By Janice Frasche’
Would you like to know simple a way of teaching your big dog to accept your dominance? Something you can use to humanely make a strong impression on your dog when he has been naughty? Something you can easily do that will help program your young puppy to look up to you as his leader?
This terrific training and correction technique involves putting your dog or pup (three months or older) into a thirty minute “down” daily. Yes, DAILY! If you do not have thirty minutes to spend with your dog daily, then you are probably too busy to have a dog. This is sensible preventive maintenance.
To initiate this lesson with your dog, begin with a time when you will be sitting down at the same spot for a half-hour period. Watching TV, reading a book, listening to the radio – you get the idea. (Some people can do it all at the same time.) Your dog must be on the floor next to you, and it is best initially if you are seated low enough to the dog so that you can swing your arms and chest (think CPR) over the dog (you look so ALPHA!) so that you can get him back down into the same place that you put him down in. (In a few days you can recline in that Lazy Boy, sitting on leash, while your dog stays down.)
Put a leash on your dog and give the command “DOOWWNNNN” once. If the dog doesn’t do it or hasn’t learned the command put him down on his belly; if he rolls on his back that is fine as long as he is down for the duration of this dominance exercise. A pup or untrained dog will get up (repeatedly) pretty quick, but keep putting him down without babbling to him. You can growl “NO!” and the command to him one more time but you should otherwise be silent. Eventually, the dog will settle for at least enough time to set your timer for thirty minutes. Yes, this must be done “cold turkey” for thirty minutes!
The first umpteen times that the dog tries to get up and you put him back down, he is learning that you are inflexible and alpha. Do not reset your timer and do not pet, fondle, scratch or tickle the dog while he is doing this exercise. You must maintain your aura of dominance. Eventually, even a young pup will give up asserting his will and just lie there. It is fine if your dog falls asleep. They usually will.
When thirty minutes is up, tell your dog “Okay, Good Dog!” (or something short and similar; do not babble or make it a big deal) that will let him know that you are releasing him from his long down. You may have to wake him up. Never just let him get up when you are doing this exercise, he must know when you have released him.
After several sessions, about a week or so of daily practice, your dog will have a better idea of who is in charge (you are, we hope) and you can add the command “STAY” to the exercise once the dog is down. When your dog is holding the long down pretty well without breaking it, you can start to move around the room and correct him as necessary if he breaks. Eventually, you can apply this exercise on just a weekly basis, or whenever you want the dog out of your hair.
Dogs that persist in inappropriately exerting their dominance should be put on a program of frequent daily long downs. If you continue to have problems with dominant behavior from your dog, you should contact a professional dog trainer.
If you need more information on training techniques regarding getting back the upper hand with a dominant dog, I highly recommend People, Pooches, and Problems by Job Michael Evans. It is a very thorough approach to handling the “recalcitrant” canine through a collection of behavior modification techniques. If you are just getting started with a puppy and want to prevent making mistakes that lead to these dominance problems, check out this book!
Who’s in Charge Here?
A Lesson in Communicating with Your Pyr
By Vicki Rodenberg De Gruy
“My dog just tried to bite me! All I did was tell him to move over so I could sit on the couch next to him.”
“My dog got into the trash can and when I scolded her, she growled at me. What’s wrong with her? I thought she loved me!”
“Our dog is very affectionate most of the time but when we try to make him do something he doesn’t want to do, he snaps at us.”
What do these three dogs have in common? Are they nasty or downright vicious? No – they’re “alpha.” They’ve taken over the leadership of the families that love them. Instead of taking orders from their people, these dogs are giving orders! Your dog can love you very much and still try to dominate you or other members of your family.
Dogs are social creatures and believers in social order. A dog’s social system is a “pack” with a well-defined pecking order. The leader of the pack is the alpha, supreme boss, Top Dog. He (or she) gets the best of everything – the best food, the best place to sleep, the best toy, etc. The leader also gets to be first in everything – he gets to eat first, to leave first and to get attention first. All the other dogs in the pack respect the alpha dog’s wishes. Any dog that challenges the alpha’s authority gets a swift physical reminder of just where his place in the pack really is.
Your family is your dog’s “pack.” Many dogs fit easily into the lower levels of their human pack’s pecking order and don’t make waves. They do what they’re told and don’t challenge authority. Other dogs don’t fit in quite as well. Some of them are natural born leaders and are always challenging their human alphas. Other dogs are social climbers – they’re always looking for ways to get a little closer to the top of the family ladder. These natural leaders and the social climbers can become problems to an unsuspecting family that’s not aware of the dog’s natural pack instincts.
Some families encourage their dogs to take over the “pack” without realizing it. They treat their dogs as equals, not as subordinates. They give them special privileges like being allowed to sleep on the bed or couch. They don’t train their dogs and let them get away with disobeying commands. In a real dog pack, no one but the alpha dog would get this kind of treatment. Alpha doesn’t have anything to do with size. The tiniest Chihuahua can be a canine bully. In fact, the smaller the dog, the more people tend to baby them and cater to them – making the dog feel even more dominant and in control of his humans.
Alpha dogs often seem to make good pets. They’re confident, smarter than average, and affectionate. They can be wonderful with children and good with strangers. Everything seems to be great with the relationship – until someone crosses him or makes him do something he doesn’t want to do. Then, suddenly, this wonderful dog growls or tries to bite someone and no one understands why.
In a real dog pack, the alpha dog doesn’t have to answer to anyone. No one gives him orders or tells him what to do. The other dogs in the pack respect his position. If another dog is foolish enough to challenge the alpha by trying to take his bone or his favorite sleeping place, the alpha dog will quickly put him in his place with a hard stare or a growl. If this doesn’t work, the alpha dog will enforce his leadership with his teeth. This is all natural, instinctive behavior – in a dog’s world. In a human family, though, this behavior is unacceptable and dangerous.
Dogs need and want leaders. They have an instinctive need to fit into a pack. They want the security of knowing their place and what’s expected of them. Most of them don’t want to be alphas – they want someone else to give the orders and make the decisions. If his humans don’t provide that leadership, the dog will take over the role himself. If you’ve allowed your dog to become alpha, you’re at his mercy and as a leader, he may be either a benevolent king or a tyrant!
If you think your dog is alpha in your household, he probably is. If your dog respects only one or two members of the family but dominates the others, you still have a problem. The dog’s place should be at the – bottom – of your human family’s pack order, not at the top or somewhere in between.
In order to reclaim your family’s rightful place as leaders of the pack, your dog needs some lessons in how to be a subordinate, not an equal. You’re going to show him what it means to be a dog again. Your dog’s mother showed him very early in life that – she – was alpha and that he had to respect her. As a puppy, he was given a secure place in his litter’s pack and because of that security, he was free to concentrate on growing, learning, playing, loving and just being a dog. Your dog doesn’t really want the responsibility of being alpha, having to make the decisions and defend his position at the top. He wants a leader to follow and worship so he can have the freedom of just being a dog again.
