Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Bites my Ankles and Feet

Dear Miss Behavior, My dog Tika is an eight-month-old Terrier; she bites my feet when I’m on the phone or the computer. She also bites at my ankles when we’re playing outside or walking through the house. She sometimes bites hard enough to break the skin. What do I do?

missbehavior

The little ankle-biter has learned that she gets attention when she does certain behaviors. She is also entering adolescence which means she’s starting to challenge the world around her. First you need to make sure you’re consistent with your rules. Don’t allow her on the couch one day and then punish her the next day. It’s important for her to know what to expect from you.

Now to deal with the nipping and biting. Not only is the chasing, pouncing and biting very fun for her (after all that’s what Terriers do when they go after rodents), but she’s also rewarded when you yell and push at her. So you need to make a plan on what you’re going to do when she starts after your feet.

You need to begin rewarding her for what you want. Write down all the times she exhibits the behavior, then decide what you want her to do to ask for your attention. You said she often attacks your feet when you’re on the phone or computer. If you’re unable to interrupt your phone call, or stop what you’re doing on the computer to correct the behavior appropriately, put Tika in a crate with a stuffed Kong® or a good tasting chew toy so she’s unable to practice the bad behavior.

Now for the training part. At the first sign of her focusing on your feet stop moving and say “Ah-ah!” We often use “No” way too much with dogs and they learn to ignore it. Using a low sounding noise that she may not have heard before is better. Be sure to reward her if she backs off and doesn’t continue with the behavior. You could throw a toy or treat for her to go and get or just say “Good dog” in a happy voice.

It might be useful to have her drag a ribbon or small leash at first. This will allow you to get control over her physically without touching her (touching can be rewarding.) If she continues the behavior and begins pouncing on your ankles, use the long line to stop her and gently escort her to her crate. She needs to remain in her crate for a few minutes then quietly release her. She needs to learn that puppies that don’t play nice, play alone.

Make sure she’s getting plenty of physical and mental exercise. You will want to take time to walk her and teach her fun tricks. Letting her occasionally ‘hunt’ for her food is a fun game for her. Just scatter her food over the kitchen floor and let her hunt for the small pieces of kibble. When she gets good at the game, in the evening, you can shut off your kitchen light so she has to use her nose to find her food.

Finally, stop wearing your fuzzy bunny slippers, as comfortable as they are, they’re just too much temptation for a terrier.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

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Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Cries When I Leave

Dear Miss Behavior: Our dog cries and barks all day when we’re gone. We keep her in a crate now because she tore up all the couch cushions. At first, I thought she was being spiteful because we left her, but someone says she has separation anxiety. What does that mean and how can we cure her?

missbehaviorSeparation anxiety is when a dog becomes very scared when they are left alone. They’ll often destroy things in the house and even possibly hurt themselves. Treating separation anxiety takes patience and training.

Sometimes a bored dog can be misdiagnosed as having separation anxiety. If it’s boredom, then having a long walk and a training session before you go to work should help lessen the behavior issues. Taking a Good Dog Level 1 class should help you and your dog learn some new behaviors to practice.

If it is Separation anxiety, then you need to work on ‘Counter Classical Conditioning’. CCC is pairing something very good with something that the dog perceives as bad. The idea of CCC is breaking down your routine when you leave. Do you get out your Gucci bag first? Put on your Burberry raincoat? Take the keys to your BMW off the hook by the door? Whatever the first step is, over a period of time (say a Saturday morning) do the first step, give your dog a treat and then stop. Put your purse back down or hang your keys back up. Do it again. Once your dog is no longer upset with the first step, then do step one, then step two, rewarding her with good treats before she gets upset. Keep going until you are ready to leave the house. The first time you leave, just go out the door, and come right back in. Slowly build time until she’s okay with you being gone a few minutes.

You’ll also need to take steps to make sure that while you’re training your dog to be at home, you don’t leave her alone. If you have to leave the house you might take her with you or take her to a dog-daycare.

Some dogs require medical help. You may need to start with a visit to the vet and see if an anti-anxiety medication is needed.

Since it’s hard to diagnose a serious behavior issue by email, be sure to ask the trainers at the Greater Lincoln Obedience Club for more advice. You might also find the booklet I’ll be home soon by Patricia
McConnell of help. She gives some great information that’ll help you to understand the process.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

Guest Post: How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat

I’ve been asked to tell how to introduce a dog to a cat. My situation was a little different from most, but it’s what worked for us.

