Saturday, 30 November 2013

Double Trouble - two puppies at once?

*Note - this was first published as a Training/Behaviour article on the forums, by me!*

Double Trouble - Two puppies at once?..

Postby emmabeth » Wed Mar 31, 2010 6:38 am
Hopefully you are reading this BEFORE buying any puppies at all, and are considering having two puppies at the same time, possibly littermates.

STOP!.... Sit back down.. hold your horses.... wait a second...

Two puppies at once is one of those things, where one or two people... someone you heard of.. maybe a family member did it.. and got lucky.. (we will come back to these people later!).

Believe me for the rest of you... its a slippery slope to a NIGHTMARE and a catastrophe and a wholly unenjoyable puppy/dog owning experience.

First, ask yourself why two puppies seems a better idea than one puppy?

The top answer is because 'two will keep each other company'. Now ask yourself why you need them to keep each other company - would that be because you arent going to be there so much?

If the answer is yes, then honestly... you don't have the time for one puppy. Not without making some other arrangements such as a puppy sitter, a doggy daycare/creche, a family member minding the pup during the day, or being able to take the puppy into work with you.

IF none of the above can be done... then either wait until it can.. or consider an older dog who can cope with being left. Dog ownership is a privilege for those who have the time, money and patience.. not a right for those who plain 'want'.

Next top answers will be 'because they are cute/because the kids wanted one each/because we couldnt split them up/because we couldnt choose between them/ because the breeder offered us a discount if we took two....'

Puppies only LOOK cute because if they didn't we wouldnt put up with the horrible things they do. Puppies are NOT really cute at all.. stop thinking about cute, it baffles your brain and you forget the important things in life. Cute is a survival mechanism, its there to trick you. Ignore it!
Puppies are incontinent, puppies BITE and they bite HARD. Puppies make extremely loud noises and demand and NEED your attention 24 hours a day. Puppies are extremely expensive, tiring and will eat your most expensive stuff, rip up your carpets and sofa, drag your shoes out into hte yard and bury them.... make the neighbours hate you... make you sleep deprived... make you stand in poo... or wee... Puppies... are... not... cute!

What kids want... whilst sometimes important, is NOT important when it comes to 'I want a puppy'. Yes, sure they want a puppy... next week they will want to swap it for a Wii. The week after they want a skateboard - I have nothing against kids, I was one... but what kids want when it comes to cutsey things is NOT a reason to commit to 12+ years of dog ownership.

Splitting puppies up is GOOD for them. Puppies together only practice being puppies, and I will get on to what that really means in a moment. Puppies do NOT learn how to be nice sensible adult dogs from other puppies, like toddlers do not learn how to be quantum physicists from other toddlers. They learn this from adults.

In any given 'wild' situation.. baby animals of sociable species split up as they hit adolescence.. between 'baby animal' stage and 'adolescent' stage... they mix with a WIDE range of other ages of animal of their species.. from similar aged animals to old ones and from nice ones to crabby ones and everything in between. When everyone in their social group is fed up of them, they go on their merry way... to seek their fortunes in the big wide world. Occasionally some buddy up for a while.. through choice, a choice made as adolescents and adults.

In your home there is no choice. They are stuck there, permanently, in a tiny space... those pups who would have grown up, spent time with other adult dogs, aunties and uncles and cousins .. who would have taught them all manner of things... have grown up with only each other. Who is to say at adolescent stage whether they will still love each other and choose to stick together, or whether they will hate one another with a vengeance.. and fight to the death. Certainly not you or I... and do you WANT to live with the possibility that this will happen and you will have to choose between your beloved pets? Or live with the fear that one day someone will leave a door open and Fluffy will rip Precious's head off? Or that King and Prince will fight and your toddler will get in the middle of it and get hurt?

Believe me.. splitting up puppies at 8 weeks is as easy as anything, compared with the horror of discovering one of your dogs wants to kill the other.

If you cant choose, toss a coin, let the breeder choose, go for a walk and think about it for a little while longer.. you will find a way of choosing, you have made harder choices before in your life and you will probably come across harder ones again in the future.

And finally... because the breeder offered you a discount?...

ANY breeder who is happy to sell people two puppies from the same litter, ESPECIALLY same sex littermates... has only one thing on their mind. Your money.