How To Become Leader Of Your Pack
Your dog watches you constantly and reads your body language. He knows if you’re insecure, uncomfortable in a leadership role or won’t enforce a command. This behavior confuses him, makes him insecure, and if he’s a natural leader or has a social-climbing personality, it’ll encourage him to assume the alpha position and tell you what to do.
“Alpha” is an attitude. It involves quiet confidence, dignity, intelligence, and an air of authority. A dog can sense this attitude almost immediately – its how his mother acted towards him. Watch a professional trainer or a good obedience instructor. They stand tall and use their voices and eyes to project the idea that they’re capable of getting what they want. They’re gentle but firm, loving but tough, all at the same time. Most dogs are immediately submissive towards this type of personality because they recognize and respect alpha when they see it.
Practice being alpha. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Walk tall. Practice using a new tone of voice, one that’s deep and firm. Don’t ask your dog to do something – tell him. There’s a difference. He knows the difference, too! Remember that, as alpha, you’re entitled to make the rules and give the orders. Your dog understands that instinctively.
With most dogs, just this change in your attitude and an obedience-training course will be enough to turn things around. With a dog that’s already taken over the household and has enforced his position by growling or biting and has been allowed to get away with it, you’ll need to do more than just decide to be alpha. The dog is going to need an attitude adjustment as well.
Natural leaders and social climbers aren’t going to want to give up their alpha position. Your sudden change in behavior is going to shock and threaten them. Your dog might act even more aggressively than before. An alpha dog will instinctively respond to challenges to his authority. It’s his nature to want to put down revolutionary uprisings by the peasants! Don’t worry, there’s a way around it.
An alpha dog already knows that he can beat you in a physical fight so returning his aggression with violence of your own won’t work. Until you’ve successfully established your position as alpha, corrections like hitting, shaking, or using the “rollover” techniques described in some books will not work and can be downright dangerous to you. An alpha dog will respond to these methods with violence and you could be seriously hurt.
What you need to do is use your brain! You’re smarter than he is and you can out think him. You’ll also need to be more stubborn than he is. What I’m about to describe here is an effective, non-violent method of removing your dog from alpha status and putting him back at the bottom of the family totem pole where he belongs and where he needs to be. In order for this method to work, your whole family has to be involved. It requires an attitude adjustment from everyone and a new way of working with your dog.
This is serious business. A dog that bites or threatens people is a dangerous dog, no matter how much you love him. If treating your dog like a dog and not an equal seems harsh to you, keep in mind that our society no longer tolerates dangerous dogs. Lawsuits from dog bites are now settling for millions of dollars – you could lose your home and everything else you own if your dog injures someone. You or your children could be permanently disfigured. And your dog could lose his life. That’s the bottom line.
Canine Boot Camp for Alpha Attitude Adjustment
From this day forward, you’re going to teach your dog that he is a dog, not a miniature human being in a furry suit. His mother taught him how to be a dog once and how to take orders. Along the way, through lack of training or misunderstood intentions, he’s forgotten. With your help, he’s going to remember what he is and how he fits into the world. Before long, he’s even going to like it!
Dogs were bred to look to humans for food, companionship and guidance. An alpha dog doesn’t ask for what he wants, he demands it. He lets you know in no uncertain terms that he wants his dinner, that he wants to go out, that he wants to play and be petted and that he wants these things right now. You’re going to teach him that from now on, he has to earn what he gets. No more free rides. This is going to be a shock to his system at first but you’ll be surprised how quickly he’ll catch on and that he’ll actually become eager to please you.
If your dog doesn’t already know the simple command SIT, teach it to him. Reward him
Some Pyrs transition to new homes quickly. Others need time. We recommend following these guidelines for at least several months.
1) Introductions: Introduce your Pyr to pets, neighborhood dogs, and visiting dogs on leash and in a neutral space (such as the street while taking a walk). Do not allow other dogs to charge your Pyr’s face or mount it. Pyrs rarely initiate fights, but it is normal for even the most mellow Pyr to defend itself, especially when in an unfamiliar setting.
Introduce your dogs to new people slowly. Although it is tempting to have friends and family over to meet your new Pyr right away, give them time to adjust to your home and become familiar with household members before welcoming guests. When guests come over, remember that they are strangers to your new Pyr. Leash your Pyr and go outside to greet them, and do so enthusiastically to signal to your Pyr that this person is welcome in your home. Walk your guests into your home together, move away from the door to a sofa or seating area, and then unleash your Pyr for more affection and perhaps a treat from their new friend. Avoid letting front doors become a place of excitement that Pyrs can become territorial over.
2) Crates Are Great!: Use crates to enable a smooth transition into your family. If you adopted from us, your Pyr is crate-trained. Continue crating your new family member when unattended and when you aren’t able to give your dogs your attention. Until confident that your Pyr has learned household rules, do not allow him/her free access to the house or other pets, including during the night. Dog fights are rare, but when they happen, they follow signs of increasing tension and competition over resources, including people and affection. If you aren’t able to keep eyes and ears out for tense ears and tails, growls, snaps, and other signs of potential conflict AND correct unwanted behaviors, crate your new dog. Particularly during the first few weeks, allow them interaction only when humans are able to facilitate good behavior. This IS a lot of work, but prevention is easier than recovery. Likewise, crating at night also greatly minimizes unwanted barking while Pyrs adjust to neighborhood noises. See “Why You Should Crate Your New Pyr” for more specific information.
3) Have a Potty Routine: Maintain a bathroom schedule; we let out the Pyrs at the kennels every 6 hours. Teach your Pyr how you want him/her to alert you if he/she needs to go. For example, go to the same door each time and use the same command. It is normal for a Pyr to have a few accidents while adjusting to a new home.
4) Feeding: Many Pyrs don’t eat much while adjusting to a new home. That’s normal, and new dog owners shouldn’t worry if their Pyr skips meals or eats little for the first few days. Continue to offer food twice a day, and the Pyr will eat when he/she is comfortable doing so. If your Pyr has loose stools, mix a heaping tablespoon of packed pumpkin into their kibble. Just like with us, stress can upset Pyr tummies. Most Pyrs will have normal stools within a day or two given a little extra fiber and time.
We recommend continuing to feed two generous cups of Diamond Brand lamb and rice kibble morning and evening for the first week. That’s what the Pyrs eat at rescue. Then, if you want to switch foods, do so gradually every few days over the next week by substituting 25% of your preferred food in increasing amounts. Because we have observed a pattern of allergic reactions to it, avoid feeding chicken-based foods.
