(excerpts from the Training Manual provided by the North Shore Animal League of America)
- You go through the door first: Teach him to “wait” at the door. “Wait” is different from “stay,” which means to remain in one spot in one position. “Wait” simply means don’t follow. When the dog is waiting for you to open the door say “wait,” praise and give a treat. Control the dog by using the door. Open it slowly. If the dog goes to move say “NO” and close the door (not on the dog). When the dog is waiting again, repeat the above. As soon as the dog seems to be cooperating, open the door, treat him for waiting, and give him a command such as “let’s go” if you are going with him, or “Go” if you are letting him out. The dog will soon learn that he does not go out unless he waits and is given a command.
- The pack leader owns the food and is the first to eat. Stand in front of the dog holding his bowl of food. Eat a cracker as though you are eating from the bowl. When you are finished have him sit and give him the food. Pick up the food as soon as the dog walks away. Food should never be left down. Whoever feeds the dog moves up a few notches in the hierarchy of the pack.
- Stop Jumping: Any attention is potentially a form of reinforcement, positive or negative. For example: puppies will often jump for attention. As the dog is jumping, the owner is saying “off” or “down” (giving the dog the attention he was seeking.) The dog learns jumping up gets attention, so the behavior continues. Try to ignore the dog (no feedback) and avoid all eye contact, until the dog is behaving.
- Attach a word to a behavior: Dogs attach your words to their actions. For example, your dog is about to sit, you say “sit.” The dog will soon attach the word to that action and sit when told. This is true of all actions; when the dog is waiting at the door say, “wait.” …etc. Do not constantly repeat the word until the dog obeys. When teaching a command, say a command once, then gently place the dog into the desired position – then praise the dog as if he did the correct action himself.
- Tone of voice is very important: Never call the dog to you for a negative reason (scolding) or what the dog perceives as negative (brushing or bathing). The “come” command should always be a positive experience.
- Dogs are “den” animals. This means they like to have their own small space to go into or under. The crate (cage) is a den-like enclosure where the dog eats and sleeps. The crate serves as a housetraining tool since dogs are clean animals and do not like to eliminate where they eat and sleep. When introduced properly, it can serve as a training tool to address and avoid other behavior problems such as chewing and separation anxiety. Never use a crate as punishment. The crate should be in a centrally located area in your home. Never leave a dog in an isolated area such as a basement (even a nicely finished one) or a laundry room. Do not allow children to play in the crate or bother the dog while in the crate.
- Confine your dog in a small area, with water and a proper chew toy. This should not be in an isolated area in your home. Use a training crate or a gate for confinement and NEVER isolate a dog behind a closed door.
- Do not give the dog bedding in this area until you know he/she is holding his urine. If the dog has an accident, the bedding can be pushed aside, maintaining a clean den.
- Unless you are training a very young puppy, it is not necessary to use paper training as a means to house break your dog.
- Clean soiled area using 50% vinegar/water solution or an enzyme cleaner such as “Natures Miracle” or “Eliminate.” This will prevent the dog from being drawn back to the same area.
- Maintain a consistent schedule for your housebreaking routine. This will help your dog anticipate the time he/she is going to need to eliminate and help you to predict as well. For example morning, afternoon, evening and before bed.
- Feed him/her a Good Diet the same time every day. Leave food down for a half hour at each meal and feed in confinement area to reinforce cleanliness. Do not leave food down for your dog all the time. It will cause his/her elimination habits to be erratic. Weimaraners and other large breeds should be fed 2 small meals a day, rather than one large meal.
- Dogs must be supervised when out of confinement area with a leash or a tether attached to his collar at all times. This will make the dog more accessible and help prevent accidents.
- When changing diet, gradually introduce food in 25% increments. 9 – Pick up water one hour before bed time.
- Begin to enlarge the confinement area when you notice your dog is regularly clean. Do not reprimand for an accident you did not see occur. If you witness an accident, give the dog verbal correction (NO) and bring dog to the proper place.
- Always take your dog out the same door, using the command “out.” The dog will then learn to go to that door to let you know when he needs to go out.
- On a leash, bring your dog to the same spot each time, stay there until he/she eliminates. Attach a word to the action such as “potty” and always remember to praise verbally.
- Most importantly, dog should be in confinement area when not 100% supervised. This will prevent uncorrectable accidents. Confinement should be supplemented with plenty of exercise.
When considering a second dog, your first concern should be compatibility with the existing dog. Most dogs find it easier to accept dogs of the opposite sex. This does not mean that dogs of the same sex can’t get along. Introducing a dog properly is an important factor in the success of the relationship. Remember that dogs are pack animals. People should always be at the top of the hierarchy. The dogs will have their own pecking order under the people. Trouble starts when there is confusion as to who is in charge. The owner can help by maintaining position as the pack leader and supporting the dominant dog. This may not be the one that was there first, the older one, the male, female or the one you want it to be. It is not always immediately apparent which dog is more dominant. Watch the dogs’ body language as they interact. The more submissive dog will back off when corrected by the dominant one and may display submissive behaviors such as avoidance, exposing his belly or licking the underside of the other dog’s muzzle.
Supporting the Dominant Dog: The dominant dog will be referred to as dog #1 and the submissive one will be dog #2.
