Impulse Control, is pretty much as it sounds - puppies and some (too many, perhaps?) adult dogs lack an appropriate amount of impulse control a.k.a good manners. Once a dog has learned impulse control, quite literally everything which follows is much easier and tends to come along at a much quicker rate. We humans tend to make raising a puppy much more complicated than it needs to be.
Impulse control could even be called distraction management, but that is even more to say and type, either way it is a skill which will help a dog to concentrate and remain focused to a task, be it running an agility course, going your local pub to chill, running some field work, and all points in between. Teaching dogs this skill isn’t harsh, but it does require consistency.
I’m guessing you have taken a moment to see how long this article is and might be thinking about jumping ship because you think you might not need to read all of this. I’ll make you a deal. You are free and clear unless you answer yes to one or more of the following questions. If you do, you need to make some time and read the whole thing. Here we go: Do you find yourself competing for your dog’s attention? Is your dog easily distracted by other dogs or people? Is he more likely to follow his nose than you? Does noise or movement get him excited? I’m not a gambling man, but I’m guessing you are with me for the long haul, so I’ll try to make this easy.
You answered yes, so let’s get started.
Like most undertakings, start with realistic goals. You’ll need to break the process down into bite-sized pieces to keep from becoming discouraged or putting undue pressure on your pup. Secondly, you don’t need any special tools or skills. If you can say ‘yes’ with a smile on your face and can stock some ‘high value’ treats you are all set.
Since I mentioned ‘high value’ treats let’s take a quick sidebar to be sure we are on the same sheet of music. You can’t be offering your dog kibble or frankly most of the over-priced stuff offered at the pet store as it just isn’t good enough (unless of course you need a low value treat…). I prefer to use hot dogs; you could use string cheese. I split them lengthwise with two cuts (making three pieces), then rotating 90 degrees and making two more cuts (making nine pieces). From there these hot dog strips get cut perpendicular to make as many little squarish pieces as I can get. Basically, anything approaching the size of a pencil eraser is too big. Training treats do not need to be big to be useful, they need to be small, tasty, something the dog can just ‘inhale’, and be very compelling for the dog!
First Step, The Name Game:
Alrighty, let’s start small by having your pup nearby and your high value treats in a small pouch by your side. You will begin the Name Game. Take your puppy and go to a quiet place devoid of distraction, say pups name. When he looks at you, say ‘yes’ immediately and treat him – that’s it. It’s just that easy. If pup looks around a bit before he looks at you, that is okay. Just be sure to expect this, and only say ‘yes’ and treat once he does. If you need to repeat his name, you can, but be calm and wait a few seconds before repeating. You must refrain from using a machine gun burst of his name. Once he understands looking to you gets him a reward, do the exercise with him a few more times. As he improves, you can gradually add some distraction in the distance, use things that aren’t too enticing for him and as he progresses with the Name Game, you can ‘up’ the distraction. This is applied in the same way with all the exercises I am going to talk about here. In the early weeks of training don’t be shy with “loading the name” as many trainers call it, which means once he really gets it, and holding your eye, you can pump him up with a few extra treats and even add some verbal praise. Once he becomes bulletproof consistent with the Name Game, start to break up treating him by make treating him inconsistent and then less and less frequent. Be sure to always reward him with a ‘yes’, in the early stages and as you taper the food reward. You can always affirm his correct/appropriate response with a happy ‘yes’ as you see fit. The key to how this method of training works is giving pup a chance to decide on their own and making it easy for the pup to decide that following your lead is the way to go. The ‘Name Game’ has has a few layers, besides teaching pup to look to you when his name is said. Eventually his name can act as a preparatory ‘command’ of sorts by letting him know something else is likely to follow. But for now, we just need to see how this progresses. Ultimately, pup might figure the game out quickly and decide to become pushy about his treat, this too is a great situation and learning opportunity for pup. Always say ‘yes’ when he looks at you, but only treat pup when he is calm and looking at you (standing or sitting, whichever is what you want to reinforce). If he is being pushy just be calm, say and do nothing, simply wait him out. Give him a ‘yes’ once he calms and treat. Eventually you will want to extend the amount of time pup needs to look at you before being treated. There is no real need to set aside special training time to do this, just a moment of deliberate thought and preparation is all that is needed. As pup progresses with this exercise, try new locations, and gradually introduce a few distractions. We want to strengthen and generalize this association.
Getting more from the Name Game…
Bonus round one! While playing the Name Game, you may find that your pup chooses to move closer to you and offer to sit for you. Bookmark this, for after he has gotten a solid grip on the Name Game. Then one day, just as pup offers his ‘sit’, give him the verbal cue (aka for you Old Schoolers out there, the command, sit), once he has sat, say ‘yes’ and treat. You are now beginning to build a new association. If you happen to not have treats with you, you will always have your ‘yes’ handy. Remember, with Name Game play, you have built an association with ‘yes’ and he knows and associates ‘yes’ with praise and reward. This is what I like to call ‘knocking ‘em down’. All these skills are all dovetailed together and building on one another making each skill easier to teach the next. Please resist your temptation to tussle pups ears and rub him up excitedly. This only adds energy to the situation, and most likely to get pup bouncing around, or even more depending on how reactive your dog is. Remember we are teaching him how to be good citizen here – to be calm, assured, and pleasant. Your dog will tend to mirror the energy you are putting out.
