Frequently Asked Questions

“I just adopted a cute puppy. She likes to get into everything. Does my puppy have special needs?”

Medically, puppies require a series of vaccinations over the course of several months. Introduce her only to dogs you know have been fully vaccinated until she has received full protection herself. On the behavior side, your puppy needs to learn limits. Almost anything a puppy does is “cute,” but don’t fall so much for the puppy’s charms that you ignore behavior you would not accept when your puppy becomes an adult. From the beginning, establish rules that will apply to the dog when he is full–grown. For example, if you don’t want a large dog sleeping on the bed, don’t allow the puppy to sleep on the bed. Teach your puppy to chew her own toys (not your shoes), to sleep in her bed (not yours), and to eat dinner from her own bowl (not beg at the table for scraps).

“Some of my dog’s behaviors, such as chewing, digging, and barking, are annoying to me. How can I change them?”

The first key to changing your dog’s behavior is knowing that your dog is not being “bad.” Most dogs adopted from our shelter have had early lives with another person, so they often have established habits or behaviors. The second key is the recognition that dogs are not people in fur coats. They are dogs, with a unique view of the world. All of the behaviors that point to a mentally healthy dog––chewing, digging, barking, chasing moving objects, scavenging, excited greetings––are often seen as behavior “problems.” Dogs chew on shoes because in the eyes of a dog, that is what shoes are made for. Many dog lovers spend a great deal of time, develop a great sense of frustration, and cause a great deal of confusion to dogs, by trying to dissuade a dog from acting like a dog.

This does not mean that dogs should be allowed to chew shoes, bite inappropriately, bark endlessly, or dig up the neighbor’s garden. Dogs should be provided outlets for their natural behavior and be actively taught to employ these human–approved outlets, rather than having their behavior deemed unacceptable in any context and therefore punished out of them. Appropriate chew toys, Frisbee, designated digging areas, regular exercise, and off–leash dog–dog interaction, combined with positive, reward–based training will go a long way to reducing your annoyance and keeping your dog happy and healthy.

“My dog/puppy urinates in the house. How do I house–train my dog?”

The success and ease of house–training depends on the amount of time you devote to it. The single most important aspect of house–training is rewarding good behavior. And to provide ample opportunity to eliminate outside––first thing in the morning, before you leave for work, as soon as you return from work, half an hour after a meal, and last thing at night. After a while, this can probably be reduced to three times a day but keep in mind that puppies do not start to have bladder control until they are about five months old.

Crate training is perhaps the easiest and most effective ways to house–train a dog. Crates are nothing more than larger dog carriers that can be purchased at any pet supply store. Dogs do not like to soil their sleeping quarters if given adequate opportunity to eliminate elsewhere. Start out for short periods (no more than 45 minutes or an hour for puppies) and immediately take the dog outside to eliminate––and reward her when she does with praise and treats right away! If your dog eliminates in the crate, do not punish her. If the dog eliminates in the crate because you left her in there too long, the fault is yours! Dogs should not be crated for extended period of times, as they can develop both an aversion for the crate and other behavior problems. RC Pets has a more detailed fact sheet on the importance and effectiveness of crate training.

“My dog pulls on her leash when I walk her, how can I stop this?”

Your dog is excited. Going for a walk means new sights, sounds, and smells. Dogs who get plenty of attention and opportunities to experience new things are least likely to pull. Make sure to provide your dog with ample opportunities to visit with other people and other dogs.

In addition, the easiest way to stop a dog from pulling on the leash during walks is to purchase a leash designed to control such behavior. We do not recommend the use of choke or pinch collars. These collars are designed to induce control through the application of pain. Once dogs become desensitized to the pain, the dog's caretaker must increase the severity of the pull, and thus increase the amount of pain, to achieve the same control. In addition, dogs quickly learn that it is safe to pull when the choke collar is off, but unsafe when it is on. The end result is more pain, as these dogs never stop pulling without the choke collars. Happily for dogs, halter–type leashes for dogs, based on the same principles as halters for horses and ponies, achieve great control mechanically (i.e., by changing leverage points) rather than through the use of pain. These types of leashes, such as the “Gentle Leader,” are very effective and can be purchased at most pet supply stores.

You can also teach a dog that pulling on the leash gets her nowhere. Hold a treat in your hand at your side next to your belt line. Make sure your dog sees the treat. Like the proverbial horse chasing the carrot, walk so that your dog is at your side following the treat. Allow the dog to get the treat every few minutes (do not wait too long or she may give up!). If your dog pulls ahead on her leash, simply stop walking. Every time she pulls, you stop. After some time, your dog will learn that keeping a slack leash gets her where she wants to go.