Training‎ > ‎

Behaviour

Topics

A New Puppy 

    It is always an exciting time when a new puppy is brought into the home. The path that takes your young pup to being a well-trained, well mannered adult dog is a long one and not without its perils. Here are some pointers that will put you on the right path to raising a well mannered puppy.
    Having a young puppy in the household is like having a young child. Firstly, make sure that he/she is healthy; have him checked out by a veterinarian and make sure he receives all the necessary puppy vaccinations.
    Secondly,  make sure his environment is safe. Watch out for objects like electrical cords, toys, bones, string; products like antifreeze, medications, household cleaners, and slug and mouse bait;  foods like chocolate, macadamia nuts, onions, and grapes; plants, like the lily, poinsettia, cyclamen, daffodil, and azalea. This is only a short list of things that may be hazardous to the health of your pet.  Learn what the hazards may be and puppy proof your home. 
    Thirdly, train him/her to be a good canine citizen. Puppy training can start as soon as you get him/her home. The first six months of a puppy's life is a vital time for socializing to your environment. During this time you want to expose your pup to a variety of stimuli: sounds, shapes, actions, locations, situations, people, and other animals so that he will be comfortable in the environment around him. Being able to adjust to a lot of different stimuli and situations will give your dog confidence and therefore when confronted with new and different situations he will know how to behave. It will take patience, effort, repetition, and consistency on your part to train your pup.  Every member of the family can and should be involved in the training process.
 
     Training. To start, your puppy will have a very short attention span so the training sessions will have to be short and best incorporated into the daily routine. More frequent and brief sessions are better than long infrequent sessions. It is suggested that a puppy should be fed 2/3 of its ration free choice (in his food dish) and the other 1/3 he should have to work for. This is where you can introduce those basic commands for sit, stay, lie down, and come. Work on one command at a time and when the pup has mastered that one, introduce another. When playing with your pup, handle him/her all over. Gently play with its feet and ears, lift his tail, look into his ears and mouth, lay him on his back and rub his belly. An animal that is used to being handled will more readily accept being handled by a veterinarian or groomer when the occasion arises. 
    Introduce your puppy to a collar and leash early. This can be done at feeding or play time. Put the collar on just before feeding or play. Once your pup is familiar with the collar attach the leash. Remove the leash and collar when feeding or when play is ended. By using this time to introduce the collar and leash, your pet will associate them with something that gives them pleasure. When he/she is comfortable with the collar and leash, then you can start to train him to walk on leash.
    Do not accept bad behaviour from your pet. Chewing is a natural behaviour for puppies. Make sure they have lots of appropriate chew toys. If they are chewing on something inappropriate, take it away and direct them to an appropriate toy. A puppy should be reprimanded every time he growls or bites. Speak to him firmly, then give him a time out. If he plays too rough and bites, shriek and then stop the play. Ignore him for a while. Make sure when he plays nicely or responds to a command, praise him in a happy voice, pet him, smile at him and let him know you are pleased.
    Crate train your pet. There are a number of reasons to train your pet to a crate. In the wild, an animal's den is its safe haven. If you train your dog to a crate it will always have a safe haven to go to when it feels threatened or unsure. When the puppy is older and has to be home alone for extended periods, it will have a safe place to be confined. Taking your pet on a visit away from home, be it to visit family, friends, or veterinary clinic, is always stressful.  If your pet is trained to the crate, it will have a familiar place to rest and feel comfortable in the crate in spite of being in a strange environment. Crates can also be used in house training a young pet. 
    House training requires a lot of patience and diligence. To start, take the puppy outside every hour or so to eliminate. He should be taken outside before and after every nap, every mealtime, and every play session; first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. Keep vigilant for any sign that he may need to go outside. If there is any sign that he is restless take him outside immediately. Give him lots of  praise when he is successful. Eventually, he will surmise that outside is the place to eliminate and will start asking to go outside when required. A puppy will not have full bladder control before three to four months of age - be patient. There will be accidents. Do not punish the pup for an accident. He will not associate the punishment with the act. Instead, resolve to be more vigilant and persevere.
    There are a lot of resources available to aid you in raising your pup. While you are in the clinic for your puppy's first shots, the staff can direct you to the many resources and training programs in our area. Check out the local library for books and videos. Plan to participate in a Puppy Training Course with your pup. The instructors can give you plenty of pointers on training techniques and puppy psychology. These are not just classes for obedience but also puppy socialization - an opportunity for your pup to learn how to behave with other dogs. A good puppy class is a great start for developing the relationship between you and your puppy, and producing a good well trained, well mannered canine citizen that everyone can enjoy.

