Big Fun for Little Dogs

Is your lap dog spending too much time lounging on your lap? Or maybe there’s little lap time and too much yapping from your petite -- yet vocal and bored -- pet. In either case, small-dog expert Deborah Wood can come to the rescue for you and your dog.

“I think the big thing for owners of little dogs to remember is that these dogs have the same needs as their larger cousins,” says Wood, who is the author of The Little Dogs’ Activity Book: Fun and Frolic for a Fit Four-legged Friend. “They need exercise and mental stimulation. The great news is that they don’t need a lot of space to meet those needs.”

Make sure your small friend gets the mental and physical exercise he needs. Wood, who is also the animal services manager for Washington County, Ore., shares her top tips to help you provide big fun for your little dog.

Loose and Easy
Take your dogs for walks -- and stay in charge. Your small dog should have no problem following basic commands such as “Watch me,” “Sit,” “Come,” and “Down-stay.” For small dogs, learning how to walk on a loose leash is essential, according to Wood. Before outings, your dog should be on a comfortable buckle or snap collar, she advises. “Have him on a lightweight 4-foot or 6-foot leash -- not a flexi leash.”

Small dogs tend to have big opinions about where they’d like to go, darting left when you want them to go right or zipping to the right just as you’re ready to go left. The instant your dog pulls in the other direction, say “Let’s go!” as you gently guide your dog. This verbal command should always accompany the correction. When your dog is walking on a loose leash, “provide an easily chewed treat and tell him he’s a very, very good dog,” says Wood. Combine this with the “Watch me” command later, and soon your dog will be merrily walking wherever you go, paying attention to you for guidance.

Matching Activity to Breed
The adventures you and your dog will enjoy are partly determined by your pet’s breed. Woods suggests the following guidelines by breed:

  • High-energy-level activities -- including chase and fetch games, agility, flyball and hiking -- are often enjoyed by dogs of these breeds:

    Affenpinscher, Australian Terrier, Bichon Frise, Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Jack Russell Terrier, Parson Russell Terrier, Miniature Poodle, Papillon, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Rat Terrier, Schipperke, Scottish Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, Silky Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier and Toy Manchester Terrier.
  • Moderate-energy-level activities -- including long walks, dancing and tricks -- are frequently enjoyed by furry friends of these breeds:

    Beagle, Boston Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested, Dachshund, Havanese, Italian Greyhound, Maltese, Manchester Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, Norfolk Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Pomeranian, Pug, Skye Terrier, West Highland White Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier.
  • Low-energy-level activities -- including shorter walks and work as a therapy dog -- are often enjoyed by the following breeds:

    Brussels Griffon, English Toy Spaniel, French Bulldog, Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Shih Tzu and Tibetan Spaniel.

Your Little Dog Is Unique
Your dog’s breed is only half the story. Each and every dog has its own unique personality, likes and dislikes. Over the years, Wood has taught her own small dogs “a ton of fun tricks, from playing the piano to the dog sticking out her tongue on command.”

It doesn’t matter so much what you do, however. “It’s all about fun, bonding and joy, and having a positive relationship with your dog,” says Wood. “What could be better?”

Check back on for more small-dog activities and training tips from small-dog expert Deborah Wood.


Stop Inappropriate Dog-sniffing

You’re an oncologist in the year 2050, ready to call on a critical tool to determine whether or not your patient has cancer.

Sure, you could subject the individual to a battery of invasive and expensive tests, but it might be simpler to call upon your hospital’s team of German Shepherds to help sniff out an answer. That’s right: Scientists expect that canines will someday be able to detect prostate cancer from smelling a urine sample.

In fact, dogs may already have the capacity; we humans have only to figure out how to get them to identify what it is that they smell. Such remarkable feats can be traced to receptors in your dog’s nose, which is between 10,000 and 100,000 times keener than your own.

This is why your pet knows when you’ve had a bad day at work. She can literally smell the bitter hormone secretions on your body -- and can smell that mustard you had on your cheeseburger for lunch. But that’s not all.

Scientists are discovering new ways to put dogs’ powers of odor detection to work, often in uses that benefit their human companions. For instance, dogs have been trained to detect when their human friends are about to lapse into a diabetic coma, as well as when a person with a fainting disorder is about to faint.

A Nose for News
Your dog uses her sense of smell to understand the world around her. That’s why she can’t stop sniffing. Your jog in the park with your dog presents dozens of points of information indicating the physical and emotional well-being of your dog’s doggie pals, as well as the people who live with them. It tells her what flowers are about to sprout --even the types of pests nibbling on their delicate stems.

Stop Inappropriate Dog-sniffing
Although such an organ is downright miraculous, there are times when you might want to keep your dog from sniffing. After all, many of us have suffered embarrassment when our dog sniffed another person a bit too, um, personally. Or we’ve experienced that inquisitive nose ourselves.

