Dog Training 411

posted October 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Mary Green

Q: My beloved dog, Lucy, is getting up in age.  She hasn’t slowed down too much (at twelve years) but there are days that she doesn’t move around too well.  I would like to get a puppy before Lucy gets too old and crotchety.  Is it a good idea to bring a puppy into the house?

A: Sure!  If you want another dog and can meet the needs of a puppy – go ahead.  Don’t get a puppy to just keep Lucy company!  If Lucy has never been fond of other dogs, or you know that she is aggressive to other dogs, it may not be a good idea, though.

If you decide to add a puppy, you will need to help Lucy make adjustments.  First, do your homework.  Be sure that the breed or type of puppy you select has characteristics that would fit well with Lucy’s personality.  Don’t select the most hyper puppy, or one who seems to pick on the littermates.  You might consider getting a puppy that, as an adult, will be smaller than Lucy, and often it is best to select the opposite sex to your established pet.  

Once home, it is important to supervise the new puppy with Lucy.  Try not to let the puppy overwhelm Lucy with rough play and unsolicited attention.  If Lucy growls at the puppy, she is telling him she doesn’t like his behavior.  Young puppies need to learn boundaries from older, reasonable dogs.  Don’t scold Lucy for correcting the puppy.  On the other hand, if Lucy is handing out unfair corrections to the puppy, you should intervene.  Use the crate, or a barrier such as a baby gate to confine the puppy to an area away from Lucy to give her a break.

Adding a puppy to your household should not change the routine for your established pet.  Lucy still needs her alone time with the family.  She may even need extra attention.  She does not have to mind the same rules as a puppy – rank has its privilege.  Many older dogs welcome having a buddy and exhibit more playful behavior than they have in years.  Best of luck!

Q: I was told my dog had to be sedated to be groomed or he couldn’t come back!  I don’t want my dog drugged.

A: Probably the groomer felt that the dog was too stressed out, too aggressive to handle, or too matted to be groomed.  Only a veterinarian can prescribe a sedative for your dog, and would most likely run some tests first.  A veterinary clinic that provides grooming would be able to monitor a sedated dog during the grooming process.

People will tell me that they don’t brush their dog because “he doesn’t like it,” or “he bites me when I try to brush him.”  So the result is a very matted dog who behaves badly when the groomer attempts to do her job.  Not exactly a win-win situation. If your pet doesn’t allow you to brush or comb him, he is most likely not going to be happy about a stranger.

Every dog should be able to accept brushing and combing, nail trimming, ear cleaning and tooth brushing.  Routine maintenance will make a huge difference when it comes time for the “big groom.”  

Begin with gentle handling exercises.  Have him sit while you pet him with long strokes, and firm pressure from his head to his rump.  Head to tail — don’t go against the growth of his coat.  Do the same thing with the dog standing.  Gently stroke down his leg from his shoulder down to his paw.  Massage his ears, gently lifting the ear flaps.  Feed him some good dog treats while you are doing this.  Next, introduce the nail clipper and the brush.  Hold the tool, feed the dog a treat – don’t touch him with the tool at first.  He can actually alter his emotional response to the presence of the tools, and soon will be happier to see them!

Gradually begin brushing or combing the dog.  Keep rewarding his good response with treats.  If he growls, snarls, shows teeth, snaps or tries to bite, just stop what you are doing.  Let him settle down and go back to the step where you were able to brush him or stroke him before, and try again.  Becoming angry or excited yourself will not help him to calm down, and may make the situation worse.  Instead, maintain your calm and cool! 

If your dog is a young puppy or this is a new behavior for an older dog, you may be able to work out his problems.  You may need to enlist a groomer or trainer to help you with this.

If this is a longstanding problem, and your dog has been fired by groomers, but you can handle the dog, you may need to learn to groom him yourself.  

Q: What should I look for in a training class for my puppy?


A: The major benefit in attending puppy class (often called “puppy kindergarten”) is the opportunity for socialization!  Puppies in the class should be under five months old, and could be as young as 8 weeks in some programs.  The value of early puppy socialization far outweighs the slight risk for a puppy to be exposed to infectious diseases*.  Puppies should have at least received their first set of vaccinations prior to entering class.  Look for a low instructor- to- student ratio.  There should be well supervised off leash play time for puppies.  Class curriculum should be geared toward responsible pet ownership, and should include instruction on basic skills.  Puppy kindergarten should not be a formal “obedience” class.  You should receive instruction about equipment, and what is appropriate or not for puppies!  

*Dr. R. K. Anderson’s Socialization Letter,

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