How to stop puppy mouthing and biting / tips and training for English cocker spaniel puppy / dog blog / puppy training / Perfect cocker spaniel (C) Natalia Ashton

Q&A | Ouch, it hurts! Or how to stop puppy biting

Do you remember the day you brought your puppy home? It’s always so sweet, isn’t it? The cuddly, silky, chunky, adorable puppy napping in his basket and carefully yet curiously sniffing his new home… But give him a few days and the little beastie is here to transform the “aww” moments into the “ouch!” ones more often then we’d ever imagined or wished for….

Puppy biting is one of the realities every dog parent has to deal with. It is a part of puppyhood. We cannot avoid it. Instead we have to face it, make it bearable and use as a starting learning point for our own benefit long-term. We also need to prevent the worst outcome that most people describe as aggression. On very positive side, it’s worth mentioning that cocker spaniels are one of the gun dog breeds that were used to flush and bring prey without killing it. As a result, these dogs are more likely to have a “soft bite” because of their genetic background, so your chances of achieving success are much higher than, say, for a parent of a terrier.

First of all, it’s important to establish the difference between puppy mouthing and puppy biting.

All puppies mouth as a part of their play with mum, siblings and anyone else who comes their way. Mouthing helps them to find their position within the family and explore the environment as a part of their learning process.

The best thing you can do is anticipate and avoid any situation when the hard mouthing or biting can happen. You need to understand your pup’s body language and pay a lot of attention to his behaviour 24/7, but once you get an idea – you will always know the how, when, what and why.

If the puppy is mouthing during a play, looking relaxed and happy, you can stroke him and immediately redirect his attention to a toy without making much fuss or encouraging a play to get puppy overexcited.

A chew or stuffed toy is a good choice because puppy can bite and lick it, which can help him relax and relieve possible teething discomfort. If your puppy is relatively calm, you can throw a ball for him to fetch – it will take his attention away from your hand, make him feel really good about learning a new command (so praise him when he brings the toy back) and relieve any possible teething discomfort by sinking his needle-sharp teeth into the trophy. Some puppies do well with soft toys or even old towers and t-shirt tied into oversized knots (big enough to be interesting and “bite’able”, but not too big or small because it needs to suit your puppy’s mouth)

If you sense a slightest tension in your pup’s body language, the puppy gets overexcited or the mouthing becomes painful, you have three options:

… hold the puppy firmly but gently, then carefully remove your hand out of his mouth with a “disappointing cue” such as “ops” or “uh-oh”. Personally, I don’t like the use of “no” because it’s a bit meaningless, and many of us end up using it way too often and pointlessly (from the dog’s point of view);

… you need to stop interacting with the pup, stand/sit still and avoid temptation to react, talk to or cuddle him;

… or you can do what his mum and other pups would – make a high pitch sound meaning that it hurts – and slowly and calmly walk away. It is important not to run away from the puppy or keep on screaming and run away in a manner of windmill with all your body parts moving and flopping around (which is what little kids often do)  because it will simply look like an irresistible game of chase, catch and bite!

You can also use the mouthing moment to let your dog know that it’s ok if your fingers are in or around his mouth. It will teach him that you can use fingers to examine his muzzle, inside and outside of his mouth, or clean teeth. It can be done as a part of a play when the puppy is in your lap, calm and content, and tries to have your finger in his mouth as a part of chill out time. It is up to you to decide when this “game” starts and ends.

Teaching your puppy the rules of mouthing and how to be gentle needs to begin from the day he first shows this behaviour. The longer you leave it, the worst it will become and the more difficult it will be to re-shape and stop. If you don’t act, the mouthing can signal the pup that it is totally ok to bite and eventually lead to serious consequences.

But puppies do bite, I hear you say. And yes, they do. The mouthing can become harder or turn into biting for several reasons.

Some puppies can use nipping and biting to seek attention or out of frustration because they aren’t getting what they want here and now. You need to stop this straight away and only react to the puppy if/when he stops, sits quietly and remains in a sitting position for a few seconds (you can build up from 5 to 30 seconds slowly). If he impolitely insists on rough play and biting because you are not paying attention or delivering treats and toys in a timely manner suggested by his royal highness – walk away calmly without saying a word.

Most puppies turn into little sharks during teething times because they really want to get those milk teeth out and because their gums really hurt. Giving him chew toys (I always choose rubber over nylon), soft unstuffed or extra strong toys, rope toys (make sure they are made of natural un-dyed cotton, ideally organic and always supervise!), suede toys, knotted towels and t-shirts in plentiful amounts can help a lot. Many puppies love destroying cardboard boxes, too. Stock up on toys like a kleptomaniac – and rotate them every few days to keep the pup interested. Don’t forget, once the puppy teeth are out, the grown-up set and gums still take time to settle, so don’t expect your junior to act as a responsible adult – he isn’t quite there yet. So toys and more toys, plus careful training are your allies.

