Why you should care whether your dog is chronically stressed

Stressed Out

Why you should care whether your dog is chronically stressed, how you can tell – and what you can do about it.

Lots of people joke about how they would like to have their dog’s life – no job, sleeping all day, having food delivered…but the truth is, that life can be very stressful for a dog! Dogs evolved to live in groups, not staying alone all day. Being subjected to our unpredictable schedules, often without so much as the ability to go outside to relieve themselves when they want to, can actually cause a lot of stress in some dogs.

Stress is not specific to humans – it affects all species, including our dogs, and it takes a toll on every living thing that it affects. The growth rate and production of plants decreases when they are stressed by unseasonal weather. Bees sting when they are stressed by threats to their hive. Humans get ulcers, are more susceptible to illness, and are more likely to lash out at other humans (or our pets!) when stressed.

As kindred mammals, the dog’s response to stress is very similar to our own: It can make them sick, and it can affect their behavior in ways that no one around them enjoys. It behooves us, as well as our dogs, to recognize the stressors in our shared lives and do our best to minimize them.

 

WHY STRESS IS BAD

There are two kinds of stress. “Good” stress, known as eustress, can actually enhance our lives (“eu” is Greek for “good”). Eustress is defined as: “The positive cognitive response to stress that is healthy, or gives one a feeling of fulfillment or other positive feelings.” This is the stress you feel getting ready for a promising date, or waiting to go pick up your new puppy. It’s the stress your dog feels when she hears your car turn into the driveway gets happy and excited because you’re home after you’ve been away at work all day. We’re not worried about eustress – ours, or our dogs’.

What we’re concerned about is the “bad” stress, technically called distress, and defined as: “Psychological discomfort that interferes with your (or your dog’s) activities of daily living.” If you’ve lived with a dog or dogs for any length of time, you have probably seen some of the signs of their distress (we’ll just call it “stress” for the rest of the article). Here are a few you may have seen:

 

  •  Tension and trembling on the exam table at the vet hospital

 

  •  Hackles raised and growling at the UPS delivery person

 

  •  Hiding in the back bedroom when guests are visiting

 

  •  Crawling behind the toilet when a thunderstorm hit

 

  •  Drooling or foamy mouth at the dog park

 

The list could go on for pages, but you get the idea. So why is stress such a bad thing? For starters, a huge percentage of what is perceived as canine “misbehavior” is actually a dog’s response to stress. Eliminate the stress in your dog’s world and you might be amazed at how much better behaved she is.

The other significant reason stress is bad is that it affects your dog’s physical health. It is well known that anxieties trigger the release of stress hormones – adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine – and chronically increased levels of these hormones can negatively impact the immune system. A compromised immune system makes your dog more susceptible to a variety of infectious diseases as well as serious long-term health issues, including cancer. A 2016 study suggests that dogs who are diagnosed with cancer are significantly more likely to have lived in stressful environments than those who are cancer-free. 1

 

CAUSES OF STRESS

There’s no end to the things that can stress your dog – but some are more common than others. Life with humans can challenge dogs in a number of common ways, including:

Change. Life changes are stressful for all of us. For your dog, this can be something as small as a change in routine (such as when daylight savings time changes mealtimes) or as significant as the loss of a human or canine companion. Moving is another big stressor that often results in unwanted canine behavioral changes (although a move that removes stressors can be a good thing!).

Presence of an aversive stimulus. An aversive stimulus is defined as “an unpleasant stimulus that induces changes in behavior.” If your dog doesn’t like or is afraid of other dogs (or men, or children, etc.), the presence of another dog (men, children) is an aversive stimulus. If your dog is sound-sensitive, thunder, fireworks, a pan dropping on the floor or even the “ding” from a microwave oven could be aversive stimuli. The greater the intensity of an aversive stimulus – more dogs, dog(s) closer in proximity, louder volume of sound, repetition of the sound, etc., the more stressful it is to your dog.

Forced restraint. Many dogs prefer not to be restrained – and some find it very stressful. Forced restraint most often occurs during husbandry procedures – veterinary visits, grooming, nail trimming, etc. The shift toward cooperative care in the veterinary, grooming, and training communities is a change that will be appreciated by many dogs (and their humans). (See “Fear Free Veterinary Care,” WDJ August 2019, and “Fear Free Vet Visits,” December 2015.)

Force-based training. By definition, force-based training involves the use of techniques that are aversive to the dog – usually both verbal and physical force and coercion. These are significant stressors for dogs, and studies support the position that dogs trained with these methods are considerably more stressed and exhibit more problem behaviors than dogs trained with force-free methods.2

Medical conditions. Whether illness or pain (chronic or acute), medical issues are extremely significant stressors. This is why it’s critically important to rule out or identify and treat medical issues as soon as possible in a behavior modification program. You are likely to still have to do behavior modification after the condition is treated or managed, but your likelihood of success is greatly enhanced when you remove the medical stressor.

Owner stress. We have long known that dogs are very aware of their humans’ emotional states. A recent study supports our also long-held belief that dogs mirror their owners’ stress levels. If you are stressed, you are stressing your own dog, so mitigating your own stress can be beneficial to your dog as well as to you! 3

This is by no means a complete list of stressors. It will behoove you – and your dog – for you to sit down and make as complete a list as you can of your dog’s own personal stressors, so that you can begin to address them and help you and your dog have a better life together.

 

SIGNS OF CANINE STRESS

If you are not fluent in canine communication, it’s time to study the language so you can better understand your dog and be prepared to help her when she needs it the most. Here are some of the common signs you might see that tell you your dog is stressed:

Aggression. With one very rare exception (idiopathic aggression), aggression is caused by stress. The best thing you can do for aggressive behavior is reduce stress. The worst thing you can do is punish the dog, which merely adds stress to your already stressed dog. (See “Good Growling,” December 2016.)

Vocalization. Dogs vocalize for a long list of reasons. Vocalization is normal canine self-expression, but it may intensify under duress. Dogs who are afraid or tense may whine or bark to get your attention or to self-soothe.

Dogs with separation anxiety may bark or scream for hours. Your dog may howl to express her unhappiness, or because the fire truck is going by with sirens blaring. When your dog vocalizes, check to determine the trigger. If it’s from stress, it needs to be addressed to mitigate her emotional distress, whatever the cause. (See “Oh Shush,” March 2017.)

Destructive behavior. Left unsupervised, puppies can wreak havoc on a home in almost no time. That’s often just normal puppy behavior. When an adult dog is destructive, we tend to think she’s being a “bad dog.” In many cases, however, she’s destroying things because she’s in a stress-related panic. Reduce her stress, and you’re likely to see a significant behavior change.

Unusual elimination. Just as with anxious humans, nervous dogs can feel a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. House-soiling in an otherwise well housetrained dog is a big red stress-flag. Marking (especially indoor marking) is commonly a function of stress rather than a house-training issue. Diarrhea can be a sign of stress, and the sudden release of bladder and/or bowels can also indicate significant stress. (These can also be medical issues, so be sure to discuss  with your veterinarian.)

Not eating/losing weight. If your dog turns up her nose at your high-value treats during a counter-conditioning session, she is probably stressed because the aversive stimulus (the thing you are trying to change her response to) is too close or otherwise too intense. Move farther away or otherwise reduce the intensity of the stimulus (by decreasing its volume or movement, as appropriate). If a dog with an otherwise good appetite isn’t eating well, consider illness first and consult your vet, but don’t rule out generalized stress.

Avoidance, escape, and displacement behaviors. When faced with an unwelcome situation, your dog may “escape” by focusing on something else. She may sniff the ground, lick her genitals, suddenly start scratching an itch, avoid eye contact, or simply turn away. If your dog avoids interaction with other dogs or people, don’t force the issue. Respect her choice.

Some dogs will move behind their human to hide – an extension of avoidance. Other escape behaviors include displacement activities such as moving/running away, digging or circling, or hiding behind a tree or parked car.

Hypervigilance. The dog who can’t seem to settle, is always on alert, reacting to every noise or change in the environment, is very likely a stressed dog. This behavior is common with dogs who are identified as having generalized anxiety disorder – they rarely or never relax.

Stressed body language. There are a multitude of ways that dogs tell us they are stressed, with their eyes, ears, tails, faces, mouths, and body posture. In fact, your dog is talking to you all the time; be sure to “listen” with your eyes. (See “Listen by Looking,” August 2011, and “About Face,” March 2013)

Comfort-seeking. Your stressed dog may seek you out for comfort and reassurance. Contrary to an unfortunate popular myth, it is okay – no, it is good – to calmly comfort and reassure your stressed dog. A stressed, frightened dog may also tremble – again, provide calm comfort and reassurance.

Yawning, drooling, licking, scratching. Of course, dogs yawn when they are tired or bored, just like we do. They also yawn when stressed, just like we do. A stressful yawn is more prolonged and intense than a sleepy yawn. Dogs may also drool, lick, and scratch excessively when nervous. Again, rule out medical conditions and fleas when you see these, but also consider stress.

Excessive shedding. It’s normal for dogs to shed a lot in the spring and fall, getting rid of their old coats to prepare for the new season. Some dogs also normally shed year-round – Labrador Retrievers and Huskies (and several other breeds) are notorious for this. However, shedding can also increase when a dog is anxious, so watch for this type of shedding as a stress indicator.

Panting. Panting when hot, excited or having just exercised is, of course, normal. If, however, your dog is panting absent those conditions, it is quite likely due to stress.

This is not a complete list of all the signs exhibited by dogs who are stressed. Your dog may display some of the stress signs listed above or others. Take time to observe her and identify her particular signs of stress so you can recognize them and help her when she is stressed.

Most importantly, remember that when your dog is behaving inappropriately it is most often because she is stressed and cannot help it, not because she wants to misbehave. One of my new favorite aphorisms is, “Your dog isn’t giving you a hard time, she’s having a hard time.” Remember this, and help her times get better.

