Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety, also known in the dog training world as owner absent misbehavior, is one of the most frequently encountered problems in the world of dog training.
Separation anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways, including chewing, destroying the owner’s property, excessive barking, self-destructive behavior and inappropriate urination and defecation.
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety often whine, bark, cry, howl, dig, chew and scratch at the door the entire time their family members are away.
Well-meaning owners often unwittingly encourage this misbehavior by rushing home to reassure the dog, but it is important for the well-being of both dog and owner that the dog learn to deal with extended periods of separation.
How the owner leaves the house can often contribute to separation anxiety issues. A long and drawn out period of farewell can make matters worse by making the dog feel even more isolated when the owner finally leaves.
These long types of farewells can get the dog excited, and then leave him with lots of excess energy and no way to work it off. These excited, isolated dogs often work off their excess energy in the most destructive of ways, such as chewing up a favorite rug or piece of furniture.
Excess energy is often mistaken for separation anxiety, since results are often the same. If you think that excess amounts of energy may be the problem, try giving your dog more exercise to see if that eliminates the problem.
If separation anxiety is truly the problem, it is important to address the root causes of that anxiety. In order to prevent separation anxiety from occurring, it is important for the dog to feel happy, safe, secure and comfortable while the owner is away for the day.
It is important, for instance, to give the dog plenty of things to keep it busy while you are away. This means providing it with lots of toys, such as balls or chew toys.
A pet companion is often effective at relieving separation anxiety as well. Giving the dog a playmate, such as another dog or a cat, is a great way for busy pet parents and pets alike to cope with the stress of being left alone.
Setting aside scheduled play times, during which the pet is given your undivided attention, is another great way to alleviate boredom and separation anxiety. Playing with the dog, and providing it with sufficient attention and exercise is a proven way to avoid a stressed and anxious dog.
A happy dog that has been well exercised and well- conditioned will generally sleep the day away happily and patiently wait for the return of its owner. It is important to schedule one of these daily play sessions before you leave the house each day. It is important to give the dog a few minutes to settle down after playtime before you leave.
For dogs that are already experiencing separation anxiety and associated misbehaviors, it is important to get him accustomed to your leaving gradually. Be sure to practice leaving and returning at irregular intervals, several times during the day.
Doing so will get your dog accustomed to your departures and help him realize that you are not leaving him forever; Dogs that have been previously lost, or those that have been surrendered to shelters and readopted, often have the worst problems with separation anxiety. Part of treating this problem is teaching the dog that you’re leaving is not permanent.
Preventing Unwanted Urination
Problems with inappropriate urination are some of the most commonly encountered by dog owners. As a matter of fact, inappropriate urination and defecation is the most frequently cited reason that owners surrender their animals to shelters.
Before you can address problems with inappropriate urination, it is important to understand the basis of the problem. There are several reasons why dogs lose control of their bladders, and it is important to know the root cause of the problem before it can be properly addressed.
Problem #1 – Excitement Urination
Dogs often urinate when they become overly excited, and dogs that are otherwise perfectly housebroken sometimes show their excitement by dribbling urine when greeting you excitedly.
It is normal for some dogs to urinate when they get excited, and this can be a particular problem for many older dogs.
A lot of excitement induced urination occurs in young puppies, and it is caused by a lack of bladder control. The puppy may not even know he is urinating, and punishment will simply confuse him.
Becoming angry with the puppy will quickly cause excitement urination to morph into submissive urination, thus compounding the problem. As the puppy gets older and develops better bladder control, this type of excitement urination should disappear.
The best cure for excitement urination is prevention. Preventing your dog from becoming over excited is the best way to control this problem behavior. If your dog is excited by a particular stimulus or situation, it is important to repeatedly expose him to that situation until it no longer causes excessive excitement.
Problem #2 – Submissive Urination
Submissive urination is a natural part of pack behavior among animals like dogs and wolves. The submissive member of the pack shows his or her submissiveness by lowering itself and urinating.
Since dogs are pack animals, they may show their submissiveness to their owner, who they regard as the pack leader, by exhibiting this submissive urination.
Dogs who exhibit submissive urination are usually showing their insecurity. Unsocial zed and previously abused dogs often exhibit submissive urination. These dogs need to be shown that there are more appropriate ways to express their submissive status, such as shaking hands or licking the owner’s hand.
