Tips for taking home your new puppy

Remember these tips to make your transition go well:

* Limit the space in the house where the puppy gets to go. Expand it over the next few weeks.
* Walk the dog (not carry) to the door and show where they should potty.
* Potty the pup after every transition – after eating, drinking, playing, sleeping – potty them!
* Withhold food and water after 8 pm, do the final potty around 11pm, and wake yourself (and the puppy) up around 2am to potty again, and then again at 6am. That should do it! You will need to keep this up until the pup isn’t pottying at the 2am time.
* If there is a potty accident in the house DO NOT correct the puppy unless you see it happening! Pups only relate a consequence to the behavior that happened 3 seconds prior. So if you see a puddle, call the pup to you and scold it, you are in essence, scolding the puppy for coming to you.
* Remember this rule – any talking, comforting, and removing from the crate will reinforce the behavior that happened right before (usually crying, whining or scratching at the crate). If you don’t what those behaviors, don’t reinforce them!
* Keep the energy low for the first two weeks. It will feel like you are ignoring the puppy but it is the nicest thing you can do to give them the time they need to acclimate. If you have kids, limit the amount of time they get to interact with the pup.
* Keep the crate open and accessible during the periods of the day where the pup isn’t confined – that way when she/he needs comfort or respite, she/he can retreat there.
* Try to match the energy of the puppy – when they’re quiet do quiet activities (cuddling) and when they’re active do more active things (playing and not cuddling).
* Remember to give them access to food four times a day for the first two months home. Then move to three until 5 or 6 months old and then to twice a day. Feed amount suggested on bag.
* DO NOT keep a collar on a young pup who is confined to a crate – it is a strangulation hazard.
* DO teach leash manners, inside, after the first few days home – just let the leash drag for a day, then pick it up and encourage the pup to follow you, do not tug or reel them in.
* Do consider signing up for a puppy class anytime after the pup is 2 months old.

AND MOST importantly …

Good luck!! Trust your instincts and you’ll do fine.

Understanding a Foster Dog’s Past

Doing rescue work with abandoned dogs is difficult, but those of you who adopt these dogs are the real heroes. It is a long and painful process, acclimating and rehabilitating a dog that has been abandoned, mistreated, or just ignored most of their early life. I have often recieved concerned emails from the families who open their homes to the mama dogs we foster. Their concerns are about the dogs’ strange, unpredictable and odd elimination “rituals.” Other concerns involve the dogs’ fearfulness around children, men, new situations or being left alone. Many rescue dogs take a long time to “warm up” to certain members of their families. Other concerns involve the dog’s distructive behaviors – chewing up wood trim, carpets, chair and table legs, digging holes in drywall. And still other concerns involve aggression toward other dogs or new people.



All these “problem behaviors” are normal dog problems but in a rescue dog they will be weirder. This is difficult to explain, but the behaviors also include hints to what the dogs’ life must have been like prior to being rescued. Take elimination issues for example. In a normal dog, they will poop in the house most of the time near the door …showing they get that they aren’t supposed to potty in the house, but haven’t quite figured out the whole solution. A dog with a “history” will hide their poop in the house, or poop in your bed or pee in their bed, or act really weird about pooping on a leash. One of my recent fosters, Willow, had and still has a strange way of acting on leash as she is about to poop. She circles like crazy, nearly running back and forth and looks practically frantic as she is obviously trying to find a place to poop. She would nearly pull my arm out lunging about. My first impression of her was that she seemed very underinformed (a nice way of saying stupid) about the ways of the world – she didn’t even know how to walk down stairs or how to walk on tile floors! I figured that she must have been tied up on a short leash all her life. Given that, pooping was probably really stressful for her. She likely spent a long time trying to find a place to poop where she wouldn’t be stepping on it and of course probably failed as she was tied up on a short lead. I suspect that this may be the case because when she wasn’t on a leash she pooped more easily and with less running around. But who knows, really? Only she does. But think about it… what if she was tied up on a short leash ALL HER LIFE. What would that do to a dog? I try to imagine what that sort of deprivation, containment, and isolation might do to a dog as I try to help their new families address their behaviors.


