Why my dog eats poop? Medical, behavioural, nutritional, diet, health reasons for coprophagia in dogs / Is it normal for dogs to eat own poop? / How to stop puppy to eat own poop? / Training, health and diet tips to stop dog eating poop / Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog and guide to English cocker spaniels, cocker spaniel grooming, health, diet, nutrition, training & puppy tips / (C) Natalia Ashton

Help! My dog eats poop! | Reasons for canine coprophagia & how to deal with it

The pup goes to the garden… He does his business nicely… You feel so proud of having such a brilliant clever dog. You victoriously pull out a poop bag like a flag celebrating your success in house training…  Then, to your shock and horror, the pup grabs his own poop and swallows it, often with a grin on his little face. And you feel like dying inside…

Sounds familiar? Too embarrassing to admit?

The thing you need to know about canine coprophagy, the proper scientific term that describes the act of dogs eating their own faeces, is that it is a lot more common than you think. If we talk numbers, between 16 to 49% (according to 2008 & 2018 studies) of dogs would eat their own poop. Quite a big number, isn’t it?

But do the numbers make it feel better, normal or acceptable? Or be a sign of concern and call for action?

After talking to many pup parents all over the world, I felt that we really need to address this subject here for both your sanity and the health of the dogs. Especially because the information available to us from both the internet and literature can not only be confusing, but often conflicting.

Let’s discuss…

Is coprophagia a normal behaviour?

No, it’s not. With an exception for bitches who care for their new born pups, dogs are not meant to eat their own excrements. The mum does it because the dogs are very clean animals and would not mess inside their nest. The puppies are not able to do much about it during their first month of life, so their mum comes to the rescue. However, as studies show, come day 32 and the puppies will try to get away from their immediate sleeping den to avoid soiling it.

Whenever you hear people (even some experts!) say that it is absolutely normal for dogs of all ages to eat their own faeces, they often base their statement on wolves behaviour, which is very different from the canine. The normal behaviour for dogs is to be interested in faeces of other species both for eating purposes or rolling in them…

What factors can lead to the development of this habit?

Behavioural environment: the dogs that share their home with other dogs seem to show the tendency of poop eating more often than the single-household pooches. The younger dogs (not necessarily puppies!) can learn this habit by watching older dogs in the same household (note that puppies do not learn poop eating from their mum simply because she looked after them as newborns). Kennelled dogs who may be anxious and dogs that were either born or spent their lives in puppy farms can also develop this habit.

Eating habits: greedy eaters (including the ones who beg for table scraps and tend to steal food off the table) are more likely to have tendency for coprophagy.

Gender: female dogs seem to be more into this habit than males. Additionally, all neutered dogs (both males and females) were more likely to be attracted to their own poop than intact dogs (42% of neutered males vs 6% of intact males and 41% of neutered females vs 7% of intact females)

Medical reasons: even though this does not get mentioned a lot, as a nutritionist I strongly suggest a thorough vet check for all dogs who develop a taste for their own faeces. First of all, the most obvious reasons would be the gut issues including bacterial imbalance, enzyme deficiencies, parasites and digestive problems. Dogs that have been on prescribed medication, antibiotics, suffer from pancreatitis, thyroid problems and diabetes, can  turn to poop eating to either replenish gut bacteria or rebalance enzyme levels, address nutritional imbalances caused by medication or illness, or in response to appetite changes.

Nutrition: poor quality diet can be one of the biggest reasons because the dog will simply seek ways to get the missing nutrients elsewhere. It does not necessarily mean that all dogs fed kibble will be malnourished and dogs fed home-made diet will get everything they need. This is all about complete and balanced recipe. From a nutritionist’s point of view I can assure you that a complete commercial dog diet is much more reliable than anything you’d make yourself.

What you can do…

Ask your vet for a thorough examination and, if possible, tests.

Be very particular about worming schedule and medicine for your dog to prevent any issues and even spread of some bacteria and parasites from the dog to the family. Stool test every 6 months would be an advantage.

Look into your dogs diet including main diet, all treats, table scraps, anything he tends to scavenge on walks, as well as his feeding schedule. Many scavengers would benefit from having 2-3 meals per day, not one.

Clean after the dog as soon as he is done. If you are worried that he may reach down for the fresh poop straight away, toss a treat in an opposite direction to encourage him to run away, giving you a chance to scoop everything up.

Teach a reliable “Leave It”.

Walk your dog on a lead for a few weeks to put you in control over the situation until you get to the bottom of it.