The best way to deal with submissive urination problems is often to ignore the urination. Trying to reassure the dog can give the mistaken impression that you approve of the behavior, while scolding the dog can make the submissive urination worse.
Correcting problems with submissive urination should be directed at building the dog’s confidence and teaching him other ways to show his respect. Teaching the dog to lift his paw, sit on command, or similar obedience commands, is a great way to direct the dog’s respect in a more appropriate direction.
Problems with urination are not always easy to deal with, but it is important to be consistent, and to always reward acceptable behavior on the part of the dog.
When urination problems do occur, it is always a good idea to first rule out any medical conditions that could be causing those problems. Medical issues like bladder infections can be the root cause of problems with unwanted urination.
After any medical problems have been ruled out, it is important to determine what is causing the problem, and treat it appropriately. While it can be tempting to punish the dog for inappropriate elimination, doing so will only confuse and further intimidate him.
How to Train Your Dog Not to Chase People, Bicycles, and Joggers?
Dogs by nature are predatory animals, and all predatory animals share the motivation to chase fleeing objects. While this may be a natural instinct, it is not appropriate when those fleeing objects are joggers, bicyclists or the mailman.
Training the dog not to chase people and bicycles is an important thing to do, and it is best to start that training as early as possible. Starting when the dog is still small and non-threatening is important, particularly with breeds that grow very large, or with breeds that have a reputation for being very aggressive.
Many people respond to being chased by a dog, especially a large dog, with understandable fear, and it is best for yourself and your dog that he be trained not to chase before he reaches a threatening size.
Some dogs are easier to train away from chasing than others. Breeds that have been used for hunting or herding often retain much more of their chasing instincts than other types of dogs, for instance.
No matter what breed of dog you are working with, however, it is important to not allow him off the leash until his chasing behavior has been curbed. Allowing an untrained dog off the leash is dangerous, irresponsible and illegal.
Before you expose your dog to a situation where he will want to chase someone or something, be sure to train him in a safe, controlled area like a fenced in yard. It is important for the dog to be able to focus and concentrate on you, and for him to understand what behavior you want. The dog must be given the opportunity to repeatedly perform the behavior you want while in this controlled setting.
The training session should be started indoors in the dog’s home. The dog should be put on a leash and the owner and the dog should stand at one end of a hallway or a room.
The owner then waves a tennis ball in front of the dog but does not allow him to touch it. After that, the tennis ball is rolled to the other end of the hallway or the room, and the command “Off” is used to tell the dog not to chase the ball. If the dog starts out after the ball, use the command “Off” once again and give a firm tug on the leash.
When doing this type of training, it is vital that the dog not be allowed to touch the ball. If he actually reaches the ball, he may think that “Off” means to get the ball. This exercise should be repeated several times, until the dog has learned the meaning of the “Off” command. When the dog responds correctly by not chasing the ball, he should be rewarded with a special treat.
After the dog seems to understand his new game, move to another room and try the same thing. Repeat the exercise in several rooms of the house, in the garage, etc.
After the dog has seemingly mastered the game and learned the meaning of the “Off” command, you can work with him without the leash, but still only in a safe area like your own home or a fenced in yard. It may take some time for the dog to fully master control of his chasing instinct, and it is important not to rush the process, or to leave the dog off leash until you are sure he is fully trained.
To test the training in the real world, enlist the assistance of a friend to pose as a jogger. It is important that the dog does not see and recognize this person; he has to assume that it is a stranger in order for the test to be valid.
Stand with the dog on his leash and have your friend jog by a couple of times while you do the “Off” exercise. If the dog does as he is asked, be sure to provide lots of praise and treats. If he starts after the “jogger”, give a firm reminder by tugging on the leash.
Training the Shy or Fearful Puppy or Dog
With dogs as with people, some dogs and puppies are naturally more bold and daring than others. When you watch a group of puppies play, it will quickly become apparent which ones are bold and which ones are shy.
Some of the puppies will hang back at the edge of the pack, perhaps fearful of angering the stronger dogs, while others will jump right into the fray and start jostling for control.
