Eureka! Dog Blog

Dog Training and Behavior weblog

Posts Tagged ‘New dog

Case Study 4 – Fearful Dog

with 2 comments

Coffee was rescued from the streets, and then spent a couple of years in a shelter.  By the time he came to a home, he had developed fears of many things – people, storms, ceiling fans, you name it, he was scared of it! In June of this year, he finally found himself in a home with just two other dogs, and he started to come out of his well-constructed shell.

Coffee

Coffee in 2008

When I first met Coffee, he would not let me come close to him. He would pace about ten to fifteen feet away, watching carefully.  He was actively scared of everyone he met, especially men. He did not have good social skills with other dogs either – he did not play, and he had been attacked by other dogs in the past (and he is missing part of an ear as a result). He was terrified of all the things that frighten many dogs, including thunderstorms, but he also looked with fear at ceiling fans (moving or still). He became very distressed being bathed or having his nails clipped.

Now that he has a home with only two other dogs (both female) he has started to be more comfortable with them.  He continues to be less than friendly with some visiting male dogs. Interestingly, he bonded with Tuffy, the Tough Dog in case study 3. They apparently found they had some things in common. Both of them had lived rough for a while, and both of them are fearful of men.

Coffee and Tuffy

Coffee and Tuffy getting acquainted

We worked on integrating Coffee into the household. In this household, that means siting and waiting for his food bowl to go down and starting to eat only when he is given permission.  It also means participating in the daily “Cookie Time” ritual, where the dogs do a couple of obedience commands and get rewarded with dog cookies. This was a challenge for Coffee on two levels. Firstly, because he still did not like to approach me too closely, and secondly because he did not want to compete with the other dogs for food, or to lie down next to them. Over the weeks he has become comfortable with doing a Sit and a Down beside the other dogs, and he now trots happily to the kitchen when he hears “Cookie Time”. He still hangs back when we play hide and seek; the other dogs run through the house trying to find where I have hidden, but Coffee waits until I come out before coming for his treat.

One of Coffee’s most obvious fears was of thunderstorms.  He would pace, go outside, come inside, could not find anywhere he felt safe. He started to come to my room in the middle of the night to let me know there was a thunderstorm going on. To my amazement, one night he was so scared that he overcame his residual fear of me, and jumped on to the bed beside me, and lay shaking with fear. He is not allowed on the bed, but his distress was so obvious that I did not turn him away. I gave him some drops of Rescue Remedy to calm him, and turned on a light so the lightning would be less dramatic. I resisted the urge to comfort him, and instead spoke in a calm, happy voice, and settled down to sleep. I could feel him shuddering as I drifted off to sleep. At some stage he must have fallen asleep, and in the morning he jumped off the bed as soon as I stirred.

This procedure repeated itself about three more times. I started to keep the Rescue Remedy and a flashlight by my bed, so I was ready for Coffee’s late night visits. If the weather was good, he would spend the night as usual in my office, but as the storm started up, he would come to my bedroom. He would wake me, I would turn on the light (or the flashlight, if the pwoer was out), speak cheerfully to him and give him a few drops of the Rescue Remedy. If the storm continued to get worse, he would jump on the bed and hide from it behind me, shaking with fear. I might pat him briefly on the back or neck, as I would normally, but I would not cuddle him, baby talk him, or stroke him to calm him.  I would tell him he was being foolish, then go back to sleep.

Then the night came when all he needed was the light and the Rescue Remedy. The storms were beginning to lose their power over him. Last time we had a storm, I woke up and realized he was not in my room. I went to the office, and he was lying calmly under the desk. Coffee was officially not afraid of storms any more!

Coffee still has many challenges to overcome, but it is exciting to see him grow. He keeps reaching new milestones – he has stayed calm while his nails were clipped, he has been on walks in the park where there were lots of other dogs and people, he has had his first real bath in a bathtub.  This weekend, he approached a stranger (to him) and took a treat from her.

The key factors in helping Coffee have been a small, stable household where he could develop relationships with each of the other members (human and canine), not indulging his fears but showing leadership in being calm and confident, and having him participate in activities a little outside his comfort zone.

