The critical period of socialization for puppies begins when the ear canals open at about 21 days of age. The period ends anytime from 12 to 16 weeks of age.

West Highland TerrierYou have a very brief window of opportunity to socialize your puppy.

During the last century, experiments and studies concerning genetics and the social development of dogs were prevalent.

It is well documented that dogs that were deprived of social interactions with people and events during the sensitive or critical period of socialization were adversely affected.

The critical period of socialization begins when the ear canals open at about 21 days of age. The period ends anytime from 12 to 16 weeks of age.

Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog by John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller is a well-regarded book which documents experiments about the critical period of socialization.

Pups that are exposed to various events, multiple settings, other pups, other species, friendly dogs and a diverse mix of adults and children during early developmental periods are less likely to develop fearful or aggressive behaviors.

In addition, the normal physiological development of organs associated with the immune system can be enhanced or retarded because of increased or decreased early social interactions.

According to many studies, well-socialized puppies grow into dogs that navigate stressful situations well. Poorly socialized pups are more likely to become dogs that freeze, flee, or fight when presented with stressful changes in their environment.

Inside the circles of medical and behavioral health professionals, an ongoing controversy exists.

Medical health professionals are concerned about exposing non-vaccinated pups to life threatening diseases.

Veterinary personnel routinely instruct puppy owners to restrict their pup’s excursions into non-sterile outside environments until the pups are fully immunized at 16 weeks. Their advice is warranted. Dangerous health risks are present in public areas.

The deadly parvo virus can survive for months in the environment. Roundworms and other intestinal parasites can live for years in the soil.

Many dangers are passed via animals’ stools. If you are in a public area, don’t allow your puppy to sniff stools or other dogs’ rear ends!

Behavioral health experts contend that more dogs are relinquished or euthanized due to behavior problems than all medical conditions combined.

From a behavioral health point of view, pups should be exposed to diverse situations during the period from 8-16 weeks. With early exposures, fewer dogs would develop fearful and aggressive behaviors.  This controversy has a simple solution.

Expose your 8-16 week-old pup to stimulating situations that don’t threaten his or her developing immune system.

Take your young puppy on car rides, visits to friends and neighbors homes. Hold controlled play sessions with healthy, vaccinated pups and friendly dogs. Invite many people to your house so that your pup can meet all types of people.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner, CBC  – How’s Bentley – Memphis TN

Certified Companion Animal Behavior Counselor – Canine Specialization


Teach Your Dog to Ring a Bell – for Potty Signal

RingBellMost people state they want their dogs to bark to signal the nedd to go outside to potty. I suggest teaching the dog to ring a bell instead of teaching the dog to bark. The dog will inevitably signal when she doesn’t need to use the bathroom but she does want you to interact. If you teach her to bark at you, she will learn to bark at you for attention.

If you teach her to ring a bell, you can always take the bell off the doorknob. In addition, you can take the bell to a hotel room, a friend’s house, the basement, or anywhere you want.

I suggest placing a bell on a string and hanging the string on the doorknob, but you can always hang the bell on your easy chair, kitchen island, bed post, or anywhere you like. Hobby and craft supply stores carry the ball-like bells in several sizes. String two or three on a leather string for a full sound!

Some people use a wireless doorbell and teach the dog to push the button with her paw or nose. This allows them to place the ringer near to them, when the door and the dog may be rooms away. This requires a bit more training to teach the dog to bump the button hard enough to ring the wireless bell.

Method two is best if you want to use a wireless doorbell.

It doesn’t matter where you place the bell or if you use a wireless doorbell. The concepts for teaching are the same. Just adapt these instructions for your situation. There are several ways to teach your dog to bump a bell to signal a desire to go out. I’ll list two of them here.

Method One is simple to follow but may take some dogs longer to learn.

Method Two takes more time and thought and effort, but works with all dogs and is best if you want to use a wireless doorbell. You decide which Method is best for you!

Method One

Hang a bell on the door that Caroline exits to go potty. Leave the bell on the door from this point forward. Before you ever touch the doorknob, reach down and bump the bell with your hand.

Always bump the bell with your hand, and then open the door. Do this for several days.

If she sniffs or noses the bell, make a fuss as you praise her and then open the door. If you want, you can speed up the process by placing a teeny tiny bit of peanut butter on the bell. When she sniffs or licks it, praise her, open the door and walk her to the elimination area. Give the command to potty. After she eliminates, give her a treat, play with her, toss a ball, take a walk, et cetera.

Once she learns that interacting with the

bell makes you open the door, you can teach her to bump it with her nose. Just ignore her when she sniffs or licks and she will “sniff harder”. Wait until she bumps the bell just a bit harder.

There are many variations for Method One.

Some people gently take the dog’s paw and strike the bell before they go out.

If your dog knows how to shake, you can cup the bell in your hand to get your dog accustomed to pawing the bell. Experiment with variations and see which works best for your pup!