A lot of puppies can also become nippy and aggressive when they are either overexcited or tired (puppies cry – puppies bite). I’ve written about it before, so Zoomies are so last year is the post for you.

Biting can also be your pup’s answer to fear or any moment or situation that makes him feel uncomfortable. Use socialisation, training and create calm environment to show him that life is generally pretty good, especially when you are a little cocker.

It is also important to remember to be gentle with the pup because he is very fragile and can be easily injured, not to shout him, or lock him in a spare room or crate as a way to punish him, work as a family involving everyone who ever plays with the little one, and most definitely teach your children the do’s and don’t’s of handling a young dog.

This stage will be over before you even realise. It just takes a little dedication and lots of patience to get through.

If you are looking for more information about English cockers and finding and raising a puppy, you may like my book Perfect cocker spaniel, which has a month by month puppy plan nestled nicely among the tips about breed, health, grooming, first aid, diet and training.

 

Image credit: cocker spaniel puppy by Switlana Symonenko (C) 123rf.com

How to protect and puppy proof christmas tree from dog / Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog / English cocker spaniel book, puppy advice, tips, cocker grooming, hand strip, diet, training tips, cocker spaniel puppies / (C) Natalia Ashton

Q & A | How to protect the Christmas tree from my cocker spaniel puppy?

This was one of the most popular questions I had to answer since the beginning of December, so I thought we need to have a proper conversation about puppy-proofing the Christmas tree.

Christmas trees and cocker spaniels can live in utter harmony most of the time. Admittedly, we never had to worry even though my boys have always been inquisitive about things. Thankfully, Christmas trees were never on their list of objects to explore. I guess they thought that it was just another piece of furniture that we chose to add to the house decor.

On the other hand, and after I was asked the question, there were things that I’ve always done on subconscious level or perhaps because I tried to perceive the tree from the dog’s point of view – and it helped me to avoid any disasters.

And this is why I made the list to document my actions in one place…

Put the tree in a room that your dog won’t be able to access if you have to leave him on his own. Putting a puppy playpen around the tree may stop some cockers, but many dogs will just force their way through any barriers because the prize is way too good to ignore!

Fake it! Choose an artificial tree over the real thing. Just think how tempting a fir tree would be for your pup who lives to sniff and chew! Boys may even mark it… because it’s exactly the same as the  “message boards” they use outside!

Additionally, fir needles contain oils that can irritate the mouth and digestive tract and cause drooling, vomiting and upset stomach. Your cocker cannot digest any needles he swallows, which can lead to additional digestive issues and even stomach punctures. If your dog walks over them, the needles (especially old and dry ones) can cause anything from a mild irritation from the prick to an injury.

Another thing to bear in mind when it comes to the real trees is the water – it can become stale, contain chemicals and oils from the tree and “special solutions” such as pesticides, preservatives and aspirin, which are toxic to dogs.

On the other hand, an artificial tree is not that fragrant even from the canine prespective and is relatively safe unless your pooch chooses to pull the entire arrangement down for the fun of it.

Talking of the latter… Give your dog some time to get used to the tree. Put it up, make sure it’s sturdy and then leave the tree without any decorations for a couple of days. Do not attract your dog’s attention to the tree when installing it. Do not ask him to come and look at branches or sniff it. As soon as you begin to fuss over “the new thing”, it will become something enchanting for your cocker.

Inspect your artificial tree for loose needles and brittle brunches. Some materials can become fragile with age and if they fall off and get swallowed by your dog, the pieces of plastic or metal can be harmful.

Decorations need to be chosen wisely, especially if your cocker is still young. When my boys were puppies I made sure to avoid putting any bubbles onto the bottom brunches and always picked plastic, metal, paper, fabric and unbreakable “glass” decorations if they were within my boys’ reach. They never tried to steal them – it’s was my cautious paranoia that made me do it.

Some dogs do find baubles interesting: the toys move at the slightest draft, they are reflective and sparkling, the pup can often pick the changes in light when staring at them, and they look like his favourite balls… begging to be stolen and thrown around!

The only way you can decide how to avoid any potential disasters is to put a few baubles on the tree and observe your cocker carefully from nearby. If he shows too much attention, reconsider the decor. If his curiosity is mainly to do with the novelty of the object, use the “leave” word and make him forget about the tree decor completely by playing together or doing some training in the “tree vicinity”.

