Dog Breeders: What to Look For
When it comes to adding a new dog to your family, you have several different options. You can find a rescue organization, drive down to your local shelter, get a dog from a family friend, or find a breeder to purchase a puppy from. The latter option is one that has a bit of a bad reputation. We've all seen the "Adopt, Don't Shop" bumper stickers, and that mentality is pervasive in some areas of the dog community. But not all breeders are the bad guys. There are many people out there who are breeding dogs due to their passion for the breed, who care very much about every dog that they produce, and who actually contribute a great deal to rescues that work with their breed of choice.
There are several reasons why you might choose a breeder over getting a dog from a rescue situation. When you get a purebred puppy, you have a relatively good idea about what they are going to turn out like. You know what they will look like, how big they will get, what their grooming needs will be, what temperament traits to expect, and how much exercise they will need. This is much harder to ascertain with a Heinz 57 from the local humane society. Health is another concern, and a common strike against purebred dogs is that they have a higher incidence of genetic health concerns. Health is certainly a valid concern, but reputable breeder will health test their breedings dogs and will know a thorough history of all the dogs in a litter's pedigree so that they can work to eliminate such issues from the breed. Your shelter dog may be extremely healthy, or he may have a condition lurking under the surface that will come as a total surprise to you. Another huge perk to buying a dog from a breeder is that you will receive abundant support for the lifetime of your dog, whether for a training concern or for nutrition information, all the way down to what brushes to use for grooming. Shelters have limited resources as it is, and may not be able to provide you with the same support.
If you find yourself in the category of people that like the pros of going with a breeder, here are some things to look for when you begin doing your research.
Why Are They Breeding?
One of the main things to find out is why someone is breeding dogs in the first place. Are they looking to make a quick buck or are then genuinely invested in breeding a better generation of a breed they are passionate about? Ask your breeder how long they have been involved with their breed, and what got them interested in the breed in the first place. Find out how many breeds they are involved in and how many litters they breed a year. Involvement in multiple breeds or breeding a few litters a year are not necessarily red flags, but if you see that someone is breeding 5 different types of dogs and is having frequent litters, you may be looking at a puppy mill situation.
When you talk to your breeder about their dogs, they should be very familiar with their lines and readily be able to tell you the ins and outs of the breed and their individual dogs. They should also be involved in activities that demonstrate the temperament of their dogs. For a Shih Tzu, that might be as simple as the breeder taking the dog to nursing homes to visit and do therapy work. If you are looking for more of a working type dog, you will want to work with a breeder who is active in the same activities that you would like to do with your new puppy. Your breeder should also demonstrate commitment to every dog they breed, whether it stays with them or goes into a new home. A reputable breeder will always take back a dog that they bred rather than see it enter the shelter system, and many breeders also give back by helping with breed rescue and trying to put even more dogs into excellent homes.
You also want to verify how the breeding dogs and puppies are cared for. Some breeders house their dogs in their home and others house them in a kennel environment, but all should be in good physical and mental condition. The breeder should be feeding a high quality food, providing quality vet care, supplying a clean and comfortable environment, and the dogs should all receive plenty of physical and mental stimulation. If your research uncovers that a breeder's dogs are not well kept, that person may be breeding dogs for the wrong reasons.
There are two areas of veterinary care that a reputable breeder should take care of: quality health care for both dogs and puppies and health testing for diseases common to their breed. The first item is pretty straightforward, and is one that you should follow up with once your puppy comes home. Breeders should be providing veterinary care to all of their dogs, and their litters should be getting examined by a veterinarian. Each litter should be vaccinated and dewormed as is deemed appropriate, and the puppies should be fed a quality diet and be in good body condition.
The next area varies quite a bit by breed. Some breeds are more prone to genetic diseases than others, so the testing that breeding stock should receive will vary quite a bit. Von Willebrand's testing is very important in a Doberman, but not at all for a Border Collie. You can check the OFA website for the tests that are recommended for your breed, and you should research the conditions on the list so that you can be educated when searching for a healthy litter.
