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Tips for puppy problems and illnesses.

Supplied by: The Regina Humane Society

With few exceptions, all dogs bark. Barking is a natural behaviour and it is a way of communicating. The message can range from loneliness, hunger or playfulness, but most often barking is used as an alarm or alert signal which indicates to other pack members that a stranger or intruder is approaching. Most people have a feeling of security and comfort knowing their dog is 'on the job'. Some people even encourage their dogs to bark and growl when the doorbell rings or when someone knocks. They feel this is acceptable behaviour. However, when the dog becomes uncontrollable with barking that is excessive she/he becomes a nuisance! Life is miserable for neighbours who must listen to a barking dog day after day.

Excessive barking often begins at puppyhood when the unhousetrained pup is unwisely shut behind closed doors. Improper confinement will definitely cause a barking problem. Also, dogs that are tied or tethered will eventually become frustrated and begin to bark to communicate displeasure. We must always remember that dogs are PACK animals. It is not natural or normal to be alone. However, millions of dogs must learn to cope confidently while members of the family must be out daily to work. Chewing, uncontrolled barking, house training problems and destructive behaviour have put many dogs out of a home. All of this could have been avoided if we simply could have communicated more effectively with our canine companions. They are part of a pack or family, similar in behaviour to their ancestors the wolf. Wolves travel, hunt, sleep and eat in a group environment. Therefore we must modify this instinct. We must, in our human packs, make the dog feel comfortable and secure about being alone in the 'cave' while the other pack members are out.

Because most barking takes place when the owner is not home, you have no choice but to believe your neighbours when they complain about barking. Barking is actually quite common and is not that difficult to rectify. Let's go back to that encouraging owner who is inadvertently praising and teaching the dog that his/her barking is the greatest thing, making the dog feel the owner is happy and pleased when s/he is barking. The easiest way to teach the dog to bark is command him to SPEAK. So whilst the dog is barking at the door the owner may comment the work SPEAK. The dog will associate the barking behaviour with the word SPEAK. At this time, your golden moment has arrived. How we are going to teach the dog the word QUIET or ENOUGH or SHUSH (your choice). We don't teach the word NO because NO means never, ever do that EVER! When you command the dog to QUIET and he keeps barking you will have to teach the dog the meaning of the word QUIET. Hitting the dog, or other physical measures, mechanical or electronic aids are unkind and unnecessary. You may hold the dog's muzzle closed (gently and kindly) or you may have to use a water pistol. Another method is to make a sudden, sharp sound, a pop can with some coins in it or bang a pot, to divert the dog's attention from barking. When the dog has ceased barking, for at least 3 - 5 seconds, praise in a quiet calm voice, perhaps saying "Good, quiet, Good!" Avoid stroking or patting and hugging at this point as you may over excite the dog again and he may miss the point of the whole exercise.

Before you leave your dog alone, remember the following points:

provide adequate exercise
leave the radio or TV on
provide dog with proper chewing material - rawhide or nylabones are good - not real animal bones.
crate train your dog
make your departures calm: tone things down and be matter of fact. Over emotional, guilt ridden departures put the dog in a state of anxiety.
unplug your phone
place a DO NOT DISTURB sign on your door. This may prevent tradespeople from knocking or ringing the bell, setting the dog off into a barking cycle.
Shut the shades or drapes so the dog can't see out.

Submissive Urination in Dogs:
Courtesy: PAWS internet page

Just like people, dogs have individual personalities and traits. Those dogs with submissive temperaments are usually good choices for first time dog owners or families with young children. Submissive dogs do not present the problems that some dominant personality dogs do. However, they can exhibit a trait that is a problem to some people. When approached or looked at by a person or even another dog, some dogs will urinate uncontrollably. This is termed submissive urination. The submissive wetting dog is not deliberately misbehaving but is responding due to excitement, apprehension or even fear. The dog is reacting on an emotional level to something in the situation that produces extreme feelings of submission. If you appreciate this, you can deal with the problem without getting angry or upset. Well controlled emotions are essential for the correction of this behavior.

Cause of submissive urination:

Submissive urination has its roots in a puppy's early experiences with its mother. The mother is a very dominant figure to a young puppy. She also controls his elimination for the first several months of his life. By the time the puppy is several weeks old, the mother is prompting elimination by merely approaching him and nosing under his flank. Most dogs outgrow this puppy elimination response as they mature, but some dogs retain this response to urinate, particularly under stressful conditions. When excited, intimidated or fearful, the submissive urinater will resort to the puppy response of emptying his bladder.

Control of submissive urination:

First, identify the things that trigger the dog to urinate. Often it is your homecoming, when you scold the dog, when you lean over the dog or when you approach or face the dog. The first step is to remove any signs of threat at those key times when the dog wets. By modifying your behavior, you should be able to get the dog to stop wetting. The time required will be anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on your skill and the severity of the problem.
If the dog wets when you approach, then do not approach. Instead, crouch right down and turn your side toward the dog. Avoid direct eye contact. Let the dog approach you. If the dog appears calm, pet him lightly under the chin. If petting produces wetting, try it again in a few days. Avoid talking to the dog in the situations that produce urination. As the dog's confidence builds, you can begin to add words spoken in a gentle, soft tone. Try "good dog". After a few days of this routine, ask the dog to "sit" and then tell him "good dog" when he complies. If this stimulated wetting, withhold it for a few days and then try it again.

Run through the situational training at least several times a day. For instance, if your homecoming produces submissive urination, follow the above outline described, then go out and come in immediately again...then again. This desensitization should help eliminate the behavior over a period of time. As the dog gains confidence, see if you can approach him in a standing position instead of a crouch. Let the dog's reactions tell you how to behave. If you see that tell-tale squat start in the back, back off a step and start over until you can again proceed.

Involve others in the program. Have family members or friends go through the same routine as described above. When several others have gone through it with the dog, it will greatly benefit the permanency of the correction. If backsliding occurs, just start over again at the beginning. Correction should only take a few sessions. Throughout the program, be patient and understanding. Your dog can sense your mood and will react to it accordingly.

Additional tips:

Scheduling. The submissive dog will be more secure when he knows what to expect. Put him on a regular schedule and stick to it. Feed and exercise him at the same time every day. Consistency. Be consistent in your expectations of the dog. Always treat him fairly. Make sure everyone in the family does the same. Don't get angry. Submissive urination is an involuntary response to fear or excitement. He's not "getting even" or trying to annoy anyone. Being calm and ignoring it works much better than yelling. Be calm and reassuring but do not baby the dog. This can cause wetting too.

Obedience training. Once the dog has rudimentary control over his bladder, he will benefit from obedience training. Call a local training club in your area for information on a dog training class to suit you and your dog.

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