- Dog #1 is first to get any attention. Be careful not to abdicate your position as the authority figure while supporting the dog. Example ;You are alone petting dog # 2 and dog #1 comes in and pushes into you demanding attention. Ignore him and continue to pet dog # 2. Have dog #1 do something such as sit, and then praise him for complying. In this situation, dog # 1 is trying to tell you what to do, and that is unacceptable.
- Dog # 1 is fed first. Have tethers attached to the collars of both dogs. This ensures access to both dogs to help break up any scuffles if necessary. Put #1s’ bowl down just a second before #2’s. When preparing the dogs’ food, place a Kong filled with some of the dogs food in dog #1’s bowl along with his food. This will cause him to eat slower and give # 2 a chance to eat in case #1 comes to steal his food. If he learns to take the Kong out than use a large stone.
- Dogs living together are like siblings. It is not unusual to get on each others nerves or get into scuffles. Let them work it out. Only intervene if bloodshed seems inevitable. If you interfere as soon as you hear a growl you are taking away the importance of that growl. This may force the dog to go to the next step which would be to lunge or bite.
- Be sure to provide each dog with time to himself and time alone with you. This would be a good time to practice some obedience or play a game of fetch. Never confine dogs together in a small space.
When experiencing aggression between two dogs living together, it is important to maintain a strong leadership role through everyday interactions and formal obedience training. Obedience training gives the dog clear information that you are the authority figure and teacher. This helps the dog to understand his place in the hierarchy of your household by opening the lines of communication and establishing clear rules.
Practicing obedience provides the dog with both mental and physical exercise as well as time alone with you away from the other dogs. Make sure it is truly aggression rather than rough play before interfering. Dogs growl when they play. Yelping or crying indicates things are too rough, and it’s time to tell them to take it easy using a noise correction.
Aggression is typically marked by stiffening of body language, showing of teeth and consistently inappropriate bite pressure causing injury. A “Spray Commander” citronella collar or a “throw chain” are excellent corrections that will only affect the aggressor.
Asserting yourself as the pack leader through everyday interactions and obedience takes time. There are things you can do in the mean time to help prevent bloodshed. ~ Support the dominant dog.
- Keep the dogs separated where they can’t see each other (to avoid barrier frustration) when you are not home.
- Keep tethers or leashes attached to the collars of both dogs when they are together.
- Depending on the severity of the problem, you may want to keep a “Gentle Leader” head harness on the instigator with a tether attached. The dog will still be able to bite but you will have control of his head. The head harness instantly gives the dog the message that you are the leader and takes him down a few notches in the hierarchy of things. Make sure it is only when you are home. Having the “Gentle Leader” on for long periods of time can cause chaffing of the dogs muzzle. To help avoid chaffing apply “mole skin” under the band that goes on the dog’s muzzle. This is available in the “Dr. Scholl” department of a drug store.
- Use a deterrent to keep the aggressor away from an area of the victim’s body. Examples:
- A natural flea collar has a very strong odor and may keep the aggressor away from the victim’s neck.
- “Bitter Apple Gel” can be applied to the victim’s ears.
- Provide the victim with body armor. Get a leather collar with large spikes sticking upward. A “prong collar” put on inside-out with the spikes sticking up provides excellent protection for the victim’s neck. Be aware of situations that may cause an aggressive incident.
- Feeding time:
- When giving treats or bones or playing with toys
- When someone is at the door/ when family members come and go.
Dogs are creatures of habit. Do not make any major changes before the baby arrives. Get the dog into a routine of feeding, exercise and play at the same time everyday. This should be the dog’s special playtime for interacting with you. This gives him something to look forward to each day and provides stability when everything around him is changing.
- The father should do this so there is no change when the baby arrives. Teach him to fetch using two balls that he only sees at playtime. In order to teach the dog to fetch, get two identical balls that squeak. Squeak one ball to get the dogs attention. Hold it close to his forehead and bring it back toward his shoulder; this should cause him to sit. When he sits, say “sit,” and throw the ball. When he runs after it, say “get it.” When he picks it up in his mouth, say “take it.” When he comes back toward you, say “bring it.” When he gets to you or near you, squeak the second ball. This will make him drop the first ball; then say “drop it.” Then start the exercise all over again. You always have a ball and so does the dog. Fetch is an easy game to play while you are pushing a child on a swing or while relaxing in a chair.
- Get a doll and treat it like a baby. If you have access to a real baby, get soiled clothing that smells like the baby (without excrement) to dress the doll in. Tape record crying and other baby sounds and strap a small recorder to the doll. This affords you the opportunity to be comfortable while the dog is close to the baby (near the feet-never the face or head) without him sensing any apprehension that could be misinterpreted.
- When the baby arrives home, have whoever the dog is closest to go into the house first. That person should greet the dog put on a leash and take him out since the presence of leash will make him anticipate a walk. Bring him back in the house or remain outside and have the other person introduce the baby. The dog should be on a leash and calmly praised for appropriate behavior. Show the dog the baby while maintaining a comfortable distance. If all goes well, the dog can eventually sniff the baby’s feet.
- Do not make the mistake of giving the dog attention only when you are not occupied with the baby. You want the dog to get more attention when the baby is around; not when the baby is sleeping or out of the room.