IT IS OR IT ISN’T OK

Many of my clients want to know if I think it’s OK for their dog to sleep in their bed.  They are very surprised to hear that I allow my dogs to sleep in my bed. I love having them on my couch, I watch TV with them, I love having them sleep on my bed. As a professional trainer, I offer the best advice possible which includes all the pros and cons of encouraging your dog sleep in your bed.

The foundation of my answer to most questions about whether it’s OK or not for their dog to do something, is always the same. So, remember this; I say it on every training to every pet parent that requires my services.  Dogs are very black and white. They don’t do well in the grey area. So…Keep it simple.  THEY CAN OR THEY CAN’T.  IT IS OK OR IT ISN’T OK.  “Sometimes” doesn’t work well for a dog.

Let’s go back to letting your dog sleep in your bed.  Once you decide to allow your dog to sleep in your bed, it is very disturbing to the dog to then decide that you now longer want the dog in your bed, or some nights you do and some nights you don’t.  Trying to keep your dog out of your bed and/or your bedroom after an extended period of time, can lead to many different negative behaviors that were not displayed previously, like separation anxiety, barking, whining, urinating, defecating, chewing diggings, and scratching on the bedroom door. Not a pretty picture.

Either be sure about your decision that it’s OK or if you                                                                                               want to try the grey area, set up a “dress rehearsal” which is one of my favorite ways to modify a behavior.  What does that mean?  That means don’t wait until bedtime.  When you have some free time, allow the dog on the bed with you for a short time and then return the dog to their own bed in or outside the bedroom.  Practice that for short periods of time a few times a day and then extend the time on and off your bed. Be sure to give your dog precise and consistent commands to go to their bed and offer a new chew toy.  This method takes a lot a patience and practice and is not always successful, but you have a greater chance of success with a puppy.

The same idea would apply to having your dog sit on the couch, or even jump up on people including YOU!   Either it’s OK or it’s NOT!

SAY “AHHHHHH”

This is a compilation of the anatomy of your dogs’ mouth, the ability to do even more damage by applying extreme pressure, the ability to thrash their head and the false sense of security humans have in believing that their dog will never bite their children.

Is his bark really bigger than his bite?

Let’s talk the anatomy of your dog’s mouth. Dogs have 42 teeth. Humans have 32 but that includes wisdom, 3rd molars; which not everyone has, so most of us have 28 teeth tor less because some may have been extracted for orthodontic purposes or other reasons.

CANINE

Unlike humans, dogs do not have flat occlusal molars. anatomically designed for the purpose of mashing known as Masticating.

HUMAN

Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition:

1: to grind, crush, and chew (food) with or as if with the teeth in preparation for swallowing. 2: to soften or reduce to pulp by crushing or kneading.

I’m sure you have noticed that this is not something your dog does.

Dog’s teeth are designed to tear, rip, cut through and crush. The action of crushing is accomplished by what is called the “PSI” or pounds per square inch of pressure the dog can apply. I emphasize the description so that you have a clear picture of the damage a dog can do when biting. Additionally, by thrashing their head, an act by which a dog would kill prey in the wild, a dog can put excessive body weight and muscle strength behind the bite, immobilizing his victim further.

The average family dog has 230-250 pounds per square inch of jaw pressure. Taking an average from a handful of difference sources, these numbers will give you an idea of the PSI of some popular breeds. I have also read on many favored websites that the psi of some breeds can be as much as 2000. This is simply not true. However, a large breed dog with superior biting strength can break bones or cause comminuted fractures depending on where the bite is.

Labrador Retriever             230

German Shepherd              235

Pit Bull                                   235

Rottweiler                             325

Akita                                       300 – 400

Cane Corso                           550 – 700?

Bandogge                             650 – 730?

 

Large breed dogs that are bred as guard dogs, are over protective, show signs of being unpredictable, easily agitated, guard resources, fidgety, or high-strung, or untrained, previously abused and not well socialized, are not my choice of pet for a child.

HOME ALONE

Pet parents are very familiar with the term “Separation Anxiety” and want to know how to alleviate this behavioral problem. I’m happy to address the issue but need to first explain how pet parents can actually cause separation anxiety and that learning to avoid creating it, is a lot easier than dealing with and trying to correct the symptoms of separation anxiety, when it’s full blown.

