I am the proud owner of an extremely high spirited Husky, and I happen to live in Alaska. When we walk he pulls on lead. I'm wondering, since he was born and bred to pull sleds through the snow, is it too much to expect that he'll ever heel properly? Will training break his spirit?

There is no reason why your dog cannot learn to heel properly. We have trained many Huskies here at the monastery and heeling was a principal ingredient to the training. What is important is that you understand the correct approach to heel, then spend the requisite time practicing with your dog.

The first thing to understand is that heeling implies a respect for your authority and leadership. One of the ways dogs react to weak leadership is to get out in front and pull vigorously, usually with the human in tow. When the dog is pulling, it is making the decisions: it is the leader. In a healthy relationship, you must first accept the principle that you have to be the leader. A relationship with a dog is not democratic: you have to be in charge, and that implies benevolent despotism. You know far better than your dog does what is in its best interest.

Apart from a general understanding of how to begin teaching the heel (consult the references at the end of the question), an essential element of teaching your dog how to heel is the leash correction. It is imperative that you learn how to pop the leash correctly, and that this becomes reflexive. Practice is the only way you'll master this. For a thorough explanation of this, and several exercises to practice, check out The Art of Raising a Puppy. What follows are some important footnotes.

Note how we emphasize the importance of reversing directions in a 2 step correction. This is important because it immediately checks the dog's desire to lead and puts the owner out in front, reinforcing in the dog's mind the owner's position of leadership. Go back and forth as necessary, popping the leash and reversing directions as needed. Thus, the sequence is as follows:

  • letting the dog get out in front
  • when the dog begins to forge, give a leash pop as you say "NO!"
  • reverse directions 180 degrees and start walking in the other direction
  • repeat this, going back and forth, until the dog starts to avoid the leash corrections and pay attention
  • As the dog goes into the heel position, praise it warmly.
  • As for breaking the dog's spirit, training is intended to foster exactly the opposite. Good training brings out the best in the dog, which is one of the reasons why we so emphasize praise in our method. Praise that is sincere and earned builds up the relationship between you and your dog. It is entirely positive and strengthens the bond.

    When there are no distractions present, my dog comes when called. However, when she is distracted - kids on the block, another dog, or especially someone in a uniform - and the little terror takes off. No amount of coaxing, nor favorite treat, nothing seems to illicit more than the slightest glance back in my direction. How do I get my dog to come when called under any circumstance?

    The first thing you must do is to establish a formal foundation in basic obedience training. Owners who couldn't care less about their dogs "learning the obedience exercises," who just want them to come when called, are being entirely unrealistic. The training exercises are interconnected, and reliable obedience presumes a context of practice in which the owner earns the dogs respect. Without formal training, owners will find it very difficult to achieve the goal of a reliable recall. More often than not, the dog will end up coming only when it wants to.

    Once you have a basic foundation in the obedience exercises, you can start simulating an off-leash recall by using a long, 50 foot clothesline.  This puts you in a position to correct the dog instantaneously should it not respond to your recall command. With a simple tug, you can keep the recall happy and enjoyable, gradually helping your dog understand that coming to you is actually a very desirable thing. Always incorporate lots of animated praise when your dog is coming towards you.

    Finally, when the dog comes reliably in undistracted situations, set up situations where you anticipate him being distracted. Use the rope, and when the dog ignores your command, give him a sharp tug as a reminder. Praise him warmly as he overcomes the distraction. Remember: in set-up situations you have to be creative, as well as always being in a position where you can correct the dog effectively exactly at the moment he is ignoring you. This approach demands a bit of work on your part, but the results are effective if you are faithful to the process.

    I have this otherwise great black lab mix 1 year old female, spayed, maniac dog named "Rocky"... She eats everything in sight. And I don't mean food. Remote controls, socks, shoes, shoelaces, and toilet paper. She has plenty of her own toys and gets lots of attention (evenings - we work during the day) Her appetite ensures my homelessness if something cannot be done.

    Do yourself a favor: use a crate. Using a crate not only facilitates housetraining, it also gives you a place to keep the young dog where it can't get into mischief. This especially applies to destructive behavior. This is crucial until you have had a chance to train the dog properly in basic obedience.

    Crate training is not cruel. Capitalizing on a dog's den instincts, it provides a safe spot where your dog can be kept when you cannot supervise it. Since you work, ideally it would be best if you could have someone let Rocky out at midday for a bit. That way, the following four hours wouldn't be excessive. Taking her on a walk yourself in the morning and evening gets her enough exercise to adjust to city life. Furthermore, while not a permanent solution, using a crate immediately stops destructive behavior while you are not home until you reach the point with your dog of trust.

