Thursday, January 28, 2010

Got Puppy?

Is a puppy right for you? Are you ready for all of the responsibility? Remember, puppies need constant supervision and are a lot of maintenance!
Sure puppies are cute but....they go to the bathroom EVERYWHERE, they chew on EVERYTHING, including your favorite pair of shoes! Puppies nip and teethe and know very little of the world. Therefore it is up to you to teach them everything.

You already have a puppy? Start socialization right away! Puppy proof your home. If you don't want it chewed or peed on, don't let puppy have access to it. Set a routine and be consistent. Make sure to purchase the correct cleaning products. You'll want a non ammonia based product. I like to use simple white vinegar and baking soda. Have your puppy vaccinated and spayed or neutered!
Puppies need their families! A puppy should remain with its mother and siblings until at least 8 weeks of age. During this time, puppies learn valuable social skills like how to play and how to fight, and how hard is to hard to bite. (Bite inhibition)
Once you take over the role of teacher you MUST remember to socialize your puppy soon and often.
It is up to you! Puppies are 100% dependent! A puppies biggest danger is lack of education on the part of the owner. At the shelter, we receive thousands of puppies between the ages of 6-10 months every year. These puppies come in with little to no training. They were once cute little things with so much potential, but due to lack of training, arrive in our care as crazy 'out of control' large dogs who are now difficult to adopt out.
Did you know that some people even euthanize their pet due to behavior problems? Problems which could have been easily prevented with just a little work and effort. Behavior problems CAN be avoided! Remember what is cute today, may be obnoxious tomorrow!
Do NOT anthropomorphize! (Big word I know...) This just means don't place human emotions onto your dog. They don't poop on your rug while you're out because they are 'mad' or 'spiteful'. They pooped because they had to go!
Puppies may be small today, but will be big tomorrow! Make sure to set the rules and boundaries now. Decide what you want in an adult dog and begin shaping your puppy to meet your expectations.
Come back next time when we further discuss the importance of socialization and how to make sure your puppy listens to you!

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Word About Punishment

Every now and then our dogs do something they shouldn't. (Gasp!) I know it's hard to believe, but it happens. So what do we do?
Many people would answer that question with "punish them". But HOW to punish a dog properly is too often left un-answered.
Punishment can be divided into two distinct categories, positive and negative. Don't think of positive as good and negative as bad, think of them as plus and minus signs.
So, positive punishment is ADDING something to a dogs environment that decreases the likelihood of an undesired behavior reoccurring in the future. (Leash corrections, verbal reprimands, squirt bottles, penny cans etc...)
Negative punishment is REMOVING something from a dogs environment that decreases the likelihood of an undesired behavior reoccurring in the future. (Removing your attention/turning your back when a dog jumps on you.)
Positive punishment is not recommended in the forms of hitting, yelling or causing the dog any pain or severe discomfort. And NEVER use this form with fearful or aggressive dogs.
I use only Positive Reinforcement to train with negative punishment a distant second. (For more information on positive reinforcement see my earlier blog on the subject...) I do not use positive punishment.

Remember to act quickly! If you punish a dog too late, you may actually be punishing them for ceasing the unwanted behavior! You can only correct a dog in the act, never after the fact. Always re-direct your dog into an acceptable behavior. We spend way too much time telling our poor doggies what NOT to do, and not nearly enough time telling them what they CAN do!

To be effective, punishment must be: sufficiently aversive, immediate, delivered with EVERY occurrence of the undesired behavior and followed by positively reinforcing a desired behavior.

Good luck and happy training!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kindness of Strangers

Perhaps Blanch DuBois said it best in A Streetcar Named Desire when she said: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Recently I have been touched by how giving people can be. Even in the face of hard economic times people still open their hearts and their wallets to help others. Others that they don't know, have never met and will (most likely) never meet. Be it the recent earth quake in Haiti or fundraising for the shelters upcoming pet walk, donations are made large and small.

It is the small ones that most touch my heart. The ones that might have meant a night out for the family, or even groceries for the week, but was donated to help those in even more desperate situations.
Where would we be without these every day, run of the mill heroes? People who ask nothing in return for their help. No t-shirt or key chain to prove to their peers how charitable they are. No recognition with award or ceremony. I myself would prefer it if more charities spent more donated money on the actual cause and less on the trinkets and prizes. Our reward should be simply that we helped. That some where, some one benefited from our gift.

