Getting a new dog is one of the most exciting and scariest things you’ll likely ever do (aside from having a child, or buying a house). That feeling that this little (or big) bundle of fluff is dependent on you for everything, their life quite literally in your hands. We all want our dogs to be happy, to run around, to play games, and to have fun. But have you ever thought about what would happen to your dog if he or she got hurt or became sick? Would you be in a financial position to cover the cost of vet care, or would you have to settle for less than ideal treatment, euthanasia or rehoming if the vet costs were beyond your means? It’s a horrid thought, but you need to plan ahead for those “what if” moments. Better be safe than sorry as the expression goes.
Here are some suggestions for financial planning for your dog and any pet emergencies that might arise.
If you don’t like the idea of buying into a pet insurance policy, then one option, provided that you are disciplined, is to save money on a regular basis. This could be money put into a savings account, or money used to purchase Premium Bonds with the post office or something similar, where your money is protected. You will need to have access to your money should you need it in an emergency, and have sufficient money stored away to cover those vet bills, bearing in mind that a bill for a broken leg could run into thousands, and escalate quickly.
Another option if you are insurance policy adverse, is to take out a credit card that is only to be used for your pet. That way you have access to funds should you need them, but aren’t paying out on something that (all being well) you might not use. Another option would be to set up a pre-paid credit card or to make your regular payments on to the credit card, so that you have access to a bigger fund if need arises. Again, you will need to make sure that you have sufficient funds available on your card for vet fees, and can pay it off again if it is ever needed.
Alongside your savings or credit card option, you might want to set up some kind of pet plan with your veterinary practice. This is not an insurance policy, but it can reduce your vet expenses. It usually includes an annual check up, monthly worming and flea medications, and discounts when using their general veterinary services. It can be as low as £5 a month, but the discount can add up if you have an emergency or have more than one pet. It often includes nail trims, anal gland clearing, and other routine visits. The cost is normally reduced with each extra pet added to the plan.
This is by far the most common option, and will certainly reduce the stress levels in an emergency situation, knowing that your pet’s care will be covered. Pet insurance is readily available in the UK, from your local supermarket, your post office, your bank, or from the internet. Sometimes it can be included alongside other insurance policies, with a discount if you already insure your car, house, or contents. These plans can be as little as £5 per month and can include a waiver fee, so that you only pay a set amount before the insurance kicks in. Be sure to read the small print on any policy, and look for discounts if you have more than one pet.
If like me, you find yourself taking lots of photos and videos of your pets, then you could upload these to sites like Shutterstock and YouTube and receive royalties when people watch your videos or download your photos. You can also register your pet as a model of actor for film and television and they will be paid for any ‘work’ they do. You probably aren’t going to earn a lot of money this way, but it is on the whole, passive income, and these royalties can be added to your savings account or pre-paid credit card to help top up your funds, or to cover the cost of hereditary or age related conditions which might not be covered by your insurance policy.
Whatever you decide to do when planning ahead for pet emergencies, just have a plan, or a combination of plans. Don’t be kicking yourself in that emergency situation and wishing that you could have done more.
Written by Guest Post
Like humans, dogs understand the concept of possession and ownership of resources. Perhaps also like some humans, dogs can take excessive measures to guard these resources. The types of resources can be numerous, but the most common and problematic ones are usually food, objects (toys/chews etc) and particular locations such as their bed, your bed or their crate.
Where resource guarding manifests itself in dangerous aggression, you should seek the advice of a professional behaviourist who can make a comprehensive assessment of the causes and develop a detailed corrective programme. This article is intended as guidance to help prevent or aid minor cases of this behaviour.
How can I stop FOOD guarding?
This is the most common type of resource guarding. It is usually easy to spot and occurs when a dog is aggressive (or threatens to be) when approached whilst eating from their food bowl. It can also occur when an owner attempts to retrieve food items snatched or found by the dog. Dogs are also known to guard their empty food bowls.
First things first, disciplining your dog for food guarding, is more likely to aggravate the problem than cure it. Using harsh discipline often results in the dog deciding that it needs to be even more aggressive to retain this resource.