Getting pup out the front door
Like having a toddler, with a pup, you need to plan to get ready before you intend to be ready…this gives you the upper hand. It gives you the time to do what is necessary; to be consistent, set the pup up to win and you to be the victor. All without needing to flex a single muscle! So, you want to take pup for a ‘Leader Walk’, or load him into the car… Go to the door and grab your leash. Odds are pup will begin to bounce around like a fool. If you were in a rush, you’d be grabbing at him, telling him to sit fifteen or twenty times, and maybe even get a little bit frustrated. If so, all you have taught your dog in that moment is to act like a fool and that preparing to go is a game where not listening is okay. The Leader Way would be to approach the door and grab the leash. Turn to the pup and wait. Don’t say a word, do not encourage anything. You could say calmly, ‘when you’re ready’ or my favorite, ‘what do good dogs do?’ – honestly it doesn’t matter what you say, what’s more important is your tone of voice. Odds are he will react by calming down and possibly sitting. Be prepared. If he hasn’t built an association with going out the door, you could just say his name and see what happens, if you are well into the Name Game and starting his sit work. Either way, once pup is nearby and offering a sit, say ‘sit’. Follow-up with ‘yes’ and then gently attach his leash. If your movement is too much for the situation, just start from the top and take your time. It will not be long; he will sit calmly and allow you to leash him and without fanfare head out. Now he has learned how to go through the door and that you are in charge.
Thoughts on Shaping & Luring. One hand washes the other and back.
He will also begin to associate his actions with rewards and verbal cues and later on verbal cues with actions. Yup, the dog is training himself, and you are only facilitating the experience. A big part of your job as handler is to simplify situations by removing distractions and thereby improving the likelihood of pup making the correct association you are intending to make. Offering toys while pup is excited, talking excitedly or yelling, and moving your arms to push pup away when pup is jumping up, only serve to muddle your message and add energy to the situation – making it more difficult to get the desired outcome. Additionally, blurting out random or rapidly fired repeated ‘commands’ (E.g. sit, sit, sit, sit, sit - you’ve seen it, and likely been guilty of doing so) and telling pup ‘no’ to just about any and everything is as equally as futile (and useless). ‘No’ isn’t a command: sit, here, down, stand, leave it, place, kennel all are commands, but only after the association has been made. Remember, the key here is to catch pup doing what you want and offering an affirmation to build the association you desire.
Claiming Space, not as advanced of a move as you might think:
If you have been following the Dutch Dog Blog, you know we are big fans of the Higgins Method. Part of the Higgins method of associative dog learning is Claiming Space, and this can have a rather surprising and profound impact of how a dog chooses to manage its energy. Claiming Space ties into teaching your dog impulse control. You will do this during a Leader Walk (detailed below) with pup, but you can also Claim Space in your home, and doing so can really simplify a few things. At mealtime how does pup behave? Is he like a rubber ball that has been launched into an empty swimming pool, bouncing, spinning and acting a fool? Even if you have been blessed in this area, Claiming Space is another exercise to help pup build control and focus. For pups that are pure crazy sauce, you will want not do this at mealtime starting out. You need to build success, not failure. Place pup’s kennel in a place where you can put a chair about an arm’s reach and squarely in front of. Put pup in his kennel and close the door. Remain sitting in front of the kennel, with the door latched, and wait for pup to become calm. This can look many different ways, but ideally, he will lay down and maybe even go to sleep. After calm has been achieved, open the door, but don’t allow pup to bolt out. Be sure to square your shoulders with the opening of the kennel, keep your head in a neutral position (at first) and use your hand to, as gently as possible, give pup a push to keep him in the kennel if required. No word needs to be said. He may be persistent, and you may need to be firm. You will need to be resolute, and you may need to lower your chin, giving yourself a little more of a serious posture. In most cases after a few attempts, pup will simply lay down and accept being in the kennel with the door standing wide open. This is when you can start a conversation with your friend of family member if you have someone nearby – always being attentive of pup. He may try to sneak out on you, and you will need to arrest this, but more than likely you will find he will simply remain in place. If so, perfect! Let him rest a while, then you can let pup know he may leave his kennel. From now on, when you open the door, the door opening is no longer the cue to bolt out. His cue is your release word. Consider using ‘okay’ or ‘let’s go’, some like ‘free dog’. In the beginning you will need to vary the amount of time the door is opened before offering the cue. The association we broke is door opening = bolt. The association we built and want to maintain is your cue = you may politely exit your house.
Applying all of this to mealtime to create more Impulse Control.
You have now Claimed Space in your home. Pup knows that when you are in front of him, that space is yours. Let’s help him understand this further. I’m guessing you have a carpet in the area where you feed your dog, if not you will want one as it will make this easier for pup to understand. Using all of the things we have talked about so far: the Name Game, the polite offer to sit or stand, and space claiming, pup knows to be on that carpet and knows that he must be there once his food bowl is in play. This will need to be done in small steps, but can be accomplished rather quickly if you have worked up to it… At first the bowl is placed near to the pup once he is calm and ready. Plan on using a similar stance you used with the crate and need to gently claim the space in front of pup where you intend to place his food bowl. Initially the waiting period should only be a second or two, give him a release pat on the flank (later you may build in a verbal cue) and let him enjoy his meal. As this exercise progresses, you may add time and or distance to help build the pup’s focus and association of waiting for your release.
