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Three Keys to Successful Potty Training for Your Dog

Potty training your dog can be easy or difficult…the difference is in how much time and dedication you are willing to put into training. Follow these simple tips to get your puppy on the right path to accident-free living.

Set a schedule:

Decide on a schedule and stick to it. In a family situation where many people are caring for your puppy, post a schedule for everyone to see. Remember puppies will require more walks than adult dogs. While you may need to walk twice in the morning when your dog is a puppy, you can probably eliminate one of those walks as an adult.

Potty breaks are also necessary after eating, naptime, and playtime. Limiting the amount of time your puppy has to go without a bathroom break, limits chances of accidents. If you can, plan to be home with your new puppy the first week they are home. This will reinforce potty training and help your puppy adjust.

Always go in one place and remember why you are there:

Bring your puppy to the same place outside, each time you want him or her to go potty. Do not let your puppy play, sniff, or explore anything outside until they have gone potty. By doing this you are saying “when we go outside, potty comes first and this is where to do it.”

It is important to teach your puppy that potty comes before play. Otherwise, you could be outside until your puppy is ready to go. Puppies need structure, and going to the potty at the same time and in the same place is a great start.

Reward immediately:

As soon as your dog goes potty, have a treat already in your hands to turn over to your dog. Never hesitate in giving a treat. If you wait until later, or after you return indoors, it will not be clear why you are giving a treat. A treat given as soon as a puppy goes potty will reinforce the message about going outside.

Give lots of praise when you give the treat. While your dog will not understand the words “Good Boy!” or “Good Girl!” they will understand the tone of voice you use to praise them.

It is a good idea to use a crate when you are not home, this will keep accidents from happening in undiscovered places in the home. Dogs will also try not to go potty where they sleep, the crate will reinforce the outside routine. In order to further avoid an accident in the crate, make sure you either buy a crate that fits the puppy or block off a bigger crate with an empty box.

These are the three most important aspects of potty training. Using schedules, a designated potty spot, and a timely reward system will help prepare your new puppy for an accident free future. Make sure the whole family is on board and knows the plan. Routines and dedication are the keys to making potty training a success!

Understanding Pet Behavior

Because our pets can not raise their paws and tell us when something is wrong, we as owners need to know what to watch for to know when our pet is ill.

The Dog Scoot Boogie

A dog dragging his hind end across the floor is his way of telling you his anal glands are full and need emptying. Anal glands consist of two small pea-sized sacs on the inside of a dog’s anus. Some dogs naturally excrete their anal glands when defecating, however some dogs retain the excretion in the sacs. A quick trip to our office can alleviate the retained excretion in a simple routine office exam.

Eating Out of One Side of the Mouth

While it might look like your pet is trying their best Elvis impersonation, eating out of only one side of the mouth and/or curling their lip may indicate an abscess in the gums, tooth decay, or gingivitis. Another signal that something is wrong in your pet’s mouth is excessive rubbing of the face. They are probably trying to sooth the irritation in their mouth. Excessive chewing on toys and rawhide is another sign of your pet attempting to alleviate problems in the mouth.

Frequent and Small Amounts of Urine

If your pet seems to urinate more frequently than before, check the amount of urine each time they go. Small amounts of frequent urine could be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Cats, especially males, may become blocked because of their small urethra. Because of this blockage, a male cat will lick himself excessively, another clue that something is awry.

Odd colored urine, (such as dark orange or even red) may also mean a UTI. A trip to our office is important. If possible, try and catch a urine sample from your pet to bring in with you to be analyzed. For cats it is okay to remove their litter from the pan, clean out the box thoroughly and use that as a sample. Most cats will still use the litter box if they are well trained.

Sudden Weight Changes

Overweight pets may start to lose weight when their body is damaged due to the excess weight. For example, an overweight pet cannot support the extra weight and may tear a ligament or have the start of arthritis. This pet may not be able to comfortably reach their food bowl and will stop eating.

