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Dog Training Articles

Teaching Dogs to Use a Designated Bathroom Area

Many gardeners are also avid pet lovers. A common dilemma is keeping lawns in tip-top shape in spite of the family dog! Land mines are definitely not a virtue when it comes to your landscape, but there are steps you can take to enjoy both your pet and your property.

When nature calls no doubt dogs will answer, but with a little effort you can train your dog or puppy to use a designated area. Begin by choosing a corner of your yard which affords your dog some privacy but is not a main thoroughfare. Define the area so your dog knows the difference between inside and outside the section. This can be easily accomplished by using a short wire garden border. The idea is not to fence your dog in, but simply to provide a boundary line.

The next step is personally leash walking your dog or puppy to the area every single time he enters the yard. Follow the same path from your door to the spot, and act like you’re there with a purpose. Use a phrase such as “Do your business”. When your dog eliminates in the section, praise lavishly and then allow free play. This will be more easily accomplished if you adhere to a feeding and watering schedule rather than leaving food available at all times. If your dog eats a meal at 6PM, chances are he’ll use the area by 7.

Another important aspect is obedience training. The more you work on basic commands, the more your dog will respect you and the yard rules. Spaying/neutering is important for many reasons, but regarding designated area training, it can vastly reduce the urge to "mark" on every bush.

Never correct your dog if he eliminates in another part of the yard. You could end up with a dog who withholds in your presence and ends up having accidents in the house! Remember, it is still outdoors and you can sharpen things up over time.

After only a few days of walking your dog to the area, he will start to lead you there! Soon, you can start to leave your dog off-leash but accompany him to the section. Then, gradually reduce your presence by only walking part of the way but make sure he uses the spot.

With true diligence, most dogs will use the area independently within 6 weeks. Be sure to keep it clean at all times, and provide some supervision on a regular basis so he doesn’t regress. Now, if only you could teach him to mow the lawn!


Timid or Shy Dogs

Some dogs are boisterous, outgoing and brave. Others are more timid and shy.

Just like people, each dog has their own personality. Sometimes these differences can be a matter of genetics (nature), or can be learned through their life experiences (nurture). Whether it’s nature, nurture, or a combination of both, you can help your timid or shy dog to become more confident.

Dogs who are skittish or fearful can often suffer from behaviour problems such as separation anxiety, excessive barking, or chewing.If fears escalate enough, these pets can sometimes become fear biters… displaying aggressive behaviour due to their perceived need for self defense.

In mild cases, skittish or timid dogs simply miss out on lots of the fun stuff in life! Instead of getting petted by dog loving visitors, they may choose to hide in a corner. Instead of enjoying jaunts to the park or tousling with other dogs, they may instead cower or avoid those situations.

If your dog is timid or shy, you can help your pet by using some obedience training, socialization, and confidence building exercises. By working on basic commands, you’ll have the opportunity to praise your dog for learning something new. This can be an excellent confidence builder.

Agility can also boost confidence. Learning to jump, climb or weave, (formerly ’scary’ exercises), can really help skittish dogs to become more self-assured. You can either find an agility class to join, or create some simple activities of your own. Even something as basic as getting your pet to jump over a small piece of wood, which you gradually make higher, can make a big difference. Praise lavishly!

Last but not least, be sure never to pet your dog while afraid. For example, if you pet your dog while he’s shying away from a visitor, he’ll think you’re praising him for being scared. He will not feel soothed. Instead, gently tell him "No", and help him to behave more naturally by doing some obedience commands, playing ball, or some other common activity. Praise your dog after he’s acting more relaxed, and encourage him to receive a treat or a pat from your friend.


The Proverbial Rolled Up Newspaper

Remember the rolled up newspaper? Used by our grandparents and those before them, this was the accepted method of correcting one’s dog for any infraction. Perhaps you yourself have used a rolled up newspaper, either to whack the dog, or to whack your hand, making a corrective noise.

There are several problems with this method. First is that it can cause your dog to become ‘hand shy’. Even if you’ve never actually hit your dog with your hand (and even if you’ve only used the paper to make a noise), this can cause your dog to flinch when you make sudden movements. Since most people see the importance of not making their dog fearful, and certainly don’t want him to act as if they beat him, this is something to avoid for that reason alone.