Avoid over feeding or under feeding your Pyr. In general, adult dogs need an average of 25-30 kcal/lb. of food each day. Pyrs, however, have a lower metabolism, and this is particularly true for those Pyrs who are older or sedentary. 20 kcal/lb.of food each day is appropriate for most moderately active adult pet Pyrs. In other words, a 90 lb. Pyr should eat in the range of 1,800 kcals of food a day. Most kibbles have between 300 and 400 kcals/cup. Most cans of wet food have between 200 and 300 kcals/can. Again, this means most Pyrs should eat two generous cups of kibble per meal, and that amount should be adjusted if kibble is supplemented with wet food, table scraps, and treats. We see an increasing number of obese Pyrs among our alumni. This is tragic: extra pounds on Pyrs lead to health problems. Simply put, fat Pyrs suffer from a greater range and higher rate of mobility issues, and they die younger. Over feeding a dog because it was once hungry may make humans feel better, but it kills dogs in the long run.
Many Pyrs come into rescue underweight. To help a Pyr gain weight, calculate the Pyr’s nutritional needs for its projected healthy body weight, and feed that amount. That might be 90 lbs. for a Pyr who came into rescue weighing 80 lbs. Pyrs who are grossly underweight (more than 10 lbs./10% of their body weight) can be fed an extra meal each day. One or two additional cups of kibble for lunch enable severely malnourished Pyrs to reach a healthy weight faster. Adding fish oil or an omega oil blend designed for dogs is also helpful for those Pyrs growing in sparse coats.
Feed new Pyrs in their crate or apart from existing pets. If feeding outside of a crate, a separate room apart from other pets is best — allow no encroachment by other pets or children during meals. Feeding new pets is an adult task, and children should never be allowed to play near eating dogs or with dog bowls. Pick up bowls immediately after meals, and do not allow other pets to finish the new Pyrs’ food in front of them. Why do we suggest being so strict at feeding times? Simply, this is one of the easiest ways to prevent conflict among pets and reassure the new dog that her/his needs will be met. You know that there will always be enough food for all pets, but the new Pyr does not and may have been hungry or have had to compete for food in the past. Past meal times may have been stressful. Giving your new Pyr time to understand that food will be available and meal times will be safe is an important part of the adjustment process.
One last word on food: adults are responsible for teaching children good food manners around dogs. A few times a year, wonderful dogs are surrendered to us because adults allowed children to eat in front of their dogs in ways that provoked an unwanted reaction. These scenarios have included a dog growling at a child who was eating popcorn while sitting on the floor next to the dog, a child running with a cheese stick prompting the dog to chase her, an unrestrained dog riding in a car who ate a container of crackers from a child restrained in a car seat, and a dog snapping at a toddler who crawled near the dog while he was eating. None of these dogs bit the children, and, thankfully, none of these children were hurt. Adults with small children in their home or who visit their home should establish and enforce food rules, particularly during the new Pyr’s period of adjustment. Consider limiting children’s eating and snacking to the kitchen table, and don’t let children run with food in front of Pyrs, take food from them, or eat on the floor near them until you are confident that this will not trigger the Pyr to respond. Most Pyrs are not reactive — except to cutely mooch a bite or two — but adults should monitor behavior until they trust their children and dogs to eat together.
5) Set Boundaries: All Pyrs will test boundaries in a new home. Quickly, consistently, and firmly correct unwanted behaviors. Often a firm “NO!” is enough. No need to yell or hit. We suggest using squirt bottles — a stream of water to the snout– when verbal commands don’t stop the behavior. Follow correction with redirection to a wanted behavior, and when the Pyr engages in that, praise, praise, praise! For example, take a shoe from a Pyr and say, “No, mine!” and then walk the Pyr to another location in the house where he/she has toys, and praise them when they chew their toys. All human members of the household, including children, should be consistent when training for positive patterns of behavior.
Speaking of boundaries, new Pyrs won’t necessarily understand what is theirs to chew and what is not. Remove all dog toys, children’s plush toys, shoes, and other objects that your Pyr might mistake as theirs from the rooms where they will be. Reintroduce them slowly and by demonstrating possession. If existing pets have favorite toys, be mindful that those can be particular triggers for fights. Bones and food-dispensing toys are particularly high status to many Pyrs, and they should be given only in crates and apart from other dogs until you are confident that enjoying them outside the crate is safe for all.
We encourage the proper use of choke chains while walking Pyrs to correct pulling, which is a fixable problem. Look for a video showing how soon!
6) Routine Maintenance:
Maintain your Pyr’s schedule for heartworm and flea preventative, which we generally give on the 1st of each month.
Brush your Pyr and clean their ears weekly.
Trim nails monthly.
Monitor your new Pyrs’ stools. We administer a comprehensive dewormer to each dog at intake, but that generally kills only the adults, leaving eggs and larvae to grow. Some Pyrs will need a second round of dewormer to break that reproductive cycle. Should your new Pyr have loose stools or you see worms in their stool about four to six weeks after they arrived in rescue, they simply need another dose of dewormer. You can purchase this at most pet and feed stories or from your vet and administer it yourself.
By Jane Gill
Each rescue dog arrives with his own story. The fortunate ones are healthy and happy, and come to your house complete with vaccinations, toys and favorite blanket. Others can arrive nameless, dirty, and with a laundry-list of problems. But even sad stories can become happy ones if you are willing to use patience and common sense. Here are some suggestions not only from my (limited) experience, but also from Maureen Simon, who has successfully counseled many happy rescue owners.
There are really two facets to your first days with your new friend, the physical side and the emotional side. On the physical side, is the dog brown instead of white? Do you suspect critters creeping around? Is the coat matted? If so, once the dog has had a chance to settle down and catch his breath, a bath is one of the first things on the agenda. Get as many mats out as possible before bathing, and then into the tub! Maintain a cheerful, soft patter of conversation as you work, and be as gentle but businesslike as possible. Let the dog look at and sniff brushes, shower heads, etc. before you charge in with them, and keep telling him what a good and beautiful boy he really is. (If you have a really dirty boy, Murphy’s Oil Soap works great as a first shampoo. It’s non-toxic, kills critters on contact, and is gentle on irritated skin. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly!)
Are shots up to date? Is the dog on heartworm medication? How about his weight? Are the eyes clear and bright? Is this dog neutered yet? An appointment with your vet for an all-around checkup is probably in order (and don’t forget to take stool samples!). While you’re at it, the county dog license and a tag with your name, phone number and address should also appear on that collar right away!
Housebreaking is yet another physical issue that is of immediate concern. Some rescue dogs arrive never having been housebroken, and others may temporarily lose their training from stress. Cheer up! It is easier to housebreak or re-housebreak an adult than it is a puppy, became once they get the idea, adults have more physical control than puppies do. Approach this as you would with a puppy, getting your guy on a regular schedule, praising enthusiastically when he goes outside, and confining him when you are not there to supervise. Accidents will clean up more quickly if the dog was in a crate or on a smooth surface, and vinegar and water will remove the odor (which could trigger another accident if not eliminated!)