The effectiveness of teaching ‘leave it’
We mentioned teaching ‘Leave It’ near to the beginning of this article. So now let’s spend a little bit of time on the concept. ‘Leave It’ can be taught passively and is a simple variation of what we have been doing so far. Start by putting a lower value treat in your hand e.g. some kibble, then as success builds work towards using your ‘high value’ treats! Begin by having your pup sit or lay down. Whichever you choose, the dog should remain in posture for the duration of the exercise. Have a modest handful of treats in your off hand. Start by holding your baited hand open and above the dog’s line of sight as well as being a few feet away. You sit calmly and if pup stretches towards the treats, simply close your hand. Once pup has relaxed, re-open your hand to start the exercise over. If instead of investigating your baited hand and he looks at you, say ‘yes’ then take a treat from the baited hand and reward him. As the game progresses, the baited hand gradually moves closer and lower to pup. Please note, once the treats get at or below line of sight this game will get much more difficult for pup to maintain posture, so be mindful to not progress too rapidly. You do not want pup to be able to raid your baited hand and self-reward. You should always quickly and quietly close your hand anytime pup shows interest in the baited hand. Some dogs will learn this quickly, others may need several sessions. Once pup has this pretty good you can up the value of the reward and then when pup goes for the baited hand simply add the cue ‘leave it’ when you need to close your hand. Reward once pup looks to you for guidance and/or praise. If your dog really struggles to stay in place to make this exercise possible you may need to recruit a helper to hold his leash. Again, the intent is to set pup up for a win.
Teaching pup to Settle:
Some dogs are naturally pretty chill, but most need a bit of assistance with learning how, and more importantly when to hit the ‘off switch’. Being reactive or overly excitable isn’t much fun for anyone, to include pup. This really comes down to teaching pup a ‘place command’. This can be his kennel, a bed (in one or more locations), or your sofa – it only matters to you. Pup will chill out pretty much any ol’ place. Figure out where you want pup to go. Generally speaking, you will lure pup to his spot using your ‘high value’ treat and once he offers the behavior you desire (lay down), calmly reward and give the ‘command’ you have decided on what that is to be i.e. ‘bed’ or ‘place’ once pup has made it to the targeted place, reinforce with ‘yes’ immediately and treat as soon as you can. Like most things this can progress quickly. To increase the challenge, slowly wean him from being lured into place and then create more and more distance from his ‘place’ when you give the command.
It is never too late to start teaching this stuff, but the sooner the better (and easier) as you might expect. Here are some additional resources on teaching impulse control to the distracted dog. I hope you find them helpful. A dog with a greater ability to concentrate, and stay on task will make everything you currently do easier and make all those plans you have for the future not just possible but easier as well.
The Brad Higgins Leader Walk method: http://www.twogunkennels.com/dutch-dog-blog/teach-your-dog-to-walk-nicely
When you get your 8/10 week old puppies, please keep this image in mind. Although this photo is a very young puppy, it's to show how much has yet to be formed. Their bones do not even touch yet. They plod around so cutely with big floppy paws and wobbly movement because their joints are entirely made up of muscle, tendons, ligaments with skin covering. Nothing is fitting tightly together or has a true socket yet.
When you run them excessively or don't restrict their exercise to stop them from overdoing it during this period you don't give them a chance to grow properly. Every big jump or excited, bouncing run causes impacts between the bones. In reasonable amounts this is not problematic and is the normal wear and tear that every animal will engage in.
But when you're letting puppy jump up and down off the lounge or bed, take them for long walks/hikes, you are damaging that forming joint. When you let the puppy scramble on tile with no traction you are damaging the joint.
For more detailed information on Hip Dysplasia in dogs please visit HERE to see what the Institute of Canine Biology has to say.
So how do you do this, help your dog teach itself? As I have mentioned in most of my training articles I have been moving more and more towards shaping techniques for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because they work and work well. The technique is easy to employ, sometimes a bit of forethought is needed - in particular if you are used to doing things the old way. The dog becomes much more predictable sooner, and becomes even easier to "train" because of it. Brad Higgins allows 'the bird to do the training', but really he guides the dog through some scenarios where the dog teaches itself what to do, we just happen to help set the stage, and provide the right reinforcement(s) at the right time to help set the behavior in the dog's mind. Here is a nice video by Stonnie Dennis which help illustrate what I am trying to say (his videos from this period are his most informative):
We have all read at least something about the importance of socializing a puppy. The need to get pupper out and about, while being aware if not slightly paranoid about the ‘fear period’. Well, that isn’t too far from the truth. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, when do I start training pup? And my answer has always been and will continue to be, right after you take possession of your pup – that is when it starts. With no pressure, some selective extinction, and positive reinforcement you can head so many bad behaviors off at the pass. Allowing, aka fostering, annoying puppy behaviors only serve to set your pup up for a lifetime of some unbearable habits. Somehow people with toy breeds find this cute, but for us, our Drents will be too big, too strong, and too smart to allow these habits to persist.
