BRINGING HOME AN ADULT DOG

Originally posted in July 2013

In the past month, I have been inundated with images through my email box and Facebook pleading for help to find a recently lost dog.  If I think that it will help, I share the image on my personal page and on my business page.  Overwhelmingly, the lost dogs are recent additions to the person’s home, or the family has just moved.  I also get a lot of calls after an adult dog has been placed in a home and he isn’t doing well for one reason or another; maybe he is toileting in the house, or perhaps he is climbing on the counters to help himself to whatever is on the counter.  Often these problems of straying, toileting and counter surfing could have been avoided.  The saying in medicine is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and nothing could be more true than this when bringing home an adult dog.

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I often get called in after this sort of an incident with a new dog.  This is an entirely preventable situation, but you must supervise.  Six weeks of active supervision and gradual exposure to your home will result in a seamless introduction of your new adult dog to your home without damage to your possessions or the risk of your new dog escaping.  Image credit: dansamy / 123RF Stock Photo

Regardless of where this dog came from, he won’t know you, your family, the rules, the layout of the house, the location of home within the neighbourhood, the car or anything else that makes up your day to day life.  Bringing home an adult dog and turning him loose in your home is about like taking a 6 year old to the toy section of the store and leaving him there unattended while you shop; you are pretty well guaranteed that he will make a mistake and end up in some sort of avoidable trouble.

It has been many years since I brought an adult dog into my home, but I have dogs at my home for training on a very regular basis.  When a dog comes to my house, the first week, the only thing I work on is settling into the routine of the home.  This means that dogs who come for training have a crate of their own (two dogs in one crate can be very risky!), two meals a day, play time with other dogs if appropriate, and a structured approach to integrating into our lives.  We know what the rules are, but the dog doesn’t, so it is our job to show the dog what he should do.  The first rule concerns how to get out of a crate.  Dogs who burst out of their crates are a danger to themselves and a danger to anyone in the kennel room.  To get out of a crate in my house, the dog must be under his own control as I approach his crate.  If he is barking or throwing himself around the inside of his crate, then another dog can have a turn first and I will come back to him.

Once a dog is showing self control in his crate, I open the door but I am ready to close it if he throws himself at the door.  I don’t teach him to make eye contact or sit in the first stages; that is too much all at once.  I just want him to not throw himself at the door.  When the dog is showing self control with the door partway open, I open it the rest of the way while telling him “outside” and I let him out of the crate.  With an adult dog, I don’t worry about bladder control as much as I do with a puppy, so I can often work the same behaviour a second time at the door to the dog yard.  When the dog is showing self control at the door, it magically opens.  If the dog is bouncing around, jumping on me or mouthing me, I wait till he shows self control.  I only take the dog by the collar if he is a danger to himself or to me.

When I open the door to the yard and let the dog out, I don’t just go in the house and let him have yard time.  I go out with him.  There are rules in my yard too; and I expect the dog to learn them, but he won’t learn them if I am not out there with him.  Once he has toileted, I will sometimes bring out another dog for the new dog to play with, and I stay outside to supervise their play.  While I am out in the yard I will alternate between engaging with the dogs and doing chores such as scooping the yard or refilling the water, or keeping the fence in good order.  Then I bring the dog back in for some crate time, often with a stuffed kong or chew toy.

The point of how I introduce my dogs to my home is to teach them what I want them to do.  I don’t let the dog off leash as soon as I arrive home and just hope for the best.  Training is not about hope or wishing or luck, it is about structuring the environment so that the dog can get the right answer often enough that he can learn what I want him to do.

I will work only on getting out of the crate and into the yard for the first week or so until I have added in eye contact and sitting at the door to get out of both the crate and the kennel room.  I don’t start introducing dogs to my very messy house until they understand the rules that they need to know to be successful in the kennel room.  Once they understand that barking and screaming and throwing yourself around doesn’t open doors, but that sitting and looking at me will, they can start to spend time in my kitchen with me.

My kitchen is a farm kitchen in a 160 year old house and it is nicely blocked off with baby gates.  In the kitchen are shoes, horse tack, dog toys, papers, boxes of business equipment and the detritus of a busy farm existence.  I don’t clean this stuff up; I want to teach the dog that there are things that he can have and things that he cannot have.  I bring the dog into the kitchen and then sit down with a cup of coffee.  If the dog wants attention, I give it to him.  My objective is not to socially isolate the dog; my objective is to teach him what I want in a kind manner.  If he touches a dog toy I will give him some attention.  If however he touches something that he ought not to, or if he climbs me, or if he jumps on the table, the woodstove or the counters, then I simply say “that’s enough”.  If he stops touching the item, then he can continue to spend time in the kitchen.  If he persists in touching the item, then I say “too bad” and take him back to his crate.  I institute a zero tolerance policy for touching things that are not yours, and the consequence of touching things that you are not allowed to touch is that you lose your turn in the kitchen.

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Notice that there is a lot for a dog to get into in my very messy farm kitchen.  If this young dog makes a mistake and gets into something she ought not get into, then she will go right down into her crate for a rest.  The way for a dog to keep access to the kitchen is to mind her manners, but I don’t expect that she will just know this.  She will indeed have to learn by trial and error what she is permitted to do.  Until she is really clear on the rules, she doesn’t get any access to the house where I am not awake and aware and supervising.  This is how we teach dogs the rules in our house and the result is a dog who understand what is permitted and what is not.  Photo Credit:  Sue Alexander

After repeating this several times a day for a week, the dog can usually graduate to the rest of the house.  I still don’t allow the dog unsupervised access to the house and if he goofs, he goes right back to his crate.  By spending time with the dog in the yard, I can start to teach him to check in with me, and I can determine if it is safe to take him for off leash walks.  It is much easier to start taking a dog for off leash walks if he is already social with another dog, because I can then call that second dog back and my new dog will come back with the first dog.  Exercise is important to good health for dogs, but it is definitely secondary to safety, and if the new dog doesn’t know me, doesn’t know any rules at all and hasn’t taken treats from me, then why would I expect him to stay with me on an off leash walk.

