Learning to Say Please (New Puppy Series) – Aquadale Veterinary Clinic (Massillon, Ohio Veterinarian)

Our next installment in the new puppy series is all about teaching your young dog manners. We know how hard it is to be a strict dog parent when your puppy is so darn cute it’s tempting to let them get away with everything, so the following guidelines will help teach your dog to be mannerly and respectful – without making you the bad guy!

Teaching Your Puppy to Say Please

Rules to Live By

No one likes having to follow rules all the time, but dogs generally behave better and are happier when they are given some boundaries in life. Using the following method can be a baseline for shaping your puppy’s behavior and creating a well-rounded, respectful adult dog. The method is based upon two simple rules that dogs must be taught to follow for their entire lives:

Rule 1: Nothing in life is free.

Your puppy should learn that he or she needs to respond to a sit command before they receive anything they want or need. This teaches your puppy to defer to you when they need or want anything. It ensures that all good things come from you. It creates a respectful puppy that will grow into a respectful adult dog. Finally, it can give your dog a “job” to do, which is an invaluable tool for all dogs but especially active and working breed dogs that were bred to do a specific job. These dogs can develop severe nuisance behaviors out of boredom.

Teach your puppy to sit on command, and then ask them to sit whenever they want something. This includes sitting for the following:

  • Food and feeding
  • Treats
  • Love
  • Grooming
  • Being able to go out – and come in
  • Having the leash, halter, or harness put on.
  • Having feet toweled
  • Being invited onto the bed or sofa (if desired)
  • Playing games
  • Playing with toys
  • Being petted or loved
  • Attention
  • Anything the dog wants!

Your dog’s only responsibility is putting his bottom on the floor or ground, being quiet, and awaiting your direction. Everyone in the house must be involved for this method to work well. Consistency, again, is very important.

All dogs can benefit from this method; however, they will need to be taught how to sit on command first. A sit command is extremely easy to teach, and puppies as young as five weeks can be taught how to sit.

Teaching Sit

Teaching a dog anything boils down to two simple facts.

  • Dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding.
  • Dogs retire behaviors that are not rewarding.

Keep in mind that something might be rewarding to a dog that wouldn’t necessarily be rewarding to a person. Some dogs find rolling in stinky things supremely rewarding where as we would think otherwise. A lot of training issues stem from people misreading what is or isn’t rewarding to their dog. Always remember: If you want a behavior to stop, find out how it is rewarding to your dog and remove that reward. If you want a behavior to be repeated then reward your dog for doing that behavior.

To teach the sit command you will be rewarding your dog with food for performing a sit. You can either lure your puppy into a sitting position or try to catch them when they sit on their own and reward them. Sit can usually be taught with luring in a handful of five minute sessions. Frequent yet short training sessions work better than one long session, especially in young puppies.

Steps for Training Sit:

  1. Grab a handful of small treats. You can use your puppy’s kibble if it is hungry or close to a meal time. The treats need only be the size of your pinky fingernail.
  2. Take your puppy on their leash to a quiet, non-distracting place for their training sessions at first. Remove all toys and food from the area before beginning.
  3. Capture your pup’s attention by holding a treat in front of their nose, when they try to take the treat slowly move the treat over there nose towards their forehead and finally back over their head. The puppy should follow the treat with their nose, tilting their head back in the process. This usually prompts the puppy to sit down.
  • If the puppy will not sit when you lure them then you might be moving the treat too quickly. Remember to move slowly over their head so they can follow the treat with their nose.
  1. As soon as the puppy’s bottom touches the floor give them a verbal praise such as “Yes!” or “Good dog!” in a happy high pitched voice and immediately give them the treat.
  2. Back up a few paces so your puppy stands up to follow you and repeat.
  3. Once your puppy gets the idea and is sitting reliably with the lure you can begin adding a word with the action. Repeat the word “sit” as their bottom touches the floor so that they associate the word sit with the action of sitting. Repeat this step 20-30 times.
  4. Try holding a piece of food in front of your dog’s nose and saying “sit” one time. Give them 5 seconds and if they sit down say “Yes! Jackpot!” and give them several treats. If they don’t get it yet, do not repeat the command. Simply begin to lure them into the sit, reward them and try again. Avoid giving the command more than once. Repeating commands confuses your puppy. They won’t know if “sit” means sit, or if “sit… sit… sit!” means sit.


If your puppy starts to sit but just won’t put his bottom all the way on the floor at first go ahead and reward him for the partial sit so they do not become frustrated and give up. On subsequent tries only reward your puppy when their bottom goes a little further than before. This method ensures they get rewarded for progress and they will eventually get the idea. Keep rewarding as they get closer and closer to the end behavior you desire (the sit) until they are sitting all the way down. Once they completely sit down you can give them a “Jackpot!” of several treats to put emphasis on that behavior.

