Disclaimer: Anything you read here is strictly based on my own personal opinion and experience and is not a guarantee of any kind. For educational information only.
Questions from pet owners
Question: Our new puppy is 10 weeks old and has been paper trained. If we try to crate train him, will it interfere with his housetraining?
Answer: No, using a crate will not interfere with normal housetraining. Everyone seems to have a different way of housetraining but as an AKC Breeder of Merit who has owned 80-90 Cairn Terriers over the years and raised many litters in my home while working full time, here's how I do it. My pups are born in a whelping bed (small, cozy, 4-sided box) in my bedroom where they remain with their dam until they're 3-4 weeks old. For the first two weeks their eyes aren't open yet and they mostly sleep. Momma dog stays very close by and completely cleans up any baby poop. The eyes open around 14 to 16 days and then the pups start on solid food by about 3 weeks, but they also continue nursing. Once they start on solid food, Momma stops cleaning up the baby poop. The entire litter goes into a bigger box with a bed at one end and newspapers at the other. The babies will automatically crawl out of their "nest" as soon as they wake and toddle over to the papers to potty. They instinctively won't potty where they sleep. At about 6 weeks they're on puppy food and only nursing once a day, so they're big enough to go downstairs and live in the kennel near the "big" dogs. They stay in a big 8' X 8" exercise pen with papers covering the floor because they're so active (and destructive!) that the potty spot ends up being the entire area. I replace the papers in the morning, when I get home from work, and before I go to bed (yes, it's a lot of newspaper!). At 7 to 8 weeks they're introduced to their own individual crates. They're big enough to escape the pen so I can't leave them unattended while I'm gone 10 hours at work every day. I don't understand how people ever got the idea that crates are cruel - they are absolutely vital to keeping a puppy safe when he can't be watched. A secure area in a kitchen or bathroom is fine, too, but don't be angry when puppy chews your flooring, wood molding, rugs, doorstops, towels, cabinets, fixtures, floor registers, drywall, and anything else he can put in his mouth. If you punish your puppy when you get home and discover the mess, he won't have a clue why you're so mad or why you have decided to hurt him. He thinks that all of a sudden you want to kill him -- dogs have no mental capacity for making any connection between your abrupt violence and the damage he did during the time you were gone and neglected to safely contain him. He'll only become afraid of you for frightening and/or injuring him and won't understand why the person he believed loved and cared for him is now attacking. If you ever happen upon a puppy mess like this, ignore the bad behavior and promise to puppy-proof your secure area, temporarily use a crate, or leave someone to watch him like you should've done in the first place. It's YOUR fault, not the puppy's! My puppies sleep together in their pen at night while I'm home but before I leave for work the next morning they go in their own crates, lined with newspaper. They have a water bottle (hung from the outside of the crate door) and an indestructable stainless steel bowl with puppy chow. When I get home, they go right into their newspaper-lined play pen while I clean the crates. Puppies can't go all day without a potty break until they're a few months old but the "accidents" inside the crate become fewer and farther between as they mature. It's their nature to prefer to potty outside where they can sniff and explore and choose a good spot to go. I've never had a pup who didn't eventually and naturally end up doing all his business outside and become completely crate trained within 5 - 6 months of age, and often sooner. At 10 weeks old, your puppy is in the middle of learning to potty outside, and even if he was paper or house trained at the breeder's home, he now has to learn where to go at his new location. Watch your puppy! Like any youngster, you can't take your eyes off him for a second. 1. You have between ZERO and 20 minutes after your pup wakes up or eats to get him outside to potty. 2. When you're indoors and he starts intently sniffing the floor or checking behind the furniture, be warned he's looking for a place to potty so get him outdoors immediately and then praise him when he goes. You can spread papers on the floor and he'll most likely find and use them, but the idea is to show him how to go outside. 3. Never withhold water from a puppy thinking it will cut down on tinkling - inadequate hydration can damage his growing liver and kidneys. 4. Feed him at regular times and get on a schedule so you'll know when he needs to go outside. 5. By all means, use a crate whenever you can't monitor your new puppy, and leaving papers in it will not encourage him to use them unless he has to. If he doesn't have to potty, the newspaper won't signal him to go if he doesn't need to. He'll just ignore them or rip them to shreds with delight if he gets bored while you're gone. 6. Using a crate will limit any potty messes to the floor of the crate itself and are easy to clean. Sometimes the pup will tramp through or sleep in the poop and pee, but puppies also easy to wash, much easier than your carpet! 7. While your pup is playing and romping and enjoying his time with you inside the house, he may instantaneously realize he has to potty before he gives any signals, so frequently and proactively take him out and give him a chance to go. Always praise him when he does, he's learning!