As soon as practical, I take the new dog to a place I know well and get him off leash.  If I suspect he will bolt, I use a 100 foot drag line, so that he cannot get away.  I will also in that case bell him so that I can hear him if I cannot see him.  I put a piece of tape about 25 feet from the end of the drag line so that I have a visual warning that he is approaching the end of the distance that I want him to get from me.  When that end passes me, I call out “far enough” and then gently step on the line to slow it down and eventually stop the dog.  When the dog is stopped, I call him back to me.  I don’t pull him or drag him or walk towards him.  If I have done my job right in the yard, he will come back and check in.

As time goes on, I give new dogs more and more and more freedom in the house and on walks.  As time goes on, the dog learns the finer details of the rules in my house, he learns who I am, where he is, and that he can come back to me when he gets disoriented.  That is how I introduce a dog to my home, and it prevents a lot of problems that I don’t have to address after the fact.

BRINGING HOME AN ADULT DOG

HEARING YOUR DOG

Last time I talked about talking to my dogs. This time I want to talk about listening and more importantly hearing what they have to say. Dogs are non verbal species. This means that they can only tell us things by their behaviour. It is easy to miss the conversation altogether if you aren’t paying attention and this is an important component of having a successful relationship. Dogs and other non human learners have a lot to say, if we just listen.

This morning when I woke up, D’fer, my elderly Chesapeake was in my room, lying by the bed and panting. And panting and panting and panting. As I became more aware of the day, I tuned into him and I could see that he was obviously in distress. As a non verbal species, it is really tough to figure out what was distressing him, but I can make some good guesses. He is old and often painful, so a good guess is that he was in some pain this morning. He had a heart murmur that resolved, but it could be that he is having heart issues again. We have had a pretty significant weather change today, from cold and wet to hot and humid, so maybe that is what is going on. Noticing what he is doing, I have some choices; I can get up and see if he needs some pain meds, or I can roll over and go back to sleep.

Here, D'fer is telling me that he is relaxed and out of pain.  I can tell this because he is curled into a ball, alseep and not vocalizing.  I also know this because I took the picture just after he got his evening pain medication!  When I see a dog in this state, I can hear that he does not want to be disturbed.  I could wake him if I needed to, but it would be unkind and disrespectful to do so for no reason.  D'fer can sleep in front of me because he knows I will hear him and respect what he is saying.  Photo Credit:  Sue Alexander 2014
Here, D’fer is telling me that he is relaxed and out of pain. I can tell this because he is curled into a ball, alseep and not vocalizing. I also know this because I took the picture just after he got his evening pain medication! When I see a dog in this state, I can hear that he does not want to be disturbed. I could wake him if I needed to, but it would be unkind and disrespectful to do so for no reason. D’fer can sleep in front of me because he knows I will hear him and respect what he is saying. Photo Credit: Sue Alexander 2014

Imagine for a moment that this was your spouse and you woke up and he or she was breathing heavily, and obviously in distress. What would you do? Perhaps waking him up and checking in might be a good idea. Or perhaps you know that your spouse normally breathes like this in the morning and you just need to nudge him to roll over and you can both have a lie in. What about if this was a newborn? Or your aging grandfather? Knowing something about those who surround you is an important part of “hearing” what they say.

The above example is one where my dog’s behaviour was not one of choice and it is up to me to first off notice and secondly to choose the right action. The action I took was to get up, toilet him and get him his meds. He is on daily pain medication and he needed his next dose. Not all of what the dog tells me is because of his physiology though. Some of the dog’s behaviour is about things that he wants or needs.

When Eco my German Shepherd goes to the gate and looks out at the geese on the pond, I know he would like me to open the gate so that he can go chase geese. He will stare longingly at the geese through the gate, look back at me and then look back to the geese. If I open the gate, he will chase the geese into the sky. Eco thinks that chasing geese is terrific. If it is fall and the geese are not nesting, or if it is spring before the geese nest, I sometimes let him do this as it prevents the geese from eating all of our pasture. If the geese have goslings though, I will tell him that it is not his turn and he will sadly turn away from the gate.  In effect we have a conversation, where he tells me what he wants and I tell him if he can have it or not.

Eco is telling me that there is something happening just outside of our front door.  He doesn't go out because he has been taught not to go out that door unless given permission, but he does like to look when the door is open.  I took this picture as John and I were unloading groceries from the truck.  Eco likes watching things and when I listen to what he is saying I can tell that things are happening.  In this case, Eco was telling me that John was coming up the path.  Photo Credit:  Sue Alexander 2014
Eco is telling me that there is something happening just outside of our front door. He doesn’t go out because he has been taught not to go out that door unless given permission, but he does like to look when the door is open. I took this picture as John and I were unloading groceries from the truck. Eco likes watching things and when I listen to what he is saying I can tell that things are happening. In this case, Eco was telling me that John was coming up the path. Photo Credit: Sue Alexander 2014

My dogs have ways to tell me a good number of things. Some of them are things that I have taught them to do and some of them are things that they have picked up on their own. If I am watching a movie, D’fer may come up and sit in front of me and if that doesn’t cause me to share then he will turn on his sad Chesapeake act and if THAT doesn’t work, he will rest his chin on my lap, because that almost always works.  D’fer knows how to ask politely, and then with some emphasis and finally he will beg.  He knows that I rarely refuse him if he is truly being cute!

