Here we cover some of the DOs & DON’Ts of safety around dogs:
Safety Dog Reporting For Duty!
Always ask the owner’s permission before approaching or petting a dog
Remember: not every dog that wags its tail is friendly
Always approach dogs slowly and carefully
When meeting a new dog, let it come to you and smell you first
Know where the dogs in your neighborhood live
Stay away from stray dogs
If a dog approaches you, remain CALM. Don’t scream! Stand still (Be a Tree!)
Always protect your face, neck and arms (Be a Rock!)
If you are attacked, give the dog a book or backpack to chew on
If a dog knocks you to the ground, curl up into a ball (Be a Rock!)
If you are attacked, cover your head and neck. Protect your head and face
When a dog you don’t know comes close, be very still and avoid eye contact (Be a Tree!)
Always use a leash when walking a dog
Remain CALM around dogs.
When greeting a friendly dog, present the palm of your hand for the dog to sniff, first. If the dog is still friendly, then you can pet the sides of the dog’s face (his cheeks). Avoid petting the top of a dog’s head. For very friendly dogs, you can also pet the dog’s shoulders (on the side) or the dog’s chest (front of the dog).
Don’t make loud noises or scream around dogs
Do not stare at a dog
Don’t bother a dog while it is sleeping or eating
Never tease or chase a dog. (Remember The Golden Rule!)
Never reach through a fence to pet a dog
Never put your hand between two dogs
Never try to help a hurt dog – get an adult to help
Never put your face close to a dog
Never enter a yard with a dog in it without permission. If you don’t know if there is a dog in the yard, do not enter!
Never leave a baby alone with a dog
Never bother a mother dog while she is caring for her puppies
Never pull a dog’s ears or tail
Never try to take away a dog’s toy
Avoid standing over the top of a dog you are not familiar with
Behaviors that are natural for dogs to do are the most difficult to eliminate. It is almost impossible to train a dog away from a natural or instinctive behavior. Dogs dig for many reasons:
To bury something
To get to an inanimate object that is buried (root, rock, piece of plastic or metal, something they previously buried, etc)
To get to a small burrowing creature such as a chipmunk, mouse or mole
To expose cool soil to lay on
To make a sleeping area
Puppies are the most persistent diggers. They are the ones who dig to explore their relatively new world. They want to learn about that world, so they dig!
The most effective control for digging is management. Management means close supervision of the dog when they are in likely digging areas. If a dog is left in a yard to “be”, they WILL be a dog and do dog things, like dig! So, if your yard looks like the moon with craters all over, that is not your dog’s fault – it is yours!
Here are some methods, besides management & supervision, which you can try:
Put dog poop in the holes your dog has dug. Because most dogs don’t like poop on their paws, this usually will keep your dog from going back to the same holes – but it will not discourage him from digging new ones.
Sprinkle any number of dog deterrents available on the market into the already dug holes. These may or may not work. They must be reapplied after each time it rains.
Sprinkle something the dog does not like the taste or smell of into the already dug holes, like original Listerene mouth wash (or even the generic), alum (it is a spice used in pickling), or super hot sauce (but some dogs enjoy its flavor!). These must be reapplied after each time it rains.
Bury, just below the surface of a hole, a small piece of wire mesh. When the dog digs, he will scrape his paws on the mesh. This is a method that requires supervision, because the object is NOT to hurt your dog, but to catch him and re-direct him away from the hole.
An old wives’ tale says to fill the hole with water and put the dog’s head into it — THIS DOES NOT WORK!!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT DO THIS!!!!! THIS IS CRUEL!!!
Please notice each of these methods can only be done with existing holes – it doesn’t help to prevent new holes from being dug! The only method of the above that I have used is the poop method, because all the other methods require just as much supervision and effort as I would use for the digging itself, and I am not “into” hurting my dog!
Terriers are notorious diggers. Well, imagine that! “Terra” means “earth”! Terriers are BRED to dig! They are varmint dogs! If you have a terrier, you will not have a decent yard unless you closely supervise.
Beagles are also notorious diggers. They also hunt animals that have burrows in the ground – rabbits! Again, you must closely supervise this breed!
