Packing These Dog Behaviors Helps Make Outing a Walk in the Park

Joan and Dublin in Park

Heading to an off-leash dog location with your inquisitive canine? Remember to bring along a few useful behaviors to make your outing an ideal situation. The following are a few I would bring along to help knock any challenge outta the park!

Building Trust with Your New Bashful Bow-wow

Dear Inquisitive Canine, 

Shy Puppy in Class

Our new Shih Tzu puppy hides from us, only coming out when no one is around. She also lowers her head when we pet her. I know it takes time, but I’ve heard some dogs will start interacting with their new environment after 1-3 days, and tomorrow will be her third day here. I just want her to be

a happy puppy. What should I do and how should I do it?

Renee T.

Dear Renee,

Poncho here! My certified dog trainer mom thought it best if I take this one. First off, allow me to say “atta girl!” for being inquisitive, aware of your situation and taking the time to ask questions about your new puppy. I’d also like to commend you for being such a keen observer of her body language and your ability to listen to what she’s “saying.”

Once a young pup myself, I can speak firsthand as to how learning to trust new people, places and situations takes time and practice. I’m happy to pass along a few simple dog training tips you can use to help your wallflower fido become the more confident canine you’d like her to be.

Treats, Love and Understanding

Let’s start with a few knowledge nuggets regarding the topic of fear. I’m talking about fear as it relates to her feelings, her emotional state and her ability to make her own decisions.

The primary stage of your dog’s life when she’s most open to new people and situations is 0-3 months — a very narrow window in which sociability wins out over being afraid. If your pup wasn’t introduced to a variety of people and situations during this time, then chances are it’ll be tougher for her to adapt, since the fear response starts to win the race as she ages. However, not all hope is lost. You can certainly teach her anything she is physically and mentally capable of doing, including trusting and enjoying her new life with you and all that’s in it!

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Keep It Simple. During this crucial teaching time, you’ll want to keep things simple and fun. All you have to do is pair something your bashful bow-wow might be uncertain about with something she already loves! For instance, since we animals must eat, you and others can provide extra-yummy goodies for her, such as pieces of grilled chicken or steak (I love when my mom does that!), allowing her to approach you. If she’s still hesitant, try tossing pieces toward her, building the trail of trust till she is confident enough to approach.
  • Adjust Expectations, Little by Little. Believe me, you’ll want to take baby-steps when working with her. As long as she continues to advance toward you, accepting your kindness and that of strangers, you can keep forging ahead at a slow-and-steady pace. If and when she decides to back off, respect her wishes and allow her to make that choice.
  • The Triple-P of Giving Treats. Once she begins to show signs of confidence, coming toward you and being close to you, begin hand-feeding her. Others in your home can do this as well. As she gets more comfortable, you can begin the Triple-P Treat Training Plan: Pet, praise, then present the treat. Petting should begin with light touches under her chin, working your way around as she gets more comfortable. And — this is really important — all petting should be followed with a yummy nibble of treat goodness. I recommend making the top of her head the last location, since hands reaching over will cause her to pull back.

As for additional situations and locations, repeat the same steps in places you want her to enjoy hanging out. Over time, she should learn to believe that her new world is a fantastic place and her confidence should build, making it easier for her to accept and believe that novelty is the spice of life!

Paws and Reflect

Fearfulness is a normal reaction across many different species. Your pup is responding in a way that is innate — avoiding in order to survive. It can be difficult to not take it personally, but keep in mind that developing a relationship with strangers, especially those of a different species, is more about building trust and not about liking. With a caring dog-mom like you being patient, allowing her to set the pace, giving her control over her environment and being able to make her own decisions, your bashful bow-wow will begin to enjoy her life with you in time and blossom into that self-assured pup you want!


Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho the dog. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and dog behavior coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple, commonsense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.

Joan is also the founder of the Inquisitive Canine and developer of the Out of the Box Dog Training Game, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, please email them directly.

Puppy Thinks Sibling Cat is a Squeaky Toy

Dear Poncho,

My name is Greta. I’m a 7-month-old German Shepherd who is absolutely fascinated by my kitty siblings. I can’t seem to leave them alone.

