Tackling Mixed-Breed Training Challenges

Love Dog

 In This Chapter

  • Helping your dog be okay with being alone
  • Knowing what to do with your aggressive dog
  • Making Emily Post proud: Curing bad manners
Many mixed-breed dogs have already learned some less-thanstellar behaviors in their previous environments. These problems are ones you want to identify and correct sooner rather than later. The first step in reversing a particular behavior is understanding why the problem exists in the first place. Is it because of something that happened in the past? Or are you doing something now that’s causing the problem? What is it about your mixed-breed dog’s personality that makes her act that way? These are the questions that you need to ask — and this chapter is the place where you find the answers.
Regardless of the reason for the behavior, you can teach your mixed-breed dog how to get attention (the positive kind) by doing something you want instead of something you don’t want. In this chapter, I show you how.

I start by explaining why many mixed-breed dogs — particularly those from shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups — have special training challenges. Then I cover the most common problem: separation anxiety. Because many dogs also display some form of aggression, or have pushy personalities, I talk about the various types of aggression and how to deal with them. Finally, regardless of where your mixed breed originated, she may have behavioral issues that need to be addressed. I fill you in on some common behavior problems — such as jumping up, excessive chewing, mouthing, and digging — and tell you how to handle these issues in your own dog.

Unpacking the Mental Baggage: Helping a Dog Who’s Been Abused or Neglected

Most mixed-breed dogs have had a rough start. Many are a result of the accidental breeding of purebreds who weren’t neutered or spayed and, as unwanted puppies, they’re treated with little respect and care.
As unwanted pets, mixed breeds are caught by animal-control officers or brought to shelters. Some are found by concerned citizens and given to rescue groups and humane societies. Many accidental pups are dropped by the side of the road and left to fate. Regardless of how the pups or dogs make their way to permanent owners, most have gone through horrible experiences — ranging from a lack of a home with a loving family to outright abuse and neglect.
As the result of having no sense of permanent territory, reliable nutrition, or loving care, most mixed-breed dogs have several serious issues. And as the owner of a mixed-breed dog, it’s up to you to manage and help your dog overcome those problems.
Have you ever met a dog who shies away when you raise your arm? Or a dog who’s frightened of children or men wearing hats? All these fears are based on past experiences where people of similar demeanor or appearance abused or frightened the dog in some manner.
Past events even affect young pups. Though easily trained at a very young age, they’re also influenced by every experience — good and bad. They remember extreme experiences for a long time, until they’re totally convinced — by someone like you — that life can be good, without fear and deprivation.
Regardless of whether your mixed breed is 2 months old or 2 years old, she’s a composite of her past — and you get the wonderful (and sometimes challenging) job of guiding her toward a brighter future.

Alone and Frightened: Separation Anxiety

Between the moment she made her way into this world, all slimy and new, to the moment you brought your dog home, she’s likely lived in more than two places. Most purebred dogs get the socialization they need while they’re with their litter, mom, and breeder. They’re given proper nutrition, handling, and healthcare — and they get nothing but this loving care from birth. Mixed-breed dogs rarely have these benefits.
Unless your mixed breed is a designer dog (see Chapter Designer Dogs: Not Your Mother’s Mutt) or was bred by a caring breeder, she has likely had little care, socialization with people or other animals, and possibly long periods of poor nutrition. All these factors form the dog’s overall personality.
Usually, after a dog has been in a new home for a period of time, she’ll settle into the routine. But if your dog has never had anything like a normal routine, she may suddenly think her world is caving in when you go to work for the day or go to sleep in another room. She’s worried that her new family is disappearing. She wonders if she’ll ever have another good meal. She’s thinking, “Maybe all those poets were right, and love really is a fleeting thing.”
If this is what’s running through your dog’s mind when she’s alone, she has separation anxiety. A dog with separation anxiety is very insecure in every aspect of her life.

Recognizing the symptoms

The symptoms of separation anxiety can range from barely discernable to extremely destructive. In the following sections, I fill you in.

Excessive drooling

Your dog may drool as she watches you grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, preparing a meal in the kitchen, or eating at the table. This kind of drooling is what dogs are all about. But dogs salivate for several reasons. One of them is because they’re dying to grab that piece of meat out of your hands and run away with it. And another reason is because they’re anxious.
A dog who salivates due to anxiety doesn’t just drip little puddles — she covers herself in moisture as the saliva pours through her lips like a hose that hasn’t been turned off all the way. She does this because she doesn’t realize that you’ll come back at some point, she doesn’t understand her environment, she doesn’t know how to communicate with you, and she doesn’t know what you expect of her.
Dogs with separation anxiety don’t just drool when they’re left home alone. They may also drool excessively when they’re riding in a car (if they’re afraid of cars) or when they’re frightened of a new place or situation. In other words, fear is what brings about the drool.

The loud protest: Whining and barking

Excessive whining and barking are easy to identify. Your neighbors know it when they hear it: an annoying outburst while you’re away from home. If you’re living in an apartment, a townhouse, or a densely populated neighborhood with a noisy dog, you’ll likely hear from your neighbors that your best friend is upset about being home alone. Your dog may bark and whine when you’re home but not right next to her — for example, when you’ve left your dog outside in the yard or in another room without you.

Warning!

When you hear your dog whining or barking, your first reaction is probably to run to the poor dog because you can’t stand that she’s upset. Don’t do it! You’ll be reinforcing this behavior because you gave her what she had been whining about — your presence. The next time you go somewhere, she’ll turn it up another notch or two. Dogs learn very quickly! Later in this chapter, I discuss ways to stop the noise through training, structure, and positive reinforcement.

Self-mutilation: Biting and scratching

Self-mutilation can begin with excessive licking in one spot, making lick granulomas (also known as hot spots), which are swelled, raised, and irritated skin. Your dog’s behavior can go on from there to pulling out her hair, rubbing her eyes, and doing any uncontrollable motion such as twisting and circling while whining or barking.

Tearing it up: Destructive behavior

Destructive behavior, like chewing your furniture, digging a hole in the carpet, or chewing up your favorite pair of shoes are symptoms of separation anxiety. The more severe the separation anxiety, the worse the destruction.
Dogs who are only slightly upset at their human companions being gone will chew one item, like a book or the TV remote control; dogs who are severely upset will destroy entire rooms of furniture, carpeting, and doors.
From the dog’s point of view, she’s trying very hard to go find her people. She feels as though she’s been left out of the family pack and she’s trying to join up with the family again. Being away from the pack is a huge feeling of insecurity. (Given a choice, dogs will typically choose social groupings of more than one individual.)