Advertisements

Written by eurekapaws

November 10, 2009 at 10:15 am

Case Study 3 – One Tough Dog Part 2

leave a comment »

We went out to see Tuffy again three weeks later.   The mange had cleared up, and he was starting to look a lot better as a result.  His behavior had improved substantially, and he was especially good around the girls, but his relationship with Joe was still a problem.  Joe would go away on business for several days at a time, and Tuffy still felt that he was a potential threat.  Joe would walk him in the mornings, and Tuffy was happy with that.  However, there had been an incident – Joe had taken Tuffy by car to a park.  The drive there had gone well, as Tuffy seemed to love the car, and the two of them had had a good walk.  Tuffy did not pull on the leash, and although he was still shy when they passed other people, he was well-behaved.  As they returned to the car, another car pulled into the parking lot with a large white labrador in the back seat.  The next paragraph is Joe’s description of what happened.

The dog spotted Joe and Tuffy and leapt from the backseat windows out of the car (leash attached) and sprinted at Joe and Tuffy “ears back and snarling”.  Joe had only a split-second to decide what was best for him and Tuffy.  Joe decided Tuffy’s health more important than his own and quickly reached under Tuffy’s belly and “jerked” him up and out of reach of the attacking White Lab, who arrived at the moment Tuffy went off the round, owner shrieking its name while still getting out of the car.  Tuffy did not like Joe’s decision at all.  Tuffy began squirming from side to side, attempting to break Joe’s grip, as Joe headed toward his car.  Joe realized (too late) Tuffy should have been picked up with two arms (front and back) as Tuffy nipped Joe on the right forearm.  Joe didn’t let go until they had arrived at Joe’s car and the White Lab had been “retrieved” by the dog’s owner, who by now, had grabbed the leash and was loudly chastising her dog while intermittently apologizing.  Joe assured the lady he was OK, promptly got Tuffy and himself into his car and drove home. 

Luckily, the wound was superficial, a clean puncture with no tearing.  Joe was adamant about keeping Tuffy and that Joe was at fault for potentially overreacting.  We discussed what had happened with the Gilbert family.   It was unfortunate, and had set back the development of trust between Tuffy and Joe.  In fact, Tuffy was probably better equipped to deal with the situation with the lab than Joe was.  It is always dangerous to pick up a dog to prevent a fight – in fact it can make the fight worse, as well as putting the person in a dangerous position in the middle of it.  In this case, Tuffy was more alarmed by Joe’s actions than by the lab’s.  His nipping at Joe was a desperate attempt to get free, not an attack.

Tuffy continued to try to avoid Joe around the house, and to stay in the backyard rather than come in if he knew Joe was in the house.  He was responding very well to Millie, and was happy to play with the girls although he was still occasionally frightened when they made sudden movements or noises.  When he was scared, he would bark at the person who had scared him, and sometimes advance towards them.  Millie would stop him when he advanced, and her presence would normally calm him.  (Having a dog give warning signals is very good – we never discourage dogs from giving them, because when they give us the warning, the humans can change their behavior to avoid a confrontation.  Dogs who have been taught never to bark or growl are the ones who are most likely to bite “without warning”.)  He managed to adjust to our presence in the house fairly easily, and eventually came to us for treats.

As Tuffy was gaining confidence, we decided that it was time to push him a little to get him more confidence.  We went through the exercise of putting him on leash in the house, and having him come to people when they called his name, and offered him treats.  He had developed a few preferences about where he was comfortable eating, and the Gilberts were putting his food bowl in a less convenient place for them to make sure he would eat.  Now that he was clearly more comfortable in the home, it was time to reassert the family as being in charge.  The food bowl needed to go where they wanted it, and he needed to adjust.

The family were about to go on a short break, so we made plans to have Tuffy stay at our facility, with our dogs, while they were away.  Tuffy was already known to be comfortable around other dogs – it was humans, and especially human males, that scared him.  But this would still be a significant change in the routine he was becoming accustomed to.

