5 Easy Steps to House Training

 

Nothing frustrates owners or damages the human animal bond quiet as much as a dog that eliminates in the house.  Inappropriate elimination is one of, if not the most common reasons dogs end up in pounds and shelters.  Follow these 5 easy steps and you will have bathroom harmony in your house in no time!

Step 1

Watch your dog like a hawk.  This means she goes where you go.  Do not give a new dog total freedom to roam your house.  This applies to puppies and older dogs that are first being introduced into your home.  This freedom can come with time, but never ever give it right away.  If your dog is not attached to you with a leash, she should be in a crate.  This should be followed until you are 100% certain that she is house trained.  NO EXCEPTIONS. Common times that your dog will need eliminate include 10-15 minutes after eating or drinking, during or after play or excitement, after waking up, or after chewing on a toy or bone.  The general rule of thumb for how long a puppy can “hold it” is number of hours per moths of age, plus one.  For example, a 3 month old puppy should be able to hold it for 4 hrs, even through the night.

 

Step 2

Establish on place outdoors for her to go and take her to this spot every single time.  While here, give a verbal cue such as “do your business” or “get busy”every 5-10 seconds.  Once she begins to go, repeat your verbal cue as she is going.  The second she has finished, give her a treat and lavish praise.  The treat needs to be given immediately, not once she is back in the house.  If you are using “wee-wee” pads, get rid of them.  Wee-wee pads teach them that it is okay to eliminate indoors and can lead to lots of confusion.  There are exceptions to this, but in general I do not recommend wee-wee pads.

Step 3

If your dog does have an accident in the house, you need to immediately interrupt her.  After interruption, she should be taken to her spot outdoors and be given the opportunity to finish her business.  Care should be taken to to frighten her with the interruption.  You do not want her to develop fear or an aversion to elimination in front of you.

 

 

Step 4

Clean up any accidents with an enzymatic odor eliminator, such as Nature’s Miracle or Urine Gone.  These type of cleaners will change the chemical structure of urine and feces and will totally eliminate the scent.  Other types of cleaners and disinfectants will only cover up the smell (maybe).  Stay away from anything that contains ammonia.  Ammonia is a component of urine and will actually cause your dog to return to that spot to eliminate.

 

 

Step 5

Set up a consistent feeding and watering schedule.  Do not leave food and water down all day long.  Most dogs will need to eliminate withing 10-15 minutes of eating or drinking.  Use this to your advantage and bring her to her outdoor spot before she has a chance to have an accident.  This does not mean withhold food or water, just give them at scheduled times in order to set everyone up for success.

 

 

Start to take note of these times and signals, after waking up, after/during play and excitement (physical OR mental-sniffing something interesting), a sudden halt in something they were doing (chewing a bone, play, etc..) and starting to sniff, circling and sniffing, after eating and/or drinking, and after treats.  These are common times and signs of when your dog will need to use the facilities.

You can also train your dog to ring a bell to signal to be let out.  Hang a bell on the door that you will use, any kind of bell will do.  Put a little peanut butter on the bell and bring your dog to it.  When she begins to lick and causes the bell to make a sound, open the door, praise her, and give her a treat she REALLY loves.  You may need to repeat this process several times, but most dogs catch on quick.

 

If you follow these 5 easy steps, you should have your dog house trained in no time :-).

 

Pictures provided by Istvan, World of Oddy, ohad, wotthe7734, Vicki & Chuck RogersTobyotter

How To Choose A Doggie Daycare

With the busy lives that a lot of us lead our dogs are often left at home alone for prolonged periods of time.  Also, many people think that because of their work schedule fitting a dog into their life is impossible.  One viable option for those of us in this situation is doggie daycare.  Doggie daycare centers not only provide avenues for socialization and exercise, but many also offer obedience training. So, what are the pros and cons to doggie day care and what should you look for in a daycare center?  A well-run facility will be of benefit to both you and your dog.  Your dog will have the opportunity to socialize with others of his own species, learn important social skills, and become well rounded and balanced.  Your dog will also benefit from mental and physical stimulation, which can help reduce behavior issues at home that stem from boredom and inactivity.  Here is a list of questions you should ask when screening a daycare center:

  1. Does the daycare have a certified trainer on staff?
  2. What is the daycare’s training/behavior management philosophy?
  3. What is the caregiver to dog ratio? (1 to 15 is good)
  4. Does the staff have a dog fight protocol in place?
  5. What steps are taken in the event of a veterinary emergency?
  6. Is the place clean and relatively odor free?
  7. Do indoor facilities have good ventilation?
  8. Does the daycare have adequate fencing and secure areas between access doors?
  9. Does a behaviorist or trainer screen the dogs before acceptance?
  10. Does the daycare require vaccinations (see Table 1), negative fecal tests, and flea treatments/preventatives?
  11. Do staff members receive continuing education and training?
  12. Are the dogs supervised at all times?
  13. What dog-related experience does the daycare owner have?