Working with a shy puppy or dog, or one that is fearful, presents its own special challenges. Of course bold, forceful dogs present challenges of their own, especially with control and leadership issues. Every type of puppy or dog has its own unique personality and its own unique training challenges as a result.
One important reason to build confidence in a fearful dog is to prevent biting. High fear dogs often become biters to deal with their fear of new situations, and this type of fear response can be dangerous for you and your dog. It is important to teach the puppy or dog that new situations and new people are nothing to fear, and that they are not out to hurt him.
Signs of fear in both puppies and dogs include being afraid of strangers, being leery of new situations, and avoiding certain people or objects. A fearful puppy or dog may also snap or bite, especially when cornered.
If you recognize signs of fear in your dog or puppy, it is important to act quickly. Fear responses can quickly become ingrained in a dog, and once those fear memories are planted they can be difficult to erase. Properly socializing a young puppy is essential to making sure your dog is not fearful, and will not become a fear biter.
Many puppies are raised as only dogs, but even these puppies should be given the opportunity to play with other puppies and with well socialized older dogs and friendly cats as well. The more novel situations the puppy encounters when he is young, the better he will be able to adapt to new situations as an adult dog.
Adapting to new and changing situations is a vital life skill that every puppy must learn. As you know, the world is constantly changing and adapting, and it is vital that both you and your four legged companion learn to take these changes in stride.
It is important for owners to not inadvertently reinforce or reward shy or fearful behaviors. For instance, when a puppy or dog shows fear, by whining, crying or hiding, it is only natural for the owner to go over and reassure the dog. This type of reassurance, however, can be misinterpreted by the animal as a sign of approval from the pack leader.
When the dog or puppy displays fearful or shy behavior, the best strategy is simply to ignore him. The dog must be able to learn on his own that there is nothing to fear.
If left alone, a dog will often start to explore the fearful object on his own, thereby learning that the initial fear reaction was mistaken. The owner must allow the dog to explore things on his own, and not try to coddle or over protect him.
Another reason for fear reactions, particularly in older dogs, is past abuse or lack of proper socialization as puppies. The window for good puppy socialization is relatively short, and once this window has closed it can be difficult to teach a dog how to socialize with dogs and other animals.
Likewise, a dog that has been abused probably has all sorts of negative associations, and it is up to a patient owner to work with the dog to replace those fear reactions with more appropriate responses.
When working with an older fearful dog, it is important not to try to rush the socialization and fear abatement process. It is best to simply allow the dog to explore things on his own, even if it means he spends a lot of time hiding from the perceived monster. Trying to force the dog to confront the things he fears will do more harm than good.
It is also important to address already ingrained fear based behaviors, such as biting, snapping and growling, whether they result from past abuse, a lack of socialization or a combination of factors. If the dog is frightened and reacts defensively to strangers, it is important to introduce him slowly.
It is important to correct these potentially dangerous behaviors, however, and teach the dog that fears is no excuse for growling, snapping or biting. The best way to do this is to immediately reprimand and correct the dog when he bites, snaps or growls at anyone.
The dog should be generously rewarded the minute it stops displaying aggressive behavior. If you do find yourself having to reprimand your dog for displaying aggressive behaviors, it probably means you have tried to move him along too quickly.
It is important to avoid threatening situations as much as possible until the dog has built up the confidence it takes to deal with those situations. If you think you have moved too fast, take a few steps back and let the dog regain his confidence.
Training Your Dog Not to Fear Loud Noises
Loud noises, such as fireworks, thunder and traffic, are one of the most frequently cited fears given by dog owners.
It is natural for some dogs to be fearful of loud noises, but some dogs are so traumatized by thunder, fireworks and other loud noises that they are completely unable to function.
Dogs that display excessive fears or phobias such as these can be a danger to themselves and those around them. Dogs may manifest their fear in self-destructive ways, like slinking under the couch or the bed and getting stuck, for instance.
They may also react in ways that are destructive to the home, such as urinating or defecating on the carpet, chewing up favorite items, or barking incessantly. These reactions are often worse when the owner is not at home.
One thing that is hard for many dog owners to understand is that soothing or stroking a dog that is displaying fear is exactly the wrong thing to do. While it is natural to try to calm a fearful dog, to the dog you are rewarding it for being afraid. The dog likes the sound of your voice, likes your petting, and concludes that he has done the right thing by acting afraid. This only makes a bad situation worse.
