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Friday, February 27, 2009

When can I leave my puppy loose in the house and yard?

If there are two words that don't go together in dog training, it is "Loose" and "Puppy". I believe this is where owners get into a lot of trouble. Puppies need to be confined in safe areas till they are mature enough to venture out into the rest of the house and yard. Have the puppy restricted into a puppy safe area to ensure the safety of your home, landscaping and patio furniture. If you give a young puppy too much freedom at an early age, chances are he will get into tons of mischief. Puppies get in trouble just when you least expect it. I usually hear my clients say, " I just ran upstairs for a minute!". A minute is all a puppy needs to find himself in trouble. If you are going to take your eyes off the puppy for anything, he MUST be confined.

Owning a puppy is a big responsibility and I am sorry, but that is just the way it is. If you had a 1 yr old child, you wouldn't take your eyes off him unless he was in the crib or a playpen. The same holds true for a puppy. Now, some pups are a little more low key that others, but if you want to ensure success, keep him safe. You will have 10+ yrs with your dog, this is a small price to pay in the beginning to mold your puppy into a model citizen. Puppies do not have hands and in their quest to conquer, they put everything in their mouths. They smell it and taste it. Supervised trips, on a leash, to the rest of the house is needed to familiarize the puppy with his surroundings. However, you cannot and should not give your young puppy any credit.

Your house in the eyes of a young dog is the equivalent of Disneyland to a small child. Puppies have to earn freedom, that way it tastes better. You run the risk of your puppy jumping on counters and tables, chewing on furniture, sorting the laundry, eating your shoes, chewing children's toys, getting in the garbage, chewing wires and cords, and sending you into bouts of frustration. Some of these items can be VERY dangerous to a pup and his digestive tract, not to mention the cost of the ruined items. So, my advice is as follows: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Don't feel guilty confining your dog! You will feel worse if he gets hurt, slips and drowns in the pool or digs under the gate and runs away.

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Correction Collars

I decided to write this post after hearing a story from a fellow trainer and friend. I have told similar stories in the past, to clients, but this one is a little closer to home.

In the process of training a dog there are many different TOOLS a trainer holds in the "Bag of tricks". Correction Collars ( choke chains) happen to be one of those tools. I have used them for years on certain dogs, and I use them now as part of my training process. Not everyone uses them and not every owner agrees with them, however they can be invaluable in the grand scheme and big picture of TRAINING certain animals. With that being said, I want to preface they are a TOOL. They are not a collar!!! They do not and should not take the place of a flat buckle collar. I have seen people use them as such. They do not and should not have tags attached to them, and they are used ONLY when the dog is in TRAINING MODE, or under the supervision of the owner. When TRAINING has finished, they are to be removed, and put in a safe place till the next TRAINING session. Below is a story that happened to a client of a training partner of mine.

I received a phone call last week from a friend who asked me who to call to remove a dead dog of someones property. I asked her what had happened and she relayed to me that the owners of three dogs had been in an accident that resulted in the death of one of the three dogs at the home. Apparently, the owner had left town for the weekend and left her three Labrador Retrievers in the care of a family member. While the caregiver had left for the day, the dogs were outside, as they had always been, until the caregiver was to come back. In the small time she was gone the dogs had managed to get tangled in the chokers that had been left on them. The puppy (7months) was playing with the sister ( 6yrs old) and got his mouth caught in her chain. The puppy then panicked and twisted and fought to free himself and in the process strangled the 6 yr old dog to suffocation. The puppy received cuts and bruises to his JAW, TEETH, MOUTH, GUMS, NOSE, EYES, NECK, AND FACE. He was in critical condition due to the swelling around his neck that made it difficult for him to breath. He has recovered, however, the 6 yr old was lost in the process.

I hate when I hear stories of preventable accidents, but this is why as a trainer, I always tell you to remove your choker. I have clients who battle me on this with excuses as to why they don't remove them. I don't care what excuse you give me, I will NEVER tell you it is okay to leave on TRAINING equipment if you are not around.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Too much time in the crate.