You can help channel your dog’s sniffing in positive ways. Try these alternatives:

1.    Give your dog some exercise prior to any event so she’ll be tuckered out and her nose will be sated.

2.    If you’re expecting to meet a new person or be in a situation in which your dog is inclined to sniff, offer a diversion in the form of a treat or a hand-clap, or rein in her leash.

3.    Crate-train your dog so she’ll willingly stay out of the way during a social event. Learn how to crate-train here.

4.    Hide kibble in food-containing toys around your house and have your dog sniff out her dinner.

5.    Exceptional Canine’s resident trainer, Stacy Braslau-Schneck, recommends scattering your dog’s kibble in the backyard grass. Working to find the kibble exercises your dog’s nose, provides some physical exertion, and keeps your dog mentally engaged.

6.    Take nose-friendly walks, allowing your dog to take a leisurely sniff around the neighborhood.

7.    Offer new, interesting scents to help satiate that curious nose. If you’ve been to the beach or to a zoo, let your dog sniff your shoes or pant legs.

Your dog’s nose is an incredible tool, and you’ll likely find watching her use it just as interesting as she finds all the things she sniffs.


Send Your Kid to Dog Training Camp

Have you considered sending your child or other young relative to a dog training summer camp? If not, camp attendee Justin might sway your decision. He attended Camp ARF in California last year and had a blast playing with, training and otherwise helping his assigned dog, a homeless stray named Bali that was up for adoption. Justin had the time of his life, and a week after camp ended, Bali -- a little one-eyed Chihuahua that no one previously wanted to adopt -- found his forever home.

“Shortly after the program ended, Justin came back to visit us and announced that he wanted to learn more about training dogs,” says Bobbe Bartlett, development director at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, which runs Camp ARF. “The camp helps so many.”

Kid-friendly dog training camps and classes are popping up all over the country, so Justin’s positive review is one of thousands. Here’s what you can expect from such camps.

Dog Training Camps -- by Day and Night
Depending on the camp, either day sessions or overnight stays are offered. At Camp ARF, attendees spend the day at the camp in Walnut Creek, Calif., and then go home every evening. At some other camps, such as Summer Camp for Kids and Dogs at Shadow Hill Farm and Kennel in Jackson Springs, N.C., kids participate in three-day overnight visits, which can be extended. The cost at either type of camp is comparable to other summer programs for kids.

“Some kids stay for one or more weeks,” says Jane Hammett Bright, owner and operator of Shadow Hill. “I offer a reduced rate if they want to stay for extra weeks. Some kids do dog shows on the weekends and come back or stay over.”

From Doggy Dancing to Veterinary Training
Activities widely vary at dog training camps, again depending on the particular camp and the target age level. Camp ARF currently offers summer camps for multiple age groups, says Bartlett. For example, a special Vet Camp gives fourth- and fifth-graders a thorough look at what it takes to be a veterinarian. “Students observe a live spay/neuter surgery in ARF’s clinic, work in teams on real-life animal case studies, analyze X-rays, examine slides under the microscope, practice suture and injection techniques, and perform basic pet first aid,” says Bartlett.

Justin went through Camp ARF’s Junior Dog Trainer program for young teens. “Each camper was assigned their own ARF dog for the week and learned about reward-based dog training, why it is so important for pet dogs and how to get the best results,” says Bartlett. “At the end of the week, campers showed off their hard work at our graduation talent show. Most importantly, the participants gave these dogs a paw up on finding their forever home!”

Dog Training Camp: A Week Your Child Will Never Forget
At Shadow Hill, participants wake up at 6 a.m. to a delicious breakfast. “Our meals are incredible, with fresh-off-the-farm ingredients and no processed foods,” says Hammett Bright. “A lot of kids come home and their parents are shocked at how fit, toned and healthy their children look. Staying busy, getting enough rest and eating right is the reason.”

Shadow Hill campers can bring their own dogs, which they take to agility training at 6:30 a.m. From then on, a typical day might include tracking or herding training, a refreshing swim to give the dogs and kids a break, and nighttime games designed to promote further learning and good social interaction. A few tips:

  • Dog training camps for kids are very popular, so be sure to make arrangements well in advance.
  • Take time to thoroughly read each camp’s website or written materials to understand the rules and regulations.
  • If your child can bring the family dog, its temperament “is the most important factor,” according to Hammett Bright. “Your dog has to be friendly. He or she can be shy, but not aggressive toward strangers.” In fact, shy dogs tend to leave the camp “much happier and confident,” she says.
Dog training camps can provide a good time for all, but they might also set your child off on a lifelong rewarding career or hobby. A future veterinarian could emerge from Camp ARF, and several dog training champions have emerged from Shadow Hill. “We had a kid from Singapore who stayed for two weeks,” says Hammett Bright. “We’ve now learned that he has a champion dog for his age group in Singapore, so we are very proud about how our camp can make a positive difference in the lives of both kids and dogs.”

