Welcome to the Wagnificent Podcast – Episode 2!
This time Claire asks Lisa all the questions you wanted answers to, from toilet training your puppy to pulling on the lead.
If you’d rather read than listen, the transcript can be found below.
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Most Common Dog Training Questions For Dog Owners – An Interview With Lisa Tonks (Paws 4 Rewards)
Claire: Welcome along to our latest installment from the Wagnificent Pets Podcast series. Today I’m talking with Lisa Tonks who is a fully qualified dog trainer. I’m asking her some of your questions you’ve been sending in to us, and a few that I’ve thrown in myself.
As Cilla Black would say, what’s your name and where do you come from?
Lisa: Hi, I’m Lisa Tonks from Paws 4 Rewards Dog Training. I’m an APDT member and a TTouch practitioner.
So tell me, how did you first become a dog trainer?
I became interested when I got my first dog and I got intrigued at how they learn. Then my second dog was a bit of a handful and I needed help. I couldn’t find any help so I started doing course online and I went to see people and changed my life.
Should all puppies attend a dog training class – and what’s the ideal age to get them started?
To get them started you should start straight away, as soon as they are born. Get them used to being handled. The training comes in as soon as you can get them following you outside to the toilet. So training starts immediately.
As far as classes go, as soon as it is save to take them after vaccinations. Researching classes, find one you are comfortable with and go for it.
What should you look for when choosing a dog trainer?
Check out their qualifications make sure they are qualified as a dog trainer and not a nail tech for example. Go and watch their classes, they should be quite happy for you to watch. Look for people that are happy with them, make sure the dogs are happy. Make sure you gel with them and like the person.
I have a dog rescue – is it too late to bring them to training?
No, it’s never too late. You can always teach an old dog new tricks.
My puppy keeps biting and nipping me what can I do to stop it?
Whatever you decide to do you need to be consistent in what you do. The best thing to do is to just stop play, stand up, keep your hands, feet, or whatever it is in and still. If you can leave the room, do that. Don’t chase your puppy or grab your puppy – it’s just going to accelerate the biting behaviour. The dog just finds it fun – it doesn’t understand that it shouldn’t be doing it. Maybe making a squealing noise might work for the first 3 or 4 times, but then you just become a squeaky toy. So just stop play, the dog wants to play with you so the punishment is your stopping the play.
I have a new puppy who seems to keep waking at night. Sometimes he cries, sometimes he doesn’t. What age should he really be sleeping through the night?
Yeah, everybody wants to know this one! There is no answer to it. The first thing I would do is make sure your dog is comfortable where it is sleeping. So it might be that you introduce a crate to the dog – so you start teaching it to go in the crate by feeding in the crate. The crate might need to be moved to your bedroom, just to start with. The dog really needs to learn to settle on his own. But they are social animals and they want to be with other dogs, or with you, so learning to be on it’s own is huge. For some dogs, a little light left on, or the music left playing. But never ever punish a dog if its getting stressed. They say don’t go back to a dog when its crying – go back downstairs and wait for there to be a break from the crying. Go in, put the kettle on if they are in the kitchen. Acknowledge you’ve seen the dog. They are crying for a reason, it’s cruel to ignore it.
I keep hearing a lot about crate training. What is crate training and what are the benefits?
A crate is normally a metal cage that you can put your puppy in. I highly recommend these. Don’t think of it as a cage, think of it as a dog’s den. Cover it over – they like dens, they feel safe and secure in them. Also, if your puppy is in a crate it cannot be learning or getting up to mischief. They are really great as you can move it around the house and you can take it with you wherever you go. The dog then has a safe place to go when it doesn’t want to play with kids any more, or another dog. They are ideal.
How long does it take to toilet train a puppy?
How longs a bit of string?! Different dogs, different breeds, different ages, male or female, there are so many different variances here. You’ve just got to be consistent. It’s unusual if your puppy is over 20 weeks and they’ve still not got the idea of it. But again, be consistent, don’t punish your puppy. Reward when they get it in the right place. I’m not sure about puppy pads and training your dog to go to toilet on puppy pads, because then you’ve got to retrain it to go outside. What I would suggest is really spend lots and lots of time, every hour when the dogs awake taking it outside. Rewarding your puppy for going to the toilet outside. Bringing him back in. Every time they’ve eaten take it back outside, playing – take it back outside, just woke up – take it back outside. It is time consuming, but worth it.
I’ve been reading about separation anxiety in puppies. I feel a bit guilty when I leave the house as my puppy always looks so sad. What’s the best way to depart the house to minimise the upset to both the puppy and to me?
Give the puppy something to do. Look for triggers that might start off separation anxiety like picking your keys up, putting on certain shoes or coats. Get rid of those triggers – but really if you just leave calmly. Don’t give the dog a cuddle and say ‘oh I’m really sorry I’ll be back soon,’ – just literally say see you later, I’m going shopping and go. When you come back, be exactly the same, nice and calm. Don’t go over board with them when you get back.