Tuffy settling in

A week later, we brought Tuffy to the facility, and let him greet the resident dogs.  As expected, he was very much a gentleman in his manners greeting the other dogs, and he was happy to play outside with them.  In particular, he made friends with a dog called Coffee, another dog with a fear of people, and men in particular.  Since Coffee also has limited dog social skills, it was great to see Tuffy helping Coffee to relax.

Tuffy and Coffee - The first meeting

Tuffy and Coffee - The first meeting

We were initially concerned about how we would bring Tuffy in for meals and at bedtime – his history at home was that he would go to the end of the yard and hide there when he was not comfortable.  However, he relaxed a great deal in the company of other dogs, and he just naturally followed them at mealtimes and at bedtime.  During the entire stay, he did not bark at us to indicate fear.
When the Gilberts returned home, Joe collected Tuffy from us and brought him into the house.  We felt it was important to establish Joe as the person brought him home, as his friend and protector.
Although he continued to bark at Joe from time to time, he settled back happily into the household routine, and handled a party of 8 houseguests (2 adults and 6 children) without difficulty.  It was time to start him on a proper training program.

Written by eurekapaws

July 26, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions, Training

Tagged with

Case Study 3 – One Tough Dog

leave a comment »

Tuffy was a dog who had learned to live without help from people.  He was trapped with a group of dogs in a gravel pit where they could not get out, and it appeared that they may have been abused by people in the area.  He was rescued by a caring person who worked at Operation Kindness animal shelter (www.operationkindness.org), on her third attempt to get any of the dogs out.  Tuffy and a greyhound were the only ones “smart or hungry enough” to be lured out to the edge of the quarry and saved from death by malnutrition.  Operation Kindness gave him several months of treatment for a severe case of Demodex Mange, and for malnutrition, and put him up for adoption.  In the shelter, he only bonded with female employees and was extremely shy of people in general, although he was friendly with the other dogs in his enclosure.

The Gilbert family saw Tuffy on a website, and their hearts melted.  They went to the shelter, and Millie and Joseph Gilbert and their 8 and 10 year old daughters met Tuffy and were able to pet him after some coaxing and offering treats.  He showed no signs of hostility, and they thought his shyness was to be expected, so they adopted him.  This was Tuffy’s second adoption, having been returned the first time for being “too difficult to housetrain”.

Within a week, the Gilberts were concerned that they had made a mistake.  Tuffy was comfortable around Millie, but he barked at Joe and avoided him.  Tuffy would hide at the end of the yard to avoid being trapped, and any changes in the routine, visitors, sudden noises and movements, would cause him to bark and either back away or sometimes walk slowly towards the person.  Joe traveled frequently on business, so while Tuffy was starting to settle into his new home Joe was often not there.  Whenever Joe came into a room, Tuffy would try to leave to go to a safer place.  (It seemed likely that Tuffy had suffered at the hands of a man, as his response to Joe was much stronger than to us or to any of the female members of the household.)

The Gilberts called us in because they were afraid that Tuffy might not be safe around their daughters, and because it seemed that his behavior problems might be more than they could handle.  We arrived at their house early, and saw a dog being walked back to the house.  Rather than meet the dog then and there, we went and parked for a few minutes to give them time to get the dog home.  When we returned, the dog and the dog walker were still in the same place!  Seeing a problem, we split up.  Jan went to the dog and helped Millie to walk him back to the house, while I met with Joe to find out what was happening.  The whole family had taken Tuffy on his walk that day, instead of just Millie.  Tuffy had sat down on his walk, and did not want to move any further.  Nervous about stressing him, Millie had stopped with him, and now could not make him walk the last few yards home.

We spent quite a while sitting in the living room with the entire Gilbert family and Tuffy, until he started to venture out and even take treats from Jan.  It became clear that he was afraid of all the new things he found, and that he had bonded to Millie as his savior, and regarded everyone else as a potential threat.  He tried always to be near where Millie was, or if she was away, to retreat to his crate.  If he was outside and Joe was in the living room, Tuffy would be afraid to venture into the house.  Because everyone was worried about Tuffy, they were trying to get him to respond to them with love and affection, and they were staring at him, which scared him.  Making direct eye contact is a threatening behavior from one dog to another, so Tuffy thought he was being challenged.  However, Tuffy was also a realist – once he had a leash on, he would be calmer.  Once he was sitting next to Millie with the leash on, she was able to pass the leash to Joe.

