by Lyn Morningstar
Often, the breed-type helps us determine temperament traits; yet there are variations within breeds. I've seen calm Jack Russells, and sweet, gentle pit bulls.
Good, responsible breeding (NATURE) and loving, gentle handling (NUTURE) go hand in hand in influencing a dog's temperament. Matching a dog's personality to you and your lifestyle will ensure a successful and lasting relationship.
Let's look at your lifestyle. Are you physically active, athletic, high energy? Or do you prefer quiet, low key activities? Home a lot or spend long hours at work? Do you live in a house with a yard, or an apartment? Single, couples, children, seniors, disabilities, and other pets are all considerations.
Welcoming a dog into your home is introducing a new family member. A dog is a relative you can choose! You are making a commitment when you bring a dog into your life. As a species, dogs are very social creatures and want to be with you and interact with you. The quality of the relation will be determined by your personality and the dog's temperament, and how these two mesh.
So look beyond the pretty face and see who's behind those big brown eyes – who's inside that furry suit. You may be partial to small, white fluffy dogs or tall, brown, floppy-eared dogs, but when making your choice, please consider who the dog IS and how well you will get along with each other. Beyond the physical attraction, does this dog match your personality and lifestyle? If you keep an open mind when looking, you might be pleasantly and unexpectedly surprised at who you would consider choosing. You could be fortunate and find a diamond in the “ruff” like Sadie.
by Lyn Morningstar
Successful house training is learned behavior for dogs, not instinctive. It is our responsibility to teach our puppies where to eliminate appropriately. Lack of proper house training is a leading reason people give up their pups. Our pup's first parent, their canine moms, cleaned up after them and never designated a specific location for elimination. Their second parent, you, needs to teach them rules for eliminating when living in a human household.
Like a human infant that is given round-the-clock attention, a new puppy requires the same attention for successful house training. The good news is, puppies can be housetrained a lot quicker than infants! With consistency, patience, and common sense, house training can be a relatively trouble-free experience. The goal is to set your pup up to succeed, not fail.
It's not an act of eliminating that's the problem. It's where it's done that's the issue. Don't punish a natural body function. The responsibility is on the teacher, not the student.
There are two possible methods for house training: housebreaking, where your pup is taught to eliminate exclusively outside, and paper training, where your pup learns to eliminate on designated areas in the house. Choose the method that best suits your lifestyle. (My personal preference is outside potty training whenever possible.) Do not use paper training as a first step for outside training. It will confuse your puppy.
For either method, use a crate. This is a must for house training. A puppy usually will not soil where he sleeps. Make she the crate is small enough so your pup won't "cheat" and soil in a corner he can avoid. Acclimate him to it gradually so he learns it is his safe haven. Never use it for punishment.
Set the crate up in a room with a tile floor and close proximity to a door to the outside. Be sure this room can be closed off, ideally with a baby gate. For the first week or two, try to sleep within earshot of the crate. When your puppy whimpers to go out, you'll hear him.
Don't over-excite your pup when taking him out. Some puppies pee almost immediately when excited. Have his collar and leash handy, waste no time and hustle him either outside (housebreaking) or over to his puppy pad (paper training).
Take him to the same spot to eliminate. Do not play with him. Walk him in small circles to encourage him to sniff and choose the spot. Praise him when he goes.
Regulate feeding and water times with going out. Puppies usually need to go out immediately after eating, or within a half hour. get to know your pup's biological rhythms. No snacking inn between meals. The following are common situations that stimulate elimination:
immediately upon waking in the morning
after every meal and water
after periods of excitement and/or play (physical activity)
Also, take him out before going to bed to empty his system. This will help make it through the night.
A common rule of thumb for determining how often to take your puppy out: take your puppy's age in months, add 1, and that's the maximum number of hours your dog can hold it between potty breaks. Example: A two month old pup should be taken out at least every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day. This rule holds true up to about 6 months of age. Then your pup is holding it for about 6 or 7 hours. Good dog!
Keep a daily chart. Mark down when your pup eats and drinks, sleeps, plays, and when he goes. After a week or two, you will see a pattern starting to develop. What goes in on schedule usually comes out on schedule. You will learn to anticipate when you need to take your puppy out.
Choose a word to cue your pup to go. Use it while your dog is in the process of eliminating, and he will soon catch on to its meaning. This is particularly useful on rainy days when you want your pup to get down to business quickly.
Keep your puppy in his crate except when you can watch him. You must learn to recognize when he looks ready so you can quickly hustle him outside or over to a puppy pad. Remember that a lot of play will excite him, so be prepared and watchful when playing with him. Play in a tiled room enclosed with a baby gate. If an accident occurs, it will be in a confined area that is easy to clean, and you will be able to reach your pup quickly. Use an enzymatic cleaner designed to remove odors for your pup's keen sense of smell.
