Month: April 2012

Preventing Behavior Problems

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To teach your pup specific behaviors that will help him/her avoid developing annoying and/or dangerous behavior problems.

Tools you will need

  • Food bowl and food
  • Yummy treats
  • “Home alone Toys” (Buster Cubes, activity Balls, Kongs, etc.)


More dogs are put to sleep annually in animal shelters than die from diseases. Most of these dogs are under one year of age. The reasons are many, but certainly a major contributor to this sad state of affairs is people’s expectations of what dogs are all about, and people’s failure to successfully guide their pups into healthy adulthood. Many of these dogs have not learned even the most basic manners (see Basic Manners page), and some have more serious behavior problems such as aggression. and many, many families live with dogs who have behavior problems that cause stress within the family and, in some cases, danger to others in their communities.

This section addresses some of the most common behavior problems and suggests preventive measures that can be used to avoid them.

Step-by-Step Tips

In addition to the basic manners and leadership exercises described in previous pages, the following preventive exercises are very important in raising a well-mannered puppy who will stay in its home for life.


All puppies chew, dig and bark. In most cases this is the result of boredom. Dogs are very bright, as well as energetic, animals. To avoid annoying behaviors such as destructiveness, barking, and digging, they must be provided with activities that exercise both their minds and their bodies.

Daily exercise, play, and training are critical. Provide your pup with safe, appropriate chew toys, and restrict his/her access to items you value, such as remote controls, shoes, clothing, purses, etc. Block off (with temporary fencing) areas of the yard you don’t want destroyed. Many puppies outgrow some of their tendencies to dig, but many continue this habit because there is nothing else to do.

If your pup spends several hours alone while you are gone during the day, leave him/her with “home alone toys” such as Buster Cubes, activity Balls, and stuffed Kongs. Consider having a neighbor or pet sitter drop by and play with the pup midway through the day.

With proper preventive measures, we can protect our belongings as well as provide adequate entertainment for our pups so that their teething and natural tendencies to chew are kept to a minimum.

Aggression Around Food

Many pups have no problem when people come near their food bowls. Unfortunately, we are sometimes surprised to find that puppies who growl in warning when they are young often bite when they are older.

First, teach your pup to sit before you put the bowl on the floor. This is very easy to teach. You can teach it separately (see Basic Manners page), or you can simply stand with the bowl patiently until your pup sits. Say “Yes!” and put the bowl on the floor. Gradually increase the amount of time you require the pup to stay sitting before putting the food down.

Second, teach your pup that good things happen when people (of all ages, especially toddlers and young children) approach his/her food bowl. Take some yummy treats like hot dogs or cheese, and toss them into the bowl while the puppy is eating. Sit next to the pup with an empty food bowl and fill it a few pieces of kibble at a time, sometimes tossing in something really yummy.

Pick the bowl up and put something great in it and put it down

Feed the pup in different locations so she/he doesn’t become protective of one spot in the kitchen.

Note: If you have a dog that stiffens, growls, or snarls when you approach him/her around the food bowl or when she/he is chewing on a toy or treat, get professional help from a positive reinforcement trainer or behavior specialist. A more extensive behavior modification program will be necessary.

Aggression Towards People

The reasons dogs become aggressive toward people are many, but in many cases it is because of an underlying fear based upon poor early socialization. The best way to ensure that your dog is safe around people of all types is to religiously practice a socialization program from a very young age. See Socialization page.

If you have a dog who appears extremely fearful of people (avoidance, tail between the legs, ears flattened, etc.), obtain the services of a positive reinforcement trainer or behavior specialist. A desensitization/counterconditioning behavior modification program may be necessary.

Aggression Towards Other Dogs

The reason dogs become aggressive toward other dogs is primarily because of poor early socialization. (It can also result from a traumatic incident such as being attacked by another dog.) The best way to ensure that your dog gets along with others of its own species is to religiously practice a socialization program from a very young age. See Socialization page. Lifelong exposure to a variety of different dogs is important to avoiding this all-too-common problem.

Again, if you have a dog who appears aggressive around other dogs, obtain the services of a positive reinforcement trainer or behavior specialist. A desensitization counterconditioning behavior modification program may be necessary.

Separation anxiety

This is one of the most common behavior problems presented to veterinarians. It is a complex behavior problem that can have its root in many causes. However, to ensure that your puppy doesn’t suffer from anxiety when left alone, make sure that you avoid having the puppy become overly dependent upon your physical presence. From a young age, accustom your pup to being alone for a few hours. Start by having your pup stay in another room of the house where she/he can see and hear you, but not be with you all the time.

A barrier such as a baby gate can be very helpful

Build up to longer periods of time and, eventually, to having your pup stay in a room of the house where she/he cannot see you, but can hear you. Next,she/he should learn to tolerate time alone with you in the house when she/he cannot see nor hear you. From there, you should not have a problem with being out of the house for short periods of time and, eventually, longer and longer periods of time.

Many puppies suffer separation anxiety when people bring the new puppy home over a holiday or summer vacation. The pup is surrounded by people 100% of the time for several days (or months!), and then when everyone goes back to work or school, is suddenly left all alone. Avoid this scenario by implementing the steps above on a regular basis and, minimally, several days or weeks before you return to work after a long period of absence.

