We highly recommend that all dog owners watch The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. It airs weekly. You can also get copies of past seasons on Netflix. Cesar Millan has a book out called, "How to Raise the Perfect Dog." It is a wonderful and entertaining resource and we highly recommend reading it, though as with all books, we don't endorse every single thing the author writes. Click the link above to buy it on Amazon.
Here is some basic information about puppies that you might find helpful.
Safety: Your puppy has had her first set of shots and deworming. Puppies need to complete an entire series of vaccinations before they are safe to be in any public place, such as a park, on a sidewalk, at a rest stop, in a farmer's field or in a pet store. Those places are full of deadly viruses (Parvo is everywhere, carried by other puppies before their owners knew they were sick, and wildlife!) Please keep your puppy safe at home and in your own yard until she has had 4 shots and is at least 16 weeks of age. When traveling, let the pup potty on pee pads in a crate or in the back of your car, not on the ground. Once your puppy is fully vaccinated, take her everywhere with you! Your vet will set up a shot schedule for you…usually every 3 weeks. I do recommend you take the puppy to the vet within the first 3 days to have a well puppy check and establish care.
Feeding: We feed and recommend Purina Pro Plan Focus which you can buy online at www.chewy.com/purina-pro-plan-focus-all-life-stages/dp/52434 and have it delivered to your door! Please make sure you have a bag ordered, as it is not good to switch foods in the first 2 weeks. You will get a sample bag from us. It is for all ages of dogs but the puppy variety also works fine. I also recommend buying some canned dog food (any brand as you will only use a spoonful) to mix into the dry, along with some warm water, the first few days to tempt your puppy's appetite...just use a teaspoon or so. After that just feed dry food...it is better for his teeth. The puppy is used to eating three times per day. Put a bowl of food down for the pup and then take it up again after 10 minutes. Let him eat as much as he wants within those 10 minutes. Most people worry that the pup isn't eating enough and often try to get the pup to eat more...that just creates an issue that isn't real. No dog will starve itself. Puppies eat what they need and almost never over or under eat. Don't limit food for a growing pup, but let him eat as much as he wants within the 10 minutes. Feed just three times per day (until 10-12 weeks of age) and twice per day (10-12 weeks to adult) to help with housebreaking...he should poop just after he eats. After he is totally housebroken, you can just leave the bowl down for him to eat when he wants. The only time I limit food for a grown dog is if they have a weightproblem, but most dogs don't and will just eat what they need, especially if you don't create a food issue by trying to make your pup eat more. Remember that, just like children, puppies grow at different rates daily and will eat what they need...sometimes barely any, sometimes a lot. If you have any trouble with stress induced diarrhea, feed Baby Rice Cereal, just a bit of the canned food for flavor, and warm water for a couple days until it subsides. Half of a Pepto-Bismol pill, morning and night, also can really help.
Housebreaking: I recommend crate training, which basically entails keeping the puppy in a crate when you are not playing with it, unless it is outside in a fenced area. Puppies sleep a lot and can do that well in the crate. A puppy needs to be taken out immediately after it does any one of the following three things:
At first, you will need to train yourself to take the puppy outside, just like potty training a child. After awhile, the puppy will catch on and start to ask to go out. Setting a timer for every 45 minutes or so when the puppy is playing sometimes helps to remind you.
Make sure you use a crate that is small enough…if there is room for a sleeping place and a potty place, the pup will go potty in the crate. If your crate is too big, duct tape a closed cardboard box inside to use up some of the space until the pup grows. A crate that is 24 inches long will be the right size for your grown dog. Use a box to make it smaller or get a wire crate with a movable divider. The wire crates are really nice because you can reduce the size of the crate with a new pup and enlarge it as he grows. Here is a puppy crate on Amazon. "AmazonBasics Folding Metal Dog Crate" I like the 24 inch with a cover.
