Surviving Canine Adolescence – Session 1 Q&A
Short answer – there is no short answer. Barking has so many different causes, and the first thing we have to do is figure out why is she barking. So, is she barking out of boredom? Is she barking for attention? Is she barking at things, moving as you walk, or through the window…that kind of thing. And it may be a combination of factors, so we have to look at the root cause of the barking and address that first. So, for example, if you have a dog barking for attention, the best thing you can do is remove yourself from that situation. Don’t give your dog attention-even negative attention-for barking. And then if you do have your dog barking AT things, that protocol we talked about for passing distractions-just a few slides toward the end of the presentation-works really, really well for dogs that bark AT things.
Typically what we recommend is the crate overnight without any pads in it. Most puppies are very good about letting you know when they need to go, so you only need to let your puppy out if they tell you they need to go out. So you might get lucky and your puppy sleeps all night. Or maybe they just wake up one time. So, if they do need to go, you’re just going to take them out very quickly. Give them a minute or two to do their business. Don’t make it playtime, or petting or anything. Just business outside and then right back into the crate so that they eliminate those nighttime wakings as soon as they don’t need them…because if they don’t NEED to use the bathroom then there’s really no benefit to just getting put outside for a minute or two to use the bathroom. We don’t recommend holding off on potty training until later because what ends up happening is that it delays your process; because they were getting to go inside and that was okay, so then it takes a bit longer if you started later. So, start right away and you’ll be surprised how quickly they pick it up.
So, it sounds like you’re doing a lot of really, really good things for this. I like that you’ve got your high value food that you’re bringing, that’s awesome! Something that I recommend is teaching a hand touch. If you go on our YouTube channel there’s a video on how to teach it. You can probably find it in tons of places…but we’re just teaching the dogs to touch your hand and to do that at their eye level. So it works really well for those bouncy dogs, to redirect them on to something at their eye level. And also just making sure that your dog gets lots of really good mental stimulation. Aussies are super intelligent, super high-energy. That flirt pole toy that I mentioned in my presentation will be a great exercise tool for your dog. And it sounds like you’re doing a lot of the right things. And so, try that hand touch. That should help a lot.
So, I recommend for this giving her the task of all the best things for him. So, feeding his meals for him, if she can accompany you guys on walks and sometimes take the leash…just be the provider of all good things. And when you have a former breeding dog, they typically come from, a lot of times, poor socialization, poor genetics. It can take them a lot longer to warm up to new things, and that’s okay. It’s really about taking a lot of pressure off. Not trying to make friends with the dog necessarily, but just giving him some time and some space and making sure that she provides all the very best things for him. And over time he’s definitely going to get comfortable with her…but just try not to push it, try not to put too much pressure on trying to pet him and talk to him. Sometimes less is more and they’ll come around more quickly that way.
So, to some extent, you know, there are always going to be some dogs that are more introverted, more extroverted just like people. So maybe understanding that he may always be a little bit on the more reserved side. But, what you can do to start helping that is: when he meets new people, have that new person provide some really high value food. So, like: string cheese, chicken, hot dogs, that kind of thing. And just toss that food to the puppy. Not trying to hand it to him, definitely not sticking their hand out to say hello or trying to loom over and talk to him. All those things can actually have the opposite effect of what you want. So really just coming in, putting no pressure on him, don’t look at him, don’t talk to him, don’t try to interact with him. Just toss some food and then let him come around on his own time and you’ll find that he’ll probably come around faster that way and over time even become more social.
So, this is a really complex situation. We do see compulsive behaviors in dogs. Often times this comes from people using laser pointers, especially when the dog is a puppy as kind of a fun game, to chase the laser pointer. It actually can create an obsessive-compulsive type behavior of light chasing. It’s really interesting from a neurological perspective. But typically in these cases we do recommend consulting potentially a veterinary behaviorist because sometimes we need medication intervention for really severe cases. Certainly, we have to restrict your dog’s access to parts of the house where they’re able to see those lights and things. There is not a quick fix for this behavior, is the short answer. There is help for it, but we usually do want to get a veterinarian involved because sometimes these are very, very serious compulsive behaviors.