Speaking of bowels, be careful with the treats the first few days. Stress, change in diet, and even change in water can trigger a diarrhea attack–no small thing when dealing with a large dog! If your buddy arrived with his own food and you wish to change to something else, do it gradually–mixing one third of the new in with two-thirds of the old, then over a period of days increasing the proportions until you are switched over. Don’t be unduly alarmed if he doesn’t eat much the first few days. Pyrs can be pickers at the best of times. This can be frustrating, admittedly, if the dog is really underweight. (One of my favorite ploys for stimulating appetite while avoiding diarrhea is to use the classic post-diarrhea diet of three parts rice to one part boiled hamburger, and then mix it with some dry food.) Try to provide a peaceful area at feeding time, with little to worry or distract him.
We’re into the emotional side! Changing households is stressful for your dog no matter what his story. The first few weeks can be really critical for establishing a good relationship, and the adjustment process will take far longer (Maureen suggests at least three months is typical). Especially the first few days, Boris will probably spend a lot of time exploring his new home and yard, sniffing everything in sight, and may seem skittish. His tail may seem to be permanently wheeled up over his back (Conrad’s didn’t relax into a badger hang for a week!). Supervise these explorations from a slight distance, and clearly indicate with a sharp “NO!” if he starts to do something that is not allowed. Then distract him to something that is allowed and praise enthusiastically. Be especially alert during first trips into your (fenced!) yard. You may wish to do this on leash. You may have a Great Houdini on your hands, and Pyrs can move amazingly fast at times. (Marple found four escape routes in as many minutes her first day at our house, and the next day she started working on the gate latch!)
Your entire family will no doubt want to shower Baskerville with lots of love and attention, but let him have some quiet times too. Time spent curled at your feet while you read or watch television is just as valuable for him in bonding with you as fun trips around the neighborhood are. Walks, car rides, and play sessions are in order, too. But again, be alert to how the dog is reacting in these new situations. Does he love rides? Hate bicycles? Disapprove of garbage trucks? Does he have any idea in God’s green earth of how to walk on a leash? You will no doubt develop a list of behaviors that you want to work on in the upcoming months, and get some valuable insights into his pyrsonality. Be cautious about having the entire neighborhood come over to play with the new dog. Be there! A seemingly gentle guardian dog may interpret rough play as a threat to your child, you, or himself, and act accordingly– and possibly tragically!
Always keep in mind, too, what Rhonda Dalton explained to me as the “Pyr World View”: DIFFERENT IS EVIL! Pyrs, even as young puppies, will notice very small differences in their environment and may bark their fool heads off. A well- socialized and experienced dog learns to be more discriminating in his area of concern. But a poorly socialized dog, or one who has moved to an entirely different environment needs to be helped just as a puppy does. If your Pyr is worried about an object, pat it, and tell him in a happy voice that he is very silly. Encourage him to sniff it for himself. If a noise is setting him off, go look with him in the direction of the noise, to acknowledge his concern, and tell him it’s OK. DON’T ASSUME THAT THE DOG IS WRONG! In my first month with Conrad, I assumed that he was barking at nothing and yelled without looking, only to discover that a helicopter had set down three doors from our house!
As far as general behavior is concerned, start out as you intend to go on. Establish house rules firmly and without question. If the dog is not allowed to beg at the table, he is NOT ALLOWED. EVER. It is extremely unfair to the dog to allow one thing one day, and scold for the same behavior the next. Boris may “act up” in various ways during this time as he tests the boundaries of acceptable behavior. You may also discover behavioral or personality quirks that the previous owner never mentioned because they were afraid to! Sadly, some owners fail to teach their young dogs manners, then send them down the road when they decide that Pickles is out of hand. If Pickles winds up at your house, don’t blame the dog. Just get working!
Pickles may, in the course of his first days with you, at some point growl at you. This is also pretty normal behavior. Don’t panic! He has been thrust into a new pack, and is trying to figure out his position in it. Dogs signal dominance this way, as well as by direct stares. Signal back with a firm scruff shake, a sharp growly “NO” and a dominant stare back. As soon as Pickles looks away he is signaling submission, and you can go about your business. You really don’t need to yell, scream, or hit. Alphas are firm, fair, and forgive (in the words of Carol Lea Benjamin). If Pickles comes toward you happily but with a dip of head, slightly averted eyes, and perhaps a bend to his body, he is greeting you as a dominant pack member. Greet him joyously, pat him on the head or top of the body, and confirm that yes, this is a wonderful pack.
Boris? Pickles? Baskerville? Just what IS this dog’s name? Well, you decide! If your new darling arrived with no name, or a name you dislike, sure you can change it! It takes a surprisingly short time for dogs to associate a new word with themselves. Just work it into the conversation a lot, especially when engaged in pleasurable activities like feeding, brushing, calling him to you for a treat, etc. If your new dog looks worried whenever you use his old name, he may be associating it with scoldings, hitting, and other unpleasantness. So change it, and give him a word that he can associate with love and a wonderful new life.
Does all of this sound scary? Are you re-thinking whether you want a dirty, ill-behaved, growling, wacko dog? All of the above things are just things that MAY happen. Not all of them will! And remember that Pyr Rescue believed enough in the stability and placeability of this dog to match him to the pyrfect home–YOURS! Also keep in mind that you are not alone as you work with your new dog. I cannot emphasize enough that if you are feeling confused, frustrated or down about how things are going, you should feel free to call your Pyr Rescue contact people. Do not be embarrassed, and don’t feel like it is an imposition! Rescue folk have a strong desire to see placements succeed, and dog lovers adore talking about dogs anyway. I certainly do! Feel free to share the good news, too! We love hearing it!
Now’s the time where my obedience bias gets trotted out. DO SOME OBEDIENCE PRACTICE SESSIONS WITH YOUR NEW DOG! If the dog came already trained, it will help to remind him that “Sit” means the same thing in this new house, and will reinforce in his mind that he needs to pay attention to you just as he did with his old master. Is the dog untrained? Then start training! Any dog can learn basic obedience behaviors, no matter the age. You don’t know how to train a dog? No problem. Read the newsletters, and get a hold of some of the books recommended by the GPCA and Pyr rescues. Here’s another book to add to the list: Second-hand Dog by Carol Lea Benjamin. It talks about behavior, training, dog brains, and lots of other things.