The reason a dog guards its food is the fear that the approaching person is going to take it away. So we need to remove that fear and create positive associations with people approaching its food. The best way to achieve this is to tempt your dog away from its bowl with an even tastier resource (i.e. its favourite treat). Do this in small steps and start by keeping a distance from the food bowl. Let your dog take the treat and return to its bowl. Over a number of sessions, gradually get closer to the bowl to the point where you can drop the treats into its bowl. Further develop this by offering the treats right next to the bowl whilst the dog is eating. Different people should carry out these exercises to avoid the positive associations only being related to one person and the dog continuing to guard when others approach.
Another useful exercise, particularly to prevent food guarding, is to feed your dog in small instalments. This is where you feed your dog a small amount of its food and then take the bowl away to add more food. Repeat this 3-4 times until its meal is finished. Again, this exercise helps build positive associations as your dog soon learns that when the bowl is taken away, it is going to be returned with more food.
How can I stop TOY & OBJECT guarding?
Guarding of this nature usually relates to dog toys and dog chews, but can also relate to more obscure items such as laundry, tissues, food wrappers or objects found by the dog or that have a particular smell.
As with food guarding, we need to look to building positive association around people approaching the guarded objects. We want the dog to understand that approaching people and the removal of objects means more fun, excitement or a special treat.
A good place to start is by approaching your dog whilst near an unguarded low value object. Pick up the object with one hand then produce a treat from behind your back with the other. Then give the object back and walk away. Repeat this, but change the angle of approach and intervals between approaches. Work on this over a number of sessions, then change the exercise so that as you offer the object back to the dog, as soon as they touch it, withdraw it then praise and treat, then give the object back.
Over time, start to carry out the exercise with higher value objects. Then move onto carrying out the exercise when the dog is more engrossed with the object. But always remember to keep it positive and that the removal of resources results in even more positive experiences.
Another useful exercise to help against object guarding is to introduce the concept of sharing. This works particularly well with chew toys and the exercise involves you offering a chew toy to your dog, but keeping a hold of the other end yourself. Allow your dog to enjoy the chew, but after a period, take it away for a spell then offer it back. Your dog soon understands that the resource is not his, but he is allowed to share it. Practice this with different people and objects.
How can I stop LOCATION guarding?
A common behavioural concern of owners is aggressiveness by their dogs whilst in a particular location. The most common locations being their sleeping area, which could be their bed or crate, your bed or the sofa. An interesting feature of location guarding is that the level of severity is not only tied to the value of the resource, but also to who is approaching. For example a dog may allow a child to approach but not an adult. Or perhaps a woman can approach, but not a man.
We always recommend that you prevent dogs sleeping on your bed or on sofas from an early age. Sleeping in the same place as the pack leader (that’s you!) or in an elevated location (on sofa) gives your dog a higher sense status within the pack hierarchy. Not only can this cause guarding, but it can also cause other issues such as difficulties with training and general challenging behaviour. Our article How to be the pack leader provides useful tips to ensure your dog recognises you as the pack leader and that they carry the lowest rank in the household.
Some dogs show guarding behaviours whilst in their bed or crate. This is usually when a person attempts to handle, caress or move them. The reasons for this may be varied, it could be they are just tied and want to be left alone or it could be that they are poorly. Obviously in the later case, you should seek advice from your vet. But in all other cases you need to accustom your dog to being handled whilst they are in these locations. Like other forms of guarding, the best solution is to make this a positive experience. Start by offering the dog high value treats whilst in these locations, and then start to lure them from the location with further tip bits. Keep practicing this over a number of sessions and like food guarding, change the angle of approach, the intervals and the person who does the exercise. Over time your dog will soon learn that positive things always happen when people approach previously guarded locations.
At the age of 4 ½ months, puppies quickly move from cuddly teddy bears to confident and mischievous adolescents. For your own and your dogs benefit, it is important to adequately prepare for this transformation to make it as enjoyable as possible.
Puppy training and socialisation is now considered the single most important step you can take in that preparation. These should be started from the age of 13 weeks, but no later than 20 weeks. You should only attend after your puppy has received all its vaccinations.
What happens at puppy classes?
