Category Archives: Living with Your Dog

Articles and Links… Living with Your Dog

Renee PremazaPhone: 609-280-9338Email: renee@JerseyDogTrainer.com

A Word About Puppies

A Word About Puppies:      

Spring has arrived. Soon lots of people will be purchasing puppies, possibly for the first time. Please, please, please avoid getting your puppy from a puppy milI. Many people do not know that in our area Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the surrounding towns are a huge puppy mill area. Mill breeders do not care about the temperament or the health of their litters. They do not care about the health or temperament of their breeding dogs! They are strictly in it for the money.

Let’s talk a little about the work that lies ahead for you so you can ensure your puppy becomes the most wonderful companion pet who has no major behavior problems.

Avoid getting your puppy during the winter months. You will have a difficult time house-training your pup to go outside due to bad-weather days and nights. You will also have a much more difficult time getting the puppy out for walks and socialization, both of which are hugely important for all puppies! Avoid giving a new puppy as a gift unless that recipient is with you to select the puppy. Make sure you research the breed that you are thinking about getting, as well as the breeder! Your puppy’s breed will determine some of his future behaviors. If you’re shopping for a puppy, be sure to meet and interact with the puppy’s mom and dad. Afterall, they are the basis that forms your puppy’s genetic makeup. Even if you see a puppy that you fall madly in love with, think {Red Flag !} if the breeder won’t allow you to meet the parents (especially the mom who has enormous influence on her babies), if you see any unfriendliness from either of the parents to your family or even toward any of the litter, or if you notice that the puppy you are most attracted to… is not so attracted to you (puppy comes to sniff you, but is mostly interested in playing with its siblings, or hanging with its mom)!

Avoid bringing your puppy home before s/he is 8 weeks old! Dogs need to be with their moms and littermates at least until then in order to learn important things, like dog to dog social skills and bite inhibition! Puppies who are taken from their litter before 8 weeks will play-bite using a lot harder pressure than puppies brought home at 8 weeks. They may also be lacking in dog-dog social skills! If a breeder seems too anxious to release the puppies before then, that is another {Red Flag !} that the breeder just wants to get rid of the pups and get paid. Also, don’t let the breeder convince you to take 2 littermates! That’s not always the best choice for the humans or those dogs 🙁

Make sure you’re going to be able to get your puppy out for frequent potty breaks. Crating puppies for long periods of time is very counterproductive and can actually cause significant behavior problems to develop. Make sure you have the time to exercise your new puppy, get the kids off to school, go to work, and still be able to meet your puppy’s basic needs. Puppies are a lot of work! You will need to devote time for your new puppy if you want to avoid house-training accidents, chewing and other destructive behaviors. One more bit of absolutely free advice: make sure to teach your puppy how to be alone! From day 2, begin leaving puppy in the crate alone for 10 minutes, then 15 minutes while slowly building up to longer periods of time each day. Rule of thumb for leaving dogs alone in the crate go something like this: At 2 months, leave pup alone for no longer than 1 hour (after doing some “alone” training); at 3 months, leave pup alone for 2 hours, at 4 months, leave pup alone for 3 hours, and so that’s how it goes. I can’t tell you how many dogs develop severe separation anxiety because owners neglect to teach the dog to be alone when they’re very young puppies. If you are a teacher, or your children are off from school for the summer, we often see dogs that do develop separation anxiety because someone has been home for months and suddenly nobody is home come September!

When you get your new puppy or you adopt a new adult dog, do not make the mistake of spoiling him. All too often, we rescue dogs that have had unfortunate past lives and we feel that we have to make it up to them by giving him everything they want. Spoiling a dog will not show him you love him and it will not make up for all that went wrong in his life before he came to you! By spoiling him, you will only be telling him that you’re weak and can’t implement rules. Dogs absolutely need to know there are rules to follow (just like human children). If you give your puppies or dogs everything they want, they will become obnoxious and demanding! Avoid allowing your dogs to get up on furniture or to sleep in your bed or your children’s beds without getting permission (it’s best to wait until puppy is at least 1 year before allowing him to sleep in the bed). Avoid giving your puppies and dogs treats just because they’re cute and breathing! Also, avoid mindlessly petting your dogs. Use treats and petting as a reward because they’ve offered appropriate behaviors that you like.