Likewise, a pet who suddenly gains a tremendous amount of weight could have one of a few problems. If your pet was recently put on a medication by your veterinarian, weight gain might be a side effect. Another cause for sudden weight gain is simply a loving owner offering too many treats to their pet. Cutting back on the amount of treats given is preferable to changing to diet food. Increased exercise will also help shed some pounds.

These are just a few signs that trouble is lurking for your pet. Always keep an eye out for abnormal behavior and give us a call is you suspect something is wrong.

Stress Relief for Pets

Stress Relief for Pets

Stress isn’t just a problem for humans; your pet can experience the negative effects too. Illness, changes in the usual routine or the death of another pet can lead to an increase in your pet’s anxiety level. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help your furry friend relax.

Signs of Stress

Your pet may not be able to tell you that it feels stressed, but you will probably notice some behavioral changes, including:

  • Bathroom accidents, particularly if your pet has been successfully house or litter trained
  • Excessive grooming, licking or scratching
  • Irritability
  • Chewing walls, couches or other items in your home (dogs)
  • Scratching furniture, doors and walls (cats)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Excessive barking or howling
  • Hiding (cats)

Identifying the Cause

In some cases, the cause of your pet’s stress is obvious. Perhaps you got a new puppy or kitten, and your pet is having trouble adjusting to the new addition. In other cases, the cause might be less obvious. Something that you view as a minor event, such as rearranging furniture, can be stressful for some animals. Other potential causes of stress are:

  • Travel
  • Moving to a new home
  • Holiday celebrations, which may include scary Halloween costumes, 4th of July fireworks or loud parties
  • The death of a person or pet
  • The addition of a new person to the home
  • Being left at home alone
  • Changes in the usual family routine
  • The absence of a family member
  • Car trips
  • Visits to the veterinarian or groomer

Reducing Stress

Once you have identified the stressor, you can make changes to help your pet feel more relaxed. For example, the start of a new school year obviously means that your family must make changes to its normal routine. If you notice that your cat or dog seems to be stressed by the flurry of early morning activity in your home, offer a quiet refuge far from the chaos. Provide a crate with several toys for your dog or put your cat in a quiet room with a few favorite things.

Your dog may become stressed about riding in the car if he only associates car trips with visits to the vet. Take him on a few short trips to a place he enjoys, such as a local park, and provide treats at the end of the trip. Turning a car ride into a pleasant experience means that short and long trips will be more enjoyable for both you and your pet.

Treatments That Can Help

A variety of treatments may help reduce your pet’s stress level, including:

  • Pheromone-based sprays, collars and diffusers. Pheromones are scents animals produce to communicate with each other. Pheromone products mimic scents that help calm your pets.
  • Herbal products. Some pets react well to herbal products; others do not experience any decrease in stress levels. Catnip and valerian may be helpful in relaxing your cat while oat seed or California poppy might help your dog.
  • Natural supplements. Your pet may experience less stress after taking supplements containing vitamin B1, colostrum and L-theanine. Before you give your pet any herbal or natural product, check with your veterinarian to make sure it is safe.
  • Massage. Many pets enjoy a good massage just as we do. If you have any questions about pet massage, contact our office today.

When to Call Your Vet

If home remedies and removing stressors do not help your pet, it’s time for a visit to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend anti-anxiety medication or suggest that you consult with an animal behaviorist. The behaviorist will evaluate your pet’s behavior and suggest strategies that will help him or her cope with stress.

Does Your Dog Suffer From Anxiety?

Does Your Dog Suffer From Anxiety?

When life gets to be too much to handle, it helps to have a safe place to hide. Create a haven for your dog in a room in your home. Put a few toys and comfortable bedding in the room, and make sure it is always accessible. Add one of your unlaundered shirts. Your dog may take comfort in snuggling against an item that smells like you.