    To move to the next level, obedience training is required. You need to establish a context in which the dog comes to understand what your expectations are in the house. Sitting down with your dog for a chat just doesn't work. Your dog must understand the basic obedience commands, as those will provide the basis for teaching your dog not to chew in set-up situations.

     

    Some one please tell me how I can keep my dogs from digging out under my fence. They dig out, and then my neighbor calls the animal control. I can't have them complaining about my dogs because I have to live next to them.

    One thing that we have suggested to clients with a similar problem is to bury metal flashing (approximately 1 foot width) directly into the ground beneath the fence along its perimeter. When the dog starts to dig under the fence, it encounters the metal barrier. A similar idea is to dig a narrow trench around the inside perimeter of the fence, then put 1/2 inch hardware cloth mesh fencing into the trench, and cover it over with dirt. We realize that there is a monetary investment here, but your neighbor won't be calling animal control any more.

    We have just adopted an 8 month old lab mix puppy from the pound. Every time my husband comes home from work she gets so excited she pees on the floor. She only seems to do it with him. We have tried putting her nose up to it and telling her no but is doesn't seem to be helping. Is this just a puppy phase that she will grow out of or is there something we can do to break her of this habit?

    If you keep trying to correct your puppy for submissive urination, the problem will only get worse. Yelling at her and putting her nose up to the urine is the worst response you can make to the problem since it only elicits more submissive behavior from the pup. Submissive urination is not a housetraining problem: it relates to the young dog's acknowledgement of the authority of a more dominant pack member. When your dog was a young puppy, it had no control of its bladder or bowels. It's mother cleaned the pup up by turning it over on its backside. Gradually, as your pup matured, it gained control over its eliminative abilities, but it kept the adolescent behavior as an acknowledgement of superiority. By urinating in front of a higher pack member, the pup acknowledges its more dominant position.

    With a human pack member, pups often express this sense of respect by urinating submissively. If the human's response is punishment, the behavior only gets worse.

    Instead, stage all introductions, and avoid highly emotional greetings. For family members, when you first get home, ignore the pup for five minutes at the beginning. If necessary use a crate. When you do greet it, crouch down low and put the dog into a sit. Quietly praise it and take it outside. Don't give it the opportunity to get overly excited.

    With non-family members, teach your pup a routine of coming to a sit in front of the person it is being introduced to. Don't let the individual approach the dog, as this is more intimidating. Instead, you bring your pup up to the individual on leash. If necessary, just have the stranger say hello verbally, without petting the dog.

     

    How do I train a puppy to stop biting? We've been crate training her for housebreaking. So far so good. But I can't seem to get her to stop biting. Someone told me to tap ner nose and say "no bite," but when I do this she thinks that I'm playing and it makes her even more aggressive.

    This is a very common problem in young puppies. From day one, your puppy has been taught to use its mouth for everything, so its natural inclination is to use its mouth on you. That is how it plays and expresses affection. Nevertheless, just because it is natural behavior does not mean that it should be tolerated. To do so sets a dangerous precedent that could result in serious problems later on when it is an adult. Rather, as your pup grows, it has to be trained to use its mouth appropriately, and that precludes nipping, mouthing, and other similar behaviors.

    First, there needs to be a humane context in which your pup learns to acknowledge your leadership.

    Next, In actual situations of mouthing, when your pup starts this behavior, quickly clasp your hand around his muzzle and shake it quickly as you say "No!" He should whine in displeasure. Then open your palm for him to lick. If he does so, praise him -- licking is allowed. If he tries to mouth or nip at you again, repeat the correction.

    Another technique that discourages mouthing is to let him experience an unpleasant result from it without any show of anger on your part. Begin by petting your pup around the neck and chest. As it begins to mouth your hand, gently put your index finger down his throat just enough to elicit a gag reflex. As it gags, remove your finger and open your palm for it to lick, praising it as it does so.

    Practice regularly with your pup on this: don't wait for it to happen spontaneously. Both these techniques humanely teach the pup that mouthing is not desireable behavior.

    I have a dog who does mess in the crate where he sleeps and then walks in it. Any suggestions?