If you want to have a dog AND a yard, you must use your human brain to come up with solutions to keep your dog from digging. Besides strict supervision, which is my method of choice, here are a few other suggestions:
Make a “free-digging zone” for your dog – a veritable doggie sandbox, if you will! Encourage digging in that area. Hide treats just under the surface of the dirt or sand. Create fun digging projects for your dog in that area alone.
Provide plenty of durable outside toys and “projects” for your dog, so he can be kept busy doing other things besides digging.
Erect garden fencing to keep your dog out of the perennial or vegatable garden, and teach your dog he is unwelcome in that area.
Use any of the animal repellants on the market and apply regularly to the perimeter of the areas you don’t want the dog in. I am not convinced those repellants work (I have tried a few, and I don’t use them), but you can give them a try!
There are motion-detector sprinklers that can be placed in the garden areas or wherever else you don’t want your dog to go. When a dog (or cat, deer, rabbit or child, for that matter) goes near the area, the sensor turns on a sprinkler that sprays water to chase the culprit away. These sprinklers may also spray when birds come, too…
I am NOT a big fan of invisible or underground fencing, but this is one area where electronic fencing could be used.
The moral of the story is: The most effective control for digging is MANAGEMENT and SUPERVISION!
If you ever think you may kennel your dog (meaning at a boarding kennel or even a friend or relative’s house), consider taking your dog there when he is young for a “test run” night or weekend. Ask your friend or the kennel personnel to report on your dog’s behavior. This way, you can get your dog used to the idea of staying someplace different and have an idea how he will react.
If You Go The Kennel Route:
When you take your dog and leave him — DO NOT cry and hug him and tell him how much you will miss him! DO NOT become emotional in front of the dog — NO KIDDING!! Your dog will think: “Why are they SO UPSET?? This must be a bad place!” DO take your dog there with a positive, happy attitude and tell him hat a good time he will have, then give him to the attendant and walk away. You can do your crying in the car (I do!). If you become emotional, you are setting your dog up for fearful and panic-like behavior at the kennel!
When you kennel your dog, it is best that he eat the same thing you feed him at home; that way the stress of the new environment AND new food won’t set him up for vomiting or diarrhea. Make sure your dog is up to date on all vaccinations – this is the simplest and least expensive way to protect your dog against the contagious things we CAN prevent, like Bordatella, Coronavirus, Parvovirus, etc.
I ALWAYS make sure my dog has prevention against Heartworm and especially fleas (and ticks, if necessary) by having them on Sentinel (by Novartis – a veterinary prescription product), and I may even put either FrontLine, Topspot, or Advantage on them. At the very least, it is not a bad idea to have the kennel bathe your dog the day you pick him up. This way, if you request a flea bath, the fleas he may have picked up will be left there and he will be clean from any kennel smell he may have picked up.
If You Take Your Dog Travelling With You:
If you want your dog to behave and be comfortable in the car, then start young, and take him to fun places. Many people don’t understand why their dog doesn’t like car rides, but say they only take him to the vet, kennel, or groomer! Gosh, I wouldn’t have fun either!! When I have a puppy, my puppy goes with me on short trips to the corner store, to the post office, to the park, to the pet store, etc. Trips should be frequent, short and fun to make a good “go Bye Bye” impression on your dog.
Traveling with your dog is safest when the dog is either in a crate (see more on crate training here) or with a seatbelt on. That way quick stops or accidents don’t have to mean injury to your dog. This also keeps busybodies in one place! If you have doubts whether your dog will be carsick, DO NOT feed at least 12 hours before travel.
If you must leave your dog in the car for any length of time, remember that even cloudy, cool days can kill your dog! The heat in your car can become unbearable within minutes. Windows should be more than cracked (I found window guards which allow me to open my windows further without letting would-be thieves get their hands inside), a sunscreen should block the windshield (they make nice reflective ones), and you should park in the shade. Vans or minivans (especially if they have smoke glass side and rear windows) stay much cooler than cars and they have more windows that can be opened. If you are gone any length of time, CHECK on your dog frequently. When you come back, give the dog a drink of water. Don’t let him gorge, just let him drink some and then wait a bit and offer more. Dogs will sometimes vomit if a large amount of water hits their stomach all at once.
