My Dog Is Just Being Friendly
A client complained to me that she was getting tired of having her dog labelled as a ‘problem’ dog by other dog owners. The issue is that her dog does not want to be friends with every dog she meets and, if pushed, will lunge and bark at some dogs that get into her face, especially if she is on the lead.
It is increasingly the case that unless owners have a dog that is universally phlegmatic, happy to engage with dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages, then there has to be a problem with that dog’s temperament…..right? Well no, dogs are individuals and some are just naturally more precious about their personal space. Some are born aloof, some may have had a scary dog encounter when young and now view all other dogs with suspicion, and others may feel unwell.
The worst offenders are new puppy owners who believe that socialisation of their hound is best achieved by letting the pup or adolescent dog, jump all over every dog it meets out in the park or street. ‘She’s just a puppy, she just wants to say hello,’ says the newbie owner fondly as they watch their 4 month American bulldog puppy attempt to mob the 4 year old Yorkshire terrier. The ensuing fracas is only too familiar and in one brief exposure each dog may have learned to fear other dogs.
A common misconception is that ‘puppy licence’ is a universal given. If dogs and pups are all members of the same family or social group then, yes, the older dogs may tolerate the pup’s physical impositions, but why would any adult dog feel it is fine to be ‘jumped’ and mobbed by a totally strange canine teenager when they are out and about minding their own business? Neither dog is at fault; that lies with the owners and primarily with the puppy owner.
It is not just pups either. Owners of pushy dogs find it hard to accept that not all other dogs will love their pet as much as they do. Another familiar scenario is meetings between aloof or sensitive breed types and those dogs that have been selectively developed for over-friendliness (Labradors, Staffords, Pugs, to name a few). These are the breed types that adore everyone and everything, even burglars would be welcomed into their homes with a happy wag and panty grin. However, just as some humans fail to recognise the importance of personal space in their social interactions, some hounds are also bad at reading canine social signals. They’ll march up to any old dog they see and get in close and personal as soon as possible, failing to read the other dog’s signals to ‘back off’. Their owners stand and watch, proud and happy to own such a ‘friendly’ dog and are swift to blame the grumpy but space sensitive dog as it turns into a furry, snarling gremlin as the other pet approaches. I’d bet that pernickety dog got scared early by one of the more rambunctious breed types- ‘just trying to be friendly’- and has learned that attack is the best form of defence.
A further obstacle is physical differences between dogs. Some have upright ears and no tail- they look challenging. Dogs with rounded faces and low slung ears, like spaniels, can look puppyish. Dogs with black faces are hard for other dogs to read, as are dogs with squashed faces or hair over their eyes. The wonder is that with so much variation that our dogs get on at all. The fact that they do speaks volumes for their adaptability and ability to learn. Nonetheless, if you do own a very friendly dog try to remember that other dogs may need much more space. Learn about dog body language (there are lots of quickie guides like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00_9JPltXHI). Learn to interpret better what is going on and control your dog before things escalate. All dogs and their owners will benefit.
Leonie St Clair
How to choose a puppy
A number of you have asked me for advice on how best to choose a puppy or dog to be the family pet. While there can never be absolute guarantees there are a number of golden rules. Following these should help load the search in your favour and it is hoped that being well prepared you won’t be tempted to phone the nearest rescue centre as your dog approaches adolescence!
Before reading the list it is a given you can afford to keep a dog and have factored in weekly food costs, veterinary bills, equipment and annual insurance. If you work full time consider whether it is fair to leave a highly social animal on its own for most of the day, dog walkers can be pricey. Dogs need daily exercise, training and play, consider how much time you want or are able to give to this aspect.
Of course, a number of people badly want a dog but balk at the thought of a puppy. Let’s be honest, pups are very hard work, especially if you also have kids. Do think about an adult rescue; reputable rescue centres will be prepared to work hard to find the right dog for you.
• First and foremost, don’t rush in and buy the first cute puppy you see. Pups that are really easy to get hold of, no questions asked, are unlikely to be the product of a thoughtful, planned breeding. Puppy farming is still big business- so caveat emptor!
• Don’t be overly swayed by looks. Beautiful blue eyes or a ‘rare’ coat colour have little bearing on how good a family pet the puppy will make.