Another reason is that historically, the rolled up newspaper was used to correct the dog for all crimes committed… even after the fact. For example, if your pet chewed a shoe this morning and you didn’t find it until the afternoon, the rolled up newspaper would have been used along with the ‘drag & show’ to yell at the dog for his earlier transgression. Unfortunately, if your dog is sleeping in the kitchen, and then receives this type of correction, in his mind he’s being corrected for sleeping in the kitchen… not for chewing the shoe. Timing is everything with dogs.

Here is a professional recommendation for the rolled up newspaper. Take a newspaper, roll it up, and tape it with duct tape so it stays rolled.

When you walk into your dining room and find that your dog pooped there an hour ago, get out the rolled up newspaper.

Now, firmly whack yourself over the head with it! You were supposed to be supervising the dog!

Next, put it in your fireplace and use it for kindling.

Need a replacement method? By working on some obedience training with your pet, you can clearly teach him the difference between ‘no’ and ‘good dog’. He will become familiar with the fact that a tug on his collar means ‘no’. Then when you catch him in the act of doing something wrong, you can provide a verbal ‘no’ correction, accompanied by the token gesture of a tug on the collar. Of course, you’ll also make sure the timing is such that he knows what he’s being corrected for.

By supervising your dog more, and using appropriate teaching methods, you’ll soon enjoy a much more well behaved pet!


Keeping Muddy Paws Off Your Floors!

Springtime in particular is a time of year when mud becomes an issue for many homes with dogs. Not only does the rain cause mud, but for our pets there are many new smells to explore on the ground. More squirrels scampering, birds and other small animals visiting our yards, and worms within the soil are all temptations that can entice dogs to sniff, dig, or roll!

From the mild (moist paws) to the wild (the entire dog covered in dirt), most owners will agree that we don’t want the mud indoors. Here are some steps you can take to enjoy both your pet and your home this spring and throughout the year.

Be sure to have a mat by your back door where the dog usually enters the house. This will both protect your floor, and provide a clear boundary of where he’s supposed to stay when he first enters. Also keep a towel there, for the purpose of wiping the muddy paws.

Work with your dog daily on obedience commands. By doing this, you’ll much more easily be able to train him to sit and stay while you clean each paw, and to stay on the mat instead of barreling into the house. Be sure to praise your dog when he holds still for the wiping of each paw.

When your dog is outdoors, supervision can help dramatically. Spend some time outside training your dog to stay out of flower beds, where soil tends to be the loosest and most tempting. By practicing some obedience outside, your dog will understand more clearly that this is a location where he’s also supposed to ‘listen’. You may need to work with your dog on a long line at first, and it can also be helpful to put up a small wire garden border to provide a boundary line he can recognize not to pass.

Last but not least, do not allow food or bones outdoors. Your dog can still have outside toys, but is much less likely to want to dig and bury a frisbee, than a rawhide bone or a biscuit.

With a little obedience and supervision, your dog can learn to be well behaved in the yard, respect the areas where he’s not supposed to go, and calmly tolerate the wiping of his paws. Now, if only we could teach him to mop the floor!


Exercising With Your Pet

Starting an exercise program is a great thing to do…. and who better to go walking or jogging with than your dog?

However, many pet owners find that initially, bringing their dog along was not as fun as they expected! Pulling like a sled dog, jumping all over, biting at the leash, and barking at passers by, are all common complaints that can take the joy out of letting your dog accompany you.

To get your pooch ready to be included in your exercise excursions, he must first be able to walk nicely with you in general. Practice working on the ‘heel’ command, training your dog to walk appropriately at your side. Begin with very few distractions, such as in your living room. Gradually increase distractions by working outdoors on your own property, out in the street in front of your own house, etc. Practice walking fast, slow, and even jogging a little.

If you have a baby, it can help to practice having your dog heel with the stroller. Start off practicing with the stroller empty, and then add the baby into the mix after your pet has improved.

Once your dog is heeling nicely, it’s time to start bringing him out on exercise walks or jogs with you. Keep in mind, just as humans need to begin an exercise program gradually, so does your pet. Don’t expect him to go on a 5 mile run the first day out.

Some other helpful tips to keep in mind: Be sure to bring a plastic baggie with you… exercise stimulates dogs to go to the bathroom. Also, do your best to have your pet run on softer surfaces, such as grass or dirt instead of concrete…. this will be much easier on his joints and paws. Last but not least, as weather becomes extremely hot or icy, check the temperature of the ground… blacktop in particular can become burning hot for your dog’s pads, and ice can be damaging too.

With a little obedience training, some practice, and building up gradually, you and your pet can enjoy being fit together!