From age 6 to 16 weeks pups are super impressionable. We, your breeder, do the best we can with the two weeks we have of that time with visitors, oddball sounds, water, and so on. What have you planned for the following 8 weeks? This is a critical investment period. Just like putting money on Sun Microsystems, or Facebook at their Initial Public Offering…it doesn’t take a lot to really become something noteworthy and lasting. What is the investment that you have made? If you have spent your ‘money’ on Coors Light, there is still time to turn it around if you are ready and willing. But it will take some sacrifice and a bit of discipline on your part.
By and large there are nine factors to consider: Socialization, Adaptation, Exploration, Puppy Play, Social Dominance, Separation, Fear, Training, and Imprinting.
Take a moment to study this super sweet chart, it will serve as your road-map to either stay on course, or to find a successful path.
I am guilty as charged with oversimplification and incorrectly calling the bulk of puppy development ‘socialization’. Some old habits just refuse to let themselves go. None the less, Socialization is currently defined as allowing your pup to adapt and explore its environment. Ideally you set everything up to be as positive as humanly positive. Keeping a sack of hotdog nubbins handy can really be useful of making these, sometimes surprisingly challenging situations, into positive fun experiences. In this Play Socialization period pup is learning how they are supposed to behave. Are you teaching pup to sit quietly before feeding time or before greeting a new person? Or is this time of chaos, clawing, and yipping? And all it takes it to wait until pup settles and then offer pup its bowl, in no time at all, pup will sit quietly for feeding time. This is the foundation you are allowing to be built, these are the coping behaviors pup is learning at the same time pup is building confidence and learning basic decision-making skills.
Adaptation is how your pup reacts to the different stimuli you have presented to him. It is the other side of the coin so to speak, it is what we see, the reaction from the socialization. This window begins to close around 12 weeks. If you have missed this, there is still merit in designing positive experiences which involve vacuums, the terrifying fire hydrant across the street, bikes, and so forth. Use those high value treats to get pupper to accept that Dyson, the cardboard box you have randomly placed in the middle of the living room, or what have you. Take it slow and incrementally. Show pup its okay, and it might even be fun. You will not regret the time spent.
Exploration, this is when your pup starts to socialize itself. They have the confidence to step out and explore on their own. This too happens between 7 and 12 weeks. Expect pup to not want to be too far from you. After all, who doesn’t want to be too far from their security blanket? Your job here is to simply support them, and help ensure their exploration is safe, fun, and positive. Also expect pup to try to consume the damnedest things during this time – be on the look out and be ready to fish the craziest stuff out of pup’s mouth. This is also when they start to explore chewing, and you will need to be able to redirect pup to what is acceptable. Shouting ‘no’ across the room is simply not adequate. Offering pup an acceptable alternative is an absolute necessity. Your pup may be very trustworthy, but allowing them unsupervised access would be a rather poor decision. Encourage his exploration, but also be ready to redirect.
Puppy Play, yes, it is also important to let your puppy to be just what he or she is. A puppy. Yep, that’s right just play with your puppy. This is much more important than you may realize, this seemingly unstructured time helps to build trust, and with trust comes affection. This is the foundation of what makes a Drent super awesome to own. They love to please their boss. Use this time to help shape boundaries. With very little effort this play time will serve to support the manors you have been working on in the other areas of his early puppy development. You get to control the intensity of 'what right looks like', so do so. Use treats, and toys. Relax, have fun. But keep your head.
Social Dominance takes place between 10 and 16 weeks and this is when pups begin to identify where they are in the pecking order. Recognized by most, are the three categories of the social hierarchy: Aggressive-Dominate, Sub-Dominant, and Inhibited-Submissive – there are other subcategories, but that would be a whole other thing to write about… Most dogs tend to be somewhere in the Sub-Dominate element of the social dominance spectrum. Meaning they are confident, capable, and able to display both dominate and submissive behaviors based on different situations. The Inhibited Submissive pups are not able to assert themselves and tend to be the target of the more dominate dogs.
Whereas the Aggressive-Dominate dogs learn their behaviors while playing with litter-mates, and will continue to practice their behaviors, generally through play, with you. It is important to recognize the signs and do your part to temper these behaviors early on. Behaviors like mouthing, nipping, or biting need to be redirected and focused in more appropriate ways. Generally, through constructive play, and having a positive redirect is all you need.
Separation, a dog has to be okay with not being by your side constantly. This is where crate training pays its dividend over and over. Get that puppy Kong loaded with peanut butter (and freeze it) or freeze carrots, and/or pups’ favorite toy and have pup sleep in its crate, even if this is right next to you as you write an article, or Facebook with your friends. At first this may only have to be for a few minutes at a time, and work towards extending it as they get comfortable. Also, you may need to shorten the time as you move pups kennel further away from you. Just play with the variables. Set pup up for success. You want to avoid traumatic events, leaving pup in the crate for extended periods, and you want to really avoid allowing pup out while it’s crying. If you must, use a distraction if pup is squalling and move quickly once it has stopped – you want to avoid having them make the connection that their protest was the key to them getting let out. A nice sharp clap of the hands can be just what the doctor ordered. Don't be afraid to put pup on a schedule. In short, like all thing’s puppy, when in doubt create positive experiences. You will not regret it.
Fear. More or less between 8 and 10 weeks is the famed and feared ‘puppy fear stage’. In short, don’t force a puppy. Do what you can to control and shape the situation to make it positive. Do your best to not coddle, as this only serves to reinforce their fear reaction. Your best bet is to practice ‘extinction’ aka, ignore the fear response, and devise a way to get a positive response. Break the situation down into steps. Sometimes those steps may need to be further broken down. Be sure to then reward each step that has been conquered. If you can’t make it positive – just stop. It should go without saying putting the pup into a situation where you have little or no control is just a bad idea – don’t do it.