Should I let my dog sleep in bed with me?
Why not? If you are quite happy to have to wash your sheets regularly then why not. There is so much research out there now that says its good for our health to have dogs sleeping with us. However, I personally don’t want to have to wash my sheets every day. I’ve got two dogs, one is a bit of a smelly lab. So no, its restricted. They get up and have a cuddle with me every Sunday morning with a cup of tea. Other than that they sleep downstairs wherever they want to sleep.
What is the best age to get my puppy used to other animals such as household pets, horses, sheep etc?
Straight away. You really want them to habituate to animals that you don’t want them to socialise with.
Wild horses and rabbits would be a great ones for them to ignore. You want them to be social with animals like your cat and other dogs.
Straight away you need to be teaching them what is the right behaviour around these animals.
I have a 6 month old puppy who will not stop barking at everyone and everything. How can I stop him?
Every dogs behaviour is there because at some point it has been rewarded. So if your dog barking at people is because its getting attention for the barking. What you need to do is remove the reward, so remove the attention, so whether you turn away or you leave the room, you’ve go to get rid of that reward. That’s the only reason those behaviours are being kept alive. Also make sure your dog isn’t worried. You will really want to work out what’s causing their behaviour. If it’s feeling threatened, or scared, or it is just being playful – it wants attention – work out why they are barking.
It’s becoming a real struggle to walk my dog because he pulls on the lead so much. How can I stop him pulling?
Pulling on the lead is a natural dogs behaviour. They’ve got something called negative reflex which means as soon as they are sensing tension on the lead, they will lean into it. The best way to train a dog to walk nicely is to teach it off the lead first and then attach your lead. It is hard work and a lot of training is required. There is no easy option – it is just training, training, training. Alternatively to that there’s harnesses that have got 2 points of contact which actually works with the nervous system so that every time they lean in to one of the connections you melt that connection so there’s no tension and then you squeeze on the other connection you keep doing this alteratively until the nervous system stands in balance, or until the dog stands in balance.
So that’s using a double ended lead and a harness to fit?
Yes, the connections are usually on the chest and on the back, just behind the shoulder blades.
My dog growls every time someone goes near him in the kitchen when he is eating. What can I do?
I’d want to know why. Is it because the dog is touch sensitive? Or is the dog food guarding? If the dog is food guarding is he guarding the bowl or the food?
Normally in these situations someone has picked the bowl up when the dogs been eating thinking this is part of training. It’s a very old fashioned kind of idea.
What I would suggest is that you have two bowls – you hold a bowl and you put an empty bowl on the floor.
You start adding to the dogs food bowl, you can get people to walk past at a distance when the dogs not growling and chuck maybe a piece of chicken towards the dog.
Give the dog a different experience so people are adding rather than taking away.
You start building this up really slowly until you can actually touch the dog when he’s eating and its a good experience as he’s looking for more food rather than worrying about you taking it away.
My puppy is scared of some household objects such as umbrellas, ironing boards and the hoover. How can I stop him being so scared?
Again teaching him an alternative behaviour. Get out the ironing board, leave it propped up against the wall and every time the dog looks at it tell him he’s a good boy. Give him a treat until he’s literally going up to the ironing board and nudging it and saying where’s my food? And then lay the ironing board down so he can walk over it or do paws on. Give them different experiences – it’s probably the noise with the ironing board and the hoover that caused the issue.
Some people think its funny to scare a dog with opening an umbrella in a dog’s face as part of socialisation, and its not good. It’s not good to scare dogs, so giving them a different perspective, so the ironing board comes out and the dog thinks yay, where’s my biscuit?!
Previously with a dog that was petrified of hoovers we took the hoover completely apart and even the dog was showing fear when we plugged the plug in and the hoover was in 20 bits across the floor. What we found worked was taking the hoover out on to the grass and pretending to hoover the grass so that the hoover was moving around the grass and then we moved onto the patio and then in through the patio doors and eventually the dog accepted it. It was all done with food and rewarding the dog.
We use positive reinforcement through reward, what treats or toys would you recommend?
It’s what your dog wants. It’s what your dog desires the most to make them work the best for it. I would like to go on the natural side, so you’ve got ham, cheese, chicken, liver, those would be the best things. Some dogs will work for bits of carrot. There are some really good quality produced treats on the market these days. But you can cook yourself some liver cake.
What are some of the main training mistakes that you see people make and you then have to fix?
One of the biggest mistakes is people think the dog understands them. They don’t. The second one is especially with reward based training. They think that the food is the important part of the training and its not. It’s marking the behaviour that’s going to earn them the food, or the reward. So whether you are using a clicker, or a marker word, a marker word being good or yes, that needs to be at the precise moment that tells the dog that they’ve done the right thing that’s earned them the payment of the treat. That really is reward based training – its not that you are just giving them food for doing something.
Are there some dogs that are brighter or more easy to train than others?