They dont care if the puppies live happily ever after, they dont care if you spend the next 12 years in a living hell, they dont care if you have to take one to the vet to be put down.... they just want your money.

The same goes btw for puppy mills, pet stores and back yard breeders and the breeders of wolf x or made up breeds, all who breed or sell pups without the health tests necessary, without care or consideration towards the parent dogs, without giving you the advice you need to make sure your pup lives a long and happy life. They are in it for the cash and nothing more.

So.. you dont want two puppies to keep each other company cos you reckon you have the time... you arent doing it just because they are cute and you reckon the breeder is a responsible and reputable kinda person..

You still shouldnt get two puppies.

They will take three times the work of one, if not more, everything you do with one puppy.. you must do with the other puppy... seperately AND together.

So thats three x the socialisation. Three x the training, three x the walkies..

Its also a million times harder to potty train two pups... because if you have them outside together they are playing and forget to poop.. put one inside whilst you do the other, the one indoors messes in the house..

Unless there are TWO adults fully committed to doing this work, in the same way as one another, or you have achieved omnipresence.. its going to take way WAY longer.

How many months of wee and poo on your floors are you going to be happy with? Because realistically, ONE puppy takes at least a couple of months to get reliably housetrained. Two... you could easily have half grown dogs still going in the house at six months or more old..

So.. you need two adults to train them together.. and you cant leave them alone together because if you think one puppy can cause some destruction when left alone you havent seen a THING compared to what two puppies can do.. eat your sofa? rip up your carpets.... or put them outside and see them eat through the neighbours fence and howl and play fight all day long...

And that is when they still like one another - wait until they reach sexual maturity and decide that this town aint big enough for the both of them...

As I said at the beginning, theres always going to be someone you know or you heard of who reckons they made it work. Id say for every 1 of those people who is actually telling the truth, 10 more are lying or at least glossing over some details. Ask more detailed questions, ask them where they can and cannot take their dogs.. you'll find out most likely that their dogs never leave the property, or cannot be seperated because one yells the house down if the other leaves the building, or they cant be kept together because one wants to kill the other, or they cant be trusted around guests.. or they wont walk nicely on the lead... or or or..

Question these folk who say its ok, and find out if their lifestyle is actually anything like yours - maybe it did work for them, I'm not saying it never can, but theres a degree of luck there.. and maybe you find out that this person is home all day, has 10 acres of well fenced land and no neighbours for 100 miles in any direction. Maybe they show dogs or work them, there will be some details that mean what works for them may well NOT work out for you.

Most people make mistakes with puppies, we are after all only human and mistakes is something we humans do pretty well - one puppy under socialised is a pain to deal with.. two are a nightmare. By the time you realise that two puppies was a mistake though, very frequently its going to be one of those pups who suffers for your error the most.

If you have already got two puppies you might think I am over reacting or painting a very bleak picture to scare you - believe me I am not writing this to wee on anyones parade here..
We all have dogs because we like them and we have a vision in our heads of what our life with our adult dog is going to be like - its going to be fun and fairly carefree with our dog by our side, obeying our commands and having a ball.

By taking on two puppies at once you drastically reduce the chances of that becoming a reality - you only need to take a look in the rescue centres and shelters around the world to see that MILLIONS of people fail to raise ONE dog every single day.

Why make it any harder than it already is - the world is rapidly becoming less and less dog friendly and dogs are expected to behave impeccably in every situation.
Give yourself the very BEST chance you AND your dog can have, of having a happy life together - get ONE pup at a time, from a reputable shelter or breeder. If you got two pups together and you are struggling with them now... TAKE ONE BACK. Rehome him or her... its a lot easier to do now at a few weeks old than it will be in 6 or 12 months time when its not just a struggle... very few people want to take on half grown out of control pups who have learned bad habits from their sibling.

If you decide to keep two puppies.. we will still offer you all the advice you need and want, this isnt a case of 'do what I say or we wont help' at all... this is about making life as easy, making success as easy as possible.. If you choose to do it the hard way we will still help, and we wont say 'I told you so'.. either.. Positive dog training starts before you even get your puppy, by making the right decisions, no matter HOW hard they might be.

I hope this helps people to decide what to do when they get a pup, or to make a hard decision having already got two pups.

Monday, 18 November 2013

I'm Outta Here! - dogs that escape!

Help, My Dog Jumped Out of the Yard... 

