Your New Dog

Congratulations to You and Your New Dog !

First Pack / Second Pack

Your “fur-baby” was born into its first pack and is now joining your pack. Momma dog proves her true love by taking her responsibility VERY seriously. She communicates clearly (in dog) what the rules are. She teaches her puppy behavioral boundaries such as do not bully your siblings and no it’s not OK to chew on my nose.

Geographical boundaries are also instilled by keeping her pups close to her, preventing them from wandering too far, and when on the move, ALWAYS following close behind.

Changing Packs:

So now what? How can a human welcome this new canine member into our human pack? How could we possibly help this amazing animal feel the safety, security and love comparable to that it felt from its mother?

1. As the owner and the head of the dog’s new “pack” you are the provider; you are the teacher/leader and you have the “ big brain”. It is so very hard to remember sometimes when they are giving you those eyes. REMEMBER, as wonderful as they make us feel, it is OUR responsibility to make them confident and safe. What makes US feel good may not be in THEIR best interest. Set geographical, physical and behavioral boundaries. Be PROACTIVE ! It is better to show them what to do than what not to do. Love to a dog is a calm, patient, decisive leader. Expect the behavior you will want from the start, whatever the age. This is especially important if you have adopted a dog from a shelter or rescue organization. If you have a young puppy, take more breaks due to their tiny attention spans.

2. Gather, borrow and purchase all things needed for a happy, safe existence for ALL pack members.


1. Stainless steel or ceramic bowls for food and water. (Try to avoid plastic; they are porous and tend to give bacteria a great home.) Additionally I like a metal bird cup that can be bolted to the side of the crate for water.

2. Leash and Collar You can start with a flat adjustable nylon collar and a 6ft leash.

3. Chew and play toys are a must! These items not only kill boredom and relieve stress but are necessary in building confidence,trust and healthy relationships with people as well as their fellow canines. If you have a teething puppy, rope toys can be soaked in water and frozen.

4. Fluffy bed? I use nothing or an old towel (not very absorbant) in the crate to gauge their chewing tendencies before I invest in a fluffy bed. To some dogs, a bed is a giant toy to be destroyed, and when housebreaking, the more absorbent the material the more they will eliminate on it!

5. A crate is your most important asset !!! I have several. When introducing a new dog to your home/pack, and during training, NOTHING WORKS AS WELL. I prefer the wire, metal crate because sights and sounds are not obstructed from the dog. You want a crate (placed in a common area) large enough so the ADULT size dog can stand, sit, lie down and stretch out a little. If you’re housebreaking, use a crate divider that can be moved as the puppy grows. Some people like a second crate for an upstairs or bedroom. I also use a crate for a puppy in my car. I secure it with the seatbelt in the back seat or with ties for the back of an SUV etc. For the car crate I find scrap carpet and cut 2 pieces exactly to fit the crate tray. This prevents sliding around and makes puppy feel safe and ensures a good experience in the car. Treat the carpet with a pet safe protectant for easy clean up of mishaps.

How to Get the Most from Crate Training

Introducing the Crate

Treat the crate as the wonderful tool it is. It gives your dog (as well as you) a break. There is no substitute for the feeling of SAFETY for both you and your dog. Use special toys and treats specifically for crate time.

First Exercise

1. Place the dog in the crate.

2. Leave the door open but do not allow them to leave. (I sit on the floor for this exercise.)

3. When the dog settles down ( relaxed body, sometimes a sigh ) then and ONLY then invite them out.

4. Do this exercise twice.

Second Exercise

1. Place the dog in the crate (as in exercise one).

2. Leave the door open but do not allow them to leave (as in exercise one).

3. Dangle a treat through the top of the crate and drop treat.

4. Repeat this exercise with crate door closed.

Have some fun with a game! Show your dog a treat or a toy they really love wiggle and wave it around to make it irresistable and place it in the back of the crate with door open and encourage them to go get it. Stay a few feet away from the crate so your dog can explore and enter and exit crate on its own.

During training your dog should be in the crate when you are not “actively watching” your dog. When the dog is out of the crate they should be on a leash. This will ensure safety as well as proactive guidance, showing them what to do more than what not to do.

Crate traing should be followed through the first 2 stages of dog growth. Puppy stage for safety and housebreaking.

Late puppy stage ( 6-9mos.) because they are “teenagers” and even though they have a great foundation of the rules,well, they are teenagers !


