Surviving Canine Adolescence – Session 3 Q&A

So, first of all, don’t replace your doors yet. Let’s do the training first and then we’ll worry about the door, because you’re still going to have some scratching in the meantime. We want to teach your dog alternate behaviors. Typically I like to do a bell for going out so they can scratch that bell vs. scratching on the door. There’s some great videos, I’m sure you can find on YouTube, on how to train the potty bell. But, the gist of it is that you want to first reward them just for touching it. I like to start it with the bell in my hand vs. on the door. Most dogs won’t touch it on the door initially. So start in your hand, moving it towards the door once they’re kind of proficient at that. So that’s kind of the first step of going out…and then for coming back in, a little bit easier, you could technically do a bell on both sides. Or you can just teach your dog another behavior that you would like instead. That could just simply be sitting at the door. So you just wait for the behavior that you want. So the scratching, barking, none of that will work to get the door open. But the moment that they offer that sit, that gets the door open. As long as you require that every single time, your dog will start to eliminate those other behaviors. Because they realize that sitting is what gets that door open, so the faster I do that, the faster I get what I want-which is to have that door opened.
We have to look at why it’s happening. Sometimes those younger dogs can be a little bit obnoxious. And so it’s not necessarily wrong for your older dog to growl, to snap, to bark…those are not necessarily correctable offenses in all cases. Now, if your younger dog is doing absolutely nothing wrong and your older dog is just bullying them, then that’s a situation where we may need to get a professional involved to really work on the dogs’ relationship. So the best thing I can suggest is to keep resources separate, feed separately, if you’re having issues like that. But if it’s simply a case of when your younger dog is kind of playing too rough or maybe is trying to get into your older dog’s food or trying to take something away and your older dog is saying, “hey, back off”, that’s a very appropriate communication between dogs and not something that we typically like to get in the middle of. As long as they’re not actively fighting over things and if they’re just working out their issues, that is totally okay.
That’s a great question and I love that you’re asking that. It can. There’s so many reasons for whining. The first thing I always suggest in these situations is to take a quick trip to the vet, or if your dog has their annual coming up anyways. Let’s just make sure there’s not something medical going on. So let’s get a full physical evaluation, make sure hips are feeling ok, spine’s feeling okay. When we have repetitive whining it can sometimes be an underlying medical issue, so we want to rule that out first of all. But it could be just like you said, lack of enrichment, bored, needing something to do. So maybe introducing some new things into your dog’s day. They don’t all have to involve you…we’ve talked a lot about enrichment toys and things that your dog can do independently of you, so they can learn that skill. Because you can’t realistically entertain your dog all day. Nor should you. That is not your job. But we want to provide outlets that are appropriate for that dog. So you’ve got coonhound and shepherd, two really intense working breeds together. So what can we do to provide that dog with some enrichment? You’ve got the herding breed stuff like the flirt pole. We’ve got two dogs that love to use their nose, so that Amazon box activity that we talked about could be another great thing to do. So just finding what works for you and your dog, but yeah, definitely rule out something medical going on first. Otherwise, it might just be a little bit of boredom, or they’ve figured out that that gets your attention to do that. So you may have to just try trial and error with a couple of things.
I would have to see it. I would also have to know how young your puppy is. Because it could be a relatively playful behavior or it could be something more serious. If you feel like your dog is getting very stiff and staring and then kind of going after the other dog in an aggressive way, then that’s something you would probably get a professional in to help you with. The Whole Dog Journal has a great article on resource guarding. Also we talked about, in a previous Q&A presentation, there’s a book called ‘Mine’ by Jean Donaldson that also goes over how to help with resource guarding. It’s a very detailed protocol, so if you’re really experiencing true resource guarding, that will help a lot. But it could just be you’ve got a rude puppy that pounces on other dogs as they get close. Which would be totally normal and very age specific and not anything we would worry about. We want to get a professional in, even virtually, just to look at the behavior and tell you what’s going on so you don’t go down a long training path if you don’t need to.
Great question. I love that. When we do our training sessions with clients, we’re there for an hour. But we always tell people don’t ever do an hour other than when we’re here. Because an hour is a long time. We break that hour up with little play breaks and talking and things like that. But for most dogs, especially younger dogs, no more than a 10 to 15 minute session at a time. And it’s okay to feel like, “hey, I’m tired today. I don’t want to train today.” Don’t put pressure on yourself that it has to happen three times a day, everyday, 15 minutes, or else my dog’s not going to be well trained. It’s really about finding time that you are mentally ready to train, your dog is mentally ready to train. You’ll get much more out of those sessions than you will trying to force it. But short sessions are better. And actually, they’ve shown that if your dog gets a chance to play or rest after a training session, that they store better long-term memory. So the things they just worked on in training will be better stored in terms of being able to remember that when you go back to train again. So for training, then we’re training again, then we’re training again…we find that the dogs don’t retain as well as they do when it’s short sessions split up by playtime and breaks, things like that.
