Puppy’s first day: The most important thing!

House training a dog can be frustrating and monotonous. In and out, where is the puppy, what time did he last go out? All questions that you will be asking yourself until your puppy is about 5 months old. With an older rescue dog, this process can go much quicker if your new dog has some foundation in housebreaking. Consistency is key in this process, so make sure your entire family is on board. An accident is not the puppies fault, it’s your fault for not seeing the signs or adjusting your expectations of your puppy.

1. Manage your expectations
As a first step, do an assessment of how well your dog can control his bladder and bowels when he’s not in the crate. With an older dog, plan to take them out every two hours for the first few days, with puppies younger than 8 months, every hour that they are not napping. Keep in mind that your puppy can “hold it” for his age in months plus one. (example: 12 week old puppy can hold it for 4 hours in his crate.)

2. Keep up with what your pup is doing.

x-pens are great for giving your puppy a play area while you get some work done

Keeping eyeballs on your puppy at all times is key for successful house train

ing. If your puppy can wander off and have an accident then they will keep wandering off to that same space. If you have to get things done and cannot keep your eyeballs on your pup, then crate him for a short time, or tether him to you.

3. Throw a party for your puppy
How excited will you be when you realize your pup is house trained? Really excited! Make sure that level of excitement is shown to your pup when they “go” outside. Throw your puppy a party that will make the neighbors wonder what you are doing. (Acting like a fool means you will be a great dog trainer, but that’s a blog post for another day) Have your cookie ready for your puppy before you go outside. Many people want to come back inside and give their puppy a cookie but by that time your puppy has completely forgotten what they are doing, and why they are getting the cookie.

4. When accidents happen
Clean the crate and any bedding so it is free of any scent from urine or feces. Use Natures Miracle or another cleaner with an enzyme that will break down the proteins in the urine. Dogs noses are way better than ours so an odor eliminator will not do the trick.
Whatever you do, don’t punish your dog for accidents. This will cause the puppy to want to hide from you when they have to go. If your puppy party is good, then your puppy will want you to come outside with them when they need to go. Which is exactly what you want them to do!

Puppy Bells
Bells on the door are a great training tool if your “potty door” is not in a common area. If you find that your pup is going to the door and sitting, and you can’t see him, then a bell might be your answer. When you get your bells, ring them yourself before opening the door to let puppy out. After a few days of this, encourage puppy to touch the bell to get you to open the door. Soon your puppy will learn that bell means the door opens (basic classical conditioning!). If you find that puppy begins to ring the bells to go outside to play, make sure you are ignoring the play behavior outside until they have taken care of business. If puppy only wants to play, then they go back inside for a quick time out in the crate, and straight back outside once let out.

Time management: the overwhelm is real!

Y’all I am overwhelmed. Life is getting in the way of doing the things I want to do and something has got to give. For those who don’t know, the hubs and I just got back from our honeymoon in the UK and we just bought a house. Because I can’t do just one thing at a time, we found the house 2 weeks before we left, and closed on it the day after we got home.

England was so pretty! This is outside of Buckingham Palace.

(I also brought Cargo home 4 weeks before our wedding day. I like things complicated. He knew what he was getting into.) The new house does not have a fence yet so I have been walking my dogs 4 or 5 times a day in the rain and bugs which takes up about 2 hours of my day, then unpacking, and getting everyone settled has been stressful to say the least.

Because just getting through the day is enough for me right now, my dog training has taken a back seat. Poor Cargo has done a few days of conditioning, but most of her training has been searching for her dinner, and walking around the new park in our neighborhood. (I can tell you she is not happy about it and this fence cannot get here fast enough.) The other two can handle a few days of not training so they are not happy but coping better than the puppy.

I keep telling myself this will not last forever. I just need a few more days to get back on track and then things will get better. And that’s okay. Sometimes we just don’t have time to train our dogs. I still love them, and they are getting the minimum that they need right now. Things will change when I have time to get myself organized and we will get back on track. I know life happens for you guys too and I understand that dog training sometimes has to take a back seat to life. When it happens forgive yourself for not giving everything 100% and try to do better when you can.

