Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Old Dog, New Trick

Thanks for this blog. I have a question, wondering if you could help. I have an 11-year-old collie, very healthy. We're moving to an area that has no grass or park to let her lose nearby.

The problem is that over the years we have always lived near a park and she got used to ONLY pee or poop over grass, over leaves or snow. She has never peed on asphalt, sidewalk or the curb.

Do you know how can I teach her to go on the curb at this age? Any help will be appreciated. Thank you much!

Alright, so my first thought here is, "Find some grass."  Your dog is 11, and while she's perfectly capable of learning new things, it's not always fair to ask her to change her life that much.  Is there even just a small tree with some dirt that you could take her to?

Let's assume, though, that there really is no other option.  Well, that's when you kind of have to go back go potty training 101.  You do have one advantage, though.  Your dog already knows not to go potty inside.

If your dog doesn't know one yet, start off by teaching a potty command.  When your dog uses the bathroom, put a command with it.  Say something like "Go potty!" or "Hurry up!"  Really, the words you use don't matter so much, just so long as your consistent.  I've had some people use "Ketchup" to mean go pee, and "mustard" to mean go poop.  Then, reward your dog for using the potty by providing a small, tasty treat.  It won't take long before you'll be able to use this command and have your dog respond by using the bathroom.

Next, stop allowing your dog to run loose to potty.  Keep the leash attached and use that "go potty" command.  Reward your dog for using the potty on command.  Now you're ready to go to the city.

When it's about time for your dog to potty, take her outside, and use her go potty command.  She might not respond at first as she's used to the feel and smell of grass and dirt.  If she doesn't potty, don't make a big deal of it.  Just take her back inside.  Here's the key, though.  Don't allow her to simply run around free.  Keep her on leash so she can't just run off and hide her potty somewhere in your house. 

After 5-10 minutes, try again.  Take her outside and tell her, "Go potty."  Repeat these two steps until she actually goes.  When she does, give her tons of praise and rewards (make sure she's actually done going as you don't want to startle her into stopping).  Then, lead her back inside where she can have her usual freedom.

Obviously, this is going to take a little time (a couple weeks to prep at least), and it may take some extra time when you first move, so adjust your schedule accordingly.

A few more tips for when you move: Make sure you keep her potty spot fairly consistent to start off.  She'll quickly start to see that as her potty spot.  Also, if you can find a spot where other area dogs tend to potty, go there.  Their scents may help encourage her to potty as well.

Good luck on your move, and be gentle with your gal.  This is a big adjustment for her too!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Big Bully

Hello all!  I'm so sorry for the delay in posts.  Time just got a little away from me.  I've received some really great questions recently, though, so I'm hoping to catch up here soon.  For this post, I've received a question regarding a large dog and some young kids.

I have a question and would really appreciate any help. My husband and I got a bull mastiff- Rottweiler mix 7 months ago and he started being aggressive with our 3 year old and 1 year old right away. He is fine with me and my husband but growls at the kids. He has growled very viciously since bringing him home. He growls if they pet him on his back or get close to him when he has, food, water, or a bone. Sometimes he growls for no reason. The kids are never mean to him and are never alone with him. We tried getting him trained two weeks straight with no change. He has actually nipped my 3 year old son once that didn't draw blood but did leave a mark and make him cry. My question is ..is there any hope for him or do you think he will always be aggressive? We don't have money to get him trained anymore. He hasn't been fixed yet but people keep saying he will stop being aggressive after he's fixed but he's been doing this all along. Would appreciate your advice on to keep him or not. Thanks so much!

This is actually a really difficult question to answer, but my primary instinct is to say that he's probably not a good fit for you family.  Let me explain.

First, kids are not like normal people.  I'm sure you see your 3 year old a small person who's just cute and learning.  Your dog does not see them this way.  To your dog, a 3 year old is an alien creature who talks in a really weird language and doesn't quite walk right.  That's pretty scary!  Don't even get me started on what a 1 year old is like to your dog!!

Secondly, as much as you work with your dog, you also have to work with your kids.  Most kids see dogs as something soft and snuggly that they can play with.  Even kids that are cautious with dogs end up interacting with differently with them than an adult would.  The way they pet and talk and look at a dog are all different, and the way your dog looks at them is different too.  Trying to teach a very young child the exactly perfect way to approach, pet, and handle your dog is, well I don't like to use the word "impossible," but it's extremely difficult.

Third, your dog has already bitten your 3 year old.  He's already setting the tone, and chances are things will end up getting worse before they get better.  You're putting both the dog and the child at risk by keeping them together.

Fourth, this is not something that developed over time.  You did not bring in a dog 7 months ago who was well-socialized to kids but then developed a few issues.  Your brought in a dog 7 months ago who didn't like kids from the get-go.  Changing that is going to be difficult.

Lastly, simply the time and commitment it would take to make things better.  It's certainly not impossible to help your dog, but it will take a lot of work (far longer than 2 weeks) and a lot of time.  In my experience, most parents of 2 young kids just don't have the time or the energy to handle that (a big applause to you if you do).

Now then, all that being said, there are a couple of things I'd like to clarify about all I said. 

1) Age will make a difference here, and I haven't met your dog.  No offense, but I always worry when someone tells me their dog is aggressive.  Many times, what they see as aggression is really just overgrown hyper puppy.  Having never met your dog or seen how he acts around your kids, I am really just assuming that what you're saying is completely accurate.

2) Notice that at no point did I think your dog should be put down / euthanized.  Just because he's not a great fit for your family doesn't mean he wouldn't be a great fit for someone else.  It could just be that he's not great with kids, but would do wonderfully in a home free of children.

I really hope this answers your question.  I'm sorry I couldn't give you a more positive response, but I really worry when young kids are involved.  Good luck!