It’s going to be all about behavior-consequence. So when I dig, not in the pit, then I’m interrupted. So I recommend keeping your dog on a long line at first when you’re doing this. So if they start to dig in the wrong place you can say, “nnn-nnnnnn, not over here” and you can take them over to the correct spot. If they start to dig there, then you can verbally praise them. And make sure you have stuff for them to find when they dig in there so that they reinforce themselves for using it. So if they just dig and they don’t find anything, think about all the weird stuff they find in the actual ground, so we want them to find fun stuff in your digging pit as well. And then you’re just making it very clear, and dogs are pretty incredible at doing this-it’s just the way we potty train, “hey, every time you go inside, we put you outside and we tell you not inside and then if you go outside it’s a really good thing” and that’s how we potty train a dog. So the digging pet is the same kind of concept. Not here, but here. So we’re not saying don’t ever dig again, but if you start to dig, it’s not acceptable to do it anywhere other than this designated area. But great, great question.
Great question. It’s something that we have had many, many clients ask us as well. So when we think about predatory behavior, it is hardwired. So we cannot make a dog more likely to display predatory behavior. That is hardwired and is not something that we have control over. So what we can do is provide outlets for that natural drive and minimize opportunities to practice those behaviors we don’t want. So not putting our dog in a situation where they’re around small dogs or infants or cats, things like that. So, we can’t say-hey, don’t have a prey drive; but we can say-hey, you can put that out onto this flirt pole and chase it all that you want. But it is not going to make your dog any more aggressive. If anything, it gives them a little bit of relief from that natural drive. So, if anything, they’re less likely to be reactive when they do encounter a real one because they’ve gotten that out of their system in a more appropriate way.

K: I always think this is real interesting. You always see puppies-I always say they’re walking their owners-they’ve got the leash in their mouth. So what are some things you would recommend, besides a leash with a chew-proof guarantee-which we do have lots of different brands at Hollywood Feed-you definitely need one of those.

A: Yes. And when you have a dog that’s chewing leash and not that they’re actually chewing through it, it becomes a safety issue. Because you don’t want to be walking on the side of the road and your dog-oops! no longer attached to you! I recommend for these puppies a lightweight chain link leash. You can find them online. I’m not sure if you guys carry them, but we want something very, very lightweight. Not a collar, strictly the leash. We don’t want a big, heavy chain leash. It’s just a lightweight, usually 4-6 foot leash. We prefer 5-6 feet, 4 is a little short. So if your puppy does go to chew it, a) they’re not going to be able to break through it and chew through it; but also, it kind of discourages the chewing of the leash as well because it’s not nearly as fun to chew on metal. And they’re not getting your reaction because you’re afraid that they’re going to chew through the leash, so we tend to make a big deal out of it, which is great fun for your puppy. So the chain leash can be a great solution. And then once your puppy outgrows this behavior, usually by 7 or 8 months of age at the latest, you can go back to a regular leash. But still probably get one of those durable ones, just in case!

Yes, a few things. One-I like the crate idea. I think it’s important that your dog has some separation and that you guys can have some privacy. So even if that crate is in a different room, that’s okay. Your dog does not need to be there all the time, every second of the day. We also work on a very specific protocol, which might be easier. I can try to walk you through it briefly. We would teach your dog to settle on a mat, and we’ll teach a “stay” on that mat. Some kind of a “place” and a “stay”. And then we will reward the dog for staying as you kiss your significant other or hug them or whatever that thing is your dog would typically go for. So you would do that, and then as long as your dog stays, you reward them for that. So we start to teach them some impulse control and self-control when they see you doing those things that they would typically kind of be all over you for. So, try that. Or at minimum, a great confinement area separate from you, so that you guys have some separation I think will be really helpful, too.

K: I’m assuming this is maybe a situation where they have two dogs that are no longer getting along in the household or just started not getting along. What would be some recommendations?