So, let’s examine how a pet parent creates separation anxiety. Here’s a perfect example.  A schoolteacher is home for the entire summer vacation and decides to get a puppy. The schoolteacher; let’s use the name Alex, decides to get a puppy and names it Sam.  Alex spends close to 24 hours a day with Sam, making sure the new puppy is well taken care of, and has everything needed to start life in a new home.  Alex even takes the Sam out to pee and poo every 2 hours. Sounds good but by the end of summer when Alex has to go back to teaching, Alex’s “coddling” has turned into “enabling” and Sam cannot handle being left alone. Sam also cannot “hold it in” for more than 2 hours! Sam is now barking, whining, chewing, peeing and pooping in the house, salivating and stressed out.

Of course, this example is extreme. But the point is, Alex needs “Alex time” and Sam needs “Sam time”. And then there is Alex and Sam together time. If you think this sounds ridiculous, I assure you that I talk to pet parents about this all the time. We all do the same thing. We get a puppy and want to spend as much time as possible with it, but the puppy needs to be separated from the pet parent even for 10 – 15 minutes at a time in the beginning. Then gradually increase the time. You may not be going to work in the next few days, but you will need personal time. ..meaning, avoid taking the puppy with you to the bathroom! to shower! To make a phone call! to work on the computer! Give the puppy something he will be interested in and leave him in a crate or confinement.  Deliberately leave the puppy and go into another room and work up to going outside for short intervals. Then use the same routine you would use when actually leaving the house; like picking up your keys, taking a bag or attaché, putting on shoes. Those are triggers that will set off barking or other unwanted behaviors in the future, when done without a dress rehearsal.

Your puppy already has separation anxiety. What now? Same routine. Leave the puppy alone for 5- 10 minutes at first with a chew or toy that’s new and interesting. Build up the time and start by going into another room, then outside.

If your puppy is in a crate, it sometime helps to move the crate to another part of the room or a different room. The heartbeat of the house, usually the kitchen is the best place and being close to the door you use for house training is also helpful. A wire crate is preferred over a kennel cab (plastic crate), because the puppy can see you better, you can see the puppy better, has better ventilation and easier to clean. If the crate is in the corner of the room, try moving it out away from the wall.

If you’re using a confined area of the house, make sure it’s not too large, as smaller spaces give the puppy more comfort and security. Additionally, you can’t housebreak well in large areas where the puppy can urinate on one side of the room and move away to the other.

A laundry room or room that may be tucked away in the back of the house, is usually too isolated and will cause added stress to the puppy.

I do not suggest or condone letting the puppy cry for extended periods of time causing unnecessary stress. The puppy should only be left for short intervals of time until a comfort level is reached. Correcting unwanted behavior is a slow process. Remember… take puppy steps.

 

NAME MOVES THE DOG

Getting a new puppy? What name did you pick? Names are important; you want it to be something meaningful, cute, roll-off-the-tongue, fits the puppy or has deeper meaning to you personally.  Whatever the name is, you want the puppy to respond to it, right?  Well, think about the first few days and weeks that the puppy is with you. When do you use his or her name? Whenever there’s interaction? When you praise him? When you throw a ball? When he pees? When you correct him? When you put him in his bed or crate? Whenever you call the puppy to you?  As much as possible? Is there a right time?  Actually, there is a correct time to use the puppy’s name.

In the beginning of your relationship with your puppy, using his or her name often will help to ensure that the puppy learns the name of choice. But think of the long-term use of the puppy’s name. By that I mean, calling the puppy by name, logically speaking, is with the intention of happy the puppy come to you. It should not be linked to sit, stay, go in your crate or anything other than coming to you, because NAME MOVES THE DOG.   Think about it this way. Let’s say your name is Jo. If you hear someone say “Jo??”  “Stay there!”.  Would that sound peculiar to you?  I know we cannot assign human thoughts to our dogs, but use of a name in a positive, friendly voice to a puppy, means “you are calling him” and you want him to come to you. Take advantage of that. Let’s take the worst scenario. The puppy or dog gets loose and is outside with out his leash, or even in the back yard. If you call his name, you want him to come to you. You don’t want him to sit or stay where he is.  When he comes to you, then want him to sit or stay. If you are right in front of him and you don’t need to use his name. 