Yes definitely. Its more the dogs that would be classed in the puppy class as the hooligans or the disobedient ones that are the easiest to train, because they want to be doing something. The dog that lays there looking up at its owner lovingly but doesn’t want to do anything, that’s going to be hard work. The naughtier the puppy, the easier it is to train.
I’m sure that’s going to be a relief for anyone listening to this!
Are you going to name and shame some breeds?!
I think the harder and the more intelligent your dog is the harder you’ve got to work at training because the dog is going to go self employed and find its own thing. The easiest to train dogs are, erm, I don’t want to upset anybody here! A dog that’s willing to work is easy to train.
My dog keeps digging up the garden, how can I stop him?
If your dog enjoys digging up the garden, buy him a sandpit and put some sand in it. Hide some of his toys in there – a stuffed kong. Make sure you put a lid on it if you’ve got a cat otherwise the reward is cat poo! Or just dig a big hole and put some loose soil in there. If your dog enjoys doing something that’s a natural behaviour to dogs, give them a way of doing it.
Will my dog be distressed if I leave him when I go on holiday? Would you suggest leaving him with family, home boarder or local kennels?
It’s whatever you’re comfortable with. If you’re worried about it then that’s going to be picked up by your dog. If you book yourself a cruise and then put your dog in kennels that you’ve never visited before you’ll dictate how your dog settles when it gets there. My advice would be to pre plan – test it out, check that you’re happy, and book your dog in. I’ve used dog boarders, kennels and family to look after dogs and they’re always happy when I get home!
What’s the longest time my adult dog should really be left at home alone if I’m heading out?
Again it depends on the dog and it depends on how long you’ve left them up until that time. So if your dog is used to being left for 5 hours a day then you can leave it for 5 hours a day. But if your dog is only used to be being left for 30 mins and then you’re going out for 5 hours, then that’s unfair on the dog. Build it up and your dog wil get used to whatever you put in place.
Personally, if I was going to be leaving my dogs for any more than 6 hours, I would want someone to go in on the 4th hour to let them out in the garden, say hello, have a cup of tea and then lock them back up again. But if your dog is used to being left, as long as you put in provisions so that they can go to the toilet, then take the amount of time you need.
It’s a real tricky one isn’t it? We generally don’t go above 4 hours.
Yeah, I wouldn’t say no to 6 hours, but if you were working every day from 9 to 5 then I think that’s quiet a long time to leave your dog I think that spm,eopne should really go in at klunchtime and let them out
We’re due to have a baby soon. What is the best way to introduce our dog to our new arrival so he doesn’t feel jealous or threatened?
They are human emotions. It’s more going to be your reaction when you come home with this new baby that’s going to dictate how your dogs going to bond with it. If you are worried I would put a stair gate to start restricting where your dog can get to before you bring home the baby. You can buy some really good CDS with baby crying noises on if you think your dog is a bit noise sensitive. You can start playing those so the dog gets used to the noise. Another is restricting where your dog can sleep, so if you are intending to have your baby in your bedroom the dog is going to need to be stopped going in your bedroom before the baby comes home. Just spend time with your dog when you’ve got your new baby. Spend time with your dog and let the dog sniff your baby, sniff your baby’s clothes. There shouldn’t really be a problem.
Do you think some puppies and dogs benefit more from one to one training more than group training in class?
Yes definitely. Classes aren’t for everybody. Some dogs have had an experience, whether it was in their litter, or a socialisation class or at the vets. So one to one would be better for them. It just depends on what the issue is and the dogs personality.
Do you see a difference in a dogs behaviour and general well being depending on what they are being fed?
Definitely. What you feed your dog, the fuel that you put in has an effect on their behaviour and health, just like children. If they are on a really poor quality diet, they can have problems with concentration, are hyperactive. Just the same as you would think as with children, and us.
My dog keeps begging for food when people are eating at the table. How can I discourage this?
With management. So put the dog somewhere away from the dining room table, or if you eat sat watching TV, give your dog something to do. You can give your dog a bone to feed while everyone else is eating. Don’t reward it. Again behaviour normally comes when someone at some point has given them something. You’ve eaten a bag of crisps and you’ve given them a crisp or you’ve given them a biscuit, you’ve dunked it in your tea and given it to them, so the dog sees the opportunity that it might get another biscuit. So again its that behaviour reward and whatever the dogs does, it’s because it’s previously had a reward for it. So think, if you’re going to sit down to dinner and the dog is pestering you, give the dog something to do away from the table, like a stuffed Kong, or a bone. Make sure nobody speaks to the dog while your are sat at the table, or feeds the dog from the table.
Brilliant stuff, thank you. Lisa Tonks, fully qualified APDT member and Tellington TTouch Practitioner. You can check out Lisa’s website, Paws 4 Reward.
Don’t forget here at Wagnificent Pets we’ve got lots more podcasts coming your way, including interviews with qualified dog groomers and dog nutritionists. Just keep your eyes peeled on Wagnificent Pets through our social media channels.
Thanks for listening!