Should I let my puppy cry on its first night?

You have just brought your puppy home and maybe after a long eventful day you want to have a good night’s sleep. However the puppy starts to whimper and you have a dilemma as to whether it may want to go out to toilet or it MAY want your attention.

Most probably the puppy is missing the warmth and comfort of its siblings and mother. Using a crate is helpful as it gives the puppy security. Generally they will not go to toilet where they sleep so in fact using a crate helps with toilet training. Ideally you want to obtain from the breeder a piece of blanket or material that has the smell of the mother and siblings. This will help the puppy to settle. If is it cold weather then using a hot water bottle which is covered is very useful in helping the puppy to settle.

If the puppy continues to cry or bark, then on the first night only, I would just pop my head around the door to see it is ok. Then leave the puppy. I know this is difficult to do but it helps the puppy to realise that it cannot get your attention by crying. If you go and check the puppy every time it cries it will soon learn that its crying gets it attention.

My puppy keeps biting our hands how can we stop this?

This is called ‘play biting’ and it is a natural behaviour that the puppy uses a lot in the first few weeks as a form of communication with its siblings. They soon learn that if they bite too hard their litter mate will retaliate or if they bite their mother she will either walk away or gently tell them off. Puppies normally grow out of this behaviour once their adult teeth appear. When the puppy arrives in your home it is up to you to teach him to inhibit his bite. When the teeth touch your skin you should give a sharp yell and move away not saying anymore or even looking at the puppy. Normally a young puppy will back off. For some puppies the yelling will make them bite even more. This may be because they are overtired, over stimulated or some particular breeds will be more determined. It is important that you and the family are consistent with how you deal with the behaviour. Do not get into a tug of war particularly if the dog is biting and pulling at clothes. Stop moving and try and redirect your puppy’s attention on to something else. The movement and sound of children can encourage puppies so you should instruct your child to keep still like a statue and call for you.

When should my puppy be house trained?

Just like children there are no set rules. For some they pick up the idea of letting you know when they want to go outside quite quickly, for others it can take quite a time. It is not purely about learning but also about the physical development of the puppy. Many owners get very ‘wound’ up if their puppy has a problem but this will not help the situation. However being patient and consistent will help, as also reinforcement with reward. On no account should you punish your dog or use the old fashioned method of ‘rubbing’ your puppy’s nose in it.

The best time to take the puppy outside is when they wake up, after eating or drinking, after play or exercise, and at regular intervals during the day say every half hour. Always watch your puppy for any indication they may give you that they want to go outside or to toilet. Some puppies will sniff the ground and or go round in a circle before they go.

When your puppy does toilet outside then praise and give a treat. If after a period of time they still have not performed then quietly take them inside without any fuss and try again later.

Why does my dog get so excited and jump up when visitors come to the door or I meet them in the street/park?

Jumping up at people is a very rewarding behaviour for a dog because either people make a fuss of them or they get pushed away. Whichever the puppy has gained what it wanted, which is attention. When visitors come to your home I would advise that your dog should be kept to an area where it cannot run to the door when people knock. This will prevent the dog from running out into the road or jumping up at visitors as soon as they have stepped inside. Some of your friends might not be dog lovers, especially if your dog has muddy paws. I know that in some homes space is very limited. If this is the case, then I would suggest you keep your dog occupied when someone is coming to the door by giving it a stuffed Kong or similar toy on its bed as soon as you hear a knock. The dog will soon learn that a knock on the door means to go to its bed because it gets a tasty reward. When someone is approaching your dog you need to train your dog to ‘sit’. You can set this up by asking a relative or a friend to help you out. Ask them to approach you and your dog. When they are about ten paces away ask the dog to ‘sit’. When they ‘sit’, reward with a tasty treat. The person can then approach the dog only if it remains in a sit. If the dog is still lunging forward, then make the distance greater between the dog and the person. The person only approaches if the dog remains in a ‘sit’. The dog learns if I want this person to make a fuss of me I have to make sure that my bum stays on the ground. Some dogs will run and jump up at people while out walking. You need to train your dog that you are more interesting than other people. With the dog on a lead train the puppy to focus on you when someone walks past. Start with having a small treat in your hand to gain the dog’s attention and use a command of ‘look’ or ‘listen’. Soon the dog will learn that if it focuses on you it gets a treat. As your dog’s behaviour improves then the treat can be phased out to a verbal reward or a ‘pat’. If the dog is off the lead then you need to call your dog to you before it goes rushing up to a person. Some people can find it very distressful if approached by a bounding puppy or dog.