Oliver, our new family member was a four-month-old kitten. Mom and dad came home from the rescue where he was adopted. Oliver was secured in a carrier when they stepped through the door and sat it on the floor.

I was not happy. I ran across the room and lunged at the carrier. I hit with such force that the carrier slid to the other side of the room. I barked and growled. I did not want him to be there and I let it be known. We were off to a rocky start, but mom and dad were sure we’d eventually get along.

When I came to first live here I had been a cat chaser. There were four resident cats in the home. But after a little over a month of living on a leash mom and dad felt that I could behave. And I did!

Oliver was a different story. Usually it is recommended that the new pet stay in an area separate from the resident pets such as a bedroom or laundry room. Unfortunately. our household was not able to do that.

The bottom line and most important thing is that I was kept from getting to the cats. It might have been done a little differently than what you might read about on the Internet, but keeping everyone safe was achieved. Oliver and I were placed in the largest room of the house. Oliver was in his carrier on one side of the room. Dad had me on the other side of the room on a leash.

I was allowed to move ahead towards the carrier a few steps at a time each night. That inching along gave me enough time to get comfortable. After a couple of weeks I was able to lay in front of the carrier. I was able to see, smell, and watch Oliver without any issues. Mom took Oliver upstairs and let him out of the carrier. Dad came up with me on a leash.

Dad took me into his office where I remained on a leash for a couple of hours. From the office I was able to see everything going on upstairs. I watched Oliver going from place to place. Mom and dad decided to bring me close to Oliver while on leash. I had no negative reaction towards Oliver. They felt it was okay to remove the leash and finally let us be together.

We have been close since. Oliver is my brother. Thanks to mom and dad’s patience we were safely able to be introduced without an unwanted incident.

So often pets are either left at a shelter or given to rescue because of the new family not being patient enough with the introduction. They expect too much too fast. With a little patience and understanding it can work out.

Reprinted with permission from Traci Cameron, volunteer with Coalition for Pet Protection, a nonprofit that seeks to change public attitudes, behaviors, and to gain a recognition that any level of overpopulation and animal abuse is unacceptable. Traci hosts her own blog Unleashed.

If you are a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you are interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.

Guest Post: Young Guinea Pigs–A Parent’s Guide To Happiness

Stock Photo by Pixabay
Stock Photo Pixabay

Congratulations, it’s a boy, oh wait, it’s a girl?! You’re now the proud parent of a young guinea pig! Being a new parent can be stressful, but don’t worry, you’ll be just fine. There are no diaper changes, 3 am feedings, or parent-teacher conferences involved.

Do you know what your new bundle of joy needs for care? Have you purchased a bigger house so your guinea pig can have its own bathroom and bedroom? Luckily, a guinea pig doesn’t need an entire home to itself, your bank account will thank you!

Care: Do you know what your new bundle of joy needs for care? Have you purchased a bigger house so your guinea pig can have its own bathroom and bedroom? Luckily, a guinea pig doesn’t need an entire home to itself, your bank account will thank you! Check out Guinea Pig Hub for more helpful information on guinea pig care.

Housing: Your new guinea pig needs a proper cage; nothing too small! A guinea pig needs to roam free and stretch those tiny legs. Make sure there’s Carefresh bedding or layers of fabric, such as fleece, with newspaper underneath that lines the bottom of the cage. Wood shavings can irritate your guinea pig’s feet, causing blisters and cuts.

Bedding: Just like a baby diaper, your guinea pig will need a changing too! Luckily, a guinea pig changing just consists of replacing their soiled bedding on a regular basis. Guinea pigs poop and potty a lot, so be sure to keep an eye on the bedding. If the bedding isn’t changed regularly, a guinea pig can become very ill. Change that bedding!

Stock Photo Wikipedia
Stock Photo Wikipedia

Food: Young guinea pigs need more calcium than adult guinea pigs, so that they can grow strong bones. A diet should consist of guinea pig chow, fresh fruits and veggies, and water, complete with a Timothy Hay buffet, 24/7. Reread Essential Foods for Guinea Pigs!

Vitamin C: A young guinea pig is more likely to suffer from a Vitamin C deficiency than older guinea pigs. Make sure you give your young guinea pig fruits and veggies rich in Vitamin C. Be careful with the fruits; lots of sweet fruits can cause diabetes in guinea pigs!

Health: A healthy guinea pig is a happy guinea pig! If your guinea pig isn’t happy, you’ll be notified with loud wheeks, squeaks, or a guinea pig that hides and is depressed.

