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Category: “Pet Care Tips”

When Problems Arise with Crate Training

Eliminating in the Crate

Elimination in the crate could be due to a number of causes:

  • Was the puppy crated longer than he was able to “hold it”?
  • Did the puppy drink an excessive amount of water before he was crated?
  • Did you take him outside and give him a chance to eliminate before he was crated?
  • Is the crate too big, enabling the puppy to get away from his mess?
  • Is the bedding material absorbing his mess so he is not severely inconvenienced when he urinates in the crate?

Never rule out medical problems when your pet’s habits seem to change. Some dogs and breeds are easier to crate train than others, so keep trying and do not get discouraged if there are occasional mess-ups.

Barking in the Crate

Puppies may bark when they are first put in the crate. In most cases, if you ignore the barking, the puppy will stop because he is not getting what he wants — attention. Do not allow family members to let the puppy out of the crate when he barks. If you do, you run the risk of training him to bark so he will be let out. If the barking persists over days or weeks, you can try covering the entire crate with a blanket or sheet. Try this method for a few days to see if it reduces the puppy’s barking. You can also try leaving a radio playing to mask sounds and keep the puppy company when you are away. Surprisingly, yelling “be quiet” at a barking dog may actually reinforce its barking behavior. For many dogs any type of attention is rewarding — even reprimands.

If crate training problems of any type persist and you have had the puppy’s health checked by a veterinarian, seek help from a professional dog trainer/behaviorist.

Introducing Your New Cat/Kitten to Your Current Cat

Most species of cats, including the domestic cat, do not normally live in social groups. Although cats can form close attachments to other animals, they are basically solitary.

Cats are very territorial and do not develop the same type of social hierarchies or “pecking orders” as do dogs.  Cats who live in the same house may never become the best of friends, but can usually learn to at least tolerate each other with a minimum of conflict. You will need to take some time to introduce your cat to other family pets in order to prevent fearful, aggressive and behavioral problems from developing.

  1. Confine the new cat to one medium sized room with its litterbox, food, water, and a bed. Feed the present cats and the newcomer near either side of the door to this room. Don’t put the food so close to the door that the cats are too upset by each other to eat. This will help to start things out on the right foot by associating something enjoyable (eating) with each other’s presence. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until the cats can eat calmly on each side of the door. Next, prop open the door just enough to allow the cats to see each other, and repeat the whole process.
  2. Switch sleeping blankets between the new cat and resident cats so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other’s scent. Also put the scented blankets underneath the food dishes.
  3. Once the new cat is using its litterbox and eating regularly while confined, let it have free time in the house while confining the other cats. This switch provides another way for the cats to have experience with each other’s scent without a face to fact meeting, and also allows the newcomer to become familiar with its new surroundings without being frightened by other animals.
  4. Avoid any interactions between the cats that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It’s better to introduce the animals to each other so gradually that neither cat becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but don’t give them the opportunity to intensify. If either cat becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them and continue the introduce process in a series of gradual steps, as outlined above.

Precautions: You’ll need to add another litterbox, and probably clean all the boxes more frequently. Make sure that none of the cats is being “ambushed” by another while trying to use the box. Try to keep the resident cat’s schedule as close as possible to what it was before the newcomer’s appearance.

Cats can make a lot of noise, pull each other’s hair, and roll around quite dramatically without either cat being injured. If small spats do occur between the cats, you should not attempt to intervene directly to separate the cats. Instead, make a very loud noise, or throw a pillow at or a glass of water on the cats in order to separate them. Give them both a chance to calm down before re-introducing them to each other. Be sure each cat has a safe hiding place.

Successful introductions require time and patience. Don’t expect things to be perfect overnight!

Written by Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Denver Dumb Friends League (Humane Society of Denver)

Head Collars

Is that a muzzle? Does that dog bite?!!

Many of our dogs wear a head collar called a Promise collar or a Halti. Often people ask us if dogs wearing these collars bite or if the collar is a muzzle. Head collars are not muzzles at all. They are designed to aid in training and controlling dogs. Dogs are free to open their mouths, pant, get a drink, and yes, they could bite if they were so inclined.

How do head collars work?

Head collars loop around the dog’s snout and the leash is attached to the collar underneath the dog’s jaw. When the dog pulls on the leash, the dog’s head is pulled downward which stops the dog from pulling. Additionally, when walking a dog you can easily control the direction of your dog’s movement. A little tension on the leash moves the dog’s head which easily and effectively changes the dog’s direction.

What are the benefits of using a head collar?

Head collars are more humane. They do not pull on the dog’s throat, as do other training collars. Nor do they work by causing pain to the dog. The dog will not damage his throat or choke himself when he pulls.
Head collars allow people to have better control of their dogs. When wearing a different type of collar, strong dogs are able to yank the leash, sometimes pulling away from or dragging their owners, simply because they are stronger than their owners or they outweigh them. With a head collar, the dog is unable to pull away because he is pulling against his own strength.
Head collars are self-correcting. When the dog pulls on the leash, the dog’s head is immediately pulled downward. You do not need to yank (or “pop”) the leash to correct your dog. The immediacy of the correction from a head collar helps the dog learn more quickly.
How long does it take after your dog pulls on his leash before you correct him? Head collars correct immediately.
How many times does your dog pull and you do not correct him? Head collars correct the dog every time he pulls.
Head collars offer you peace of mind and more peaceful walks. You have better control of your dog so you can relax and enjoy taking Rover for a walk.

What types of dogs would benefit from using a head collar?