Feed the puppy 3 times per day until 10-12 weeks of age, then only twice a day to reduce the frequency of pooping. Do give water all day, but not at night. When you take the pup outside and he goes potty, praise him lavishly! If he goes on the floor, speak harshly to him and take him out. Some pups require a light slap on the rump…he needs to understand that he has done wrong and show it by looking sad. If he thinks it is funny, and shows it by barking at you, he needs more discipline. But you must be age appropriate, as well. Expect less of an 8 week old then a 12 week old.
Here is a trick to get your pup to poop that we have used in my family for generations. Every time you want her to poop, take an (unused and unlit) match (wood or paper) and dip the tip in water or spit on it or whatever to get it a bit wet. Then insert it into her anus about 1/2 to 1 inch and leave it there. Take her outside and she will poop within a few minutes (and poop out the match.) Never light the match...the sulfur on the end makes the pups want to poop. I use this whenever I fly with puppies and they never poop in their airline crates because they are already empty. So if you do it every morning and evening, she will quickly get the hang of pooping outside. Our family has used this technique to teach dogs to poop on command. We use "go potty" to tell them to pee...then reward them with praise and pets or even a bit of cheese. We say "go more potty" when the pup has the match in and then, when they go, praise them and perhaps give a treat. It is very effective and soon the pup will go on command. I have had dogs that will strain and try to go when I tell them to, even if there is nothing to poop! It is so convenient...for the rest of the dog's life. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.
The first few nights will be rough, as the puppy will cry in the crate. But do not give in and let the pup out! If you win this battle, housebreaking will be much easier. By keeping the pup in the crate overnight (8 hours at 8 weeks of age) you are teaching him to hold his bladder. If you do not teach him this, it will be much harder to housebreak him because he will just pee whenever he feels the urge! You can either put the pup and crate as far from your bedroom as possible to allow you to sleep the first few nights (my recommendation,) or you can face the crate toward your bed and use a squirt gun or spray bottle on the pup every time he howls. A nice quick squirt on the pup’s face, through the grate of the cage door, will speed up the learning process considerably. Eventually your pup will adjust to sleeping in the crate. After he is housebroken, you can change this routine and let the pup in your bed or wherever…but wait until he is well housebroken! If the pup messes in the crate, just clean it up. Don't get mad at the puppy. Instinct will win out and teach him not to mess his bed. Just make sure the bed is small enough so that there is not room for a potty area as well as a sleeping area. If your crate isn't small enough, put a closed cardboard box inside to take up some of the space.
Toys and Chewies: Most puppies love stuffies. Just make sure you get stuffies without button eyes or other choking hazards on them. All stuffies made for pets are fine. Some pups like squeaky toys and others don't...you will just have to see what your pup prefers. When choosing chewies, choose the big ones. The little ones that are the shape of pencils can be a choking hazard. Pig ears are fine but no more then one per week. We highly recommend big beef knuckle bones for all dogs and puppies. Those will keep their teeth clean better then any chewie! You can get smoked and/or basted ones at the pet shop or on Amazon. Do not use boiled or cooked bones, as they are a choking hazard...the bones are soft enough for the dog to break off bits and swallow them. We also highly recommend Bully Sticks. Pups just love them and when you need a break from a rambunctious puppy, give him a Bully Stick and he will be busy for a good long while.
Coming when called: make it a wonderful thing for your puppy to come to you. Never discipline him if he comes to you. He is always a good puppy for coming (even if you are so mad at him you have steam coming out your ears!) Cut up some tiny pieces of cheddar cheese (pea sized) and leave them out on the counter to dry out. When they are dry, put them in a plastic baggie in your pocket. Every time you say your puppy’s name, give him a piece. Don’t make him come at first, just say his name and give it to him. Pretty soon he will look for you as soon as you say his name. Then go a ways away and call him…reward him for coming with cheese and lots of praise. He will come running when you call him very shortly! UPDATE: I have discovered Cheese Whiz! It is a very easy treat source which you can have anywhere in the house, so that when you call your pup, you always have a treat available. The pups love it right from the end of the nozzle. Just use a tiny amount each time.
