Remember: Many adopted dogs have not had the luck to be socialized yet. Their baggage may include unacceptable behavior. Re-educate your dog with the help of books and qualified professionals.
Teach dogs good house manners from the start.
For the first few days you have a dog, keep him or her in the same room with you – so that if the dog needs to potty, you can rush him outdoors…and so that if he engages in unapproved behavior, you can instantly correct the dog and substitute a more positive behavior. For example, removing the shoe from his mouth, then substituting a toy and praising.
Changing a dog’s name:
A dog can learn a new name quickly if you use it consistently. Start by linking it with the previous name.
Bring when picking up the dog:
⋅ Buckle collar: leather or non-stretch material. Make sure it is “2-fingers” snug and can’t come off.
⋅ ID tag: attached securely to the collar.
⋅ Training (slip) collar, harness or head collar: Measure the neck and add 3 ” for the proper length – just long enough to fit over the head. Learn how to put it on right. Good alternatives include neck/body harnesses and head halters, which are fitted.
⋅Leash: strong clasp and thick leather or double-ply woven for your comfort.
Note: use another person or a crate/carrier to transport a puppy to contain any “accidents.”
Supplies to have ready at home:
Crate: an invaluable tool, especially at the beginning. Avoid crating a dog for more than 5 hours. Place safe toys inside. Folding crates are also ideal for traveling. If the dog chews on crate bars, get the Vari-kennel or airline crate. Make sure the crate is large enough for dog when full grown; you can block off part for a pup. You can mail-order crates from Dog’s Outfitter 1-800-367-3647, Foster & Smith
1-800-826-7206 and R.C. Steele 1-800-872-3773.
Baby gates: a good confinement alternative. Make sure dog can’t get head/paws caught in the gate, can’t chew through or knock down the gate or jump the gate.
Bedding: easy to clean, thick enough for comfort.
Puppy pen: helpful when you want a pup confined but not crated.
Water and food bowls: use stainless steel or ceramic with no painting on the inside. Plastic can absorb bacteria and smell.
Flea comb: check for fleas, and comb to aid the skin. Good “shedding” control, too.
Brush: brush daily; good for skin and can be better than bathing.
Grooming supplies: get the right tools for your dog if you’re going to bathe, clip claws and cut fur yourself. Different coats require different brushes.
Pet-specific cleaners: such as Simple Solution or Nature’s Miracle, available from pet supply stores. They remove pet stains and odors.
20-foot leash: good for training the “come” command.
Feeding, nutrition & toys:
Food: gradually change over to the food of your choice. Use a good grade of dog food. Premium dog food can lead to lower vet bills. Dry food is good for teeth and digestion. No table scraps: feeding table scraps encourages begging. It’s your job to keep food out of reach.
Biscuits: avoid those with food coloring. Use to reward good behavior.
Low-fat plain yogurt, grated organic carrots and parsley: good daily diet supplements.
Organic apple cider vinegar: a little added to water bowl daily can help digestion and deter fleas.
Rescue Remedy (available in health food stores): calms when traveling, nervous or injured.
Toys: use safe chew toys, such as non-rawhide-based chew-strips. Soft toys are good for some dogs, but others will pull them apart, so remove if this happens.
No rawhide bones: they can be rough on digestion, cause choking – plus rawhides, pigs hooves and other too-highly covered treats can incite dogs to fight over them.
Beware of hooves and hard-packed chews/bones that can crack teeth.
No chicken bones: they splinter and can cause internal injuries.
Getting a dog license:
Contact animal control in your area to license your dog. You must have a rabies certificate. In some jurisdictions, proof of spay/neuter reduces the license fee.
Dogs don’t come pre-programmed. In your dog’s previous life, he may have been encouraged to jump up on people, steal food, or play too rough. Use clear, simple, consistent commands and positive reinforcement. Reward good behavior with treats, hugs and a happy voice. Use corrections sparingly.
Dogs thrive on routine, so orient your new companion to your schedule. As long as you are consistent and provide leadership, the dog will adjust.
By the way, your dog will explore everything, so puppy-proof your house (place shoes inside closets, put electrical cords out of reach, move prized objects to higher ground).
The earlier you train and make lifestyle rules, the easier your dog will be to handle and the fewer problems you will have. And when you do encounter problems, you will be much better able to resolve them.
– Eric Lundquist, trainer/behaviorist
Getting acclimated/housetraining helpers:
When you bring your new dog home, leash-walk so that he can take in the smells of the turf and relieve himself. Pick a special place and encourage him to potty there. Be patient; it may take 10 or 15 minutes. Always praise warmly when he relieves himself in an approved spot.
Next, enter the house and show him around. Keep him on a leash. If he lifts his leg, give him a quick leash correction (yank on the leash and release) and tell him “No” to disrupt the action, then take him outside immediately. Offer him a treat for going in the right place.
Remember, your dog will be excited and anxious about his new home. Don’t be surprised at panting and pacing, house training accidents, excessive drinking or chewing, or gastric upset. In addition, any dog, especially a male who was not neutered early, is likely to mark new territory – especially if other pets have lived there. Tell every member of your family to resist the temptation to overwhelm a new dog. Give him some time and space to get settled.
Next, take him to his crate. Encourage him to sniff around; reward him with small treats for entering and staying in the crate. Keep soft bedding and safe toys in the crate; rotate the toys for variety.
Crate facts. House training problems are the top reason people give up dogs. Crates aid in house training because of dogs’ den instincts – they avoid messing where they sleep. Crating is cruel only if the dog is physically uncomfortable or if left too often or too long. Limit crating to 4-5 hours maximum a day. Important: Teach your dog that good things come in the crate. Place appealing toys in the crate; feed in the crate. Stay in the room awhile and praise when the dog rests calmly in the crate. Resist letting the dog out if she cries. However, if she has to relieve herself, honor that. Over the transition period, gradually open the crate door and increase the number of rooms to which she has access.
After the house tour, take him outside to potty again. Be sure to take him to the same spot.
Important: If your dog is not housebroken, begin house training now (see Housetraining section). Stay tuned in and responsive to your dog’s signals of when he needs to go. The more vigilant you are now, the more reliably house trained he’ll be later.
However, having a few accidents the first week does not mean a dog is not housebroken. Excitement can lead to accidents. In addition, males tend to mark in the house the day or two. Once he begins to settle in, and you begin educating him in acceptable behavior, he will relax and behave.