For now, I am making sure I plan my sessions and take advantage of the little bit of time I do have for them. I have made a list of the bare minimum life skills that I need to do with each of them, and if I have

Ball makes everything okay!

3 seconds, I go to that list. I will literally grab a handful of kibble and reward downs on the mat in the kitchen for that handful, or ring the doorbell and reward quiet (our last house didn’t have a doorbell). 10 kibbles is better than nothing,and having 2 life skills that I need to work on right now will get me through until I can plan their agility, dock diving, Therapy Dog, and barn hunt training.

So a quick apology to you guys! I am sorry I have been a bit quiet lately, I will get back on track soon!

The one thing you should never let your dog do!

Tall fences make great neighbors.

remember this guy?

I find this saying to be very true, unless there is a barking dog on the other side of the tall fence.

Fences are a necessity for keeping your dog safe. It keeps them out of the street, away from people and dogs walking in the neighborhood, and gives you some peace of mind knowing you can open the back door and they go out to a safe space to play or potty.

Most of us have neighbors that also have dogs and enjoy the same luxury of having a fenced in area to let their dogs have some freedom.

Does your dog get his “exercise” running this tall fence with the neighbor’s dog? Does he whine at the door to go out and bark and run up and down the fence over and over again? Do you think, “Great Fido is getting his exercise for the day!”

What if I told you this creates most of the behavior problems I see?


Running the fence line is not a healthy activity for any dog to be participating in. Why? Lets take a look at it from the dogs perspective! At first your dog goes to the fence to say hello to the neighbor’s dog, then they get excited and start bouncing up and down the fence trying to interact in normal doggy fashion. This would look like some butt sniffing, some play bows, and a rousing game of tag where each dog could chase and be chased alternatively. Now the fence is in the way. Dogs communicate primarily by body language and visual cues, so if they don’t have a clear way to communicate things get very frustrating very quickly.

Take a quick trip back in time with me to the very first cordless phones. (yes, I am old enough to remember corded phones!) They were big and clunky and if the antenna was not all the way out you couldn’t really understand the person on the other end. Imagine if that was every interaction you had with people. Only getting part of the conversation and really struggling with understanding what you could hear. So frustrating!

Science time!

(skip this if you are not super nerdy like me!) When you are frustrated, your brain releases chemicals that respond to that stress (cortisol). Cortisol puts your body in a fight or flight scenario and it takes a long time to get rid of that chemical. If your dog is frustrated about the dog next door every time he goes outside, he is building up a store of cortisol which is keeping him on edge and amped up. Symptoms of increased cortisol levels can be seen as the inability to settle down, excessive barking, lack of sleep, and my most common scenario, redirected aggression to a housemate or person in the way of the barking and running the fence.

What does this mean for you?

First, don’t let your dog fence fight with the neighbor’s dog. If you do have an issue with your dog fence fighting, then add some management to your routine. Come up with a signal system for your neighbor, letting them know when your dog is out and have them do the same to keep your dog from practicing behaviors that you don’t like. Leash walk your dog outside and reward them for paying attention to you instead of the fence. Work on a really solid recall so you can call your dog away from the fence if the other dog starts barking.
This is not one of those behaviors that will magically disappear overnight. It takes some commitment and training to get your dog to a better mental state in these situations. If you find yourself struggling with what to do next, contact a local professional to help get you on the right track. Of course, if you are in the Hampton Roads area, I am happy to help! Visit my website www.thefreckledpaw.com to schedule a consultation appointment.

Door Manners! A “how to” guide!

I love when my clients answer the door and ignore me! Seriously! It makes my heart sing when I have a client rewarding their dog for staying on their mat at the door, releasing them then saying hello to me!

Society says that not speaking to your guests when you open the door is rude, but so is a dog who jumps all over you.

Pick your battles people!

I promise you I will not be mad if you slam the door in my face because your puppy made a mistake! I’m pretty sure your guest will not be mad either if you tell them what is going on. (communication is key!)