Method Two

This is the method you can use to teach your dog to bump a doorbell button or a bell hanging from the door. Just adapt the instructions to your situation.

Some dogs and some trainers might skip a step or perform additional steps. Use this outline as a guide to develop your own program.

After step 1, perform each step in very short sessions over the next few days.

Do not move on to the next step until you are sure that Caroline knows the current step.

If Caroline seems confused, go back to the last step that she understands and work from that point forward.

Teach Caroline:

1. a signal that will communicate success and motivate her

2. to bump the bell

3. to bump the bell when it is

hanging on the door

4. to bump the bell and then step

outside

5. to bump the bell, step outside

and walk to the elimination area

6. to bump the bell, step outside,

walk to the elimination area and

eliminate

Before you can teach any animal, you must be able to communicate what you want and you must be able to motivate the animal to want the same thing.

At the very least, you should be able to tell the animal the instant he or she has succeeded. Some people use a clicker to communicate the instant of success, but you don’t need a clicker to communicate.

You can pair any unique word or sound with treats and create your own unique signal. It is best if the word is not a common word; it should stand out as a unique signal. Initially, you’ll pair the signal or marker with food treats so the dog will be motivated to perform behaviors that cause you to deliver the signal. I use the word “kick” for the signal.

Step 1

Teach Caroline a signal that will communicate success and motivate her.

Say “kick”, and say it quick, like a sound instead of the actual word. Immediately toss Caroline a soft and tasty, bite-sized treat. Repeat ‘kick and treat’, 3-8 times. By now the sound should be conditioned and you should have her attention.

To test the signal, wait until Caroline is not looking at you but is close by. Say “kick” one time. She should turn her head towards you really fast. If not, just stop the exercise and start from the beginning at another time.

Say nothing else during this exercise.

The “kick sound” must precede the treat, so be sure and wait a second before you toss the treat. Once you have conditioned “kick”, you have a great tool to tell Caroline the instant she creates wanted behaviors.

You’ll mark the instant of success with the word “kick” and follow the ‘kick’ with good stuff, like a treat, toss of a ball, verbal praise or a quick pat.

Once kick is conditioned, you don’t need to repeat this step and you don’t need to deliver the treat immediately after the kick (marker). You can deliver the treat or good stuff several seconds after the marker.

Step 2

Teach Caroline to touch a bell hanging on a string in your hand.

Hold the string so the bell is at Caroline’s nose height, an inch away from her nose. Say nothing. Wait until Caroline sniffs the bell with her nose.

The instant her nose touches the bell, say kick and then immediately deliver a food

treat.

Perform this step several times, but hold the bell just a bit farther and farther away from her nose each time. Say kick the instant she touches it and then give her a food treat. Practice 5-8 times and then place the bell in a drawer or out of sight.

Hold a few sessions just like the first one until Caroline becomes excited when she sees you get the bell out of the drawer. Go to step 3 after Caroline will readily bump the bell whenever she has the opportunity.

Step 3

Teach Caroline to touch the bell when it’s hanging on the doorknob.

Hang the string on the doorknob so that the bell is at Caroline’s nose height. Sit or stand next to the bell. When she touches the bell on a string attached to your doorknob, say kick and then immediately deliver a tasty treat. Repeat 5-8 times per session. After each session, place the bell in a drawer or out of sight.

Step 4

Teach Caroline that the treat after the “kick” is delivered right outside the door.

When she touches the bell on a string attached to your doorknob, say kick, open the door; walk outside and then deliver the treat right outside the door. Repeat 5-8 times per session.

After each session, place the bell in a drawer or out of sight.

Step 5

Teach Caroline that the treat after the “kick” is delivered after she walks to the elimination area.

Same as step 4 but walk to the elimination area (she will probably follow you) and deliver the treat there. Repeat 5-8 times per session. After each session, place the bell in a drawer or out of sight.

Step 6

Teach Caroline that the treat after the “kick” is delivered outside at the elimination area after she eliminates.

Introduce this step when you know she needs to eliminate, such as her first outing in the morning.

Same as Step 6 but once you arrive at the elimination area, give her your command for potty and then give her a treat after she eliminates. Practice this step the next few mornings – and any other times throughout the day that you know Caroline needs to eliminate.

After a few days of practicing step 6, you can drop the word “kick” and the food treat from the sequence. Instead of a food treat, praise her, play fetch, or take her on a walk. Now, you can leave the bell on the doorknob.

When she rings the bell, say something like, “Ok, you need to potty?” and walk her outside to the elimination area. Give her the cue to eliminate.

After she eliminates, deliver something good. Toss a ball or take her for a walk in the neighborhood.

At his point, it’s important to always open the door and go out to the elimination area every time she bumps the bell. If she eliminates, then give her a treat. If she doesn’t eliminate after you’ve given the command, just go back inside. You can leave her out of not, depending on how you feel about your dog being in the yard alone.