Ensure that your dog get enough mental stimulation and exercise through walks, puzzle games and training, and is given an opportunity to relax and rest.

What you should not do…

Experiment with various diet supplements design to put your dog off eating his poop. I am not a fan of using unproven methods that end up in dog’s body and may cause a variety of issues.

Use digestive enzymes without prior vet check and consulting your veterinarian about the choice. Digestive supplements are often recommended by holistic practitioners, however, so far the studies have shown no positive effects of such supplements on dog’s ability to digest nutritients.

Use pineapple remedy. If you choose to try it, be cautious. Adding fresh pineapple to dog’s diet is a trick many dog owners rely on. However, it has not been scientifically proven, and it can affect your dog’s digestive system due to high levels of enzyme called bromelain. On the other hand, pineapple does contain vitamins and minerals that the dog may be seeking when eating poop, so the best way is to a) have a vet check and b) try feeding your dog a very small, about a cube, amount of fresh pineapple flesh to begin with and see if it makes any difference.

Add chilli pepper to your dog’s diet, inject chilli extra into dog poop, or use any diet solutions with added capsaicin extract, an active substance found in chilli peppers.

Use physical punishment, yelling, electric collars, jars with stones, or training disks if you catch your dog in the act. Negative punishment never works! It may stop your dog from eating the poop out of fear – but it can also encourage him to seek every opportunity to indulge in this habit when and if you are not there to punish him. If a dog suffers from coprophagia due to anxiety issues, any form of negative punishment will add to this anxiety until the dog can’t take it anymore – and find some way to express it.

 

Photo credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Why train your dog / cocker spaniel training explained / Perfect cocker spaniel book & pet blog / dog diet, nutrition, grooming, training, health tips / (C) Natalia Ashton

What is the point of training a cocker spaniel?

Once upon a time I knew a cocker spaniel. He was a wonderful guy, a perfect specimen in every way – kind, friendly, and absolutely stunning. He was also incredibly well-trained and obedient. In any dog parent’s eyes he was a dream!

And then one day we saw a different side of this perfection. We were having one of our walks, somewhat crazy, somewhat calm, and most definitely a happy “messy-hair-don-t-care” walk for the three of us to enjoy. Suddenly, that spaniel appeared out of nowhere. He was running down the street, unleashed and free. I felt worried. We were on a side of busy road. We stopped. I looked around for his owner.

Eventually he appeared, slightly red faced. He called the dog – and the dog obliged to perfection. He went over, sat nicely and waited. A scene that would have been absolutely beautiful to watch if it wasn’t for one simple fact… The boy’s body language…

As he sat there, his body got tensed, the forever wagging tail – tucked under the bottom, and the ears pinned tights against his head.

Yes, the spaniel did what was asked of him… but he did so not because it was unthinkable for him not to please his owner out of love – it was unthinkable for him not to please his owner out of fear. He was perfectly obedient, but from that moment on I wouldn’t dare let my mind think of the methods used to train that dog. Even though he was perfect in comparison to my lot, I’d be heartbroken if my boys reacted to me and our training like that.

And we do take our training seriously (well, as serious as one can do when surrounded by cocker spaniels!) Anyone who knows me, read my blog or book, is aware of the fact that we love a bit of training here. I train my dogs from puppyhood and throughout their whole life without hardly missing a day. But we train for as long as everyone is enjoying it because for me, the point of successful training is far beyond a basic response to the cue word achieved at all costs or being able to perform every single imaginable task out there.

So why do we train our dogs then?

It helps the dog to live with his human family in harmony. We are all unique and have our own ways and habits, which the dog needs to be aware of. Teaching him what’s ok and not is like teaching a little child that sticking his fingers in an electric socket or playing with matches isn’t a good idea, but putting his toys away or kissing his mum really-really is.

As far as your household is concerned, you are the one who sets the rules as long as they are safe and sensible for everyone. If you are comfortable with your dog sleeping on a sofa – so be it. If you’d rather he slept in his own bed – teach him. If you want to avoid accidents and destructions during puppyhood – prevent them by proofing the house. Not keen on your dog stealing food from the table – don’t leave it there! If you absolutely have to have your dog jumping up when you come home, it’s your decision. But if you’d rather your dog politely sat by the door – it’s another lesson to learn.