Change Your Habits

Your dog has learned that when you pick up your keys, you are leaving. If simply holding your keys, triggers a reaction, change your behavior — and his. Pick up the keys, but do not go anywhere. Or slip your keys into your pocket well in advance of your departure. When you depart and arrive, do not make a big fuss over your dog. Wait a few minutes before you greet him. If you do not turn arrivals and departures into dramatic scenes, they may be less traumatic for your pet.

Talk to Your Pet’s Veterinarian

Your dog’s veterinarian can recommend strategies that can be helpful in overcoming anxiety. If nothing works, he or she may suggest over-the-counter products that may help calm your pet or anti-anxiety medication that will help your furry friend feel more relaxed.

Causes of Anxiety

Dogs can develop anxiety for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Fear. Dogs have long memories and they do not forget about the bad experiences they have had. If these experiences occurred before your dog came to live with you, you may never know the cause of the fear. Even a trip to a kennel can provoke long-lasting anxiety in dogs.
  • Poor Socialization. Puppies need to be exposed to a range of people and situations to become confident. If your pet did not receive proper socialization during the first months, anxiety may become a chronic problem.
  • Aging. Aging causes many changes in your dog’s health and behavior. It’s not unusual for a previously fearless dog to develop anxiety, particularly if vision loss, dementia or other health issues are a problem.
  • Being Trapped. If your dog experienced a stressful situation in the past and could not escape, anxiety may develop when a similar situation occurs. For example, if your dog was confined to a crate when firecrackers went off nearby, you may notice anxiety symptoms when you bring out the crate.
  • Disease And Conditions. Viruses that affect your dog’s central nervous system can cause permanent damage that may alter your pet’s reaction to stressful situations.
  • Unknown Causes. You may never know what caused your dog’s anxiety. Some breeds of dogs, including poodles, Siberian huskies, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, Great Pyrenees, German shorthaired pointers, border collies and Bernese mountain dogs, are more likely to develop anxiety.

Don’t Leave Me!

Separation anxiety is the most common type of anxiety in dogs. Dogs that experience the problem can’t stand to be away from family members for even a minute. If you must leave them alone, they tend to become destructive. This behavior is not a way to get back at you for leaving your pet. It’s simply the way your pet handles anxiety.

Signs of Anxiety

Your dog may suffer from anxiety if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Barking And Howling. Dogs are often very vocal if they feel anxious. Although you may never hear the barking, whining or howling if it occurs when you are away from home, your neighbors might.
  • Scratches On Doors And Windows. Your anxious dog will do anything to be reunited with you, including clawing and scratching at the doors and windows in an attempt to escape.
  • Potty Accidents. Anxiety can cause your housetrained pet to experience accidents while you are away.
  • Ear Position. You may notice that your dog’s ears are erect and pressed closer to its head.
  • Pulled-Back Lips. Pulled-back lips or a tightly closed mouth can be signs that your dog does not feel calm and relaxed.
  • Drooling, Shedding And Trembling. These physical signs are very common if your dog is anxious.

Are you concerned about your dog’s anxiety problem? We can help. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Assisting Anxious Pets

Pet anxiety can be a huge problem for pets and their families. Being home alone for several hours a day while their humans are at school or work can cause separation anxiety. Thunderstorms and fireworks can also really panic pets. Some pets are so anxious that any new situation (car trips, moving, unexpected visitors) will cause them distress. Pet anxiety can lead to misbehavior, accidents, aggression, destruction of items in the home, and even running away and getting lost or injured. If you have an anxious pet, there are several strategies you can use to help calm your pet during difficult situations.

Crate Training

A crate can provide a cozy den where pets feel secure and calm when unpleasant situations arise. When crate training, make sure your pet develops positive associations with the crate. Do not use crates as punishment. Provide a soft blanket, toys, and favorite treats. Crating is not the best solution for certain animals, however, especially if your pet shows signs of distress from being in the crate itself.

