Having a dog is all about fun. That's why New York City-based dog trainer Andrea Arden created an Apple app called "Andrea Arden's Dog Fun." The app includes lots of random dog trivia, countless images of dogs (which is the cutest?), information about presidential dogs, and tons of dog training and behavior tips. The basic app is free, though some extras are 99 cents. The app is at Itunes.com.
This week, Arden, the author of several books, including the "Barron's Dog Training Bible" (Barron's, New York, NY, 2011; $18.99), answers your questions:
A: Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and also breast cancer, which is fatal half the time. When dogs go into heat, there are lifestyle challenges, which obviously aren't an issue for spayed dogs. Spaying your dog may decrease the number of "accidents," but there's likely more going on. Your dog may be engaging in submissive urination and may have house-training issues.
To stop the submissive urination, you need to boost your dog's confidence. You can do this by teaching her some new behaviors.
For example, here's something fun your pup can learn, which even your grandson can help with if he's over about 4 or 5 years old (with adult supervision). Have your grandson hold some dog treats in a closed fist. Your pooch will naturally smell the child's hand, and when she touches her nose to the boy's hand, he should offer the food. As the dog repeats this behavior, have your grandson give a cue, like "Touch."
Next, have him hold his hand open and ask the dog to "Touch."
"Your dog will learn that touching a nose to the palm of a hand is like pushing a button for food or a treat," she says. "Aside from gaining confidence, if your dog is thinking about pushing that button (he's less like to urinate and) the accidents may decrease."
To further enhance your dog's confidence, Arden suggests enrolling her in a fun class, such as a beginner agility class (an obstacle course for dogs) or nose work class (dogs use their sniffers to find things). A basic dog training class is another option.
"The idea is to have fun with your dog, and for your dog to gain self-confidence with her new family," Arden says.
Your dog may never have been reliably house-trained, particularly since she was once an outside dog. There's some house training advice in the next answer.
Q: My adorable Cocker Spaniel is fixed, but he still pees indoors. I've had him for six months. I can seldom catch him in the act. When I do, I yell "No!" and put him outside. He comes in all happy. I don't think he gets it. What should I do? -- H.H., Las Vegas, NV
A: "You're right; he's not getting it," says Arden. For one thing, going outside might be enjoyable, so your dog may think your reprimands are a game.
"Often, the assumption is that dogs will instantly understand house training, but that may be an unrealistic expectation," adds Arden. "Cocker Spaniels and some other breeds may be even more challenging."
"Don't worry so much about correcting your dog; instead, focus on setting him up for success." Arden continues. "You do that by not giving him the opportunity to have an accident indoors. Supervise when you are home. Otherwise, confine the dog in a crate, an exercise pet, or a room. Also, control the dog's water intake. Give him all he wants, but only leave the water down for five minutes at a time. Take the dog out as often as you can; five times or more (per day) is best. And go out with the dog. How else can you make an appropriate fuss immediately after he does go?"
Q: We rescued a Maltese two years ago. She's a loving dog, but goes ballistic on walks when she sees another dog, or even people, walking by. Once either has a chance to meet our dog, everything is fine. My husband refuses to walk the dog now because he's embarrassed. Indoors, our dog runs and barks at the window at anyone walking by until they're gone. We're thinking of taking her to doggy daycare. Do you think that's a good idea? -- J.P., via cyberspace
A: Arden says, "You have a dog who's concerned about others. Trusting what will happen in a doggy day care setting when you're not there is going to be exceedingly stressful for your dog, and I'm not sure the outcome will be what you desire."
Instead, the best approach is to get some hands-on help from a professional dog trainer or certified dog behavior consultant, Arden explains.
"It takes some time and the right timing to fix this sort of social problem," she notes.
Teach your dog to pay attention to you for treats or kibble, at first without distractions. To do this, you'll need to keep your distance before your dog gets into a state of arousal. Over time, the dog will learn to focus on you instead of other dogs or people, meanwhile gaining more confidence around other dogs. The idea is start gradually, hopefully setting your dog up for success.
About that barking at passersby, why not?
"It's fun," says Arden. And from your dog's perspective, it works: She barks and the threat goes away. Teach your dog she must learn to earn. To get anything in life, such as a walk, playtime, or your attention, she must do what you ask -- such as to sit in a specific place. Once you've got it down, begin building in distractions, such as those people innocently walking down the sidewalk. While it may still be rewarding to bark at them, make it more rewarding for your dog to do what you've taught her to do.
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)