Author Archives: Peg and Sydney

It Takes Two

A woman sits on a man's lap while he tries to explain something. The woman is looking away from him with a disappointed facial expression. A puppy is sitting in the foreground with his head tipped to one side as though he is trying to understand what is going on.

When it comes to couples rearing a puppy it’s not uncommon to have different views. We see it all the time. People come with their own history from childhood on how to raise a dog. Our own experience with discipline also affects our training approach. Puppy rearing and training have moved on over the last decade and for most people, “positive reinforcement” (using reward based training) is now the obvious choice. Here, we look at the top four decisions that couples will face in bringing a pup home. We hope that the dialogue will help you and your partner form a consensus on these key issues.

Decision #1.

What style of training will you use?

There are two main types. You need to choose between puppy-friendly positive reinforcement and the use of punitive techniques.

Dog training is unregulated so this key decision is left up to you. Reward based training has been scientifically proven to work. It’s the most forgiving approach and it’s fun and easy to do. Using harsh methods is no fun and unfair to the dog. It can also create dangerous behavioral problems.

No matter the approach, one thing is certain, you must reach a consensus on your training approach, it’s very confusing for a dog to be trained using both techniques and its unlikely to be successful.

We hope the humane approach wins.

Decision #2

Another big decision is whether or not to socialize your pup (with other dogs and our urban environment) before the puppy is completely vaccinated.

You need to know that … the number one killer of young dogs is not disease; it’s a lack of early socialization. Taking a calculated, well-informed risk and socializing your puppy before he is fully vaccinated is the best approach, as explained by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour. Be cautious of ill-informed professionals, read what the Experts say and get to a Socialization class.

Decision #3

Crate Training

These days most people crate train over night. This is excellent, but daytime Crate Training is often overlooked. A puppy with too much unsupervised freedom is at high risk and will develop annoying behaviors. Nipping, biting, housetraining issues and a lack of focus are a few problems that are likely to occur. Structure and boundaries with supervised “play” and training when out of the crate is the healthiest approach.

You and your partner need to decide that you can put up with some puppy peeping until he settles down in the crate. Don’t worry, it’s natural, your pup will soon settle into the routine of being in his crate and you’ll be happy that he’s not underfoot. Take him out regularly, do some training and put him back in the crate while you are both still successful. He’ll tire quickly at which point, he doesn’t learn well, so keep time spent out of the crate short and successful.

Decision #4

What to prioritize first? House Training, Puppy Junior Obedience, Preventive Training or Socialization?

We think it’s important that you and your partner understand that Socialization and Preventative Exercises should be your priority.

House Training is what most people focus on. In the big picture, it’s the easiest thing to do and a no-brainer when you get some help and stick to a game plan. This is why we put House Training at the bottom of the list.

However for your puppy to be successful, it’s really important that you understand that there’s a small window of opportunity between birth and sixteen weeks when your puppy is highly adaptable and must learn to socialize with other dogs, meet new people and become comfortable in a complex environment. To be successful, you must both work hard to socialize him during this very short period of time.

Along with Socialization comes the idea of Preventative Exercises, these are games and training exercises that prevent the development of problem behaviors like food (or toy) guarding, biting and nipping and separation anxiety. The need for early-socialization is increasingly well understood and it’s likely to be recommended to you by your vet or trainer. However, the need to do training exercises with your pup to pro-actively stop the development of undesirable behaviors is a relatively new concept. So, please read up on this and incorporate preventative exercises in your game plan.

You may be surprised that we don’t give Puppy Junior Obedience training top billing. Manners are important, but understand that like house training, obedience training is not time-sensitive, so focus on Socialization and Preventative Exercises.

From our own experience, we all know couples that wait until they have a child before discussing their values. It’s not surprising that the same thing happens when people get a dog. Bringing a puppy into your life together should be something that brings you together, so discuss the big four issues and do a little reading before you start on what will be a great experience.

 

Finding Fido – the Savvy way to Search

the sound, healthy way to find  the right puppy for you

 

You’ve finally taken the leap and decided to get a puppy. Knowing what kind of dog you want is the first step, but there are still many things to discover. All too often, the important question of how to determine the best place to get your puppy is ignored.

Red flag: Anyone about to get a puppy is susceptible to a naturally occurring, common affliction. We call it “puppy-love-haze.” Symptoms include a heightened emotional state; a tendency towards small, furry cuteness; and impulse buying.