I love it, love it! It’s an amazing industry and career. So, we do recommend that you start with a school. That is going to teach you the foundations. Most of these great schools have mentorship programs. So you’ll not only get the book education, but you’ll get hands on education as well. So we love the Victoria Stillwell Dog Trainer’s Academy. That is a great program. Several of our Peach on a Leash trainers have gone through there. We’re also big fans of the Catch Canine Trainers Academy. And there’s also Karen Pryor Academy, Animal Behavior College. But typically our favorite two are going to be those first two: VSA and Catch Academy. So we want to start with something like that, a program dedicated to teaching you the foundation skills from an academic perspective-because it is a science-and then on top of that, giving you the hands on experience, too. Because that’s the only way you’re going to gain confidence, is really working hands on. Especially with a seasoned trainer that can give you that confidence and let you try things as you’re comfortable. So typically it’s 6-12 months of prep work, training and learning to be on your way. It’s not years and years and years, necessarily, but it’s a fantastic career, so I hope you pursue it.
So, that’s why we teach a “leave it” so that we can use that in those situations where we don’t want the dog to take something. So, if we’re working with a service dog that absolutely cannot pick up food off the ground, then we’re very, very strict that the dog is never allowed to have food off the ground really in any context or pick up anything off the ground unless they’re specifically asked to do so. But for regular pet dogs, you’re usually able to get enough generalization of that behavior by teaching that really strong “leave it”. So, hey, if you’re going to pick something up off the ground that is safe and fine, then that’s fine…you can be the dog, dogs are going to pick stuff up off the ground. But that way we also have a way to communicate when it’s unsafe for them to do so, and that’s why I absolutely love teaching that “leave it”.
That’s a fantastic question and I’ll tell you why. Because, image this food you’re asking your dog to leave in this training context…image that’s roadkill or glass or something disgusting that you don’t want your dog to take. We don’t want it to be a pause and then take it. “Leave it” is don’t take that at all. You might get something else, but the thing that I’m asking you to leave, you cannot have that. So we teach it in the context of using food, but we really mean for it to be useable in situations where that item can be dangerous, or just disgusting.
It is, and I don’t have off the top of my head great resources for it. I know that they’re out there. Really, we use a lot of tactile cues for blind dogs, whereas we do a lot of verbal as well, so your dog obviously can hear, so we can use the verbal but we also might have to pair it with some sort of touching of your dog in a way that we create to be really positive vs us being able to use hand signals. That’s really the biggest difference with a blind dog. And also just respecting the fact that they often don’t see things coming up so it can be very startling for them. So you may have a dog that typically wouldn’t show any sort of aggressive behavior, but it can be very startling if you can’t see something and then all of the sudden someone is touching you or someone is approaching you. So just asking people to give your dog some sort of a warning when they’re approaching and let your dog make the choice to go to them vs people always going on top of your dog. And that can be a really great starting point is using, again, that high value food is your best friend. She’ll definitely be able to smell that. And if she starts to associate that when new people are around, there’s also really good food around… Even without her vision, she’s still going to be able to make those associations and start to get more comfortable in those situations.
So, there is not an immediate quick fix to do this, but we have to look at the triggers of the behavior. So, is it every noise? Is it every voice? So you may want to get a professional in there because you’re going to be doing a lot of training to desensitize to those things. So we typically start by just pairing a very low version of the sound…let’s use the example of the UPS truck coming up the driveway, so we might have to start with the UPS truck being super far away or something that kind of sounds like rumbling outside…so every time your dog hears that sound we will reward that. So we pair the scary noise with something really good. Sometimes something else that can help is blocking off the visual of your windows. They make this great frosted glass that you can put on your glass, super cheap and easy to remove. If you don’t want it, but you can take that visual away…a lot of dogs like to bark at everything they see go out the windows. That can really help with that. Also, when you’re not home maybe put some white noise on and put your dogs in a separate area so they don’t have access to just bark, bark, bark when you’re not home. A lot of it is just about preventing the practicing of that behavior that we don’t want. Those are a couple of ways that you can help do that. But sometimes in these situations, honestly it’s so much easier to get just a professional in to help you. Because some of this training is a little bit more complex.