Remember

When you come home to find that your dog has torn up the house, she wasn’t doing it out of spite because you left — she was doing it because she was afraid. If you keep that in mind, you won’t be as angry and you’ll feel more compassionate toward your new best friend.

Aggression

Many dogs don’t want to see their people leave the house. They may have tried to get your attention through barking or digging, and you just didn’t seem to understand that message. Time for a more direct approach: aggression.

Remember

Most likely, the dog isn’t showing aggression because she wants to hurt anybody — she’s showing aggression as a way of keeping her pack together.

Discerning the difference between aggression associated with separation anxiety and other types of aggression can be difficult. The easiest way to tell the difference is that if the aggression is due to separation anxiety, it only happens as someone walks to the door, and the dog normally attacks from behind. The bite is more a pinch than anything else — the dog isn’t doing it to being mean. The bite is fear related — fear of never seeing you again.
Regardless of the reason, when your dog is aggressive, seeking professional help is best. Aggressive behavior of any kind is a serious issue and should be addressed immediately —both for your safety and the dog’s future with your family.

Knowing what to do about it

Separation anxiety is something that can be conquered, but you’ll need patience, fortitude, and consistency. At times, you may feel that it’s just too much work, but keep in mind that a couple months of struggle is nothing in comparison to the many years of joy ahead with your mixed-breed dog.
You can do several things to reduce and/or cure separation anxiety. I cover them in the following sections.

Containing the problem

Most dogs feel overwhelmed when faced with a huge unfamiliar area. Too many scary things might happen: The mail carrier comes up to the house, other dogs walk by the yard, neighbors ring the doorbell when no one’s home, cars pass on the street, a squirrel invades the tree in the yard. . . . Your dog is aware of everything she can see through the windows or hear outside.
Most dogs seek a small, dark place when they’re worried. Such a place makes them feel secure from outside threats. In fact, wild canines always have a den where they can sleep or whelp their pups. A crate can simulate this safe place, because the dog feels something solid on all sides.

Attitude is everything . . . and yours is the one that matters

Dogs with separation anxiety tend to be destructive. If your dog has separation anxiety, you may come home to see that destruction. Being upset is only natural, but as your dog picks up on your anger, pretty soon she’ll feel afraid when you return home instead of being eager to see you.
Teaching your dog to not miss you and returning home with a positive attitude — no matter what you find when you get there — will help alleviate your dog’s anxieties.

Tip

Placing your mixed breed in a crate will not only give your dog a sense of security, but also keep her from injuring herself through destructive behavior, such as eating carpet strands, chewing on electrical cords, or eating poisonous houseplants. The crate offers safety for your dog and sanity for you — no mess when you get home.

Remember

A dog should not be contained in a crate for more than five hours at a time. If you must be away from home for longer periods than this, consider other options, such as hiring a dog walker or fencing off a portion of your yard. Remember to provide a source of shelter and water if you leave your dog in a fenced yard.

Going to obedience training

Obedience training doesn’t just teach your dog to come, sit, and heel. It also gives her a chance to learn how to communicate with you and to understand her environment. A trained dog is happier and more relaxed. She has something to look forward to every day. You can use training in many ways to help your relationship with your dog, from alleviating separation anxiety and overcoming many types of aggression to curbing bad manners such as jumping and excessive barking.
In Chapter Hup, Two, Three, Four: Good Manners and Basic Training, I cover positive training techniques that help in every aspect of your dog’s life.

Sticking to a routine

Structuring your mixed-breed dog’s day will give her an idea of what to expect and when. Dogs like knowing when it’s time to eat, sleep, play, and greet you at the door. They don’t have to look at clocks to know what time it is. Dogs quickly develop a sense of time. Knowing what’s going to happen when helps the dog relax — she doesn’t have to worry about surprises or unknowns.
Structure can also teach your dog to not miss you, proving to her that nice things happen as you leave.

Tip

Here is a regular routine you can practice to help ease the separation anxiety. It works because it redirects your dog’s anxiety to something pleasant, something she’ll look forward to.

1. Begin by finding something that has high value to your dog, such as a food-stuffed toy or special squeaky toy.

2. If you’re keeping your dog contained in a crate, place that special toy or treat in the containment area as you leave the room.

3. Peek around the corner and watch the dog’s response.

4. If she’s content playing with her toy, return into the room and praise her.

5. Release her from her crate.

6. Repeat Steps 1 through 5 a little later, waiting a few more minutes as she plays or chews the toy.

Each time you do this, wait longer and longer, until your dog can remain for at least a half-hour in this manner without any anxiety response.

Training your dog not to miss you

Using the reward-when-you-leave system (see the preceding section) is very helpful in teaching your dog that good things happen upon your leaving, but it may not sustain her while you’re gone.

Tip

You can condition your dog to be more accepting of your absence by starting small. Begin by giving your dog her special treat when you leave the room. Check around the corner where she can’t see you. When she finishes with her toy, return and reward her with praise. Gradually increase the time between giving her the as-youleave-toy and returning with praise. If you see your dog looking around for you before she finishes her treat, you’ve spent too much time away, too soon. You’ve conditioned her to look for you instead of enjoying her toy. You may need to offer a higher value toy. Gradually increase your time away, allowing your dog to slowly acclimate to the fact you’re gone and that when you return, good things happen.

Socializing with other dogs

Dogs are pack animals. They need the company of others in order to feel secure. If you have long workdays, try to find a way of offering your dog opportunities to socialize with other dogs while you’re gone.
Doggie playtime is important to your dog’s social development in many ways:

Dogs teach each other proper social skills, such as how to get along with others and appropriate behavior in specific situations.

Canine play gives your dog the exercise she needs to remain physically and mentally healthy. Are you going to get down on the floor and wrestle? Most likely not. You’re also unlikely to use your mouth to grab your mixed breed’s legs or jump about and race around. In fact, I don’t suggest doing that at all, or your dog won’t respect you as her leader. There are ways of playing with your dog that offer positive interaction without making her think she’s your equal.