Speaking of water, it is a good idea to bring a jug of water from home, both for on the road use and also because some dogs don’t get used to other water easily and can develop vomiting or diarrhea from an unfamiliar water supply.
Some Hotel Hints
When you take your dog to a new place to stay (hotel, cottage, etc.) they may not be on their best behavior. They understand what the routine and rules are at home, but may not understand that those rules pertain no matter where you are! Often the best insurance for that is to bring your dog’s crate along on the trip (you did purchase a fold down suitcase style variety, didn’t you???). This will do two things: it will provide a confinement for your dog and prevent damage that you may have to pay for, and it will be a safe and familiar place for your dog to call his own while you are on the road.
If you leave the motel room, I would first try to leave for a short trip (maybe to get some ice) to see how your dog acts in the room. You don’t want your neighbors complaining. Even a dog-friendly hotel won’t hesitate to kick you out if you disturb others! Still, a new traveler will react to passers-by by barking – it is up to you to let him know this is NOT acceptable. If I leave my dogs in the room, I leave the room vent/air conditioner on, and the television on to create some white noise to drown out all the outside noise the dog won’t be used to.
Things To Bring Along
When I travel, I have a bag I pack just for the dogs. In this bag are things I have learned that I may need.
A blanket or king sized flat sheet to put over the covers on the bed to keep the dog hair off for subsequent guests.
Towels to wipe wet dogs, or dirty ones (I once had to take Cody to a coin operated car wash for a hose down after he had diarrhea in my van! Luckily, I had the seats covered and I just had to throw the cover out, but I did not have towels to dry him off!)
First aid kit for dogs
Cleaning and deodorizing solution and paper towels
Travel bowls for food and water
Jug of water from home
Shampoo – for those emergency baths
Travel leash (your dog should be on a leash at all times – after all, he IS in a strange place) and Flexi-leash for more freedom
Identification tags (on the dog!!!)
Baggies to clean up the dog poop (you DO clean up after your dog, don’t you???)
Large garbage bags for big problems like Cody’s diarrhea incident!
Heartworm preventative and flea and tick medication
Brush (I once had to pick burrs out of my dog’s coat after a romp in a field)
Problem Cases – How To Desensitize
Dogs who become carsick must be exposed SLOWLY to riding in the car. Each step should take a week, and if the dog gets sick on a step, you need to back off to the previous step until he doesn’t get sick.
Put the dog in the car. Have a toy to keep the dog’s mind off the car, but don’t let him get too rowdy.
Dog in the car, car started and running in driveway.
Dog in the car, car started. Back down the driveway and then move back up the driveway (IF the dog hasn’t gotten sick on the way down!)
Dog in the car, take car around the block (shorten the trip for a week if even that is too much)
Dog in the car, take car to local convenience store and back home (or any place close but farther than around the block with a couple of starts and stops along the way).
Dog in the car, short trip (you decide the length based on how your dog is responding.
Dogs who get carsick will especially benefit from either a crate (especially the more enclosed plastic crates) or a seatbelt (check your local pet shop for dog seat belts). These will limit unsteady movements. Keep in mind, dogs don’t always vomit when they are carsick. Some may just drool excessively or look wet around the mouth and may have a sick or queasy look in their eyes. Watch your dog for signs of carsickness and work with the steps above to make both of you feel better!
In dog training (or in ANY interaction with ANY species, for that matter!), there is no room for direct angry contact of any human body part (e.g. hand, foot) to any part of the dog’s body. Of course, there IS room for kind contact of any kind: petting, patting, stroking, etc.
Sorry – Only The Cat’s Allowed To Beat The Dog…
Hitting does not teach a dog anything…
Spanking only vents YOUR anger, YOUR frustration. Slapping only teaches a dog to shy away from your hand (become hand-shy). Smacking can result in your dog snapping back at you! What other recourse does he have? He can’t tell you or even ask you to stop. He can’t push your hand or foot away. A dog’s mouth is his hand, and he will use it similarly.
