Bringing Home a New Dog

Transitions can be difficult for all involved -- you, your family, your pets, and most of all, for the new dog you are bringing home.  Shelters are stressful, overstimulating environments that can cause dogs to act out in ways they might not normally act.  Even if your new pet is coming from a foster home, it’s important to keep in mind that your new pet needs time to adjust to living in your home.

 

The first few weeks after bringing a dog into your home are the most critical time to set your new dog up for success. Giving your new dog time to decompress and adjust to your home is vital. It can take a pet 2 weeks or more to adjust to a new home. Taking these extra steps will help ensure a smooth transition for humans and pets.  

Common behaviors during transitions:


House training.  We may or may not know if your shelter dog is already house trained but even the most perfectly house-trained dog may have accidents in a new home.  Expect this.  Your new dog will need to know where the potty-area is at his/her new home and will need to learn how to let you know they have to go out.  Don’t let your new dog roam the house unattended until you know that they have fully learned about house training in his/her new home.  
 

Separation Worries.  It is common for dogs to be nervous in a new home and anxious about their new attachment to you.  They may try to follow you everywhere and whine, cry, bark or howl when they can’t see you.  Use enrichment toys to give them something to do while they are alone. Try to be patient with them while they learn that they are now in a safe home.  If your dog’s stress about being alone persists, please reach out to us for help as they may be suffering from separation anxiety.
 

Fear toward you or other members of your home. It’s not uncommon for a new dog to accept one of the family members but not the others. Go slow with the new dog and allow him time to warm up to each person individually.  It could take weeks for your new dog to learn to trust new humans but with time and patience it usually works out.
 

Hyper / Overarousal. Some dogs will sleep a LOT for several days and seem a bit lethargic.  This is normal.  The opposite may be true for other dogs - they have a hard time relaxing and you could experience hyperactivity and/or destructive chewing.  Make sure your dog has plenty of exercise and provide enrichment toys when they are alone.
 

Not eating. It’s not uncommon for dogs not to eat for a couple of days while they are de-stressing.  As long as the dog is drinking water and peeing normally it’s probably just part of the process.  Continue to provide food and try leaving the food in their quiet space/crate to see if they will eat when you are not watching them. The opposite can also be true and your dog could be eating but experiencing diarrhea due to stress, change in environment, etc.  If they have eaten nothing in 2 or more days, or diarrhea persists beyond a few days, please contact our team at foster@pvastx.org.  

 

Safety Tips:
 

While dogs are transitioning into a new home, there is a higher likelihood to see fearful behavior and escape attempts. These behaviors may decrease within the first few weeks, or it may just be part of the dog’s personality. Here are some easy tips to keep in mind to prevent any escapes:
 

Around Doors. Be extra aware around doorways. A new dog does not have a connection with you yet, and may try to bolt out the door when you open it, even if you only have the door cracked open for a moment. The same is true with exiting cars - make sure you have hold of their leash before you let them out of the car. 

In the Yard. Do not leave your dog unattended outside even if you have a fence. Some dogs can jump over or dig under fences, either just because they want to escape, or because they see something on the other side. Keep them supervised in the yard while you are learning about your dog’s behaviors.

On Leash. Be sure to be vigilant while walking your dog. Some dogs may dart unexpectedly at/away from loud noises, small animals, big trucks, or other triggers. If you are not holding the leash tightly, they could pull out of your hand and run away, potentially into harm's way. Do not assume they will walk politely the whole time, and do not let children walk the dog if they are not physically able to handle them. 

Gear. Keep a lightweight leash (“drag leash”) attached to your dog’s collar for the first few weeks. Don’t hold the leash; just let it drag on the ground behind them even indoors. Use this as a point of contact instead of grabbing for their collar if you have to guide them around. Also keep a Martingale Collar on your dog. This type of collar prevents your pup from slipping out of their collar on walks. 

Body Language. There are several signs that indicate that a dog is scared or uncomfortable. Wide eyes, pinned back ears, tail tucked, excessive drooling (without food around) and lip licking are all signs that your pup is uncomfortable. If you see any of these signs, back off and give them space; do not force your dog to continue in a situation they are uncomfortable in. Let them set the pace with your relationship, even if it is slower than you expected. 

With Children. Please teach your children, and any children that visit, never to pull, hit, or poke any part of your dog and never to tease, frighten, or scream around the dog.  Please provide reasonable supervision for children at all times with a new dog.  If the dog or the child appears unsure or nervous, be safe and put the dog in another room.  Dogs should have a safe place in the house they can go to at all times.

 

Dos and Don'ts for the First Few Weeks in Your Home

 These will help ensure a smooth transition and a happy, healthy pet:

 

Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 12.30.34 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 12.36.38 PM.png
 

Canine Enrichment

All dogs need some form of daily enrichment, some dogs need more than others.  This document is divided into 3 main uses/types of enrichment.  Not all of these ideas will work for every dog so a bit of trial-and-error may be necessary.  To keep your dog entertained/interested try using a variety of enrichment activities. The following is by no means an exhaustive list but merely a place to start for enrichment activity ideas. Links are included to show examples.  PVAS is not affiliated with these products/websites.

Crate Time/Rest Time

One of the easiest ways to give your pup enrichment is to have them work for their meals.  This can happen in a confined area, like a crate, or in a more open space (e.g. kitchen). You may need to help your dog learn how to use the toy/puzzle when you first introduce it.

Kongs:
  • Kongs work well both inside and outside a crate.

  • Kongs can be lined and/or stuffed with a variety of healthy foods/treats. You can layer different flavors into the kong and “seal” it with a layer of peanut butter or pumpkin.  Add in kibble and/or dry, crunchy treats for variety.  Experiment a little to find what your pup enjoys. At the end of this document you will find a list of different foods to try.

  • To use Kongs for mealtimes you will portion out their kibble and mix it with some pumpkin or wet food.  You may need several Kongs in order to provide their full meal.  You can give them a partial meal outside the crate (in the morning before you leave for work) and the remainder of their meal via a Kong placed in the crate when you leave.

  • FREEZE the Kong overnight to make dogs have to work extra hard for their meal/treat which works to tire them out.

  • See the end of this section for more information on stuffing Kongs!


“Dinner-sicles”:
  • “Dinner-sicles” work well both inside and outside a crate. 

  • Same idea as a Kong but you will use a metal food bowl, or silicon/flexible ice cube trays, or small silicone/flexible baking dishes. 

  • Prepare it the day before.  Use kibble and add something wet (canned food, canned pumpkin, low-sodium chicken broth, plain water, or any combination).  Place it in the bowl/trays and freeze overnight. When frozen, dump it out of the metal bowl/ice cube trays into a larger bowl (to contain it).  You will have a large, or several smaller, frozen blocks of food your dog can lick/crunch and completely consume.

 

Indoor Activities

Food-dispensing toys/games can be used for treats or mealtimes. NOTE: Some dogs may try to tear up/eat the puzzle toy dispenser or small parts after the treats are gone so these toys are best used while a human is monitoring!

 

Kong Wobbler/ Petsafe Magic Mushroom/ Starmark Treat-Dispensing Bob
  • These are 3 different forms of dispensing meals (kibble) and/or treats.  Dogs have to work for their meal, which helps occupy them and tire them out.  These are best used outside the crate as dogs need room to push the toy around and kibble drops out (harder to do in a crate and more chance of kibble dropping under/outside the crate)

  • Make sure you purchase the right size for your dog.

 

Snuffle Mats, Licki Mats 
  • You can purchase these or make your own (search the internet for DIY ideas).  Instead of the Licki Mat you might try a silicone mini ice cube tray (try Target or Walmart or a discount store). Freezing the Licki Mat/ice cube tray makes it last longer.

  • There are many other food-puzzle toys available to purchase, and some you can make at home.  Search the internet for “canine puzzle toys” for many more ideas.

 

Indoor Games / Mental Exercise


Outdoor Enrichment Walks

Walking your dog on-leash is enrichment in itself, but some walks can be made more mentally stimulating (to help further tire out your dog.)  A few times a week grab some treats or your pup’s favorite toy and try one of the following “enrichment walks."

Long-line walks:  When you get to an area that is quiet (can be a grassy field or a no-traffic parking lot) attach a long leash (25’ or so) and let your pup sniff/run around with a bit more freedom.  You can toss a ball/toy or use this time to work on “recall."

Training Walks: Stop at various intervals along your route and ask for some basic obedience commands (sit, down, shake, etc – whatever your dog has learned inside he/she can practice outside).

Agility/Obstacle Course Walks:  You don’t need specific agility equipment, just your imagination and whatever is available outside.  A few examples: Use treats to lure your pup to hop onto a bench and walk across it.  When he/she gets really good at it, you can ask for repeats and treat at the end.  Some dogs will hop on a rock and sit, shake, etc.  You can ask your dog to “circle” a pole or a small bush (carefully maneuvering your leash).

Scent Walks: Bring enough small treats or kibble and when you are in a quiet grassy area (no other animals present) toss a handful into the grass and let your pup “find” their treats. (Note: please don’t do this exercise if your dog is a “resource guarder”.)

 

**Quick & Healthy Treats You Can Stuff In Your Dog’s KONG **

Layer flavors in the Kong or mix them up before stuffing.  Try different flavors to find what your dog loves.  Use a combo of soft and crunchy. Change it up so your dog doesn’t get bored and stays motivated to work on the Kong/Puzzle Toy.

  1. Kibble

  2. Training treats

  3. Small Dog Biscuits

  4. Jerky – torn into small pieces

  5. Carrots – small slices

  6. Celery – small slices

  7. Peas

  8. Blueberries

  9. Blackberries

  10. Strawberries – small slices

  11. Apples – cubed and no seeds

  12. Peaches – no pit

  13. Cantaloupe – small cubes 

  14. Banana - mashed or small bits

  15. Watermelon – seedless

  16. Cheese - small cubes or grated

  17. Small pieces of chicken, turkey, or beef

  18. Eggs

  19. Peanut Butter (no xylitol)

  20. Canned pumpkin puree (no added sugar)

  21. Cooked sweet potato

  22. Cooked squash

  23. Cottage cheese

  24. Liver Paste

  25. Oats, cooked

  26. Rice, cooked

  27. Applesauce (no sugar)

  28. Plain Greek Yogurt (no xylitol)

  29. Plain Cheerios

  30. Baby food (no onion or garlic)

Screen Shot 2022-04-19 at 1.37.35 PM.png

Crate Training

Crate training your dog can take a little time, but it's very useful in a variety of situations. If you have a new dog or puppy, you can use the crate to limit access to the house until he learns all the house rules - like what he can and can't chew on and where he can and can't eliminate. A crate is also a safe way of transporting your dog in the car, as well as a way of taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely. If you properly train your dog to use the crate, he'll think of it as a safe place and will be happy to spend time there when needed.

Selecting A Crate

Your dog's crate should be just large enough for him to stand up and turn around in. If you have a growing puppy and want to purchase a larger crate, you can use a divider. Some crates come with a wire divider-panel, or you can stuff an inexpensive large pillow/cushion in the back of the crate while your puppy is still small, then remove it when they grow.  Plastic and metal wire crates each have their pros and cons, but the choice largely comes down to preference (either the dog’s or the human’s). Some dogs like the closed-in plastic crates while others do better with more visibility in wire crates. Go with what works best for you and your pup.

The Crate Training Process

Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. The crate should always be associated with something pleasant, and training should take place in a series of small steps - don't go too fast.

 

Step 1: Introduce Your Dog to the Crate

Put the crate in a high-traffic area of your house with a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some treats near the opening, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's ok - don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. During this step you won’t be closing the door, but will leave it propped open.  This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days.

