Christmas Puppies & Winter House Training Tipsby Lynn Stacy-Smith As I stood outside with Jackson and Tinkerbell today in the 2 degree weather, waiting for them to do their bathroom business, I thought about the puppies who found new homes over the holidays and the owners who are hopefully going through the extremely important house training process right now as I type this post. It's hard enough to make sure everyone is warm and safe in this weather with adult dogs who are neither puppies nor senior dogs, who have the ability to hold their bowels and bladders for fairly long periods of time. I do not envy those new puppy owners who will be inside and outside, inside and outside, inside and outside, over and over as they teach their puppy that they need to "hurry up, go potty" outside. Jackson is great about finding a spot quickly when it gets this cold outside. He runs out, picks a spot, does his thing, and then runs back to the house. There is no sniffing around for rabbit droppings, no lazy rambling around to look for a few blades of grass to eat. Out and back before the bitter cold starts to hurt his feet and he tries to walk without touching the ground. Tinkerbell, in true Tinkerbell fashion, still tries to dilly-dally and take her time, roaming the yard, sniffing every square inch of the snow. This usually results in me hurrying her along as soon she starts to pick up her feet with a pained expression on her face. Unlike her big brother, she has not figured out that she has a limited amount of time before her feet start to hurt and that she'd better hurry up. When house training a new puppy, the first few days I like to limit their outdoor time anyway, to teach them first and foremost that outside is for potty time. After they start to catch on to the fact that outdoors is the appropriate place to alleviate their bowels and bladders, you can start to play more with them outside, but for at least the first few days, the outside is strictly for learning where to go to the bathroom. Temperatures in single digits or below zero at least means that you are not missing out on a beautiful day for walking or playing with your dog outside. In addition to the steps that I provide for house training in my post, "Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tips", here are some winter weather considerations for puppy owners who are working on house training in a cold environment, whether it is a frozen tundra or a winter wonderland.
- Shovel or brush off an area of the grass so that your puppy can still smell and see it and associate the grass with going potty. Make it sizeable enough that your puppy can choose which spot she prefers.
- Keep a pair of shoes or boots by the door at all times. Choose a style that slips on easily and quickly without a lot of work.
- Use a leash, even if you have a fenced yard, to ensure that your puppy does not wander off and get distracted.
- Keep a coat with gloves in the pockets by the back door.
- As soon as your puppy pees or poops, praise him with substantial praise and then promptly take him inside.
- Pay close attention to your puppy's body language; walking gingerly or trying to pick some or all of his or her paws up off the ground is a sign that the cold is hurting their feet.
- Avoid using ice melting products where your puppy is walking; traditional products can damage paw pads in grown dogs, so you definitely do not want corrosive agents near a puppy's gentle little feet. If your puppy does walk through ice melting products, rinse them in warm water once you are inside.
Read more about raising puppies in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Human, available at Amazon.com in print or Kindle.