So, as a professional trainer, I always use the name before I say come.  Harley, come. Never Harley sit, Harley stay. Harley wait.

Now you’re at home with you new puppy. Call the puppy by name to come to you. Then start backing up a little at a time and keep saying the puppy’s name, followed by lots of praise. Call the puppy by name to give him his food, a toy, to pick him up, and go outside, to come inside. Bending down is dog friendly body language.  As time goes on and your puppy matures, bend down to call him, then stand when he approaches you and tell him to sit. That is the time to put his collar and leash on. It’s called “sit to dress”.   But that for another lesson.

GOING OVER THE TOP

The idiomatic phrase “over the top” or “going over the top” is used to describe someone making an effort that is excessive or more than is required to accomplish a task. Sometimes the phrase is used to describe an action that is judged to be fool-hearty or needlessly dangerous.

What you may not know is that “going over the top” also refers to the action of petting a dog by reach over him to the top of his head. Needlessly dangerous would be the part of the above definition that best applies to petting a dog on his head; and that goes for patting him on his head as well.  To a dog, this is considered to be threatening and will entice a dog to open his mouth as your hand passes over his face. Many children in particular are bitten by strange dogs when executing this type of intimidating “over the top” petting.

There are two very important fact to remember when a child, or an adult for that matter, encounters a strange dog.

  1. No matter how friendly, cute, small, and non-threatening a dog may appear to be, it is essential that permission is given by the pet parent to approach their dog. This includes dogs that are on a leash and even wagging their tail.

2. The proper way to pet a dog, any dog, is to first let the dog sniff your hand, fingers curled, rather than extended, should the dog decide to bite. If the dog appears accepting of your friendly gesture, then pet the dog gently and calmly under his chin.

A good sign to look for is if the dog appears to be well trained and is sitting, without be restrained,  as instructed to do so, by the pet parent.

Children should be taught to ask their parents, for permission to ask the pet parent, for permission to pet a strange dog.

It is important to keep in mind that not all dogs like to be touched by strangers. Not all dogs like children. Not all dogs are comfortable in confined areas or unfamiliar places especially that are noisy or there are a lot of distractions. Older dogs that are blind or physically challenged by arthritis or other medical issues, may not appreciate being approached or touched especially by strangers. Rescue dogs my have suffered abuse at some time in their life and should not be approached without permission by the pet parent.

Approximately 5 MILLION people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States.

KIDS & CANINES

Kids and dogs.  Is there a better combination?  Most of the time, no.  So why am I hesitating?  Because you must know your kids, and you must become familiar with dog breeds; that is, the inherent tendencies specific to each breed in order to satisfy a good kid/dog fit.

Some pet parents even think of their dogs as big kids in furry suits. Starting out with a puppy or family-oriented rescue dog is generally the best way to go forward while teaching your new furry family member how best to behave and assimilate into your household.

We’ve come so far from the days when dogs lived outside in dog houses and people didn’t necessarily realize that dogs needed socialization, as they generally are social creatures.

Dogs, for the most part, can understand approximately 200 words. When we choose our words carefully, we’ve formed the bases of inter-species communication: We talk, and the dog responds with a particular action. But then again, your dog needs obedience training just as your child learns, first at home, then at school, how to interact with others and behave properly.

Now I’m going to add another layer of understanding to the mix: child interaction with a dog, particularly a new dog in the household.

“Alpha dog” is a familiar phrase, referring to the pack mentality of dogs, and independently, wolves, who are pack animals as well.  But even as a single dog living in a household, dogs still understand the hierarchy of being pack animals.  There is always one alpha in the household; either the pet parent or pet care-taker or it will be the dog. Tone of voice and body language are most important when establishing dominance. For example: standing taller than your dog, using a louder, more commanding voice when verbally correcting using the word “NO” will help elevate a person to the position of alpha.  Even a child, should learn to do the same. When a child is down on the ground with your puppy, the puppy will consider the child to merely be another canine playmate, and treat the child as such. Jumping on, standing on, biting, nipping, pulling clothes, fighting over toys, growling, barking and inviting actions such as tug of war or chase, are all dog to dog activities that your dog will try to initiate with your child. Something as simple as having your child sit on a small stool when playing with your pup, will enable your child to stand immediately and say  “NO” to the puppy and give the puppy an appropriate dog toy or chew. This is a practice that can be done for 10-15 minutes a few times a day, with adult supervision, of course.