We see a lot of this in dogs that maybe did not get early socialization. Or we have some dogs that are naturally just a little bit more nervous around other dogs. I recommend very limited social interaction. Start with just one really gentle, safe, friendly dog that you can just let your dog meet on multiple occasions and start to get her some positive experiences with just one dog at a time. No dog parks, no daycare. It’s not a situation where you can just throw her into these big groups and she’ll kind of get over it. It’s actually much more effective and more ethical for you to introduce one dog at a time and start to socialize slowly that way.
No! Oh my gosh, this is great. This one of my favorite things to do, and you can even ration out part of their meals, too. So you save half of breakfast, stuff it in there with the peanut butter. The peanut butter becomes the binding agent. So unless you’re doing this multiple times per day…we’re not stuffing the Kong full. We typically just take a knife and do one to two spoonful’s from there.
K: Absolutely and another thing…At Hollywood Feed we do carry dog safe peanut butter, it’s called Buddy Butter. And then we do have some different types of frozen yogurts as well. Just be very careful that you’re looking in the ingredients. Your peanut butter that you get at the grocery store typically contains xylitol in it. It’s an artificial sweetener that can be toxic to dogs, so just make sure that is not in it. Then with your yogurt, you’re going to want to look for something that doesn’t have as much sugar in it. Dogs don’t need as much sugar as we typically like in our yogurt. So those are just a couple of recommendations there. And then with the Kongs, you can also freeze them. If the dog gets really good at cleaning them out, it slows them down a little bit and it’s a great summertime snackas well. So just a couple little tidbits there. We love the Kong.
So, the evenings are classically just the worst time for puppies. They all kind of have a witching hour like that. So, the flirt pole that I mentioned is a really good thing you can do if that craziness starts. You can also have a playpen that you set up, so that if everybody needs a break from each other then you have a place that she can go. But it’s really just about not allowing that behavior to get her play, to get her attention-positive or negative. Which does not mean you have to stand there and take it. You can remove yourself. You can remove her off of you. And again you can either put her in a playpen not as a punishment, but just hey-we all need a break here; or just give her an outlet for that energy. Make sure she’s eating three meals a day. Unless your vet has told you otherwise, typically for puppies they need to eat regularly throughout the day. So, if she’s starting to get hungry in those early evenings, that’s when we can start to see some of that behavior pop up. Just make sure you’re feeding the appropriate amount based on the type of food that you’re feeding. So, we make sure that all of those needs are being met, too.
Ah, yes. This is the classic dilemma about the potty bell and it’s very common that we see this issue happen. The way to fix it is: The only thing that happens if that bell rings is we’re going out for strictly business. So if you have a fenced yard, you’re going to have to take your dog out on a leash for a couple of weeks so that they have no play time. It’s just for going out, you have a chance to use the bathroom. If you don’t go within 2 minutes, then we’re going back inside, And if your dog has just gone out and used the bathroom and you know that they’re empty and they go back to ring the bell, just ignore it. So you may have to iron out some of those attempts to see: hey, what is this going to get me? if I ring this, what happens this time? They have to learn that it’s very, very specifically for potty training and potty training only.
I don’t necessarily know that you can teach that, but we can set everyone up for success. A lot of it’s going to be about how do we initially introduced the dogs to each other. We recommend neutral territory, so you can take them for a walk together. They’re not going to be sniffing noses on the walk, though. We typically do not like to do that. Just let them walk parallel to each other, kind of get used to each other, then maybe go into the yard or someone else’s yard and let them play and get to know each other. Keep a leash on your older dog, so if you do need to remove him you can do so. But a lot of it is just going to be a lot of management for the first two weeks. So, if one dog is getting too rough, then we remove and separate. But typically dogs are great about teaching each other those boundaries. It’s fine if your older dog growls, air snaps the puppy, barks at the puppy if the puppy is being too rough or too rude. Those are really important boundaries for them to set with each other and does not require human intervention. So for the most part, as long as your dog is friendly and social with other dogs, most dogs handle this transition better than we expect.
