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What is that Rescue Group Telling You?

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Maddie

“She’s just a little shy.”
“This dog just needs some training.”
“Once he’s adopted he’ll be better.”
“These puppies are bonded and shouldn’t be separated.”

Rescue groups and shelters truly do amazing work to find loving homes for surrendered animals.  This article is not intended to bash or undermine their work in any way.  Most shelters and rescue groups do the best they can with the limited resources they have.  I appreciate their efforts!

If a rescue group, foster family, or shelter worker gives you advice about training or behavior, please consider the source.  Does this person have professional experience and training in behavior and dog training skills?  Just having been around alot of dogs and hearing alot of stories is not enough.  Some shelters like the Humane Society of Broward County have amazing behavior experts and trainers either on staff, working as volunteers, or working as contractors.  However, they may not be the ones working on the adoption room floor.

So what’s the harm with taking a little anecdotal advice from a well intentioned rescue worker?  Well if you are truly devoted to the animal, have LOTS of control over your environment, and have tons of resources (cash and time); there is not much risk of harm.  You are devoted and have the means and resources to make a great life for your dog.  You are my perfect client!

But when reality sets in… many adopters realize that they have lives that are not compatible with a special needs dog.  They have commitments and responsibilities and they are tired and have no time.  The really sad stories are the families with children that adopt dogs that are not a good fit.  Children do not fully understand consequences.  When your dog has a bite history, and your beautiful little girl goes for a big dog hug and gets bit on the face, that’s completely irresponsible parenting.  Children should not have access to dogs that bite unless strictly supervised, and using safety equipment when needed.

Last year, I received an email from a shelter that I support.  They wanted me to talk to a family that recently adopted 2 German Shepherd puppies… from the same litter. Click on this link to the article on why adopting more than 1 puppy from the same litter is a bad idea (unless you have super human powers).  Let me give you some insider info: I’m a dog trainer.  Training comes easy and complimentary (that’s free) to me.  I would never WILLINGLY AND OF SOUND MIND take on 2 pups at the same time.  It’s too much work.  Hey if its too much work for a dog trainer, ya think that may be a clue not to take this on?  So what was the problem with the adopters?  Well, on top of all the usual complaints about puppies, the family had a special needs child.  The shelter should have never allowed the family to take both puppies.  I’m not denying anyone the right to a dog because they have a child with special needs, but dogs have needs too.  If your dogs needs are not compatible with your family needs, you are asking for trouble.  Call me before you make a decision that you regret.  And by the way, those pups were real cute and controllable when they were adopted.  By the time they were surrendered, the pups were so big and uncontrollable, that I can’t imagine that they would be adoptable.  I have no information if they had a happy ending or if they were just another euthanasia statistic.

Sadly, this is just one story of the many stories I hear from clients that I work with, as well as potential clients that couldn’t commit the resources to manage the behavior.  Obedience training will help you communicate with your dog, but it won’t help your dog with intense fearful reactions to other dogs or people.  Fear, stress and anxiety related behaviors need to be managed with behavior modification.  Behavior modification is usually a tedious process and requires private lessons.

I will confess, that I too have adopted a dog with my heart and not my head.  Maddie’s rescue group certainly worked the emotional side of adoption (I was emotionally raw and broken hearted from the death of my beloved Liesel).  Fortunately, because I am a dog trainer, I had the resources to do the behavior modification (I didn’t charge myself).  My journey with Maddie is in its 7th year.  For some people, taking on a dog with special needs is truly wonderful.  For others, that may have taken dog behavior advice from a bad source, it could be a nightmare.

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Mind Your Manners

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ImageTeaching manners to puppies is pretty easy to do, yet many pup parents overlook this important step in puppy rearing.  The fact is that puppies are adorable no matter what they are doing.  However, many behaviors that may be cute now, are not so cute when a puppy grows to be a 75 pound monster. The way to keep your puppy from becoming that monster is to develop manners by teaching some impulse control.

When I get a 4 or five month old puppy in my group class, one of the first skills that I need to teach is a gentle mouth.  Some pups are completely unaware of the sensitive human fingers when gobbling down treats.  I’ll close my treat hand with the treats inside and let the puppy get frustrated.  He’ll bite, paw and try to bully me into releasing my hand.  The pup eventually gives up and backs away. That’s when I say yes and release my hand.

There are so many areas that impulse control can be taught at an early age: greeting guests, walking on a leash, getting out of the door, getting leashed up, coming out of the crate, waiting for the food bowl and many more.  Nobody wants to be knocked down by an exuberant dog during any of these activities.  That’s why it’s important to teach impulse control BEFORE the dog gets big enough to knock you down.

