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Puppyhood: Hang On, This Too Shall Pass!

You just got your new puppy home! This is such an exciting time. He is perfect. You love him. Then he won’t stop peeing on your floor, ok he’s a puppy I can train that! Your enthusiasm and excitement overrides pee plus THIS is expected. As you are gaining control and making good progress on his house training, some other really bad things start to happen and now you are questioning…why did I think I can raise a puppy?


He begins to use his mouth...a lot. He uses it to pick on the cat, then he eats a shoe, destroys the couch, gets into the garbage A LOT, tp’s your house, tears up your VERY expensive oriental rug and eats the walls?! What have I gotten myself into! I love him and now…I don’t like him much. He won’t listen. As you look at him with toilet paper hanging out of his mouth, you may be inclined out of pure frustration to yell… “The next time you decided to decorate my house with toilet paper, or destroy my wall, or eat my rug, you will be taken to the pound! Do you hear me?! I don’t even know who you are anymore!”


Believe it or not this has been MY experience with all of my puppies in some form or another. It has always been my fault. I did not take the time to train. I am very thankful that I have the knowledge on how to correct it properly and how to address it. I want to pass that on to you. First, thing you must know is that your "vibe" is VERY apparent to your dog. They read it like we read body language. It is instinctual for them. They have to "smell" the weakest prey in order to survive. Although they have been domesticated they still have instincts. So your energy that you present to your puppy is important. Puppies need structure like children. If left to themselves they will take advantage of their alone time.


They are like toddlers always trying to push their limits. Thankfully I have dog experience and when I start to see a puppy present with one of the above problems, it is my job as his human caretaker to first figure out why and second to help him solve it. I think that is why I love working with dogs so much. Each is an individual and each is a puzzle to be solved. I love a good challenge. An important part of training your new puppy is the way a problem is addressed and delivered. This is the key to opening the lock on your canine’s mind. Some take harsher discipline methods, while others need a gentle hand of guidance, but they ALL need direction, a calm state of mind, and the right level of assertiveness. Like children, they like and need to know what is expected out of them. What is their job or role in your pack/family?


WHY ARE YOU EATING MY WALLS?!

Help I am bored! This is a dog’s cry for help, he wants to use his mind in a different way but if you don’t help him to engage in learning, then boredom sets in. Yes, I have/had a puppy that did this… actually two. One is currently the LOVE of my life, Kizzy. Her mother was the other one. So this must have been some kind of genetic thing? Maybe. But I solved the problem pretty quickly and it was ALL MY fault that they did this as puppies in the first place. They ate my walls when I didn’t make time for them. When I didn’t give them something to do, but rather expected them to behave like an adult dog. They were bored, and I hadn’t exercised them or engaged them enough to let their body and mind want to rest. I was busy…so my walls suffered. Once I gave them their 45 minute walks, engaged them with training for impulse control (more about that later), and gave them an alternate chewing object, they stopped. I also would like to add that I placed Sriracha sauce on the areas that they were chewing on too. Once a dog begins a bad habit it is hard for them to break it. So, I made the association with the wall and the sauce. I took them to the place that they destroyed, allowed them to smell the sauce, and then placed a tiny bit on the tip of their tongue…Yuck and ouch! I then placed it on my walls (I’ve done this with wood furniture too). Ha! Sweet revenge, and very effective. The Sriracha trick works with any object that you would rather not replace and that you can wash the sauce off once it has done its job of deterring further chewing.

Yep, they can be terrors even the most docile of them can do naughty things. But there is hope…don’t give up yet!


WHY ARE YOU EATING MY RUGS?!