D’fer was trained to alert me to medical events; he would tell me if I was about to get a migraine or have a panic attack. Without getting into how we trained that, if the conditions were right for me to get ill, he would “tell” me by flipping my arm with his nose, or by putting his feet on my chest. He would tell me that I needed to take medication and I would do as told!  This is more of a one way directive, but it is communication indeed.

Today in one of my privates we were working with a dog who has some serious issues with other dogs. We were working to teach him that he can approach without losing his cool. A big part of what we do in that sort of exercise is to “listen” to what the dogs are telling us. Every time this dog would get too close to the trigger dog, he would give a big lip lick. This “tell” or piece of body language would let me know that he was as close to the other dog as he could get without losing control of himself. Listening to what the dog was saying helped me to know when to send the owner back to the safety station. Lip licking is one of a raft of behaviours that dogs do when they are stressed; called displacement behaviours. These behaviours tell us that the dog is approaching a threshold of some sort and that we need to slow down. They can tell us when the dog is distressed or upset or when they need a break. Knowing your own dog and knowing how they tell you that they are over the point at which they are comfortable is an essential part of being successful with your dog. If you don’t respond when your dog is telling you these things, then your dog will think he has to face the world on his own steam. This degrades your relationship because your dog will learn that you won’t listen to him.

This dog is telling her person something important; likely that she is uncomfortable with the proximity of his gaze.  If her person is savvy, he will back off, and show her that he is listening to her.  When we don't hear what dogs tell us, they learn not to trust that we will listen and that degrades our relationships with our dogs.  Copyright: crazysub / 123RF Stock Photo
This dog is telling her person something important; likely that she is uncomfortable with the proximity of his gaze. If her person is savvy, he will back off, and show her that he is listening to her. When we don’t hear what dogs tell us, they learn not to trust that we will listen and that degrades our relationships with our dogs. Copyright: crazysub / 123RF Stock Photo

I have successfully helped several people teach their dogs how to tell them that they need a break in more concrete ways. One dog on my caseload learned to say “Go/No Go” for taking treats from strangers. The concept was really simple, but the ability to communicate that is behind this concept is fairly abstract. First we taught the dog to touch a target. Then we established two targets; one for “Go” and a very different target for “No Go”. If the dog randomly touched the “Go” target, he got a treat. If the dog randomly touched the “No Go” target the person offering the treats backed off and took the treats with them. This dog, a Scottish Terrier named BJ, amazed his people because he would sometimes turn down treats that he normally really liked depending on who was offering the treat. This gave BJ the ability to say when he was ready for interactions with new people, and by being able to say no when he was not ready, he was able to expand the number of people he could tolerate both offering him treats and eventually touching him.

Communication is a special ability that we can use with our dogs, if we are willing to be open to listening to what they have to say. We have to be aware of who our dogs are, what they say and how they say it, and then respond appropriately. Even if the response is “not now”, responding regularly and appropriately is an important way to deepen our relationship with our dogs.

HEARING YOUR DOG

THE RINGING OF THE BELLS

THE RINGING OF THE BELLS!

I am getting a lot of inquiries these days about teaching dogs and puppies to ring bells to ask to go out in the yard to toilet. I have taught several dogs to do this, and it really isn’t difficult. My only caveat is to housetrain your dog first. If your dog is housetrained, meaning that he ONLY goes to the toilet out of doors this is an easy trick to teach and it can help you by alerting you when your dog needs to go. When you try and do this with a puppy or dog who is not housetrained though, in my experience, you can end up muddling things together and the dog is never quite clear what is what.

I like my dogs, particularly my male dogs to completely empty when they are urinating. To achieve this, I make sure that my dogs go out to toilet ON leash for the first four to six months that I have them. I housetrained my first dogs in apartment buildings, and this meant that every time my puppy needed to out to toilet, I had to get dressed, leash up and go out. It is inconvenient to do that multiple times in a row, so I learned quickly that it is better to teach the pup to toilet and completely empty early on.

To do this, you simply take the pup out to where you want him or her to toilet, and you stand still while holding your pup’s leash, and tell him to go. Once he starts to go, name the behaviour. I use the cue “piddle” but my clients have used things like “potty”, “get busy”, “duties” or even “go to the office”! I wait until the pup is completely and absolutely done before beginning to praise or give a reward. Once the puppy is done, I feed his meal or play with him or even take him for a short walk or training session. I want my pup to know that if he empties, we will do fun stuff. If he decides to go during our fun time, I just name the behaviour, indoors or out, and give him a treat when he is done. I will note how long it was between when he last peed and when he goes again, and then I know how long to wait between times the next time. If he doesn’t go by twenty to thirty minutes later, I give the puppy another chance to toilet just like the first. If he goes, then we keep playing and repeat every twenty to thirty minutes.

The first time my puppy decides that he doesn’t need to go when I stop and give him a chance, then I know he is ready for a nap. If he doesn’t want to go when I first take him out of his crate, then I put him right back in his crate for another twenty to thirty minutes. Once he goes down for his nap, I can take some time for myself, but I am ready so that if he wakes up or gets fussy, I can take him out for a repeat of the previous cycle. After a week or so of this, most pups are going as soon as you say the word.

What I don’t do is take my dog for a walk and keep walking until he toilets. This is the best recipe we know of to make sure that your puppy holds his bladder and holds it and holds it and holds it and holds it, because once he goes, the walk ends. The second best way to not toilet train a puppy is to put him out in a yard where you are not and hope he goes. Even if you see him go, you haven’t had the opportunity to name the behaviour, and he isn’t going on leash, which means that when you want to take him with you on a long trip you will have to wait until he decides he is good and ready to empty or sort of empty in order to get on with your travels. I want my pups to learn to go when I ask them to go, and to completely empty so that I don’t have to worry about them needing to go later.