Take a look at the video at the link below of Sammy coming out of his crate.  Through several blocking techniques using the door or my arm, I prevented Sammy from barreling out of his crate. Instead, I taught him to sit and wait to be leashed.  I had already introduced a stay cue with Sammy, so the exercise was pretty simple and he caught on fast.

SAMMY EXITS CRATE WITH MANNERS

Of course it’s still possible to teach manners to an unruly 75 pound dog.  I do it all the time.  It sometimes takes tools to give a small owner more leverage and alot of patience to undo a behavior that is ingrained.  It’s oh so much easier to teach a puppy some manners from day one.

Double Trouble!

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ImageA new puppy!  What could be more adorable?  Two puppies?  Maybe… maybe not.

Yes, I know how it happens… ohh they’re both so sweet… how could we choose… they’ll be lonely without their brother/sister…

Trust me, I have to be not only the trainer, but also give tons of moral support to owners of ONE puppy that has the family on the verge of tears, collapse, or nervous breakdown.  Taking home two young pups at the same time is usually double trouble.  The biggest challenge two puppy households face is the tendency of the pups to bond to each other, rather than forming meaningful bonds with their human family members.  Many times the puppies become co-dependent and are inseparable.  Owners often underestimate the time and commitment needed to properly raise two pups; resulting in untrained and undersocialized dogs.  I would discourage anyone who is considering two pups from taking the plunge, but here are some suggestions for responsibly raising two pups at the same time.

Buy each pup his/her own crate and crate them separately. Housebreaking will fail miserably with the pups sharing a crate.  They will have plenty of together time, they don’t need to sleep together.  Crates are for sleeping and down time.  Pups crated together may like to play rather than sleep, possibly undermining your precious sleep.

Train each puppy separately.  The timing involved with marking and rewarding good behaviors is entirely too difficult to coordinate with two pups.  Try to cue a sit and if they both sit, you have to reward them both immediately to be most effective.  How many hands do you have?  Even if you have two family members training the pups at the same time, each will likely be distracted by the other.  Again, undermining your success and effectiveness.

Give the pups separate play times.  It’s good to create a bond with the humans as well as giving confidence to each pup.

Walk and socialize them separately.  This will allow each puppy to develop confidence and bonds with humans and other dogs at his own pace.

Good luck with housebreaking.  Vigilant supervision in required to properly housebreak a puppy.  I usually suggest a full lock down in the first three weeks.  This includes tethering the dog to the human or using an exercise pen.  The execution of a good housebreaking plan is completely overwhelming for a family with two pups.

And finally, the cost… for the first time puppy owner, the costs of just one pup is a real slap in the wallet.  Get ready for a real punch to the wallet with two.

Trust me, one puppy can fill your heart and your home with enough love for everyone!  Wait until you have ONE confident, well trained, and well socialized DOG before you bring home puppy #2!

Written by dawnhanna

November 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm

The Four P’s Of House Training

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Potty Time

On Leash Potty Breaks

That’s PROPERLY PLACED PEE AND POOP.  House training a puppy or even an adult dog can be errorless and speedy with consistency and structure.

There is a 2 part formula for efficiency and effectiveness:
*Preventing improperly placed pee and poop.
*Rewarding properly placed pee and poop.

Without prevention, accidents happen and owners become frustrated because they have fewer opportunities to encourage properly placed pee and poop.  Without rewards, accidents will occur when freedom is allowed.

Rewards: Imagine there was a magic patch of grass in your backyard.  Imagine that if you urinated on the magic patch of grass and hundred dollar bills immediately sprouted from the ground.  Hmmm…  If I had a magic patch of grass, I’m not sure that I’d ever use the toilet again.  Of course, dogs are not motivated by hundred dollar bills, so it’s up to the pet parents to find their dog’s “hundred dollar bill”.  If a dog successfully places pee or poop, there should be something extraordinary for the dog immediately following the “P” event.  It could be the freedom to run around the yard, maybe enhance the experience by chasing the dog; a game of tug; a tasty treat; a walk around the neighborhood.  You’ll have to do some proactive scheduling to be able to give timely rewards.

Prevention: The prevention piece of the solution involves tools like leashes, crates, gates limited freedom and vigilant supervision.  The limited freedom is temporary.  Freedom is allowed slowly as the dog learns about the rewards associated with properly placed pee and poop.  A properly sized crate is the only place where the dog should be placed unsupervised.  Puppies and adult dogs are unlikely to use the bathroom where they eat and sleep, so this is an ideal area to leave the dog when the owners need to live their lives.  Potty breaks at the designated potty area should be on leash so the dog does the business at hand rather than busying himself playing.

If you are house training an adult dog, your challenge will be undoing the habit of improperly placed pee and poop.  If you are house training a puppy, you will be challenged by the short holding times of a small bladder or bowels.

There are many more details and best practices to efficient and effective house training.  Consult a positive reinforcement, certified professional dog trainer for assistance.