A: This is one of the trickier situations that we encounter. And we actually have a whole list of-we kind of run through this checklist to see what our likelihood is of success. It depends a lot on the severity of the behavior, what triggers it, how long the dogs have been living together, the age, breed, sex of the dogs-there’s so many factors that play into why is it happening? What’s our likelihood that we can prevent it from happening? Our best-case scenario is when you have a very clear trigger. So, it happens when the dogs are eating, it happens anytime they get over-excited if a person comes to the door, something like that. But when we have dogs fighting over a hundred different things, it’s very difficult. Because we’re trying to control two animals versus an issue between a person and a dog; we’ve got two dogs that we’re trying to control the situation of. So it’s a lot of what we call ‘counter-conditioning’ the dogs to each other. So, starting to feel really good when the other one’s around. Then we also have to do set-ups, essentially. We simulate the situations that cause fights in a controlled manner and teach the dog different coping skills in those situations. So, you can see why I typically suggest, in these situations, we get a professional involved. Because they’re complicated, they’re complex, and they can go wrong very quickly. For now I recommend if you can keep the dogs separated at minimum. If they cannot be separated, muzzled. Because the biggest factor of success is not allowing the fighting to continue. So we have to separate and keep them safe from each other until we can get the actual behavior modification in place. But if they continue to fight, then it’s going to make that whole process take longer. So really do what you can to not allow the fighting to happen until you can get a professional in there.

It’s a tough one, because I would need to see exactly the situation. If we have a puppy that’s barking purely for attention or kind of demand-barking, like “hey, let me out of here!” but they’re not actually upset-then we need to wait for at least a few seconds of quiet. It doesn’t need to be 2 minutes of quiet, but at least the dog is not being rewarded by being let out. If you have a dog that’s genuinely upset, then we really can’t do that training because it’s not going to improve that behavior if the dog’s actually stressed out or upset. So instead, for those types of dogs, we actually break it down into even smaller increments. So, how long can the dog stay in the crate without barking? Let’s start there. Even if it’s for 10 seconds. So we’re building up just 10 seconds of controlled time in the crate. The person might be standing right there. And then we would reward the dog by letting them out. So we’re building that time up in little pieces, so it really depends. But if you have a dog that’s just barking for attention, it’s very important that you don’t let them out until you have at least a few seconds of quiet. Sometimes we get kind of over it and we’re like, “okay, I can’t stand it anymore!”. But then you’ve just taught your dog that if they’re persistent enough, then they’re going to get let out. So then you have an even longer-barking dog. So you’re going to have to really ride it out for a few days, but usually they figure out pretty quickly what the deal is.
The good news is, at this age, you don’t need to be concerned about this behavior. It’s, first of all, not a dominance behavior. And it’s not a sexual behavior, either. Typically when we see it this young, it is simply an outlet for over-excitement, or over-arousal. And when I say arousal-again, not sexual-meaning overly excited about something. You will typically see this behavior get a lot better after neutering, if you plan on doing so. So if you have a dog more prone to that sort of behavior, you’re going to want to neuter at the age that your vet finds appropriate. If you wait too, too long, until 2 years or later, you may not see a lot of behavioral improvement. We still typically see some. But you’re going to need to neuter at a breed and age-appropriate time. But for now, what you can do is to have a leash on your dog. Especially if there’s certain times of day you know this happens-so that you can remove your dog immediately without using your hands. Because if you use your hands, typically these dogs find that very fun. So making sure your dog’s got lots of physical exercise, mental enrichment, but knowing that the biting and the humping is very normal even though it’s very irritating. Having a leash that you can have on your dog will make it very easy for you to eliminate and stop that behavior as soon as it starts. And wait until your dog calms down before you let them go back to play again. So you’re right there to interrupt that behavior. It’s all about managing at this age, you’ve still got such a young dog. So just not allowing it to continue on and on then getting a big reaction for doing it.
I’m guessing your 6-year-old is the youngest? Typically we have the youngest, smallest in the house is going to get kind of the playmate situation with the dog. They typically are the fastest, have the highest pitched voice, they run, they might scream when the puppy bites…So all these things can make this behavior super fun and it’s very difficult because as a 6-year-old it’s very difficult for them to be able to stop the puppy from biting. So the parents are really going to have to be in charge of the situation in terms of a leash-again, can be a really good tool so you can grab that leash as needed to be able to stop that behavior as it starts. Be very sure that none of the kids are roughhousing or wrestling with the puppy. It can be very mixed signals if sometimes we get to play rough and bite on hands and arms and then sometimes we can’t. So they really need to play with a toy in their hand, and any teeth on skin ends the game. So the only thing that we get is to play with the toy. Make sure that everybody’s really clear and consistent with that. Then beyond that, really the adults managing the situation. So if you know the kids want to be running and playing, the puppy is put away or on a leash so that we totally keep those playtimes separate. Because otherwise it’s just very, very fun for them to get to chase the kids and run around. Flirt pole is one of my favorite things for this, because it’s something the kids can do with the puppy. So that the puppy is fixated on the flirt pole vs on biting the kids. So, it’s a great way for them to get energy burned out together and redirecting that biting on to something appropriate vs it being on the skin/the kids.