Step 2: Feeding Your Dog Meals in the Crate

After introducing your dog to the crate, feed them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate.

 

Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they are eating. At first, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for ten minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. If they do whine or cry in the crate, wait until they stop before you let them out.  You may have to wait for a brief moment when your dog stops whining, but don’t let your dog think that whining “works” to get out of the crate.

 

Step 3: Conditioning Your Dog to the Crate for Longer Time Periods

After your dog is eating regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Give them a command such as "crate," toss a treat inside for them to get and close the door. Wait for a couple minutes and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day. With each repetition, gradually increase the length of time they remain in the crate.

 

Once they’re comfortable in the crate while you're in sight, then practice leaving the room for short periods of time before you let them out. Remember not to let them out while he is whining. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight the majority of the time, you can move to the next step.

 

Step 4: Crating Your Dog When Left Alone

After your dog is spending about 30 quiet minutes in the crate, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command with a treat and a few safe toys. Keep your departure and arrivals quiet and low-key, and vary how long before you leave that you put the dog in their crate. You want your dog to learn that it’s no big deal when you leave, and you always come back. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. When allowing your dog out of the crate, do not allow them to rush out as soon as you open the door. Ask them to Wait and block their exit until they will sit and make eye contact with you. This will be difficult the first few times, but it will soon become part of the crating routine.

 

Before leaving your dog in the crate for a long period of time, make sure he/she is tired by going for a long walk and/or playing fetch with your dog. It’s also important to give your dog something to do while in the crate when you’re gone.  Click this link to see Canine Enrichment ideas.

Troubleshooting

 

Too Much Time In the Crate

A crate isn't a magical solution. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated. For example, if your dog is crated all day while you're at work and then crated again all night, they’re spending too much time in too small of a space. Make other arrangements to accommodate their physical and emotional needs. Also remember that puppies under six months of age shouldn't stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can't control their bladders and bowels for longer periods.

Your dog isn’t yet fully crate trained but you have to go to work, what do you do? Try NOT to force your dog into the crate, this will lead to a negative association with the crate and it will get increasingly harder to get your dog into the crate. If your dog cannot yet be trusted alone in your home outside the crate, try to find another solution for confining your pup.  Use a small room/space that you can block off the entrance with a baby gate (or two, with one stacked on top of the other).  This will give your dog a bit more space and allow your dog to look out but not get out.  If possible, place the crate in this same space and make the crate the “comfy zone” with a blanket and toys inside.  Don’t forget to leave something for your dog to do via favorite toys and a food-puzzle toy to occupy your dog while you are gone.  And don’t forget to continue to work on crate training when you have some time to devote to the process.  Click this link to read a document on how to use Skype to “nanny cam”, or “spy” , on your dog when you’re away so you can see what’s really happening when you are gone.

You’ve come home to discover your dog has busted out of the crate.

Don’t get angry and scold or punish your dog.  It’s too late and your dog will not understand why you are so mad.  Busting out of the crate is a sure sign that your dog is not yet crate trained.  Once your pup has successfully gotten out of the crate, he/she will try again the next time, and the next.  Try the above idea for confinement.

 

Whining

If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be hard to figure out if they need to go potty or just want out. If you followed the steps above, your dog hasn't previously been rewarded for whining. Try to ignore the whining. If your dog is testing you, they should stop whining. Don't yell at them or pound on the crate. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associates with going outside. If they respond and becomes excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you are sure that your dog doesn’t need to eliminate then the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in or you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem persists, go back and work through the steps of crate training again.

 

Separation Anxiety

Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may injure themselves in an attempt to escape from the crate. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counter-conditioning and desensitization procedure. 

 

Additional Tips to help your dog be happy in the crate

Every dog is different and sometimes it just takes a bit of trial-and-error to find what your dog likes best.  Here are some tips to try.

 

  • Play soft music or talk radio for your dog when you leave.

  • Leave your dog with a stuffed Kong or other chew toy.

  • Leave something with your scent on it in the crate.  This can be an old, unwashed t-shirt, pillowcase or towel.

  • Try a pheromone spray or diluted lavender oil in a diffuser.

  • Try placing the crate near a window so your pup can see out. Or, just the opposite, making the crate more of a cave-like environment.

 

Curbing Backyard Nuisance Behavior

The Escape Artist:  Once your dog has figured out how to climb/jump out of your yard they are self-rewarded due to the fun of being able to wander and run.  It then becomes nearly impossible to curb this behavior without making some significant changes to how you allow your dog into the backyard.  Take heart, these changes are short-term until you’ve trained your dog to no longer escape.

 

The Digger:  Some dogs dig at the fence to try to escape the yard and enjoy the world around.  Some dogs just love to dig as a form of entertainment. (See note** at end of this document.)

 

The Fence-line Runner/Barker: This is a form of entertainment for many dogs but can also be due to anxiety about a neighboring dog (or human).  If your dog experiences anxiety from neighboring dogs/humans try these techniques first.

 

The following training protocol is a bit tedious at first because you have to be diligent about staying outside with your pet so that they don’t have an opportunity to practice the unwanted behavior.  You need to be right there to give them immediate feedback. With time, your dog will begin to learn that these behaviors simply don't work and you can then try some short (a few minutes) stints of walking back inside while still watching them from a window. If they do well with this, then you will slowly and gradually start to add more length of time that they are alone outside.

 

Step One:  

“A tired dog is a good dog!” Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise, both physical and mental.  Just being outside in a backyard is not the same as constructive exercise.  Give your dog something to do: walks, fetch, games to burn energy.  Give them ways to exercise their brains as well: feed meals via a puzzle toy, hide treats around the house and let them sniff them out, train them on basic obedience skills. Click on this link for more ideas on Canine Enrichment.

 

Step Two: 

Backyard management.  For now, you will need to constantly monitor your dog when they are in the yard - they should not have any unattended time in the yard. This step is crucial to the success of training your dog. Remember, their digging/jumping/barking is self-rewarding and allowing them to practice this behavior makes it extremely difficult to change/modify. Standing outside with them enables you to catch them in the act, give them an interruption plus redirect them to a more appropriate behavior.

 

Keep your dog on leash in the backyard for the time being. Instead of using a standard 6 ft leash, use a long leash, 15-20 ft. This will give your dog the illusion of being loose in the backyard but the leash allows you to control your dog, get them away from the fence, and redirect their behavior.

 

Step Three: 

Feedback, Interrupt, Redirect.  While outside, you will be giving them constant feedback about the choices they make while they are out there. If they are choosing to do appropriate things like sniff around, use the bathroom, sunbathe, play, etc., then you will praise and reward them. If they start to do anything we don't like such as pacing back and forth along the fence, digging, attempting to jump up or climb, then you will need to promptly interrupt them with a verbal word or phrase such as "no" or "uh uh" or "out". Redirection is key because if you only interrupt the bad behavior and don’t redirect their attention onto something positive (give them something else to do) then they will likely go right back to the bad behavior.

 

Continue to reward the positive or desirable behaviors. If your dog heads towards the fence but then turns away on their own or just passes by, be sure to praise and reward them. We want to distinguish that they are allowed to walk near the fence, they just can't start jumping, digging, barking, or pacing back and forth. 

 

Step Four: 

Recall (“Come”). It is very helpful to teach your dog a reliable recall or "come" when called. This skill is advanced because the end product is where your dog is off leash and you can trust that they will listen to you when you call them to you despite all the other "fun" things they might want to do. That is why this skill also takes some time to develop and train. You won't be able to reliably use it right away, so use a long leash in the meantime. Practicing in the backyard is a great place to start! 

 

Optional/Advanced Training Step: 

This step involves teaching your dog a “door routine”.  This step may not be necessary for your dog but it can be very useful for backyard behaviors as well as a number of other situations.  Many dogs get very excited about entering the “fun” backyard and will bolt through the door and bee-line to the fence.  When they do this their mind is already in a state of over-excitement, making it pretty difficult for them to listen to your commands.  If you teach your dog to first sit at the doorway, give you eye-contact (check in with you), and wait for a release command, they will be entering the yard already primed to defer to you for guidance/permission.  It sets a better, more calm, tone to how they enter the yard.  

 

** Note for backyard digging: **

Some dogs love to just dig and some people want to give their dog this outlet without destroying their backyard.   You can purchase a plastic “kid pool”, fill it with dirt and gravel or whatever is your dog’s preferred digging material.  You can also bury a few dog toys in this pool (optional).  When your dog starts to dig where you don’t want them to dig, give them a verbal correction and then lead them to their “digging pool”.  Remember to praise them every time they choose to dig there on their own.

 

How to Curb Destructive Chewing- Adult Dogs

This document is for older puppies and adult dogs. If you have a puppy younger than 6 months in age, please refer to our Puppy document.
 
Dogs interact with the world with their mouths. Using their mouths is how they eat, play, explore, pick things up, etc. Not only is chewing natural for dogs, but it has health benefits as well (so long as they’re chewing the right things). Here is how to teach your dog what they can and cannot chew.
 

I. Exercise

There is an adage that “a tired dog is a good dog”. Sometimes a dog chews for no other reason than they are bored. It’s important to make sure your dog has plenty of physical stimulation and mental stimulation. Mental stimulation can include training games, puzzle toys, even a Kong stuffed with either treats or their meal. A dog can run around the yard for an hour and still have stores of energy (or at least enough for chewing!), but put that same dog in front of a puzzle toy that takes them fifteen minutes and suddenly you have one pooped pup!  Check this link for ideas on canine enrichment.
 

II. Management

Your dog can’t chew on what it can’t reach. Keep shoes, kids toys, remotes, and other curious and chewable items out of your dog’s reach. If you need to cook dinner, make a phone call, or get involved in some other task that takes your attention away from your dog, have a dog-proof area. This can be a penned-off area or even the dog’s crate. It’s not a punishment, so make sure your dog has plenty of positive things to keep them occupied. (One of the many benefits of crate training is to prevent destructive behaviors like chewing.)
 

III. Redirect

If all we did was prevent and correct, we wouldn’t give our dogs a clear message. We need to teach them what they ARE allowed to chew on, not just the don’ts. If you catch your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t, interrupt them with a neutral noise that gets their attention (for example, a mild “eh eh” or “no.”) Offer them an appropriate toy or chew as a means of redirecting their chewing. While your dog is in the process of learning these dos and don’ts, offer lots of praise every time your dog picks up one of their chew toys.
 

IV. Teach “Drop/Give”

If your dog picks up an item of yours, do not chase them to get the item and do not engage in “tug-of-war” with the item.  This is just making the “game” all the more fun for your dog.  If they won’t exchange it for toy (see above), try using treats.  Toss a treat (or a couple) on the floor in front of them to exchange for your item.  You can start incorporating the word “Drop” or “Give” when they release the item to begin to teach them to drop on command.
 

V. Don’t punish

If you discover a chewed item even minutes after they've chewed it, it’s already too late to correct your dog. Animals associate punishment with what they're doing at the time they're being corrected.
 
Many people believe their dog understands they’ve been naughty because they “look guilty” when confronted with the object they’ve previously chewed up.  In reality, this “guilty look” is a natural submissive look dogs sometimes give when they read our body language and/or tone of voice to be upset/angry.  They may understand that we are upset, but likely do not understand why.  Scolding or punishment at this point is not only ineffective at correcting the chewing behavior, it can lead to other undesirable behaviors.

 

VI. Use something with your scent for anxiety-based chewing

In addition to using chew toys and puzzle feeders, if your dog is chewing up your possessions and you think it’s related to anxiety when you are gone (e.g. you dog always chooses to chew on something personal of yours), try fashioning a chew toy out of something with your scent.  For example, use old, unwashed socks or t-shirts (with your scent on them) and make a “rope toy” for your dog.  Note: don’t just give your dog an old shoe/sock, as your dog is not likely to understand the difference between the shoe you give them and the ones you don’t want chewed up.
 
