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Dog Training Articles

Impulse Purchases are for Shoes, Not Pets

With the average life span of a dog being about 15 years, getting a puppy or dog is a huge commitment. It means that you will have to pay for food, veterinary care, grooming and other expenses, as well as paying attention to, training and taking care of the pet for at least 15 years. You will need to make sure that you always live somewhere that is pet friendly, and be prepared to stand by your dog through thick and thin.

So, if having a dog is such a huge commitment, why do so many people do it? Because there are also lots of enjoyments from having a pet. Witnessing their glee as they run after a ball, feeling comforted by their companionship, and stroking their soft fur after a difficult day are all things most people enjoy about their dogs. Besides, pets make great listeners when you have a problem and studies show that people’s blood pressure lowers when spending time with a dog.

All of these wonderful things set aside, it’s important to go into pet ownership with a clear head. While seeing an adorable pair of shoes that you “must have” may be an acceptable impulse buy, purchasing or adopting a dog on a whim definitely is not. But you may be surprised how many people end up with a dog or puppy based on just such an impulse!

There are some who do their research, meet with breeders and then can’t decide on just one puppy from the litter so they end up getting two or three. There are some who are going through a difficult time in their life so they get a dog because they want comfort, without taking into consideration the long term commitment. And still others who buy dogs at pet stores because they’re so cute in the window.

While some of these situations turn out fine, they are by no means ideal. For example, if a person planned on two puppies and thought it out ahead of time, they would already be prepared with two crates, two sets of leashes, collars, bowls and supplies, double vet bills, training and grooming bills, etc. Not to mention the chaos that can occur when two puppies actually live in your house. But for those who weren’t planning on this project and undertake it on impulse, this can turn out to be far more than the person bargained for.

Likewise for those who run out and get a dog on impulse, perhaps following the death of a family member or an elderly pet, a divorce or illness, or some other personal difficulty. Frequently, the person finds that the work involved with a new pet is not as soothing as they’d expected and instead leads to additional work and expense that they may not have been prepared for.

All in all, the point of this article is that pets are great to have. They can bring much joy to a person’s life and can be an important part of the family. But it is a big commitment that needs to be entered into with a clear head… not on impulse.

Before getting a dog, everyone in the household should be made aware of and agree to the work and expenses involved. You should be living somewhere that is pet friendly and if you are a renter, realize that if you ever have to move, it may be a challenge to find another apartment to accommodate you and your pet. Your budget should be examined to ensure that there is room for the additional expense of a pet, even if an unforeseen, expensive illness should occur. And your schedule should be such that your dog is not home alone more than an absolute maximum of eight hours per day.

By thinking it out ahead of time and going into pet ownership decisions with a clear head, much heartbreak can be avoided while ensuring that your circumstance does not end up contributing to the large number of homeless pets in the world.


Socializing Your Puppy With Wearing a Leash

Getting a new puppy is such an exciting time… and also a big project for humans! Young puppies in particular need to learn every single thing “from scratch,” ranging from housebreaking to obedience to even simple things such as wearing a collar and leash.

Young puppies (under 16 weeks of age or so) usually aren’t yet finished with their vaccines and therefore shouldn’t yet be walked all over the neighbourhood or spend time visiting public places where lots of people and other dogs or animals spend time. However, it is still very important to socialize puppies with a variety of stimuli while keeping exposure to potential diseases at a minimum, and without question, becoming comfortable with a leash and collar is important so your dog will be ready to go “out on the town” when the time comes.

Begin by getting your puppy a lightweight collar. Usually, a cotton or nylon collar with a quick snap (instead of a buckle) is the easiest to deal with. Be sure to purchase a collar that is size-adjustable so you can make it gradually larger as your puppy grows.

Let your puppy sniff the collar and act like it’s a very positive thing. Then, put it on your pet and spend some time playing dog toys with him so you can distract him from thinking too much about the collar. It is best to avoid attaching any noisy tags to the collar at first until your puppy gets used to wearing it. If your puppy seems upset about the collar, try to engage your puppy in a “normal” activity so he won’t stay focused on rolling around and trying to get it off. Most puppies are fine with this. If you practice this for a few minutes each day, your puppy will likely become comfortable sometime within the range of a few hours up to a few days.

