Behavior Issues

Dogs Bark, Birds Sing | Housebreaking Your Puppy | Taking the Bite out of Pups | Crating Your Canine

Demolition Dog | Hints on Digging Dogs | Chew-Chew Train-ing | Jumping Jack

Having a dog for a companion is a wonderful experience, but this experience can be a negative one if the dog is not properly trained to live among humans. We cannot expect our dogs to instantly understand what we want, we must teach them with love and compassion. By teaching a dog the following basics, we have begun to journey down a road that will enhance the human-animal bond. Click on a command to learn more about how to teach your furry friend to perform the desired task. If you want more assistance, you may want to join an obedience class. Doggie Manners classes are held in Fluvanna County at the Dog Spot at Fluvanna Parks and Recreation..

Dogs Bark, Birds Sing

Dogs bark. It’s a perfectly normal canine behavior. Dogs bark when they are happy, greeting, playing, warning, bored, or just singing along with the other neighborhood dogs. When birds sing, most people enjoy the song, but when dogs bark, people tend to yell or punish the dog. Decreasing the amount of barking is much easier than stopping it all together. It’s nice to be warned of a possible threat. Dogs should be allowed to bark to warn and then be thanked, told to be quiet, and praised for the quiet. But, how do you get a barking Bowser to be quiet when asked? Believe it or not, the first step is to teach the dog to bark on command. The dog needs an on/off switch for barking so the human can turn off the barking.

Find the “on” switch for barking. A doorbell or a loud knock on the door (or both) usually works.
Get someone to ring the doorbell (or whatever) and say “Speak” simultaneously.
When the dark barks, praise the dog saying “Good Speak.”
Hold a piece of food in front of the dog’s nose and let the dog sniff it.
Say “Quiet” as the dog sniffs the food. The dog cannot sniff and bark at the same time. Put your finger to your lips to give a hand signal to the command as well. This way later if you are on the phone, you won’t need to yell “Quiet” into the listener’s ear!
Say “Good Quiet” as you let the dog take the food.
Repeat the above steps several times over several days or weeks..
Once the dog begins to understand “Speak,” stop using a stimulus (the doorbell in this case) to get the bark and try just using the command.

Once the dog has an on/off switch for barking, set up situations that are typically a problem, i.e. people or dogs passing the house, a park with dogs or children, a place where people ride bicycles.
Wait for the dog to begin barking.
After three barks, say “Thank you” just once and then follow it with a pleasant but commanding “Quiet.” If the dog continues to bark uncontrollably, yell “QUIET” and clap your hands loudly. (If you cannot or do not have a loud voice, use a can filled with some pennies or a squirt bottle to startle your dog into a quiet.) Watch your dog’s reaction. If the dog startles and does not recover quickly, then you may have a fearful dog and need to back off from being too loud.
If the dog startles and stops barking, instantly go back to a sweet voice, tell your dog “Good quiet” and give the dog praise and a treat.
If the dog is quiet on his/her own, be sure to praise the dog. After all, this is the behavior you want.

If you have a dog that just does not stop barking no matter what you say or do, put your dog on a leash.
Again set up a situation that will get the dog barking.
After three barks, say “Thank you” and then “Quiet.” If the dog continues to bark, call the dog to you giving a slight tug on the leash if needed and showing the dog a treat. As the dog walks to you following the treat, praise the dog for being quiet. Ask the dog to sit and give the treat.
For a very rambunctious dog, you will have to be very patient with the process. Start with minor things that make the dog bark and build to the more enticing items as the dog learns.

If the dog barks in your absence, the above steps will help. The following should also be considered:
Never leave the dog outside while you are gone. Too many things can stimulate barking.
Be sure to leave your dog confined in an area of the house that will not allow the dog access to see outside. Leave plenty of stimulating toys for your dog to play with—a Kong or a buster cube (See article on Chew-chew training).
Be sure not to leave your dog alone for too many hours a day. Find a pet sitter if necessary.
REMEMBER: Don’t ignore behavior you want. Praise the dog when he/she is being good. If the dog is lying quietly, praise him/her for doing so. Celebrate the good times as you work together on enhancing the bond between you and your animal companion.

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Housebreaking Your Puppy

Housebreaking should start as soon as you arrive home with your new puppy so that you can avoid having any accidents right from the beginning. Before you even enter the house, take the puppy to the area you want it to use (make sure it’s not too far from the house). Let it explore around and if it pees or poops praise it and give it a small treat.

Here are some steps that I’ve found to make housebreaking a fast (about two weeks, although it’s taken less with some dogs) and fairly easy process.

  1. Purchase a crate of some type to confine your puppy to when you cannot watch it. The crate should be big enough for the puppy to fit as it grows. Remember most puppies cannot be trusted to be alone for the first year since they love to chew, so you may be using this crate for a while.
  2. When you take your new puppy inside, set your watch or alarm clock to ring in one hour. When the alarm goes off, take your puppy outside to their potty spot and say “Go potty” or whatever command you would like to use (the key is to be consistent). Give the puppy about five minutes or so to go. If it pees or poops, praise it and give it a small treat. If the puppy does not go, take it back inside and try again in ten minutes. This takes a little patience, but you will soon be rewarded as puppies can’t wait too long before going potty. Once the puppy goes potty and has been rewarded, take it back inside and set your alarm for another hour. Soon you will work out your puppy’s rhythm and know how often it needs to go.
  3. Always take your puppy out as soon as it wakes up, after it eats or drinks, and when it has been chewing on a toy or playing for awhile. Have the puppy walk to the door with you so it will learn the pattern of going to the door when it needs to go out.
  4. When you are not able to watch your puppy for a while, leave it in its crate with some water. A puppy has the natural tendency not to go potty in its sleeping area, so it will not potty in the crate unless left in their too long and it has no other choice. Once it is allowed to soil in the crate, your job of housebreaking will be more difficult, so be sure not to leave it in for more than two hours in the beginning. As the puppy’s system matures, it will be able to go for longer periods of time. The crate will become a safe place that your puppy will enjoy going to if it is not overused. Make sure to take time to play with your puppy after it has been taken out of the crate and gone potty. Do not put the puppy immediately back in the crate as it may begin to realize that if it holds off peeing and pooping it can stay out of the crate longer.
  5. Always watch for signs which may indicate the puppy’s need to go potty. Circling and sniffing are often signs to watch for. If the puppy is in the crate, it may become restless and begin to whine.
  6. A puppy’s system is not mature enough to go through the night without going potty. I like to use a playpen by my bed (or if the crate is small enough to move from room to room you can use that) and attach a bell to the puppy’s collar so I can hear when it is getting restless. If you are a sound sleeper or want to keep the puppy in another room, then you will need to set an alarm for no longer than five or six hours after putting the puppy out before going to bed. However, I don’t recommend keeping the puppy in a separate room by itself. This will cause the puppy stress as it has been taken away from its littermates and is now counting on you for companionship.
  7. Accidents in the house are unavoidable in the beginning. It is important that you do not punish your puppy in any way when accidents happen. The puppy will only associate the punishment with the act instead of the location and be fearful of going potty in your presence. Instead, gently pick up your puppy and take it outside if you catch it in the act. Rubbing its nose in its mess after the fact will only confuse the puppy and not help in the housebreaking process at all. Make sure to clean up any accidents completely. Blot the area dry and clean with a deodorizing cleanser. Do not use ammonia as it will smell like urine to your puppy.
  8. If you work during the day, I recommend getting a dog pen to put the puppy in outside while you are gone. This will allow the puppy to eliminate outside. Paper training your puppy inside is teaching it to go potty inside. This can often be difficult to untrain later. Make sure that the outside run has an adequate dog house that provides shade in the summer and warmth in the winter. If possible, have a neighbor come and play with the puppy during the day so it does not feel so isolated. Always make sure that it has plenty of fresh water available.

In summary:

  • Take your puppy out frequently while it is awake, and immediately after eating, sleeping, or playing.
  • Let it walk to the door to establish the pattern of going to the door when it needs to go out.
  • your puppy with praise and a piece of food when it eliminates outside.
  • Never punish your puppy it has an accident inside. Clean the area thoroughly and keep a closer watch on your puppy next time.

Good Luck!

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Taking the Bite out of Puppihood

Mouthing and biting are very normal behaviors for puppies. They investigate things with their mouths just as babies do. Since puppies walk on all fours, they are only left with their mouths to explore. It is up to humans to teach puppies how to use their mouths without causing harm.

A litter of puppies will play, spending most of their time biting and mouthing each other. Because of the sharp puppy teeth, littermates will yelp and refuse to play when another puppy bites too hard. This young pup soon learns that play time ends when he bites too hard and adjusts his biting so that he can continue to have fun. This crucial learning stage happens from six to eight weeks. A puppy taken away from his littermates prior to eight weeks, misses this important lesson. It is then up to humans to teach him the proper way to use his teeth so he doesn’t seriously hurt someone when he gains the powerful jaws on an adult dog. Even puppies who have remained with their littermates through eight weeks, still don’t realize that human skin is much more sensitive than dogs. Although an adult dog’s teeth are much duller, the jaw is much more powerful and able to do a great deal of damage if the dog does not have the understanding of what a soft mouth is all about. The following are the steps that every new puppy owner should take to insure that their dog understands the importance of bite inhibition. It works best for pups up to 12 weeks old, but can also be used for older pups who have never been taught bite inhibition before. Only adults or older children, who can follow instructions, should perform these steps.

  • Allow the puppy to mouth and playbite with your hands. Say a loud “OUCH!” when the puppy exerts slightly more pressure than usual.
  • Immediately stop playing for a few seconds.
  • Then again allow him to mouth and play.
  • Repeat the “Ouch!” and stop playing every time the puppy applies too much pressure.
  • If the puppy is not responding to the “Ouch,” just stop playing and get up and move away for a minute, then start again.
  • The puppy will quickly learn that the fun ends when he mouths too hard.
  • Practice several times daily for 3-4 weeks before proceeding to Step 8.
  • The puppy should now understand what a soft mouth means. Now it’s time to teach him not to mouth people at all.
  • Every time the puppy’s teeth make contact with human skin, say “OUCH!”
  • Immediately stop playing and get up and leave.
  • Ignore the puppy for a minute or two.
  • Soon the puppy will start to believe that humans are very sensitive and any tooth contact is a no-no.
  • Remember that puppies do need to mouth and explore, so we need to provide them with plenty of ways to safely teeth and chew. Be sure to provide plenty of chew toys (See the article “Chew Chew Training”). Avoid loose pants, flowing skirts, and loose shoe laces that will entice a dog to chase and bite. Teach children not to run around the puppy. Join a puppy playgroup so that the puppy can learn from other puppies how to play appropriately. Most importantly, have fun with this little bundle of joy, and remember that you are there to guide this puppy on his or her journey into the human world.

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    Crating Your Canine

    Many people are mistakenly under the impression that crating a dog is cruel. They feel that they are putting their dog in prison. It’s important to remember that dogs are den animals. They enjoy having a safe place to go to when they feel uneasy about something or just want to be alone. A crate is a safe way to provide a den-like atmosphere for your dog. Especially when your dog is young or new to your household, a crate is a way to slowly introduce your dog to a new way of life. Housebreaking is much easier with a crate. (See the Housebreaking handout.) If you have a destructive dog, a crate could save your dog’s life. Many dogs get into trouble when left alone. A dog in a crate will not be able to chew up things that could be hazardous to its health.

    It’s important to introduce the crate in a positive way. The following steps should help make this an easy and enjoyable process for both you and your dog.

    1. Choose a crate that is the correct size for your dog. Measure the dog’s height to the shoulders, and length from chest to base of tail then add 4” -6” to each measurement. The dog should be able to comfortably turn around and stand up in the crate. Be sure the crate is not too big if you plan to use it as a housebreaking tool. The crate can be plastic or wire.
    2. Put the crate in a location of the house where everyone spends the most time. This will allow the dog to feel a part of the family while in the crate.
    3. Drop treats in the crate and allow the dog to go in and out freely. DO NOT FORCE YOUR DOG INTO THE CRATE! The dog needs to learn that going in and out of the crate is no big deal.
    4. If your dog refuses to go in the crate, try using more enticing treats. You can also start feeding your dog near the crate and slowly start to move the food dish into the crate. Your dog will begin to get hungry enough it will want to enter the crate to eat.
    5. DO NOT close your dog into the crate in the beginning. Allow your dog to feel comfortable with the idea of going in and out of the crate first.
    6. Once your dog is comfortable with the crate, begin to close the door for short periods of time. Just a minute at first, then increase the time. Give the dog lots of praise when you open the door and a treat.
    7. As you increase the time the dog is in the crate with the door closed, stay in sight at first. Give your dog a special treat like a KONG (a rubber toy) stuffed with peanut butter and kibble while its in the crate. Ignore whining and barking. If you let your dog out when it’s whining or barking, your dog will only start whining and barking more when put in the crate.
    8. When your dog is comfortable with the crate while you are in the room, start to go out of sight for short periods of time and increase the time slowly that you are in another room.
    9. Once your dog is comfortable in the crate with you out of the room, start to leave the house. Again, start for short periods of time and increase the time limit slowly always being sure to leave your dog with a special, safe toy for entertainment.
    10. After a while your dog will learn that being in the crate is just fine. You can use the crate to keep your dog confined at night or during the day when you are gone. It can also be used for times that you are busy around the house and unable to watch your dog.
    11. A dog should never be kept in a crate longer than six to eight hours. If your dog needs to be confined to a crate for eight hours, hire a dog sitter to come mid-day to put your dog out and spend some time playing with your dog.
    12. Puppies should only be kept in a crate the same number of hours that they are months in age (i.e. a four-month old puppy should not be in a crate longer than 4 hours) and no puppy should be kept crated longer than five hours. Not only are puppies unable to hold their bladders for long periods, behavior problems will occur if puppies are isolated for long periods.
    13. If you find that your dog just will not adjust to the crate after following the above procedures and you fear that your dog will get hurt by frantic attempts to get out, you may have a dog that is suffering from separation anxiety. Professional assistance is usually necessary to help desensitize a dog with separation anxiety. Log on to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website to find a trainer in your area.

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Demolition Dog

Does your house and yard look like a demolition squad came through thanks to your dog? The Demolition Dog is one who eats or chews up everything in sight. The number one cause of this kind of destructive behavior is boredom. We often do not provide our dogs with enough opportunities to explore and discover new and exciting things, so our dogs decide to do this on their own in inappropriate ways. Young dogs will frequently chew on anything that will help relieve the pain of teething. They don’t understand that chewing on Grandma’s antique chair leg is wrong. It just feels good. The Demolition Dog isn’t trying to misbehave; the dog is just being, well, a dog.

Whether the destructive behavior is chewing up potted plants or destroying an entire room, there are some things that can be done to prevent, or at least decrease, the problem of living with a Demolition Dog. As with any behavior, the solution takes commitment to and involvement with your dog.

  1. Find ways to keep your dog entertained. Put out different toys each day when the dog is left alone. Use toys like a Buster Cube or Kong to keep the dog stimulated. (Also see Chewing Handout.)
  2. Put tempting articles out of reach. Potted plants should be put up high. Food should be left off counters. Garbage cans should be put in a cabinet or have a heavy lid.
  3. Close doors to keep the dog out of tempting rooms.
  4. Use a crate to keep the dog safe when alone. (See Crate Training Tips handout)
  5. Fence off tempting garden areas outside.
  6. Exercise your dog on a regular basis.
  7. Socialize your dog with other animals and arrange play dates. This will help your dog have more stimulation.
  8. Train your dog to learn basic commands to give you more control over your dog’s actions.
  9. The more stimulating life is, the less destructive your dog will be. Soon your Demolition Dog will become Delightful Dog.

