Dog Food

While I originally fantasized about feeding Betsy raw, I ultimately decided that it was too expensive and, after researching everything involved, realized it was a lot of effort to make sure she was getting a properly balanced diet. I might eventually still try it, but for now at least, I ended up researching a bunch on Dog Food Advisor to find a good alternative.

Betsy and I on a hike by the ocean where the fish in her dog food is caught ;) Look at her sit-stay! Such a good girl.

Betsy and I on a hike by the ocean where the fish in her dog food is caught 😉 Look at her sit-stay! Such a good girl.

I ended up having to decide between two: Acana and Orijen. At the moment we’re feeding Acana because it’s a bit cheaper, and from my understanding, Orijen can be nutrition overkill unless your dog is extremely active. Since they’re both made by the same company, I’m sure they’re both equally awesome, and DFA seems to agree. PLUS they’re Canadian, and most of their fish is caught right near our house, so it feels like we’re feeding Betsy local food. (I’m sure she doesn’t care one iota about this but I’m a crazy pet owner and excited for her anyway.)

I’m ALSO super excited for when Betsy can stop eating boring old puppy food and I can start rotating her through the various Acana Regionals. (I know. She won’t even notice the difference, right? I’m nuts. But there’s something fun about reading the ingredients on the various regional foods and imagining feeding Betsy all these tasty meats.)

Touch

Betsy learned a new trick yesterday.

For the longest time, I was obsessed with perfecting the basics with Betsy and refused to move on to any new tricks until her ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘come’ were totally distraction proof and totally perfect.

Buuut, after months and months of practicing, she is still not perfect (sad!) and I’m getting a little bored of practicing the same tricks over and over and over and over, and I assume she must be tired of them too.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s pretty good. She will happily do a sit or a down any time, anywhere. I can even get her to do a sit/down when there are dogs at a reasonable distance (although it’s a struggle for us both) But I don’t feel like she’s at the absolute most perfect sit/down ever.

For one thing, she will break it from time to time, if the distractions prove too great.

Also, if she’s distracted sniffing the ground or staring intently at something, she often goes into this weird trance that I can’t break through. Any command given during this time falls on deaf ears. Even waving a treat in front of her nose doesn’t work. I’m really not sure what to do about this, so if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

And, on top of all this, I’ve barely even started practicing the recall with distractions. I’m too scared of screwing it up, because even withOUT major distractions, her response rate varies. In the house, she’s great; out and about… mm, not so much. 50/50 I’d say.

Ok, so now that I have confessed all my training sins, here is another: We started a new trick.

I did a bit of googling to see what the most useful possible trick to teach next could be, and I settled on touch, for a few reasons:

  • You can use it as alternative to the recall (because it requires her to come to you to complete it)
  • You can use it to teach her the name of people (I can translate it to “go touch Ben”)
  • And things (Hold an item and get her to do her regular ‘touch’ on the item and then teach her things like “Touch the leash” “Touch your toy”)
  • Which could one day lead to “touch the light” – yay, no more getting up to turn off the light!
  • It’s got a ‘fun’ feel to it (I can move my hand around and make her do different ‘touches’, it’s a bit more active & interesting for her than a sit or a down)

Here she is a day after I first started teaching her ‘touch’

I apologize for the low quality! We do a few other tricks because Ben continued to record for longer than I expected 😉 You can see a few things she learned ‘naturally’ (ie I didn’t make a conscious effort to teach her) … “go in your crate” and jumping up on items/running to stand in certain locations when I point to them.

It’s so neat to see how quick she learns. The first few training sessions I didn’t use the word ‘touch’, I just held out my hand with a treat nudged between my fingers. I made sure she understood the concept that touching my hand with her nose = treat from my other hand. It took her a few short sessions last night to get the picture, at first she was super confused and kept offering different behaviours. I felt bad for her and was worried I was doing a poor job of showing her what I wanted.

BUT it’s like she suddenly had a breakthrough – we had two 5 minute difficult sessions, then later I tried another one thinking it would be equally difficult, but she suddenly seemed to ‘have’ it, and she was SO EXCITED!

I quickly moved on to using the word ‘touch’ (adding the word whenever she touched my hand actually seemed to help her learn quicker) and from there began holding my hand in all sorts of positions… she totally had it! Amazing. I couldn’t believe how she went from super frustrated to a pro in under an hour.

We practiced it on our walk this morning and again when I got home from work and… yep. She’s got it. She loves it.

Our technique is probably not competition quality, but it’s good enough for me!

The Joys of Housebreaking

Probably the number one thing that everyone spends time researching when they get a new puppy is housebreaking.

I read a ton of different articles in order to get a complete picture, so I thought I’d try to include it all here in one place for future puppy owners, so that they don’t have to search multiple websites.

Best way to get started with housebreaking

I really really recommend the crate method. This was what we did, and you can read more about the benefits of crate training in the link I included, but here is a rundown of how to use it for housebreaking:

When you get a new young puppy (8ish weeks), they will NOT be housebroken. It’s not physically possible. Even if they do have some sense of “Going outside is better,” (which they likely won’t!) they don’t have the bladder control to reliably hold it.

Lying in the grass.

Betsy lying in the grass in our front yard after finally arriving home from the breeder.

So you need to use a strict strict schedule, and rule number one is: If you can’t watch them, they absolutely MUST be in their crate. Most puppies won’t soil their own sleeping area, so make sure you have a properly sized crate (properly sized meaning it’s big enough for them to stand up and turn around in, but no larger).