Common Pitfalls of Crate Training

1. Do not put the dog in after it has done something wrong or when you’ve become frustrated. This makes them associate the crate with punishment.

2. Do not take them out of the crate because they’re whining or crying. This encourages them to whine and cry to get what they want.

You are off to a great start ! Have fun !




Housebreaking Routine

Housebreaking works best while following the crate training rules.

( see Your New Dog article for optimal use of the crate )

Our main goals are to teach the dog to eliminate outside and to train their bladder to “hold it”.

A dog needs to spend time in their crate to properly train their bladder.

How often does a puppy need to eliminate ?

A general rule is one hour per month plus one hour. For example:a three month old puppy needs to go out every four hours EXCEPT while sleeping.


.Immediately following a meal – After sleeping – Running or play session – Chewing a bone or toy

Bring your dog outside on a leash to where you want them to go and give a command. I use “go potty” you can use whatever works for you as long as it is consistant. Keep reminding them until they start to go then smile and praise the action with a calm, soft tone “good go potty”. Do not use treats. Allow a few minutes to go by before you engage them in outside play

If your dog is having accidents in the crate try moving the divider or using a smaller one . If they are eliminating too frequently or having diarrhea for more than a couple of days contact your veterinarian to rule out a medical issue. If you catch your dog eliminating in the house, make a loud abrupt sound and bring them outside quickly and praise them for going outside.

Your day may look something like this ( with a 3 month old puppy ) :

6 A.M. wake up – potty

6:15 breakfast

6:25 – potty

6:30 – playtime – then potty and back in the crate.

7 – 11 crate and nap time

11– potty- playtime – potty

Noon -lunch

12:15P.M. – potty

12:25- 4;25 crate and nap time

4:25 wake up – potty

4:30- 5:00 playtime – potty

5:00- 5:30 playtime – potty

5:30 dinner

5:40 – potty

5:45 – 7 crate time while humans do their evening routine

7 – potty – playtime – potty

10 – last potty of the night

Every dog and owner are unique. Housebreaking is not an exact science. Its full of frustration and mixed signals. Keep a good enzymatic cleaner on hand. Be patient. Be consistant. Most importantly HAVE FUN !!


Your Rescue Dog

Congratulations! You just rescued a dog! You already went to the pet store and got them all set up. Good food, toys, leash, collar and a sparkly new tag proudly claiming your new pet as your own. You bring them home and get ready to embark on your new lives together.

This wondrous day is unfortunately often the beginning of one mistake after another which results in exacerbation of behavior problems, development of new ones, and the worst case scenario, returning the dog back to the shelter.

We as humans hear the sad stories of horrific lives led by these poor creatures and want nothing more than to just “save” them. What we often do, is save them physically, while stalling them emotionally. With the best of intentions we embark on our journey with our new canine friend.

Please understand that the number one reason dogs are relinquished to shelters is due to behavioral problems that were preventable, but allowed to flourish. It is more important to understand that behavioral problems are FIXABLE. We encourage adoption and hope to help many a “damaged” dog become a healthy happy member of the family.

We’ll list several common mistakes we see from rescue day to “Thank you for calling Chris The Dog Trainer, How may we help you?”

Selecting the dog 

          When we go to the shelter to pick out a new dog, we often don’t know exactly what we are looking at. Sure, there are tons and tons of adorable furry faces with big eyes begging to go home with you. Which one is right for you and your family? Often dogs are chosen based on two criteria: how cute they are or how sad their story is. When choosing a dog it is important to take into account many factors. Their age, energy level, size, temperament etc are all very critical to your future happiness.

If adopting a senior pet, can you financially afford their vet care? If you have a hectic work schedule, can you devote the time for exercise for a high energy breed? Is it fair to get a Labrador retriever if you live in one bedroom apartment? If the dog has behavioral problems can you devote the time and money to training?

All of these questions are often not asked, however they get answered fairly quickly and usually the hard way. The dog that looked “so sad” huddled in the back of the cage is likely extremely fearful and will need very specific and often professional training. The cutie that was jumping up on the bars barking at you is likely more dominant and will need training as well.

   The first ride home 

Little Fido is all over the back seat, maybe into the front, looking out the window and having a blast! You may even open the window a little so they can hang their head outside. You smile at them in the rear view mirror and talk to him the whole ride home. “You going home ? Gonna see your new house? Yes you are, who’s a good dog ?! You’re going home!”

