Quick facts

In this section you'll find helpful information including Behaviour Tips, Hunting Tips, Medical Tips, Nutrition Tips and Puppy Training Tips.

Behaviour Tips

Food Stealing / Counter Surfing

The easiest way to stop this behaviour is to not let it happen in the first place. Keep your counters and coffee tables clear of food. When you are preparing food in the kitchen and your puppy is with you, make certain that he has a toy or something to chew on so that he is not tempted to try to get something off the counter. If you cannot keep your eye on your pup while you are preparing food or if you need to leave food on the counter, put the pup in his crate. If your dog succeeds a few times in stealing food, you will be swimming upstream because no matter what you do, the behavior has been reinforced. If your dog has already attempted or started to counter surf, go to the Resources section on this website for several articles on how to address the problem.

Excessive Barking

Dogs bark for several reasons. Watchdog barking is to alert about an intruder or change of environment. Request barking is a dog's way of communicating that he wants something NOW! Spooky barking is when a dog is fearful or uncomfortable with something and barks to say "Don't come any closer." Boredom barking can result when a dog's daily needs for exercise and social and mental stimulation are not met so they bark compulsively out of boredom. Each of these situations has a different strategy for resolution so it is important to firstly identify which type of excessive barking your dog is engaged in. There are several articles regarding barking problems in the Resources section of this website.

Crate Training

Crate training is one of the most powerful tools in preventing your puppy from developing many bad habits that could be difficult to break. You can enjoy complete peace of mind when leaving your dog home alone knowing that nothing can be soiled, chewed or destroyed and that he is comfortable, protected and not developing any bad habits. You can housebreak your dog quicker by using the crate to encourage control, establish a regular routine for outdoor elimination and to prevent accidents at night or when left alone. You can confine your dogs at times when he may be underfoot (meals, family activities), unwelcome (guests, workmen), over-excited, over-tired, bothered by too much confusion, too much excitement or ill, and prevent him from developing undesirable behaviours in these circumstances.

Jumping Up

A dog jumps up in greeting and to ask for attention. He is asking for touch, talk and eye contact. Many people make the mistake of reacting to their puppy jumping by saying NO, pushing the pup down and petting him to keep him from jumping up again and talking to him. Which reinforces the bad behaviour by giving the dog just what it wanted - attention. The first line of defense is when a pup is young and first starts to jump, turn away and ignore him - No touch, No talk, No eye contact. Then when the pup has given up on jumping, call him over and have him sit. The second line of defense is counter conditioning. A detailed article on counter conditioning can be found in the Resources section on this website.

Food Guarding

Give the dog about one fifth or one sixth of his meal in the dog food bowl and when he is finished take away the empty bowl and put another one sixth more of his meal into the bowl and give it back. Continue until he has been given all of his food. Drop a few treats or pieces of food into his bowl while he is eating. All members of the family should feed the dog this way. It helps the dog to understand that food is always available and not a rare commodity that has to be guarded. A more detailed article on resource guarding can be found in the Resources section of this website.

Alone Training

With a new dog or puppy in the house, set the precedent right away. The tendency with a new dog/pup is to be constantly with him to make him feel at home and secure. However, if you are constantly available and heaping attention on the dog, you are setting him up for an awful letdown when normal life resumes. So right away, leave the new dog alone for brief periods of time, over and over. With dozens of trials he will learn that people are not always going to be available and that when people leave, they always come back. Also remember to keep all of your departures and arrivals low key with no gushing hellos and long-winded goodbyes. For more detailed articles on alone training and separation anxiety, check out the Resources section on this website.

Fear of Strangers

In dog, the socialisation window closes at between 3 and 5 months of age. So if you have a puppy you need to cover all the bases of socialisation by exposing the puppy to a s wide a social sphere as possible in terms of human age groups, sexes, sizes, shapes, colors and gaits. The experiences should be positive and include a wide variety of patting, handling and movement by the human.

Leash Manners

Leash manners begin at the front door. A leash can incite a lot of commotion at the front door with the dog going into over-excite mode, and jumping up. Teach your dog that the leash coming up means he must sit properly to have it put on. Whipping your dog into a frenzy by saying "Do you want to go for a walk ?" over and over only increases the chaos. Simply take out the leash, tell your dog to sit and clip it on. After repeating this many times, take out the leash and hold it in front of your dog. He might surprise you with an automatic sit but if he continues to be silly, put the leash away and ignore him. He will soon catch on. For more tips on leash manners and leash training, check out the Resources section on this website.