Using a leash indoors during the transition: For the first couple of weeks, leave a leash attached to the dog’s buckle collar while indoors with you, so you can stop him immediately if he starts doing something you don’t want – such as lifting his leg, chewing on a chair leg, jumping on the couch, or signaling aggression towards anyone in the household.
Warning: Don’t leave a leash attached when you’re not there; the leash could get caught on something or chewed up. Never leave a choke collar on a dog when indoors or out in the yard, or he could be strangled if caught on a drawer pull or fence post.
Timing is everything. When a correction is timed perfectly with the offending behavior, it will redirect your dog’s focus for a fleeting moment. If during this incredibly brief window of opportunity you can insert or re-insert your command, you can often change your dog’s focus. If the correction or the re-command is not done with close-to-perfect timing and technique, it has little effect, other than to desensitize the dog to further corrections.
– Eric Lundquist, trainer/behaviorist
Before bringing a new dog home, be sure all animals are healthy, have current vaccinations and test negative for parasites. Realize that even if the dogs met successfully on neutral turf, things are different when you bring a new dog home. Make sure there’s another person at the homecoming so the dogs can meet on-leash outside.
I use the Gentle Leader head collars; my clients call them power steering for dogs. They make a dog feel more calm and safe. The dog slows down and learns quicker. [Particularly for strong dogs] I have an additional collar on for back-up; I attach the leash to both the head halter and the training collar.
– Cinimon Clark, positive-method trainer/behavior counselor
Prior to the introduction, leash-walk the new dog outside. Then bring out the other dog(s) on a leash, preferably with choke/slip collars to provide full control. Make sure you are relaxed, so you don’t telegraph anxiety through the leash. Avoid keeping the collar pulled tight, since “restraint frustration” elevates tension and the risk of aggression. The dogs will be more relaxed knowing they have some room to maneuver. Watch carefully so you can make a leash correction if necessary.
Make the meeting fun with a walk and some treats (timed to reward good, relaxed behavior). Introduce gradually, making sure the animals are calm. Pet the resident dog, assuring that everything’s OK. If it’s not OK, suspend introductions and resume the walk. Be careful to reward only good behavior.
Keep the dogs within sight of each other. (For more than two dogs, introduce each to the newcomer one at a time.) If the animals are receptive to each other, praise each one and reward them with treats and petting to show that good things happen when they are together. If there is a negative reaction, move back to the distance at which neither reacted. Watch for warning signs such as fur raised on the back, staring or stiffening up. If one dog reacts aggressively, don’t punish the aggressor; instead, take him in a neutral or less valued area to settle down and ignore him. If both dogs act aggressively, remove each to different, neutral areas. Try re-introducing later in the day.
It is essential to use a positive vocal tone at any meeting with another animal or person. People have a tendency to be silent and not express happiness or enthusiasm – yet that is exactly what the dogs need to hear. They need to know that their leaders are confident.
– Melissa Berryman, trainer/counselor
When correcting unacceptable behavior, timing is critical. Do not wait for the lunge; at the first hint of aggression, such as a stare, correct with a firm “No” and a quick (but not punishing) leash correction, and redirect the dog’s attention to you. You must keep control at all times and show the dogs YOU are the alpha. Don’t be alarmed if they don’t warm up to each other immediately. Either dog may engage in aggressive posturing, barking, marking, housetraining accidents, and possessiveness over toys and people. (If this persists beyond a week or two, consult a specialist.)
When the dogs come inside, a fight could break out, so leave the leashes on for quick control if needed. Keep all toys and treats out of sight until everyone is comfortable. An added advantage to having two people present when introducing dogs is that one can focus on praising each one. However, if you’re alone, you can tie one dog’s leash to a doorknob or sofa leg at a length that allows the animals to sniff each other at a safe range.
The resident dog might be insecure about his place in the pack. Reassure him, but do not let him misbehave or mistreat the newcomer. Resist the temptation to spoil either dog or to allow bad habits you’ll have to break later. Trainers often advise to greet, pet, feed and play with the senior dog first.
The more socialized both dogs are, the less time it will take for them to become friendly. Try not to be nervous, or your dogs may sense the tension and even defend you from the other dog. To avoid injuries, keep new pets separate from others when you aren’t able to supervise. (Some owners find it’s best to continue to keep dogs separated at mealtime, and to keep toys off the floor, to prevent fights.) You might crate the newcomer in a family area. Avoid keeping him in a highly coveted area, such as near the other pets’ food bowls.
Acclimation can take days or weeks. Be sure to give each pet 10 or 15 minutes of quality time alone with you each day – play, brush, massage, practice rewardable skills. Once the animals react well to each other, remove the leashes. Keep watch, and keep a spray bottle or whistle on hand to interrupt the pets if they begin to stare or otherwise misbehave. Continue rewarding good behavior with praise and kibble. Always let your dogs know what you expect of them, and they’ll be responsive instead of confused.
Socialize your dog. Start when she is a young puppy, so she feels at ease with other people and animals. Expose your dog to a variety of situations gradually and under controlled circumstances. Be cautious; don’t put your dog in a position where she feels threatened. Teach her to not be nervous in these situations.
Socialization is critical – and is more than exposing the dog to new experiences. The owner must act as leader in all situations, as the dog will be gauging the owner’s reactions. Remain confident and relaxed, which also allows you to be sensitive to cues from the dog. If a dog does not sense his person can handle a situation, he may try to take charge or react in the only way he knows how – which might be barking, growling, lunging or trying to bite in an attempt to control the environment.
Breaking up a fight: Pour water over the dogs. Keep a bucket of water handy. Turning on a hose works best.
You’ll need a highly controlled environment to introduce your new dog to a cat. It helps to have two people so that one person can hold the new dog while the other praises each animal.
Keep the dog on leash. A chase may ensue only if the cat runs, but dogs with a stronger prey drive pose a greater threat. Firmly correct your dog at the first hint of undesired behavior, and don’t unleash her around your cat until they are interacting calmly.
While you shouldn’t keep the pets entirely apart, make sure you are supervising when they are in the same room in case trouble breaks out. Warning signs in cats include a direct stare, elevated hindquarters, and fur standing on end. If the pets seem to be accepting each other, praise each animal and reward them with treats and petting.
