Category Archives: Behavior

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.

 

An Important Step

 

Smiling young woman facing the camera holding her border collie.

April 2017 Syd and her 9 month pup Fen

 

Sydney has recently graduated from and become certified with the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy.

Dog training is an unregulated business with highly variable levels of education and training ability. Professional certification from schools like the Karen Pryor Academy and the work of associations like the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and the Society of Veterinary Behaviour Technicians are moving our industry closer to becoming a self regulating profession. Sydney has taken a big step in continuing education that will benefit her clients and people using Ultimate Puppy.

Congratulations Syd!

Victorious Vet Visits

Veterinarian listening to puppy's heartbeat

The veterinarian we choose should be considered a ‘partner’ in care. We’re responsible for making sure that clinic staff can safely handle our dog without risk of being bitten. It’s up to us to ensure our dog is comfortable at the vet and can tolerate routine check-ups.

The stress surrounding a waiting room can be reduced by some simple work. A robust socialisation and handling strategy is key with a puppy. This should start with the breeder or foster family and carry on with you. Doing this gives your dog a sizable life-long advantage.

Be sure that you have plenty of delicious treats for your puppy when visiting the clinic. You puppy should be getting treats throughout the visit. Starting when you enter the clinic. Then carry on during the exam. On the table and once off the table. Try tossing some treats onto the scale for fun. You want a dog that is happy to climb on for weigh-in time.

Non-Treatment Social Visits

To prevent negative associations with the vet be sure and get into the clinic for strictly social visits with your puppy.  Non treatment visits will help when done a handful of times as your dog matures. Let your dog receive treats from the reception staff. Play a quick game of tug and then off you go. Keep it short and fun.

Fear-Free Vet Visit is an excellent initiative that was created by Doctor Marty Becker.  For some tips on fear free vet visits you can watch this short video by Doctor Becker.

Thank you to Dr. Paul McCutcheon and his staff of East York Animal Clinic & Holistic Centre in allowing us to photograph Fen’s vet clinic visit. Dr. McCutcheon was operating a Fear-Free clinic long before it became popular to do so.

Decoding Your Puppy Raising Priorities

a girl and her puppy with a thought cloud above their heads

 

Congratulations on your new puppy! This little critter is soaking up his environment and everything you have on offer to teach.

Are you set with a good game plan for these coming early weeks? Have you done your homework? Are you prepared with your lessons and a good puppy coach? Do you have all the equipment and supplies you are going to need?

This new addition comes with a whole set of his own priorities and interests. Are you ready to provide this pup with all that he needs to live a well-adjusted, healthy life?

How do you wade through the piles of information available and all the well-meaning advice from everyone you know and some you don’t? When it comes to what you should be doing with your new puppy it can seem like everyone has an opinion.

Let’s break it down to some prioritizing based on a puppy’s development. This helps put things in perspective and can get you rolling with what is crucial right now.

The first 14 weeks

What happens or does not happen during the first 14 weeks of a dog’s life will have a profound impact on his entire life. What you do with your puppy during this time will determine his ability to navigate a life tightly knit with us humans and our weird and wacky ways.

A dog might be called man’s best friend but a dog’s wants and needs frequently cause havoc in households where they aren’t understood or provided for!

The first 3 1/2 months of a pup’s life are when a robust socialization and prevention strategy must be planned and executed. After this time has passed, you are playing catch up. This is not to say that great work cannot be done with a dog after this time, but it is to say that a critical period of development has passed and you will never get it back. You cannot afford to miss out on it, your dog certainly cannot!

A dog’s ability to easily acclimate with his environment stops at about 14 weeks. If he perceives things as threatening, because of a lack of early exposure, the fight or flight response kicks in. Any way you look at it there is stress involved, stress can lead to illness too.

The pup is most malleable now for us to affect his ability to peacefully live closely with us humans. He will need to get used to being alone sometimes. He will need to be able to go to the vet and be handled and to get along and be comfortable with us around his food and toys. If he doesn’t learn how to do this now we may have big problems later on with guarding and biting and stress when left alone at home.

