Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More puppy play time...at 8 weeks




It's Toenail Tuesday!

I've been clipping toenails every Tuesday since the puppies were born. So today is... TOENAIL TUESDAY. Time to clip your puppy's toenails. Each week I don't take much off the toenail, but the idea is getting the puppy used to having their toenails done on a regular basis, so when they really need to be done, they don't freak out. Also by doing a little each week, you are handling the puppy's feet so they get used to having their feet played with. That's just another part of socializing the puppy to something they may have to deal with later in life.

So here is what I do... When the puppy is calm, such as right after a playtime, or right before they fall asleep, I lay the puppy on it's back in my left arm with it's head toward my shoulder. I've been working with all the puppies, teaching them to be calm laying on their backs, even so they may struggle a little, but they all will eventually relax if you tighten your grip on them and rub their tummy. Play with their feet while you get them to relax. Then as you are petting them and they are relaxing, look at the lighter color toenails so you can see where the "quick" is inside. You do not want to cut into the quick or it will bleed and hurt the puppy. So notice it on the clear nails, and you'll have to guess where it is on the darker nails.

Take one paw in the left hand, the clipper in the right hand and trim just the end off the toenail making sure you don't cut into the quick. Make sure you get all the nails, and even if the puppy begins to squirm, don't give up. Reposition the puppy in your arm or ask someone to help you hold the puppy and continue the nail trim until you are done. By giving up, the puppy wins and next time it will be even more difficult to do a nail trim. And that scream they just let out... that wasn't from any thing you did. You've just been introduced to the shiba scream.

Once you are done, reward your puppy with a yummy treat and lots of praise. Then you can take a tylenol to rid yourself of the headache from the scream (just kidding - it won't be that bad, I promise).

Note: this works well for dogs under 25 lbs, any bigger they are a little awkward to hold in your lap! So please don't try this at home with your mastiff!

Here is Don Juan, our adult model, showing off the toenail trim technique...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Early puppy training...


As the puppies leave for their forever homes this week, I thought I'd post a little on what you can teach your puppy at this age. Puppies at 8 weeks can start to learn to sit on command. By taking a yummy treat (I use pieces of Natural Balance Rolled Dog Food), gently push down on their back end with one hand, hold the other hand over and behind their head slightly so you lure the puppy into a sitting position using the treat. While you are doing this, say the word, "sit". You will repeat this over and over and over. But eventually the word "sit" will sink in and the puppy will begin to do it on it's own to get the treat. If you practice this a couple times a day for VERY short periods of time, your puppy will pick up on it very quickly.

I expect my dogs to sit calmly in front of me to receive any food or treats. They are not allowed to jump up on me, or do anything else besides sit (unless I tell them to do something else. For example, sometimes I ask for more than a sit, like a shake paw, a down, or a roll over to get a treat). So for puppies, they can start learning sit right away. Don't put their food dishes down unless they sit. Do not give them treats unless they sit. Sitting is a sign of respect to you. And you should expect your dog to give you the respect you deserve.

But at 8 weeks, respect is the furthest thing from the puppy's mind. Even so, this is an excellent time to start the habit of "you need to work to get what you want" by gently teaching the puppy to sit to receive a treat or their dinner. You may have to gently remind them what "sit" is each time, but by the time they are 3 months, they should know what sit is.

As soon as the puppy has a grasp on sit, it is time to teach the puppy to stand upon request. For puppies going into the conformation ring, this is a must. For pets, this is just a smart command to teach the puppy if you ever need the puppy to stand. For example, when you take the puppy to the vet and the vet is doing an examination, it is easier for the vet to examine the dog while standing than it is laying down or sitting. Not to mention that it's easier for you to groom your dog if it is standing and not wiggling all over the place.

To teach your puppy to stand, go from a sit, pull the treat forward, and with the hand that pushed the puppy's behind into a sit, you now lift up slightly from under the front of it's back leg from the side. I use one finger, just to give the puppy the idea. With the other hand, pull the treat out in front of the puppy. You don't want the puppy to move it's back legs at all so don't pull the treat too far in front of the puppy. Once the puppy is standing, reinforce it with the word, "stand" and give them their treat.

I've had many show people complain to me that I teach both the sit and the stand at such a young age. But as far as I'm concerned, the puppy has 6 months before entering the show ring to figure out the difference between the two commands. And if the puppy gets them confused at 6 months, it's because you haven't put the time into the puppy to give them the solid foundation to understand the difference between the two. So who's fault is that really? LOL-I wouldn't blame the dog on that one. I firmly believe that sit and stand are two foundation commands that EVERY dog should learn at a very young age. And the time is right to begin the training.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Crate Training - REPOST

Since we're talking about puppies, I thought I'd repost my blog on crate training:

I can't believe how many times I hear people say, "putting dogs in a crate is cruel, and I just won't do it". And my response is always to each your own, but don't come asking me how to fix your problems if you won't try my solution. Crating dogs is only cruel if you leave them in there for long periods of time, and allow them to soil in their crate. If you crate train correctly, it is not cruel to the dog, and may relieve your stress at the same time.