 

 

Dog-Dog Introductions

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

 

Fearful Dog Behavior Handout

This handout details the proper handling of a dog who is fearful with the ultimate goal being to ease the dog’s fear of human interaction. Dogs that are shy or fearful of humans are more likely to run away from you if given the opportunity. This handout does not cover defensive behavior in which the dog is more likely to come toward you and ask you to back off (fight over flight) than run away from you.  This handout is organized into 2 sections: (1) the first page is a snapshot for those short on time or in need of a refresher; and (2) the remainder of the document elaborates on the items in the snapshot. For more information, see this video.

Snapshot
 

Prevent Escape: Dogs who are fearful can be very difficult to recapture once loose. A top reason for dogs getting loose is by darting through a door, including car doors. Take extra precautions to seal off any exits/entrances to your home and when transporting your foster dog, especially when a new activity occurs (vacuum, doorbell, thunder, loud music, cars, etc.). Another top reason for dogs getting loose is by getting through, over, or under a fence. Never leave your foster dog unattended outside. If you have a fenced yard, you must supervise your foster dog at all times when in that yard. If you have a doggy door, you must keep it closed or out of reach of your foster dog.

Go Slow: Be patient. The dog needs to learn to feel safe and trust again. Go slow when meeting the dog. Crouch down. No eye contact. Give the dog space in your home. Expect the dog to be fearful and may try to escape when new people come around and when new activity occurs.

Martingale (No Slip) Collar: The dog must be wearing a snuggly-fitted Martingale Collar (you should only be able to fit two fingers under it) at all times. This is a collar with a double loop mechanism that tightens so that it cannot slip over the dog’s head. Some dogs will try to back out of their collar and slip it over their heads, and this collar stops their ability to do that.

Other Special Handling Equipment: The dog must have a leash attached (whether outside or inside your home) at all times. This is to ensure that when/if the dog is cornered, scared, or gets loose, there will always be a safe way to catch the dog without having to touch or encroach on them.  If the dog chews the drag leash, use a metal chain leash or cable tie-out. Dogs can chew through any other material in seconds. We may assign other special handling equipment to your foster dog, like a harness. 

Leashed Walks Only: Outside of the home, the dog must be on a leash that you are holding at ALL times. The dog cannot be off leash, even in a fenced yard. A top reason for dogs getting loose is by pulling the leash from the handler’s hand. Make sure you have a very tight grip on your leash when walking the dog. To avoid the dog pulling out of your hand, use a waist leash.

Body Language: Pay attention to the dog’s body language.

High-value Treats: Use high-value treats (beef hotdogs, Natural Balance logs, freeze-dried meat - the smellier the better) when interacting with the dog.

Transport: Crate the dog for transport. If not possible, make sure the dog is securely tethered to the car.

Lost Dogs: Immediately notify the Foster Team if your foster dog gets loose.
If you need a sitter or new foster, please work with our Foster Team to find someone. Please make sure the confirmed sitter or new foster is aware that your foster dog is fearful and that they should follow this handout.


More on Martingale Collars

A martingale collar is made with two loops (as shown on the diagram below). The large loop is placed around the dog’s neck and adjusted to fit snug and the leash is then clipped to the D ring on the smaller loop. When a dog tries to pull their head out of the collar, the tension on the leash pulls the small loop taut, which makes the large loop smaller and tighter on the neck - preventing escape.

Martingale collars are specifically designed to help prevent a dog from slipping out of their collar. They are comfortable until engaged (unlike traditional collars that have to be buckled uncomfortably tight to prevent escape). When adjusted properly, a martingale collar never chokes, but constricts snugly around the entire neck to prevent escape, reducing unnecessary pressure on the dog’s windpipe.

Body Language


Dogs cannot talk but their bodies can give their handlers a lot of information. Here are some generalities regarding scared dog body language:

  • Tucked tail - This generally expresses a feeling of fear and/or lack of safety.  Be cautious and slow with a dog tucking his/her tail.

  • Baring teeth

  • Flat ears and wide eye

  • However, there is no absolute guide to dog body language, and what one dog intends with his head position may be completely different from what another dog doing the same thing intends

  • Please review the “Doggie Language” graphic at the end of this article
     

Meeting a Dog Who is Fearful

  • First, the handler should make sure the dog is calm. Dogs pick up on a person’s energy and with a nervous dog, the more relaxed and confident the handler is, the more the dog will pick up on it.

  • Crouch down so the dog is facing your shoulder.

  • Toss high-value treats at the dog; high-value treats can be very helpful in persuading a dog to come to you.

  • If a dog is hiding in a confined space and shows absolutely no interest in coming to see you, let them be; be patient and given them space.

  • Talk “sweetly”

  • Please review the “How Not to Greet a Dog” graphic at the end of this article.


Transporting a Dog Who is Scared

  • Crating for transport is the best option; it keeps the dog safe and limits the dog’s access. You can try luring the dog with high-value treats into a crate while they are in your house and then carefully placing the crate with the dog inside into the car. Cover the crate with a sheet or blanket to ease fear.

  • Please note that the majority of dogs who are fearful are lost by the dog darting out of a door, including car doors.

  • If you cannot lure the dog into the crate outside the car, try to lure them into the crate in the car. A dog who is fearful may or may not jump up into your car. Many shelter dogs are not used to riding in cars, and it can be a relatively foreign experience to them. If the dog does not jump into the car, try to lure them with high-value treats. Create a trail with the treats up to the floor of your car and then to the seat.

  • Often a dog will be too scared to eat and won’t care about your treats. With the assistance of a staff member, you can test to see if the dog will tolerate being picked up. This starts with slightly lifting up the dog and seeing what their reaction is. You should expect for the dog to try to whip around. Keep your face and hands away from their mouths as much as possible. If you notice a head whip, growl, baring teeth, or any very polite warning signals, set the dog down. They are telling you they aren’t comfortable being picked up.

  • If the dog can’t be crated: 

  • The dog can be transported with just a collar and leash but use extreme caution

  • Tether the dog inside your car (secure the leash to a piece of the car like an overhead handle or the pole at the bottom of the head rests) or use a doggie seatbelt; 

  • Make sure that you can control the dog before driving.

  • In cars, dogs who are fearful may pant, whine, bark, move around frantically, or simply lay down and shake. They often have wide eyes that dart around. This is normal. The world is a very scary place to them, and if they haven’t been in a car often, this could be frightening. If you are a new person to them, imagine how you would feel if you were thrown in a car with a stranger who couldn’t tell you where you were going. Remain calm and confident to help them feel more at ease. Calming music can be helpful here.

  • Coming out of the car, the dog may try to bolt away from you. Make sure that the dog is tethered or secure in a crate before you open the door and always have a good hold of their leash.
     

In the Home
 

Decompression and Management:
  • In a new environment, like your home, the dog may be very scared. It is best to give them a space of their own where they can start to feel comfortable.

  • Block off a room or a corner to place a crate for the dog. The ideal place would be in a quiet, smaller room with a door (so that door can be closed whenever an exterior door is open). Make sure it is nice and comfy with blankets, water, food, and toys easily accessible. Make sure it is as quiet as possible.

  • Block off any doors leading to the outdoors with an xpen or baby gate. 

  • Tip from a mentor of dogs who are fearful: “What I do is set up the crate inside an x-pen and put pee pads around the x-pen. You can protect your floor by buying a $25 dollar roll of vinyl flooring from a hardware store to put under the pee pads…That way, you can leave the crate door open and he can step outside of his crate to relieve himself.  He will probably only do this when you are not in the room, but it's better than lying in his waste.  I would close him in the crate when you actually leave the house. The sheet over the crate is good, but don't completely cover it. He should be able to see out and should not be able to be completely invisible. Sometimes anxious dogs pull the sheet into the crate, and if so, don't bother trying to cover it.”

  • Do not force them to interact with you. The first few days should just be about giving the dog a chance to decompress, get their bearings, get used to a routine, and observe you. Try not to "interact" with the dog too much--that means minimal talking, petting, and looking at the dog. Leave them alone in their space, and give them a chance to observe you without that pressure. Let them get used to the new smells and surroundings. They may pace as they familiarize themselves with the new space; give them time and space for this. This can also be as easy as letting the dog explore the space on their own. Basically, IGNORE THEM! They are afraid of you at the moment and need some time to adjust. 

    • Imagine it this way: you wake up on a spaceship surrounded by aliens (that's what humans are to him).  They keep touching you all over and making noises at you.  You would not be thinking "are they touching me in a friendly way?" because you would not stop screaming.  However, if they were feeding you and not threatening you, and pretty much ignoring you, eventually you might seek to communicate with them.

  • If you need to move them or take them out at all, utilize your drag leash (use a metal chain leash or cable tie-out) by stepping on the end farthest away from the dog, then picking it up to move them. 

  • Using the drag leash will be important for taking your dog outside to use the bathroom. Establishing a routine for when and where to go to the bathroom will help with reinforcing or learning house training. 

  • Make sure that doggie doors and windows are securely closed and that there are no other means of escape. Also check any fenced enclosure for holes or weaknesses and eliminate hiding places before taking the dog outside. Be advised that a scared dog may also try to climb your fence.

  • If you have other pets, use them to model behavior.  Bring them into the room and facing away from the dog, give them quiet affection.
     

Human Interactions:
  • Once your foster dog has decompressed, you can start to build a relationship with them. 

  • Sit far enough away from them that they aren’t running away from you. Sit with your side facing them, not your front. 

  • Do not make eye contact. 

  • Let them sniff you without acknowledging it. 

  • Have some high-value treats with you. Gently toss those treats in the dog’s direction. If they are not interested in eating them at that moment, that’s okay. Wait for a couple minutes and if they don’t eat them, walk away.

  • Repeat this process daily until they feel comfortable eating off the floor. You can slowly try to get closer as they get more comfortable, but TAKE. IT. SLOW!
     

Make sure that everyone in the home and visitors: 

  • (1) Understand that extreme caution must be used when opening doors, to ensure that the dog doesn’t escape.

  • (2) Goes very slow with your foster dog and gives your foster dog the time and space necessary to feel secure prior to reaching for him, petting him, or attempting to pick him up.

  • If there are multiple people in the household, everyone should be spending time “actively ignoring” the dog.


Small Children

Your foster dog may be frightened or uncomfortable around small children. It is your responsibility to manage the interactions between the dog and any small children. Children should not be allowed to interact with the dog without an adult present.

Walking

  • Walk the dog on a sturdy leash that won’t easily slip out of your hands. To avoid the dog pulling out of your hands, use a waist leash. Again, the dog should always be wearing a snuggly-fitted martingale collar.

  • Before exiting your house, utilize a door routine (Please watch this video). Generally, dogs are taught to sit and wait while the handler opens the door. When the dog offers eye contact to the handler, they are free to go. This is especially important with dogs who are fearful. The goal is to instill in them that they can get what they want (in this case, to get out of the house) by making eye contact. If they don’t know “sit,” that’s okay. Just close the door and wait until you receive some eye contact before proceeding.

  • Make sure you’re ready to go. All equipment (collar, any harness, leash. etc.) should be on correctly and secure. Harnesses should be double clipped or attached to the leash by a carabiner so that if the dog shimmies out of their harness, you are still connected to their leash. See picture at the back of the handout.

  • Walk up to the door, but keep it closed.

  • Reward any eye contact from the dog with a “yes” when you receive the eye contact and a treat.

  • Open the door slightly. If the dog moves forward to go out the door, close it before they can get out. This is a reset. If they hold their position, you can open the door a little more.