The Gilbert family had already made a great start on giving Tuffy his new home.  They had already started to have a daily routine for Tuffy, and routine helps a dog become confident in his surroundings.  They agreed to try to change their behavior so that they did not stare at Tuffy, they avoided sudden movements, and they learned to wait for Tuffy to come to them when he was ready to be petted or to want to be near them.  Tuffy was to stay on leash in the house while there were people there to supervise him, so that he stopped running to safe places whenever people moved around.  Joe needed to hold the leash on walks when possible, so that Tuffy could get used to him as a friendly pack leader.  They would walk Tuffy together as a family when they could, so that eventually the girls could take the leash as well.

When Tuffy tried to stop the walk, the person with the leash needed to act like a pack leader – walk on confidently, expecting Tuffy to follow.  That was how Jan had persuaded him to come back to the house.

Within a few days, Tuffy started to show definite signs of improvement.  He continued to be alarmed by Joe, especially when Joe arrived home.  However, he started to differentiate between “Good Joe” who had his leash, and “Bad Joe” who did not.  With “Good Joe”, he was more comfortable, and he would even come to him to get his walking leash put on.  With “Bad Joe”, he would still bark and back away.

Written by eurekapaws

June 7, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions

Tagged with

Adopting a Second Dog

leave a comment »

Wonderful, patient Libby

Wonderful, patient Libby

This comes directly from my own experience.  I had a wonderful dog, Libby, but the two of us were my entire household, and I was at work (bad old corporate days!) a lot of the time.  I felt that I needed to get a second dog for several reasons, mainly:-

  • As company for Libby, especially during the day while I was at work.
  • To take the pressure of what was an increasingly co-dependent releationship between Libby and me.
  • Purely selfishly, I felt that my world would collapse if anything happened to Libby – I needed another family member.

Since this dog would spend more time with Libby than with me, I made sure she was part of the interview process.  My criteria at the time were simply that the dog be a little smaller than Libby (I was worried about getting a dog too large for me to carry in an emergency), and a young dog 6 – 18 months old (not a puppy, I was not at home enough hours in the day to care for a young puppy, but still not yet fully grown up).  Libby was generally a quiet dog, so I thought she might like a lively dog to play with.  The two of us went to the shelter (Operation Kindness in Carrollton, a great place to adopt a dog, and Libby’s own alma mater) and I selected candidates, and the two of us would meet them. 

On our first visit, I picked out a sweet sandy haired spaniel mix who was very timid.  Libby growled at her.  Then I picked out a little male terrier, who Libby loved – he peed on my handbag the moment I took my eyes off him.  The third dog refused to interact with either of us.  At that point Libby was starting to look stressed, and I took her home.

On our second visit, the first dog I pre-selected was a little female terrier about 10 months old.  She was very sweet and lively with me, and she and Libby started to play together.  The adoption counselor and I stepped out of the room and watched them through a window.  It seemed like a great match.  We went ahead and adopted the dog, who was called Bailey.  As we went through the adoption process I learned that she had been adopted out before, but returned due to “allergies”.  She nipped the technician who clipped her nails just before she left the shelter.

As soon as we walked into my house, Bailey stopped and took a dump on the carpet.  The speed of it took my breath away – I had turned my back on her for less than 5 seconds, and when I turned back, she was squatting.  Still, I told myself she was probably very scared, and I should just let her know that was not the right place, and then go on as though nothing had happened.  Over the rest of the day, Libby and Bailey played happily.

For the next few days, Bailey was in a crate while I was at work, and I came home in the middle of the day to make sure she was OK.  For several days, she managed to have explosive diarrhea while she adjusted to her new life and diet, but that gradually faded.  In the evenings, she and Libby and I continued to have fun.  There were quite a few occasions when I found myself locked in power struggles with a 20 pound dog.