By assuming the role of alpha, the highest-ranking member of the group,  the dog will become more submissive—that is, take commands without creating problems.

Learning the correct way to correct your dog and teaching your child to do the same will help to reduce unwanted behavior especially directed to the weakest member of your family; your child.  Consistency in administering correcting is the key to success.  

A NEW LEASH ON LIFE

Even if you have a large, fenced in, private property, all dogs need to learn to walk on a leash. This is not about training your puppy to “heel” or not to pull, or to walk at your side and sit when you stop walking. Yes, all of that is what I teach as a professional trainer for dogs, but right now, I only want to talk about introducing your puppy to a collar/harness and leash and helping him to learn to accept it and be comfortable with it, and eventually relate it to doing something he likes.

So, where do we begin?  I always recommend starting in the house. Simply put the collar or harness of your choice, on your puppy, and let me wear it in the house under “eyes on” supervision, while you’re playing with him. Distraction is always thought of as a “nuisance” and disruptive when trying to train your pup. But trainer or pet parent introduced positive distractions can be most helpful in some situation. Playing with your puppy, is an extremely helpful distraction when trying to teach him to wear a collar. Squeaky toys, balls and fetch are my favorites.

Once your puppy has adjusted well to wearing the collar or harness, maybe a day or two, attach a 6 foot, thin, lightweight, narrow leash that has a small clip; small being the operative word. If you use a heavy, thick, twisted, rope type leash, it will have a heavier clip, and a heavier clip will pull on the puppy’s neck or make a harness more uncomfortable. 

Now let the puppy drag the leash around while playing fetch or other distracting activity. Periodically, hold the leash in one hand and the toy in the other hand and entice your puppy to follow the toy. (Squeaky toys work great for this.)

Try this too. If the puppy is confined or if another family member can help, put the puppy’s leash on and walk him to his food bowl at mealtime.  You might be wondering why I don’t mention offering treats to make your puppy walk on a leash. Anyone who knows me, knows that I do not use or recommend or condone the constant use of treats to bribe a dog to respond correctly. As a trainer, I’m OK with giving a dog a treat occasionally for good work. However, there are many other healthier, effective and rewarding ways to train, but that’s something I will talk about at another time. If you prefer to give your puppy a treat to encourage walking on leash, I yield to your decision. It’s just not something I prefer to do. What I do prefer to do is use a happy, encouraging tone of voice, call the puppy to come with me and stop a pet him and give him belly rubs and offer him his toy; thereby letting him know he’s doing a good job.

If the puppy is old enough to go outdoors, meaning your veterinarian has advised that it’s OK to take him for walks outside, you might find that the puppy will not walk very far from the front of your house. This is not unusual. In fact, I see this happen quite often. So, try this. Carry your puppy away from your home; let’s say half a block. Put the puppy down and chances are, he will walk home. Take the squeaky toy outside with you and use it to encourage the puppy to walk forward.

If your puppy walks a short distance and then plops himself down on the sidewalk, don’t stand there trying to convince him it’s not a good idea or just laughing. Both enable him to do this even more. I have seen this in action and trust me it doesn’t work. If you can’t use distraction to get him up and walking, bending down on one knee, at leash length, is the friendliest body language you can use when training your puppy. It’s the best way to get a puppy to come to you, or in this case, up and walking to you. Praise him and immediately continue your walk. If all else fails, physically but gently stand him up and restart him.

After walking home is successful, keep walking down the block in the opposite direction and don’t stop at home. As with all training practice, do this for 10-15 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day.

OODLES OF DOODLES

There are at least twenty-five (25) well known breed mixes that end in the word “Poo,” short for Poodle.  You will also be familiar with the term “Doodle.” Again, that indicates that one parent, or at least some percentage of the gene pool, came from a Poodle.