Tip

You can offer your dog canine social time in several ways:

Send your dog to doggie daycare. Doggie daycare gives your dog exercise and social time while you’re at work, alleviating her separation anxiety and reducing her desire to control the activity at home.

Find people in your neighborhood who have dogs of similar size and temperament, and arrange a specific time every day or at least several days per week when the dogs can come together and play. The more often you do this, the healthier for all the dogs involved.

Get a second dog. If you don’t have the convenience of neighbors with dogs or a doggie daycare nearby, get a second dog. Your dog will have fewer anxieties if she can cuddle with someone while you’re away.

Medications and alternative treatments for anxiety

Homeopathic remedies are available for treating anxiety of many types. Among them are flower, herbal, and aromatherapies. Amazingly, the tiniest essence of specific flowers and herbs help dogs relax and change their mindset. These remedies have been around far longer than modern medicine and have a proven record for working even when prescription medications won’t.

Tip

I normally try a homeopathic remedy before using a prescription one, because the prescriptions target symptoms instead of the source. Homeopathic remedies target the source of an illness, injury, or behavioral problem. Using homeopathics in conjunction with behavior modification and obedience training will cure a large percentage of dogs with separation anxiety.

Flower and herbal remedies
Ever heard the saying “Stop and smell the roses”? Well, there’s a lot to that old adage and not just in the sense of learning to enjoy every day of your life. Flower essences have very powerful healing properties. They can relax, prevent anxiety, and aid in the healing of illness. Ever notice the plethora of aromatherapy products available? Candles, essential oils, soaps, and sachets — they’re popular because they work.
Following is a brief list of some of the flower essences that help with separation anxiety. You can apply them via a tincture (directly into your dog’s mouth) or you allow the dog to inhale them using aromatherapy:

Chamomile: This flower essence helps relax a dog’s muscles — sort of like a powerful muscle relaxant given to people with pulls and sprains — but it doesn’t affect the digestive system as much as a prescription muscle relaxer. People have drunk chamomile tea for centuries as a way to unwind from a stressful day.

Phosphorus, pulsatilla, and arsenicum: Use these if your dog panics when left alone.

Rescue Remedy Bach Flower Essences: This blend of flower essences helps dogs with anxieties of many kinds, from separation and fear to grieving. The blend consists of Rock Rose, Star of Bethlehem, Impatiens, Cherry Plum, and Clematis.

Approaching behavioral problems holistically (with herbal remedies) is helpful in many ways. You’re addressing the source of the problem — and when the source is removed or modified, the symptoms can be gradually reduced or eradicated. Training and scheduling help remove the source of separation anxiety, and herbal blends help the dog through the transition period, offering a means of remaining calm. Flower essences are often added to the herbal blends.
Here are some herbal remedies I recommend:

Scullcap: This herbal aids with nervous disorders.

Valerian root: This helps calm a hyperactive dog.

Belladonna: This herbal reduces anxiety and calms the dog enough for her to relax when she’s left alone.

Vervain: This is another herb that calms the dog, much like valerian root.

Aspen: This herbal helps the dog feel secure, less alone.

A professional herbologist has to mix the correct doses of herbs and flower essences, so get prepackaged blends that target specific behaviors. You can usually find these blends at your local healthfood or vitamin store. Many Web sites sell good herbal products, too, including the following:
Prescription medicines
The most commonly used prescription medication for separation anxiety is Clomicalm. It specifically targets the symptoms of separation anxiety, not only helping the dog to relax, much like chamomile, but also reducing the dog’s reactivity to her environment. Your mixed breed is less likely to get as upset about sudden noises (such as a knock on the door or a delivery truck). The only drawback of Clomicalm is that it can take up to six weeks to see the benefits.
Amitriptyline is another prescription drug used for canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD, which is similar to senility in humans) and separation anxiety. It tends to work faster than Clomicalm but has more side effects, such as retention of urine, loss of appetite, and drowsiness.
These prescription drugs are not to be used for more than a threemonth period, under veterinary guidance. They treat the symptoms, not the source, of separation anxiety. Use them in conjunction with behavior-modification techniques aimed at teaching your dog that she won’t be left alone forever. Within a few months, you’ll have a dog who is well adjusted enough to live without medications.

Severe anxiety: When to seek outside help

Sometimes, nothing seems to work. You’ve tried everything, and Buster is still displaying the anxiety. At this point you should seek professional help. Your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a professional dog trainer have the experience to overcome these issues using positive reinforcement techniques. It may be time consuming, but the rewards are worth it: a well-adjusted mixed-breed dog who relaxes while you’re gone and happily greets you upon your return.
You know you need to get help when:

– Your dog becomes very upset when left in a crate.

– Your dog is soaking wet from saliva when you return home.

– Your dog is eating things that can make her sick.

– Your dog is biting and chewing on herself.

– Your dog is biting you or others.

– Your dog is behaving oddly (circling as she whines, biting at the air, clinging to your heels everywhere you go, sucking on something, shivering and cowering).

There are three specialists who can help:

Your veterinarian: The first person you should contact for help with severe separation anxiety is your vet. Many sources of behavioral issues are based on physical problems, so it’s best to first rule these out. When visiting with your vet, explain what your dog is doing and when it occurs. Your vet will do a full exam. If the vet doesn’t mention it, request a full blood chemistry — organ dysfunction (which shows up in the blood chemistry) can be a source of behavioral problems.

If your vet gives the all-clear and says your dog has no physical problems, call an animal behaviorist.

Animal behaviorist: An animal behaviorist, who is a veterinary specialist in behavioral medicine, can come to your home and pinpoint the cause of the anxiety, offering ways of solving it. A veterinary behaviorist can prescribe the medications; some will suggest herbal or flower remedies.

When you meet with the animal behaviorist, explain and try to emulate the situations that produce the separation anxiety as closely as possible so that the behaviorist can observe firsthand. Ask about ways to change the routine, or how to redirect your dog so he can see the situation as something more positive instead of scary.

Dog trainer: A dog trainer can help you in the long term, because you’ll learn how to teach your dog about her environment and how she can communicate with you. Many dog trainers also know the correct herbal remedies and apothecaries to aid in training your dog to overcome her anxieties.