About day 4, Libby started to stare pointedly at me.  It was apparent that she felt our guest had outstayed her welcome.  While I had been interviewing for a lively long-term companion, Libby had been focussed on having fun for an hour or so.  She enjoyed her quiet life, and didn’t want an annoying yappy dog constantly trying to play-fight with her and instigating security alerts all the time.  For my part, I had started to realize that Bailey was a very pushy little dog with no interest in my plans for the household – she had moved in, and she planned to take over.  Although a lovable lap dog when she felt like it, any noise outside would put her on full alert; she would leap out of my lap and charge around barking fiercely.  On off-leash walks, she would torment poor Libby, who would run away from her at top speed.  Bailey’s little legs could not keep up with Libby’s speed, but she would run after her at full speed, barking “wait for me” at the top of her lungs.

In the first month that Bailey was with us, Libby and I were engaged in constant struggles with her for control of the house.  I quickly guessed that her previous home had given her up because of her personality, and just said it was allergies so she would stand a better chance of finding another home.  I did not have the heart to return her from another home – we had to make it work.

Terror Bailey (sorry, I mean Terrier Bailey)

Terror Bailey (sorry, I mean Terrier Bailey)

And several years later (and now with many more dogs in the house), she still torments Libby and she still considers herself in charge of Homeland Security.  She has learned that she is not the leader of the pack, and she did very well in obedience training.  People meeting her for the first time often remark on how cute she is (Libby can be heard muttering “take her, she’s yours”).

There is no guaranteed way to make sure the new dog will fit well in your household.  Of course, it is best to make sure that the potential newcomer gets on with your current dog(s), but the fact that they get on for half an hour on first meeting is a long way from proof that they will be prepared to shared a home, and a pack leader.  I know now that Libby was not interested in having a constant companion, and that she enjoys long, comfortable silences.  Having to adjust for a new dog in the house was really tough for her.

If you want to bring in another dog, that is a great idea.  Be aware of the following:-

  • Any increase or decrease in the household (human or animal) upsets the hierarchy, and your current dog(s) will have to work out who is leader of the pack all over again.
  • Some dogs are not prepared to share a home or a pack leader (you) with another dog.
  • Your current dog(s) need to have met and approved the newcomer before you decide to bring him into your home – but since you can’t explain to them what your plans are, they may still complain when he comes to stay.
  • You have to make extra time so you can work with each dog separately on house rules, obedience training, and walking politely on a leash.  If the newcomer does not follow the rules, your current dog(s) may decide they don’t have to either.
  • When you bring a dog home, his full personality will emerge slowly.  The dog you meet in a shelter or in someone else’s home is usually different from the same dog after he has been living with you for a while.  You will see him change over weeks and months, as he gains confidence in his new home.
  • The dogs will decide pecking order amongst themselves.  No matter how much you want a particular dog to be top dog of the house, you may not be able to make it happen.

Written by eurekapaws

April 19, 2009 at 9:59 am

How Many Dogs are Too Many?

leave a comment »

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

We’ve seen a lot of problems and questions over the last couple of months around bringing extra dogs into the household. Everyone who loves dogs wants to save more of them from living rough, being abused, or being euthanized. The reality is, no one can save them all. You have to remember the effects on your household, and on your own dogs.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’d love you to adopt as many dogs as you can take proper care of – but please make sure that you have considered the impact realistically first!

Based on personal experience, there is a maximum number of dogs that each dog wants to see in the pack.  For some dogs, that number is one!  Most dogs are happy with a pack size between two and four dogs.  Once you pass that point, you are inviting trouble.  Of course, many people have had large numbers of dogs in their homes and it has been successful – but today, most people find it difficult to find the time to give one or two dogs the attention, care and exercise that they need.  Cesar Millan has a pack with many dogs in it – but he also spends hours every day giving them exercise.

So, let’s talk about a few recent conversations with clients, family, and friends.

“My older dog is getting on in years, and I’m thinking of bringing in a new younger dog to make the transition easier.”  This one sounds so sensible, but isn’t.  The older dog will be less than thrilled to have the new youngster throwing his weight about, being liveley and energetic, and trying to take control or make him play.  The middle dog will still have to adjust to a new dog coming into the household and the old one dying – that’s still two major adjustments, the same as if the new dog arrived after the old one had died.  The people in the household will be trying to teach a new dog the house rules (and making sure that the dog bonds first with the people, and then with the other dogs) while still taking good care of two other dogs, one now senior.  Don’t do it – give your old dog a peaceful retirement, grieve for him when he goes, and then consider a new dog.