Rule number two of housebreaking is:

  • Potty break after every nap
  • Potty break after every meal
  • Potty break after drinking water
  • Potty break every 15 minutes when playing

Rule number three (this is not so much a rule as a way to make rule number two easier to manage)

  • Feed your puppy its food and water while it’s in its crate
  • This can buy you a few minutes after it finishes before you take it outside for a potty break
  • When your puppy is super young, it’s easier to schedule its water instead of allowing it to free-drink, so that you know whether the puppy is empty or full. Note: This means you have to be very careful about making sure your puppy gets enough water throughout the day!

Rule number four?

  • If they have an accident as young puppies, it’s not their fault, it’s YOUR fault.
Betsy at 6 months old, playing with Ben at the beach.

Betsy at 6 months old, playing with Ben at the beach.

Young puppies sleep a lot, so when you’re not playing with them, they should be happy to just nap in their crate. Here’s an example schedule of a day with a 8 week old puppy:

  • 6am Wake up, take puppy outside for first potty break. (I carried Betsy at first, because if I allowed her to walk, she’d always stop and pee on the floor before we got there)
  • 6:15am Puppy Playtime
  • 7am Food and water in crate
  • 7:15am Potty break
  • 7:30am Naptime
  • 8:30am Wakeup, potty break
  • 8:45am Puppy Playtime
  • 9:20am Water in crate
  • 9:30am Potty Break
  • 9:45am Naptime
  • 10:45am Wake up, potty break
  • 11am Puppy Playtime
  • 11:45am Food and water in crate
  • Noon Potty break
  • 12:15pm Naptime
  • 1:15pm Wake up, potty break
  • 1:30pm Puppy Playtime
  • 2:15pm Water in crate
  • 2:30pm Potty break
  • 2:45pm Naptime
  • 3:45pm Wake up, potty break
  • 4:00pm Puppy playtime
  • 4:45pm Food and water in crate
  • 5pm Potty break
  • 5:15pm Naptime
  • 6:15pm Wake up, potty break
  • 6:30pm Puppy playtime
  • 7:30pm Water in crate
  • 7:45pm Potty break
  • 8pm Puppy Playtime
  • 8:30pm Potty break
  • 8:45pm Puppy playtime
  • 9:15pm Potty break
  • 9:30pm Bedtime

Whew! Was that absolutely insane? Young puppies are insane. I felt like a zombie for our first few weeks. Obviously use your best judgement with your schedule; it’s somewhat flexible- it’s just to give you a basic idea of how a day can look.

Naptime.

Little Betsy enjoying a tummy-up nap.

Most importantly, puppies need millions of potty breaks, and will reliably go immediately after eating, playing, or sleeping.

What to do if you catch a puppy going in the house?

  • Interrupt them with a quick hand clap and then lift them up and carry them out to the grass, praising them once they go outside.

What to do if they go in the appropriate location?

  • Praise like crazy! We did not use treats, but in retrospect, I think it would have helped as well.

As they get older they will be able to hold it for longer and you can slowly loosen up. I was really worried about how I would know when the time is right, but it really is just common sense. You’ll know.

What to do if you take them outside and they don’t go and instead start to play or lie down

Back in the crate, wait five minutes, back outside to try again. Rinse and repeat until they go potty. It’ll happen, don’t worry.

Cleaning stains

Make sure you use an enzymatic cleaner (and maybe some baking soda?) to eliminate any smells from accidents. Dogs will go where it smells like a bathroom, so you don’t want your house to smell like a bathroom!

DO NOT use Ammonia based cleaners, as they smell similar to urine.

Puppies that start to only go in a certain part of the house

Probably smells like a bathroom there! Clean clean clean, and start to spend more time in that part of the house, so that the puppy views it as a part of the ‘den’ that it doesn’t want to soil. One way to avoid having a puppy that pees in little-used rooms is to use baby gates & slowly expand the puppy’s territory. We didn’t do this because we were too cheap to pay for baby gates 😉

At what age should they stop having accidents?

It varies! Don’t beat yourself up. Betsy gradually eased up. First she’d have two-three accidents a week, then one accident a week, then one every three weeks, and so on. A lot of the stuff I read online were articles like “Potty train your puppy in just one week!” And then I’d feel like a failure because we’d had Betsy for two MONTHS and she still wasn’t 100% reliable.

I think it fully depends on the puppy – some are better at ‘getting it’ than others. Betsy was weird – as she got older, she’d ask to be let out 99% of the time, but once in awhile she’d randomly decide to pee in the hallway instead.

I’d say 90% of her accidents happened while we were actively supervising her, so we’d interrupt her and move her outside right away. You REALLY don’t want your puppy having accidents without you noticing. That’s why unsupervised puppies should ALWAYS be in their crate.

Another shot of 6 month old Betsy playing at the beach.

Another shot of 6 month old Betsy playing at the beach.

Betsy did have a few accidents (maybe 3?) that happened without us noticing (all three were while we had company over, surprise surprise) Most of these happened when she was a bit older and we thought she was mostly reliable, so we had let our guard down a little. Big mistake. I’d always beat myself up over it for an hour or two after the fact, but hey! Looking back, she was doing very very well. She wasn’t a wonder-dog who learned potty training overnight, but overall, it was a breeze.

How do you know when they’re 100% potty trained?

When you stop worrying about whether they’ll go when you’re not watching. Betsy is 6 months old now and I still worry, although her last accident was 4 weeks ago. If she manages another 4 weeks without having an accident, I think I’ll start to relax.