I recommend starting with an empty food bowl and don’t start at dinnertime. So practice this a little bit when your dog is a little bit more full. So practice with an empty bowl with maybe just a couple of pieces of kibble in it and just break this behavior down. There’s always a step that you can start with. I’ve had puppies that a success is I got the bowl down one inch and I didn’t have the puppy lunging for it. So, you start with whatever your puppy can handle right now. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with rewarding them intermittently. So you’re not necessarily waiting for that full, perfect behavior but we’re breaking down the pieces of this. And you have to start thinking like a dog trainer: what can I split this into? What pieces can I split this into? He can’t handle me putting the bowl all the way down, but can he handle me putting the bowl an inch or two down? Great! I’m going to reward that. Now let me try 4 inches down. Let me reward that. And you can break it down in pieces that way.
Great question. In a previous question we were just talking about the downfalls that we can sometimes see with them. But it works great for dogs that don’t do well with alerting that they need to use the bathroom. We actually love them. We have lots of clients that use them, so we find ourselves teaching it a lot. The key is: your dog will not really have a purpose for using the potty bell until they know they have to go outside to use the bathroom. This is not going to potty train your dog. It is an alert for a potty trained dog, to let people know they’ve got to go out. So you can’t expect the bell alone to potty train your dog. So first we do all of our basic potty training steps, and then when your dog is understanding that-hey, I’ve got to go outside if I need to use the bathroom-then that’s when the bell comes in so handy, because that’s when they can start using it to let you know that they’ve got to go.
And that is okay. There is no time limit on training. It’s not too late. Typically with multiple dogs we recommend training individually for each kind of behavior you’re teaching. And when both dogs are proficient at that behavior, then bringing them together. So you’re not going to have it take any longer because your dog is older. I mean, we work with senior dogs that can still learn these same things that puppies are learning, so you’re not going to lose out on anything by being a little bit late. That’s okay. Health and wellness have to come first. So now that puppy is ready to start training, then just make sure you give them both individual training time before you bring them together.
We do! We do virtual private training. We also offer a class on leash reactivity and we do sometimes virtual obedience classes as well. And I do actually have a trainer in Indiana. Her business is Vet Tech Coach, her name is Nikka. She’s fantastic. I can’t believe I was able to remember that. I believe she’s in Indiana. She’s great. So if you want to look up her business, she should be a great referral for you.
When you’re seeing this behavior at this young of an age, I definitely recommend getting a professional in to address it. There is an excellent article on the Whole Dog Journal website on resource guarding in dogs. I recommend checking that out. That’s a great starting point. It will walk you through a lot of the steps. There’s also a book called Mine by Jean Donaldson that specifically gives you the exact protocols for dealing with resource guarding. So if you feel confident that you want to start this training on your own, those are two really good resources to get you started.
Don’t give up. Again, it’s never too late. Your dog is never to old to learn these things. Sometimes older dogs, they’ve been practicing certain behaviors for longer, so it can take a little bit longer to change old habits and that’s ok. But the principals stay the same. You’ve got to catch accidents in the act. If you find them later, you’re delaying your potty training process. So, that might mean extra supervision. You can tether your dog to you, or you can use a playpen or a crate. You want to avoid excessively using the crate, but if you need a break, need to cook, need to work, you need to get something done…a playpen or a crate are great options for giving your dog a space they won’t have an accident in. So, we confine when we need to-otherwise we’re supervising. So if your dog starts to have an accident, you’re right there to interrupt them and get them outside. And then we’re making sure they know that when they DO go outside, that’s a great thing. You’re going to get praised, you might even get a food reward. The biggest thing is catching those accidents and really supervising in the house.
