“Vinnie my problem is that my dog lunges, pulls, snarls, or tries to bite people or dogs when they are on the leash”
Most owners of a dog who is severely leash reactive believe that the lunging at other dogs is the problem, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not the issue. The problem begins way before the lunge. Out of the next 100 leash reactive dogs that I will train over the next few weeks, I can guarantee 99 of them have two things in common. Terrible leash manners even before the stimulus comes into the picture. You will see a lot of weaving, pulling, smelling, and realistically a dog who has no understanding of heel, of following their human being. If your dog isn’t listening to the rules when there is no stimulus around, why all of the sudden would they listen when a dog/person/jogger walks past? If there is no expectation set beforehand, your dog will fail. Guaranteed. If we can teach our dog to heel, without stimulus around first, only then can we pass the dog with perfection. However, that expectation, that new standard on the walk, has to be set in stone ahead of time, and enforced indefinitely while on the leash.
Once we teach your dog to heel and walk properly on leash, we will run into our second issue, fixation. Prolonged eye-contact will inevitably get your dog in some serious trouble. Dogs, when staring at each other, are much like two men sitting across the bar staring at each other. The longer they stare, the more their chests puff out, frustration builds, and the inevitable, and altercation. Stopping your dog from being able to fixate on other dogs is the biggest piece to the puzzle. Imagine that your dog has a “freak-out” scale of 1-10. Once they get above 8, you’re in deep, let’s say “doggie-doo”. We need to start correcting the problem at a level 1/2/3. How do you do that? Back to our above statement, good leash skills and putting a rule in place that we are able to enforce. That is our job, to determine what is the best solution for you and your dog, and how to best correct the problem. Once your dog is heeling, we can enforce the next rule, no staring at other dogs nor people unless we are going to meet them.
There is a good chance you are dealing with this issue, whether it’s just minor and slightly annoying, or it is a major problem and extremely aggressive. Clients often ask, “How many sessions to teach my dog how to walk well?”
Congratulations, you are the proud dog mom/dad of a new puppy! Our Clients commonly ask us at what point should we begin training. On day 1! Dog training is not just about obedience, it’s about having a set list of rules and boundaries that are important for the entire family to follow. Have your loved ones remember these simple rules!
Crate Training the Say It Once Way
When getting a puppy, an absolutely necessary tool to buy beforehand is a dog cage. Crate training is vital during puppyhood, and having guidelines of how, when, where, and why to use it will give you a full understanding of the process. It’s common within a family to have someone, especially a first time dog owner or a child, to believe that crate training is mean, inhumane, or similar to a jail cell. However, it is extremely important to remember that dogs are naturally denning animals. They will seek refuge in a den, or den like area, for comfort, protection, and mothers who have had puppies (cough cough) will use a den for safety. Let’s take a dive into the pro’s of using a crate.
Having a dog properly acclimated to a crate will offer tremendous help when it comes to the following items:
House Breaking - House breaking a puppy is drastically easier when you are using a crate. By limiting the amount of space your dog has, it will cut back on the number of accidents. Additionally, dogs are less likely to pee or poo inside their crate.
Injury and ingestion prevention - Puppies and younger dogs who are given freedom before they are ready for it have the ability to hurt themselves. Whether there are jumping up on a stove, eating food left on the table and counters, or eating something toxic, puppies have lots of opportunities to injure themselves. Having your puppy comfortable in a safe environment like the crate will give you substantial peace of mind.
Safe space - Having a crate will give your dog a space that is 100% theirs, a space where they can feel comfortable and safe. Dogs can use the crate to just relax and take a nap, but it also gives them an option to go somewhere during a high stress time, such as thunderstorms and house parties.
Protecting your valuables - That’s a gorgeous $5,000 couch you have. In a span of only a few hours it can be a beautiful $5,000 couch with two seat cushions missing, an arm rest half eaten, and a broken reclining section.
A little piece of home everywhere - If you have to leave your dog with family members or a pet sitter (Say It Once Pet Services... duh), their crate gives them a sense of familiarity in that new place. It’s portable, giving your dog the ability to have that safe space even in a hotel room, groomers, or anywhere that you are going to take your pup.
Now that we understand all of the aspects of training our crate can help us in, lets take a look at how to turn it into a positive experience.
Where should I put the crate?
Similar to real estate, the first key to crate training is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Where you put the crate can make a huge difference, especially during the first few weeks. I am, and always will be, a huge believer in putting the crate right next to your bed during the night. If you leave the crate downstairs during the nighttime, you will see these typical behaviors: whining, barking, pacing, and panting. These behaviors occur because dogs do not leave each other when it comes time to sleep, instead, the pack always sleeps together. When a puppy wants to call out to bring their mother back to them, they use whining and whimpering as a distress call to come back. The easiest solution to this noise is to do what is most natural to your puppy, which is sleep in the same general area. Having the crate next to your bed will give your dog more comfort knowing you’re around, and makes the crate all together a more positive experience for the puppy and for you.
During the day, it’s common to move the crate downstairs while the family is away. Sometimes families will have two separate crates, one for upstairs at night time, and one downstairs for daytime. This is not necessary, but if you have a larger dog it is a heck of a lot easier! If you would like to have the crate downstairs during the day, and ideal location would be in a quiet corner somewhere, away from a lot of foot traffic and sunlight.