• If you are going for a pedigree do your homework and research the attributes of a range of breeds. Consider whether the description of the breed temperament, size, and exercise needs will fit you and your lifestyle.
• Consider attending the breed showcase Discover Dogs, in October at Excel, see http://www.discoverdogs.org.uk/
• Whether pedigree, ‘designer cross’ or mixed breed, ensure you visit the breeder in their home before you commit. If your pup is to live in the city with you and your kids it is probably unwise to buy a pup that has been reared in a childless home, in a shed, in the countryside.
• It is probably best to avoid dogs bred from strong hunting or working lines. Working line dogs that are not worked can become easily bored and destructive. If you are looking at ‘designer crosses’ like labradoodles or cockapoos, ask if either parent is from working stock.
• Gregarious breeds will probably fare better in busy urban parks, where they are happy to meet people and other dogs. One person breeds, aloof breeds and dogs with a strong guarding instinct, will be hard to keep in an urban setting.
• Early handling by children and exposure to normal household noises, like hoovers and washing machines, is vital. City sounds, like sirens, are also important. Pups that are not exposed to these things early on may be fearful of them in later life.
• Insist you see the pup’s mum (dam) and also try to see the dad (sire) and check both for temperament and health. Dad is important for inherited temperament and the pups will learn much from their mother’s behaviour in early development. Avoid buying pups from nervous, aggressive or ‘guardy’ parents.
• Look for the pup that is neither too shy or too pushy.
• Even if the pup is a crossbreed, ask for proof that DNA tests have been done on the parents for the relevant listed inherited diseases (look for the pedigree breeds in the cross). Remember, it is not a given that crossbreeds are healthier. Badly bred crossbreeds can inherit ‘bad’ genes from one or both parents.
• Expect any good breeder to really quiz you. They should not be in a hurry to sell you their precious pup. A good breeder will always ask for return of the pup should anything go wrong and will want to stay in touch.
Leonie St Clair
My dog won’t come when I call!
Poor recall has to be one of the top reasons for calling in a dog trainer. It is not unusual to see exasperated owners anxiously speed-walking around the park repeatedly calling their dog’s name while the hound in question is nowhere to be seen. Another scenario is the dog that dances around within a few feet of the owner but somehow stays just out of range, refusing to have its lead put on. Poor recall is not only inconvenient it is also dangerous; the ability to call your dog away from something could one day save his life.
Of course, you won’t be surprised to learn that the fault lies not with the dog but with the owner. Recall is a vital command and has to be built with care before it is reliable. Many owners stop training after puppy school. Most puppies have good recall- it makes sense for a little animal to stay close to its owners, but it all falls apart at adolescence when the young dog discovers just how many good things freedom has to offer.
With patience and consistent application of training it is possible to achieve a good recall, here are my top tips:
• Bite the bullet and keep training daily until your dog is through adolescence, don’t put all your faith into what you achieve at a puppy course. Once hormones kick in at puberty the brain is overwhelmed with lots of new, rewarding information. Puppy obedience, and with it recall, is temporarily pushed to the bottom of the pile.
• Remember dogs learn in a highly contextual way. Recalling in class is different to a recall in the park. Training in the park has to be built from scratch again.
• Don’t run before you can walk. If your pup has learned to return to you under highly controlled conditions in class, don’t expect him to do the same after he has been free running and playing in the park for half an hour with other dogs.
• Think about the reward on offer for returning to you- is it as fun for the dog as playing with other dogs? Many youngsters will prefer play fighting with other dogs to the same old treat from its owner. After all, if you offer your hormonal teenager a slice of cake if they come home early from meeting up with their mates and some fit boy or girl they fancy, which do you think will win?
• Only ever call your dog once or twice. Repeated use of the command when the dog blanks you reduces the potency of the command.
• Ideally, every recall should be successful first time. This means the owner has to judge how distracted the dog is, how far away the dog is, and for how long the dog has been separated from them (the three D’s, distance, distraction, duration).
• Use a long line. This gives you control and means you can gently reel the dog in when you need to without using your recall word and it failing.
• As a principle and especially if the dog is on a line, do not let him have extended play sessions with other dogs. At this age we want your dog to focus on you. So keep dog interactions short and sweet.