If all else fails there is medication that is extremely helpful with this problem. ask your veterinarian if this applies in your situation.

Recommended Reading

An Owner’s Guide to Dog Behavior by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Behavior Problems in Dogs by William Campbell

The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson

Toolbox for Remodeling Your Problem Dog by Terry Ryan (Don’t be fooled by the title; this is an excellent resource for avoiding problem behaviors by teaching the right ones from the start.)

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Puppy Manners

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Goal of Manners

To teach your pup basic manners that will make him/her welcome members of the human community.

Tools you will need


Buckle collar, 6’ leash (leather, cloth, or nylon recommended; no chain leashes)

Yummy treats



Many of us grew up thinking that dogs could not be trained until they were at least six months old. This belief was based upon the traditional, command-based training techniques that utilized choke chains and corrections. With the more contemporary reward-based training techniques (lure/reward and clicker training), training can start much, much earlier and thus helps teach the pup the right behaviors from the start. The first six months of a dog’s life are an opportune time to set the foundation for lifelong skills and behaviors that will help cement a solid relationship between pup and human family members.
Puppy training should begin as soon as your bring your new puppy home! Many people are surprised to learn that pups as young as seven and eight weeks of age can begin learning “obedience” cues such as “Sit!” and “Down,” and that this is the best time to teach them other important behaviors such as no jumping, not to pull on the leash, and to learn to inhibit their mouthing and biting.

Step-by-Step Tips

There are several basic behaviors to teach your pup, regardless of his/her age. Note that the training technique used to teach all these behaviors is based on “clicker training,” a teaching technique that uses a clicker or a verbal “marker” such as “Yes!” that tells the pup “Yes!”; what you did right thereis the behavior that is going to earn you a reward.

Clicker training waits to associate a cue or name to the behavior until after the pup understands the behavior itself. It does not use any physical modeling (pushing or pulling your pup). Dolphin trainers have used clicker training for over 30 years and by dog trainers for over to 10 years. (For extensive information about clicker training, go to, a Web site created by one of the leading clicker trainers in the country, Karen Pryor.)

Mouthing and Biting

First, make sure your pup has a variety of toys (rope toys, balls, squeakies, etc.) to play with as a good alternative to chewing on you. When you see the pup running at you, pick up a toy and toss it to the pup, and praise him/her for chasing the toy instead. Never laugh and encourage your pup to chew your shoelaces. This may be cute as a puppy, but within a few days, you’ll discover it’s not so fun anymore! Instead, stand still, and toss a toy.

Second, when your pup mouths and bites you too hard, say “Ouch!” in a deep, firm voice, and get up and walk away. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until the pup understands that it is his/her biting that makes the playing end. If your pup runs after you and continues to jump and mouth you, here’s a great training solution: attach a length of cloth clothesline (about 8’ long) to your pup’s collar, and tether the other end to a piece of heavy furniture. Play with your pup in the immediate area where he is tethered. as soon as he exerts too much jaw pressure, say “Ouch!” and walk away in a huff. He won’t be able to follow you and he won’t be able to just scamper off to something more interesting. He’ll be forced to have a brief timeout (two minutes) before you return to give him another chance to play appropriately.

Be patient! all puppies mouth and bite. That’s how they explore their world and how they would be playing with their littermates, who would be teaching them all about bite inhibition. If you find that your pup is not responding to your “Ouch” and timeouts, it could be she/he is like an overtired toddler. In that case, give your pup a break from all the activity by placing him/her in a quiet place with a stuffed Kong or tether him/her with the Kong, and try again later.

Do not(these are either ineffective, dangerous, and/or cruel):

  • chuck or hit your pup under the chin
  • push your fingernails inside the pup’s mouth
  • try to hold your pup’s mouth shut
  • shake your pup by the scruff
  • roll the pup over in the old “alpha roll”

Don’t punish. Teach instead. You are the teacher. The pup is your student. Be patient. Be kind.


First, don’t reinforce it! We often unwittingly reinforce jumping by letting very young pups jump all over us. When your pup jumps up on you, simply turn away. Then, turn back to your pup and lure him/her into a sit with a little treat, and give the treat as the reward for sitting instead of jumping. Never touch, talk to, or smile at a puppy who is jumping on you; those are all reinforcements for jumping!


Get some tasty treats. Some dogs like Cheerios, some like cheese or hot dogs. Some will work fine for regular kibble. Experiment to see what your dog likes and use the “lowest-value” treat you can get away with, reserving “high-value” treats for the tougher behaviors you’ll be teaching later.

Hold the treat just above your pup’s nose.

More than likely your pup will look up to see the treat. Move the treat back as your pup’s nose follows it. Kerplunk! Down goes his rear-end! Say “Yes!” to mark the right behavior, and then give him the treat. It’s a basic law of doggy physics that when the nose and head goes up and back, the rear-end goes down It’s that easy! No need to pull on your pup’s collar or push on his rear-end. Create a thinking dog by letting him decide to do what it takes to get that treat!