Also most definitely avoid tinsels unless your spaniel is completely oblivious and indifferent to the festivities. Tinsel can cause digestive blockages and injuries when swallowed, so it’s best not to use it.

Make sure that the tree lights are off if you cannot supervise your dog and the tree and there’s a slight chance that he may bite into the cable.

Last but not least are the edible decorations. Chocolate “baubles” and “stars” are toxic to dogs. Spicy cookies can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, and some may contain toxic raisins. Dried fruits may also upset digestion. And just imagine what any normal dog would do if you embellished the tree with any dog biscuits and treats… He is not going to just camp under the branches, that’s for sure.

 

For more useful tips on having the most wonderful peaceful Christmas with your cocker spaniel read my Dog friendly Christmas check list post.

 

Photo credit: image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Cooper, photographed by me / simple trick to how to stop puppy from picking street rubbish on walks / first puppy advice for cocker spaniel puppy parents / published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Simple trick to stop your puppy from picking street rubbish on walks

Teaching a pup to “Leave” takes time… So what can you do now to stop him from picking up everything in sight during your walks?

I’ve come up with this trick after noticing that most cockers love to carry something. So when my pups were young, too excited about life (and everything on the street they could sniff and possibly eat…) and still learning proper “Leave” I used a distraction.

I’d pick up an old sock, shoe storage bag (you know, the one that comes inside the box), glove or small fabric flat toy – anything light and easy to hold would do!

We’d play right before the walk using the said thing, then I’d put it in my pocket to give to the pup during our walk.

They always looked so happy, adorable and proud carrying their trophy! And it kept them busy from focusing on rubbish! After a few walks the rubbish would become a familiar part of the street, so the pups would no longer pay attention to it. By then we’d also had enough practice with “Leave”, so the pups were prepared for the big life (and the sock or toy would be left at home)

Of course, it doesn’t suit every single puppy. But it’s such a simple thing to try, it’s worth a mention.

If you have any tricks or tips of your own, do share them below.

bionda chasten campaign by Dima Hohlov c/o Bionda Castana & Natalia Barbieri / why puppies chew shoes and how to stop them from chewing furniture, shoes and other things when teething / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Q&A | How to stop a puppy from chewing shoes?

“Louboutins or Manolos, they all taste the same…” is a kind of note that should be given to all new puppy parents, especially their shoe-loving mums. Brands aside, the note will serve as a friendly reminder that puppies, whether you like it or not, like to bite things.

Unlike us, humans, dogs don’t see things first… They SMELL them. Then they TASTE them. This simple exercise is their favourite way to learn about life and things its made of. The sights comes useful, of course, but mostly as a navigation device to get the pup from the scent to the source. Presto.

And once they arrive, puppies sink their teeth into whatever they want to learn about. Naturally the damage can be big and turn your possessions into shreds in no time.

To avoid this from happening, here are some simple rules that every puppy parent needs to follow, not even for the sake of saving a pair of shoes, but mostly, for the safety of your pup who can, unfortunately, swallow things he should not.

Puppy-proof the house before you get the pup;
Prevent or stop any bad habit from happening from the start otherwise you will end up with a dog who will be destroying things for the rest of his life because it’s fun;
Put away shoes and things that may look tempting;
Give him plenty of toys (see my earlier post about best chews for puppies);
Stimulate him mentally through puzzle toys and training – and physically, though age-appropriate exercises (walks, training etc.)
During teething, use bitter apple spray on furniture – the taste will discourage him from chewing;
Do not leave the pup alone for hours – first of all, it’s not a good idea full-stop, secondly, he is likely to get bored and end up chewing something; thirdly, cockers can develop separation anxiety and, as a result, destructive behaviour, if you aren’t careful;
If your puppy shows signs of pica (the need to eat odd things like, say, plaster or soil) consult a vet and examine his current diet.

See? Easy enough. Almost tempting to say “Christian Louboutin would approve”, but I guess that would be advertising.

Photo source: Bionda Castana Spring/Summer 2016 campaign (photography: Dima Hohlov) c/o Natalia Barbieri

Fred, my chocolate and tan english cocker spaniel puppy playing with his ball / first puppy training tips and advice / things to teach puppy / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

5 things to teach your puppy

Puppy’s mind is like blank canvas. You can paint anything you like on its surface. The better skills you have, the better your masterpiece will turn out. If you leave the canvas untouched & neglected, they’ll lose their pristine qualities & require a lot more effort to achieve the art work you’ve dreamed of…

Now, away from the imaginary gallery and back to the reality of puppy life, so we can use every minute of it to our advantage.