• It will be clear to most that your dog wants to run and play in the park so start jogging with your pup on the line and please start to play with your dog, using obedience commands like sit and leave to heighten control and make the game more interesting for your dog.
• Finally, never ever chastise your dog for not returning when you call. No dog will willingly return to an angry owner. Think about what has gone wrong and aim to put it right on the next recall.
Leonie St Clair
Why does my dog pull on the lead?
We are all familiar with the sight of someone being pulled within an inch of shoulder dislocation as they walk their dog. It is not a good look and it makes walks pretty unpleasant all round. It is also a clear indication that the dog/owner relationship is not as it should be.
Young pups are not born knowing how to walk on the lead. They walk faster than us and their natural instinct is to move towards anything they like at maximum speed and in the opposite direction from anything that scares them. The human solution is to control the puppy’s movement by tightening the lead while the puppy pushes against the pressure holding them back. In one tiny lesson we teach the pup to push forward against a tight lead and to associate that feeling with momentum.
The solution is really quite simple but one that demands absolute patience and consistency. In the first place teach the tiny pup to view walking on a lead and collar as a fun game not an endurance test.
Start off with your pup facing you and walk backwards. Encourage your pup to come towards you as you continue moving backwards. A nice treat and verbal praise ensures the pupster is fixated on you. Think when we first teach a baby to walk we often walk backwards holding the toddler’s hands as they take a few steps towards us. The fact that they can see our face encourages focus and confidence.
Once your pup is happily trotting towards you, every now and then pivot so you now walk forwards with your back to the pup. Your pup will now walk beside you for a few paces – note and praise the first few seconds of the pup walking on the lead without pulling. You can build on this by constantly changing direction so the pup watches you to see where you are going. The more your pup watches you the better. Building focus is the way to go, think of it as a dance where you are leading. Build focus and training in tiny sessions, and slowly begin to train in different locations and with different distractions.
It is also important to have the right tools and equipment. The lead should be long enough to hold across your body, with arms relaxed and down by your sides. Leather or strong nylon is preferable to chain links. Every dog should wear a collar because they must carry a legally compliant identity disc. This is in addition to being microchipped, not an alternative. However, although a flat collar may work just fine, very ‘pully’ dogs may do better on a harness. Excessive pulling on the collar can damage young throats- leading to problems with breathing in adulthood. For this reason choke collars are definitely not a good idea.
The best harnesses are those with a ‘D’ ring on the chest as well as on the back. These are used with a double-ended lead where you end up with what amounts to a pair of reins. The beauty of this type of harness is that it is safe and the ability to control the dog at two points makes pulling much harder for them. Many determined ‘pullers’ can be taught to walk well on a Mekuti or Perfect Fit harness.
Finally, very headstrong dogs may benefit from retraining on a head collar, somewhat like a dog version of a bridal. These should be used with caution and be sure to get professional advice so you are clear how to use them, incorrect use can damage the dog.
Leonie St Clair
Should I neuter my dog or cat?
Should I neuter my cat or dog?
I am often asked by clients about the benefits of neutering. The most frequent questions are whether to do it at all and when. The stated benefits of neutering are threefold; population control, reducing the risk of future health problems and preventing or improving behaviour problems, but the reality it not so clear cut.
Research to date suggests that for cats the benefits of neutering definitely outweigh the risks, both in terms of health and behaviour. Cats enjoy freedom to roam and both sexes will wander in search of a mate resulting in pregnancy – and cat populations literally explode. Neutering reduces feline fighting, roaming and spraying. Female cats may come into season and become pregnant as early as 4 months. So, unless you plan to breed, neutering your pet is a no-brainer and surgery at 4 months, before puberty is probably best.
Dogs are a different matter. The days of the latch key, street dog are over but accidents still happen. Dogs can mate and tie in seconds; the onus is on every owner to neuter or control their pet. However, mass neutering also limits the gene pool- leaving it to back yard breeders or those breeding for looks and performance in the show ring. How much do we trust breeders to get it right?
Aside from population control- and it is a big aside- an oft proposed positive of neutering is health. However, although neutering reduces the incidence of certain cancers and health issues in both sexes, it also increases the risk of a number of others. Early neutering also affects growth and can result in dogs that are much taller, with longer limbs, putting a strain on joints in later life.