If your dog jumps up to grab at the treat, simply start over, making sure you are not raising the treat too far above his nose. This will make the pup want to jump up to grab it instead of having his rear-end hit the floor. Do this four or five times with the treat in your hand, and then lure him/her without any treat in your hand. You may be surprised to find that the pup will follow this new hand signal, and sit. Move to different locations and repeat several times. When you pup clearly has the idea (many just start following you around and sitting without a hand signal), you are ready to add the cue, “Sit!” You do this by saying the word in a fun, upbeat voice, just as the pup starts to sit (or before, if you are good at predicting what your pup’s going to do). It will now take between 30 and 50 repetitions of the new cue for the pup to associate it with the behavior he already knows. No, don’t do 30 sits in a row! Break it up and make it fun over several separate training sessions.

Be sure to take this new behavior “on the road” by asking him to sit in different parts of the house, the yard, the park, etc.


This works easiest from a sit. With a treat, lure your pup’s nose straight down between his front feet. When your pup reaches down to follow the treat, his/her elbows will bend. Don’t wait for the whole down. Say “Yes!” to mark the behavior you like, and give the treat. Gradually build up to the point where the elbows are touching the floor, say “Yes!” and treat.

If your pup’s rear-end keeps popping up, simply start over, making sure you are not raising the treat too far forward in front of his feet instead of straight down. Just remove the treat and start over, shaping this behavior gradually by marking and treating each time his shoulders and elbows go lower and lower. He’ll get it eventually!

Just like above, when you have successfully lured him all the way down four or five times with the treat in your hand, try luring him/her without any treat in your hand. You may be surprised to find that the pup will follow this new hand signal, and go down.

Remember to move to different locations and repeat the new behavior several times. When your pup clearly has the idea, you are ready to add the cue, “Down!” You do this by saying the word in a fun, upbeat voice, just as the pup starts to go down (or before, if you are good at predicting what your pup’s going to do). It will now take between 30 and 50 repetitions of the new cue for the pup to associate it with the behavior he already knows. No, don’t do 30 downs in a row! Break it up and make it fun over several separate training sessions.

Come (also excellent for teaching a new pup its name)

First, avoid using your pup’s name except when you want him/her to pay attention to you. Don’t use the pup’s name in casual conversation! When you do use the pup’s name, you should be just a couple of feet away at first. Excitedly say, “Fido!” and when your pup looks at you, say “Yes!” and hand him/her a treat and praise and pet profusely. Increase the distance slowly and only very gradually add distractions.

Reward, Reward, Reward

Never call the pup to you to be reprimanded, give a bath, or other unpleasant times. When you do call your pup, reward profusely by praising, petting, and giving him/her a special treat.


This exercise teaches a pup to let people grab his/her collar without mouthing, biting, or trying to run away. There will be a time in the pup’s life that you will need to quickly grab the collar. All dogs are “hard-wired” to spin around and grab anything that is grabbing its neck. We need to desensitize the pup to this to avoid children being bitten and to allow us to grab the dog in an emergency.

Get your treats handy. Sit in front of the pup, and reach toward him/her (don’t grab yet), and reward (“Yes!” and treat) when the pup doesn’t mouth or jump at your hand. If s/he does, repeat, but this time don’t reach as far toward the pup. Gradually build up to the point where you are able to reach all the way to the side of your pup’s head without any mouthing. This should be pretty easy once the pup figures out all s/he has to do to earn the treat is to let you reach toward him/her!

Next, build up to the point where you can touch the pup’s neck and, eventually, the collar. When you get to the point of being able to put your fingers under the collar, start saying “Gotcha!” as you reach toward the pup. Now, say “Gotcha!” each time, and build up to the point of grabbing the collar and giving it a mild pull.

Congratulations, you have just taught your pup a most valuable lesson! Practice it frequently and from different angles (in front, from the side, and from behind).

Recommended Reading

Clicker Training for Dog by Karen Pryor

Clicking with Your Dog … Step-by-Step in Pictures by Peggy Tilman

How to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks by Dr. Ian Dunbar (by the veterinary behaviorist who popularized early training and reward-based training; an excellent book on using lure/reward training for dogs of all ages)

The Perfect Puppy: How to Raise a Well-Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey

Toolbox for Remodeling Your Problem Dog by Terry Ryan (Don’t be fooled by the title; this is an excellent resource for avoiding problem behaviors by teaching the right ones from the start.)


Click & Go by Deborah Jones, PhD

Click & Fix by Deborah Jones, PhD

Clicker Magic by Karen Pryor

Puppy Love: Raise Your Dog the Clicker Way by Karen Pryor

Sirius Puppy Training by Dr. Ian Dunbar (by the veterinary behaviorist who popularized early training and reward-based training)

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Leadership and Guidance for your Puppy

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To provide appropriate guidance and leadership to our dogs so that they learn the rules and customs of living in human society.

Tools you will need

Just you and your dog and some yummy treats and fun toys


There are many dog training books that still promote the myth that dogs do things because they want to “dominate” us. This “domination theory” has probably led to more abuse of dogs than any other reason. It has led people to believe that they must use physical force and aversive training techniques to train their dogs.

This belief comes from two sources. First, studies of wolves were used to learn more about dog behavior. Although the dominance theory explains a lot about pack hierarchy in a family of wolves, it does little to help us when it comes to understanding dogs’ place in the human family. Second, much of traditional dog training stems from the 1950’s and is based on a militaristic training style that is founded upon teaching the dog “who the boss is” and compelling the dog to comply “or else.”