Bringing Up Baby
Another key aspect when choosing a breeder is looking at how the breeder raises their litters. Your breeder should be able to tell you the steps that they take while the puppies are still young to build their confidence and social skills. If the puppies are raised in the home, they should be getting exposed to all kinds of sights and sounds that they will likely encounter with you, such as a television or vacuum cleaner. Dogs raised in a kennel environment also need exposure to different environmental stimuli. Your puppy should also have started socialization with people and dogs, though within reason, as they still need to be protected from diseases at this stage in their life. Your breeder should be interacting with the puppies quite a bit, and they should be able to tell you about your puppy's personality and why that puppy is a good fit for you.
Making You Work For It
Just as you are interviewing and researching your breeder, they should be doing the same for you. A good breeder will be very careful about the homes that they sell puppies to, and they should ask you lots of questions about your lifestyle and your goals for the puppy. They should find out if their are children in the home, how many other pets you have, whether you life in an apartment or own a house, and what you would do if you had to give up your puppy for any reason. If the breeder seems very nonchalant about your information and how it pertains to their puppy, you should probably look elsewhere.
We All Have to Get Along
Another thing to look for is how well you mesh with the breeder whenever you talk to them. You are about to get a dog from this person that will hopefully be part of your life for the next 12-15 years. Over the course of those years, this is the person that you should be able to send cute pictures of your puppy, seek advice from on how to trim nails, and they should be available as a shoulder to cry on when those years of companionship come to an end. If you do not feel that you will be capable of having a harmonious relationship with a given breeder, they are probably not the best person for you to work with. Be patient, and find someone who you love to talk to about their dogs, and who is thrilled to have you as an owner of one of their puppies.
The Right One is Out There
You will come across many different breeders in your quest to find your new puppy. Some will not be the perfect fit, but you will know when you find the one that is. Be sure to ask lots of questions, get familiar with a breeder's program, and make sure that they know enough about you and your goals to provide you with a wonderful dog that will mesh well with your lifestyle. Finding a good breeder can take some work and some patience, but the rewards are well worth it.
Lexington and Louisville's Major Dog Events
Have you been wanting to spend a weekend fully immersed in everything dog? Did you just rewatch Best in Show for the 5th time? Is your dog in desperate need of a shopping spree?
If you answered "Yes!" to any of these, you will probably want to attend one of the two big cluster shows held annually in central Kentucky. These dog shows feature a variety of competitive activities for registered dogs, including conformation, obedience, rally, agility, dock diving, and barn hunt. If you are a competitor in any of these events, both shows are well run and fun to attend. If you are just getting started in dog sports, these shows can be a great way to get a feel for the sports, meet some seasoned exhibitors, and learn about how to get started with your own dog.
These shows can also be a great place for you to find your next canine companion. Many different breeds of dog will be in attendance, and many of these dogs are accompanied by either their breeder or an owner who has a true passion for their breed of choice. If you are still deciding which breed of dog would be best for you, you will get a chance to see individuals of a multitude of breeds at a dog show. When you see a dog that you would like to talk to the owner about, be sure to ask them (during the dog's down time) about their experience with the breed and how they would describe life with that dog.
Another big draw is that these events have quite a bit of vendors! Anything that you could possibly want for your dog will be on display at these shows. Food, supplements, toys, treats, leashes, coats, beds, treadmills...the list goes on and on. These events are a great way to stock up on supplies that you may need throughout the year. Other vendors at the shows are service based businesses, such as pet photographers, massage therapists, and even a pet psychic. The shows also sometimes have health clinics set up, where you can register your dog for testing for genetic health concerns that are specific to their breed. If you are interested in seeing which vendors and health clinics will be available at each show, you can check on their websites.
The Kentuckiana Cluster of Dog Shows in Louisville, KY
The oldest show catalog on record in the American Kennel Club library comes from a show in Louisville, KY that was held in 1894. The long and storied tradition of dog shows in the city continues to this day with the annual Kentuckiana Cluster. This show is typically held in mid-March at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. This is a four day event that attracts competitors from all over the country, and it isn't uncommon to see some top dogs fly in to strut their stuff. Conformation is done on all four days, and this show is part of the AKC National Owner-Handler Series. Several specialty shows and supported entries take place over the course of the weekend. Agility, obedience, and rally are also part of the show on all four days. Dock diving and barn hunt are more recent additions to the roster, but these events are heavily supported and are great entry level sports for first time dog exhibitors.