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The Importance of Teaching Puppies and Your Kids About Bite Inhibitionby Lynn Stacy-Smith If you've raised a puppy, the words "razor-sharp puppy teeth" probably make you shudder and think back to those days of puppy rearing when you felt like you had adopted a baby dinosaur instead of a puppy. In fact there's a meme that circles social media periodically that compares a puppy to a T-Rex that makes everyone who has ever raised a puppy nod along knowingly as they remember the scrapes and scratches all over their hands and arms from those sharp little teeth. Puppies and adult dogs, lacking thumbs, play with each other with their mouths in games of "bitey face" and wrestling. If you have had multiple dogs in your home, chances are they have played their own version of what we call "bitey face", which is when dogs play with open mouths or bite and pull on each other's jowls, ears, necks. Sometimes they lay down and have a lazy game of just sparring with their mouths, other times there is wrestling and rough-housing involved, and sometimes they add in "zoomies" in which they race around the house or yard at top speed in a game of chase. These games are normal parts of playing together and you should be able to tell when your dogs are playing versus fighting. If you have questions about your specific dogs, as always I would encourage you to talk to a professional dog trainer. There is also some interesting and important information at this link from the American Kennel Club that I recommend: http://www.akc.org/content/dog-training/articles/are-they-playing-or-fighting/. When you adopt a puppy, chances are they have spent the last six weeks wrestling with and play-biting their siblings and even their mother. One of the most important parts of raising a puppy is to teach him or her that they cannot play with humans in the same way that they play with other dogs. Teaching your dog "bite inhibition" means teaching them that they should not bite humans and that if they do, that they should use a soft bite that does not harm the human. In my opinion, this falls under the top 3 things that you must teach your dog, along with house training and the "sit" and "wait" commands. Other humans in your home can often make teaching bite inhibition difficult because there is some sort of human instinct that overtakes people and causes them to wiggle their fingers in front of a puppy's face. I cannot tell you the number of times we had to correct our children during puppy raising; it might have been more times than we had to correct the actual puppies. I have also encountered total strangers who did the same thing to my puppies, to the point where I had to tell them, "We are teaching them not to bite, please do not wave your fingers in my puppy's face!" Jax was particularly difficult when it came to bite inhibition. He was persistent in trying to play with us by chomping down with his razor-sharp teeth with the full force of his mouth. In addition to Jax's persistence at trying to play with us with his teeth, our human son (who was twelve at the time) was the worst of all of the kids at wiggling his fingers in front of Jax's face. When it came to Jackson's puppy days and his bite inhibition education, the words "Get your fingers out of the dog's face!" came out of my mouth more times than I could possibly count. I am surprised Jackson did not learn what it meant I said it so many times. Finally one day I lost my patience with our human son when he shrugged my comments off with an overly cocky tween comment, "big deal, he's a puppy!" "Yes, if a fifteen pound puppy bites your hand, it's cute. If an eighty pound male Labrador bites the hands of one of your friends because he thinks it's how he plays with kids, then he could even end up being put to death as an aggressive dog, SO GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE PUPPY'S FACE!!!!" I scolded him. Thankfully Jax learned not to bite in play or at all, he learned to take his treats gently, and we've never seen him in (or put him in) a position where he needed to bite to protect himself. His snuggle time is on his terms and while he will drape himself across our laps, he does not usually like to be hugged for too long or held very tightly, and he will either get up and walk away or turn his head and lean the opposite direction. We respect his body language that the situation is not pleasing, and we stop before he needs to even remotely resort to a soft bite. Our teenagers have also learned how to play with puppies and dogs. By experiencing first Jackson's and then Tinkerbell's puppy training, they know that you do not wriggle your hands in front of a puppy, you play with them using toys and playing fetch or tug-0-war, and that the dogs are to put the toys on the floor or the ground instead of reaching into their mouths to get them. They know that if a puppy is trying to nip at you, you give them a toy instead of a body part to chew. They also know that most dogs don't really like to be hugged or petted from above, and that as far as a dog is concerned, those actions are rude or aggressive. It is important to teach your children why you are teaching the puppy not to bite hard or at all and the implications that not teaching your puppy this important information could have as your puppy grows into a full grown dog. I highly recommend that you supervise their play even if they are tweens or teenagers so that you can correct both the puppy and the children when they exhibit undesirable behavior and reward them when they play in a way that both the puppy and the children will grow up knowing how to play in a way that does not encourage biting.