Sign up for an obedience class in your area. Keep sessions short, happy, and fun, but DO IT! I cannot stress this enough. Why am I such an obedience “nut”? Because I’ve been there, and I can personally vouch for the truth (almost a religious truth for me) that the time spent will reward you and your dog a hundred-fold. Obedience training not only trains the dog, it trains the trainer. You learn valuable lessons in how dogs think and behave, and how to communicate effectively with them. At the same time the dog is better able to communicate with you, because in a way you are learning his language. A body posture or flick of the ear begin to speak volumes.
Good obedience training also can be wonderful for encouraging a shy dog, or settling a dominant one. It offers a way for a working dog to WORK for you. It gives him a time of day when your attention is totally focused on him. And it gives him a way of gaining honest praise. Along the way you will probably also learn patience and humility, because Pyrs are not the easiest subjects for training. But just think how much greater the reward is when your dog finally masters his lesson. Anyone can train a Golden! You trained a PYR! As you work through your first months with your wonderful dog, let yourself daydream a little about all the things you two will do together. Perhaps appear in the obedience ring and earn a CD? Pass the Canine Good Citizen Test? Become a therapy dog team and bring furry love to nursing home patients? Go backpacking? Learn to pull a cart? All of these things and many more are things that rescue Pyrs have done and are doing. Have faith that your guy can do them too. You may not be able to appear in the Conformation ring with your neutered dog, but there is a world of other activities out there that are just waiting for you!
By Sherry Bennett-Nichols
I read many years ago that animals have the capacity to grieve. This idea was not commonly believed or accepted at the time. The article also said that if at all possible, during times of loss, allow the pet to see the departed pack member. Ever since, when a pet has passed away, I have tried to do that, and it truly seems to help the animals understand that their pack is changing.
We lost a very important member of out pack last October when my husband Ed was killed in a motorcycle accident on the way to work. From the time I received the call on Wednesday until that Saturday, our Pyrs Sebastian and Madlyn were out of sorts. My sister was the first to notice how much barkier they were. Even though they never seemed to look for Ed, they knew something was wrong and were on high alert.
On Wednesday, I brought Ed’s clothes home and hung his jacket on the chair he always sat in. I left the clothes sit on the floor in the bag so Sebastian and Madlyn could smell them. I called Martha, and she graciously offered to help me with the dogs so I could take them along with Ed’s children to see him before he was cremated. Martha met us there.
Sebastian didn’t want to enter the building: I believe he could smell all the death that passed through those walls. Madlyn went right in. Martha took Sebastian in first and stood him up so he could see Ed. Sebastian reacted calmly. When Martha stood Madlyn up, Madlyn recognized Ed and wagged. Then she realized something was wrong, and she wanted down. She turned her back to him. Sebastian then wanted to smell the blanket covering Ed, and Madlyn came back over and joined in the smelling. Martha then took the dogs out while we said our good-byes. Sebastian and Madlyn laid by the van in the shade and waited calmly. They seemed to understand.
By Martha Rehmeyer
Nail clipping is a regular part of grooming. Your Pyr’s nails should just touch the ground when it walks. Trim nails once or twice a month or the quick, which refers to the tender blood vessels and nerve endings which extend into the nail, will lengthen. Shorter quicks make for easier clipping.
Use a sturdy, large clipper. If your pet store doesn’t carry a tool that you think will do the trick, keep shopping. A sharp, strong clipper makes all the difference.
Start at the tip of the nail and snip a little at a time to avoid cutting the quick. When you start to see pale pink tissue near the top—stop. Use a coarse nail file to smooth edges. Trim the dewclaws more; they wear down less rapidly.
On white nails, the quick is the pink section. If you can’t see it easily, grab a mini-flashlight to shine through your Pyr’s nail. It is the dense core that light doesn’t shine through.
If you do nip the quick and the nail bleeds, apply pressure using styptic powder, cornstarch, or baby powder.
If you are uncomfortable with this task, ask your veterinarian or groomer to demonstrate proper nail trimming. When you are comfortable, your Pyr will be, too.
If your Pyr does not want to hold still, ask someone to pet him or her while you trim. Never try to trim the nails if the dog is not in a stay position. Praise is important. Treats don’t hurt either!
By Rose Stremlau
Traditionally, Pyrs are nocturnal, a characteristic that enabled them to guard and protect the flocks entrusted to them. Even today, working Pyrs continue to keep watch over their charges all night. For those of us who do not own livestock guardians but instead share our homes with “couch guardians,” this aspect of Pyr behavior can be frustrating. Not all Pyrs bark at night, and for those that do, there are ways to train them to bark less often. This is one family’s experience reducing night barking.
Leonidas was a night barker, and he still is to a much smaller degree. When we first adopted him, he barked several times each night for ten or more minutes at a time. In part, he was responding to the noises in our neighborhood. Lots of owls and nocturnal critters make their home in our yard, and Leonidas liked to “talk” to them. At that time, we also had two separate neighbors who were either coming home from or leaving for work in the middle of the night. Leo would bark at them as well.
My husband is a very light sleeper. All of this made for frustration, and shooshing and yelling didn’t quiet Leo down. We found that white noise doesn’t work either. Pyrs have such good hearing, and it didn’t fool Leonidas like we wanted it to.
After talking with Martha and our trainer, both of whom encouraged us to work with our dog’s temperament, we began to appreciate that Leonidas thinks he is doing his job by barking at night. So us yelling at him for “working” just confused him. It might have made him think he wasn’t working hard enough, or he might have thought that our yelling was joining in with him.
Pyrs are hardwired to protect their flock regardless of what time it is. To some extent, they still will want to do that even when they are couch guardians. When we go to sleep, Leo thinks he clocks in. We can’t change hundreds of years of canine evolutionary adaptation. Instead, we changed our response, and it worked over time to reduce this unwanted behavior.
We created a night time routine for Leonidas. He gets last outs, a biscuit, we set the house alarm, and then we walk with him to his favorite sleeping place, which is as far away from stimulating noise as possible. After he lays down, we sing him a good night song. Yes, we sing him a short lullaby, the same one each night. Our trainer didn’t suggest that specifically, but she did say that clearly indicating to him that it is time to sleep is important. It is communicating “you don’t need to work now.”
We’ve done this for two years, and if Leonidas doesn’t get his “sleepy Pyr” song as we prepare for bed, he sulks and whimpers. Every now and again, when we’re tired and don’t follow our routine, it is inevitable that I’ll just crawl into bed and start to relax before Leonidas will start throwing a tantrum and crying in his bed. If I get up, go to him, sing him his song, and give him a good night hug, he settles right in and quiets right down. He’s almost always asleep before the song is over.
If he barks during the night, we let it go for a minute or two. Now, he usually quiets himself, but when we started this, he didn’t. If it seems like he won’t stop, one of us gets up and goes to where he is barking, which is usually one of our front windows. Then, we calmly say “What’s up, Leo? What do you see?” and look at the window with him for a moment. Usually, we see nothing.