This is the second best way to ensure your pup won't empty on cue when you ask him to; he is off leash and no one is there to name the behaviour or reinforce the right choice.  I don't allow puppies under the age of about 8 months to toilet unattended in the yard.  I want my puppies to know that they are able to go on leash, in front of me, and that toileting will be rewarded so that if I am travelling or in a hurry I can be certain of putting my pup into his crate empty.
This is the second best way to ensure your pup won’t empty on cue when you ask him to; he is off leash and no one is there to name the behaviour or reinforce the right choice. I don’t allow puppies under the age of about 8 months to toilet unattended in the yard. I want my puppies to know that they are able to go on leash, in front of me, and that toileting will be rewarded so that if I am travelling or in a hurry I can be certain of putting my pup into his crate empty.Only once my pup has been housetrained for a couple of months would I add a bell. To begin with, my dogs don’t get enough unsupervised time to make it worthwhile and in the house I live in now, there is no guarantee I would hear a bell. I want my dogs to be directly supervised until I am really sure that they can mind their manners when I am not looking. With smart, curious dogs who are being trained to do things, that can take as much as 18 months to two years.

My general rule with my own dogs is that when I need to go, they need to go and it works out fairly well for us. What this means is that I have to keep track of my dogs until they are actually adults. By the time my dogs are adults, we are on such a good schedule that I haven’t found a need for the bells, however, I have taught a number of client dogs to use them, so IF your dog is housetrained and reliable, then here is how to do it.

Get a set of bells. One bell is rarely enough to make enough noise to get your attention. I like about four large jingle bell type of bells. Using a clicker, teach your dog to touch the bells. Offer the bells, and then click and treat. Offer the bells and if he looks at them, click and treat. Offer the bells and if he touches them click and treat. Continue shaping until your dog is firmly touching the bells when you offer them.

Start offering the bells just before you open the door. If he touches the bells, click and open the door and go out to pee. The reward is now going outside. Don’t hang the bells up just yet though. Keep working at this stage until your dog is looking for those bells every time you go through that door. When he is doing this, have a session where you hang the bells and you shape him to touch the bells without you offering them. If you have done your foundation work, he shouldn’t worry about the bells no longer being in your hand. If he looks at the bells hanging on the door as if they are alien objects, then you must go back a step until he is more certain that touching the bells is desired. At this point I take the bells away when I am not training.

Once your dog is touching the bells reliably before going through the door, you have to start getting him to actually ring them. This means that you need to get him to touch the bells until they actually make a noise. This means that you should be getting two, three or four touches before you click and go through the door. You should still be working on leash at this point so that you have control over the outcome to ringing the bells. When the bells ring, your dog should know that you are not just going out to hang out or to have a walk. If you go out and he doesn’t produce, then go back to the stage of puppy training where you put your puppy back in his crate if he didn’t toilet when you ask. Keep pecking away at the problem though, giving him lots of chances to learn that bell ringing is about going outside to toilet and bell ringing without toileting gets you back into your crate.

Once your dog is reliably ringing those bells every time you approach the door to go out on leash, it is time to start leaving the bells hanging on the door handle for your dog to ring when he needs to go. Every time he rings, day or night, regardless of what you are doing, you must go and take your dog to his toilet place to go. If he does not produce, then he goes into his crate for twenty to thirty minutes. You don’t want to teach your dog to play in and out with you, where he asks to go out over and over again when he doesn’t need to go. You want him to use those bells ONLY when he needs to toilet.

With a house trained dog it takes me between 4 and 7 days to train a dog to use the bells. It takes me about three weeks to toilet train a puppy but I don’t recommend bell training till the pup is a little older because in my house, I want to be very tuned in to my dogs and I want them to be tuned in to me. I want to avoid housetraining accidents, and I want to teach my puppies to completely empty when I ask them to do so. For these reasons, I don’t teach bells to my own dogs. When I have taught client’s dogs to ring bells it has usually been because the people who care for the dog may need reminding that the dog has the need to toilet and cannot take care of this himself-in one case the dog lived with an elderly lady who lived with dementia. When the bells rang she would go see what the alarm was and we put a large sign over the bells that read “take the dog out to toilet now”. This prevented accidents when other family members were not available to let the dog out and the lady was home alone.

THE RINGING OF THE BELLS

9 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR PUPPY GROW INTO A SUCCESSFUL ADULT DOG

Originally posted on October 22, 2013

I have been thinking a lot lately about the things I do that allow my dogs to grow up to be successful as adults.  I have been thinking about what my dogs do that the dogs in my behaviour program often don’t do.  My dogs are fairly easy to live with, and it starts from the first day that they come home.  I always plan on putting the finishing touches on this at about 18 months of age.  By teaching my dog what I want from the start, I don’t have to go back and rehab later.  Here are my top 9 things to teach a puppy to ensure he will be successful regardless of what might happen later on.

1. Your crate is a wonderful place to be.  I feed all meals in crates, and my dogs travel in the car in crates and when they go to the vet they are in crates and when we stay at friend’s houses they are in crates.  My rational is simple.  When my dog is eating he should be able to do that in a safe place where he won’t be disturbed by other dogs, the phone ringing, me, other people and so on.  My dogs will also eat outside of their crates, and from time to time I will feed a dog outside of his crate, but in general, I want to make sure that my dog’s dining experience is a relaxed and comfortable one.  In the car, the safest place for a dog to be is in his crate.  In the event of a sudden stop or an accident, a crate will give my dog the greatest chance of surviving AND he won’t fly around the inside of the car, potentially injuring someone.  Finally, if my dog stays at the vet’s office or at a friend’s house, being able to crate my dog means that he has a safe and comfortable place to be and I know he won’t be getting into trouble when I cannot supervise.  Just teaching my dogs that they can go into their crates and be calm and comfortable makes them easier to live with.