Housebreaking Puppy 101

Housebreaking your new puppy can seem like a daunting task. But with a bit of insight into dog psychology and these proven puppy-training tips, your new puppy will learn quickly.

And if your adult dog isn’t fully housebroken, don’t give up hope. If your dog has accidents daily, weekly or monthly, you’ll find it’s best to treat him like a brand-new puppy that hasn’t been housebroken.

Follow these steps to housebreak puppy:

1.    Select the site. Designate a specific area of your yard for your dog’s “business.” Before your new puppy enters your house, introduce him to this area. He’ll soon associate it with bathroom breaks.

2.    Visit the spot often. It’s best to take your new puppy outside about every two hours as well as upon waking, after playing and feeding, and before going to bed. In addition, be alert to signals like sniffing and circling that might indicate he has to go.

3.    Use a crate. When you can’t be there, crate your dog. Your puppy will respect his new den and will avoid soiling it. If you purchase a crate that’s large enough to accommodate your dog’s adult size, you can partition off part of the crate so he won’t go in a corner.

4.    Be kind. Accidents will happen. Remember that shouting, scolding and punishment serve no purpose and will only confuse your new puppy. Even if you catch your pup mid-act, simply say, “No!” and immediately take your new best friend outside.

5.    Praise your puppy. Lavish praise on your dog each time he goes outside in the assigned spot. Speak in an upbeat voice, smile and reward your pup with treats after he does his business.

When Accidents Happen

When you’re housebreaking your puppy, be ready for accidents with the right cleaning supplies. These steps will make for quick cleanups:

  • Soak up urine with paper towels and remove feces with a plastic bag.
  • Treat the soiled area with a mild detergent solution.
  • On carpeting, blot the stain -- don’t scrub -- and work from the outside toward the center.
  • To neutralize odors, use a veterinarian-approved spray product that’s safe to use around pets.

Fix Common Dog Behavior Problems

Dogs aren’t born knowing our rules. They bark and jump and dig not because they’re being bad, but because it’s instinctual. Besides, it often gets a reaction from us. It’s up to us as owners to teach our pets how to express themselves in a manner we appreciate.

Often, common behavioral problems occur as our dogs engage in a natural behavior that conflicts with our needs. But you can teach your dog how to fit in to your household and the world around it. Here’s an overview of how to deal with several basic problems:

Stop Excessive Barking

Your dog barks to communicate in one of the only ways it knows how. Tend to your dog’s needs, and you can often circumvent the noise altogether. The key is to learn to read your dog’s body language. When your dog barks, try to deduce the cause. Is it because your dog is lonely, hungry, hot, bored? Then aim to correct the scenario with exercise, attention, play or a meal. If you’ve tried to get to the root of your dog’s barking habit but simply can’t seem to solve it, then it’s time to consider professional help from a trainer.

End Nipping

Dogs that nip aren’t aiming to hurt you. In many cases, they’re attempting to play. Try yipping loudly when your dog grazes you so it knows you’re hurt. Your dog will instinctively set its teeth less firmly next time. If the behavior occurs again, yip again. It might take some time, but your dog should learn control. (Note: If you’ve got a nipper, never let others approach your dog. Call out a verbal warning to children who go near your dog with an outstretched hand, or put a muzzle on your dog when you’re out.)

Stop Digging
Dogs entertain themselves by scrabbling in the dirt. They love to hide treasures, build dens and lie in the cool earth. And, frankly, it seems sort of unfair to ask them to stop this instinctual behavior altogether. Instead, block off a section of your yard and let your dog use it as a playground. Teach your dog to dig in this area by burying bones and toys, and offer praise for digging them up. If you’d like a cleaner alternative, construct a doggie sandbox.

Abate Jumping
Your dog’s habit of jumping on people can be terrible. Not only is it scary for some guests, but it also greatly increases your dry cleaning bill. When your dog jumps up, walk backward and say “Off!” Praise your pal when all four paws are back on the ground. Consistently using the right reinforcement should abate this behavior.

Stop Submissive Peeing
Dogs that want to show they’re submissive pee on the floor when you come into the house. Instead of scolding your pet -- which will cause it to feel further belittled -- immediately let it outside to pee when you step foot in the door, and ignore your dog for the first 10 minutes that you’re home. Sooner or later, your dog will realize that this behavior doesn’t register with you.

Ease Separation Anxiety
If your dog misses you, it might whine, cry, bark or become destructive when you leave the house. Often, this issue can be stopped by spending adequate time with your dog and exercising it so it doesn’t have the energy to get wound up when you’re not around. You’ll also want to teach your dog that you will return. Do this by practicing quiet departures, then coming home quickly. Offer a reward for good behavior.

Lucky for us, dogs are fast learners. If you provide the right instruction (sometimes with a bit of outside help), your dog will manage life in your household just fine.