Daycare centers are great, but they are not without a few drawbacks.  For one, they aren’t free.  Most daycare centers charge between $15-$30 a day for basic services.  Also, disease and parasite transmission can occur in any communal environment; so can dog fights.  However, a well-managed facility has staff that is trained to minimize conflict, including screening newcomers, checking vaccination status, gradual introductions, and monitoring play.       Unfortunately, doggie daycare is not for every dog.  If you have an aggressive dog, this is not the place to teach your dog to be more social.  Dogs with serious behavior issues need behavior modification and should be treated by a behaviorist.

 

If you have any stories about your experience  at a doggie daycare, please share!

 

Pictures provided by insidethemagic, amblebamble39507, and Alex E. Proimos

How To Handle Noise Phobias in Dogs

 

 

Noise phobias in dogs are common problem and are difficult and frustrating to treat.  A dog can develop a phobia to any sound.  Common sounds include fireworks, vacuums, sirens, gunshots, and thunderstorms.  Of these, thunderstorms are by far the most common.

Noise phobias can develop for several reasons.  It could be something as simple as not being exposed to a certain sound during the critical socialization period (4-14 wks of age).  There is also a genetic component.  Some dogs, just like people, are more timid and fearful vs bold and outgoing.  These dogs are going to be naturally more fearful than others, even without the occurrence of something traumatic.  Many dogs develop these phobias over time.   For example, a puppy gets startled by the sound of thunder, an owners sees this and goes to the dog and starts to pet him and say “it’s okay” in an attempt to calm and comfort him.  While the owner’s intentions are to calm and comfort, what they end up doing is reinforcing the fear.

Noise phobias can manifest in many different ways.  A mild case may involve panting, tremors and whining.  A severe case can involve chewing holes through walls and aggression.  It is important to note that these dogs are extremely anxious.  They are having panic attacks.  They are not purposely trying to destroy things.  Other signs include urinating or defecating, hiding, chewing, pacing/following, panting, digging, escaping, drooling, attention seeking behaviors, excessive gas, barking, trembling, and dilated pupils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since thunderstorm phobias are the most common, and the most difficult to treat, I will be focusing this discussion on this specific phobia.  So, why is this particular noise phobia so tough?  It’s because there are a number of variables involved in a thunderstorm and some are difficult to replicate during treatment.   The different components include cloud cover, changes in humidity, changes in barometric pressure, rain fall (the sound, sight, and smell of it), the flash of lightening (frequency and intensity), static electricity, and thunder (frequency and intensity).  None of these occur in a vacuum and they can appear together in many different combinations and intensities.  A dog may be able to handle one at a time, but the mix and match may be too much.

 

Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning

The proper treatment involves several steps and centers around desensitization and counter-conditioning (DCC).  During the DCC program it is important to NOT expose the dog to any of the sounds/components that he is afraid of.  This is another thing that makes fixing this problem so difficult.  How do you control the weather?  Well, obviously you cannot, so it would be best to start treatment when it is not thunderstorm season.  A DCC program involves exposing the dog to each component of the thunderstorm to a degree that either does not evoke a fearful response at all (this can be difficult) or at the very least evokes less of a fearful response.  Reward relaxation/no/less response with praise and a food treat.  If your dog is not accepting the food treat, he is too stressed and the intensity of the stimulus needs to be decreased.  Now, here is were the difficulty comes into play.  How do you replicate a change in humidity, cloud cover, static electricity,  and barometric pressure?  You can’t.  Sorry, no tricks up my sleeve for those.  If someone has suggestions I’d LOVE to hear them :-).

So, we are left with thunder, lightening flash, and rain (the sight and sound of).  There are CD’s with recordings of thunderstorms.  These will give us the sound of thunder and rain fall and are a great place to start.  Play the recording on a very low setting, barely audible, and reward calm behavior.  Do not increase the volume too fast.  Going too fast is the most common mistake people make.  After several short sessions (3-5 minutes each) per day for a few days, begin to increase the volume.  If your dog begins to react, ignore him, turn the sound off, and restart at the previous volume that he did not react to and start over.  I cannot stress enough the importance of going slow.  You cannot go too slow, but you can very easily go too fast.