Litterbox accidents are likely, since cats will be disturbed about the newcomer. Your cat may hide or seek higher ground for days or weeks until she is ready to accept the dog. Make sure she has places to retreat that the dog cannot access. Also be sure to block the dog’s access to the cat’s food and litterbox. You can attach a bell to the new dog’s collar to keep track of his whereabouts.
Be careful not to praise undesired behaviors. For example, petting and soothing an agitated or growling animal will reinforce the wrong response. Reward only calm, desirable or at least neutral behavior.
A dog with a high prey drive can be taught to coexist with cats; this requires concentrated practice involving the assistance of another person. First, you must train your dog to understand and obey the “Leave it” or “No” command. Put a training collar and leash on the dog and place him in a sit/stay. The other person stands at a distance, holding the cat. Do a firm leash correction at the start of any suspicious behavior and firmly state “Leave it” (or “No”). Praise and treat your dog for remaining calm and in the sit position. When the dog behaves, the other person can move closer; praise or correct the dog as needed. Continue for 15 minutes and try to end the training session on a positive note.
Training a dog to leave small animals alone requires patience, as it can take weeks. For the animals’ safety, don’t leave them alone together, and separate them at mealtime.
* Dogs are not little humans; they are predatory pack animals who follow a leader.
* Leader dogs need to know that their owners are better leaders, and flight dogs need to know that they will be protected when their environment scares them.
* To be a true leader, give constant feedback and keep control at all times.
* If a newly adopted dog growls or snaps, realize this is normal. The owners need to assert leadership to convey to the dog that they won’t tolerate this behavior. If you back down, or become frightened, your dog gains power over you.
* Seek out an obedience program that focuses on teaching you how to provide leadership, relationship building and problem-solving.
– Melissa Berryman, trainer/counselor
A new dog feels bewildered and stressed by all of the changes, so surrounding her with too many people might cause her to cower or nip. So delay introductions to friends and neighbors until the dog has had a chance to settle in. (However, you can start obedience classes with a humane trainer right away.)
Make introductions one at a time, on leash for control. Exercise and calm the dog before meetings, and have treats handy to shape and reward good behavior. You may want to have the dog on leash so that you can correct immediately as needed. Make sure the visitor is relaxed, and that you convey confidence.
The dog may want to sniff the visitor first, before any petting. Beware: if the guest is tense, the dog may sense this as a direct challenge. So set the tone with your actions and attitude – wait until you’re happy and relaxed. Read cues from your dog: how comfortable does she appear? Many dogs love new people, while others feel overwhelmed. (Consult the books listed at the end of this guide to learn how to understand and educate your dog effectively.)
Expect your new dog to engage in behaviors you’ll need to correct, such as growling or jumping on people. Allowing a dog to jump on people is a common mistake, but to avoid exasperation down the line, teach your dog “off” from the start. In addition, don’t let anyone engage your dog in aggressive play such as wrestling, tug of war, or play biting.
Never leave children alone with your dog.
Teach your own and visiting children:
The most common reason so many dogs are returned to shelters is because “something happened” while the adopter/adult was not in the room with the dogs and the children. I cannot stress enough: please use caution. Dogs are not baby-sitters.
– Jim Earll, trainer, shelter employee and adoptive father of Playdough, Snort & Hobo
Split up tasks such as feeding, playing and walking with other people in your household so that your dog does not associate positive experiences with only one person.
A bargain brand dog food may not be the healthiest choice, so it can cost you more down the line. Look for a food that uses higher quality ingredients and contains fewer byproducts and preservatives that can trigger food allergies. Ask about your adopted dog’s previous feeding schedule and food. When you change dog foods, change over gradually, as dogs thrive on a consistent diet.
Feeding dry food helps keep teeth cleaner. For extra nutrients, supplement the daily diet with some fresh vegetables such as green beans and baby carrots and low-fat plain yogurt – dogs love them! But don’t feed a dog table scraps, which typically leads to begging, weight problems and indigestion. If a vet prescribes a special diet, follow that advice.
Feeding plain rice can help a dog get through a digestive problem. If your dog is on antibiotics, add plain yogurt to his food to help replace the good bacteria in his system.
There’s no free lunch. Don’t let a dog grab food. Before feeding, giving treats or petting, give a command (such as “sit”) for your dog to practice.
Feeding schedule & tips:
Make sure your dog has free access to clean, fresh water.
Filtered water can offer health benefits to dogs as well as people. Sometimes dogs can be sensitive to something in your local tap water. In many cases, allergic symptoms will abate when a switch is made to filtered or bottled water.
Free feeding can lead to house training accidents and spoiled food, so it may be best to feed at scheduled times. Young puppies are usually fed three times a day; older puppies and adult dogs twice a day. If the dog’s a picky eater, remove the food bowl after 15 minutes and don’t try again until the next feeding time. Feed other animals away from the new dog to prevent fights.
Your new dog may not be interested in eating the first day, but just try again at the next feeding time.
For health reasons, use stainless steel or porcelain bowls without painted surfaces. Plastic bowls are a breeding ground for germs. Wash food and water bowls between feedings.
Frozen green beans are a great healthy treat – low calorie, too! Being frozen adds to the chewing satisfaction.
– Donna Leader, adoptive mother of Jazzy, a lab
Positive reinforcement: It is much better to teach your pet that he is a “good boy” or “good girl” for going potty outside, rather than teach him he is “bad” for going inside.
– Kathy Graninger, canine behavior specialist
Wouldn’t it be nice if dogs were born house trained? Or if babies were born potty-trained? Until such dreams come true, here are some real-life tips:
If problems persist, ask yourself:
Your dog should sleep in a room with the pack – you and your family. The dog should have her own bed to sleep on. For some dogs, sleeping on the human’s bed can aggravate dominant behaviors, so exercise caution. If your dog begins to growl or show other signs of aggression to anyone in the household, work on obedience training immediately to reestablish who is in charge.
The first few nights, you may want to confine your new dog in a crate in the bedroom, but start teaching your dog house manners so that you can provide increased freedom. It is not unusual for your new dog to bark or whine if confined to a crate. Dogs want to be with their pack members. (This is why dogs kept outside often are nuisance barkers or destructive. They are stressed being kept apart.)