Contemporary dog training is now based on learning theory that has been around since the 1940’s. Pick up any college psychology text, gain an understanding of classical conditioning (also known as Pavlovian conditioning) and operant conditioning, and you have the foundation of how dogs learn.

Simply put, dogs do what works. If jumping on you in greeting gets reinforced, then your dog will jump on you. If you let your dog in the house when she/he whines or barks at the back door, your dog will whine and bark at the back door. If your dog beats you through a doorway, she/he will keep beating you through doorways. The dog is not trying to dominate you when she/he is doing these things. The dog does these things because they work and she/he has not been taught alternative behaviors. The cardinal rule to remember in training dogs of any age is: Reinforce the behavior you want and remove reinforcement (voice, touch, eye contact) for behavior you don’t want. Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce!

Through our leadership and guidance, we can teach our dogs to defer to us when going through doorways, not to jump on visitors, and all the myriad of other behaviors that will make your dog a welcome member of the family, and the larger community in which she/he lives.

Step-by-Step Tips

The following are a few examples of how you can start teaching your puppy to defer to you and to look to you for guidance in his/her worldly affairs.


When your puppy jumps up on you, consider this a natural greeting of friendliness. Your 8-week old puppy is not trying to dominate you. She/he is saying hello and seeking affection and interaction. From the moment you bring your puppy home, start teaching him/her that jumping doesn’t work. Teach your pup that sitting or standing with “four on the floor” works. To do this simply sidestep the puppy’s jump so the jump ends up in the air, or pivot away from the puppy

Repeat this until the puppy doesn’t jump. Then, say “Yes!” and give the puppy a treat or pet him/her. always reinforce (praise, treats, petting) the absence of jumping and remove all reinforcement (eye contact, voice, and touch) for jumping. To help your pup out even more, teach him a substitute behavior such as sit. (See the section on “Basic Manners.”) Then, when the puppy tries to jump, you can sidestep and ask for a sit instead. Remember, reinforce the behavior you want or you will get something else you may not want!

Body slamming through doorways

Many puppies like to run through doorways ahead of us. In many cases this is not a problem. However, some times, especially as the puppy gets bigger, this can pose a safety issue for children and others who can be knocked down by a boisterous dog. additionally, teaching a pup to defer to your presence in a doorway will help set the stage for deference to you in other areas of his life.

Instead of letting your puppy bump into you getting through doorways, try body-blocking. Body-blocking is simply asserting your personal space. You can put a leg in front of the pup, blocking his path.

When he pauses or stops, say “Yes!” and give him a treat, or praise and pet. You can also put your puppy on a leash or a houseline and hold the puppy back as you pass through first, rewarding your pup for deferring. Practice this throughout the house, and soon your puppy will learn to respect your personal space needs.

Feeding Times

Teach your pup to sit quietly while you prepare his/her meal. If your puppy barks or whines while you are preparing the meal, simply stop your preparations, and when the puppy pauses (she/he has to take a breath sometime!), say “Yes!” and resume preparations. Stop and repeat each time the puppy fusses.

Next, wait for the puppy to sit before you place his/her bowl on the floor. When your pup sits, start lowering the bowl.

If your puppy jumps up, straighten back up and wait for him/her to sit again. Keep it up until you get a sustained sit while you lower the bowl. at the beginning, accept a brief sit, but gradually build up to a sit that lasts until you say “Okay!” before letting him/her go to the bowl.

Attention on Demand

Do not reinforce your puppy for demanding your attention. If your puppy solicits petting, play, or other interaction, teach him/her to do something first. “Sit” and “Down” are great places to start for all puppies. (See the section on “Basic Manners.”) Ignoring your puppy’s insistent demands for attention and rewarding him/her for those little jobs (Sit and Down) will go a long way in establishing yourself as the leader of your pack.

Basic Manners

Teaching puppies behaviors such as Sit, Down, Stay, Leave It, and Off, as well as tricks such as Spin, Wave, and Shake Paws, are great tools in establishing the puppy’s place in the household. Puppies are little sponges; they soak up everything around them. They are always learning, whether we teach them or not. So why not teach them the things we want? See the section on Basic Manners for more information.

Recommended Reading

The Perfect Puppy: How to Raise a Well-Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey

Leader of the Pack. . .and have your dog love you for it! By Patricia B. McConnell, PhD

Puppy Primer by Brenda K. Scidmore and Patrical B. McConnell, PhD

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Housetraining a Puppy

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Goal of House training

The goal of “house training” a puppy is to teach your new pup that she/he should eliminate only in a specific place, e.g., the backyard or papers on the patio.

Tools you will need

The most important tool you will need is patience and perseverance. In addition, the following supplies will be needed:



Exercise Pen


For “paper training” you need newspapers or training pads, along with enzymatic cleaning solution




Yummy treats


House training puppies can begin as early as five weeks of age and, depending upon the individual puppy and your ability to consistently work the program, will take several weeks to several months to accomplish. Be patient! Your puppy gradually develops both the physiological (muscle) control and the behavior habits that lead to a fully house trained dog.