Training. Yes, you have to train your puppy starting right away - even Drents. Everything you do or don’t do is training him something. You do have to understand that puppies have attention spans which aren’t that spectacular. However, once you come to realize puppy training is all of the things you have read thus far. From getting them out and about, play, familiarization with their crate, waiting until they settle before putting their food bowl down, doing the recall game, and of course potty training. Puppy training works best when it tends to be play centric, rewards for the desired behavior are regularly offered. Negative reinforcement with young pups needs to be refrained from. If they are doing wrong guide them to what is right, and praise once the correct behavior is offered.
Imprinting is really what all of this is about. With a constant and consistent message of what is appropriate, and welcome will become imprinted upon the pup. This is why correcting some bad behaviors in older dogs can be nearly impossible. It’s like a stain on a favorite shirt, it isn’t coming out, no matter how many times it is sprayed and washed. So, don’t be careless with how and what you do with pup. Be deliberate, take advantage of the malleability of these early weeks shape the dog you want to live with for the next ten or so years.
Great, so what kinds of things should I be doing? Well there are 12 things which should be done before week 16 comes to a close:
1) Meet 100* strangers: 40% Men, 40% Children, 20% Women, and of as many different races and ethnicity as possible.
2) Body handling: Make sure that puppy enjoys every inch of his body being touched and poked and prodded.
3) Meet 100* dogs: all breeds, sizes, ages, sexes, and reproductive status. Just make sure the dogs are healthy and friendly. It is perfectly fine for a dog to gently correct your puppy for being rude, but we do not want the dog attacking or over-correcting your puppy.
4) 10 Different floor surfaces: From wet grass to metal exam tables to rickety old decks. Think about all the different textures puppies will experience in their lives.
5) New environments: Parking lots, busy streets, children’s parks and playgrounds, vets’ offices, pet supply stores, cafes, etc.
6) Household noises: From dishwashers and pots & pans to vacuums and blow dryers, as well as thunder, fireworks, and cars whirring by on a busy street. Don’t forget babies crying, children laughing, and people shouting! YouTube can be your best friend...
7) Children’s toys: From remote control toys and noise-making toys to balloons and kiddie pools.
8) Things with wheels: strollers, bikes, skateboards, shopping carts, etc.
9) Costumes & appearances: everything from hats and helmets to beards and masks, lab coats and hooded jackets to high heels and big boots, canes and walkers to umbrellas and people carrying boxes/big bags e.g. mailman/UPS/FedEx. Have you chatted with your mail delivery person? Maybe it is high time to meet the actual mailman with your puppy. Don’t forget the treats!
10) Household objects: computer printers, stairs (both open stairs and solid stairs), step stools and ladders, trash bags (both black and white – it does make a difference), exercise equipment, lawn signs…
11) Smells & scents: From grass to gasoline at a gas station or window cleaner, perfume, pizza… whatever you can think of. Obviously you don’t want your puppy breathing in chemicals, but you also don’t want your dog to freak out when he does a ride-along at the gas station, when you wash the windows, or when you get dressed up for a date. New smells can freak a dog out.
12) Dog stuff: Leashes, collars, harnesses, crates and gates, food dishes of various types, car rides, and TOYS! Toys of all types. Yes, you actually have to teach them what toys are appropriate, or they won’t know what to do with them.
*100…really, it’s a nearly impossible goal for normal working people. The point is, push yourself to get pupper out and about. Be smart, be safe with where you go. Just be sure to make the time, because soon the 16 week door will close, and you will not be able to reopen it.
Let’s me honest. When you own a puppy, stuff is going to happen. It’s just a matter of time - I don’t care how on the ball you are, an accident is going to happen. Aiding potty training is fully and properly cleaning where the accident happened. So how do you deal with it? Sprays are pretty much 100% ineffective on their own regardless of how fancy they claim to be. You gotta get up what got put down. Using a sponge or a stack of paper towels is much like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. Sure, you’ll feel like you did something, but really far too little to actually be effective. Your patient, er ah your carpet, is about to flatline (have an odor pretty much forever). You really need to invest in a carpet cleaner. If cash is tight, one of the handheld units is better than the old school paper towel routine you may be used to. At least these have the ability to suction stuff up, and then pull clean water and/or cleaning fluid through the carpet. However, I used one of these portable units for years because I didn’t want to invest in an upright cleaner, and I was sure it did a good job. What a mistake! About six years ago I saw the light. I bought a Bissell ProHeat Pet Pro Cleaner - the new ones are even better - and I now wonder how I ever thought the portable unit was even effective. What makes is so much better? Break out your best Tim Allen, or if you are a Top Gear fan, Jeremy Clarkson, impersonation. Raw Power. Lots and lots of power. You can pull the accident wetness out and make the carpet nearly dry, then set about cleaning it by cycling ample amounts of water and cleaner through the affected area. The final suction run will pull all the remaining wetness out of the carpet, even out of the padding. Most have a hand attachment, and most have much less power than the main cleaner, but still much more than a portable unit. Even once pup is potty trained, accidents happen, or they may get sick…who knows you may even have a major spill of your own. In the end your nose will always appreciate the purchase.