Cockers are naturally very intelligent & easy to train at any age. However, puppy’s brain is information-hungry & still developing, so it’s the best time to mould it.

I teach my pups from day one. Those aren’t really lessons. It’s more like a game. Of course, nothing is forced & the “games” are kept short. And here are the first 5 things the pups learn…

His/her name… because it’s the easiest way to grab your pup’s attention;

“Come”… because right now pup will follow you at all times allowing you to set the foundation for future success;

House training… takes time, so the sooner you begin, the quicker you’ll achieve results;

Wearing collar & walking with a lead attached… because wearing ANYTHING is not natural for any animal. It’s important for the little pup to understand that his collar is not scary & the lead is not a toy. You can also teach him to follow you (while the lead is attached) and build foundation towards successful no-pulling on the lead routine;

“Leave” or “Spit”… to stop him from hoovering up everything in sight (& spitting things out when asked) to avoid obvious problems.

The rest of the lifestyle tasks can be taught alongside or later on

I didn’t include the how-to’s because I’ve described details in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel. And lets be honest, any article longer than 1000 characters can send even the most dedicated puppy parents to sleep…

What things did you teach your pup when he joined you? Which ones are most important for you?

Photo source: Fred, photographed by me

 

We Love | Dug & Bitch Nose #2

My miracle in a jar… I’m sure most girls will understand me when I say that the idea of not having Nose No. 2 available is as heart-breaking as having your favourite shade of lipstick being discounted.

So I hope it’ll never happen…

I discovered Dug&Bitch in a manner of a meg pie. The bird looks for shiny pretty things – I get tempted by chic looking objects, even if they are some ordinary tins.

One day I spotted the Nose balm & decided to get it, just in case.

Back then Fred, still a pup, was suffering from keratosis on his nose. Long story short – aged 5 days Fred almost didn’t make it. His breeder nursed him back from the other side, but the puppy food had to be high in vitamins to do the trick. As a side-effect, his body reacted by overproducing skin cells. And it was my job, as a mum, to fix it.

Shea butter was the answer because it’s healing, packed with beneficial oils, which make it anti-inflammatory, and it’s brilliant for a long list of skin concerns.

Plus Nose No. 2 had the coconut oil. Which is my life-line externally & internally.

After a week of daily applications Fred’s chocolate muzzle went from dry & cracked to shiny & super-kissable.

Since the jar was still full to the brim, I continued using the balm as a maintenance treatment… From there we also moved onto paws, skin, any bug bites & minor scratches, boys bums & tums, the list went on… For example, if your pup has a light-coloured muzzle, you can use Nose No. 2 as the best natural toxin-free sunscreen. And if your dog tends to suffer from mild eczema (but only it was diagnosed by a vet!) or lip fold dermatitis (especially as a preventative measure) the balm may be useful, too.

The tin lasts me almost a year. And I always repurchase this love potion. Star product, 5-star and beyond.

Perfect.

And I haven’t been paid or compensated in any other way to say any of it. Had to say it for the sceptics.

Water Wipes, best wipes for puppies / first time puppy advice and tips on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

We Love | WaterWipes

I’ve discovered Water Wipes two years ago when preparing for the arrival of Fred. And now I can’t imagine being without them. I know, it’s #firstworldproblems but hey…

I use them to clean my boys paws after non-muddy walks (I’ve posted about importance of clean paws a while ago, so scroll down for a read)

They are indispensable with young pups – to wipe paws, bottoms & tummies

The wipes can work as a mild disinfectant for your hands during walks, on grooming surfaces, to wipe toys, or wee spots (after you clean them first, of course!)

Unlike ANY other wipes, including the ones sold as “natural”, “organic”, “puppy friendly” etc, these are made with water and some grapefruit seed extract (it has antibacterial properties) only, so they are non-toxic & very unlikely to cause any sensitivity (skin or digestive) reaction in pups as opposed to any wipes made with essential oils, aloe vera, waxes, “odor neutraliser” (whatever it is!), preservatives, polysorbates, flavours, proteins (why?), polyaminopropyl boguanide, dimethicone, PEGs, triclosan, fragrances, parabens, zinc, SLS, DMDM hydantoin etc.

Yes, I like it simple. Because I love my dogs and I hate overloading their bodies with unnecessary chemicals, which ALWAYS carry short- and long term side-effects that go way beyond the skin reaction.

Brilliant product, absolutely brilliant.

This post has not been sponsored or gifted. I simply love this product.
Note: these aren’t biodegradable, so please bin them – don’t flush them down the toilet.

Photo source: Water Wipes UK