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Give Your Puppy a Smart Start

saty alert thanks giving advise

Wondering when and how you should start training your puppy? Immediately!

 

March 20, 20203

“Catch her doing something right” whenever possible! When you notice your puppy doing anything you like, such as sitting calmly and quietly, or chewing on one of the toys you bought for this purpose, let her know she’s being a good dog! Offer her a treat, praise, and/or a little bit of calm petting.

When it comes to puppy training, it’s never too early to start. Puppies are more than ready to learn by the time they leave the litter and transition into a home. After all, they’ve been learning since birth, so why not keep the ball rolling as soon as you welcome a puppy into your family?

It’s our responsibility to teach puppies how to successfully live in our human world, which has a rule structure quite different from what they’re used to with their littermates. There are plenty of options for positive-reinforcement training starting at a young age: a well-run, in-person puppy kindergarten class; one-on-one instruction with a trainer; an online program; books and videos; your own knowledge of training; or a combination of options. No matter what you opt for, starting sooner, not later, is key to success. From the first day you bring your puppy home, have these three basic principles in mind:

 

  1. Have clear goals for your puppy’s behavior from day one and support his understanding of them every day.

It’s important to have some basic training goals before your puppy comes home, so you can create clear behavior contingencies from the very beginning.

Your puppy is constantly learning. From the moment he sets paw in your home, he will be learning which behaviors get him things he wants and which ones don’t. Make it easy for him to get what he wants when he does behaviors you like, and prevent him from getting what he wants when he explores behaviors you don’t want him to practice. The more black and white your expectations, the easier it will be for the puppy to figure out what works for both of you.

 

So, as just a few examples: If you don’t want a grown, 80-pound dog jumping on you to get your attention, avoid petting the tiny, 8-week-old puppy when he jumps on you. Instead, if he happens to sit or even just greets you with happy eye contact and all four paws on the floor, go ahead and tell him what a good puppy he is and lovingly give him all the petting he wants! If you want a well-housetrained dog, commit to paying close attention to your puppy’s need to eliminate, not giving him a single opportunity to “make a mistake” indoors. And if you don’t want your adult dog to sleep with you on your bed or your nicest sofa, don’t allow the puppy to do so, either.

Gray areas are challenging for dogs. It’s not fair to make exceptions to what we know our rules will be later (because the puppy is so cute!) and then change the rules as she grows. It’s also harder to “fix” unwanted behaviors than to train correct behaviors from the beginning. (For more about this, see “The Biology of Early Learning”)

 

  1. Make your interaction with your puppy rewarding and engaging.

Teach your puppy that spending time with you is fun! Be generous with rewards of food, attention, petting, and play so the puppy is eager to focus on you in anticipation of enjoyment.

Build a strong history of reinforcement (with treats, toys, praise, and play) for behaviors that you like from your puppy; she will strongly associate you with all these good things, helping cement a solid relationship between you.

A great strategy is to aspire to feed more of your puppy’s daily ration of food from your hand than from a bowl. This makes you the primary source of a pretty great thing and gives you plenty of calories to leverage to your advantage by reinforcing any behavior you’d like to see more of.

Be super generous with rewards with a young puppy because, as the puppy matures, environmental distractions will become more interesting, and it’s helpful for the puppy to have a strong history of finding you rewarding. This makes it easier for the puppy to continue to choose you, and what you have to offer, over the environment. No need to worry the pup will end up “only doing it for the food.” Since the food comes directly from you, you gain value by association. Plus, when you pair praise and petting with the delivery of food, the food increases the value of your praise and petting, so it is more reinforcing in the future if you choose to use fewer food rewards in training.

Don’t forget to mix lots of play into your interaction. It’s fun (for puppies and people!), it breaks up training sessions, and studies show following learning with play can lead to improved performance in subsequent sessions, when compared to immediately following learning with an opportunity to rest. Playing with your puppy, in ways you both enjoy, convinces your puppy that you’re a blast to be around because you know how to play all the best games. Who doesn’t like hanging out with the fun guy or gal?

 

What you can expect?

With frequent, short training sessions, most young puppies can start offering simple behaviors like “sit” in anticipation of “good stuff” as early as 6 to 7 weeks old, even before they leave the litter. If you really want to stack the training deck in your favor, look for a responsible breeder or rescue that provides early enrichment and basic training opportunities to young puppies in an effort to set them up for success when they meet their new families.

If you’re starting from scratch with the basics, it’s still reasonable to expect a young puppy to quickly learn to offer a “sit” for a food bowl or when approaching people, or follow a hand signal to lie down. In fact, in many cases, people report their puppies readily respond to cues for “sit,” “down,” “come,” “leave it” and a parlor trick or two by the time the puppy is 3 months old.

The catch? This degree of understanding is generally limited to the home environment. Sound familiar? “But he does it at home!” is one of the most often heard frustrations among dog owners when attending a group class or otherwise asking the dog to perform seemingly “known” behaviors away from home. Learning to do these behaviors in the face of a highly distracting, enticing world takes a little more time and maturity.

Learning the physical mechanics of the behavior is easy. Adding duration, making the behavior resistant to distractions, and properly generalizing the behavior so the dog understands the same rules apply anywhere, anytime is a process that takes time and patience. Try to avoid thinking your puppy truly knows a behavior until you’ve seen him be successful under a wide variety of circumstances. Until that point, he’s learning a behavior. Working in a new environment, around new people, other dogs, interesting smells, etc. makes it harder for the puppy to perform correctly. People often become frustrated and view the pup as being “stubborn,” when really, he’s just not developmentally mature enough to concentrate for long periods and in the face of distractions. He’ll get there with patience, maturity, and continued training support.

 

  1. Keep training sessions short but frequent.

 

Like young children, puppies have short attention spans. The most effective training happens frequently throughout the day, but in short sessions each time, and with a high rate of reinforcement. Three to five minutes is perfect for a young puppy.

Try five repetitions of cheerfully saying your puppy’s name when she’s not looking, and rewarding her when she turns to orient toward you. Practice “sit” and “down” a couple of times, changing your position relative to the pup with each repetition to help her begin to “generalize” the behaviors, understanding that “sit” means the same thing whether you are standing right in front of her or next to her.

Bust out a toy for a quick round or two of tug, trading the toy for a treat to begin a “drop it” behavior, then playfully run away from the puppy, encouraging her to follow you with a happy, “Let’s go!” as you take off. Reward her when she catches up to you, with treats or another one of her favorite toys. Aim for three to five short sessions each day. Also, remember every interaction is an opportunity for learning, so be prepared to help her practice desirable behaviors every time you casually interact with her, too.

Formal training sessions that are short and fun keep the puppy’s head in the game. More importantly, they teach the puppy to enjoy and look forward to training sessions, creating a pup who exhibits a happy conditional emotional response (CER) – that is, she becomes visibly excited – when our behavior starts to predict a training session is imminent.

 

The Big ‘A’ (Adolescence)

Trainers who teach group classes have seen it a million times: Owners bring their young puppies to “canine kindergarten” classes and are delighted with all the cues and behaviors they and their puppies learn to do. After graduation, a few months roll by, and gradually, more and more of those formerly delighted owners start reporting that their puppies “don’t know anything anymore!” Sit, down, come, stay – all the basic behaviors the pups “knew” when they were tiny seem to be gone! What gives?

The simple answer is adolescence.

Adolescence is a natural part of canine development. It’s generally said to begin when the dog is about 6 to 9 months old and lasts until about 18 months old. (Different breeds mature at different rates. Smaller breeds mature faster than larger breeds. Whereas a toy breed might be fully mature at 12 months old, a giant breed won’t fully mature until closer to 2 years old, so the adolescent phase will vary from breed to breed.)

 

 

If you don’t want your puppy to chew your shoes or any other household items, make sure you provide him with a large and varied assortment of “legal” chew items and toys, so he always has “good” choices available.

Dogs go through lots of changes during this time – physical growth spurts, hormone surges, and an increased need to chew in an effort to fully set adult teeth into the skull. These physical changes generally coincide with the secondary fear period, a developmental stage where dogs often react fearfully to things they’ve been fine with in the past.

Much like in human adolescents, a hallmark of canine adolescence is a push for independence. Dog owners often report the adolescent dog is “blowing them off,” “being stubborn,” or otherwise seems to have forgotten everything she’s ever been taught.

Although it can be a trying time, patience is a virtue. Find ways to foster success and prevent failure in training. For example, if your young adolescent is overly distracted by other dogs when in a group class, add distance or use a visual barrier between the dogs to filter the distraction. If the dog is clearly driven by his nose, avoid letting him off-leash in unfenced areas. Avoid scary or painful punishers, as they can erode the relationship you share with your dog. The good news is, this too shall pass.

 

The Bottom Line

When we bring a dog into our life, it’s our responsibility to teach them how to successfully live in our human world. Good training is a partnership. It’s not something we do to our dog, it’s something we do with our dog. It’s also ongoing. We get out of it what we put into it. With modern-day positive reinforcement training methods, it’s easy to make training an enjoyable way of life that creates treasured companions for years to come.

Teach Your Dog to Help With Chores Around the House

lab eat garden

Jessie can, among other things, wake up family members; dust with a feather duster; close a left-open toilet lid; mop up spills with a towel; get the mail; use a Dustbuster; mop the floor; polish shoes and boots; take out the trash; pick up dropped items; turn on lights; carry a shopping basket; and push a grocery cart. Some of these behaviors are just for fun; you couldn’t genuinely expect a dog to understand the point of putting polish on your shoes, much less doing a good job of it! But some of them are legitimately helpful!