Crate training your puppy is a wondeful thing when you are raising a pup into a dog. Many pups accept a crate right off the bat, and others have a little bit of a hard time in the beginning. Most pups and dogs will learn to love a crate and view it as their "Den". As with all dog training equipment, the crate is a tool in the overall training process and as with all equipment you do not want to abuse it. I am seeing an increase in dogs who are being over crated and owners who don't understand why their behavior is less than desirable.

If you work, and your puppy is crated all day, you are going to have to make up for the confinement with exercise and mental enrichment when you get home. Puppies have boundless energy and NEED to be drained when they go to their crates. The typical puppy sleeps 6-8 hours overnight in a crate, then gets an hour out in the morning followed by another 8 hours in the crate while you are at work. If you have someone who drops in on the dog ( dog walker, family member...) they typically stay for 30-60min, and back to the crate they go. If you look at the math, it is roughly 14-16 hours in the crate with an hour or two for running around. That is not enough for a puppy. Puppies need walks,playtime, training time and good old fashioned "just hanging out with you" time. You must not leave a puppy in a crate for longer than 3- 4 hours at a time with out proper elimination, nutrition, and stimulation.

If you leave the house at 8 am, do not come home until 6-7 pm and retire at 9 pm your puppy will suffer from over confinement. You need to find a way to create a little more time for your friend. He or she waits all day for your attention, you owe it to him or her for their patience.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009








Foul odor is the first real sign of something going on in the mouth of a dog. Regular check ups at the Vet and simple home care will help combat canine halitosis. Just like people, our dog friends suffer from cavities, tooth aches, tooth decay and tartar. I have posted this photo I took of a very loving dog owner who had no idea what was lurking behind her dogs lips. Please check your dogs teeth regularly and have your Vet suggest an oral care regiment for you and your best buddy! your dog will kiss you for it!

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I was told if I neuter my 6 month old puppy it will "Calm and Change" him and stop his humping?

Neutering a dog has effects on his behavior to an extent. Unfortunately, you wont see it, because he is coming into a boost of hormones here in the near future. If he is humping it can be two things, one being he is trying to figure out his pack status and two he is getting his hormones coming into his adolescence. Either way you need to correct the mounting and humping behavior so that he doesn't think it is okay.

You will not get back a calm puppy after the neuter. Meaning he wont loose his puppy-ness. He will be the same dog you dropped off. Neutering only takes away the testosterone drive that will fuel him as an adult. Contrary to popular belief, his personality wont "Change". He may be less apt to lift his leg, although lots of neutered male do. He will be less apt to mount unless you have a dominate dog that is allowed to dominate the family in other areas, he may fight less with others if he is aggressive, his need to find females in heat will decrease, and the need to roam.... just to name a few...

Regardless of the neuter, train him, be consistent, and you will have the same pup you see now. Any dog has the ability( neutered or not) to become a pushy,bossy, marking, territorial, hyper, unbalanced, aggressive,shy, or submissive dog if given the right environment to do so in.

The humping wont just stop out thin air, you need to correct him for it. His tendency to do it will decrease with your assistance, unless he is a social climbing puppy with a strong will personality.

Don't confuse personality with behavior. They are two different things. Behavior is how he acts, Personality is who he is.

You can have a dog with a shy personality who has dominate behaviors
or you can have an aggressive dog with dominate behavior.
You can always change the behavior, or modify it, or shape it. But the personality is another ball of wax. Meaning if he is aloof he will more than likely always be aloof to a certain degree, if he is shy and sensitive he will always be shy and sensitive to a degree, that's his personality. So if he needs to be corrected for the mounting BEHAVIOR, look at his PERSONALITY and tailor a correction that is appropriate. Hope that helps. And as always, that's just my 2 cents.

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Excuse me..."Do you have the time?"

Today is the end of a long week for me and I decided to write an entry about the biggest problem I saw in my training clients.

This is an article about time, or lack of. I am hit everyday with perplexed looks and sighs when the prescription I dish out is one of spending more time with the dog or the puppy. Raising a puppy or training a dog takes TIME along with consistency, patience and discipline. I don’t think most people get that concept. I think intellectually they understand it, but in reality think in some way it doesn’t apply to them specifically. Well trained animals don’t come out of a box understanding what to do in a human world. Their success is dependent on their owners. It seems no one has the time anymore. I think folks are stretched so thin it leaves little or no time for working with their pets. It is increasingly becoming a problem. Puppies don’t reach emotional maturity until around 18-24 months of age. What that means is you have to manage the puppy into adulthood with consistency until that day arrives.