Rather Use Your Voice
TONE OF VOICE (see my related article) can accomplish SO much! A correct tone of voice can stop a dog in his tracks. Your tone of voice can quickly tell your dog that you are displeased. A dog that respects your leadership will understand. Your tone of voice is what will get your dog to listen, learn and pay attention to you.
I spank my dogs all the time – but I spank them when I tell them I love them! I grab their little butts and I give them a few swats as they turn around and try to kiss me, wagging their tails the entire time. I could not hit my dogs hard enough to hurt them “to teach them a lesson”. Their coats buffer blows just as it keeps most bites from causing wounds.
When Hitting Your Dog Is OK
If I hit my dog, it is to get their attention (“HEY!”) in an urgent situation. I make sure my voice carries more weight than my touch, and I praise when they turn to look at me. My swift swat is, at this point, punctuation to my words – kind of like what a collar and leash does. And because I RARELY swat my dogs, they have learned I mean business when this happens. “HEY! Get your face out of the garbage!” “HEY! You WAIT for me!” “HEY! Leave it!”
This article is in response to the many, many, questions I have received about nipping problems in puppies. It’s a common problem. I hope the following will help explain why it is so common and how to turn the behavior into something more agreeable for everyone.
Why Puppies Bite & Nip
Dogs live their life without our most useful “tool” – opposable thumbs. We can grasp and hold things to feel and examine them; dogs use their mouths to explore their world. Puppies have a lot to learn. Not only do they have to learn how to be dogs, but they also must learn how to live with humans. That can be the hardest part! We, as humans, also have to learn somewhat how dogs work, and the communication gap can be enormous!
One of the biggest tools puppies have to learn with is their mouth – not only for vocalization, but to touch and feel and explore…and test their limits! Think about a litter of puppies playing. They are rough and tumble – they bite, nibble, and bark. If one puppy bites another too hard, the bitten puppy lets out a screech which usually is successful in getting the hard nipper to temper his bites. This is how they LEARN, and a BIG part of learning is DOING IT WRONG! This is how anyone, including a puppy, can learn to DO IT RIGHT. If a puppy isn’t doing something wrong, he cannot be shown what right is.
Puppies will test their limits with you, too. Nipping and mouthing is a big part of that testing. They mouth and grab hands, pant legs, skirts, etc. Part of how you teach a puppy to temper their biting lies back with how his litter mates taught him – a shrill shriek “OW!!” to let him know he’s gone too far – even if it didn’t hurt that much. One thing that you are responsible for training this puppy – that should start EARLY- is that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should that puppy’s teeth touch your bare skin. Now, I know Lab owners are going to say “my puppy enjoys taking my hand into his mouth sometimes”. Dogs understand ALWAYS or NEVER, YES or NO. They do not understand SOMETIMES and MAYBE! You will be giving your dog too much human reasoning by letting him decide when it is appropriate to take your hand in his mouth or to nibble your hand!
How To Teach “Nice”
I like the word “nice” or “easy” when I teach a dog to respect my skin. If my puppy gets wild and nippy, I will take his collar (after I let out a big “Ow!!” for nipping too hard) and give it a little tug and offer my hand back to the puppy and tell him, in a firm voice, “NO, NICE!” If the puppy nips again, I repeat the command and tug a little firmer, “I said “NO, NICE!” If the puppy licks your hand, sniffs it, or turns his head away, I tell him “Good, NICE!!” and make sure my voice sounds pleased. Each time the puppy gets away with a nip without working your “NICE” command means he has learned that he can, in fact, get away with nipping – and he will continue to do it.
You can also “set up” teaching “NICE” to your dog (as opposed to waiting for it to happen). I get a bunch of small, soft treats (small and soft means that the puppy will not forget why he got the treat if all he has to do is swallow it. He will forget if you give him a biscuit and it takes him 3 minutes to chew it up!) and hold one in the fingers of one hand. In the other hand – I have the puppy’s collar, and he is sitting close to me. I offer the treat to the puppy and remind him that we are being “NICE”. If he lunges for the treat, I give him a tug on his collar and remind him, “NO, NICE!” The same goes if he grabs the treat and any part of my hand or fingers. (Note: the hand that is holding the treat remains stationary It is the hand holding the puppy that will move and tug the puppy away from the food. If you move your “food hand”, you will encourage the puppy to chase the treat – dogs like moving objects.) With this exercise, the puppy will eventually learn to take the treat without even touching your skin with his teeth.
