How to Avoid Dog Behavior Problems

“We may have gotten a little carried away..”

Adding a new pet to your family is a big decision. Pets bring balance, love, and an escape of sorts from our everyday stresses. Pets also bring us together and manage to teach us an awful lot. All dogs were originally  bred for certain behaviors, (herding dogs herd, sight hounds run fast, etc) so do your research and make sure the breed of dog you are interested in has an activity level that will fit into your lifestyle. Dogs are not predisposed to behavior problems.  Most behavior problems  are due to inconsistent or lack of training from the beginning, and behavior problems are the most common reason dogs are left at pounds.

Puppies (and dogs) are not really that hard to manage if you remind yourself that you are dealing with the mind of a 2 year old and that training is a logical, progressive process that anyone can master with a little patience, humor, some high value treats and a lot of love. Spend the time when your dog is new and you will soon have a loving, well behaved member of your family.

Here are seven basic rules to help you manage the toughest puppy training challenges and ways to incorporate them into your daily activities:

Rule #1 Crate Train your dog.

Dogs are not spiteful. Dogs live in the moment. Chewing up your shoes or shredding the garbage was not done in spite because you left him home alone.  Remember that 2 year old? Well he has got one powerful nose and if the garbage is accessible and something good and smelly was left inside, he is going to want to investigate. If you leave your new dog loose in your house, there is no telling what sort of mischief he may get into. A large new place, like your home, can be a bit overwhelming and even scary for a new dog to be left unattended in.  Crate Training does not mean that your dog should / or will live the rest of his life in a crate. What it does mean, if done correctly, (lots of high value treats) is  your dog will have a place where he can be feel safe and secure until he is mature and confident enough to handle a larger space unattended. Giving your dog a place that he can call his own also can help suppress separation anxiety, and speed along house breaking.  Click  here to learn more on how to crate train your dog.

Rule #2 Practice Redirecting

So your new pup wants to play, but your schedule is keeping you busy and the pup at your feet is getting in your way.  This is  a good time to redirect your pups attention to something that will entertain him, but allow you to get your tasks done. The easiest thing to redirect to is a chew toy. I use nylabones for this purpose, as they are safe (they don’t cause guarding in my multi-dog household) clean and easy. You may need to spend a few minutes interacting with him with the bone.. maybe toss it a few times, let him know how excited you are about this bone and how good it is to chew. You could also get an interactive toy that involves putting dog cookies  or peanut butter inside and let him play with that for a while.  Nylabones do seem drab and unexciting to some dog owners compared to other chew toys that are now on the market, but, they are much safer and healthier  then processed rawhide or animal parts, and will last a lot longer. Read more about the best chews for your pup here.

Rule #3 Draw Boundaries

Lap Dog?

Puppies are cute, But when your 10 pound puppy grows into that 70 pound dog, are you still going to want him sitting on your lap? It is a whole lot easier to train a puppy  correct behaviors from the beginning then it is to try to re-train that half grown dog. Boundaries can and should be established with the beginning of training, besides, once training begins, and the “lightbulb” goes off in your little dogs head that you are communicating and he will get a cookie if he responds correctly, learning will begin in earnest.   So decide from the onset where your boundaries are. Are you going to let your dog on the furniture, or on the bed? Are you going to let him chase the cat or the children? Don’t know how to stop behavior that you don’t want.. Go back and review rule #1 and #2

Rule #4 Socialize your Pup

Everyone wants the perfect dog. One that will be friendly with visitors, yet bark at danger. A dog that will hang with the kids, and be ready to go for a jog. Your perfect dog is within your reach, but it is up to you to mold that “2 year old” into the solid citizen that he needs to become. Socializing your new pup allows him to meet other humans and dogs in new and exciting places. But the biggest benefit to taking your dog out to new places is the “bonding effect”. Your new dog is going through a lot of new experiences, hopefully by this time, he has learned that YOU are “nice”.  He knows you feed him, you let him out, give him cookies, love him and you talk nice to him.  When you are at a new place, You are his comfort, his trust and his safety. By taking him out into the world you have given him a big adventure with his new best friend. The more adventures you have together,  the more confidence he will gain in himself and the more trust he will gain in you.

Not sure where you can take him in your town? Look for farmers markets, dog friendly festivals, and outdoor supply stores. Make sure you are loaded with his favorite high value treats, and his favorite toy. And Please don’t forget to bring your common sense. Make sure your dog has a properly fitted collar (combo collars are good for new dogs) or harness, with proper ID on it, be prepared to clean up after your dog, and remember that not all dogs that you meet will be friendly, so ask the handler before you let your dog run up to any unknown dogs.

Rule #5 Be Consistent

As a perpetual 2 year old your dog is going to have a limited vocabulary, and even though dogs are champions at reading body language and tone, it is important to have  consistent verbals when training. You do not have to use the words that everyone else uses, and you can certainly make your own words for communicating  with your dog.  For example, I use “This Way” while free walking my dogs on their daily walk, it keeps them with me without feeling that they have to be beside me.