We are all somewhat familiar with many of these mixes, and the list continues to grow.

But why?  Why is the Poodle the “go to” breed to mix with so many other breeds?

Because Poodles are a terrific breed.  They are smart, hypoallergenic, take direction well, they are bred in small, medium and large sizes, sport different coloring, don’t shed and like water, among other things.  So why not?  Why not incorporate the Poodle as the “go to” dog for breeding?  You won’t find much of a dissenting view on that topic.

But why mix this terrific breed with another breed? Do you lose any of the special qualities that make the Poodle stand apart? That goes to the heart of individual taste.  Once a Poodle is bred with another breed, the identifying characteristics of the Poodle are decreased.  Now you have a new look, a new personality trait, and a different fur/hair texture. Plus, you’re no longer getting the typical look of what is known as the French Poodle—only some of its best attributes.  Again, is there a downside?  That falls under the umbrella of “Buyer Beware.”  In other words, do your homework and learn all there is to know about the Poodle mix you are considering before he or she become a permanent member of your household.

Question:  Will a Poodle mix be hypoallergenic?  Only if the other breed that was mixed with the Poodle, is also hypoallergenic.  If the Poodle is mixed with a breed that is not, then it is not guaranteed, and it may lose the full ability to be hypoallergenic.  This is especially true if the breed the Poodle is mixed with, is hyper-allergenic.

The following is an explanation of generation categories used as an indication of the percentage of Poodle in your Poo or Doodle mix.

Breeding Categories according to Breeding Business are as follows:

P = Purebred

F1 = 50% Poodle + 50% purebred of another breed, or Purebred A + Purebred B.  Now at this level the dog starts to lose some of the hypoallergenic protection it enjoyed as a purebred Poodle and takes on some of the characteristics of a different purebred breed.

F1b = 75% Poodle + 25% purebred of another breed or the breeding of a purebred A dog with a purebred B dog. i.e. mother is a B = Labradoodle + father is a Poodle.

F2 Generation

50% Purebred-A
50% Purebred-B

F2 dogs are the offsets resulting from the mating of two F1 hybrids.

Example: A Labradoodle whose mother is a Labradoodle F1 and father a Labradoodle F1.

Chart of an F2 hybrid dog (c) breedingbusiness.com

F2b Generation

75% Purebred-A
25% Purebred-B

These are second-generation backcrossed dogs. Each F2b dog is the offset of an F1 parent and an F1 backcrossed (F1b) parent.

Example: A Labradoodle whose mother is a Labradoodle F1 and father a Labradoodle F1b.

Chart of an F2b hybrid dog (c) breedingbusiness.com

F3 Generation

Offsets coming from the mating of two F2 hybrid parents.

Example: a Labradoodle whose mother is a Labradoodle F2 and father a Labradoodle F2.

Multi Generation

An F3 or higher-generation hybrid dog crossed with an F3 or higher-generation hybrid dog.

 

At this point you might ask, “These categories are complicated. Why do I need to know this?”  The best answer is that it is the doggy equivalent of using Ancestry.com or constructing a family tree.  It gives you better insight into the traits of your dog, as to their temperament, looks and health. 

All breeds, whether purebred or mixes,  have traits inherent to that breed.  It’s merely a way of being informed.  For example: a French Bulldog, a Pug, a Bulldog, to name a few, are what is referred to as brachycephalic dogs.  It goes to the heart of a particular look, whereby these breeds have shortened heads, flat faces and recessed noses.  That special look is however responsible for airway obstruction issues.

If you want the attributes of a Poodle, the more the breed is bred down, the less Poodle attributes will go into the mix.  At the same time, you might be looking for the attributes of another purebred, with the reliance on some percentage of Poodle.  Again: know before you go—that is, before you go to a breeder, pet store, shelter or dog owner to foster or adopt a pet.

 

At the same time, if you are familiar with a mixed Poodle breed and you fall in love with a special puppy/dog; then go for it and enjoy each other for many, happy years to come.