sweet Bella

It is of course the same with all the problem behaviors that rescued dogs come with. Their problems “hint” at their history. Our rescue, Bella, came to us when she was about 2 and very pregnant. My story about her past was that she was driven off her property by being shot at and before that she was often teased by groups of kids who were around 10 years old. When she came to us she was scared of kids that age and would growl and snap at any kid that came up to her. She was deathly afraid of loud noises, especially gun shots (she would literally flatten herself out on the floor and run for it whenever she heard one). And we discovered a sad piece of her history one night when Mike came home from work. She had always loved Mike, right from the start. Every night he would greet her with his arms outstretched over his head, holding his lunch box and his gym bag and say in a loud voice, “Belly!” and she would squirm with delight and lay on her back at his feet begging for a tummy rub. We don’t usually get a newspaper but one day there was a free copy on the driveway so Mike picked it up on his way in. He entered the house and Bella came running to greet him. He spread his arms wide and said “Belly!” and she took one look at the newspaper in his hand and ran down stairs and hid under the couch. So, add being hit by a newspaper to our story of her history. This happened months after she had come to live with us.


A little puppy Sugar

Here we have a note on puppy Sugar from Willow‘s group…

Sugar is doing great, she plays real hard and then crashes for a couple hours. She has had a few accidents in the house and I don’t know if she knows how to let me know when she needs to go potty. I’ve been reading on your website about cleaning with the natures cure (actually the product is Natures Miracle …and it is!)  and I will try that, because she definitely goes to the same spots where she went before. I have a silly question that maybe you can help with. She loves to go out for a walk on the leash but it takes us an hour just to go down one block because she stops and stiffs and trys to eat flowers, plants and other things she shouldn’t. How do we get her away form these things, I don’t want to pull her so I usually run a little to distract her, if you have any tips that would be great.


I am so happy things continue to go well! Yea!!

You know, some people have found that putting a bell or a small wind chime on the door for the dog to ring works…you teach them to ring it by making sure it is at “nose” level and then you ring it every time you take her out. Within about 2 weeks she will get the hang of it and ring it when she wants to go! Then you must always let her out when she rings, even if she was just out, just so she makes the connection. Then after a few weeks of that you can be sure she understands it. It is a pretty cool way to have your dog let you know she needs to potty without barking at you.

About the walking…puppies are like kids – they need to explore to understand their world. This exploration also helps their brains develop, so don’t be so quick to shut this down. Try to make some time for exploring and some time for walking. I find it a good idea to get out the door in a controlled fashion (dog at your side, not out in front of you) and keep that position for the first 10 minutes of the walk. Then give the command, “go sniff” and let her leash out to the full length so she can explore. Then after a few minutes of that tell her, “Let’s go, in close” and reel her in and start walking again for another 10 minutes, and then repeat. You will find that she gets the hang of those command words eventually. Like all training, it is all about the consistency and repetitions.

Let me know how this works out!


Progress report on Jessa

Here is a follow up note and progress report on Jessa as reported in a post a few days ago. Looks like things are looking up for them!

Yes, we are using Nature’s Miracle to clean all of her accidents and it definitely does work. The only spot she repeatedly pees in is by the door through which we go outside to potty, and those–I believe–are the “true” accidents…the times when she really was trying to tell us she needed to go but we missed the cues. Otherwise, she’s not a repeat offender in any one spot. I doused the couch with Nature’s Miracle after the incident and then took the cushion covers to the dry cleaners (which I’d been planning on doing anyway, cuz they were kind of stinky), and both seem to have done the trick.