Top priorities

With our understanding of this critical period of puppy development we know that socialization, which for our purposes means a positive encounter and or exposure to a wide variety of people, other animals, sounds, surfaces and situations and; prevention, a game plan that includes specific exercises to help prevent known, predictable, dog behaviors from becoming problematic are our top priorities. This is some seriously time sensitive business that needs your immediate attention. No waiting until the puppy is 4 months old. By then the ship has sailed!

We recommend that you ask anyone who you are potentially getting a puppy from what type of early work they will be doing with the puppy before you bring him home? If you are bringing a new pup home between 8 and 10 weeks that leaves a whole lot of precious early development days in the hands of the pup’s birthplace folks.

What are they doing to help prepare this puppy for life? If your new puppy has had early socialization and preventative work started at his birthplace he now has a sizable advantage over a puppy that has not. Now here we are and you are bringing your pup home at maybe 8 to 10 weeks of age. That only leaves you 4 to 6 weeks to get this all-important education in. It is show time!

Socialization

Print out a copy of the Ultimate Puppy Social Schedule and get to it! Get out and introduce the pup to as many new things as you can. Each new person that your puppy meets should be giving him a tiny, tasty treat. You can drive, take a boat, take the bus or carry your puppy. Take treats and water and toys. Keep the outings to a reasonable length of time. Short fun trips are best. It is not enough to simply go around the block. You have got to get out and go looking for novel stimuli.

Other dogs

Please avoid dog parks and other heavily dog-populated spots. Friendly, healthy, well socialized dogs that you know are fine for your puppy to meet and perhaps play with. Puppy socialization playgroups are the best place for your new pup to have playtime with other pups. These play times are short and monitored, the area is clean and safe and you will learn lots about dog play and body posture. If you are lucky you will work on some recall out of dog play too.

Prevention

Simple, quick, fun run-throughs that help prevent serious problem behaviors, what’s not to love!

These exercises range from basic handling of the puppy using treats, to teaching the pup to easily hop off the couch or move away from the front door or kitchen counter. They also include teaching the pup that there is no reason to stress over you leaving the house, it is just part of the flow of the day. You will also teach your puppy that he never needs to guard his precious resources like the bowl or toy or bone, if you do take it, it will always comes back better!

When a dog guards what he deems important or is not comfortable at the vets or growls at you because you ask him to move over on the couch he is not being bad or unreasonable in his dog mind, these are predictable dog behaviors. Certainly this does not make for a peaceful existence with his humans and it could lead to rehoming or worse euthanasia. This is why preventative exercises are essential with a puppy. Simple yet potentially life saving.

Getting it done!

So now you know! Socialization and prevention are your top priorities with your new puppy. This is because they are very time sensitive and will make all the difference in the quality of life your puppy will have. Puppy socialization classes are readily available and are the absolute best way to learn all about these important lessons. Puppy socialization classes are made available for pups that are under the age 16 weeks. We hope this helps you, whether in preparation for a new pup or in the early weeks of bringing a new puppy home. Enjoy this early time with your new pup and teach him everything he needs to be able to enjoy his life with you.

Barking Basics

 

Bark Basics: how to teach puppies to be calm in crate (and stop nuisance barking)

Puppies bark. The problem isn’t that they bark, the issues arise from how we deal with the barking.

Thankfully more breeders are starting to do some great early work with their pups. This means that the first time the puppy is separated from his mom and littermates isn’t when you bring him home. This means that the first time the puppy goes into a crate isn’t when you introduce him to one. If your new pup is experiencing all these things for the first time know that this is stressful. You may experience different degrees of whining, crying and barking. How you handle it is what counts.

