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Time For Puppy Preschool Part 4: Dealing With Dog Training Issues

Many dog owners fail to recognize the importance of having a dog that comes when called until there is a problem, such as the collar or leash breaking, or the dog tearing free to chase a person or another animal. These situations can be dangerous for the dog, the owner and other members of the community. In areas where there is a lot of vehicular traffic, the situation could even prove fatal to the dog.


Unfortunately, many well-meaning owners sabotage this important part of their dog’s training by allowing it to run off leash and unattended. Whether the dog is allowed to run in the park, on the beach, or just play with other dogs, this teaches the dog that there are many fun things that do not involve its owner. In fact, from the dog’s perspective at least, these fun times are often ruined by the appearance of the owner.


Look at things from the dog’s perspective for a moment. You (the dog) are having a ton of fun running on the beach with all your doggy friends, and suddenly here comes this human to take you away from the fun. When you see the dog’s point of view it is easy to see how the appearance of the owner, and the leash can be seen as a negative.


This negative perception causes many dogs to delay this outcome by refusing to come when they are called. From the dog’s point of view, this makes perfect sense, since every minute of delay means another minute of romping on the beach or in the park. In other words, the dog has learned that the most rewarding thing to do is to ignore the calls of its owner. While this may seem like a good idea to the dog, it is definitely not a good thing from the owner’s perspective.



Refusing to Come When Called

Puppy coming at command

For dogs who have not yet learned this type of avoidance behavior, it is best to prevent it from happening by supervising the dog at play, and making the time you spend with your dog as much, or even more fun, as the time it spends alone or with other dogs.


For dogs that have already learned the value of ignoring their owner, some retraining is definitely in order. It is vital that every dog respond to the “come here” command, for the safety of both humans and dogs alike.


One thing to avoid is following the “come here” command with unpleasant activities. Calling the dog, and then immediately giving him a bath, clipping his nails, taking him to the vet, etc. will quickly teach the dog that coming to the owner has negative consequences. It is best to ask the dog to come and then play with him, feed him, walk him or engage in other fun activities. If you do need to take your dog to the vet, bathe him, etc. be sure to allow some time to pass so the dog does not associate the “come here” command with the bad experience.


It is important to remember that dogs are constantly learning, whether a formal training session is in process or not. Your dog is always learning something from you, whether good or bad. It is therefore important to make every interaction with your dog a positive one.


When teaching the dog to come on command, it is vital that the dog be consistently rewarded every single time he does as the owner wants. A reward can be as simple as a pat on the head, a “good boy” or a scratch behind the ears. Of course, treat based rewards are appreciated as well, and many dogs are highly food motivated and respond quickly to this type of training. The key is to be consistent. The dog should get some kind of reward, whether it is praise, a toy, or a treat, every time he appears at the owner’s side when called.


Get to know the very basics of dog training on the first part of this series of entries: Time for puppy preschool: Get the basics for positive dog training



Training for Proper Dog Behavior

Dog behaving properly

There are many reasons for teaching proper dog behavior, and teaching such behavior has many benefits for both the human and canine partners. Dog behavior training is vital to such life and death issues as preventing aggression, controlling dog on dog aggression problems and teaching dogs to interact properly with both their handlers and with other members of the family. Understanding how dogs evolved, and how dogs interact with each other, is very important to understanding how to properly train your dog to be a devoted, loyal companion.


The original dogs were probably orphaned wolf pups adopted by early humans. These wild dogs probably learned to perform behaviors that their human protectors valued, such as guarding the cave or scaring off predators. In exchange for these valued behaviors, the humans probably provided their new companions with foods, protection and shelter.


That kind of relationship still exists today, of course, and dogs still can, and do, perform valuable jobs for their human benefactors. Those jobs include herding and guarding livestock, guarding property, guarding people, and finding game.


When planning a dog training program, it is important to know that dogs are pack animals. In wild dog societies, packs are formed, and each member of the pack quickly learns his or her place in the pecking order. Except in the event of death or injury to the alpha dog, the hierarchy never changes once it has been established. The lower dogs know not to challenge the alpha dog, and the alpha dog understand his place as leader of the pack.


All the other dogs in the pack look to the alpha dog for leadership, in important survival issues like finding food and avoiding larger predators. In order to properly train your dog and gain its respect, it is important for you to become the alpha dog. That is because a dog that sees its owner as a superior leader will follow the commands the owner gives without question. Getting the respect of the dog is the most important step to proper dog training, and it will form the basis of all subsequent training.