One of the absolutely easiest things you can train your dog to do in your house, yard or out on an adventure, on lead or off, and quite possibly the most important thing he will ever learn is a recall.  I carry dog treats with me 95% of the time. This allows me to call my dog and reward him whenever and wherever I can. For a new dog this may be 2 feet away and on a leash.. that is okay, if the dog looks at me and comes for a treat when I say “HERE” he gets a reward.  Always practice this in a enclosed area at the beginning, eventually get someone to hold him while you increase your distance. Practice this often, ALWAYS, ALWAYS reward (eventually this reward will be just a “good dog”)

Rule #6 Create Motivation


Your dog should be exposed to different sorts of toys. Things to Chew, Things to fetch and Things to tug, shake and share. As he grows you will learn what toys are best for him and what toys he responds to. Eventually, you will notice that he may favor a certain toy, Maybe he really loves to fetch a ball, maybe its a frisbee, perhaps he Loves a game of tug with you. This favorite toy can also work for you as a motivational aid. This favorite toy may eventually be substituted instead of treats, and can be used as a reward for training tricks, dog sports, or any thing that you may need to teach your dog for his own safety. Be observant, and notice what toys really excite your dog. Take that toy with you on outings and use it when you need to get your dogs focus back on you or just to help him relax.

Rule #7 Enjoy

New dogs and puppies do not happen very often in our lives, and this new relationship should be looked upon as the special new beginning that it is. Have fun with your dog daily. Smile and laugh at the silly things that your dog does. He will love you with all his heart and You should love him back. Get help if you need it and if you really want to explore all that a new dog has to offer, take him to classes. There you will find others exploring relationships with their dogs, new friends and new dog friends.

I hope I have offered you some clues to make your new dog comfortable and your new position as caretaker enjoyable and full of positive fun. I Love talking dog and would love to hear about a special time in your relationship with your dog.  Please leave me a comment.


Best Dog Beds on a Budget…


There are a lot of advantages to living with pets in our homes, as well as the  physical, emotional and  social  benefits, scientific studies have proven that children who live with pets at a young age are less likely to develop asthma and allergies.

Bailey and Dixie
large dog rug Sometimes all you need is a rug and a good buddy!

And living with multiple pets creates a lot of fun interactions among them, but keeping your multiple pets beds clean can be a major challenge.  In our small house, Dog beds are part of the furniture and line the floor from TV to couch,
one or two of the dogs will have favorite spots, but generally any bed will do. As long as there are enough beds for all, then all is good.

The Secret to Keeping the Beds Clean..

For years I went through lots of pet beds.. one would get soiled and would soak through into the padding of the bed, which resulted in lots of hosing, scrubbing and product application.. Eventually, I ended up with a lot of covers and no interior padding..

Then, my children returned from college with their foam mattress pads and no need for them.

I quickly learned that once cut to size, ( you can double the foam for old or heavy dogs) placed in a large trash bag, and inserted in one of the empty covers, I had a very comfortable, easy to maintain and clean bed that was better and more durable then most high dollar dog beds.

Bandit two beds
Can’t decide? Sleep on both of them!

The cover can easily be washed and  the trash bags can be wiped off or replaced.

And If you are lucky enough to live near a college when the students are moving out, you can get mattress pads before they go into the dumpster, making them super affordable!

So now, when ever I buy a new dog bed, one of the most important things I  look at is the quality of the Zipper and the stitching, as the cover is the part of the bed that is now going to last the longest.

Where do the Cats Sleep…?

Two of my smallest dogs sleep on my bed, but generally my dogs are not allowed on the furniture. Cats on the other hand, well, try to tell them where they are not allowed…

With the exception of the kitchen counter, where I have employed a “scat mat” and a spray bottle, the cats sleep where ever they want. There are plenty of cat beds in places where the dogs can’t get to, but it was always aggravating to have a cat soil a perfectly good dog bed. Be it a hair ball or a sign of defiance against the new kitten… the cats took a lot of blame.

Trash Bag to the Rescue…

Once I started bagging my own dog beds a surprising thing happened… The cats seem to dislike the initial noise that the trash bags make and started staying off of the dog beds. Win Win Win!

So here are some final tips to help you with the now simple task of keeping your dogs beds clean and comfortable;

  • Use heavy duty trash bags or better yet, Leaf bags, you may even want to double them, and tie them closed well.
  • Try to work the air out of the trash bag before putting on the cover .
  • If the foam/bag fits tightly into the cover, the beds are easier to shake out and/or vacuum.
  • Enjoy the cash your not spending on new dog beds, buy your dogs some new toys instead!

Crate training in a multiple dog household

dog in crate

Crate training your new dog has many advantages, but is especially important in a multi dog house hold.  Not crate training your dogs is one of the biggest mistakes dog owners make  and one of the main reasons that dogs end up in shelters, with issues like housebreaking, inappropriate chewing and separation anxiety. When Introducing a new dog in a multi-dog household, a crate or kennel not only provides the new member a quite, safe place of his own, but also allows the training to start off with positive reinforcement.

