Friday, 5 June 2009

Questions and answers

Time to add some fresh thoughts here for you. Work is as busy as ever I'm pleased to say. I'm currently working on an internal Newsletter for the CFBA, and this last week I have had two Weimaraner pups here for some additional training...littlermates too, so I'm exhausted frankly. They go home tomorrow morning :)

1) We have two Jack Russell puppies aged five months and they are still not toilet trained. They will relieve themselves in the home without hesitation, please can you help us? Mrs. T Ford. Kidderminster. Worcs.

Taking litter mates from a litter is an understandable decision to make, but unless you have a great deal of time this can prove to be a huge undertaking and it’s not uncommon to see problems such as this arise in later months. This is very often due to the fact that they become more interested in each other than you as the owner. They can become insular and may want to repel other outside influences such as other dogs and people. It can be done, but everything takes more than twice as long as you will need to do train them separately at first to ensure the dog is listening and working for you.
You have noted that they are not toilet trained as they should be by now, so this means coming back to basics. Here a few pointers for you to consider:

  • Be sure to take them to a selected place (on leads) every hour.
  • Use a key word to encourage toileting. I use ‘Hurry up!’
  • Take a tub of special treats with you to reward them after going. Offer physical praise also.
  • Do not leave them unattended at any time in your home to avoid accidents. Consider a dog crate for times when you cannot supervise. Vigilance is of paramount importance.
  • Avoid scolding for indoor accidents, just swiftly remove the dog to the chosen place outside and try to finish there.
  • Remain calm and persistent; it will come good in the end.

2) I have a 20-week-old poodle that hates me to close the back of the hatchback down before we drive away. Once we are driving she is calm and quiet, but otherwise she really dislikes me closing the hatch. Can you offer some guidance here please? Mr. R. Harris. Manchester.

I favour using short leads in the back of the car to allow you to clip the dog to when placing the dog in the boot. This prevents unnecessary movement, and the potential to clamber over into the vehicle as you drive along. It will also prevent dashing out when you open the lid at your destination. The lead can often be tied back to a D ring on the floor that is there for luggage straps. A dog of this age and size should be fine on a 24” line.

So, with this set up and placed on your dog, you can then set about getting her used to the lid being closed. Seek to do the whole thing gradually by raising your arm to partly and then close the lid by 50% for example, then release it and feed the dog a part of its meal or some special treat food you have arranged for calm behaviour.
Each time you go to close the lid you can show an open flat hand to the dog as you issue the ‘Stay’ command.
Repeat this about five times to gauge her reaction, once you feel that she is looking calm and relaxed you can go for a 75% closure and repeat as above. Very soon you should be able to close the lid fully, lifting the lid and then treating for calm behaviour. Once you are at this stage you can then offer the ‘Stay’ command through the glass as you then begin to build the time up gradually. Count to five initially and then raise the lid and treat. In the spirit of gradual progress, you can again then build these times up gradually so that the dog is relaxed with the lid down between you for up to one minute. Once you have that cracked you should be home and dry. You can then proceed to get in the car and drive. A rear-seated passenger can keep an eye on her to offer rewards occasionally for calm in car behaviour and to ensure she remains in the down position when driving.

3) I have a 2-year-old female Staffie that refuses to leave me alone in the house. She will follow me around everywhere, and I sense she is not as relaxed as she could be. I cannot even take a shower in peace…please help! Mr. A. Rose. Chichester. W. Sussex.

Dogs are of course social creatures that like company, and this is why they are such good companions to us. As I write here in the office, Pip my Border terrier is on the floor behind me trying to keep cool. Very often this behaviour is in essence allowed and encouraged by not placing boundaries on a dog’s movements from an early age. It is nice to have a dog near by as a companion, but this can as you’re experiencing then become too much and neither of you can truly relax for long. So it’s always prudent to set time aside for a young dog each day where it is left alone and cannot follow you to all rooms in the home.
I used to do just this with my Pip when she was young, and even now she is not allowed (unless invited) to enter any bedroom, the kitchen or dining room. Otherwise she can move freely to find a place that suits her. This has helped set up a balance in her mind whereby she accepts that she cannot be with me at all times.
To overcome your issue may be a simple case of simply telling her to stay as you close the door (she may protest a little), or you may find that her refusal to stay quietly behind is harder to ignore and much noisier than you can accept. On the basis that she does not take well to being refused access to all rooms with you, I can offer the following pointers:

  • Start by simply telling her to ‘Stay’ and close the door behind you. Then re-enter the room without pause initially, and ignore her as you re enter, staying there until she is looking calm and still. This method is usually very effective for me, and the trick is to very slowly build up the time with the door closed and the two of you apart. You can do a number of these back to back counting when you are the other side of the door to keep a measure of the time apart she can cope with before she becomes vocal. This should gradually increase. Use this technique on different doors to different rooms in the home that you are experiencing problems with. It is important to ignore her upon being with the dog again; this helps show your dog that there is no big difference in being with or apart from you. Do avoid going back in when she is protesting, otherwise you will reward her noisy efforts-only ever return to a quiet dog.
  • You can break her daily food intake down into a number of smaller meals, and feed them through a food pyramid or Buster cube to distract her for longer periods of time as you leave her alone in a room. Aim for four or five sessions like this each day if at all possible.
  • Long term prevent access to the rooms that you require her to be prevented from entering by ensuring the doors are closed and she cannot enter of her own accord.

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