Place the crate or bed where she can see you. If she barks at bedtime, correct her with a firm “No Bark!” Praise softly when he quiets down.
Some people find it useful to accompany a verbal correction with a spray from a bottle filled with water. Your goal, however, is voice control. Using an external object devalues the verbal command because the dog associates stopping a behavior with the object.
– Melissa Berryman, trainer/counselor
Safe chew toys (especially if teething) will give your dog something to do until she falls asleep.
Eventually, you’ll want to wean your dog from her crate. Pick a night after you’ve tired her out and keep the crate door open. You can transition to just a dog bed from there.
A night-time house training hint: put plastic bags in front of the bedroom side of the door. If she gets up, the crackling sound will alert you to your dog’s need to go out.
Allergy sufferers typically should keep pets off their beds and furniture. If a doctor advises against pets in the bedroom, place the dog’s bed in the bedroom hallway or family room. However, most allergy sufferers can happily live with their dogs with the aid of medications, vacuuming and simple preparation such as AllerpetD (rubbed on the dog). Also: wash hands after handling pets.
Dogs are creatures of habit. A consistent routine for feeding, exercising, and potty time will help your dog adjust.
Take your dog outside as soon as you wake up. If you feed him in the morning, leave him time to relieve himself after breakfast before you go to work.
After you return from work, take him out immediately to potty and exercise. If he has exercised heavily, wait an hour before his evening feeding. He’ll need another bathroom break anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours later depending on his age and habits. Go out once more right before you go to bed. Withhold evening snacks.
Initially, your new dog may experience separation anxiety when you leave. Using a crate can reduce accidents and other problems rooted in insecurity by providing a safe and welcome haven. Most dogs like cozy places, which is why you often see dogs resting under tables. Teach your dog from the start that “all good things happen in the crate.” Place nice bedding in the crate, along with dog toys that you can rotate for variety. Feed your dog in the crate. Give him praise and treats for venturing into the crate, and for resting there calmly.
You can also confine your dog in the kitchen or hallway using baby gates. Jumping dogs may require you to piggyback two gates atop each other.
Anxiety outlet: Try a Kong TM (a rubber chew toy that lasts a long time, even with dedicated chewers). Smear the inside with peanut butter and your dog will spend hours trying to lick it out. Add dry kibble for more fun.
– Stacey Patmore, rescue volunteer and adoptive mother of Emma, an English setter
When you get ready to leave, quietly say “good dog!” and provide a small treat. Don’t say good-bye; just leave. When you return, quietly praise the dog for being good and take her out immediately.
Make your schedule as consistent as possible. Remember: it is not fair to get upset if a dog has an accident after being left alone a long time. One popular solution: hire a mid-day dog walker.
When you first bring your dog home, should you spend the whole day with her? No – this is one of the biggest mistakes dog adopters make. Instead: have her bed, safe chew toys and water ready in the confined area in which she’ll stay when you’re gone – whether it’s a crate or in a gated-off kitchen area. Take her to that area, tell her to lie “down,” give her a chew toy and a treat and praise, using her name.
Next, step away. If she remains quiet, good; don’t talk to her, because that will distract her from this desired behavior. Before she begins to grow restless, take her back outside again to play or walk.
Return her to the crate, then go into another room for longer periods. Next, leave the house and come back in right away. Gradually make those trips longer and longer; vary the duration you’re out. Your dog will be less anxious as she learns that when you leave, you eventually come back.
Give her a treat while she’s in the crate, and talk to her while she is in the crate, so she’ll come to accept the crate. By being reliable, you’ll gain her trust – and teach her that you decide what to do.
A tired dog is a happy dog. Before you leave your dog for extended periods, exercise her vigorously. Then, for 20 minutes before leaving the house, go about your business calmly – then just leave. Don’t make a fuss saying good-bye.
This doesn’t guarantee she’ll stay quiet for very long periods. In fact, it’s counter-productive to crate more than 5 to 6 hours after the transition period. But used properly, the crate is an excellent tool for you and comfort zone for your dog.
How important is obedience training and owner education? Essential! In fact, training is the biggest factor in whether an adoption succeeds or fails.
When we talk about training, we don’t mean just having a trainer teach sit-stay-heel. We mean: YOU as the owner learning about dog behavior and training, and then YOU teaching and guiding your dog with patience and consistency so that he learns how to behave in a world of humans.
Dogs are pack animals who need leadership and rules to survive. Training will make your dog a trustworthy, socialized family member and forge a bond with your dog. Group classes teach you how to communicate with your dog despite distractions, and your dog will benefit from this socialization opportunity. The more socialized your dog, the more places you can go together. All family members should participate in training and agree on the rules, so they can teach the dog with consistency.
Think positive: Get recommendations for a class taught by a professional and based on positive reinforcement. Talk with the trainer and observe a class first to ensure the trainer uses humane techniques. The facility should be clean inside and outside.
Reward and repeat: If a dog does something that results in reward, he will do it most likely do it again. If you work with your dog each day and reward desired behavior, he will learn what is expected of him. If a dog doesn’t learn, it means the owner didn’t take enough time to teach and guide him. That is why so many dogs given up as “impossible” turn out to be model canine citizens when lucky enough to be adopted by someone else.
Be patient, firm and consistent: Reward good behavior. Small edible treats work well; always accompany them with verbal praise and positive body language. This is reward-based training.
Put down that newspaper! Punishment teaches a dog to avoid the lesson and distrust the teacher. For example, if you hit a dog who just urinated indoors, he’ll learn not to potty when you’re looking. Instead, reward good behavior, set up opportunities for the dog to learn and display good behavior – and disrupt or ignore bad behavior.
Timing is essential: Correct immediately when an unacceptable behavior occurs, not afterwards, then praise enthusiastically when your canine modifies her behavior.
By correct, we mean a quick yank of the leash, immediately letting it go slack. Some people find spraying water, shaking a can of pennies or tossing a small sack of rattling items (such as beans) effective in disrupting a behavior. However, these aversive techniques should be used to interrupt the dog’s action, not as punishment – and they work best when you successfully conceal the fact you are causing the noise. It’s better if the dog thinks his own action caused the surprise noise, spray or the landing of the rattle-sack. Never toss the sack at your dog, just in the vicinity of his misbehavior. And it’s meaningless to throw it after the misbehavior occurs. Again, timing is key.