Dealing with dominance issues: Does your puppy nip too much? Jump up on the kids? Growl when you pick him up or disturb his sleep? Act like he makes the rules and owns the house? With a puppy, you can teach him or her from the beginning that you and your child are the pack leaders by doing a few simple things. The most important thing I have found is to do to the pup what Cesar Milan (the Dog Whisperer) does to dogs on his show. You put the puppy on his back on the ground or couch. Using your fingers, pin him by the neck, as if your fingers are your teeth and you are the aggressive pack leader dog showing the pup who is boss. You don't need to say anything to the pup during this time. Just hold him there, gently but firmly. You should not be rough or push so hard that it hurts or chokes him. You are just holding him there until he relaxes and lies still. The first few times you do it, he may struggle for a few minutes or longer. Just keep him there. You can use your other hand on his body or to hold his back legs if necessary. An adult can assist a child by holding the pup's body or legs. After a while, the pup will know the routine and will relax right away. As soon as he is relaxed and lying still, you can let him up. If you let him up prior to this relaxed state, you will accomplish nothing. He has to give in for this to work.
Do this EVERY time your pup jumps on you or someone else, bites or nips you, or is obnoxious in any other way. Even if he is the perfect puppy, do it at least once per day.
This might seem silly but in dog language, you are telling the pup that you are the boss. By lying still, he is telling you that he is submissive. It is an ongoing conversation you should have with your new puppy at least once per day. Children should do it too...it is vital that the pup understands that the child is the boss. This will eliminate so many issues such as jealousy, jumping up, nipping, possessiveness, etc. You won't believe what a powerful tool this is!
Using the pinning technique, we have rehabilitated child-biting dogs so that they were safe for any child to pick up. I cannot overstate how important pinning is!
The second thing that I have found helpful is not to allow the puppy to go out the door first. Put the pup on a leash to go through the door and make him wait until you go through first, then he follows. You can then turn around and go back inside, while releasing the dog. The key is to make him wait for you to go through the door. This is not as essential as the pinning and if you don't get to it, the dog can still turn out fine, but if you do it, it will help even more.
The third thing, like the second, is not essential but very helpful. Give your puppy a treat such as a bone, chewie, or whatever. Then with confidence (not fearfully or with any hesitation) take it right out of his mouth again. Then give it back. Taking it away from your pup teaches him that food is a privilege, not a right. Dogs should never have rights other then good care. Everything else is a privilege and they need to know that. A dog should not object if a person takes away his food, chewie, or toy. If he objects, smack him with a fly swatter or use a can of Pet Corrector (canned air that works wonders...the sound corrects the dog!) This will eliminate a lot of possessiveness issues. Of course, be kind in this and eventually allow the pup to eat the treat!
Biting: Biting is almost always an issue that comes up with puppies. What she is doing, by biting and/or growling, is trying to sort out the pecking order in her new pack (family.) In her previous puppy pack, that is how her siblings worked things out. You need to establish that you and the other humans in her pack are higher in the pecking order then she is! This is a huge issue and if you solve it now, your life with your puppy will be so much easier. So, you need to be as harsh as necessary to help her understand that she is not in charge. First, try snapping her on the nose or mouth when she bites. You don't need to say anything...just make the biting less fun by snapping. If she still is not sure that you are above her in authority (and therefore should not be bitten,) the next step would be pinning her (see pinning instructions above) If even after that she is growling, barking, or biting, then you can pick her up by the scruff of her neck (like her momma did when she was here) and tell her NO very firmly. If she growls or really struggles, a firm slap on her rump while you are holding her by the nap should convince her. Using a can of Pet Corrector works really well also. I just love this stuff. It doesn't hurt them at all but is really effective in correcting them. I highly recommend trying it. Get it on Amazon.com
There is a progression to these steps and you only want to go as far as she needs. The firmer you are with each step, the less likely you will have to repeat them or go on to the next step. You want to stop at the point where she is sad and sorry for her naughtiness. But don't stop until you get there! It does work with every single puppy we have ever had...and we have had lots. It won't make her afraid of you, any more then she is afraid of her mom, who did the same things to her all her life so far. A few times of proper correction and she will get it...and be a happier pup for that!