My dog is now seven months old and has started to ignore me. Why is this?

It is about this age when a dog will hit adolescents and when the hormones kick in. The young male becomes more confident and the bitch will have to deal with coming into season. When puppies are young we are one of the main things in their life. We feed and water them, take them for walks and play with them. At six or seven months they begin to realise that there is much more interesting things around and they begin to get more confident and venture farther away. You may have previously had a decent recall, but suddenly it disappears. It will appear as though all the hard work you have put into training your dog disappears. Try and remember that this is a temporary thing and the length and severity will change from dog to dog. The most important thing is to be consistent. Set boundaries of what your dog can and cannot do. Go back to putting your dog on a long line if it continues to ignore you while off lead. It is very easy when our dog is going through adolescent to only see the ‘naughty’ behaviour but it is important to recognise the good behaviour and to reward this. See your earlier training as a bank. The training of your dog earlier was well invested, it is still there and you have to wait until your dog matures until you can reap the benefit.

How can I make life more comfortable for my older dog?

It is very sad for us to see our dogs becoming old and experience all the problems that come with old age. Many older dogs will experience some of the physical problems as humans like arthritis, obesity, deafness, vision problems, incontinence and cognitive problems. It is important that you see your older dog environment from their point of view. Make sure they have the opportunity to go outside regularly and that there are no high steps for them to contend with. If they have vision problems make sure they have easy access around the furniture to their food bowl, bed or favourite place. You will need to have patience and allow that extra time for your dog to carry out every day habits. They will eat slower because of missing teeth. They may have digestive problems so it is a good idea to have their food and drinking bowl at a height that is easy for them to feed and drink from without bending too far over. You may need to change their food as they will not be using so many calories. Food specifically made to suit older dogs can be found in most stores and also is part of our food range that we sell.

Arthritis is a common problem in older dog particularly in breeds which are known to have hereditary disorders of the joints or those who received an injury when they were younger. It is important that you try and keep you older dog as mobile as possible. Make sure that their bed is soft and when it is cold provide some warmth to their bedding. Avoid steps and stairs and any jarring to their joints such as jumping up into the car. If necessary provide ramps for them to go from one level to another. Just because they are stiff does not mean they cannot go out for walks. Allow them to go their own pace and distance. Your dog will enjoy being outside and being able to sniff and scent the air. Try and make their walks as interesting as possible. Hydrotherapy is very good for the older dog, as is massaging the joints. Look on the internet for a hydrotherapy pool near you.

You may notice that your older dog cannot hear you. It may ignore you when you call it but yet can hear the noise of a biscuit wrapper. This is because the older dog’s hearing does not pick up lower pitch sounds but can detect higher pitches. Try using a higher voice or start to use hand signals.

Older dogs may suffer from incontinence where they have difficulty in holding their urine in their bladder. They will quite often leak a little urine while they are sleeping. It is best to get this checked out with your vet as it can be a urinary tract infection or kidney failure. Some of the causes of incontinence can be cured; some just have to be managed.

You may find that your older dog becomes disoriented and may not recognise where they are or who they are with. This is call cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This condition is thought to be caused by chemical alterations in the nervous system that can occur during old age. You should visit your vet who will prescribe the correct medication to help your dog.

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