How Do You Know When Your Dog Needs Training?

All puppies and dogs need at least basic training in manners and self-control. An untrained dog is like an untrained child. As with our children, dogs must learn that there are rules to follow in their lives in order to live successfully with us in a domestic environment. Your dog needs to learn that you are his trusted guide and teacher, you control all the good and necessary resources in his life, and you make all of the critical decisions that affect his safety and well-being. Training also provides us with the ability to communicate to our pup or rescue dog about what we want our dogs to do. I only train in the home, but for young puppies I send my clients to a facility in West Berlin, called Wonderdogs (www.wonderdogs.com) for puppy class. Puppies will get those basic skills there, but they will also play with one another and learn proper dog-dog etiquette.

If your dog won’t listen to you, train him to pay attention! If your dog won’t come when called, train him to come to you! If your dog pulls you when you walk, train him to walk on a loose leash! He will not figure out how to perform good behaviors unless and until you teach him!

If you train your dog at a very early age at 8-12 weeks your dog will be much less inclined to develop major behavior problems throughout its life (although I advise training dogs until they’re 2 years old). If you neglect early training, you may experience some of the following problems with any breed at any age:

  • Jumping on guests and children
  • Digging holes in your yard
  • Stealing things just to get your attention
  • Excessive barking both in the home and outside
  • Pushy and demanding behaviors
  • Nipping and mouthiness
  • Rude behavior with other dogs
  • Anxious and fear-related behaviors
  • Dog can become out of control
  • Food and object possessiveness
  • Pulling on leash
  • Will not come when called
  • Inattentiveness to you
  • Dog to dog aggressiveness
  • Dog to human aggressiveness

One last point: avoid all harsh punishments. Avoid saying “BAD DOG” or “WHAT DID YOU DO?” Don’t think for even a second that your dog feels guilty or knew he did wrong. Cowering, looking away or running away from you is NOT GUILT. It’s your dog needing to feel safe until you become safe to be with again!

Good Luck!

Prevent Dogs From Getting Lost – Part 1

I get stressed out each time I see an announcement for LOST DOG on Pawboost Alert. I would love to know how and why so many of these dogs are running away and getting lost. I thought it might be a good idea to discuss how to PREVENT this from happening. Keep in mind though if you have recently adopted a shelter or rescue dog, many will try to escape in the early days of coming home. So closely supervise your newly rescued dog for several weeks! Do not allow that dog to be out in your yard unsupervised!

One reason dogs will run away is: it’s more exciting and fun to be outside hunting or scavenging, or playing with a neighbor’s dog rather than being stuck in the house with nothing to do! Dogs need exercise, both physical and mental. You must provide enrichment activities that will keep their brains working and give them something enjoyable to do, especially when they’re alone in the house. There is a blog on my website that has tons of ideas for providing enrichment activities . Click on this link to read it:  “Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation for Dogs.”

NEVER call a dog to you to do something unpleasant (e.g., to say “bad dog!” or to put him in his crate, or to take him to the vet’s or groomer). No matter when you call your dog, it should be with a happy, cheerful voice, even if you’re mad as hell. Dogs will not come to you if they think they’re going to be punished! Even if your dog comes home hours after you’ve been going crazy trying to find him, BE JOYFUL and praise him for coming home. Remember that punishment will teach him something bad will happen if he approaches you!

NEVER chase your dog! Doing that will teach him/her running away from you is more fun than coming to you.

Below is my handout of games for teaching dogs to COME WHEN CALLED first from inside the house to teach him that coming to you is a good thing. My next article will teach you how to get your dog to come in from outside the house:

BACK UP AND TREAT GAME

Get your treats and begin the game with the dog sitting directly in front of you. Show him the first treat in your hand, and lure him to follow that treat as you take a step backward and he comes forward to you. Say, “COM’ERE” and give him that treat immediately when he reaches you! Keep taking one step back, and each time he comes to you, give him a treat right away using the word, “Com’ere.”