Once you’ve worked on the collar socialization and your puppy is comfortable wearing it, it’s time to add a lightweight leash. At first, simply let your puppy drag the leash around a bit… don’t try to “direct” him at first. Once your dog seems comfortable with this, next work on holding the end of the leash in your hand and just following your puppy around. As he becomes better socialized with wearing the leash, you can then start to direct the puppy by using lots of encouragement, play and maybe even a treat to get him to follow you in the direction you wish to go.

Some of the most important aspects of these exercises are to keep it fun, use lots of patience and don’t let your puppy’s antics result in you taking the collar and leash off. If he rolls around and “fights” with the leash or collar, do your best to distract the puppy with toys and don’t remove them until it’s on your terms… not as the result of his upset. Never attempt to soothe your puppy by petting and using a sweet voice while he’s acting upset. Instead of feeling soothed, he will feel as if you’re saying “good rolling and fighting.” Gently tell your puppy “No” if he acts upset, and use the praising voice and petting when he’s more accepting of the situation.

With a little practice and lots of patience, your puppy will soon be socialized with wearing a leash and collar and will be ready to go on walks when the time comes. Remember that you can practice leash walking indoors with fewer distractions, which will make it easier when you do head outside. These tips can also be applied to socializing your puppy with other things as well!


Good Timing Creates Better Results With Dog Training

Imagine you just finished grilling a beautiful filet mignon steak. You realize that you forgot the steak sauce, so you walk away from the table to go to the refrigerator and get it. Out of the corner of your eye, you see your dog staring at the steak, walking straight toward it while salivating as if you’d served it to him in his dog bowl!

When do you think is a good time to correct your dog by telling him “no” and putting him into a down/stay position? While he’s definitely thinking of stealing the meat? Or not until after he’s already taken it and run off with it in his drooly mouth?

In the above scenario, it seems obvious that it would be best to stop your dog before he actually takes the steak. One of the reasons I love to use this example is because of its obvious simplicity.

However, similar timing is also applicable to many other situations. It is always best to redirect your dog into a more appropriate behaviour before he gets to the full extent of the bad behaviour, as long as you’re certain he’s thinking of doing it.

To clarify, another example would be a dog who barks and pulls when he sees other dogs. If you’re walking your dog and he sees another dog, assumes a “stalking” posture and is staring at the approaching dog, it is certain that if you don’t correct him, he will escalate into the full-fledged barking/pulling behaviour. Instead, you can tell your dog “no” and get his attention back on you as soon as the staring begins.

There are a multitude of other scenarios to which this applies… you just have to use your imagination. Is your dog definitely planning on jumping on the visitors? Probably yes, if he’s all excited, hopping around and acting like a madman while they’re walking up your path. Is he definitely going to rifle through the trash? Probably yes, if he’s sniffing the garbage can, licking its edges and has done this before. No need to wait until he’s already strewn the coffee grinds, banana peels and raw chicken wrappers all over the kitchen.

Redirecting your dog as soon as the thoughts or feelings are occurring to him can be an excellent way to solve behavioural issues. By not waiting until your dog is fully in the throes of barking, or until after he’s received the “reward” of licking the chicken wrappers, behaviours can be redirected much more quickly and effectively.

Beware that it is very important to be careful that you are reading your dog’s body language correctly. For example, if you have a puppy who is circling around on the living room carpet, it’s possible that he is getting ready to have an accident. However, dogs also circle around when they’re simply getting ready to lay down and you wouldn’t want to correct him for that. Get to know your pet and be sure you’re reading him correctly before moving forward with your educational exercises.

With a little effort, you can read your dog’s body language and head off problems before they escalate, resulting in a more well-behaved pet, fewer incidents along the way and problems solved much more quickly.


Puppy Exposure Dilemma

Most people who get a young puppy are told not to expose their dog to outdoor areas until vaccines are finished. There are lots of airborne viruses that can be contracted as well as a multitude of worms and illnesses that can be picked up through the droppings of other animals.

However, at the same time, people are also advised to work onhousebreaking right away and are told of the importance of thoroughsocialization for young puppies.