Then there are the effects of neutering on dog behaviour. It is here that the picture becomes very grey indeed. The commonly held view is that neutering calms dogs of both sexes and issues with aggression are positively modified, especially in males. In fact the opposite may be true. Aside from the sexual behaviours like roaming, fighting and mating, testosterone also gives the male dog confidence. Certain types of fear aggression can be made worse by neutering and most of the cases of aggression I see are fear related.
Testosterone, the male sex hormone, augments and maintains sexual behaviours, causing the male dog to react to events quickly, for longer and with greater intensity. A red-blooded young dog that is attempting to mount and fight with everything in sight will probably be calmer after castration. However, age is crucial and will differ from dog to dog. An older male post-surgery may show little or no improvement at all. Worse, he may suddenly become attractive to other male dogs. Dogs castrated too young (10 weeks is not unheard of) may never ‘grow up’ and never develop the social skills to deal with other dogs. They may get ‘picked on’ in the park, be harder to train and more easily frustrated.
The girls are even more complex. Bitches that show certain types of aggression before their first season can be made more aggressive by removing the calming effects of female sex hormones. On the other hand, certain types of maternal aggression that occur with phantom pregnancies can be improved by neutering, as can ‘moodiness’ caused by seasons and competitive aggression between bitches- bitches will fight to the death to oust a rival.
The best advice is do your research, talk to your breeder and other dog owners. If your puppy is showing aggression, is fearful or shy, talk it through with your vet- early neutering may not be the best plan.
Leonie St Clair| www.londondogstraining.co.uk
Why Dogs should be on a lead
Why dogs should be on a lead
One of my pet hates is people who walk their dog off lead on the street. Yes, a few dogs may be extraordinarily obedient, with no interest in chasing small furries or mobbing every person they see, but they are the exception. I have witnessed more than one hound suddenly dart across a busy road, its owner screaming, unable to intervene. I have also seen a dog killed after running out of the local park, straight under the wheels of a bus. All avoidable had the owners used a lead.
The law is ambiguous and confusing. There is no law that states that dogs have to be on a lead on public footpaths, however it is an offence for a dog to be on a designated road off lead. It is also a criminal offence for a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place. A dog that darts across the road off lead and causes a crash, may put its owner in prison.
A top reason for ‘lead avoidance’ is owner laziness, pure and simple. People moan- “but he pulls too much”, or “he doesn’t like the lead, he’s much better off”. Some prefer to go ‘hands free’ so they can walk and talk on their mobile phones. Others just think having a dog off lead looks cool.
Let’s be clear, no dog is born with ‘lead instinct’ but they are born with a strong instinct to chase things that move. Unless taught how to walk on a lead properly, most dogs will try to get from A-Z as fast as they can and if that means dragging you with them, they will. But, just about any dog, with consistent training and the right equipment, can be taught to walk nicely on the lead and they should be taught, as early as possible.
This does not mean using an extending lead; I’ve seen dogs injured on those too, suddenly whizzing across the road into moving traffic, after their owner had forgotten to secure the stopper. This is all about teaching the dog to walk beside its owner, on a short, loose lead, without pulling.
Many dogs get nervous on the lead as they realise they don’t have the ability to avoid stuff that scares them; others get frustrated at being unable to get to the stuff that interests them, like other dogs or people. Either can cause unruly behaviour, like lunging and barking, and make owners think leads are a bad idea. Make no mistake, if a dog is nervous around other dogs having all dogs on the lead means every owner can use distance and avoidance to keep control. The last thing the owner of a hyper or nervous dog needs is to suddenly be confronted with an off lead dog in the street. The same goes for people, and a growing number of children who are terrified of dogs. A dog on a lead not only looks safer, it is safer.
The same applies to the park. If you see a dog that is on the lead there is a reason why. It may be old, it may be nervous, it may be in season, it may be injured. Give that dog a wide berth, do not allow yours to run up to it off lead- it does not matter how friendly your dog is or means to be, if the other dog is on a lead don’t go there.
The message is simple, unless your dog is 100% obedient, under any level of distraction, at any distance, then please, use a lead!
