Posts in Category: Pet Behavior

Puppy Potty Training: Two Keys To Success

puppy potty training

Puppy potty training is probably the most difficult aspect of getting a new puppy, and all puppies are not created equal.  Some breeds are known for being easy to potty train while others are more difficult.  Be sure to do a little research before deciding what breed is right for you and your family.  If you don’t want to mess with potty training at all adopt or buy an older puppy or an adult dog that is already potty trained.

Here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind when puppy potty training: most puppies can hold their urine for how many months old they are plus one (i.e., a two-month-old puppy should be able to hold his urine for 3 hours). Using the example above, I would recommend taking this two-month-old puppy outside every 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Most puppies will need to defecate 30-45 minutes after eating.  It takes time to potty train a puppy, so the most important thing is to be patient and consistent. 

Two Keys to Successful puppy potty training:

Key #1: Crate confinement

The primary key to potty training is crating or confining your puppy when you can’t watch him. Crate training your dog is not cruel.  Crate training works because most animals don’t like sleeping or eating where they go to the bathroom, and it protects your puppy from injuring itself and your property.  Restrict the puppy’s access to tile or easily washable flooring.  While potty training, it’s also important to stick to a schedule by feeding at the same time every day and getting up and going to bed around the same time each day.

Key #2: Keep your puppy on a leash

I recommend taking your puppy outside on a leash to the same spot to potty.  Taking your puppy on a leash is the second most important aspect of potty training.  By using a leash, you are controlling where your puppy is going and what your puppy is doing.  Without the leash, your puppy will wander off to play and forget the real reason why they are outside.  By taking your puppy to the same spot each time, they will smell the urine or stool that helps to stimulate them to go potty.  Potty pads work because they have a scent impregnated into them that does this very same thing.  If your puppy is using the same spot in your house each time so make sure that you are using a cleaning product that says it neutralizes urine and fecal odor. You can also use a key phrase like “hurry up” or “go potty” which will help once your dog is trained.

Most puppies will signal when they need to go potty by circling, sniffing and arching their back.  When you see this behavior, immediately pick them up and take them outside.  Never yell or punish your puppy for accidents and don’t rub his nose in it.  If you find the accident after the fact, clean it up and scold yourself. Call Guthrie Pet Hospital for all your puppy behavioral and medical needs.

Top 3 Tips For Better Dog Obedience Results

dog obedience

When I tell people I teach dog obedience, they usually say something like, “Oh! I need you to teach my dog how to behave!” While I love to think of myself as a miracle worker who can teach behaviors and troubleshoot problems with your dog, the truth is that I can’t do it without you. My actual job is to teach owners and caretakers how to communicate with their dogs. I know it sounds all new-age, cable tv show, touchy-feely. It’s a fact, though. You and your dog will have better results and a better relationship if I teach you, then you teach them.

Three tips for better dog obedience results:

Always Reward Good Behaviors

Our dogs, like ourselves, are much more likely to repeat a behavior that they find rewarding. The problem is that we end up inadvertently rewarding undesirable behaviors. When our dog barks and we yell at them to stop, we’re rewarding their noise by yelling right along with them. If my dog jumps up and I respond by pushing him off of me, I’m rewarding his annoying behavior by giving him physical contact and attention. Some behaviors are even self-rewarding—meaning that the act itself gives the dog pleasure (think counter-surfing or garbage eating).

For us to teach our dogs to make better choices, we have to make those desirable choices pay. Reward your dog with a pet or a treat for sitting or lying down calmly. Reward your dog when he’s quiet. Reward him when he doesn’t put his feet up on the counter. The more a behavior is rewarded, the more your dog will perform that behavior.

Be Consistent

When you’re training your dog, think of it as teaching English as a second language. You want to say things the same way each time to avoid confusion. Did you take Spanish in school? I did. I was pretty awful at it. The worst part was when I thought I finally got something, and then I learned that there was a similar word that meant something completely different. Our dogs can become frustrated, too. Set them (and yourself) up for success by being consistent in your language, tone, and reward timing.

Make Time To Practice

To master any skill, it takes practice. Just because our dogs get a behavior right one time doesn’t mean that they will automatically get it right every time.  Regular practice is necessary to perfect the skills that we are teaching them. You don’t have to spend hours a day on obedience—but 2 or 3 10-minute sessions each day will make a huge difference in how quickly you and your dog will master each behavior. Think of it like playing the piano. Even if you know your scales, that doesn’t mean you can play a Mozart piece without practicing it first, and you have to practice those scales first to have the foundation in place to tackle songs in different keys.

To keep dog obedience practice from feeling like a chore, you can make an appointment with me to learn some great obedience games to play with your dog! From “Hide & Seek” to “ Puppy in the Middle,” there are some really fun ways to help your dog want to learn.

Five Tips To Prevent Inappropriate Elimination In Cats

inappropriate elimination in cats

The last few weeks, I’ve seen several cases of inappropriate elimination in cats.  Spraying or avoiding the litter box is the number one sited reason cats are surrendered to animal shelters.  Hopefully, the knowledge you gain from this article can reduce the chance of litter box problems.

The most common reason a cat will use the bathroom outside of its litter box is that it’s not clean.  Let’s face it- when we go to a public restroom and find a dirty toilet, we go to the next stall; if it stinks, we will find another bathroom somewhere else.  Why do you think it’s any different for your cat?