Important Note:

There is a behavior called “submissive urination” that is often confused with a puppy’s inability to be house trained. Submissive urination, especially common in females, is when a puppy becomes overly excited or stressed when greeting what she/he considers higher-ranking people or dogs. The puppy will leak urine and may roll over as well. It is important not to scold the puppy for this or the problem will get worse. Instead, simply ignore the puppy, make your greetings less effusive, and don’t hover or bend over the puppy. She/he will grow out of it. In the meantime, you might be wise to pick a greeting place that is not carpeted so cleanup is easier!

Outdoor or Paper-Training?

There are two basic approaches to house training: 1) training the puppy to always go outside to eliminate; or 2) “paper training,” which means the puppy learns to go on newspapers or pads sold at most pet stores. These two approaches are very different. In fact, if you start out paper training and then decide to switch your dog to an outdoor potty area, you may run into more difficulty than if you started out training for the outdoors from the beginning. Both these approaches are described in detail under Step-by-Step Tips below.

It is very important to establish a specific location where your house training pads will go. Pick a location in an area of the house that is least used (laundry room, for example), but one that is still easy for your puppy to get to. Choosing an area that is least used for family activities will help the puppy learn not to soil its pack’s living quarters.

In the early days of paper-training it is helpful to leave a little of a soiled pad or paper to remind the puppy that this is the location where she/he last went. This will encourage elimination in this same spot next time!

If outdoor elimination is your goal, it is highly recommended that you start training this from the beginning. Many people don’t realize how easy it is to teach your puppy to go in one particular area of your yard instead of using your entire yard as a potty area. Use a houseline to escort your pup to the designated area.

By restricting access to only a small area of your yard (e.g., temporary fencing, leashing your puppy and supervising elimination) and by ensuring that this area is cleaned up every day, your puppy will choose to go back to that specific area. This leaves the rest of your yard for games and training, entertaining guests without fear of soiled shoes, and child-safe play areas.

If you have trouble house training your puppy, and you feel you have been adhering to a good house training program, consult your veterinarian. There could be a medical condition interfering with your puppy’s ability to control its elimination.

Step-by-step Tips

Many people who live in apartments, condos, and townhouses choose to teach their dogs to eliminate on papers or pads indoors. Although this works for many small dogs, this may not be practical with larger dogs because of the volume of waste that would need to be captured on the papers.

Before you decide to paper-train your puppy you should be sure that this is the way you want your adult dog to eliminate throughout its life. Some dogs have a difficult time being retrained to go outdoors once they’ve learned that going indoors is acceptable. No sooner do you remove the pads, thinking your dog has made the transition from paper-training to outdoor elimination, when, oops, your dog has an accident indoors.

The only difference between paper-training and training for outdoor elimination is the location of the potty area. That is, paper-training takes place in a specific place indoors, while outdoor elimination takes place in a specific place outdoors.

Successful house training programs rely on being able to predict and prevent accidents. The following are the key components of a successful program:

Maintaining a Structured Schedule

House training a puppy starts with being able to predict when your puppy needs to eliminate; every puppy is different. Predicting when your puppy needs to eliminate will be very difficult to do if you “free feed” (leaving food out all day) or if you do not put your puppy on a strict schedule of food and water.

Think about it. If your puppy eats and drinks at all different times of the day and night, how will you know when she/he needs to be escorted to the designated potty area? Instead, you will constantly be surprised by the erratic nature of your puppy’s elimination schedule.

When you place your puppy on a structured schedule, you will be able to predict much, much more successfully exactly when and how often your puppy needs to go to the potty area. as your puppy gets older and more experienced, you can relax and vary the schedule. But, until your puppy demonstrates for at least two weeks that she/he understands the program, do not be tempted to relax your diligence and supervision.

A sample schedule for an 8-week-old puppy being trained to eliminate outside might look like this (paper-trained puppies should follow a similar schedule):

Morning Schedule


6:30 Take puppy out of his/her sleeping area and escort him/her directly to the potty area. (Carrying the puppy will prevent accidents on the way, but the puppy will not learn the “route” to the potty area. Try using a houseline to escort your pup to the potty area). Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying.

6:35 Feed puppy and offer water.

6:45 Escort puppy to potty area. Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying. Play with the puppy before returning inside; this will help you avoid inadvertently teaching the pup to delay eliminating because she/he wants to stay outside longer!

6:55 – 7:15 Play and training time together inside. Offer small amount of water.

7:15 Escort puppy to potty area. Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying. Play in the yard.

7:25 – 8:00 Place puppy in crate or other small restricted area while you take care of personal business.


Baby gate barriers are a great way to maintain your personal space when your are busy.


Give the pup a toy or stuffed Kong to play with when you are busy

8:00 – 8:15 Play and training time together. Offer small amount of water.

8:15 Escort puppy to potty area. Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying. Play in the yard.

8:25 Place puppy in crate or other small, restricted area while you take care of personal business. Give the pup a toy or stuffed Kong to play with.

10:30 Escort puppy to potty area. Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying. Play in the yard.

10:45-12:00 Supervised activities interspersed with frequent trips to potty area. Great time for those socialization outings! Remember to offer water after hard bouts of play, but pick the water up after your puppy drinks. If you cannot supervise 100%, set your puppy up for success by placing him/her in the crate or other restricted area.