Puppy and kitty playingI’ve been told they are beloved family members, but part of me thinks they would make really interesting windup squeaky toys. I keep attempting to figure out how to get them to squeak, which totally freaks out my humans. Since I’d like to remain part of the family, do you have any suggestions on how I can control this behavior?

Greta

Dear Miss. Greta,

Congratulations! Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward gaining control. I commend you for being able to get this far, especially when the behavior you speak of is one that is deeply ingrained and very difficult for most animals to control. Allow me to provide my pooch’s perspective.

Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model: Continue Reading “Puppy Thinks Sibling Cat is a Squeaky Toy”

Training Tips for Teaching Your Dog Not to Speak

Dear Poncho,

My dog barks enthusiastically, very loudly, over and over. He does it at many different times, including the morning when I’m taking him outside, when I come home from being away, or when we arrive home together from a car ride. He barks in the car, out of the car, and everywhere between!

I don’t know how to stop him. I tell him “No,” but then he usually barks at least two to four more times!

Do you have any suggestions?
Tj’s owner

Dear inquisitive canine parent of TJ,

Your dog barks, you give him attention by saying “no”, he barks again. Hmm, sounds to me you’ve done a great job at teaching him to “speak” – nice work! I have a feeling that wasn’t your intention though.

TJ sounds like one happy enthusiastic pal. But I totally understand about it being annoying when another living being can’t seem to appreciate the sound of silence. Believe it or not, you’re barking up the right tree. I myself am one inquisitive canine who enjoys his own voice now and again, and I’d be happy to share some of the training tips my own mom uses with me.

Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:

Know Your Animal!
Guess what? TJ is a dog! And guess what else? Dogs bark. Yep, that’s what we do. Well, at least most of us. Some more than others of course. And similar to humans talking for a variety of reasons, dogs will bark for a variety of reasons. For instance I’ll bark when:

  • Someones knocks at the front door
  • I’m excited
  • Patrolling the yard
  • I’m wanting attention
  • Annoying diesel trucks drive by (I’m a hybrid fan myself)

And the list goes on….Please remember that barking is a main form of communication for us canines. If you didn’t want to live with an animal that barks…well, then you might want to find a roommate of another species. But you’d probably end up with having to deal with other irritating habits and noises. Plus, I’m sure the love you have for TJ outweighs the annoying barking so we won’t discuss that option.

Whaddya Want?
It’s time to hunker down and figure out exactly what it is you want from TJ. Do you want him to bark only at certain times, such as when someone is at your front door? Do you want TJ to be quiet when he’s in the car, when you come home, and when you take him outside?

Once you have your list compiled, you’ll need to take the time to teach him when and where you want him to be silent. Start small and work your way up. Having realistic expectations will make the process easier on you both.

Reward. Reward. Reward.
Now it’s time to begin acknowledging TJ when he makes the choices you want him to make. For you this means any time he is quiet – especially during the more exciting times. Suppressing enthusiasm can be very difficult for us pooches, so using a reward that is more motivating than the reasons he wants to bark is key.

A few ideas that might work for you specifically are:

  • Practice coming and going in and out of the house and car, with TJ in tow, as well as on your own, rewarding with chin scratches, yummy treats and a “good boy” at those moments when he is quiet. Even if it’s just a brief second while he’s coming up for air is better than nothing. Take what you can get when you can get it.
  • Hang out with TJ in your car while it’s parked at your home. Read a book – or the latest Edhat edition. Then while TJ is just chillaxing, reward him for being quiet. This way he learns that being quiet in the car gets him the attention he wants. If he barks, send him inside and take off in the car on your own.
  • If and when TJ barks for attention – that doesn’t involve having to go outside to potty or a stranger is on the property – ignore it! Walk away if you have to.

Know Yourself:
If you’re having one of those days where you don’t feel like dealing with TJ and his being a chatty-Kathy in the car, then leave him at home. If you’re at your wits end and you don’t feel like training him, then redirect his energy to a different outlet. A scavenger hunt in the yard, play-date with another doggy friend, an outing at the local doggy daycare or date with a dog walker can help give him the attention he wants while expending energy, leaving him relaxed and wanting to rest.

Paws and Reflect
Keep in mind that any type of attention is still attention – even if it’s negative attention. So if you’ve been interacting with TJ whenever he barks, even saying something like “no” will increase the risk of his barking more often.