Puppy-love-haze skews our better judgment; leaves us wide open for making poor decisions and could have serious side effects. There will be plenty of time for the puppy love-fest, but when making your decision about where to get a pup, a dispassionate approach is critical to the future success of your relationship with your dog.

 

puppy_love_hazeWP

 

Why is this important?
Birth to 16 weeks is considered the “golden learning window” during which you have an opportunity to positively affect the future behavior of your dog. Certain things must take place during this critical period in order for your puppy to grow into a well-adjusted dog. Socialization, preventative exercises and house-training are all important.

Most puppies go to their new homes at about eight weeks of age. So half of this “golden learning window” is spent in the care of a breeder or animal shelter. How do you know that the person raising your puppy has been committed to the puppy’s healthy development from day one?

Asking some questions will help you determine the right source. By “right,” we mean the place where those responsible for your pup’s first couple of months are proactive and concerned about canine socialization and an enriched development program.

Interactive Interviewing
A reputable puppy seller or shelter is going to ask you questions. With approximately 40 percent of all dogs being surrendered during their first year in a new home, they want to be sure you are a suitable match. It is not uncommon to be asked about your lifestyle and about the time you are willing to devote to caring for the dog; you may even be asked to sign an agreement to enroll in classes…and show proof of completion! And the list goes on.

It is important that you have a list of your own questions. Regardless of where you get your pup, you are searching for the best-case scenario. Is the source making your job easier or more difficult? Taking the time to find out is well worth the effort.

The Savvy Search Checklist
• Can you meet the parents and see the facilities where the pup is being raised? It is always nice to meet both parents of the pup if you can, though often, the mother is the only one available. It’s also a good idea to meet these dogs before the puppies are born, so that your observations are not swayed by the cuteness factor. Take the time to observe what their personalities are like. Specifically are they well socialized and friendly around you. If the mom shows signs of being unfriendly towards strangers, there is a chance that her pups will too.

In a situation where you have decided to rescue a puppy from a shelter you may not have the opportunity to do this background check. You should still gather as much information on the puppy as you can. Some shelters make use of “foster homes” so the puppies won’t have to be brought up in a shelter environment. Are you able to visit the foster home, see the facilities and meet the dogs?

•Is the area where the pup stays clean? Can s/he leave the sleeping and play area to eliminate? Are the puppies being raised in an area where there is plenty of activity, as opposed to being shut away?
Has a range of stimuli been provided for the pups? How complex (while safe) has their environment been? Have they encountered a variety of surfaces and objects to explore and play with? Have they been exposed to sounds that are out of the ordinary for the area in which they live? Have the sounds been increased in volume to “proof” them against noise sensitivity?

What type of early socialization have the pups had? What numbers and variety of people have they met? Have they had early exposure to children (of all ages)? Have they been exposed to gentle handling and received treats from the different folks they encountered? Have they been for car rides? Have they visited a vet clinic? Was the car ride and visit pleasant?

What type of preventative exercises have been started? Have the puppies been fed individually to help avoid food guarding. Have “trade-you” games been played in order to reduce the likelihood of food and toy-guarding? Have they had a positive introduction to gentle handling exercises? Have they had a positive introduction to grooming tools? Does the puppy-raiser keep notes on the individual pup’s development? If so, may you read the notes?

Have the puppies had a positive introduction to a crate? Have they been separated from their littermates for short periods of time? Or is the day you bring your puppy home going to be the first day s/he is separated from the litter and introduced to the crate?

The Happy Beginning
Once you’re armed with answers and know-how, life with your dog-to-be should exceed your puppy-love-haze expectations. What a great way to start your time together!

To discover more about the importance of early education, socialization and preventative exercises please visit ultimatepuppy.com

The “Push-Pull” of Tug

“Tug” was originally printed in the first press run of the Ultimate Puppy Toolkit. For “Throw-Back” Thursdays, here are the original retro photos and the still current “How-To” for this most excellent of games. “Tug” is a wonderful way to relieve puppy tension and excess energy. It also has two great benefits for you – it will leave your pup tuckered out and happy and it is a good way to practice “Drop-It” and “Take it, Leave it”. Be sure to get the knack of “Drop-it” and “Take it, Leave it” before you try Tug.