Make sure you ask your puppy class trainer or beginner obedience instructor on tips and methods for working with your own dog. Here are some other good resources on the "how-to" side of teaching bite inhibition:
Why Your Puppy Should Go to Puppy Classby Lynn Stacy-Smith When my veterinarian suggested to me that I enroll Jackson in the puppy kindergarten class that they had recently started to offer, I was skeptical. He had come to us pre-trained to sit and wait for his food, so at eight weeks old he already knew sit, stay and we were working on a recall game that our friend/breeder had given us in her packet of information that she gives to all puppy buyers. I had already selected a beginner obedience class that he would begin once he was fully vaccinated and figured I knew enough about dog rearing to make it through the weeks between his homecoming and training class. Plus "kindergarten" sounded a little silly. Was he going to learn his colors and shapes, too? Puppy Kindergarten turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made! Jax was one of around five or six other puppies. He was among the youngest and surprisingly, the smallest, since all of the puppies in the class were large breeds just out of sheer coincidence. Two of the most memorable classmates were German Shepherd pups who were at least a month older than him; they had started to get into the gangly awkward stage where their legs seemed too long for the rest of their bodies while Jackson was still stout and compact. The first half of each class was spent on an educational topic. We learned how to teach the puppies sit, stay, come, and also worked on introducing them to new experiences like a wheelchair, baby stroller, bicycle, the examination rooms of the vet's office, and other very basic things that a dog might encounter during their day-to-day life. During the second half of the class the puppies were allowed to play together as a group. If you are picturing the Puppy Bowl that has become a tradition on Super Bowl Sunday, you are exactly right, only without the announcer and the football themed play area. I was surprised as I watched Jax playing with the other puppies. Based on his behavior at home and his zest for playing rough with his Basset Hound sister Maggie, I thought he would be one of the most rough and tumble puppies in the group. He engaged the bigger Shepherds in play and then ran back to hide behind my feet when they got too rough, looking up at me for reassurance before running back out to play with them some more. Playing with other puppies is excellent for your dog's development because puppies learn about manners from other puppies. Of course the universal dog games are what we call "bitey face" which is the type of play in which they bite and nip each other's jowls and wrestle, and "zoomies" which is a game in which they chase each other around a room or yard. If a puppy bites too hard or gets too rough, the other puppy will yelp in protest to tell his playmate, "hey, watch it, that bite was too hard and it hurt!" If the rough puppy continues to play too aggressively, the other puppy will walk away from the game entirely, giving the rough-housing puppy the message of "you're too rough, I'm out!" Learning these lessons as puppies is extremely important for your dog so that he learns how to interact with other dogs at a young age and knows what is appropriate and what is not. When your puppy is with their litter, they have this experience with their litter mates, but after they go to their forever homes they are usually the only puppy and often the only dog, leaving you the human as their playmate. Unfortunately, their go-to games that they've played with other dogs are not compatible with human playmates, so you have to teach them that you are not going to play bitey-face, or bitey-hand or bitey-achilles tendon no matter how much they try. Not only is it fun and educational for your puppy to play with other dogs his own age, but watching him play with other puppies is educational for you, too. You can learn a lot from watching your puppy play with other puppies you can use the same skills that other puppies use when you are working on bite inhibition, which refers to the important job of teaching your puppy not to bite humans in play or at any time, which we will cover in a separate blog tomorrow. At the end of the four-week class, we received a list of suggested experiences that puppies should have, ideally before they reached sixteen weeks of age. This list came with the comment that they did not expect owners to go down the list item by item and make sure their dog experienced them all. Of course my husband and I took the list and did just that, and were able to recreate many of them. We had neighbors help us by walking by with strollers, had our own kids and their friends ride past on skateboards, bicycles, roller blades, electric scooters, plasma cars and whatever else we could think of. We made sure Jackson heard sounds like our Harley Davidson starting, the lawn mower, the weed whacker, pots banging, doors slamming, even a cap gun, although that was part of his hunting dog training that stopped almost before it started. With every new experience we made sure that Jackson was happy and comfortable and we were elated at how chilled out he was to each and every experience. To this day he is very relaxed around essentially everything except a neighbor's Halloween scarecrow decoration, to the point where the loudest thunder doesn't even make him raise his head. Tinkerbell went through a similar puppy class elsewhere as our veterinarian stopped offering their class, and we worked just as hard at socializing her. She is just as chilled out when encountering new things as her big brother is, and both are able to meet other adult dogs and play with them without incident, hear loud noises without a second glance, and encounter strange things on walks without fear. Puppy class also became my favorite day of the week because I took an energetic wild puppy into the class and came home with an exhausted, physically and intellectually spent calm puppy who crashed out like I do after an open to close day at Disney! No matter how unconditionally you love your dog, no matter how committed you are to the next fifteen or so years, or however long you are blessed with your dog's presence in your life, no matter how calm and positive you are, puppyhood can challenge even the most patient of dog owners. Your dog's puppyhood is magical but it is also exhausting. There were days when I wanted to cry as I wondered how much longer it would take me to convince Jackson that the leg of our office chair was not a chew toy or that he could not in fact gnaw the spines off of all of the books on the bookshelf, and I knew that on puppy class days he would sleep like, well, like a puppy, and that I could read a magazine or watch a TV show. Another benefit of attending a puppy class or puppy kindergarten is that you have a professional dog trainer at your disposal who you can ask about house-training tips and other things that you encounter with your puppy at home during the 167 hours of the week when your puppy is not at class. That is a lot of time for your puppy to get into mischief and by asking the trainer for advice you can correct your dog in the best way instead of instilling bad habits that could last your dog's entire life.