Question: We just got our new puppy and the breeder has been calling him "Booger." Do we have to keep it? Will it confuse or upset him by changing his name?
Answer: Call him whatever you want! Dogs aren't the least bit sentimental about names so he won't care. Just start using the new name and stop using the old one.
Question: Our new puppy sleeps in his crate in my bathroom but it's dark in there. Should I give him a night light?
Answer: You can if you wish but dogs see perfectly well in low light, much better than humans. A night light doesn't prevent him from "being in the dark" because he can see just fine without it.
Question: I heard about Senate Bill 184 which was proposed to prohibit enacting breed-specific legislation in Georgia. What is that about?
Answer: The American Kennel Club and those of us who are purebred dog fanciers feel that the problem with breed-specific legislation is that, although we are opposed to the breeding of aggressive, fighting pit bull dogs,
for example, we don't want all bull-type terriers to be labeled as "aggressive and dangerous" and totally banned. True dog lovers and fanciers spend their lives striving to produce healthy, typey, and temperamentally sound dogs. Pit bulls (which are NOT AKC-recognized because true, professional breeders aren't interested in fighting dogs to the death for money) are a huge public concern, but not American Staffordshire Terriers. Pit bulls and Am Staffs are the SAME BREED - they're genetically identical - but those who loved the breed for their great qualities separated from the dog fighting folks back in the 1930's and have spent the last 70-80 years concentrating on good temperaments. The Am Staff of today has a personality similar to that of a beagle. Pit bulls were and are still bred for aggression and it can surface out of nowhere, as many owners and innocent victims have discovered. The selective mating of any breed for the trait of aggressiveness will soon fix bloodlines with the potential for "mean" dogs, as have some unscrupulous Doberman, German Shepherd Dog, and Rottweiler breeders in years past. We don't want ALL American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Mastiffs, etc., banned because dogs that were intentionally bred to be killers have given them a bad name. Two fighting pit bulls have the possibility of producing sweet-natured pups - it depends on how the trait is inherited - but you never know what you'll get. The problem is so many people churning out pit bull pups for money instead of breeding for health, type, and temperament. And there are other laws on the books that deal with aggressive dogs without banning particular breeds. Go here for details and to read the Senate Bill 184: Senate Bill 184 would prohibit local governments from enacting laws that apply only to specific breeds or perceived breeds of dogs. SB 184 does not restrict local governments from enacting ordinances that apply to all dogs.
Basics for pet owners - training your puppy or dog
1. Never punish, spank, or hit a dog! Dogs are typically happy to do whatever you want so long as they understand what you're asking. When you physically punish a dog, he has no idea why you're doing it and it accomplishes nothing except make him fear you. If he isn't behaving as you wish it's because you aren't explaining it well enough.
2. Dogs have no concept of cause and delayed effect. They have no mental capacity for comprehending that what they did five minutes ago has anything to do with the present. If your dog chewed the sofa cushions while you went to the grocery store, it wasn't because he was "mad" you left him. They have no perception of revenge or spitefulness. It happened because you didn't leave him in a crate or otherwise secure area and he wanted something to play with.
3. Buckle collars are great for rabies tags and IDs but use a slip lead or collar for training. A slip collar is also known as a choke collar. Measure your dog's neck and add 3" to get the right length. NEVER leave a slip collar on a dog! Only use it while you're training and immediately remove it when you're done.