After a few days, you can stop walking

all the way to the elimination area and

stop giving her the command to eliminate.

Just open the door and walk halfway to the area. If she eliminates, perfect, give her a reward!

Over the next few days, reduce the amount of steps you take towards the elimination area.

In about a week, you should be able to wait at the door while Caroline goes out to eliminate.

It’s okay to give her a treat after she returns, for now she knows the treat is for eliminating, not for returning.

Some dogs learn to ring the bell to get you to interact, but they don’t need to eliminate. Keep a log of feeding and elimination. This will help you recognize the times she needs to go outside. If Caroline bumps the bell when she does not have to eliminate, she is telling you that she wants more mental and physical stimulation. Consider taking her for a walk or holding a short training session to stimulate her!

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Happy Training!

Alan J Turner

Companion Animal Behavior Counselor – Canine Specialization

How’s Bentley Memphis TN

Private and Group Puppy Obedience Courses


Why Use a Crate? Puppy Confinement & Crate Training Overview

Bichon1Dogs are den animals and contrary to misconceptions, (when introduced and used properly), dogs will readily enter their crates and relax, regardless of the level of activity near the crate.

Dogs should never be crated or left unsupervised while fitted with any types of harnesses or collars, except a break-away collar.

Please fit your dog with a break-away collar for any events or activities that do not include direct supervision by a responsible adult.

Here are some examples of why and when to use a crate.  Use a crate:

  • for house training
  • to protect your property
  • to keep your dog safe
  • when traveling
  • for overnight outings
  • to rotate two dogs while training
  • for stays at vet clinics, groomers
  • to provide a den or safe spot for resting
  • to restrict dogs’ access to visitors
  • to limit activity during medical recovery periods
  • to give yourself a break

Confinement Overview

During my consultations with clients, I meet people who use laundry rooms, garages or back porches instead of crates. Some in this group report that their dogs constantly bark or whine. What they don’t realize is that dogs, like humans, are social mammals.

Most dogs want to be near us! A simple solution is to kindly introduce the dog to a crate and place the crate in a room with people. This often solves the barking problem.

Opposition to the proper use of crates is more often a reflection of how we feel about confinement (as humans).

Millions of dogs live full, happy lives with a crate as part of their daily routines.

If you are opposed to crating your unsupervised dog, use other, less effective, confinement tools such as laundry rooms, baby gates and exercise pens.

If you don’t use any barriers, expect problems with house training. Expect soiled carpets and destruction of your property.

Many people only confine their dogs when they are away or at night. Pups and dogs normally relax when away from their people in these low activity situations.

These same dogs may bark and whine if confined when their people are home and moving about.

This is because the dogs were not introduced to the concept of being confined when people are home and active. More than likely the dogs were placed in the crate immediately before the people left the house or went to bed.

A crate trained dog:

  • will not eliminate in the crate
  • readily enters the crate when asked
  • relaxes in the crate when alone in the home
  • relaxes in the crate when people are home and active
  • relaxes in the crate when other animals are not crated

Potty Accidents Inside? Don’t Kick the Dog! Clean Up and Smile!

Yellow Lab MixI promote no suggestions to interrupt a dog during elimination. Instead, focus on preventing accidents. Keep a log. Watch your pup closely. Observe your dog’s behavior when he eliminates outside so you will recognize signs of “hunting for a location” like sniffing, and circling.

When you notice any pre-elimination behaviors while you are inside, tell your pup, “let’s go potty”, pick up your puppy and carry him outside to the desired location.

I know some very reliable sources instruct owners to kindly interrupt their untrained puppy (if they catch him in the act) and then take him outside.

The suggestions include actions such as softly clapping your hands, saying “ehh ehh”, shaking a can with pennies, or even tossing a magazine or keys on the floor beside the pup. I don’t like any of these suggestions. Some pups are confident and others are shy and some are in-between. The same interrupter will be received differently by each pup.

If the interrupter you choose terrifies your pup, you might as well have kicked your dog.

If your pup is confident and playful, he might respond to interrupters as Bentley did –gleeful fleeing while peeing!  Yikes!

Another point to consider is this. If people are instructed to use some sort of mild interrupter to reduce behaviors, what will their next choice be when the interrupter fails to reduce the behavior?  I know what their choice will be because I am no different. My next choice would be stronger interrupters – which will certainly hamper the house training process.


I’m not sure why professionals who suggest interrupting don’t clarify their suggestions with this statement:

“Interrupters will not hasten the house training process. At best, interrupters will stop the dog in the act and you’ll have a smaller area to clean. At worst, interrupters will teach your dog to fear you and to hide from you when he eliminates”.

Clean Up

Expect accidents. No matter how careful you are, there will be occasions when your pup piddles and poops on your floor. It’s nobody’s fault. It happens. The damage is done.

