New puppy owner has problems

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008

Dear Rex,

I recently got my girlfriend a puppy. Apparently she didn't want it. Now I have a puppy who has chewed all of my shoes and my roommate's shoes, the TV clicker (of course we replaced that), and anything else it can get a hold of. It goes to the bathroom all over the house. And my new girlfriend left me (you may remember I wrote to you about her a while ago). What can I do?


Puppy Problems in Paradise

Dear Problems,

Wow. OK. You went ahead and got the puppy. And, yes, I remember you. I suggested you get your "girlfriend" coffee. Well, you are not the first human to ignore my advice. Let me see if I can address some of your immediate concerns.

First, your puppy (and you) need training. Training is critical and consistency is key. You need to take charge. You do not need to be cruel to be the alpha dog (the one in control). You do need to set rules and be consistent about enforcing them. Remember, whatever you let your puppy do is setting the stage for what it will do when it grows up and that will become the standard of behavior. So set the rules and stick to them. Secondly, when you talk to your puppy keep it simple. English is a second language to dogs. Single words work wonders. Come! Sit! No! Those are words dogs understand (or will understand) and can respond to.

Next comes the ever-popular issue of getting your dog to go pee or poop outside. (sorry if I upset your sensibilities, but that is what it is). To train your dog to "go" outside, you need a dog crate (or kennel) and patience.

The crate needs to be big enough so your puppy can turn around inside it. In the morning (yes, the puppy can sleep in its kennel) immediately take the puppy out doors to "do its business." Try to not greet the puppy or get it overly excited until you get it outdoors and it has done what it is supposed to do. Use a one word command to get your dog to "go."

OK, we are all adults here, pee and poop work just fine. As soon as it "goes" praise it enthusiastically. Maybe even give it a small treat. If this does not work, take the puppy back inside and put it back in its crate. Ignore its whining and cries and don't talk to it or scold it. Wait a few minutes and try again.

Potty training is always easier if you feed your puppy on a schedule. About 15 to 20 minutes after the puppy eats, take it out again to go potty. Again, give a command followed by praise when the puppy does what it is supposed to do. The crate should be a place your dog views as a safe place. This can be done by providing toys and comfortable bedding. You may even try feeding inside the crate.

Going inside the crate should not be seen as punishment. Learning to "go" outside will not happen overnight. But with patience, consistency and training your pup should have this routine well established by six months.

Ahh, chewing. Let me ask you this: Where were the shoes, the TV clicker, etc. when they were chewed? Where were you? If you were watching your pup chew the shoes, etc., then your pup is learning that chewing shoes, etc., is OK.

Keep in mind, your pup does not know the difference between a smelly old pair of shoes you are going to throw away and a new pair of Manolo Blahniks. If you were not there when the offending chewing was taking place then your pup needs toys, more attention and for the humans to put away whatever they don't want chewed until your pup learns that chewing is a no no.

So dear friend, I could go on and on. I suggest you get in touch with a trainer at GHS, Capital City Kennel Club or Grateful Dogs and get started. There is a lot to learn. Your dog can learn this. The question is - can you? I have a feeling I will be hearing from you again. Good luck.

• Ask Rex is a column coordinated by the Gastineau Humane Society. Dog-related questions can be sent to "Ask Rex," Gastineau Humane Society, 7705 Glacier Highway, Juneau, AK 99801.

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