If you are attending as a spectator, here are some things to know.
-Food vendors are on site, and there are several restaurants located nearby.
-Pets that are not entered are not permitted inside of the show grounds.
-Meet the Breeds will be done on Saturday and Sunday. This is a great event if you are on the lookout for your next puppy or dog.
-Louisville Metro Police Department will be doing K9 demos Fri-Sun.
-There will be a special dog show on Saturday for kids under 5 years of age and their stuffed dogs.
If you are interested in attending, please check out the Kentuckiana Cluster website for more information and a schedule of events.
The Bluegrass Classic in Lexington, KY
Located at the picturesque Kentucky Horse Park, the Bluegrass Classic is a 5 day show that takes place over Labor Day weekend. The Alltech Arena is transformed from an equestrian venue to a dog facility, and over 1,400 dogs will take over the site. This show features conformation, obedience, and rally in the main building, with the latter two events being held off to one side. Barn hunt, lure coursing, and dock diving are also offered at this show. Vendors can be found on both the ground level and the upstairs section of the arena, and food is available on site. For those wishing to maximize their trip, the Kentucky Horse Park is in operation during the show and is a great place to explore
If you are planning on attending this show...
-You will not have to pay for parking at the main gate, but you will when you reach the Alltech Arena.
-No un-entered dogs are allowed on the show grounds.
-Food is available on-site, and downtown Lexington is only a short drive away.
For more information, please visit the Bluegrass Classic website.
Tips for Attending Your First Dog Show
If you are heading to your first dog event and are not sure on the etiquette you should be following, here are a few tips on how to make the most of your dog show experience.
We are very pleased to announce that we will be offering the UKC SPOT test in the future! Head trainer Sam Adams is now a certified evaluator for this test that is run by the United Kennel Club. For those who are familiar with the AKC CGC, this is a fairly similar test, but the items are different and some of the rules are different. This test is a great option for those looking to evaluate their dog's obedience and manners. If you are interested in scheduling a SPOT test with us, please call (440)413-4414 or e-mail us at email@example.com.
Does your dog hate nail trims?
Coco is a 6 month old Catahoula/Pit bull mix who came for a standard board and train. One of the complaints that her owners had was that she would growl and nip if you tried to trim her nails. We did lots of work with Coco to desensitize her to her nails being trimmed, and she is now very relaxed and calm for nail trims.
Why Dogs Develop a Hatred of Nail Trims
Coco's response to nail trims was not uncommon. Many dogs have an aversion to them, ranging anywhere from pulling their feet away to behaving aggressively. As young puppies, many dogs only get their feet handled for nail trims or other procedures that are less than fun. When the puppy gets squirmy or wants to pull their feet away, many people get frustrated and will correct the puppy or forcibly hold the foot until the puppy stops trying to pull away. This leads to the puppy developing concern with having their feet handled, and by extension, having their nails trimmed.
Some other dogs develop an issue with nail trims because they have been "quicked" during a prior nail trim. Dogs have a cluster of blood vessels running through a portion of their nail, and this "quick" is very sensitive and will bleed and cause pain if it is nicked. Every now and then you may trim to close and accidentally nick this area, which for some dogs is not a big deal. Other dogs can be more dramatic about it, and may develop a phobia of having their nails trimmed. This can be especially true if the nail trim is happening somewhere that the dog already is stressed, such as at a groomer or veterinarian's office.
Other dogs start to cause problems for nail trims simply because they do not want to be held still and do not want the procedure done. Dogs are pretty clever when it comes to avoiding things they don't want, and some dogs learn that pulling their feet away or playing keep away when you get the trimmers out will postpone their pedicure. Other dogs may try to mouth you during a nail trim, which can be as an avoidance behavior or as a more playful behavior. Either way, they can very quickly discover that mouthing or vocalizing will get you to let go of their foot and stop messing with their feet. This behavior can escalate from there.