The wild hour: A wild time, usually in the evening, is very common in puppies and remains common in dogs. Some evenings here the dogs just go nuts and rip through the house like they've gone wild. Probably it hearkens back to wild dog packs howling in the evening. Some think it is also an attempt to keep your attention so she won't have to go to bed in the crate...much like a child thinking of some deep conversational topic right at bedtime. But regardless of the wildness (which can be cute and funny,) biting and being naughty needs to NOT be allowed. Anticipate her wild hour and provide her with some new toy or perhaps keep some really nice squeaky toys just for this hour...don't let her play with them any other time. Encourage fetching, running, and other fun puppy activities. Do not allow biting. See the advice about biting above.
Another thing that I have found very helpful if you do not want her to be wild, is to provide a bully stick for her to chew on as soon as you sense the wild hour is coming on. She might grab it and run a little, but in the end, the delicious taste of those bully sticks will win her over and the serious chewing that it takes to chew one up will drain her energy. Buy them here Bully Sticks or at Costco. These bully sticks are the best dog chew I have ever found for puppies. You can also just put her outside for the wild hour and she will find things to do out there to drain her energy. Providing her with lots of basted beef bones, toys, etc, will help her to direct her energies in ways that are acceptable. Remember she is just a baby and isn't intentionally being a bad puppy...she is just full of healthy energy in the evening and being so full of herself, will push boundaries, as all young things do. You just have to direct it into acceptable play.
Once you put her in the crate for the night, do not do anything about it if she is wild. Just ignore her. When it is bedtime, play time is over and she needs to adjust to that. Consistency is the key here...every time you give in and even acknowledge her, you go backwards in training. Once she is put to bed, pretend she does not exist. She will adapt and will easily sleep in her crate when she is put in. It is soooo nice to have that training all the dog's life. You can give her a bully stick or toy or chewy or whatever in the crate ONLY if you give it right when you put her in. Never put her in, listen to her whine, and then think, “oh, I forgot her chewy...I should give her one now.” That will only teach her to whine and fuss when you put her in the crate. If you forget, wait until the next night and remember at the beginning.
Excited or submissive peeing: When a puppy is reacting to you or someone else in fear or over excitement you need to help him think with the front part of his brain, which is all about smell. So every time someone approaches him they need to take a treat. At first, let him smell the treat and then give it to him every time you approach him. It gets him thinking with his nose, which is very healthy and natural for dogs. And it gives him a good association with people approaching him. As time goes on and he stops being so reactive, you can just let him smell the treat...then back up and get him to come to you. The more you can get him to come to you by following his nose, the more stable he will be. If he cowers or pees, ignore him. By reacting to that behavior you are encouraging it. Don't try to comfort him. Don't give him a treat. Certainly don't discipline him. Don't look at him, talk to him, or touch him. Totally ignore him until it stops, then try to approach him with a treat. If he pees again, ignore again.
Peeing in fear is not the same as going potty in the house. He can't control the pee when he is scared, so don't react to him peeing that way at all. Just clean it up and spray some enzyme cleaner on the spot. Or, put a belly band on him, or a diaper (disposable size 1 or 2, cut a hole for the tail) or diaper cover on her, to save your floors. You can buy the belly bands on Amazon, or you can use a disposable diaper stretched around his middle like a band, or really anything absorbent stretched around him covering the essential part. He will grow out of this, but will do so much faster if you heed this advice.