As you train your dog, you’re setting her up for a successful life with you and your family. As with the animal behaviorist, show your trainer what occurs and when so that the specific issues can be addressed. Ask about ways to train your dog to accept the situation or about ways you can change a routine to help her relax or relieve the anxiety.

No More Mr. Nice Guy: The Aggressive Dog

Because of their past bad experiences, some mixed-breed dogs develop some form of aggression, usually for self-defense. Most aggression in mixed-breed dogs has to do with possession — the dog may have had to fend for itself, experiencing a scarcity of food and/or shelter. Your dog isn’t intentionally unpleasant to you — she’s just developed instinctual reactions to specific situations.
Almost all types of aggression can be controlled or even cured with obedience training, behavioral therapy, and the help of appropriate apothecaries. In this section, I give you the information you need to help your aggressive dog.

Recognizing the types of aggression

Aggression comes in several varieties, and recognizing the type of aggression your dog is exhibiting is the first step toward solving the problem. When you know why the dog is behaving the way she is, you can remove the cause and work toward eliminating the behavior.

Remember

Always consult with a pet professional prior to tackling any type of aggressive behavior, because an incorrect approach can often cause even worse problems.

It hurts, don’t touch: Pain-related aggression

Pain-related aggression is common in dogs who aren’t familiar with humane treatment for their pain, or in dogs who hurt so much that they can’t control their behavior. This type of aggression can take time to cure. Often, the dog must be tranquilized to be treated for the source of the pain.
This dog won’t display any aggressive posturing, such as trying to appear large, snarling, growling or snapping, prior to a bite. If you touch something that hurts, she lashes out.

The need to lead: Dominant aggression

Warning!

Dominant aggression can be very dangerous. A dog who is dominantly aggressive wants to control you and others. She can display this aggression in a very subtle manner, from demanding attention by pushing against you to outright snapping at you. Although training can help control this dog, there is still a possibility of someone getting hurt.

A dog who is dominantly aggressive will often posture prior to biting. This dog will likely display her teeth, growl, pace, and stare. She makes herself look large by standing stiffly, with her ears forward and tail up, staring at your face with little or no blinking.

Past is present: Fear aggression

There is always a reason for fear aggression. It’s the most common type of aggression in dogs who have gone through several homes or were rescued from a bad situation. A dog who displays fear aggression doesn’t want to control the family — she’s merely insecure and nervous.
Most dogs who end up in shelters suffer from insecurity. They don’t understand their surroundings and can’t communicate with those around them. Dogs in shelters are like travelers in a foreign country where they don’t understand the customs or the language. Think of your dog in this way and you’ll better understand why she needs instant guidance and training to alleviate this problem.
You can easily recognize fear aggression through body posturing. The dog will back up, hackles raised, head lowered, and tail down. Don’t approach a dog displaying this behavior — she’ll feel cornered and lash out. Bites from fearful dogs are usually surface bites, because the dog doesn’t want to hurt you (he just wants to warn you), but the bites are painful and frightening nonetheless.

What’s mine is mine! Possessive aggression

Possessive aggression is a type of dominant aggression, but it’s only seen when the dog has something she wants to keep to herself. Dogs who have had to compete for food or other resources commonly display possessive aggression.
This dog will growl as you near her when she has a toy or food. Her head will be lowered, nose toward the object, her body held very stiff. You might even see the whites of her eyes, because she’s afraid that you’ll take her possession from her.

Me first, me first! Sibling rivalries

There will always be scuffles of some sort within the family pack as new family members try to determine their place. Most of these scuffles will consist of snarling and posturing. The “arguments” only get worse if people interfere or don’t establish their own leadership over the dogs.
It begins with dominant stares and can turn into an all-out war.

Knowing what to do about it

Remember

Regardless of the type of dominance your dog has, consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to handle the problem. Controlling and curing these issues require extensive knowledge of canine behavior. Though difficult, most of these behaviors are curable.

Here are some guidelines to follow as you help your dog overcome her aggression:

If your dog show signs of pain — such as limping or a sensitivity to light, sound, the presence of others, or touch — go to your vet . . . immediately. Some dogs don’t show pain-related behavior. Because part of their instinctive behavior is to not display weakness, your dog may not limp or be lethargic. It’s still a good idea to have her checked by your vet, just in case. Internal injuries, bone or muscle inflammation, or organ malfunction can all cause distress, which can in turn cause pain-related aggression.

If your dog is trying to take over the household or wants to always be first, step up your leadership role through obedience training (see Chapter Hup, Two, Three, Four: Good Manners and Basic Training) and maintenance of social hierarchy. Never allow your dog to sleep on your bed, sit on your sofa, or beg at the table. All these indulgences will lead to your dog being the boss.

Build your dog’s confidence through regular scheduling of exercise, feeding times, and obedience training. All these regular activities play a large role in helping your dog feel safe and help her realize that she’s in a permanent home.

Because your dog has the energy to display aggression, you need to get that energy under control with lots of exercise. A tired dog is less likely to be assertive than one with loads of energy. Focus on making sure your mixed breed gets so much exercise that she actually drops with exhaustion upon her return home.

You can also work her through her predilection for assertiveness. Put her on her leash. Work her at all times, making her heel with you from room to room. Make her sit or go into a down/stay while there. Make her come to you prior to going into another room. Because she has to concentrate on paying attention, and defer the leadership position to you, she’ll no longer have the desire to be the boss.

– If your dog is displaying any type of aggression, use apothecaries such as flower or herbal remedies (see the “Flower and herbal remedies” section, earlier in this chapter). Using these as you train your dog will help her pay attention and increase her desire to learn — she’ll no longer have the “new dog on the block” anxieties to contend with.

Consider prescription medications. When you know the reason for the aggression, you and your vet can discuss the type of medication that would be most useful. Amitriptyline is often used to modify the dog’s reactivity to her environment. Diazepamis also used to calm the dog. Acepromazine can also be used.

You may need to keep your dog on the medication for several weeks before you can tell whether it’s working for her. These drugs aren’t to be used instead of training your dog, but rather in conjunction with the training process

Warning!

Sometimes prescription medication can have adverse effects, causing worse or unpredictable aggression, or side effects involving other organ systems.. Keep a close eye on your dog and maintain close communication with your vet and/or veterinary behaviorist.