Teaching Your Dog To Love Nail Trims
Fortunately, it is very easy to avoid this type of behavior. Creating a positive association with nail trims and handling of feet can begin the very first day that you bring home your puppy or dog. Take your dog's normal rations or some of his favorite treats, and set out a comfortable dog bed. Sit on the floor with him and lead him onto the bed. Pick up each of his feet, gradually increasing the time that you hold them. Reward your dog with some food whenever he is calm and allows you to examine his foot. Once your dog will let you hold his feet for 10 seconds at a time and will allow you to touch all of his pads and nails, you are ready to add in the nail clippers or Dremel.
Bring out the clippers or Dremel and have them on the bed next to the dog while you are working on your handling. If you are using the Dremel, practice the same thing once or twice with the Dremel on so that the dog can hear the sound. If your dog shows curiosity to the clippers, allow them to investigate and sniff them. Once your dog is comfortable with the clippers being around, start by trimming or filing one nail at a time. Do it gradually so that you do not accidentally nick the quick. Reward as frequently as needed to keep your dog comfortable and happy. If your dog starts to wiggle or squirm when you pick up their foot, just hold it calmly, wait for them to stop, and then verbally praise them when they relax. Hold the foot for a few more seconds, and then reward. Then you can reattempt to trim the nail.
If you are interested in doing this work with your dog to make nail trims a more pleasant experience, check out the two videos below that detail the process, and show some individual cases of dogs that have been conditioned in this manner.
Temper Earned her First Two CD Legs in St Petersburg, Florida
Temper competed at an obedience trial in St Petersburg to earn her first two legs of the CD (companion dog) title through the American Kennel Club. This trial was a little challenging for her because our trial prep was suboptimal, and the two trials were both in the same day rather than spaced out over the weekend. The night before the trial there was a run through in the building, and I entered to give her some practice in the ring that we would be in on Saturday. We went backwards and did our group stays first. It was a large group of dogs, and we were on the far end of the ring next to a young dog who was still very green in the stays. That dog got up and came over to Temper and started posturing over her before the owner was able to get to her. I was proud to see that the countless proofing sessions for the stays paid off, and Temper was rock solid for the whole thing. We then went into the next ring to run through a routine. She had some issues with the stand and the recall, which came back to haunt us in our first trial on Saturday.
During trial 1 the first day, we lost a few points on our heeling pattern and figure 8, but issues on our recall and stand for exam left us with a disappointing 183. I did receive several comments on how nice of an attitude Temper had in the ring, and those were great to hear as she is a softer dog and was a little stressed in this new environment. Trial 2 went much better, and our last two exercises were much cleaner than they had been all weekend. It was nice to see that Temper has the stamina to do two trials in one day, and to get better rather than flatten out as the day goes on. The improvements in trial 2 left us with a 192 for the second leg, with some points on heeling, the figure 8, and her front and finish on the recall.
This trial provided me with lots of good information about where my training is and what holes I need to patch. Stability in positions needs to be balanced out with a tad more explosiveness and drive. Temper also needs some more work on heeling for longer durations without reward, and she needs a bit more work on driving through on the outside in the figure 8. Her stand cleaned up by the second trial, but I still am going to go back and really proof my return to ensure that she stays rock solid no matter where I am in proximity to her. Her front and finish need precision work, and I am doing both pieces daily to make sure that she gets plenty of repetitions. Lastly, Temper needs a bit more exposure to other environments. When she enters our typical training areas, she comes up in drive and is ready to go. In brand new places or places she doesn't frequently train in, she has issues turning on and being fully engaged in the work. Her homework (and Wild's as well) is to train somewhere new at least 3-4 nights a week. Hopefully this work will all pay off in October when we go for that last leg!
The Importance of Exercise in a Training Program
A key aspect in not just dog training, but in dog ownership, is giving your dog sufficient exercise. The physical and mental health of your dog can be negatively impacted if they do not have the chance to get moving and loosen up their muscles. That having been said, the exercise needs of individual dogs will range considerably. A typical Shih Tzu does not need nearly the same amount as a typical German Shepherd, and a Border Collie or German Shorthaired Pointer may have even higher needs. Breeds that have low activity demands are often perfectly happy with a walk once or twice a day, and maybe a game of fetch. Very high energy breeds may need longer walks or runs, longer games of fetch or frisbee, and maybe even other activities, like swimming or a dog sport. Maintaining this appropriate level of activity for your dog can help prevent behavioral issues from developing, and will also make your dog more pleasant to live with. Furthermore, canine obesity is a rapidly growing epidemic, and lack of exercise is one of the key reasons why this issue is becoming increasingly problematic.