Try not to fuss at your spouse or your kids, yourself or your pup. Just remember, if it happens frequently, you should review this guide and make changes that will reduce your pup’s opportunities to eliminate inside.

Clean the affected area with an enzyme-based, odor neutralizer.

Any commercial product that specifically states “For Pet Odors” is sufficient.

It takes several days for the enzymes to break down the odors. Your dog will smell the urine and be attracted to the area long after you apply cleaners.

Whenever liquids are spilled on carpet, the carpet pad acts as a sponge and soaks up the liquid.

The urine is spread over a larger area in the pad than is indicated by looking at the carpet.

Generously apply the cleanser to an area equal to twice the size of the observable stain.

If you have “pet proof” padding installed under your carpet, the affected area underneath the carpet will be even larger. Pet proof padding has a plastic coating on top to prevent liquids from seeping into the pad. This causes the urine to spread underneath the carpet until it is absorbed by the carpet backing, instead of the pad.  Treat a much larger area than is indicated by the wetness of the carpet fibers.

If you don’t have any cleanser, use a solution of 1 part distilled, white vinegar to 4 parts water. Do not use ammonia based cleaners. Ammonia breaks down into urea, which is a component of urine.

Do not use any cleaners that are not specifically marketed to neutralize odors. Non specific cleaners will set the stain and the smell.

Before you hire a carpet cleaning service, verify that they use an odor neutralizer with enzymes.

If the smell is set into the flooring, your dog will always be drawn to eliminate in that area. It’s impossible to remove urine odors from concrete and other non-sealed, porous flooring materials. If you have any permanently-soiled areas, you may need to deny your dog unsupervised access to that area forever.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley – Memphis

Companion Animal Behavior Counselor – Canine Specialization


Switching Dog Foods May Cause Temporary Digestive Problems

German Shepherd DogSome nutritionists suggest that pet owners periodically switch between 2 or 3 different foods. This is recommended as a safeguard against unknown imbalances of nutrients that may occur when feeding the same product long term.


When changing diets, replace a small portion of the old food with the new food on day 1.  Increase the percentage of new food by 10-20% each day to facilitate the change over a 5-10 day period. This will help to prevent digestive problems.

Happy Training!
How’s Bentley – Memphis TN

Add a Pup?

TwoDogs

I know many suggest adding another dog to give your pup a playmate.

Adding another dog has exercise and social benefits, however; I never mention add-a-pup as a solution for families that are having difficulties meeting the training needs of one dog.

Owning two untrained dogs is at least three times the work as one.

You’ll need to separate them for teaching sessions. Dog A must be trained. Dog B must be trained. When you put them together, they are another dog, Dog AB. You’ll need to practice with Dog AB too!

Some people prefer to send their dogs to day care. If your pup is not stressed by the noisy and rowdy environment, send him off for a day to play with other puppies.

Sometimes it’s tough to determine if puppies are playing or fighting. If the puppies often reverse roles and neither is hiding from the other, then the rough play is normal.

Reversing roles is when Pup A chases Pup B, then Pup B chases Pup A.

If one puppy is on top, and then the other pup is on top, the play is normal. Relax and enjoy the show!

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Happy Training!
Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor and Trainer, Canine Specialization
Puppy Help

Frozen Kong for Dogs and Puppies Provides Stimulation, Exercise, and can Aid in Crate Training

BentleyFanFrozen Kong®

Sometimes the weather or my schedule prohibit outside adventures. Sometimes I’m too lazy or tired to exercise. I’ve found ways to entertain Bentley without walking or playing fetch.

Here’s how you can exercise your dog when you are busy.

Get a Kong®. Amazon has excellent prices on these famous Kong toys. You an get a large kong for under $8. Order two or three and keep them loaded in your freezer. The frozen kong provides excellent foraging and entertainment value. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, order the ultimate black kong!

Place a bit of wide, silver duct tape over the small opening to seal it off. Place some dog food and a few treats inside. Pour some water and a bit of low sodium chicken broth inside the Kong®. Don’t fill it all the way to the top with broth, leave some space so you can add wet dog food or peanut butter after it’s frozen. Stand it upright in a cup or glass in the freezer and let it freeze.

Now you are prepared to exercise your dog without leaving your chair! Remove the frozen Kong® from the freezer, remove the duct tape, add a bit of peanut butter or wet dog food in the large opening and give it to your pup. He’ll spend 15-25 minutes stimulating his mind and his body while he is foraging.

You can use the frozen delight to teach your puppy to relax in the crate, laundry room, or in the back yard, alone.  To change your puppy’s perception of being isolated from people, give the frozen kong only when the puppy is alone. After several pairings. the  puppy will begin to enjoy the alone time!

If your dog won’t eat the kong when you leave, try this. Place the dog in the kennel with you sitting in front of the open door. Extend your hand holding the frozen kong into the kennel. Just hold it in your hand as he eats the wet food or peanut butter. If he gets into it, release the kong, stay seated, talk softly while he is eating it. Tell him, “lock up” or whatever phrase you like and close the door. Remain seated in front of the kennel. Talk softly as he eats the goodies inside the kong.

