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“Good habits once established are just as hard to break as are bad habits.” ~Robert Puller

Potty Training to me is the singularly most important thing you can teach your pup.  If your dog is potty trained it translates into more freedom to go places.  If your dog isn’t potty trained, you will probably not get a lot of invitations to people’s houses, including your relatives.

I’ve always had a special connection with dogs.  I think this is one of the reasons why I have a 95% success rate in training them.  I have always been able to understand them:  Our language is verbal.  Theirs is non-verbal.  If your dog could tell you one thing, they’d want you to know that they want to be crate trained.

Dogs are den animals. Dogs prefer cozy spaces to wide open spaces. Even if you didn’t get them their own crate (which I would never suggest) they would find a nook and create their den space.  I know a golden retriever named Sadie whose favorite place when not in her crate is in the bathroom, wedged between the wall and toilet.

The primary use for a crate is housetraining. Dogs don’t like to soil their dens or destroy them. If you don’t provide a nook for them, they will seek to create the feeling by way of a closed space under the bed or behind a sofa.  You’re doing them a disservice if you don’t take advantage of crate training.  With that said, a crate isn’t a magical solution. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated. The crate is not to be used for punishment. The crate should have positive associations. You shouldn’t leave your dog in the crate for too long. A dog that is crated day and night doesn’t get enough exercise or socializing and is prone to depression and anxiety. If this does happen, it’s not the crate that’s doing it.  It’s the misuse of the crate. Your dog should always sleep in his crate.  During the day, find alternatives to your dog being in the crate for extended periods of time such as a daycare facility or a sitter.

Puppies under six months shouldn’t be in a crate for more than 3-3.5 hours.  Four hours is the absolute maximum. They cannot hold their bladder for longer than that.  The same goes for adult dogs who are being house trained.  Though they can hold it, they don’t know they’re supposed to and you should ease them into it.  You don’t want to shock their system.

How long do you utilize crate training?  Each dog is unique in their crate training time periods. My dog Bridget used the crate for a little over a year.  This is pretty standard. Crate your dog until you can trust him not to destroy the house in your absence. After that, the crate should be his home that he goes to voluntarily. I have clients who keep their dog’s crate in an area in the house and it’s like their own condo/ bedroom.  Keep clean blankets and towels in there during cold months especially.  Use your best judgment during summer months, as you wouldn’t want it to get hot in there.  The crate should be out of direct sunlight.

Dogs want to have their own space and boundaries and crate training is the best starting point to teach them this.  I’ve never seen a dog yield negative results from crate training if used correctly. Do you know why? It’s in their hard drive to be in a den. You’re addressing a basic psychological and spiritual need. They feel at home in their crate.

I’ve always called my dogs crate their ‘house.’ I throw a soft blanket and towels and toys in there. They sleep in their house.  They work on projects like a chew stick in their house. Most of the time I give them a treat after I tell them, “go in your house.” They love it.  They have no other option but to relax in there.  It’s their time to have to themselves.  Some people feel it’s a form of punishment.  It’s not.  If you have guilty feelings, then this is where the ‘do it’ or ‘delegate it’ rule applies.  If you can afford a dog trainer, have them do it.  If you can’t afford a dog trainer because they can be expensive, go with a dog sitter.  If you find someone who is just starting out in their dog sitting business, they usually have the time to work with your dog if you sign on with them with a consistent schedule.  That’s what I did.  In the early days, I charged dog walking prices for training.  I had the time and I needed the money. If you can’t afford a sitter, then delegate it to another person in your household who follow through.  Attention to detail is everything.

If you are conflicted about dog training, then take yourself out of the equation.  This is not about you.  This is about training your dog to be your co-pilot.  You need to make choices in their best interest and you shouldn’t interfere with this process.  In other words, don’t screw it up for them because you’re projecting your own feelings into this.

Your dog gets a lot out of crate training. For starters, safety is a huge factor.  The odds of him eating something or harming himself are far less in the crate. Your dog wants to feel safe. He wants you to take leadership. Crate training is a step in that direction. I live in Beverly Hills where no one does their own gardening. If you have gardeners come to the house, put your dog in the crate.  I see dogs running loose on a regular basis because the gardener accidentally leaves the gate open.

Crate training teaches your dog emotional independence and maturity.  It’s the equivalent of having your baby sleep in it’s crib. When your dog reaches a certain age, usually between 2-4 years, they need help in the maturation process.  It’s unrealistic to think you can be with them every minute of every day.  At some point you have to leave them and they need to be okay with that.  The crate symbolizes, “Okay, when I leave the house for a couple hours, you go in there and sleep. You can do it and so can I” should be your attitude. Neighborhoods abhor incessant barking in an empty house.  Do not attempt to reinvent the wheel. Crate training is win/ win for all parties involved.