What Exercise Can't Do
While exercise is very important for the life of every dog, and it can be a great complement to an obedience training program, it will not be enough to make your dog the perfect pet. Lack of exercise is a key contributor in behavioral problems, but immersing the dog in a higher level of activity is not enough to fix the issue. There is a growing number of people who think that exercise is the key to making your dog well behaved, and there is something to that idea. A dog who is exhausted is not going to be expending energy on chewing your shoes or raiding the trash, but that does not prevent them from performing those behaviors when they are fresh and full of energy. In addition, dogs will gradually build up stamina with high levels of activity, and it becomes harder and harder to get them to the state of exhaustion that is required to prevent existing behavior habits.
Obedience and behavioral modification training have to be a component of the program when trying to eliminate behavioral issues. The same dog who used to have to go on a 5 mile run in order to be tired enough not to eat your shoes, could far more easily be taught that your shoes are off limits and he should not chew on them. He should still get a walk or run every day for his mental and physical wellbeing, but that walk will also be more pleasant if you have taught the dog a solid heel command. If the dog knows his rules and expectations around the household, you won't have to worry about him on the day that you got held up at work and didn't have time for his evening walk. When you get a few days of bad storms, your dog will not rip up all of your trash just because he did not get a chance to play fetch for an hour every day.
Exercise Considerations with Puppies
This balance between activity and obedience is even more critical with young puppies. A dog's growth plates do not fully close until 10-18 months of age, depending on the size of the dog. Until these growth plates are fully closed, puppies are susceptible to joint and limb injuries. Common reasons that these injuries occur is from over-exercising puppies, especially with heavy pounding on hard surfaces such as concrete. This means that the time when your dog is most energetic is the time when your ability to safely exercise them is most limited. Mental stimulation and obedience training is therefore even more important with a young puppy than it is with an adult dog.
Good options for exercising your puppy including short walks, especially on more forgiving surfaces. You can walk along the grass rather than on the sidewalk, which will also protect soft puppy paw pads. Another fantastic option for puppies is to learn the game of fetch. Sessions should be kept short, but this is one of the best things that you can do with your puppy. This game is a good way to tire your puppy out, challenge his brain, and build a good relationship for the two of you. Playing with other dogs can also be a productive way to exercise your puppy, with two reservations. Large dogs can overpower a puppy, even accidentally, and injure them by stepping on them or bowling them over. It is also important that puppies maintain a stronger relationship with their owner than with other dogs, so that is something to keep in mind. Lastly, swimming is a great low-impact exercise, provided that the puppy is confident and comfortable in the water.
Combining Exercise and Mental Stimulation
The best way to go is to provide your dog with balance. Exercise your dog as is appropriate for their breed and your lifestyle. Balance out high stimulation activities, like retrieve and swimming, with obedience sessions to make sure that your dog is practicing impulse control at the same time. These activities should also be fun for you, and if your dog is pulling you down the road when you try to run with him, spend the time to teach him reliable loose leash walking, which will benefit you both. Maintaing this kind of balance in your dog's daily routine will lead to a well rounded, happy dog that is a pleasure to live with.
Healthy Dynamics Between Kids and Dogs
I wanted to write a quick post about this because I have recently had many clients who have young kids in their house. When dogs graduate from a board and train program, part of my job is to make sure that all of the obedience training transfers when the dog is being handled by their owner. The other part of my job is to make sure that the routine at home is established in such a way that the dog can be successful when it returns to it's home environment. One of the key things that I will do for a dog that is going into a home with children is to establish rules for the kids when the dog is on a place command.
The place command is one of the most useful commands that a dog can learn, and it can be especially useful in a busy household. It can also be a great tool for giving your dog a chance to take a break and unwind if things have been particularly chaotic or stressful in the house that day. The reason that these dogs can really and truly take a breather while in a place command is that rules have been established with the kids, and they are not allowed to pet or play with the dog while she is on a place bed. While this "kid training" can add another degree of difficulty and add some more work during the initial transition, it is vital to the success of the dog and the safety of the kids.