 

  1. Fetch the Newspaper

Of course there’s the old standby of bringing in the newspaper. Trainer Clarissa Bergeman, CPDT, owner of In Canine Company, in Round Hill, Virginia, enjoyed sharing a walk down the driveway with Anny, her Pembroke Welsh Corgi, to get the newspaper or the mail. Anny was always happy to carry the paper or a magazine on the walk back. Anny is gone now, but Bergeman’s new Corgi, Simon, is learning the task in her stead.

 

  1. Sort Laundry

I thought this one might be particularly up my 8-year-old Scorgidoodle’s (Bonnie) alley, since she loves to hold soft things in her mouth. In fact, I often have to search Bonnie’s crate for socks; if she finds any lying on the floor, she stashes them in her bed.

Since dogs are partially color-blind, it’s probably too much to expect she could sort clothes by color herself, so I started by placing an article of laundry in each of several spots that I named accordingly: Whites, Jeans, Brights (pronounced “Buh-rights,” to help distinguish it from “Whites”), and Towels. The piles were generously far apart at first (six to eight feet between) so I could point to the proper pile without confusing her. I started by handing her a piece of clothing from the basket, gave the cue, pointed to the appropriate pile, and moved with her to the spot. Then I gave her the “Trade” cue, and when she dropped the item on the pile to “trade” for a treat, I clicked my clicker (one could also use a verbal reward marker, such as the word “Yes!”, to indicate that she performed the desired behavior) and gave her a treat.

 

I quickly faded my movement toward the appropriate pile, finding that the pointing gesture alone sufficed to send her to the proper spot. The “Trade” cue prompted her to drop the item, and a click-treat brought her back to me for the next piece of laundry. We just started this recently, so it’s still a work in progress. Our next step will be to fade the pointing gesture and see if she can identify the proper pile with just a verbal cue.

 

  1. Close Doors

Susan Giordano, CPDT, owner of K9U in Atlanta, Georgia, taught her dog Potter to close the refrigerator, pantry door, and any cabinets that are open. Potter will also fetch a towel so Susan can wipe off the counters. Susan says when they are finished with the chores, they dance!

It’s relatively simple to teach your dog to close doors. Begin by teaching her to target with her nose or paw (hint: using your dog’s nose to close doors rather than a paw reduces the likelihood of scratches to the finish). Offer the palm of your hand to your dog at her nose level. When she sniffs it, click (or say “Yes!”) and treat. Repeat until she eagerly bumps her nose into your hand, and then add the cue “Touch!” as you offer your palm. (If she thinks your offered palm is the cue for “Shake” try the back of your hand, or offer her the knuckles of your closed fist.)

When you are confident she understands the “Touch” cue, hold a plastic lid (such as the top to a tub of cottage cheese or yogurt) in your hand and ask her to touch that. First hold it so it covers your palm, then eventually hold it by the edge.

When she will touch the lid reliably, attach it to a door or drawer with double-stick tape or rubber cement and cue her to touch it there. You may need to start with your hand near the lid and gradually fade the presence of your hand. When she reliably targets her nose to the lid, shape for more powerful touches until she touches hard enough to close the door or drawer. (For tips on using a target stick to teach this behavior, see “Utilize Target Training,” January 2007.)

 

  1. Pick Up Trash

Lots of dogs have been taught to pick up their own toys and put them away in a basket designated for that purpose. Dana Ebbecke, one of the trainers at My Pet’s Teacher in Horsham, Pennsylvania, suggests a variation on that behavior: teaching your dog to pick up trash and put it in a garbage can. This is a perfect behavior to “backchain” – where you teach the last piece of the behavior first, and build the chain backward from there.

 

Offer your dog a piece of trash (that she won’t want to eat) directly over the center of a garbage can and say “Take it!” When she takes it, praise her, then cue her to “Drop.” If she already knows a “Drop” cue, she will drop the trash and it will fall in the can. Click (or use another reward marker) and treat. If she doesn’t know the “Drop” cue yet, say “Drop” and offer her a treat. When she opens her mouth for the treat the trash will fall in the can. Click and treat.

When the “Drop” is working over the center of the garbage can, move the trash slightly to one side, but still over the can, and cue the “Drop.” If it falls into the can, click and treat. If it misses, say “Oops!” and try it again. Gradually move the “training trash” farther from the center of the can, until it’s no longer even over the can. You are helping the dog understand that she needs to move it back over the middle of the can to make sure it falls inside, not outside the can.

When she can bring the trash that you hand her to the can from some distance, start offering it to her closer to the ground, so she understands she has to lift it up and move it to the can. Finally, place the trash on the ground, and add your “Pick up the trash!” cue before you say “Take it!” In fairly short order you should be able to fade the “Take it!” cue and your “Pick up the trash!” should prompt her to pick up that item and drop it in the can.

Now you’ll need to generalize the cue to a variety of different trash items. Make sure you don’t leave valuable objects on the floor when you ask her to pick up the trash! You can’t expect her to make good judgment calls about what is trash and what is treasure; your smart phone could end up in the garbage.

Ebbecke suggests adding to the “Wow! factor” of this behavior by using a garbage can with a push-pedal lid, and teaching your dog to step on the lid to open the can before she drops the trash in. (Just don’t teach this one to a dog who is likely to help herself to items in the can rather than putting more trash there.)

 

  1. Pick Up/Find/Bring

The “seek back” used to be a behavior performed in advanced obedience competition. You walked around the ring and, when cued by the judge, dropped an item, such as a glove. Your dog was supposed to continuing heeling with you until you stopped and gave him the cue to, go back, get it, and bring it back to you. Very useful!

 

It’s relatively simple to get your dog to pick up something you just dropped. Your “Pick it up!” cue (from “pick up the trash”) can generalize to anything you indicate you want your dog to pick up – and it sure beats stooping over to get it yourself.

Just think how even more useful it would be if your dog could search for and find, by name, items you’ve misplaced such as your car keys, the TV remote, your cell phone, or your glasses. I realized many years ago how capable dogs are at finding lost stuff when our wonderful Terrier-mix, Josie, found our missing tortoise without even being trained to do so.

I didn’t realize I had taught Josie to associate the word “Turtle” with Fred and Wilma, the two yellow-footed tortoises we had adopted from the shelter where I worked at the time. But apparently I had. One day I couldn’t find Fred. I frantically searched the yard, repeating aloud to myself, “Where’s the turtle?” I eventually realized that Josie was coming to me, and then running to the spot where Fred had fallen behind a retaining wall. Because of that amazing little dog, Fred was found, safe and sound.

Chaser, the brilliant Border Collie and subject of multiple cognition studies, now knows the names of more than 1,000 objects, and can retrieve them by name.  Surely your dog can learn the names of a handful of objects, then learn to find them for you when they go missing.

You’ve probably already taught her some, simply by using object names in your conversations with her. “Fetch the ball!” “Go to your bed.” “Get in the car.” So it’s not a stretch to think you can teach her more.

Use your targeting cue, followed by the name of the object. Hold the TV remote in your hand and say “Touch, Remote.” Click (or say “Yes!”) and treat when she does it. Hold your car keys and say “Touch, Keys.” Click and treat. Then place them on a table or floor (one at a time) and do the same. When you’ve done it several times with each item individually, place both on the floor six to eight feet apart, stand six to eight feet away, and ask her to touch one. If she gets the right one, click, treat and party! If she goes to the wrong one, cheerfully say “Oops!” and try again.

If she gets more misses than hits, go back to working with just one object at a time for a while, then try again. Eventually teach her the names of other objects you’d like her to be able to find for you.

When she’s identifying the correct object at least 80 percent of the time, start adding the “Find it!” element. If you’ve already done nose games with your dog, this will be easy as pie. Just as you have been doing already, place one of the objects on the floor in plain view and say “Find Remote!” When she goes over and sniffs it, click and treat. She found it! Repeat several times.

 

Now start hiding it. First have her sit and wait, and let her watch you hide it in a very easy place. Return to her side and cue, “Find Remote!” When she goes to where it is, click and treat. If you want to teach her a “tell” – a behavior she performs to tell you she found it – start asking her for that behavior when she locates the object. You could have her sit or lie down at the spot where the item was, or she could come back to you and touch you with her paw to let you know she found it, then lead you to it.

Gradually hide objects in harder and harder places, and eventually hide them when she isn’t watching and then ask her to find them. The final step is to have her find things when you’ve really lost them.

You can even take this one step further by teaching her the names of family members and having her find them. Just as you did with objects, have your human hide first in easy places, then harder and harder. If, heaven forbid, a family member is ever truly lost, your dog can join in the search!

 

  1. Reveille

Now that you’ve taught your dog the names of family members, you might as well make every day use of it. Send her to wake up family members who are sleeping in too long. Teach her to pull the covers off the sleepyheads! Have her deliver messages to the kids – carried in her mouth or attached to her collar. Ask her to bring everyone to the table at dinnertime. The sky’s the limit!

 

Unexpected Help

A dog trainer friend, posted this on her Facebook wall, just as I was writing this article. It’s a great testimonial for the value of teaching your dog a few general purpose helping behaviors. Miller-Riley wrote:

“This morning I attempted to change a small latch on a screen door. I was standing on a 4-foot high front porch, which is bordered by 6-foot high bushes. In my clumsy attempt to screw in the small metal bracket, it flipped out of my hands and landed under the bushes next to the house – a place I would have great difficulty reaching.

“So I called for Rivets, my service-dog-in-training. I showed her a short pathway to the spot where the item fell and told her to ‘Bring,’ her cue to seek and bring something back to my hand. The object would have my fresh scent on it and would most likely stand out to her like a bright color to us. She went right into the bushes, nosed around and pawed at the object. I said, ‘Yes, bring!’ She picked it up, crawled out and delivered it to my hand. She is such a cool dog, her mind and willingness astonishes me. I completed my door repair after a treat fest with my little paw-hero.”