So instead of focusing in on the negative, concentrate on the behaviors that you want, teach TJ in a way he understands, and reward him heavily for making the better choice.

*****

Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and canine behavior. He and his mom work together running the family business that services other inquisitive canines. For additional dog training and behavior tips, subscribe to their blog. You can also follow Poncho on Twitter and head over to his Inquisitive Canine Facebook page, “like us” and upload pics of your own inquisitive canine. You can also ask us about dog behavior, just email us directly.

How to Get Your Dog to Answer Your Call

Dear Inquisitive Canine,

I like to take my dog to the park to let him play off-leash. However, I’m finding it more difficult because when it’s time to go back home, it takes me too long to get him to come back to me. I never know how long the whole ordeal will take.

In addition, he sometimes runs off so far that I can’t see him. Or, he ends up shimmying under a fence and is off exploring somewhere. I’m afraid he will run onto the street and get hit by a car. Can you help?

Owner of a wandering woofer

Dear Wandering,

Sounds like your dog is a proficient explorer of the great outdoors. Although we’re sure that you appreciate that trait, we can understand that his “selective hearing” can be frustrating, especially when you need to leave. Fortunately, we can help! Just by following a few “coming when called” guidelines, performing some pre-event practice sessions, and  supplying a side-order of environmental management, you’re sure to make everyone happy while staying on schedule.

Set a Course for Action and Adventure

When it comes to calling your dog to you, especially in a stimulating outdoor environment, keep in mind that you’re asking him to stop what he’s doing and leave the amusement park. For him, this means that the fun is ending. Talk about punishment! To entice him away, you’ll need to promise a much more attractive alternative to what he’s doing at the moment so he’ll want to come to you no matter what. The following guidelines provide dog training tips sure to encourage your dog to “take your call”: Continue Reading “How to Get Your Dog to Answer Your Call”

Painless DogTraining Tips to Help With Puppy Biting and Nipping

"Legal" Alternative for Chewing

I’ve been hearing a lot of this lately: “Ouch! My puppy’s teeth are like needles!” Yep – that’s what puppies do. Bite, chew, nip, shred and chomp some more. Their mouth is the perfect tool to explore the world and all that’s in it.

So what are new puppy owners supposed to do to help the situation? The following are a few simple steps those who may be experiencing this painful situation, in a pretty painless way.

  • Know your animal: Remember, dogs use their mouths to explore the world! This means, if it appears interesting, and it’s within reach, it will be investigated. Dogs also use their mouths (and teeth) to play with things, destroy things, and just for lots of fun! (Especially when he or she is teething).
  • Be aware of what you might be training: Attention, whether positive or negative, can cause a behavior to happen more often, so be careful of what you’re paying attention to – you may just be inadvertently rewarding a behavior you don’t want.
  • Provide “legal” outlets for your puppy or adult dog: Providing outlets for your dog to chew and play with will help redirect that energy to a more appropriate place. This way, he or she can get all of his or her energy out, while making the humans happy. Chew bones, playing tug with an actual tug toy, soft squeaky toys, and interactive food toys are just a few options for your pooch to get the attention he or she wants, in a way he or she wants, doing what he or she loves to do.
  • Provide play opportunities with other dogs: Most dogs enjoy playing with other dogs, but dog-play is a skill that needs to be practiced. Yes, dogs are born with instinctual play skills, but he or she still needs to practice. Set up doggy play-dates with age and play appropriate dogs so your dog can learn how to control his or her mouth with living objects, and not just toys and bones. For additional tips, check out this blog post on dog-play.
  • Make it clear your dog is making the better choice: To really help drive the message home, reward your dog with an extra special little treat whenever he or she makes the better choice of playing with these legitimate items, as well as for leaving forbidden items alone. This way, he or she figure out what works to his or her own advantage, while making you happy and proud.
  • Management Recommendations: Management means you’re arranging your puppy’s environment that prevents him or her from practicing behaviors you don’t want. If you haven’t taught your dog what you want, or if you don’t have the time or energy to monitor your dogs behavior, then you’ll want to keep him or her from making choices you don’t want them to make. This means, sequester your dog to an area with enrichment to keep his or her mind (and mouth) occupied. However, avoid giving a “Time Out!” by just sending him or her to a crate, yard or another room without anything to do. That would be too punishing. A bully stick or food enrichment toy in another area is certainly a fine option.