Getting a puppy is always an exciting time! Just like most things in life, you get out of it what you put in. In this case I'm talking about making your home a place where pup can not just exist, but thrive. Whether this is your first puppy or its been a while since you have had a puppy, myself included, it's time to start thinking about and doing somethings around the house in preparation for Jr.'s arrival. Yes, that means prepping the house and yard.
Before I cover some of the more typical and mundane things, I need to stress that modern veterinary science has shown dysplasia of the hip and elbow are predominantly environmentally driven! So just what does that mean, and how does it apply to us as puppy stewards? Slick floors and stairs are not your puppy's friend! If you have them, It is time to head out to Costco or your favorite home goods retailer and buy some throw rugs. Because, we do not want pup skittering all over the place, and we really don't want to have pup chasing a ball on your hardwood/tile floors! The other high-risk area is your stairs. In particular, descending is very stressful on the elbow joint. If your stairs are hard and smooth they are really not your puppy's friend. Solve this by carrying pup up and down. Once they are too big for that use a leash to control the rate of their ascent and descent. Please be sure to prevent them from jumping off the last three steps! On this note, your puppy will need exercise, but please stay away from activities which include lots of jumping (intro to agility is the main offender here) or pushing pup too hard/much with becoming your running companion too early. Your pup's growth plates remain open until up to around 18 months of age. You will learn first hand the Drent growth rate, it is pretty impressive. Figure on doing more serious physical stuff with your Drent no sooner than 11 months, and just ease into it.
- Get your trash under wraps. Put it behind a door, or install a child safety device
- Cover/contain electrical cords. Your main strategy may just be aware of where you have them because you can't do much about them,,,
- Properly stow your backpacks and purses! All kinds of not dog-friendly things are hidden away in them e. g. gum w/ Xylitol, make up, you name it
- Secure your medications in a drawer. Drents will eat the damnedist things! Best case this will result in a very expensive trip to the emergency vet
- Do you have poisonous house plants/landscaping? If you can't answer that question in less than 2-seconds...you need to do some research
- Where is puppy's area going to be? Try setting it up now to see if it works the way it does in your head...you may have to go back to the drawing board
- It goes without saying, household cleaners need to be secured.
- Have you ever deployed a chemical mouse or some other bait trap(s)? Go find them, and dispose of them. Once you think you are good, check again!
- Your garage is a high-risk zone. Lawn chemicals, cleaners, and whatnot. Find a way to secure all of this, or just do like us - the garage is a no dog zone
- The puppy should never have unfettered unsupervised access to anything. As they learn and become better potty trained and learn what is and isn't theirs, you can expand this bubble...
- Puppies should stay on the ground unless you are directly supervising/handling them. A puppy rolling off a piece of furniture can be a significant and unpleasant event
- Batteries...yes, they will chew them and swallow them. Secure all batteries and monitor devices pup has access to which contain them. Swallowed batteries = emergency vet visit
- Any cooked bone is a serious high-risk to your puppy or dog, doesn't matter what animal it is from Cooked = Very Bad, raw = could be okay (large beef knuckles generally) if you really want your dog to chew a bone. I prefer Nyla bones. They make wonderful puppy chewers (which adults love even more and if you have Booker visit, they will last about 1 second - chomp and goneski)
- If you have nicknacks on a low shelf, it's time to move them up, or find a way to protect them. Puppies do not know the difference between your stuff and theirs
- If you have a cat, please plan on moving the litter box into an area your puppy cannot get to it. This is for a myriad of reasons, at best it has a high likelihood of becoming a snack bar - how about EEEEEeeewwwww
- Remember those rugs I told you to buy? Did they have a non-slip backing? If not invest in a roll of carpet tape and put it to use
- How about that fence? Is it secure? Is it stable? What can it keep in? What can it keep out?
- Once you have assessed your fence - do what you need to do?
- Get to know your landscaping. Some mulches and plants are poisonous to dogs. If you don't know off the top of your head and don't look into it, you will be making a trip to your veterinarian...maybe worse
- Does your yard have a place or places which have shade all or most of the day? If not, be aware of when you let pup spend time out back and limit direct sun exposure. Ambient temps can be reasonable but being stuck in direct sunlight can be quite brutal and unforgiving
- Pup's water bowl should be in one of those shaded areas
Well, it's feeding time - again!
My Answer: No need to send any crates in advance, we have so many crates it would boggle your mind. Literally, we have a stack of them consuming a corner of our basement. We will begin acclimatizing the pups to crates shortly after they get under their own power. Primarily we will use plastic airline kennels to get the pups started since they will be more likely to chew wire crates, and this isn’t a behavior we want to get ingrained at the start.
That Orvis crate looks to be a nice one, but with a pup...I have a hard time recommending it as an initial investment. You could get lucky and It could be just right the right size, or it could end up being a bit small. All of our adult dogs have quite large wire crates so they can lay comfortably when we are away, but when they are pups, they aren’t given such luxury. I did recommend looking on Facebook marketplace, or any other comparable source, for used crates, in particular "life-stages" crates which have a movable panel which will help with potty training. With these "life-stages' crates you can make the puppies space smaller when they are tiny and move the divider to make their space larger as their needs evolve and their bladders strengthen. Then you can either fold it up or sell it once you are done with it.