Tug: The Benefits

Tug is a wonderful tension reliever for dogs, to them, when they play this game, they are ripping and tearing at their prey, a natural instinct. Some of us would rather not think about this aspect of a dog’s character, but the reality is, they are dogs and this is normal for them. We can not ignore this most basic need in a dog’s behavior.

  • The desire to Tug will not go away. Instead, if left unaddressed, it is likely that the dog will find another less acceptable outlet for this behavior.
  • Playing Tug will help reduce the chances of your dog grabbing at your clothing and ripping and shredding things that are off limits.
  • You can easily play this game in the house on rainy days.
  • This game gives you an indication of the amount of control that you have over your puppy. You should be able to go from a wild and vigorous game of Tug to complete control, which would be the dog dropping the tug toy and sitting. If you can’t, there are elements of the relationship between you and your dog which need examining.
  • When played properly this game relieves stress in your dog. It’s very therapeutic.

Tug: the Rules

Tug is not a game we recommend a child play with the puppy.

If at any point during the game of tug the puppy does not follow the rules, the game is over. Put the toy away and ignore the puppy. This is crucial.

If you see the puppy start to wane at any point in the sequence, take the time to polish up his skills. For example his sit starts to get sloppy or his drop it gets slower, isolate the problem and work on that stage of the game until it is smooth again.

Jumping up to grab the toy, pulling at your skin or clothing, or clawing at your hands are all grounds to stop the game immediately.

Be sure you have mastered the “drop it” cue.

Here’s How to play Tug

Therapeutic game to play with puppy

Excite the puppy to take the toy in his mouth, some puppies will do this readily, others will take a little more coaxing. If the puppy is not interested, put the toy on the ground and pull it along the floor and wiggle it, talk in an excited voice, saying things like “ya wanna get it!?”. If the puppy is still not interested, read the section “How to Get an Uninterested Puppy Playing With Toys” on ultimatepuppy.com).

 

help develop a health behavior in your puppy

Once the puppy has taken the toy in his mouth and has pulled on it for just a second of two, ask him to Drop it. At this stage we are just teaching the Drop so don’t expect that he knows what you are talking about, you need to teach him what the words mean.

 

As a 9 week old puppy holds a tug toy in his mouth a young woman lowers a piece if food to the pups nose

As you ask for the Drop it, put a tiny piece of food against the puppy’s nose. As he hears the cue, he scents the food and should let go of the tug toy. After he has let go, lure him into a sit as you ask him to sit. Once he is sitting, praise and reward him with the treat.

 

A young woman kneels while a puppy sits in front of her while receiving a treat

We teach the puppy to sit after we ask for the “drop it” to prevent him from jumping up to grab the tug toy. This is a very important step, do not omit it.
Next you introduce the cue Take it. This happens once the puppy has dropped the toy and done his sit. You start the game again by offering the toy back. The sequence goes like this; Take it – Tug – Drop it – Sit – Take it. Rinse and repeat!
You should proceed this way until you see that the puppy is readily dropping the toy when you ask. Start to fade out the treat to the nose but continue to reward the Sit with a treat for a few days and then more randomly, and then not at all.
Once the puppy is completely reliable with the drop it, you are ready to play a more vigorous and extended game of Tug.

Friends, Romans, Countryfolk, Lend me your ears…

An Open Letter to the Executive Director of Vetz Petz:

Dear Mr. Cook,

It has come to our attention that Vetz Petz has hired a “celebrity” dog personality to promote Antinol. Said celebrity trainer is a proponent of punitive, inhumane training methods.  Antinol looks like an excellent, 100% natural product, so we find it hard to imagine that you would want a spokesperson that is ill qualified to train dogs and who is actually doing damage to the human-canine bond.

We encourage you to seek out a progressive, qualified personality that the professional dog training and veterinarian community can get behind. Positive reinforcement (force-free) dog training that is backed with science is growing in popularity. Associations like the APDT ,the AVSAB, the SVBT are professional self-regulating bodies that are well placed to endorse and recommend your product.

As a final suggestion, perhaps your company could establish a panel of experts from our field to help you select a new celebrity, as we do need help to spread the “Good Word”. Dr. Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson and Karen Pryor would be excellent choices to help choose a personality that is capable of representing a progressive, fun approach to dog training.

Sincerely,

Peggy van Dam and Sydney Bleicher

Ultimate Puppy