Remember, when developing your training and management plan for puppy nipping and chewing,  determine what you want from your dog, teach him or her what you want, provide appropriate outlets and reward heavily for making the better choice. This will make everyone happy, including your dog and everyone else in the household.

Crate Training Your Dog: Creating a “Home Sweet Home” atmosphere

I’ve been working with many new puppy parents, as well as families that have recently adopted adult dogs. From each and every one, I’ve received the proverbial crate question: “What do you think about me crate training my dog?” Fortunately I have an answer: I think you should. Why? For a few reasons.

  1. Bedroom: Just like us humans, our domestic dogs need a place to call their own. And okay, sure, a crate may not be a large as an average bedroom – unless you’re in New York – but it can certainly serve a similar purpose: a safe, comfortable, warm, cozy environment where they can be by themselves.
  2. Retreat: A crate can also be that safe-haven “den” (or bedroom or crib) where they can retreat in times of stress. For instance, if you’re having lots of company, and your dog is overwhelmed, they can go off on their own, with a yummy chew toy, and chew until they fall fast asleep.
  3. Management: Those times when you don’t have time to train your dog, or supervise and monitor their behavior, a crate can act as confinement to help set them up for success. If they’re in their crate, they’re not roaming about eliminating on the new rug or chewing up furniture.
  4. Pet Preparedness: You never know when you might need to put your dog in a crate. Crate training is a huge part of Pet Preparedness. If you even need to evacuate because of disaster, many places will require that your pet be in a crate. As I teach my dog training clients, you want train it before you need it!

So, what are some of the best ways for you to get your dog used to their “sanctuary”? The training steps are pretty simple actually, but just like any new behavior, you need to teach them slowly, helping them create a positive association.

Creating a Home Sweet Home For Your Pooch: Crate Training Overview

  • How to make the crate the best place to be: The “Do’s”
  • Take the time to teach your puppy or newly adopted adult dog that their crate is a fun, safe, relaxing place to be. Make it comfortable with bedding the individual dog finds comfortable (not what we humans think is)
  • Make sure the crate is large enough for your pup to be able to stand up turn around, and get comfortable. 
  • Teach your pup to associate their crate with all good things. 
  • Start slow and easy – treats for looking at the crate, going into the crate, then staying in the crate – for only a few seconds at a time. While you’re still there with them. 
  • Keep the door open until your pup is going in their on his own. Once your pup is going in on their own, you can begin closing the door, feed treats through the door. Let your pup out, then all treats stop. He’ll soon learn that being in the crate is much more fun than being outside of it. 
  • Feed him his meals in the crate 
  • Chew bones in the crate 
  • Food toys in the crate
  • Crate’s can still be used for a “Time Out” since the punishment is more about losing out on something the dog wanted, like freedom or playing with a family member or friend. A Time Out for a dog should only be for about 20 seconds. And, if they already have a positive association with their crate, and 99% of the time good things happen in their crate, then they shouldn’t end up hating their crate. Just like when children are sent to their room, its not the room they hate but the fact that they lost out on participating in some other activity. 
  • How to teach your puppy or newly adopted dog to hate their crate: “The Do NOT’s” 
  • Refrain from shoving your pup into the crate and slamming the door, and walking away. 
  • Refrain from pushing your dog into the crate and leaving them there on their own, after never being left alone before. 
  • Refrain from leaving them in the crate for so long that they soil their crate. 
  • Refrain from using the crate for punishment only. 
  • Refrain from using the crate as a “Time Out” because of house soiling or some sort of house destruction. The crate can and should be used for confinement when house-training. But, if a dog soils the carpet, it’s the humans fault, not the dogs. You don’t want to inadvertently punish your dog for greeting you when you get home. 
With time, patience, and consistency you too can get your dog to love their crate. You might create such a wonderful environment you’ll want to crawl in there too! 

House Training Basics for Dog and Puppy Owners Alike

Dear Poncho,

Could you tell me why my 13-year-old lab, who has never had an accident in the house, will sometimes pee when my parents watch her. They have a female lab and so she likes to stay there, I just don’t know why she discreetly pees when she’s there. It has happened only four or five times over many years, but it is four or five times too many!