How to prevent inappropriate elimination in cats:

  1. Use unscented litter. 
  2. Scoop the litter box every day
  3. Clean the litter box once a week with mild soap and water
  4. Don’t use ammonia or citrus scents
  5. If the box begins to smell like urine, use an odor neutralizer or replace the box with a new one.

The number of litter boxes needed depends on the number of cats in your household.  The general rule of thumb to follow is the number of cats you have in your household plus one (example: 2 cats = 3 litter boxes).  I would also recommend providing different types of litter box and varying the size of each of the boxes.  We have similar choices: home vs. public restroom, inside vs. outside, and handicap vs. regular stall. It’s nice to have a choice.

If you have inappropriate elimination in cats and you have tried the above suggestions, your cat may have a medical or behavioral condition.  Contact your veterinarian for an exam and diagnostics in order to resolve the issue early. Never punish your cat for going outside the litter box, as this may cause other behavioral problems.  Some individuals think the cat is trying to be vindictive, when in fact, there is a legitimate reason why the cat is not using the litter box. Try thinking about the problem from your cat’s point of view. Ask yourself if you were presented with the same problem, what would you do?

Enrichment For Dogs: Healthy Minds and Happy Lives

Do your neighbors complain about your dog making noise when you aren’t home? Do you have a dog who tries to dig under or climb over your fence? Do you come home to a dog who has chewed up furniture, scattered the contents of your garbage can, or shredded his bed? A variety of different reasons can cause these issues, but the most common one is simply boredom. So today, I’ll give you some ideas to help enrichment for dogs to help them become healthier, happier members of your household.

As we humans go about our daily lives, it can sometimes be difficult to remember that our dogs’ worlds are much smaller than ours which is why it is important to provide enrichment for dogs. While we travel to jobs, meetings, and outings, our dogs are routinely left home. Even with a yard to roam in or toys to play with, our dogs will eventually become bored. After all, dogs are intelligent, energetic creatures. If we don’t find a way to occupy their minds and exercise their bodies, they’ll come up with their own ways of entertaining themselves, and no matter how hard I’ve hoped, my dogs have never blown off some steam by doing the dishes or vacuuming the house.

Instead, bored dogs are more likely to be destructive, noisy, or take off looking for something fun to do outside of their normal stomping grounds. This can lead not just to messes or annoyance but can also be dangerous for our dogs.

Five ideas for enrichment for dogs:

  • Spend Time With Them

Your dog craves attention. While we can’t always be home with them, make sure to interact with your dog when you’re around. Talk to them, give belly rubs and ear scratches, snuggle on the couch or the floor. Just let them know you’re paying attention.

  • Play A Game

Some dogs enjoy a game of fetch. Others love tug-o-war. I have one dog who loves to play soccer—I kick the ball, and she runs the length of the yard to chase it down and nose it back to me. Another of my pups loves to play with his flirt pole (it’s like a cat wand toy, but bigger and sturdier). Find the game your dog loves best and try to spend at least a few minutes a day playing with them. It’ll help get rid of some of their energy, and it feels good when we humans play, too.

  • Teach Them Something New, Practice Something Old

Learning a new trick or an obedience cue is a great way to engage your dog’s mind and body. By using positive reinforcement methods, you’ll also strengthen the bond between you and your dog. If your best bud already knows a bunch of stuff, spend some time asking her to show off for you and rewarding her for getting it right.

  • Invest In Durable Toys and Food Puzzles

When you must be gone, make sure your dog has something to do with herself while you’re away. Durable chew toys like Nylabones and Kong toys are a great way to give your pet a way to kill some time without killing your furniture. Food puzzles are another great way to provide mental stimulation—just make sure they don’t have small, breakable pieces that your dog might ingest if left unattended.

  • Give Them Some Screen Time

Sometimes, just leaving a tv on for your dog can be a help. I’ve found that PBS Kids is a big hit with my dog Opus. He likes the silly voices and cartoons seem to be engaging to him. He’ll sit in front of the TV, watching Daniel Tiger until he falls asleep. The sound of the TV can also cover outside noises that may cause some dogs to react with barking or destructive behavior.

If you need help coming up with solutions to provide enrichment for dogs, call us and set up an appointment for a consultation with Stef!

How To Recognize The Six Signs Of Fear In Dogs

signs of fear indogs

This week, I saw a video on Facebook of a rooster being “hypnotized” by a line drawn in the dirt close to his beak. It caused him to become completely immobile–but when the line was erased, the rooster immediately attacked the closest person, then ran away to the other side of the yard. My first reaction was to laugh. Honestly, seeing videos of grown men being flogged by an angry rooster is hilarious. After watching the video for a second time though, I realized something. The rooster wasn’t hypnotized. He was terrified. In one seemingly-funny video, I saw that rooster exhibit all three common responses to fear of a threat: freeze, fight, and flight. First, he was completely still. Because the perceived threat was very close to him, he essentially “played dead”. Once the threat was removed enough for him to feel like he had a fighting chance of survival, that’s just what he did—he attacked what he viewed as the source of danger. Then, he ran for safety.


Train to Walk Your Dog, Walk to Train

walk your dogJanuary is Train Your Dog Month and Walk Your Dog Month! Even though that may sound like a bit much to fit all into one month, you can combine both activities to make each more fun than they would be on their own. I’ve decided to combine the two for myself and my dogs by putting a twist on the idea of a “fitness trail.” I’m going to add “obedience stations” to my usual dog-walking route. That way, my dog gets mental exercise along with our usual physical exercise. Continue…

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