Watch for tomorrow's blog on bite inhibition and why it is so important to teach your young puppy that biting humans is not acceptable even in a playful puppy way.
Puppy House Training: Best Practices & Tipsby Lynn Stacy-Smith I am not afraid to admit that back in 2011 as Jackson's Gotcha Date was looming, the thing that terrified me the most about starting off life with a new puppy was house training. Since Babe was a two-year old rescue dog when I adopted her, the last puppy I had helped house train was Dutch, and that had been thirteen years prior and only for a week. Dutch had started off as my parents' dog and only became mine after Mom passed away, so my only time house training him was when I watched their dogs for a week when Dutch was 9 weeks old. Fortunately our breeder gave us extensive information to prepare us for all aspects of puppyhood, and I studied the PDFs that she sent like I was studying for a state board exam. I was determined to house train him quickly with as few accidents as possible. When it was all said and done, Jackson peed in the house fewer than five times and pooped only once. Tink also had very few accidents and never pooped in the house during her puppyhood; she only has pooped once inside in the last three and a half years and that was when experiencing extreme intestinal distress in the middle of the night and she was unable to wake me to go outside.
A good rule of thumb when considering how long your puppy can be left home alone is that puppies can hold their bladders for the same number of hours as they are months old. For example, an 8 week old puppy is approximately 2 months old, which equals two hours during calm waking hours or light sleep. When extremely tired puppies are sleeping, this time can be longer. When puppies are playing or rough-housing, this timeframe is substantially shorter, with puppies sometimes feeling the urge to urinate as often as every fifteen minutes when extremely active.
Crates can be the subject of heated debate, but when used correctly, crates become a haven for a dog. Our dogs seek out their crates even when we are home and they have the full run of the entire house. Not only do crates keep inquisitive puppies from accidentally harming themselves by chewing on unsafe items or exploring things that they should not when humans are not home, but puppies do not want to eliminate their waste where they sleep.
A wire dog kennel is extremely helpful when house training. Make sure you purchase one that is sized for your grown dog but has a wire divider that you can use to reduce the area that they can access. If you give a puppy full access to their adult size crate they can easily urinate or defecate at one end and sleep comfortably on the other, and you do not want that to happen. Once they are fully house trained and have not had any accidents in the house for several months you can give them the full kennel room; just be sure to keep making their area larger as they grow.
Do not provide bedding in their crate until they are consistently going to the bathroom outside. Bedding and blankets will soak up urine, and you want to create an environment that is unpleasant if they go to the bathroom in the kennel. Please note that this is not out of cruelty; teaching your dog the rules and expectations of living in a human house is loving and will make their lives better. A few weeks without bedding in their kennel is a small investment to make in their future as a happy, healthy confident dog.
How to House train
The keys to any type of dog training are patience, consistency, repetition, clearly communicating the command, and celebrating their success. Here are the guidelines that I used to quickly house train both Jackson and Tinkerbell in a very short amount of time with very few “accidents” in the house and never in their crates.