“I have two puppies that I am still trying to get trained and under control, but two homeless dogs have followed me home.  They seem like nice dogs – what should I do?”  It’s great that you have a big heart.  But you have two puppies that still need a lot of training, and that are going to be at risk if these dogs have diseases (which homeless dogs often do, alas).  Find a no-kill shelter that will take them, if you can.  They will check to see if these dogs are sick, and will try to find a home for them.  If after mature consideration, you decide you can afford and have time for an additional dog, then go and adopt one.  But when these dogs placed their future in your hands, they were looking for you to do the right thing for them.  The right thing may very well be finding them another home, but it does not have to be yours.  I knew someone who took home a stray dog, and then found it might have parvo – if he had had a puppy in the house, that could have been a death sentence for the pup.

“I adopted a cute puppy from someone who couldn’t keep her, but now she and my dog are fighting – I have been hurt separating them, and I have a child in the house.”  I believe it was Clint Eastwood who said “A man’s gotta recognize his limitations”.  Yes, these were both nice dogs, and with work, they could probably have worked through their differences.  But it’s tough to keep everyone safe when there are children in the mix.  If the dogs will fight over the attention of the child, that is a dangerous situation.  In this case, kudos to Suzanne for finding a new home for the pup.  She didn’t just drop the dog off at a shelter, she took the responsibility and found a good home for her, and has followed up to make sure the pup is doing OK.

Written by eurekapaws

April 6, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Bringing Home a New Dog

leave a comment »

People often call us in after their new dog has been with them for a few weeks, and they are at their wits’ end.  They did not expect it to be this difficult.  Frequently heard words include “He’s a wonderful dog but…” or “Are all puppies like this?”.  Most of these problems stem from a lack of preparedness by the people, and a lack of understanding by the dog.  This post is about how to prepare for a new dog, and how to explain the rules to him/her.  If there is already another dog in the house, there is more to consider – I’ll cover that in a later blog post.

New puppies, whether from breeders or shelters, don’t know your house rules.  They explore the world with their mouths, and you need to puppy-proof everything.  They have needle-sharp teeth, and have not yet learned when not to use them.  They will miss their mother and litter mates, and will cry at night because they are used to being surrounded by warm bodies and familiar smells.  They need to be potty trained.

New adult dogs also don’t know your house rules.  They may also have some very definite ideas on what is acceptable behavior, based on their earlier lives.  They may be scared of everyday objects or people.  It’s common for dogs who have not been properly socialized or who have been abused to growl or bark at certain objects or people.  They may be emotionally distant at first (see the posts on the case study of the puppy mill dog).

Before you bring home your new dog, make sure you have the house ready, and all the equipment you need.

Dogs (especially puppies) chew on things, so look hard at the areas of your house where your new dog will be spending time.  There should be no clothes, shoes or laundry where the dog can get to it, until you know whether those things will tempt him.  Cables should be hidden away.

Your new pet may not be housetrained (a new home is a scary thing for a dog, and any previous housetraining may be temporarily forgotten), so either you must be able to keep an eye on the dog all the time, or the floors need to be easily cleaned.  It is a good idea to have an area like a bathroom, laundry, etc. where the dog can run around and any messes are easily cleaned, and put baby gates at the exit points – you can see and talk to the dog, but he can’t get into too much trouble.

Please make sure you have a crate (or two).  The dog should sleep in a crate, and ideally that crate will be in or close to a bedroom, so doesn’t feel alone, and you will be aware if he needs to go outside.  During the day, until the dog has settled in and follows all the rules, you need to be able to crate the dog for periods when you are going out, or when you are not able to watch him.  That can be in his sleeping crate, but it is good to have a safe place for him where the people are, so he feels a part of what is going on.  Crates should always be big enough for the dog to stand up and turn around comfortably, and stretch out.  The crate should never be a punishment – it needs to be a place where he feels secure and happy.  Puppies should not be left in a crate for more hours than their age in months (e.g. 2 hours for a 2 month old pup, 4 hours for a 4 month old), and no dog should stay in a crate for more than 8 hours.