  • Open the door in small increments when the dog is waiting and giving you some eye contact. Close the door when they try and bolt through it.

  • You want to reward eye contact and reward them holding their position.

  • When the door is all the way open or as open as you feel you can get it without them bolting, give a “free” command to let the dog know they are free to move forward and head out for your walk.

  • Hold the dog’s leash tightly the entire time. Again, these are the dogs most likely to take off if given the chance. 

  • Your foster dog may spook at very simple things: cars, sounds, doors slamming, dogs barking, children, etc. This may result in a quick jolt where they try to run away, so again, hold the leash tightly.

  • All the basic rules of PVAS’s Foster Program apply to dogs who are fearful as well (no nose-to-nose greetings with other dogs besides the resident dog, at least ten feet away from non-resident dogs at all times, etc.)

Potential Adopters

  • Attract adopters by helping them to form an emotional connection with your foster dog. What are the things that make you fall in love with them? What are their cute quirks? Discuss the milestones and happy moments that you have experienced with them.

  • Please do NOT put restrictions on the dog (like that the dog needs a fenced yard or an adult only home just because the dog is afraid). That will limit the dog’s adoption possibilities and increase its time without an adoptive home.

  • When meeting your foster dog, have adopters follow “The Correct Way” images in the “How Not to Greet a Dog” graphic at the back of this handout.

  • Please provide adopters with a copy of this handout.

 
 

House Training Adult Dogs

Some adolescent or adult dogs (over six months of age) urinate or defecate inside the house. House soiling can occur in any location of a home, but sometimes pet parents will notice that their dog soils more in certain locations. The location can indicate the cause. For instance, soiling might occur only in infrequently used rooms or on a specific kind of surface, or only on furniture and areas that smell strongly of a person or other animal, such as beds and sofas. Soiling might also occur only under certain conditions and, like location, these conditions can help indicate the problem. Some dogs might urinate only during greetings, petting, play or reprimands, and some dogs house soil only when they’re alone and their pet parents can’t observe them, or only when they haven’t had frequent enough opportunities to relieve themselves outside. A dog might house soil if she’s previously learned to eliminate on papers or in a litter box, and her pet parent removes the papers or box.

Rule Out Medical Problems First

If your dog soils indoors or at inappropriate times, it’s important to visit her veterinarian to rule out medical causes before doing anything else. Some common medical reasons for inappropriate urination and defecation include:

  • Gastrointestinal Upset

  • Urinary Tract 

  • Change in Diet

  • Incontinence Caused by Medical Problems

  • Medications

  • Age-Related Incontinence/Cognitive Dysfunction

Before attempting to resolve your dog’s house-soiling problems through training, please talk with our foster team to rule out medical issues.

 

Behavioral Reasons for House Soiling

There are a number of reasons an adult dog may be eliminating in the house. 

  • Lack of House Training - If a dog has always soiled in the home, has lived outside or in a kennel, or has an unknown history, it’s likely that she simply has never been house trained.

  • Incomplete House Training - An incompletely house trained dog might occasionally soil in house, soil if she’s not given frequent enough opportunities to eliminate outside, soil only when left alone in the home for long periods, soil first thing in the morning or during the night, or soil if there’s a change in her family’s daily routine that alters her access to the outdoors. Some incompletely house trained dogs soil anywhere in the home while others soil only in infrequently used rooms. Many sneak out of their pet parents’ sight to soil in other rooms. Sometimes an incompletely house trained dog simply doesn’t know how to communicate to her pet parents that she needs to go outside.

  • A Surface Preference - If a dog only soils inside on a specific surface, such as carpeting, cement or newspaper, she may have developed a surface preference for elimination. This sometimes happens when a dog is housed for a period of time in a place where she’s forced to eliminate on a particular surface, such as paper laid down in a pen, a blanket in a crate, or the concrete floor of a shelter run.

  • Anxiety - A dog might be reliably house trained until a major change happens in her household, such as the addition of new household members or the permanent departure of a favored family member. Dogs who soil because of anxiety tend to eliminate on furniture, beds or sofas- areas that smell strongly of particular people or other animals. Sometimes a dog will become the target of another household animal’s aggression, which might cause anxiety and limit the dog’s access to places to eliminate.

  • Fear of Going Outside / Fear of New Places and/or People - Some shy/fearful dogs are too nervous to eliminate in new environments or in front of new people.  This often happens when a dog is new to a home and primarily walked on leash for potty outings (when dog owners don’t have a backyard or off-leash area.)  These dogs tend to go for a walk but won’t eliminate until back inside the home and off leash, where they feel safe.

  • Dislike of Cold, Windy or Rainy Conditions - Some dogs hate to go outside when it’s cold, windy, snowing or raining, so they soil indoors when the weather is bad.

  • Urine Marking - Some dogs urinate in the house because they’re scent marking. Dogs scent mark for a variety of reasons, including to claim territory, to identify themselves to other dogs and let them know they’ve been there, and in response to frustration, stress or an anxiety-provoking situation. 

  • Separation Anxiety - If your dog only soils when left alone in your home, even for short periods of time, she may have separation anxiety. If this is the case, you may notice that she appears nervous or upset right before you leave her by herself or after you’ve left (if you can observe her while she’s alone).  Soiling the home due to separation anxiety is not the same as house training.  

  • Submissive/Excitement Urination - Your dog may have a submissive or excitement urination problem if she only urinates during greetings, play, physical contact or scolding. If this is the case, you may notice her displaying submissive postures during interactions. She may cringe or cower, roll over on her belly, duck her head, avert her eyes, flatten her ears or all of the above. This is NOT a house training issue and it needs to be addressed differently than the tips included in this document. 

 

What to Do About the Problem


Treatment for Lack of House Training or Incomplete House Training

If given a choice, dogs prefer to eliminate away from areas where they eat, sleep and play. You can accomplish house training by rewarding your dog for going where you want her to go (the yard, for example) and by preventing her from going in unacceptable places (inside the house). Crating and confinement should be kept to a minimum, but some amount is usually necessary to help your dog to learn to “hold it.”

House training takes time and effort in the short-term but gives you the long-term benefit of a dog who can be a part of your family. Realize that adult dogs adopted from shelters, rescues and kennels are often not house trained. If your dog came from one of these settings, she might need refresher training, or she might need to start from square one. No matter what your dog’s history, it’s best to adopt as many of the following recommendations as you can, as soon as you can. The longer your dog is allowed to soil in her living area (your home), the harder it will be to teach her to eliminate outside.

Useful Tips
  • Keep your dog on a consistent daily feeding schedule and remove food between meals.

  • Take your dog outside on a consistent and frequent schedule. All dogs should have the opportunity to go out first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and before being confined or left alone. Fully house-trained adult dogs should have the chance to eliminate outside at least four times a day.

  • Know where your dog is at all times. Watch for early signs that she needs to eliminate so that you can anticipate and prevent accidents from happening. These signs might include pacing, whining, circling, sniffing or leaving the room. If you see any of these, take your dog outside as quickly as possible. Not all dogs learn to let their caretakers know that they need to go outside by barking or scratching at the door. Some will just pace a bit and then eliminate inside. If letting you know that she needs to go out seems to be a challenge for your dog, consider installing a dog door. You can also try to teach your dog to ask to go out.

  • If you can’t watch your dog, you must confine her to a crate, put her in a small room with the door or a baby gate closed, or tie her to you with a leash that’s approximately six feet long. If you confine your dog in a crate or small room, the area needs to be just large enough for her to lie down comfortably. Dogs don’t like to soil where they sleep and rest. If the area is too large, your dog might learn to soil in one corner and rest elsewhere. Gradually, over days or weeks, give your dog more freedom. Right after she eliminates outside, give her some free time in the house (about 15 to 20 minutes to start). If all goes well, gradually increase the amount of time your dog spends out of her confinement area.

  • Accompany your dog outside and reward her whenever she eliminates outdoors with praise and treats, play or a walk. It’s best to take your dog to the same place each time you let her outside because the smell can prompt her to eliminate where she’s eliminated before. Keep in mind that some dogs tend to eliminate right when they go outside, but others need to move around and explore for a bit first.

  • If you catch your dog in the act of urinating inside the house, clap loudly, just enough to startle but not scare your dog. (Avoid yelling or punishing your dog. It’s not necessary, and if you do, she might decide that eliminating in your presence is a bad idea and start to sneak away from you to urinate in other rooms.) If startled, your dog should stop in mid-stream. Immediately and quickly lead or carry her outside. If you take your dog by the collar to run her outside, do so gently and encourage her to come with you the whole way. Allow your dog to finish eliminating outside, and then reward her with happy praise and a treat or two. If your dog seems upset or scared by your clapping, just clap a little softer the next time you catch her in the act.

  • If you don’t catch your dog in the act but find an accident afterward, do nothing to her. She can’t connect any kind of punishment with something she did hours or even minutes ago.

  • Clean accidents with an enzymatic cleanser designed for cleaning pet urine. You can find one at most major pet stores and some grocery stores (Simple Solution and Nature’s Miracle are two examples). This will minimize odors that might attract your dog back to the same spots to eliminate again.  This link provides useful information on how to clean dog urine odor and stains.
     

Treatment for House Soiling Due to a Surface Preference

In addition to following the instructions for house training, you can combine your dog’s preferred elimination surface with your desired surface. For instance, if your dog prefers to eliminate on concrete and you want her to go on grass instead, place a temporary slab (paver) in the area where you want to teach her to go. After a day or two, scatter a thin covering of grass clippings on the concrete. Make sure she will still go on the concrete. (If she won’t, you might need to use less grass at first.) Over the course of several days, gradually increase the amount of grass covering the concrete. Once the concrete is well covered and your dog is still eliminating on it, remove the concrete slab. You can take this general approach with a variety of surface preferences, including paper and carpet.

Treatment for House Soiling Due to Fear of Going Outside

Sometimes a dog in a new home (either with new people or in a new place, or both) can feel so overwhelmed that she will not eliminate outside.  In addition to our recommendations for general house training, you can try the following suggestions:

  • You might need to let your dog become comfortable outside before you can expect success with house training. Take your dog to a quiet area outdoors and spend time there. If you don’t have a fenced yard, put your dog on a long line/leash, sit down and ignore your dog. Let her explore and sniff around.  Pretend you are not watching her.  When she potties, tell her “good dog” and give her a reward/treat.  Take her to an area where other dogs go. Sometimes the sight and smell of another dog eliminating will prompt a reluctant dog to go. 
     

Treatment for House Soiling Related to Bad Weather

There are some dogs who are perfectly house trained…except when the weather is bad and they don’t want to go outside. Here in Texas this happens after a thunderstorm and/or heavy rain.  You may need to use an umbrella (held over your dog), use extra special treats to coax them outside, and/or try a different surface for a while until the weather clears up.  If your dog is small enough, you may need to carry him/her outside to a dry spot and keep the outings short (especially if it’s still raining.)  If you know a storm is approaching, get your dog outside before the storm if at all possible. 

Treatment for Anxiety-Induced House Soiling

While it’s rare, some dogs who were once reliably housetrained seem to lose their training after a major change occurs in the household, such as new people in the house or the departure or death of a favored family member or pet. In such cases, the dog tends to eliminate on furniture, beds and clothing-objects that smell strongly of the person or other animal. Another anxiety-inducing scenario involves bullying or aggression from another animal in the home. If a dog fears another household pet, she may be unable to move around freely and feel forced to soil in the home.
 

In addition to our recommendations for general house training, you can try the following suggestions:

  • If possible, restrict your dog’s access to previously soiled areas. You can do this by closing doors, using baby gates, moving furniture, etc.

  • Try to deal with conflicts between family pets. If one of the pets is new, you can reintroduce them. 

