Just got a pup and have a few questions.
December 20, 2006 9:14 PM   Subscribe

I rescued my pup from a local animal shelter Monday and I have a few questions I was hoping someone with some puppy experience could answer for me. She seems to be a lab/pit bull mix and the shelter estimated her age at about 4 months. The vet that spayed her says she is probably closer to a year, but her small size (malnourished at 25lbs) and the small size of her teeth make me think she might be closer to 4 months (the vet the shelter was using seems to be a moron, I'll never take my pup there again). More inside....

So we've had her in the house for a few nights now and all is more or less well. She has some behavior characteristics that worry me however. For one, she fights me to eat her droppings. I realize it's only been a few days but I want her to understand that I will clean up after her - there is no reason for her to do so. Even when I pick up the droppings from the grass she will lick the area clean.....by god does that make her breath stink!

I'm trying to get her used to the idea of eating once in the morning, and once in the evening. However, her first few meals she barely ate, tonight was the first night she finished what I gave her. Is this normal? Is she just getting accustomed to the kibble?

I am considering crate training her but we have a laundry room that isn't being used at the house. For the time being we put her in the room when we go to sleep, or work during the day. Could she become accustomed to the room much like a crate, or is that not possible? When I leave her in overnight is it Ok to leave the lights out, or should I leave something on?

If I do eventually get her a crate, would it be too much to leave her in overnight (~7 hours) let her out in the morning for an hour or so then put her back in while I go to work? I can come home on my lunch break and let her out for another hour or so, but then she would need to go back into the crate until I come home. This seems like it might be too much time in a crate, but I've never done crate training before so I am not sure. Eventually when she is older and larger I won't have any problems leaving her in the backyard all day while I am at work, but for the next few months I need a solution....any ideas?

There are some separation anxiety issues with her that I am trying to quell, and I thought I was making progress because she hasn't been yelping or scratching at the door all night. But when I came home from work today she had done a number on the dryer vent and pulled out some insulation/drywall despite the numerous toys/rawhide she has to chew on. Any ideas on how I can stop this? Would it help to get a "baby" fence instead of closing the door so she can see outside the room?

In the few days shes been home with us we have only heard one small bark and some whimpering. She isn't very vocal at all....this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I just wanted to be certain it isn't a sign of something more serious.

Lastly, she has one or two stitches from where they spayed her. I've been putting one of those lamp shade collars on her overnight and while I am at work just in case, and I remove it when I am at home and can watch her. She doesn't try and pick at the stitches at all....am i safe not using the collar, or will she start to notice it as it heals more?

thanks in advance all.
posted by TheDude to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Just out of curiosity, why does she need to be in a crate at night? Would it be possible to put a dog bed on the floor in your bedroom? All night plus most of the day does seem like it would be a lot of time in a crate, or in the laundry room. Dogs get attached to us humans and want to be close to us whenever possible.
posted by eileen at 9:24 PM on December 20, 2006

You should crate train her because then you can have the crate in your room as it should be, rather than shutting her away from her pack (i.e. you) in the laundry room - it's not really separation anxiety, it's the normal reaction of a social animal being shut away by itself, in the wild this can be fatal, dogs are hard-wired to be social, which is why most dogs protest against being shut away so much, it's not normal for them and it can cause extreme distress, get her a crate and keep it in your room at night. 7 hours overnight should be fine as long as she's properly exercised both mentally and physically (dogs need a lot more physical AND mental exercise than most people think, and consequently a lot more exercise than most dogs get - a huge number of "behaviour problems" can be solved with nothing more than adequate exercise), and as long as she's given enough opportunity to relieve herself.

If she isn't bothering the stitches, leave her be. But keep a close eye on her.

What are you feeding her? Sometimes coprophagia (eating feces) is related to nutritional deficiencies, sometimes it's related to a habit built over a period of malnutrition, and sometimes it's just a habit. You need to keep her leashed and move her briskly away from her poop as soon as she's created it (lure her with a very yummy treat like cheese or chicken or whatever she likes), put her away, then clean it up. You should be able to break the habit by taking adequate precautions to stop her from doing it (i.e. she is never off-leash where there is poop), getting her onto a high-quality food (high quality = less waste = smaller amounts of less enticing feces, plus it's just better all around), and getting her into a regular routine of eating, exercise, training and sleeping.