Decide what your house rules are, and be prepared to start teaching them from day 1.

If you want your dog to sit quietly when people come to the house, don’t encourage him to jump up at people when he is a puppy, instead make a habit of praising and petting him when he is being calm.

Make sure everyone in the house knows the rules.  The dog needs to get consistent information from all members of the household.

No teeth on people.  Most puppies will nip in play, and it is never cute.  With any dog, regardless of age, as soon his teeth touch human skin, the person should say a loud, sharp “Ow!” and immediately stop playing with the dog, and ignore him.  If necessary, they should leave the room for a minute or two.  That way, the dog will learn that using teeth always stops the fun.  For an adult dog, when you return to him, start by asking him to sit, then praise him for doing that.  Any praise or play needs to be associated with something he did right.

Dogs should not be allowed up on furniture (chairs, sofas, beds, etc.).  Once your dog is fully trained, you can choose to invite your dog up on furniture when you want.  Until he is fully trained, he needs to stay on he floor – the high places belong to the leaders of his pack – the humans.  This is especially important if you have young children.

As soon as your new dog comes home, take him around the house so he gets to explore everywhere.  If there are places he is not to go, this is the time to tell him that – let him approach, then correct him (“Uh-uh” or “No” followed by moving him back to the right place).  If he starts to go potty, it is an excellent time to start that training.  There are two parts to potty training – praise when he goes in the right place, and correction (“Uh-uh” or “No” followed by taking him to the right place) when he tries to go in the wrong place.  No matter what you think you see, correcting him for something he did hours ago or even minutes ago does not teach him anything.

From day 1, do not encourage your dog to look for food at the table or in the kitchen.  Any time that someone feeds him scraps while they are eating or preparing food will cause him to beg or try to grab food in those places later.

Set a schedule for when you will feed your dog.  This is especially important for housetraining, because dogs and puppies will need to go potty shortly after eating (as well as after excitement and exercise, sleeping, etc.).  So your feeding time should be set when you have 15 minutes for the dog to eat, then 30 minutes to make sure he has had the chance to go potty.  For this reason, it is not fair to leave food out for the dog, and have him decide when he is hungry.

Set time aside for exercise.  Your dog will not exercise himself, and walking on a leash is an excellent way for your dog to learn that you are his pack leader.  Dogs need to get one or two walks a day for their mental and physical health.  (Puppies should not go on walks in the street, park or other common areas until they have had all their puppy shots – until then, you need to play with them in your house and yard, or at the homes of friends with dogs you know are healthy.)  A tired dog is a well-behaved dog!!!

Start to train your dog as soon as possible.  Even a young pup can learn to sit on cue, and will learn to come to you in the house when called.  Be generous with praise and rewards (rewards can be petting or play or toys or treats).

Watch your dog for anxieties.

Part of getting to know your dog is understanding his emotional baggage and limitations.  Some dogs are scared of men, or children, or sticks, or water, or being alone, or thunderstorms…the list goes on and on.  For most fears, your response should be the same – don’t reinforce the fear by rushing to comfort the dog, just stay calm and cheerful, remove the dog from the thing he was scared of, and engage him in playing or obedience work.  You want to send the message that everything is normal.  Some fears, like fear of people or other dogs that results in aggression, need professional help.

Keep a diary.

Some of the things a new dog or puppy does may seem overwhelming.  Try to keep a diary of the first few days – what happened, what went right and what went wrong, and what changed.  If your dog has housetraining issues, you will be able to see if it is getting better or not, and what changes may have triggered problems.  If the new puppy cries all night the first night, and less the second, and so on, you will be able to see the progress you are making.  This will be a big help if you have to call in a trainer later on for a behavior problem.  The first things the trainer will ask are:-

  • When did this start?
  • Did it start suddenly or was it a gradual change?
  • Did anything change that might have caused it?

