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Most Frequently asked questions about Dog Care:

Q. How do I house train my dog?

The key to training your dog to eliminate outside (where you want him to) is to prevent accidents, and to reward success. Adult dogs have better bladder and bowel control, and can 'hold it' for a longer period of time than puppies. The rule of thumb with puppies is: take their age in months, add one, and that's the number of hours the puppy can 'hold it' during the day..(i.e. A 4 month old puppy can be expected to be clean for up to 5 hours during the day).

REMEMBER! DO NOT PUNISH ACCIDENTS! IGNORE THEM, AND REWARD SUCCESS! Courtesy of Rondout Valley Kennels, Inc.

More information on specific housebreaking problems....

The Potty Wars - Part II, Troubleshooting

In our last issue, 'The Potty Wars: Part I' outlined Housebreaking 101, stressing the importance of the Three Cs: Consistency of schedule, Confinement to a training crate when alone and Cleaning up accidents with an enzymatic odor neutralizer. Part II addresses four complaints often heard when the Potty Wars continue to rage. Q. "My dog eliminates in her crate."

There are two common causes for crate soiling. First, the crate may be too large for current housebreaking purposes, thus allowing your dog to soil at one end and lie high and dry at the other. Second, bedding in the crate may be acting like a diaper, wicking offensive waste away.

The solutions are easy! If the crate is too large, reduce its size with a barrier that blocks off excess room. The pup should have just enough room to stand up, turn around in a circle and stretch out. As for bedding, your dog must earn it by keeping her crate clean for approximately seven days. When she accomplishes that, add thin bedding, such as a sheet or worn towel. If that too stays clean, then you are safe to add whatever bedding you like. However, if the problem stems from behavior learned during an extended stay at a pet shop, you will probably need to work hands-on with a professional trainer to develop a customized protocol.

Q. "No matter how long we stay outside, my dog waits until we are home to soil."

A. This problem is common in urban dogs who were paper-trained until they were fully immunized. Most folks paper-train by putting down papers in one spot, taking the puppy to the spot until the dog seems to "get it," then leaving the dog in peace to eliminate. The puppy learns that housebreaking means going to a particular place in private to soil. The papers are almost incidental. Avoid this problem by simulating outdoor walking habits indoors. Put down the papers on a schedule instead of leaving them out constantly, and place them in a few different places instead of just one. Take your pup to the papers on leash, teaching her a toileting command such as "Do your business," and praise her for a job well done. This routine easily transfers to walks outdoors.

Q. "My dog keeps me outside for hours before he goes!"

A.Some folks walk their pups just until they eliminate and then promptly turn around and head for home. In no time, dogs learn that they can extend the fun only if they can "hold" themselves. A walk should be the reward for soiling. When you leave your home, take your dog immediately to a suitable toileting spot, such as a lamp post, patch of grass or curb in front of a fire hydrant. It's helpful if this is a spot other dogs use. Issue your potty command. Circle the spot with your dog for 5 minutes, 10 minutes tops. If he urinates, praise and go play. If he holds, go right back in and crate him. Try again in an hour or two. Before you know it, you should have a dog who will soil on command in his spot.

Q. "My dog was housebroken, but when he turned nine-months-old, he started baptizing the sofa near the window."

A. As a male dog matures and begins to lift his leg, he marks his territory, leaving olfactory messages for other canines. Consider castration, since an unneutered male is more likely to engage in marking behavior than a neutered one. A well-timed verbal correction when he is lifting his leg is helpful, too. Confinement will once again be necessary when he is alone until the problem is resolved.

The Potty Wars too often make adversaries of dogs and their caretakers. It should be a battle waged together, on the same side, because the spoils of this war - a clean and dry home - spell victory for all parties concerned. (c) 1997 ASPCA

Q. What is crate training? Isn't it cruel?

FOR EVERY CANINE, A CASTLE

A king has his castle; a child yearns for his own room; an infant is placed in a crib or playpen for safekeeping. Don't our canine friends deserve the very same consideration for their well-being when we are gone?

Crate expectations

Training crates for dogs are too often deemed cruel. In fact, they are both training and safety devices, and as such can benefit dog and owner alike. Crating on a humane schedule teaches puppies bladder and bowel control and limits a teething demon to his own property. A dog crated in a car has a better chance of surviving an auto accident and little chance of causing one. You will also find the welcome mat out at more inns and motels if you promise to crate your dog whenever you leave the room. Besides, the dog will feel more comfortable when left alone if he is in his own "room."