- Take your puppy outside immediately after they wake up from a nap or in the morning. As soon as they pee or poop praise them happily with a pleasant and exited tone of voice “Yes, good dog! good dog!”
- When your puppy is active and exploring the house, you should always be watching them and be near them. If they start to squat or sniff for a spot to go to the bathroom, pick them up and take them outside or call them outside. As soon as they go, once again use your happy excited tone of voice, “Yes, good dog! Good dog! Yes!” Give them a small training treat at the same time that you are praising them verbally.
- If your puppy is engaging in very active playtime, running around or rough-housing with other dogs in the house, take them outside every fifteen minutes and praise them heartily as described above anytime they go to the bathroom outdoors.
- Take your puppy outside and allow them to relieve themselves before placing them in their crate at bedtime, before you leave the house, or if you are about to do something like taking a shower that leaves you unable to watch them.
- Understand that your puppy will likely need to go outside once, twice or even three times in the middle of the night when they are first with you if they come home at eight weeks old.
- Try to take time off the first week that your puppy is home, like a puppy maternity or paternity leave, or have a friend or a dog walker come in a few times during the work day to let your puppy outside. If your puppy is eight weeks old and you are gone from the house from 7 am until 6 pm, you should ideally have someone at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm if not more often.
- If you catch your puppy in the act of peeing or pooping inside, give a calm, firm, “NO!” and immediately take them outside even if they are finished with the actual act of peeing or pooping. If they do additional bodily functions outside, reward them with the praise as described above, “Yes! Good dog, good dog!”
- Clean up after accidents with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water. First soak the urine up with an old towel or stack of paper towels. Make sure you soak up as much as possible; many puppy owners use the technique of standing on the paper towels or fabric towel if the accident was on carpet. You may need to do this a few times with a fresh towel or paper towel. Spray liberally with the vinegar/water mixture after you have soaked up as much of the urine as possible. White vinegar helps neutralize the smell of the urine in a way that many other cleaners do not and make it less likely that the puppy or dog will return to that spot to urinate again.
- The fewer accidents, the faster your puppy will become house trained! The more times your puppy goes potty outside and receives that happy, positive reinforcement of your loving, joyful praise along with food treats, the sooner they will figure out that it is the correct spot to go to the bathroom. Dogs want to please you, they want to receive that happy sound plus food. It is important to reiterate once again that to punish a puppy for going to the bathroom inside by hitting, yelling or rubbing their face in the urine or excrement is never ok. A stern, calm "No" is sufficient for correcting behavior.
Two Appliances Every Puppy Owner Should Purchase
Fortunately small puppies do not put out much volume when they do have an accident inside. However one of the best purchases I have ever made as a dog owner is the Bissell Spot Bot. I ordered it one night at 3 am after Tinkerbell was sick in multiple spots in our bedroom.
It is a small, portable carpet cleaner that has a nozzle and hose or the option of simply putting it down on a spot, pushing a button, and sitting back while it cleans a circular area of carpet. This is great for small accidents as well as when your dog eats a mystery object and vomits it back up in the middle of the night…not that we’ve had that exact scenario happen. Ok, yes, we have.
Also consider a regular carpet steamer for days when you want to do an entire room, maybe not for puppyhood but as your dog grows up. Even fully house trained dogs have moments in their life when they have horrific diarrhea or are vomiting and get sick in multiple spots of a single room. Trust me, as a lifelong dog owner, I have cleaned up pretty much everything a dog can do. You will want a carpet cleaner if you have dogs and a carpet!