 Adding a crate to your house does not mean forever or always, but… a crate should always be used for a puppy or a dog with an unknown history.    A crate is the most important tool you will use, next to a leash, to teach your new pack member impulse control, manners, patience and housebreaking.  In return, a crate provides your new dog a place to call his own, a place where the other dogs are not allowed.  Your new dogs crate provides a sanctuary for him and lets him feel safe and secure. For this reason I prefer shipping crates, but a wire crate with a blanket covering 3/4 of it works nicely also.  Along with a bed, your new dog should initially be fed in his crate, he should have water at all times and he should have things to chew on like antlers or nylabones, And Yes, some dogs will complain, especially puppies, if they have recently been  separated from their  mother and siblings, puppies will cry and should be given age appropriate things that will help comfort and distract them.

safe kennel
Aspenpet Pet Porter Kennel, For Pets 70-90 Pounds, Dark Gray

Choosing an appropriate crate should not be difficult, however, there are a lot of crates to choose from so knowing a bit about what kind/size of  dog you are looking at will help you make wise choices.  I highly recommend a “shipping crate” and here is  why:

  • Safety! I have seen dogs get their teeth around the wire of a wire crate ,  un-weld,  bend   and destroy  the crate.  Although this dog was not crate trained and his human put him in a crate in a new environment and left. This dog, who I call Budda, is a very high energy lab who now loves the downtime his shipping crate offers him, is happy to go into his Aspenpet Pet Porter Kennel, and is safe and secure when left .
  • Ease of use!  From the Human perspective, the door says it all! A Crate with a squeeze door latch not only offers you the option upon installation to determine which way the door opens, but can be opened and closed easily with one hand.
  • Comfort..!  My dogs seem to love to use the sides of their kennels as support when laying up side down. A kennel that uses wingnuts to attach the top to the bottom is the best choice for safety and security.

He Won’t go in his Crate! Okay so you understand the importance of using a crate for your new dog, but HE doesn’t!..  Cookies! lots of Cookies!  You may initially have to physically put the dog into the crate for the first few days. However it is important to first throw in a high value treat of some sort.. maybe a piece of cheese, or a piece of chicken. Say the word that you want to associate with going in the crate, I use the work “Kennel”, toss in the special treat and be ready to assist. NEVER be angry or upset with with the dog when teaching him to go in his crate, It should be a happy, peaceful place for him. Once he is comfortable with this, his own personal space, the crate can be used as a “time-out” when your dog is over stimulated, stressed or upset.crate trained golden

A Crate is no place to live…   So now you have another crate in your house. This is a great opportunity for the other animals in your house hold to be able to meet your new member through the safety of the door, but this crate does not have to be a permanent thing. Most dogs, once housebroken and  comfortable with their surroundings, their fellow pack members, and the security that living in a home with a loving family gives them, adapt well and learn that the entire house is theirs to feel safe and secure in.  It is however, important to remember that dogs in a multiple dog household  can cause quite a ruckus when left unattended for any period of time, and any small animals could be threatened by “pack mentality”, therefore,  It is always a better option to kennel the dog(s) that are high energy, young, nervous or just worried, for the safety of all.   Three of my 7 house dogs go into their crates  when I am not at home and when I go to bed, all for different reasons, but  mostly it helps them feel able to shut down and rest. All three run to their crates when I say the word, and they get a cookie.. Life is Good..!praise for success

A Quick Word on Housebreaking.. Housebreaking your new dog is not a difficult process using a crate… IF you are observant, consistent, patient and positive!  Depending on your circumstances and your new dogs age, the basic goal is to get your dog to go “Potty” outside. Like any reward based training,the reward comes after a successful trip outside in the form of verbal acknowledgement (Good Dog!), cookies, and freedom in the house. If your new dog is a rescue and you still have reservations about the safety of your other pets then the “freedom in the house” should be on a leash. Again depending on the age of the dog, and time of the day, Freedom may last only 30 minutes. All dogs kept in a crate for any time should be  taken outside immediately  after being let out of the crate, If the dog does not “potty” when taken outside, it is recommended that the dog be put back in the crate for 30 minutes or so and then try again. Shortly, the dog will connect  Potty = reward and freedom.. Puppies generally take a little longer as they learn to regulate their growing bodies, and housebreaking is usually the first human/dog learning that they do.. It is imperative that this first learning be positive and rewarding thus setting up future training success.

Never leave your un-housebroken dog unattended.

pee on the floorPotty training an older dog … is usually an easy process. If your new dog is a rescue that has not been living in a house he may not understand where the proper place to potty is. Dogs are very in-tuned with our body language and tone of voice, even a new dog will understand a firmly stated”OH NO! WHAT HAPPENED?” , however it is important to  remember that rescues often have history and can be very sensitive to a negative tone. Handle a rescue gently and watch his response when correcting bad behavior, lead him to his crate, toss in the cookie and leave him for a bit until it is time to take him outside again for another try.. Never hit, yell scream or grab a new dog for the small infraction of a puddle,   hopefully, you will see him potty out side shortly and can lavish him with praise. Often one mistake is all it takes with an adult dog to understand what is expected.