It keeps the dog safe and welcomed within the community. Teaching your spaniel recall will ensure that he won’t run away chasing birds, live stock, a little kid or a fearful dog. Asking him to walk next to you down the street means that people around you will feel comfortable. A dog who knows how to stop or come back is less likely to run under the car if he gets distracted. And any spaniel who can resist picking up garbage on the street or spit anything he did pick, won’t have a bad tummy accident or worse…

It’s a way to instil your cocker spaniel with confidence. The more your dog learns, knows, observes and experiences, the more confident he will be. Positive training doesn’t make the dog smarter (all dogs are smart, it’s a matter of perception, not comparison) – it works with his cognition, enhances his intelligence and improves problem-solving skills.

It helps your dog be more dog. Cockers are workers. These dogs need to get busy before they can eventually relax on a sofa feeling utterly satisfied. Even if they are show dogs and look like total divas. They still appreciate something more labour-intensive than a blow-dry.

It builds a human-spaniel bond. Training together creates many moments of fun (and sometimes frustration – but then they become fun, too), and helps you tune into each other’s behaviour, habits and signs that will strengthen your relationship. Throw in an endless supply of treats to please the brain all the way from the gut – and you will conquer the heart of your spaniel forever.

It makes you a better human. Training can change your priorities, unearth some feelings and traits you thought you didn’t have – and get rid of the emotional junk that’s not worth drugging around. It teaches patience. It encourages you to learn, too. It gets you to the point when you see your dog through a completely different set of spectacles – and fall in love with your pooch all over again, day after day, more and more.  You know, it turns you into a person your dog always thought you were.

 

Image credit: Me and Coop photographed by my husband once upon a time

 

Cooper, red sable english cocker spaniel puppy 6 months old, Perfect cocker spaniel book guide, grooming, training / Adolescent phase in puppies / Puppies go through teenage phase / Behaviour research / Dog blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Teenage troubles? New insights into your pup’s adolescent phase.

“The little rebel has blossomed! Every day is Independence Day!…” I wrote in my book while talking about raising a 6-month old cocker spaniel who was just about to hit the adolescent phase.

Do dogs really go through a teenage stage? They do, indeed. Right after they just got over the teething, the pups give their parents hardly any break before returning in a manner of a hormone-powered comet… or a little beastie, as I refer to mine.

The little fireball once, and now vaguely, remembered as the fluffy angel suddenly develops selective hearing and tantrums, and worst of all, seems to forget every command he learnt in the past few months.

“He is not listening to me!”

“She just run away and refused to come back and I ended up running around calling her like an idiot!”

“They seem to be doing their own thing on walks now… like I don’t exist…”

“All our training seemed to have gone down the drain!”

“How long this teenage stage last in dogs?”

Sounds familiar? I can almost see you node because it’s that “wonderful time of puppy parenthood” we all get to experience. Just like human teenagers, the young pups arrive at the adolescent phase of their life and simply can’t help but act up in a very unruly manner… Of course, it can be frustrating for both parties. The pup parents may feel that they failed as caring guardians and the pups experience such a surge of physiological and emotional changes they can barely deal with them all…

Fortunately, the rebelling phase passes relatively quickly making every parent experience the euphoria that Nietzsche perfectly summed up as “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” once it’s over…

But despite it’s predictability and everything we already know about dogs, it is always interesting to hear new insights into canine behaviour because, in my opinion, it can help some people remain more tolerable and understanding when dealing with a growing pup and strengthen the canine-human bond when most needed.

The new study recently published by the Royal Society in the May 2020 issue of Biology Letters looked into the relationship between adolescent dogs and their human parents and came up with some very curious results.

According to the research, the dogs with stronger attachment to their owners experienced an earlier onset of the adolescent stage when compared to ones showing more independent and detached behaviour.

When it came to training, the pre-adolescent pups were happy to listen and perform commands given by their owners and trainers, however, their reaction and attention changed dramatically once they moved into the adolescent phase.

Unlike their younger self, the teenagers showed much higher odds of disobedience when given voice cues by their human parents. This was particularly obvious in dogs who experienced anxiety when separated from their owners. Yet, interestingly, the same dogs behaved a little better when working with a stranger or a trainer (which made me think of all the parents home-schooling their teenagers during the lockdown and praising teachers who seemed to be a lot more in control…). The latter didn’t depend on the skills level of the person in charge but rather the attachment between the dog and his owner.

Once the peak of adolescent stage was over (the dogs used in the study were 5, 8 and 12 months old), the level of trainability in pups improved naturally, without aids or force.

Even though the subject can and should be studied further, I see this study as a valuable reminder for all pup parents and trainers about paying particular attention and care to raising an adolescent puppy, especially a cocker spaniel puppy who is not only extra sensitive but prone to separation-related issues.