Begging at The Table

As with most things, the best cure is prevention. Put your young pup in its crate when you are eating meals. Don't feed your pup scraps of food when you are preparing meals or cleaning up afterwards. As your pup gets older, teach him to go and lie on his bed or mat while you are eating dinner. Give him a chew toy to keep him occupied on his bed while you are eating your meal. You will not have to break a habit if it never starts.

Hunting Tips

Get off the Couch

Your dog needs to get off the couch for some retrieving to get his muscles back in shape before hunting season. It has been many months since your dog has used the muscle groups in this type of activity. Get your buddies to throw some training birds in a pond and then start adding in the noise of the shotgun as described in our tip on gun noise. This will also sharpen your dog's marking skills to ensure he doesn't miss any birds.

Follow-on Training

Remember late last fall when the dog was really getting the hang of taking your hand signals to find birds they had not seen fall. Well, without follow-on training this past summer, you are probably back at square one. So set up a drill in your yard and practice the "overs" and "backs" so that you don't have to be standing in the boat or field screaming at your dog to go right while it continues to go in the opposite direction. It is really not a pretty sight and when your antic cause the birds to flair from your setup; your buddies might tell you to leave your dog home next time.

Gun Noise

Have you fired your gun in a field with your dog beside you while your buddies have been throwing training birds? Surprisingly, most dogs don't automatically know what a gun is about so you need to properly introduce your dog to the gun. Start by having your buddy throw a bird and fire a blank from a gun about 100 yard away from you and your dog. Then have him walk it in closer with every throw. The dog learns that when the gun fires a bird "SHOULD" fall but not always.

Decoys

Introducing your dog to the new decoys you bought. Some dogs have not seen silhouette decoys or the new full body style. If your dog is only used to the shell style decoys, you might be asking yourself why your dog brings back the full body decoy and not the goose. Introduce the new decoys on the land first and then repeat the exercise in the water.

Mutt Hut

The new mutt hut you bought to hide the dog in when you are field hunting looks great but don't forget to practice putting the dog in it before opening day. Try throwing some hot dog bits in it and watch your dog fly into it. Getting them to stay in it is all about training.

Hunting Scenarios

Continue by setting up a hunting scenario with the new decoys, the mutt hutt, and adding calling, birds in the air (probably hand thrown), and firing shots. And not just one shot. We always shoot more than we should at the beginning of the season and you need to ensure that your dog is still beside you when the shooting stops. In field hunting, a dog breaking or going before he is are ordered to go can have serious consequences. Not only that, when a dog breaks it might flare the goose that has jewelry on it. Oh darn!

Whistles

Getting a new whistle is always a good thing. It is like a new furnace filter. They need to be changed every once in a while. I prefer the Jim Gonia mega whistle and I hate the Fox 40. You only have to be beside the person with the Fox 40 to know why as your ears will be ringing as will the owner of it if they have their rain hood up over their hat.

Dog Vests

If you are a late season waterfowler, you might want to take a good look at the dog vest you bought several years ago. Firstly, make sure all of last year's extra weeds are out of it and that it still fits your dog. I am not saying your dog is overweight but it might have grown more since it was a puppy or put on some more muscle from all the great training you have been doing this past summer. Check it out anyways as it might make the dog happier in the frigid water.

Safety

Safety is the MOST important thing you should never forget. When your dog is out in the field or water picking up birds remember to ensure none of your buddies are looking to shoot at birds that might get up and try to fly away. The dog will probably be right behind the escaping birds.....

Enjoying the Hunt

If the dog makes a mistake; the first thing you should ask yourself is "What have I not done to prepare the dog"! Most of the time it is not the dog's fault. Above all, always remember that you are out there for the thrill of the hunt and that includes your dog. So enjoy the season with your dog since no doubt, you both have been dreaming about this time of year since last year!

Medical Tips

Body Temperature

Normal body temperature for a dog is 101.5 F/38.6 C. A temperature of 102.5 F/39.2 C or 100.5 F/ 38 C warrants a call to the vet. If your dog's temperature is even higher/lower than that, seek veterinary assistance immediately. In an emergency, placing towels that have been soaked with cold water from a hose on a dog's underbelly can help reduce their body temperature until an emergency clinic is reached.

Itchy Skin

Itchy skin in dogs have four major causes. The first is parasites such as fleas, lice or mites. The second cause is allergies. If the skin is red and there are no other lesions, allergies are possible. Dogs can have allergies to fleas, food or airborne allergens. The third cause is infections. Skin infections cause inflamed, irritated areas with pustules on the edges of the red areas. The fourth cause is hormonal disorders. In hypothyroidism, there is often a loss of hair on the flanks and with Cushing's disease, hair is thinned all over the body.