The format of puppy training and socialisation classes will vary from school to school, but the primary objective of them all is to fully socialise your puppy and prepare it for all the many new experiences it will encounter through its life. It is at these sessions that your puppy will learn canine social etiquette and body language in a controlled and safe environment.
They will play with other puppies of their own age. They learn bite inhibition and build confidence, as well overcoming shyness and fearfulness. This is not to say they will not experience difficult encounters later in life, but a confident and fully socialised dog will be better equipped to deal with these encounters and be less traumatised by them.
At puppy training, playing with other puppies can often be frenzied with lots of chase and play fighting. There will be plenty of opportunity to receive appropriate feedback for biting too hard. In effect, puppies teach each other how to behave.
The other main objective of puppy training is to educate owners of basic training techniques and dog behaviour understanding. It helps teach them to better understand their dog and gain better control over them.
Unless a school has been recommended to you, it is a good idea to visit a class without your dog. Here are a few hints and tips to be looking for from a good puppy school:
- Puppies should all be in the age range of 13-20 weeks at the start of the course.
- The school environment should be clean and hygienic, preferably indoors.
- Only positive training techniques should be used. Avoid classes that advocate use of metal collars, choke chains or any means that requires punishment or domination – all now considered ineffective as well as unpleasant.
- Puppies should have plenty of opportunity to play together off the lead.
- Classes should not be a free for all. All puppies should be frequently asked to settle during sessions.
- Look at the puppies, are they having a good time?
- Ask if children are able to attend. They are often able to spend a lot more time with your puppy than you can, so it is a good idea for them to learn good training practices as well as you.
- Does the training allow time after the class to ask questions or discuss any concerns you might be experiencing?
- Good puppy schools also cover other important areas such as preparing your puppy for vet visits and conditioning them to strange sounds (fireworks, thunder storms etc).
It is a sad fact that dog rescue centres are often full with abandoned and homeless dogs. But thanks to increased public awareness, more and more people are responding and choose to provide a loving home to an adult rescue dog.
It takes about 6 months for a rescue dog to fully settle into a new home, so you need to prepare yourself for a long haul of exciting, rewarding and sometimes frustrating experiences during that period.
From a training perspective, there will be some extra considerations you will need to bear in mind and these, to a large extent, will depend on the good or bad experiences your rescue dog has had in the past. This article is intended as an introduction to these added considerations. It should not be considered a definitive guide or a training guide in itself.
When should I start training a rescue dog?
Training requires a trust between you and your dog. Dogs will be more responsive to training when they have accepted you as their leader and trust you in that role. With a rescue dog, this may take days or even weeks, but you should allow time for this to develop before embarking on a training program.
What preparation is required?
As you are developing your relationship with your dog, you may find that they already understand some basic training commands. With rescue dogs, more often than not, this is usually quite limited and you may have to start training from the beginning. As with all training, you should bear in mind the following:
- Always carry out training in a quiet spot with no distractions.
- Unlike puppies, rescue dogs are likely to be more confident if allowed to run freely. So until you are absolutely certain you dog will return on request, ensure all training takes place in a secure area or using a long training lead.
- Make training a positive and rewarding experience, so never raise your voice or discipline your dog during training exercises.
- Rewards are your dogs primary motivator, so before you start training, experiment to find out which treats or toys they like the most. With rescued dogs, extra patience will be required here. It may even be that your dog initially seems to have little interest in treats or playing. In which case, you may need to withhold treats for a period before starting training sessions. In extreme cases, hand feeding your dog at meal time is also one way for your dog to learn that you are its food source and means of survival.
- Don’t try to achieve to much in one go. All trained behaviour will need a number of sessions to master.
- Keep training for specific behaviours to 3-5 minutes at the most, but repeat regularly.
- Try to accompany all verbal commands with a distinctive and consistent hand signals.
- If you are new to dogs, read up on dog body language so that you understand when your dog is trying to warn you.
- Always stop while your dog is still interested and always stop when you feel yourself getting frustrated.
Are there any specific techniques or equipment?