Majority of dogs prefer the collapsible wire crate because they can see out of it.  The plastic crates and nylon crates with a mesh window should be used exclusively for travel.  The crate should be large enough that your dog can stand up, sit and  have a good stretch and turn around.  If you have a puppy and your don’t want to purchase multiple crates as your dog grows, purchase a large crate and reduce the size by putting a cooler in it.  It has worked well for all the dogs I’ve trained over the years, including my own.  You can also see if there’s a way to rent different crates from your local pet store.  There are always people looking to unload a dog crate and you could probably find one for free at a garage sale or online.  Contact a local dog walker or trainer.

The crate should go in a high traffic area.  It should be where the family hangs out most of the time.  They shouldn’t be isolated in the crate.  Just think:  a puppy is coming from being with their littermates.  They’re used to constant companionship 24/7 between their siblings and their parents.  All dogs, especially puppies like activity and being in the center of all the action.

Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket and some towels in the crate. Make it cozy. Open the door and let your pooch explore the crate at his leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away.  If yours isn’t one of them, bring him over to the crate, and verbally explain to him that this is his house, etc.  Do this a happy and calm tone of voice.

Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If he refuses to go all the way in at first, that’s okay; don’t force him 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 he isn’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Stay the course and he will go in.

After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming angsty, you can begin leaving him crated for short periods when you leave the house.

Put him in the crate using your regular command and a treat.  Keep consistent in this routine.  I like to grab a treat, toss it in the crate and say, “Go in your house.” Upon arrival, I always tell my dog where I’m going and approximately what time I’ll be home.  Dogs LOVE this.  They love to know the schedule. There’s no need for emotion or baby talk when you leave.  They appreciate the facts. I don’t crate until I have my shoes on and I’m ready to walk out the door.

When you return home, and how you return home is just as important as your departure routine.  During the training period, you ignore your dog for 10-20 minutes.  Don’t say a word.  You are now learning how to communicate non-verbally with your pup.  Your silence sends him a message that you’re the boss in charge. If you don’t know what to do for the 10-20 minutes, I suggest you make a cup of tea change your clothes. You can take your dog on a walk, you must be silent. It’s a spiritual practice that will yield a high return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you’re home so he doesn’t associate crating with being left alone. When I need to make important phone calls, I do this.

The crate training honors your dog’s emotional and psychological well being. It replicates the primal comfort of the den. You’ll have a cleaner house as a result and your your belongings won’t get destroyed from chewing. Crate training satisfies his needs and creates a whole dog and a satisfying relationship for the two of you. Your dog will have more confidence as a result of crate training and he will be a better listener.

 

For your convenience, I’ve deconstructed an essential puppy starter kit so you know what to buy first. You can always add onto this list to personalize your pup’s experience.

– Black wire crate, large enough so your dog can stand up turn around and sit down.
– Foam bed egg crate or dog bed to go inside of crate for cushion.
– Blanket or towels, preferably machine washable go on top of the bed, and one towel to go on the roof of the crate as needed to block out direct sunlight and create shade.
– Treats
– Chew sticks or bones; whichever your dog prefers.
– Toys
– Small Bowls

 

NOTE:  ** Your pup enjoys cleanliness as much as you, if not more than you, so wash their crate towels & blankets as often as you wash your own bed linens.  Since their scent of smell is 30,000 times stronger than ours, use a fragrance free detergent or light scented lavender and an unscented fabric softener.  Fabric softener helps to remove pet hair as well as make it soft.

Everyone asks me about potty training when they bring home their puppy. For obvious reasons, it’s the number one need of my clients. A schedule is paramount to setting up the win/ win for potty training.  Here’s a schedule that has worked successfully for me for the last 18 years.  Tweak it to your puppy’s needs.

 

General Potty Training Schedule

Puppies up to 4 months need all of their shots, so here is a basic crate training schedule until they can be socialized with other dogs.

After your pup turns 4 months, it’s time to up your pup’s socializing and activity.  Replace indoor play time with walking outside.

 

MORNING
Keep your shoes/ flip-flops next to your bed, fire drill style and have your clothes ready to go in the morning. Offer filtered water to your puppy while out of the crate.  At this young of an age and up to 6 months, you want to offer a little bit of water while in the crate as to stay hydrated.  Keep in mind that water and food inside the crate will stimulate a potty break.

6:00 – 6:30     Take puppy outside IMMEDIATELY.

