Tips For Having a Puppy With Children

There are many things to consider when choosing to bring a puppy into a home with children. One thing to think about is what type of dog will be gentle and tolerate the child’s behavior. Your new puppy is not just a pet, he or she is a member of the family and as such, needs to be treated well by everyone – especially the children.

Whatever type of puppy or dog you choose, some type of training will be in order:

  • Make sure your children are mature enough to have self control and understand directions. Very very young children just naturally pull hair, poke eyes, fall on the dog or puppy. All of these behavior are extremely hard on a dog.
  • One way to tell how your child will act around a dog or puppy is to take the child around a friend’s dog and see what your child does. Is your child hard on the dog? Does your child listen to you when you tell him “no” around the dog?
  • Small puppies, generally, are NOT the best choice if you have young children. In their own right, puppies are very much like small children themselves, and they will take a lot of time and attention. If you have small children also, your time is limited and your probably won’t have time to devote to the puppy to help it navigate it’s way to being a well trained dog.
  • Make sure your puppy or dog has the ability to get away from the kids in a safe place, like a crate or kennel in a quiet area of the house. You need to get away from your kids occasionally—so does your dog.
  • Understand that just by nature of being kids, the high energy, the screaming, the legs and arms going 90 mph, will always bring out the prey drive in your puppy or dog. Know what to do to address this.
  • Kids and dogs is a 2 way street. Don’t automatically assume your puppy or dog will “know” how to act around children. They must be taught, JUST as your children must be taught the appropriate way to act with a puppy or dog.

Consistency and repetition are the key. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”


K-9 Food Aggression and Kids Makes for a Dangerous Cocktail

Food aggression in dogs may develop if they are not properly socialized and desensitized around all family members while eating their meals. You do not want your dog biting you or other family members. Training a dog to prevent food aggression means getting your new puppy or dog used to family members being around their food bowl.  This is a simple exercise that, if started when you get your puppy or dog, could save you a lot of grief down the road because you have prevented your dog from becoming an aggressive dog.

In addition to food aggression, dogs can guard things they perceive as having high value to them such as:

·       Space: Personal space, their dog bed or your bed couch or chairs

·       Articles of play: Dog toys, kid toys or anything of yours he picks up that is laying around that he determines has high value to him at that time.

·       Love and affection: You can become a highly valued resource to your dog as well. What does that mean?  That’s the love and affection you give him which he may want to reserve for himself and not share with other 2 legged or 4 legged pack members.

In some dogs this concern needs to be addressed immediately. Otherwise a growling dog could turn into a biting dog that bites a family member and it escalates from there. Not addressing this behavior could be setting the dog up for a one way trip to the vet and that is not a good outcome for anyone – especially the dog. It just makes good sense to make sure your new puppy or dog does not learn to guard his food or anything.

Why does a dog become aggressive around his food bowl? That’s a good question. There could be a number of factors. Lets take a look at possible reasons dogs develop this aggressive attitude while in possession or close to the things that fit into the above categories:

·       Not being properly desensitized to family members around him when he is eating. This should include heavy doses of feeding him from your hand, taking his food bowl up during meals and giving it back with a much yummier treat on top of his remaining food.

·       Another factor could be a complete lack of structure in the family.  Meaning that the dog is not required to earn the things in life that he really wants by simply performing sits and downs before getting the high valued thing he wants.

·       Dogs that have more leader type personalities or strong temperaments who may be in conflict with their owner as to “who’s the boss”.  This can be caused by a lack of structure as mentioned above. This type of dog personality could be more likely to control or guard their food bowl and other things than say a very submissive dog.

Don’t misunderstand; submissive dogs can also become dog food aggressive. It’s just that the more strong personality of the dog, the more likely it could aggressively guard its food bowl. I’ve also seen strong, leader type dogs aggressively guard their position on the family couch yet be perfectly fine with family members near their food bowl while they are eating. It all depends on the individual dog and influential environmental factors.

If your dog has a serious aggression issue around his food bowl or when he is in possession of what he perceives as things of high value, consider the following:

1.    Make sure all humans and dogs are safe. This means that the dog should be physically managed – crated, gated or on a leash in the house (when you are home,) so the dog is prevented from becoming aggressively reactive.

2.    Balance your relationship with your dog. Let him know that your relationship is a give and take kind of deal. Control the things in life he wants. Put him on a learn-to-earn program of performing sits and downs for these valuable things in his life. All family members should participate so he gets the same message from everyone.

3.    Get back into the training groove with sits and downs to give him a sense of working for leadership rather than feeling responsible for it himself.