We have just taught your dog that we have no control over the situation, no rules for riding in the car and that they will be praised and encouraged to be in an overly excited state.We have told them to make up their own rules for the car.

Entering the house

You bring your new dog into the home and let them run loose and investigate their new surroundings. they go from room to room checking things out as you stand there with a proud smile. Translation:You own all this. We have no rules for how we behave in the house and you must decide for yourself what to do. Anything you want will be fine with us…..

No Crate

This is a BIG one. “I just RESCUED them from prison! I’m not putting them back in there!” This is a human concept not a canine one. Dogs are den animals and prefer to have a nice comfy place to call their own. Especially in a new environment, having their “own room” will make them feel more comfortable and less anxious. There is no question about what to do when they are in there. They lie down and relax or chew a toy. The crate should be kept in a common area of the house so they can be part of everything that goes on, without getting involved where they shouldn’t.

It also KEEPS THE DOG OUT OF TROUBLE…..we forget they are babies that don’t speak our language. Yet, we expect them to always know exactly what we want or don’t want from them. Most parents I know have used a playpen for their kids. A crate for a dog is no different. Just like with kids no longer needing a playpen, when the dog knows what to do and how to behave safely they no longer need their crate.

No immediate medical checkup 

This is very important. Just because the dog is spayed or neutered and “had all of their shots,” does not mean they should not go immediately to the vet. As mentioned earlier the vast majority of shelter dogs come with some degree of behavioral problems and there are many medical conditions that can mimic behavioral ones. (Eliminating in the house is the number one there.)To be fair to the dog you must always rule out medical problems first. Treating a problem with training that the dog cannot help because they have something wrong with them will not only prove futile, but make things much worse.

Letting them just “settle in” 

We excuse transgressions that need to be addressed because the dog is new to the house and hasn’t figured out what to do yet. He peed on the rug because you didn’t know his schedule, he chewed your couch because he’s teething, he growled when you went near his food because he must have had to fight for it before. “He’s new, he’ll settle in.”

Nobody ever wants to show any discipline to a new dog on the first day. As humans, we understand that. As dog trainers we know it is the most critical time to start implementing the rules and teaching the dog the ropes.It is the only way to make our new dog feel relaxed,comfortable and truly welcome into our family.

What we inevitably tell them is that there are no rules, you are not in fact the leader and therefore have no directions for them. So what choice do they really have? Of course they are going to make up their own rules. And canine decisions in a human world are what we refer to as behavior problems. Only a clear understanding of what is expected of them, who is in charge of decisions and a consistent, patient instruction each and every time is what actually will help these dogs to “settle in.”

Living in the dog’s past

Several issues we find with rescue dogs are fear, anxiety, barking, whining, chewing, jumping, aggression, begging, stealing, the list goes on and on. We blame the dogs past, and feel for them in their pain.

“I think he was abused.” “They said they were neglected.” We hear many descriptive and quite horrific stories on a daily basis. While these things may be true, it is very important to know that they just as easily may NOT be true. Often times we just don’t know what happened to the dog and we make things up to justify the behavior.

The good news is:      IT IS ALL IRRELEVANT. 

Dogs live in the present and are not thinking about what happened to them prior to entering your home. They are looking for their place within your pack and want to know the rules of your pack. When they have no rules, no direction and no clear communication, they do not know what to do, who to trust to lead them and it makes them very anxious.

It is also important to realize that dogs do not ever do anything without a valid reason. At least it’s valid from their perspective which is the vantage point in which we need to be looking. Dogs do not have the ability to speak human and never will, yet we all have the ability to understand and speak dog.

Every single behavior problem needs to be addressed the same way and from the first time it happens. Any dog, rescue or not, enters your home and immediately begins to look for its place in the pack, as well as to try and ascertain what the rules are for this pack.

Waiting for them to do it themselves, only causes the opposite to happen and frustration for us as well as the dog. Loving their fear away will never work, it only praises them for their fearful behavior and keeps them in that state indefinitely.

Imagine the worst thing that ever happened to you. Now imagine someone reminding you of it every single day. That is what happens to the dog when we “empathize” with them over their former lives.

Live in the present with your dog. You know that you will always care for them and never hurt them so there is no reason for you to live in the past. Have a bright and happy future with your dog by learning from them how to simply live in the moment.