Most of the training techniques for rescue dogs are much the same as for training any dog. Because of potential mal treatment in the past, extra care should be taken with rescue dogs to ensure training is a very positive and not an intimidating experience. For this reason, clicker training has proved very successful.
Controlling a untrained fully grown adult dog can sometimes be quite strenuous. The use of head collars are now a very popular choice to prevent dogs pulling on leads. These collars control the position of your dogs head that prevents them pulling on the lead. To prevent damage to your dog’s neck, it is important that these are fitted correctly and that you do not pull the lead sharply. For the same reason, because of a dogs ability to gather speed over a short distance, you should never use a training collar with a long or retractable lead. Use of a training lead can also help take the heavy work out of lead pulling.
What about dog training classes?
Dog training classes are wonderful way to develop your training skills and allow your dog to socialise with other dogs. However, rescue dogs may have problems dealing with large groups of people or other dogs, this can cause stress that may manifest itself in aggressive or other unusual behaviour.
Before deciding to take your dog to training classes you need to establish how they will behave in this environment. Make your decision based your experiences of walking your dog in public places, how they react to strangers and other dogs.
Should you decide that training classes are appropriate, it’s a good idea visit a class without your dog, to ensure you approve of their methods (see the article selecting a training school)
Are there any other things to consider with rescue dogs ?
Yes, there are quite a few other considerations to take into account when integrating a rescue dog into your home. It is well worth investing the time to understanding these, before you commit getting a rescue dog. A number of very useful books have recently been published in this area.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to travel and live in many different countries with my dog, and as such have had to adapt to life in the heat of Miami and the Caribbean, and the extremes of cold in Siberia and the Baltic’s, and everything in between, especially whilst living in Britain. My dog is an Italian Greyhound, a breed renowned for their love of sunbathing and cosying up under the duvet, even on a hot day. Here are some of the tips and tricks that I’ve picked up for looking after your dog when the weather gets hot, hot, hot!
I learnt this trick whilst we lived in Grenada, West Indies. I’d not had my puppy for very long. It was tricky to get hold of dog toys and things for a pup to chew on, and with no air conditioning in our little place by the beach, the days were hot and sticky. So I decided to make some ice bars in the freezer, and dropped these into my dog’s water bowl, along with the occasional ice cube. They melted quickly, but she loved to chase the ice across the tiled floor, crunched them up, and licked up the water as it melted. Cheap, easy, and a few minutes of entertainment before the ice melted. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, you could make your ice bars with dog friendly flavours or simply freeze some home-made treats for your dog.
You might not think it, but the pavements and tarmac in the UK can be just as hot as they get in places like Miami. On hot days, try to walk your dog as early and as late in the day as you can, so that you avoid midday and afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. Walking on a hot floor can burn your dog’s pads and their feet can become incredibly painful and open to infection. Where possible walk in the shade, and if the floor is hot even in the early morning or late at night, then invest in some dog boots to protect their feet and pads from burning.
In the heat of the summer, shade is your friend. When out walking, or even in the garden, or on the beach, make sure that your dog has access to shady areas. This could be a bush or tree, or a towel hung over a bench, or you could invest in a shade tent that can be folded away as required. If your dog is at home and the room is hot from the sunshine, try closing the curtains to keep the room cooler and create shady places that they have access to. If your dog is crated whilst you are at work, make sure that the crate isn’t in direct sunlight, and the room is well ventilated and cool, but not too cold.
Be sure to give your dog access to water at all times, especially if your dog is fussy about their drinking water source, as my dog is. I always carry a bottle of water with me wherever we go, and have spare dog poo bags in my pocket, that can double up as water receptacles, especially if I need to travel light and don’t have a collapsible dog bowl with me. Offer your dog water, even if they don’t want it.
Fans and open windows are great for circulating air around your dog and keeping them cool (as long as your dog isn’t going to come to harm from an open window or room fan). These can help dogs to regulate their temperature especially if they are a breed with a flatter face that struggles to keep cool through panting, such as a pug.