Dogs and Sprogs how to manage pets and children
Dogs and Sprogs
1. How to prepare dogs for arrival of a baby
Spring is sprung and I am getting enquiries from expectant mums and anxious partners, all wondering how their dog and new baby will get along. In the coming months I will be giving you top tips on what to do and what to avoid and, most of all, how to ensure the new baby is an object of your dog’s respect rather than viewed as the latest squeaky toy, or worse.
Remember, dogs are experts at reading us humans and if you are pregnant, you will be moving differently, acting differently and, yup, you’ll smell different too. Your pooch already knows changes are afoot. So it makes sense to have a plan.
We will look at all the key stages, from preparation before birth, to toddler territory – when baby begins to move around and explore and when some dogs begin to wake up to the fact that the new, shrieking creature, with its jerky movements and insatiable appetite for everything the dog would prefer is his, is here to stay. So, don’t delay, do your homework now. The sooner you begin the easier it will be.
• Decide the rules of your house. Which rooms can the dog use? Can he use furniture? Be clear and be consistent.
• Train daily. Get basic obedience commands off pat, especially ‘leave’ and ‘off’. You will need snappy responses once coping with dog and baby together. Clear rules will help your dog adapt and feel secure. So practice!
• Identify and reduce attention-seeking or dangerous behaviours, like jumping up, pawing, mouthing, barking. If in doubt get professional advice.
• Ensure your dog has quality exercise and structured, interactive play with brain work, daily.
• If your dog chases things that squeak, or is fearful of certain noises, consider his reactions to the new baby and equipment.
• Get your dog used to the new gadgets, smells, and noises associated with a baby.
• Get a baby noise CD to get your dog used to gurgles and cries. Expose him to the smell of baby powder and lotion. Erect new baby equipment and practice walking your dog with a pram. Even get him used to you walking around nursing a doll.
• Use games and reward to slowly expose your dog to all these new, exciting things; note and reward calm behaviour.
• Teach your dog a ‘settle’ command or to go to a safe area and ‘relax’ when you need him to. If your dog is a clingy and attention-seeking now, think how he’ll be when baby arrives. The last thing you’ll want is a dog whining or clambering over you when you need to change or feed your little one.
• Take time to teach your dog how to cope for periods alone. Give him appropriate chews, a stuffed Kong, or Nina Ottosson toys, to help him relax.
• Learn more about subtle doggie signals and body language.
• Identify and start to use designated dog areas, such as closed rooms or gated areas.
• Tethers and baby gates are a good way to limit your dog when you need to; ensure separation is enjoyable with a nice chew or similar.
• Start a baby-friendly, flexible routine of feeding and activities that include your dog. Use these times to practice obedience skills.
• If possible, when baby is born, plan to expose your dog to your baby’s scent, before any physical introductions.
• There are plenty of good resources on introducing dogs and babies, so get ahead and start researching, the earlier the better.
Next time….. How to cope and what to do when the baby arrives.
Dogs and Sprogs part 2
2. How to cope with your dog once your baby is born
The new baby is home and you are probably too elated or too tired to think beyond the bundle of joy now at the centre of your world. However, spare a thought for your dog who up until now thought he was centre of the universe. Getting a handle on the pooch perspective around baby arrival, will not only help you juggle the weight of new, daily demands, but will also ease the transition for your pet.
Okay, so dogs don’t feel jealousy in the way humans do, but they are aware of losing something they value. Most dogs, selectively developed to be highly social, covet our attention above all. The usurped hound may react in surprising ways; barking, howling or sudden bouts of ‘naughtiness’. Changes can include outright disobedience; stealing forbidden items, and some dogs slump into a deep depression. No point getting angry, because as far as ‘bowser’ is concerned any attention is better than none.
Last time we looked at preparation; introducing your dog to the new baby’s smell and baby equipment, as well as sharpening up basic obedience. If you managed these, the following steps will be easier.
• Your dog is learning about your baby and new things can be scary. Dogs may nip, or worse, out of fear. They may be triggered by noises to view the baby as a toy or prey.
• Cases of dog on baby attacks invariably report the baby was left alone with the dog.
• Ensure the dog is always supervised around your baby. NEVER leave them alone, not even for a second.