4. All training - Start slowly and end on a good note. Reward when your dog performs well and then stop before you both get too tired. Training is repetition and patience and can work if you only spend a few minutes on it every day or two. You're explaining what you want him to do so allow him time to absorb it all. If what you're attempting to teach during a training session isn't working after several tries, you should stop, re-evaluate, and either try a different technique, get someone to help, or try again later. Never get frustrated, impatient, angry, or loud - it only makes things worse.
5. The best time to train is after exercise and before feeding. Use treats, praise, petting, or play for rewards.
6. Leash training - Once you get your dog to walk well, practice for a few minutes and then stop. Fifteen minutes is plenty of time to make progress in training and then quit until the next session.
7. Need help? There are obedience clubs everywhere with expert trainers who can advise you. Go to the American Kennel Club website at http://www.akc.org/ and search for organizations in your area.
8. Is your dog not AKC-registered or is he a mixed breed? No problem! You can apply to the AKC for a PAL listing which enables you and your dog to participate in competition and earn American Kennel Club-recognized titles! The AKC holds over 16,000 events every year including obedience, earthdog, lure coursing, dock diving, tracking, weight pulling, search and rescue, rally, and agility. You can't have any more fun with your dog than competing - they LOVE it!
9. House training - Puppies aren't able to go 8 hours without a bathroom break until they're around six or seven months old. With a pup, you have from zero to 20 minutes after they wake up or eat to get them outside. Calculate how long your puppy can hold it by figuring one + the number of months in age. For example, a 3 month old puppy can usually wait 1 + 3 = 4 hours to go the bathroom.
10. Teach the word "potty" so he'll learn to go on command.
11. "Marking" is not the same as using the bathroom. Spaying/neutering will help with marking (and the girls do it, too, just not as much). It can take up to six months for testosterone to dissipate out of a male dog's system so be patient.
12. Crate training - Until puppies or young dogs are dependable in the house they should be left in a crate or secure area when you're not home. My puppies are crate trained by the time they're 8-10 weeks old so it's never too early (or too late) to start.
13. If your dog destroys something, it's your fault. Leave him crated if you can't watch him. Teach him what belongs to you and what belongs to him. As he gets older and learns the difference he'll automatically leave your stuff alone. The earlier you teach him, the better.
14. Barking - Put him on a slip lead or collar and have someone knock at the door. When he barks, correct him so he'll know the behavior is unwanted. Barking a time or two until you are obviously alerted is different than incessant and continual, unnecessary over-barking.
15. Discipline is NOT punishment! Correct your dog firmly but gently. If your dog trusts you he will always want to follow your directions.
16. Toenail clipping - Start young. Don't panic if you accidentally nick the quick. If you start to trim his toenails and give up the second he protests then you've just taught him how to get out of having a trim. Be firm but gentle. Take your time. Don't get mad or frustrated. It doesn't hurt him!
17. Accidents in the house - if I find an accident in the house and I didn't catch my pup in the act (because then he won't understand why I'm so displeased) I always clean it up without a word. I don't say anything or grumble out loud or make faces or gag. I simply clean the mess without comment. Owners must IGNORE the bad behavior, no matter how upset or angry they are (it does no good and confuses the dog) and REWARD the good! When my puppies are big enough to venture outdoors, I literally follow them around the yard encouraging them by repeating "potty, potty" until they squat and do something. Then I break out into enthusiastic praise with much happiness. My neighbors think I'm a nut, but it teaches the pups what I want from them. It works with any age dog. Ignore accidents indoors, lavishly praise success outdoors. They'll learn quickly and it's great when you're traveling and need a dog to potty on command. Another tip, when I'm traveling and need to take the dog out for a break, I'll allow a minute or two of sniffing and then I stand still, like an anchor. The dog has the length of the leash to find a place to potty and that's it. Otherwise he'll want to explore indefinitely and keep me waiting.