Once the sound components have been dealt with (thunder and rain) it is time to move on to the visual side of the house, lightening and rain.  A camera flash or strobe light can be used as lightening.  Start in a different room and flash once.  Reward as stated above.  Slowly start to increase the frequency of the flashes and then the intensity (bring it closer, but never flash it right in the dog’s face).  As you begin to move closer, start over with one flash, then slowly increase the number of flashes at that distance.  Next is the visual component of rain.  All you need for this is a window, garden hose, and a helper (human type).  Have your dog sit far away from the window as someone “makes it rain,” reward calmness and gradually bring your dog closer to the window.  This is not perfect because of the components that we have no control over, but it’s the best that we can do.

Once your dog has been desensitized and counter-conditioned to the individual components, it’s time to repeat the process with combinations.  Start with two of the components that he reacts less to, and build on that.  Switch them up and DCC to as many combos as you can.  After this combine 3 things and keep building in this manner.

 

Products

There are several products on the market that can help dogs with noise phobias, however, none of these are intended to be used as the sole treatment and are intended to be used in conjunction with behavior modification.  In other words, there is no short cut and choosing one of these becaue it is an easy way of dealing with the problems will likely result in failure about 90% of the time.

  • DAP Collars and Room Plug-Ins – DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) collars and room plug-ins can help to decrease anxiety in dogs, regardless of the cause.  They should be used together and constantly, no “as needed.”  The collar needs to have a tight fit, not snug, tight.  It needs to be tight (just able to fit one finger under the collar) because it gets activated by body heat.  Therefore, it needs to have good contact with the skin.  It should also be kept dry, moisture will significantly decrease it’s effect.  The room diffusers should be plugged into an outlet that is out in the open (not behind a couch) and preferably in the middle of the room.  One diffuser covers an area of 600 square feet.
  • Calming Caps – Calming caps are designed with a sheer mesh that covers your dogs eyes.  In theory, it will make visual stimuli less stimulating.  Your dog should be properly introduced to this tool before the time comes when you actually need it.
  • Thunder Shirts – The exact mechanism by how this works is not certain.  It is proposed that stimulation of the nervous system helps to quell anxiety.  The company claims 100% satisfaction guaranteed :-)  This could also help with the static electricity component of thunders storms.
  • Thunderbands – The ThunderBand is a comfort head wrap and 2-part sound dampening system for thunderstorm (and fireworks) phobic dogs.

 

Medications

Medicating your dog may not be an appealing idea to you, but often times medications can be a tremendous help.  Stress and anxiety inhibit learning, in dogs as well as in people.  Think about it, how well are you going to learn if you think your life in truly in danger?  Your main concern is to escape that danger, be it real or perceived.  Same goes for dogs.  If anxiety can be decreased, learning can be increased.  There are several types of medications that can be used.

  • Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI) and Tricyclic Anti-depressants – Medications such as Prozac (Reconcile), Zoloft, and Clomicalm will cause an increase in the serotonin levels of the brain, producing a calming effect.  They also have an effect on other neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and dopamine.  This class of medication is meant to be taken for a period of months to years.  The positive effects of these medications are seen after taking them daily for 4-6 weeks.
  • Benzodiazepines – Medications such as Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin are anti-anxiety medications that start to work in about 30-45 minutes.  These can be used on an as needed basis, but can also be used daily until  the SSRI’s kick in.
  • Phenothiazines – Acepromazine, or Ace for short, is a VERY commonly used drug in veterinary medicine.  It only sedates.  It does not have any anti-anxiety properties and is not a good choice for dogs with anxiety.  It makes the owners feel better because their dog cannot display the anxious behavior.  The dog’s brain is still experiencing all of the stress and anxiety that the situations brings about, but his body cannot show it.  Plus, it actually heightens sensitivity to noises!  This medication should also be avoided in dogs that have seizures and in Boxers, sight hounds, and giant breeds.
  • AnxitaneAnxitane is not a “medication,” it is a nutraceutical for the brain (like glucosamine is for joints).  It decreases the frequency of alpha waves in the visual cortex of the brain.  This makes visual stimuli (rain and lightening) less stimulating.  It has no side effects and does not cause sedation.