Get into positive training classes asap - the sooner you can start building a good relationship and helping her understand how to live well with you, the better everything will be. Thank you for taking this dog in, enjoy her.
posted by biscotti at 9:31 PM on December 20, 2006

What biscotti said. Plus, Crate Training Basics. Don't just buy a crate and shove her in there, make it a safe haven, a place that's fun to be in.
posted by hindmost at 9:46 PM on December 20, 2006

With our pups I came home every day for two months, while we still lived in an apartment, to walk them so they wouldn't have to stay in the crate for 8 hours straight. Its a job. That said. Get the crate or do whatever you have to so that you don't have to lock her in a room by herself. You will drive her crazy with anguish and she will not be a pleasure to live with. The crate will take care of her tearing your home up as well.

One of our pups (they're 2.5 years) still searches the backyard for poo. And we feed them raw meat (they eat better than most people); sometimes its a habit, but more power to you if you can stop it.

Positive reinforcement and training is the best way to go. Not only is it more pleasant for everyone involved, but it is more mentally stimulating for the dog to equate treats with particular good behavior.

For the kibble, try pouring some water on it and letting it soak for a minute before feeding her. It makes a 'gravy' and might be more appealing. If nothing else it helps to hydrate the pup. Kibble sucks water right out of their bodies. Whenever we have to feed kibble to the pups, it is floating, like cereal.

Alright, getting too close to preaching here. Feel free to contact me if you want more. I could go on for hours. Good luck and enjoy her!
posted by iurodivii at 10:05 PM on December 20, 2006

I'd bet the coprophagia is related to juvenile malnutrition. If it doesn't resolve with a more regular feeding schedule, i'd investigate behavioural modifications. My dog -- thanks Buddha -- is not partial to his poops, so I don't know for sure, but I believe there are additives that can make their poo distasteful.

Seconding (thirding?) not using the laundry room as a crate. At least at night. In my experience, I think it is important that your dog be allowed to sleep as close to you as possible. So, either crate her during the night in your room (and put her in the laundry room with blankets from the crate, along with one or two of your t-shirts for your scent) or allow her to sleep in your bed.

(Yes, many find sleeping with doggies distasteful. Certainly my in-laws think it is the height of oddness; your partner might object, too. But remember that your goal is to integrate your new dog into her new 'pack' as quickly as possible. Separating yourself at night will not help in that regard.)

Good luck. You're lucky that both labs and pitbulls usually react well to behaviour modification. Good for you for giving your newest buddy a better life.
posted by docgonzo at 10:20 PM on December 20, 2006

When my dog (Grace) came home from the shelter in July, she didn't eat for three days. She wouldn't touch anything grainy like kibble or biscuits, but she would eat little meaty treats. After three days, she started eating when I put a half a can of food in her kibble. Since then she's been fine.

High quality food is important. The stuff you buy in the grocery store usually has a lot of really horrible stuff in it. This is an argument that will get zealotous answers from both sides, and I don't really want to pop that cork now, but cheap food will not do good things to a dog.

The Monks of New Skete have a couple books on raising pups and training dogs. They advocate crate training, and their books do a great job of explaining the philosophy behind it.


The first dog who came to live with me (Kate) was baby-gated into the kitchen while my ex and I were at work. My ex would state adamantly that we were crate training the dog, but she wouldn't put the dog in the crate because it was "cruel." The dog barked all day long while we were at work. We didn't know this (we weren't there), but we found out about it from the lovely passive-aggressive notes from the neighbor downstairs. We figured out the cats (who had the run of the place) were tormenting the dog while we were gone. We removed the baby gate, the barking stopped, the bitchy notes stopped and the dog resolved her anxiety issues. The cats retreated to the top of their kitty condo and glared at us resentfully for the rest of their lives.

The dog I got in July (Grace) was the first I have gotten from a shelter, and after trading stories with a few folks at the dog park, do not be surprised if your dog has dramatic personality changes every month or so for the first four or five months. She has gone through several phases as she has adjusted to life with me. The first month, every return from the grocery store was greeted with the pure glee of a dog who assumed she'd been abandoned again. Two months ago, the laptop was her mortal enemy, and if I worked any later than five, she would gently (but firmly) lift my hands off the keyboard until I powered-down and took her for a walk. Month one? She ate very little. This month? Every time I stand up is justification for Grace to get a treat.

