Friday, September 16, 2011

New Dog/Puppy

It doesn't matter if you are bringing home a brand new puppy or an adult dog, there are things that you will need to buy! I have to say that I find shopping for pet supplies super fun and unfortunately in the past, slightly addicting. However, buying baby supplies is even more fun and addicting so I guess I traded a habit for a habit!

The following is a general list that applies to every breed, size or age of dog in respect to the supplies you will need;
1. High quality food (read my post titled "Feeding your Dog" for more info on choosing a food).
2. 1 food dish (stainless steal or ceramic as plastic can harbor bacteria and be chewed).
3. 1 water dish of same material, yet slightly larger.
4. Crate (see "Crate Training" for more info on choosing a crate and using one properly).
5. Toys (choose only a few toys of various textures. I prefer a kong toy, a rope, a high quality plush and a ball to start with).
6. Bones/chews (see post "Bones" for more info).
7. Basic nylon or leather collar and 4 foot leash (hold off on pulling devices or read "Does your Dog Pull?").
8. Stain remover (you will need this no matter what! I love Simple Solution brand by far over the others).
9. ID tag for collar.
10. High quality shampoo (see "Grooming" for more info).

There are some things you can hold off on for a while or all together;
1. Poop bags: if you live in an apartment, this may be essential or you may find that you can use accumulated grocery bags or grab a few bags every time you pass a public dispenser.
2. Pooper scooper: really only helpful if you have a large yard and don't want to use a shovel or bags to pick-up.
3. Place mats for under food: I have never found these helpful, but my dogs aren't super messy.
4. Bed: only get a dog bed for the crate or outside the crate if you dog is not a chewer and is OVER a year old. Puppies will destroy beds and not only will you lose money, you could have a sick pup on your hands if he digested any stuffing and possibly need an expensive surgery.
5. Treats: get treats once you have committed to training so you aren't doling them out for "free." (see blog post "rewards" for ideas of proper treats).
6. Food bins: super helpful, there are not a must-have and are spendy. I have two myself and now after years, am not using them! I find my dog is picky and prefers to switch flavors often so I can't buy big economical bags anymore.
7. Flexi-leash: a lot of owners see these extendable leashes as must-haves, but honestly, they teach dogs to pull and are super dangerous in the hands of untrained dogs and untrained owners. I only use mine in open space areas when I cannot let my dogs loose and they need more freedom than a 4 foot lead allows.
8. Brush and nail trimmers: while you will need these later, most puppies don't start shedding till they get their adult coat and some owners may want to get the pup or dog professionally groomed and never deal with it at home. I do advise all owners to pet a new pup, put fingers in her mouth, touch her paws, play with her ears softly and generally desensitize her to grooming procedures.
9. Flea treatment: these have been marketed to us as preventatives but really should be used as treatments as we are now creating super bugs that are immune to the chemicals in these products due to consumer over-use.
10. Pens or gates: buy if needed for potty training and confinement.

You will want to make sure that you purchase all these things BEFORE you bring your new pet home because it is super stressful for a new dog to be drug into a pet store while you attempt to shop! Have the crate set-up in your main living space or bedroom (if you only bought one crate, you will probably be moving it back and forth for a while from living room to bedroom at night). Have the water bowl down where you would like it be and have all the gear put away and have a few toys out for your new friend.

For a new puppy: it is advisable to bring your pup straight home from the breeder/shelter/wherever and not make any stops to visit doting friends. Place your puppy in your backyard or front yard to eliminate before going inside then give him a tour of the house. Let him sniff his new home, but be close behind. If you have a slightly older puppy, you will probably want to have him on leash so he doesn't go terroring off in the house. Once he has explored his new digs you should assess his activity level. Does he need a nap? Is he frisky and wanting to play? Did he eat already today? Oblige with whatever he needs, but be sure to not leave him loose and make sure you start the crate training right away!

For a new dog: bring your new dog straight home as well, however, your new dog will have had all his shots and may want a little walk around the block to pee and get acquainted with new smells (provided the dog is not a fearful one). Once you bring your new dog in (on leash), let him explore the place and evaluate his needs. Start the crate training right away and don't be lax on your house rules because this is his first day. If you don't want him on the couch and he jumps on it, be sure to lure him off of it right away. If he starts going through the bathroom garbage, shut the door and redirect him to his toys. If he starts destroying your backyard, bring him in and make a mental note what you need to do to dog-proof your yard!

