Sunday, August 3, 2014


A dog is ten times more sensitive to peripheral movement than we are. He picks up movement on either side of him better than we ever could, in part because most dogs’ eyes are closer to the sides of their heads than ours are. A dog’s vision is poor up close, but he can see quite well at a distance.
  Anatomy of the Eye
The dog’s eye is different from ours. Our eyes are better at defining detail in bright light. The dog’s eye has a reflective layer that intensifies light and helps the dog (as it did his predecessor, the wolf) to see more when he needs it most: for hunting at dawn and dusk. At night, when you see a car’s headlights reflect brightly off a dog’s eyes, what you are seeing is that reflective layer. Dogs can see in low light but they cannot see in the dark—they do not have the mechanisms that a cat does to allow that.
Dogs see in black and white when there is low light, but when it is brighter they do see some color.
  Sight Hounds
Some dogs have very good eyesight because the work for which they were originally intended required great vision. Many retrievers and the so-called sight hounds—for example Salukis and their descendants like Afghan Hounds, Borzois and Greyhounds—have amazing vision. These dogs have frontally placed eyes, as people do.
Many terriers have slanted eyes—they’re physically frontal, but the slant allows them to see around corners.
Guardian dogs like German Shepherds and Akitas have more laterally placed eyes.
There are also many breeds that depend much more on their sense of smell and even on their hearing, so their vision is unremarkable.

“Progressive retinal atrophy” is an inherited blindness that can strike dogs in breeds that are at risk for it. There are times when people think an otherwise healthy dog is going blind because they notice that she cannot see a toy “right in front of her.” However, the inability to see something “right in front of her nose” is not a cause for concern, because due to where a dog’s eye is placed on her head, the toughest place to see anything is directly in front.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Preventing Puppy Aggressiveness
(Note: the following comments refer to puppies only. Aggression issues with grown dogs are best handled by an experienced trainer.)
Neuter your puppy. The most frequent dogfights happen to young, intact (which means not neutered) males. Simple solution: neuter your dog at six months of age. If he is exhibiting numerous incidents of aggressive or dominant behavior, talk to your vet about neutering the puppy even earlier.
All humans are above the puppy. Explain to everyone in your family (or anyone who spends a lot of time in your house) that they have to take a superior position to the dog—something as simple as all people in the household asking the dog to sit before any treat or meal, or even just requesting a sit and then giving the dog generous praise as a reward.
Humans control all the food. Your puppy has to learn this. Get the puppy used to activity near his food dish by having the adults add a handful of dry food to the puppy’s bowl as he is eating. Move slowly, and make sure he sees you coming. The idea isn’t to startle him, it’s for the puppy to learn  to tolerate activity near his bowl. Once the adults have done this without incident and the puppy is clearly unthreatened, allow the child(ren) in the family to add a handful of kibble to the pup’s bowl.
Give a toy to the dog, then take it away, then give it back. The point of this is to create another area in the dog’s head in which humans rule. You can go a step further and teach the dog to give the toy to you, rather than you taking it back. Put your open palm under his mouth and say “Out” or “Let go” or “Give.” As soon as he starts to relax his hold on the toy, encourage him verbally (“Good boy” or “That’s it”) and give him lots of praise.
Do not play rough with the puppy. Avoid all games that get a puppy roughed up or riled up—no tug-of-war, keep-away or monkey-in-the-middle. Also avoid any version of those games that could encourage an aggressive reaction from the puppy. Don’t let children wrestle or tumble around with him on the ground. Instead, choose games like hide-and-seek or find-and-fetch.
Do not let the pup play rough with you. No biting—not ever, not at all. Be consistent. Don’t let the puppy chew on your fingers or anywhere else on you. Correct the chewing with a deep, growly “Nooo,” and then immediately give the puppy a toy that he is allowed to chew on.
Growling is never acceptable. It has to be stopped from the first noise in a puppy’s throat. You need to cut that right off by using a deep, stern voice to react to any deep-throated protest or commentary by the dog.
The basic idea is that people create begging dogs, and if you start it when she is a puppy, you’ll have set her on the wrong course yourself and encouraged a dog to stare at you—hovering and panting at your feet while you eat. As with everything concerning a puppy, habits learned early will make both of your lives easy for a lifetime.
Do not feed tidbits from your hand at the table. Dropping bits of food on the floor is the exact same thing, so don’t kid yourself.
You can put the puppy in her crate or tether her to a bed near the table and give her a nice chew toy. As soon as the meal is finished, you can release her and put a small bite of something down on the floor in the kitchen as a reward for being quiet and patient during your meal. This was a plan I stumbled on thanks to my habit of letting my dogs lick the dinner plates before putting them (the plates, that is) in the dishwasher. I discovered that the dogs went right to their beds or chewed a toy during our meal, in part because they knew that there was something in it for them at the end.
  Chewing Shoes, Furniture, etc.
Give the puppy something to put in his mouth to replace whatever item you find yourself rescuing. Think of it as a barter system—you relinquish my shoe and I replace it with a plastic squeaky-toy lamb chop. It is crucial that when the puppy releases your property and takes the bartered item in its place, you praise the dickens out of him for doing so.
Start Gently with Corrections.
Use a lower-impact correction first, give it a chance to sink in and then move to a stronger correction. A simple verbal “no” may interrupt the puppy enough that you can steer him away from the unwanted behavior. You don’t want to raise your voice or clap your hands or whatever you might do to loudly get his attention if softly calling his name is effective.
If the puppy begins to go for the undesirable action again, keep your voice low (reminiscent of his mother’s growl) and make a short, sharp “Anh!” sound (like the first half of “uh-uh”—as if to say, “Oh, no you don’t.”). It’s amazing how effective this sound can be: all you have to do is make the sound and he will look up at you. By doing so, he has stopped doing or trying to do the forbidden act, and now you can praise him up and down, or perhaps give him something else to chew or chase instead.
The secret squirt Fill a squirt gun or squirt bottle with water and a splash of something unpleasant like lemon juice or vinegar, and keep it handy. Try just plain water if you want first, which works fine without “additives” for most dogs.
When the dog is doing something you don’t want, say “No” firmly but unemotionally and give him a good squirt in the face. Hold the bottle next to your side so the puppy will not see where the stinging water is coming from. Let the squirt do the work. Just go on about your business as if you know nothing about it.
Time-Out Just as with children who misbehave, it is acceptable to try a “time-out” to reinforce the point you are teaching. However, there are three caveats here:
1. You cannot reinforce a rule that the puppy does not yet understand or remember.
2. You should not shut a puppy into a space behind a closed door. Being shut out of sight causes many puppies to panic. It can be frightening and confusing, and is equivalent to locking a child in a closet to reprimand him. A puppy needs to be confined behind a safety gate or in a crate where he can see where you are, or else, in the throes of a panic attack, he may hurt himself or scratch and bite at the door or other objects, etc.

