portions. Small dogs can have licks of canned food, baby food or peanut butter from a jar or spoon. Or, you can take a treat sized for a larger dog and cut it into smaller pieces. Medium-sized dogs can have treats the size of your fingernail. For a large dog, more than 70 lbs., aim for something similar to nickel-sized slices of hot dog. Some folks like to use a Lickety Stik, essentially bacon flavoring delivered one lick at a time.

Texture matters. Think about how you will be using the treats in class; if you need them to lure the dog into position, sometimes a soft treat, or food the dog can lick rather than eat piece-by-piece is best. If you are working on exercises that require you to dole out one piece of food at a time, soft but sturdy pieces are often best. Whatever you choose, make sure it is not crunchy; dogs often have a harder time swallowing crunchy pieces quickly, or are forced to chew them, which slows repetition of the behavior or delivery of the next treat.

You will use more treats during class than you think you will. Plan on bringing a full dinners’ worth of treats, plus half, to class. For example, if your dog normally eats one cup of food at his evening meal, bring one-and-a-half cups of treats. Better to have food left over than to run out before you and your dog have finished training!

How a shelter dog is made

Ian Dunbar talks about how dogs become shelter dogs.

The message in this short video is vital for anyone who is getting or has a puppy, works with shelter or rescue dogs, or anyone considering adopting a shelter or rescue dog.

Creative Commons License (Photo credit: bk2000)

Teach your dog to Roll Over

This trick is great fun for most dogs, but it can be a little scary for some pups to show their belly. Go slow, and if your dog isn’t having fun, you can always try something else.

Step One: [intlink id=”635″ type=”post”]Get your dog to lie down.[/intlink]

Step Two: With a treat in one hand and a clicker (if you so choose) in your other, lure the dog on his side by moving the treat behind his head. Your dog should turn his head and shift his body position; when he does, click and give him the treat.

Step Three: Go a little further each time, until your dog is on his side. Click, treat, and continue luring him onto his back, giving treats often. If your dog gets tired, don’t be afraid to give him a break.

Step Four: Once your pup is on his back, he might roll to the other side on his own! If he does, click and treat it, release him, and keep going.

Step Five: When he is reliably rolling all the way over with your lure, start going through the same procedure without a treat in your hand, but still click and reward once he completes the behavior.

Step Six: Add in your verbal cue while very gradually fading your lure. After a few sessions, your pup will now roll over on cue without the hand signal!

Have a blast teaching your dog this entertaining trick!

Creative Commons License photo credit: OakleyOriginals

Best Pets Guide to Crate Training Your Dog

Guess what? Dogs have to be taught to like their crates! Here are a few ways we get new dogs settled into their crate homes:

  • Feed all of your dog’s meals and special treats in the crate. This includes stuffed Kongs, bully sticks, bones and chews, as well as any “just because” treats or table scraps. (If your dog is refusing to enter the crate, don’t force her in or close her in while she eats — just put the food in the back of the crate for a week or two, then gradually start closing the door while she eats.)
  • For the first 2-3 weeks after getting a new dog or puppy, expect lots of whining and crying while she’s in the crate. Do NOT open the crate door if the dog is barking, whining or pawing at the crate door. Wait for even one second of silence. If your hand is on the crate door and the dog puts her paws on it or begins barking, withdraw your hand and wait for one second of silence/paws off before attempting to open the door again.
  • Always leave your dog or puppy with as many stuffed chew toys (Kongs full of kibble and canned food, sterilized bones with peanut butter, etc.) as possible when you put him in the crate. Save an extra-special treat or Kong to deliver right as you’re walking out the door, so he associates you leaving with wonderful things.
  • Unless you have a puppy with poor bladder control or an adult dog who eats blankets and stuffing (which could create a medical emergency), provide a soft bed or blanket in the crate. Test an older dog or puppy by leaving a blanket in the crate while you’re home to monitor them; if they chew or destroy it, go without. Very young puppies can have a towel the first few days as they settle in — but be aware most WILL use the towel as a “diaper” for accidents and you will need to remove it eventually to achieve housetraining.
  • Pick up whatever toys/treats/food your dog hasn’t finished when you arrive home, and quietly put one in the back of the crate later in the day for your dog to find.
  • Use the crate. Keep crate time short and pleasant (lots of GOOD food and treats) at first. Many people give up after a week of listening to their dog whine and bark, declaring, “The dog doesn’t like the crate.” This creates a dog who not only won’t stay in a crate, but has a difficult time being boarded, and who is less welcome on your travels. We have to teach the dog that being in the crate is a good thing.
  • New dogs and puppies should stay in the crate at least one hour per day while you are home. Otherwise, the puppy or dog learns that you only put him in the crate when you leave — not a good thing! This also teaches your new dog or puppy that he doesn’t have to be in the crate when you’re there — not good if you ever need to crate your dog because of visitors or for a medical reason.
  • If your dog is uncomfortable in his crate, but you must leave him there while you’re gone, have someone come every 3-4 hours to let the dog out to relieve itself, and provide re-fills of the tasty treats in the crate. Never leave a puppy under 14 weeks in a crate longer than 1-2 hours, and no longer than 3-4 hours until six months. From there, you can gradually increase crate alone time to 8 hours, if need be.
  • RED FLAGS: If your dog is barking in the crate for a solid two hours or longer (use an audio or video recorder to verify if you’re out of earshot), drooling excessively or damaging the crate or herself (bloody nose or paws), STOP using the crate and contact both your veterinarian and a qualified dog behavior professional. Continuing to crate a dog who is severely anxious can result in both physical and psychological harm to the dog!