Baby Proofing: Just like with human babies, you should baby-proof just about the entire home for a young guinea pig. Young guinea pigs can get into a lot of trouble. They’re also quick and hard to catch!

Inspection: Look at the cage for harmful things such as sharp corners, dented bars, holes in the cage, bars too far apart, etc. Any furnishings that you put in your young guinea pig’s cage, inspect them to make sure they are safe! Pigloo’s, food dishes, water bottles, toys; the list goes on.

Escape: Do you have a little escape artist on your hands? Guinea pigs are excellent at escaping areas they want to get out of. If don’t want to wake up in the morning with little guinea pig poo pellets in your shoes, make sure the cage is escape proof. Carefully inspect the cage; guinea pigs love to chew and will chew their way to freedom if not watched. Take a look at Baby Proofing Ideas to help you stay ahead of the young guinea pig!

Toys: Your guinea pig will want to explore its new surroundings once it adapts. Bring in a few toys to help your guinea pig to adapt and explore, not to mention, it’s cute to watch them play! A simple toy could be a paper towel or toilet paper tube, stuffed with timothy hay. Keep your young guinea pig active both physically and emotionally!

Stock Photo Wikipedia
Stock Photo Wikipedia

Bonding: It’s very important that you, as a parent, bond with your young guinea pig. A solo guinea pig requires extra attention than two guinea pigs due to the social nature of these animals. Also, the more your guinea pig is handled, the easier it is to pick them up and love on them!

As a new guinea pig parent, you’ll be so enthralled with cuteness, that you won’t sweat the small stuff. Your young guinea pig will bring you many years of happiness, fun, and love. Enjoy your new baby!

If you plan to adopt a young guinea pig as a pet, please do your research before making this important step. Any pet is a responsibility that you must undertake, your pet deserves the best care possible.

Written by Nikki Harbeston, Creative Stuff, for LAA Pet Talk. She resides in South Carolina with her husband and dog. Her blog features Diary of a Chubby Piggie and Into the Journey of Dog. Copyright August 2013-March 2014.

If you are a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you are interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.

Guest Post: 50 Netflix Shows & Documentaries for Animal Lovers

It’s been a long week. You’re ready to relax, kick back, and Netflix ‘n chill…

…with your pet!

Hey, why not? Nothing’s better than snuggling with your furry, scaly, or feathered pal after a tough day at work!

If your house is full of animal lovers, then you may want to take some notes. We’ve scoured the Netflix catalogue and have found the top 50 titles for all the dog people, cat people, and other animal fans in your life. These shows and movies are sure to make you laugh and bring out all the “Awwwws” you’ve got. Plus, they’re a great way to learn some interesting things about animals from around the world.

Best animal documentaries:

Family friendly, educational, and entertaining. Make the most out of your next family movie night with one of these awesome flicks.

1. Precious Puppies

At just under one hour, this film takes you into the lovable world of canines. Get a “day in the life” peek at tons of different breeds as they work, go to obedience school, and star in movies!

2. Beary Tales

When a wildlife photographer discovers two abandoned bear cubs in the forest, he’ll learn what it’s like to play Mama Bear as these two rambunctious ones grow.

3. Growing Up Wild

This 2016 film follows five baby animals from all corners of the world as they come into their own among the help and protection of their animal families.

4. The Wildebeest Migration

This incredible documentary showcases the migratory journey of wildebeests, a life-or-death struggle for survival.

5. Elephants: Spy in the Herd

Filmmakers hide their cameras to capture private and rarely seen events in an elephant herd’s day-to-day-life.

6. Dolphins: Spy in the Pod

Want an up close and personal look at some of the most intelligent creatures of the ocean? The filmmakers of this documentary hid their cameras as sea creatures to capture precious and rare film of a playful dolphin pod.

7. Animal House

Humans aren’t the only species that care about architectural design! This documentary showcases some of the amazing nests, burrows, and other ingenious structures that animals call home sweet home.

8. The Lion in Your Living Room

Ever wanted to learn more about the common house cat? This film explores the mysteries and histories of the domesticated feline… so be sure to watch this one with your furball snuggled up to you close by!

9. Hunt for the Super Predator

If you like learning about sea creatures and aren’t afraid of getting a little spooked out in the process, this documentary should definitely be added to your Favorites List.

10. Martin Clunes: Heavy Horsepower

Horses are incredible creatures. This film will teach you about the amazing work capacity of these gorgeous animals.