  • If your dog seems upset by the addition of a new person to your household, try to deal with conflicts between your dog and the new resident. Have the new person give your dog things she really enjoys, such as food, treats, chew things, toys, walks, play and car rides. At the same time, ask the new person not to force their attention onto the dog, they can toss treats to your dog but no petting.  Give your dog time to adjust to the new person.

  • If you have a male dog, have him wear a “bellyband” (also known as a male dog wrap) so that he can soil without damaging your home. You can order a bellyband from a pet supply company.

  • If your dog regularly eliminates on objects like beds, furniture and clothing, place treats under and around those objects. If she eliminates in predictable areas, place treats in those areas. The areas or objects might become a signal for food rather than triggers for elimination.

  • Clean all accidents with an enzymatic cleaner to minimize odors that might attract your dog to eliminate in the same spots again.

  • Try to make urine-marked areas unpleasant to discourage your dog from returning there to eliminate. For example, use double-sided sticky tape, vinyl carpet runner turned upside-down to expose the knobby “feet,” or other types of harmless but unpleasant booby traps. Be advised, however, that your dog might simply find another place to soil indoors.

  • Try a synthetic hormone diffuser (DAP™, Dog Appeasement Pheromone). It might have a calming effect on some dogs.


What NOT to Do

  • Do not rub your dog’s nose in her waste.

  • Do not scold your dog for eliminating indoors. Instead, if you catch her in the act, make a noise to startle her and stop her from urinating or defecating. Then immediately show your dog what you want her to do by running with her outside, waiting until she goes, and then immediately rewarding her.

  • Do not physically punish your dog for accidents. Do not hit her with newspaper, spank her or jerk her collar. Realize that if your dog has an accident in the house, you failed to adequately supervise her, you didn’t take her outside frequently enough, or you ignored or were unaware of her signals that she needed to go outside. Punishment might frighten your dog and could even worsen her house training problems.

  • Do not confine your dog to a small area for hours each day without taking other steps to correct the problem.

  • Do not crate your dog if she soils in the crate. This will just teach the bad habit of soiling the sleeping area and will make it even harder to house train your dog.

  • If your dog enjoys being outside, don’t bring her inside right after she eliminates or she might learn to “hold it” so that she can stay outside longer. Wait for her to eliminate and then go for a fun walk or briefly play with her before taking her back indoors.

  • Do not clean accidents with an ammonia-based cleanser. Urine contains ammonia. Cleaning with ammonia might attract your dog back to the same spots to urinate again. 

 

Introductions to Cats

Your dog and cat introductions will have the best long-term results when you take your time and go through a step-by-step process of acclimating the animals to one another. The time frame listed below is just an estimation. The time it takes to proceed through these steps depends on your individual dog’s behavior. 

 

Week 1:

Secure the cats in a separate room the dog cannot go into. Make sure the cats have everything they need because they will be there the entire first week.

The dog and cat(s) will not meet or see each other until the second week (or longer) so the dog has time to get used to the new house first and get used to the scent of the cat. To give your cats a break and for them to be able to smell the new dog, you can rotate “free” time in the house by kenneling or putting your dog in a secured, closed-off room and then allowing the cats loose in the rest of the house. 

 

Weeks 2 and 3:

Put the new dog on leash and bring the cat into the same room using a larger dog crate across the room. If you have any other dogs they should be out of the room. Reward your new dog for staying calm while the cat is across the room. Do not move the dog any closer yet. You want to be able to get your dog's attention in the presence of the cat so reward the dog any time he looks away from the cat and especially if the dog looks at you! Constantly praise both animals if they are remaining calm. If the dog lunges or gets over excited, say “no” or “uh uh.” Be sure to reward your dog if they choose a calmer behavior afterwards. You may need to remove the dog and try again later.  Your dog is allowed to look at the cat but should be heavily rewarded for choosing to look away from the cat! If your dog is showing appropriate/calm behaviors from across the room, begin to move closer and repeat the process. Only choose to move closer after your dog has successfully shown only positive behaviors at the previous distance 3 sessions in a row.

 

*** If your dog is still showing too much interest or aggressive type behavior around the cat you should

consult with a professional to evaluate the situation. ***

 

Week 4:

Assuming your new dog is remaining calm around the cat and you have moved closer in proximity to the cat in the crate, you will start these exercises over again with the cat out of the crate. Start with your dog on leash across the room with the cat loose on the other side. You may need a friend to help hold or coral your cat to stay in the general area. This will look different to your dog since the cat is outside of the crate and can move more freely and normally. A common trigger for dogs is when the cat runs across the room so be sure to heavily reward your dog if the cat does move quickly or jumps up on something and your dog remains calm and quiet. Work up to a closer proximity to the cat but not allowing the cat to approach the dog or for the dog to have access to the cat. 

 

Week 5:

If the dog is doing well on leash and is responsive to you around the cat you can try him loose with the cat. Keep a leash on your dog but allow it to drag on the ground beside them like an extended handle that you can step on or quickly pick up if you need to interrupt or stop your dog. They must be supervised the entire time and you are watching for any inappropriate behavior. Allow your cat to give appropriate warnings like hissing or swatting to indicate that he needs space. Your dog should respond to this by moving away; reward him when he does this. If your dog does not understand the cat’s warning or thinks that it is play, help your dog by calling him away or guiding him away with the leash. Continue to reward your dog for relaxed behavior and for any time that your dog looks at the cat but then chooses to look or move away. 

 

Reminders:

*Even dogs that respect cats indoors may chase or lunge toward cats outdoors so be very careful having your dog and cats in the backyard together.

*This is a general time frame and you may need to add more time to the process if you are having a hard time reading the new dog.

*New dogs and cats should not be left alone together for at least the first 6 months you have the dog. You are still getting to know your new dog and what he/she will do in every circumstance. Crating is ideal when you aren't around.

 

The cat can become more accustomed to the dog while the dog is crated as well, which will help in the long run.

Introduction to Defensive Behavior

What is defensive behavior?

 

  • Defensive is a general term used to describe canine behavior that is rooted in fear, anxiety, or a lack of socialization which may cause them to feel threatened in a given situation and to react in protection of themselves. 

**Note: the “threat” which triggers a defensive reaction can vary widely but is defined as any action, gesture, movement or situation that the individual dog perceives as scary, uncomfortable, or threatening to them. It may not be a reasonable fear to us humans, but what matters is the dog’s perception of said threat. 

  • Defensive behavior is a form of aggression, but it is important to understand the dog’s intention with this behavior is to stop a perceived threat. Typically a dog will react defensively when they feel trapped or unable to escape an uncomfortable situation or the perceived threat. This differs from offensive behavior in which a dog chooses to proactively show aggression with the intent to do harm when there is no perceived threat or provocation. 

  • A dog may display threatening behavior (show teeth, growl, bark, snap, bite) as a way of communicating their discomfort about a situation and as a warning for the other person/ animal to leave them alone. 

  • A dog will usually display other signs that they are uncomfortable prior to escalating to a defensive reaction. These signs can be subtle changes in body language such as a stiff, still, or tense body, freezing, lowering their head or body to the ground, trying to move away, ears back, tucked tail, hair raised along the neck or back, looking out of the side of the eye, drooling, or lip licking. Recognizing these signals can help you diffuse the situation and possibly avoid triggering a defensive reaction. 

 

What common behaviors can I expect?
 

If your dog tends to act defensively aggressive is placed in a stressful situation, they will likely go through a fairly predictable series of behaviors:
 

  • Anxiety – Signs of anxiety may include yawning, lip licking, whining, looking in many directions, hiding/ seeking corners, pacing, drooling. 

  • Avoidance - Your dog may avoid eye contact and look everywhere else but the person/thing they consider a threat. They may look at the threat with a side glance at first and then look away. The dog may prefer to keep to themselves and try to avoid or move away from direct interaction with you or other animals. Flinching or moving away when being reached towards or touched is also common - your dog may not be used to or comfortable with human interaction and they don’t yet trust that your intentions are good. (See below for tips on winning over your defensive dog)

  • Escape - If given the opportunity, they will avoid conflict and look for an escape route. If they feel like they cannot escape, their “fight or flight” response will kick in. If your dog cannot flee a stressful situation, they will likely escalate to a defensive reaction. 

  • Freeze – Immediately prior to escalating to defense mode, your dog will likely freeze. Their body will be stiff or still; the hair on the back may be up, eyes hard and staring. 

  • React – Growling, barking, snapping, or biting. If your defensive dog feels like their needs and space are not being respected or that their subtle body language is not being noticed, then they may escalate to more obvious threatening reactions to get their message across. This usually happens when we push the dog too quickly beyond their comfort zone while trying to form a relationship.
     

Dogs who are defensive may be slow to warm up to new people, animals, or situations that are unfamiliar to them. They may also be extra sensitive to touch, handling (picking up or moving), or fast movements. It’s best to address the fear during Anxiety and Avoidance (above) by allowing your dog to move away from the perceived threat. This includes removing yourself or others from your defensive dog (back away and give space).  It’s best to allow a dog who is showing fearful behaviors enough time to approach you rather than forcing an interaction.

 

What to do if your dog acts defensively
 

  • Stay calm. Don’t scold or punish your dog.

  • Give them space. Try not to make sudden or fast movements but stand up and move away from them so they can decompress in their own space.

  • Take mental note of what just happened so you can track which gestures or situations seem to trigger a defensive reaction from your dog. Try to avoid these things in the future.

  • Give them time. Don’t try to go back over and check on them 2 minutes after they acted defensively. Give them time to calm down, realize the scary event is over, and build up their confidence again.  


 

How to win over your defensive dog
 

  • Give your new dog time to decompress and acclimate to their new environment without expecting too much from them. Plan on this taking at least 2-4 weeks although it might take longer for some dogs. Taking these extra steps will help ensure a smooth transition for humans and pets.  

  • Spend time with your dog without direct interaction.

    • Allow your dog to pick a safe spot to lay down and then find a seat in the same general space but not right next to them. Read a book out loud or toss food to them so they get familiar with your presence without the pressure of a direct interaction. This may help them to feel more comfortable approaching to sniff you and take food. 

  • Don’t rush the relationship, let your dog set the pace. Trying too hard to show your affection can actually have a negative effect and damage trust. Instead, utilize consent-test petting. Give your dog the ability to tell you how they feel about a situation and respect their answer.

  • Avoid allowing your dog to hide after the first 3-5 days. 

    • Set up a crate or exercise pen in a living area where the dog is closed off behind a barrier but people are moving around freely without interacting with the dog. 

    • Casually toss treats to your dog whenever you pass by them to build positive associations with the normal activities, sights, and sounds of your home while giving them their own space to observe without direct interaction. 

  • Food! Try hand feeding your dog their meal every day to build your relationship. If your dog seems nervous or fearful of taking food directly from your hand then you can toss it piece by piece onto the floor for them to eat. This is still a version of hand feeding where your dog associates good things coming from you. 

  • Once your dog is comfortable taking food from your hand you can start teaching basic obedience skills like sit, down, touch and eye contact. These skills are not only useful but also help to build confidence. Be sure to teach in a positive manner, in short sessions, and with lots of treats.

Screen Shot 2022-05-13 at 1.51.32 PM.png
 

Introduction to Resource Guarding

What is resource guarding?
 

  • Resource guarding is the behavior of protecting (“guarding”) an item (“resource”) that a dog deems important. This item could be tangible such as their food, food/water dishes, certain types of high value treats (like kongs, rawhides or bones), or toys. In some cases a dog might guard abstract things like the attention or space around a favorite person from other people and dogs or the space surrounding a favorite resting spot (couches, human beds, dog beds). 

