1) House Training
Above all be kind!... shouting and scolding, pushing their nose in what they have done etc will only lead to the dog being frightened of you, and wont teach him not to go in the house, just not to go when you are around. Which will make actively and reliably house training much harder!
Never ever punish a dog who soils in the house. When house training a puppy, make sure and praise each time the dog eliminates outside, use your voice and/or treats (make sure you sound super ecstatic!), actively take the pup outside after every meal, as soon as they wake up from a nap, or have just finished playing (these are the times they will naturally need to go).
Consider training them to sleep in a crate at night (most dogs will not pee/poo where they lie so they will be much more likely to hold it til morning.. ) and of course take them out first thing, before you do anything else and reward.(training a dog to use a crate is very different to just putting him in there and expecting him to like it.. see our link on crate training).
An adult dog who has lost house training who previously had it should be examined by a vet first of all to make sure there are no underlying medical reasons for loss of house training (urinary infection etc) then you can go back to the basic training as above.
Some older dogs may refuse to go in their own garden, but are happy to eliminate out on walks etc. This may be the result or a frightening experience in their own yard, a car back firing, stepping on a thorn, can be something very simple, so building up trust with the garden again is important. Go out with them play with them, wait with them , allow them to sniff around, and place the cleaned up mess (from soiling) in one area of the garden, to try and encourage them to go there.
2) Chewing on Furniture
Chewing on furniture shoes etc can have a variety of reasons.. the first one being age, puppies who are teething (up to a year for some breeds) need to chew to soothe their gums as their adult teeth emerge. its important that they have plenty of appropriate toys to facilitate this. redirect the dog to an appropriate toy once chewing is observed. If it is only happening when you are not at home, this can be a sign of separation or isolation anxiety, or also of boredom. its important that this is properly diagnosed as the solutions are very different.
Boredom is another big reason, if your dog is left alone for long periods of time or isn't getting enough exercise, his mind will naturally create things to do!similarly over exercising your dog, to the point where he is uber fit, and has difficulty switching off can make a hyper dog even more hyper (and even more likely to be bored!).
Its important to find a balance and use the dogs brain. food dispensing toys, and enrichment games, are important for utilising a dogs brain, and helping him to relax more, without turning to your furniture!chewing itself is a relaxing activity for dogs, so chewers will benefit from something they are allowed to chew on. such as a frozen kong, or specific chew toys.
3) Pulling on Leash/Too Strong
No dog magically walks well on the lead. They all require training, some more than others to be able to enjoy lead walks. A dogs natural pace is much quicker than ours, so walking to heel is not something a dog will do without teaching. he will want to walk ahead of you.
Training should start young, but any dog can be trained to walk well on lead, regardless of age.
Always use force free, positive dog training to achieve your goals. aversives such as prong collars, choke chains and shock collars,and leash jerks every time he pulls.. may help in the short term, but what they will do in the long term, is teach your dog to be frightened of the lead. (even if he is not overtly frightened, he is unlikely to be enjoying himself) walks should be enjoyable for you both.. and most of all the dog (thats kind of the point!)
Invest in a well fitting harness, preferably with a attachment at the front of the chest. Contrary to what you might have heard, harnesses do not make dogs pull... its lack of training that does that! a harness will just help avoid any injuries whilst you are training.
Different dogs pull for different reasons, but on the whole every time the dog pulls, you should stop walking, and stand still until the lead slackens then move forward again. Its important to be consistent so that the dog learns, a tight leash means no walkie!! most pick it up very quickly.
a front clip will help you "steer" the dog back towards you and get his attention more quickly. (more advice on specific problems on leash further in website)
4) New Baby
A new baby does not mean that you have to "get rid" of your dog.
Dogs who have been part oft eh household are frequently moved out into the yard, and denied access to the house. This in itself will create problem behaviour. Dogs can be safely separated from children /babies in the home with the use of baby gates and barriers, crate training and supervision.