11. Venom Islands

Be amazed by these prehistoric looking creatures featured in this 45 minute film.

12. Pandas: The Journey Home

What’s better than pandas? For a cute and clinching tear-jerker, watch this movie to see what happens when pandas bred in captivity are prepared to be released in the wild.

13. Harry and Snowman

A historic look at what it takes to lead a horse to a championship in show jumping.

14. Turf Wars: Lions and Hippos

These two bosses of the African wilderness battle it out to establish a territorial claim and the right to survive.

15. Europe’s Last Great Wilderness

Europe is a diverse part of the world. This documentary takes you smack inside the unbelievable habitats of this gorgeous continent.

16. Jane & Payne

Both known around the world for their expertise in primates and whales, respectively, this film documents the illustrated careers of Jane Goodall and Roger Payne.

17. Bears: Spy in the Woods

Get a closer look at the secret life of grizzlies, pandas, polar bears, and other ursine species.

18. Australia’s Deadliest Sea Creatures

You may be a little spooked in the water after watching this documentary about octopuses, crocodiles, and other Aussie ocean swimmers!

19. Leopard Fight Club

From cub to cat, a leopard must be strong to survive. This documentary allows you to witness the process!

20. The Champions

Bring your tissues: this one’s a tear-jerking documentary following good people who are trying to save good dogs from a dog-fighting ring.

21. A Dog’s Life

Wonder what it’s like to be your dog? This documentary will help you see the world from your canine companion’s point of view!

22. Blackfish

This is an infamous and disturbing documentary that warns about the dangers of whales kept in captivity. Viewer discretion advised, and mature audiences recommended.

Best animal shows:

23. Baby Animals in the Wild

Witness young animals from around the world take their first steps, learn to fly, and figure out what it means to be out and about in the wild. Episodes feature baby polar bears, elephants, grizzly bears, koalas, gorillas, deer, foxes, whales, and more.

24. 72 Dangerous Animals: Australia

The Land Down Under is known for being home to some pretty creepy critters. If you’re into scary movies, watch this single season that features interviews with animal experts and survivors of close encounters with snakes, sharks, spiders, and more.

25. 72 Cutest Animals

Okay, if the last flick freaked you out, calm your mind with these six dozen animals who are just adorable creatures from head to paw (or claw!).

26. Shark

If Shark Week isn’t long enough for you, then this short series could give you just what you’re looking for! Learn all about these powerful ocean predators and help dispel the myth that sharks are “bad.”

27. The Hunt

Predatory animals are something to be seen. They’re fast, cunning, powerful, and agile. See the circle of life in action with episodes featuring polar bears, leopards, and other hunters.

28. Life Story

The lives of animals can be as complex as our own. This documentary series gives viewers an inside look at survival in the wild habitats of creatures from around the world.

29. Hidden Kingdoms

See the animals you never see! This series gives you a close-up view of a miniature world.

30. Africa’s Deadliest

Leopards, lions, and other prowling predators make their debut in this film about some of Africa’s stealthiest and most elegant hunters.

31. David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities

Take a tour of the past with this 3-season show highlighting some of the most interesting evolutionary behaviors and traits.

32. Frozen Planet

The North and South Poles have a lot of mystery around them, and their native flora and fauna do not fail to wonder in this intriguing 1-season series.

33. Wild Ones

Do you love creepy, crawly, cute, or cuddly? How about all of the above? Learn interesting facts about wild animals from across the globe in these episodes.

34. Madagascar

See what it would be like to be on this unique island, home to some of the world’s most unusual creatures.

35. Wildlife SOS

The Wildlife Aid Foundation helps injured and ill animals recover safely and return to the wild. You’ll want to cheer these people and animals on!

36. Wild Australia with Ray Mears

This fearless explorer takes you to the most out-of-the-way places in Australia to let you wonder, as he does, how they survive and thrive.

37. The Snow Wolf Family & Me

Ever wonder what it’s like to interact with a remote pack of wolves who have never seen a human being before? That’s what Gordon Buchanan finds out in this heartwarming and thrilling documentary.

38. Monkey Planet

You’ll go bananas over this adorable documentary series about primates, our closest living relatives.

39. The Great Rift: Africa’s Wild Heart

East Africa’s Rift Valley is a fascinating part of the world. The wildlife, both plant and animal, are stars of this 3-episode series.

40. Galápagos

A crucial part of history, the Galápagos Islands are home to some unusual creatures who have stood the test of time. See their unusual world in this 3-episode season.

41. Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild

Explore the world of animals with one of the most famous wildlife experts and enthusiasts. From snakes to elephants to penguins, you’re bound to see all your favorites!

42. Tiger: Spy in the Jungle

Take another intimate view of animals when filmmakers conceal their cameras among this group of tigers in an Indian jungle.

43. Life

A poetic and artistic view of life existing against all odds. Learn about the evolution of animals and plants from around the globe in this documentary series.

44. Wildest Africa

Dig deeper into Africa in this 2-season nature show, featuring many of the African animals you love.

45. Wildest Indochina

From the jungle to the ocean, Indochina’s animals shine in this documentary series.

46. Nature’s Great Events

What are some of the most exciting moments you’d love to see in the wild? A volcano? A bear fishing in the river? A whale breaching in the ocean? Consider this nature show a highlight reel from Mother Nature!

47. Wildest Latin America

Learn about the plants, people, and creatures who find their home in the versatile Latin America region of the world.

48. Wild North

Be transported to Norway in this documentary series showcasing some of the most intriguing wildlife in the Scandinavian country.

49. Africa

There’s no such thing as too many documentaries about African wildlife! This nature show takes you deep in the African jungles, deserts, and valleys.

50. The Bionic Vet

Noel Fitzpatrick combines cutting edge technology with genuine compassion to help heal injured animals.

Reprinted with permission from Mary and Dave Neilson, FelineLiving.net. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright September 2, 2017.

FelineLiving.net started as a way for the Neilsons to create a single website where other new cat owners could find the answers to all their questions. It’s your one-stop shop for all things cat and kitten! If you’re feline lovers, then you want the absolute best for your four-legged friend. FelineLiving.net has tons of information about how to best care for your feline throughout every stage of life. From toys, nutrition guides, product reviews, behavior tips, and up-and-coming cat news,  FelineLiving.net has you covered.

Guest Post: Declawing Truth

Reprinted with permission from Traci Cameron, volunteer with Coalition for Pet Protection, a nonprofit that seeks to change public attitudes, behaviors, and to gain a recognition that any level of overpopulation and animal abuse is unacceptable. Traci hosts her own blog Unleashed.

Some people believe that declawing a cat is not a harmful thing to do. They see it as an easy fix for destructive scratching.

At about 8 weeks of age is when a cat typically begins scratching. Cats don’t scratch for the purpose of destroying your furniture. Cats scratch to remove the dead husks from their claws, mark territory, and stretch their muscles. Cats, in the wild, use their claws to catch prey, defend themselves, and escape predators. House cats attack toys, climb, and scratch. Scratching is also a way for cats to mark their territory because they have scent glands on their paws. Scratching makes the cat feel at home and secure.

Words such as deform, disfigure, disjoint, and dismember all apply to declawing. It doesn’t matter how the surgery is preformed. Declawing is thought to be mutilation and can lead to an entirely different set of behavior problems.

Side Effects of Declawing

Stock Photo Flickr
Stock Photo Flickr

Often times with declawed cats using the litterbox is an issue. Many cats experience chronic pain following the surgical procedure. The litter irritates their paws. All litters, however, might not. You may have to change litters several times to find one that the cat is comfortable with.

Declawing can cause discomfort for the cat when walking.

There is a danger if your declawed cat was to ever get out of the house. Without front claws it is difficult for the cat to defend themselves.

Some cats can become nervous, defensive, and display unwanted temperament following the declaw procedure.

Infection is a risk during and after surgery because it’s difficult to sterilize the area.

If the surgery is not performed correctly the claw can grow back. If it doesn’t grow in properly it can cause an abscess.

Many owners, frustrated with these behaviors, take their cats to the shelter, have them euthanized, or turn them out into the streets to fend for themselves. This is punishing the cat for what the owner caused. There’s no reason for any of it when there are alternatives.

Alternatives to Declawing

Stock Photo WikiMedia
Stock Photo WikiMedia

A scratching post is something that all cat owners should have. See where your cat likes to scratch and put a post in those places. You should probably have more than one post in your home. There are a variety of posts available made from lots of different materials like carpet, sisal, wood, and cardboard. It is recommended to stay away from cheap vertical posts with a lightweight base. It might topple over when used which will result in the cat never wanting to use it again.

Vinyl nail caps such as Soft Claws are a successful alternative. The caps are put on with a surgical adhesive, but it must be applied properly so that toes aren’t glued together. If done properly the caps last about a month.