  • Large dogs.
  • Strong dogs.
  • Dogs that are highly excitable, that jump about and pull while on leash.
  • Dogs whose owners have difficulty holding and controlling them on leash.
  • Dogs that pull when on leash.

What types of dogs are not appropriate for a head collar?

Most dogs do benefit from head collars. The following are examples of dogs for whom the head collar might be unnecessary or not beneficial.

  • Dogs that are exceptionally well trained do not need head collars.
  • Dogs that walk slowly and do not pull might not benefit from a head collar.
  • Dogs that are small and are easily handled due to their small size. Note that a head collar might benefit them in terms of walking more calmly with less pulling, but due to their small size their pulling and yanking on the leash does not cause a problem in terms of controlling the dog while on leash, regardless of what collar they wear.

Where can I get a head collar?

Head collars are relatively new and are not carried in all pet stores. Locally in Greensboro you can purchase head collars at All Pets Considered (ask for a Promise collar) or at PetsMart (ask for a Halti). Other pet stores in Greensboro may carry them as well. Haltis are the more common brand of head collars sold in stores, but the Promise collar is available in a variety of collars. Be sure to bring your dog with you so that you can get the right fit.

Disclaimer: Animal Rescue & Foster Program does not benefit from the sale of these collars. Although we do feel that head collars are an extremely helpful training device, we do not offer any type of warranty regarding the use of a head collar. We recommend that you consult a dog trainer who is knowledgeable in the use of head collars for more specific information regarding training with head collars or any other type of collar.

Play Biting

One of the biggest complaints we hear about puppies is about their play biting. Puppies begin to learn bite inhibition from their litter mates and mother when they are young, and it becomes our job to continue this education. At the same time play biting seems to be self-reinforcing to the puppy; it just plain feels good to chew on us, especially during the teething stages. Unfortunately, we sometimes unintentionally reinforce the problem by letting little puppies nibble on our hands (when it doesn’t hurt at all), and by letting them pull on our pants legs and bite our shoe laces ( when they are too small to do any damage).

Puppies must learn that biting is never acceptable, even in play. Traditional force methods such as clamping down and holding the muzzle shut or jabbing your finger in the puppy’s mouth, are not effective in 90% of dogs and can be very dangerous. These methods can make your dog afraid of you as well as turn him into an aggressive biter.

As with most behavioral problems, mouthing and play biting usually stop once the puppy learns more acceptable ways of getting attention. If you teach your puppy to Sit and to Sit for Attention, then you can tell the puppy to Sit whenever he starts to present an unacceptable behavior. By distracting the puppy away from negative behavior and having him respond with a positive replacement behavior, the negative behavior will often go away with out stern physical corrections which, if used, could lead to more serious aggression.

The games you play with your puppy and how you play them are very important. Rough play such as pushing side-to-side or back and forth at the shoulders, tug-of-war, or chase games result in an adrenaline rush which encourages play biting and mouthiness — behaviors which could continue for the rest of the puppy’s life. Until your puppy understands the command “Enough” and instantly stops whatever he is doing, you should not rough house with your puppy. Aggressive play lessens bite inhibition and is actually a “game” used to teach protection dogs for “bite” work.

What should you do about play biting? First, teach Sit. When your puppy starts mouthing, withdraw your hands, tell him to Sit, praise calmly and offer an acceptable chew toy. Never let children put their hands in or around the puppy’s mouth. Do not ever let the puppy use you or any family member as a chew toy, but do not make a big fuss out of play biting, either! If you give play biting too much attention, you are still reinforcing this unacceptable behavior.

If your puppy is wound up and totally out of control, help calm him down and start to learn self control. Say “Enough” in a calm , but firm voice. Take him out side to run off excess energy, try a toy of play fetch. Whatever you do, suspend the play that was resulting in play biting. At times, some puppies can get so wound up and overstimulated that a quiet time-out for a nap in a crate will help. Since some puppies can only handle very limited playtime with young children before biting gets out of control, it is especially important to supervise these interactions. The puppy must not be allowed to practice this unacceptable behavior, and must learn respect for the children as well as adults.

If your timing is right , a loud and dramatic “Ouch” or a moderate scream of pain the instant the puppy bites can be very effective. You really have to mean it (which usually is not hard since play biting can hurt). Then, stand back and fold your arms and give the puppy a disapproving look, and then turn your back and walk away, as if to say, “I won’t play this game.” Ignore the puppy for a minute or two and then call him to you, have him Sit, and offer praise and reward in the form of a dog treat or play toy.

Another option is the “freeze and ignore” technique. If the puppy puts your hand in his mouth , stay still, do nothing — do not even look at the puppy until he gets the message that biting is not getting your attention. When he quits biting, you should praise him, tell him to Sit, and calmly praise and pet him. If he goes for your hands again, freeze and totally ignore him (no eye or physical contact) until he sits, repeating as needed until he understands that biting gets nothing, but sitting gets positive attention from you.

Consistency is crucial! All family members need to handle the play biting problem in the same way. By addressing the playbiting problem while it is a minor behavioral problem, you can prevent it from becoming a major and painful (for you) lifetime habit. The sooner you interrupt the play biting cycle by helping the puppy understand every single time what behavior is required, the faster the puppy will become a welcome and well-adjusted member of your household.

The above information was furnished by Melanie Schlaginhaufen and Judy Allen of Best Friends Bed and Biscuit. Reprinted with permission. For more information or a consultation contact Best Friends Bed And Biscuit @ (336) 643-9096.