Be selective about your vet. Ask people for recommendations. The fundamental problem with dogs and cats is that (as a rule of thumb) if it doesn't kill them up-front, they'll probably recover all by themselves. I once had a vet try to sell me a $5,000 joint replacement surgery on a cat. She had the nerve to imply to my tearstained face that I was a bad owner for not agreeing to the surgery. (If I'd had the money or the credit rating at the time, I would have.) We flushed the wound with hot water and gave the cat antibiotics. She healed completely and lived another decade.

Finally, leaving a dog chained outside all day is not a recipe for a healthy, well-socialized dog. If the dog has fence-aggression issues, he'll bark and lunge at dogs and people who walk by. Some people already have an irrational fear of pitbulls, and there are plenty of ghoulish bastards out there who will drop poisoned meat into your back-yard. Unless the dog is an actual working dog (herding cattle or specifically trained for security work), you're going to be happiest treating them as short, furry family-members with poor English skills.
posted by FYKshun at 10:56 PM on December 20, 2006

Response by poster: elleen, I would give her a dog bed to sleep in my room with me, but for right now she isn't 100% house broken. The laundry room has a tile floor so cleaning up a mess would be simple. Once she is housebroken and I feel certain she won't chew things up while I am sleeping, I will have no problem having her sleep in my room on a doggie bed.

biscotti, I think the food we are feeding her is good...it was recommended by a few of the staff at Petsmart. I'll start keeping her on a leash when I take her out to poop. However, I don't want to have to "trick" her to get her away from the poop...I'd like for her to understand that some things she must do because I say so. And I'm sure the coprophagia is probably related to malnutrition. She is so thin and underfed it's a sad sight to see.

hindmost, that looks like a good resource, thanks.

iurodivii, maybe I'll start taking her for walks when I come home on my lunch break. I will also try mixing the kibble with water to see if that helps.

docgonzo, Sleeping on the bed with me is not an option. I don't want her to think she can jump around on our furniture. Once I get her house broken and I get a crate I'll start putting her in my bedroom.....but she really needs a bath and I can't give her one yet.

FYKshun, this vet was terrbile. They called me in the morning the day they got the dog and explained to me that after the spaying she couldn't be washed for two weeks and she is filthy and covered in flees, yadda yada yadda. I agreed to their fee and expected a clean dog....as soon as I got in the car I realized they hadn't bathed her at all....She doesn't need to be chained outside. There is plenty of room for her to run around and the gate is set back from the garage so anyone walking down our street would be pretty far from the dog. Plus we are on a coul-de-sac off a coul-de-sac so foot traffic is minimal....and luckily her face is more lab like that pit like so hopefully no ones irrational fear will make them do anything stupid. I would just like her to get a bit larger/older before we put her out so I can try and anticipate how she will handle it. I'd let her roam the house all day, but I don't want to come home to an electrocuted dog because she decided to chew through some wires. Once the obedience training is done it will be much easier.

thanks all.
posted by TheDude at 11:55 PM on December 20, 2006

TheDude, though it's been indicated above, remember that your dog isn't trying to clean up after itself. You say:

"I realize it's only been a few days but I want her to understand that I will clean up after her - there is no reason for her to do so."

Dogs don't clean up after themselves. Your dog is probably doing it because for a long while, its own feces was all it could find to eat.

Also, seconding everything biscotti said with an emphasis on mental and physical exercise and positive training. Get your dog a ball that bounces in an odd way. I highly recommend this one or this one. Though remember that they are not chew toys (regardless of what the site says), but balls and that you should control when your dog can play with them (in your presence) and should never be left unsupervised with something it can tear apart.

Regarding positive training, I can't recommend Clicker Training enough. Worked miracles for my Stafforshire/Pit Bull. It'll take a lot of learning / patiences on your part at the beginning, but it's well worth it.
posted by dobbs at 6:17 AM on December 21, 2006

HA! Some dogs are just poop eaters. Mine are and we have had them on high quality food since eight weeks. Sometimes they are trying to clean up after themselves, especially if they have had an accident. I will find my slightly older yet still a puppy girl dog eating the little puppies food with this look on her face that says "OhGODMom will see this and beSO MAD, WE GOTS TO GET IT UP!!"