Ignoring can be the best medicine: Many modern-method trainers advise to ignore misbehavior such as jumping or grabbing at a sleeve. Instead, turn away – then praise and reward as soon as your dog calms down. Take that opportunity to instruct the dog to engage in a positive action such as “sit.” Dogs thrive on attention; often dropping behaviors that don’t pay off – while looking for ways to gain attention.
This is a big reason why young dog run off with shoes. (The other reasons being that they like things that carry their people’s smells.) He knows that you’ll come looking for the shoe, and give him attention. Most dogs, similar to children, prefer negative attention to no attention at all. So try to remove the opportunity by putting away shoes and your other personal items.
Anticipate and avoid opportunities for misbehavior. For example, don’t let the dog dash out the door. Take the time to teach him to sit-stay away from the door when people are coming and going. Before you have taught him to be trustworthy, keep him in another room or crate.
Give a verbal command only once – if the dog doesn’t respond immediately, firmly put her in the position of the command (i.e. “sit”). Repeating commands (“sit, sit, come on, sit, sit, SIT…”) means the dog has not learned “sit” means sit.
And don’t issue a command unless you are in a position to enforce it. For example, don’t say “come” unless you have a long-line attached to guide him to you if your dog is not yet reliably complying. If you don’t enforce a command, you are teaching the dog that listening is optional.
Another common pitfall is combining commands. “Sit,” “down” and “come” are distinct and important commands. “Sit-down” and “come on sit” aren’t. Be clear.
Once you have your dog reliably responding to a command, start practicing the command in situations with distractions, recommends trainer Eric Lundquist. When you and your dog have accomplished that level of difficulty, it’s time to generalize the response to other locations and people. For example, your dog may be great at sit-stays in your home. Now take him outside with several neighbors present.
Always praise a dog for coming to you. Never correct, scold or punish a dog when he comes to you, even if the response is delayed or it was preceded by something naughty.
Learn everything you can – it’s worth every penny and every minute because your whole family will benefit. Each dog is different, so it may take more than one approach to solve a problem.
Remember: obedience class is more for you than the dog. It teaches you to train your dog. It teaches you how to be alpha, how to gain your dog’s respect and obedience, and how to help your dog to live in the human world.
All family members who are old enough to interact with the dog should participate in training. Obedience commands need to be practiced and incorporated into your daily life. Certain commands, like “down-stay,” can be invaluable in the house and a life-saver when out in public.
Practicing obedience also gives dogs a terrific outlet for their physical and mental energy. A well- trained dog can go more places with you. And a dog who’s secure in his place in the family pack is happy to let his human be the leader.
You can teach a young dog new tricks. Start teaching your puppy simple commands like sit and stay. Keep your training periods short and fun, using lots of praise and treats. Work on one command at a time and end the session when the pup has successfully completed a command. Puppy kindergarten classes for dogs under six months of age are highly recommended for early socialization with strangers and other dogs.The first six months are critical in shaping the relationship between puppy and family. It will take time, knowledge and persistence to repair a relationship-gone-wrong. While it’s easy to blame the puppy or the breed, the truth is that almost any dog can be adjust to almost any family if the owners spend make the daily effort during the first six months.
Your dog nips when you try to take a toy from him…ignores your request to exit the couch…or yanks ahead on walks. If you feel like your dog is challenging authority, then he probably thinks he is the “alpha” of the home. He needs to be taught a new, well-defined pecking order – and a new, lower place in the family hierarchy – for everyone’s welfare. He needs YOU to become his leader. Otherwise, he’ll rebel, growl and possibly bite when faced with a challenge.
Dogs aren’t looking for a democracy – they’re looking for leaders. Dogs want to know their place in the family pack and what their people expected of them, otherwise they’re stressed. Most often, an “aggression” problem is really a “stress and confusion” problem. If your dog tries to dominate you or someone else in your household, it’s probably because he sees role confusion and responds by taking charge.
“Alpha” is an attitude. It is not achieved by force or punishment. Rather, it is earned through confident, authoritative, consistent behavior on the part of the owner, who we prefer to call the leader. Dogs can sense who’s in charge immediately; they are continuously reading your body language and are aware each time their people don’t enforce commands. Notice how most dogs watch a good obedience instructor – and how they seem to wait to be given direction. They express respect and interest, not fear.
Then notice how a good obedience instructor behaves. He or she will walk with confidence…stand up straight…use a firm tone of voice. And that voice expresses commands as a directive, not a question. (“Come…? Come on, come…?”) The dog realizes this person makes the decisions.
Are you rewarding bad behavior? Anticipate and remove opportunities for undesirable behavior. Don’t let your dog dash out the door, for the accompanying feelings of joy and freedom are self-rewarding. Don’t leave food on the counter, because if the dog grabs a tasty sandwich, counter-surfing has just been reinforced.
For dogs, it’s natural to try to control their world with their jaws. Natural, but unacceptable. We need to regain control by using our minds.
How to reverse roles and become leader of the pack:
Step one: no more freebies. From now on, your dog must behave in order to earn the good things in life – petting, treats, meals, walks around the block. These are rewards you can use as you reinforce the new rules of behavior.
Use petting, feeding and playing as rewards. Before setting down the food bowl, instruct your dog to “sit.” Say it only once. He receives his food – and enthusiastic praise (“Good boy!) only when he sits calmly. Pogo-ing from a seated position does not count. No “sit,” no reward. Put the bowl out of his reach and walk away. Try again later. In addition, if your mealtimes coincide with your dog’s, prepare his food first, but place it out of reach. Then eat your meal first before setting down his bowl. The leader in a dog pack eats first.
Subordinate dogs lick and bow to dominant dogs as a gesture of respect. So when you’re working to modify the behavior of a dominant, unruly dog, reserve petting to use as positive reinforcement. To receive attention, he must obey a command such as “sit.” Praise and pet as soon as he complies. If he prods you for more attention, ignore him. The idea is to convey to him that you decide when to begin and stop petting. The same should apply to playing, feeding and going for walks.
Lead the way, literally and figuratively. Starting today, don’t let the dog bolt ahead of you out the door or drag you on walks. Keep your dog on leash, instruct him to sit, cross the threshold first and don’t let him out until he complies. If he tends to push through the dog as you open it, slam it shut each time his nose approaches the opening. After 5 or 6 repetitions, he’ll start getting the idea, but you cannot lapse and let him barrel out in front of you or he will resume the bolting behavior. On walks, strive to keep him at a heel.