• Don’t exclude the dog, only interacting with him when the baby is asleep. Do stuff with him and the baby together; build positive associations from the start.
• Here are simple games you can play to build the bond between dog and baby:
1. While you hold the baby, practise obedience commands with your dog. ‘Sit’, ‘down’, ‘touch’, whatever your dog knows. Give your dog rewards for compliance. This is a great, mental workout for pooch and a fabulous association with the new baby.
2. Play hide and seek. One of you holds the dog while mum and baby go into another room. Let the dog go saying ‘ find baby’, first letting him sniff an item of your baby’s used clothing. On locating mum and baby, your dog gets praise and a treat.
3. While holding or rocking the baby, have a small bag of kibble beside you. Toss out a kibble and wait until your dog eats it and comes back to you. Now wait for him to look at you and then throw out another bit. Repeat this, varying the duration of eye contact. Ask for ‘sits’ and ‘downs’ too.
• Obviously you cannot have your dog with you all the time. It is imperative he learns to switch off and relax in “safe” areas. Ensure your dog has great chews, stuffed Kongs or food packed bones, for these times.
• Chewing raises serotonin levels in dogs; get your dog in the mood to quietly chill by promoting a good chew habit.
• You’ll need time alone with the baby or to limit your dog’s access to baby. Use baby gates and tether stations to create safe areas for the dog to relax.
• Make these safe areas pleasant for the dog. Behind a gate or on a tether he can still see you and the baby. Toss him treats and give him chews to maintain those positive associations.
• Ensure your dog has some quality time with a walk and structured play, every day.
Dogs and Sprogs pt 3
3. How to prepare the way for a lasting friendship between your dog and your toddlers.
Not all dogs instantly love children. From a pup perspective your little ’un may be more scary monster than new, best friend. Running, squeaking toddlers, smelling strongly of forbidden but delicious human grub, may also seem a novel, hunting-ready form of prey, ripe for chasing. Even well socialised pups, growing up surrounded by kids, may after one ill-judged encounter, develop a deep and lasting fear of them. Clumsy handling by a child, where the grip is too tight and the puppy is unceremoniously swooped up into the air, or where inquisitive little fingers accidently poke at eyes and ears, are often the reason why a hitherto friendly dog ‘suddenly bites for no reason’.
Pups need to learn how to behave around children:
• First, kiddies are not littermates and biting games are verboten- read http://www.dogstardaily.com/training/teaching-bite-inhibition.
• Pups should not ‘jump up’ at humans or other dogs. If you have not taught your pup this golden rule, then get into training now.
• Razor sharp puppy teeth and claws can easily harm a toddler or frail adult; owners may find themselves on the receiving end of a criminal prosecution.
Kids need to learn that puppies and dogs are not cute toys, there is a right way to interact with a dog and other ways that may intimidate or frighten your pet, leading to a bite. Don’t put your dog in the position that it has to defend itself against unwanted attention. Follow these tips and educate yourself and your children about dog communication:
• Keep children away from the dog when he is eating and resting. Proof him against approaches to his bowl, chews and resting area. Read “The Perfect Puppy” by Gwen Bailey.
• Dogs may tolerate petting but they do not always enjoy it. Do not let children pull ears or give full body hugs.
• Toddlers approaching dogs at eye level may appear intimidating and challenging. Teach children to approach on a curve, without direct eye contact.
• Stand sideways to the dog and stroke the back, sides or chest.
• Many dogs dislike head touches, especially by people they do not know. The head is a doggy socially sensitive area, as is the neck, tail and paws. Repeated touching or pulling may result in a bite.
• Dogs that roll over and show their tummies are not necessarily inviting a tummy rub, this may be a plea to back off.
• Dogs that turn their head away from you, lick their lips, sniff the ground, or shake off, may be showing they have had enough contact for now.
• Pups should be proofed to approaches from behind, grabbing and looming (see Gwen Bailey) but this should be reserved for emergencies.
• Do not let children pick up puppies. They often hurt or drop them without meaning to.
• Pups on the receiving end of bad handling can develop a lifelong fear of human hands and become the classic ‘snappy’ dog.
• Consider the sort of breed you want to share your home. Dogs with strong guarding and watch dog traits, so-called ‘one-person’ breeds, are possibly not right for a home with small kids.