Heading Off Trouble
Now, after all this – some big “NO NOs” that will undermine your attempts to have what we call “bite inhibition” (in other words, what you were just taught to teach your puppy). NEVER, NEVER, play hand games that will rile up your puppy and encourage him to lunge for your hand, or any other part of your body. That is not part of teaching ALWAYS or NEVER! Chase games, especially for herding dogs (German Shepherds, Bouviers, Collies, Shelties, Border Collies, Corgis, etc.) will also encourage them to nip and bite at legs and heels. Not good!
The best games to play are games involving fetch and toys. One trainer says that any time you play with your dog, make sure you have a toy between you and the puppy. NEVER play tug of war with your puppy – that will only make your puppy think of himself as your equal! The only time I will play tug of war is when I have a wimpy puppy – but I always start the game, and I always finish it too. I also make sure I have taught my puppy a firm “Out” , “Release”, or “Drop it!” command to make sure I don’t have a problem or confrontation when I want the toy back.
Remember, you’re in charge! Your puppy looks to you for consistent – and persistent – training.
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Increasing your dog’s confidence and reducing fearfulness is a process, and requires repetition and patience. Below are some pointers to guide you:
Basic Tips & Advice To Increase Canine Confidence
NEVER tell dog it is OK when it is not
Use “Jolly Routine” with play, treats, or toys to get dog thinking about something OTHER than what is concerning him
Emphasis on appropriate praise for appropriate behavior
Patience and consistency are key
Remove emotion, especially disappointment or anger!
Favorite treat and/or toy reserved for stressful times ONLY
“Strangers” should have special treats (they are “treat dispensers”)
Obedience commands work to get dog thinking rather than reacting
Tone of voice is VERY important! Sweet, soft tones are reassuring and should ONLY be reserved for cuddle times
Normal, matter of fact tones of voice conveys confidence
Teach a “watch me” command – watching you will keep your dog safe
Exposures to new things should be carefully planned, timed & supervised
Clear commands, few words, NO asking/pleading, but BE NICE!
ON LEASH when challenging situations happen
Backsliding is expected and prepared for
Tug games can increase confidence (need to also teach an “out” command)
Teach thinking games at home: names of family, toys, places, objects…
Prevent hiding & cowering away from fearful things
Use a word or phrase in place of “It’s OK” (“Oh, you’re being SILLY!”). Use your matter of fact tone of voice to cue the dog to something OTHER than the fearful object or situation (“sit”, “watch me”, etc)
“Let’s say hi” is a good phrase to cue your dog to interacting with strangers, and have plenty of tasty treats & jolly praise handy!
“Look” is good for introductions to potentially fearful objects, along with a jolly, confident attitude
Petting and touch reserved for non-fearful or non-shy behavior (petting can inappropriately praise this behavior!)
Still Have Questions?
Don’t be shy! Feel free to get in touch with us regarding any dog training questions you may have – we’d love to hear from you.
We receive a lot of questions about leaving one’s dog/s in the yard at home. In this post, we’ll cover some thoughts and suggestions about freedom in the yard when dogs aren’t supervised:
Dogs that are either left outside or have access to outside when you are not home or aren’t supervised are at the whim of things out of your control. Dogs will be dogs, and barking, digging, fence climbing, chewing inappropriate items, etc, are all normal dog behaviors. The problem is, these things can be irritating to us and more importantly, people around us – not to mention, can be dangerous to or for your dogs!
What’s The Worst That Could Happen…
By letting your dogs in the yard when you are not supervising, I can envision numerous scenarios:
Your dogs bark “too much”, and your neighbor on the next street, who works afternoons or midnights, cannot sleep. He may “take matters into his own hands” by taking your dogs to the shelter/pound one day when you are not home. Or, you will find yourself with tickets for public disturbances, or slapped with a lawsuit by the neighbor. Or, that same neighbor will slip your dogs some antifreeze, which will kill them quickly. In the subdivision I lived before I moved to the country I had a neighbor behind me who let their (Sheltie) dog out for long periods and never corrected the barking (shelties are awful barkers!). This dog would bark at butterflies, cars going by, bikes, other dogs, and imaginary intruders! It drove me crazy!