 

Although this can be a frustrating and time consuming problem to deal with, progress can be made.  A realistic goal is one of improvement, not complete resolution.  If I can get a dog to go from chewing holes through walls to only tremoring during a storm, I am happy.  Please feel free to share your thoughts and stories!

 

Pictures courtesy of stevoarnold (lightening) and lkayama (scared dog)

 

 

How to Stop Annoying Dog Barking

How to Stop a Barking Dog

How to Quiet Your Barking Dog

Many behavior issues that you may encounter affect only the relationship between you (and your family) and your dog. Excessive barking, however, not only affects your relationship with your dog, but it can also affect your relationship with your neighbors that can result in neighborhood disputes and violations of animal control ordinances. Barking dogs can become a serious issue on a number of fronts.   If your dog’s barking has created tension in the neighborhood, address it directly by discussing the situation with your neighbors.  Some barking is normal and reasonable, just as children make noise when they play outside. However, excessive barking for long periods of time is a sign that your dog has a problem that needs to be addressed.

The first thing that needs to be done is to determine when and for how long your dog barks, and what is the underlying motivation for the excessive barking. You may need video to obtain this information, especially if the barking occurs when you are not home. Ask your neighbors for their advice/opinions, drive or walk around the block and watch and listen for a while, or start a tape recorder or video camera when you leave for work.  A complete behavior evaluation by a canine behaviorist can also help to determine the underlying cause, or causes, and is the best course of action to take.  Addressing all underlying causes gives you the best chance for a favorable outcome. Below are the common motivators/causes for excessive barking and some general recommendations to treat them.

Social Isolation/Frustration/Attention Seeking

Dogs will bark excessively if they become bored or lonely.  We lead busy lives and many of us work long hours.  Dogs that are left alone for long periods of time without the opportunity to interact with you will become lonely and bored.  This is especially the case with dogs that do not have another dog to play with and with those whose environment is relatively barren and without toys.

Puppies, adolescents (under 3 years of age), and active breeds like sporting and hunting breeds are all predisposed to this type of excessive barking.

Recommendations:

  • You need to provide an adequate outlet for your dogs’ energy.  Running around in the backyard does NOT accomplish this.  A dog needs to be walked.  Nothing takes the place of a vigorous walk.  Walk like you are late for an important appointment.  Do not allow your dog to sniff and mark every blade of grass that you come across.  A “sniff & pee” walk is not going to accomplish what we need.
  • Teach your dog to fetch a ball or Frisbee and practice with him as often as possible.  Another great game is to teach your dog how to find his favorite toy.  There are many new puzzles out there that can keep your dog busy when you are away.  Kong’s and Buster Cubes filled with food (be sure to adjust meals for this) are a great way to keep your dog busy.  Be sure to rotate toys so your dog does not get bored.
  • Take an obedience class or teach your dog new tricks.  Dogs are very intelligent animals and you need to exercise their minds as well as their bodies.  Taking an obedience class helps to develop an effective way of communicating with your dog.  Working with your dog daily and taking him through some simple commands can help to keep his mind sharp.
  • Make sure you spend sufficient time with your dog on a daily basis (petting, grooming, playing, exercising) so he doesn’t have to resort to misbehaving to get your attention.  Keep him inside when you are inside.  If possible, take your dog to work periodically.
  • Doggie day care is another great option for those of us that work long hours.  Your neighbors will appreciate this.
  • Hire a dog walker to give your dog some extra exercise while you are at work.
  • Never give your dog attention while he is barking.  Ignore him until he stops for at least three seconds, then reward silence with attention or treats.

Territorial/Protective Behavior

This type of barking occurs in the presence of  “intruders.”  Intruders include mail carriers and other delivery type people, people walking on the side walk or street, neighbors, or other dogs.  Often times we encourage this behavior, especially when they are cute little puppies and the barking is not such a nuisance.  Petting your dog and saying “it’s okay” or anything else will send the signal to your dog that this is acceptable behavior.

