Edna’s training begins

These are the activities I have worked on in my first 24 hours with Edna:

  • housebreaking. I have either my eyes on her, or she is locked in her crate. She gets a treat and hears the command “potty” when she goes outside. This is time consuming – when awake and playing, a pup has to relieve itself every 10 – 15 minutes!
  • clicker training. I am “charging” the clicker with her. All this means is that a primary reinforcer (food) is given at the same time a secondary reinforcer (could be anything — sea mammal trainers use a whistle, dog trainers like a little device that makes a distinct “click-clack” sound. This helps when training very precise behaviors later. I hope to not only teach her some fun tricks, but also to train her to alert on cadaver material, items people may have discarded while hiking, (and maybe my GPS when I lose it in the woods one day!) and also it helps when training a bark on command, which I plan to teach her so she can tell me when she has found a lost person.
  • socialization. Edna is very social and sweet, but meeting all kinds of people in all kinds of environments will boost that great temperament and preserve it. She went with me to the Ketchikan Daily News, where I used to work as a reporter (and am filling in now, part time,) and she was held by men, women and  she trotted around and had her photo taken by reporter Nick Bowman.
    Edna on her second day home, getting ready to visit Ketchikan Daily News friends.
    Edna on her second day home, getting ready to visit Ketchikan Daily News friends.

    She also visited the North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department where I was attending a drill. She ran around near the ambulance and fire trucks, learned about the strange noises of air brakes and loud engines and got cuddled by firefighters and EMTs and even the fire chief (who happens to also head up our Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, which Edna and I are members of as a SAR team.)

  • small, important lessons. She has taken two gentle, small hikes with me and our four other dogs. She has experienced woods, trails, wet, thick brush and lots of puddles already. She is very brave about the rain, puddles and cool temperatures. Teaching her to accept a collar and to give into leash pressure is another project. When it’s sunny, I tie the dogs up on our broad deck – they love to lie in the sun while I weed the garden and pick raspberries. Today was Edna’s first time, and it took her awhile to accept the limits of her tie out. She had a nice chew bone she finally gave into, and she accepted the fact that she would just have to wait patiently. She also is learning to follow me, to respond to her name (I just give her a bit of kibble while saying her name.) She also is learning that she must not use her teeth on people in play. We use a gentle correction of some sort – either a finger tap on the ribs or lifting her away via scruff, then we redirect her by wiggling a toy so she can bite that instead, and praising her.
  • “Come.” The most important lesson, possibly. Many times during the day I give her a treat while saying “Edna, come!” This works to train older dogs too – even ones who have learned bad habits. I turn a bit to the side, crouch down, don’t stare at her face, and hold the treat against my leg to encourage her to push in close.
  • Sit for a meal. This is pretty simple – using a leash to control her movement. All four older dogs know to sit for their food, so I use a leash to keep her from lunging into their bowls, and to guide her into a sit. Being a Border Collie, she very easily and naturally folds into both sit and down positions. This is where I am teaching her the release command “OK!” When she is in a stable sit, I say OK, all the dogs start eating, and I encourage her to stand up and dig in. The “OK” will be used a lot when releasing her from sit or down stay, or from a crate.
  • Kennel. Go into a crate on command and quietly stay there until released. She whines a bit about the kennel in the car, but it is mild and I am confident she will stop when she realizes it accomplishes nothing. She slept quietly from 11 p.m. until 6 p.m. this morning, so I was happy about that!
  • “Off.” When she tries to jump up on the couch, we gently guide her back down and say “off!” the minute her feet hit the floor, then give her praise and the attention she was seeking. This one is tough with soft-hearted visitors/kids and an adorable puppy!
  • “Leave it.” Good for biting houseplants, toes, poking cats and other puppy misadventures. We use the same routine as for putting her teeth on people.
  • “Wait.” Great for warning to not go through a door, or to run off when I’ve dropped a leash, or to keep a dog from jumping out of the car when you realize another car is coming, or you are having a hard time untangling five leashes.  🙂 I just block the dog with my hand or the leash when they first are learning, saying “wait” as I do it.

So many things to teach a young puppy! It is very fun, and rewarding, and if the foundation is set up correctly, the pup will be a delight as it grows, rather than a large, hyper, gangly menace.


Pete’s Problems

So, as I drove away with Pete, I formulated a plan for bringing a potential 8-pound unhousebroken chainsaw into our busy household!

My first priority was giving Pete a long, proper “Leadership Walk“.  When introducing a new dog to your household, it is imperative to walk him or her in a calm, follower mode for a long, long walk, including any dogs from the household that will be its new pack members, and ideally, your human family members too.  When you get back to the house, walk calmly inside, people first and your doggy pack following.  This is what I did with Pete, then I walked all around the house with him on leash, correcting any moves toward marking, toward chasing the cats, or snapping at people.  The most important safety rule I made very VERY clear to my three kids and husband too:  You can feed Pete treats but do NOT try to pet him!

He stayed either in a crate or leashed to me until bed time that night.