Jumping for Joy

Jumping on people, furniture or countertops are the most common behavior problems with dogs. It’s annoying, frustrating, and disruptive. But you can do something about it. In this section, I lay it all out.

 Knowing why dogs jump

One of the main reasons dogs begin jumping up is to greet newcomers or companions (that’s you!) who have returned home. They first touch noses, then go sniff the newcomer’s rear end to learn who it is and what her intentions may be. This is the canine way.
Before you correct your dog for jumping, you need to discover why she’s doing it. Most likely she’s getting some reward for jumping up. Maybe she gets touched or she’s spoken to. Some dogs merely like to perch higher than the floor — the old “I’m the king of the castle, and you’re the dirty rascal” game. Maybe jumping is such a fun way to get you to play with her that she’ll do it every time she wants attention.

The next time your dog jumps on you, note your reaction. Did you push at her? Yell at her? Pet her? Your reaction to her behavior will tell you the reason she does it.

Keeping your dog’s feet on the ground

You can do several things to cure the habit of jumping, no matter why your dog is doing it:

Greet your dog lower to the ground — and ask your guests to do so as well. Instead of making your dog reach upward to say, “Hi,” crouch down low to allow an appropriate nose touch. This is far better than being jumped on or goosed in your behind. If you don’t want your face washed in doggie saliva, keep your head up and offer your hands in greeting, holding them low and allowing your dog to sniff or lick them.

Condition your dog to get a tummy rub upon your arrival, by having her sit, then lie down, so you can rub her tummy. What better way to be greeted than having your dog throw herself at your feet, panting in anticipation as she awaits a belly rub?

Try ignoring your dog the next time she jumps on you. Don’t touch her. Don’t speak to her. Don’t look at her. In fact, step away and hold your arms up so that she can’t go to the next level of “I want attention now” and put her mouth on your hand.

When you’re in a situation where your dog is jumping, tell her to sit. This will redirect her from doing the bad thing to doing something good — it gives her a way she can earn positive attention. Remember: Don’t ask your dog to sit too soon after the jumping up or you’ll be creating a fun game called Jump and Sit. Dogs learn patterns very easily, and if she thinks she’ll be rewarded for jumping and then sitting, she’ll be persistent about it.

Tip

If you’ve told your dog to sit and she’s too busy jumping to do so, make sure that you place her into position. When she’s in position, praise her. Don’t get too carried away with the praise, though — you did have to place her into a sit. You can get more excited when your dog sits without your help, especially if she comes to you and sits for attention instead of jumping up for it.

Remember

Try not to get frustrated. Your dog didn’t learn to jump up overnight, and you won’t cure her overnight. Remain calm, focused, and in control. Dogs know when you’ve reached your breaking point. You have to prove that you have no breaking point. Eventually, your dog will understand that you’re in charge of doling out rewards and that she has to change her attention-seeking behavior.

Also, be consistent. If you make your dog sit for attention one time, but you’re absentmindedly petting her while she has her feet on your lap another time, she won’t learn to stop jumping up. If you really want to stop this behavior, you must always follow the law: No jumping up ever. No touching, speaking, or looking at jumping dogs — only sitting dogs get the reward.

Curing the insistent jumper

Some dogs have the jumping habit with little help from their human companions. They simply enjoy the act of jumping up in the air because it gives them thrills and chills. Some of these dogs will hop about without even touching their people. Others will touch occasionally. Some dogs not only spring in the air but also bounce off of their humans as though they were springboards.
Ignoring these dogs won’t stop the behavior. Sometimes having them sit for attention will tone it down a little, but only if the dog is jumping up for your attention. Even if you maintain your cool and are consistent with your reactions, you still may not make a dent in this airborne wonder. Stopping the behavior through ignoring won’t work either. You’ll have to use a correction to change the behavior.
Most dogs respond well to a sound correction — something that makes an aversive sound. Dogs have far more sensitive hearing than humans, so certain pitches, volumes, or frequencies can distract them enough to stop a behavior that coincides with the sound.

Tip

You can use several objects to create aversive sounds when your dog jumps on you:

Pennies in a can: Get a small metal can, such as one used for loose tea, paint, or a small coffee can. Place 15 pennies inside the can and be sure to seal the lid securely. When your dog jumps up, shake the can hard just once or twice. If this aversive sound is going to work, it will work fairly quickly. Your dog will stop jumping and either move away from you or sit. If she sits, praise her. If she moves away, wait until she returns and sits or remains with all four paws on the floor, and then praise her.

Rocks in a milk carton: Place small rocks inside a plastic milk jug. Use it in the same manner as the can (see the preceding item). This is not as harsh a sound as the can; if your dog is very reactive to sound, you may want to try this first.

– A bicycle horn: A honk on a bicycle horn will definitely get your dog’s attention. She’ll likely step back and have a long look at you as though you’ve just issued the weirdest noise she’s ever heard. She may be looking at you funny, but she stopped jumping, right?

If your dog doesn’t like water, you can use a water gun (the Super Soaker brand water guns work best) to squirt water at her when she jumps up. The mere action of something coming at her should be enough to distract your dog and stop the behavior. This won’t work with dogs who love water — these dogs will be encouraged to jump more in order to play the water game. If your mixed breed has any Retriever or Spaniel in her, I recommend using the aversive sound instead of the water squirt.

Chewing Your Dog Out for Chewing

Dogs love to chew. It’s their favorite pastime. You can read books; watch TV; play sports, video games, and board games; or spend time on hobbies. Dogs don’t have these things. They chew and dig and chew and run and chew. They chew their toys. They chew on sticks. They chew the sofa. Yikes! That’s something you don’t want them to chew. Why would your dog chew a sofa when she has her bone nearby? In this section, I tell you why — and help you get your dog to stop chewing things she shouldn’t be chewing.

Understanding why dogs chew

Dogs chew for a variety of reasons. The main reason has to do with their age. All puppies chew. They’re testing their environment for tasty morsels and for ways to alleviate the pain in their gums. If your dog is younger than 9 months of age, she’s teething. Here’s how normal teething develops:

Between the ages of 3 months and 5 months, the baby teeth are falling out. You’ll see your dog’s front teeth being replaced with the larger, adult incisors. Your pup will be pulling at her toys as she explores objects for palatability. Watch out for those electrical cords — they look mighty tasty!