Only use a food lure for 3 repetitions! Once you get past this first part of the game, you should hide your treats behind your back and offer it only when he’s right in front of you. Encourage everyone in your family to play these games. 

DOGGIE IN THE MIDDLE GAME

Start out with the dog standing between 2 family members who are at a small distance from one another. One person calls the dog saying, “Com’ere” and rewards with a treat as soon as he arrives. Then the second person calls the dog and repeats this same process. As the dog gets better at coming to each person, begin slightly increasing the distances that you’re calling the dog back to you. Start calling your dog from different rooms to find both people who are playing the game when he’s doing well.

GO FIND IT GAME 

Toss a treat to the left of the dog and say “Go Find It.” Let him eat his treat. Then call him back to you saying “Com’ere.” When he is directly in front of you, give him a treat immediately. Then toss a treat way out to the right. Tell him “go find it!” Let him get his treat. Then call him back to you saying “Com’ere” and give him a treat immediately when he’s directly in front of you. Toss a treat out front of him and say “go find it.” Repeat this process over and over. Little by little, increase the distance you’re tossing those treats so he has to return back to you from further away to get his rewards! 

 

Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation for Dogs

As a dog trainer, I’m always reminding my clients about the importance of exercising their dogs. But physical exercise alone isn’t always quite enough, especially with breeds such as the Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, or  Jack Russell Terrier. Retrievers and Terrier breeds come with with their own batteries that are on the charger all day long! Most of our dogs were bred to work. We have herding dogs, hunting dogs, protection dogs, flock guardian dogs, sled dogs, etc. It’s alarming when people tell me they don’t have to take their dogs out for walks because they have a backyard to run and play. Relying on the backyard to provide exercise stops all socialization since there is zero interaction with the world at large. That means the dog never gets to see or play with other dogs, s/he never gets to greet the neighbors or see children of all ages, s/he never gets used to hearing traffic or seeing moms walking their babies in strollers. Isolating dogs causes boredom, fearfulness and sometimes aggression.

Here are some ideas to get your dogs to be more active, and also to help them use their brains:

  • Sports Activities (Agility, Flyball, Canine Musical Freestyle, Tracking, Dock Diving, Lure Coursing, Sheep or Duck Herding, Hiking).
  • Group Training Classes (AKC Canine Good Citizen, Pet Therapy, Tricks, Rally-Obedience, Nosework).
  • Best Toy for Super High-Energy and Herding Dogs (Flirt Pole) See video below.

If you live around South Jersey, check out some of these sports activities and group classes at Wonderdogs in West Berlin, NJ: http://www.wonderdogs.com/store/scripts/index.asp

See for yourself how much fun you and your dogs can have. Fetch games are okay, but dogs actually become stressed when they play fetch for too long! Yes, Really! Look at some of these terrific ideas how to physically and mentally exercise your dog:

  1. Here is a video showing dogs having the time of their lives doing Flyball: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=youtube+videos+of+flyball#id=2&vid=8ac55be219183275308a0053e91c0042&action=click
  2. Watch how these dogs are being taught to do Nosework: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=nosework+videos#id=24&vid=5941d5737cd668dbcab204d3211b6a49&action=view
  3. This is a beginner doing Rally Obedience: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=videos+of+rally+obedience#id=1&vid=78dbaec77bbf1646d7730d8e6324f1b3&action=click
  4. Watch how beautiful Canine Freestyle is: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=canine+musical+freestyle#id=4&vid=dddeaead4b481ea863e73c11087d84e2&action=view
  5. If you have a Sight Hound, try doing Lure Coursing: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=video+of+lure+coursing#id=2&vid=30b748f2c5f4bb9e37d67ec721b9082b&action=click
  6. Here is a video showing how to use the Flirt Pole: https://vimeo.com/26279876
  7. Have you heard about the Kong Wobbler? Watch this video of Louis, The Dog Toy Critic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-9Q0_BPUHM
  8. Have you heard about the Snuffle Mat? Watch this video of Louis, The Dog Toy Critic: https://beaglefanclub.com/dog-toy-critic/
  9. One of my favorite games to recommend is called The Muffin Tin Game. Watch this video: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=videos+of+muffin+tin+games+with+puppies#id=6&vid=8c5037c6d7a2ca3aac687fd2e964e078&action=view
  10. Make your dog’s meal a hunting expedition. Take his bowl of food out on your lawn (grass should be cut short. Ask your dog to sit and stay. Take out a few kibbles from the bowl and toss them on the lawn. Tell him to “Go Find It!” Make it easy for him to find them at first. Call him back to you and place her back in a sit/stay. This time take a slightly larger amount of kibble out of the bowl and toss them over a  larger area, but it should still be easy for him to find his food. Once he knows the name of this game, It shouldn’t take too long before your dog learns how to hunt for his food. I promise she’ll love it!