Dog Hierarchy And Pack Behaviour

Group of dogs at the park

The reasons for training a dog properly are many, especially in today’s world. A well-mannered, obedient dog is a joy to be around, both for the owner and his or her family, and for people in the community at large. In addition, seeing a well-mannered dog sets people’s mind at ease, especially with breeds of dog thought to be dangerous, such as Dobermans, rottweilers and pit bulls.


When training dogs and dealing with unwanted dog behaviors, it is important to understand the motivating factors behind those behaviors. For example, many dogs exhibit unwanted behaviors such as chewing and destroying furniture due to separation anxiety. Dealing with the sources of problem behaviors is an important first step toward eliminating those problem behaviors.


Many dogs exhibit unwanted behaviors as a result of stress in the animal’s life, and its inability to cope with that stress. The goal of a good dog training program is to allow the dog to tolerate greater levels of stress without becoming a problem animal.


When dealing with dog behavior, it is important not to confuse human behavior with dog behavior. While there is a great temptation on the part of dog owners to see their dogs as almost human, in reality dogs and humans have very different motivations, and very different reactions to similar situations.


One trait that humans and dogs do share, however, is the need to form close social groups and strong bonds within those social groups. This bonding is important to both humans and dogs, but it has served vastly different ends as both species have evolved and changed over time.


Are you new to the Puppyverse? Take a look at this: Time for puppy preschool Part 2: Training Your New Puppy



Eliminating Biting Behaviors

Fierce Dog Fight Playing

Bringing home a new puppy is always an exciting time. Introducing the new puppy to the family should be fun for both yourself and your puppy. One of the first challenges, however, to the excitement of the new puppy, is curbing inappropriate puppy behaviors. Biting and mouthing is a common activity for many young puppies and dogs. Puppies naturally bite and mouth each other when playing with siblings, and they extend this behavior to their human companions. While other puppies have thick skin, however, humans do not, so it is important to teach your puppy what is appropriate, and what is not, when it comes to using those sharp teeth.


The first part of training the puppy is to inhibit the biting reflex. Biting might be cute and harmless with a 5 pound puppy, but it is neither cute nor harmless when that dog has grown to adulthood. Therefore, puppies should be taught to control their bit before they reach the age of four months. Puppies normally learn to inhibit their bite from their mothers and their littermates, but since they are taken away from their mothers so young, many never learn this important lesson. It is therefore up to the humans in the puppy’s life to teach this lesson.


One great way to inhibit the biting reflex is to allow the puppy to play and socialize with other puppies and socialized older dogs. Puppies love to tumble, roll and play with each other, and when puppies play they bite each other constantly. This is the best way for puppies to learn to control themselves when they bite. If one puppy becomes too rough when playing, the rest of the group will punish him for that inappropriate behavior. Through this type of socialization, the puppy will learn to control his biting reflex.


Proper socialization has other benefits as well, including teaching the dog to not be fearful of other dogs, and to work off their excess energy. Puppies that are allowed to play with other puppies learn important socialization skills generally learn to become better members of their human family. Puppies that get less socialization can be more destructive, more hyperactive and exhibit other problem behaviors.


In addition, lack of socialization in puppies often causes fearful and aggressive behaviors to develop. Dogs often react aggressively to new situations, especially if they are not properly socialized. In order for a dog to become a member of the community as well as the household, it should be socialized to other people, especially children. Dogs make a distinction between their owners and other people, and between children and adults. It is important, therefore, to introduce the puppy to both children and adults.



Using Trust to Prevent Biting

Dog biting pumpkin

Teaching your puppy to trust and respect you is a very effective way to prevent biting. Gaining the trust and respect of your dog is the basis for all dog training, and for correcting problem behaviors.


It is important to never hit or slap the puppy, either during training or any other time. Physical punishment is the surest way to erode the trust and respect that must form the basis of an effective training program. Reprimanding a dog will not stop him from biting, it will simply scare and confuse him.


Training a puppy not to bite is a vital part of any puppy training program. Biting behaviors that are not corrected will only get worse, and what seemed like harmless behavior in a puppy can quickly escalate to dangerous, destructive behavior in an adult dog.


Anyone who owns a dog or puppy will eventually run into the need to eliminate unwanted habits. While most dogs are eager to please their owners and smart enough to do what is asked of them, it is important for the owner to properly communicate just what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.


Each type of unacceptable behavior requires its own specific cures, and in most cases the cures will need to be tailored to fit the specific personality of the dog. Every breed of dog has its own unique personality characteristics, and every individual within that breed has his or her own unique personality.