Great question. It depends on the dog. We always want to be mindful of predatory behavior. So if you have a dog that has ever shown any type of stalking or any obsessive fixation on small animals, then we’ve got to be very careful. Because predatory behavior can be very, very dangerous. And it is not a training issue, believe it or not. It’s really just hard wiring of the dog. We talked about that predatory action sequence earlier. There are just some dogs that have a higher prey drive than others. So our job is to manage those dogs and not put them in situations where they could be set up for failure. So as long as you don’t have a dog that is showing those types of things, we typically recommend doing this slowly. Start with a baby gate between the cats and the dog. The cats have to have a safe place they can get to. They can maybe get over a gate the dog cannot get over. If your cats are front declawed then they really can never be unsupervised with the dog, they have no way to defend themselves. It’s a very dangerous situation. It can also be very helpful to swap scents between the cat and the dogs rooms so they can get used to each others’ smell before they even meet each other. Then, starting with the baby gate in between, we’re watching for any really intense overarousal or focus on the cats, obsessive barking, staring, trying to get the cats. A little bit of play behavior is not concerning, but if we have any real fixation then we have to be very, very careful.
It is a very friendly affiliative behavior. Some dogs are just really big lickers. So last time I actually loved Laura’s suggestion. She has a licking dog and she suggested using a licking mat. So, giving that licking dog something to lick other than you and they’re kind of getting in that mode. Sometimes dogs use it as a way of coping with stress or overexcitement. So in those times where the need something to do in that situation, giving them an outlet for that licking can be super, super helpful.
K: Absolutely. The lick mats are fantastic. I actually just bought one for a boston terrier who is also a licker and she goes nuts for it and it really puts her focus on that lick mat, to get some of that out. And then she does really well afterwards, so they’re really helpful. We do carry those at Hollywood Feed as well.
I do recommend eliminating the prong collar for this behavior, because it can actually make it worse. Because what the dogs figure out is: I go and I see a dog coming and then I lunge out and I get the correction from the collar and it hurts; and so they start to associate that correction with the approach of another dog. So it can actually exacerbate the issue. So I recommend switching to either a head collar or a front clip harness. So you’re still getting the control that you need for safety, but without it being anything that’s going to cause the discomfort that can make it worse. Then, beyond that, I want you to go back to that passing distractions section that we talked about. That protocol is our gold standard reactivity protocol, but it is much more complicated than what I can get into in a presentation. We do offer it as an online course as well, if you need extra help with that. That is an option, too. Know that it is a very workable and fixable issue, but we have very specific teaching methods that we use to do that.
With the gentle leader, it’s possible your dog maybe hasn’t been properly acclimated to it. That’s something we do slowly. So, if your dog is not a big puller, you may just switch them to a front-clip harness. You may find that you don’t have the stopping happening. But if you want to use the gentle leader, then we recommend going back to the basics a little bit. We’ll hold the gentle leader out and lure the dog’s nose in with some food. We provide them some food once their nose is in it-we just don’t rush it. So, some dogs are really freaked out by wearing that at first. It could be part of an equipment issue, so you may want to try experimenting with a few different types of equipment to see if your dog walks better. As far as the recall goes, we have to think that dogs don’t work for free. We don’t typically work for free, either-so they’re kind of the same way. So, there’s nothing wrong with your dog getting a food reward at the end of a recall, but we don’t want them to need to see that food in order for them to perform the recall. Because in an emergency, if you don’t have it, we don’t want them to ignore you. So when you’re going to reward your dog for a recall, I recommend that you have that food tucked away somewhere they can’t see it and they didn’t just hear you crinkle a bag or something like that. You’re going to say your dog’s recall word. Really praise them and encourage them. Use your body and your voice to get them to come to you. And then when they do, give them that food reward that they didn’t see or smell or expect. So they realize that they might get something even if they don’t see it. So your dog won’t become so suspicious about why is she calling me? Because then she’s just going to put me inside. We want sometimes when your dog recalls, they get rewarded and then they get to go right back to what they were doing. So it’s not always that the recall ends the fun, too.
You may want to do a little bit of increasing of your dog’s mental stimulation at home vs walks being their only source of entertainment. And that may not be the case in your home, but adding in something like the flirt pole, adding in some of those mental enrichment activities. Aussies are a working breed at the end of the day, so they’re very high drive. They’ve got a very long exercise ability, so they can go go go go go. And then as far as the lunging and barking, it’s that classic reactivity. I’m sure you guys are realizing-we see so so much of that. That reactivity protocol, I can’t say it enough, is the only way that we find that we can effectively stop that behavior. And it’s all about working at a distance that your dog can handle, having very, very high value food, and we’re rewarding the correct behavior. And those are all really those fine-tune details that we talked about in that passing distractions section.
