2001-07-07 / Columnists

Paws For A Moment

Paws For A Moment

by Noreen Connolly-Skammel

This is the first of a monthly series of columns about bringing up your pet. Connelly-Skammel is a certified animal trainer and has worked at a number of venues, including the New York City Aquarium at Coney Island. Please address questions for the column to Paws for A Moment, C/O The Wave, PO Box 930097, Rockaway Beach, NY 11694 or to editor@rockawave.com

Question: My wife and I just adopted a 3-month-old German shepherd mix from the North Shore Animal League. We are having trouble housebreaking the puppy. Any advice?

Answer: Congratulations on the new addition to your family. With patience and training, I am sure you will have a long and happy life together. I find that there are three important aspects to housetraining a dog: First, control your dog’s food and water. She should not have access to it all day long, because that makes it difficult to keep her bathroom habits on a schedule. Offer food and water as you see fit, but keep in mind that a young dog such as yours does not have a bladder that is mature enough to hold it for long. A three-month-old puppy may need to be walked as soon as 15 to 20 minutes after eating or drinking. Of course, these times may vary, which brings me to the second aspect of home training.

Be a keen observer of your dog’s habits. Watch your dog for signs that she needs to relieve herself, such as circling and sniffing the floor. It’s your job to know when your dog needs to be walked. By insuring that your dog makes it outside to do her business, you are not only keeping your home clean, but you are teaching her that the only appropriate place to relieve herself is outside. Dogs have a real one-track mind and if they never have the opportunity to go outside the house, they will never see it as an option.

Never giving your pet the chance to commit a "bad act" is the third and final key to home training. You should consider crating your dog. The idea behind crating your dog is the understanding that she will not relieve herself where she eats and sleeps. If you must go out or if you are not paying attention to your dog at a particular time, the dog should go into the crate or kennel.

Many people feel that it is not humane to crate their animals, but many animals crave a small, secluded place to rest. If you reinforce the idea of the kennel with toys and treats, the animal will actually come to enjoy being crated.

Slowly increase the duration that your pet is in the crate and never force the pet to go in. Rather, coax the pet with treats or toys.

Do not let the animal out of the crate while it is barking, otherwise it will want to come out every time it barks. If you cannot use a crate, isolate the puppy in a small room or area with a gate.

Any way you look at it, a puppy is hard work, but it is worth it in terms of love and enjoyment you will get out of from your pet.

Question: My husband and I would like to get a dog, but we live in a small apartment. We would like a small dog, but do not have any particular breed in mind. Can you help us?

Answer: I have three words for you: Jack Russell Terrier. They have all of the big dog personality and spunk you crave in an apartment-sized dog. There is one warning, however. These dogs are often hyper and require a great deal of exercise. Put your name on the list of a local shelter. In that way, you will get the pet of your dreams and also save a life.

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