What about accidents? Try to catch your pup in time before he goes and take him outside or over to a puppy pad. If you see him starting to sniff and circle in the house, clap your hands quickly several times and say “no, no, no” to startle him. Usually his sphincter muscles will contract, giving you just enough time to hustle him out, avoiding an accident. But sometimes we don't react quickly and puppies will have accidents. Punishing after the deed is done is not as effective as we'd like to assume. This is especially true if you come home to an accident that may have occurred anywhere from several minutes to several hours earlier. Pups may notice that you're upset about something, but won't know why. They don't make the connection. Punishment is risky business. Let's try to set our pups up for success, no failure.
Remember, be patient and consistent. Puppies are not trying to be naughty on purpose. The time you spend teaching your pup properly will last him his whole life. Good luck and happy training.
Way to Go! How to House train a Dog of Any Age by Karen B. London Ph.D. and Patricia B. McConnell Ph.D.
How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days by Shirlee Kalstone
by Steve Dale, Pet World, originally published in The Chicago Tribune, consultation by Lyn Morningstar
Question: I have a 10-year old male shepherd mix and a 1-year-old baby. The dog has never taken to the baby. We hoped he'd come around, but he hasn't. The baby pats him and hugs him, and he growls. This makes me nervous. Any suggestions?
- S.L., Montreal, Canada
Answer: You're right to be nervous, since everyone loses if your dog actually bites the baby. I encourage you to find hands on help so the situation in your household can be properly assessed.
Chicago trainer Lyn Morningstar says you should understand that primates instinctively love hugs, but canines don't. Some dogs learn to love the attention, while others patiently tolerate little kids (who dogs may feel are submissive to them). Still other canines detest hugs.
Begin teaching your little one not to hug the dog or pull on its ears or tail and to be gentle. Indeed, from your dog's perspective, he may have a good reason to be nervous; this little monster is aggravating him big time.
Morningstar realizes that teaching a year-old child something and expecting it to sink in are a lot to ask. However, you wouldn't allow your kid to yank on another toddler's ears or punch another child in the nose without interceding. Don't allow your child to do to a dog what you wouldn't allow him to do to another child.
Most important, your dog will get the message that you're taking control so he doesn't have to.
Never leave your child with the dog without adult supervision.
Morningstar says that in most cases when a dog isn't adjusting to a child, it's because the dog wasn't properly exposed to young children.
It's not too late to teach your dog that good things happen only when your baby is around. From here on out, your dog doesn't get fed, petted or paid attention to in any way unless the baby is nearby.
The dog gets fed, and the baby is there as you offer the food. Their dog gets some lovin', and the baby is on your lap as you stroke the pooch. The dog goes for a walk, and guess what, the baby is in the stroller walking, too! Eventually, the dog will like all good things in life with your child.
Meanwhile, if your dog growls, admonish him with "That's not necessary," but don't be punitive. And promptly get the baby out of harm's way.
by Lyn Morningstar
If you could teach your dog one behavior, what would it be? For me, it’s the recall – coming when called. If your dog came running every time, the first time you called, inside or outside, no matter what else was going on, you’d have maximum control and protection from potential danger.
What does a reliable recall accomplish? Not only are you calling your dog to you for safety, but away from harmful or troublesome situations. With a solid recall, you can prevent jumping up on your toddler, stealing your socks, or darting out into a busy street.
Teaching the recall is the most successful if we give our dogs a reason to choose to come to us. This creates a strong bond, trust and a willing attitude. During a recent dolphin-training workshop, I was amazed at how motivated the dolphins were to come over and interact. And they weren't’t on leashes! There was no way to force them. Our relationship was totally positive. Praise, fish and the games we played together were the driving force. I call it fun, food and fanfare.
Dogs love fun, food and fanfare, too. When your dog is loose, off leash, you can’t force the recall. But if you’ve made it exciting and rewarding, your dog will choose to come running to you again and again. It might just be life-saving some day.
by Lyn Morningstar
Dogs are perfect at being dogs. All their behaviors are typical of dogs, and are very natural. Obedience training is not about fixing "defective" dogs. It's all about communication. We don't focus on what is right or wrong. Instead, we encourage appropriate behavior and discourage inappropriate ones.
What we consider appropriate is our judgment, not the dog's. We determine what behaviors are important and necessary, based on what works for us in our human environment, not what works for dogs in a canine environment.