Wait 2- 3 minutes (assuming he’s still involved with the kong. If he stops eating., this won’t work. You’ll need a more detailed plan.) and then tell him, “Free” or whatever word you like. Open the door and immediately take the kong away. (this won’t work if he is aggressive with food items, you’ll need a more detailed plan.) Walk a few steps from the kennel, if he’s hungry and wants the kong, he will come out and follow you, Perfect! Walk back to the kennel and extend your hand with the kong inside. When he grabs the kong and starts eating again, tell him, “lock up” and close the door. Stand next to the kennel and talk to him softly as he eats the goodies in the kong.

Wait 2-3 minutes and then tell him “free”, open the door and take the kong away from him. Walk a few steps away and then return to the kennel. Tell him “kennel up” and toss the kong inside. Tell him “lock up” and close the door. Repeat the sequence but instead of standing nearby and talking softly, walk a few steps away.   Wait 2-3 minutes, repeat the steps of coming back, opening door, and taking the kong. Repeat but walk a bit farther away, until you are out of sight. Once he will still eat the kong when you are out of sight start increasing the time you stay away. Once this exercise is complete, always give him a frozen kong when you leave.

The idea is for him to think, “yay I get a great treat when you leave, and “boo” I lose the treat when you return. Over time he will gladly go in the kennel and will not bark when you leave. Happy training!!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Training!


Separation Anxiety in Dogs is Often Misdiagnosed and Misunderstood

Memphis PyramidSeparation anxiety is one of the most misdiagnosed behavioral conditions. The hallmarks of separation anxiety are: 

Excessive vocalization
Salivation
Inside Elimination (for a house trained dog)
Destructive behaviors directed at entry and exit points



For separation anxiety to be considered, some or a combination of these symptoms must occur ONLY in the absence of people. The behaviors most commonly occur within 45 minutes of departure. 

If your dog destroys your furniture when you leave, it is less likely due to separation anxiety and more likely due to too much freedom and not enough exercise. Dogs with separation anxiety destroy items that are in the path of their escape, not couch cushions in the middle of the room! 

If your dog barks and whines in the crate this may or may not be separation anxiety. Does your dog bark and whine in the crate if crated at the same times of day when you are home? 

Elimination in the crate or in the house is not necessarily a sign of separation anxiety. Is the dog house trained? Will the dog eliminate in his or her crate when you are home? 

Treating dogs with true separation anxiety is challenging. It will take several days or even weeks. It depends on how much time you have to dedicate to the treatment. The main obstacle is that every instance of separation perpetuates the condition and offsets progress. For example, suppose you make great progress over the weekend, but you go back to work on Monday and leave your dog alone. Your progress will be lost. 

Treating separation anxiety is a process not an event. First you’ll teach the dog to relax before you leave the house. Then you’ll leave for very short increments while your dog relaxes. As the exercises progress, you’ll leave for longer and longer periods. If you decide to treat your dog for separation anxiety, you’ll need to make arrangement to never leave the dog alone during the treatment period. Day care, friends’ homes and other babysitters can be helpful during this period.

Click here for detailed instructions for treating separation anxiety in dogs , compliments of the ASPCA virtual behaviorist.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization

How’s Bentley – Private and Group Dog Obedience

Memphis, Collierville, Bartlett, Cordova, Germantown TN

Puppy Play Biting 7 Year Old Child – Training Forum

LabpupMy 6 month-old Labrador retriever puppy, Katie, plays rough with my 7 year-old son and won’t stop play-biting. When she was younger, my son and Katie spent hours tumbling and playing, but now he’s afraid of her. He’s tried holding her muzzle shut, but she only gets more aggressive. The situation is getting worse. Now she nips at his clothes, jumps up and knocks him down.

How can I teach my pup to play nicely with my 7 year-old child? Katie is my son’s dog and I really want them to bond, but, I’m afraid she might have aggressive tendencies.

Answer: Thanks for submitting your question. It’s not likely that your puppy is aggressive. Katie is treating your son as a puppy playmate. Have you ever watched puppies playing together? They are a riot! They jump, mount, growl, bite, mouth, tumble, roll, nip, bark and chase. That’s the only way they know how to interact. Play-biting occurs when some of these normal, play behaviors are directed at human body parts and clothing. Yikes, those needle teeth are . . .  READ COMPLETE ANSWER . . .

Post your Dog and Puppy and Behavior and Training and Help questions in the new Dogand Forum!

OR START OFF RIGHT! Puppies for Thinkers, a puppy owner’s manual, only $7.95 US  dollars

Alan J Turner

How’s Bentley– Animal Friendly Training, Problem Behavior Solutions

Memphis, Collierville, Germantown, Cordova, Bartlett, Arlington, TN

Puppy Play Biting Solutions

crisco_lewis2Have you ever watched dogs play together? They are a riot! They jump, mount, growl, bite, mouth, snap, nip, bark and chase. That’s how they play. It’s normal behavior!