  • Dogs may guard items only from people, only from other dogs (or animals), or guard from both. If the dog feels that a person or dog is a threat to their item, even if the person/dog isn’t actually trying to take it, they may show guarding behavior. 

 

What does resource guarding look like?
 

  • Guarding behavior can start with a subtle change in body language - the dog may freeze in place and hover over the food/treat/toy/etc that they are guarding. 

  • The dog might stop eating, chewing or playing with the item momentarily and tense their body while looking at the person/ other animals from the side of their eyes. 

  • More obvious signs might include showing teeth, growling, barking, snapping or biting. In some cases a dog might actually leave the item to charge towards the approaching person/ animal while growling, barking or snapping to drive them away.

 

What to do if a dog is resource guarding?
 

  • DO NOT try to take the item directly from your dog. This may be a tempting option, especially if the item is something they shouldn’t have or could be dangerous for them. Taking an item away could trigger a worse reaction and reinforce the unwanted behavior.

  • DO trade the item for treats. To do this, grab some high value treats (cheese, chicken, hot dog) and toss them to the dog while standing at a distance far enough away that they are not actively showing guarding behaviors. Start tossing treats close to the dog, then as the dog starts leaving the item to get the treats, toss treats farther and farther away from the item. Eventually, toss treats far enough away that you can lead the dog to another room or outside. Do not try to get the item they were guarding until your pup is safely secured in a different area. 

  • If the guarding is directed towards another animal, call the other animal away to decrease stress on the guarding dog. Then trade for treats to remove the item before allowing the animals together again. Be sure to keep this item picked up and put away during future interactions between the animals. 

 

Management vs Training

 

  • Management - the main objective of management is to avoid situations in which the dog might guard something and/ or to strictly manage when and where a dog gets the item to prevent triggering a reaction. Examples:

    • If your dog guards its food then you can feed them in their crate to give them a safe space to eat alone. You may also need to move the crate to a separate room behind a closed door. 

    • If your dog guards toys from other animals then you’ll keep toys picked up and put away when the animals are together. They can have these items when they are physically separated from each other. 

    • There are training skills you can teach to make managing your guarding dog easier. *Note: these skills do not teach your dog not to guard, they just make it easier to redirect your guarding dog should a problematic situation pop up

 

  • Training - may vary depending on your dog’s guarding behavior but the objective is to reduce the dog’s natural guarding instinct through controlled and structured behavior modification exercises 

    • Aimed at changing the dog’s negative emotional response when someone is near an item they value and create positive associations instead

    • Only applicable to dogs who guard towards humans, not guarding towards other animals.

Helpful tools
 

  • Drag leash - a lightweight leash that stays attached to the dog’s collar at all times and drags on the floor when your dog moves. Acts as a point of contact to step on the leash or pick up the handle if you need to quickly gain control of your dog or escort them away from a situation. 

  • Crate - can be used as a safe and secure place to keep your dog separate from people or other animals when offering them an item they might guard.

  • Yummy treats! Use something your dog doesn’t usually get to eat and is more valuable to them than the item they are guarding. Some ideas include small bits of cheese, deli meat, cooked chicken, hot dogs, etc.

 

General Tips for Resource Guarding Management

 
Screen Shot 2022-05-13 at 2.01.09 PM.png

Jumping Up

This document is for older puppies and adult dogs.

 

The following describes graduated steps to curb Jumping behavior.  Please take each step one at a time and follow it for a couple of weeks before moving onto the next step.  If you can curb your dog’s jumping behavior using only Step One, then stop there.  Only proceed to the next step in this training if you’ve put in some effort and time at one step but your dog is not responding to the training or showing only minimal improvement.  For some dogs, jumping up has become a habit and breaking that habit will take a bit of time and effort, but all dogs can learn. At the end of this document we describe a fun teaching game, called “Bounce”, which can be used along with any step of this process.

 

Never reward your dog for jumping. Sometimes it may seem cute/sweet when your dog jumps on you but your dog cannot discriminate when they are/aren’t allowed to jump up so don’t confuse your dog.  From here on out, make an effort to be consistent and make it very black-and-white that jumping is never ok. Everyone who interacts with your dog needs to follow this rule so get your friends/family on board and at a minimum ask your friends not to engage with your dog when they jump up.

 

During this training, always reward your dog for making the good choice to NOT jump up.  It’s not enough to teach our dogs what we don’t want, we must also teach them what behavior we DO want by lavishing praise and other rewards when they make good choices.

 

Step One:  Remove all attention. 
 

Your dog jumps on you to get your attention so make sure you engage them as little as possible. Even negative attention is still attention to your dog. A stern “no” or “eh eh” is still attention, and many dogs consider pushing them away to be play.  While these are somewhat reflexive responses for us, try not to engage with your dog by talking to them (even to scold), touching them (even to push them away) or looking at them.

 

It’s best if you can avoid your dog making contact with you when they jump because as soon as their paws touch your body it’s self-rewarding to your dog.  When your dog starts to jump up, side step if possible, then walk away.  Do not scold, just walk away.  If your dog makes contact just continue to walk past/through your dog.  Do not look at your dog or otherwise engage. If it helps, you can cross your arms in front of you as you turn your body and walk away. If you are sitting down when your dog jumps on you, stand up and walk away.

 

You dog will likely follow you.  If you can catch a moment before they jump up and your dog has all four paws on the ground (we call this “four on the floor”) turn and greet them in a calm manner so you can pet/reward without exciting them.  You want your dog to learn the proper way to approach you and so you will always give the desired attention when they’re behaving appropriately (not jumping up).  If you start to pet and your dog jumps up on you, stop petting and walk away.

 

Step Two: Teach an incompatible behavior.
 

A dog can’t jump if they’re expected to do something that requires “four on the floor.”  Give your dog a solid foundation of Sit. If your dog wants your attention, they must sit for it. They only get attention as long as they have all four on the floor. When your dog starts to approach you try to catch the moment before they start to jump and ask for a “sit”, reward the sit with your attention/affection.  If your dog jumps but you effectively side step, wait a moment then ask for a “sit”.  If this technique is effective, it may be all you need to teach your dog that jumping on people is never ok.

 

Step Three: Use a leash. 
 

Attach a lightweight leash to your dog’s collar and have them wear it around the house, dragging it behind them, when you’re home. When your dog approaches you, step on the leash at a length that is not tight when your dog is standing but will provide resistance when your dog starts to jump.  Keep your foot on the leash to “tack” it there.  Your dog won’t feel any collar pressure from the leash as long as they are not jumping but as soon as your dog starts to jump up, they will get a little tug/correction from the leash.  This correction comes without you needing to engage with your dog so you can simply ignore the jump.  When your dog is back to “four on the floor” ask for a “sit” and reward your dog for sitting.  Keep your foot on the leash the entire time you are engaging with your dog so that if they start to jump, they are again corrected by the leash/collar tug. This gives the dog instant feedback that jumping up is a) unsuccessful and b) uncomfortable.  Note: tacking the leash with your foot as your dog approaches takes a bit of coordination so continue to ignore your dog as you’re attempting to tack the leash. 

 

Play a game called “Bounce”
 

This game can be played in conjunction with any of the above Steps and can be very effective in teaching your dog not to jump. This game is best played with more than one person and the more the merrier (just make sure to explain the rules of the game to everyone before you start to play).  Tether your dog to a piece of heavy furniture or another stable object/fixture and have the people gather (or line up) on the opposite side of the room out of reach from your dog. One at a time, have someone casually walk toward your dog. As long as the dog keeps all four on the floor, that person will continue to approach.  If they get all the way to your dog without any jumping, your dog will get attention/affection from that person for a short time.  Then that person will walk away and it’s the next person’s turn to approach.  The moment your dog starts to jump up, the approaching person will say nothing but will turn and walk away out of the reach of the tether and then it’s time for the next person’s turn. When you start to play this game you may notice that your dog will immediately get excited and start to jump so each person may only get a step or two toward your dog before they have to turn and walk away.  Keep everything else the same so that your dog begins to connect the human’s action to the dog’s behavior.  You want your dog to think, “Huh, every time I get excited and jump up that person walks away, but if I stand here calmly they keep coming over to pet me.”  Check out this link to watch a video demo of this game.

 

Note:  If your dog is jumping up on your young children it’s important that you supervise all interactions.  Some dogs (typically younger dogs) see young children as puppy-playmates so it’s important to make it very clear to your dog they cannot play with your child as they would another rambunctious dog.  To do this you may decide to use the aversive tools exclusively when your dog jumps on your children (make sure you are the one utilizing the aversive).  You may need to instruct your children not to play with the dog for a short period of time while the dog is in training.  The kids can, and should, calmly pet your dog when you are there and making sure the dog remains calm.  Your kids can also play the “Bounce” game as long as you are supervising but you may need to approach your dog alongside your kids.  If you continue to have problems with your dog jumping on your young kids, please reach out to our Behavior Team for more assistance.

 

How to Curb Mouthing/Play Biting in Adult Dogs

This document is for older puppies and adult dogs.

 

Aside from chewing, a common way in which dogs utilize their mouths is in play. It’s very natural and (to a certain extent) acceptable for dogs to use their mouths when playing with one another. It’s up to us humans to teach them that doing so is not acceptable when engaging with people.

 

The following describes graduated steps to curb Mouthing/Play-Biting behavior.  Please take each step one at a time and follow it for a couple of weeks before moving onto the next step.  If you can curb your dog’s mouthing behavior using only Step One, then stop there. Only proceed to the next step in this training if you’ve put in some effort and time at one step but your dog is not responding to the training or showing only minimal improvement.  For some dogs, mouthing/play-biting has become an unfortunate habit and breaking that habit will take a bit of time and effort, but all dogs can learn.

 

It’s important that you remain calm during all of these training steps but if your dog is getting more amped up (mouthing you even more) as you utilize these techniques, then it may be an indication that it’s time to move to the next step in the training process.

 

Note:  If your dog is mouthing a young child in your home, see the section at the end of this document on how to address this behavior.

 

Step One: Redirect

Keep plenty of dog toys handy.  You may need them in different areas of the house and your backyard.  When you are playing/engaging with your dog and she takes hold of your hand/arm/leg during play try not to react at all – don’t say anything and try not to pull your hand/arm/leg away.  Make the body part go still and therefore uninteresting to your dog. Then quickly grab a toy and stick it right next to your dog’s mouth.  You may need to “activate”(wiggle/wave) the toy to make it interesting so your dog will want to take it.  If she does take the toy, continue to play with her and the toy – it’s her reward for doing the right thing.  You can also verbally praise her for taking the toy, “good dog!”  Reward your dog every time she takes a toy instead of your body.

 

You may have to repeat this process many times in the same stretch of playtime and over the course or days/weeks, before your dog begins to understand that your body is not a toy.

 

Step Two: Remove all attention

If your pup isn’t responding after several attempts to redirect, and/or the mouthing/play bites become more intense, calmly say “no” or “eh eh” and then immediately walk away. Don’t talk further to them and don’t interact with them in any way. Simply remove yourself from them. To your pup, suddenly the game has stopped. With enough repetitions, they’ll come to understand that being mouthy is what causes the fun to go away. Following this, if you catch your pup go to a toy or politely (not jumping or mouthing) approach you, you will give them lots of praise and re-engage them in playtime.

 

Note: Yelling or yelping when your dog mouths/bites you may excite your dog even more, the opposite of what you want.

 

Step Three: Time Outs

If your dog continues to mouth you, you will now raise the consequence by using a “time out”.  It’s important to do this the right way so your dog will understand why she is getting a “time out”.