How do I make my puppy feel comfortable in the crate?
Now that you have your crate in the best possible location, you want your puppy to feel as comfortable as possible in their new setting. A few tips to make the crate a place your dog will go to more often are:
Randomly throughout the first few weeks of having your puppy, throw treats inside the crate while saying your command ( “crate”, ‘bed,” “kennel up” ). Four treats a few times a day will be more than sufficient.
When playing with a toy, toss it in the crate, with the same concept above. The more your puppy is walking in on their own now, the easier your life will be later.
Bones, chews, Kong’s with frozen peanut butter, and bully sticks are not only life savers for teething, but they are helpful with crate training as well. If your puppy enjoys chewing on these, take full advantage of it! Put the chew toy in the crate, have the puppy go in, and start closing the door while they are chewing on their bone. This will start to reinforce “alone time” without them really noticing. Basically we are Mr. Miyagi-ing them.
What Should I leave in the crate?
The best answer is as little as possible. Do not overcrowd the crate with items that are not necessary. For example, having too many blankets on top of a bed, with an old t - shirt, a slipper, and a sleeping dog that has a heartbeat would be too much. I recommend a bed, whether it is a dog bed, crate mat, or blanket. However, if you start to notice that your puppy is destroying the bed, its gone! You do not want to reinforce a bad habit while you are away. The plastic layer on the bottom of the crate isn’t going to hurt your dog, and they will eventually earn the right to have the bed in their crate when their behavior is good enough to handle it. You can add in 1 chew toy, as long as it’s not anything that could be harmful. Peanut butter Kong Toys or a strong chew toy tend to be families’ number one choice. Keep your crate very basic.
What type of crate should I get, Vinnie?
Great question, I’m glad you asked! There are a few different crate options to look at, so here are some quick notes on the most common:
Standard Wire Crate: Love it. Simple, basic, and if you get a puppy and go through all of the proper procedures, this crate will do you just fine. Easy to transport and very easy to keep clean. These will not do well with dogs who have a tendency to chew or try and escape their crates.
Soft Nylon Crates: In all honesty, I am not a huge fan of these crates. They tend to only work for dogs who are extremely mild mannered. However, these are great for small dogs and for travel!
Sky Kennels: These are the kennels that are approved by airlines. They are big, bulky, plastic crates with less ventilation, but they are more difficult for the dog to escape from. They offer more seclusion and comfort, but they are also a little harder to keep clean than the wire crates, and are by far the ugliest option. All in all, though, I do like these crates!
Heavy Duty: For dogs who are escaping the crate, bending the wires, or just opening the doors from inside, there are a few heavier duty options out there. Impact Dog Crate is a example of this style.
The X Factor!
This one seems like common sense, but when putting your dog in the crate, be sure that they have been sufficiently exercised, so that they will be tired when they are in the crate. This will require a change in your routine, as we don’t typically have much time in the morning before we leave for work to get our pups tired out, but guess what. Set your alarm an extra 30 minutes early to give your dog, the animal who loves you more than anything on this planet (can you say “guilt trip”) and give them what they want and need!
Size of the Crate
The goal here is to keep the crate as small as possible, while still allowing the dog enough space to stretch out and lay down comfortably. Too big of a crate and your dog has a better chance of having a potty mistake inside of their crate. Too small and your dog won’t fit!
There are a few other options to make your dog feel more confident and comfortable inside the crate. One is to cover the crate with a blanket, completing the den area feel. Like mentioned above, if our dog starts chewing or pulling the blanket into the crate, remove it.You can also leave music on the radio or television to drown out any outside noise so your puppy can maintain a calmer state with limited distractions.
Buy a Crate!
Who do you think the Pet Store commercials on TV are there for? I can assure you its not for your dog to stare and bark at (but if you are having that problem you need to call, TV time is for relaxing, its not for Fido to try and jump through the screen). The commercials are meant for you, to suck you in and believe that your beloved four legged friend will love you more if you buy them more toys. Well, it's all crap. That being said, if you are going to spoil your dog (and come on we both know you are going to spoil your dog) at least do so in a way that does not promote unwanted behaviors! There are good toys, and there are toys that are just, well, awful.
The worst possible dog toys are, wait for it.... plush stuffed animal toys. Dogs need to chew there is no doubt about it, but they don't need to chew a pillow shaped like an elephant. Don't forget, that stuffed elephant is made out of the same materials that your pillow, blankets, socks, towels and so on are made out of. Your pup knows how things feel in his/her mouth, and if we condition our young dogs to chew plush materials, don't be surprised when your pillow is "destuffed" and when the elephant has been decapitated
Old Shoes are not a dog toy, they are old shoes. One day you notice your dog chewing and old slipper that you don't "really like" anyway and decide that its okay. The next day, your dog chews your new $150 shoe and your pissed. Be consistent with your dogs from day 1, it makes for an easier understanding of your rules and boundaries!
Socks with a water bottle placed inside. I do Love your DIY creativity, but this teaches your dog to chew socks and water bottles, and its just not fun trying to untrain your dog to do so.