Physical and Mental Exercise

Keeping a pet mentally and physically exercised can expend some of the extra energy that might be wasted on anxiety. Relax pets with their favorite physical exercise each day, especially before any anticipated stressful events. Challenge toys like a Kong stuffed with a pet’s favorite snack (frozen so it takes longer to tease out) can pleasantly distract and relax a pet.

Behavioral Training

Sometimes you can teach a pet to form positive associations with something they consider unpleasant. For example, during a thunderstorm, do not cater to your pet’s fear with any “poor baby” talk. Instead, consistently bring out a special treat they love, turn on music or the TV to distract them from alarming noises, play with them and act normally.

“Thunder Shirts”

There are new pet shirts on the market that can mimic the calming effect of swaddling on a baby, but for pets. If you try one of these, be sure to get one that fits your pet snugly, but not too restrictively.

Medications

All pets are individuals and what works to calm your neighbor’s pet may not work to calm yours. Discuss options with your veterinarian, particularly if you think your pet may need medication. Sedative medications can relax a pet’s nerves, particularly in severe cases of anxiety that do not respond well to behavioral training or distraction. It is very important to talk with your veterinarian, however, before using any medicines or herbs because each pet responds differently to these substances, and they can cause unwanted side effects.

Sources:
ASPCA, “Separation Anxiety”
Johnson, Morieka, “Does the Thundershirt Really Work”

Basic Dog Training

Basic Dog Training

Although there are various techniques used to train dogs, the basics of any training regime are consistency and plenty of exercise. Discipline and affection are also key to a well-trained dog. Dogs need a leader – they feel more confident with a leader. If their owner is not the leader, they will take the role instead of their owner or anyone else.

Consistency

No matter what training methods you implement, without consistency, your dog will be confused. Consistency should include the whole family and any friends whom your dog regularly encounters. Dogs tend to follow precedent, if you allow your dog to jump up on a passerby, then your dog will try to jump up on other people too. Make sure the whole family understands and follows the rules with your dog, or else your dog will learn when and with whom it can misbehave.

Children

Children are at a greater risk for injury because dogs learn quickly that they don’t have to follow the rules with them. Kids should learn the dog’s obedience commands, and with an adult’s supervision, the dog should learn that they have to obey children, too.

Regular Exercise

To establish more leadership in the dog’s mind, family members should eat before feeding the pets. In the dog’s world, who ever eats first is dominant. Another great way to establish dominance and leadership is exercise. As many dog trainers say, “a tired dog is a good dog,” so regular exercise is a must.There is no better way to demonstrate you’re the leader than by walking your dog. Walking your dog when it is tired makes it much easier to keep your dog from pulling you. Your dog should walk next to you calmly with a loose leash; walking incorrectly will reinforce to your dog that it is in fact the leader. If your dog pulls at the leash, wanders, zig-zags, or stops to relieve or mark, it is the one making the decisions and this reinforces the fact the dog is the leader.

Balance Rewards & Discipline

Affection and rewards are good, but too many people only give praise and treats without discipline. Make sure you are not sending mixed signals, do not give your dog any positive attention while it is misbehaving. For example, when a dog whines, some people think they should reassure it, by stroking it and saying it is okay. Not only is this telling the dog that it is okay to whine, but it also tells the dog that when it whines, it will get praise and attention. This is where people have to pay close attention to the signals they are sending to their dogs, because miscommunication is always a possibility and difficult to correct.

Avoid Repetition

Another common mistake is repeating obedience commands to your dog. If you tell your dog to “Sit” and it does not do so, repeating the command “Sit” multiple times encourages the dog to ignore you more. The best training technique is to tell your dog to “Sit”, and if it does praise it. If it does not sit, make it sit by pulling up gently on the leash and pushing down with your hand on their pelvis. Dogs start to ignore commands when people repeat commands and don’t follow through. A command should be said once and then you should follow through with making your dog do what you asked.

Remember, in any method of dog training, consistency and exercise are key to training an obedient dog. The dog will be happier and will be a wonderful family member.