Common Dog Problems:

Last year more than 5 million dog bites were reported. Over 800,000 required hospitalization and these numbers represent only those reported. It is a problem of epidemic proportions.

Dog owners often ignore the warning signs of a family pet that growls and snaps. As a matter of fact, eighty percent of the reported bites are from family pets that bite either a child or elderly member of the household. While puppies are intelligent animals they have to be molded to their environments and taught proper behavior, such as going to the bathroom outside of the house and not chewing the furniture. It is far easier to prevent than to correct unwanted behavior.

Puppies are creatures of habit who learn by association. By the age of 6 weeks, most puppies are capable of the full use of their senses, such as sight, hearing and smell. It is then that a puppy starts to store information. Later when they sense an unfamiliar sight, sound or smell, they will refer to this earlier stored information to form a positive or negative response. The most critical period for a puppy’s personality development is during the first 16 weeks. During this period it’s important to educate the puppy about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Waiting until a puppy is six months to a year old to begin training is a serious mistake. By then, the behavior may be habitual and retraining far more difficult.

Puppies are like children. They each learn differently and at different rates. Some will require more attention and education than others will. Human socialization is the most critical part of domestication and should begin as soon as you bring the puppy home. You should introduce your puppy to a variety of people of different body types, ethnic groups, races and ages. If puppies haven’t been exposed to a wide variety of people they may bite or attack when exposed to them later. The message here is simple. Take your puppy out as often as possible. Visit playgrounds, shopping centers, sporting events, anywhere and everywhere you can expose your puppy to crawling infants, children at play, adults and other normally behaved dogs.

Also, introduce puppies to household appliances and other mechanical equipment. Allow the puppy to investigate equipment on their own, such as vacuum cleaners. Then move the vacuum cleaner around before turning it on. Turn on the equipment at a distance before moving closer, and only move closer if the puppy looks comfortable. Play ball around a potentially fearful object allowing the ball to hit, bounce off of or land near the object. As the puppy plays it will realize that the object is not a danger to it or the ball.

Finally, don’t allow anyone to tease your puppy with mechanical objects. The pup will not think of it as fun and may develop a fear of the object. The key to proper socialization is controlling the environment in which the puppy learns so that they will develop the same value behavior system exhibited by the owner. Start developing positive behaviors and habits with your puppy right away so that you won’t have to change unwanted behaviors later.

We recommend crate training to anyone trying to get their dog’s bathroom habits under control. At first, most people feel guilty about using a crate until they learn that dogs are den animals and that they actually come to like their crate in a very short time. In fact one dog owner told me of a St. Bernard that refused to sleep anywhere but in its crate in the kitchen.

Crate training takes consistency and putting your dog on a schedule of eating, playing and bathroom times. If you feed and exercise your dog at the same time each day, the dog will get into a routine very quickly.

Until your dog is housebroken, it must be restricted to any one of three areas:

  1. Outside in the area you want them to use as a bathroom
  2. In their crate.
  3. With you inside, dragging a leash and always with your full attention

A typical day would start by taking your dog out of the crate in the morning and going directly outside to let the dog go to the bathroom. Praise the dog when they go and give them a treat. Now you bring the dog in to have their breakfast. After breakfast take them out again. Now you can put them in the crate and either go to work or give them some playtime. If we repeat this procedure of taking them outside every time before we crate them or whenever they come out of the crate, they will start to get the idea that they are to eliminate outside and will want to please you to get praise and a treat.

Always go in and out through the same door. Also, as you start to give your dog more freedom we recommend that you tie a bell on a string to the door. Every time you go out have the dog ring the bell. You will be amazed how fast they start ringing the bell to go out.

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