Steps to Take When Your Dog Growls at You

never tell a dog off for growling

Growling is a valuable means of communication for a dog – something that dog owners should appreciate and respect rather than punish. Of course, we don’t want our dog to growl at us, but neither do we want him to fail to growl if something makes him uncomfortable; that’s very important information in a successful canine-human relationship.

It’s very common for dog owners to punish their dogs for growling. Unfortunately, this often suppresses the growl – eliminating his ability to warn us that he’s about to snap, literally and figuratively. On other occasions, punishing a growling, uncomfortable dog can induce him to escalate into full-on aggression.

So, if you’re not supposed to punish your dog for growling, what are you supposed to do? The next time your dog growls at you, try this:

 

1.) Stop. Whatever you’re doing, stop. If your dog’s growl threshold is near his bite threshold – that is, if there’s not much time between his growl and his bite, get safe. If his growl doesn’t mean a bite is imminent, stop what you’re doing but stay where you are. Wait until he relaxes, then move away, so you’re rewarding the relaxed behavior rather than the growl.

2.) Analyze the situation. What elicited the growl? Were you touching or grooming him? Restraining him? Making direct eye contact? Taking something away from him? Making him do something?

3.) Figure out a different way to accomplish your goal without eliciting a growl. Lure him rather than physically pushing or pulling him. Have someone else feed him treats while you touch, groom, or restrain him. If you don’t have to do whatever it was that elicited the growl, don’t – until you can convince him that it’s a good thing rather than a bad thing.

4.) Evaluate the stressor’s in your dog’s world and reduce or eliminate as many of them as possible. For example, if your dog is unaccustomed to strangers, then having your sister and her husband and three kids as house guests for the past week would undoubtedly stress your dog. Noise-phobic dogs might be under a strain if city crews have been digging up a nearby street with heavy equipment or there was a thunderstorm last night. The vacuum cleaner is a common stressor for dogs. A loud argument between you and your spouse could stress your dog as well as you, and your stress is stressful to your dog. Harsh verbal or physical punishment, an outburst of aroused barking at the mail carrier, fence fighting with another dog. The list could go on and on.

 

Keep in mind that stress causes aggression, and stressor’s are cumulative; it’s not just the immediate stimulus that caused the growl, but a combination of all the stressor’s he’s experienced in the past few days. This explains why he may growl at you today when you do something, but he didn’t growl last week when you did the exact same thing. The more stressor’s you can remove overall, the less likely he is to growl the next time you do whatever it was that elicited the growl this time.

5.) Institute a behavior modification program to change his opinion about the thing that made him growl. One way to do this is to use counter-conditioning and desensitization to convince him the bad thing is a good thing.

 

Another way is through the careful use of negative reinforcement as in a Constructional Aggression Treatment (CAT) program to teach him a new behavioral strategy when presented with the discomfort-causing stimulus.

If you need help to create and implement a behavior modification protocol, contact a qualified behavior professional who is experienced and successful in modifying aggressive behavior with positive, dog-friendly techniques.

The Dog Nanny

Why Your Puppy Needs So Many Shots

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Puppy Vaccines: Why Your Puppy Needs So Many Shots

Ever wonder why puppies need multiple shots” in order to become fully immunized? Here are the reasons behind puppy vaccine schedules and how best to strategize your puppy’s immunizations.”

The first rule of puppy vaccinations is that there are no hard and fast rules for puppy vaccinations; the best way to make sure a puppy is fully immunized against the most common contagious diseases totally depends on the health and past history of the puppy’s mother, his age, and his environment. A puppy being raised by a responsible breeder may require only one combination vaccination in order to become immunized; whereas a puppy raised in a shelter might be given as many as six or seven combination vaccinations before being declared fully protected.

There are several reasons why puppy vaccination protocols vary so wildly, but the most important one to understand is that every puppy is an individual, presenting a unique and unpredictable immunological history to his veterinarian. If you understand the reasons that veterinarians recommend multiple “puppy shots,” you will be better prepared to both protect your puppy from risky exposure to contagious diseases and, possibly, help reduce the number of vaccinations the puppy receives on the road to becoming fully immunized.

Few new dog owners understand why puppies need multiple “shots.” Most veterinarians recommend that puppies are vaccinated for distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus (hepatitis) a number of times, starting when they are about four to six weeks old, and again every three or four weeks, with their last “puppy vaccination” given after they are about 16 to 20 weeks old. The most common guesses as to why puppies need all those vaccinations?

A) Because it takes at least four vaccinations for full immunity.
B) Each shot “boosts” the immunity from the first shot.

The actual answer would be C) Neither of these. Repeated puppy vaccines do not increase or “boost” the immunity in any way. Vaccines are repeated in order to make sure the puppy receives a vaccination as soon as his immune system is able to respond as we want it to – to respond by developing antibodies to the disease antigens in the vaccines. Let’s do a bit of review, to make sure all the terms used here are understood.

Dog Vaccination Terminology

Let’s do a bit of review, to make sure all the terms used here are understood.

An antigen is a substance that induces a response from a body’s immune system. In this discussion, when we talk about antigens, we mean a form of the diseases that commonly infect puppies and dogs.

vaccine is a form of disease antigen that has been altered in some way so that his immune system will recognize it as a foreign invader and respond to it by destroying substances that resemble that antigen in the future. Some vaccinations are made with “killed” viruses; some are genetically altered so they resemble the disease antigen but cannot make the animal ill (“modified live”); and still others are highly weakened, live strains of the disease.

Antibodies are the immune system protective substances that recognize and destroy the agents of disease (antigens).

When we administer a vaccine to a puppy, we are in effect training his immune system to recognize the disease antigen and mount an immune response to it – to form antibodies that will recognize and destroy those antigens whenever the dog comes into contact with them again.

When a puppy has been vaccinated and his immune system has formed antibodies to the disease antigens in the vaccines he received, he is considered immunized against those diseases.

How Maternal Interference Affects Puppy Immunization

Immunizing puppies is a tiny bit more complicated due to a mechanism called maternal interference.

All puppies who are nursed adequately by their mother in the first two or three days after birth receive some of her protective antibodies from drinking her “colostrum” – the yellowish substance that the mother produces before she starts actual milk production.

The mother’s antibodies protect the puppies for a highly variable amount of time – anywhere from about three weeks to about 12 weeks. These antibodies gradually “fade” from the puppies’ systems as the puppies’ own immune systems develop.

When a puppy is vaccinated during the period of time that his mother’s antibodies are still active in his system, those maternal antibodies will detect and destroy the disease antigen in the vaccine, rendering that particular vaccine useless to the puppy. He can’t develop his own antibodies to disease antigens until his mother’s antibodies have faded from his system. Also, while some puppies may have received a whopping dose of antibodies from their mom, others may have received few or none. If the mother was never vaccinated herself, and never came into contact with those disease antigens, she would have none of these antigens to pass along to the pups in her colostrum.

So, should puppy owners just wait to vaccinate puppies, until the time when any amount of maternal antibodies are sure to have faded (12 to 14 weeks is generally considered as the outer limit of any maternal interference)? The answer is NO, because we don’t know when any given puppy’s maternal immunity is going to fade, and he would have no protection from disease in the period between the fading of his mom’s antibodies and receiving his first vaccination.

A mother’s antibodies might fade when he’s three weeks old, when he’s 12 weeks old, or any time in between. If the protection he got from his mom fades at three weeks, and we don’t vaccinate him until he’s 14 weeks old, he is vulnerable and without any protection whatsoever, until at least a few days after his vaccination. That’s too long to go without protection, unless you plan to raise him in a sterile bubble. And there are many compelling reasons having to do with his behavioral development to not just keep him home.

Why Puppies Might Receive Excess Shots

Instead, we give the puppy a series of vaccinations, about three to four weeks apart, starting when the puppy is four to six weeks old. The idea is to try to reduce the size of the “window of opportunity” when the mom’s antibodies fade (leaving the puppy unprotected) and the next vaccine is given, to reduce the chances that he comes into contact with disease antigen when he is unprotected.

It might be that the mother’s antibodies faded early, and the first vaccine was given at four weeks, and he developed his own protective antibodies. In this case, he doesn’t actually need any further vaccines, but we don’t know that, so he is given additional vaccinations every three to four weeks until he’s about 20 weeks old. It’s more than he needs, but at least he was protected.

Or it might be that the puppy was vaccinated at five weeks, again at eight weeks, and again at 11 weeks, but his mother’s antibodies were still circulating until he was about 12 weeks old. The mom’s antibodies would have neutralized all those first vaccines, so when the antibodies finally faded, he was left without protection from disease until his next vaccine was received at 14 weeks. This is actually the worst-case scenario, because many puppy owners are taking their pups into high-risk environments at this age, thinking, no doubt, “He’s had three shots already; he must have at least some immunity by now!”

There is no practical way to know whether the mother’s antibodies are still circulating in a puppy’s body or when they have faded. And each mother and each puppy is an individual; she will pass along a variable amount of antibodies, and these will fade at different times in each puppy. So we vaccinate several times, until we are past the point in time when any maternal antibodies can interfere with proper immunization.

Dog Shelter Vaccination Protocols May Vary

Puppies who have been bred and raised by a professional, responsible breeder are likely to be given far fewer vaccines than puppies who came from a shelter environment. In a professional breeding program, the mother dog’s vaccination status will be known, and her first nursing session will be observed, so better assumptions can be made about how much protection the puppies will receive from her maternal antibodies. Further, the breeder will likely have experience with keeping the puppies from being exposed to disease antigens, by requiring visitors to remove their shoes, wash their hands, and so on. These protections may allow the breeder to administer the first puppy vaccines at eight weeks or later, and perhaps just one or two more vaccines (with the last one given after 16 or 18 weeks).