Enjoy.

You brought this dog home for a reason.  Enjoy the experience of learning about your dog, teaching him about you, and learning to communicate.

Written by eurekapaws

March 27, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Posted in New Adoptions

Tagged with

Case Study: Puppy Mill Dog Part 4

leave a comment »

Knowing Mary, and knowing Hannah, we went to the shelter and looked around for the right match for them. When adopting a dog, there are obviously some physical criteria (some people can’t afford or manage a dog the size of a St Bernard, some people feel they must have a dog to raise from a puppy, and some people don’t want a dog that is high maintenance in terms of activity level or grooming needs).  But once those have been taken into account, the most important criterion is personality – does this dog have a personality that is compatible with everyone in the family?  I am always distressed when people focus on wanting a pure bred dog, or are concerned about whether the dog looks right for their home.  These things are so minor compared with the need for a good personality match – just as they are when choosing a human friend or partner.

In this case, we were looking for a dog who was less than 20 pounds, young but past puppyhood, upbeat and cheerful, and known to get along with other dogs. We found 3 likely candidates, and then met Mary at the shelter.  Mary had decided that she wanted a female dog, which brought us to one preferred candidate, Jenny.  As advertised, when she was brought out, Jenny immediately started to make friends with Mary.  In normal circumstances, we would introduce the potential new housemate to the incumbent dog before proceeding with the adoption, but these were not normal circumstances.  We already knew from her behavior at the shelter and with her foster family that Jenny was comfortable around other dogs, and we already knew that Hannah would not be comfortable at an introduction in a shelter, surrounded by people.  However, Hannah had met and stayed with many other dogs, and had shown no signs of aggression or intimidation – she was much happier with any dogs than any people!

Mary adopted Jenny that day, and took her home.  Jenny and Hannah became firm friends almost immediately, and Jenny became the active, outgoing dog that Mary had wanted.  The real question was, would this be enough to bring Hannah out of her shell, and get her to relate actively with people?

After a few weeks, the answer was that Jenny was becoming quite bossy, and Hannah was gaining confidence, but the relationship between Mary and Hannah still had not blossomed.  Hannah was still fearful of being trapped, and would not always come into the house when called – and she still did not show any affection towards Mary.  We separated the two dogs for a couple of weeks, giving Mary a chance to bond with Jenny, while we took Hannah for some intensive physical therapy.

Hannah would run away to avoid being trapped by a person, and would become rigid when picked up or cuddled.  However, on leash, she would tolerate being held, and would start to come when called.  She accepted that she could not control the situation, and tried to make the best of it.  After the first couple of sessions where I picked her up and held her on my lap, once I had put her down on the floor, she stood and trembled.  It was apparent that she was dealing with some powerful emotional conflicts.  Surrounded by our dogs, she relaxed a little, and on occasion she approached me when she wanted to be let out of a room.  (That sounds very minor, but for her it was a big step!)

After the two weeks, Mary and Jenny had made progress, and walking Jenny by herself had improved her responsiveness to Mary, but Mary was really starting to miss Hannah.  We brought her back with some trepidation – would Mary see enough progress in her?  Would Hannah continue to be more outgoing, as she had started to be with us?  When Mary picked her up and sat her on the chair beside her, Hannah started out as rigid as usual.  After several minutes of calm petting, while Mary talked with us, Hannah visibly relaxed.  When Mary went into the kitchen to make coffee, Hannah followed her to see what she was doing.  Those were both key indicators that Hannah had made some steps forward in relating to people.

It is still a journey – Hannah will not change overnight, and she may never be very demonstrative.  But she has had the great good fortune to find a home where she is loved and will be taken care of.  And Mary can look back over the last 9 months and see how she has changed in small ways: she used to run to her crate at every opportunity, now she is comfortable sitting in the living room; she used to avoid eating when anyone was around, now she happily eats in the kitchen; she used to sit rigidly upright on her cushion, now she has started to relax.  And of course, now she can play boisterously with her new friend Jenny.  All of those are because of Mary’s commitment to giving her a better life.

Written by eurekapaws

March 16, 2009 at 10:38 pm