They make additives to make poo not so tasty. You just sprinkle it on their food.

Crate training is not the same as locking a dog in a laundry room. Its their safe place to run and hide or sleep or just hangout and the laundry room can't be that forever so get a crate. They like it a cave feel to it, make a dog crate cozy!

Teeth issue. Sometimes juvinile malnutrion will cause poorly formed adult teeth or even missing teeth. My oldest cat grew up on the street before we got her and thus has some missing teeth. That might be the age discrepancy thing right there.

She needs to be outside and around people now. They have to be properly socialized pretty young or they just weird around everything that is strange. So spend a good deal of time with her outside and try out leaving her by herself for an hour or so. Remember she needs shelter out there too.

You can't bathe or flea dip dogs that have just been fixed, but you can buy the waterless shampoo or spray on doggie deodant, just don't get it near the wound. If the wound is almost healed she might have no interest in picking at it, they pick when it gets itchy, so once it is closed you can put hydrocortisone cream on it, and don't worry your puppy will most likely turn out to be an amazing dog!
posted by stormygrey at 6:32 AM on December 21, 2006

You really need her in the room with you if she's not housebroken so she can learn to signal you. You get to get up every few hours to take her out so she doesn't have an accident. At first you may need to leash her to you, or put a bell on her so you'll hear when she gets up and starts sniffing around. Her little bladder isn't very big yet, and yes, animals are disinclined to soil their den, but that doesn't mean they should suffer trying to hold it. You want to create a situation where failure is unlikely, which means taking her out a lot.

Seconding the clicker training. A dog with an iffy past really needs the experience of being a Good Dog, and it's so easy with the clicker.

I think crate training is good, but two thirds of the day is way, way too long for a developing puppy to spend in a crate, especially after being in a shelter. You're crating her for her safety, which you should be providing at night. Use the crate when you can't be there.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:43 AM on December 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

For the sleeping in your room at night -- keep her leashed and put the loop at the end of the leash over a bed post or under the leg of a nightstand. She'll basically be confined to an area right next to you and on top of her bed. You can buy sheepskin mats that are comfy but can be easily washed if there's an accident, or you can even use old/cheap bath towels until she's doing better with housebreaking. Put some plastic sheeting underneath if you're concerned about the carpet. Hopefully she'll be able to alert you if she needs to go out. And if she's not anxious about being separated, she might be able to sleep more soundly and hold her bladder longer.
posted by handful of rain at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2006

I'd recommend you take her to the nearest dog park as soon and as often as you can. It will people and dog-socialize her and will tire her out like nothing else. There are plenty of dog owners there to talk to for advice, maybe help you find a good vet, dog-sitter, etc.
posted by tula at 9:44 AM on December 21, 2006

Nth-ing a formal training class...it's as much for human behaviors as well as the dog.

"Tricking" your dog with a treat to walk away from it's poop isn't a terrible thing to do to the dog. It's a reward for doing what you ask it to do. You cannot get to the place where the dog just does what you ask it to do *because* you ask it to without a reward system of treats,praise and/or clicker.
posted by Jazz Hands at 11:20 AM on December 21, 2006

I think the food we are feeding her is good...it was recommended by a few of the staff at Petsmart.

That doesn't necessarily mean much given how much the quality of the staff varies at Petsmart. Also, Petsmart doesn't carry much that's actually good. Some, but most of their stuff is the same 85% ashes-and-sawdust stuff that you get from the grocery store.

I don't know if it's up to date, but these people have a copy of Whole Dog Journal's list of recommended dog foods. There's lots of good stuff in there. Some you could get at a Petsmart or Petco, others you'd have to go to a more specialty pet food or animal feed store.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:46 AM on December 21, 2006

I adopted a my smallish (40-50lbs) 6 or 7 year-old lab/pit/godknowswhat a little over a year ago. Tux was crate trained when I got him, as every dog from his rescue was. We use a vestibule in the back of the house, and he has acclimated well. Apparently I shouldn't be doing that, but he has made his own little den in there and has even learned "bad dog, go to your room". Once your dog is securely house trained it might be a good idea to let her sleep in your room though. I've heard that letting a dog
sleep in your bed sends mixed dominance signals to her, but I think it's good bonding. Tux and I both feel safer when he shares my bed.