The best strategy when the dog displays fear when there is a thunderstorm or a fireworks display is to simply ignore the dog. It is of course important to watch the dog to make sure he does not hurt himself, but otherwise just ignore him and let him work through the fear on his own. When you go away, be sure to make sure there is nothing the dog can get stuck under, since fireworks or a thunderstorm can pop up at any time.
A dog that is severely afraid of thunderstorms and other load noises may need to be confined to a single room, or even a crate, for a period of time. After the dog feels safe in his “den”, he may be able to deal with his fears a little better. It can be quite a struggle to teach a dog not to be afraid of thunderstorms, firecrackers and other such noises, but it is important that the dog at least be able to control his fears without being destructive to himself or his environment.
Much as magicians use sleight of hand to hide their tricks, so dog owners practice the art of distraction to take their dog’s mind off of their fear.
For instance, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms and you know one is on the way, gather some of your dog’s favorite toys and get ready for the misdirection.
Of course, your dog will probably know the thunderstorm is on the way before you do. When you see your dog start to display fear, take a few of his favorite toys and try to get him to play. Very fearful dogs may be reluctant to play, but it is important to try nevertheless.
Often a few treats can be a good distraction as well. Try buying one of those balls that you can fill with treats or biscuits, and encourage your dog to chase it.
Try playing with your dog every time a thunderstorm is in the forecast. This can start to implant good memories, and these can sometimes replace the fear memories that caused the dog to be afraid of thunderstorms in the first place.
Desensitizing Your Dog’s Fear
Desensitization is a highly effective way to deal with phobias and fears in humans, and it can be very effective for dogs and other animals as well. Desensitization involves introducing the dog to small amounts of whatever noises frighten him.
For instance, if the dog is afraid of thunder, try tape recording your next thunderstorm and play it back slowly when the dog is relaxed. Reward the dog for not showing fear responses. If he does show fear responses, do not comfort or soothe him but just ignore him.
This kind of desensitization training can be remarkably effective for some dogs, but it will take lots of patience and hard work. Fears of thunder and fireworks are not always easy to cure.
Training Your Dog Not to Chase Cars
One of the most serious, and unfortunately most common, problem behaviors among dogs is that of chasing cars. Dogs must be trained as early as possible that chasing cars is not acceptable. That is because dogs that chase cars eventually become dogs that catch cars, and car plus dog always equals big trouble.
There are many reasons that dogs chase cars. For one thing, chasing moving objects is an ingrained, instinctual behavior that can never be completely removed. Chasing behaviors however can and should be controlled through a combination of good training and supervision.
Some dogs are more apt to chase cars, bikes, joggers, cats and other dogs than are others. Dogs that have a high prey drive, including breeds that have been bred for hunting, are particularly susceptible to the thrill of the chase.
Herding breeds are also apt to chase cars, attempt to hurt the neighbor’s children, or express other undesired traits of their breeding.
One reason that many dogs chase cars in particular is that they have learned to associate cars with good time and fun things. Most dogs love to ride in the car, and when they see a car they may try to chase it down for a ride.
No matter what your dog’s motivation for chasing cars, however, it is important to curb this dangerous behavior as quickly as possible. Training the dog not to chase cars starts with teaching the dog the meaning of the “Off” command. The “Off” command is one of the basic tenets of obedience, and it must be mastered by every dog.
Teaching the dog to stay where he is, even if interesting, exciting things are happening elsewhere, is very important to all aspects of dog training. In the world of professional dog training, this is sometimes referred to as distraction training. Distraction training is very important, and it is applicable to teaching the dog not to chase cars.
Teaching this important lesson is not something you will be able to do on your own. You will need at least one other person – a volunteer who will slowly drive by and tempt your car with his bright, shiny object. You will stand with your dog on his leash as the volunteer drives by.
Having the volunteer drive your own car can provide an even greater temptation, since dogs are able to distinguish one car from another. If your car is the one that provides his rides, it is likely to be the most tempting object in the world.
When your friend drives by, either in your car or his, watch your dog’s reaction carefully. If he begins to jump up or move away, repeat the “Off” command and quickly return your dog to the sitting position. If he remains where he is, be sure to give him lavish amounts of praise and perhaps a treat or two.