Your dogs dig under the fence, trying to either get a “toy” in the neighbors’ yard, go after a squirrel, or just “escape”, and either disappear or are hit by a car.
Dogs adept at fence jumping can easily to jump into your yard and interact or fight with your dogs or possibly pass fleas, worms, or contagious diseases. Cats can come and go at will.
Gates that are not padlocked are a welcome invitation to anyone. The meter-reader can inadvertently leave the gate ajar or mace your dogs if he perceives a threat. Kids can help themselves to your yard and your dogs at any time (and if one of those kids claims to have been bitten by one of your dogs it doesn’t matter that the dogs were in your yard, the kids were trespassing OR that they may not have actually been bitten by the dog).
People are at liberty to harass your dogs. A long time ago, I had one dog who I let out in the yard while I slept (I worked afternoons). I was unaware the kid next door would throw sticks at my dog, and later threw firecrackers at her. When I discovered this, I never let her outside without my supervision, but she was never the same about loud noises (thunder or firecrackers) OR ten year old boys! A friend of mine caught the neighbor kids throwing rocks at her dog after climbing onto the roof of their garage. Kids will be kids! And, sometimes, adults will be kids, too!
The bottom line is that unsupervised dogs can become nuisances to your neighbors. Even I, who LOVES dogs, don’t appreciate nuisance barking or other out-of-control dog behavior that will interfere with my dogs or my “peace”.
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At DogTrainingBasics.com, we strongly believe in the “10 Canine Commandments”. It’s a reminder of how man’s best friend sees the world (and you). We hope you enjoy it – you can also download this visual in PDF format here. Feel free to share it on social media.
The Ten Canine Commandments:
My life is likely to last 10-15 years. Any separation from you will be painful for me. Remember that before you get me.
Give me time to understand what you want from me.
Place your trust in me.
Don’t be angry with me for long, and don’t lock me up as punishment. You have your work, entertainment and friends. I only have you.
Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice.
Be aware that however you treat me, I’ll never forget it.
Please don’t hit me. I can’t hit back, but I can bite and scratch and I really don’t want to do that.
Before you scold me for being uncooperative, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right foods or I’ve been out in the sun too long or my heart is getting old and weak.
Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old.
Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say “I can’t bear to watch” or “Let it happen in my absence”. Everything is easier for me if you are there.
When you are looking to interact with your dog in other ways rather than the typical walks and obedience work, you can teach her thinking games. Often, if you identify what your dog already has an aptitude for, you can develop on that. Does she use her eyes or her nose more? Below are 15 fun ideas to get you started:
Names of family members/pets: “Where’s ________? Go find ________!”
Find it – teach a “sit” and “wait” while you go hide the item, then come back and release with, “OK! Go Find _____!” Start with the item close – even in the same room, and help her.
Find a person – teach a “sit” and “wait” while someone hides, and release with, “OK! Go find ______!” Or, if the person you want your dog to find is YOU, then, after you have hidden, call your dog! (your dog may need help in “waiting”, at first, with another person holding her.
Hide & Seek (a particular favorite around my house is ROAR!)
Names for toys
Catch – start with popcorn first, because it is light
Frisbee – start with dog close, first
Pick up your toys (and put them away!)
treat under cup, 3 cups to choose from
find treat under towel or rug (try hiding a toy or treat under a large towel, old blanket or rug – first show your dog where you
are putting it, then cover it, and tell her to “find it”!
pick hand treat or toy is in
Walk between legs while you are walking (weaving in and out) – just one of the many Freestyle moves you can teach your dog!
Tricks: gimme 5 (gimme change, too!), roll over, sit up, play dead (“bang!”), treat on nose, speak, high 5 — use your imagination!