A few times, we’ve seen something we didn’t want to…like a drunk driver who hit our neighbor’s mailbox! We want Leo to guard us, so it is important to validate him with praise and treats when he does a good job. After a moment of looking with him, we say in that same calm, reassuring voice, “Thank you, Leo Pyr. Good work. That’s enough. Okay, back to sleep.” We walk him back to his sleeping place, wait for him to lie down, pat him on the head, and go back to bed.
In other words, instead of trying to stop the behavior totally because it is annoying to those of us who work and have to get up, we appreciate that he’s working. Signaling that he’s done his job and can go back to sleep has worked over time. We noticed improvement within weeks, and now, he might bark for a few minutes once or twice each week.
I think he began to understand that many of things he was barking at (like the evil, hated owls and the normal car noises), were not concerns to us, and this method communicated that we appreciated his alert but that it wasn’t needed for that thing. Or this thing. So he slowly but surely stopped barking at those things. His “vocabulary” increased, and he understood what not to bark at. As a result, he barks a lot less. He’ll bark at new or strange things. We’re ok with that.
We also do something like this during the day. He barks like a mad dog at a few things, and we want to discourage that overreaction. When the mailman drives by and he flips out, we go to the window, look out with him, calmly say, “Oh, okay, its the mailman. I see. Thank you, Leo, but he’s okay,” and gently lead him away from the window to a rug where we have him lay down. He gets petted when he is calm. At first, he didn’t calm down right away. Now, when we go “rug,” he usually will settle down after he’s thanked and removed from the stimulation. By doing that during the day, we’re reinforcing that when we acknowledge his alert but say it is okay, we mean “thank you for being a Pyr AND take a break.” He’s now ok with the mailman, but he still wants to fight the UPS guy. Why he’s learned the one is okay but not the other, I have no idea?! It is a work in progress, and each overreaction is a chance to work with him to create a new outcome.
Once we learned what to do and calmed down because we realized we could teach him, our attitude changed, and THEN his behavior changed. We are now able to communicate our preferences to him. There are a few things we want him to bark at–like people we don’t know walking on our property, so when he barks at them, we praise him and give him a treat at the window so he knows he’s being a great boy.
None of this is quick fix. Pyrs are smart and stubborn, but they respond well to affirmation and clear signaling of right and wrong in a way that works with their hardwiring and not against it.
OK, we have all heard this. But have you ever heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy? Any dog, at any time, may choose to head merrily in the other direction when you call him (even a golden retriever!) But if we tell ourselves that our dogs won’t come reliably, and fail to work on this exercise, voila!—we have a dog that won’t come when called.
In teaching the recall, you must observe the Four Commandments:
1.Thou shalt NEVER, EVER call thy dog and then do something negative (scold, clean ears, etc.).
2. Thou shalt ALWAYS praise thy dog for coming.
3. Thou shalt NOT chew thy cabbage twice! Use ONE command.
4. Thou shalt NOT call thy dog if thou art not prepared to enforce it.
How to begin? Happily! And you need to KEEP this a happy exercise. The dog is brainwashed to feel that coming to you is always a good and joyful thing, while choosing to head in the other direction is always unpleasant. With a young puppy or with an untrained adult, start on lead with a buckle collar. In a very happy voice, say “Puppy, Come!” (Insert the dog’s name @ Puppy), and either trot backwards, or kneel and open your arms wide in a welcoming gesture, or both. Cheer all the way in as the dog comes to you, and reward like crazy when the dog touches you. Encourage the dog to your middle, looking up to your face. If the pup doesn’t move toward you, a slight tug on the lead should get him moving. But remember to use your voice and body language as the main motivator. Don’t haul the dog in like a sack of potatoes. When you pull, the natural reaction is to pull away.
A great game at this stage is to have two or more family members five feet apart. The first person calls the dog and rewards. Then the leash is tossed to the second person, and the dog is called to that person. Remember, use BIG PRAISE. But only say “Come” ONCE. Once this is working nicely, you are ready for the next step! Have the dog on lead either on a buckle collar or a training collar (if the dog is over six months old). Wander around, letting the dog sniff or whatever. Once attention is not on you, in a happy voice call, “Dog, COME”. Begin to move backwards (on the leash slack), and if the dog is not turning and moving toward you in a second, tug and release. If you need more than one tug, do it again, but DON’T DRAG. The dog must choose to move toward you. Cheer the second the dog moves toward you, and all the way in until he touches you. At this stage, if the dog moves past you, say nothing but issue another tug. Again, praise as the dog moves toward you and touches you.
From here, there are a variety of ways you can build. If you have begun teaching sit, stay, you can put the dog on a stay and then do the recall from there. You can build distance on-lead using a flexilead. (You will need to practice with using your thumb and the trigger to get a pop and release correction. Do it with a family member or a stuffed toy on the other end until you get it right.) Reduce the body language until the dog comes without any movement on your part, but reacts just to the command. (But still do some with you running back- wards or otherwise behaving like a loon.) You can also begin doing off-lead recalls in the house at short distances. Put a tab or a short grab lead on his collar. Make sure that the lead is not so long that he might step on it. If he tramples his lead, he is accidentally correcting himself for a right action! Then call, and if he doesn’t immediately start coming, smile, walk casually in, and correct him into you. Start using recalls for pleasurable daily routines: feeding times, treats, walks, etc. YOU know what your dog loves!
Once you have a reliable recall in the SAME room, you can begin calling him from another room. Same deal. Enforce happily. (And remember, dogs have spectacular hearing. Don’t assume that he didn’t hear you, unless you have a really wispy voice. Lose the wispy voice.)
Once you have an off-lead recall building nicely indoors, do it outdoors in a fenced area. Again, start at a short distance & gradually increase it as you are successful. By this time, if the dog misses a recall because of distraction, he should get an “Uh-oh” look when he sees you coming toward him, & should be correcting himself. If the dog is deliberately waiting to come until he sees you walking toward him, continue to walk in, get his tab, & correct even if he is already moving toward you. Then praise. The message at this stage is, “Honey, you know this stuff. Don’t make me come get you.” But do this ONLY if you are sure that the dog understands.
Proof. Call and enforce when he is distracted by neighborhood activity, or when playing with another dog. Then release him back to the activity he was enjoying. (You don’t want your dog to get into the mindset that whenever he is having a good time, coming to you ends that good time.)
At this stage, you can also begin letting him out into your fenced yard while you remain at the door. Invariably, your dog will choose a snowy or rainy morning to develop selective hearing. So keep those boots handy, and after one “Come”, emerge with that same benign smile, casual stroll, and will to enforce if Fido is ignoring you. The goal of a rock-solid recall is not to allow your dog to roam all over the neighborhood or to eliminate the need for a fenced yard. But if he accidentally gets loose, you will bless the time you spent on this. You will be thankful on a nasty morning for being able to stay inside while your dog relieves himself. And if you have a large, secluded area where you can loose your dog safely, you will have the joy of seeing your Pyr gamboling happily without the anxiety that he will disappear forever. But ONLY if you have done your homework!