Stay on a higher level than your dominant dog. During the retraining period, don’t sit down to pet or play on the floor with your dog. Pet and praise from a level above the dog’s head. In addition, at least until the dog learns his place in the pack, keep him off your bed and other furniture. He should stay at floor-level. On a related note, when you and your dog eye each other, as a leader you should hold the stare longer until he averts his eyes.
Stop the jumping. For dogs are challenging their people, it is important to discourage jumping up, as it is a dominating behavior. Ignore the dog, or command “Off” or “No.” When greeting, give attention and petting to the dog only when he sits. If you later want to teach your dog to jump up (or get on the couch with you), you can, but the behavior should be on your terms.
No more playing favorites. If the dog ignores or intimidates another member of the household, let that person be the one to feed and dispense treats to the dog for now. It’s essential that everyone in your family practices the same techniques while retraining the dog. Like a child, if a dog finds someone he can dominate, he’ll do it.
Control the games. Tell family and friends not to taunt, wrestle or play tug-of-war – these games encourage dogs to dominate physically and to use their teeth. The outcome of games determines who’s dominant in a pack. Instead, play hide and seek with a prized toy or fetch. As leader, you must be the one who decides when to start and end the game. Stop playing before the dog loses interest.
Use a crate. The crate serves several important functions. It gives the dog a secure den to call his own – a place to retreat when he wants to relax. Keep the crate door open when you’re home so that he can enter if he’d like. The crate also helps you establish a new routine during retraining. Work on training him to go into the crate willingly, on command. Don’t take “no” for an answer. To make the crate a welcoming place, start by giving him treats for going in the crate and feeding him in this area. Before training sessions, keep him in the crate an hour so that when you let him out, it will be easier to focus all of his attention on you. This practice also conveys that you, the leader, decides when he goes in and exits the crate. If your dog barks in the crate, ignore him. Do not release him until he’s quiet and somewhat relaxed.
Diligently work at retraining so you can reach a point when your dog looks to you as the leader who decides what to do and when. And when you reach that point, don’t slack off. You and the other human members of your household should always exude leadership and confidence. In most cases, if a dog knows he can depend on you, he will respect you and his new position on the family totem pole.
Peeing and pooping indoors? Aggressive behavior? Hyperactivity? These can be symptoms of common health problems. For example, a dog with from worms may potty indoors. And a dog suffering from impacted anal glands or a leg injury might be in pain – and bite when someone tries to touch him. See a veterinarian to rule out a medical basis for behavioral problems.
“Undesirable behavior” is in the eye of the beholder. Many “bad habits” (chewing, mouthing, digging, jumping, chasing, barking) are natural, normal behaviors for a dog. But you can control and replace them with desirable behavior by taking the time to work with your dog. Give your dog opportunities to do something you can reward.
It may take a few weeks before you can train and trust your dog with free run of the house. Until then, when you cannot supervise him, confine him in a safe place such as a crate or baby-gated kitchen. Leave him toys to play with. Remove trash cans or secure trash can lids from the area.
Activity needs. Most often, there is nothing wrong with reportedly hyperactive dogs. Dogs need attention and exercise – and when people don’t give them enough, the dog has to do something with that excess energy. By the way, dogs don’t do things out of spite, which is a human concept. They do things that, right or wrong, seem like ways to cope.
It helps to determine the source of unwanted behavior. It often stems from the frustration of being alone, since dogs are social animals. If you leave your dog for long hours on workdays, consider doggie daycare or a mid-day dog walker.
In some cases, misbehavior results from stress between the human members of the home, or another environmental change such as the arrival of a new household member. Lastly, a change in diet may be needed.
A puppy or dog has no memory of recent activities. So unless you catch him in the act of chewing or doing something unacceptable, scolding won’t help.
Chewing. Chewing is how young dogs explore their environments and mature dogs relieve stress. Move chewable objects out of reach. Take up throw rugs. Shield or hide power cords. Spray Bitter Apple on furniture legs and wood trim. Make sure your dog always has access to his own chew toys. But limit the number of toys you give your dog, or he’ll think nearly everything is fair game. Make a conscious effort to reward your dog for playing with the right toys. In addition, exercise your dog, and teach him obedience commands to redirect his energy.
When you catch him chewing something off-limits, direct him to “leave it,” “drop it” or “out.” This requires that you first teach your dog this command using positive reinforcement. When the dog drops the item, praise lavishly and give him an acceptable substitute to chew.
Teaching your dog to release items from his mouth. Put on a training collar and leash before a play session. Give him a favorite toy. Then, with the leash in your left hand (keep the training collar slack), command “drop it” – and immediately take the item from his mouth. Praise him with “good dog!” or “good drop!”
If your dog locks eyes or bares teeth, quickly yank the training collar once, then release. If he drops the item, praise him enthusiastically. If he displays aggression, get some of the good training books recommended later in this guide and enlist the help of a professional. Do not smack your dog; he will interpret this as a threat and his instinct will be to bite.
Barking. First, realize that some breeds were bred to bark. Next, figure out the key triggers of your dog’s barking. Perhaps it’s the mail carrier, children getting off the school bus, the neighbor coming out to mow his lawn, or daily joggers. As with many dog training issues, aim to reduce the opportunities as well as the incentives to misbehave.
If trigger events occur outside, bring him indoors before the triggers appear. He’ll be less likely to bark when shielded from the opportunity. When he barks and the targets bypass or leave your property, this reinforces the barking behavior – and your dog figures he did his job well.
If you can’t avoid the trigger events, be prepared to re-focus his attention on you. You can do this by using small treats and praise. Or before he focuses on the target for his barking, give a sharp, immediate leash correction. Re-direct his attention to you. Try to catch and stop him before he emits his first bark. Give the correction and command “no!” or “quiet!” When he attends to you, immediately praise him verbally and use tidbits to reinforce the praise. Keep this up and he will learn it is more pleasant not to bark.
The key is to break the barking cycle. To the dog, this cycle is: “Detect trigger person/event … barkbarkbark…feel good and useful…the trigger leaves…my barking works great…I’ll do that again!”
I use “no” as the disengage word for every behavior that is undesirable so the dog develops a clear association.