Between the ages of 5 and 7 months of age, your pup’s back teeth are falling out and being replaced with new ones. When the new molars grow in, it’s very uncomfortable for your dog. She won’t be chewing to learn about her environment — she’ll be chewing to alleviate the discomfort in her gums. Anything hard is fair game. Wood of all sorts, such as molding, window frames, chairs, table legs, carpeting, shoes, plastic children’s toys, books, and more.

– At 7 to 8 months of age, the molars are all in, but still a little loose in the gums. Chewing has become more of a pastime than a need, but it’s still enjoyable as a way of releasing discomfort, anxiety, or boredom.

That brings me to the other reasons for chewing:

Anxiety: A dog with anxiety can be extremely destructive. She doesn’t just chew — she flings and swings the objects about, tramples and pulls, paws and scratches. Dogs chewing because of anxiety create a huge mess.

Boredom: A dog who chews because she’s bored may not create as large a destructive path as a dog who chews because she’s anxious, but the bored dog can still do some heavy-duty damage. Windowsills are typical targets for bored dogs, as are other types of wall molding, shoes left about, or other household items that have fallen to the floor. Toys become old, known things, whereas a dish towel, pillow, or sneaker is like a brand-new toy. 

Solving the problem

You can either prevent chewing from becoming a problem or deal with curing a bad habit. Even if your mixed breed arrived with a chewing problem, you can do things to prevent her from continuing her destructive path.
You’ll need to be watchful, patient, and consistent. Guide your mixed breed in the right direction much as you would guide a young child — after all, your dog really doesn’t know that your couch pillows are off limits, or that the table legs aren’t just big chew bones.

Prevention is worth a pound of pillows

The best thing to do when you aren’t able to watch your dog is to contain her in an area where she can’t get into trouble. Containing your dog when you can’t watch her will prevent her from chewing the wrong things — she can’t have access to them without your being present. (For more on containment options, see Chapter Housetraining.)
When you are able to watch your dog, redirect her from the things she can’t chew to the things she can play with. Playing with her will make the items more attractive — dogs prefer interactive games to playing alone.
Because boredom is a main ingredient in developing problem chewing, you can do several things to prevent this from occurring:

Train, train, train. A trained dog knows the rules and will be less likely to chew the wrong items.

– Rotate the toys. Dogs get bored with the same old toys. Had ’em, mouthed ’em, tired of ’em. If you offer your dog a different variety of toys each day, your dog will think, “Wow! Brand-new toys! This is neat!” It will occupy her time, reducing the chance of boredom.

Get another dog. The presence of another dog alleviates boredom.

Make sure she’s getting enough exercise. A tired dog won’t do anything destructive. Take your dog for a run, or long walk each morning before going to work and again when you get home from work. You may want to vary the routine — for example, go for a walk in the morning and play ball in the afternoon. Add some training time to this routine. Teach your dog some new tricks.

Stimulate your dog’s mind. There are many ways to stimulate your dog’s mind:

  • Interactive toys: You can find all kinds of interactive toys in your local pet store — toys that can be pulled apart and put back together, toys that can be filled with food, toys that involve pet and human or several dogs at the same time. You can never give your pet too many toys. In fact, if you’re not tripping over toys, you probably don’t have enough. And don’t forget to rotate them!
  • Social time: Doggie daycare is a great alternative for dogs who spend a lot of time home alone. Instead of being left home day after day, bored, you take your dog to a place where she’ll have fun socializing with other dogs and people. You come home from work tired, and she will, too. You can both relax.

If you have a dog park in the area, take your mixed-breed dog there, daily. Make it part of the routine, regardless of the weather. Few dogs care more about a rainy day than playing with other dogs.

Offering your mixed breed these bits of stimulation will prevent her from doing the bad chewing and create a far more positive relationship with you.

Knowing what to do when your dog is in mid-chew

What do you do when your dog has something in her mouth that she shouldn’t have? Let’s say she just grabbed one of your Italian leather loafers and ran off, initiating a game of chase. The last thing you want is to lose a $200 pair of shoes, so you run after her. Well, she thinks, this is great fun. Now she knows how to get a game started. And guess what? This won’t be the last time she does this — unless you offer her a positive alternative.

The Chase Me game is not a new invention created by your dog just because she enjoys the taste of your shoes, laundry, or pillows. It’s a common game that dogs play with each other. One dog grabs a toy, tantalizes the other dog with it by pacing in front and dangling it under the other dog’s nose, and then when she sees the other dog make a grab for it, she runs, with the other dog racing after her.

You have to offer something better without also rewarding her for the behavior. Dogs often pick up objects they’re not supposed to have, such as shoes or other household items as well as trash that may be littering the paths you walk with your dog, you need a way of teaching your mixed breed to drop the item on command, without having to run her down and pry the object from her mouth.

Tip

This is called the exchange-and-reward system. You offer your dog a better alternative to the yucky piece of trash or dirty laundry. Here’s how it goes:

1. Put a long leash on your dog and let her drag it around.

2. When you see her chewing something she shouldn’t be chewing, call your dog to come to you, showing her a food-filled toy or treat.

3. When she arrives, and if she’s still holding on to her prize, tell her to drop it, using a stern tone of voice to prove you mean it and you’re not playing her game.

4. Show her the alternative, dangling it in front of her face just as she tantalized you with the shoe.

She’ll smell the delectable toy. Because dogs tend to have a high food drive, they usually choose the food over a yucky tasting shoe any day.

5. When the shoe falls from her mouth she’ll try to grab the toy.

Don’t let her grab the treat. Your mixed breed must earn this toy, not be rewarded for initiating a game of tag with your shoe.

6. Have her perform something such as a Sit.

7. When she does so, praise her and give her the foodfilled toy.

What happens if you can’t find something that your dog would rather have than that cigarette butt she picked up from the street, or the steak she filched from the counter? You have to teach her the meaning of Drop It. This command will be important when your dog steals your dinner, and it will protect your mixed breed from poisoning herself. You can also use it to teach your dog to retrieve a toy and return it to your hand instead of chasing her down to do another throw.

Tip

Here’s how you teach Drop It:

1. Put a leash on your dog so you can back up your commands without having to chase her around.

Allow the leash to drag on the ground until needed.

Get another dog. The presence of another dog alleviates boredom.

