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Ask Pilar: Puppy Play, Outdoor Sleep And Saying No

Welcome to our “Ask Pilar” series! Professional dog trainer and groomer Pilar Garrido will answer questions you have about your pup. She is only providing a basic overview. For more information, please consult a trainer, behaviorist or groomer in your area, who can directly work with your dogs.

For this round of questions, our readers asked:

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1. When puppies are together, they do a lot of playing. Sometimes we will hear aggressive sounds which, to us, can seem scary. However, it is usually normal behavior for the pups. Remember, they are puppies and they are teething. They are also learning how biting works. For example, sometimes your puppy may try to nibble at you. When you pretend to cry, he/she will automatically stop. So, it is a game for them, when playing with other puppies. Learning to control the bite is very important for them. If you see their body language, you will find they usually have no intention of hurting each other. If the playing is safe, do not separate the puppies. If you do that, they will be confused. Playing is also a way for them to associate with each other. If the other puppy is a bit older, he/she may try to teach the younger ones. There’s a lot in the dogs’ body language that we may not understand. The process will calm down after he/she reaches five to six months old. If you want them to be calmer, give them morning walks. You can also play ball or other exercise games with them — it’s a good distraction and they will turn their focus to you. 

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2. That is a very good question. Normally, a dog does not want to go outside the house at night, especially if the family sleeps inside the house. Dogs are social animals and always want to sleep together with the family (with their pack). If your dog is throwing a tantrum, he is complaining because he does not understand what he did wrong, thinking he made a mistake to be told to sleep outside. My advice is to have the dog sleep inside your house. He can sleep near your bedroom door; you can put a small bed there with a toy or blanket that has your scent. If sleeping inside the house is not an option, it would be best to place a doghouse outside near the front door of the house. In the evenings, bring him for a walk or play with him in the backyard before giving him dinner. Never give him dinner inside the house if he is sleeping outside. After playing and dinner, do not allow him back inside until the next morning. When he goes to his doghouse, reward him with a little treat. If necessary, put a blanket or toy with your scent inside the doghouse so the dog knows you are not far away. A smell of lavender essential oil on his bed can make him a bit more relaxed. Make sure the area where you put the doghouse is not too cold or hot for sleeping. If he cannot sleep because of these conditions, he will cry to get inside the house. You need to be firm and let your dog know the rules for sleeping. Do not keep changing the rules (some days indoors, some days outdoors) because this will lead to further confusion. 

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3. When you say ‘No,’ you have to be firm. Never say ‘No’ in a calm, relaxed way because the message may not register. You must also use firm, assertive body language. When the dog pretends to be biting you, it is not aggressive — it is a way for her to say, ‘I disagree.’  Sometimes you will see a dog owner walking their dog in the park with a leash and, all of a sudden, it’s the dog pulling the leash. That is disobedience, but the dog owner may let the dog take the lead. Do not reward or allow disobedience. There is something you can be doing differently with your obedience training. For the best results, a trainer needs to see firsthand what you are doing when giving a command. Contact a trainer in your area. As a general suggestion, try to do this: when you say ‘No,’ do it in a firm manner then turn your back to your pup and ignore her (and use other firm body language). As soon as your dog becomes relaxed, give her a simple order such as ‘handshake’ and, the moment she does it, congratulate her with a treat or pat on the head. Use positive reinforcement to control the situation. 

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