Before domestication, dogs lived in dens. They used their dens for safety and protection. Naturally they kept their dens clean by soiling outside their living area. Crate training is based on the concept that puppies will do all they can to avoid soiling their living area.

Steps to crate training:
1. When buying a crate, make sure it is the correct size for your dog. For a puppy, an adjustable crate is the best. For an adult dog or a small dog puppy, you should size the crate so they can stand up in it and can turn around easily. If the crate is too big, your puppy may find a corner of it to potty in, and it will make housebreaking more difficult.

2. When you have the puppy and the crate, begin by placing a soft towel in the bottom of the crate for it to sleep on. Make sure that whatever you put in there is washable because no matter how diligent you are about taking a puppy out to potty, there will be accidents. You may also want to put a shirt that you have worn (and that you don’t care that it gets chewed on) in the crate to help comfort the puppy for the first few weeks.

3. Very young puppies need to potty every hour. Under a year old, they do not have full bladder control. To begin teaching them to go outside, set an alarm for every hour and carry them outside to the place you want them to potty. As they are looking for a place to go, use a word or phrase that means “go outside and potty” so they get used to hearing it. When they potty, praise them with a high-pitched voice and play with them with a toy. As the puppy gets older you can stretch this time to an hour, then two hours, then three (if necessary). At night while they are sleeping, you can stretch this 2-3 hours. They puppy will usually tell YOU when they are desperate and need to go.

4. After the puppy has gone potty, it is OK to bring them back in the house to play. Keep a close eye on them for sniffing and any signs that they may need to go back outside. If you can’t supervise the puppy, put it back in its crate. The idea is that you don’t want to give the puppy the opportunity to soil in the house until they absolutely understand that outdoors is the place to go.

5. On the occasions that you can’t take the puppy outside every hour. Never confine your puppy to its crate for more than 3 hours at one time. Like I said earlier, young puppies don’t have strong bladder control and they don’t like soiling their crate. After a year old, it is not uncommon for a dog to be able to go 8 hours between potty breaks, but don’t expect a puppy under a year to be able to do that.

6. Never scold your dog for mistakes, especially in young dogs, it is not their fault. It is the owners fault for not supervising them close enough. And not responding to the clues the dog is giving that it needs to go outside. As an owner, start watching for those clues. Most puppies will want to go outside after they wake up, after they eat, after playing and throughout the day at least every 3 hours. Watch for sniffing, running to the door, and a boost of energy followed by a pause. Always take the puppy outside after eating and sleeping.

Getting your puppy used to a crate:

Although dogs are den animals, your puppy will want to be with you instead of being alone. It has spent it’s entire life surrounded by litter mates, it’s mother and now you and your family. It does not want to be alone. Here are some tips to make the crate transition easier...
1. Before you put the puppy in it’s crate, take it out to potty. Then give it a good amount of exercise, so it is tired. If you put a puppy back in it’s crate when it’s wide awake and wanting to play, you’ll never hear the end of it...

2. When you put the puppy in it’s crate and it immediately starts to cry, ignore it. The puppy wants you to come back and let it out. If you break down and run in there, you’ve given in to the puppy and the next time it will cry even louder and longer. Don’t yell at the puppy either. Just go ahead with your daily activities and ignore the cries. Eventually they will stop.

3. If the puppy has been quiet in the crate for awhile and then you hear it crying, it may need to go potty. Try to get to the puppy before it starts crying for very long. Don’t wait it out to see if it will stop. If you do that, then all you’ve done is taught it that if it cries long enough, eventually you’ll come get it. This is especially important at night. Most people don’t want to set an alarm at night to take the puppy outside on a regular basis, so they wait until they hear the puppy crying. The quicker you get to the puppy and get it outside, the quicker you’ll get back to sleep. At night, after the puppy goes potty, it will most likely want to play. You have two choices, play with the puppy (consistent to what you are doing during the day) and wear it out before putting it back in the crate, or putting it back in wide awake and listening to it cry. Either way you’re not going back to sleep until it does!

4. The crate should be the puppy’s house and safety area. The puppy should eventually want to go in there on it’s own when it’s tired and wants to sleep. Never confine a puppy in crate for punishment. And don’t leave it in it’s crate for long periods of time. Puppies need exercise and interaction with your family to become well-rounded dogs.

The importance of socialization...

Shibas are a breed that need early socialization in order to have a well-rounded dog as an adult. While some problems that I have seen in all breeds may have a genetic basis, early socialization with people, noises, rides in the car, and the world around them outside your house could make or break the dog's disposition later in life. Even dogs that have some genetic propensity toward shyness or fearfulness, can be socialized to a point that very little bothers them. It is much easier to do this as a puppy than try to correct an adult dog that is shy or fearful.

Puppies, like little children, are sponges at this age. They are taking in everything around them and filing it away. The more you show your puppy, the less chance they will have of being uncomfortable in a new situation later in life. Puppies need to know that as long as you are there, no matter where you are or what situation you are in, they are safe.