7:15 – 7:30      Indoor Playtime

7:30 – 8:00      Give puppy food and water, place puppy in crate (Allow 15-20 minutes for digestion)

8:00                 Take puppy outside

8:15                 Place puppy in crate

 

AFTERNOON

12:00               Take puppy outside

12:15 – 12:30  Indoor Playtime

12:30 – 1:00    Give puppy food and water, place puppy in crate (Allow 15-20 minutes for digestion)       

1:00                 Take puppy outside

1:15                 Place puppy in crate

 

EVENING

5:00-5:30        Take puppy outside

6:15 – 6:30     Indoor Playtime

6:30 – 7:00     Give puppy food and water, place puppy in crate (Allow 15-20 minutes for digestion)

7:00 – 8:00     Take puppy outside

8:00 – 9:00      Playtime

9:00                 Return puppy to crate

11:00               Take puppy outside

11:15               Return puppy to the crate for bed time

 

At four months, your puppy should have all of his shots and is ready to mingle!  Prior to the four months, I encourage you to take your dog to as many places as possible, even though they can’t socialize with dogs they don’t know: outdoor cafes, the car wash, stores, etc.  It’s beneficial to get familiar with sounds and people.  For some reason, many dogs are afraid of garbage trucks.  The earlier and more you expose them, the more immune they will be.  Ever look at homeless people’s dogs?  They’re so calm because they are constantly exposed to the elements.

As stated earlier, at four months, replace indoor playtime with walking outside. Your pup wants to learn about his new neighborhood. Don’t just walk the entire time.  Stop to smell the roses and whatever else.  Take a look at nature through his eyes.  Walking and sniffing is the canine equivalent of social media.  They’re all checking in with one another this way.

It’s also a safety factor to go on neighborhood walks.  If your dog ever got out, she would be able to find her way home because she knows his neighborhood and she knows the location of her house.  Most dogs when they get out and they get lost, it’s because they get turned around and panic and they don’t know how to find their way back home.  Most of the time they’re only a few blocks away.

During the daytime, it’s best to have the crate in an area thats high traffic and where you are.  For example I work at home.  Even though I have a desk, I like to work at the dining room table.  I like to place a crate in front of my living room window (NOT facing sunlight) so the puppy can look out the window and see me working at the dining room table.  They have good company and so do I.

I have another crate in my bedroom next to my bed.  It’s much easier for me to have two crates then to move around one large crate twice a day.  If you cannot adhere to the crate training schedule during the day, don’t be too hard on yourself.  Most of us have jobs and some of us have families as well.  We are all doing the best we can, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

If there is one department where you should absolutely not make an exception and that’s having your pup sleep in his crate at night.  This sends him the most important message that he can ever learn:  You are the boss.  In their language, the pack leader sleeps at the most elevated point so they can look out for predators. You are their fearless leader.

Dogs that are prematurely welcomed on the bed sometimes become aggressive towards other dogs because they think they are the alpha of the family.  They’re being sent a wrong signal that they too are the fearless leader and they want to protect and defend the home.

Your dog will eventually be able to sleep on your bed and you will know when the right time will be because you will not feel guilty about it.  For me, my dog Bridget likes to sleep on the floor.  She’ll visit me on my bed, but she ultimately prefers the floor because it’s cooler.

 

RECAP

Because You Actually Get To Choose This Member Of Your Family

Welcome to my first blog post!  I really hope you read this blog before you choose your new dog.  If I’m too late, hopefully you are having a love affair with your new four legged child and you should read  read this anyway.   

Dogs are a significant member of the family.  We used to be a subculture.  Now we are a culture.  What confirms this is a private equities firm purchased Petco in 2015 for 4.6 billion dollars, one of the biggest leveraged buyouts of last year.  We are spending more money on pampering our dogs and getting them the best medical care and training to insure they live a happy and healthy and long life.

It’s very common to want the dog you grew up in childhood.  I did.  I grew up with a German Shorthaired Pointer/ Retriever, named Shakey. Since German Shorthaired Pointers were uncommon, my first dog as an adult was a hunting dog:  half beagle and half cocker spaniel… to help me with all of the bird & fox hunting I was going to do in the city of Chicago?  #WTF was I thinking?  More importantly, there was not a single person who stopped me.  #WTF were my friends thinking?? I was encouraged to get the adorable yet disruptive dog known as Henri Matisse.