Using Food Rewards

When working with a food reward it is generally a good idea to schedule training sessions around times when you know your puppy will be hungry such as in the morning before breakfast or right before dinner in the evening. Different foods have different values according to your dog. The value your puppy gives certain foods depends on his or her preferences. The general rule is to use a high value treat when trying to train a new behavior as it makes a bigger impact on your puppy mentally, and helps you train behaviors much faster. Once your puppy has learned a behavior reliably you can switch to a lower value treat.

Some High Value Treats Include:

  • Real Meat
  • Soft or Squishy Treats
  • Stinky Treats

Some Low Value Treats Include:

  • Dry Biscuits
  • Regular Dog Food Kibbles

If you use real meat for training your puppy make sure it is a lean cut of meat and keep the rewards tiny. Boiled chicken breast works very well as a high value treat. It is affordable, lasts a long time and is very bland and easy on a dog’s stomach. You can shred it or cut it into tiny pieces and freeze what you won’t use right away.

Working with Distractions

Most dogs behave well in their homes but their owners are baffled when they go to the park or to the vet and their dog refuses to listen to commands. The issue is usually distractions! If you have trained your dog to ignore other things and listen to you while in a distracting environment they will be better prepared to listen to you in any environment. You do this gradually by starting in your home, then moving to your yard, then to a park where other people or dogs might be walking around.

Before you start any training session with your puppy make sure they have had a chance to empty their bladder and bowels so they won’t be distracted by those urges. Start with the leash on in a quiet area and then move to different rooms as you continue solidifying your puppy’s sit command. Work up to noisier indoor environments and eventually to your yard outside where there are more distractions.

Once your puppy has gotten the sit command down make them sit before they get anything they want or need. Ask them to sit before you pet them, before you put down their food bowl, before you snap on their leash, and before you play. Your puppy will learn that sitting calmly gets them what they want. Ignoring your puppy and withholding what they want (the reward) when they are acting up and being crazy will teach them that crazy behavior doesn’t work in their best interests. By doing this you cause the dog to make a decision.

Hmm, jumping on Dad and barking isn’t getting me any attention, maybe I’ll try that sit thing.”

The thought process in your dog will be to try everything in his arsenal to get what he wants. It is your job as a pet guardian to teach your dog how to appropriately ask for it. This method is safer and works better than any kind of dominance training such as alpha rolls or scruff shaking. When your dog is behaving well because he chose to out of his desire to get what he wants you will have a dog that is doing what you want him to, and it was his idea. This makes for a very easy road ahead of you as you raise your puppy. For more information on Say Please by Sitting, watch this video. There are also many excellent articles on Dr. Sophia Yin’s website

We hope this blog post helps you to get your puppy on the path to saying please by sitting. Have an older dog? It’s never too late to teach them this method. Once they get the general concept, you will be surprised at how well-behaved they can be once they know that only calm behavior gets them what they want! Try it with your dog today, and see if it helps!

Housebreaking 101 (New Puppy Series) – Aquadale Vet Clinic (Massillon Veterinarian)

Welcome back to our new puppy series! We will be posting several blogs covering a range of topics related to dog and puppy behavior, housebreaking, socialization and more to give your puppy the best chance of growing up into a well-behaved adult. The information we will be sharing isn’t just for puppies though! If you have an older dog who has developed some irritating behaviors stay tuned – we will be going over behavior issues too. Today’s post is all about housebreaking.

Read more

Is Reverse Sneezing Dangerous? – Aquadale Veterinary Clinic (Massillon, Ohio)

Has your dog ever made this funny sound?

Called a reverse sneeze because the dog rapidly inhales air rather than exhaling (such as in a normal sneeze), the episodes can be extremely upsetting because it looks and sounds as if your dog cannot breathe. However, reverse sneezing is a completely normal reflex, although it can occur more often in certain breeds such as brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds like pugs and shih tzus, and also in dolichocephalic (long nosed) breeds such as collies and greyhounds.

Different types of sneezes?

Dogs can have a multitude of spasms and reactions that are all normal bodily processes. Sneezing is usually marked by a rapid exhale through the nose, with the dog’s head moving down and forward – sometimes far enough that their nose can touch the ground. A reverse sneeze is the opposite, the dog’s head moves backwards as they inhale, and you hear the trademark snorting sound.

The reverse sneeze itself is a type of spasm. Officially called a paroxysmal respiration, it occurs when something tickles the soft palate or pharyngeal area. In response:

  • The muscles spasm and the airways can narrow, making it slightly more difficult for your dog to take in air.
  • The dog can stiffen, extend their neck and dramatically “suck” in air through their nose to expand their chest and help clear the offending issue that caused the tickle in the first place. This is also what creates the snorting sound you hear.
  • Typically episodes last from a few seconds to a few minutes, but are harmless. Dogs are usually completely normal before and after a reverse sneeze.

Certain factors can trigger a reverse sneezing episode such as allergies, environmental irritants (perfumes, cleaning solutions, etc), physical irritation caused by pulling against a collar, excitement, and rapid temperature change (going from a warm house out into cold air) among other things.

What can I do if my dog is reverse sneezing? 