 

Have your dog wear a drag leash when you are home, or in the yard, with her.  This is just a lightweight leash that your dog will drag around as she wanders around the house.  You will use this leash as a “handle” which allows you to direct your dog to the time out place without touching your dog – thereby making sure your dog isn’t getting the attention she is trying to get via mouthing.

 

Pick out a word or phrase to indicate she has “lost” and going to Time Out (e.g., “Time Out”,”I’m sorry,” “Too Bad”, etc). Say your Time Out word, pick up the leash, turn and briskly walk to the time out area. Avoid talking or interacting with the dog any further as this could be mistaken as rewarding attention to your dog. Be neutral when you say your time out word. The "punishment" isn't coming from you or the place where you put her. The "punishment" is the social isolation and loss of freedom.

 

Inside Time Out Spot: This can be a laundry room, bathroom, or extra room. Do NOT use your dog’s crate, bed, or cozy space for time out.  Time out is a punishment zone and you don’t want your dog to suddenly resent being in her crate or bed. Make sure there are no toys or treats in the time out space. You want it to be less pleasant than where she usually is (with you!) so she learns to avoid the unwanted behavior that got her here.

 

Outside Time Out Spot: Have a tie-down spot in your backyard where you can clip your dog and walk away.

 

Time Out starts when the dog is removed from you and should only be 3-5 minutes (for adult dogs). However, if your dog is whining, barking, or throwing a temper tantrum then you need to wait until they are quiet and calm before they can come out of Time Out. So the first few times she might be in Time Out for a longer time, but that's okay. When she comes out, ignore her for two minutes and then resume life as if nothing ever happened. This is their second chance to hopefully choose a better and rewardable behavior!  If your dog repeats the unwanted behavior, she goes right back to Time Out for another 3-5 minute interval. If your dog continues to choose unwanted behavior after coming out from Time Out, you can increase their Time Out duration a few minutes each time.

 

Don’t forget to always reward your dog for making good choices, like grabbing a toy instead of your body so she understands what you DO want from her.

 

Mouthing on Young Children

It’s hard for young kids to remain calm when a dog mouths them so it’s important that you supervise all interactions between your dog and your children until you can fully trust your dog to no longer mouth people.  When kids yell or pull their arm/leg away from a dog, it can be exciting for a dog.  Your dog may think it’s play time and become even more mouthy and possibly hurt (unintentionally) your child.  

 

While supervising your child’s interactions with your dog, and if age-appropriate, you might teach your child to “freeze” rather than yell or run away when your dog mouths.  This could make it seem like a game and therefore less scary to your child while you quickly jump into action to correct your dog (by trading for a toy).

 

If you know your dog gets really rowdy at certain times of the day, be intentional about burning the dog's energy appropriately through physical and/or mental exercise prior to this time in hopes of minimizing the unwanted mouthing. Likewise, if you see that your child’s style of play is getting your dog overly excited, you will want to separate the dog during this play time until you’ve trained your dog not to mouth.

 

When it comes to dogs and young children, we don’t want to take any chances so please contact our foster team for more assistance if you’re struggling with your foster dog’s behavior.

 

Separation Anxiety

Everyone needs a little time alone - unless you are a dog suffering from separation anxiety! Separation Anxiety is a complex issue that can have many levels and variables that compound it. Typically, a dog with Separation Anxiety will display a dramatic response within a short time of their owner leaving. This can range in intensity, depending on the dog or the length of time that the dog is left alone. This document is intended to provide information about Separation Anxiety, as well as the Basic Training Plan to address it.

 

Why Do Dogs Suffer From Separation Anxiety?
 

We don’t fully understand why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and, under similar circumstances, others don’t. It’s important to realize, however, that any destruction and/or house soiling that occurs with separation anxiety is not a dog’s attempt to punish or seek revenge on his owner for leaving him alone. In reality, they are a part of a panic response.

 

Most Dogs Don’t Suffer from True Separation Anxiety 
 

Separation anxiety is closer to a phobia: the dog literally panics when he is left alone. However, a dog who barks, whines, eliminates in the house, or even destroys household items may not be displaying true textbook separation anxiety, but could potentially be a dog exhibiting boredom behaviors.

 

It is important to note that most symptoms of boredom share characteristics with minor separation anxiety, but dogs who are bored might display these behaviors less consistently. Be sure to address boredom first to eliminate it as the possible cause of their behavior.

 

The most common of these behaviors are:

  • Chewing or knocking down easily accessible items.

  • Howling, barking and/or crying.

 

In these cases, it is possible that by addressing your dog being bored, you can ease or eliminate the symptoms listed above.
 

What Won’t Help The Separation Anxiety Problem:

  • Punishing your dog.
    Punishment is not an effective way to treat separation anxiety. In fact, punishing your dog after you return home may actually increase their separation anxiety.

  • Getting another pet as a companion for your dog.
    While there are some successful examples of this, getting another dog does not typically help an anxious dog if their anxiety is the result of separation from
    you (their person), not merely being alone. 

  • Forcing your dog into a crate without acclimation.
    Your dog will still engage in anxiety responses in the crate. They may urinate, defecate, howl, or even injure themselves in an attempt to escape the crate if they have not been taught that the crate is a safe space. 

  • Only doing obedience training with your dog.
    While formal training is always a good idea, and could provide mental and physical stimulation (a very important outlet to satisfy), it is unlikely that it will solely help a separation anxiety problem. Separation anxiety is not the result of disobedience or lack of training, it is a panic response.

 

What Are Some Signs of Separation Anxiety?

Separation Anxiety may involve potential preliminary symptoms that signal some form of this behavior might exist. This could include frantic greetings when coming home or entering the dog’s space, to continuously follow the person around from room to room. These are not guarantees of separation anxiety, but are potential signs that your dog may be anxious about being separated from you. 

Signs that your dog may have Separation Anxiety could include:

 

  • Digging, chewing, and/or scratching at doors/windows

  • Prolonged barking and/or whining when left alone

  • Excessive salivating/heavy panting when alone

  • Attempts and/or being successful at escaping an enclosure or confined space.

  • Urinating or defecating when left alone
     

What To Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety - Baseline Training Plan

No matter the level of Separation Anxiety that your dog is displaying, they should be following the Baseline Training Plan for Separation Anxiety. The Baseline Training Plan is as follows:

 

  • Provide the dog with increased exercise in order to ease or eliminate the symptoms of boredom and to eliminate as much pent up energy as possible. 

  • Modify the feeding of your dog to align with when you are getting ready to leave the house. We also recommend that the food is now being administered in puzzle toys, which allows the dog to work in order to receive their meal. This will keep the dog engaged for longer periods, and provide mental stimulation for the dog in your absence. You can read more about different types of toys here: Canine Enrichment 

  • Keep arrivals and departures low key. For example, when you arrive home ignore your dog for the first few minutes, then calmly pet him. This may be hard for you to do, but it’s important to do this every single time!

  • Practice a routine to desensitize your pet to you leaving.  
     

You may not even realize it, but you picking up your keys (among other items) could be a cue to the dog that you’re about to leave the house - thus building up the anxiety before you even leave the dog alone. The goal of this exercise is to make your own “leaving routine” less predictive and/or anxiety producing to your dog.
 

  • Begin by engaging in your normal departure “activities” (getting your keys, putting on your coat) then put everything back (almost like you have changed your mind and are no longer leaving) and sit back down. It is possible that your dog has begun to show signs of anxiety or excitement already. Ignore your dog completely during this, and wait until they are showing signs of being calm. Once they are in a more relaxed state, repeat this step. Continue until your dog shows no distress in response to your actions. 

  • This exercise works best if practiced randomly, multiple times a day.

  • Begin teaching your dog how to be comfortable in the crate

    • If your dog has not had any crate training, or is showing any discomfort in the crate, see this additional document on crate training: Crate Training Your Dog

  • Work on building a positive association with you leaving. This skill should not be worked on until your dog has built up a positive association of the crate. Once your dog has been desensitized to your leaving routine, and is showing no issue being inside of the crate while you are home, you can begin to work on conditioning a positive response to you leaving the dog alone. The steps are outlined below and we encourage you to watch this video for a mock demonstration. 

    • Begin by walking over to your door and opening it. Shut the door, and calmly walk back to the dog and reward them with a high value treat. Repeat this until your dog is displaying relaxed body language. 

    • Next, continue the steps as above, step outside of the open door momentarily, and then step back inside and shut the door. Calmly walk back over to your dog and reward them with a high value treat. Repeat this until the dog is displaying relaxed body language.

    • Finally, step outside, close the door behind you, and then immediately return inside. Calmly walk back over to your dog and reward them with a high value treat. Repeat this until the dog is displaying relaxed body language. 

    • Proceed very gradually from step to step, repeating each step until your dog shows no signs of distress. The number of repetitions will vary depending on the severity of the anxiety. If at any time in this process your actions produce an anxiety response in your dog, you’ve proceeded too fast. Return to an earlier step in the process and practice the step until the dog shows no distress response, then proceed to the next step.

    • Once your dog is fine with you being on the other side of the door for several seconds, begin working on short durations of time. This step involves giving the dog a verbal cue (IE: “I’ll be back”), leaving, and then returning within a few seconds to a minute. Your return must be low-key; either ignore your dog or greet them quietly and calmly. If they continue to show no signs of distress, repeat the exercise. Gradually increase the length of time you’re gone.

    • Practice as many absences as possible that last less than 10 minutes. You can do many departures within one session, if your dog is relaxed sufficiently between departures. You should also scatter practice departures and short-duration absences throughout the day.

 

Interim Solutions

Because the treatments described above can take some time, and because a dog with separation anxiety can do serious damage to themselves or your home in the interim, consider these suggestions to help you and your dog cope in the short term.

  • Consult with your Veterinarian about the possibility of drug therapy. A good anti-anxiety drug should not sedate your dog, but simply reduce his anxiety while you’re gone. Such medication is a temporary measure and should be used in conjunction with behavior modification techniques.

  • Take your dog to a dog day care facility or boarding kennel.

  • Leave your dog with a friend, family member, or neighbor.

  • Take your dog to work with you, even for half a day if possible.

More information about separation anxiety

 

Tie-Down Exercises

What is the purpose of a Tie-Down?

A Tie-Down is a management and training tool useful for teaching polite introductions to new people (no jumping) and for teaching your dog to relax in the house.  This is not a substitute for training but is a useful tool to aid in training your dog.  Tie-Downs can also be useful for keeping an eye on your new dog who isn’t yet fully house trained.

A Tie-Down allows your dog to be with/near you while learning to be calm and relaxed.  The place of the Tie-Down should be within view of you/your family and should be comfy and pleasant.  Your dog can have a dog bed/mat and toys while on Tie-Down.  Tie-Down is not a punishment zone.

A Tie-Down should NEVER be used when someone is not home or as a punishment for bad behavior.

How to create a Tie-Down

A Tie-Down can be as simple as a leash looped around a heavy (hard-to-move) piece of furniture or door hinge.  Click on this video for a demonstration of setting up a tie down using a door hinge. You can install an eye-bolt into your baseboard or stud in the wall just above the baseboard (only do this if you don’t mind having it as a more permanent fixture in your room). The Tie-Down space should be in your view but so your dog can not access you, or anything she/he might chew on. Your dog will have about a 4 or 5 foot radius to move around.

Make sure the leash you use for Tie-Down is sturdy and chew-proof for heavy chewers.  A cable leash (less than 6’ in length) works great for tie-downs as do lightweight chain leashes (careful not to use the fabric handle to keep it chew-proof).  If your dog is not prone to chewing, a sturdy, one-inch wide leash or rope-style leash will work but you will need to check it regularly to make sure it isn’t frayed/chewed which will weaken integrity and could lead to breaking.