3. You should not shove your puppy into his crate as though it is jail—whenever he goes into his crate it has to be a neutral place. So if you place him there, make it a firm but gentle placement, because you don’t want a puppy to ever have a negative impression of the crate itself, which is his den and needs to always be a safe place for him regardless of why he’s in it.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Monday, July 21, 2014

Never Yell at a Puppy for Making a Mistake.
“Learning” means you are in the process of learning something. Being harshly and loudly reprimanded can drive it right out of your head.
  No Corporal Punishment
Never hit a puppy—with your hand, a rolled newspaper or anything else. This used to be the accepted way of training a dog, but it harks back to the not-so-distant past when the physical abuse of wives and children by their spouses and teachers was commonly accepted. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was engraved on many a school paddle—and dogs were trained with similar harsh attitudes, with pronged choke collars and objects used to strike a dog. Physical punishment of wives and children is no longer tolerated in the modern world, and we’re finally catching up in the animal world, too. It would be hard to find an animal behaviorist today who would justify the old-fashioned barbaric custom of hitting a puppy to “teach it a lesson.”
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Don’t start off the relationship by being tough and critical. Harsh discipline has no place here; you’re a teacher, not a cop. The pup has to feel he is a member of the family.
Affection first, rules later. Establish a loving bond, and trust will come from the sense of security he gets.
  Sound Levels
Keep your tone of voice soft, soothing and calming. When the puppy first comes home keep the lights low; keep the noise level low, too—no high-pitched, screechy excitement about the dog from children or adults following the puppy’s arrival. A high-pitched tone of voice is arousing. Using a high, falsetto voice will get the puppy’s attention, but right now you don’t want to rev him up.
  Cuddle the Puppy.
All puppies like physical contact and stimulation, so hold, rub and scratch them. Physical contact is important to convey to the puppy how you feel about him.
Handling, Grooming
If you have a pup that loves to be stroked, brushed, etc, just keep it coming. If anything happens that makes her resist, give her lots of treats while slowly continuing the handling.
Common areas of sensitivity include the ears, mouth, neck, hindquarters, tail and feet. Desensitize her to such areas by going slowly, giving praise for her cooperation with verbal encouragement and delicious bits of cheese. If feet are a problem, for example, then at the point on her leg where she gets nervous as you approach, give her the cheese (or chicken). Keep touching that place and giving treats until she is okay with it. Then make your way down the leg—stopping when she gets nervous and giving her mega-treats until she’s relaxed and you can keep heading south.
  Many Small Training Moments
You can train a puppy by asking for a response in ordinary situations many times a day. This method of getting the idea across and making good behavior an ingrained habit is more pleasurable and effective than drilling it in with practice sessions.
  Expect the Puppy to Do Most Things Wrong in the Beginning.
Don’t adopt the attitude that you can never let a puppy “get away” with anything, when all he’s doing is just trying to figure out what you want.
  Make a Rule, Stick to Your Guns.
Consistency is vital to a well-raised puppy. Don’t let the puppy get away with a forbidden behavior because you’re tired or in a rush, or because right now it doesn’t seem so important.
You cannot allow something like paws on the counter one day and then get furious the following day when the pup does it again.
Everyone who comes into contact with the puppy needs to follow those same rules—for example, you can’t have some family members or friends allowing the dog to jump up, because it undermines whatever rules you have laid down.
Praise profusely when the puppy does anything right, especially something new that he might not have fully understood. Your praise helps reinforce the behavior.
A puppy should be expected to sit before dinner or any treat and before getting groomed or patted. Sit should be the “please” and “thank you” that people work so hard to drill into their children—which makes polite kids so pleasant to be around.
Sitting before any greeting is really a helpful habit, because it means the dog is not in a position to jump and accidentally scratch with his claws.
  Go to Your Bed.
A puppy should be pleasantly sent to a bed that is near the door or near the dining table, and then praised generously and quite quickly released with an “Okay!” This makes it enjoyable to  “go to your bed”—it’s almost like a game the puppy is learning while developing a quick response to being told to chill out and back off.