Unlike most breeds of dog, my Italian Greyhound is not a great fan of water, but if your dog is a water lover, you could set up a paddling pool in your yard, have fun with the mist option on your garden hose pipe, or go for a dip together in the sea or a lake. I do a lot of outdoor swimming in some amazingly beautiful places, and on the really hot days, I sometimes carry my dog into the water with me to cool off, just for a minute or so. Be cautious around water though, not all dogs enjoy water, some might be afraid or not used to swimming, and if your dog is already suffering from the heat, you could do more harm than good as the cold water draws the heat into their internal organs and away from the skin. You might want to think about investing in a dog lifejacket or teaching your dog how to get out of water, in the event that they do fall in, and never leave your dog unsupervised around water, even paddling pools.
Dog fur as much as it might look like it gets too hot in summer, can actually keep your dog cool by keeping the hot air away from the skin. Do not be tempted to shave off your dog’s fur as this could impede its ability to regulate its body temperature.
If your dog is afraid of the water, dislikes water, or you simply don’t have access to a pool of water or a hose, then you could try soaking a blanket in water and draping it over your dog, you could even put a towel in the freezer to cool it. Applying the blanket to your dog, especially around the groin or neck area can be a great way to cool your dog down if you do not already have a dog cooling mat.
If the weather is simply too hot, then you might want to just stay indoors or leave your dog at home until the day has cooled a bit. Does your dog really need to go on that outing with you? Do you really need to go and run that errand right now, or can it wait until later in the day? Can you catch a train or bus earlier in the day when it is less busy and less warm?
And finally, an easy way to keep your dog hydrated on a hot day, is to replace some of their dried food with a canned food that has a higher moisture content. You could also offer treats that are moisture rich, like apples or peas, but seek advice from your vet if your dog is on a special diet or has a particularly sensitive tummy.
Written by Sarah Weldon
Sarah is a British explorer and ice swimmer, who loves nothing more than hikes in the mountain with her Italian Greyhound and cosy nights by the fire with her three devious cats.
How to make your garden dog friendly
When you are gardening or sunbathing in the garden dogs enjoy nothing better than trampling through the garden’s undergrowth sniffing and nibbling at anything they find. You can’t always see what mischief your pooch is up to, and so it is important to know how to make your garden dog-friendly. This article will advise you on how to ensure your garden is a safe area for your dogs to roam.
Tips on how to maintain a dog-friendly lawn
Having a dog-friendly lawn gives dogs and children the ideal space to run around and play in, and are safer than stone and gravel surfaces. Caesar Millan, a leading expert on dogs, advises that gravel can cut their feet while artificial grass and stone surfaces can over-heat and burn the dog’s footpad. A lot of dog owners find that grass is the ideal dog-friendly surface as it is soft, warm, and doesn’t become uncomfortable on bare-feet in the sun.
Upkeep of that lawn however, can prove hazardous to a dog’s health. John, director of Mowers Online, an expert in lawn-mower safety, advises that advances in noise reduction technology for electric models of lawn mowers are proving to be increasingly dangerous dogs. Petrol lawn mowers are louder and scare dogs away, whereas with electric mowers (due to lower levels of noise) dogs are less cautious and even approach them. This can cause significant injury to your four-legged friend. Moreover, some electric models have power cables that can cause a dog to trip or to get tangled in them as they play. John recommends that dogs are kept inside or away from the grass when the mower is in use.
If your dog is using the lawn to do its business then it is important to make sure the grass is trim and tidy. A mown lawn makes it easier to locate where the dog has gone to toilet and easier to clean. The RSPCA stresses how important a faeces free environment is for the dog’s health. Dog poo is highly toxic to your lawn causing decolourisation and can contaminate water sources. The poo can also house parasites such as hookworm and diseases that can infect your dog if not disposed of promptly. So, having a well-maintained lawn is essential to your dog’s health.
How you can create a toxic free garden for dogs.
A dog’s urine can burn and discolour grass. Some gardeners use chemicals to treat lawns that can are toxic to dogs. To create a dog-friendly lawn you should remove all chemical fertilizers from your garden. Another popular pro tip is to give your dog a dash of tomato juice that will help to reduce the acidity of your dog’s urine and prevent damage to your lawn. Diana Alfuth, a leading horticulturalist, states that this myth is false and it is the nitrogen that damages the grass. Pesticides, slug pellets and other kinds of chemicals used to protect plants can also put your dogs at risk. It is best to have chemical free garden. The RSPCA has complied a list on how to avoid dog poisoning in the home and the garden, as well as the most common poisons for dogs.