So far this week, she’s doing terrific!! She has been really well-behaved, save a few crazy moments. She’s responding incredibly well to being gated in the hallway instead of crated. Even our dog walker noted a change in her happiness level. So that’s been good. And she has had only ONE accident. Yesterday, my husband had to work, so it was a normal day of alone time until the dog walker and then again until I came home from work. She seemed to be okay in the hallway, but it was pouring rain when the dog walker came, and Jessa refused to make outside. Our dogwalker left us a note saying she tried her best, but Jess wouldn’t go. So when I came home there was a dried puddle by the “going out” door. So I silently cleaned it and took her right out. I wasn’t upset at all, because I knew it wasn’t her fault. We had a nice walk and a fun romp at the dog park and she was great the rest of the night.

I’m purchasing the Easy Walk Harness today, then, as I’ve only heard great things about it, and I think that’s really the second key thing we need to work on. She’s gotten really good, though, with sitting before we walk out the door—she even did it without any prompting yesterday (only once, but still…it’s a start!!)—and she’s REALLY good about waiting on the steps for me to say it’s okay to run up or down. So it’s just the tugging that is the necessary correction to make.

All in all, things are on the up and up. She overall seems much happier and more fulfilled. We’ll see how she does next week when it’s a full work/school week for me and J- and she’ll be on a regular schedule.

I’ll keep you posted. Thanks again for all your help and advice!!!!!

Yea! Success! Now just keep up the good work. Expect progress to improve, take a step back, and improve again as you find the perfect “recipe” for success. But it seems clear that you’ve gotten a handle on most of the frustrating problems and for that I am so happy. Keep me posted!

Willow is having trouble adjusting

I received a note from the family who adopted Willow and is having some trouble adjusting. Here is her note and my response:

I need some guidance on some issues with Willow. We have some major potty training issues. I have been walking her on a leash outside to go to the bathroom. I try to take her out 6-8 times per day and usually she goes, but she is still peeing in the house. I have limited her to the main floor, but she continually pees in the living room. Even outside it is hard to get her to go sometimes.

She hates the rain and doesn’t want to go. She’s also still scared of the wind and strange noises. She’s generally very skittish about everything. She’s still scared to death of my husband. He’s trying very hard to ignore her and just puts his hand out for her to sniff him. Today we tried putting peanut butter on his finger and she actually licked him for quite a while. We’re going to try that for a while.

She’s also chewing up a storm. We have toys for her but she loves to chew anything in sight. I try to exercise her outside, but she doesn’t want to play fetch and I have some foot problems and can’t run after her. She is jumping on the kids and tends to “clothesline” them with her outside leash so they are somewhat scared of her. Any suggestions on these issues would be greatly appreciated. We just love Willow to death and she is very attached to me and the kids, but we need to make some progress on these issues. I am looking into a training class. Thanks so much!

I’m gong to try to answer all your questions, there are a lot here! But first of all I’m glad you are in love with her. She is a sweetie and I think once you get through this all you will all be fine. But this will take time – remember to think in terms of months rather than weeks. Most of the rescue dogs I have had take a full year until they feel really “part of the family”

First of all, have you made sure Willow doesn’t have a bladder infection? Also, did her stool check come back clean? I would definitely rule out any physical cause for the accidents. A few of the puppies still tested positive for coccidia and whipworm at their 9 week check ups so it is likely she may still be infected, as she was the one who came with those parasites.


Advice on problem dog behavior

I got a request for “advice’ recently that I wanted to post. It is important to always remember that this sort of advice can not be as thorough as that given by someone directly involved with the family or the dog. This advice should also not be used in place of veterinary care or professional dog training.

Hi Kristin,

We adopted Jessa three months ago…she was a stray wandering the streets of Aurora. We don’t think she was a stray for very long, as she didn’t really have any physical or emotional scars. She’s incredibly friendly to all people and other dogs. She loves kids. She’s a very happy and lovely dog. The vet says she’s about a year old, give or take a month or two.