TRAINING OUR DOGS FOR A NEWBORN
With two relatively young dogs running around the apartment, we knew it was time to buckle down and get these pups well-trained before the baby arrives.
Jordan is 2 and Xena is 1 years old. While they are amazing, they have their faults. With a baby on the way, I'm just trying to eliminate unnecessary frustrations and potential hazards.
We had never felt the need to invest into professional lessons for the dogs before so everything we have tried is done by me and my husband at home. With a little bit of consistency and patience, we've found the annoying behaviors of the dogs already improving! Note that I'm not an expert, but below are a few of the items we've been working on.
Issue: Whenever we would feed the dogs, they would be so eager to eat that sometimes they would dig in as I'm pouring food into their bowl, knocking the food onto the ground or into their water. It started to become an unnecessary bad behavior so we decided to fix it. Training: We started out by kicking the dogs out of the kitchen before getting the food out. With the command "OUT" they learned that they needed to leave the boundary of our kitchen. They were to stay out until I called them over to "EAT." I saw that they started creeping in when I began pouring, so we also introduced "SIT." So now before they get fed, they need to get "OUT" and "SIT." Once I pour, they are to stay seated until I call them over. When I say "COME," they are to come and "SIT" in front of their bowl until I say "EAT." Results: The dogs listen so well since they learned the sooner they obey, the sooner they eat. Obviously there is now excitement associated with "OUT," so there is a little whining before they actually sit sometimes. They know "EAT" so well now that I can say other words that rhyme with eat and they still won't dig in until they hear the exact word. This has eliminated a lot of headaches when it comes to feeding two pups at once.
Issue: The dogs have so much energy that they cannot wait to get outside. For awhile, we were letting them go out in our backyard, but we've now been taking them to the dog run in our building. So they have to get used to waiting until relieving themselves. While it is just down the hall from our door, it probably seems like a long walk to the dogs. They started out pulling us out the door and down the entire hallway. We want the dogs to be able to come on walks with us with the baby and stroller, so there is no way they can be pulling at all. They need to walk along side of us regardless of the situation - walking when we walk and stopping when we stop. Training: Our German Shepherd, Xena, is a strong gal and still in her puppy phase so she definitely pulls more. Jordan, a mixed pit bull breed, has more experience with walks so he listens more to the command "SLOW DOWN." With a slight pulling back motion on his leash and hearing those words, he will slow down to walk with my pace. With Xena, we have to take it slow, luring her in with treats. It takes a lot of patience to get down the hall, but anytime she pulls, we either start over or we tell her to "GET BACK" and she needs to retreat back to our side. On the walk back from the dog run, we work on walking and stopping at our pace. So holding treats out in front of their nose, they are to walk with us and when we stop, they should "SIT" then they get the treat. Results: We're still in the process of working on not pulling on the walk TO the dog run. They are both definitely better, but still have a long way to go, which may just come with time. The walk FROM the dog run has been seeing great improvements. I no longer need to tell Jordan to sit when I stop walking, he is automatically doing it, and gets a treat afterwards. Xena is also making great strides working with Drew.
Issue: I touched on this in the above section, but the last thing we want when taking the baby out is being pulled out the door by the dogs. We wanted to be able to open the door and not have the dogs bolt out. They should wait for us to indicate when its time to walk out and do so slowly. Training: Before we put their leash on, the dogs should "SIT" and remain seated after attaching their leash. We should be able to unlock and open the door and the dogs should still be sitting. They shouldn't get up until commanded to "COME." Results: It's way easier to put on the leash, not having to chase around the dogs. They come to us and stay now. Jordan stays when the door opens, while Xena gets a little more excited when she hears it open. She just needs a few reminders to stay seated. Once we say "COME" we just have to say "SLOW" a few times so they know not to pull. They're great staying seated, but we're still working on not pulling.
Issue: Obviously listening goes along with all other commands, but it's important to us that the dogs listen the first time we give them a command. We want them to come when we say come or stop on request, both at home and when we're out and about or at the dog park. Training: We have made sure to always have treats with us when we go out of the apartment. We want to continue to reward the pups as they listen so that it becomes a permanent habit. Results: So far, we've had great results. Leaving the dog run is the main time we want them to listen. Sometimes they get distracted when other dogs are there and they want to play. By associating treats with "COME," they've been listening much better.