    Chances are that you are not sticking to a realistic schedule for housetraining your puppy. Dogs are creatures of habit and will quickly adjust to a sensible schedule if you are faithful to it. Be a fanatic about the schedule! Dogs do have a natural aversion to messing in the area where they sleep (the den) that can be capitalized on when they are young by using a crate. However, you must do this intelligently. Simply keeping the pup in the crate won't stop it from messing if you keep it there for an excessive length of time. When that happens, many pups restlessly stomp in their own feces, and (if it happens regularly), they lose their natural aversion to soiling in the den.

    Generally, we recommend gradually introducing the pup to a crate in a non-traumatic manner, then making sure not to have the pup spend more than three hours at a time in it without a break. Make sure that before you put the pup in the crate, that you have first given it a chance to do its business. Then, give it a toy to play with, and leave. When first housetraining the pup, keep the pup in the crate for shorter periods, then gradually lengthen the time as the pup is able to pass the time without soiling.

    I'm confused. We're first time dog owners, and we have a beautiful yellow Lab. We're trying to find the best food for a decent price, but don't know for sure what to get. Our vet suggests Science Diet, but has mentioned something else that the makers of Science Diet produce. We just want to make sure our dog is being fed correctly. We also don't want to be influenced by a marketing strategy.

    With the abundance of advertising hype surrounding pet foods and an abundance of commercial brands available from which to choose, it is little wonder many a new puppy owner is confused about how and what to feed her pup. Though we refrain from endorsing one specific dog food over all others, there are some basic principles about diet and feeding that all puppy owners should understand so that they can make responsible choices for their pups. We will try to illustrate these principles by answering some commonplace questions.

    What is Puppy Food? Because puppyhood is a time of rapid growth and intensive development, puppies require approximately double the daily amount of nutrients per pound of body weight that fully grown dogs need. In addition, their need for specific nutrients differs from adults': these cannot be obtained from adult food no matter how much they eat. Thus, it is harmful to feed puppies the same type of food as adult dogs. To meet a pup's special nutritional needs, many dog food manufacturers produced specially formulated puppy foods for the first year of a pup's life. These are nutritionally complete and balanced to give a puppy the ideal amounts of protein (usually between 28 and 30 per cent), and the vitamins and minerals especially required for proper bone development. Normally, they make it unnecessary for you to supplement your pup's diet.

    How Do I Select a Particular Brand? When considering particular brands, look for a puppy food from a company with a serious background in research and testing, whose labels meet or exceed the standards established by the National Research Council (NRC) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Avoid generic or store-brand pet foods: though inexpensive, they may prove costlier in the long run because of the medical problems associated with a poor diet. Veterinary studies have shown these products to be of inconsistent quality and low digestibility or food value. Instead, consult your breeder and veterinarian for several possibilities and stick with one food that your pup finds palatable. You may have to purchase the food at a feed or pet-supply store where the higher quality dry foods are usually sold. Supermarkets carry good canned foods which can be used moderately (i.e. 1 tablespoon per meal) to increase the palatability of the meal.

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    Does anyone have a good remedy for removing skunk smell?

    If you are close to a veterinary clinic, there is a dip product which many veterinarians carry called "Outright skunk-off" which is very effective. Otherwise, give your dog several baths using Ivory shampoo and seltzer water. The bubbling action of the seltzer water helps draw the scent out of the dog's fur. Also, another suggestion which we haven't tried personally is dousing the dog with Massengill douche. One traditional treatment to avoid is dousing the dog with tomato juice. Not only is it relatively ineffective, it makes a big mess.

    We recently brought home an 11 week old Neufundland pup. The breeder said to feed her low protein food to reduce problems because of her tendency to grow so fast. Has anyone heard of anything like this before? In the past I have fed my dogs high protein foods. I am unsure what to do.

    With many large breeds, hip dysplasia is a serious problem. Hip dysplasia is an improper formation of the joint that can lead to lameness, arthritis, and varying degrees of immobility. There are several factors that contribute to dysplasia, some genetic, some environmental. Some researchers believe that one environmental cause stems from rapid growth in the young dog, in which the enlarging size of the bone puts stress on the hip and elbow joint, causing joint reformation. While not all researchers are convinced of this, all are in agreement that it is dangerous for young pups to be overweight. Since high protein diets often result in heavier puppies, breeders whose breeds are susceptible to this condition often recommend a lower protein diet, one that helps the puppy grow at a more balanced rate. This results in less stress, and helps give the joints time to firm up. In saying this, however, it is important to underscore that if you feed your dog a lower protein diet, use a quality brand that provides the puppy with a balanced diet.