Anything you let the puppy get away with she will continue to do when she is full-grown. You have to ask yourself: how cute will it be then? Letting a puppy get away with murder means you are setting the stage for an adult dog who is constantly being yanked and yelled at and made to feel like a delinquent. It’s much harder to undo bad habits than to go out of your way to avoid forming them early on.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

• Weigh puppy (for a base weight to compare to over time).
• Listen to heart and lungs for pulse and breathing rate and heart or lung abnormalities.
• Feel puppy’s belly to check internal organs.
• Take temperature—normal is 100°F to 102.5°F. (Ask the vet to show you how to use a rectal thermometer, so you can do this if your puppy is ever feeling under the weather.)
• Check male’s testicles to be sure two testicles are present and descended; inany case, discuss when/if neutering is planned.
.• Check female’s genitals for discharge or other signs of infection.
• Check skin, eyes, ears, anal region for normalcy and good health.
• Check mouth for signs that teeth and gums are healthy.
• Vaccinate depending on what puppy has already received.

• Start heartworm preventive tablets
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Monday, July 7, 2014

No matter where you got your puppy—from a friend, a breeder, a rescue or a shelter—you should visit the vet who will be your puppy’s doctor within a couple of days of bringing that puppy home. It doesn’t matter whether this puppy was just seen by a vet connected with the puppy’s origins—you still need the seal of approval from your own vet, who is an objective third party.
In the vast majority of cases, this visit is going to be a quick, pleasant outing, but in the event that there may be something wrong with your puppy, it’s important for both of you to find this out right away while you can be objective—before you have grown attached—and can think clearly about what options you have. I once had to give back to the breeder within days a gorgeous little Rottweiler puppy who leaked pee, because I couldn’t face the expense, uncertainty of outcome and pain of major surgery for an eight-week-old puppy.
Another reason to bring the puppy in to your vet for a checkup is for her to have a positive early experience with the doctor, who also gets to know her—and you—a little bit. Most vets understand the importance of this first visit, because they know it sets the tone for the friendly, trusting relationship they hope to have with your pup during a long, healthy lifetime.
If the puppy acts frightened or aggressive at the vet’s, don’t make excuses for him or try to soothe him. Patting or “cooing” to a dog translates to him as reinforcement of the very behavior you want him to stop. Be upbeat and matter-of-fact in the way you handle and talk to your puppy from the moment you go into the vet. Don’t allow your own apprehensions about going to the vet—or your projected fears on the puppy’s behalf—diminish the calm confidence you should be showing your dog.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Sunday, July 6, 2014


By four months of age a puppy’s sharp little teeth have been replaced by adult ones—twenty-eight puppy teeth become forty-two permanent ones.
This time can be difficult for him, because it can be painful when his adult teeth come in, and they can drive him crazy. Chewing is one way to relieve the pain and tension, so most puppies want to chew nonstop to feel better.
There can be problems with teeth, such as baby teeth being retained after the adult teeth come in—the new teeth erupt but the baby teeth do not fall out. This can cause problems like infection, misalignment of the permanent teeth or problems with jaw development.
You need to check your puppy’s mouth regularly while the new teeth are coming in. If you see a double row of teeth—it is easiest to see this in the front teeth—or anything that looks fishy to you, have your vet check it out. Retained baby teeth have to be surgically removed, as they do with people.

Even by the seventh or eighth month the puppy’s fur has not fully grown in, so if you live in a cold climate you might want to protect him with dog clothing of some kind. He’s still a growing baby: dry the puppy off when he gets wet so he doesn't get a chill.  

The exception to this is breeds similar to Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and Samoyeds, whose fur is fully developed at an early age. This is probably because in their native environments these breeds were subjected to below-freezing temperatures before their first birthday. In the summer, don’t clip these thick-furred breeds, which have double coats. Just as it functions against the cold, their long hair provides insulation against the heat.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner