The learning curve of puppy love
If you've read my previous columns you know that we have had scores of puppies already this year at the Verde Valley Humane Society.
Even our youngest puppies are weaned and ready to go to new homes. Many have already been adopted and are living in their (we hope) forever homes.
Many times when puppies are adopted, they are brought back to the shelter in just a few days for one reason and one reason only. They are being puppies.
All it takes is time, teaching and patience for these little creatures to learn the rules and routine in your home.
If you are thinking about getting a puppy, it's important that you think the situation out completely. Are you ready for accidents in the house, possible crying at night, countless trips outdoors for potty breaks and things being chewed up? That's what puppies do.
It's your job as a new pet owner to teach the puppy correct behavior patterns and manners. If you feel that your training skills are inadequate don't be afraid to ask for help.
Now I'd like to talk about one of the biggest problems that come up when adopting a new puppy. Housebreaking, which at times seems to take forever to accomplish?
Before you begin this task, make sure that you have taken your newly adopted puppy in for the free visit you got with the adoption. Your new pet deserves a clean bill of health before expectations are put on him or her.
Frequently taking your puppy outside to eliminate is the first order of business in the housebreaking department. Be patient, it is going to take him some time. Dogs normally walk in circles smelling everything in sight before they find their "place of choice."
You should take him outside immediately after he awakes, chews his toys or bones, after he plays and again 15 to 30 minutes after he eats. This should be repeated at least six to eight times per day.
Once outside, guide the puppy to an area that you prefer he would use on a regular basis. The puppy should then be allowed to sniff and investigate potential places that he would possibly like to eliminate. (Put him on a leash, this helps with leash training)
A consistent location should be used so that previous odors can help stimulate the puppy to urinate or defecate.
Movement can help stimulate elimination, but playtime should be discouraged until he has done what he went outside for in the first place
While your puppy is eliminating, repeat a key phrase, such as "go potty" or "do your business." The puppy will learn to associate this phrase with elimination. Don't confuse him; choose a phrase that you don't normally use in conversation.
As your pup catches on to the routine, he can be taught to sit by the door, bark at the door, ring a bell or any other signals you might want him to use.
Another way to teach a puppy to signal its need to go out is to use key words, such as "outside?" They usually get pretty excited when that question is asked, running to the door giving you the answer that you were looking for.
It's important that you are outside with your pup during this training period. It's your job to make sure he really has eliminated outside.
If you watch him, you stand a better chance of not having an accident inside because he was too busy playing to "do his business" while he was outside.
Reward him with praise or a treat as soon as you see him eliminate. Rewards can be treats, praise or even with playtime. Associate the reward with eliminating outside in the desired location.
If you find that your puppy has had an accident in the house, don't drag him over to the waste, shove his nose in it and scold him. He has no idea what he has done wrong.
Make sure that you clean the soiled area with a pet safe cleaner that eliminates the odor completely. This will discourage future elimination in the same area.
If you find him getting ready to eliminate in an improper place, use an aversive noise or even a loud vocal command that can startle the puppy and stop the behavior.
Quickly get the puppy to the appropriate location and wait for the elimination process. When elimination occurs, praise the little guy and begin all over again the next time.
The good news is, with proper supervision and frequent access to the desired location, most puppies can be housebroken by three to four months of age.
Not such a terrible length of time to spend on someone that is going to devote his whole life to you, is it?
If you have tried everything imaginable and your puppy still continues to eliminate in the house, you may want to resort to crate training.
When used correctly, the purpose of the crate is to provide a secure short term confinement area for safety, housebreaking and the protection of household goods.
It is said that veterinarians and profession dog handlers have accepted, trusted and routinely used dog crates since their inception.
Using a crate can help eliminate the stress that owners feel when a pet displays undesirable behavior. It can be a win win solution for all concerned.
Your best friend will also feel much better when he doesn't receive the much dreaded scolding that usually happens when he does his undesirable habits.
Dogs are known to have a den instinct. The dog crate helps to satisfy this need. If your canine friend could talk, he would probably say, "I love having a place of my own. I have my blanket, my favorite toys, nobody bothers me in there and it's all mine." To you it's a cage; to him it's a home.
If crate trained, your pet can be spared the isolation of being in the basement, garage or the backyard. Use a crate, but don't abuse the crate.
When purchasing a crate, it's very important that you choose the correct size. There should be room for the dog to turn around and stretch out on his side.
He should also be able to sit up without hitting his head. Just as important, if the crate is too large, your best friend may use the empty space as a place for elimination.
When you begin the training process, don't force your animal into the crate and fasten the door. It takes time to properly crate train your dog. Take your time; don't make him feel as if this is a form of punishment.
At first, toss in a tidbit of his favorite food or treat and leave the door open. Throw his favorite toy or ball, let him see that he can get it and come back out freely.
One of your unlaundered shirts will also provide a sense of security. When the training first begins, he should always feel free to leave the crate at his own will.
After your dog is comfortable with the going in and out of the crate at his will, start closing the door for five or ten minutes at a time.
Gradually increase the time by five to ten minutes more per day. Stay close by so the dog won't be frightened.
Place the crate by your bed if you plan to keep your dog in it at night. Let him see you and know that you aren't too far away.
When you have gone through this process and are comfortable with the results, it's time to leave your friend home alone.
Make your absence no more than a half hour with the maximum being no longer than an hour. Reassure him that you will be back soon and then do as you promised.
If you plan to crate your animal for longer periods of time, it is important that you have a friend or neighbor go over and let him out periodically. Don't think that the crate is an automatic babysitter for your pet and should never be used as a punishment tool.
There may be setbacks, but don't give up.
The keys are consistency and perseverance. With patience, the likelihood of the dog adjusting is very high.
Success is not guaranteed. Each dog, just as people, are individuals. If, after all efforts at positive conditioning your dog to the crate has failed, forcing the animal into such a situation is indeed considered inhumane.
Please understand that this method is entirely up to the owner. I have heard many positive things about crate training, just as I have heard the negatives.
It's an option, not a rule.
Now it's time to talk about the cats we have in the shelter. What beauties they are. We have almost every color, many different personalities and every length of hair.
Many of these beautiful cats have been waiting months for a new home. Wouldn't you like a new feline friend to share your life with?
Have you ever thought about fostering mother cats and their kittens?
These families get turned into VVHS on a regular basis. We have some available right now if it is of interest to you.