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D’fer at about ten weeks, relaxing in his crate with a legal chew item.  When you cannot directly supervise a puppy in your house, then a crate allows them to rest in safety and to not make any training mistakes.
  1. You can trust me to touch any part of your body any time at all.  Let’s face it, in an active busy life, your dog is going to get burrs in his fur, get cuts and scrapes and may even get a sprain, strain or a fracture.  The ability to touch my dog all over, without stress has made vet visits easier, has made baths easier, has made everything easier.  Start out gently and offer treats while you restrain your dog, but DO spend the time teaching him that you can touch anywhere.  Then when your dog is comfortable being restrained by you, get other people to do the same thing.  Get your vet or their tech to show you how they restrain your dog; turn being restrained into a game where your dog can earn treats by allowing you to look in their mouth, in their ears, between their toes and under their tail.  Don’t forget to teach them to allow you to look at and touch their genitals; the vet will and it shouldn’t be a surprise for your dog.  As part of this handling training, I also teach all my dogs to wear a muzzle.  They don’t have to like it, but I don’t want them to be upset by it.  I do this by getting out a coffee mug and putting peanut butter, soft cheese or liverwurst in the bottom.  I teach my pups to lick out the bottom of a coffee cup and when they are comfortable with that, I switch to a grooming muzzle with the treats smeared on my hand; I want my dog to be happy to put his nose into the muzzle and I pay well when he does.  This way, when I need to go to the vet, if the vet is concerned, we can muzzle him easily and without distress.  Dogs in pain or who are frightened might bite and it is my responsibility to keep the vet safe.  I am paying for his medical knowledge, not for his ability to dodge getting bitten.

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Get your dog accustomed to all sorts of weird handling; here we are holding this lab’s head in a fairly awkward and uncomfortable way, similar to how a vet might hold him if they wanted to feel his lymph nodes (no it isn’t exactly right,  but if the dog will accept this, he will accept whatever the vet is doing!).
  1. Keep your paws to yourself.  If you like your dog to jump up on you, put it on cue and ask them to do it when it is convenient, but don’t teach your dog, even your small dog to jump up on people for treats or attention; most people don’t want to be jumped on even if the dog is tiny.  If your dog is already jumping up, consult a trainer about how to stop this behaviour.  If you have a puppy, let them jump up, but pretend they are invisible until they have four feet on the ground; by providing contrast to a puppy between the attention that you get from jumping up and keeping four on the floor, she will learn to keep her paws to herself.

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Four on the floor greetings are always considered appropriate!

5. Dog toys are for dogs; ask before you touch anything else.  I keep a large collection of dog legal toys and I store them in plain sight amongst the shoes, boots, and other detritus near the main door of my house.  If a dog touches something that isn’t a dog toy, I call out too bad, and put them in their crate for a short period of time.  Touching things other than dog toys becomes a polite request from the dog to be put in his crate.  Dogs learn outcomes very quickly.  They learn that touching something they ought not touch results in an outcome they can predict and they stop touching things so that they don’t have that undesired outcome.  I also teach my dogs an automatic sit for treats and doors and leashes and they all learn that when they want something other than a dog toy they can ask by sitting and looking at what they want.  Sometimes I even give it to them.

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In puppy class, we provide oodles of puppy toys to play with, and we have a few items in there that they are not permitted to touch; the croc shoe for instance.  If a puppy grabs the shoe, we catch the puppy and restrain him for a moment.  This way he learns that picking up shoes results in an outcome he doesn’t like.  He can easily avoid the outcome by not touching the shoe!

6.  Say please.  Expanding on “only touch your stuff and leave my stuff alone” is asking for things nicely.  There is nothing worse than visiting someone’s home to have their dog harass you for whatever you are eating.  I DO share my food with my dogs, but only if they say please and only if I feel like it.  As mentioned above, I teach my dogs to observe what is happening in the environment and then to ask for what they want.  If they see me pick up a leash, then I wait till they offer me a sit to put it on.  This is SO easy with puppies, because they will often sit when they want something from an older dog; holding the leash and waiting for a little bit results in a sitting puppy.  Walking up to the door and only opening the door if the puppy sits produces more sitting at the door.  Holding a human sugar cookie in my hand in the presence of a puppy who has learned to sit for the leash and the door, his dinner and a toy to be thrown results in a puppy who figures out how to say please by sitting.  Yes, I teach dogs to beg!  And when they are really good at it, when they say please I will sometimes say sorry, “not this time”, or “if you go lie on your bed first.”  Dogs extend the courtesy very easily if you stop asking and nagging for a behaviour, and just wait for sit; it becomes the default and then when a dog wants something, instead of harassing you to get it, you have given him a way to communicate that he wants something.

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This puppy has figured out that if you approach people and sit, you get treats, touch and toys.  He is learning to say please!
  1. Keep calm and carry on.  I work hard to teach my dogs that calm behaviour is desirable.  I teach them down stays and the automatic leave it and I reward my dogs when they stay calm through exciting events.  By teaching them to keep calm even when things get exciting, they are easier to live with in general.  One of the most important things that I teach my dogs is to work in the face of excitement.  This means that I intentionally take my dogs places where they will see exciting things (other dogs, livestock, people doing fun and active things) and I work on calm behaviours like looking at me, lying down and staying and simple tricks like shake a paw and touch my hand with your nose.