- Sweat Peas
- Yew trees
The Dogs Trust has compiled an extensive list of plants that are toxic to dogs . Kiki Kane of Rover.com has created a list of popular and colourful plants that are dog-friendly. To ensure your garden is safe for dogs you should plant and create your borders with these plants in mind.
How to make your garden a safe-haven for dogs
Dogs need a safe, and shady space to hide in the garden for those days where the garden can get to hot. When the heat is pouring down dog’s love to trample through the over-grown borders of a garden and find a shady patch of cool soil to lie on and this is one of the reasons you should ensure your borders contain shade creating non-toxic plants for canines. So, when you are designing your borders make sure you design a few places where your best friend can bunker down and enjoy the shade.
These shaded areas should be supplied with fresh water on hot days to make sure that your dogs are well hydrated, and not over heated. You should make sure that nothing in your garden collects stagnate or algae covered water as this can also be toxic and harmful when ingested.
These are easy tips to follow and keep in mind when designing a safe garden for dogs. The most important things to remember are that stone or gravel surfaces can harm their pads, to remove toxins from the gardens, and to build them shaded dens to relax when it’s sunny. Do you have a great tip to share? We’d love to hear from you.
Written by Ella Hendrix
Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to submit an article on on website.
All dogs are pre-programmed to soil outside their nest, so in this respect puppies already have an instinct to move away from the nest at around 3 weeks of age to go to the toilet. With time, puppies will learn by themselves to be toilet trained. All we are doing is speeding up the process and adding a few helpful things along the way.
Housetraining is one of the first things you will teach your puppy and it is the start of your relationship with them. It is important that the puppy’s first experience of his new family is a positive one.
I was told to punish my puppy when he soils inside
The old method of punishing the puppy in any way (including rubbing his nose in the mess!) is plainly cruel and will only delay the housetraining process, not to mention the mental damage you will be doing to your puppy. One of the effects of punishment is the loss of control of the sphincter and the bowels and thus the problem becomes aggravated.
But he always looks guilty when I get home
Some people incorrectly believe that their puppy knows it has done wrong, since the puppy seems too look guilty when they come in and see the mess. This is not true, as all the puppy is doing is responding to your body language and displaying submissive/appeasing language in the hope that he will not be punished. The puppy does not know why he is being punished when his owners come home. Human concepts of guilt, regret, spite, etc, or even knowing that the carpet is a covering for the house floor does not exist in dogs. The puppy just did the very natural act of eliminating when he had to.
What are the ground rules for housetraining?
The key to success in housetraining is to be alert and well prepared. Here are a few tips:
- Keep your puppy confined to a small play area at first if you cannot keep an eye on him or when you are away from home. This could be the kitchen, utility room, bathroom or a section of the room with a cordoned area using a puppy pen. This area should have a floor that can be easily cleaned.
- Ensure they have a comfortable bed, a bowl of fresh water, plenty of hollow chew toys. Puppies can get particles of toys stuck in their throats and can die, so the best chew toys are kongs and sterilised hollow bones stuffed with dog food. You will be teaching him to target his chewing at chew toys and nothing else. It is also a great idea to feed your puppy’s dinner in Kongs.
- Create a toilet area at the furthest point from his bed. Place polythene underneath to ensure that waste matter does not leak through. Alternatively, a cleaner and more efficient method is to use puppy training pads such as those by Simple Solution.
- Make sure that he cannot get to other items in the room.
How often should they be let out to do their business?
Your young puppy should be allowed out once every hour to eliminate. Use a designated toilet area in your garden and let your puppy walk and sniff around the area. Keep it clean to ensure that he will not go somewhere else in the garden that is cleaner. By selecting a specific area, you are helping your puppy understand what you want from him when he is taken to that spot and it will be easier to keep clean. Products such as Swiftie House Training Aid and Simple Solution Potty Training Aid for Puppies are useful to help train your puppy to eliminate in a specific area. The pheromone treated Pee Post from Simply Solution can also help in attracting your puppy to a specific spot.