– Melissa Berryman, trainer/counselor
Jumping. Jumping and mounting are often behaviors dogs choose to seek a higher rank in the pack; sometimes they just jump out of excitement. Keep people from exciting your dog to the point of jumping up, barking or nipping. Often, jumping can be discouraged by simply ignoring the dog until he settles down. Just turn and walk away. You also can carry tidbits, and provide a treat and attention only when the dog sits calmly on command.
You can correct your dog’s bad behaviors by providing leadership, clarifying his subordinate role in the pack – and by training using humane methods. And remember: breaking your dog of bad habits is much harder than training him the right way the first time.
Out in the yard. Never leave a dog outside unattended, or overnight. Not only does this practice endanger your dog and subject you to legal liability, it too often leads to a nervous, troubled dog. Many dogs given up for “behavioral problems” had been kept outdoors or in basements. Also, dogs left outside dig holes or find a way under, over or through the fence. Even if your dog is not an escape artist, it helps to be there to correct him when he starts the self-rewarding act of digging.
Dogs want to be with their pack, and get lonely, bored and in trouble when alone. When you’re not home, leave the dog in an area where the family spends a lot of time. You can start by confining him in a crate or with babygates until you’ve taught him good house manners.
Most dogs are time- vs. space-intensive. They’d rather have an owner to play with than a yard to play in. Running around a yard provides physical stimulation, but dogs also need the mental stimulation of active companionship with their people.
Furniture-hogging. Decide on the furniture and other house rules, then all family members must abide by the decisions. Consistency is key to training. To teach your dog to stay off the furniture, snap a long leash to his collar when you are home (and leave it on only when you are in the same room). Use a quick leash correction as soon as he tries to hop up. He’ll get the message quickly. Many trainers advise that dogs not be allowed on furniture because the elevated position can give a dog the sense that he is the alpha and can lead to aggressive displays. Instead, give dogs their own comfy beds and crates.
To keep dogs off furniture when you’re not home, place or tape balloons on the furniture – dogs don’t like popping sounds. You can also use large-size bubble wrap.
New dogs can’t get into trouble if they are on leash in the house. It is more humane and easier to stop bad habits before they start, then to change them after they learn something naughty. Maggie was on leash indoors when with me during [the period of] her obedience training. At the computer, I put the handle of the leash around one ankle. In the kitchen, the leash handle went on a cupboard knob.It sounds cumbersome but you get used to it. Now she follows me from room to room in the house on her own volition. Just make sure that when you leave your dog alone, even for a minute, you remove the leash for safety reasons.
– Anna Marchy, trainer-in-training and adoptive mother of Maggie the pit bull
Bonding and insecurities. At first, your dog may be shy or needy. If he continues to cling to just one family member after the transition period, help him work through this problem. Using treats and vocal praise, gradually acclimate him to being near other family members. Have the other people do the feeding, walking and petting, so he associates them with positive, safe experiences.
Give plenty of vocal support and vocal encouragement! Don’t be silent around a “shy” dog. Associate a lot of positives to things that may be new to him.
– Melissa Berryman, trainer/counselor
Set up situations so that your dog can win if she acts appropriately. Since dogs only use what works for them, you need to show her that to get what she wants [such as scaring off an approaching dog], what normally worked for her in the past [growling, lunging] just won’t work anymore. This is why I let dogs freak out in class. It’s all part of learning. The dog will freak out for about 15 minutes, then realize that nothing is happening – that everyone is ignoring her! Then she switches to a different behavior to see if the new one will work. A dog may go through an entire bag of tricks in hopes of a reward. I just wait for the appropriate behavior (this is “shaping behavior.”) If the dog accidentally looks at you, there’s your opportunity to give a treat. I want the dog to know she’s on the right track – and to learn the pattern so well that when she sees another dog, she immediately looks at me for a treat.
– Cinimon Clark, positive-method trainer/behavior counselor
Nipping and biting. When young dogs gnaw and nip, people often excuse this as “puppy behavior.” But it’s unacceptable behavior that will continue, and grow worse, if not corrected. Like a child, a dog will test the limits and to see who’s boss. The root of a dog’s biting may be in lack of early socialization, fear, dominance, confusion over his role in the pack, a health problem requiring a trip to the vet or a dietary imbalance. By reading books and consulting a professional, you can alter this behavior.
As the leader, you must set limits. Don’t tell a dog not to do something, then send mixed signals that his bad behavior is cute. Consistently reward him when he obeys; correct him when he doesn’t.
– Melissa Berryman, trainer/counselor
If your dog tries to nip during play, command “no” and immediately stop playing. If the leash is on, you can give a correction if he doesn’t comply. Turn his eyes to meet yours to emphasize the point. You must feel and convey a leadership role. As soon as he calms down, say “good dog.” Use your dog’s name when giving praise; don’t use it when in the act of correcting. Giving your puppy or dog something to chew on instead of your hand can also work.
We had a major problem with mouthing after bringing Crop home from the shelter. I ended up with bruises on my arms and legs. Physical intervention (shaking a can of pennies, spraying bitter apple on my arms and legs) didn’t work; he just became more excited like it was a game. A trainer solved the problem in one night. When Crop came over and mouthed me, the trainer had me jump up in alarm, yell “ow” and run into another room and slam the door. Crop sat by the door. After 5 minutes Crop left the door, and the trainer had me rejoin her and my husband in the living room. We continued a conversation, ignoring Crop. He then came over and more softly mouthed me, as if to test the situation. I repeated the performance. He waited at the door, then went into his crate. I returned to the living room. Crop then came over and just put his mouth on me. I repeated the performance – and he never mouthed me indoors again.
When he tried it the next day in the back yard, I yelled “ow” and ran inside, set the timer for 3 minutes and then went back out. He never mouthed me again. I wanted to relay this story because it fundamentally changed my relationship with Crop.
– Cheryl Bailey, adoptive mother of Crop, a pit bull mix
Four keys to raising a happy dog:
1. Train the dog well so that he understands what a command word means, what behaviors are rewarded, and what behaviors result in being corrected.
2. Gain the dog’s respect by being consistent in your behavior and commands. A dog looks to us for leadership because he respects us, not because he fears us, or only because we give him treats.
3. Accustom the dog to a consistent way of living. Avoid indulging in an excessive amount of spoiling behaviors. Too many privileges will give the dog the impression that he is in charge.