For the not eating all the food thing- Totally normal. Both my deceased pure bred puppyfarm chow chow and my street mutt Tux do this, they seem to be saving food for later. Our chow would save some food to eat in the morning, but Tux can't save it for long because he is sure the cat is after it. Your dog will proably eat what is given to her as soon as she realizes that food will be a regulated everyday thing. It tkes some rescue dogs a little while to get used to the idea of daily food.

Someone mentioned dog food additives to stop poop eating...I read in Animal Grossology that pineapple works.

Some dogs just aren't vocal, it doesn't mean anything. I have never heard a peep from my aunt's dog, and she's perfectly happy and healthy.

lastly- when my dog was fixed, I had to buy the lampshade collar from the vet, who was dubvious I would need it at all. It might not be necessary for your dog, watch her without the collar on.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 1:57 PM on December 21, 2006

I don't want to have to "trick" her to get her away from the poop...I'd like for her to understand that some things she must do because I say so.

What JazzHands said. Luring/redirecting a dog so that it does what you want rather than what you don't want, and then rewarding the dog, is part of how you train them - you don't get to the "dog sits when I say sit" stage without training. With respect, what you seem to be saying above seems a bit unaware of how dogs learn, and how you modify their behaviour effectively - dogs ALWAYS have a choice, what training does is stack the odds in favour of the dog making the choice you want them to make when you want them to make it, and teaching them what you want in the first place - you can do this through fear/pain (which can have many effects you do not want) or you can do it through rewards, but she will never truly understand that she has to do something just because you say so - the best you will ever get is that she will CHOOSE to do something when you say so because she has learned that it's in her best interests to do so (with modern dog training, this means that she associates good things with performing a given behaviour) - you do not get to this point without training. All the more reason to get yourself into a proper training class with a good, positive trainer.
posted by biscotti at 2:14 PM on December 21, 2006

I just wanted to reiterate that formal training is really more for the humans than the dogs. Yeah, the dog learns to follow commands. More important, though, is that the human learns how to issue consistent, clear commands that the dog can understand. The human also learns in what ways they might be sabotaging their goals for the dog without even knowing it. Money well spent, my friend. The entire family will be much happier for it.
posted by Lokheed at 4:54 PM on December 21, 2006

So, you're a 10 year old kid who's living on the streets eating trash out of dumpsters. One day someone comes along and takes you to their house. You don't know what their deal is, heck, you can't even understand 99% of the shit they're saying because it's in gibberish. Sometimes there's food but you've been fooled by traps like that before and other bigger kids beat you up to take it. This guy seems nice sometimes but other times he's wierd too, pushing you around a little, gets annoyed if you try to go about your business, yells and maybe smacks you if you try to eat because you're starving. You're grateful to sleep in a warm bed but you're constantly confused because people wave their hands and yell if you pick up something or if you sit in certain areas. How long would it take you to realize that if you just left the food alone he'd give you a steak hours later? Assuming you *could* understand what he's saying, if he said "Just stick with me and do exactly what I say and I'll take care of you" how long would it take for you to believe him?
posted by hindmost at 8:58 PM on December 21, 2006

At this point, she doesn't even know that leaving her poop alone will make you happy. She can't even imagine not eating it the way you can't imagine not picking up a $100 bill that just fell out of your pocket. Teach her that there are other options, and then give her a reason why she should do that instead.
posted by hindmost at 9:03 PM on December 21, 2006

Your pup can't possibly understand what you want from her unless and until you reward her for doing the right thing. A simple command means nothing to her until she's trained to understand it.

Basic obedience classes will give you both a way of understanding each other. Plus, those sessions are fun - she gets some socialization, you get some instruction, and you all get to mix with animals and humans in a similar situation.

You will probably find that allowing the dog to sleep near you, rather than in a separate room, makes her more responsive to you.
posted by goofyfoot at 12:43 AM on December 22, 2006

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