The next few days you will need to go about business as usual. I don't recommend anyone take excess time off when getting a new pet because we don't want to set-up any separation anxiety. After the first few days, consider starting training with a trainer either in your home or via a group class. If you are local (in the SF Bay Area), check out the training I offer, located on the "training" page at

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Living with dogs

As many of you may know, my mom runs a dog rescue group. She frequently gets update e-mails from adoptive owners and sends them to me as I am also involved in the rescue helping to find the dog's homes. A recent line in an e-mail stuck out to me. The new owner stated that the adopted dog was, "made to learn and not taught to learn," and that she hoped with time, the dog would become more "care-free" like her other dog and not obey commands immediately and have to be asked a few times, as the owner thought having to be asked multiple times was a sign that the dog was choosing to do as he/she pleased, and thus a sign of a happy dog that has choices.

Of course, as a trainer, I was slightly flabbergasted that someone would WANT their dogs to have to be told multiple times to take a command! However, everyone has a different standard to which they hold their dogs and how they choose to live with their dogs.

I find that training classes are not mutually exclusive to good dog house manners. This is due to the fact that how a dog acts in a group class is very different on how he acts at home. Owners also have a hard time transferring "commands" to "everyday living" with their dog. Everyone's lifestyle is different and what I do at home, may not work with another owner's schedule or their dog's personality.

Pre-baby, when I had both Lex and Lucy as adults in Oregon, we had two types of days; the days I worked and the days I didn't. I want to illustrate the commands used each and every day with my dogs and the house rules they abide by.
Work Days
- Get up early, take dogs out to potty (Wait and Release at the door).
- Feed dogs (Sit, Stay, Release for dish).
- Get ready for work while they hang out and play with each other and toys.
- Take them out again (Wait and Release at the door).
- Go to work and leave them loose, as this is an example of them as adult dogs.
- Come home after an 8-9 hour shift and take them out (Wait and Release at the door).
- Play with them one-one while one dog stays (Stays, Go-to Mat, Leave-its, Fetching, Dropping objects).
- Have them hang out while I unwind and clean or prepare dinner.
- Feed them dinner (Sit, Stay, Release for dish).
- Have them stay on their bed while we eat (Duration Stay, Go-to Mat).
- Relax with a show or internet time while dogs lay around or play fetch.
- Out before bed  (Wait and Release at the door).
- Bedtime.

Non-Work Days
- All morning activities and house activities similar.
- Go do an activity such as herding, agility, flyball, hike, dog park, long walk, swimming etc.
- While on leash: Heels, Release, Steady commands.
- All activities warrant special commands.
- Load-up and Wait and Release to get in and out of car crates.
- Leave-its and Watches when passing dogs or distractions.

Now that I have a child and Lucy is at my father's house, our days look quite different.

- Wait and Release at top of steps to go potty.
- Go-To Crate for feeding.
- Practice lots and lots of leave-its as the toddler tries to feed Lex her food or give him her toys!
- Absentmindedly play fetch throughout the day (Drop, Bring).
- Up and Off the couch when told.
- Heel, Release, Steady on walks, especially essential with a stroller!
- Trick time when baby is sleeping.
- Manners around the baby all day, and manners when out and about.

The idea is that training really is all the time. My dog(s) are no longer learning new obedience skills, but I do teach them new tricks and it is essential that their obedience skills are fresh not only because it makes living with them more of a joy, but because it makes having a toddler around a dog not a big issue. Just imagine if Lex stole food, ate baby toys, wasn't fully potty trained and couldn't be trusted off leash to go potty. His life would consist of being separate from the rest of the family, most likely crated or my child would have no toys or food! It would also be a huge chore to take him out potty on leash (we have no fence) with a toddler in tow and have to watch him like a hawk to be sure he didn't eliminate inside.

The general house rules I have, both dogs abide by with no issues.
1. No jumping on furniture or people unless told "up."
2. Get off furniture or people promptly when told "off."
3. Do not take food laying on the floor, or coffee table or any accessible area unless told "hover."
4. If offered food and told "leave-it," do not eat it!
5. Do not chew toys that aren't yours.
6. Don't de-stuff your toys, if you want to chew, grab a nylabone or bone.
7. If the front door is open, do not go through it unless told "release."
8. Sit is a polite way to say "please" for anything you want.
9. Stop barking when told "quiet."
10. Don't eliminate in the house.
11. Don't herd moving babies or people or animals (unless told to!).
12. Don't go in the kitchen.

To me, those sound pretty normal, but I am constantly surprised by pet sitting doggies that don't abide by nearly any of those rules!

If you feel like your dog(s) need help either learning essential commands, or actually learning house manners, please contact me. I offer group classes as well as private sessions.