Dog crates come in all sizes, many colors and different styles. The most common are molded-plastic airline shipping crates and the open-wire types that usually come with a metal tray on the bottom. For owners who plan to do a lot of air travel with their dogs or for those whose canines prefer dark, cozy places, the molded plastic variety is best. Wire crates are preferred in most other instances.

The size of the crate is based on the size of your dog. There should be enough room for him to stand up, turn around in a small circle and lie down comfortably. The crate serves as a place where the dog can rest and chew on appropriate hard rubber toys or sterile bones stuffed with goodies. It is not an exercise pen.

If you plan to use the crate as a housebreaking aid, size is of paramount importance. If there is room for Rex to soil and then lie high and dry away from the mess, the crate cannot serve its purpose. Those buying crates for puppies should keep the adult dog's size in mind; but until the pup grows up, excess room should be cordoned off in some manner. Masonite, plexiglass and old wire refrigerator shelves can all serve as barriers.

Dog den afternoons

How long can a dog be crated in one session? The rule of thumb for crating is no longer than one hour per each month of age, up to 9 to 10 hours maximum (the average work day). Each session should be preceded and succeeded by an hour of aerobic exercise.

Before you can leave your dog confined for the long stretch, make sure you have accustomed him to the crate. A dog who panics when left alone in a crate could do damage to the crate and, more seriously, to himself. And never, never crate your dog while he is wearing any sort of correction collar - it could easily get caught on something in the crate and choke the animal.

The pup runneth over

Young puppies need lots of human stimulus and feedback, so avoid relying too heavily upon the crate in the early months. Most puppies 3 1/2- to 4-months old can be crated overnight for about 6 hours, even though they probably cannot yet display that kind of bladder control during the daytime. Younger dogs crated at bedtime will need to be brought to their papers or outdoors at least once in the middle of the night.

Crating is recommended as part of the workday routine until a dog grows out of adolescence, at approximately 18 months of age. This is a time of behavioral inconsistency and learning through trial and error. Proceed slowly when it's time to wean your dog off the crate; leave him alone for just a few hours at a time. And think twice before leaving a curious adolescent at liberty in your house. Your dog may behave perfectly for a few weeks and then one day you might come home to find the place in a shambles.

A crate can provide peace of mind for both you and your dog. Think of it as a leash with walls. After all, both pieces of equipment serve to protect Rex from his own base instincts and errors in judgement. By crating your dog during the workday, you ensure him a royal welcome upon your arrival home. (c) 1995 ASPCA

Q. What is the best way to introduce my cat to a new dog?

Introducing Dogs & Cats

Much of this is based upon my father's experiences with field dogs for over 40 years and my own personal experiences with my four current GSDs, six cats and five parrots. He relied on a dog's normal pack instinct and instinct to possess. It nearly always worked. And he didn't lose a cat or hurt one of his dogs in the process. The dogs weren't cowered into accepting the cats, but given the opportunity to recognize individuals as part of their environment rather than prey by taking advantage of natural pack and possessive behaviors. And he was working with Field and Cocker Spaniels whose intelligence, trainability, and instinct to possess is not nearly that of a German Shepherd Dog (to put it mildly).

Being a cat owner and lover, when someone asks me if one of our dogs likes cats, my first thought is, "yes, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight snack". Even dogs who have lived in a home with cats are unpredictable in a new home setting for several reasons: cats all react differently to dogs, a dog may have felt a sense of possession of a specific cat (or any other pet) in its previous home, or the dog may be taking its cue from an alpha (who "possesses" the cat).

A dog's ability to live with a specific cat does not mean that it is "good" with all cats. It may mean that the dog has no prey drive, but it could also mean that the dog "possessed" a specific cat, or lived where an alpha possessed a specific cat(s). A dog can live with cat(s) while still maintaining prey drive around all other cats; this is because the dog considers the cat a possession or a packmate, not prey. It doesn't lump all cats into one basket and treat them all alike. Pack hassling over position can even spill over into fights over (or attacks upon) the "possession" (i.e. take-away). There's some basic principles in order for a dog and cat (or bunny or bird or whatever) to be able to live together:

1) A German Shepherd Dog's instinct to possess overrides its prey drive. But this is not true for some other breeds such as terriers, sighthounds and Ridgebacks.

2) A dog will accept a cat (or other animal) either as a possession or a pack mate if opportunity for interaction is given where the dog cannot see the cat as prey.