Play-biting occurs when some of these normal, play behaviors are directed at human body parts and human clothing. Play biting is a stage of development. All puppies play bite, some more than others. Puppies mature and grow out of the play biting stage.

Puppies that play bite after 6 months of age are treating their humans like puppy play mates.

Play biting by older pups is most often the result of inappropriate play and miscommunications by humans.

I categorize play-biters by placing them into one of two Groups. This is because some tips work well with 10 week old pups, but fail miserably with 6 month old pups.

If the pup is 8-16 weeks old, I automatically place them into Group A, the group of puppies that is learning about play-biting and making progress.

Play biting by these younger pups is normal and can usually be easily reduced, assuming the humans follow some guidelines. If their humans are consistent, young pups rarely graduate to Group B.

Group B pups are puppies 6 months and older that are still play-biting. Pups at 17-24 weeks could be in either Group A or Group B.

Pups in Group B are likely to exhibit other annoying behaviors such as jumping up, mounting, attention-barking, counter-surfing, mouthing and more.

There’s no shame if your dog falls into Group B.

None of this stuff comes to anyone in a dream!

There’s no reason that you should automatically know how to raise your 21st century pup.

There is so much inaccurate, contradicting information about dog training. Everyone you meet is an “expert”. It’s all too easy to follow the wrong advice. I know I did! Give yourself a huge pat on the back for finding this accurate resource.

The concepts for reducing play-biting, mounting, and mouthing are pretty much the same as the concepts for reducing most unwanted behaviors. There are several actions to consider.

  • Meet your dog’s basic needs
  • Avoid play that involves tumbling, wrestling, hugging or interacting with your hands.
  • Teach your puppy which behaviors you do like.
  • Practice with your dog.
  • Interrupt misbehaviors by redirecting your pup to perform wanted behaviors.
  • Pay your puppy for complying.

Change Your Behavior

Few (including myself) can resist the soft cuddly fur of a puppy. I firmly believe that puppy tumble therapy is a marketable service. The buyer enters a room with several 7-10 week old puppies, gets on the floor and just soaks up puppy-glee by touching, tumbling and interacting with the puppies. I can’t imagine how such interactions would not be helpful for stress relief. I’d pay for the opportunity. Wouldn’t you?

Most people’s ideas of playing with puppies involve tumbling and rough handling.

Aren’t handling, pushing, wrestling, poking, teasing, tumbling, hugging, holding, cuddling, rolling, and chasing all good clean fun methods to interact with puppies? Fun? . . . yes; helpful for teaching a puppy? . . . no.

Expect to be bitten if you get on the floor and play wrestle, hug, manipulate, or otherwise use your hands to roughly interact with your puppy.

All these behaviors give puppies the impressions that we are just like their canine playmates. Puppies play rough with other puppies. At some point, puppy handling morphs into miscommunications which morph into playful puppy attacks! Ouch, those needle teeth are sharp!

It would be difficult for me to estimate how often I’ve heard this phrase.

“My child used to love the puppy but now she’s afraid of him. He randomly jumps up on her, steals her toys, mouths her arms, and nips at her heels and clothing. Sometimes he even knocks her down”.

When you think about it, these behaviors are in the same class of behaviors dogs exhibit while playing with other dogs.

The first step to resolve these issues is prevention. Attach a leash or long line so that your pup cannot mug your child.

Children and untrained dogs do not make choices which promote safe play. It’s best to supervise all interactions between children and animals.

Set aside time each day to introduce your child and your pup to safe games like fetch or hide-n-seek.

Sit-for-treat, roll over, and adult-accompanied, leashed walks are examples of other safe activities children can play with pups.

Nothing increases behaviors better than rewards! Establish reward systems for your child and your pup. Pay your child and your pup for playing nicely.

Other Preventative Measures

Ok, I’ll ease up on the lecture. Regardless of your perfect behaviors, your pup will play bite. That’s what they do. Here are some tips to help you survive this period.

Group A: 8-16 Week Old Puppies

  • Tie a stuffed toy on a 10-12 foot line. (I use ¼ inch diameter nylon line I purchased at the hardware store.) Drag the toy when you walk. Praise the pup for attacking the toy instead of your ankles and feet!

  • Sometimes you just want to handle your pup. Before you start grooming or handling, get a decoy. I use a Kong® toy stuffed with a bit of peanut butter. Hold the Kong® and let your pup get engrossed in the treat while you perform grooming or necessary inspections. Free Range Bullie sticks are also great decoys.

  • Pay your pup for chewing the correct items. Deliver a treat and praise when he is engaged in wanted behaviors. Remember, when you increase appropriate behaviors, the inappropriate behaviors decrease in frequency!

