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Dog Preventive Behavior Counseling
Preventing Dog Bites

Preventing Household Destruction

1) Teach a new dog "contented confinement." Make a portable kennel become your dog's most favored place. That kennel becomes his overnight bedroom (and softest available bed), his dining room (pull the bed and feed his meals inside) and his recreation room, where he gets to work on getting the tasty treats out of his food puzzle toy.
2) In the corner of the area, where you want the puppy to sleep, place a comfortable pet bed or towel on the floor. Dogs normally spend up to 80 percent of their time sleeping anyway.
3) Anytime you are home and see him showing interest in his chew toys, praise.
4) Rotate the toys so that they don't become boring. Pack hollow toys with food to encourage their use.
5) Do not give items for chew and play that very similar to household items. The pet may not be able to distinguish them.
6) If you find an inappropriately chewed object, either prevent access, or make the target taste bad to the dog. A home remedy is underarm antiperspirant, and pet stores sell many excellent taste repellants. The use of punishment by the owner long after the destructive act occurred is confusing to the pet and damaging to the relationship.
7) If caught in the act, verbally scold to stop the behavior then lead the dog over to the chew toy (redirect) and happily praise the acceptable chewing outlet. No scolding should continue after the instant the teeth stop committing the crime.
8) New pets should be supervised even when the owners are home to prevent misbehavior from occurring out of their view.
9) Give plenty of exercise and have regular play sessions. Tired dogs rarely destroy.

Note: If the destruction occurs only when the dog's key person is gone, attempt to determine if separation anxiety is present, and treat if diagnosed.

Preventing Canine Housesoiling
Housesoiling is relatively easy to prevent in either a puppy or newly adopted dog without any need for physical punishment.

1) Teach the new dog "contented confinement" as described above under preventing household destruction. Confinement may be in the portable kennel, tethered near you, in a small room, or restrained behind baby gates. The goal is to tap into the canine instinct to not soil their resting area. The most common error is to give too much house freedom too soon. Never use crate for punishment.
2) Dogs develop elimination location preferences by 7 - 9 weeks of age (the best time to housetrain). Females may need to eliminate more frequently than males.
3) A rule of thumb for how many HOURS a puppy can hold their urine is their age in months: + 1. For example, a 3 month old puppy can hold it 4 hours, a 5 month old puppy can hold it up to 6 hours. These are just estimates, and vary with the individual.
4) Take young dogs outside after waking, shortly after eating, and every few hours throughout the day.
5) Take the dog out to a specified (easy to clean) yard toilet area. Keep him on leash to prevent soiling the entire yard. As the dog starts to eliminate, give a Instruction such as "Go Potty." Allow 1-2 minutes, and don't stare at the dog. Take the dog out every few hours, until an elimination pattern is identified.
6) Take dog to the same location each time. Residual urine and feces will encourage further use of the area.
7) When the dog is done depositing urine and feces, give a "jackpot" reward including playtime, leash walk, treats and praise. Accompany The dog outside during housetraining every time. Reward immediately after elimination, not after return to the house.
8) If very active during play, return to the toilet area before going inside the house.
9) Give supervised freedom after correct elimination, then return to confinement and a fresh chew toy.
10) If no toilet deposit is made, give no reward, and return to confinement. Give toilet access again later.
11) Gradually increase the indoor freedom as a reward for correct elimination, and use "accidents" to determine the safe duration of liberty indoors
12) Difficult to house-train dogs should be screened for medical problems.  

Preventing Canine Aggression to Members Of The Family

1) Enroll any age dog in a reward based group class. This establishes a vocabulary between you and the dog, and introduces the ideal relationship of owner/dog as teacher/learner.
2) Establish a routine of vigorous exercise for life. This is a stress release valve for all involved.
3) Avoid physical punishment altogether. Instead teach the "Correction Protocol" for dealing with any unwanted behavior. This means a) prevent it if possible, b) if caught in the act, interrupt the behavior, c) redirect the dog into an acceptable behavior, then d) reward the "corrected" behavior. E.g. if play nipping is the problem, interrupt it in the act by sudden loud yelping and crying (like a hurt playmate) as if the pressure was excruciating (= interruption). Then redirect the puppy to playing with its toys by tossing a ball or squeaking a toy (= redirection) Praise interest in the toy and future gentle mouth pressure on skin.
4) Teach the dog to signal "Please." Have a family agreement that every time the dog wants something, he must signal "Please" by sitting on Instruction; or "Super Please" by laying down on Instruction. This way any family member can indulge the dog, as long as the dog signals "Please" first. This positions every family member as a positive leader by controlling the dog's valued resources.
5) Give a gentle loving body massage to your dog every day. This desensitization to body handling builds trust that hands are friendly, and helps establish a positive, trustworthy relationship. This is also an excellent way to find health problems early, and a reminder to keep the dog well groomed and pleasant to touch.

