When Your Dog “Waters” Your Plants

DogShrub
The culprit with his shrubs, real and fake.

If your dog consistently lifts his leg on the same favorite plant, chances are you’ve had to replace it, or wring your hands when he moves on to the next nearest object and starts the process all over again.

After once replacing a shrub my dog’s “watering” had killed, I realized it was going to get expensive to watch shrub after shrub bite the dust. Sure, I could put him on leash to prevent him from always going to the same spot, but I preferred the convenience of just letting him out the backdoor.

So I replaced the favorite pee shrub with a fake specimen, leaving the old shrub there for a more branch-like look. For $1.99, my dog can now lift his leg on his favorite shrub location to his heart’s delight, and the plant looks good as new.

Simple solution, everybody’s happy. Here’s to dreaming of all the lovely springtime plants that will be sprouting before we know it!

 

 

 

 

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Is Someone Sabotaging Your Training?

Do you ever get the feeling that someone in your household is undermining your dog training efforts? Maybe you have even invested in dog training advice, and a spouse or child does not follow through on the training recommendations the way you’d like.

You are not alone. Many of my clients fret that someone in their family is not on board with training. On top of not helping, the rogue family member may even complain that the dog does not behave as well with them.

What are you to do? Here is my advice:

  • Be grateful that the would-be saboteur is so involved with the dog as to potentially interfere with your training. Be glad they care enough about the dog to engage with him or her. Even if one or two training issues aren’t resolved as quickly as you’d like, it is probably all going to work out fine in the end.DogLickingSpoon
  • Try to be patient. After all, since they are not as involved in the training, your half-hearted helper may not be as quick to recognize, prevent and solve annoying doggie habits. So they may feel frustrated that they are not seeing the results you enjoy. The more they see you in action, though, the likelier they are to adopt the successful techniques you are using.
  • Choose one thing to prioritize, and let the rest go. For example, if you are working on several things like puppy biting, chewing on your belongings, housetraining, and crate manners, pick just one of those to get the person to stick to the rules on, at least for a couple of weeks. (Meanwhile, you can continue to work on the whole list.) Puppy biting rules are good to have agreement on, since that way they can still interact with each other without making things worse. Put prevention strategies in place to make sure the other priorities continue to go mostly well. If you have an older dog past the mouthy stage, but who is still in need of potty training, affix a housetraining schedule to the fridge and get a promise that your helper will stick to it. The main idea is that focusing on just one thing will make success more likely, and it will be a lot less frustrating for you.
  • Be open to what you can learn from your family member. I once had a puppy I had big competition obedience plans for. I wanted everything to be just perfect, and worked hard to teach the puppy all the right things. At least, that’s what I thought I was doing. Then one day I watched my spouse playing with the puppy. They had made up their own game, and I could see the joy and pure fun they were experiencing together. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment, because it taught me to remember why I have dogs in the first place, and it made a huge impact on me as a professional trainer as well. Be open to what you can learn about your dog and your family, just by letting them enjoy each other.
  • Spend time with others who are also training their dogs. It is lonely at the top! Training a dog, especially a new dog, takes a lot of time, effort, planning, patience and creativity. If you are working hard at it, and you are the main person in charge of the puppy’s learning, then you may sometimes feel unsupported by those who aren’t at home as much, or who are around just enough to reap the benefits of your hard work. It helps to take a group class, where once a week you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who understand your struggles and triumphs. You might also enjoy neighborhood walks or puppy play dates with people in the same boat. (The Puppy Social Hour is designed partly with this idea in mind, or you might try a semi-private training session.)

Finally, if you are really butting heads with your family over which is the best way to teach the dog something, invite them to the next training session. I fully expect clients to ask why I recommend a technique, or to weigh in on the way they would like to handle a training challenge, or to help predict fallout from a particular method they may be considering. Since it is my job and I am not in the middle of the family disagreement, a little objectivity is injected into the situation. A  family training session can be a good catalyst for moving forward together.

And, of course, sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh. For example, my dogs aren’t generally allowed to have food in the kitchen during meal preparation, but I noticed one of them had started coming in and staring at the same spot on the floor any time I got out a bag of potato chips. A little investigation revealed that someone has been accidentally-on-purpose dropping a chip there each morning when he makes his lunch. The dog never lies…

Housetraining Hint #1

Teaching your dog to eliminate only outside, especially if he’s a new puppy, is usually a labor intensive process. You’ll need to take him outside frequently, know how to respond if he does pee indoors, know the right way to supervise so he does not pee indoors in the first place, and have a plan for increasing his freedom in the house. In addition to this primer on how to house train a puppy, I thought I would offer a series of weekly hints to help those of you who are in the midst of this process. These are tips that are commonly needed by my dog training clients and that have made a big difference in their progress. Some of these hints maypuppypeeing not apply to you. If not, just wait a few days! Puppies have a way of throwing a curve ball at you just when things are going smoothly. Not to worry, that’s normal; my hope is that having the tip ahead of time will help ease the house training for both of you. So here we go, here is tip #1:

Do not praise your puppy or new dog while he is eliminating. Timing is everything. If you begin praising your pooch as soon as he has squatted, you risk distracting him or interrupting him altogether. This can translate into more frequent potty opportunities needed, or the “he pees in the house as soon as we’ve walked back in the door” syndrome. Let him empty that little bladder all the way. The moment he finishes is the time to turn on the enthusiastic praise.