With puppies not fully completing their vaccination schedule until about four months of age, many pet owners are stricken by this conflict, unsure of what to do. Should you paper train your puppy for four months so he doesn’t go outside? Should you prevent your pet from meeting any other dogs until every vaccine is finished? It certainly provides a dilemma.

While the risk of contracting a disease from outdoor exposure is a legitimate concern, it is also a big concern that dogs can develop long-term ongoing housebreaking confusion as a result of paper training for four whole months (not to mention the mess made along the way). Another concern is that lack of socialization in the formative months could lead to fear problems when you finally do start bringing him out.

My opinion has always been that it is better to exercise caution by limiting outdoor exposure, while still going ahead and house training and socializing the dog. However, not wanting to advise my clients incorrectly, I interviewed numerous veterinarians and asked them what they thought about this dilemma.

Each and every veterinarian I interviewed responded that even with their own personal dogs, they  always go ahead with housebreaking and socialization, but in a prudent manner. In other words, the best way to go about these issues is to go ahead and train your dog while still limiting exposure.

Beginning house training can be accomplished by choosing one area of your yard to bring the dog to for “bathroom business.” In order to keep your pet safe from potential diseases, be sure not to choose an area where, for example, you know raccoons hang out at night. Likewise, if you don’t have a private yard, do not choose a fire hydrant that is frequented by all the dogs in the neighbourhood. Do not allow your puppy to roam free, eat sticks, etc. until vaccines are finished.

When it comes to socialization, it is also important to exercise caution while still socializing your puppy. Instead of taking your pup to the park or a pet store where there are a multitude of animals who you don’t know, socialize your puppy with dogs who you definitely know are vaccinated, friendly and healthy. Perhaps your neighbour’s dog or a family member’s pet might be a good buddy for now.

Like most things in life, there is some risk involved in every decision. But by exercising some prudence you can housebreak, socialize and keep your dog healthy all at the same time.


Puppies Bite!

Getting a puppy is a very exciting time. Perhaps you’ve been waiting for the time to be “right,” or maybe you just fell in love with a puppy at an adopt-a-thon.

Either way, once you get the puppy home, the realities of having one tend to set in rather quickly. Although they are adorable, sometimes snuggly and very fun to play with, there are some things puppies do that can be rather exasperating… such as biting.

Yes, biting, biting, biting. Frequently, people wonder whether they somehow accidentally brought home a pet alligator instead of a pet dog! The kids are standing on top of the couch crying, your arms are so scratched up that your coworkers are asking whether things are okay at home, and the puppy is running around with glee looking for more mischief to get into.

While nipping is normal for a puppy, it doesn’t have to be simply accepted. By working with your puppy now and taking steps to redirect his biting to more appropriate items such as dog toys, you can soon have your pup keeping his teeth to himself.

Begin by making sure your puppy has plenty of dog toys to keep himself busy with. Never give your dog “people items” that you don’t want anymore, such as old slippers, because he will most likely think it’s okay to chew the new slippers too. Instead, get some dog toys meant for dogs and choose ones with different textures. A good variety will include dog stuffed animals, balls, rope toys and sterilized natural bones.

Next, implement a little obedience training into your dog’s daily life. By teaching your dog some basic commands such as “sit,” “stay” and “down,” you can earn his respect so he won’t feel like it’s okay to keep nipping when you say “no.” Working on some obedience also teaches your pet the meaning of “good dog.” Be sure to use that phrase whenever he does something good.

Whenever your puppy nips, tell him “no,” and then put a dog toy in his mouth. Follow with “good dog.” Make sure you keep the dog toys in an easily accessible location and bring them from room to room when you take your puppy into other parts of your home.

Another helpful tip is to have a “special” dog toy, such as a rope toy which is kept in a cabinet or drawer most of the time. Let this be a special toy he only gets to play with when you’re interacting with him. This can help keep your puppy’s mouth off your arms and on the toy instead.

Last but not least, remember that a tired dog is a good dog. Give your puppy plenty of exercise to “burn off the sillies,” and he’s likely to be a little less charged up around the home.

With a little effort and a lot of patience, your puppy will soon learn to keep his teeth to himself!