How to Be a Compassionate Puppy Ownerby Lynn Stacy-Smith I. Love. Puppies! If you read that with the same tone of voice as Oprah saying that she loves bread on her Wight Watchers commercial, then you read it correctly! I. Love. Puppies! When I see a puppy I am the same way that most women are around babies. I cannot wait to hold that puppy in my arms and get puppy kisses and snuggles. Large breeds in particular are my favorite to hold and snuggle because they stay that small for such a short time. I often look at my own dogs and reminisce about when I could hold them in my arms while they slept when they weighed just fifteen pounds, and how they are now big sturdy adult dogs who I love more with each passing day. In my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog's Forever Owner, I write extensively about puppies, how to prepare for them, how to choose where to get your puppy, how to house train them, the first few days with you, and a variety of other important topics. I am able to guide other puppy owners through these essential areas because of the experience I have from raising dogs my entire life and my recent puppy rearing of first Jackson and then Tinkerbell. I have definitely walked the walk of the puppy owner! Perhaps the most important thing to master as a new puppy owner is to be a compassionate puppy owner. And although I am loath to rely on the dictionary definition of a word to make a point, this is a word that we hear frequently but may not understand entirely. If you're like me I think about compassion in terms of being understanding and putting myself in the other person or animal's position. But the definition of compassion, according to Merriam Webster's online dictionary, has another element to it. The definition reads that compassion is "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." So compassion is not just being understanding, there is an important element of helping to actively alleviate the distress that the other is feeling. [caption id="attachment_3179" align="alignleft" width="300"] I am looking to you for guidance every step of the way![/caption] So how do we translate this into raising a puppy? It means that we as humans are conscious of the difficulties of being a puppy and trying to figure out the rules of the human world and that we have a desire to help them understand the rules and alleviate any stress that they are going through as they go along the puppy learning curve. No matter where your puppy comes from, to leave their mother and litter mates is traumatic. No matter how much you love them and plan to care for them, all they know is that everything they have grown used to has changed without warning. Some puppies, like those born into puppy mills, backyard breeders or even worse situations in which the humans do not care about the mothers of the puppies or the puppies themselves, may have never known the love of a human, the comforts of a responsible breeder or foster home. It is even more terrifying for them to go into the unknown. Before your puppy comes home, or when you can take a few minutes to yourself if your puppy is already living in your home, take a few minutes to sit quietly and close your eyes. Try to picture a movie screen and the experiences of your puppy playing out on the movie screen. Imagine their life before you adopted them, imagine you are watching from outside the situation as they spend time with their mother and their litter mates, and then imagine your puppy leaving them and making their journey to your home. Picture how everything looks to them from their point of view. Imagine them trying to figure out their sleeping arrangements, where to go to the bathroom, how to explore new things when they do not have hands or thumbs or the ability to talk to us. Imagine what it must be like to have to explore their environment through trial and error, choosing to chew on something and then being corrected over and over. Imagine what it is like to be lonely in another room without the understanding of when or if you will ever return. Imagine what it is like for all of their basic needs to be fulfilled by you. [caption id="attachment_3180" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jax took every chance to learn and explore![/caption] When you step back from the situation, watch their journey and experiences as if you were watching a movie, and put yourself in the puppy's position it is easier to have compassion. It is easier to be sympathetic to their situation and have the desire to alleviate their stress and help them learn in a patient and repetitive manner. When you put yourself in your puppy's position it is easier to understand that not only do you have an infant of an entirely other species, but that there is a language barrier and different natural instincts. In my book I talk frequently about the fact that dogs and puppies are not furry humans. They are a completely different species from us. It doesn't mean we should treat them poorly because of it, it doesn't mean that we can justify being unkind or unfair. It just means that it is critical to be compassionate, to figure out how they learn, to learn how you can teach them the rules of the house, to understand how you can communicate with each other. It is important to remember that puppies and dogs are sentient beings, full of emotions, thoughts, and feelings like us, but with many differences, too. You love them like they are furry humans but you must treat them like they are dogs and honor the fact that they are dogs. [caption id="attachment_3181" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jax planning his next puppy mischief or dreaming about the future?[/caption] Of course being a compassionate owner does not mean that you never correct your dog or train them. Just like when you parent human children, your job is to teach your puppy the rules of living in their environment to keep them safe and to keep them from destroying your home. A great puppy owner does that with a never-ending amount of patience, fairness, love, and firmness, by teaching and correcting wrong behaviors with repetition, guidance and compassion.
The Love, Laugh, Woof blog is being taken over by puppies!
Watch for more puppy blogs tomorrow and all of next week!
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