Bolting out the door and running down the road: This is so dangerous and we have heard of several dogs being hit by cars when they did this. There are two ways to go about training your dog to come when she is loose and really, a mix of the two works best. 1. When she is in the house or yard, call her and reward her with a treat every single time. Call her many, many times and reward her LAVISHLY until she just flies to you. Start this with your puppy and if you do it well, she may never bolt. Carry treats in your pocket because you must reward her every single time and the reward must be instant...as soon as she reaches you. I like to keep a can of Cheese Whiz in my pocket when I am doing this training. Give her just a bit of it and give lavish praise to her for coming. Make coming to you the most fun thing she knows of! Do this for at least 2 weeks in areas where she is confined (house, yard, etc.) BEFORE you ever try it outside. Then you add the second technique. 2. Put a long, long line on her. At least 20 ft long so she feels free. I use that plastic yellow rope from the hardware store because it doesn't tangle much. Let her drag it around the house and yard so she is used to it. Then go outside (out of the yard) with her and hold just the end of the rope. Call her to you and if she comes give LAVISH treats and praise! If she runs or ignores you, pull up the slack on the rope quickly and give her a hard jerk. Then call again. If she comes, praise her lavishly and give lots of treats. If not, repeat the jerk until she does come. Keep the line very loose by following her, except when you call her. The key to this is twofold. She is ALWAYS a good dog if she comes to you and you NEVER give her a chance to not come, for this training period.
You have to be extra careful that she never gets loose without that long rope on. It is so dangerous. Eventually, when she flies to you when called, even when outside on the long rope, you can let her loose and feel confident that she will come to you because you have made coming to you such fun that it is BETTER than bolting. You can also purchase a pet training mat that you put in front of the door. If the dog walks on it to go out the door, she gets a mild shock. Amazon also has indoor pet containment systems. These are pretty effective.
Aggression: Aggression in dogs is usually territorial (resource guarding)...they own something and don't want to share. Children are easy targets because they are small and young. The key is really to teach the dog to share. Take food while he is eating. Pretend to eat it. If he objects, discipline him until he stops objecting. Use a fly swatter or Pet Corrector. When he has a toy, take it away, give it back, take it away again. If he is on his bed or the couch, kick him off and sit there. Dogs do not generally naturally share...they need to learn it. You must be firm. Be the pack leader. Teach him to accept that others can take his stuff and he cannot object because people are his pack leaders. If it is dangerous to do these things (risk of biting,) then use a citronella spray collar or Pet Corrector, or even a fly swatter, to discipline him. For instance, he has his toy, you tell him you want it. He growls. You say NO and push the remote button to spray a bit of citronella or spray Pet Corrector or swat him hard with the fly swatter. He is startled and doesn't like the smell, sound, or feel so drops the toy. You take it and praise him. Let him have it back in half an hour or so. Try again. And again... Include the children in this but only adults should control the spray collar. Kids can use Pet Corrector or the fly swatter. Never attempt to make him share without the discipline ready...discipline must be instant. Dogs live in the moment and can't connect slow discipline to their earlier actions. Here is a link to a decent collar on Amazon: Petsafe-Spray-Commander-Training-Collar Read the reviews for the collar...great info there.
Resource guarding, or possessiveness is common in Cocker Spaniels. It is less common in Cockapoos but still happens on occasion. However, it is not difficult to resolve, if you can be firm with your dog. About once a year, we get a Cockapoo back because of this issue. Every single time, we have been able to stop the behavior and the dog goes into a new home and works out great. It is harder for you to handle it once the dog is grown though because of the patterns you have already established. But you CAN do it and it WILL work if you are firm! Your dog only guards things because he thinks he is the boss dog, the alpha, in your little pack (of people and dogs.) In a dog pack, the alpha can take food, a comfy spot, or items away from any of the other dogs (or people.) So your dog is just trying to teach you his rules as the alpha. In his mind, he is being reasonable.
He owns the couch so if he doesn't want to share at any time, he bites to teach you to stay away from his spot. If he is playing with a toy or paper or whatever, and you get too close, he feels within his rights to growl or bite to remind you that it belongs to him.