4.    Exercise your dog to more constructively manage his energy rather than it being managed by the dog in a destructive way.

5.    Finally, get with a good trainer or behaviorist to begin working on a behavior modification program to directly address the issues of food aggression and aggression around anything else.

If you detect a problem, it should be addressed sooner than later because this aggressive dog behavior grows stronger each time the dog growls or snaps causing people to back away. Dogs repeat behaviors that work for them. If you notice your dog growling around their food bowl or growling when you approach them in certain situations, call a trainer or behaviorist before the problem gets worse. If you secure a trainer, be as comfortable with the trainer as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!”

By Popular Demand: Our Non-Toxic Solutions To Fleas

I was reading the Houston Chronicle Thursday, March 18 and on the front page was this headline:
EPA scrutinizes flea, tick products that it warns can be deadly to pets. You can read the article here.

We choose NOT to use these topical flea and tick products. They ARE a pesticide. The packaging specifically tells you to wash your hands immediately after using the product and to not let a child pet the dog if you have recently put the product on the dog. Think about that!

We choose not to use pesticides on our dogs because their health and well being is too important. The more exposure dogs get to pesticides or low-quality food that contains meats not even fit for human consumption, the greater their chance of getting cancer. Do you ever wonder why cancer is on the rise in the dog population?

It is more work — yes. But we feel it is our responsibility to protect the health of our dogs just as parents protect the health of their children.

So here is a list of the things we do to keeps fleas and ticks off our dogs in a safe, natural way:

  • Wash all pet beds in hot water and dry in the dryer to kill fleas and flea eggs.
  • Make a natural flea spray by cutting up six organic lemons, boiling them in a quart of water, and letting them sit for a few hours to steep. Use at least one fruit per pint.  Strain the lemon water into a spray bottle and lightly spray the pet’s fur. Be sure not to spray the lemon mixture in the dogs face or on any open scratches or wounds.  The oil in the lemons helps suffocate the fleas and the smell of the lemon will also help deter fleas.  This is the remedy I use most often.
  • Use Neem on your dogs and your dog’s beds.  Neem is a brown powdery substance that can be shaken on your dog’s bed and also shaken onto the dog and base of neck, between hips and rubbed into their coat.  It will kill the fleas.  Buy this from a reputable source so you can be sure it really has Neem in it. This is my second-favorite remedy.
  • Regularly vacuuming carpets and plush furniture also is important to rid a home of fleas and ticks. Be sure to toss out the vacuum bag so that the fleas and ticks do not crawl out of the bag after you shut off the vacuum.
  • Your most basic tool in fighting fleas and ticks is the underrated flea comb. It is simple to use and very effective in catching not only fleas and ticks, but flea eggs as well.
  • Use tweezers or a tick scoop to remove any other bugs and burrs.
  • You can dab some petroleum jelly on the comb to help make the fleas stick to its tines.
  • Comb your pet over white paper. If fleas are present, you will see tiny black specks fall on the paper.
  • To check your dog for fleas when bathing, place a large white towel beneath your dog. Fleas typically fall off when you rinse the dog, so you’re likely to spot them on the towel.
  • You can make a rinse from cider vinegar and water to rinse your dog with after you bathe them.
  • You can try Brewer’s Yeast in your dog’s food.  Lots of people say it works, I didn’t think it worked for us.
  • Be cautious with essential oils.  Dogs are very sensitive to them.  If you choose to use some essential oils such as rosemary or citrus do NOT let your dog smell the essential oils directly.  Their mucous membranes, sense of smell is much more acute than ours and this can cause problems.

If you have natural ways to control fleas and ticks please share!

Dogs on Furniture – Yes Or No?


You come into your family room, only to find your dog happily snoozing in your spot on your couch! Now, for some folks this is not a problem–for others it is. When it comes to the touchy subject of dogs on the furniture, my vote is to YES, have dogs on the furniture. Yup, you heard that right, on the furniture. I would however, present the following clarifications:

  • There should be rules. Dogs should earn the privilege of getting on your furniture by at least, doing a sit. This should be followed by a command to get them on the sofa, like the command Up. After your dog performs a sit, simply pat the couch and say Up. So his getting on your couch is on YOUR terms, not his.
  • You should teach your dog a relocation cue (another place to go other than the sofa) and train this command frequently. Examples would be, go to your bed, or once off the couch just place your dog in a down by your feet in front of the couch. This teaches him that you can let him up, BUT, you can also tell him to get off and go somewhere else. If your dog has a tendency or potential to guard the sofa, doing this exercise frequently would help to minimize any resource guarding that could develop.
  • Dogs with strong leader type personalities or temperaments would have a greater tendency to resource guard space. The stronger this tendency, the more I would tend to limit time (IF ANY AT ALL) on the furniture.