Puppies who have the misfortune to be born in or surrendered to a shelter after birth may not receive any antibodies from their mothers; if their mothers were not vaccinated or otherwise exposed to the core diseases, they wouldn’t have antibodies to pass along. Also, puppies may not have had sufficient access to colostrum. In addition, shelters are often teeming with infectious disease agents. For all of these reasons, puppies who are born and/or raised in a shelter environment may be vaccinated much more aggressively – some might say excessively – than puppies who were born with more advantages.

Shelters often vaccinate puppies for the first time at just four to six weeks of age. At four weeks, the puppies’ immune systems are just barely mature enough to develop antibodies following exposure to disease antigens; this is done in an effort to immunize puppies who didn’t receive any maternal antibodies as quickly as possible.

Another vaccination protocol common in shelters is vaccinating every three weeks until the puppies are 16 to 18 or even 20 weeks of age. In this case, it’s the possibility that the puppies received far more than the usual amount of maternal antibodies than usual that causes shelters to take this tack.

If an unvaccinated dog contracts and then survives a disease like parvovirus, she actually develops far stronger immunity to the disease than she would had she been vaccinated against the disease in the first place – and she will pass along this very robust protection to her puppies (as long as they receive an adequate amount of her colostrum). Her antibodies will likely take the longest amount of time to fade in her puppies, so her puppies need to have their final vaccines a bit later in order to prevent this strong maternal antibody interference.

Finally, there is the sad fact shelter staffers often have to guess at the age of the puppies in their care. Shelter immunization protocols are usually designed with enough overlap to ensure that a puppy has every possible chance of receiving adequate protection from contagious disease.

Finishing Your Puppy’s Vaccinations

A puppy is considered fully immunized against the “core” (the most common, and most problematic) diseases of adenovirus (hepatitis), distemper, and parvovirus when he has received a vaccination for these diseases after the age of 16 to 18 weeks. (Note: Until recently, the “puppy shots” were considered complete when the last one was given at 16 weeks. New research states that final puppy parvovirus vaccine should be at or after 18 weeks of age.)

Rabies is another “core” vaccination, but it is not given to puppies before 12 weeks of age. A puppy can receive his first rabies vaccine at 12 weeks (but no sooner), and should be given another rabies vaccine a year later. A vaccination is required by most states every three years afterward. (This is a matter of state law, put in place for the protection of human health; a dog who has received two or more rabies vaccines is likely protected from that disease for life.)

Until the final “puppy” vaccines are given at 16-18 weeks, the puppy should be protected from potential exposure to disease antigens, but this doesn’t mean he shouldn’t ever leave the house until the time of his final “puppy shot.” It just means that his exposure to the outside world should be carefully considered. Do bring him to the homes of relatives and friends whose dogs are demonstrably healthy, vaccinated, and friendly. Do not take the puppy for walks in places that are highly trafficked by unknown dogs, such as sidewalks, parks (especially dog parks), pet supply stores, and so on.

Also, if someone in your home has tracked through places that are likely to be covered with agents of contagious disease – such as a dog park or veterinary clinic – keep their shoes outside the front door, and ask them to wash their hands before they play with the puppy.

If you attend puppy training or socialization classes, be sure the instructor takes the following precautions:

  • The puppy school should require each puppy’s vaccine records, to make sure all the puppies are in the process of receiving veterinary care and proper protection from either catching or spreading disease
  • A puppy with any signs of illness (such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or an increased temperature) should be disallowed from attending class.
  • There should be equipment on hand so that every “accident” that a puppy has in class can be quickly cleaned up with a proper antibacterial solution.

Passing the Puppy Titer Test

The vast majority of puppies will be successfully immunized after the series of vaccinations described here, but a tiny percentage will be what are called “non responders” – incapable of developing protective antibodies in response to vaccines. These dogs will be vulnerable to infection by these diseases, no matter how many times they are vaccinated, and thus should be protected from high-risk environments (wherever a lot of dogs congregate).

There is a way to determine whether the final vaccination (at least) that was administered to your puppy triggered his immune system to develop protective antibodies for the “core” diseases he was vaccinated for. At least two weeks after what is hoped will be the puppy’s final vaccination – at approximately 18 to 20 weeks of age – you can ask your veterinarian for a “vaccine titer test.” A blood sample is taken, sent to a laboratory, and tested for the presence of antibodies that protect the puppy against parvovirus and distemper. If these antibodies are detected, he’s done with his core vaccinations.

However, if the vaccine titer test comes back with a negative result, it’s recommended that the puppy be vaccinated one more time, perhaps with a different brand of vaccine than was used previously. Two weeks later, the vaccine titer test should be repeated. If the result is still negative, the puppy will be considered a non-responder, vulnerable to contracting any of the core diseases he may be exposed to.

Vaccine titer tests are being increasingly used by knowledgeable owners who want confirmation that their puppy is protected from disease, but there are still many veterinarians who are unfamiliar with the tests, and/or skeptical of their usefulness. Some clinic managers may be unable to quote a price for this test, or unsure of what test to order from the laboratory they use. We’ve heard of clinics charging as much as $200 for the test, which is ridiculous. In contrast, highly progressive clinics may offer a SNAP (in-office) test that will reveal the results within a half-hour.

Alternatively, ask your veterinarian to take a blood sample, and send it to the Dr. Ronald D. Schultz Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) School of Veterinary Medicine. Price for distemper/parvo vaccine titer test is currently $40 at the CAVIDS Titer Testing Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine.

Are Essential Oils Toxic to Dogs and Cats?

The Dangers of Essential Oils for Pets

Table of Contents:

Are Essential Oils Toxic to Dogs and Cats?

What Are Typical Symptoms of Essential Oil Ingestion in Pets?

What Should I Do If My Pet Ingests an Essential Oil?

How Do I Avoid Essential Oil Toxicity in Pets?

Essential oils are commonly used for holistic medicinal purposes, but have also increased in popularity for household use in diffusers or as potpourri. These fragrant compounds are extracted from plants and made through distillation or mechanical methods, such as cold pressing. Once the essences from the plants have been extracted, they are then mixed with oil to create a liquid compound.

 

These oils are used in transdermally in humans, meaning that they are absorbed through the skin or to inhaled through diffusers. They are not meant to be ingested (eaten), injected, or applied to the eyes. There are many proposed benefits of essential oils for humans, including relief of stress and anxiety, immune support, headache relief, and digestive health. Data in veterinary patients is slim, and there’s no proof that these benefits are shared with animals.

sniffer

Are Essential Oils Toxic to Dogs and Cats?

Unfortunately, essential oils can be extremely toxic to cats and dogs if ingested. Ingestion can occur in many different fashions, including:

Application to the fur and subsequent ingestion during self-cleansing

Licking oil off of a person

Licking oil off of another pet in the household

Drinking oil from diffusers in the home

Some essential oils are more toxic than others for pets.

 

Here is a list of the most toxic essential oils for dogs and cats:

Armoise

Basil

Bay leaf (W. Indian)

Birch (sweet)

Bitter almond

Boldo leaf

Buchu

Calamus

Clove Leaf

Cornmint

Horseradish

Hyssop

Lanyana

Mustard

Myrrh

Oregano

Pennyroyal (N. Am.)

Pennyroyal (Eur.)

Pine oil

Sassafras (Brazilian)

Sassafras

Savin

Savory (Summer)

Southernwood

Tansy

Tarragon

Tea tree

Thuja

Tree wormwood/large wormwood

Western Red Cedar

Wintergreen

Wormseed

Wormwood

Ylang-ylang

 

What Are Typical Symptoms of Essential Oil Ingestion in Pets?

The most common clinical signs that your pet has ingested essential oils include:

Gastrointestinal symptoms

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Inappetence

Neurological symptoms

Depression

Low heart rate

Respiratory depression (low respiratory rate)

Ataxia (wobbliness)

Seizures

There are a handful of essential oils that can cause specific organ injuries aside from gastrointestinal or neurological problems. Tea tree oils are one of the most toxic to dogs and cats. If an animal ingests tea tree oil, neurological signs can develop in addition to low body temperature and severe skin irritation. Pennyroyal, specifically the type derived from Mentha Pulegium, can cause liver failure in dogs. Also, wintergreen extract has components that are similar to aspirin and can cause liver and/or kidney damage, particularly in cats.

Some pets are more sensitive to inhaled oils and can have an allergic reaction. In these cases, pet parents may notice hives, facial or paw swelling, or skin redness. Pets that have respiratory disease can also be overly sensitive to essential oils and in-home diffusers, so please proceed with caution.

 

What Should I Do If My Pet Ingests an Essential Oil?

If essential oils have been accidentally applied to your pet and they are not showing any signs of toxicity, the first step is to bathe them with mild dish soap to avoid further ingestion or absorption. After bathing your pet, it is important to reach out to an animal poison hotline to discuss the oil and exposure. They can help direct further treatment and provide a list of clinical signs to watch for.

If your pet is showing signs of toxicity, they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately to initiate treatment. Essential oil toxicity is an emergency and should be treated at first indication of toxicity. At a veterinary clinic, treatment will be focused on clinical signs, including gastrointestinal support, and medications will be used to combat neurological symptoms, if present. In some cases, intravenous lipid therapy is recommended, and your veterinarian will discuss this treatment option if necessary.

 

How Do I Avoid Essential Oil Toxicity in Pets?

The easiest way to avoid essential oil toxicity in pets is to avoid exposure to these products. Simply put, not purchasing these products or having them in the house is the easiest way to keep your pets safe. If oils are present in the home, then care should be taken to prevent inadvertent ingestion from diffusers. Prior to applying essential oils to your pet, a veterinarian should be consulted to assess safety and discuss the safest options. If essential oils are applied to your dog or cat, they should not be allowed to lick or ingest the topical products.