Dominance aggression is preventable in most dogs, although there is a small percentage of the canine population that will still turn aggressive in some context, even if an owner does everything right.

Preventing Food-Related Aggression Toward People

1) From puppyhood teach the dog the "Leave It, Take It" game. One way to begin this game, is at feeding time. Have a leash on the dog, and put the food bowl down empty.
2) Hand place a single piece of special food in the bowl and say "Leave it!" Use the leash if needed to gently pull the puppy away from the food.
3) As soon as the puppy gives up attempting to get the food, say "Take it" and encourage the puppy to eat the food.
4) Repeat a few times with the food in the bowl, or on the floor, or lawn. Make sure he can't get the food until you say the words, "Take it."
5) After the short training session, give a bowl of dry food, but massage the dog while he's eating. Periodically move your hand near the dish, to drop a tasty treat into the dry food. The goal is to teach the dog that a human coming near your food dish is a wonderful idea.
6) Avoid feeding dog from table, and pick up the dog's food in-between meals.

Preventing Possessive Aggression Toward People
Possessive aggression is defined as aggressively defending non-food items, like toys.

1) Never challenge or use aggressive means to respond to this challenge. Take it as an indicator that there is a "control" confusion, and it is time to invest some time in behavior modification.
2) In a relaxed atmosphere, teach the dog the "Drop it" Instruction. Start with some food treats and two toys of low but similar value to the dog, like two balls.
3) Hide one ball. Act playful and try to get the dog to take the other ball into its mouth.
4) Then say "Drop it" and show the dog the other ball. An unwritten rule in dogdom is that whatever you have is more valuable that what they have. Therefore, they will likely drop their ball to try to get your ball.
5) Give "instructive praise" like "Good Drop it!" then give or throw the second ball. If the dog won't give up the first ball, "trade up" to something even more valuable, like a food treat.
6) Once the dog will "Drop it" on Instruction, work up to more desirable toys, like food related chews.
7) Remove objects that the dog repeatedly guards aggressively.

Preventing Dog-Dog Aggression
Because of genetics and lack of socialization, many adult dogs respond negatively toward other dogs. Depending on the individual, this might be a fearful, or aggressive reaction. Inter-dog aggression is difficult to correct, but easy to prevent.

1) The canine brain develops through specific stages. The available dog-dog socialization period is approximately 4 weeks of age to puberty. Positive experiences with other dogs early in this period is very helpful to prevent dog-dog aggression.
2) Find a local puppy socialization class. The ideal location is inside the veterinary hospital because the dog then associates that location with play and treats. Be certain the class includes off-leash play sessions that are supervised to prevent bad experiences.
3) Fear prone puppies need time to hide and gradually build their confidence to enter play. They must not be accosted by a rambunctious bigger puppy, even if the bigger puppy means well.
4) Puppies who tend to dominate other puppies need to be interrupted, given time outs or redirected to play with other larger puppies. If feasible, use 2 separate play areas for big vs. little puppies. During time outs, more dominate personality puppies should be required to sit or lay down to engage in deference postures and lower arousal.
5) It is helpful to have an adult "mentor dog" in the play group, so that the more dominant puppies are safely "put in their place" if not showing proper respect. Each dog needs to learn canine social manners, and to prevent dog-dog aggression, those manners are best learned at an early age from another dog.
6) Provide a play group for your puppy at least monthly during the first 1-2 years of life. Stopping socialization too early can cause recurrence of dog-dog aggression. Seek dog parks or canine daycare programs. For most dogs, the opportunity to play with other dogs is one of the great delights of canine life.

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Copyright 2001-Present with All Rights Reserved by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS | Animal Behavior Network & Affiliates