Afternoon Schedule

12:00 Lunch.

12:10 Escort puppy to potty area. Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying. Play in the yard.

12:15 Place puppy in crate or other small, restricted area while you take care of personal business. Give the pup a toy or stuffed Kong to play with.

2:00 Escort puppy to potty area. Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying. Play in the yard.

2:10 – 5:30 Supervised activities interspersed with frequent trips to potty area. Great time for those socialization outings! Remember to offer water after hard bouts of play, but pick the water up after your puppy drinks. If you cannot supervise 100%, set your puppy up for success by placing him/her in the crate or other restricted area.

Evening Schedule

5:30 Dinner.

5:40 Escort puppy to potty area. Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying. Play in the yard.

5:50 Family dinnertime. Place puppy in crate or other small, restricted area while you take care of personal business. Give the pup a toy or stuffed Kong to play with.

7:00 Escort puppy to potty area. Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying. Play in the yard.

7:10 – 7:30 Play and training time together.

7:30 – 9:30 Supervised activities interspersed with frequent trips to potty area. This is a great time for evening outings in the dark to habituate your puppy to the different sights, sounds, and smells of the night. Offer small amount of water. If you cannot supervise 100%, set your puppy up for success by placing him/her in the crate or other restricted area.

9:30 Escort puppy to potty area. Praise and treat after puppy finishes pottying. Play in the yard.

9:45 Bed time.

Gosh, this all seems to take a lot of work. You’re right! That’s one of the reasons why many people choose to adopt older dogs! Remember though, the habits you are instilling will last a lifetime, so get help from your family, and be persistent.

Very young puppies (6-8 weeks of age) should not be left in the crate for more than a couple of hours at a time and not even for that long if they have not had a chance to relieve themselves first. Otherwise, you will force the puppy to eliminate in its sleeping area, which will seriously jeopardize your house training program.

Limited access

Until your puppy is house trained be sure to set him/her up for success. In addition to maintaining a structured schedule, it is very important to limit the puppy’s unrestricted access in the house unless the puppy has your undivided attention. as many people have discovered, this is hard to do. You can very easily get distracted for two minutes (some will say two seconds!), taking your eye off your puppy, and that’s when the puppy decided she/he needs to potty!

Puppies learn very early not to soil in the area in which they rest, sleep, play, or eat. For the first two weeks of their lives, a litter’s excrement is cleaned up by its mother. at about three weeks of age, when the puppies start eliminating without the aid of their mother licking their genital areas to stimulate them, they start moving away from their living quarters to eliminate (this appears to be “hard-wired” in puppies).

By the time most of us get puppies around the age of seven or eight weeks of age, they’ve had several weeks of house training already. All we have to do is set them up so that they can continue to recognize the difference between our living quarters, while they simultaneously develop the physiological control to “hold it” for longer and longer until they can leave their living quarters to eliminate.

There are two easy ways to help puppies see the distinction between their living quarters and potty areas. The first is helping them not make mistakes by supervising them when they are loose in the house, and the other is by “crate training.”

“Crate training” simply means creating a physical space that is large enough for the puppy to stand up, stretch out, and turn around, but not large enough to eliminate without having to step or sleep in his/her own excrement. By confining the puppy to this restricted area for short periods of time, and then longer and longer ones, they learn to develop the physical control to “hold it” until they are escorted to the potty area you have chosen for them.

An added benefit of crate training is the crate is a good place for the puppy to take naps and breaks when you cannot supervise. This prevents house training accidents, chewed personal articles, and potentially dangerous activities such as chewing on electrical cords or poisonous plants. To prevent a puppy from crying all night during its first night at home, put the puppy in a crate and place the crate on your bed. after a couple nights, you can place the crate on the floor, and eventually further away from your bed until it is in its permanent place.

You can use a crate or an exercise pen (much like a child’s playpen), or you can block off a small area of a room. The important point is to make the area small enough so that the puppy cannot simply take five or six steps, eliminate, and then return to his/her bed or toys. This will simply teach the puppy that going in its living quarters (indoors) is okay.

An exercise pen gives you the added flexibility of starting out small, based on the size of your 8-week-old puppy, and gradually increasing the area to accommodate your growing puppy without having to purchase a larger crate.

You can also use an exercise pen to build a restricted area right next to a doggy door. This allows the dog to learn to play and sleep inside and to go outside to eliminate. Teach your puppy from day one that the crate or exercise pen is a good place to be. Leave the door open and entice your puppy to go in by tossing yummy treats and fun toys inside.

When the puppy willingly runs into the crate to get treats and toys, close the door, for just a few seconds, and then open it again. as you toss the treat inside, say “Break time!” Repeat several times, gradually building up to closing the door for longer and longer periods of time, but always with you still in sight.

Stuff a marrow bone or Kong with peanut butter, cheese, kibble, and other goodies. Toss the stuffed treat into the crate, say “Break time!” and after your puppy has gone inside, quietly close the door. Once your puppy is engrossed with the treat, leave the room for a few minutes, coming back every so often, and praise him/her quietly.