Trimming your cat’s nails weekly can also help a scratching problem.

Declawing is outlawed in dozens of countries except in cases when it’s medically necessary to remove nail bed tumors. Declawing involved the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If the cat were human it would be equivalent to cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.

If you are a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you are interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.

Guest Post: I’ve A Confession to Make

Reprinted with permission from Brian Monson, Adventures with Wolf Packs. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright March 16, 2018.

I’ve been doing this for long enough now that it’s about time I stop pretending and own up to the truth – I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to training our dogs. I never have, and I probably never will.

Raleigh and Iggy are the first dogs that are my personal responsibility, and the only dogs I’ve ever tried to train. I haven’t come from a long line of dog trainers, I’ve never even known a breeder, and the only thing for which I could’ve been a Junior Handler was an Xbox controller.

Having no background in anything related to dog training can be quite intimidating at times. It’s an insecurity I carry with me every time we go to a new class, trial, or other event with our dogs. Usually it seems like everyone else has been training for decades, and their dogs all have every letter of the alphabet attached to the end of their names, twice over. And the hardest part is knowing that my ignorance is probably just as obvious to everyone else as it is to me.

The rational part of me knows that I shouldn’t let it bother me. Everyone has to start somewhere, everyone makes mistakes, and we’ve found that the people with lots of experience are perfectly friendly and welcoming. Even still, it’s hard not to feel like I don’t belong sometimes.

But that’s the whole reason we started this blog – to help others overcome their reservations as well and try being more active with their dogs. It’s been incredibly rewarding to have so many new experiences and grow closer to our dogs, and we enjoy sharing that with others.

I know we’ve made lots of mistakes along the way, and I’m sure we’ll continue to make more. We just have to make sure we keep learning from them. In fact, one of the most valuable lessons we’ve learned about training dogs stems from one of our many mistakes.

Raleigh was the first dog that we adopted. We knew we wanted a more active dog to match our lifestyle, and Raleigh seemed like the perfect fit; she was sweet and affectionate, had limitless energy, and had a naturally playful attitude.

When we brought her home she was 9 months old, but had never lived outside of a shelter. Therefore, the stairs from the garage up into our townhouse were her first new experience. She was naturally apprehensive at first, but after coaxing her with treats she conquered both going up and down the stairs with grace and ease.

All of a sudden, 9 months of pent-up puppyhood energy burst forth into our townhouse. She had decided that the only thing in the entire world that’s more fun than going up the stairs is coming back down again. For the next thirty minutes, our home was shaken and stirred by the sounds of Raleigh plowing up and down the stairs at full sprint.

At first everything seemed fine – she was a young dog in a new environment, after all. She needed the opportunity to let out some of her energy! However, after a while it started to seem like she was a bit out of control, so I decided to stop her. When I finally got ahold of her, she seemed to be pretty far-gone. Eyes: fully dilated. Mouth: frothing. We wanted a high-energy dog, and we definitely got one.

That same energy carried over into general housetraining. We tried to stick with the reward-based training that seems to be the consensus among folks on the Internet. You know what I’m talking about – the training style that says if you ask your dog to do the right thing nicely enough, they’ll eventually do it. And when the dog finally does the right thing, you unload a dump truck full of treats into its mouth.

This carried on for weeks with no progress. Her energy levels were so high that she was continuously distracted, and rarely able to pay attention to anything we were saying or doing. We would continue to try commands that we had been saying for weeks, and she never once showed any level of comprehension.

When she just-so-happened to do the right thing we would tell her she was a good girl, give her treats and repeat the command to help her associate the command with the action. Although she loved her treats and was perfectly motivated by them, she was never able to understand that she was being rewarded for something that she did.

As our frustration kept building, she kept acting up and doing bad things, all the while not knowing that there were good things expected of her. Finally, my frustration came to a head and I blurted out a firm, “NO!”

I had broken the dog training dogma of positive reinforcement. But, that moment proved to be revelatory for Raleigh.

Suddenly she seemed to understand that the words we were saying indeed had significance and that she needed to pay attention. We noticed that she was finally listening for commands and trying to understand. She wanted to please us all along, but never understood that doing certain things made us displeased.

The solution for Raleigh was that in order for her to understand what she was supposed to do, she first needed to understand what she was not supposed to do. Obviously we still rewarded good behavior as one should, but we found that correcting misbehaviors as well helped her hone in on the right choices.