Two boxes on their sides – take a treat or food, and with your dog sitting facing the box bottoms (the box opening is out of the dog’s sight) show the dog the item and put it into one of the box openings. Release your dog (“OK!”) and tell him to “find it!”
There are all kinds of puzzle toys on the market – ones that dispense food or treats, and some that can be taken apart
“Touch” – teach touch with his nose. “Touch” the palm of my hand, “touch” the tip of a stick – this is the start of “target training”.
You can make obstacles and create an “agility” course with things found around most homes: broomstick on the rungs of 2 chairs to create a jump, weave in and out of dowels stuck in the ground (about 18″ apart) or ski poles, pause “box” with an old rug, jump through an old tire (the original agility tire jump!), kids’ play tunnels can be found at toy stores…
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Dogs of all breeds, mixes, sizes and types are always available for adoption from shelters or rescues. The selection changes daily, unfortunately. The decision to adopt a “recycled” dog can be a positive one if careful choices are made and a commitment is made to train and socialize the new family member.
In order to make your shelter adoption a more informed and less of an emotional decision, certain requirements need to be listed before the trip to the shelter:
Large, medium, or small dog? Keep in mind size does not necessarily designate space required or energy level.
Long, short, one that will require grooming/shaving? Keep in mind short-coated dogs such as Labs and Dalmatians shed JUST AS MUCH if not more than longer coated dogs such as Golden Retrievers or Shelties.
Purebred? Mix? If a purebred is desired, make sure ALL breed traits are researched – EACH breed has good and bad traits, and those are variable depending on the person!
Usually if the breed or mix is known, the level of activity will be able to be ascertained, as well.
Puppy or adult or senior? Most dogs find their way to shelters between the ages of 6 months and 1 year of age, because that is the worst behaved time of a dog’s life – their adolescence; they WILL misbehave more during that time period. Adult dogs can also come to you with excess baggage of behavior problems from their previous life, but usually they can be worked through. Seniors can sometimes have age-related health or behavior problems, but can be a wonderful laid-back companion.
Visiting The Dog Shelter
When looking for a dog, remember that WYSIWYG!! A shy, cowering dog will take just as much work as an overpowering, in-your-face dog. Dogs in rows of cages or kennel runs may still act like a pack; each one of them may be at their gate barking and clawing! Take each dog you are interested in off to a quieter area away from the masses to evaluate him behaviorally. Ask the shelter worker about the dog. Look into his eyes – I really believe in honest eyes; they can reveal a lot about the dog. A dog that is interested in play, especially fetching, is a very good candidate; you have the start of a good, positive bridge of understanding. Look for a dog that will come up to you – one that is interested in interacting with you. An aloof dog will most likely remain aloof. All family members should meet the adoptive prospect – even down to the smallest child. If the dog shows any fear or aggression to anyone, the adoption should NOT take place!
Bringing Your New Dog Home
Establish an area for the new dog that will keep him AND your house safe. The safest way to do this is with a crate (cage). Most shelter dogs spent their time in a cage or a run, so the transition to a crate at your home should run smoothly. A confined area such as a crate will greatly assist with potty training [see article] and give the dog a safe, comfortable place. Time in your house outside the crate should ALWAYS be supervised for several weeks to several months, depending on the dog. The only factor regarding supervision or lack of is your observation of the dog’s behavior; age, breed and size are not. Feeding times should be in the crate at first, as well as daily times in the crate even while you are around. Dogs quickly learn when they are crated only when nobody is at home, and some can develop separation anxiety. No matter how old the new dog is when you adopt him, he should ALWAYS be treated like a puppy and not trusted with ANYTHING until he earns it. You have worked too hard for your house and the stuff in it to have it destroyed by a rescue dog!
No matter how old the dog is, potty training should ALWAYS follow the same pattern: outside ON LEASH, with voice command to eliminate, praise during elimination and freedom in the house ONLY after elimination outside. The length of time you will need to do this will depend on the dog – it will vary from days to months (see potty training article).
One of the most important things to do with your new dog is to enroll in an obedience class. This class is important for many reasons: · establishes a working relationship and bond between owner and dog · socializes dog to other people and other dogs · helps to reinforce basic training, even if the dog seems to know the basics · helps to teach the dog that he must comply even if many distractions are present.