Children are the most common victims of dog bites, and a large percentage of the dogs that bite children are owned by immediate family. Dogs may bite kids for any number of reasons, but a common situation that I see is a dog that was very tolerant of the kids at first, but began to growl or nip when he started getting messed with more and more. These dogs often start off by just moving away from the kids when they have had enough, but a persistent child will continue to pursue the dog for more petting. The dog starts to think that there is nowhere in the house that he can go to escape, so his warning behaviors will continue to escalate. Furthermore, when a dog is in a place command he is not allowed to get up off the bed without being released by his owner. He is effectively a sitting duck if one of the kids starts petting him on there and gets too rough or annoying for the dog's threshold.
The solution is to make sure that the dog has a safe place that he can go and be left along for as long as he needs. We teach the place command to dogs in such a way that they feel very secure and comfortable there, and they will frequently go hang out in their bed without having to be asked. This is very important, as the dog will be able to discover that he can go there on his own in the house and be able to get some peace as long as he is on the place bed. Whether the dog goes to the bed on their own or through a command, the kids are not allowed to interact with him while he is in that spot. You may have to be diligent at first to keep the kids from the place, but they will soon learn that this is the new routine with the dog.
Kids and dogs can make a great combination when the household is properly managed. Maintaining a good relationship starts with good obedience, and continues with how you choose to implement the training that the dog has. Kids can be involved in this training in a number of ways, such as joining you on structured walks or learning fun games to play with the dog (like fetch or nosework games). However, the dog also needs to be able to have his own personal spot where he can get away from the kids to have a little bit of downtime.
For more tips and information on keeping dogs and children happy and safe, check out Dogs to Diapers. Developed by a friend of mine, this DVD is a fantastic resource for both expecting mothers and those who already have young children.
The Importance of Crate Training
One of the most important things to teach your dog is how to be comfortable and calm in a crate. The benefits of this training are immense, and the crate is a valuable tool for potty training, teaching dogs to settle, building impulse control skills, teaching healthy separation coping, and preventing young dogs from getting into trouble while you're away. One of the first steps in this training process is to select the right kind of crate for your dog's individual needs.
When selecting a crate for your dog, there are a few things to keep in mind. The crate should be large enough that the dog can comfortably stand, turn around, and lay down. If the crate is too small, the dog will obviously be uncomfortable. On the flip side, one that is too large can cause potty training issues, especially with young puppies who may use one side of the crate as a potty area and another as a sleeping area. Another factor to consider when selecting a crate is the material that the crate is made out of. Each material has it's own pros and cons, and picking the right material for your dog can be very helpful in succesfull crate training.
Types of Crates
One of the most popular types of crates.
Soft Sided/Fabric Crates
"Crash Test" Crates
Examples: KBC Kennels, Ruff Tough, Gunner
Example: wicker crates, "end table style" crates
Let Us Help You Out!
Whether you are starting crate training with a young puppy, your older dog, or a new rescue, we can help you get started on the path to success. Working with a professional dog trainer can significantly streamline this process, and make sure that you and your dog are successful. Give us a call at (440)413-4414 or fill out a contact form to schedule a training consultation.
Time for Puppy Class!
Our next session of puppy class will be starting July 12th! We have modeled this group class to cover both the foundation of training that will lead to lifelong success and to cover the test items of the S.T.A.R. Puppy test. Held at a beautiful training field in Lexington, KY, this class is open to a maximum of 6 puppies so that we can make sure everyone gets plenty of one-on-one time with our trainer. Many different things are covered over the course of this class, and we are publishing the syllabus so that everyone knows what to expect when they come to class.
Things to Bring on the First Night
Things to Bring to Class
Things to Bring to Class
Things to Bring to Class
Things to Bring for Class
Week 6 and Graduation
Things to Bring for Class
Where to go From Here
We will follow-up with everyone from class about two weeks after graduation. We will send you your graduation picture, make sure that things are going smoothly, and ensure that the training has been successful. After class is complete, you will have the option of going into another one of our training classes. As far as group class offerings go, we offer several different options at the Lexington field. Basic obedience, our adult dog class, can be a continuation of the work from puppy class. We also have classes for fun activities to do with your dog, such as Trick Training and Intro to Dog Sports. Private lessons are also available at a discount to class graduates, and can be used to work on things such as proofing heeling and other behaviors as the puppy grows up.