Set your dog up for the changes to come instead of doing it in a rush when baby is born.. you have 9 months to prepare!
if you prefer to confine your dog to one part of the house do so as early on in pregnancy as you can. whilst still involving the dog in daily routine. Start to cut down on long walks and instead spend a bit more time playing in your yard, or using mental stimulation games. This will reduce frustration after the baby is born .. from a dog who is expecting an hour long walk, and suddenly it doesn't happen.
start teaching your dog to walk on leash properly (if you haven't already) and even borrow a buggy or pram if you haven't got yours yet, and walk your dog along with the empty buggy. this will get him used to the experience without the added worry of baby on board in the beginning!
It can be a great idea to enlist a behaviourist to have a chat about the best ways to introduce your baby and your dog, as every dog is different.
Children benefit from growing up around dogs, studies have shown a reduction in childhood allergies in those who grew up around pets, and they also have shown that having a dog helps reduce stress in children.
would you want to deprive your child of that experience, simply because its a bit more work for you?
at this point i would like to reiterate just how fool hardy it is to get a pup while you are pregnant. don't do it!
if you are dogless, stay that way until your child is 3 or 4 years old and can take instruction. its much easier! if you get a puppy while pregnant.. you are setting yourself up for difficulty, as the puppy will be hitting adolescence (the difficult time in all species) just as you give birth!
5) House Move
Moving is a very stressful time for everyone. if you are actively in the middle of a house move and your dog is getting underfoot/escaping consider letting him stay with a friend or relative or go into boarding kennels for a week or two, until you get moved out and set up in your new home.
Your dog is part of your life.. and you are the entirety of his, so its important not to give up on him. he will be as stressed as you are, except he doesn't know why! all he will see are the "things" that make up his home disappearing.. and it can lead to short term behavioural problems that can be difficult to deal with. But.. they are short term. once settled in the new house normality will return!
if you a re moving house and are finding it difficult to find a landlord who will accept dogs, don't give up. and most importantly ASK.
Many homes are listed as "no pets" but if you speak to the landlord directly you can often come to an agreement, whether that is a bigger deposit, or signing a cleaning contract/agreement to leave the home in the state you found it.
We had considered compiling a list of pet friendly landlords.. but in reality there is no such thing. a landlord may own several properties, in which he doesn't want dogs, but there may be a few that he wont mind. ALWAYS ask. as the saying goes.. if you don't ask you don't get!
Housing executive homes often allow one pet, but again it is worth asking if you have more than one. Never try and pull the wool over your landlords eyes.. whether government or private. YOU WILL get caught out, and end up having to scrabble to find somewhere for your pet to go. be upfront, widen your search if you have to, and if its imperative you leave your current home asap..find someone to look after your dog in the short term while you find somewhere appropriate for you both. (again consider boarding kennels, ask friend/relative)
don't just take the first place that comes along, and dump your pet!
6) No Time! (new job, health problems, new baby.. insert time dependent reason here)
Dogs don't really need as much time as you would think. in fact they need a lot more sleep than us (think 12-16 hours a day for a well balanced dog) and even within what time is left a lot of that is pent lounging around. If your job has changed so that you can no longer take your dog for two big long walks a day.. it doesn't matter to your dog. what matters is that he has you. he will adjust to changes in routine if you support him during those changes. consider getting a pet sitting /dog walking service for your dog a few times a week, or even just to let him out for a wee at lunch time if you cant make it home.
If you cant afford such a service, talk to friends/relatives neighbours etc, and see if you can find someone locally who would be willing to help out, ask on fb! you would be surprised who will help you.
consider joining an organisation like borrowmydoggy.com which matches dog walkers with their owners for a small fee every year (much cheaper than paying a pet sitter!) it also provides full insurance and emergency vet cover within that fee, so its well worth it.
if you can make time to see your friends/family/do household chores, then you have time for your dog!
simple enrichment games can be easily done at home in a few hours in the evening, (see great fb page called canine enrichment.. and remember you don't have to be a member of facebook to visit facebook pages)
above all remember that everything changes.. and your circumstances could change again, so don't dump your dog thinking that this is it! there are ways around all obstacles if you are committed.
The most dumped group of dogs are the teenagers.. not teenage in human years but in doggie ones.. from 5-6 months right up to 18 months old.
like human teenage years, doggie teenagers struggle to process the world. a previously perfect puppy may appear to lose all his training, start chewing again, suddenly become afraid of things that used to not bother him.