References:
A Healthy Dog is a Well-Trained Dog, Pets Magazine, July/August 2002
Getting Into the House Breaking Habit, Pets Magazine, May/June 2003
To Crate or not to Crate?, Dogs in Canada, June 2005
Crate Training: Your Pup's Safe Haven, Pets Magazine, May/June 2006
Kerry Vinson, Puppy Love, Petvue, 2006
Early Lessons in Training Puppies and Kittens, Pets Magazine, May/June 2002
Craig McCracken, D.V.M., Canine Etiquette, Pet Commerce, September 2003

Inappropriate Urination
 
    Inappropriate urination or urinary incontinence (the inability to hold urine) can be very frustrating for the pet owner. If you find urine puddles on the kitchen floor or next to a litter box, this should alert you to the fact that something is wrong. Inappropriate urination can have many causes. These causes can be a medical problem or a behaviour issue. 
    Medical reasons for inappropriate urination include: bladder infections, crystals in the urine, bladder stones, idiopathic cystitis (blood in urine with no bacterial infection), diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes), kidney disease, hormonal imbalances, bladder cancer, or nerve damage. Behaviour issues resulting from stress or a change in environment can also cause an animal to urinate inappropriately. 
    Owners sometimes assume it is a behaviour issue and do not seek advice from their veterinarian immediately. As time goes on, the pet continues urinating inappropriately, developing a habit of this behaviour. When presented to the veterinarian, a medical cause is found but the solution is difficult because there is also a behaviour issue to overcome.
    Your first action should be to call and make an appointment with your veterinarian. It is important to determine the reason for your pet's inappropriate urination. The treatments, depending upon the cause, are very different. Diagnosis begins with a detailed history and physical examination. The veterinarian will require a fresh, uncontaminated urine sample. A urinalysis will be run on this sample. Urinalysis results can indicate whether there is blood, bacteria, or crystals present. Other disease processes may be indenitfied. Infections can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Crystals in the urine can be resolved by a diet change to lower the pH to make the urine more acidic. 
    Male cats can develop a blockage of their urethra when crystals are present in their urine. Should this occur, it is an emergency situation. They cannot void the urine from the bladder so toxins build up in the blood and they become very sick. In the most severe cases the bladder enlarges to the point where it ruptures. If you notice your cat straining, having difficulty voiding, or unable to void, call the clinic immediately. This condition is life threatening.
    Blood tests, ultrasound, and x-rays are tools that assist the veterinarian in diagnosing the specific problem. Blood work can be taken to determine if there is an underlying disease process like diabetes or kidney disease. These conditions require medications and a diet change. Ultrasound and x-rays can detect bladder stone(s) and tumours. 
    Treatment and prognosis depends upon the underlying cause and the speed in which the condition is dealt with. If no medical problem is found, the veterinarian will explore the issue of behaviour. He/she will examine, through a thorough history, the possible causes for the inappropriate elimination and give advice on how to correct the behaviour. The important point to remember is that there are many causes of inappropriate elimination and your veterinarian has the knowledge and tools to help resolve the issue with your pet. Early diagnosis makes for a more successful solution.
 
References:
Cooper, Kristina, RVT, Is Your Cat Trying to Tell You Something, Pets Magazine, July/August 2007
Kohlmaier, Dr. Dieter, Incontinence in Geriatic Dogs, Pets magazine, Nov/Dec 2004
Guyett, Dr. Nicole, Inappropriate Urination, Cats Anonymous Newsletter, Summer 2007
 

Litter Boxes

    The number one problem of cats reported to veterinarians is inappropriate elimination. Inappropriate elimination is when a cat is urinating outside the litter box in various places about the house. Not being able to resolve the problem of inappropriate elimination results each year in a number of cats becoming outdoor cats, or being euthanized. When a cat has missed his/her litter box, there are several steps you should take. The first step is to take the cat to your veterinarian as soon as possible. There could be a medical condition such as a urinary tract infection, diabetes, or bladder stones, that creates the urgency to void and the cat cannot get to the litter box fast enough. The sooner the problem is diagnosed, the sooner the cat will be back to using the litter box properly. Secondly, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible after the behaviour has appeared. This reduces the chance the behaviour will become a permanent habit...habit that is very difficult to break.
    Once a thorough work up has been done and no medical problem is evident, then you must consider the problem is one of behaviour. Cats are unique. They are very particular about cleanliness, and they do not handle stress well. There are a few litter box tips that can help solve the inappropriate elimination.
    Cats are fastidious and like a clean litter box in which to do their business. Keep the box as clean as possible at all times. Daily cleaning is required and the box should be emptied and thoroughly washed at least once a week. Cats have a keen sense of smell, so unscented clay or clumping litters are best.
    The litter box should be placed in a quiet location away from their food and water. They also like to see about them when they are doing their business and like privacy away from the activities of people, dogs, and other cats (instinct of survival). There should be a litter box for each cat in the household plus one extra. This prevents stress over the use of the litter box. If one cat bullies the other(s), then the meeker cat(s) can go to another litter box(es).
    Cats can be stressed easily and sometimes express their stress by inappropiate elimination. Some stressors can be any change in the household routine such as a new pet (dog or cat) in the household, new baby to the household, new cat in the yard, lots of visitors, etc. Keep in mind that any change in the household routine can upset your cat. Make sure there are sufficient litter boxes located in quiet corners of the home. If the veterinarian has determined that there is no medical reason for the inappropriate elimination and it has gone on for some time then you will have to correct the behaviour. As well as following the litter box tips presented here, you may have to re-train your cat to use the litter box. Start by confining the cat in a small room such as a bathroom or laundry room with a litter box or two. If there is a tub in the room it will have to be covered to discourage the cat from using it as a place to eliminate. The cat will have to be confined to this room for a couple of months until it has shown that it is consistently using the litter box. The cat should only be allowed out of the room for short periods of time when it can be completely supervised.
    It is important to know the underlying causes behind the behaviour of inappropriate elimination and to take steps to avoid this problem developing so that your cat(s) can live a happy life.
 
References: 
Litter Box Rules, http:www.veterinarypartner.com/content.plx?P=A&A=2933  Accessed July 9, 2009

 
 
Comments