You can circumvent a lot of these issues by deciding early on if you want your dog on the furniture or not and begin training the behavior as a puppy. If you decide somewhere along the line to change the rules, be patient, your dog can’t read your mind. You will have to patiently and consistently train him to stay off the couch. Also, if your dog came to you from another family, they might have allowed him to be on the furniture. You will have to teach him new commands to stay off the furniture. Again, yelling and punishment doesn’t get you much, so be patient and consistent and remember set your dog up to succeed so you are able to accentuate the positive and downplay the negative.


Separation Anxiety in Dogs – Causes and Cures

There are multiple reasons dogs can develop separation anxiety. Two of the most common are:

1) A dog is not allowed to learn “alone time.” This is usually the result of a member of the family constantly being with the dog or taking the dog with them whenever they leave. Dogs need to learn how to be alone. This alone time training should begin immediately when you get your dog or puppy. Most people get a new dog or puppy and plan to spend an entire weekend or a week’s vacation consumed with making the dog feel “part of the family”. This is all well and good, but you must allow the dog to be alone. Start out by crating the dog and leaving the room for 5 minutes. Do not return unless the dog/puppy is quiet. If you return when the dog or puppy is barking, whining or crying you have just told the dog that behavior works – it gets you back in its sight. The dog is now controlling your goings and comings.

Begin extending his alone time, incorporating actually leaving the house for extended periods of time. Do NOT make a big fuss when you either exit the house or return home. Departures and arrivals needs to be low key so you dog does not attach any “special” meaning to them.

2) Another factor in dogs having separation anxiety is lack of structure in the home. Dogs are very much like children, they do very well when they know what is expected of them, the rules never change and they need to say “please” for the things they want that have high value. Basic obedience such as simple sits and downs can work wonders in adding structure and leadership role into your relationship with your dog.


Nuisance Barking – How to Fix It

As a natural and completely normal part of a dog’s behavior, they bark. While this may be for a number of different reasons, it doesn’t always mean that danger is imminent. Some dogs bark excessively, which can become quite annoying. It can be controlled, but you must first understand some of the reasons they bark – and why YOU might be at the root of the problem.

Barking seems to be more dominant in certain breeds of dogs than others. Huskies are very vocal dogs, Yorkies tend to bark a lot. Barking by a dog can be a signal that he’s defending his territory, alerting others that they are in his space. Barking dogs will also use it to seek attention. Barking is also part of the play routine.

However, most if not all nuisance barking is due to boredom and loneliness. We tend to forget that dogs are pack animals. They have a social structure in their pack and they belong to a PACK. They are generally NOT solitary creatures. But we, as dog owners, more times than not, do not think about what our dogs need to be balanced. And being isolated and alone does not make your dog balanced- it makes your dog anxious, lonely and bored.

As an example, it you have relegated your dog to the backyard that is a sure fire recipe for behavior problems. The reasons are:

  • There is no one outside to interrupt inappropriate behavior with a NO, OFF and redirect to appropriate behavior so the dog is allowed to practice unacceptable behavior all day long or all night long.
  • The dog has no intellectual stimulation. They are intelligent creatures and their brains need to be active
  • The dog is terribly lonely, even if there is another dog outside with them, YOU are inside
  • The dog is storing up energy and will release that energy by digging up your yard or flower beds, chewing up your lawn furniture, digging out of the backyard and escaping to the wonderful outside world!

If your dog barks constantly and is an inside dog, some of the reasons can be;

  • Demanding your attention. The dog barks, you pet or pay attention, the dog figures out barking gets him what he wants
  • Territoriality. Dogs that are allowed to bark at a window at passersby are rehearsing territorial dominance. They bark, the THING goes away, the message to the dog – barking works.

So how do you fix an inside dog that barks. Use your leadership role and training. When the barking starts, immediately interrupt the behavior with a NO OFF then give the dog something to do that is appropriate and praise. If your dog is barking to demand your attention, do not give him attention. If the barking continues, use your leadership and training skills and have him go to his place. Remember, things must by on your terms, not your dog’s terms.

So how do you fix an outside dog that barks—easy. Bring it inside and begin teaching your dog how to be a great member of your family.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!


Is Your Dog Shy Or Fearful of Being Touched?