K: Absolutely. That’s a great recommendation. With my Boston in particular, I can tell you that the interactive toys or the slow feeders like the Bob-A-Lot lot and the Kong Wobblers have really helped get some of that energy out even before a walk so she is not so 0 to 200-I can completely understand!
Oh my gosh, I don’t know that I have one that I necessarily recommend. Kayla, do you have one that you guys like?
K: Honestly, I do not have one either off the top of my head. I know we’ve had several employees use different types of them.
We’ve had people use Embark and been happy with that. Wisdom Panel, so I don’t think you can go wrong at this point. They’re all pretty well adjusted at this point. I think they they’ve kind of fine-tuned most of the big brands, so we don’t have one specific that we found better than another. But I don’t think you can go too wrong. I know that some do offer some health testing as part of it too, which I think is pretty cool. They can tell you certain genetic predisposals and things like that, so you can be aware of that for the future and things to look out for. I think that’s a great added value if you can find a test that also provides you with some of those genetic health things.
Without seeing it in person I can’t say for sure. But typically when we see dogs doing this type of thing, it’s an attention-seeking behavior. He’s figured out that if he grabs a pillow, if he does certain things, that he’s going to get that attention back on him vs on the call, on the company. I think having a great confinement area that he really likes being in, is going to change your life. A nice playpen-it can have a comfy bed in there, lots of toys. But also giving him one of those enrichment toys that he only gets when you’re on a call, when you have company over-so Kong, licky mat, any of those types of things that he can do independently of you. And getting him used to doing that when your attention is on something else I think will go such a long way. So he won’t even be able to attempt those things that do probably tend to get your attention. We’re just eliminating that option for him.
So truly the easiest and most functional thing I found is to get a soft crate. So like a fabric-type crate. They’re really lightweight to transport in and out of the crate. And crate your dog when they’re in the car. It’s safer for your dog, it’s safer for you, and typically they feel a lot more comfortable and secure that way. You can even put a blanket over it if you want to. And if your dog doesn’t get carsick, you can give them a bully stick or Kong when they’re in the car, so they start to make that association that the car is a good safe place.
I guess the question is: What is your end goal? Because we have clients that are like: I’m just going to leave them sleeping together as long as it’s not a problem…and that is okay. But if you do intend on having them sleep separately, they need to do it now. And it’s going to be an ugly couple of night, potentially. But you can start with those crates right next to each other and then start to separate them to where you ultimately want them to be. But the younger you start, the better. It only gets harder for them as they get older.
K: That’s a great question.
A: Yeah, it’s a great question. And sometimes it can be really hard to tell the difference if this is not something that you’re used to dealing with. Typically with play, we have a mutual back and forth. So, you’ll have one dog that will kind of pounce and be more offensive and then the other dog is kind of defensive, and then they switch, so we see a really nice balance between them. Typically there will be tail wags, but they will be very low and relaxed. The ears will be back and relaxed. You’ve got an open, happy mouth. The whole picture is typically very loose. You may see biting, you may see wrestling, you may see growling, and even snapping at each other, grabbing each other’s necks. It can look really rough. But if there’s no vocalization-and you may even still have vocalization-you’ll know the difference when a dog is really saying: Ouch, that hurts! or I’m scared! And if you have aggressive behavior, it’s typically a lot stiffer and a lot louder. They break themselves up typically, so you might have one dog latch on to the other, or both dogs latch on to each other in different places. But typically it starts with a very stiff, staring. One dog may not be moving, the other one might be trying to get away…but there’s definitely not that loose back and forth. And it’s important to know that just because a dog’s tail is wagging doesn’t mean that they’re being playful. So always watching for a high, erect tail. It can be going very fast, back and forth, very high-that’s an indicator of more arousal, more potential aggression. Versus the playful wag which is typically a lot lower and looser.