Gradually build up to longer and longer times your puppy is in the crate. You’ll find that your puppy may seek out the crate when she/he wants quiet time.

The crate, or puppy playpen, if you will, is an important tool in the most successful house training programs. However, it should not be used to isolate your puppy for hours on end. It is a management tool intended to help you teach your puppy the skills she/he needs to live in human society.

Supervising Your Puppy

Supervise your puppy’s activities so you can predict and prevent house training accidents. In addition to maintaining a structured schedule and limiting access, it is very important to supervise your puppy at all times when she/he is not in its crate or other restricted area.

Supervision means having an active, watchful eye on your puppy. Even if you are playing with your puppy, she/he may, all of a sudden, need to go outside. If she/he starts sniffing excessively, circling, or acts distracted while playing, escort him/her to the designated potty area. Many puppies will play hard for about twenty minutes and then have to go outside for a quick break. Set a timer for every 20-30 minutes to help avoid accidents. Interrupt your play to take your puppy outside or to his/her papers. Minimally, puppies should be taken to their potty area at least once an hour.

It can be helpful to attach a 10’ cloth clothesline to your puppy’s collar and the other end to your belt loop as you move around the house. This ensures that you won’t forget to supervise the puppy, and most puppies will not eliminate on your foot! Tethering your puppy to your chair while you read or watch TV or work on the computer will also help ensure that you don’t become too engrossed in your activity and not notice that the puppy has wandered off to relieve himself in another area of the house.

If you cannot supervise your puppy 100% of the time, consider giving your puppy a stuffed Kong in its crate while you attend to personal business. Many house training programs deteriorate due to poor supervision.

Rewarding Success

When you escort your puppy to its designated potty area, say “Do your job,” then stand by quietly so that you do not distract your puppy from the task at hand. After the puppy has eliminated, praise and give him/her two to three small, but yummy treats. You may find that your puppy quickly learns that going outside to the potty area is a lot of fun. always praise and treat to “punctuate” what a remarkable event just occurred!

Don’t come right back in after the puppy has eliminated. Play or let the pup explore for several minutes. This will help you avoid inadvertently teaching the pup to delay eliminating because she/he wants to stay outside longer!

As soon as you notice your pup starting to signal that she/he has to go to the potty area, reward him/her. Such signals include running to the door, whining or scratching at the door, seeking you out and whining, etc. Reward (praise, treats) your pup for these signals, and you will find that s/he catches on very quickly that those signals are “bankable.”

What do you do with puppies who never signal; rather, they walk quietly to the door and then have an accident because no one happens to be looking at the door or the puppy at that moment? Teach your puppy to ring a bell or bark at the door. You can hang a bell on the doorknob and reward the puppy when s/he touches it, gradually building up to pushing at it to get the door to open. (Clearly, this is best to teach at a time when the puppy doesn’t have to go now.) You can also install a battery-operated remote doorbell ringer next to the door. The chime box can be placed in a central location in the house where you will always hear it. (Visit our training section on tricks for more information on how to teach this “trick.”)

Don’t Punish Mistakes

There is a joke among trainers that goes something like this: If your dog makes a mistake, go get the daily newspaper, roll it up, and wap yourself on the head several times. Bad trainer! Bad trainer!

We are a puppy’s teacher. Should we assume that our student’s mistake is willful disobedience or simply a young animal who hasn’t yet learned? Give your puppy the benefit of the doubt! Were you supervising? When did you escort the puppy to the potty area last? Did the puppy just drink half a bowl of water and play hard with the kids?

Rather than punish the puppy, simply clap your hands once or twice if you catch him/her in the act. This should only startle the puppy long enough to interrupt the flow and whisk him/her to the potty area. It may take several minutes for the puppy to relax and take care of business. Then, remember to praise and treat for the correct behavior.

If you find evidence of an accident after the act has occurred, do not punish the puppy. Dogs live in the present. They won’t have any idea what you are yelling or spanking about. Signs that humans interpret as “guilt” are actually appeasement behaviors, exhibited in an attempt to deflect and defuse human anger (or aggression, in the eyes of the pup).

There is usually a price to pay when using punishment to train our dogs. In the case of house training, think about this from the puppy’s perspective: “Hmmmm,” thinks the pup. “When I pee in front of Mom or Dad, they go nuts, yelling, smacking me, rubbing my nose in it. Ugh! I better not go to the bathroom in front of humans anymore. Instead, I’ll wait until they aren’t looking, or better yet, I’ll sneak behind that potted plant and do it there!”

And, again from the dog’s perspective: “Hmmmm, I know we’re in my potty area, but when I went in front of them last time (in the house), they went nuts. I’d better not go in front of them. I’d better wait until they’re not around.” Then, after standing around outside for 15 minutes, everyone is back in the house. “Hmmmm, they aren’t looking now, and I’ve really, really gotta go. Now’s my chance. Whew, did I ever have to go after all that standing around with them hovering around outside.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Punishment doesn’t work. It only teaches your puppy something you really didn’t mean to teach.

There will be occasional mistakes. Make sure you have an enzymatic stain and odor remover handy. First, remove the puppy from the area. Next, remove solid material and/or blot up as much as you can with a cloth. Then, follow the instructions on the bottle.

Take a deep breath and keep with the program!