Do you have a dog who jumps all over people at the door? You want a dog who keeps all 4 feet on the floor when saying hello? That seems like a pretty big endeavor, but with a little management and planning it’s not so hard!


Let’s break it down!

First, what skills can we use to communicate to our dog what we would like them to do? Down and stay are a good place to start. Mat skills make this really easy. Make sure you have taught your dog a release cue to communicate that they can get up.
Break these skills into pieces your dog can be successful with.
Can your dog stay while you walk towards the door with no one there? No?
Can they stay while you drop cookies on the floor, or roll a ball away from them? Yes? Add the door with no one there.
Can they stay while you ring the doorbell? No? Record the sound of your doorbell on your cell phone and practice staying while no one is at the door.
Once all those pieces are mastered, start opening the door while your dog is in a “stay.” Again, no one is at the door at this point. Make sure this step is really solid by running to the door, talking to the invisible person on the other side of the door, go out the door and come back inside, do a dance at the front door, you get the idea. If your dog can keep his stay through all that, then we can start adding people to the door.

My dogs happily laying in a sunbeam. It would be great for this to be the way everyone answers the door!

In the meantime, put your dog in his kennel or outside when you have people come in the door. Practice makes perfect and you don’t want them practicing behaviors you are trying to get rid of. (don’t make things harder on yourself!)

Tell the people coming by that you are working with your dog and you might have to get them to stand on the porch just a little longer than normal. (I think spring is finally sticking around so you are not leaving them in the cold)
If they are just dropping of a package (or children) then put your pup away so you can deal with the quick drop and move on with your day. Don’t frustrate your dog by making them practice until they “get it right.” Obviously the first time you add a person to the door they are not going to be successful. If pup is keeping it together and making good choices, then reward that by letting them say hello to your guest. If they can’t keep it together after 3 tries then they go in their kennel and do not get to say hello. (Yes! Only 3 tries!!)
Keep working at this! It works! If you need some guidance, let me know I am happy to troubleshoot with you!

What to look for when adopting an adult dog!

Spring is here and hopefully is sticking around at this point. This time of the year you guys call me for help with puppies you have brought home, or your newly rescued adult dog that has now become part of your family. If you are bringing home a puppy, check back through my puppy series that started in January. If that series has totally turned you off from getting a tiny puppy, then hopefully this will help you choose an adult dog that will be a wonderful addition.
What do you envision when you think about bringing a dog home?
Long walks on the beach? Snuggling on the couch? Do you work long hours or from home? Kids have lots of after school activities? Think about your regular day and how much time you can devote to giving your dog the attention that he needs. If you are popping home from work then whisking kids off to soccer practice, then a smaller dog that you can travel easily with might be a better fit than a mastiff who will take up half your minivan. An older dog might also be a better option since they will not need as much supervision and exercise as a younger pup.
Finding a dog
All of the animal control facilities and rescue groups in my area have facebook pages, websites, and adoption events to promote their adoptable dogs. (If your facebook feed looks anything like mine, it’s gone to the dogs) Each one has its own sad story or great picture and write up to make you rush down and adopt that dog tomorrow.

But wait! How do you find the dog that will be a great addition to your family?
Where to start!?

Animal Control Facilities

I challenge you to chat with an Animal Control Officer! They are amazing people with a thankless job. Tell them Thank you!

Animal Control Facilities are city run shelters that are usually funded through the police department. They are set up to take in every animal that comes through the doors regardless of how it gets there. Animal control officers respond to both stray animals, neglect cases, dangerous dog calls and wildlife rehab calls. (these folks are super heros, really!) Because of this, AC (animal control) may not have a great history (or any history) on the dogs that are sitting in the kennels. They rely on their wonderful kennel staff and volunteers to help label the temperament and suitability for each home as they work with the pup. Shelter environment is pretty stressful on these guys so you may not get an accurate read on the pups personality once out of the shelter. The pup that looks high energy and spring loaded inside the kennel might come home and decompress forever on the couch. If you are ready for a little uncertainty then AC is the place to start your search.