You can also set up a Tie-Down spot in your backyard using a small tree, railing, or heavy patio furniture to wrap the leash around.  Do NOT leave your dog on tie-down in the yard unless you are there with them at all times.The Tie-Down leash/cable can be attached to your dog’s regular collar (martingale-style collars only, to protect the neck and so your dog can’t squirm out of the collar) but if your dog tends to jump/lunge this is a good use for a securely-fitted, back-attaching harness, so as not to harm the dog’s neck when they jump.  

 

Practice putting your dog on Tie-Down before starting any of the following exercises.  They should be comfortable with the set-up so it doesn’t interfere with the training.

 

 

Tie-Down Exercises to Teach Calm/Relaxed Behavior (Eliminating Rambunctious, Attention-Getting Behaviors, including begging at the dinner table.)

All dogs require exercise but as long as your pup is getting plenty of physical exercise during the day, he/she can also learn how to be calm in your presence when you need some peace and quiet. 
 

  • Start with exercises several times a day for five to ten minutes, gradually increasing the time on Tie-Down.  At first, this may be challenging for your pup if he/she is used to being next to you commanding your constant attention.  

  • Put your pup on Tie-Down with a chew toy (e.g. stuffed kong) and sit in the same room.  

  • If your pup is whining, barking or pulling toward you, completely ignore him/her.  Don’t look at him and don’t talk to him, don’t even tell him to be quiet -- ZERO attention.

  • Capture a moment of quiet/calm behavior and then reward your pup by looking over and giving him/her some verbal praise, “good dog” and toss a small treat to him/her.  As long as your dog remains quiet, you will occasionally give him/her verbal praise and treats (frequently at first then gradually increase the time between giving your attention).  You can even walk over and pet your pup, as long as he/she stays calm.

  • In the beginning these calm moments may be very brief but try to capture them so you can provide praise/reward and start teaching your dog how to get what he/she wants (your attention).

  • At any time he/she gets too excited, turn your head and go back to ignoring your dog (zero attention).

  • End each training session on a positive note with calm, relaxed behavior.

  • As your dog starts to understand that quiet/calm behavior gets him/her the attention they desire, and they are calm for five to ten minutes at a time, you can release him/her from Tie-Down and see if they can continue with calm/relaxed behavior without the Tie-Down.
     

Tie-Down Exercises to Curb Jumping Up on People
 

Dogs have a natural tendency to jump up to get your attention (and shower you with affection) but you can teach them there is a better way to get your attention -- by approaching you calmly with all four feet on the floor.  The following exercises teach your dog that this is much more rewarding.  
 

Do NOT do this exercise if your dog is showing fear of people coming near him/her or is displaying territorial behaviors when someone enters the home.  
 

  • These exercises work best if you have more than one person so ask friends/family to help you out.

  • Put your pup on tie-down and stand across the room, or a ways apart from your dog.

  • One by one you will take turns approaching your dog.  Your dog will be excited as you approach but as long as he/she remains with all paws on the floor (no jumping) you will continue to advance toward your dog. 

  • If at any time your dog starts to jump, you will turn and walk away.  You don’t have to say anything, just turn your attention off.

  • Now it’s the next person’s turn to approach.  Same thing happens.  As long as your dog keeps all four paws on the ground, the person will continue to approach.  If your dog can remain with all “four on the floor” you will go all the way up to him/her and can start calmly petting.  

  • If your dog jumps up at any time, turn your attention off and walk away.

  • Don’t be discouraged if your pup doesn’t get it the first time or two you do this exercise. After a few minutes, or when you’ve had enough, you will either let your dog off the tie-down and join the room (but only if he/she has been successful at staying calm/not jumping) or put your dog in another room if he/she isn’t quite ready to meet people without jumping on them.

  • You can do this exercise in short segments but the more times you do it, the faster your pup will learn that the key to getting attention is to NOT jump.
     

Click on this link for a video demonstration of this exercise.

 

Tie-Down Exercises for Anxious Barking/Nuisance Behaviors When New People Enter the Home
 

Tie-Down exercises are used in conjunction with teaching a “place” command.  Check out these training video links to demonstrate how to teach “Place” and how to use place when guests come over.
 

For dogs with extreme fear of strangers or territorial behaviors, please do NOT do Tie-Down exercises without consulting our foster team.

  

These exercises are best done with friends/family who are coming over and will be staying for a bit.  When a service person comes over, it’s best to just put your pup away in another room so they can get their job done and leave with no interaction with your pup.

Depending on the level of our dog’s anxious behavior, you may need to advance very slowly.  Your pup is ready for the next step only when he/she is showing calm/relaxed behavior.

STEP ONE:
 
  • Ask your guests to call or text you before entering the house so you can put your pup in the tie-down spot.  This spot should not be right at the front door but some place that’s in the same room you will be sitting and where your guests can move around without passing directly in your pup’s path.

  • When your guests enter, ask them to ignore your pup completely (no looking at or talking to your pup.)

  • You will also ignore your pup if he/she is doing anything other than showing calm behavior (standing is fine, just not not pulling toward you.)

  • Sit down in the room with your guests and ignore your pup.  Have treats available.  While your pup is barking or lunging or even pulling on the tie-down, you all will ignore him/her.

  • Wait for a moment of calm and in that calm moment YOU will turn your attention toward your pup.  You can talk to him/her (“good dog”) and toss a treat to him/her.  If your dog continues in a calm manner, you can continue to reward with praise/treats.  At first, these moments of calm may be very very brief (perhaps even while your dog is catching his/her breath) but try to capture it and reward it.

  • If your dog goes back to being rambunctious, turn your attention off and go back to ignoring your pup.

  • If your dog can remain calm for 5 minutes, you can get up and go over to give him/her some pets/affection.

  • If your dog can remain calm for up to 10 minutes, move on to the next step.

 

STEP TWO:
 
  • Now that your pup can be calm while your guests are sitting, it's time to have your guest get up and move around a bit.  This may excite your pup all over again.  If you have multiple guests over, have your guests take turns with this step so it’s only one person at time at first.

  • Give your guest a handful of yummy treats (something your pup really loves and doesn’t get often.)  

  • At first, your guest will simply stand up. As they start standing they should begin tossing treats over to your pup.  You will be neutral during this time.  If your pup starts barking, ask your guest to simply stand in place and toss treats.  If your pup stops barking long enough to eat some treats you can praise him/her from your seat.  Be sure to turn off all your attention if your pup starts barking/pulling again.

  • After a moment or two of quiet (even if it’s just because he is gobbling up those yummy treats) have your guest sit back down.  We want the guest to sit back down when your pup is NOT barking/jumping/pulling so try to capture a quiet moment.

  • Repeat Step Two as necessary until your guest can stand up without triggering excited energy from your pup.  If you have multiple guests over, have each one take turns standing and tossing treats.
     

STEP THREE:
 
  • Have your guest (one at a time), from a standing position, start to move around the room. At first, your guest will stay in sight of your pup. 

  • All the while your guest is moving, have him/her “rain treats” on your dog. Your guest will continue to ignore your pup while tossing the treats.  

  • If your pup can be calm with your guest moving around the room in sight, now have your guest walk out of the room for a moment and then return (walk to the kitchen or a bathroom.)  They should toss treats as they leave and as they re-enter.

  • If your dog can focus on the treats instead of your guest, you will reward your pup with praise.  Whenever your pup is barking/jumping you will completely ignore your pup. 

  • When your pup can successfully remain calm while one guest is moving around, ask another guest to do the same thing.

  • Once your pup is able to remain calm while your guests move about the room your pup is ready to come off tie-down.  Do not release your pup from the tie-down if she/he continues to show nervous or rowdy behavior toward your guests.

  • When taking your pup off of tie down, we recommend you keep a drag leash attached to their collar. A drag leash is a normal leash clipped to the collar that no one is holding, instead it drags on the floor wherever the dog moves. It serves as a useful extension so that you can quickly step on the leash or pick it up to regain control of your dog if you notice they become nervous or rambunctious so that you can easily lead them back to tie down. 

  • While working through the tie down exercise your dog may have become comfortable in the same room with your guest but that does not necessarily mean they want the guest to touch or pet them. Before allowing your pup off tie down, instruct guests to continue ignoring your pup and to not reach towards or try to engage with your pup directly; just ignore the pup like they did previously. 

  • Your pup may choose to approach your guest to sniff them or get a closer look but this is not necessarily an invitation to be petted. Guests should refrain from reaching towards or petting your pup unless your pup is clearly soliciting the attention such as nudging the person with their nose/ head, leaning into them or showing very loose, wiggly body language to seek engagement from the guest. 

  • If your pup seems to be soliciting pets and attention from your guest then they can practice consent-petting. Please watch this video to learn more. Watch your pup’s behavior closely, if they seem uncomfortable with the interaction then calmly ask the guest to stop and then call your pup away.
     

If your dog shows more extreme nervous/anxious behavior and can not settle down with guests in the home please CONTACT THE FOSTER TEAM so we can work with you to modify this training technique for your dog and your situation.

Screen Shot 2022-05-13 at 4.41.19 PM.png
 

Time-Outs

You can use Time Outs if your dog is exhibiting an unwanted behavior that you simply cannot redirect or control. Whenever they goes over the top, put them in a time out for 3-5 minutes.

 

If your dog is generally exhibiting unwanted behavior, keep a leash on them at all times. When it comes time for a Time Out, the leash gives you quick access to lead them to their Time Out spot without touching them (which is rewarding).

 

How to do it:
 

Pick out a word or phrase to indicate they have “lost” and are going to Time Out (e.g., “Time Out”,”I’m sorry,” “Too Bad”, etc). Say your Time Out word, take the leash, turn and briskly walk to the time out area. Avoid talking or interacting with the dog any further as this could be mistaken as rewarding attention to your dog.

 

Inside: This can be a laundry room, bathroom, or extra room. Remove soft blankets, toys and treats. You want it to be less pleasant than where they usually are (with you!) so they learn to  avoid the unwanted behavior that got them here and ultimately get to stay with you.

Outside: Have a tie-down spot in your backyard where you can clip your dog and walk away. When you are away from your house, carry a carabiner so you can clip your dog’s leash to a fence or wrap it around a tree and walk a bit away. 

 

Two things about Time Outs:

1) Be neutral when you say your time out word. The "punishment" isn't coming from you or the place where you put your dog. The "punishment" is the social isolation and loss of freedom. Those in charge control access to freedom; time-outs show the dog that unwanted behavior means they lose their freedom.

 

2) Time Out starts when the dog is removed from you and should only be 3-5 minutes to begin with. However, if your dog is whining, barking, or throwing a temper tantrum then you need to wait until they are quiet and calm before they can come out of Time Out. So the first few times they might be in Time Out for a longer time, but that's okay. When they come out, ignore them for two minutes and then resume life as if nothing ever happened. This is their second chance to hopefully choose a better and rewardable behavior!  If your dog repeats the unwanted behavior, they go right back to Time Out for another 3-5 minute interval. If your dog continues to choose unwanted behavior after coming out from Time Out, you can increase their Time Out time up to 15-20 minutes and when they are calm/ quiet. 

 

3) Meanwhile, establish clear rules and boundaries so they also know when they “win.” It is not fair to always punish a dog without also teaching what you do want them to do! 

So your pattern should look like this: 

  1. Lavishly reward any and all behaviors you do want them to do. Things like hanging out calmly and quietly, playing with their toys, not jumping up or mouthing on you when being petted, and performing obedience skills.

  2. Ignore behaviors that are just annoying or aren’t such a huge deal (but you would like to stop happening), and

  3. Give time outs for behaviors you simply cannot redirect, are damaging or dangerous (such as excessive mouthing or jumping)

 

This makes the rules very clear: “Do what I like and win, or do what I don’t like and lose.”