I loved Herni and I was committed to him, but I will never get a beagle mix ever again.  (My hand is up to God as I type this.) Beagles are for hunting. What I learned from having Henri was I like a dog who comes back, like retrievers.  The beagle in him dug under the fence and would take off for the day and come back for dinner…. like a cheating husband. A new fence, some trauma therapy, a few bottles of wine and 5k later fixed that problem. Henri Matisse would ditch me while hiking on the trail.  We’d be at the park and I’d find him digging his way to China under a bush.  He looked at me arrogantly when I’d throw a toy to play fetch. When I said his name, he’d look away.  It’s a beagle thing.  They’re secretly needy.  His dog sitter said that Henri would gaze at him with a look that said, “My mother is paying you good money to take care of me.” What could have been a down payment for a nice house, instead went to keeping Henri living in high style.

I’m always going to encourage you to rescue a dog, BUT if you do not find a dog via a rescue group or a shelter, going through a breeder is not an epic tragedy.  I will not shame anyone for going to a breeder, especially if you have young children.  I want everyone who reads this to have a fulfilling well rounded life. It’s not worth it to take risks with safety.  At the end of the day, you NEED TO PICK OUT THE BEST DOG FOR YOUR LIFESTYLE.  A little bit of discernment will yield a big return.

Make a list of what you like to do for fun and how much time you like to spend outside. It sounds silly, but you will be glad you did it.  Take a couple weeks to observe and accurately asses your energy level. I’m totally serious. This will come into play because your dog should match your level.  If you like to walk, run, go to the gym, throw a ball, all these things will serve you well with a dog.  Small dogs like to walk, by the way and play.  Terriers aren’t big walkers, though it depends on exactly with terrier breed, though every puppy no matter what the breed likes to walk a lot the first two years of their life.  Like, keep your shoes next to the bed a lot.

Do you like to sleep past 6am?  Hopefully not if you’re thinking of getting a  10-16 week old puppy.  Do you have allergies?   Make a list with 10 things on what you need in a dog.  Take this list when you start exploring dogs. Keep it stored in your devices.

Do some research on breeds and the temperaments of these breeds.  I’m asking you to temporarily abandon your childhood wishes. You will thank me later for this. If you have children or plan on having them during the lifespan of your future dog, then you want to get a dog that likes kids.  This will come in handy during holidays with family.  They will welcome your dog to their house because it makes the kids happy.

There are tens of thousands of options for you.  I will skim over the popular few.  If you have kids and are active and your kids are active, or someone in your home is active, my favorite dog is the Golden Retriever.  They are predictable and generally amazing with kids.  I have a golden retriever named Bridget and she is the best dog I’ve ever had.  Done.  ?  She travels with us and keeps my home safe.  She’s amazing with kids and small dogs.  This also makes her great for business and public relations.  I take her to the doggie beauty parlor every couple weeks where she gets bathed and brushed and since she also happens to be only 50 lbs, I’ve had very little to no shedding with her.  If you’re not 100% sure on what to get, set up a consultation with  me for some breeder recommendations or if you’d like me to assist you with a rescue.

If you’re single and do or do not have kids in your world and you like to go to the gym but don’t consider yourself a big time cardio person, I recommend getting a pug.  They are hearty, yet mellow dogs who love people and other dogs.  They are one of THE most social breeds.  They love love love the couch.  Like most smooshed nose breeds, they cannot do a whole lotta running and you must must must be careful that they stay hydrated AND do not overheat.  It could be fatal if they do….  Though pugs don’t need a lot of exercise, they are SOCIAL doggies.   I can’t say this enough. You cannot leave these guys behind.  They need company or they need to accompany you to where you are going.

Terriers are an excellent choice if you have allergies and need a dog that doesn’t shed.  Believe it or not there are two downsides that I learned after years in the field when it comes to terriers:  they’re the most difficult to potty train of all the types of dog.  I would say 80% of terriers are kind of a nightmare to potty train.  The kind that will hold it on a walk and then pee on the carpet in the living room when they come home.  If you have an easy time potty training your terrier, count you blessings, look up and say THANK YOU!  This ain’t always the case.

Regarding dogs who don’t shed: if it ain’t fur, you’re still gonna be cleaning up something. Dogs who don’t shed are like swiffer mops.  Even when they have a puppy cut, they will collect dust and dirt and when they get on your bed and furniture that is where they will get it off.  I’ve had terriers dirty my furniture more that golden retrievers.  At least the retrievers fur falls out and there’s clean fur on my couch and bed.  Not saying you shouldn’t get a terrier.  I just want you to be aware of all aspects of what you are signing up for.

I hope these suggestions help you.   There are so many options you have when picking out your newest family member. If you’re not sure, I’d love to help: you can set up a consult with me to discuss what the top 2-3 types of dogs would be for you.  As much as I love training puppies, I love to see the win/ win when you bring home the newest member of your family! #boom

 

Illustration Credit: Lili Chin