The teenage rebellion always passes, so it is up to us to guide the little cocker spaniel through this phase with positive training and a wagon-full of patience – and never base our parenting and training decisions on moments of frustration and despair.

 

Image credit: Cooper photographed by me

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 train your dog positively, study research, tips / perfect cocker spaniel / english cocker spaniel training, grooming, advice, puppy / world kindness day blog post / (C) Natalia Ashton / dog paw in human hand photo

Having a dog without regrets

What do you write about after sharing a post dedicated to the dog you miss so very much? Honestly, I tried to sit down and string a few words together, but it simply did not work…

Then, a few days ago I came across a survey done by Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance. According to the findings over 50 per cent of Southern dog (and cat) parents did not research the breed of their puppy before getting one, and only 21 per cent spent more than a week (a week, seriously?!) to find “the right breed for their lifestyle”. Worse, every sixth pet parent had regrets of getting a dog of that specific breed.

Think how many dogs you would normally meet during a walk with your pooch? Now imagine that every sixth dog is actually a burden to the person who walks him at that very moment – and try not bleed inside your heart.

For me, my dogs are my life. And I admit, I am, by my own admission, really is all about my dogs. I live and breathe for the happiness of my boys and feel terrible if I believe they didn’t have a good enough day (by my standards). I am not perfect at all, but I do everything I can – and a little bit more. No matter what.

As somebody who spent years researching dog breeds, reading books and attending courses to learn about taking care of a puppy, I simply cannot fathom how it is even possible to decide that one is ready for a dog and knows enough about a dog after a week of “research”… And then proceed by getting a puppy – not a fluffy toy, but an actual living being who needs his human mum to help him live, learn and thrive!

I’ve seen those people. I did. And I helped a few, too. Not because I cared much for them, but because I cared too much for the little pup who ended up in a household that was totally unprepared for him or her.

Do you ever wonder why we still have the heartbreaking reality of puppy farms? This is a good example how and why these disgusting businesses flourish. Every day they offer pups to these “owners” (because I cannot even refer to these people as “parents”) who visit them to get a dog without knowing much simply because they felt like having a puppy here and now, or choose to buy a puppy in a pet shop while stoping for coffee!

These are the people who end up with a dog suffering from illnesses or psychological problems. These are the people who had every chance of giving that puppy a wonderful  life, but instead give him up as an unwanted regret.

I tried to stay “cool and content” and find reasons to justify these people’s actions. I went online looking for opinions on forums and social media looking for solid reasons of regret… The truth was painful to learn:

“I didn’t realise dogs are such a hard work…”

“I am so annoyed because I cannot travel now like I used to…”

“He is such an inconvenience…”

“He chewed my furniture and went to pee all over the house…”

“He pulls the lead so hard, I can’t walk him, so I decided to rheum…”

“Having a dog is so expensive!”

“I only realised this breed wasn’t for me after I got a puppy…”

“I live in a cream house but this dog makes it dirty and leaves hair everywhere…”

“I can’t sleep at night because he keeps crying in the other room…”

“I feel stuck with him for years now…”

There were very, very few exceptions who had regrets because they were seriously ill, injured or suffered from severe allergy. Ironically, this group of people actually did their very best to try and keep the dog no matter what.

How can I possibly stay indifferent to this situation if it shows that the nation of dog lovers is clearly lacking the three fundamental pillars of dog parenthood: knowledge, commitment and responsibility? And worse, do very little to improve on any of these?

You may notice I did not mention love… I believe it’s important but love is nothing if it does not inspire you to become a better person, a better pup parent – and learn, learn everything you can before and during your life with one of the most wonderful beings we ever managed to tame… yet forgot the obvious “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed…” from the Little Prince. But then how many of those people would even read Exupéry?

And since this wonderful author also said that “a goal without a plan is just a wish”, here are a few things everyone who dreams of having a cocker spaniel puppy should read as the essential minimum before they even launch their search for the dream dog… As the very first step to make sure that every dog is wanted… now – and forever, for the rest of his life and beyond.

Misleading facts about English cocker spaniels you need to know

How to find a perfect cocker spaniel puppy

How to find a cocker spaniel puppy online and avoid puppy farms

Why is it so important to ask a breeder about health tests before choosing a puppy?

5 good reasons to have a cocker spaniel puppy

Perfect cocker spaniel: the ultimate guide to the breed including puppy guide, tips on grooming, diet, health, training and more

How to garden when you have a cocker spaniel puppy

Do you love gardening as much as you love cocker spaniels? So do many cockers… One of the most agricultural breeds out there. The only problem is that the dogs see the process in their own rather unique way. They love to prepare the soil, remove excess growth and replant things that look to enticing to them.