Repeat this process many times over the course of a few days. Once your dog is reliably remaining seated when your friend drives by, start lengthening the distance between yourself and your dog. Along, retractable leash works great for this process. Slowly lengthen the distance between you and your dog, while still making sure you have control.
Even after your dog is trained to not chase cars, however, it is important to not leave him out of the leash unsupervised. Leaving a dog unattended, except for within a properly and securely fenced in yard, is simply asking for trouble.
Dogs are unpredictable, and it is always possible that the chase instinct could kick in at exactly the wrong moment. The best strategy is to confine the dog when you cannot supervise him.
Teaching Your Dog Not to Chew
Chewing is something that comes naturally to every dog. Every dog feels the instinctual need to sharpen its teeth and hone his biting skills. Chewing on the right things, like specially designed chew toys for instance, can even help the dog clean his teeth and remove plaque.
Even though chewing is natural and healthy, that does not mean that the dog should be given carte blanche and allowed to chew everything in sight. It is vital for every dog to learn the difference between the things it is OK to chew on, like toys and ropes, and the things that are off limits, such as carpets, shoes and other items.
When working with a new puppy, it is advisable to keep the puppy in a small, puppy proofed room for at least a few weeks. This is important not only to prevent chewing but to properly house train the puppy as well.
Older dogs should also be confined to a small area at first. Doing this allows the dog to slowly acquaint him or herself to the smells and sights of the new household.
When you set up this small, confined area, be sure to provide the puppy or dog with a few good quality chew toys to keep him entertained while you are not able to supervise him. Of course the dog should also be provided with a warm place to sleep and plenty of fresh clean water.
As the dog is slowly moved to larger and larger portions of the home, there may be more opportunities to chew inappropriate items. As the dog is given freer access to the home, it is important to keep any items that the dog or puppy should not chew, things like throw rugs, shoes, etc. up off of the floor.
If you forget to move something and come home to find that the dog has chewed it, resist the urge to punish or yell at the dog. Instead, distract the dog with one of its favorite toys and remove the inappropriate item from its mouth.
The dog should then be provided with one of its favorite toys. Praise the dog extensively when it picks up and begins to chew its toy. This will help to teach the dog that it gets rewarded when it chews certain items, but not when it chews other items.
Teaching the dog what is appropriate to chew is very important, not only for the safety of your expensive furniture and rugs, but for the safety of the dog as well. Many dogs have chewed through dangerous items like extension cords and the like. This of course can injure the dog severely or even spark a fire.
Most dogs learn what to chew and what not to chew fairly quickly, but others are obviously going to be faster learners than others. Some dogs chew because they are bored, so providing the dog with lots of toys and solo activities is very important.
It is also a good idea to schedule several play times every day, with one taking place right before you leave every day. If the dog is thoroughly tired after his or her play session, chances are he or she will sleep the day away.
Other dogs chew to exhibit separation anxiety. Many dogs become very nervous when their owners leave, and some dogs become concerned each time that the owner may never come back.
This stress can cause the dog to exhibit all manners of destructive behavior, including chewing soiling the house. If separation anxiety is the root of the problem, the reasons for it must be addressed, and the dog assured that you will return.
This is best done by scheduling several trips in and out of the home every day, and staggering the times of those trips in and out. At first the trips can be only a few minutes, with the length slowly being extended as the dog’s separation anxiety issues improve.
Training Your Puppy Not to Bite
Biting is one of those things that every puppy seems to do, and every puppy must be taught not to do. Like many behaviors, such as jumping up on people, biting and nipping can seem cute when the puppy is small, but much less so as he gets older, larger and stronger.
Left to their own devices, most puppies learn to control their biting reflex from their mothers and from their littermates. When the puppy becomes overenthusiastic, whether when nursing or playing, the mother dog, or the other puppies, will quickly issue a correction.
Unfortunately, this type of natural correction often does not occur, since many puppies are removed from their mothers when they are still quite young. It is therefore up to puppy’s owner to take over this important process.
Socializing the puppy with other dogs and puppies is one of the best and most effective ways to teach the puppy the appropriate and non-appropriate way to bite, and to curb the biting response.