This is just a small sampling of how to provide very fun and stimulating activities for your dog. I hope you like them!

 

 

 

Important Advice for All Parents of Young Children

  • A dog is a dog, not a human child.
  • A dog has no morals and doesn’t recognize right from wrong.
  • A dog sees a young child as a “littermate” not a leader.
  • Both dog and child need constant supervision when they’re together!
  • Do not expect your dog to tolerate childish behaviors that cause pain and/or discomfort to your dog!
  • Your 5-year-old will not understand why he is not to pester your dog when he’s sleeping! A 5-year-old child does not understand that his dog could wake up startled by his sudden approach and bite him. A 5-year-old child does not think that his dog could bite him if he pulls on his tail or ears or sits on him. A young child needs constant and close supervision when he’s with his dog. You can tell him not to do something until you’re blue in the face. He may not listen to you.
  • Physically remove your child from the dog if the child is behaving inappropriately. If you do not do this, your child could get bitten.
  • Teach your child to behave appropriately with your dog and make sure to reinforce your rules!
  • Never allow your child to be on the floor at face-level. Young children should be sitting on furniture or standing when interacting with any dog.
  • Dogs play-bite! When they are with their doggy littermates, that is how they play with one another. When children get on the floor with a dog, the dog automatically behaves toward the child the way he would a littermate. Avoid facial injuries by keeping children on furniture when the dog is in the same room.
  • Never allow children (or husband) to roughhouse with your dog. This will cause your dog to play-bite and he will learn to play rough with everyone! Rough play will produce biting behaviors and you will find it difficult to undo this habit later on.
  • Every time you or your children interact with your dog, you are training him!
  • If you have a puppy, whatever you allow your puppy to do when he’s young will follow through when he becomes an adolescent/adult.
  • If you think a particular behavior is amusing when your dog is a puppy, do not think he will “grow out of it” when he matures! By laughing at him or allowing him to practice a behavior, he will learn this behavior gets him positive attention, and he will choose that behavior all the time.
  • Think more than twice before allowing your dog to sleep in the bed with your children. Dogs belong in their own beds on the floor!
  • Avoid spoiling your dog, as well as your children. Both species will become demanding and obnoxious!
  • You send your children to school to learn how to become well-behaved and knowledgeable adults. Take your dog to school for those same reasons. A well-behaved and mannerly dog is a pleasure to live with!
  • Involve your children in your dog’s training and supervise them during their lessons together.
  • The more your children work with your dog to educate him, the more your dog will see them as valuable leaders in the home.
  • Do not place inappropriate responsibilities onto the shoulders of your children. Give a child 1 or 2 easy and fun things to do with/for the dog and supervise to make sure things go smoothly. Avoid making those responsibilities drudgery for the child. Be sure to positively reinforce your child if he is doing a good job!
  • If either the dog or the child are behaving inappropriately with each other, your responsibility is to prevent those behaviors from ever happening. Bad habits develop easily. Bad habits are hard to break!
  • Never, never, never physically punish your dog! Your dog will learn you cannot be trusted and he may develop defensive behaviors.
  • Never, never, never punish your dog in front of your child. He will associate punishment with the child and develop negative emotions toward him or toward other children of similar appearance, sizes/ages.
  • Never, never, never scold or punish your dog for growling. Growling is a warning to tell you or your children (or another dog) that he is feeling uncomfortable about something so please stop what you are doing!
  • A dog that is punished or corrected for growling will learn to bite without giving any warning signals!
  • Allow your dog to have a “child-free” safety zone. This could be his crate or a specific corner of a room. Instruct your children that they are never to disturb their dog when he chooses to escape to that safety zone.
  • If your children love to run around the house screaming and flailing their arms, do not be surprised if your dog chases after them and nips their feet or clothing. Childish behaviors like this may cause a dog to go into prey-mode. Squealing kids who run around erratically can evoke hunting behaviors in many breeds. Do not lose sight of the fact that dogs are hunters. Terriers are bred to hunt and kill prey.
  • If you have a young child or children and are contemplating getting a dog, choose your breed carefully. Learn what job that breed was originally bred to do and you will know what behaviors will be typical for that dog. If your life is already hectic and a bit crazy because you are busy with your family, please think carefully about whether having a puppy or dog in your home is a good idea.
  • If you have a hectic schedule and do not have time to sufficiently exercise your dog, you will have a dog that will develop behavioral problems. Exercise is critically important to dogs. Most dogs are born with high energy levels.
  • If you are experiencing any serious problems with your dog, especially around your children, please contact a professional as soon as possible.