Oscar was the one who educated us on the subject of this special love. We puppy-proofed the garden before his arrival but obviously our efforts were based on a regular dog – not a cocker. As soon as Ozzy acclimatised and blossomed, he decided to apply his own gardening rules to the handkerchief space we created.

The pretty carnations and primroses were murdered on a cream sofa, the grass was pulled out seconds after my husband lovingly planted it and a few little trees had to be bandaged in a pathetic attempt to salvage them.

But I think the moment I’ll never forget was “the night of digging”.

One evening we started on a new flower bed, but had to stop as the rain approached. We run into the house only to see Oscar running in the opposite direction, sort of a slow motion moment from a horror movie that you can’t do much about. We froze as our little cocker jumped into the soil and started digging a massive hole in a manner of escapist finding his way to Australia… Moments later our golden spaniel was completely black.

The bath and blow dry took ages. I was relived to finally have my fluffy pup back before me and felt like having a cup of tea and relaxing. Unfortunately, Oscar had a plan of his own. As soon as he was near the garden door, the determined pup pushed it wide open and…jumped into the hole he made that was now filled with rain water and mud.

To keep the story short, he had another wash and blow dry – and we completely remodelled the garden the next morning feeling somewhat grateful that the space was rather small. The lesson was learnt.

As the spring is returning and we all end up spending more and more time outside, I wanted to put together a little guide about gardening with your cocker spaniel.

I have two reasons for it. Your sanity. And your dog’s safety. You need to be able to enjoy the outdoorsy life and the pup needs to be able to join you without potentially hurting himself by either eating a poisonous plant or swallowing a stick.

How do you ensure that your garden stays as beautiful as possible when you have a cocker spaniel?

How to stop dog digging garden / English cocker spaniel puppy training tips / breed and puppy guide dog book /

Start before your puppy is even here by dog-proofing the garden. Lift pots, raise flower beds, remove potentially dangerous plants whenever possible, create temporary barriers to stop the puppy from getting too close and personal with the rest of the flora.

Introduce temporary “fence” to protect the plants and flower beds. We used panels for a modular puppy play pen: assemble them into a shape you need using provided pins and secure the “wall” to a few wooden stakes.

Do not leave your puppy unattended.

Teach your cocker to “leave” and “spit”

Use the garden as a play spot. Make the little spaniel focus on your and the toys until he becomes completely indifferent to the plants.

Fred, chocolate and tan English cocker spaniel puppy, perfect cocker spaniel breed and puppy guide book, Natalia o dog blog

Give your dog plenty of toys and chews to focus on.

Make sure that he gets enough exercise and mental stimulation to keep him happy and prevent zoomies as he is most likely to dig the garden when he’s overaroused, under-exercised or anxious.

Provide shelter during hot weather because some dogs would dig a hole to create a cool down spot.

Keep rodents out because a cocker can sniff them and start digging as a results. Use ultrasound deterrents and patch the holes – avoid poisons as it is both inhumane and can be life-threatening for your dog.

Do not plant or prepare the ground in front of your puppy. He will do his best to investigate everything you’ve done as soon as possible!

how to stop dog cocker spaniel digging garden and destroying plants / perfect cocker spaniel breed and puppy guide, dog book

Personally I have no problems with my pups eating the grass, but I taught mine to go and search for the types they liked the most. For example, Fred and I go to “find a dandelion”. It creates a bit of fun for both of us and he somehow focuses on this game and the plant, and leaves the rest alone.

And whatever happens, please do not ever punish your dog by shouting at him (or worse). Do not use chemical solutions, water sprinkles or any “scarecrow”-like objects to frighten him either.

how to puppy proof garden / Cooper red sable cocker spaniel puppy / perfect cocker spaniel best book breed puppy guide about English cockers / Nata

Remember that in most cases this is just a stage of puppyhood and your little cocker is simply exploring his surroundings to learn the ropes of life. As he gets older, the spaniel will no longer perceive the garden as a place to explore but will appreciate it as a spot to relax and watch the world go by.

You may also be interested in a post about things that can be potentially dangerous for a dog in spring and summer. And for more tips about puppy-proofing, garden hazards, and raising and training a puppy, get a copy of Perfect cocker spaniel guide.

Photo credit: Fred and Cooper photographed by me, other images via Pixabay

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