Make sure she’s getting enough exercise. A tired dog won’t do anything destructive. Take your dog for a run, or long walk each morning before going to work and again when you get home from work. You may want to vary the routine — for example, go for a walk in the morning and play ball in the afternoon. Add some training time to this routine. Teach your dog some new tricks.

Stimulate your dog’s mind. There are many ways to stimulate your dog’s mind:

  • Interactive toys: You can find all kinds of interactive toys in your local pet store — toys that can be pulled apart and put back together, toys that can be filled with food, toys that involve pet and human or several dogs at the same time. You can never give your pet too many toys. In fact, if you’re not tripping over toys, you probably don’t have enough. And don’t forget to rotate them!
  • Social time: Doggie daycare is a great alternative for dogs who spend a lot of time home alone. Instead of being left home day after day, bored, you take your dog to a place where she’ll have fun socializing with other dogs and people. You come home from work tired, and she will, too. You can both relax.

If you have a dog park in the area, take your mixed-breed dog there, daily. Make it part of the routine, regardless of the weather. Few dogs care more about a rainy day than playing with other dogs.

Offering your mixed breed these bits of stimulation will prevent her from doing the bad chewing and create a far more positive relationship with you.

Knowing what to do when your dog is in mid-chew

What do you do when your dog has something in her mouth that she shouldn’t have? Let’s say she just grabbed one of your Italian leather loafers and ran off, initiating a game of chase. The last thing you want is to lose a $200 pair of shoes, so you run after her. Well, she thinks, this is great fun. Now she knows how to get a game started. And guess what? This won’t be the last time she does this — unless you offer her a positive alternative.
The Chase Me game is not a new invention created by your dog just because she enjoys the taste of your shoes, laundry, or pillows. It’s a common game that dogs play with each other. One dog grabs a toy, tantalizes the other dog with it by pacing in front and dangling it under the other dog’s nose, and then when she sees the other dog make a grab for it, she runs, with the other dog racing after her.
You have to offer something better without also rewarding her for the behavior. Dogs often pick up objects they’re not supposed to have, such as shoes or other household items as well as trash that may be littering the paths you walk with your dog, you need a way of teaching your mixed breed to drop the item on command, without having to run her down and pry the object from her mouth.

Tip

This is called the exchange-and-reward system. You offer your dog a better alternative to the yucky piece of trash or dirty laundry. Here’s how it goes:

1. Put a long leash on your dog and let her drag it around.

2. When you see her chewing something she shouldn’t be chewing, call your dog to come to you, showing her a food-filled toy or treat.

3. When she arrives, and if she’s still holding on to her prize, tell her to drop it, using a stern tone of voice to prove you mean it and you’re not playing her game.

4. Show her the alternative, dangling it in front of her face just as she tantalized you with the shoe.

She’ll smell the delectable toy. Because dogs tend to have a high food drive, they usually choose the food over a yucky tasting shoe any day.

5. When the shoe falls from her mouth she’ll try to grab the toy.

Don’t let her grab the treat. Your mixed breed must earn this toy, not be rewarded for initiating a game of tag with your shoe.

6. Have her perform something such as a Sit.

7. When she does so, praise her and give her the foodfilled toy.

What happens if you can’t find something that your dog would rather have than that cigarette butt she picked up from the street, or the steak she filched from the counter? You have to teach her the meaning of Drop It. This command will be important when your dog steals your dinner, and it will protect your mixed breed from poisoning herself. You can also use it to teach your dog to retrieve a toy and return it to your hand instead of chasing her down to do another throw.

Tip

Here’s how you teach Drop It:

1. Put a leash on your dog so you can back up your commands without having to chase her around.

Allow the leash to drag on the ground until needed.

2. Create the situation by either throwing a favorite toy a short distance or merely dropping it.

3. When your mixed breed picks up the toy, bring her to you via the leash.

Praise her as she comes closer so that she always believes coming to you is a great idea.

4. Tell her to sit.

If she doesn’t do so on her own, place her into position. Again praise, even if you had to place her.

5. Now, tell her “Drop it,” as you hold your hand just beneath her jaw.

You can be sure she won’t, because she already has a prized possession that is more rewarding than whatever you can offer.

6. Place your other hand over the top of her muzzle, with fingers on either side of her lips and squeeze her lips into her mouth.

Few dogs like to bite their own lips so you will feel her jaw releasing.

7. As your dog’s jaw slackens, praise her.

8. When she drops the toy, praise and offer her tasty treats such as freeze-dried liver or cheese. Remember

When first starting this, always offer a high-value replacement.

Tip

If you’re having your dog drop one of her toys, you can offer it to her again so that she learns she isn’t prohibited from playing with the toy — she just has to give it to you upon your request.

From Beggar to Chooser: Getting Your Dog to Stop Begging at the Table

How many times have you sat down to eat dinner only to have your dog, or someone else’s dog climb onto you or grab something from your plate? Annoying, right?
You can be sure most dogs also prefer to eat in peace, but the mere act of eating overcomes their desire to be peaceful. Many mixedbreed dogs who’ve experienced starvation or neglect will strive to get food in any way they can. Without learning boundaries, they’ll grab at anything that has a tempting odor.
Spoiled dogs have learned that sitting at your chair, salivating, staring, whining, putting a paw on your leg, or outright demanding the food with loud barking will always earn them a reward from your plate. You may have given the dog something to keep her quiet, or you thought she’d like that little piece of leftover steak. Instead of placating your dog, you’re creating a begging monster.
Some dogs are very sneaky about getting their stolen goods. They’re the counter surfers. Beware of leaving dinner on the counter to cool — it’ll be gone before you return. You’ll know the counter surfer — she keeps her nose in the air as she walks along the counters in the kitchen. Nothing is safe!

Tip

You can prevent your dog from begging for food (or stealing it!) in several ways:

Never feed from the table or counter.

Always make your dog earn her food. She must at the very least sit before receiving anything, including her dinner.

Teach your dog how to go to a specific place while you and others eat at the table. If you place a food-filled toy on a pad or bed nearby, your dog will be lured to the spot and rewarded for remaining there.

Have a specific area where your mixed breed is fed her meals so that she learns that the only place she eats meals is at her special place.