Teaching obedience to your dog is extremely important, that’s why we have a special section dedicated to it: Time For Puppy Preschool Part 3: Reward & Obedience Training



Whining, Howling and Excessive Barking

puppy whining in crate

Let’s start with one of the most frequently encountered problem behaviors in both dogs and puppies. While some barking and other vocalizing is perfectly normal, in many cases barking, howling and whining can become problematic. This is particularly important for those living in apartment buildings, or in closely spaced homes. Fielding complaints about barking is not the best way for you and your dog to meet the neighbors.


Some tips of dealing with excessive whining, barking and howling include:


  • If your puppy or dog is howling or whining while confined to its crate, immediately take it to its toilet area. Most puppies and dogs will whine when they need to do their business.


  • It is important to teach a dog or a puppy to accept being alone. Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety, and these stressed dogs can exhibit all sorts of destructive and annoying behaviors. It is important to accustom the puppy to being left on its own, even when the owner is at home.


  • Always strive to make the puppy or dog as comfortable as possible. Always attend to the physical and psychological needs of the dog by providing food, water and toys.


  • If the dog is whining, check for obvious reasons first. Is the water dish empty? Is the dog showing signs of illness? Has his or her favorite toy rolled under the furniture? Is the temperature of the room too hot or too cold?


  • Do not reward the puppy or dog for whining. If the dog whines when left alone, for instance, it would be a mistake to go to the dog every time it whines.


  • After you have ensured that the dog’s physical needs are being met, and that discomfort is not responsible for the whining, do not hesitate to reprimand the dog for inappropriate behavior.



Dealing With Chewing Problems

Baby puppy chewing

Puppies naturally chew, and they tend to explore their world using their mouths and teeth. While chewing may be normal, however, it is not acceptable, and it is important to nip any chewing problems in the bud to prevent the chewing puppy from growing into a chewing dog.


Providing a variety of chew toys is important when teaching a puppy what is appropriate to chew and what is not. Providing a variety of attractive chew toys is a good way to keep the puppy entertained and to keep his teeth and gums exercised. Scented or flavored toys are great choices for most puppies.


The puppy should be encouraged to play with these chosen toys, and the puppy should be effusively praised every time he or she plays with or chews these toys. Another great strategy is to encourage the puppy to get a toy every time he or she greets you. Every time the puppy greets you or a member of your family, teach him to get one of his toys.


It is also important to exercise good housekeeping techniques when training a puppy not to chew on inappropriate items. Keeping the area to which the puppy has access free and clean is important. Keeping items out of reach of the puppy will go a long way toward discouraging inappropriate chewing. Try to keep the puppy’s area free of shoes, trash, and other items, and always make sure that the area has been properly puppy proofed.


If the puppy does pick up an inappropriate item like a shoe, distract the puppy and quickly replace the item with one of its toys. After the puppy has taken the toy, praise it for playing with and chewing that toy. Try booby trapping items the dog should avoid by spraying them with bitter apple, Tabasco sauce or other nasty but non-toxic items.


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Jumping Up on People

Bulldog Jumping

One of the most frequently cited problems with dogs is that of jumping up on people. Unfortunately, this is one of those behaviors that are often inadvertently encouraged by wellmeaning owners. After all, it is cute and adorable when that little 10 pound puppy jumps up on you, your family members and your friends. Many people reward this behavior on the part of a small puppy with kisses and treats.


This is a huge mistake, however, since that cute little puppy may soon become a full grown dog who could weigh well in excess of 100 pounds. Suddenly that cute jumping behavior is no longer quite so cute. In addition to being annoying, jumping up on people can be dangerous as well. A large, heavy dog, jumping enthusiastically, can easily knock over a child or an older or handicapped adult. In today’s litigious society, such an incident could easily make you, as the dog’s owner, the subject of an unwanted lawsuit.


The time to teach a dog that jumping up on people is unacceptable is when he is still young and easy to handle. Retraining a dog that has been allowed to jump up on people can be difficult for the owner, and confusing for the dog. When the puppy tries to jump on you or another member of your family, gently but firmly place the puppy’s feet back on the floor. After the puppy is standing firmly on the floor, be sure to reward and praise him.


It is important for every member of the family, as well as frequently visiting friends, to understand this rule and follow it religiously. If one member of the family reprimands the dog for jumping and another praises him, the dog will be understandably confused. As with other dog training issues, consistency is the key to teaching the dog that jumping is always inappropriate.


When praising and rewarding the dog for staying down, it is important for the trainer to get down on the dog’s level. Giving affection and praise at eye level with the puppy is a great way to reinforce the lesson.