3) The dog must accept its owner as "alpha" and take its cue on how to treat the cat(s) from the owner. The owner, however, should not be perceived as "possessing" the cat.

The plan that follows will not to stop the dog from chasing all cats. It works to establish a sense of "pack" and possession of the cat in the dog's mind. The steps below allow the dog and cat to interact in a controlled manner in order to establish a sense of possession in the dog while keeping the cat safe while this process is underway. I value my cats' safety so I take no chances.

Steps

All these steps are important and they need to be done in order. It's easier to introduce a dog to a cat who has never been threatened by a dog because the cat will interact with the dog more quickly, but this works for existing situations once the cat realizes it's safe. Some cats are easier to work with than others as well.

You do not want your dog to believe that you are possessing the cat- the dog must feel that he or she possesses the cat. Otherwise, the dog can see the cat as something to try to steal away from its owner, especially if there is any question of the owner being the pack "alpha".

During the learning process, the dog must never be allowed to chase the cat(s) or to play games that put it in prey drive while the cat is present. If this isn't done, the process will not work. Work with one dog at a time if possible.

1) The owner of the dog must become the alpha dog in the household. The dog has to realize that it is not alpha and must take its cues from the human pack members as to who it accepts. The owner needs to have established a level of control without creating a robo-dog.

2) When the dog is introduced to the household, the cats are shut away in another room. This is also true if you are introducing a cat into a household with dogs. There are no exceptions at all. Especially don't carry a cat in your arms if a dog is loose. This can be dangerous for cat, dog and human. A child should never ever carry a cat or small animal in its arms around a loose dog.

3) When the cats are allowed out freely to roam without human supervision, the dog must be outside or where it cannot see the cat. It cannot be inside in a crate where it can see and/or bark or lunge at the cat without correction. This is vital and the entire process will not work if this isn't done properly.

4) Shut the dog in its crate and allow the cat(s) out hopefully to walk past the dog crate. If the dog barks or lunges within the crate, the dog is verbally corrected. Make sure that the cats are in another room behind a closed door before letting the dog have its time out of the crate. I'm not talking about keeping the dog in the crate all the time, it's more keeping the cats in another room most of the time. The dog is crated while the cats are out, and then let out of the crate for most of the time. This may take several days or weeks to accomplish. It depends on how quickly the cat comes around to the dog's crate area (which should be with the family).

5) Do not comfort, pet or fuss over the cats where the dog can see it from his crate. Especially don't do this after the dog has barked or lunged at the cat. Correct only the dog. This is because you do not want the dog to see the cat as your possession.

6) Accustom the dog to a muzzle while it is hanging out in its crate. It will be muzzled when it goes to the vet or is groomed (even if we don't see it, it happens), so this way the dog is used to a muzzle. Leave it on for 10 - 15 minutes at a time if it isn't hot. If it's hot, the dog must not be muzzled because it can't pant. The muzzle is only a temporary tool. But the muzzle must be used for the cat's sake.

7) After 10-14 days where the dog does not bark or lunge at the cat and the cat is comfortable walking around the crate, it's show time!

8) Put a prong collar with a six foot leash on the dog. Don't forget to put the muzzle on the dog. I think a prong works better than a choke with less chance of injury to the dog in this situation. Have the dog in a sit-stay next to you with most of the slack out of the leash and let the cat walk through the room and up to the dog if it wishes (this is why you have the dog muzzled). If the dog makes an aggressive move towards the cat, it must be corrected strongly with both your voice and the collar. This is important - the correction must be physically very strong - not a nag. (PS: not many dogs need to be corrected at all). Do not correct the dog for sniffing at the cat. Sniffing is very good and is to be encouraged. Attention barking is also okay. The dog will feel any nervousness or tension of the owner via the leash and feed off of it, so it's important to be calm. That's also why the muzzle is on the dog - the owner knows the cat is safe no matter what. Do this for about 5-10 minutes at first, then put the dog or cat away. Try to be observant to end the session while both dog and cat are doing well. You can spin out the time until its an hour or so.

9) Each time the dog first sees the cat, it gets a food treat. Cat = a cookie. If the dog is showing too much interest in the cat (like scenting for it), distract the dog by giving it something else to do, like a sit or heel with praise for doing what you've told it to do rather than automatically giving it a cookie. You can't reward the dog for not chasing the cat but you can reward it for doing something you've asked of it.