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When D’fer and I travelled, he had to cope with all sorts of difficult environments.  Here we are in the subway station in Manhatten.  All of our calm training over the years has prepared him for being able to cope with this environment and still keep his leash loose, never greet anyone he doesn’t know or hasn’t been introduced to, and to do his job of taking care of me while I travel.  What this picture doesn’t show you is the noise and the echos that we had to move through; this was a very difficult environment, but because I have taught him to be calm everywhere, he can do his job!
  1. Only go to the toilet in the appropriate place.  For heaven’s sake, toilet train your dog.  If there is one behaviour that gets adult dogs into trouble it is a lack of toilet training.  One study showed that the number one reason dogs were surrendered to shelters was due to a lack of house training.  If you are having trouble housetraining your dog, ask a trainer for help.  With puppies it is generally very easy; when they wake up, take them outside.  If they toilet within five minutes, bring them in and feed them.  If they don’t, put them back in their crates for a half an hour and then try again.  Don’t walk around when you are teaching a dog to toilet in the most appropriate place; don’t need to walk to toilet.  Give them a set amount of time and if they produce do the next interesting thing.  If they don’t put them back in their crates.  After a puppy has eaten, repeat the process, and if they go, give them twenty to thirty minutes to play.  Then take them out and give them five minutes to toilet.  The rule is very simple; if they go they get to play or eat.  If they don’t, they get to have another quiet time in their crate.  A toilet trained dog is welcome, and an untrained dog is not.

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In 8 years of travelling together, D’fer has never ever made a toiletting mistake at a hotel.  I wouldn’t want him to toilet at the area where people are picked up and dropped off, but he will toilet when and where I tell him to.  This makes him a pleasure to travel with and a dog I can trust when I am visiting friends and staying in their homes.
  1. Share your food and chew items.  Perhaps the biggest problem that gets adult dogs in trouble after toilet training would be resource guarding.  This is the dog who has a bone or food and gets snarly, growly or aggressive when you come close.  This behaviour is so easy to address that it is laughable.  Simply start out by training your dog to be calm before his food bowl is set down.  Don’t do the sit, stay and then run as fast as you can to your bowl drill; this is a recipe to make a dog more not less likely to protect his food because he is always going to his bowl in a state of very high arousal.  Instead, prepare half of your dog’s meal and if he is calm, set it down.  If he starts to rush the bowl, pick it up.  Repeat until he can go quietly and calmly to his bowl.  When he has finished half his meal, either repeat with the second half of the meal or use the second half of the meal for training.  Rawhide, raw bones and bully sticks are all common items that dogs may chew upon for pleasure and may guard.  Instead of waiting till there is a problem, teach your dog that you are the source of these items and that you will give them treats while they are sharing your item.  I start out with pups on my lap and offer them the item to chew.  Not knowing what the item is, the pup will often need to be enticed to start to chew.  As soon as the puppy is convinced that this is a “good thing” then I start offering really good stuff; liver bits, cheese and hotdog at the same time; I don’t try and take the item away but rather I stuff extra bits into the dog’s mouth as he is chewing.  If he spits it out, I just offer him treats and then switch back to the chew item.  I keep practicing like this until I can put the chew OR the treat into my pup’s mouth.  Over time, the pup learns to spit out the chew item as my hand approaches with the good stuff.  At that point, I teach my pups to chew on special chewies on their mats, and I come by often to add treats to the mix.  I work on this all through my dog’s lives so that I and others can take things they ought not have away from them.

20130508_121933

Puzzle toys are great for environmental enrichment but they are also good for helping puppies and dogs to learn to let you handle their stuff and not guard items from you.  They have to let you touch the items so that you can refill them, otherwise the toy is not very interesting to the dog.

9.  Go to puppy class and learn manners in the presence of other dogs.  Honestly, if there is one place that your pup can learn to mind his manners in the presence of other dogs, it is at a puppy class.  A good puppy class will be run by an experienced trainer who has many years of helping dogs to get along with one another.  Ideally there will be places for small dogs to avoid large dogs, and there will be lots of people coming through the class of various ages and types.  You will see tall people and short people, young people and old people and if you are lucky, you will see people wearing hats and coats and capes and costumes and all sorts of things.  Often puppy classes will have wheelchairs and walkers and canes and crutches and the puppies will learn to cope with everything.  In a good puppy class your pup will learn that not only are other dogs usually nice and safe to play with, but that people are nice too.  Your pup should be learning that being caught is a great and safe thing to have happen.  Lots of different people will all be working on the same goal as you are; to raise the best adult dog they can.

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Where else will you meet people who have dogs a similar age to your pup?  Puppy class is lots of fun and sometimes we even get special guests to come and visit!

These nine things are all things that will accomplish two goals.  The first is, you will raise a pup who is a great companion for your family.  The dog who has mastered all of the above is easy to live with and a joy to take places.  The second thing you will achieve is that if something happens to you or your family and your dog needs to live with someone other than you, your dog will make that transition easily.  If by chance your dog ends up in a rescue or a shelter, he will be easy to adopt because he will pass all the behaviour tests with flying colours.

9 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR PUPPY GROW INTO A SUCCESSFUL ADULT DOG

9 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR PUPPY GROW UP INTO A SUCCESSFUL DOG

Originally posted on October 22, 2013

I have been thinking a lot lately about the things I do that allow my dogs to grow up to be successful as adults.  I have been thinking about what my dogs do that the dogs in my behaviour program often don’t do.  My dogs are fairly easy to live with, and it starts from the first day that they come home.  I always plan on putting the finishing touches on this at about 18 months of age.  By teaching my dog what I want from the start, I don’t have to go back and rehab later.  Here are my top 9 things to teach a puppy to ensure he will be successful regardless of what might happen later on.