I think most dog owners have been there at one time or another, for whatever reason! Finding that your dog can get out of your garden or yard, and not only that but WILL get out, is a real problem.

I considered my yard totally 'dog proof' - at the time I had four dogs, none of them had gotten out, one or two of them could, I knew from experience, clear a 6ft high fence, but my fence set up had kept them in.

And then I got an Ellie-dog, escape artist extraordinaire!

So, your dog is getting out - first things first, you have to prevent this, so lets look at HOW your dog is getting out.

1 - Clearing the fence - the fence is not high enough
2 - Digging under the fence
3 - The fence has holes in it
4 - The gate is not secure
5 - Climbing the fence - the fence is climb-able, and your dog knows how to climb!

The first step is, keep your dog on a long leash and 100% supervised in your back yard/garden.

If this is not possible, for example your dog lives outside, then you need to consider teaching your dog how to live inside. The chances are, if you can't afford to put up a suitable fence right this second, you also can't afford to set up a running wire type tether or build a secure kennel and run. If you CAN, then go to it... but you need to have a serious think about this next stage...

WHY is your dog escaping?


 Your dog has a reason for getting out of your yard/garden. It might be a reason you consider dumb, it might be a reason you hadn't considered before or did not realise was such a strong motivator for your dog. So now it's time to think about it.

Some dogs get out because the yard, quite frankly, sucks. There's no one there most of the time, there's nothing to do out there, yard = boring.

Or, you might actually spend a fair bit of time out there with your dog, you might have a ton of toys out there for him too... but on the other side of that fence there is what he consider's, doggy nirvana! There are squirrels, there are cats, there are other dogs, there is a neighbour half a mile away having a barbeque that smells sooooooooo good...

If the  motivation to get out, is higher than the motivation to stay IN, and your yard is not totally secure - you are likely to have a problem.

That problem is often compounded if your dog doesn't have the strongest bond with you (for example, he is new), or if his training isn't great so he has no recall (or worse, he associates being called back with being punished!).

So... what do I do?

Well, first of all you make your yard secure. I discovered my Ellie-dog could fit through a gap of just 4inches wide! She only got to do it the one time, we blocked that gap up straight away!

Most people think that when it comes to making a fence dog-proof, its all about height.

It really isn't.

You need to consider HOW dogs jump over things. Dogs tend not to try to clear an obstacle naturally, they have to be taught this - what dogs do is jump ON to an item, then off it, or they climb it.

So when a dog jumps, he needs to know really accurately where the top line of that obstacle is, he can't just guess and give it plenty of room, because he is aiming his front paws AT it, to grab and scramble over.

If you  mess with his depth perception and perspective (something dogs eyes are not great at anyway), by making the top line of a fence something hard to grab, something hard to judge, then you are able to make a much lower fence secure.

To do this the best ways are to put a 45 degree inward overhang, and/or, a roller, to the top of the fence. The roller is easy, its PVC plumbing pipe, threaded onto heavy gauge wire. If he did manage to judge the top line, the roller just rolls!

The inward overhang is really great - from your dogs point of view below the fence, he can't judge just where that top line is, he will get too close on take off, and hit the underside of the overhang and just bounce off! Since he can't get a grip on that top line (even without a roller), he can't clear it - and if the overhang is big enough  (around 1ft is sufficient) ,he isn't going to climb it either!

So that deals neatly with dogs who go over. What about dogs who go under?

The first option when you put up a fence is to bury it pretty deep, so you have wire or concrete gravel boards going some depth under the soil. If you know your dog is a great digger, bury that fence DEEP!

The add-on to this for real serious diggers, is to put a concrete skirt around the inside edge of the fence once its erected - or you can lay concrete slabs around the perimeter, so there's nothing for him to dig through!

Why didn't you just tell me this first?

Wellllll... I could have, and you could hop straight to making your yard dog proof, without thinking about why your dog is getting out, sure.

But the chances are, your dog has a really good reason to try to get out, and if you don't address that problem, he is going to come up with some other behavioural issue.

If your dog is bored, and he is getting out because the neighbourhood is exciting, and you stop him - he won't quit being bored!

What's he gonna do now? Well he could howl, or bark, he could take up fence running and snapping through the fence, he could start ripping pieces off your house or trash your yard...

If you don't take a look at why the unwanted behaviour is happening, the chances are you will swap one problem for another!