So whether you donate to help build a barn for bully's (Bad Rap), help earth quake victims or support your local shelter; thank you. I don't have any fancy gifts or certificates of appreciation, but I don't think you want that. I think a simple thanks is all that should ever be needed or given.

So the charity can keep their picture of the child I helped feed and instead use that money to feed her sister as well.

With all of the global crisis we hear about daily it is important to remember those that are needy in our own community. The local homeless or animal shelter for example can always use volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to make a donation of time, if money is scarce.

So keep up the good and selfless work, and remember, the best thank you you can receive is knowing in your heart that you did the right thing.

(Just a side note to those of you that have donated so generously to Paws in the Park...and you know who you are....Thanks.)

The Dog Diva

Lucy is a sweet 8 year old female terrier mix who is currently awaiting her forever home at the SPCA of Central Florida. Go to for more information or to donate or volunteer!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Potty Training 103

It's time to talk about cleaning up after your puppy has an accident. This will most likely happen at least once or twice, so be prepared and make sure to have the right products on hand.

First off, let's make sure to keep our dogs' potty area clean. Picking up your dogs' stools can help you asses their overall health and check for worms or upset stomach.

If you catch your puppy in the ACT of having an accident; say NO and scoop the puppy up, quickly carrying them outside to finish with praise.
NEVER rub a dogs nose in an accident! They will not associate your anger with the mess. Yes they will look sad, but only because you are yelling at them, and they don't know why.
If you come across an accident, stay calm.

Keep in mind that health problems, changes in diet and/or emotional upset can cause temporary setbacks in house training.

When cleaning up an accident, make sure to first calmly put your dog away where they cannot see you. Make sure to use a non ammonia based product! Plain white vinegar works well with a bit of baking soda to soak up moisture. Then vacuum when dry.

Remember, puppies are attracted to urine scents so make sure to clean thoroughly and keep an eye on that spot in the future!

Good luck and remember....if you're lazy, it's your fault!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Potty Training 102

Welcome to the second instalment on potty training your puppy or dog. Let's get started!

Have a cue word such as "Go Potty!" When your dog is successful, lavish them with praise and maybe give them a special treat to help reinforce their success.

If your dog does not go to bathroom after 5 minutes outside, bring them back in and place them in their crate for 10 minutes, then try again. No playtime until they've done their business!

A simple strategy for puppy's first night home:
Carry the puppy from the car to your yard and set them in the 'potty area' until they go. Tell them how good they are and bring them inside to play. Take them outside to potty every two hours after that. Feed them their dinner in their crate, and leave them inside for 30 minutes. Then carry your puppy outside for a potty break. This time, wait for a bowel movement. If it's taking a while, walk the puppy around a bit to encourage movement.

Always take your puppy outside first thing when you open the crate and always carry them. We want your puppy to feel that grass under their feet when they go!

Take your puppy outside one last time before tucking them into their crate. If your puppy howls during the night, take them out for a potty break. (Having a puppy is not THAT different from caring for a human child that wakes up in the middle of the night!)
Do not play with your puppy at night, as this will teach them bad habits. After a few nights, your puppy should sleep soundly until morning.

Establish a daily routine for your dog. Dogs love consistency. Set aside specific times each day for potty, play, eating and sleeping.

Example: First thing in the morning take your puppy outside to potty. After an hour of playtime, feed puppy breakfast in the crate. Wait 30 minutes then back outside for a bowel movement. For the first month or so, your puppy will be receiving 3-4 meals a day. So; potty, play, meal, potty, play, potty, nap, potty,play, meal potty etc....
Eventually your puppy will learn the routine and go potty accordingly, however if you ignore puppies signs and signals or move to slowly, you will have a mess to clean up and it will be your fault!

A note about paper training: Paper training your dog is not recommended as it makes the whole potty training process harder and take longer. We want to get through to the puppy that the only acceptable place to potty is OUTSIDE!

Male dogs: Your male puppy will start to lift his leg between 4 and 9 months of age. He will begin to mark his territory, possibly inside your house. This has little to do with potty training, because marking and reliving the bladder are two separate things.