Why Puppy Kindergarten is vital for your dog

KesselCookiesDo you have a puppy between eight weeks and three months old? Then there’s not a minute to lose: enroll your new friend in Puppy Kindergarten!

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recently released a position statement recommending puppy socialization classes for puppies three months of age and younger. This recommendation is an exciting acknowledgment of what dog trainers and behaviorists have known for years — the first three months of a puppy’s life are too critical to ignore.

“Enrolling in puppy classes prior to three months of age can be an excellent means of improving training, strengthening the human-animal bond, and socializing puppies in an environment where risk of illness can be minimized,” according to the report. “Puppy socialization classes can offer a safe and organized means of socializing puppies and more quickly improve their responsiveness to commands.”

Our puppy classes cover basic obedience commands such as sit, down, stay, come when called; address issues such as chewing, jumping up, mouthing and pulling on leash; and also provide a supervised, controlled environment for continued socialization with other puppies and introductions to new people.

Enroll today and take the first step in a lifetime of enrichment for your puppy. To download your copy of the AVSAB report, click here.

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The 15-minute feeding schedule

Kibble faceWhat is the 15-minute feeding schedule?

It’s the simplest way to alter the way your dog interacts with you, with the least effort on your part.

If your dog is already on the 15-minute feeding schedule, pat yourself on the back, go grab some kibble and a clicker, and get to work on Charging The Clicker. If your dog turns up his nose at the idea of dinner as a reward, the 15-minute feeding schedule will work wonders.

What to do:
1. Check with your vet about feeding requirements. Most dogs will survive on the low end of the bag of kibble’s feeding recommendations with no ill effects, but if in doubt, ask your veterinarian. If you’re feeding substantially more than the low end suggestion, and your vet says it’s OK, cut back to the recommended amount over a period of days.
2. Pick up your dog’s food bowl. The days of filling the bowl in the morning and leaving it out all day are over. (“But he likes to eat overnight/while I’m gone/etc.!” Exactly… your dog is determining the food’s value, not you.)
3. Set a timer… for 15 minutes! (Or 20, if you’re feeling guilty.) Then, set out the normal portion for that meal. Whatever is still there after 15 minutes is picked up and returned to the bag. Do NOT save the uneaten portion for the next meal. The regular portion is set out at the next meal.

That’s it! Your dog may not eat at first, but soon he’ll realize there’s an expiration date on the food bowl, and it’s determined by YOU.

Soon you’ll see a happy, engaged response when you reach for the food bag, indicating that your dog views his kibble as a valuable resource. And once you control the resources, you can control the dog.

Creative Commons License photo credit: mrdorkesq

Tip: What to look for in the parents of your puppy

French Bulldog mama and trio of pups 11 days oldCreative Commons Licensephoto credit: janiejonesmt

So you’re ready to get your next puppy, and have done your research in choosing a breeder. Or maybe you’re about to pluck a puppy from a [intlink id=”44″ type=”post”]shelter or rescue[/intlink] out of a litter that arrived with its mother. Of course you will want to know as much about your new puppy’s upbringing as possible, and when purchasing from a breeder, this includes meeting the sire and dam in person. As puppies aren’t ready to be placed into their new homes until eight weeks or so, that should leave you plenty of time to visit with the litter and parents, when possible.

Here’s what to watch for in the sire and dam of your new pup:

  • Are they friendly? By friendly, we don’t mean tail wagging and sniffing and jumping all over you. That’s arousal. We mean, is the dog eager to be held, petted by you or interested in playing a game with you after an initial greeting? Or does he or she wander off and ignore you? (Or worse, stay in a corner and bark?) A dog with little social reaction to humans often won’t tolerate handling. If the dog is interacting in a gentle, attentive way with the breeder or foster person but not you, that’s fine — so long as the dog isn’t actively avoiding you or displaying overt signs of aggression, such as barking or growling.
  • Do they live in the house? If either the sire or dam lives primarily outdoors, or in a kennel, beware. There’s usually a reason the breeder or foster parent doesn’t want the dog in the house — regardless of what he or she tells you.
  • Are they mature? An immature sire or dam (younger than 2 years) may have hidden health problems that haven’t yet surfaced. When buying from a breeder, be sure the stock has been health tested for diseases common to the breed, and that the breeder’s contract covers the pup for inherited diseases for a minimum of two years.
  • Do they appear to be in good health? Of course you will take your new puppy to the vet almost immediately after bringing him or her home, but picking a puppy whose sire or dam is ill or in poor condition means your pup’s immunity may also be compromised.
  • Do you like the parents? Listen to your gut — if something seems off about either parent, or you find yourself worrying about either parent’s behavior, look elsewhere. While training and environment certainly play a part, your puppy will inherit traits from both parents! Don’t feel pressured to take a puppy whose parents you wouldn’t take home.

Free puppy training download from Dr. Ian Dunbar

martywoodswebtmDr. Ian Dunbar is giving away his book, “After You Get Your Puppy,” as a free download during the month of January!

If you are thinking about getting a puppy, or already have a puppy, be sure to download your copy today.