Issue: This section is only about Jordan. He was the absolute most friendly dog to all dogs and all people. At some point after we moved and/or got Xena, Jordan started to get increasingly aggressive and protective. He would nip at some dogs at first, but that soon became every single dog - even puppies. Now he barks at most people if they've unexpectedly approached us. It sucks because we can't take him to dog parks or to the dog run without knowing there might be an incident. This has become a headache, and I want to try to eliminate it before the baby gets here. Training: Jordan's aggression/protection is coming out of a place of fear. Instead of scolding him, we try to reassure him that everything is okay. We have been trying to keep the experience positive for him, unless a scolding is necessary. Treats have been essential. When going to the dog run, if we see a dog coming his attention is grabbed. So I lightly tap him on the bum with my foot and have him "SIT." When he listens, he gets a treat. If I see other dogs in the dog run, I have him "SIT" and watch the other dogs until he is relaxed. If he does ever growl, I tell him to lay down so he knows it's completely unacceptable. We try to approach the situation by letting him access from afar and seeing that everything is okay, as opposed to walking right into the dog run and having dogs run towards him. Results: The first few times attempting this was a challenge. Jordan wasn't used to these commands in this situation, so it was harder to get his attention. The treats are definitely a must with this type of training. There have been a few times that he growls at dogs, but usually if I ease him into the situation, he is much more well-behaved. We actually had some great visits the last few times at the dog run. Jordan was able to sniff another small dog and then go about his business instead of getting aggressive. Then he was able to watch two bigger dogs in passing without even one growl. Obviously we have such a long way to go, but it's important to celebrate and reward your pup for the small accomplishments along the way.
Issue: I love playing with Xena and she loves playing with me. The only issue is that she could play ALL day long. When I sit on the couch to work, I don't have time to constantly be throwing a ball. She gets a little persistent, pawing at the couch or whining. Training: We haven't used any treats with this method, but rather the command, "DONE." We hand her the ball or toy and she takes it in her mouth. Results: At first Xena remained very persistent, not being phased by "DONE," but a month or two later, she now takes the ball and goes to lay down. She'll eventually come back after awhile to play again, but we've created a great communication line.
Issue: We have two separate issues when it comes to barking. Jordan barks out of fear at the sound of anyone entering the hallway door or unexpected people in the apartment. Xena barks when playing or /whines loudly when she's on a leash because she just wants to run around. She is extremely vocal. In either circumstance, we want to get a grip on the situation so the dogs aren't waking the baby (or us) up constantly throughout the day. Training: To tackle Jordan's issue, we had to figure out the root cause. In our old apartment the sound of the door opening meant someone coming in, but in our new apartment, we have door to enter our hallway before you have access to our door. He still associates the sound of the hallway door with someone coming in. So we began calling him over every time he began to bark at the door. We had to use treats at first to reward his behavior. He would bark, we would say "COME HERE" and "SIT." With Xena, we don't want to discourage the play, but we do want to try to control the barking. We've recently started with "QUIET" when we barks, but continue to play with her. Results: About 4 months into Jordans training, he comes to me right when we hears the door. He does let out little barks under his breath, but it is much better. He actually cries most of the time when we comes to me, telling me he's more afraid than anything else. Occasionally, when he's caught off-guard, he charges at the door, but he always listens to my command. Xena is starting to associate "QUIET" with not barking, but at the end of the day, German Shepherds are very vocal dogs, so I think this one might take some more time and effort.
STAYING OFF THE COUCH/BED
Issue: Staying off the couch and bed is important to us because (1) the dogs both shed, (2) we want to maintain our couches for as long as possible, (3) we don't want the dogs to jump all over us or the baby if, say, I was breastfeeding on the couch or trying to put the baby to sleep, and (4) we're going to want every second of sleep that we can possibly get. Training: We have not been allowing the dogs to come on the couch. Before it was occasional, but now it a strict rule. "DOWN" is the command associated with getting off the couch. Jordan was allowed on the bed as a puppy, so he has grown used to it. We started making him sleep on his dog bed next to my side of the bed about a year or so ago. Then we transitioned him to Drew's side, because I was getting woken up extremely early in the morning, when I needed my sleep. We have recently been transitioning them to sleep by the door of our bedroom, and eventually out in the living room. Solution: The first thing that worked the best with keeping the dogs off the couch was honestly getting another dog bed for the living room. They had two in the bedroom, but keeping one in the living room allows them to have their space. We didn't even have to instruct them to lay there - they actually prefer it. For phasing them out of the bedroom, I sometimes still find Jordan on the bed or trying to come on the bed at least once in the middle of the night. However, since we've transitioned them into sleeping by the door, they haven't been bothering us during the night as much. I think in a few months with consistency and age, they'll be sleeping in their own beds through the night.
Issue: When we enter the door, the dogs are so excited to see us, they want to jump us and greet us. The issue comes into play if we have groceries or if we have our car seat or stroller in hand. Jordan stands up more like a kangaroo, but Xena will put all of her weight on you. They've ripped one of my brother's coats by doing this. Training: Basically, we don't pet the dogs unless both paws are on the grown. If they're jumping, we say "DOWN" and they don't get any love until they do so. Results: They dogs still tend to jump, but with more consistency, they have started to realize it's not acceptable
Again, I'm definitely not an expert, but we've been seeing great improvements with all the above methods. Consistency and patience is the key here. Don't get discouraged on bad days, but keep celebrating the good ones. If we can begin to tame our pups, you definitely can too!