What Works for US
What Works for Dogs
eating only what is in the food bowl or in our hands
jumping on table, counters, etc. and eating anything that smells good
going "potty" outside, in a designated area
going "potty wherever and whenever nature calls
knowing what to chew on and what not to chew on
chewing on anything that looks like a good idea at the time
walking politely at our side down the street
bouncing, pulling, and running on leash, exploring everything that smells, tastes, and feels good.
sitting calmly when company comes over to visit
jumping, barking, and/or nipping at company
(Do any of these sound familiar?)
So you can see that there is a huge difference between what comes naturally to dogs, and what we expect of them.
I feel that obedience training is a series of unnatural acts that no dog in his or her right mind would automatically choose to do.
So we want to convince our dogs that what we ask of them will be safe, fun rewarding and overall beneficial to them. In turn, it will be beneficial to us. This becomes a win/win situation for both us and our dogs.
There are two ways to influence and modify behavior:
encourage and reward what we want
punish what we don't want
Basic psychology reminds us that we all tend to gravitate toward activities that make us feel good and are rewarding in some way. Whether it's a paycheck from our boss, a hug from a loved one, a gift from a friend, these "rewards" encourage us to continue doing what caused the rewards in the first place. This holds true for canines, too.
So we can see that behaviors that are reinforced are more likely to recur. Conversely , behaviors that are not reinforced tend to disappear (often, without the need for punishment or correction). We want to establish habitual behaviors (repeat performance) in our dogs that fit more appropriately in our human lifestyle.
As we train our dogs, we want them to offer these behaviors on a volunteer basis (their choice) rather than being forced.
If our dogs want to do what we've asked because it's fun and rewarding, they will reliably respond again and again.
If our dogs have to do what we've asked because there is an "or else" attached, i.e. "do as I say or else...", research has proven that these responses eventually break down. The "or else" is usually a threat of something fearful or painful.
We want our dogs to want to respond to us, not have to respond. This is the foundation for positive reinforcement training.
Dogs are not our enemies. They are not deliberately trying to disobey or ignore us. We shouldn't have to approach them from an adversarial position. We often misinterpret their actions and label them as stubborn, angry, guilty, or jealous. These are human attributes and are not accurate or synonymous with canine behavior. Remember, our dogs are not little humans in furry suits!
Positive reinforcement training will help us build a reliable working relationship based on:
Trust – We will show out dogs that what we ask is safe, not hurtful or fearful, thus discouraging refusal or avoidance behavior.
Clear communication – We will work hard to ensure that our requests are truly understood, to avoid confusion and frustration. We will also strive to read our dogs' requests more accurately. Effective communication is a two-way street.
Enthusiasm – We will learn how to motivate our dogs, showing them that what we are asking is fun and rewarding, and is worth repeating. We will recognize and learn how to compete with distractions, boredom, and fatigue.
Through positive reinforcement training, we will learn how to become our dog's parent, teacher, and nurturer. In short, we will learn how to become our dog's best friend!
by Lyn Morningstar
We're all looking for the best way to get what we want from our dogs. We want a trouble-free, harmonious relationship with them. The key word here is "relationship". How can we best relate to our dogs?
For years, a prevailing attitude has supported the need for an alpha male dominance within a pack-oriented society. But in 1999, Dr. L. David Mech published surprising results of a 13-year study of wolves on Ellesmere Island in Canada: "In the wild, wolves don't live in wolf packs, and they don't have an alpha male who fights the other wolves to maintain his dominance."
So, if there is no alpha, what then? Dr. Temple Grandin. PhD in animal science, explains that "...wolves live the way people do, in families made up of a mom, a dad, and their children... The parents are always the parents ,and the pups don't challenge their parents for dominance over the family." In contrast, wolves living in captivity are usually unrelated individuals, and it's the lack of family connection that leads to the quest for dominance hierarchy.
But domestic dogs are not wolves. They possess basic genetic differences. They have evolved to live with us, and we generally treat them like family members. They live in our homes and sleep at our feet. The stronger the bond we establish, the more we can become good "moms" and "dads" and develop effective parenting skills. These skills include fairness, patience, consistency, encouragement and practice.
So, before you yell, or yank that leash, or swat that behind, or inflict any other pain or fear, think about what a good parent would do. It's not about being weak or permissive - follow through with the skills mentioned above. You can establish respect without turning into a military drill sergeant. Force training produces fear, anxiety and resentment - not a good recipe for harmonious family relationship.
Positive reinforcement training, on the other hand, promotes a desire to learn and participate. Praise, petting, a clicker and a cookie all work wonders in building incentive and cooperation. Recognize your dog for the family member he is. Treat him accordingly and he'll repay you with grateful devotion.
Lyn Morningstar is currently accepting new clients. Please contact Lyn at 239-489-3787 and start building a better relationship with your dog today!