P.S.: Don’t skip steps! If Fido ain’t coming reliably from three feet away, what makes you think he’ll come from thirty feet away?
By Rose Stremlau
Summer grooming is essential, especially for active Pyrs. When polled in summer 2009, many of CGPR’s Pyrents suggested that increased brushing was their primary means to keep Pyrs comfortable during warm months. Ronda Katzman, who has three working Pyrs, uses a brush and a light touch to remove the undercoat. Pyrs have two coats: a coarse, long outer coat and a fine, wooly undercoat. The outer coat is called the guard coat because it literally defends against threats to the health of the dog. As Judy Tysmans explained it, “My Pyr is a sheep guardian, so is out all the time. She doesn’t need last winter’s ‘overcoat’! She does need the guard hairs, so I wouldn’t shave her. They shade her from sun and tend to keep flies and ticks off.”
The coat also serves as a thermal barrier by regulating and maintaining a consistent body temperature because fur keeps the skin moist and therefore cooler. Exposed, dry skin can’t do the job nature intended it to do for the dog.
White dogs, such as Pyrs, are particularly susceptible to skin cancer. Pink skin is a sign of delicacy due to the lack of protective pigmentation. For this reason, most vets and breed experts recommend against shaving light-colored dogs. A slight trim that maintains the integrity of the coat may be appropriate for some dogs. If a dog must be shaved for medical reasons, baby sunscreen should be applied before exposure to the sun. Skin cancer is the most common canine cancer, and 30% of skin cancer tumors in dogs are malignant although not all skin cancers are related to sun exposure. Breed experts do recommend trimming the fur around the feet, however, as dogs do have sweat glands in their pads.
Watch for signs of heat stroke which occurs when dogs can no longer regulate their body heat. Symptoms include rapid panting, muddy-pink gums, heart racing, panicky behavior, and staggering. Submerge the dog in cool (not cold) water or run cool water over the dog’s groin where there is a concentration of superficial blood vessels. As soon as it is safe to move the dog, get it to the vet. Heat stroke can kill.
By Nancy Schlehuser
As with humans, every dog is different, so I can only tell you what we have experienced in traveling with our dogs. The one thing that all three of our Pyrs have had in common is their love for travel. With a few exceptions, they have been great travelers, which is a good thing since their owners have spent much of their time enjoying the road.
I’ll start with some basics. Make sure you have a good supply of water. In particular, bring a solid dog bowl that will not scoot or turn over so that you can have water for them at all times. Bring their own dog food and treats. This is very important. You don’t know what local stores at your destination will carry. A vacation isn’t the time to change your Pyr’s diet.
Stock up on plastic bags or pooper scoopers. It is rude to leave messes behind, and some places require pick up. It is worth the effort to pick up AAA travel guides in advance. They are very helpful because they show which motels allow dogs and, more importantly, up to what size. In general, La Quinta is Pyr- friendly as is Red Roof Inn although I think the rooms at most Red Roof Inns are smaller, which matters when you are sharing it with your Pyrs. When packing, don’t forget the leashes!
If you have never traveled long distances with your dog(s), you may not know what to expect. Start small. Prepare for anything. We’ve learned that over the years. Even the little things that should be simple sometimes are not.
We’ve adopted our third Pyr, Sophie, and still have Zeke, our second Pyr. We’ve gone on only one trip (to Florida) with Sophie, but Zeke has traveled extensively as did Alaska, our first Pyr, who passed away last year. True of all three dogs: they don’t like to do their business on the leash. Be patient! It will happen; it just might not happen as you want.
Up until the last few years, Alaska was very predictable. She would not do anything for two and a half days. You read it right: she held it for two and a half days. After that, she was fine. Zeke will water the trees and bushes but won’t do anything else. He also is predictable. He would not poop for two days.
On good days, he would wake one of us that morning, but many times we just had to take him for a long, long walk. Otherwise, later in the day he would try to dig a hole in the floor of the van. That’s when we knew we had to get off the road fast. Recognize the signals. As I said, Zeke tries to dig a hole; Alaska would get excited and pace in circles; and Sophie pants. Like human children, your Pyrs will tell you when they need something. Know how to listen to them.
Pack so that you make sure you leave plenty of room for them. We have a van with “stow & go” seats, and we stow those middle seats to give the dogs more room and so they can be closer to us. Got an extra suitcase but no place to put it? Leave it instead of cramping the space for your dog. You don’t need the extra clothes as much as your Pyr needs the space. Nothing is worse than a Pyr who can’t settle down and get comfortable.
Once, traveling with only Alaska, she wouldn’t lay down. She stood for four hours of driving time. At that time, we didn’t have a console between our seats; we had the net bag. When we removed that, Alaska happily laid down with her head between the seats. She just wanted to be closer to her people.
Zeke is fairly easy. He either lies down or parks his rear on the back seat. That way he can be more comfortable than standing and still look out the window. Zeke loves to look out the window. However, if for a short time we have three people on the back seat, he picks a lap to sit on.
Take the time to introduce your dog(s) to motel employees. Let them know that they are harmless but protective. I don’t think we have ever stayed in a motel whose staff didn’t love our dogs. If you are staying in one spot for more than a day, get acquainted with the head housekeeper. Keep that person informed on when the dogs will be in the room alone. Try, if possible, to arrange a time when you will be out walking with the dogs so that the room can be cleaned.
Traveling in hot weather can be a real problem, and it requires you to plan ahead for meals. Last summer, we took Alaska and Zeke and two granddaughters to Colorado for a family reunion. We knew it would be hot on the way there but expected cooler weather in Colorado. It was only cool for the three days we were in the Rockies. It was so hot on the way out that we kept the car running with the air conditioning on whenever we stopped to eat and left the dogs inside. Steve eats really fast which meant that he was the first one back to the car to turn off the engine, roll down the windows, and walk the dogs. Now that we have Sophie, I’m not sure we could do that — she would probably figure out how to drive the car!
Inspired to travel with your Pyrs and looking for Pyr-friendly destinations? Check out: www.bringfido.com
I hope this helps you enjoy adventures with your Pyr! Happy traveling!
By Jody Chiqouine of NEPR
*Check to see that identification tags are readable and attachment hooks are strong.
*When you arrive at your destination, put a blank adhesive label on the back of the ID tag and add the local contact info. Completely cover this with a piece of clear packaging tape, and it will be waterproof and easy to read for the duration of your trip.
*Always keep a collar on the dog while traveling. If you have an accident and the dog runs off, the ID tag will be on the dog.