Six months later, we found ourselves welcoming our newest bundle of joy into the Wolfpack – Iggy. He was everything we had hoped for: playful, energetic, and most importantly, intelligent. Even as a bumbling puppy, he had a proclivity for observation. His little eyes were always darting about, soaking up as much information as possible from his surroundings.

When it came time to housetrain him, we couldn’t help but feel a little bit cocky. Considering the battle we had gone through to teach Raleigh, we thought we had found a bulletproof formula for training.

Iggy’s intelligence, mixed with his desire to please and his love of treats made training him a breeze. We found it only took a few repetitions for him to grasp an idea, and he was always listening for keywords.

As to be expected, he did slip up sometimes and misbehave. And when that happened we applied the Raleigh formula – reward the good behaviors and correct the misbehaviors. We would very firmly tell him, “NO.”

Something was different this time though. Whereas Raleigh responded well to these corrections, Iggy responded a little too well.

He definitely understood that he did something wrong. In fact, he understood so much that he wouldn’t return to the location where the dark deed occurred for days after. His tail would go straight down, and stay there for hours. It’s not that he was afraid, but rather that he was so disappointed in himself that he thought the only solution was to banish himself to Bad Boy Island, where he would live out the rest of his days. No amount of reassurance could pull him out of his pit of despair.

The important lesson that we learned from this was that you can’t train all dogs the same way. While some dogs thrive off of positive reinforcement alone, others may need a balance of positive reinforcement and correction to fully understand. You may find that it can be a learning curve to understand what’s best for your dog. However, if you remember that training styles should be adapted to fit the needs of the dog being trained, you and your dog will not only succeed in training, but also strengthen your bond.

The Wolfpack consists of “an ordinary couple with two extraordinary dogs.” Raising dogs has been more of a challenge than the Monsons could have ever imagined. They strive to keep their dogs involved in a variety of activities and to give them the best life possible. At their blog, they tell the stories of all of the triumphs, challenges, successes, and failures as of their wolfpack life.

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Pulls So Hard She Chokes

My dog pulls so hard she chokes herself. She gags and coughs and her bark sounds funny. How do I teach her not to pull?

missbehaviorThat’s a problem? Hook her up to the front of your car and save yourself some gas! But seriously . . .

There are several tools that will help you teach her not to pull. The first thing to remember is that these are tools. Many people put on a training collar or harness and then think, “That’s it; it’s a miracle. I don’t have to train my dog.” The problem is the dog never learns anything; the owner just has better leverage while the training tool is on the dog.

The first tool many trainers think of when a dog pulls is the prong collar. This collar closes around the dog’s neck with dull spikes and some say mimics the bite of the dog’s mother. The collar, properly fitted, gives the dog a correction for pulling. It limits the amount of force they can use to pull. The harder she pulls the more correction she receives. Though they are shiny, they aren’t as stylish as diamonds!

The next tool is the head-halter; Halti® and Gentle Leader® are two brands of head halters. They go around the dog’s neck and over the dog’s nose to control the dog’s head. The action of pulling makes the dog’s nose go down or to the side, limiting her forward motion. Also, a limited color palette makes it difficult to find the perfect match for your dog’s coat.

No pull harnesses are newer and becoming increasingly popular. There are two main types of harnesses: one that has the leash attach to the front of the harness, when the dog pulls, the harness turns them toward the owner. The second uses loops that attach to a collar and run under each front leg. This type of harness tightens around the front legs and pulls the collar downward when the dog pulls.

Each tool has it pros and cons and I recommend you do some research on which type you’d like to try. Tools are meant to be used and then faded. Your dog shouldn’t have to be on a no-pull harness for the rest of her life. Stylish though it may be, it certainly limits one’s wardrobe! Using one of the tools might make it easier at first but, whether you use a special collar/ harness or not, you need to train your dog.

Once you pick your tool, follow the below steps to train your dog not to pull.

Put your dog on his leash and collar and stop. Don’t move forward. If you pull the leash up and keep it tight, your dog will just think he’s supposed to pull.

If the dog is on a training collar, I might give a correction (a little tug) as he hits the end of the leash. If he’s on a harness or flat buckle collar instead, I don’t recommend you correct him. On a head-halter, I’d discourage you from tugging or allowing him to hit the end of the leash with any force.

When the leash is loose, praise your dog and give him a small, high value treat. Take a step towards the door praising him as you move. If he hits the end of the lead, stop. Correct or wait out the pull. When your dog realizes that tugging will get him nowhere, he’ll most likely turn to see what the problem is. Praise and reward him and take another step forward. Continue to praise him as you move forward. Anytime he hits the end of the leash, stop. Correct or wait out the pulling behavior. Only move forward when the leash is loose.