1. Your crate is a wonderful place to be.  I feed all meals in crates, and my dogs travel in the car in crates and when they go to the vet they are in crates and when we stay at friend’s houses they are in crates.  My rational is simple.  When my dog is eating he should be able to do that in a safe place where he won’t be disturbed by other dogs, the phone ringing, me, other people and so on.  My dogs will also eat outside of their crates, and from time to time I will feed a dog outside of his crate, but in general, I want to make sure that my dog’s dining experience is a relaxed and comfortable one.  In the car, the safest place for a dog to be is in his crate.  In the event of a sudden stop or an accident, a crate will give my dog the greatest chance of surviving AND he won’t fly around the inside of the car, potentially injuring someone.  Finally, if my dog stays at the vet’s office or at a friend’s house, being able to crate my dog means that he has a safe and comfortable place to be and I know he won’t be getting into trouble when I cannot supervise.  Just teaching my dogs that they can go into their crates and be calm and comfortable makes them easier to live with.

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D’fer at about ten weeks, relaxing in his crate with a legal chew item.  When you cannot directly supervise a puppy in your house, then a crate allows them to rest in safety and to not make any training mistakes.

2.  You can trust me to touch any part of your body any time at all.  Let’s face it, in an active busy life, your dog is going to get burrs in his fur, get cuts and scrapes and may even get a sprain, strain or a fracture.  The ability to touch my dog all over, without stress has made vet visits easier, has made baths easier, has made everything easier.  Start out gently and offer treats while you restrain your dog, but DO spend the time teaching him that you can touch anywhere.  Then when your dog is comfortable being restrained by you, get other people to do the same thing.  Get your vet or their tech to show you how they restrain your dog; turn being restrained into a game where your dog can earn treats by allowing you to look in their mouth, in their ears, between their toes and under their tail.  Don’t forget to teach them to allow you to look at and touch their genitals; the vet will and it shouldn’t be a surprise for your dog.  As part of this handling training, I also teach all my dogs to wear a muzzle.  They don’t have to like it, but I don’t want them to be upset by it.  I do this by getting out a coffee mug and putting peanut butter, soft cheese or liverwurst in the bottom.  I teach my pups to lick out the bottom of a coffee cup and when they are comfortable with that, I switch to a grooming muzzle with the treats smeared on my hand; I want my dog to be happy to put his nose into the muzzle and I pay well when he does.  This way, when I need to go to the vet, if the vet is concerned, we can muzzle him easily and without distress.  Dogs in pain or who are frightened might bite and it is my responsibility to keep the vet safe.  I am paying for his medical knowledge, not for his ability to dodge getting bitten.

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Get your dog accustomed to all sorts of weird handling; here we are holding this lab’s head in a fairly awkward and uncomfortable way, similar to how a vet might hold him if they wanted to feel his lymph nodes (no it isn’t exactly right,  but if the dog will accept this, he will accept whatever the vet is doing!).

3.  Keep your paws to yourself.  If you like your dog to jump up on you, put it on cue and ask them to do it when it is convenient, but don’t teach your dog, even your small dog to jump up on people for treats or attention; most people don’t want to be jumped on even if the dog is tiny.  If your dog is already jumping up, consult a trainer about how to stop this behaviour.  If you have a puppy, let them jump up, but pretend they are invisible until they have four feet on the ground; by providing contrast to a puppy between the attention that you get from jumping up and keeping four on the floor, she will learn to keep her paws to herself.

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Four on the floor greetings are always considered appropriate!

5. Dog toys are for dogs; ask before you touch anything else.  I keep a large collection of dog legal toys and I store them in plain sight amongst the shoes, boots, and other detritus near the main door of my house.  If a dog touches something that isn’t a dog toy, I call out too bad, and put them in their crate for a short period of time.  Touching things other than dog toys becomes a polite request from the dog to be put in his crate.  Dogs learn outcomes very quickly.  They learn that touching something they ought not touch results in an outcome they can predict and they stop touching things so that they don’t have that undesired outcome.  I also teach my dogs an automatic sit for treats and doors and leashes and they all learn that when they want something other than a dog toy they can ask by sitting and looking at what they want.  Sometimes I even give it to them.

 Image
In puppy class, we provide oodles of puppy toys to play with, and we have a few items in there that they are not permitted to touch; the croc shoe for instance.  If a puppy grabs the shoe, we catch the puppy and restrain him for a moment.  This way he learns that picking up shoes results in an outcome he doesn’t like.  He can easily avoid the outcome by not touching the shoe!

6.  Say please.  Expanding on “only touch your stuff and leave my stuff alone” is asking for things nicely.  There is nothing worse than visiting someone’s home to have their dog harass you for whatever you are eating.  I DO share my food with my dogs, but only if they say please and only if I feel like it.  As mentioned above, I teach my dogs to observe what is happening in the environment and then to ask for what they want.  If they see me pick up a leash, then I wait till they offer me a sit to put it on.  This is SO easy with puppies, because they will often sit when they want something from an older dog; holding the leash and waiting for a little bit results in a sitting puppy.  Walking up to the door and only opening the door if the puppy sits produces more sitting at the door.  Holding a human sugar cookie in my hand in the presence of a puppy who has learned to sit for the leash and the door, his dinner and a toy to be thrown results in a puppy who figures out how to say please by sitting.  Yes, I teach dogs to beg!  And when they are really good at it, when they say please I will sometimes say sorry, “not this time”, or “if you go lie on your bed first.”  Dogs extend the courtesy very easily if you stop asking and nagging for a behaviour, and just wait for sit; it becomes the default and then when a dog wants something, instead of harassing you to get it, you have given him a way to communicate that he wants something.

 Image
This puppy has figured out that if you approach people and sit, you get treats, touch and toys.  He is learning to say please!