While essential oils are a nice accent to your living space and beneficial for holistic medical therapy, care should be taken with pets around these products, since reactions are common and can be very severe.

How to Teach Your Dog to Greet Nicely

moms home 2.8 seconds to hug

Calm and collected is the name of the game, whether you would like your dog to greet others or pass them by.

come

 

On any given day, depending on the circumstances, a dog might have a multitude of opportunities to meet and greet a number of other creatures: dogs, cats, horses, a variety of other species, and all sorts of humans. Some dogs seem to do it with aplomb, while others are clearly overexcited and unable to contain themselves. I suspect most if not all of us would far rather have the dog who’s calm, cool, and collected rather than the other option. So how do we get there?

 

Undermining Your Dog’s Success in Greeting

When our dog jumps on someone, we all tend to roll our eyes and apologize. A well-behaved dog shouldn’t do this! Why is learning to greet people without jumping on them such a challenge for so many of our dogs?

 

The answer is intermittent reinforcement – which means that the behavior is sometimes reinforced. “But wait!” you say. “I don’t reward my dog for jumping on people!” Perhaps not. But perhaps you aren’t aware of all the other times or ways your dog is being reinforced for the behavior. Every time your dog jumps on someone and they say, “Oh, it’s okay, I don’t mind!” and then pet and fuss over her, your dog is being reinforced for jumping up.

 

It’s also likely to be reinforcing for your dog every time she jumps on someone and he physically pushes her away – “Yay, he touched me!”

 

Intermittent reinforcement makes a behavior more resistant to extinction – harder to stop. It is the same force at work when a human finds it difficult to stop playing a slot machine; as long as you get rewarded occasionally (enough so that you don’t run out of money!), you may just keep playing and playing. Similarly, your dog may just keep playing the jump-up game, thinking, “Eventually I will win. Maybe this time it will pay off and I will get petted… Jackpot!!”

 

I’m going to describe three important elements to successfully teaching your dog to greet humans politely; the first and most important one is aimed at putting an end to that intermittent reinforcement.

 

Train your dog to greet

Most things in life with our dogs are easier if they’ve had some basic good manners training. A well-run force-free group class is my first choice for working on this; it gives your dog the opportunity to generalize her good manners to new environments and distractions, especially other dogs and humans. Your class instructor and assistants will also be able to give you feedback on your own skills – something you miss if you do all your training on your own.

 

A common goal for basic good manners training is for your dog to learn that her highly reinforced “sit” is a good “default” behavior (the best behavior to offer when she’s not sure what to do), which comes in very handy when teaching polite greetings. In addition, most good manners classes formally teach polite greetings to humans and provide coaching on how to help your dog behave appropriately in close proximity to other dogs.

 

3 Steps to Greeting Humans Politely

  1. Manage the situation.

In this context, “management” means controlling your dog’s environment so she isn’t intermittently reinforced for jumping up. This mainly entails always keeping her on a leash when she greets people, and providing very clear, simple instructions to everyone who wants to greet her – family, guests, and random humans on the street – regarding how they should interact with her to reinforce polite greeting behavior.

 

Sometimes, this may mean sacrificing politeness for firmness when you encounter one of those “Oh, it’s okay!” dog lovers. Be ready to tell him no, it’s not okay, and you’d love to have him pet your dog if he will follow instructions. If he scoffs or gives you the sense that he’s going to do what he wants to do anyway, be prepared to say, “Whoops! Sorry!” and do a quick U-turn with your dog away from the would-be management underminer.

 

When visitors come to your home, consider using a tether to keep your dog away from the door, or park her behind a baby gate, so you can greet your guests without worrying about dog-jumping. Once the initial excitement of your guests’ arrival is over, it’s easier to instruct them on how to greet your dog properly.

 

Another alternative, if you want your guests to be interactive with your dog at the door, is to set them up to succeed with treats, toys, and a few basic instructions on how to use these to help your dog practice good greetings. This is a fun way to enlist the help of visitors to teach your dog to sit to greet people at the door.

 

Place a basket of toys by your door – toys your dog really likes. Tape a sign next to it instructing visitors: “Take a toy before you come in. When Bouncy runs up to you, hold the toy at your chest. When she sits, throw the toy for her to chase. If she brings it back, you can do it again.”

 

For a dog who doesn’t get excited about toys, you can use high-value non-perishable treats instead. (Real Meat Treats are my favorites for this; see realmeatpet.com.) Break the treats into small pieces in advance, hang a reusable, resealable bag of treats by the door, and tape up a sign that instructs your visitor to take a handful, wait for Bouncy to sit, and then fling some treats behind the dog.

 

Both of these methods reinforce Bouncy for sitting to greet your guests and directs her energy away from them as she chases after the toy or treats. Plus, it’s fun for your dog and your guests!

 

  1. Reinforce her for sitting a lot – every chance you get!

In what I call a “Say Please Program,” your dog’s sit makes everything good happen. A sit makes her dinner arrive. A sit gets her leash clipped on and another one gets the door to open for your walk together. Sits also elicit a toy or a treat. This will help make sit her default behavior and increase the odds that she will offer a sit when she is approached by someone.

 

  1. Practice polite greetings.

You can do this yourself by tethering your dog to a solid object and repeatedly approaching and feeding her a treat when she sits. Have everyone in the family try it, too!

 

If she tries to jump up on you when she isn’t tethered, say “Oops!” in a cheerful tone of voice, turn your back and step away from her.

 

Bad dog greeting

You can also practice this with friends or anyone else who would like to greet your dog. Hold your dog’s leash firmly, not allowing your dog to stretch your arm toward the greeter. As your acquaintance approaches, tell him not to interact with or give your dog a treat until she sits.

 

No Non-Consensual Dog-Dog Greetings

Just last week I was sitting with my new dog Sunny in our vet’s waiting room, and a man walked in with his 8-month-old, 120-pound Great Dane, who immediately began straining to come see my 16-pound dog. To my amazement and consternation, the man walked forward, allowing his dog to approach. I held up my hand and said firmly, “Please, no!”

 

“No? He likes little dogs,” the man responded. “He lives with a Pomeranian and they are best friends.”

 

“No,” I answered firmly, not bothering to add that my dog doesn’t live with a Great Dane and was showing signs of concern about the giant canine looming just six feet away.

 

The man took a seat on the other side of the small waiting room, and I did a little counter-conditioning with Sunny while both of us regained our equilibrium. Then I engaged in polite chat with the Dane’s owner, suggesting that lots of little dogs don’t like being approached by big dogs. He nodded, seeming to understand.

 

A few minutes later a woman walked in with a dog half of Sunny’s size, and the man again let his dog approach. The little dog was even more worried that Sunny had been, crying out, backpedaling on his leash, and trying to hide behind his human. This went on for many long seconds, until the woman finally picked up her dog and took a seat just out of reach of the Dane. Sigh…

 

Not only do dogs who are routinely allowed to greet other dogs on leash come to expect being allowed to do so, they can become quite frustrated and aroused when their desire to meet and greet is thwarted. There is a whole class of reactive dogs who are known as “frustrated greeters.” These are often the dogs who seem to play happily with other dogs when they are off-leash, but when the leash goes on they appear to turn into Cujo.

 

Guidelines for Greeting Other Dogs Safely

In order to avoid creating frustrated greeters, or worsening the behavior of the dogs who are already frustrated, my rule for dogs in my classes (and for my own dogs) is, “We don’t greet other dogs on leash. Period.” I see far too many dogs who are routinely allowed to greet other dogs on leash and whose behavior is very problematic. As soon as they see another dog they bark, scrabble, and pull, dragging their human toward the other dog until contact is accomplished, whether the other dog likes it or not.

 

Hence my solution: Allow dogs to greet and interact only in a safely enclosed area, where leashes can be dropped with a “go play” cue when it’s evident the dogs are compatible. Leashes stay on for the first few minutes of interaction, in case the dogs need to be separated, but are removed as soon as it’s clear that the dogs will play together well.

 

I do understand that this isn’t always possible. Dog owners who live in cities may find safely enclosed dog-play spaces hard to come by, not to mention compatible playmates accompanied by humans who are willing to arrange play dates. Sometimes, the only social options of urban dogs are on-leash greetings. If you are in the “really have to/want to” category, here are some suggestions to help you avoid future problems:

 

Teach your dog to approach other dogs on a loose leash.

(See “Loose Leash Walking: Training Your Dog Not to Pull“.) Pulling and straining on leash to reach another dog can send unsettling body language signals to the other dog, making the encounter less likely to be successful. It also increases arousal in your dog, again making the encounter less likely to be successful.

 

Teach a solid “Walk Away” behavior so you can easily interrupt an encounter that seems to be getting too intense.

Even if the intensity is playful. Pulling a dog away forcibly on leash can add tension that causes an otherwise successful encounter to go south. (See “How to Teach Your Dog to Just ‘Walk Away’“.)

 

Greet other dogs only occasionally.

Most of the time, your dog’s job when she is on leash is to be with you. Just as you give her permission to go sniff when it’s appropriate to do so, have a cue that gives her permission to greet another dog – and use it sparingly. Far more often than not, you want her to “not-greet.”

 

Use high-value treats and consistently reinforce your dog for paying attention to you in the presence of other dogs.

If we have our dogs’ attention, we can get them to work with us. If we can keep their attention, we can keep them working with us in the face of distractions. (See “It’s All In Your Dog’s Eyes“.)

 

Know what type of dog yours is likely to be comfortable with.

Even dogs who do well with other dogs don’t necessarily like to engage with all other dogs. Size, energy level, and play style are just three factors that may determine play-pal predilections. Some dogs have breed or size preferences; a bad experience with a particular type of dog in the past can give your dog a negative association with that type for life.