 

Copyright: Renee Premaza 2009

Introducing Shy/Fearful Dogs to People

 This article addresses shy/fearful dogs, but not dogs that will automatically go into attack mode at the sight of a stranger! If you live with a dog who displays this behavior, we will use other methods to re-socialize him, including using a muzzle. 

We humans often exacerbate our dogs’ behavior problems. One thing that most of us do is allow our fearful dogs to run wildly to the front door when the doorbell rings. By the time we arrive at the door to answer it, our dogs are already in such lather that they can’t think straight! Then we compound the problem by opening the door and holding the dog back by grabbing his collar to avoid having the dog either jump on or lunge at whoever is standing on the other side. What do we do then? We scold the dog for misbehaving. 

The truth is, no dog should have the job of being the main greeter at the door, particularly shy and fearful dogs. We need to set our dogs up for success rather than cause them to fail time and time again. Their behavior should not be construed as misbehavior; they are having panic attacks when they hear the doorbell ring or when someone knocks and enters!

Here is how to prepare to introduce your frightened dog to strangers and other visitors that enter your home:

  1. Whenever possible, allow your visitor to enter without ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door.
  2. Have your visitor sit down and get comfortable and ask if they’d be willing to help you re-socialize your dog. I find the best place to seat myself is right at the kitchen table.
  3. Get lots of delicious food treats ready and place them in a bowl on the table.
  4. Bring your dog into the room wearing his leash,
  5. Keep him with you until he is totally calm and relaxed.
  6. Never force your dog to socialize with anyone!
  7. Always leave it up to your dog to decide if he wants to investigate your visitor.
  8. If he is not able to relax in this situation, remove him to a room where he feels safe and comfortable. 

Here are the instructions you need to give to everyone who wants to meet your shy/fearful dog:

  1. Do not make eye contact with the dog.
  2. Do not speak to the dog.
  3. Do not reach a hand toward the dog or lean over him.
  4. Do not try to pet the dog!
  5. Do not get up and move around unless they tell you they’re getting up! Then remove the dog from the room FIRST!
  6. Basically IGNORE THE DOG!!
  7. Allow your dog to approach someone new only when he’s ready.
  8. If your dog seems interested in investigating the visitor, have them toss treats on the floor but at a distance away from your visitor. If the dog accepts those treats, that’s a very good sign that he’s not terribly stressed.
  9. If YOU believe your dog is accepting this person, they can offer a treat to the dog directly from their hand which should be flat against their side, not reaching toward the dog!
  10. Nobody should pet your dog during this first meeting!

You will have to be firm in giving these instructions! You will hear people say, “Oh don’t worry! I love dogs and they love me.” This will be a challenge because you will have to set these rules in stone, even when you’re giving them to your close family members and friends. We tend not to want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so we allow people to lean over the dog, reach out to pet the dog, etc. When dogs are frightened and undersocialized, if someone pushes them past their comfort zone, we can cause these dogs to bite defensively!  If you do not trust your visitors to observe these protocols, keep your dog in his safe-room and give him a tasty chewy to keep him occupied and happy until your visitors leave.

© 2009 Renee Premaza