Help me I’m frustration. So any aggressive rug destruction, toilet paper or paper tearing, any ripping apart including your couch cushions and even digging can be out of frustration or lack of impulse control. How do you help a frustrated dog? This can be a little trickier. This requires some effort on your part. You have got to teach the puppy that being calm gets the reward and being naughty doesn’t. Okay great, so how do I stop my rug from being destroyed? It is time to train your puppy to wait. Wait at the door, no rushing out, wait for dinner, no diving right in, wait for a treat without jumping and barking, silence in the crate and he can get out, and wait to be asked out of the crate before rushing out. Calm behavior gets a fun game of fetch if toy motivated or if food motivated a high end treat like chicken or hot dogs. Every time your dog shows even the slightest form of self-control or patience REWARD it! Immediately at first and then begin spreading the time to increase patience and self-control. A dog is quite opportunistic. A dog’s view on life is "carpe diem" seize the day! When opportunity knocks, answer the door or bark at it! When a squirrel crosses the road, a dog will immediately make a mad dash to catch it before it gets out of his reach. A dog watches you intently as you are eating and some food drops on the floor, guess what? He'll most likely gobble it up before you even know you dropped it. You are spinning in circles to find it, but all you see is your dog licking his lips. These are instinctual impulse controls problems. We have much work to do, BUT it can be so rewarding when you see progress being made.


SIT, STAY, PLACE, NO and GO!

You have guests over for dinner and your dog greets them WAY too enthusiastically, he keeps jumping up like a kangaroo! Goodness. Nobody wants to deal with that and it is so embarrassing! Not only is he jumping but he is also barking excitedly. Well again he has impulse control. He is just so excited to meet someone new and that overrides any good behavior and manners that he may show you on a day to day basis. If he does this to you too when you come home, it is time to get this under control. Teaching to control excitement with impulse control can be a daunting task at first, but again when you see progress it is SO very rewarding. Being consistent is important but what is the most important for an overenthusiastic pooch is draining his energy. This can be done with a good 45 minute walk or a 20 minute fetch session in the back yard. In any case with an overly enthusiastic dog, energy draining is a must. So this will also take some time on your behalf.

Important tip: to gain the quickest results you must remain calm and assertive when you begin your training.

So let’s talk about the commands of sit, stay, place and NO and GO! When teaching a dog these commands it is best to do so after your dog has been exercised. Once they learn them these can be handy tools for you and good reminders on how to give people respect and space. Sit and stay go hand and hand. Teach sit first then begin to add stay. As your dog masters sit, the stay command can be added for longer durations of time with you moving away one step at a time. Your backyard play sessions can incorporate the sit and stay commands with his favorite fetch toy. Just remember you only throw the ball for a dog that is showing a calm, controlled temperament. Every time your dog shows excitement, do not give him what he wants. Wait him out and this is a good time to teach him “NO!”

If he cannot control his excitement, say “NO!” and turn away from him (be assertive and calm when you say it). Block any jumping with a knee or a turning away. The NO! command means, I will no longer engage with you in this state of mind. The No! command is also great in keeping him from eating the garbage, the cat, the plant, chewing shoes. NO! is a wonderful word and your dog needs to learn that NO! means to stop the behavior immediately or playtime and interaction time is over. Dogs hate being ignored. They are social creatures and only want to engage with you so removing yourself socially from them makes them use their thinking side of the brain rather than their reactatory side. The GO! command is a way to send your dog away from you before he gets too excited. Thus eliminating or preventing the excitement level to rise. This is a little trickier. It takes the ability to read your dog’s reaction or anticipate it prior to the behavior. This GO! command is also good for sending your dog away from the area you don’t want him to be in. Let’s say that he has crossed the line from the living room to the kitchen and the kitchen is not where he is allowed to be. So send him with GO! He will leave and cross the line to his permitted area. In order to teach this, you will need to walk forward as you point him out of the area to the place you want him to be. If he tries to go around you, block him. You do not need to say anything except “Go!”. There is also the place command. This command is a time out. This command only works after he has mastered the stay. When you send him to his place it is important to always place him there and release him with a high quality treat. You will select a spot in the house usually a dog bed or crate, and tell him “Place!” once he settles in it, reward him with a treat. Make him stay there until you release him. You teach place the same way as you would teach "Go!"

The point to all these commands is to teach your dog impulse control and that a calm quiet disposition is rewarded rather than an excited one. Hey human, that goes for you too! Being calm and assertive while you train is the best example you can give while training and it will get results much, much faster! These five commands done in a calm state of mind and an assertive tone are the keys to living successfully with an energetic dog. Always remember to release his energy with exercise first.


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