Things to Chew and Play with

Chew Items

Ice cubes- with a treat inside
Frozen washcloths- Can be dipped in Chicken or Beef broth
Kong ball with peanut butter, cream cheese, Velveeta, …..
Bully sticks
Dingo’s
Ice block- frozen in bowl
Holy Roller- with puppy cookies inside
Stuffer bones
Orka- pet stages
Premier- Wiggle, waggle, ….
Nylabone- some puppies like, others do not.
Food based items

Play Items

Anything that squeaks, beeps, wiggles, rolls, jumps…..
Balls- If you play with a puppy and a ball you need a few. Puppies don’t release (Typically) and you need to play what is called “Two ball”…or three or four
Ball on a rope.
Rope toy
Kong Ball
Plush toys (stuffed animal types)

Make sure you rotate toys.
Find toys that are easy for the puppy to handle
Plush toys are for playing, chew toys are for occupying a bored puppy.
No tug of war. A little puppy tugging is okay.

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Puppy Development

Birth – 2 Weeks:
At this earliest stage, puppies depend entirely on their mother for physical and emotional necessities. The pup has slow reflexes and responds primarily to warmth and food. Only the senses of taste and touch are present at birth.

2 Weeks – 4 Weeks:
Puppies are still primarily dependent upon their mothers at this stage, although they also benefit from the presence of siblings, or litter mates. Their senses begin to develop, as their eyes begin to open and their teeth, along with their sense of smell begins to develop. They are starting to stand and wag their tails. They are sensitive to loud noises and sudden changes in the environment. They are beginning to explore their environment.

3 Weeks – 6 Weeks:
This is the period of heavy socialization and puppies learn a great deal about social etiquette from their littermates and their mother, and from biting and being bitten. They are becoming aware of their environment and are able to play with people and other animals. This is the beginning of weaning and puppies must be remain close to their mother and littermates or it will be more difficult to socialize and train them later. Positive experiences are a necessity during this time, as they also discover fear by the end of this period.

7 Weeks – 12 Weeks:
The socialization process is in full swing by this point. Everything your puppy does and everything your puppy comes in contact with will have a lasting impression on him. This is also a marked period of fear for your pup and it is believed that if your puppy has a fearful experience during this period, it is more likely to have a long term effect on your dog. Thus, it is important to make new experiences as positive as possible for your puppy. This is a good time to introduce training into their lives.

3 Months – 6 Months:
This stage of development is the most similar to the human toddler stage. At this stage, puppies are the most heavily influenced by the closest animals, or their littermates. They are fully into the social stage and start to understand and take positions in the “pack.” They begin to test their independence at this stage, and often take a rough and tumble form of play to test their position in the pack. Teething is a constant issue at this stage.

6 Months – 1 1/2 Years:
Watch out! It’s the beginning of adolescence for your dog. At this stage, they begin to challenge rules and authority, and tend to explore who the leader is. It’s important to establish yourself as the leader during this period. Be stern with your pup for your own long term benefit. They are beginning to look like full grown, mature dogs, but still a puppy at heart!

This is also the beginning of sexual maturity and male dogs will begin to mark their scent while female dogs will begin their heat cycles

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Rough Play.

Did you know?

If you rough house or slap box, play tug of war or keep away, you are teaching your puppy/dog that using his mouth, his strength/stamina, body and his teeth is how games are played.

Although he is small in size and a little clumsy now, in no time he will grow into a fully mature animal. A dog at full maturity is faster, stronger and more cunning than you may think. It does not matter if he is a Monster Mastiff or a tiny Chihuahua. Not only may you get hurt (accidentally) but a small child in your family, your wife or a stranger can as well. This type of play is fun for humans, but to the dog, it is a game of competition and battle of the wills. You are activating his prey drive, possessiveness, excited dominance and aggression. If someone gets bit, in most cases you will blame him. Remember, in most dogs, there has to be a winner and a loser.

Dogs who engage in this type of play tend to be more demanding, use their mouth to get your attention, jump up and grab you, are more nippy, more mouthy and more dominate in social initiation and interaction

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