Many communities and pet stores sponsor puppy playtime and puppy kindergarten classes, and these classes can be great places for puppies to socialize with each other, and with other humans and animals as well.
As the puppies play with each other, they will natural bite and nip each other. When one puppy becomes too rough or bites too hard, the other puppies will quickly respond by correcting it.The
best time for this socialization of the puppy to occur is when it is still young. It is vital that every dog be properly socialized, since a poorly socialized dog, or worse, one that is not socialized at all, can become dangerous and even neurotic. Most experts recommend that puppies be socialized before they have reached the age of 12 weeks, or three months.
Another reason for socializing the puppy early is that mothers of young children may be understandably reluctant to allow their young children to play with older or larger dogs. Since socializing the dog with other people is just as important as socializing it with other dogs, it is best to do it when the puppy is still young enough to be non-threatening to everyone.
It is important for the puppy to be exposed to a wide variety of different stimuli during the socialization process. The socialization process should include exposing the puppy to a wide variety of other animals, including other puppies, adult dogs, cats and other domestic animals.
In addition, the puppy should be introduced to as wide a cross section of people as possible, including young children, older people, men, women and people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
While socialization is very important to providing the puppy with life lessons and preventing him from biting, it is not the only method of preventing unwanted biting and mouthing. Giving the puppy appropriate things to play with and bite is another good way to control inappropriate biting.
Providing a variety of chew toys, ropes and other things the puppy can chew is important to preventing boredom, keeping his teeth polished and keeping him from chewing things he should not.
As with any training, it is important to be consistent when teaching the puppy not to bite. Every member of the family, as well as close friends, who may visit, should all be told that the puppy is to be discouraged from biting.
If one person allows the puppy to chew on them while everyone else does not, the puppy will quickly become confused, and that can make the training process much more difficult than it has to be.
Building Confidence and Respect
The first thing that any successful animal trainer must do is win the confidence and respect of the animal to be trained. This important piece of advice definitely applies to the training of dogs.
As social pack animals, dogs have a natural need to follow a strong leader. Setting yourself, the owner or handler, up as this leadership figure is the basis of any successful dog training program.
Until your dog has learned to trust and respect you, it will be difficult for any training program to be successful. Trust and respect are not things that can be forced, they must be earned through positive interaction with your four legged companion. After the dog has learned to trust and respect the owner, he or she may be amazed at how quickly the training session’s progress.
Many new dog owners mistake love and affection for trust and respect. While it is of course good to shower your new dog or puppy with love and affection, it is also important to gain its confidence and respect. It is also important to not allow the puppy or dog to get away with everything it wants to.
It is easy to let a dog take advantage of you, particularly when it is so cute and adorable. It is important, however, to set boundaries, and to establish acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.
Dogs actually appreciate these types of boundaries, since they are similar to the rules that the pack leader establishes in nature. Every dog in the pack knows what is expected of it, and knows its place in the pecking order.
This kind of structured hierarchy allows the pack to function, hunt and survive as a single entity. Your dog is actually seeking this type of leadership. If he or she does not get leadership from you, he or she may be frightened or confused.
In addition, failure to gain the respect of the dog is very important to the well-being of both the human and the dog. A dog that lacks respect for its human owner can be dangerous as well as hard to live with. It is important to establish firm boundaries of good and bad behavior, and to consistently, effectively enforce those boundaries.
When dealing with a puppy, it is important to start gaining his respect and trust as soon as possible. Establishing an early bond is the best way to move the training and socialization process forward.
It is also important to make the initial training sessions short. Puppies have a notoriously short attention span, and even older untrained dogs may be unable to focus for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. It is best to make the lesson short and positive than to stretch it out and create a negative experience.
It is also a good idea to start and end each session with a period of play. Starting and ending the training sessions on a high note is important. Dogs make quick associations, and creating a positive association with obedience training will help to create a happy, healthy and well-adjusted dog. A happy dog will be easier to train, and more willing to please.
It is also important to keep the dog from becoming bored during the training sessions. Many dog owners make the mistake of drilling the dog on things like basic obedience skills, heeling, sitting, etc.
While these obedience skills are important, and it is true that they will form the basis of more advanced skills, it is important to mix things up and make things fun for both yourself and your dog. The more variety you provide the better your dog, and you, will enjoy the training sessions.