10) There is no playing ball, running or chasing about the house, either by dogs, cats or humans while the dog and cat are out together. This is because care needs to be taken to see that the dog doesn't go into prey drive. This needs to continue throughout this entire process.

11) Supervise the interaction and after 7-10 days where the dog has not had to be corrected, the prong and leash control can be eliminated. Even if you never had to correct the dog, it's important to wait 7-10 days. Leave on the muzzle. The dog and cat are not left unsupervised. If the dog chases the cat during this period, it's back to item #8.

12) After about four-six weeks where the owner has not observed any prey drive in the dog towards its cat, it is time to do without the muzzle. Interaction should still be supervised and the two animals never left alone unless there is a place for the cat to go to safety. If you've got a dog who is possessive about food, obviously you don't let the cat near when the dog is eating. Since cat food is very unhealthy for dogs, the cat's food should not be where the dog can reach it. That's pretty much it.

If there's multiple dogs in the household, there can be discord over possession. The cat can be seen as an object to be taken away. This is also true if the dog perceives the cat to be the possession of the owner. There are some harder cases, and then it's a matter of the commitment level of the owner to making the dog accept the cat. Electronics can be used to imprint on the dog. These should be used under the direction of a trainer who knows how to instruct the owner in their proper use. Electronics can take the form of shock, sonic or citronella collars. At that time the owner will train with electronics instead of food or whatever other reward system was being used. This type of training will also tend to result in a dog which does not chase cats at all because it is not building on the pack and possession instinct aspects of behavior.

A dog who chases cats endangers both the cat and itself. A cat scratch in a dog's eye can cause infection, cataracts, glaucoma, loss of sight or even loss of an eye... (c) Laurie Shaft (SFBAGS Rescue volunteer)

Q. How do I stop jumping behavior?

A. One of the most common complaints we hear from dog owners is how can I stop my dog from jumping? Jumping is your dog's way of seeking attention. There is an easy and fast way to train a dog not to jump. When your dog jumps on you, bring your knee up and give him a thump on the chest. This does not have to be hard and give him the command "OFF" at the same time. Keep this consistent. Everyone he comes into contact with must understand he is not allowed to jump on them. Keep up with the training do not allow your dog to jump up on you at any time. Teach them to respect your space. If your dog is a furniture and counter jumper, use the "OFF" command while pulling them down. When they get down, praise him and tell them he is a "good boy/girl". The "OFF" command can be one of the handiest to teach a young dog. One must be willing to put a lot of effort into the training.

(c) Sharon Grafton (Dog trainer @ SCAC)


Q. Why can't I let my dog off-lead?

A. Many people get a dog and want it to have the freedom of running in the country and enjoying its life. There is nothing wrong with wanting your dog to run free enjoying the country life like Lassie. The problem is we do not have the same country life as they did when Lassie was around. Our roads and lives are much busier. Our dogs are more at risk of being hit by cars or getting into trouble with neighbors. If your dog gets hit by a car the expense can be very high, the range can be from $150 for a slight laceration up to the life of your best friend. Putting up a fence can cost between $80 to $300 on up depending on what you want. With a fenced yard the dog can get plenty of exercise and play time.

A dog running the neighborhood can cause a lot of problems, getting into garbage, chasing cats, knocking over young children etc. Is it worth having your neighbor mad at you and calling the dog catcher? The fines for a dog running free can start at $50 for the first offence and then increase every time it happens. A dog tie-out can cost from $5 on up to $ 35 and this will keep your neighbors happy, your dog safe and save you some money in fines. Many people would like to let their dogs run loose when hiking or when they live out in the country. Dogs will chase wild animals if given a chance. This can cause major problems with the game warden or your dog may come in contact with a porcupine and get a snout full of quills. This is very painful for the dog and very expensive for you. The cost of having quills removed can run from $100 up to $400 in addition to the medication that may be needed for infections. A cost of a collar and a lead will run you $15 up to $30 depending on what you want.

Some dogs after much obedience work can go for walks with you off leash. What I always tell people is, "Dogs have a mind of their own at times and you never really know what they will do." So, if your dog gets to the point of being off leash, always be there with him and keep him in sight. I believe a dog enjoys being with you (their best friend) it doesn't matter to them if they are on the end of the leash or not. I would rather spend 9-15 years with my dog on a leash with me enjoying hiking, camping, and long walks than 6 mos. or 2 years with my dog running loose, getting being hit by a car and dying or running off somewhere and never returning. (c) Sharon Grafton (Dog Trainer @ SCAC)