*If your Pyr is not microchipped, do so before you leave on your trip. 95% of microchipped dogs are returned to owners within hours.
*A rabies tag should be on the dog at all times. Always travel with a current rabies certificate.
*Take your Pyr’s health records and your veterinarian contact information with you.
*Be sure you have tick preventive and heart worm meds.
*Travel with a current photo of your Pyr that shows their face in detail (much like a passport photo). If your dog gets lost, you can have signs made with the picture. Many people do not know what a Great Pyr looks like.
*Keep a simple pet-first aid kit with you.
“We don’t believe in crates.”
When you rescue dogs, there are certain phrases that raise red flags. This is one of them. People never tell us that they don’t believe in using collars, leashes, or fences. Why are crates different to some people? Why is crating equated to abuse by some dog owners?
Crates, when used properly, are not punishment. Rather, they are a tool for preventing problematic behaviors and enabling a dog’s successful transition into a forever home.
To start, let’s clarify that crates should never be used to isolate dogs for long periods of time. They should not be used instead of socializing your dog to interact properly with other pets and humans. They shouldn’t be used instead of housebreaking. When we advise adoptive families to crate their new Pyrs, we aren’t suggesting that they keep the Pyr locked up for most hours of the day. That’s misusing a crate.
This is what crates should be used for:
- Preventing normal but unwanted behaviors during the transition to a new home. Some rescued dogs transition to a new setting in days or weeks. Most take months — plural. Until a new dog can regularly do each of the following, we suggest crating when you are not able to pay attention to the dog. This includes when you are at work and asleep:
- Your Pyr has adjusted to your routine for using the bathroom outside and, if possible, alerts you when he/she needs to go. Although having an accident or two in a new home is normal, your Pyr is not regularly urinating or defecating in your house.
- Your Pyr does not scratch, chew, or otherwise damage household items, including furniture.
- Your Pyr does not engage in unwanted rough play with or bully other pets, and other pets do not engage in unwanted rough play with or bully your Pyr.
- Your Pyr does not hunt for food, including taking items from counters or eating items from the trash that may make him/her sick.
- Your Pyr does not bark excessively and obsessively, particularly at night.
- Your Pyr does not compete with other pets for toys and resources, including access to people or furniture.
Each of these behaviors is normal to some degree during the transition to a new home, and all are correctable when you observe the Pyr engaging in them. Stop the unwanted behavior, and direct the Pyr towards an appropriate one. Not able to give your Pyr your attention because you are at work or asleep? Then we suggest crating.
We regularly take in Pyrs we are told are destructive or bullies who are model citizens at our kennels, where they are crated, and when we place them in homes where owners correct unwanted behaviors and use crates correctly. Why? Crates work. Why is that important? Because failed adoptions are disappointing and disruptive both for Pyrs and people alike. Temporarily using a crate is one of the best ways to increase the odds of a successful adoption.
- Giving pets time to adjust to one another and preventing fights over resources. You chose to bring a new fur family member into your home, and while we hope that your new Pyr will be loved by you and your existing pets alike, those bonds take time. Until your pets have developed them, the new dog in an outsider. Giving your new Pyr its own space – apart from other pets — provides security and reassurance. For this reason, we recommend you feed your new Pyr in its crate as we do at the kennels. In its crate, your Pyr knows its food won’t be gobbled up by another dog, and food aggression and fights over food resources will be prevented. Feeding your Pyr in your crate also reinforces their positive association with it as a place where good things – special treats and meals – happen. Most people who have multiple dogs eventually feed them together. (We suggest opposite sides of the room so that dogs don’t make eye contact or wander over to one another’s bowls.) That’s the goal. Not the starting point.
In addition, crating your new Pyr during the night while you sleep is important to prevent discord over non-food resources such as couches. Existing pets often defend their territory from new pets, and new pets often try to assert their control over these same resources. A lot happens while you sleep. Crating your new pet prevents these negative outcomes.
- Wellness and emergency. We all hope our Pyrs never get sick. We all hope there’s never a natural disaster requiring our evacuation. We all fear being separated from our pet in an emergency. These scenarios are stressful for us and our pets. Ensuring your Pyr remains crate trained in case of a medical emergency or natural disaster can reduce the stress your pet experiences in these worst-case-scenarios.
A Pyr who is storm phobic benefits from being crated during bad weather. He or she may whine and whimper. That’s ok. Consider giving melatonin and/or using compression. A blanket over the sides of the crate and noise (a tv or radio) help create a comforting environment.
So how do you crate a Pyr?
- Buy a large enough crate. Your Pyr should be able to stand up, lay down, and turn around. We recommend the 54” long crate, which is XXL size in most brands. They commonly have a Great Dane on the box. Big box pet stores will order them for you if they don’t keep them in stock at your local store.
- Make it comfortable. Include a blanket and toys.
- Include a water bowl. Most pet stores carry hanging models that save floor space.
- Your Pyr is used to going in and out of his or her kennel at the rescue with love and affection. Give lots of hugs and kisses when you open the door. We reward Pyrs with a small treat when they return to their crates. If it is meal time, we feed them with enthusiasm. In other words, the crate should be positive, safe place. Think of it like tucking a child in for a nap or sleep.
- If you do need to crate to separate a Pyr from another pet or stop an unwanted behavior, correct the behavior THEN crate the Pyr without affection. Scolding a Pyr once in a crate doesn’t address the problem.
- Give high status treats, such as food chews and bones, only in crates. This makes the crate fun and prevents fights over those treats.
What happens if your Pyr “doesn’t like” his/her crate?
Ok, here’s the truth: they all did fine in them at the kennels, and so it isn’t the crate. The problem is our human perception of sadness. Note that we said perception. A Pyr giving “sad eyes” in a crate is not experiencing sadness as we humans do but trying to dominate or manipulate its humans. Your job is to establish clear boundaries and positive behavioral patterns in your home. Letting a Pyr control the terms in which he or she receive your attention, interacts with other pets, or accesses resources enables patterns of misbehavior. We all understand that when a toddler throws a tantrum because they want something that isn’t good for them, we shouldn’t let them decide to drink the Starbucks mochaccino, drive mommy’s car, stay up late, etc. We need to have good judgement for our Pyrs and like the crying toddler, know that this phase will pass as the Pyr matures into a wonderful family member who understands the expectations and rules.
In over twenty-five years rehoming Pyrs, we’ve learned that most Pyrs, in fact, like their crates. Over time, most people who adopt from us don’t crate their Pyrs but give them free roam of the house. Many leave their crates up for Pyrs who prefer to sleep in them, but they stop closing the door. Some use their crates only for travel (many hotels and vacation homes require dogs be crated when left alone, which is another reason to crate train). These are wonderful outcomes for Pyrs adjusted to their forever homes!