Bed time was difficult, because like many tiny dogs Pete was not used to sleeping  alone in a crate.  Since my intent was to retrain him for a new home, I wanted to teach him this skill so he’d be a more flexible companion, suitable for many types of new owners.  Also, the insecure type of dog benefits from learning self-esteem – that he can do things on his own, without clinging to their chosen person!  (And, that includes the skill of sleeping alone, in a crate.)  I put the crate inches from my head next to my bed and he fussed quietly (sometimes not so quietly) until about 2 a.m. when he finally surrendered.  I started by leaving his leash on for corrections through the wire sides, but that quickly stopped working.  I tried making a “sssh” noise, but that worked very little.  He needed to be forced to “calm”.  So, I opened the door when he’d start whining and stressing, and poke him in the ribs, causing him to curl head and hip toward me, sinking into the wooly blankets I’d tucked in there.  I pointed at him and loomed over him sternly saying “No.” quietly but firmly, not moving an inch until he surrendered and lay down.  This worked quite well finally!  The next day he practiced staying in the crate quietly with the same correction, and by the afternoon, he was doing great.  That second night was very quiet.

Pete detests losing sight of me.  He cries loudly even if I go outside for a few seconds to grab something out of the freezer, so I consistently open the door, point at him and say “No!”.  Because he is a really responsive, sensitive guy, this has helped a lot.  A tougher dog would likely need a squirt from a squirt gun, or a leash correction, or a forced lie-down and settle command, but…that tougher sort of dog usually does not fall apart when their human disappears for seconds either!

I had very recently worked with some clients on their problem with marking in the house by their male, long-hair Chihuahua, and had written this post on housebreaking, and leg-lifting in the house, afterward, so I had some ideas fresh in my mind for helping Pete with the marking issues.  Mostly the solution isn’t terribly clever, it just comes down to:  Supervision.  Supervision, and correction in the act.  Correction means giving him a tap on his side and sending him away from the area with a gesture, and a stern posture.  I am lucky with Pete in that he’s extraordinarily sensitive to any kind of correction.  Within a day and a half of extreme supervision (leashed to me for the first day, then following his every move for the second two days…) he’d given up thinking about marking.

Part of breaking the dog’s urge to mark the house is calming the dog too.  Marking is a sign of insecurity and excitement, both which are high when a dog joins a new household with five people, three indoor cats and three indoor dogs!  As with so many behavior problems, the Leadership Walk was  the most powerful my first priority Pete’s first priority in his rehab.

This is getting long, so I’ll talk in my next post about the most interesting and challenging part of Pete’s rehab – teaching him to never, ever use his teeth on people.

Leg Lifting in the House

Does your male dog mark “his” territory in your house?  Are you finding mystery stains on drapes, chairs, beds or other corners?

This behavior is not a house training issue, technically.  It is a leadership and dominance issue.

Dogs that do this are often small, insecure/dominant types.  (We’d call them passive-aggressive, if they were humans!)  These dogs feel a lack of leadership in the house, and feel they have no choice but to take control, but it makes them very uncomfortable and nervous.  They then feel that a great solution is to mark everything in the house so that any possible “scary” invaders know that a really tough guy lives there!

It sounds a little bit funny, but it is a common problem, with very icky, un-funny results!  Here are several approaches to use to conquer this behavior problem:

1)  Master the Leadership Walk!  (If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes talking to me about training, or reading this blog, you aren’t surprised I wrote this as #1, are you?)  Learn more about the Leadership Walk and why is is crucial to your and your dog’s entire relationship.

2)  Practice discipline in your house.  Your dog must give people respect.  This means:  give them space.  Not only does the dog not jump on people, he does not get close enough to jump on people!  He is calm and submissive and following behind people when leaving or entering the house.  He moves off of furniture politely and quickly when asked.

3)  Neuter him!  No excuse for an un-neutered dog or un-spayed dog unless you are a very serious breeder with a long-term plan to improve your chosen breed.

4)  Supervise him.  For a few days, or a week or two – until the behavior stops – do not let him out of your sight.  If you are too distracted to watch him, crate him or tie him to you with a leash so he can’t sneak away.  My family completely broke a new dog from the shelter of a very intense house-marking problem by tying him to his owner (my seven-year-old daughter) for three or four days.  This is not convenient, but it works 100%, and increases your bond, and his “follower” mentality too.  Literally every move he makes is determined by you!

5)  Correct just before the act, or right in the middle. Rush over and say “HEY!” very indignantly and tap him firmly in the ribs or neck.  Stand tall and lean over him, letting him know in no uncertain terms that this is *your* property, and then send him away, using your voice to say “Go!” and stalk toward him, “shoo-ing” him away.

6)  When on walks, do not let him stop to lift his leg.  Just walk.  When you do take time for a “potty” stop (this is at *your* decision, most definitely not at *his*!) if he goes to lift his leg, tug him along to a place with no vertical “temptation” and teach him that he can relieve himself in a calm, non-excited/dominant manner.

Often, just doing the Leadership walking correctly, and the respectful door behaviors correctly will stop the indoor marking.  Your dog will feel calmer, and happier, knowing he doesn’t have to worry about making the house safe from “bad guys”!

One last word:  Use an enzymatic scent eliminator like Nature’s Miracle to clean, to lessen the scent trigger that draws your dog to mark that place again and again.