If you have not done so already, have your dog neutered NOW to prevent this behavior as well as cutting down on his aggression and eliminating the chance of testicular cancer in his future.

Come back next time for potty training 103....Cleaning up the mess......

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Potty Training 101

Unlike their feline counterparts, puppies must be shown much more than simply where to go to the bathroom. They must also learn when. Potty training can be the most frustrating part of puppy hood. Even when done correctly, this step in a dogs development takes time.

The first thing to remember is; always be Pro-active not Re-active! We want to prevent accidents, not wait for them to happen. YOU play the most important role in potty training your dog. Success or failure rides on your shoulders. You must be patient, determined and reliable.

Supervision is of utmost importance. Your puppy is like a small child and must be looked after at all times. If your puppy is always within sight, then you will never walk into your bedroom and find a 'surprise' waiting for you. I suggest physically attaching your puppy to your belt loop with a long leash. This way, where you go, so does puppy. Now, when you see your puppy sniffing, circling or squatting you will be right there to get them immediately outside.

The first few weeks of potty training are the hardest and most important. And don't blame the dog if you're lazy!

Adult dogs can be trained in the same manner as puppies, but have a greater bladder control. Puppies have to go potty when:
They wake up in the morning
30 mins after they eat
After play time
Whenever you leave
Whenever you return
And last thing before bed

Do not wait for your dog to 'tell' you they have to go out. Puppies usually don't know they have to go until the moment they do!

If this all sounds like a lot of work it's because it is!

Dogs like to sleep and eat in clean places. This is the primary reason why crate training can be so effective. Make sure to purchase a crate that your puppy can grow into, and block off the excess with cinder blocks. (Virtually indestructible.) We don't want your puppy using half of a large crate for a bathroom and half for sleeping. Your dog should have just enough room to stand up and turn around. In the crate should always be water, a sleeping pad and toys. Place the crate in a central location in your home. Crates should be used primarily for sleeping and eating; never punishment. Your dog should only be in the crate when you cannot supervise them.

Note: If your already potty trained dog begins having accidents in the house, take them to a vet right away, as they may have a UTI or other medical problem.

Make sure to clean up any accidents with a non ammonia based product. (Baking soda and white vinegar work well.) You need to get out all of the smell, because to a puppy, if it smells like a bathroom, it is a bathroom.

If you catch your puppy in the act, pick them up and rush them outside ASAP! We want the puppy to feel grass under their feet while they are relieving themselves, not your carpet!

Don't give your puppy the run of the house too soon. Block off specific areas with baby gates during the transition period.

Come back next time for Potty Training 102!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

If It's Too Cold For You....

My car told me it was cold this morning. It's true, a very cute little snow flake appeared on my dash, accompanied by a soft chime. OK I get it, it's cold out.
It wasn't long after I arrived at work yesterday morning that a local news station called wanting to do a story on the freezing temperatures and pets. So I headed out in the cold to meet them.

My standard answer of course to the question "what to do with your outside pets on a cold night" is "bring them inside where they belong."
Look, it isn't rocket science, if YOU are cold THEY are cold. Simple as that.

It is true that animals tend to have better survival skills than we do, and a dogs natural body temperature is higher than ours, but that does not make them any less susceptible to the cold and even worse, the wind.
You MUST get your pet out of the wind and off of the ground. If nothing else, allow them into your garage for the night with a blanket or two. (Note: please make sure that you pick up and move any hazardous materials from said garage before closing them in for the night.)

Place a door on your out side dog house to block the wind and make sure that they have DRY blankets and non frozen water to drink.
If you have a chain link kennel with cement floor, tie tarps around the sides and secure them on all sides. Give your dog a Kuranda type bed to get them up off the floor.

Horses should be brought inside the barn and blanketed. Be careful of heaters though as they do pose a fire threat.

In a perfect world everyone would have an inside pet. A true member of the family. (I felt guilty yesterday for turning the heat off in the house and finding it at 66 degrees when I got home. (Not cold for doggy standards by any means, but I left it on today anyway!)

If you can spare a blanket or two, please donate them to your local shelter to help warm a homeless pets' spirit; and if you see a stray or loose dog pull over and help them find their way home or to the shelter, where at least they will be fed and (hopefully) out of the elements.

Happy New Year and please...stay warm!