• Finally, if your dog growls never chastise them. This is an early warning system saying your dog is worried about something. Without that growl your dog is more likely to bite without warning.
• If you hear growling, especially around children, investigate, take note and take action.
The New Puppy
The NEW puppy
Now the festive season is over and New Year’s resolutions fade, families are facing the reality of their most recent addition – the NEW puppy. Almost overnight, that gorgeous bundle of fluff has mutated into the fur bundle from hell, with teeth and claws very much in evidence. Paws firmly under the table, or worse under your feet, the new puppy is fast becoming all work and no play.
“How do I make the widdling stop?” you wail, “he’s munching through furniture, skirting boards, and my shoes that cost a bomb.”
For anyone, like me, who in the business of pet behaviour, exasperated calls from newbie puppy owners top the list, so here are a few of my tips to get you and your pupster off on the right paw.
• Let him out to toilet every two hours from early morning to last thing at night. At this age the undeveloped bladder and brain is still learning to ‘hold’. The more he goes outside, the more he’ll want to go outside. Clean any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner, so he does not mess in the same place again. Limit where he can go in the house, unless you are there to supervise.
• Ensure your pup has lots to chew, this helps with teething, calming and sleep. There are lots of good chews on the market and a decent local pet shop will advise. Pups with nothing to chew will chow down on the first thing to hand- including you and your kids!
• All pups go through a nippy phase. This is not aggression, it is how they play with each other in the litter, but needle-sharp puppy teeth do hurt. Teach your pup early that teeth on human skin is verboten- unless ever so gentle. The posh name for this process is bite inhibition. Make sure you learn about it. Any good training class or behaviourist will show you how.
• People over-estimate how much exercise a pup needs and attempts to tire him with route marches fail, producing an overstimulated, hyper-stressed monster. 5 minutes on the lead, twice a day, for every month of life, is a good rule of thumb. Brain work and interactive play is better than endless free running.
• Have a strict daily regime, with short bursts of play, training, feeding and lots of sleep. The habit of switching off and resting should be instilled early and resting pups should be left well alone. A crate or den, with a blanket thrown over to block light and noise, creates the right conditions for sleep.
• If you own a new pup and have not already booked them into training class, make sure you do now. Training helps develop a means to communicate with your dog and establish clear, consistent boundaries. Remember dogs, like children, need rules. Negotiation is not an option.
DOGS OFF LEAD ON THE STREET
Time for a mini rant. I have been wondering lately what can be done to persuade dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead while walking the public streets? It is such a simple thing to do yet so many flout this very basic rule of good urban dog owner etiquette. Every other day I meet someone walking along with their dog, off lead, ten feet ahead of them or ten feet behind. So often the dog attempts to cross the road to meet my dog- on a lead of course- and I have to call over in my sweetest tones “can you please put your dog on a lead”, or more sweetly still, “Did you know it is illegal for a dog to cross the road off lead”?
So what is the harm you say, my dog is friendly and well-behaved? Well, does your friendly dog like to meet people and children that don’t necessarily want to meet him? That way disaster lies as the friendly, rambunctious dog that jumps up trying to meet and greet with his nose and claws may be construed as a pest or worse, dangerous. Remember a friendly dog can fall foul of the Dangerous Dogs Act by accident. Friendly is not code for well behaved and one person’s friendly is another’s nightmare.
Many dogs feel trapped on the lead as they have a sense that they cannot run or escape from anything that makes them anxious. Another strange dog right in your dog’s face, or trying to sniff his rear, makes many dogs, already on a lead, incredibly anxious.
Seriously folks, unless you have a competition level obedience-trained hound and can guarantee that your dog will stay by your side or wherever you leave him, without faltering, no matter what the distraction, not even venturing a sniff should a canine ‘pied piper’ pass exuding the aromas of bitch in heat, or similar, then my advice is simple- put a lead on your dog on the public streets and lead by example!
Hi to all my clients and dog friends. As you can see I’ve launched a new website and I hope you will all find it easier to use and generally improved all round.
Check out this page from time to time as I will be posting on news, hot training and behaviour tips and anything else I think might be helpful to all you dog owners out there.
Thanks for using London Dogs Training!