Stick it out! management is key at this time,
especially as part of growing up, also means another "fear period" which needs to be carefully navigated so that your young dog does not end up with severe issues later on. rehoming a dog at this critical time period in his life, is not only incredibly common, its also incredibly damaging to the dogs psyche. this is a time he needs stability and support.. probably more than any other time in his life.
but like all time periods.. it will pass. persevere and be kind. remember hormones kicking in are incredible things.. and can shift human thinking never mind dogs! If you are finding things particularly difficult, please consult with a behaviourist, or look to our advice on specific problems/contact us.
Don't give up on your dog as he goes through the biggest transition in his life!
8) Not Getting Along with the Other Dog
This is very common. Dogs do not get to choose who they live with, we make that choice for them, and there can be personality clashes, again much like between people. Not every one gets along.
Management plays a vital role in addressing how your dogs get along. ensure that they have separate spaces within the house, their own beds, and ample time away from each other. in some cases, just walking the dogs separately, or having them in separate rooms when you go out , or for a few hours in the day can make a huge difference. Lots of dogs can get along well, so long as they have their own space and time with you so they are not having to compete.
Resource guarding between dogs can be a cause of fighting, so ensure to feed them separately, pet them separately, and do not give long lasting chews/bones or toys when they are free together. (make sure and put toys and valued items away after use also , so there is no guarding of things left out) Most dogs will learn to respect each others space.
If dogs have gotten along well and then "out of the blue" appear to fall out, its well worth taking both to your vet to check them out. Illness/pain/arthritis can lead to personality changes/less tolerance of another dog. taking them both is important, as it may not be the dog you think that has the problem.
consult with a behaviourist or call us for advice on how to help your dogs get along, if the above is not working.
9) Growling at Children
Believe it or not this is good! a dog who growls is a predictable dog. NEVER EVER punish the dog for growling. stop what you are doing, take a step back and try and figure out why he is growling. are you too close to something that he wants (resource guarding) are you doing something that is making him feel uncomfortable? whatever it is stop.
Children are often the focus of the growling behaviour, as they tend to not stop what they are doing and back off. as a parent, along with active supervision of your dog and children at all times, you should also instill in your kids to back off as soon as a dog growls (and make sure they understand what they were doing is not appropriate)
Dogs should never have to put up with children pulling at their fur, their ears, taking their toys, or food, lying on top of them etc. Growling is a warning. it says "hey stop that.. i don't like it". Heed it, and remember he is not growling for no reason.
If the cause is not immediately obvious (such as over toys bones etc) then please take your dog to have a vet check. a dog who is in pain, may well growl because he is afraid of being hurt.. and children with their quick movement and unpredictable nature can be very frightening for any dog so often bear the brunt of the growling.
Your dog is trying to tell you something, so please listen to him, and watch your children more closely. Consult with a behaviourist and keep your children separate from the dog, use baby gates, close doors, even put a latch on the door out of a childs reach for extra peace of mind until you get to the bottom of it.
Provide a safe place for your dog.. a covered crate in the corner of the room, and warn children on pain of death they do not go near the crate when the dog is in it. at all ever. allow your dog to choose his sanctuary.
Remember your children will grow up.. fast. they will understand and take direction from you better as they grow. If they are very young , just separate at all times, your dog should not have to suffer because children can be unruly.
10) Grew Too Big
How big is too big? no dog is too big if he is trained to walk well on the lead, and not jump up. a house can hold an entire family of people, so there is no reason it cannot hold a large dog.
revisit lead walking training, go to classes etc if your dog is too big that you feel you are not strong enough to hold him. a good harness will help you, but no amount of kit" will take the place of training.
If your house is tiny and you find him underfoot all the time, train him to lie in a crate or corner of a room instead of in doorways etc.
if your yard is tiny .. then you will need to walk him more! which is better for you physically in the long run, and great for him!
remember when you took on the puppy you took him on. for life. If you are struggling with the expense of feeding him, both 7th heaven animal rescue trust and the USPCA run food banks, so please contact them to avail of this service.
Olivia Kennedy BVetMed MRCVS