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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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What concerns me is mischief. She throws the water dish in

Customer Question

What concerns me is mischief. She throws the water dish in th air-- not only hers, but the old dog and the kittens' water. I carry a plastic grocery bag to scoop poop with when we go for a walk. She delights in jumping up and tearing it the bottom out of the (soiled) bag. I tried carrying a cloth bag, and she humped it all down the road, grinning. How do I begin to calm her down so I can teach her basics--sit, stay, etc.?
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
The first part of my post is missing. Tippy is four months old, part rat terrier. She digs, and chews, and isn't quite potty trained, all of which is expected of a puppy.
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 7 months ago.

Good evening, I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian who works exclusively with dogs and cats. Thank you so much for sending a photo of Tippy - she is so adorable!!

All of the behaviors that you're describing are pretty much what I expect for a dog of her age, even as frustrating as they are. I can give you some pointers on potty training for sure. I'm glad to hear that you're walking her - getting a large amount of exercise is so important. A tired puppy is more likely to be a better behaved puppy! When they have had adequate exercise, they won't have as much energy to do naughty things at home! In terms of walking nicely on a leash and having general manners, it's very important to get a puppy like Tippy into a group obedience class. There is no replacement for the exercise and socialization. You can teach basic obedience commands at home, but you can't do it with the distractions that a class setting provides. Also, it's very important that puppies get to play and socialize with other dogs - in doing this they learn basic social skills that they can apply to all the relationships in their lives.

Dogs can get bladder infections that wreak havoc upon their house training. When they have inflammation in their bladder, they very often have a lot of urgency and just can't make it outside. The best way to rule out a urinary tract infection is to have a urine sample evaluated by your veterinarian.

If infection is not the problem, then it may be that she is having a lapse in her house training.

There are two important parts to house training a dog: the first is the ‘training’ part and the second is complete and absolute supervision.

Let’s start with training - You can, and should, train a dog to pee or poop just like you can train them to sit. Go outside with your dog, (take cookies!) walk around the yard with them and tell them to ‘go potty’ or whatever word you want to use to teach them to go - just like you’d tell them to sit if you wanted them to sit. When they do go to the bathroom, keep using your 'key phrase' (in my example, I'd say 'good potty!) over and over, then as soon as they're finished, give them the cookie. It's important the the reward happen RIGHT AFTER the behavior (in this case the peeing). If you wait until they come inside, then all they learn to do is come back inside, not necessarily to pee or poop. Depending on how fast they pick it up, you can have your dog pottying on command within a few weeks.

The second part of house training is the supervision part. She can't be allowed to be out of your sight where she might have an accident. I know this is really really tough, especially if you have kids to watch too, but it's really important that you catch her before the has the opportunity to make a mistake, then give her the opportunity to do the right thing, followed by LOTS of praise. If she's been punished for peeing or pooping in the house before, often the 'take home' message is 'don't pee in front of the humans, they get angry and yell at you' which results in a dog that then sneaks off to pee where you can't see. It helps to have them drag a leash around the house attached to their collar so that if she starts to go to the bathroom you can calmly pick up the leash and lead her outside. This is less likely to scare them than you reaching for the collar to 'drag' her outside. Always make sure that once you get outside, you're prompting her to go by using your key words and rewarding her as soon as she's done peeing outside. It's OK to put her in her crate for a short period of time if you're having a really hectic time and can't watch her - as long as she relaxes in the crate and just 'hangs out'.

Please let me know what questions I can handle for you.

~Dr. Sara


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Customer: replied 7 months ago.
My question wasn't actually about potty training. I was just saying that Tippy has typical puppy behaviors. My question ended up in two parts. Perhaps ypu didn't see both parts.
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
What concerns me is mischief-- like emptying the other pets' water dishes. She humps my cloth bag and grins. She eats feces. She wraps the leash around my legs, then lunges and comes close to knocking me down. My actual question was, how can I calm her down so I can train her?
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 7 months ago.

Thanks for the reply and clarification of your troubles. I know that having a puppy can be very frustrating and time consuming.

The best way to calm her is to supervise increased exercise to tire her out. The best way to begin chipping away at her other naughty behaviors is to get her enrolled into a puppy class where she can play with other pups to tire her out, socialize to learn the social skills that she needs to learn how to act like a good girl, and lay the foundation of the communication tools that you'll need to communicate your expectations for her throughout her life. Until she can start reaping the benefits of a puppy class and organized training, the best tactic is to prevent issues before they arise. Keep the water in a container she can't spill or in an area that she can't access it without supervision. Don't carry the poop bag in a way that she can get a hold of it. Remove the bag that she humps so that is no longer an option. If you can predict it, prevent it. You'll need to do that quite a lot until she gains the maturity to be open to training and also you gain the tools needed to communicate with her effectively through classes or interaction with a trainer in person.

~Dr. Sara

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
I live in a remote area. To take Tippy to a puppy training class would require driving at least an hour. To make matters worse, right now, I can't drive. I fall asleep at the wheel, and the doctors know nothing. My question was, how can I--myself-- calm her so I can teach her a few basic responses.
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 7 months ago.

The calming aspect of getting her to listen is mostly her need for exercise. A tired puppy is a better behaved puppy. Some puppies really need that physical exertion in order to get them in a calmer state of mind.

Here is a nice protocol by Karen Overall - an accomplished veterinary behaviorist - on helping a dog learn to relax:

Dr. Sophia Yin also has an amazing puppy starter book:

The Richmond ASPCA also has a great resource available in the form of a hotline available for pet owners to call and discuss their concerns with experienced staff members:

Fixing all of your puppy's quirks is beyond the scope of what I can accomplish in this venue, but there are some fantastic resources available to help you learn what to do.

~Dr. Sara

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