  • Use decoys when your child wants to stroke your pup. Choose periods when your pup is less active for stroking.

  • Avoid sudden hand movements, especially movements near your pup’s face and head.

  • Avoid pats on top of the head. Stroke your pup under his neck and south of the collar instead.

  • Use long gentle strokes instead of short, harsh pats.

  • Harvest some of that puppy-fur therapy when your pup is asleep!

Interrupt — Redirect — Pay

The Play-biting period is an educational journey for our pups. This is when they learn about bite inhibition and jaw pressure.

Pups that learn about jaw pressure and bite inhibition are less likely to deliver deep puncture wounds as adults.

Puppies learn about bite inhibition as they play with other puppies.

Here’s how a puppy learns from his littermates. When one pup bites another too hard, the recipient will yelp and withdraw.

This provides the play biter with valuable information about jaw pressure and contributes to the development of excellent bite inhibition.

This education from siblings and parents takes place early in a pup’s life.

Pups that are removed from their littermates before 8-9 weeks (or pups that are an only child) are at a greater risk for exhibiting more extreme versions of play biting.

Teaching puppies about jaw pressure reduces the probability of them delivering dangerous bites as adolescents and adults.

Ouch – Withdraw Method

Adults can continue the education process by following the following sequence. (This is not for children nor is it how to address play biting by Group B pups, which have already perfected their naughty behaviors!)

At this point we have two goals. Our short term goal is to teach the pup about jaw pressure. Our long term goal is to teach the pup that teeth-on-skin is unacceptable.

  • When your young puppy play-bites, allow it. The instant you feel those needle teeth sting, speak a high-pitched “ouch” and immediately withdraw. Walk away and ignore your pup.

  • If your pup becomes more excited after the “ouch”, follows you or bites your ankles, try this. Attach a leash and tether the pup to a piece of furniture. Now he can’t follow.

  • Ignore your pup for several seconds while you review your behavior. Are you sending the wrong signals? Are you somehow enticing the pup to bite?

  • Reengage by redirecting your pup to interact with a decoy.

  • Praise your pup for chewing the item.

  • Repeat the sequence several times in succession. Pups learn by repetition. It may take a week or more of using this sequence before your pup catches on.

In some cases, the “ouch” and withdrawal method is a slow process. Here are factors to consider.

  • If a confident puppy has practiced and has refined play-biting as a normal method to interact with people, it will take more repetitions before the puppy will understand. Keep at it and you will succeed.

  • If the pup is not offended by your departure, then withdrawing will not be effective.

  • If family members are inconsistent, then the puppy will continue to play bite.

  • If the puppy is older than 12-14 weeks, the ouch method will probably be ineffective.

  • Failure could be a sign that the pup’s physical and mental exercise needs are not being met.

Sometimes it’s difficult to interrupt and redirect. The puppy seems to be out of control and will not listen.

This pup either needs more exercise or a nap. If excessive activities such as play-biting occur late in the evening, the pup may be ready for bed. If it occurs after the pup is well rested, then perhaps it’s time for some exercise!

In some cases, (especially in families with unwilling ‘ouch-withdraw” participants), I find it necessary to focus solely on teaching the pup to interact with appropriate items.

To encourage a pup, hold a decoy for your pup to investigate. When your pup touches it with his teeth or tongue, say “yes” to mark that instant of success.

Immediately deliver praise and/or a treat. After the pup catches onto the game, methodically extend the amount of time the pup must interact with the item before you mark success and deliver praise.

Group B: Puppies 6 Months and Older

Group B dogs are usually much larger (than Group A pups) and some of their newness has worn off.

Group B dogs have perfected play biting as a method to communicate with humans.

Because the dogs are older and families have yet to teach the dogs about play-biting, it is very likely that the family has unknowingly increased other obnoxious behaviors such as jumping up, nipping at clothes, attention-barking, object stealing, et cetera.

Group B dogs are at risk for being mistreated. Group B dogs are a bit closer to being sequestered into isolation or re-homed.

All of the preventative methods are effective with Group B dogs. In addition, you will need some management tools to control these larger dogs.

  • Start a training program.  Use kind methods to teach the dog basic obedience commands.

  • If your Group B dog jumps up and play bites, attach a leash. Step on the leash to prevent the dog from succeeding. Use a buckle collar for this exercise.

  • Correct and careful use of a head collar provides some families relief from the obnoxious behaviors of some Group B dogs.  Check with your veterinarian or trainer for information about head collars.

What Not to Do

If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’ve tried all the popular methods to stop play-biting.

Some suggest that you squirt a play biting pup with a water bottle, bop the dog on the nose, hold the muzzle shut, grab the puppy by the scruff, shout “No Bite” or even roll the pup over and hold him down. These are questionable solutions.

Some pups will learn by these corrections and others become anxious, confused, fearful, or more playful.

The water bottle is the only suggestion I might share – in rare situations.