I am going to give one quick warning. Until your puppy has all it's puppy shots, do not socialize them with unfamiliar dogs, or take them to places where dogs that you don't know may play. Common sense prevails when it comes to socializing your new puppy. You need to know that the dogs your puppy is playing with are free from diseases that may make your new puppy sick. But once those shots are completed, controlled socialization with other dogs and cats should be a priority.

BUT, while you are waiting for your puppy to have shots, it is still imperative that you take your puppy outside your house. Let them hear the roar of cars and airplanes. Let them see people outside of your home - Introduce them to young children, seniors, people on crutches, people that use wheelchairs, people that wear hats (don't laugh, I have a dog that is afraid of baseball caps and cowboy hats) or sunglasses. Introduce them to crowds of people, different noises, fast moving things like a balloon full of air being let go to shoot across the room. Walk under things flapping in the breeze like clothes on a line, or a shade tarp. And most importantly, let strangers pet your puppy. The more hands that touch your puppy in a kind and gentle way, the more that reinforces to the puppy that people are good and kind.

At this age (8 weeks), I carry puppies around instead of expecting them to walk on leash. That does 3 things:
1. It keeps the puppy away from droppings of other dogs.
2. It gives the puppy a sense of security as you are introducing them to new things
3. It gives you control of the situation (other dogs and people can't interfere with your training as easily-for example: it's easy to step on a small puppy if you don't know it's there)

When the puppy has all it's shots and walks well on a leash, then I take them out without carrying them. But you should still practice walking on a leash even at this age in environments that you know are safe for your puppy.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Playing with the big dogs...

I took Chase, used to be Boy #1, out to play with the big dogs. At first he wasn't sure what to think of them. But it didn't take him long to figure out that Farley, the aussie, is just one big play toy. If there is one good role model in this house, it is Farley, so I'm hoping some of Farley's good traits rub right off on little Chase.




Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Seven Weeks

Ouch... for our 7 week birthday celebration, we got to visit the veterinarian for our first shots. We also got our microchips which came in an even bigger needle. Not a fun way to celebrate. But we were all extremely good puppies and barely even flinched. Soon we will be meeting our new families who are anxious for us to come live with them.

Our personal updates:
Health checks are fine on the 3 bigger puppies. Squeekers, as we figured, has some neurological damage. But she is eating well and her heart sounded fine. She's walking, running, jumping, playing with the other puppies and even instigating play. The vet thinks she'll do fine in a loving, caring household. And we've found that home for her and they are very excited for her to be with them.




Monday, February 13, 2006

In the spirit of Valentine's Day...

Here are four of the sweetest 6-week old puppy faces you will ever see.

General Update: We are all eating real food, but the process of having mommy leave has not been an easy one. We love our mommy and scream when we see her. Tama on the other hand is ready to let her babies grow up. She has been an exceptional mommy, but she is ready for them to pack their bags and move on to their forever homes. Soon enough Tama. But for the human mommy, it's going to be a sad, and very quiet day, when my babies leave me. No one greets you when you walk in the door like the happy faces of four 6-week old puppies.

Boy #1:

Girl #1:

Girl #2:

Boy #2:


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On the run at 5 weeks


The puppies are at a really fun age. They are exploring their world and are learning to run. And they love to go outside and play. The above picture is Piggy, racing across the yard at full speed. The puppies are beginning to regularly eat Mary's Marvelous Mash, which makes Tama happy that she has a break from those razor sharp puppy teeth.

So here's the overview of the week.

Boy 1: He is the thinker. He explores a little more cautiously than the others, but shows no fear or shyness. He and his brother play very loud and rough together when they are inside.

Girl 1: She is our explorer. She is also very, very sweet. She wants to be picked up and wants to be held and cuddled. And she's still the best one to give kisses. She climbed up our rock stairs from bottom to top, so I was able to snap this picture.

Girl 2: I saw alot of progress in her this week. She is nursing very aggressively and holding her own against the mob when they all make the mad dash towards mom. She is tasting the food that I give her but not eating much of it yet. She is walking very steadily. She is still behind the other puppies in many ways. Her teeth are just now breaking through. The other puppies have very painful little chompers, and have had them for at least a week. She is now 2 pounds.

Boy 2: He's outgoing, loves the outside and plays very rough with his brother. Cute as can be.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dakota has a boy...

Sometimes you have to know when to let go when it is beneficial for the other person. In this case, for the other dog. As much as I would like to have Dakota stay with us for eternity, I realized long ago that I was not a border collie person. And while Dakota was easy to train and became my most titled dog, for the past 6 months we haven't touched a piece of agility equipment. Dakota needed and deserved more than being a pet. He wanted a job and a family that would cherish him. I have said for several years that Dakota would make the perfect junior handler's dog. With Dakota's patient personality, and being fully trained, he could help teach a kid to run a dog. So on Saturday, Dakota went to live with his new 12-year old owner and his family and three other dogs. He is headed back into the agility ring as soon as the two have time to practice together. As much as I might miss my black and white furry friend, I couldn't be happier that this worked out the way it did.

I received an email last night saying that Dakota is fitting in well, and that they are very happy with him. It is meant to be.