So, the thing you must teach him is that NOTHING belongs to him. YOU are the alpha and you own everything. Sometimes you are willing to share and sometimes not. This is how you teach that:
1. Push him off the couch, his bed, or any favorite spot all the time, many times. Sit in the spot he was sitting in. You can let him back up sometimes but not all the time. If he objects, grumps, growls, or acts at all aggressive, he needs a good smack or Pet Corrector or citronella spray. I like to use a fly swatter (buy at least 5 of them to have lying around the house in opportune spots) or several cans of Pet Corrector (canned air that you can purchase on Amazon.com.) When you swat him, do it hard (or spray the air or use the citronella collar.) He needs to feel it, just like a bite from another dog. You are now going to be the alpha and make the rules. He will be happier being a follower and will feel more confident as well.
2. When you walk him, do not allow him to walk in front of you. If he goes in front give him a jerk and tell him, "Follow." Sometimes it helps to reverse direction as well. Keep a loose leash and just jerk him when he goes ahead of you. Pack leaders always lead and the other dogs follow. He needs to learn to follow you, his new pack leader.
3. When you let him out a door, always put a leash on him and make him wait a few seconds to go out. Then you go out first and have him follow you (behind you.) Doorways are a great teaching spot to show him again that you are the leader and he is the follower. You can easily turn around and go back in (and release the dog to go potty) but he should follow you out the door first.
4. When he is playing with a toy go up to him and take it away. Look for opportunities to teach him! If he objects AT ALL, swat him with the fly swatter (or use canned air.) Do it hard so he feels it. You won't damage him with a fly swatter! You can give the toy back sometimes but sometimes you will want to put it up where he can see it but can't get it. Talk about how it is your toy and you will share it with him later. Toss it up in the air a bit to show him it is yours now. Then give it back later so he can play with it again. Take it away again. Repeat many times! If he gets really possessive and you are worried about being bitten, muzzle him for this exercise. And swat him with the fly swatter until he leaves the area.
5. When he is eating his food, take it away and pretend to eat it. If he objects AT ALL, swat him (or use Pet Corrector or the citronella collar) until he leaves the area. Then give it back to him. Repeat a couple of times until he lets you take it without any reaction. Even if he never reacts to you taking the food this will teach him that you own everything, including food items.
6. Pin him several times per day. Roll him over on his back and put your fingers at his throat, pressing to hold him there. If he struggles, hold his back legs or have someone assist you so that he cannot get up until he relaxes. Once he relaxes, let him up and say, "Good boy." This also helps him to understand that you are now the alpha dog in his pack.
You are always free to contact us with any questions or concerns about your puppy...for the life of your dog and beyond! Please, please, please let me help you when issues are small. Once they are big or there is biting going on, I will still help you but it will be harder. I am also always willing to take any of our dogs back here for training if the issue is bigger than you can handle. Please contact me early!
Donna, I called you one week ago having a lot of problems with Belle's male Schnoodle, who I named Charlie. I was pretty much at wit's end when I talked to you. I tried what you said, If he didn't behave after a no and a swat, I grabbed him by his scruff and told him no. He hated it and squealed like he was dying. We spent a few rough days doing that. It was a battle of the wills. Our german shorthair, Nestle didn't like it either when I discipline Charlie and he cries. She gets very worried and is afraid she is in trouble too. The good news is I think we turned a corner. He is still a crazy puppy but he gets that I am in charge and when he forgets, it doesn't take too much to get him back on track. I really have to stay on top of him though as he does have a Schnauzer attitude. The other fun thing I wanted to share with you is that Nestle kind of likes him. I really thought she would be annoyed with him and not want anything to do with him. But Charlie is very persistent and wants to do everything she does and go wherever she is. They run the property together digging for moles and she even gently plays tug with him. She is teaching him what is acceptable and will discipline him if he gets out of line. I think he has been good for her because I have never seen her play like she does now. Thanks for your advice - Charlie is more enjoyable and even cuddles with me now.