Pulling and Tugging at the Leash

Dog pulling on leash

Pulling on the leash is another problem trait that many puppies pick up. Unfortunately, this behavior is also one that is sometimes encouraged by well-meaning owners. Playing games like tug of war with the leash, or even with a rope (that can look like the leash to the dog) can unwittingly encourage a problem behavior.


The use of a quality body harness can be a big help when training a puppy not to pull, or retraining a dog that has picked up the habit of pulling on the leash. Try training the puppy to accept the body harness the same way it accepts the regular buckle collar.


When walking with your dog, try using a lure or toy to encourage the dog to remain at your side. A training collar, when properly used, can also be a good training tool for a problem dog. When using a training collar or choke chain, however, it is very important to fit it correctly, and to use a size that is neither too big nor too small for your dog.


When walking with your puppy, it is important to keep the leash loose at all times. If the puppy begins to pull ahead, the handler should quickly change directions so that the puppy fast finds itself falling behind. It is important to reverse directions before the puppy has reached the end of the leash. The leash should stay loose except for the split second it takes the handler to reverse direction. It is important to use a quick tug, followed by an immediate slackening of the leash.


When training a puppy, it is important to never let the puppy pull you around. Training the puppy to walk properly while he or she is still small enough to handle is absolutely vital, especially when dealing with a large breed of dog. If your 150 pound Great Dane hasn’t learned to walk properly while he or she is still a 20 pound puppy, chances are it never will.


It is important not to yank or pull on the puppy’s neck when correcting him. A gentle, steady pressure will work much better than a hard yank. The best strategy is to use the least amount of pressure possible to achieve the desired result.


Training a dog is not an easy work to do, that’s why you are required to learn a lot in order to properly raise a magnificent pet. House and Crate Training 101: How To Crate Train Your Dog



Escaping and Roaming the Neighborhood

Dog digging to escape

A responsible dog owner would never dream of allowing his or her dog to roam the neighborhood freely. Allowing a dog to roam on its own is irresponsible, dangerous (to the dog and the neighborhood), and probably even illegal. Most towns have ordinances which prohibit dogs from being allowed to roam around free, so you could be in legal trouble if your dog is found wandering the neighborhood unattended.


Of course sometimes that wandering dog is not the owner’s idea, and many dogs perform amazing feats of escape when left on their own. The temptations for unattended dogs are many, including passing bicycles, joggers, children, cats and other dogs. It is much easier to prevent escapes than to recapture a loose dog, so let’s talk about some preventative measures every dog owner can take.


Removing the motivation to escape is a big part of the solution. A bored dog is much more likely to spend his day plotting the great escape. A dog that is surrounded by everything he or she needs, like lots of toys, a soft bed, and plenty of fresh clean, water, is more likely to spend his or her day contentedly sleeping or playing with toys until the owner returns.


In addition, a dog with lots of pent up, unused energy is likely to try to escape. Try incorporating several vigorous play sessions with your dog into your daily routine. Make one of those play sessions right before you leave. If your dog has a chance to work of his or her energy, chances are he or she will sleep or relax much of the day.


Of course dealing with the dog is only half the problem. It is also important to make the property as escape proof as possible, through proper fencing and other measures. For dogs that dig, it may be necessary to extend the fence underground by placing metal stakes in the ground every few feet. For dogs that jump, it may be necessary to make the fence higher. And if none of these measures work, it may be necessary to confine the dog to the house when you are not at home.



Dog Training for Desired Behaviors

Dog playing with bubbles

Teaching a dog proper behavior while it is young is very important. While playing and having fun with your new puppy or dog is certainly important, it is also important to teach your canine companion just what is expected, which behaviors are acceptable and which behaviors are not acceptable.


Teaching these lessons early, while the dog is still a puppy, is the best guarantee that these lessons will be learned and retained. Dogs learn quickly, and every interaction between human and dog is teaching the dog something. Making sure you are teaching the right lessons is up to you as the dog handler.


Respect is not something that can be forced. It is rather something that is earned through the interaction of human and dog. As the dog learns to respect and trust you, you will begin to make great strides in your training program. A training program based on mutual respect and trust is much more likely to succeed in the long run than one that is based on fear and intimidation.


Punishment only confuses and further frightens the dog, and it can set a training program back weeks if not months. It is important to give the dog the option to do the right thing or the wrong, and to reward the dog when it makes the right decision. For instance, if the dog chases joggers, have a friend jog by while you hold the dog on the leash. If the dog attempts to chase the “jogger”, sit him back down and start again. You are not punishing the wrong decision; you are simply providing the choice. When the dog sit calmly by your side, give him a treat and lots of praise. The dog will quickly learn that sitting is the right choice and chasing the jogger is the wrong choice.


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