Most of us have seen dogs that pull back or shy away from being touched or petted by a person. Even if the dog is not aggressive, it just doesn’t want people to touch it. In a lot of stray dogs, this shyness is common behavior. But, it may be able to be changed, especially if the dog is still in the puppy stage. It begins with instilling structure in a dog’s life. This is very important for many reasons, especially in a fearful puppy or dog. When you begin training, your dog will start to display better behavior in every aspect from obeying your command to potty training. Dogs really do enjoy being obedient, because they get rewarded with praise and even food treats from their owners, plus it gives them a job to do – a purpose. Just as you do with children, teaching your dog how to behave is essential. What if you do have a puppy or young dog who seems to be afraid of your touch? While you can’t force him to let you touch him, there are some things you can do. Changing a dog’s behavior isn’t always easy, but adding structure and having patience can make a big difference. Talking kindly and trying to “lure” the dog to you, may work with some pets, with some it won’t. When a dog has been a stray or for some other reason has had very little human contact, it can be very difficult to establish trust. Give him patience, time and structure and he will grow to trust you. However, this doesn’t mean that he will allow you to touch him. So, are there any options? One option is to allow your dog to learn your scent. Sometimes putting an old shirt of yours atop his bedding can keep your scent present while he sleeps or rests. Once trust is gained, allow the dog to lie in your arms for an extended period, until he is fully awake. This way, he will start learning your scent and will feel more connected to you. While this isn’t guaranteed to work, it will help to begin lessening the fear in your dog. Truthfully, there are dogs who simply will never allow you to touch them. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you, but the fact is, that if they have gone for months or years before you had them without human contact, they may never allow it. One dog I worked with had been in a crate 23 hours a day for the entire 18 months of his life. He was terrified of everything. It took me 6 months of work on a daily basis to get him to where he actually enjoyed being touched and even became quite attached to a few people. Again, including structure which includes training and being a good leader to your dog, continuing to be patient and kind, will hopefully enable you to touch your dog so he will enjoy it. Not all dogs are lap dogs, but they still want to be part of your pack. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children, and remember “Opportunity Barks!”  

Crate Training Your Dog – Make Sure You Crate Train Your Dog Correctly

You may have heard of crate training your dog, buy maybe you don’t really understand what it is or how to do it correctly.

Crate training is not the same thing as confining your dog in a crate. When you are trying to housetrain a puppy or dog, the crate enables you to set your dog our puppy up to be successful in housetraining, instead of setting them up to fail.

Dogs and puppies don’t like to soil the areas where they sleep or eat, so crating them for a time helps inhibit their tendency to urinate or defecate in their crate, thereby helping them learn to hold their business. It helps teach them to wait until they have an opportunity to do the business outside.

When you are at home, take your dog or puppy out of the crate and take them outside to potty. Generally speaking for every month a puppy is old, that is the number of hours they can hold their business. So if you have an 8 week old puppy, that puppy can hold it for approximately 2 hours (especially when awake). When you take your puppy out and they don’t potty, take the puppy back in, put it back in the crate and try again in about 15 minutes. When the potty potties, they get a standing ovation which helps them understand that what they did was a good thing.

Crate training is also useful when you are trying to teach behavior to your puppy such as quiet or no bite. Be sure to understand the crate is not to be viewed as punishment. If you puppy is really bitey and using the methods of saying ouch in a high pitched voice and leaving the room are not working, when the puppy bites simply and non-emotionally say NO, OFF and gently place the puppy in the crate for 2 minutes. That 2 minute time out breaks the cycle of the biting and then you can let the puppy out.

Placing the puppy in the crate for 2 minutes during a time the puppy is being very rowdy and chasing and exhibiting extremely high energy also breaks the cycle. However, if you puppy exhibits this uncontrollable high energy constantly, you need to re-address how you are managing his energy – WALKS, and as importantly what you are feeding your puppy. Low quality foods that contain a lot of cheap carbohydrates such as corn, turn to sugar in your puppy, increase serotonin and you have an out of control puppy.

Do not leave your puppy in a crate for hours on end. That is confinement, not crate training. A puppy should never be confined in a crate all day long while you are at work. If that is your circumstance, then hire a pet sitter to come over at least twice a day to take the puppy out and play with it a little. A puppy in a crate for 8-10 hours a day in not conducive to a well balanced, happy puppy.

To recap, crate training is not the same thing as confinement. The crate is used to aid in potty training, giving the puppy somewhere to go to be quiet and to sleep in at night so the puppy does not wander the house. Crate training is used to illicit good behavior from your puppy and to aid your puppy in being successful instead of setting your puppy up to fail.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!