No Kill Shelters
These are privately funded facilities that can house an animal for its whole life. They are called “no-kill” because their euthanasia rate is below 10%, which for recording purposes is sick or old. They are also called “limited admission shelters” which means they can pick and choose which dogs are housed at the facility, and rarely allow owners to surrender their dogs there. These dogs are usually the dogs from animal control facilities who need a little longer to find that perfect home. They take the pressure off the AC shelters so they have the space for the strays and owner surrenders to have a little longer in the kennels there. These dogs usually have some history, from the previous housing facility or from the volunteers that worked with the dog. Usually a no-kill shelter will have dogs that did not work out in a first home and have been returned to the facility so you have some information from a previous family.

This is Lady Inga, she loves her foster home.

Foster Based Rescue
If you know exactly what you are looking for in a dog, and don’t want to take the gamble of figuring out a shelter dog, this is the way to go. Foster based rescues take in dogs from the shelter and place them into a home. Usually these homes have cats, other dogs, or children that they live with. They know exactly how these dogs act in these situations, and have no time limit to find these dogs a perfect home. These dogs are usually fully vetted, spayed/neutered, house broken and crate trained. Foster based rescues will have an application process to make sure you are ready for a dog, and make sure they are matching you with the right dog for your lifestyle. Adoption fees will often be higher than a shelter because the rescue is running on limited funds to help the dogs with medical expenses, food, and heartworm and flea preventative. Sometimes the dog you are interested in may not be the perfect fit, but the rescue group can recommend another dog that would be a better match. Trust the rescue coordinators to help you in your decision.
Some rescue groups do shady things since this is a very emotional decision and not regulated very closely (remember that list of things the AC officers already do? Only so many hours in a day y’all!) There are some practices that will send up some red flags for me when researching a rescue group.
Lots of dogs in one place. If one house has 20 dogs in it and they don’t live on some acreage then that is a concern for me. How well does this person know these dogs, and how much socialization and training are they getting to prepare them for moving to a forever home?

Lots of turn over with the dogs. If dogs are coming in and out of a rescue in less than a few weeks then that is also a red flag. Most rescues want their dogs in a foster home for a minimum of a few weeks to make sure they know the dogs personality and can accurately place the dog into an appropriate home.
Adopting out anything with a bite history. I don’t believe that any dog that has bitten a person and caused harm is safe to ever be adopted out. You don’t want that liability, I don’t want to have to tell you your dog is dangerous and the rescue group lied to you. If anywhere on the website or write ups you see that any dog has been “rehabilitated” or was a “red zone” dog, run as fast as you can! There are plenty of dogs who can safely and easily live with people without that kind of management and heartache.
No vet history. Every dog should come to you with thorough vet history including a checkup by the rescues vet, heartworm preventative and vaccines on schedule as well as records of any medical issues the dog may have displayed when leaving the shelter.
No home check or reference check. The rescue should be researching you as much as you are researching them. The love these dogs and want them to go into a home where they will be loved forever.

What if you have your heart set on a purebred dog?
Find a breeder with a program that you like. (see the puppy series for information on finding a breeder) Ask them if they have any older dogs who might be looking for a new home. Occasionally breeders will have puppies returned to them for assorted reasons that have nothing to do with the dog. They also may have kept a puppy with aspirations for showing or sport that the pup didn’t quite live up to. The breeder may agree that those dogs would do better in a family home since owner and dog do not have the same goals. Take advantage of these situations, and don’t be afraid to ask!

Rough start to life but now living happily with a family!

This is just an overview of where to start to find a pup to join your home. Adopting an adult dog can be extremely rewarding! Keep in mind that dogs personalities don’t fully solidify until 3 to 5 years old. Finding a 3 year old dog with all the personality traits that you are looking for can still give you 10 to 12 great years with your pup. This is also without dealing with all the crazy house training and chewing that comes along with getting a puppy.

Dogs sitting in shelters do not come with baggage, and are often surrendered because of unfortunate life circumstances. They are not broken and unwanted, they are just waiting for that next chance. If a puppy sounds overwhelming then please take a look at an adult dog. They have just as much love and fun as a puppy, but often with less effort on your part to get that great companion!