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Hints on Digging Dogs

Can You Dig It? “We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, we dig the whole day through.” The words sung by the Seven Dwarfs in Snow White mimic the theme song for many dogs. Dogs love to dig. It’s what they were born to do. For some it truly is. Dachshunds and Jack Russells and many of the short-legged terriers were bred to dig up vermin. So naturally, that’s what they do – dig. Gophers and moles are wonderful instigators of digging behaviors and definitely a great reinforcer to dig more if the dog keeps catching these critters. Some dogs are born explorers and want to investigate what’s hiding in and around the dirt. Hounds love to search for a scent, and sometimes that means digging around. Some dogs dig to bury bones, others dig to find a cool spot to sleep. Some dogs, well, they just like to dig. Boredom is often a cause of digging. Whatever the reason, many dogs love to dig and many humans don’t understand what is so fascinating beneath their precious Nasturtiums.

When people first acquire an animal companion, they understand that certain behaviors are going to happen. For instance, they know it is natural for a dog to eliminate every day, and they work to direct this behavior to happen in an acceptable place. Digging is also a behavior that can be directed to an acceptable place. Instead of trying to battle this behavior, especially in the natural digger, it is so much easier to teach a dog where to dig with a digging box.

The first thing to decide is where the dog may dig. This spot should be partially or all in the shade which will help keep the box cool and moist. Wood or stones can be used around the digging area to make a definitive border and to make it fit better with the landscaping. Turn over the dirt in the digging area add some nice smelly mulch and some sand. Be sure the area is large enough for the size dog that will be using it. Now bury some of the dog’s favorite toys in the box as well as some new ones and some yummy biscuits. Let the dog watch the burying process. Then the fun begins. Give the command “Go Dig” and jump in the box with the dog and start digging around. Get excited and make a big deal about the digging and call the dog over to join in. At first the dog may just watch its owner, especially if the dog has been yelled at for the past several months for digging. But eventually the dog won’t be able to resist joining in on the fun.

In the beginning, the dog must be supervised outside so any digging outside of the box can be redirected to the box. Interrupt inappropriate digging by saying “Oh, oh, Go Dig” in a happy voice and lead the dog to the box. As the dog begins to understand, it can be left outside for longer and longer periods on its own but be sure to gradually work up to this. To keep the digging box interesting, periodically hide new toys when the dog is not looking and be sure to place those that have been dug up back in the box.

If the dog is digging out of boredom, a digging box may help the problem, but the owner will still need to find other things to keep the dog exercised and entertained. Several daily exercise sessions like a walk or chasing a ball or stick help keep dogs fit both in mind and body. Interactive toys like the Kong or Buster Cube are great toys for when no one is around to play. As with any behavior problem, it is not enough to tell a dog “No,” dog’s also need to know what “Yes” is too. Always try to redirect inappropriate behavior to an appropriate behavior in order to live with a happy, healthy, well-adjusted canine companion that will be digging your company instead of your Nasturtiums.

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Chew-Chew Train-ing

There isn’t much you can do to stop your dog’s natural need and desire to chew. You can, however, direct his chewing to appropriate items. A young dog needs to chew on things to help teeth break through the gums and to just explore the world (See article “Taking the Bite out of Puppihood” for more info.) Older dogs need to chew to exercise their jaws, and, well, it’s fun! When your dog begins to chew something inappropriate, trade him for an appropriate toy. He’ll happily trade once he learns he will get something great in return, and you will be able to save many a shoe from destruction.

Many people turn to rawhide bones to help satisfy some chewing, but they disappear quickly, which means all that rawhide is going into your dog’s intestines. Too much rawhide is very hard for a dog to digest and may get clogged up inside them. The best toy around to help with chewing is a KONG. It’s a hard rubber toy shaped like a honeycomb. You can stuff yummy treats inside to help keep the dog chewing and playing longer with the KONG. There are a variety of sizes, so you want to make sure that you get the right one for your dog’s size and strength. Be sure to look for the KONG brand as they are definitely made for the power chewer and are virtually indestructible. They may cost a little more than some of the other toys, but the up front expense is worth it to save all those shoes–and fingers–from getting chewed.

