By: Robert Cabral, dog trainer and member of the Wag! Advisory Board
As a dog trainer and behaviorist, I answer hundreds of questions from dog owners looking to better understand their dogs and their dog’s problems on a regular basis. What I’ve found over the years is that there are certain questions I’m asked over and over again.
I’ve pulled together my five most commonly asked questions — because I’m sure there are plenty of other pet parents out there looking for the answers.
Q: How can I get my puppy to stop biting?
A: Puppies don’t bite, they are simply mouthing your hand. While it may feel like a bite, this is the way they communicate, as well as the way they play.
There is very little you can do to change this and most often people make it worse by trying to correct it. The best solution is to give your puppy something to do while he’s out of the crate like walking or training. When he’s had enough, put him back into the crate with something safe to chew on like a Kong.
Crate time, which means time away from biting you, will teach your puppy to settle down and reinforce that chewing is done on toys and not your hand.
Q: How do I stop my dog from peeing in the house?
A: This is simple, teach them to pee outside. While people don’t think it's that simple, I promise you it is.
Dogs are very clean animals and generally won’t pee where they lie. This means confinement is their best friend. If we confine the dog to a small area, such as a crate, and then take the dog out several times a day, they will learn that they will get the chance to relieve themselves outside. Once they know that, they will learn to hold their bladder (or bowels) longer and longer.
If you work and are away from home, I recommend getting your dog scheduled and structured walks. Using an on-demand dog walking service, like Wag!, is a great solution if you can’t be home to walk your dog regularly and give them this relief.
Q: My dog jumps on people, what should I do?
A: First, we want to understand why dogs and, in particular, puppies, jump on people. The answer is because jumping tends to get a reaction. Whether that reaction is us turning our backs or yelling “off, down”, all of these are a form of interaction or reinforcement for the dog.
The dog is jumping because he wants our attention and all of these “reactions” acknowledge that. So the best thing we can do to stop a dog from jumping is to not let the dog do it in the first place. This will take some preparation, of course.
I recommend introducing your dog to new people when he or she is on a leash and under your control. Ask him to sit before meeting new people and reward him for sitting. If he goes to jump, redirect him back to you and reward that behavior. I also suggest never letting new dogs meet people at the door because that’s where the trouble starts.
Most importantly, if the dog does jump on someone, ask that person to ignore the dog completely until he has stopped jumping. Eventually, dogs will get the point and stop this behavior.
Q: How do I introduce my dog to other dogs on leash?
A: The most important thing I stress to people is that your dog doesn't need to meet every dog you see. Most problems arise when people put their dogs in unsafe situations, which can include meeting strange dogs.
My rule is that my dogs only meet dogs that I approve of and that I know are safe. I would much prefer a neutral dog to a friendly dog. Neutral dogs are a pleasure to walk because they are focused on the walk and the person walking them rather than constantly lunging to meet or play with other dogs.
You can train this behavior by keeping dogs focused on your relationship during walks. When you see another dog, use treats to keep their attention on you and don’t acknowledge the other dog as you pass.
Of course, having a few four-legged friends that you and your dog love to hang out with and take walks with is beneficial to your pet’s socialization.
Q: My dog pulls on the leash, how do I fix that?
A: One of the most common reasons that dogs pull on the leash is because they have never been taught to walk on a loose leash.
Start by choosing the right collar for your dog. If your dog is wearing a harness or is used to a harness, then they are used to pulling. We use harnesses to get working dogs to pull things like sleds.
Unless your dog has cervical or spinal issues diagnosed by a veterinarian or is very old, they should be walked on a martingale or cinching type collar to protect them. This can include chain, slip lead or pinch collars. I always recommend consulting a qualified trainer to help introduce these new training tools to your dog. Check out my Wag! video about collars.
After a dog’s collar is chosen, the work begins during walks. When the dog is walking, take a series of 180 degree turns to engage the dog to follow you. Whenever the dog is next to you, reward him. When he gets in front of you, turn the opposite direction and give him another chance. Never let your dog walk on a tight leash because you’re only teaching him that it’s ok to pull on the leash.
There you go, the five questions about dogs that I'm asked most often. If any of these are ones you'd ask, now you know you're not alone — far from it!