Nipping and Mouthing

Mouthing is a lighter form of nipping, common with dogs who are playing with each other. However, as a dog mouthing can become more serious — a means of dominating and controlling. Nipping is started through play. If allowed to continue, however, it can turn into aggressive domination.
Both of these infractions with the mouth must be stopped. At no time should a dog be allowed to put its mouth on you except to lick, which is a submissive sort of group hug gesture. Allowing even a light mouthing is setting yourself up for some serious issues down the road.

Understanding why dogs nip and mouth

Dogs use their mouths as you use your hands. They grab, hold, pull, and carry.
Mixed-breed dogs who have spent any time fending for themselves in the wild, or who have learned to fight for food, shelter, or territory, tend to use their mouths to get what they want.
Mouthing and nipping is also a very common puppy game. Dogs use their mouths to explore and to test a playmate for pack position. If they’re still with their mom and littermates, they quickly learn that mom won’t put up with it. She’ll grab their little faces and growl. Littermates will either respond by yipping, or run away from that awful hurtful sibling. Either way, there’s a response. How you respond will have a lot to do with whether Princess will continue the behavior.

Preventing the problem

Prevention is the most important means of teaching your mixed breed to not put her mouth on you. Here are a few ways to keep your dog’s mouth occupied:

Have lots of toys around for her to put her mouth on.

Never play with her mouth.

If you’re playing with her with a toy, the moment she touches you with her mouth the game is over for a little while.

Never allow anyone to dangle their hands near her face.

Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so that she’s not nipping at you trying to instigate play.

Curing the problem

Your best bet is to be like mom. I’m not saying to grab your dog’s head in your mouth as you growl — you’ll be spitting out dog hair for a month. Instead, use your hands, your eyes, and your body.

Warning!

Never, ever hit your dog!. Mother dog never hits her pups. Even fighting dogs don’t hit each other. There are several ways to use your hands to make your point.

Begin by trying to earn your pup’s sympathy when you she mouths or nips you. Squeal, “Yipe! Ouch!” Then, whatever you were doing with your dog — a game of fetch, tug, or leg pulling — stop the game.
If your mixed breed has no sympathy for your pain, you’ll need to take the mom approach. Put a hand on either side of her head, taking firm hold of her neck scruff. Hold her in place and stare her in the eyes as you growl at her. The moment she blinks or otherwise looks away, let go. Make her do something for you such as a sit. Praise and reward her good behavior.
If the grabbing hold of her neck scruff doesn’t work, follow these steps:

1. Put a hand on each side of your dog’s neck and hold firmly.

2. Stare into her eyes, growl at her, and roll her over onto her back.

3. Continue the stare and growl.

4. When your dog shows submission by turning her eyes away from you, blinking, and going limp, slowly release her neck and allow her to get up.

5. If she goes back to nipping at you, pin her down again.

Repeat this as often and as long as necessary to make your point. It may be a long hold the first couple times, but the length will decrease as your dog realizes that you have no breaking point and she must be the first to give up.

Remember

As with all severe behavior problems, talk to a professional trainer or behaviorist. Nipping and mouthing are not easy to contend with, and implementing the wrong correction can have severe consequences.

Digging to the Center of the Earth

Dogs love digging, but people hate stepping in holes — and having to fill them. Even worse, people hate what a digging dog does to their yard.
Why in the world would your mixed breed choose to dig against the house foundation? Why would she make trenches throughout the yard? Why is she totally thrilled to show up at the door covered in dirt, grass stains, and twigs while wearing a huge smile? In this section, I uncover the mystery of why your dog digs, and tell you what you can do about it.

Knowing why dogs dig

Dogs dig for many reasons, the most common is that it’s fun and might yield a snack or two. Who says dead worms and bugs aren’t delicacies? Look at it from your dog’s point of view:

Digging is less boring than lying in the shade. Plus, digging is great exercise.

There might be something edible to go along with a scent. Who knows what lies beneath the surface? Gotta dig to find out.

Dogs feel earth vibrations. Moles and other underground critters make lots of vibrations. Trenching is a great means of following their paths.

Holes are often cooler to lie in than surface dirt — never mind that the current hole used to contain an azalea. The azalea had a prime resting spot.

Remember

Digging is a very natural canine behavior — one that cannot and should not be prohibited. Without the chance to dig, you’re setting up your dog for failure in other areas of her life, such as proper house manners.

Giving your dog a place to dig

Instead of just screaming at your dog to stop turning your yard into a lunar landscape, give her an alternative. Give her a place where digging is appropriate. If your dog is primarily an indoor dog, a pile of blankets will work fine. A box filled with sand, wood chips, or mulch works well, too. Isn’t this better than holes in your carpet?
If your mixed breed is allowed to exercise outdoors in a safely fenced area, think on a broader scale. Here are a couple suggestions:

Separate your dog’s yard from your garden.

Give your dog a place to dig such as a sand box or pile of mulch.

Fence off your plants so that your dog can’t get near enough to dig them up.

Fill existing holes and pour vinegar around them so they become less attractive for future digging. Put your dog’s feces in the hole prior to filling.

Redirection of the digging habit will help teach your dog that she has her own place to play. Without this, your dog will continue to dig by your house foundation or under the bushes because it offered some type of reward — a cool place to lie or great exercise.

Tip

You can’t expect your mixed breed to change her digging location without your help. You’ll have to prove to her that the sand pile will offer greater rewards than beneath the English Boxwood. Here’s a great means of redirection:

1. Half-bury a favorite toy or biscuit in the place where you want her to dig.

2. Guide your dog to the buried toy and point it out.

3. Praise her if she goes for the toy or eats the treat.

4. Repeat this many times until your mixed breed runs straight for her digging area each time she goes outside.

Tip

Spend time with your dog in her digging area. Praise your dog when she puts her nose to the sand and even more when she begins pushing her feet into it.

You can try several materials — including sand, mulch, wood chips or topsoil — for your dog’s digging area. You want to entice your dog to dig in a special location so use whatever your dog prefers; otherwise, she’ll return her attentions to under the hedges.
If your dog is digging holes to escape the heat, provide other outlets for cooling down:

– A small child’s pool filled with cool water

– A dog door so that your mixed breed can come inside and lie on a cool basement or kitchen floor

– A doghouse with a fan to cool the interior

– A dog bed that can be soaked in water to maintain a lower body temperature

by Miriam Fields-Babineau

Comments on Facebook