7.  Keep calm and carry on.  I work hard to teach my dogs that calm behaviour is desirable.  I teach them down stays and the automatic leave it and I reward my dogs when they stay calm through exciting events.  By teaching them to keep calm even when things get exciting, they are easier to live with in general.  One of the most important things that I teach my dogs is to work in the face of excitement.  This means that I intentionally take my dogs places where they will see exciting things (other dogs, livestock, people doing fun and active things) and I work on calm behaviours like looking at me, lying down and staying and simple tricks like shake a paw and touch my hand with your nose.

 Image
When D’fer and I travelled to Montreal this past spring, they were doing construction in the Toronto train station where we had to switch trains.  All of our calm training over the years has prepared him for being able to cope with this environment and still keep his leash loose, never greet anyone he doesn’t know or hasn’t been introduced to, and to do his job of taking care of me while I travel.  What this picture doesn’t show you is the jackhammers, the heavy machinery and the echos that we had to move through; this was a very difficult environment, bu tbecause I have taught him to be calm everywhere, he can do his job!

8.  Only go to the toilet in the appropriate place.  For heaven’s sake, toilet train your dog.  If there is one behaviour that gets adult dogs into trouble it is a lack of toilet training.  One study showed that the number one reason dogs were surrendered to shelters was due to a lack of house training.  If you are having trouble housetraining your dog, ask a trainer for help.  With puppies it is generally very easy; when they wake up, take them outside.  If they toilet within five minutes, bring them in and feed them.  If they don’t, put them back in their crates for a half an hour and then try again.  Don’t walk around when you are teaching a dog to toilet in the most appropriate place; don’t need to walk to toilet.  Give them a set amount of time and if they produce do the next interesting thing.  If they don’t put them back in their crates.  After a puppy has eaten, repeat the process, and if they go, give them twenty to thirty minutes to play.  Then take them out and give them five minutes to toilet.  The rule is very simple; if they go they get to play or eat.  If they don’t, they get to have another quiet time in their crate.  A toilet trained dog is welcome, and an untrained dog is not.

 Image
In 8 years of travelling together, D’fer has never ever made a toiletting mistake at a hotel.  I wouldn’t want him to toilet at the area where people are picked up and dropped off, but he will toilet when and where I tell him to.  This makes him a pleasure to travel with and a dog I can trust when I am visiting friends and staying in their homes.

8. Share your food and chew items.  Perhaps the biggest problem that gets adult dogs in trouble after toilet training, it would be resource guarding.  This is the dog who has a bone or food and gets snarly, growly or aggressive when you come close.  This behaviour is so easy to address that it is laughable.  Simply start out by training your dog to be calm before his food bowl is set down.  Don’t do the sit, stay and then run as fast as you can to your bowl drill; this is a recipe to make a dog more not less likely to protect his food because he is always going to his bowl in a state of very high arousal.  Instead, prepare half of your dog’s meal and if he is calm, set it down.  If he starts to rush the bowl, pick it up.  Repeat until he can go quietly and calmly to his bowl.  When he has finished half his meal, either repeat with the second half of the meal or use the second half of the meal for training.  Rawhide, raw bones and bully sticks are all common items that dogs may chew upon for pleasure and may guard.  Instead of waiting till there is a problem, teach your dog that you are the source of these items and that you will give them treats while they are sharing your item.  I start out with pups on my lap and offer them the item to chew.  Not knowing what the item is, the pup will often need to be enticed to start to chew.  As soon as the puppy is convinced that this is a “good thing” then I start offering really good stuff; liver bits, cheese and hotdog at the same time; I don’t try and take the item away but rather I stuff extra bits into the dog’s mouth as he is chewing.  If he spits it out, I just offer him treats and then switch back to the chew item.  I keep practicing like this until I can put the chew OR the treat into my pup’s mouth.  Over time, the pup learns to spit out the chew item as my hand approaches with the good stuff.  At that point, I teach my pups to chew on special chewies on their mats, and I come by often to add treats to the mix.  I work on this all through my dog’s lives so that I and others can take things they ought not have away from them.

 Image
Puzzle toys are great for environmental enrichment but they are also good for helping puppies and dogs to learn to let you handle their stuff and not guard items from you.  They have to let you touch the items so that you can refill them, otherwise the toy is not very interesting to the dog.

9.  Go to puppy class and learn manners in the presence of other dogs.  Honestly, if there is one place that your pup can learn to mind his manners in the presence of other dogs, it is at a puppy class.  A good puppy class will be run by an experienced trainer who has many years of helping dogs to get along with one another.  Ideally there will be places for small dogs to avoid large dogs, and there will be lots of people coming through the class of various ages and types.  You will see tall people and short people, young people and old people and if you are lucky, you will see people wearing hats and coats and capes and costumes and all sorts of things.  Often puppy classes will have wheelchairs and walkers and canes and crutches and the puppies will learn to cope with everything.  In a good puppy class your pup will learn that not only are other dogs usually nice and safe to play with, but that people are nice too.  Your pup should be learning that being caught is a great and safe thing to have happen.  Lots of different people will all be working on the same goal as you are; to raise the best adult dog they can.

 ImageImage
Where else will you meet people who have dogs a similar age to your pup?  Puppy class is lots of fun and sometimes we even get special guests to come and visit!

These nine things are all things that will accomplish two goals.  The first is, you will raise a pup who is a great companion for your family.  The dog who has mastered all of the above is easy to live with and a joy to take places.  The second thing you will achieve is that if something happens to you or your family and your dog needs to live with someone other than you, your dog will make that transition easily.  If by chance your dog ends up in a rescue or a shelter, he will be easy to adopt because he will pass all the behaviour tests with flying colours.

9 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR PUPPY GROW UP INTO A SUCCESSFUL DOG