No Excuses. Period.
DO NOT make excuses for your new dog! You may observe he is shy around men or strangers; many people think the dog was abused before they got him. He may have had a scary experience, but generally, if you don’t know for a fact he was, he was probably just under socialized. To sit on the excuse, “Oh, be careful with him, he was abused as a puppy,” is an immobilizing thought. Instead of carefully avoiding things that frighten your dog, give that man/stranger an irresistible treat to give to your dog every time they meet; you may be able to work through the problem! What may have happened in your rescue dog’s past doesn’t need to cripple him for life!
Unless you worked closely with a shelter veterinarian before the adoption, the first trip after acquiring your new dog should be to a veterinarian. The dog should be evaluated health-wise before he establishes himself in your home and in your heart. The veterinarian will check a stool sample (you need to take a fresh teaspoonful with you) for intestinal parasites, do a general exam, and check him for heartworm (if he is old enough). The veterinarian will also evaluate his vaccination history (which you also need to take to the appointment) and give him any vaccinations he is lacking.
Introducing Your Shelter Dog To Other Pets
If you have other pets, part of your pre-adoption evaluation should be to observe how your dog-of-choice interacts with other animals. Ask shelter workers what this dog is like, but also see for yourself. Introduce another shelter resident the dog is not familiar with – with the help of a shelter worker, of course! If you have cat(s), ask a shelter worker to bring out a cat who tolerates dogs. Some shelters will allow you to bring your pets for an introduction, others may require it.
If the potential adoptee has a problem with the type of pet(s) you already have a home, that dog should NOT go home with you, UNLESS you are willing to spend A LOT of time with introductions and supervision, as well as A LOT of training and socialization time. You must also realize that a dog- or cat-aggressive dog MAY NOT ever change!
Once you have established that your adoptee seems to tolerate other animals, you will still have to invest time in introduction and supervision of the new dog and existing pets at home. Introductions should happen in controlled settings. The new dog should be ON LEASH, and your existing pets should also be controlled in some way: cat in carrier (you could be bitten or scratched if you hold the cat for the new dog to meet!), other dog(s) on leash – one at a time. Some raised hackles are normal even in friendly introductions. Keep leashes fairly loose or leave dragging on the ground, but always be ready to pull each dog away from the other should an argument ensue. If a fight starts, NEVER put your hands anywhere near to grab dogs! Instead, throw a blanket over them or use a chair to separate them by wedging in between. These introductions work best when a person handles each animal.
The new dog should NOT be alone in the house with your existing pets until you have carefully monitored and controlled their interactions for a period of time. That time period could be anywhere from a couple days to a month or more. The new dog should be crated when you are not able to supervise. The crate can still be in an area where your existing pets can approach to sniff; however, this also needs to be supervised. Your pets could tease the new one, or the new one could be somewhat cage aggressive/protective and lunge and growl.
With careful planning, preparation and training, adopting a shelter or rescue dog can be one that will work for life.
Check-list For Adopting A Shelter Dog:
DON’T USE YOUR HEART in decisions! Think your choices CAREFULLY through.
Make sure the new adoptee will work in your home – with other pets, men, women, children, WHATEVER and WHOEVER he will encounter in his new life with you.
CAREFULLY research: breed choices, size, coat, etc.
CAREFULLY consider WHY you want a dog, and WHY you want a shelter/rescue dog. After all, the idea is to have adoptions WORK! · Consider WHAT you want to do with this dog: vegetate on the couch, long walks, competition flyball or Frisbee, obedience or agility competition? Use this to help in your decisions.
Do you want all that comes with a puppy? Or would you rather start with a dog that is a little more mature?
Do NOT adopt with the idea that you will change a dog! You will be able to work with what you have, but generally a dog is the way he’ll be, UNLESS you plan to invest a lot of time and money in training, with no guarantees.
Do NOT hesitate to engage the help of an experienced behaviorist or trainer to help ease the adoptee’s transition into your home and your life.
Still Have Questions?
We’d love to answer them! Feel free to contact us regarding any shelter dog adoption questions, or canine Q&A in general!