As I have mentioned in my book, Drents will be really close to full size at around 11-13 months of age. Boys, in particular, will still be filling out: gaining bone and muscle mass up until possibly 3 years of age, and his coat will continue to develop pretty much his whole life, but his adult coat could take until he is 3 or 4 years of age. Females will be done much closer to 18 months but will also likely see some coat development as they age, but to a much smaller extent than the boys. With Drents, it is important to realize a certain amount of Sexual Dimorphism is common in the breed, with the boys being larger.
With our 2019 Powder X Joeri litter most of the litter will be close to the size of the parents as I have posted on the litter page. But with the Drent, there is a lot of variety, and some bloodlines have more than others and in this case on the father's side of the family, there is a greater amount of uniformity in size 23"-24" at the shoulder. On the mother’s side there are some really big boys. So, while it is unlikely, it may be possible we could see a 25" boy.
So for the home, in short, I think buying an adjustable kennel, or a series of the plastic bodied kennels is your best option for his first year. Clean, used, but well-maintained kennels are the best way to go until you know for sure how big he is going to be.
In writing this, I see where I totally failed John. I didn’t even touch on the travel part of kenneling your dog. When it comes to airlines, really, these requirements have become a moving target, and so checking with your airline of choice several months in advance is critical to ensure what you purchase meets their specifications.
What I will touch upon is crating for overland/highway travel. I am a huge fan of having my dogs crated while rolling down the road, it just solves so many problems before they even have a chance to rear their heads to become one! For road travel with Drents I am not in favor of wire, or folding wire crates. I have a friend and mentor who uses them, his dogs are small, so he has never had a problem. I used them and stopped after having the crates collapse at the least opportune time - they provided only an illusion of restraint. Another travel kennel to mention is the soft sided kennel. Like the Jeep Dog Kennel, I have used similar products in the past and I'm not a fan. Let me explain, a fabric kennel will only contain a dog that is okay with being contained. Zippers are easily popped, the mesh and fabric will only fascinate a chewer as they buzz saw their way through like a hot knife through softened butter. As far as using a fabric 'kennel' for travel to protect and contain your dog while traveling, they will most likely offer even less in the way of restraint and protection during hard braking or worst case, a crash than a wire kennel.
This is the reason I use Ruff Tough kennels, now called Ruff Land, kennels. I use their intermediate size, which is a bit small for our larger boys, and about right for the girls and they are strapped down to the “Hell for Stout” Carty Vault with 2,500# cargo straps. These days you can buy even tougher double walled rotomolded kennels, and you can spend as money on these as your budget will allow! I’ve never had a problem or heard of a problem with a “Ruff Tough” – they are tough as wood pecker lips. The smaller size I use isn’t the best for long road trips but does keep the dogs from being tossed around in the back country. Everything is a compromise, and I went a bit towards safety over comfort.
Here is an area where a little sacrifice and deliberate effort pays a dividend for a lifetime. We take it seriously pretty much from day one here at Two Gun. We have a house full of Drents and despite having the word “kennel” in our name, our kennel is our home. Having our home smell like urine and feces is for sure a full-stop-no-go around here. It is unpleasant, unsanitary and embarrassing to have guests over.
Potty training isn’t difficult, but it does take some diligence and we strive to set you up for success before pup even goes home. I’m not saying you have no work to do, but it is on you if your pup decides the inside is the place to go…let me explain.
We use wee-wee pads, and in a pinch will use fresh news print. Keeping the puppies’ area clean, dry and sanity is of the utmost importance for a number of reasons. One of them being for potty training, so from the earliest days we begin encouraging the pups to use the pads to do their business away from where they spend their time resting, nursing and playing. Once they become just mobile enough the pads are placed into rabbit trays to set a boundary on the potty area, and this is set back and away from where we greet and care for them, and like has been said where they nurse, rest and play which begins to reinforce the use of the potty zone.
This all goes to build the preference and habit of eliminating away from the desirable areas, and we will then begin to use this preference/habit to help transition them to using the great outdoors.
It has been said in just about every forum of dog training and ownership, lack of house training is one of the top deal-breakers for many...and learning to quickly house train your dog is a top priority for most dog owners – but they too often struggle with this task.
Once pups are getting more mobile, we will introduce the bell to help them associate and give them a way to tell us when they want to go out. This is fiendishly simple, and many dogs will learn the association very rapidly – it will become your job to be Johnny on the Spot with getting them out and praising them when “it” happens.
But before I give you the secret to the door bell, I need you to understand a few things about puppy plumbing and when they will need to go potty. This will help you to get out in front of them and get as close to a 100% success rate as possible. Pups will want to eliminate within a few moments of waking from a nap, after finishing a meal or a play session. The younger they are, the shorter this duration is. You need a Potty Diary. Write down when they did what and what time is was. This really helps you key in on what pup’s cycle is, how many times a day they do what and when they do it. Once you know Spot poop’s three times a day and it happens at 10, 2, and 6…and he’s only done two of the three and it’s 6:30PM, you my friend are on borrowed time. You then need to know your tolerance for risk, are you a gambler? When it comes to poop on my carpet the answer is: not at all – let’s get him outside on a leash and be ready to praise him when it happens.