You can stuff a variety of things into a KONG to make your dog really have to work at it. At first make it simple, mix a little peanut butter with some kibble and stuff it inside, and put a biscuit in the end to start your dog off with an easy treat. After your dog gets the idea, you can layer the items in the KONG by putting some biscuit bits in first, then some canned food mixed with kibble, then pack some peanut butter in and stick a biscuit out of the end. This will keep your dog entertained for a while. Every time Bruiser chews on something that he shouldn’t, don’t chase him around the house yelling. Offer to trade him for a KONG. Pretty soon, he’ll anxiously await the KONG. One person even taught their dog to pick things up off the floor, bring the item to them, and get a treat. She reported it was much easier than teaching her kids to pick up after themselves, and the dog learned not to chew the items on the floor but bring them to his owner in exchange for something fun and yummy.

Another trick that works well with young dogs, is to put a rope through the end of the KONG, stuff the KONG, then hang it from a tree in the backyard low enough for the dog to reach it with it’s mouth. The dog will spend all day working on getting the treats out. At the end of the day, be sure to take it down and allow the dog to fully finish his day’s work.

One great aspect of the KONG is that it can be put in the dishwasher after each use. If you decide to get a KONG, when you go to the store you will be amazed at the many types of KONGS available. The good ol’ honeycomb one is the best for avid chewers. The retrieving toys with ropes are a lot of fun for playing and the rope feels good for teething, but this toy shouldn’t be left with your dog to just chew. The nice thing about the retrieving toys is that you can replace the ropes through the KONG company, so the whole toy doesn’t have to be replaced when the rope wears down.

Other safe toys that help stop inappropriate chewing are original Nylabones. These are hard plastic bones that many dogs enjoy chewing. Be sure to look for hard plastic Nylabones, not the newer soft ones that pieces may break off as the dog chews. Also, Buster Cubes are a great form of entertainment. These cubes can be filled with dry kibble. As the dog pushes the cube around, kibble slowly falls out rewarding the dog as he plays.

Always inspect your dog’s toys to be sure they are safe to play with. Throw away worn toys and replace them with new. Keep a toy box of dog toys that you control and take out when you want to play with your dog. This way your dog will not get bored with his toys and will look forward to fun times with you.

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Jumping Jack

One of the most common complaints from people about the dogs that share their lives is jumping. When we come home after they have been alone all day, it’s only natural that they will be happy to see us. Dogs are pack animals and get very excited in groups. When people come to the house, dogs are also anxious to greet the company. Picture a family reunion where everyone is so pleased to see each other after being apart. It is usually loud with everyone saying “Hello,” people hug and shake hands. Dogs bark, jump, wag tails, and lick. Same idea, but slightly annoying to humans who don’t appreciate paw prints, rips in clothing, slobber, and potentially being knocked to the ground (although, I can think of a few rambunctious nephews in my family who greeted very similarly). It is up to the humans to teach their furry friends how to greet properly in a human world. A polite sit and waiting for the human to give them attention is what most humans expect. So, how do you get that jumping Jack to sit back?

First, try to ignore the jumping. Turn your back, don’t look at the dog, don’t acknowledge the dog’s existence until the dog is sitting. The moment the dog sits, then turn and say your “hellos.” If the dog is up and jumping again, turn your back, cross your arms and wait for the next sit. Depending on the age and enthusiasm of your dog, you may end up spinning around in circles to keep your back turned towards the dog. That’s fine. Just no talking, no eye contact, no pushing down the dog with your hands. These are all too fun for the dog and will encourage the jumping. Eventually your dog will figure out that he/she gets attention when sitting but not when jumping, and since it is your attention the dog wants, then the dog will sit.

Now what if your dog weighs 90 lbs. and knocks you over whenever he jumps. That’s a little hard to ignore. In this case it is important to teach your dog to sit (see sit handout) first. Then hold a piece of food in your hand when greeting the dog and keep the hand down low. Encourage the dog to sit prior to your greeting. When the sit occurs, give the food and attention. Be sure to use a calm voice as not to excite the dog. You can also put your dog on a leash when people come to visit and have the dog sit at your side while greeting. The leash will no longer be needed after the dog realizes that people give treats when you sit and greet.

Soon people will be greeted by your dog with controlled enthusiasm instead of total chaos. The only jumping that will occur is you jumping for joy that your dog is now civil in his or her greeting Just as we need to teach people new to our American culture how to shake hands and greet in the American way, we need to teach our canine companions how to greet in the human world. Now it’s no longer hit the road Jack, but sit Jack sit.

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