Ask any person whose adult dog is grumpy during mouth and muzzle inspections. “Say, did you hold your dog’s muzzle shut when he was a pup?”

These uncooperative patients learned long ago that hands approaching face equals discomfort.

If you are using corrections to teach your pup about play-biting, and it is still a problem, it’s time to change course!  What you are doing is not working.

Another problem with suggesting these methods is that people naturally become focused on stopping unwanted behaviors instead of starting wanted behaviors. This places them on a path of miscommunication with their pups. How will most people respond when the corrections are ineffective … when the squirt bottle doesn’t work?  . . .

People naturally respond with more force and harsher punishers.

Some pups will stop play biting when harsher punishers are used. Of course these pups may stop coming when called, and start urinating in fear, but hey, they’re not play biting!

In addition, forceful techniques send messages to our children about resolving problems with force, when kinder, more efficient methods are available. Try the kind methods. You’ll be surprised how well they work!

Some people, (far be it from me to single out a specific gender or age group) believe that rough play teaches pups to be good protectors.

I have some experience teaching protection dogs. I have full exposure to the techniques and exercises. None of the professional, protection dog trainers I have worked with use rough play as a method to teach a dog to protect.

If any of the members in your pup’s circle of humans, insist on playing rough, expect your puppy’s play biting to continue or increase.

Play wrestling teaches puppies that rough play is ok.

In addition, games which include jumping up not only increase inappropriate jumping up, but can compromise a growing pup’s bone development.

People rarely eliminate play biting in a few days, because play biting is a normal stage for puppies. If you follow these suggestions, you can minimize play-biting during this period and prevent it from becoming a true problem in an older dog.

If your pup’s play biting is increasing in frequency or magnitude, contact your veterinarian for the name of a trainer or visit http://apdt.com and search for a trainer near you.


Happy Training!

Alan J Turner

Dog behavior counselor and trainer, Memphis, TN


Experiment with Puppy Crate Location to Reduce Barking in the Crate

ellie_treehouseDogs are social mammals. They like to be close to their people. That being said, dogs are adaptable. Some pups and dogs can learn to relax in a crate that is placed in a laundry room or basement, away from the people.  Some don’t adapt so well.

My initial suggestion is to place the crate in a corner of a common area. This presents the puppy with a safe resting spot near his people.

Placement depends on the individual pup’s personality and when the dog will be crated.

If you use a crate primarily when you are away or asleep, a laundry room or basement may be a good choice.

Keep in mind that it is better to teach the dog to relax in the crate when you are gone and when you are home. This is not accomplished if you only crate at night or when you are away.

Don’t be shy about experimenting with crate placement. Find the best spot for you and your dog.

Sometimes, moving the crate to another location resolves problems such as barking and eliminating in the crate.

A crate trained dog / puppy:

  • will not eliminate in the crate
  • readily enters the crate when asked
  • relaxes in the crate when alone in the home
  • relaxes in the crate when people are home and active
  • relaxes in the crate when other animals are not crated

Start Off Right!

Visit the products page and purchase, Puppies for Thinkers – crate training, housebreaking, house training, meeting basic needs, play-biting and much more.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization

Private and Group Dog Behavior and Training Services

Memphis, TN

How’s Bentley

Chocolate & Other Harmful Foods for Dogs

img_19661Mary Jane and her brother, Mark Anthony are miniature dauschunds in Memphis Tn.

There are some people foods that can be very harmful to dogs. These include chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, tea, coffee, and sugar free candy.

The toxic ingredient in chocolate is theobromine, which is very similar to caffeine. Dogs that ingest as little as 50 milligrams of theobromine per pound of body weight may exhibit signs of toxicity.

Milk chocolate contains about 44 milligrams of theobromine per ounce (mg/oz). Semi-sweet chocolate contains about 150 mg/oz. The most toxic is baking chocolate which contains about 390 mg/oz.

  • 34 ounces of pure milk chocolate is a toxic dose for a 30 lb. dog.
  • 10 ounces of pure semi-sweet chocolate is a toxic dose for a 30 lb. dog.
  • 4 ounces of pure baking chocolate is a toxic dose for a 30 lb. dog.
  • Two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide is an appropriate dose to induce vomiting for a 35 lb. dog.

Do not feed your dog grapes or raisins. These have been linked to kidney failures.

Do not feed your dog sugar-free snacks that contain xylitol. According to the AVMA, even small amounts of this sweetener can cause a life threatening or fatal drop in blood sugar.

Do not feed your dog macadamia nuts, tea, or coffee. These can be harmful to your dog.

For more information about food choices, including the B.A.R.F. diet, organic foods, quality of dog food ingredients, and selecting a better food, please visit the Products Page and select Puppy Owner’s Manual, a complete guide to all you’ll need to know to start off right!

Alan J Turner

Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization

Private and Group Dog Training, Memphis TN

How’s Bentley

Member: APDT