TOILET WATER

 

Some dogs like to drink out of the toilet bowl. It’s somewhat obvious that the reason is because the water appears to be fresh and cool. If your dog is drinking out of the toilet bowl instead of his water bowl, is the water in your dog’s bowl fresh and cool? When was the last time you washed, really washed your dog’s water bowl or put it in the dishwasher, instead of just spilling out the remaining water and giving the bowl a quick rinse before refilling it? If your dog is drinking out of the toilet bowl after he has finished all the water in his water bowl, why is he consuming so much water? If you are trying to house-train your dog and he is allowed to drink out of the toilet bowl, you have no control over when and how much he is drinking, which leads to when or how much he has to urinate.

Here’s another thing to think about. Does your dog have ACNE? If he does have acne and he drinks from the toilet bowl, you should discuss his drinking habits with your veterinarian.

The internet is filled with articles about how “safe” it is for your dog to drink out of a toilet and that no harm will come to the dog provided the toilet has been cleaned, and the cleaning chemical has been flushed. Any standard toilet cleaning chemical is extremely harmful and is not always removed with one flush.

I want to make my opinion of this perfectly clear. I do NOT approve of a dog drinking out of a toilet bowl. If you took a swab sample from your toilet bowl, especially under the rim, to a lab for testing, you would be shocked at the number of bacteria including the possibility of E-coli, Giardia, Staphylococcus and Salmonella. It is a bad habit that should be replaced by a FRESH bowl of water given daily. Every dog needs more than one(1) water bowl and they should be cleaned daily at the very least. If your dog has a fresh supply of cool water in a clean bowl, there is no reason to drink from the toilet.

Having a fresh bowl of water available, remembering to close the lid on your toilets, use of toilet lid locks and closing the bathroom door as well, will help to eliminate the problem in most cases.  

Additionally, dogs with full coats, long hair and hairy muzzles are picking up any bacteria under the rim of the toilet. Is that dog then sleeping on the couch or your bed? Is he licking your face? Is your child hugging and kissing this dog after he drank out of the toilet? 

Think toilet brush.  That should help you to remember.

PICA- AN EATING DISORDER

Pica, pronounced Py ka, is defined as “an abnormal craving to eat items not normally eaten.” Merriam Webster Dictionary.  This is a condition seen in kids as well as dogs. 

As our articles are predominately centered around dogs, in conjunction with their families, we will stick with PICA in dogs. 

A dog suffering from PICA will just about eat anything he or she craves.
It’s easier to control what your dog eats inside the home, than what might be picked up outside the home. Sometimes life with your dog, just like life with any living being, can be made easier with compromise. If your dog likes underwear, for instance, then a high hamper with a hard-to-pry-open lid will help to stop that behavior. Keeping items out of reach, be it golf balls, eye glasses, paper towels, or even cat litter, might take some extra time, patience and creative planning.  But it can be accomplished. However, the craving to eat “inedible” items will still be present and your dog will hunt for other things to satisfy the need unless you take further action and visit your veterinarian for help.

Walking outside, if your dog suffers from PICA, opens the playing field for even more items, particularly if you use an extender leash.  I’ve worked with dogs that eat discarded garbage in the street, paper towels, rabbit feces, small broken off tree branches, mulch, candy wrappers, and paper wrapping from fast food. Some will even eat the feces of other dogs as well as their own. Another reason to always pick-up after your dog.

Most of the above-mentioned items will cause medical harm to your dog’s digestive system.  Some may be so serious that a surgery becomes the only treatment.

Any pet parent with a dog that exhibits such behavior, should seek the care and advice of a veterinarian.

What about dogs that eat their own feces?  Well, there is a name for that too.  It’s called coprophagy or coprophagia. There are many reasons for this unwanted behavior. Just to mention a few; 1. A puppy who learns this from their natural mother who eats feces from her puppies to keep the whelping bed clean. 2. A puppy from a pet shop or mill, kept in a kennel and eats, sleeps, drinks, plays, urinate and defecates in that kennel without much time outside of it. 3. Nutritional needs like deficiencies or hunger from under-feeding or parasites. 4.  Boredom, stress, need of attention or even getting rid of evidence to avoid punishment.  

As always, we advise you to take your dog to the vet and have a full check-up, one that includes urine and blood analysis to determine the exact cause. A Board Certified Veterinarian Behaviorist may also be necessary.