There are many suggestions on how to help your dog, some more effective than others. Some things you can try are:

  • Rubbing the bridge of your dogs nose gently.
    • This can help your dog clear any irritants that might have passed through their nasal passages.
  • Covering your dogs nostrils with your hand to make them take in more air through their mouth.
    • This can help stop an episode quickly, but your dog may resume the reverse sneeze once you remove your hand.
  • Get your dog to swallow.
    • This can help by potentially clearing out any irritants that are sitting at the back of the throat and causing the spasm. You can feed your dog, or blow in their nose gently and rub their throat to elicit the swallowing reflex. Just take caution when blowing in your dogs face, some dogs dislike the sensation and can respond with aggression. If you know your dog does not appreciate this, then feed them a handful of kibble and give them a drink of cool water to get them swallowing instead.

The best thing you can do during a reverse sneeze episode is to remain calm. If you get overly anxious your dog could get even more worked up as well. Think calm and soothing thoughts, and try one or more of the above tips for stopping an episode. Even though it can feel like a long time, most attacks only last a few seconds to a minute or so, and reverse sneezing causes no long term damage.

One last thing to note, however, is that reverse sneezing can be a sign of other respiratory ailments. So if you notice your dog is having episodes more often, or they are lasting longer, then it might be a good time to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying issues.

Good luck, and gesundheit!

What on earth is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis, or Lepto as it is more commonly referred to, is a bacterial infection that people and pets can be afflicted by. The bacteria is spread via infected urine and stays alive in stagnant or slow-moving water. All it takes is for you or your dog to have a small cut on the bottom of your foot, and Lepto can get in and start wreaking havoc.

Leptospirosis is a controversial disease to vaccinate against for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason people state against vaccination is that Lepto is a treatable disease. Since it is a bacterial infection, it is true that antibiotics can successfully treat Leptospirosis. However, many times Leptospirosis can go undetected as it’s symptoms can imitate other diseases, many of those which are more common than Lepto. In some instances, by the time the infection has been detected, the poor patient’s kidneys and/or liver have been completely attacked and are failing – not to mention the animal has put their owner at a high level of exposure. Yep – you guessed it – Leptospirosis is zoonotic, which means humans can be infected, and it makes us just as sick as our dogs.

Also, once the bacteria has attacked the kidneys and liver it’s possible to have caused irreversible damage to those organs, and even though you can treat with antibiotics and clear the infection you are still left with a dog that is in kidney failure, liver failure, or both. You see Lepto can attack any organ in the body that it wants, but most typically goes for the kidneys and liver. However, it can do damage to the heart, lungs, and can even cause meningitis. Due to its damaging effects on internal organs paired with the potential for human exposure and infection – Leptospirosis is a disease that is very dangerous, and one we recommend most dogs be immunized against.

Recommendations on vaccines are never given lightly, and we strive to make recommendations truly based on the well-being of our patients, taken in an individual basis depending on their lifestyle. These recommendations can change significantly from year to year, and anytime we receive new research information we can adjust accordingly. One such adjustment we have made in the past was going from a protocol wherein we recommended Lepto vaccination only to outdoor farm dogs and hunting dogs to a recommendation to vaccinate most dogs for this disease. We made the decision to recommend the vaccine to most dogs, even if they lived within city limits, because we found out new information that the disease was in the process of changing its carrier. Historically Lepto was most commonly carried in cows, and therefore the dogs who were at the highest risk were farm dogs and hunting dogs who came into contact with cow runoff.

In present times, the most common Lepto carriers are rodents with statistics telling us that some 20% of rats are carrying the Leptospira bacteria. This means that every dog is at risk – since rats and mice are everywhere. Not to mention squirrels, skunks, raccoons, possums, and other “wild” animals that have evolved to survive within city limits due to humans encroaching on their natural environments. The bacteria is out there, it could be in the squirrel that urinates on the grass in your backyard – which your dog walks on and sniffs every day.

No vaccine is without risks, but now more than ever we need to take the time to think about whether the benefit outweighs the risks. We do not recommend giving Lepto vaccinations to dogs who have had a history of vaccine reactions, and above all we take care in how this vaccine is handled and given to our patients. Dogs do not receive the vaccine until they are at least 12 weeks of age. We also use special ULTRA brand vaccines made by Boehringer Ingelheim that have gone through a “cleaning” process and as a result have far fewer proteins and additives that tend to cause vaccine reactions in dogs. We also make it our mission to educate clients how to watch for signs of vaccine reactions. Although reactions can be scary, thankfully they are typically mild, and quite rare. The risks in this case are quite low, and the benefits definitely outweigh them for most dogs.

Everyone has the right to make informed, educated decisions about what goes into their pet’s body, but as the staff of a veterinary clinic who have seen dogs pass away from kidney failure caused by Leptospirosis, or watched a dog suffer as their liver shut down, and knew that it was a completely unnecessary loss, we ask that if you have questions please feel free to approach us and ask. Ask the staff, double check with the doctor for an honest recommendation. We make recommendations based on our patient’s well-being, not our own. We are always open to discussion when it comes to vaccines!