It is also a good idea to have a keyword for your puppy to let him know that you would like him to go to the toilet. It could be anything you want, for example ‘busy’. This will come in handy as he gets older and you need him to relieve himself at an appropriate time and place. Make sure you stay with your puppy when you take him outside (on the lead, if needed), as this will prevent him from getting distracted or upset with the separation and thus forgetting about relieving himself. You only need to take him out for a few minutes. If he doesn’t relieve himself in that time, then you can put him back in his play area or supervise him until next time. Don’t forget he will be going back with a full bladder, so keep a good eye and try again in half an hour’s time.
You should always try to take your puppy out at the following times:
- Immediately after the puppy wakes up
- First thing in the morning
- Last thing at night
- A few minutes after eating
- After playing
- After any excitement (e.g. after visitors greet your puppy).
Reward your puppy with calm, happy praise and with your chosen keyword as he is relieving himself (e.g. ‘good boy, busy’) and give him a couple of extra special treats after he has done his business (e.g. a small piece of dried liver or cheese). Do something very special after he has successfully used his designated toilet; like a game, lots of cuddles and maybe if he has had his vaccinations, take him out for a walk (the ultimate in dog rewards!). The benefit of taking him for a walk after his toileting means that your puppy will learn to be a fast eliminator and you will save yourself from having to clean after your puppy outside your home. By making toileting a happy experience, your puppy will soon get the message, have positive associations and learn quicker.
What signs should I look for?
If you see your puppy sniffing around the ground, crouching down about to go to the toilet or actually going to the toilet inside the house, quickly get his attention by clapping, calling him excitedly and running to the door so that he will follow you out. If he is actually going to the toilet you may need to shout something extravagant to get his attention and stop him in his tracks (e.g. something silly like ‘sausages!!!’ will help as it is not personal or aggressive). Make sure the shout does not scare him as this will make him nervous and more prone to toileting in the wrong place. The purpose of the shout is to alert him. By doing so, he will shut his bowels and hold it whilst you walk him outside. It is best that he makes his own way out the door rather than carrying him out, as this will help him learn that he actually needs to make his own way to the door when he needs to go to the toilet.
What if my puppy makes mistakes?
You will need to clean the area thoroughly to get rid of smells. Note that household cleaners do not get rid of all the proteins that we cannot smell. Do not use any cleaner with ammonia orbleach, as it will smell similar to the ammonia in urine and the puppy will identify it as a toilet area. Specialist cleaners such as Formula H Disinfectant is a safe ammonia-free solution specifically designed to help with housetraining.
Odour removers (such as SimpleSolution – Odour Remover) are also good at removing all proteins traces that household cleaners do not remove.
How long should it take to housetrain my puppy?
Like all young animals, puppies do not have full control of their bodies. Depending on the individual puppy, the breed and how much effort you put in the training, it may take up to 8 months to have a completely housetrained dog. Accidents will probably happen at night since the puppy may not be able to hold it in for many hours at a time initially. However do not despair; as long as the puppy is consistently going outside during the day he will soon learn that toileting means going outside when he has better control of his body.
You can also have your puppy in his crate in your room initially so that you can listen for the signs. If your puppy cries during the night pay attention to him and take him outside immediately. Do not fuss him or play with him, just go outside with him for a few minutes until he eliminates, praise him and then calmly and quietly take him back to sleep in his crate. This way the puppy doesn’t think that three o’clock in the morning is a good time to play.
Remember prevention is the key to successful housetraining. Take things slowly, have consistency and keep a routine. Be fair and kind to the young life endowed into your care. You will soon be enjoying happy, mess-free days with your best friend.
But my grown up dog is not yet house trained
If you have an adult dog that is still soiling in the house, then you will need to ensure that your veterinarian has not identified a medical condition. If the dog has not got a medical condition, then you will need to start housetraining from the beginning using an indoor crate. See our article Dog Crates and Crate Training for good advice about using crates. It is worth putting the effort in and ensuring you are constantly supervising your dog. If you do, then it should only take you a couple of weeks to re-train him. Follow the guidelines as with puppy housetraining. However adult dogs have more control of their bodies so they do not need to be taken out as often as puppies. Once the dog has gone outside, he can have the supervised run of the house; until you feel it’s time to take him out again.