Great questions. As far as the car goes, sometimes honestly they just grow out of it. So what you can do is: short car rides, make sure that they haven’t just eaten or had a bunch of water right before you get in the car, and make those car rides lead somewhere really fun. So take a 5 minute car ride to an open field or a park. Bring them out on a long line, let them run around and sniff for 10-15 minutes and then go back home. The car leads to all the fun places. Because a lot of times, the first few months of life, where does the car go? It goes from wherever you got the dog to your brand new home. Or it goes to the vet-or it goes to the breeder-or to the groomer. So it really tends to be like, “oh gosh, not this thing again”. So you want to get your puppy out to fun places in the car, even if it’s just going down the block. Short car rides at first is going to go a long, long way. If you get to 6, 9, 12 months and you’re still getting a lot of nausea and vomiting in the car, talk to your vet. There are some great medications out there that can help a lot. Because we get in a cycle of: the dog’s anxious so they get nauseous, they get nauseous because they’re anxious, they’re anxious because they’re going to get nauseous. And so it becomes this vicious cycle. So if we can help them feel physically better in the car, it can reduce some of the anxiety that causes the nausea in the first place. The medication, a lot of times, we can wean off after a while. But, for now let’s try with those shorter car rides and see how they go.
So we see this a lot. The good news, I can tell you, is in the vast majority of dogs, they outgrow it. It’s a very normal puppy behavior. They, first of all, don’t really understand how to walk on a leash; it can be overwhelming to see all the sights and smells. They just get overwhelmed and confused. So there’s a couple of things that you can do to help your dog feel more comfortable when they’re going out on the leash the first few times. So bring really great food with you and it’s so important that you reward the correct behavior. Make sure you’re not rewarding your dog at a stop. Your dog is rewarded in motion. So, make sure that you’re really careful about that. Also, make sure that your dog is wearing appropriate equipment. Sometimes these small dogs wear these big bulky harnesses and they kind of get freaked out by that, so you might need a little bit lighter-weight of a harness. But a lot of it is just getting your dog comfortable with being on walks and making sure you’re rewarding the correct behavior. I can also suggest-sometimes we take our dogs for too long of walks when they’re puppies-so keep those walks really short and really fun and only build up the time on them as your dog’s able to handle the whole walk without stopping. But just be really, really consistent about just getting a few good steps, and you’re always rewarding in motion, and you’re never rewarding your dog for stopping.
I’ve actually seen this issue with huskies, specifically, before. And we actually see it sometimes being a predatory response-not in a scary way-but if you have your hair in a ponytail, it can resemble a small animal. So, if you see this kind of floating around…we sometimes see certain hairstyles can actually be confusing to the dog. Because, when we think about a predatory response-they don’t think about it, it’s just a response. Like, “I see the little thing fluttering around and I go to snap for it”. So it’s possible this is just something that catches your dog’s eye. I’m not going to tell you to cut your hair or just only wear your hair up, but just knowing that it’s somewhat of a normal behavior might help you feel a little bit better. You’ve really got to catch your dog in the act of doing this to be able to stop it. If it really is that predatory response, it can be a little bit harder to stop. But for a lot of these dogs, it might just be that your dog’s gotten a big reaction from you for doing it, so it’s just something that they’re doing for attention. So, if that’s the case, then you may want to have a leash on your dog, so as she starts to jump up you can reach back and get that leash. So that she does not get the pleasure of making contact with your hair. I’m not sure how hard she’s grabbing or biting it, but we definitely want to prevent the dog from getting access to your hair if possible. And you can also try to manage it as much as you can. So for a few weeks, try to not do ponytails, things like that. Keeping that hair up so that we’re breaking the habit and teaching more appropriate things to do instead. And then you’re right there to interrupt that behavior if it happens. So good luck! That doesn’t sound very fun!