Recommended Reading

The Perfect Puppy: How to Raise a Well-Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey

House training (Behavior Booklet) by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Train Your Dog the Lazy Way by andrea arden

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How to Read a Radiograph (X-Ray)

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This is a fun section designed to test your diagnostic abilities. Periodically we will show new x-rays (the proper word is radiograph) for you to test your skills, so remember to come back and see what new rads (that is the slang word we sometimes use) are posted on our site.

Before we get started, lets get some basics out of the way. There are five radiographic densities:

Soft tissue– internal organs like the liver and kidneys with a whitish color

Fat– the fat around the internal organs, also with a whitish color. Without this fat you would not be able to differentiate the different internal organs like the liver or kidneys, since they are soft tissue, and have the same radiographic density.

Air– this is black, and is what you see for the lungs in a chest radiograph

Bone– which is brighter than soft tissue or fat

Metal– Vivid, very bright, and hard to miss

Look at each x-ray closely (sometimes very closely) and see if you can figure out what is wrong. We have a couple of clues to help you make an interpretation:

  • Use symmetry when you can. Compare both sides, legs, or whatever else that might be useful.
  • Pull your face away from the screen and scan the whole x-ray before you jump into the details.
  • After you have scanned the whole radiograph look very closely for subtle changes.

First we will show a bunch of fun radiographs of the more unusual pets we see at our hospital. After that we will do some radiograph reading lessons, teaching you about the normal anatomy of dogs and cats. After that is a little test to see how you did. We will stick to abdominal radiographs for the test to make it easier. Good luck, and have fun!

Exotic Animal Radiographs

These first few rads are for a little fun, and to get your eyeballs warmed up for later.

Pregnant Guinea Pig

Iguana bladder stones. Click here to see the surgery to remove a bladder stone in an Iggie. 

Female rabbit with mummified fetuses that are several months old

California Desert Tortoise (CDT) with eggs

Two white bladder stones in a Guinea Pig


Normal hawk from our Wildlife Care Program

Calcium sludge in the bladder of a rabbit. This is called hypercalciuria, and you can read our detailed page on it

Did you also see the microchip and the calcium in the kidney?

Chinchilla incisor and molar teeth

 Snake with eggs

Rabbit with a fluid filled uterus

Do you see the two pellets in this hawk’s wing?

Did you also see the fracture in this wing? How should this be handled? You can see what we did in our Wildlife  Care Page

Normal X-Rays of dogs and cats

This is a radiograph of the abdomen of a normal cat that is laying on its right side. The head is towards the left. Use the diagram below to identify the organs.

The stomach has food in it, and the large intestine contains feces. All five radiographic densities are present in this abdominal radiograph. Do you see all of them? 

Air- is in the lungs along with gas in the intestines

S.T. -soft tissue is the liver and kidney

Fat- this is abdominal fat

Bone- lumbar vertebrae

Metal- the R marker to indicate this cat is laying on its right side is made of metal

Here is another normal cat abdominal radiograph, this time with an empty stomach

Here is another one, this time with the spleen and metallic sutures from a spay.

You can easily see the liver (L), stomach (S) kidneys (K) , the small intestines (SI), the large intestine (LI), the urinary bladder (UB), and the Spleen (Sp). The arrow points to stainless steel sutures in the muscle layer from a spay operation.

Abnormal X-Rays

This dog is having a difficult time urinating. Can you tell what is wrong?

Look towards the right side of this abdominal radiograph

Does labeling the organs help in your diagnosis?

The bladder is huge, because this dog is having a difficult time urinating. It is probably due to nerve dysfunction, since the spinal cord has changes called spondylosis. The circle points this out on one of the vertebrae

You can learn more about this problem, called spondylosis, from our arthritis page

This is a dog abdominal radiograph. Notice anything unusual?

Again, look towards the right side

You can see the circle around the numerous stones (called calculi) in the urinary bladder

Did you also notice the stones in the kidney and pelvic urethra?

Our web page on bladder stones has lots of good information

This cat is labeled for you. Anything fishy?

Look towards the left side of the radiograph this time

Did you see the pellet in the neck? Look again at the radiograph above, its plain as day.

Now that you are an expert at reading radiographs give the following one a try. It is from a cat that is straining to urinate and has blood in its urine. The answer is below, along with a picture with arrows pointing to the abnormalities.

This cat has 2 stones in its urinary bladder (click here to learn more about them and see a surgery of how they are removed). The stones are radiopaque, which means they show up easily on the radiograph. Some bladder stones are radiolucent, and can only be seen by injecting dye or air into the urinary bladder.

The arrows point to the bladder stones, along with the faint metallic sutures from a spay

Pretty easy so far, huh? Don’t get too confident just yet, our next few are a little harder. Look over the next few abnormal radiographs and send us an e-mail with your answer. If you aren’t sure and just need some clues e-mail us also and we will help you. Good Luck!

Abnormal X-Rays

Now that you are experts at reading x-rays, you can put your newfound skills to work. Email us at for the answers.

  1. What do you think about this cat radiograph?

2. This radiograph is an abdomen view from a very sick dog. It is 13 years old and losing weight


3. This is from an elderly dog that is losing weight

3. This dog is limping on its rear leg









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