The importance of playing with your dog
How you play with your dog (and how you don’t) makes a big difference on how your pet behaves, both in and out of play sessions. Playing can enhance your relationship, increase your dog’s willingness to do what you ask, teach emotional control, and in general make life a lot more fun. However, inappropriate play can also teach bad habits and create dogs who are emotionally out of control.
Many games with your dog should involve toys. Some of your dog’s toys should be of hollow, indestructible rubber into which you can stuff food, called Kongs. These are great at keeping your dog occupied when you don’t have enough time to play with him and it will encourage your dog to play by himself. There are many interactive toys out there that can entertain your dog for a long time. Have plenty of toys around, but only leave 3 or 4 out at a time and rotate it with some ‘new’ toys every week (even though you bought them months ago).
Although all dogs should have toys they can play with by themselves, the best kind of play is interactive play with you. It’s not only fun for both of you, but it’s full of opportunities for your dog to learn and become more responsive and better able to control himself when being emotionally aroused. It’s also a great way to enhance the bond between you and your dog.
Teaching your dog to fetch
This is an excellent way to exercise your dog. You can stand in your back garden enjoying your morning cuppa, while your dog runs its tail off – well, as long as your dog brings back the ball so you can throw it again (otherwise, that is chasing not fetching!).
To get started, practise in an area with few distractions. Start by waving the ball in front of your dog. It’s usually the movement that interests the dog, not the object. When he’s focused on the ball, throw it 4 to 5 feet away. When he grabs it, that’s great, but resist the urge to say “good boy!”. You can now clap your hands and start running away from your dog. This will encourage your dog to move towards you with the ball in his mouth. Don’t worry if he doesn’t bring it back all the way. As soon as he drops it, pick it up and throw it again immediately. Don’t ask him to sit after he brings it back, that won’t make him bring the ball back and might even feel like a punishment to him. You want to reinforce your dog for bringing it back by immediately having it again.
Repeat this a few times, but be careful about asking for too much too soon. Don’t worry if your dog loses interest after 3 or 4 throws, this is common at this stage of training. Gradually, over a period of months, throw the ball more often, ending either before your dog gets bored with the game or before he gets too tired. If your dog at the end fails to chase after the ball, no problem, game over. Don’t coax and plead, just walk away. Otherwise, you are being taught to fetch the ball yourself and be forewarned: dogs are really, really good at teaching humans to retrieve!
Teaching tricks to your dog
Teaching tricks is another wonderful way to play with your dog. Trick training has the advantage of being enjoyable for both of you, while still teaching your dog that it’s fun to pay attention. Teaching a trick is also a great mental exercise, and dogs need mental exercise as much as they need physical exercise. It makes sense if you think about it: Our dogs’ ancestors were problem-solving, strategic hunters who had to plan and coordinate their activities based on a complexity of factors. Many of our dogs are woefully under-employed, and teaching tricks is a wonderful way to engage their brains.
The tricks you can teach your dog are limited only by your dog’s physical condition and your imagination. You can teach your dog to sit pretty, to look sad, to take a bow, spin, roll over, shake, pray or even roll himself up in a blanket when you say “night night”. It’s a good idea to use a clicker when teaching such tricks, as it gives the dog feedback with such precision. There are many books out there in the market that take you step-by-step through clicker training on some of the more popular tricks.
There’s no reason not to think of ‘sit’ and ‘lie down’ as tricks too, and that might be a good thing. People seem to be more relaxed and cheerful when they are teaching their dogs ‘tricks’ rather than ‘obedience’. They also have more realistic expectations about tricks, rather than expecting their dogs to obey out of respect and submission. Remember you get back what you put in. If you want your dog to be enthusiastic, then be sure to be enthusiastic yourself.
Good dogs are made, not born, and they rely on you to be their coaches, supporters and benevolent leaders. So, here’s to a long, wonderful life for both you and your dog! Keep practising and playing together to forge the relationship you want.