You may not get out of your yard the first time. The goal is to never reward your dog for pulling. (Allowing your dog to go somewhere while pulling is rewarding him.) When you find you can get several steps without him pulling, start to fade the treats, but continue to him for walking with you.

Once your dog gets the idea of walking with you, don’t forget to occasionally reward him and definitely don’t reward any more pulling. If you’re using a training tool, begin to switch back and forth between the training tool and a regular collar. This way your dog will learn he can’t pull even if she’s on a flat buckle collar.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

Guest Post: Adopting a Guinea Pig

The prospect of getting a new pet is exciting no matter what age you are! Remember that before you think about getting a new pet, pets are a serious commitment. Can you afford a pet? Are you committed to taking care of it?

Fruity & Pudding, Photo by Allison
Fruity & Pudding, Photo by Allison

If you’re adopting a guinea pig, please be aware that guinea pigs require a great deal of food options and care, socialization, and attention. One useful guide to check out is Guinea Lynx Info. This is a trusted resource among guinea pig owners.

Make your guinea pig feel at home!  A guinea pig deserves the finest things in life such as:

  • cage
  • pigloo to hide in
  • hay buffet
  • water bottle
  • fresh fruits and veggies
  • proper bedding
  • toys

The list can go on forever, but this can help you get started.  You want your guinea pig to feel at ease and generally happy.

If you help your guinea pig get acquainted with you, you’ll both benefit by being more relaxed around each other.  Don’t try to pick up your guinea pig during this transition period, but periodically sit next to and talk to your guinea pig.  Ask your guinea pig how it’s doing or even simply have a conversation near your guinea pig. The more your guinea pig hears your voice, the more comfortable it’ll be around you.

Socialization is very important for you guinea pig. If it’s too lonely, it could get depressed and even die.  We had two guinea pigs and, when one of them died, we thought we were going to lose our other guinea pig too due to how sad it felt.  We made every effort to spend as much time with our one guinea pig as possible and it helped a lot.  We did not spend 24 hours a day with him, but we made sure to be home more often. While we were home, we had him out of his cage, running around with us, getting stroked, etc.  If for some reason, you can only have one guinea pig at a time, please spend a lot of time with it.

Bumblebee & Fruity, Photo by Allison
Bumblebee & Fruity, Photo by Allison

It’s possible that you may have another pet and your guinea pig will be new to them. Curiosity will be intense! When you first bring home your new guinea pig, it’s going to be scared and so it’s not a good idea to introduce them to any pets at that time.  Give your furry pig a few days to adjust to its new home. It’ll keep your guinea pig calm and help with its adaptation to your home.  One useful guide to check out is Omlet.

Make sure that you research about exotic vets in your area, if you’re thinking about getting a guinea pig. A regular vet is not fully equipped to treat exotic animals. Taking your guinea pig to a reputable exotic vet could mean life and death for your new pet.

Treat your new guinea pig like family!  Eventually, your guinea pig will be so acclimated to its new home that you can pick it up, talk about the day’s events over coffee, and more. Enjoy your new guinea pig and remember: Adopt, don’t shop!

Written by Nikki Harbeston, Creative Stuff, for LAA Pet Talk. She resides in South Carolina with her husband and dog. Her blog features Diary of a Chubby Piggie and Into the Journey of Dog. Copyright August 2013-March 2014.

If you are a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you are interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.

Dear Miss Behavior: Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

Dear Miss Behavior: We adopted an older dog from the shelter. I’ve heard you can’t teach old dog new tricks. The shelter said she was nine; is that too old to take an obedience class?

missbehaviorNo way! That old adage is wrong, wrong, wrong. Keeping a dog mentally fit is as important as keeping them physically fit. Just as a retired person can learn a new language or to play a musical instrument, a senior dog can learn to do just about anything.

Dogs don’t lose the ability to learn, but when dogs have learned a bad habit it can sometimes take a little longer to teach them what to do instead. A good rule of thumb is three weeks to forget the old behavior and three weeks to learn the new behavior. Sometimes it can take longer. Don’t expect any dog (regardless of age) to change their behavior overnight. If it was that easy then humans would easily be able to lose weight or stop smoking.

Once you take a class or two you can consider taking a Tricks class or even Agility! Just don’t push her too fast, and make sure you check with your veterinarian before starting something really active like Agility or Flyball.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.