Destructive and Dangerous
Chewing on inappropriate objects is a very common behavior problem. Dogs with destructive tendencies can quickly put a dent in your wallet as well as your patience. They may prefer eating your shoes, or go straight to destroying the legs on your dining room table. In addition to being annoying and expensive, this type of behavior can be very dangerous for your dog. Ingesting foreign bodies can make a dog very sick, can lead to blockages, and often requires major surgery.
Why Does My Dog Chew on My Stuff?
Dogs chew on possessions for a number of reasons. As with most things in dog training, the approach that might work great for one dog can be the wrong choice for many other dogs. Understanding the reason behind why your dog is performing these behaviors is key in eradicating them. Finding a good dog trainer who can evaluate your dog and design a training plan that is specific to the needs of your individual dog is invaluable in dealing with these types of behavioral issues.
We offer free behavior consultations in the Lexington, KY area. Call us at (440)413-4414 to schedule.
One of the top reason that a young puppy will chew on things is that they are going through a teething period. Teething typically starts at 12-16 weeks of age, and most dogs will have a full set of adult teeth by the time they are 6 months old. While they are teething, puppies will have a strong desire to chew on things and always want to have something in their mouth. Teething can also be stressful, so chewing can be a stress relieving behavior for them. To counteract this type of chewing, give the puppy plenty of appropriate options to chew on. A variety of textures is best, and good options include Kongs, safe bones and bully sticks, Orka toys, and other similar toys. When selecting toys, pick ones that your puppy can not fit all the way in his mouth and cannot remove a piece from. You can put his toys in the freezer as well, because the cold can help sooth sore gums.
A further note on puppies is that patience is something you will have to exercise until the teething period is over. Your puppy may have been great for weeks, but one day he really, really needs to chew something and makes the bad choice of your baseboards. Rather than getting angry with the puppy and being harsh with him, redirect him onto something appropriate. After teething is over and the puppy is mature, there will be a time for fair consequences when he makes a bad decision like that. However, at a young age and in the middle of a challenging life stage, we need to help the puppy to make his own good decisions and give him appropriate outlets for something that he needs to be able to do.
Another reason that dogs may chew on things is that they have never been told that it's unacceptable for them to destroy your things. Dogs naturally have a desire to chew, some more than others (golden retrievers, labradors, etc). If they think that chewing up your new pair of work shoes is a perfectly fine thing to do, you are going to be hard pressed to stop the behavior from occurring. However, correcting the dog for the behavior is not enough, because the desire to chew is still there. A two part approach is required, where the dog is taught that chewing on your drapes is a bad thing, but that chewing on a dog toy is perfectly acceptable. Set your dog up for success here, and make sure that his toys don't resemble things that you don't want him to mess with. A toy made of balled up socks will backfire when Fido starts raiding your sock drawer, and a stuffed animal toy may not be the best option if your kids have lots of stuffed animals spread out all over the house. Differentiating between these objects can be very challenging to a dog.
Boredom is another factor that often contributes to a chewing problem. I frequently see this issue in dogs of working breeds who are not receiving proper stimulation in their daily lives. These types of dogs have been bred for hundreds, if not thousands, of years to perform a job. Many of these jobs are defunct now, and these dogs can be perfectly happy living in a pet home provided that they are receiving enough outlets for both their mental and physical energy. Establishing solid obedience with your dog and practicing it on a daily basis will help a great deal, as will teaching a good game of fetch and long, structured walks. When at home, you can utilize a strong place command to break the chewing habit. Put your dog on a place with an appropriate chew item until he can demonstrate that he is responsible enough to be free in the house and not destroy your stuff.
Understanding the reasons why your dog is chewing on your stuff is ultimately the key to fixing the behavior and being able to live a destruction-free life with your dog. No matter what the cause behind the behavior, you will need to have patience, and provide the dog with consistent rules and clear boundaries, while also making sure that his needs are met.
Sam is the owner and head trainer at Kentucky Dog Training LLC. She set up this blog to share success stories, training tips, the progression of dogs in our training programs, and other thoughts on dogs and training.