 

When you see a dog you would like yours to greet, ask permission from the other owner first, and respect their wishes. If they say no, it’s a no – don’t try to talk them into it. Conversely, be politely firm with your “No” if someone wants to approach yours with a dog you’re not comfortable with. Be your dog’s advocate.

 

Ready to Greet

Here is how to proceed when you are ready to do on-leash greetings, and you see a dog who fits the bill and whose owner has agreed to the encounter.

 

Start out by doing some parallel walking first, so the dogs get a little more information about each other prior to actually engaging – and you get a little more information about the dogs! Watch both dogs’ body language throughout the entire encounter and be prepared to abort if appropriate. (For more information about canine body language, see “Listening to Your Dog’s Body Signals“.)

 

If their body language tells you they are comfortable walking in proximity to each other, coordinate with the other owner and give the “go play” cue.

 

As the dogs engage, keep the leashes loose! This is so critically important it bears repeating: Keep the leashes loose! If there’s tension between the dogs as they greet, a tight leash greatly magnifies the tension and can cause what otherwise might have been a very successful greeting to fail. This usually take some fancy footwork on the part of the humans; as the dogs circle, sniff, play bow, and bounce you will need to circle with them and always be prepared to move forward to give extra leash slack as needed.

 

Dog meeting horse

It’s a good idea to interrupt the encounter if play starts to get rowdy. You simply cannot manage leashes well enough if dogs are getting very excited. If the two look like they both want to be rough-and-tumble run-and-chase play buddies, you really do need to find that elusive “safely enclosed area” so they can play together to their hearts’ content.

 

Meeting Other Species

All of the tools and techniques described above can serve you in good stead when your dog has the opportunity to meet an animal of another species. Some dogs become quite overexcited by the opportunity to meet other species, while others are sometimes a little fearful, perhaps even defensively aggressive. A few rounds (or more!) of counter-conditioning and desensitization will serve you well in these cases, if your dog needs some help learning to keep his cool when a horse, or a cat, or a cockatiel looks her in the eye.

 

If You Love Dogs Jumping Up On You

There’s almost always at least one member of a family who likes the dog to jump up on them. (I’m not naming any names, but there’s a possibility I could be guilty of that myself…)

 

No worries – just teach your dog a cue that means “jump on me,” and reward her for jumping only if she does it when the cue is given. Choose a cue that is something people won’t do inadvertently, such as touching your hands to both shoulders, as opposed to something like patting your leg, which many people do when greeting dogs.

 

Then, if you encounter someone who really wants your dog to jump up to greet them, you can say, “If you want her to jump up, just touch your shoulders!”

The Challenge of Defusing Intra-Pack Aggression

The Challenge of Defusing Intra-Pack Aggression

My first choice with most clients is this: changing the dogs’ opinion of each other through counterconditioning and desensitization (CC&D).

CC&D for intra-pack aggression involves changing your dogs’ association with each other from negative to positive. The easiest way to give most dogs a positive association is with very high-value, really yummy treats. I like to use chicken – canned, baked, or boiled, since most dogs love chicken and it’s a low-fat, low-calorie food.

Here’s how the CC&D process works:

  1. Determine the distance at which your dogs can be in each other’s presence and be alert or wary but not extremely fearful or aroused. This is called the threshold distance. If one dog has a greater threshold hold distance than the other (often the case), work at the greater distance.

 

  1. With you holding Dog A on leash, have your helper appear with Dog B at threshold distance “X.” The instant your dog sees the other, start feeding bits of chicken, non-stop. Your helper will feed chicken to her dog, too, the instant he notices your dog.

 

  1. After several seconds, have the helper step out of sight with Dog B, and you both stop feeding chicken.

 

  1. Keep repeating steps 1-3 until the sight of the other dog at distance “X” consistently causes both dogs to look at their handlers with a happy smile and a “Yay! Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is the physical presentation of the dogs’ conditioned emotional response (CER); each dog’s association with the other at threshold distance “X” is now positive, so they can deliberately look at you to get their chicken, rather than staying intensely focused on each other.

 

  1. Now you need to increase the intensity of the stimulus by increasing the length of time Dog B stays in sight. Continue to feed chicken when they are in view of each other, occasionally pausing to let them look at each other again, and immediately feeding chicken when they do.

The Strongest Reinforcements

puppy jeopardy treats

 

Ask a dog trainer to tell you one of their biggest pet peeves about their training clients, and they will almost always mention the fact that the average dog owner almost seems to actively resist the concept of “high-value rewards.”

I’ve sat in on a lot of different trainers’ classes, and during the first session, all trainers make an effort to describe the treats they want to see their clients bring to puppy kindergarten and beginning dog training classes: extra-special treats, such as fresh meats and tiny cubes of fragrant cheeses. Extra-high-value treats are needed, it is explained, because the group-class environment is so exciting and distracting to the dogs and puppies who are new to this, that the owners will need reinforcers of the highest value to the dogs, to capture and hold their attention in a highly distracting environment. (A training center can also be very stressful for shy, undersocialized, or fearful dogs.)

I’ve heard trainers go on and on, for 10 minutes at a time, about the need for really succulent foods to be used as treats (not just dried treats or kibble, no matter how food-motivated the pup or dog is at home), not feeding the dogs before class (so the pup won’t be full of food already and unable to physically eat much more), cutting the treats into tiny bits (so many of them can be fed in a class), including a variety (not just one type, so the dog doesn’t get bored), and bringing more than the owner thinks she might possibly need, because you will be using many, many tiny treats in a 50-minute beginning dog-training class.

Trainers make such a fuss over the value and type and variety and amount of treats because, again and again, owners arrive to class and are shocked—SHOCKED!—to discover that:

Their dogs are too distracted or stressed to take any but the most over-the-top delicious treats in the class setting.

Their dogs completely disregard the owners’ pouches full of cut-up hot dogs and, instead, go bananas for the trainer’s samples of stinky cheese, tuna bits, roast beef, and freeze-dried liver.

By the end of the class, when the trainer is saying, “Yes! That was great! Mark and reward that behavior!” and the owners often reply, “But I’m out of treats!”

To defend their choices, almost all owners will say, “But he works for kibble at home! I thought hot dogs would be ‘high-value’ enough! And I cut that hot dog into 20 pieces!”

 

(For what it’s worth, when I use hot dogs as training treats, I cut each one into about 64 pieces: Slice them lengthwise, roll it over halfway and slice it lengthwise again, so you have four long, skinny pieces. Then, holding it together, slice it across, about 16 times, so you end up with 64 or so tiny treats.)

By the end of a six-week class, though, any trainer worth her salt should be able to peek in every student’s bait bag and see a wide variety of scrumptious meats and cheeses and treats, all cut into tiny bits. Success!!

What are The 10 Most Important Things to Teach A Puppy

Your new puppy will learn his most vital skills through lots of appropriate socializing and positive training techniques.

right not allowed on furniture wink

I don’t care what breed or mix of breeds you’re talking about, puppies are inarguably, impossibly and adorably cute. You have to be pretty hardhearted and cold or otherwise emotionally damaged not to get gushy over baby dogs, with their innocent faces, sweet puppy breath, satiny ears, and soft pink paw pads. It’s no wonder that people adopt or purchase them, take them home, and then all too often don’t know how to properly care for them.

It shouldn’t surprise me but it does, still, that there are far too many people out there who don’t seem to have a clue about how to properly raise a puppy. Dog Nanny Blog readers and clients are not likely to fall into the “completely clueless” category, but in case you haven’t had a puppy for a while – or ever – and recently adopted or are thinking of adopting, here’s a refresher course for you on the topic of the 10 most important things you should teach your puppy.

1. Socialize Your Puppy to Many Situations
If you teach her nothing else, teach your puppy that the world is a safe and happy place. The formal name for this process is “socialization,” and it means taking your puppy lots of places, exposing her to different sights, sounds, surfaces, humans and other animals, and making sure she’s having a good time while doing so. You want to give her a positive classical association with the world and all things she’s likely to encounter in her dog life. Lots of people understand the part about taking their puppy lots of different places for socialization. They sometimes miss the critically important part: making sure the puppy has a good time.

The primary socialization window is alarmingly small – from three to four weeks to about 13 to 14 weeks. If you get your pup at age eight weeks, half that period is already gone – so hopefully the owner of the pup’s mother has already laid a good socialization foundation. Now it’s your turn.

Take your puppy to safe places where you can control the environment to a reasonable degree. Loud parties and crowded street fairs are not a good idea. Small social gatherings, controlled groups of children, and well-run force-free puppy classes are. Find businesses that welcome pets (many hardware stores and outdoor cafes are pet-friendly) and take her shopping with you (but don’t leave her in a hot car!).

If she seems fearful at any time, move her away from the fear-causing stimulus, let her observe from a safe distance, and feed high-value treats to help her have a good association with the thing, whatever it is. Then make a mental note (or keep a written list!) of things you want to help her become more comfortable with by doing focused counter-conditioning sessions.

For more information, see “Properly Socializing Your Puppy.”

2. Prevent Separation Anxiety by Leaving Your Puppy Alone
Dogs are social animals. In a world not controlled by humans, our dogs would spend most of their time in the company of others. Feral dog populations show us that, while not a true pack in the “wolf” sense of the world, wild dogs tend to exist in loose-knit social groups and do choose to be in the company of others of their own kind. In contrast, in our world, a significant population of canines are “only dogs” and are left home alone for eight to 10 hours or even longer. The incidence of separation and isolation anxiety behaviors (SA and IA) in our canine companions is sad testimony to this.