Why the leash, and why praise? Well, here is the deal, your dog needs to be comfortable doing his thing near you. Do you travel? You will need to collect a sample for the vet eventually. Also, unless you have the ability to correct a puppy within 1/3rd of a second whatever you do to scold him will be lost on him. His ability to associate his punishment with what he did just isn’t there. All you are doing is damaging the trust you are trying to build. So, once YOU have missed the boat, put pup outside, or in his kennel and get your carpet cleaner out and get to work – it’s on all on you my friend.
Okay, back to getting pup on a leash and getting him out. Keep a slip lead around, or really keep a few around in areas you allow the pup, or better yet don’t let pup in an area you aren’t in. When you hustle to the door, with pup trotting by your side or tucked under your arm as the situation may dictate – give the bell a quick jingle on the way out. No fuss no muss, a simple quick jingle every time pup goes out to go potty. That will be seven to ten times a day for a while. My oldest Paxson learned this in barely two weeks, Booker in less than a week. Pup will ring that bell when he wants out. This is a huge help! However, if you are too slow, you will have a wet spot by the door. I can guarantee it. So, don’t let your guard down once the bell in in play. Once in a while a dog will abuse the bell having you be his butler letting him out at will…and that is a different conversation for a different day.
What else can you do to help set the stage? Well before pup ever comes home…
This one may sound obvious, but it’s one most likely the biggest one every dog owner has totally missed. Unless your home has new virgin carpet, deep-clean all accident spots in your home with an enzyme-based cleaner. I strongly recommend knuckling down and purchasing an upright Bissell, any of their pet cleaners really. It is a purchase you will not regret. They do way better than just surface cleaning, you can cycle water and or cleaning fluid through trouble spots and extract excess water and cleaner for rapid drying. Remember wee soaks in and can even penetrate the carpet padding and even the subflooring – and why blotting and other surface cleaning methods just don’t work. Surface cleaning a carpet still leaves odor in the carpet pad and on the sub-floor. If you have trouble spots like this consider using a product like Nature’s Miracle which works well. You should use enough cleaner to fully saturate everywhere urine penetrated – this can be quite a lot of fluid. Remember, a dog’s nose is thousands of times more sensitive than yours, and if he can smell any remnants, he will be tempted to return to that spot to eliminate.
It bears repeating, unless you catch your dog in the act of eliminating indoors and can make an effective correction within 1/3rd of a second (that’s quick pardner), just clean the mess and blame yourself for not managing him closely enough. Some people think, err ah rather, anthropomorphize a dog’s “guilty look” indicates he understands what he did wrong, most likely the dog is reading your hostile demeanor and trying to appease you.
Moving on to the next point, and why it is critically important for you to praise young Spot for doing his business outdoors. Chastising your dog “after the fact” (outside of the 1/3rd of a second window) can produce some negative side-effects. If your dog associates your harshness with his accident, he may become afraid to eliminate in your presence. Not only may he try to hide his accidents from you indoors, but he may not eliminate in your presence when you take him for a walk or go into the back yard with him which then opens the door to having other problems you will need to solve – let’s head those all off at the pass and not allow then to manifest in the first place.
I’ve mentioned it several times already, let’s say you are right there when it happens, and you have the opportunity to make a correction in that split-second window, what is appropriate? Simply interrupt the behavior with a finger-snap and a “no” and get the dog outside to finish his business. When he finishes, praise and reward him.
Another pro-tip is remembering pups rarely have all their stuff together and are easily distracted, so when you get him outside and he’s down one thing and you have praised him. Be sure to give him 5-10 more minutes to sniff around. Dogs often do not empty their bladders/bowels the first time. If he eliminates again, give him 5-10 more minutes if time allows, if not, then he should be kenneled and or closely monitored. Then again, if you have been up on your Potty Diary you may know your pup is fully done and might be up for a gamble – just remember if you lose it’s on you.
Another reason to not to quickly return pup inside right away after he’s done his business is it could begin to teach him that eliminating causes his outdoor fun to end, which could cause him to hold his elimination for longer than necessary periods of time. After his final elimination, keep him outside for a few more minutes before returning indoors.
When your dog is in the process of eliminating, quietly repeat a cue word you would like to use to tell your dog you want him to eliminate. I like to use: “Hurry up. Hurry up. Hurry up.” Later, you can use the cue word/phase to help encourage your dog to get down to business, which can be helpful when traveling or if it is cold out.
A great way to help win all the bets is to get your all your pup’s eating and drinking on a tight schedule. If you can control his input, you can predict his output. If you can predict his output, you can accumulate outdoor successes. And outdoor successes will lead to creating the habit of eliminating outdoors. This also includes getting him through the night without needing to wee at 0230… pick that water up a few hours before you go to bed and be sure to give pup ample opportunity to get it all worked out before putting him down for the night.
Be sure to restrict pup’s movements indoors. They cannot be allowed to have free run. I have an article on teething and this applies there too. You may need to tether pup to you or something initially, and has he becomes more trustworthy allow his area to increase. But out of sight is a recipe for getting acquainted with that new Bissell. Crates and play pens are also valuable tools in helping you to control the battle space, don’t be afraid to use them to your advantage.
The key to quick success with house training is managing the dog’s activity closely and rewarding successes consistently. It is not uncommon for dogs to have regressions once they’ve been completely house trained. If it happens, just take a few liberties away and rebuild from there.
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Forty some years later this is what you get.