I think the problem sometimes is we try to use the toys to redirect, we end up rewarding the behaviors. So the dog jumps, and then we give them a toy, and then they play with a toy. So the jumping worked for them. We think that it didn’t work because we didn’t specifically play with them ourselves, but we still gave them a toy. We still started to play with them with the toy. So, being really careful with that. The best advice I have to give you a lot of tips, we have a blog specifically on this topic on our website, ‘Beyond Puppy Biting’. It’s about adolescence and biting and adolescent dogs. Because it is different! We can no longer say, “oh, he’s just a puppy, he’s just teething” because at 8 months, that’s not the case anymore. This is usually more of an attention-seeking behavior. It has worked for them, to get them what they want, the reaction that they want. So I recommend going to that. It’s going to have a lot of the same things we talked about in this presentation, but condensed more specifically for biting. So check that out. I think that’ll give you a lot of good tips. But just know that it is very much workable, even though your dog is at that kind of older age that we would want to see that behavior stopped by now.
It’s funny that this has come up a few times. It’s such an important topic to talk about. The potty bell is not a potty training solution. It doesn’t potty train or help potty train your dog, really at all. It helps your dog have a way to alert you that they need to go out. But in order for them to use it, they need to know that they need to go outside and outside only if they need to use the bathroom. You can’t expect the potty bell to do that for you, nor can the crate. The crate is a great help throughout the day and overnight, so it’s a place that your dog hopefully will not have accidents. So if you can’t supervise your dog, or certainly if you’re out of the house, or overnight, they’re in the crate. But if your dog is loose, it’s really important that you catch those accidents as they’re happening. So you are watching your dog. As soon as you see them circling, sniffing, thinking about having an accident or actually starting to have an accident-you’re right there. Remember, it’s an interruption-upupup! Just enough to get their attention; not enough to scare them so that they start hiding or running from you when they have an accident. Just enough to interrupt them and get them outside as quickly as you can. And if they do finish outside, big praise and a reward for going outside. So going back to basics on the potty training for that. The fact that your dog is doing great in the crate is going to make that easier. And then once your dog is starting to understand that outside is their only option, that’s when you’re going to start seeing them walking to the door, and then you can introduce the bell at that point. And then the bell will be more useful at that point. So you’re on your way, just keep going!
You’ve probably heard me say this a few times at this point about separation anxiety. It comes in so many forms, so there is true separation anxiety which is really a panic disorder. We’re talking dogs that are harming themselves, that are jumping out of windows or breaking out of crates, to escape confinement and try to find some sort of safety, security from a person. They truly cannot cope with the absence of a person. There’s milder cases of that where the dog is still anxious but has a little bit better coping skills. And then we have dogs that just haven’t learned yet how to be on their own, but they’re not actually anxious. They’re just more attention-seeking. So we have to see where your dog falls on that scale. A good test is: How long does it take your dog to settle? Do they ever settle? Or are they just pacing, panting, barking, freaking out the whole time you’re gone? But, long story short, the gold standard for teaching, for training and modifying separation anxiety is to teach your dog in small increments to cope with being left alone. So we make a confinement area, make it a really great place that your dog likes to be in, that you will be right on the other side of. So we start with just, can the dog cope for 15-20 minutes in the pen with you sitting right there on your computer, watching tv, reading a book, not entertaining your dog? So just teaching them to cope with you being right next to them and then building up some short absences. So, briefly out of sight, building up to several hours out of sight. There are a lot of complexities that along with that. So if you do have, or think you have, some real separation stuff going on, I do recommend getting a certified professional dog trainer to help you. This is an easy one to do virtually, so if you don’t have a trainer near you, you can definitely get a virtual trainer as well. Because it’s a very easy issue for us to tackle virtually. We don’t have to be physically there to help with separation anxiety. The good news is that regardless of severity of it, it is absolutely workable.
It depends, for me, on the age of the dog. If the dog is a puppy, we don’t do anything about it. You know, grass, leaves, eggs, they’re typically safe for your dog even if they do consume some of it. Most dogs like to just chew on them, they don’t actually eat most of them. And a lot of dogs do it for the attention that they get from their owner for doing it, you know we’re trying to pull out every leaf and every stick and they’re just going to grab another one. The reality is, for most dogs, we don’t do anything about it. Most dogs outgrow it, and the ones that still do it when they’re older rarely are consuming them. They’re really just picking up the stick and taking it with them on a walk. So, kind of a strange answer to say don’t worry about it, but really we typically don’t worry about it. And if you’ve got a puppy, a year or less really, this is a super normal behavior. We rarely see older dogs that care about sticks and leaves as much as the puppies do, so they might pick up one here and there, but it’s typically not something that we see linger for a super long time.