Recommendations:

  • Teach your dog to be quiet on command. When he begins to bark at something, allow two or three barks, then say “quiet” and interrupt his barking.  This can be accomplished in a number of ways.  It is important not to creat excessive fear when interrupting.   Barking can be interrupted by shaking a can filled with pennies, air horn, hand clapping, or squirting water at his mouth with a spray bottle or squirt gun. This will cause  momentarily cessation in the barking.  At the very second the barking stops, say “quiet” and give him a treat. Remember, the loud noise or squirt isn’t meant to punish him, it is meant to interrupt the barking so you can quickly reward him.  If your dog becomes frightened by the noise or squirt bottle, find an alternative method of interrupting his barking (throw a toy or ball toward him).
  • Desensitize and counter-condition your dog to the stimulus that triggers the barking. Teach him that the people he views as intruders are actually friends and that good things happen to him when these people are around. Ask a friend to walk near your house, starting far enough away so that your dog is not barking, then reward him for quiet behavior while he is sitting or lying down. Use a very special food reward, something he loves, but does not usually get. As the person gradually comes closer, continue to reward silence.  If your dog begins to bark, have the person return to the previous distance that did not cause barking.  Stick with this distance for a while longer.  Close the distance slowly, going too much too fast a a sure way to fail.  It may take several sessions before the person can come close without your dog barking. When the person can come very close without your dog barking, have them feed him a treat or throw a toy for him.  This is a self rewarding type of behavior.  Every time your dog barks at someone and they “go away” he feels good about himself.  Avoiding the scenarios that cause territorial/protective barking is paramount in treating this type of barking.
  • If your dog barks while inside the house when you’re home, call him to you, redirect his behavior by giving him something else to do, like sit,  and reward him with praise and a treat.
  • Do not inadvertently encourage this type of barking by enticing your dog to bark at things he hears or sees outside.
  • Have your dog neutered (or spayed if your dog is a female) to decrease territorial behavior.
  • Limit yourdog’s access to windows that allow for a view of the street.

Fears And Phobias

Fear and phobic barking can occur when your dog gets exposed to a sight or sound the he is afraid of.  Examples include, but are not limited to, fireworks, thunderstorms, and traffic.

Recommendations:

  • Identify the cause of the fear and desensitize your dog to it.
  • During desensitization you can lessen the impact that noises have on your dog by placing your dog in a basement or windowless bathroom and leave on a television, radio or loud fan.
  • Block off your dog’s access to outdoor views that might be causing a fear response, by closing curtains or doors to certain rooms.  Using a crate may aslo facilitate this.

Separation Anxiety

Your dog may be barking due to separation anxiety if the barking occurs only when you are not home and starts as soon as, or shortly after, you leave.  Other symptoms of separation anxiety include following you where ever you go, pacing and panting as you prepare to leave, always having to be right next to/touching you while sitting, not eating or drinking while you are away, and destructive behavior while you are away (especially around exits points).

A recent change in the family’s schedule that results in his being left alone more often, such as a move to a new house, the death or loss of a family member or another family pet, or a sudden change in your work schedule (teachers home for the Summer returning to work).

Recommendations:

  • Separation anxiety may be resolved using counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques.

Bark Collars

Bark collars used alone without behavior modification may work for a short period of time, but eventually they will fail.  These collars are specially designed to deliver an aversive stimulus whenever your dog barks. There are several kinds of bark collars:

Citronella Collar: This collar contains a reservoir of citronella solution that sprays upwards toward your dog’s face every time he barks. These are considered humane and they do work with dogs that find the citronella smell and spray sound aversive. One possible drawback is that these collars are sound activated and can be set off by sounds other than barking.  They can also be set off by sounds that do not come from your dog.   Also, some dogs can tell when the collar is empty and will resume barking when they make that realization. You can also purchase a citronella collar that is activated by a handler, but I do not recommend this because your timing will be off or even non-existent if you are not present constantly.

Aversive Sound Collar: These collars emits a high-frequency sound when your dog barks that only your dog can hear.  Some are activated by the noise of the bark, while others are handler activated. These have a poor rate of success.

Electric Shock Collar: I DO NOT RECOMMEND an electric shock collar to control your dog’s barking.  Many dogs will choose to endure the pain that these collars cause and continue barking. These collars are expensive and their success rate is very low. Also, these collars can lead to redirected aggression toward people or pets that are around the dog at the time the shock is delivered.

The biggest downfall of any type of bark collar is that it does not address the underlying cause of the barking. You may be able to eliminate the barking, but if the underlying cause is not addressed, your dog may begin to manifest his anxiety in other ways such as digging, escaping or become destructive or even aggressive. The use of a bark collar must be in conjunction with behavior modification. You should never use a bark collar on your dog if his barking is due to separation anxiety, fears, or phobias because punishment always makes fear and anxiety behaviors worse.

 

How do you handle your dogs barking?  I’d love to hear some of your creative ideas!

 

Pictures by elisfanclub, faster panda kill kill, cdedbdme