4. Use caution when using crates for time-outs. A crate should not be used in a way that the dog may perceive as punishment. Don’t create a negative association. So don’t put the dog in a crate while scolding him; calm down first. Make being in the crate a positive experience.
– Eric Lundquist, trainer/behaviorist
When to go to the veterinarian:
Begin a relationship with a vet now, before you need one in a panic. Bring your medical records. While your rescue dog should be current on shots, altered, and heartworm-tested, you still need to buy heartworm preventative, and you may want your vet to thoroughly examine your new dog. See your vet when a problem arises or if your dog continues to have house training accidents.
Heartworm disease & prevention:
Heartworms are deadly parasites transmitted by mosquitoes. The larvae lodge, grow and reproduce in the heart, eventually causing lung, liver and kidney failure and death. By the time symptoms such as lethargy and shortness of breath emerge, the dog has probably suffered organ damage. This disease has become much more common in recent years and can be contracted year-round. Treatment is very hard on the dog. Heartworm disease is easily prevented with monthly pills available from your vet. Keep dogs on preventative year-round. The dog must have a blood test to make sure he is not already infected.
Cleaning your dog’s ears:
If dirt, wax and excess moisture are not routinely removed, ear problems can result. Here’s how to clean your dog’s ears at least once a week to keep them healthy:
Home Cure: After a bout of diarrhea, make some rice, adding extra water. Stop cooking before all of the water gets absorbed into the rice. Skim the starchy water off the top, and feed that liquid to your dog.
Flea/tick control products:
Products include topical liquids applied every 30-90 days and monthly oral tablets. Some kills adult fleas and ticks, some keep flea eggs from hatching, some combine heartworm preventative. As your vet for recommendations.
Avocado – fruit and pit
Bird of Paradise
Dieffenbachia & Dumb cane
Dragon tree Easter Lily
Ivy – Branching, Devil’s, English, German, Glacier, Needlepoint
Indian Rubber Plant
Kalanchoe (Panda Bear Plant)
Lily of the Valley & other lily plants
Peach (pits and wilting leaves)
Philodendron (entire plant)
Poinsettia (low toxicity)
Tomato Plant (all parts except ripe fruit)
Cold weather tips: Dogs can get frostbite, so don’t stay outside long on cold days. Rock salt can damage paw pads and ice melt can be toxic; when pets lick their paws, they can get ill. After walks, remove ice balls between the toes and wipe feet with a damp towel.
Leader of the Pack – by Nancy Baer and Steve Duno
Second Hand Dog…Surviving Your Dog’s Adolescence…Mother Knows Best…The Chosen Puppy – all by Carol Lea Benjamin
Childproofing Your Dog: A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog for the Children in Your
Life … MetroDog: The Essential Guide to Raising Your Dog in the City … Mutts, America’s Dogs: A Guide to Choosing, Loving, and Living with Our Most Popular Canine – all by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson
The Culture Clash … Dogs Are From Nepture – both by Jean Donaldson
Creating a Peaceable Kingdom – by Cynthia D. Miller
The Power of Positive Dog Training – by Pat Miller
Adoptable Dog: Teaching Your Adopted Pet to Obey, Trust and Love You – by John Ross
Dogsmart: The Ultimate Guide for Finding the Dog You Want and Keeping the Dog You Find – by Dr. Myrna M. Milani
How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks – by Dr. Ian Dunbar
Bad Dog: A Quick-Fix A-Z Problem Solver for Your Dog’s Bad Behavior – by Steve Duno
Purely Positive Training – by Sheila Booth
Happy Dog: How Busy People Care For Their Dogs – by Arden Moore & Lowell Ackerman
The Dog Whisperer – by Paul Owens
Think Dog! – by John Fisher
The New Better Behavior in Dogs…Behavior Problems in Dogs – both by William Campbell
How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks – by Dr. Ian Dunbar
So Your Dog’s Not Lassie – by Betty Fisher and Suzanne Delzio
Don’t Shoot the Dog…Clicker Training for Dogs – both by Karen Pryor
Aggression in Dogs – by Brenda Aloff
The Dog Who Loved Too Much… Dogs Behaving Badly – both by Dr. Nicholas Dodman
Dogs for Dummies – by Gina Spadafori
The Dog Who Would Be King – by John C. Wright
People, Pooches, and Problems – by Job Michael Evans
Are You The Pet For Me? – Mary Jane Checchi
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting and Owning a Dog – by Sheila Webster Boneham
Choosing and Caring for a Shelter Dog: A Complete Guide – by Bob Christiansen
The Pet Surplus: What Every Dog and Cat Owner Can Do to Help Reduce It – by Susan M. Seidman
Your Dog (Tufts University) 800-829-5116
For young people:
A Kid’s Best Friend – by Maya Ajmera and Alex Fisher
Dog Training for Kids – by Carol Lea Benjamin (Ages 9-12)
SuperPuppy: How to Raise the Best Dog You’ll Ever Have! – by Peter J. Vollmer (Ages 9-12)
https://www.paw-rescue.org/before.html – Planning to adopt a pet
https://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/dog_tips.html – Dog tips on nearly every topic
http://www.wonderpuppy.net/canwehelp/ – Solving dog and cat problems
http://www.loveyourdog.com/ – Love Your Dog
https://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Books.php – Books
http://www.aspca.org – Information about pets, teaching children about animals and more
http://www.northbay-canine.org/lastresort3-txt.htm – Surrendering Your Pet The Last Resort
http://www.apdt.com – Association of Pet Dog Trainers – find a trainer
http://www.k9web.com/dog-faqs/behavior.html – Training and behavior guidance
http://www.dog-play.com – Agility, therapy and other fun activities for you and your dog
www.paw-rescue.org/petbulls.html – About Pit Bulls
www.dogfriendly.com – Travel tips and places to go with your dog
ASPCA Ani-Med 1-888-721-9100
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 1-888-4-ANI-HELP or 1-888-426-4435
National Animal Poison Control Center 1-800-548-2423
Pet Lover’s Helpline 1-900-776-0007
Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine 508-839-5395
Provided as a courtesy to adopters of:
Partnership for Animal Welfare
P.O. Box 1074 * Greenbelt, MD 20768 * 301-572-4PAW