Hydrogen Peroxide

2 - 3 Tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide will induce vomiting in a dog within minutes if they ingest something dangerous. However, exercise caution as vomiting may worsen the situation in some cases.

Dehydration.

To tell if your dog is dehydrated, slide your finger under his cheek and rub his gums. The area should feel wet and slimy. If your finger sticks to the gum, it is tacky and you dog is dehydrated. Another way of checking is the skin test. Grasp the skin over your dog's shoulders (the scruff). pull it up and gently give it a twist. In a well-hydrated dog, it should snap back into place. With dehydration, the skin is slower to fall down. The greater the dehydration, the slower it moves back into position.

Swimmer's Tail.

Limber tail, cold water tail, or swimmer’s tail, is a painful condition that affects swimming breeds of dogs such as Labs. Usually the day after they have been swimming for the first time in the season, their tails are extremely painful, usually at the base. They will react painfully if you attempt to lift their tail, or touch them near the tail base. Often they will walk with their tail tucked. These dogs have strained or pulled the muscles at the base of their tails. The treatment is pain medication, usually half an aspirin twice a day for a few days will relieve the condition.

Managing Wounds With Honey and Sugar

When applied to a wound, sugar lowers the water content to a level that prevents bacterial growth. It also decreases fluid buildup generated by inflammation, reduces odours from wounds and accelerates sloughing of devitalised tissue. Like sugar, honey kills bacteria and draws water away from the wound. As well, unpasteurised honey contains enzymes and many other nutrients that nourish tissue and speed healing.

Diarrhea

If your dog has diarrhea but is active, happy and still eating, you have time to wait it out and see if it resolves. Withhold food for 24 hours but ensure he drinks water. Signs of more severe illness include concurrent vomiting, pain in the abdomen, depression and dehydration. If you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary assistance immediately. Also, young puppies have little reserve so if your young pup has diarrhea for more than a few hours, call your vet.

Hot Spots

A minor scratch or abrasion can initiate inflammation that leads to a hot spot. Inflammation not only sets the stage for infection (the most common bacterium, being Staphylococcous intermedius), it also initiates pruritis which stimulates the dog to lick and bite and further aggravate and inflame the area leading to more inflammation, infection and itching in a vicious cycle. Moisture also allows bacteria to multiply so hot spots are more prevalent in rainy and humid weather and dogs that are swimming frequently. Hot spot spread very quickly and antibiotics are usually required to address the problem.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection that is characterised by a non-productive (no fluid comes up from the lungs), honking cough. Other symptoms are sneezing, nasal discharge and runny inflamed eyes. Some dogs have a mild fever, but most of the time, temperatures stay normal. If the condition progresses to where the dog has a severe cough along with a fever and lethargy, the disease may have moved into the lower airways and veterinary treatment in required.

Vitamin C

One of the best ways to help your canine teammate recover from mild, ongoing damage to muscles from exercising and overheating is to provide antioxidant supplements. Depending on body weight, canine athletes should be supplemented with 250 - 1000 mg of Vitamin C and 100 - 400 IU of Vitamin E per day.

Nutrition Tips

Puppy Daily Energy Requirements

Growing puppies need above-average energy to build up bone and tissues. At four months of age, their energy requirements are up to three times that of an adult. That is one of the reasons it is recommended to feed puppies three meals a day. More frequent meals mean that the body is running predominantly off nutrients supplied in the food rather than from amino acids taken from body proteins.

Measuring Food

It is important to use a proper measuring cup. Not a coffee cup or mug or tin can unless you know precisely how much it holds. Many cases of overfeeding are the result of not measuring food properly. Overfeeding pups can lead to skeletal and growth problems and overweight adults are prone to many more health issues.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes work synergistically to enhance digestion of proteins, fats, starch and insoluble fibre in the digestive tract, this can be particularly beneficial for dogs with food allergies and/or impaired digestive capacity.

Zinc

Zinc serves two broad purposes; enzyme function and protein synthesis. It improves wound healing and sufficient zinc is required for healthy coats and skins, proper growth and normal sexual development of large breed puppies. Zinc methionine is a soluble organic complex that is the most readily bioavailable source of zinc for dogs.

Essential Fatty Acids

Sufficient amounts of Mega 3 can lower blood pressure, reduce clotting of blood platelets and therefore reduce blood clots and reduce abnormal heart beating. Omega 6 maintains skin and coat condition and can often have a very noticeable beneficial effect in alleviating itching.