To avoid inducing SA or IA in your pup, introduce her to “aloneness” gradually. Include crate or exercise-pen training during this process so she can be left safely confined while you are away. Plan to take at least a few days off work after your pup arrives so you can help her get accustomed to longer and longer periods alone. Play with her first so she’s tired, then put her in her crate or pen, give her a food-stuffed Kong or other yummy chew, and sit nearby, reading or working on your computer. Slowly increase your distance from her and the length of time you leave her alone, until she is calm and relaxed on her own.

See “7 Separation Anxiety Myths,” and “Relieving a Dog’s Separation Anxiety.”

3. Housetrain Your Puppy to Relieve Himself in Designated Places and/or Times
Once known as “housebreaking” – “housetraining” is a better term; what were we “breaking” anyway?! – the process of teaching your pup to eliminate where you want her to go is critically important. The process is very simple – but not always easy. Successful housetraining requires ultra-management: You simply never give your pup the opportunity to go to the bathroom anywhere other than the desired place(s).

Leashes, tethers, crates, baby gates, exercise pens, and eagle-eye supervision all come into play as your pup learns that “outdoors = bathroom” (or, for those who choose to teach their dogs to eliminate indoors, bathroom = pee pads or a sod box). The key is to take your pup to her potty spot more often than she has to go, and reinforce her when she “does her business.” At first take her out every hour on the hour, then gradually increase the length of time between bathroom trips.

It’s also a good idea to encourage her to go on different surfaces. Dogs develop “substrate preferences.” If you have her go only on grass you may find that she won’t go on gravel or dirt on those occasions when grass isn’t available.

After she goes, play with her for a bit; if she discovers that elimination makes the outdoor fun stop, she may learn to “hold it” as long as possible to prolong her outside time or interaction with you.

When you are sure she is empty, and after a bit of play, you can bring her back inside and give her some relative house freedom for 15-20 minutes, then put her back under your direct supervision or confinement until the next scheduled potty trip. As she comes to understand the concept of pottying outside, you can increase the length of time she gets post-potty house freedom.

In addition to her regular bathroom breaks, keep in mind that puppies usually need to eliminate not long after eating, and after any strenuous play sessions.

If you do catch her making a mistake, give her a cheerful, “Oops! Outside!” and escort her out to finish there. If you react strongly with a loud “No, bad dog!!” you may teach her that it’s not safe to go where you can see her, and she’ll learn to go to the back bedroom or behind the couch to poop and pee. Punishing accidents may also result in a dog who is reluctant to eliminate for you on leash, for fear that you will punish her. Just don’t.

See “How to Train Your Dog to Go to the Bathroom Outside.”

4. Only Enable Your Puppy to Chew on Designated Chew Objects
Just as dogs develop substrate preferences, they also develop preferences for certain things to chew on. If you manage your pup’s environment (with tethers, leashes, baby gates, exercise pens, and direct supervision) so she has opportunity to chew on only “legal” chew objects, you will be able to give her house freedom much sooner, with much more confidence that your valuables are safe.

Different dogs like different kinds of chews, so provide her with a wide variety of chewable items until you find what she likes. Remember that a dog’s need to chew goes far beyond puppyhood, so keep those chew objects handy throughout her life.

My general rule of thumb is that my dogs don’t get house freedom until they are at least a year old, and then only for short periods of time until I know that I can trust them not to chew.

See “How to Stop Your Dog from Eating All Your Shoes.”

5. A Positive Training Foundation Means an Obedient Dog
When force-free training was new to the dog world, 20 years or so ago, positive trainers had to endure a little (or a lot) of criticism about using treats for training. Now that positive training has come into its own, bolstered by studies that indicate that force-free training is faster and more effective than old-fashioned force-based methods, there is no need to be stingy with or defensive about food rewards.

I always have cookies in my pockets so I can always use treats to reinforce my dogs when the opportunity presents itself. Remember that all living creatures repeat behaviors that are reinforced. We all want to make good stuff happen! If you are good at reinforcing the behaviors you want, and making sure your pup doesn’t get reinforced for behaviors you don’t want (there’s that “management” thing again), your pup will spend lots of time trying to figure out what she needs to do to get you to give her treats. That’s a good thing.

See “Building a Strong Positive Training Foundation,” “Keep Dog Training Fun and Playful,” and “Dog Training Using Positive Techniques.”

puppy sitting nicely
6. Show Your Puppy It’s Fun to Learn New Things
Today’s skilled trainer knows that it’s important to make the whole training process fun for your pup. Along with treats, we want to incorporate happy voices, toys, and play as part of the training process. When you are selecting a training professional to work with you and your pup, either in private training or group classes, make sure you find one who is on board with the force-free, fun approach to training. Your pup’s eyes should light up with joy when you tell her it’s training time!

See “Fun Dog Activities.”

7. Teach Your Puppy a Fast Recall
Recalls (coming when called) may just be the single most important behavior you can teach your dog. A dog who has a solid recall can be given more freedom to run and play in areas where dogs are allowed off leash. Dogs who get to run and play are generally much healthier, both physically and mentally, and much easier to live with, as they can burn off excess energy by running around. A tired dog is a happy owner!

Use a recall cue that always means “good stuff” – such as a chance to play with a highly coveted toy or high-value treats – and never call your dog to you to do something she doesn’t love, like giving a pill, treating ears, or putting her in her crate. Certainly never call her to you and then punish or even just scold her. You never know; a solid recall might just save your dog’s life someday.

Unlike old-fashioned training, where you face your dog, command her to come, and jerk on the leash if she doesn’t, today’s positive trainer teaches the recall as another fun game to play with humans. I teach a “Run Away Come” by calling the dog and then running away fast, so the dog comes galloping and romping after her human, and gets to party with treats and/or toys when she catches up. The dog learns that “Come!” is an irresistible invitation to play the chase game.

See “Rocket Recall,” and “Training Your Dog to Execute an Extremely Fast Recall.”

8. Help Your Dog Associate Human Touch with Love
Our dogs have to put up with a lot of human touching throughout their lives, and they don’t always like it so much. You can hardly blame them; a lot of the touch is unpleasant, and combined with forced restraint and pain.

You can make life a lot easier for your dog if you teach her as a pup that human touch makes good stuff happen (basic classical conditioning), and minimizing restraint to that which is only absolutely necessary. There is a new movement in the veterinary world to use low-stress handling techniques, so dogs don’t have to be forcibly restrained for routine exams, blood draws, and vaccinations.

Begin by pairing non-invasive touches to your puppy with tasty treats; start somewhere non-threatening, perhaps with a touch to the side of her neck. Touch-treat. Touch-treat. Look for her eyes to light up when you touch her, and her head to swivel toward your treat hand. This is a “conditioned emotional response” (CER); it tells you she understands that the touch makes treats happen.

When this happens consistently, move your touch to other parts of her body that she might be less comfortable with: her ears, paws, or under her chest or belly. Make sure you get the CER at each new spot before proceeding any further. If she actively pulls away from you, you have proceeded too quickly; back up and go more slowly.

This process is invaluable, and will help you with everything from nail trimming to grooming to treating injuries.

See “Step-By-Step Training for Your Dog’s Next Vet Visit,” and “Force-Free Nail Trimming Techniques.”

9. Condition Your Puppy to Enjoy Car Rides
It’s very sad when a dog doesn’t ride well in cars. It limits our ability and willingness to take her places, and makes it very not-fun when we do! Fortunately, you can teach your pup that the car is a wonderful place, and set her up to love going places with you for the rest of her life.

Part of the problem is that for many pups, that first car ride is very traumatic. It may be the first time she’s separated from her mom and littermates, and the stress of the separation and movement of the car can cause her to get carsick. Bingo! She now associates the car with stress and vomiting. If possible, ask your pup’s breeder to give her some short car rides with some of her siblings so she has a better association with the event. You can also request that the breeder, shelter, or rescue group not feed your pup for a few hours prior to your scheduled pick-up, to reduce the likelihood of carsickness.

If it’s too late for all that, your next best bet is to work to change your pup’s already negative association with the car. Start by sitting in the car with her; don’t even turn on the engine. Give her yummy chew toys, play some training games with her – make the car a fun place to be.

When she’s happy about just being in the car (this may take several sessions; take your time!), turn the engine on and repeat the fun-and-games process, without driving anywhere. Then, with a helper doing the driving for you, continue to play car games while the car moves a very short distance. At the end of the ride, take her out of the car and do fun stuff with her, then put her back in the car and travel another short distance. Gradually have your driver take you longer distances, with fun stuff happening at every destination. In time, your “Want to go for a ride?” query will be met with happy wags and a dog who voluntarily hops in the car in anticipation of fun stuff.

If you have a dog who gets carsick even after all that, try giving her a ginger snap or two before the ride, and/or ask your vet for medication that will help calm her stomach.

See “What to Do if Your Dog Gets Motion Sickness,” and “Dogs Riding Safely and Calmly in Cars.”

10. Reinforce Your Puppy’s Trust
After her puppy socialization, this could be the most important thing you teach and affirm to your dog throughout her life. You have an obligation to be your dog’s advocate, and not allow anyone, no matter who they are, to do things to her that go against your gut instincts about how she should be treated.

If you are committed to force-free, fear-free, and pain-free handling and training, don’t ever let anyone talk you into treating her badly. No leash jerks, no collar shocks, no alpha rolls. Ever. Stick to your guns; there is always another way. If your animal care and/or training professional insists that the use of pain or force is necessary, find another one. There are plenty of professionals out there who will support and respect your wishes when it comes to handling your dog. She cannot speak for herself; she is counting on you to speak for her.

See “Reinforcing Your Dog’s Training Throughout His Lifetime,” and “Less Stressful Vet Visits.”

It’s Worth It
These lessons sound like a lot of work. Well, puppies are a lot of work. Fortunately, because they are so danged cute, there are plenty of humans who are willing to do the puppy stuff. If you are one of them, make sure you do it right, so your pup will grow up to be the dog you hope for and keep for the rest of her life in your loving home.