Cheers!
Deena
Dear Miss Deena,

I’m sorry to hear about this frustrating situation you’re having with your dog, especially since this isn’t her usual MO. I’m sure it makes you nervous about dropping her off for sleepovers at your parents’ house. Being a dog myself, I can certainly address the “why.” But first, allow me to ask you a few questions:

Is she completely and fully going potty … I mean “aaahhhh …” emptying her bladder? Or, is she “marking” her territory. Yes, believe it or not, you chicks mark your territory, too — it’s not just a guy thing.

Are there small amounts left in areas where the other dog hangs out? Or are there big puddles left near doorways, as if she was trying to tell someone she wanted to go outside?
Is she eliminating in the same place over and over again? If so, has it been thoroughly cleaned?

Some triggers that tell us dogs we need to potty are:

  • Scent: If there are any remnants from any other animal (even from when she was there before) this might be telling her to “go potty.” There are special cleaners that will help get rid of the odors. And just because you or your mom and dad can’t smell anything, doesn’t mean your dog can’t. Remember, there’s a reason why humans aren’t used for bomb sniffing detection — doggy snouts are much better equipped.
  • Texture: As the old saying goes, “If it feels good, do it.” Us dogs favor those lovely carpets, ahhhh, they feel so good on our feet … plus they hold a lot of smells … reminds us of the great outdoors. Sometimes tile and brick, or nice comfy bedspreads make great places, too. Hey, we all have our favorite facilities, right?
  • Previous learning: It’s the same place she went before, so this has become her routine.

OK, so by now you’ve narrowed down how much she goes at one time, and if it’s marking her territory, or just going potty because she had to go! Whatever the reason, it’s something you and your parents don’t want … doesn’t make for an a-pee-ling house guest. Here are a few things you can do to empower your dog to develop good house manners. I know they’ve worked for yours truly.

  • When you arrive at your parents’ house, put your dog on leash, take her to where you want her to go potty, and wait … wait … wait … until she does, then: throw a party!!! She gets a yummy treat, and then she gets to go inside. When she is inside, she needs to be watched. If the humans get sidetracked easily, they might want to keep her on leash, nearby. Your dog shouldn’t be allowed to walk around aimlessly. Something might trigger her to go potty again. This wouldn’t be fair to her — set her up for success, not failure.
  • Arrange it so that one of you two-legged folks walks her outside on leash periodically to potty, and again reward her for when she does, (if you need to, my mom the dog trainer says you can use some of her regular meal). Both yummy treats and off-leash freedom are her rewards. She should be taken out 30-40 minutes after she’s had anything to drink or eat, after she’s been sleeping or napping, and if she’s been inside for awhile. Watch her body language — does she all of a sudden wander off and start sniffing around? That might be her cue of letting you know she “needs to go,” so please pay attention.
  • If she is marking her territory, you’re going to want to follow the same plan as basic house-training, keeping a watchful eye on her, and providing rewards for eliminating outside. One key recommendation: reward her for ignoring places she likes to mark. If you or your parents see her making her move, interrupt with a happy voice “No, no, honey, outside we go!” — then with gentle hands, escort her outside to potty. Like you humans, we dogs don’t appreciate being yelled at, especially if we’re fulfilling a biological urge.

With consistency, the “going outside I get rewarded with yummy treats, freedom, petting and praise” becomes the better choice … vs.the “going inside I get nothing.”

As for the “discreet” part, well, you know us canines are mentally similar to a human toddler — we understand “safe and dangerous” not “right and wrong.” We also lack self control, have really sharp teeth, and don’t wear a diaper. There might have been a time that she had an “accident,” then got in trouble, so she’s learned it’s safer to go when no one is around. You know, like those times you might be driving over the speed limit when the cops aren’t around? Yeah, I thought so … I know a little something about human behavior, too …

So again, the best plan of attack: house-training basics! Just like if you were to come to my house, I’d have to show you where the bathroom is, and if I forgot, you’d meander off to find it yourself. I’d have no one to blame but myself if you went potty in the “wrong” place.

*Looking for additional information on house-training for your dog? Check out our free eBook on teaching your dog house-training skills they can use in and out of your own home.

 

Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail them directly.