Calcium and Energy

In large breed dogs, it has been proven that growth and skeletal development problems are a result of excess energy and calcium intake, not excess protein intake as many people believe. It is important to avoid overfeeding and excess calcium intake during growth. A slow rate of growth does not prevent a dog from reaching its genetic potential.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are substances that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. They lower pH level in the digestive tract and stomach acidity kills pathogenic germs. Prebiotics also have antioxidant properties to build natural defenses. Puppy foods that contain prebiotics are recommended.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live or viable bacterial cell preparations that have beneficial effects on the health of a dog when given in adequate amounts. They help restore the level of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system particularly after the administration of antibiotics or for some gastro-intestinal issues.

Older Dogs

Many older dogs lose kidney function to they have difficulty clearing toxins from the breakdown of protein. Many senior dog food have a lower level of protein, but most importantly they have a more digestible and higher quality of protein causing less stress on their kidneys.

High Fat Diets for Performance Dogs

A high fat diet contributes to increased stamina and protects against heat stress which is particularly important for high performance dogs. Studies have shown that dogs fed a high fat diet took a longer time before a state of exhaustion was reached, whereas a high carbohydrate intake is associated with a more rapid onset of fatigue.

Puppy Training

Critical Training Period

There are several studies that have shown that the most critical training period for dogs is from 6 - 16 weeks. That's when pups are like little sponges that soak up whatever you teach them and any concepts they learn during that time will pretty well stay with them for life. You will be missing the best window of opportunity if you wait until your pup is 6 months old to put it into an obedience class. And you and the pup will both be living in the dog house if you don't get it trained before then...

Expectations Are Too Low

I watched a lady at the vet clinic who was practicing sit and stay commands with her one year old dog but without much success. She said they were taking obedience lessons and that it was a "work in progress". The other clients in the waiting room nodded understandingly, after all "it was just a young dog". By contrast, by 16 weeks of age, our pups and our student's pups are doing sit, stay, down, here, whistle signals, right and left hand signals, targeting, remote sit and more. It always astounds me that people expect way too little of their dogs and then are disappointed that it is all they have achieved.

Use Treats / Food for Motivation

Dogs don't do things to please you. They look at things from a very basic perspective, "What's in it for me ?". They will do things either to get a reward or to avoid punishment. Not using treats for training a puppy is like telling a carpenter not to use his power tools.

Train, Don't Force

I often see people pushing down on their pup's haunches or pulling up on their lead to get them to sit. They are always forcing the pup into a command. By contrast, the most important reward in the world to a pup is food so we let a pup know it is available and then control access to it. We structure our training setups so the pups learn for themselves what we want them to learn. We rarely touch our pups in a training session.

Feeding Time is Training Time

We are all very busy these days and it is hard to find the time to dedicate to puppy training. That is why we have designed our puppy training around meals. You have to feed the puppy, so just take a few extra minutes at meal time and train you puppy using the food from its meal. The pup learns a training ethic, if he wants to eat, he has to work. And you learn a training discipline, three times a day you will routinely train your pup.

Only Pay for What You Want

If you give your pup the signal to come and sit at your right side and the pup instead comes and sits at your left side, do not get it to change to the right side and then reward it. Instead, take the pup back to the start point and try it again. Otherwise, the pup will learn to always come and sit at your left side and then switch to your right side.

Conversational Voice Only

If you are always yelling at a dog or getting angry when you are training, your pup will simply tune you out or just shut down. Keep your voice at a conversational level and save the urgent screaming for when you need it. Like when he is about to eat the dinner roast off the counter; then strident and urgent tones are in order.

Perspective of Place

Pups don't reason or make the same logic leaps as we do with respect to the perspective of place. To a pup, the command "sit" in the kitchen means to sit. But the same command in the backyard probably means "hgeo8j". The pup must be taught to sit in various locations until the command becomes universal. Likewise with people. If you are the only one who trains the pup, it is highly unlikely that the pup will obey commands from your spouse. They also have to train the pup if they want it to obey them.

Take Baby Steps

With young pups, it is essential that training be broken down into very small incremental steps. Many of my students want to jump ahead on their own and then they complain that the puppy wouldn't learn what they wanted. When we go over how they tried to teach the next level concept, it turns out that they tried to go from step 1 straight to step 4 and missed teaching the incremental steps 2 and 3.

Enjoy Your Pup

Regardless of all of your training, it's essential to enjoy your pup. No matter the outcome of your training effort, the most important thing you want to teach your pup is that you are a great person to spend time with.