 

The Game Plan

The early crating and structure that you provide for your new puppy as well as prepping him for alone time go hand in hand with helping to prevent problem barking. Other priorities for the puppy include age-appropriate physical and mental exercise, playtime, socialization trips and lots of preventative exercises. It is advantageous to you and the puppy to get into a well-run puppy socialization class and gain the guidance and support of a great coach.

 

Puppy crate training, puppy structure and boundaries, building a desire in puppy to go into crate - all in aid of stopping the barking in puppies

Crate Training Tip

Make the crate a happy place for your new puppy. Build up his desire to want to go into the crate. Hide a trail of delicious treats that leads to the crate and inside the crate place a super high-value prize such as a raw knucklebone or a kong stuffed with steak and cheese. Place this prize just inside the door and don’t let the puppy get to it. Build up a little frustration in your pup by preventing him from getting to the prize. Let him in for just a few seconds then bring him out and close the door again. Repeat this game a few times. Toss delicious treats into the back of the crate, repeat as pup comes out – treats for going in, no treats for coming out. As you toss the treat in, use the phrase, go in or in your crate.

Request Barking

Request barking may start with a puppy barking because he wants out of the crate or to go outside. New starry-eyed puppy parents don’t know what they are getting themselves into. A common but unfortunate scenario you want to avoid is thinking, ‘My puppy is so smart, he is already telling me when he wants to go outside!’ Tread very carefully here! Turn this around; you should be the one who decides when your puppy is going out for bathroom breaks and for playtime. Get to him before he starts barking and provide plenty of opportunity for him to get out of the crate and engage in training, play, cuddles or bathroom breaks. Avoid taking your pup out of the crate if he is barking. If you must let him out try and get at least 30 seconds of quiet first.

Request barking is just that, the puppy is barking at you because he wants something. He wants to go out, he wants to play, he wants you to give him attention, or he wants food. And on it goes, once it starts it will spread to lots of different requests and it can drive new puppy parents crazy. 

Structure At Home

Frequently puppies that bark in their crates are not crated when their people are at home and awake. Too much freedom is given and when folks try and crate the puppy he complains about this new plan by barking. Hey, who likes change! A puppy should be calm and comfortable in their crate for different stretches of time while you are at home and awake going about your regular routine. You need to be the one to teach your puppy this. Always serve up safe and tasty chew things for your pup to enjoy in his crate.

If the puppy is out of his crate, you should be attending to him or he should be anchored somewhere safe and be provided with something appropriate to chew on. Avoid letting your puppy wander unattended around the house. Structure and boundaries now are going to help condition a dog that is calm and trustworthy in the house later. Short cuts make for long journeys.

Alone Time

A lot of the undesirable barking from new puppies is stress or frustration from being left alone or from being crated or sequestered in another part of the house from you or from family activity.

Most dogs will have to spend time alone. It’s our job to prepare our pups to be able to deal with our absences. If you teach your puppy from day one that this is no big deal you should have smooth sailing over the course of his life.

Avoid big goodbyes and emotional hellos when coming and going from your house. Play it cool! This helps to keep your puppy calm.

* Your puppy should always get a delicious kong when you leave (or other safe food stuffing toy) filled with fabulous food that he is interesting in eating and works to get at. Stockpile some and pop one in the crate just before you leave the house.

Your dog’s vocalizing shouldn’t be an annoying aspect of life. A fun part of raising a puppy is learning the different nuances of their voice. Some dogs use their voices when they are happy and playful. Some dogs have a distinct distress call when they must get outside for bathroom quickly. Other dogs are very vocal about their contentment as they get a good tummy rub. Most of us will learn when to speak and when we probably are better off being quiet. Our dogs are no exception. We need to teach them this important life skill.

* Stuffing kongs and other food stuffing toys might take a little time to master but it is well worth the effort. It takes some patience and experimenting to find out what your puppy loves to chew on. You need to stuff the toy just right, not so hard that the pup gives up and not so easy that it comes out in 30 seconds. Be sure and keep your food stuffing toys clean and in good condition. Check out kongcompany.com for some great recipes.