Hello Chad, I hope you are doing well. We found your training page as we were looking for some help with our 5 month old Labrador puppy. He is extremely sharp, potty trained and a fast learner. However, a couple of issues we have not been able to understand and address and would like to seek your advice on what type of lesson would suit him in your training program.
1. It’s been about 5 weeks since we got him fully vaccinated and started taking him outside. Unfortunately, on most of our walks, he does not urinate or potty outdoors. We’ve tried shorter, medium to longer (30 mins stroll) in short distances, but haven’t had success. He wants to go, but doesn’t want to go outside and starts lunging at us and biting to go home. Once we return home, he does it in his designated spot where we have a pee pad, which we trained him from 8 weeks until 16 weeks.
2. For a week, he has been excessively lunging and biting both my wife and I while at home or when we take him on walks. It’s mild to moderate during morning time, but he gets really aggressive during late night (10pm ~ 12am) and takes a long time to calm him down. He is very well behaved with other people when we go outside and doesn’t exhibit this behavior.
Look forward to hearing from you, on what type of training sessions you hold suits best to address this or you have any alternate suggestion.
My first suggestion is to sign up for a private lesson or, if you are not in the bay area, a virtual lesson with me or my associate trainer, Kate. Tea Basic Obedience Course would not be a bad idea either but private lessons would more directly target your specific issues, plus the online obedience course is included with private lessons.
An article will never be a replacement for actually taking lessons but I will try my best to give a little bit of free advice below. Happy training!
Before discussing how to resolve these issues, I need to point out the common mistakes that have already been made. Please understand that my intent is not to criticize, it is simply to educate and to warn any readers whose pups are still young enough to avoid these all-to-common mistakes. Fair enough? Ok, let’s dig into this thing.
Too Much Time Indoors
The first thing that jumps out at me is that it sounds like this pup was quarantined until he was “fully vaccinated”, which means he was kept entirely indoors until over 4 months old. This is a problem due to being a critical developmental period for the puppy. The next thing that I notice is that there is no mention of a yard and 30 minutes is mentioned as being a longer walk. 30 minutes is a short walk, not a long one, especially if we are talking about a dog that doesn’t have a yard. The next thing that jumps out is that you are experiencing a common housebreaking backfire that comes from the overuse of potty pads, which comes from spending too much time indoors. Do you see a theme developing here?
Dogs are naturally wired to be outdoor specialists; they are not cave dwellers. Yes, even small dogs! They love to sniff, run around, roll in the grass, dig and get dirty! Given plenty of opportunity to be outside, most pups will naturally go potty in the grass or dirt. However, dogs are also vulnerable to conditioning so, if kept strictly indoors during their first few months of life, they will develop the preference to go potty indoors, which is clearly what happened here.
But my vet said not to take him out until he’s had all his shots.
Yes, I know, some vets are advising people “not to take their puppy outside until they are fully vaccinated” and I am definitely not telling you to completely disregard that advice, I’m just suggesting that there are loopholes. Yes, diseases like Parvo are very scary. However, I want to point out that your personal MD probably gives you lots of advice as well, such as don’t smoke, don’t drink too much, cut back on sugars and fats or get more exercise in order to avoid scary things such as strokes, heart attacks or diabetes. Do you follow that advice to the letter? Probably not, right? What’s wrong with you? Do you want to die or something? No, of course you don’t want to die! You probably don’t follow your doctor’s advice to the letter because you want to enjoy living while you’re still alive! Am I right or am I right? You are probably willing to take certain risks because you accept that they are part of living an enjoyable life and, within reason, I think we all do that. Wanna know a secret? Doctors generally don’t follow their own advice to the letter either! There, I said it, now the cat is out of the bag!
Are you suggesting that my vet’s advice is wrong?
No, but I think some vets tend to prioritize the dog’s physical health with less regard for their mental health and training. What I’m suggesting is that the blanket statement of “don’t take your puppy outside until he’s fully vaccinated” does not mean your puppy needs to be 100% quarantined to your home on a 24/7 basis in order to be reasonably safe. (emphasis on the word reasonably) For example: You are pretty darn safe letting your pup walk outside as long as you keep him on the pavement and avoid areas where other dogs go potty. However, if that still feels too risky, you can put the pup in a stroller and take some potty pads with you. When you think your pup needs to relieve himself, put some pads on the ground and let him out of the stroller to use them. Little tricks like these are super helpful for outdoor potty training, as well as your pup’s overall mental development, while waiting for your vet to give you the full green light.
How To Get Your Pup To Potty Outdoors
“We thought he was housebroken because we used potty pads.”
Yes, it sounds like you did a fantastic job training your pup to go on potty pads. However, you also taught him to only go potty with a roof over his head. You also taught him to go to a particular spot in your house to relieve himself. This is great, if you want the pup to pee and poo indoors for his whole life, which some people do, but it sounds like you also want him to go outside. Since we already know that he won’t go potty outdoors, we need to do a little behavioral detective work to find out what his true preference is; is it the pad itself or the particular location in the house or is it just anywhere other than outdoors? Let’s do a couple of tests to find out.
Test #1: Put the pad outside and see if he uses it. If this works, you are in great shape because now the pup will get used to going potty outside and the pad can be faded away. If not, we need to dig a little deeper.
Test #2: Move the pad to a different spot in the house and see if he still uses it. If this works, you are in good shape because you can put the pad next to the door and when the pup goes to use it you can quickly take him outside to the pad that you have put out there ahead of time. If the pup goes potty in the location where the pad used to be rather than on the pad that was moved to a new location, you have a bigger project on our hands. You will need to move the pad very slowly, perhaps only a few inches per day, towards the door and eventually outside the door.
How To Stop Puppy From Lunging and Biting
Lunging and biting are typical puppy behaviors that can happen due to excitement, boredom, frustration or even because the puppy is tired and needs a nap. It is most often just playful, affectionate, attention-seeking behavior, which means the pup has no malicious intent. That said, it can still be annoying or painful. I have covered the topic of puppies jumping and biting in other articles and videos, which can be found at ThrivingCanine.com or on my Youtube channel, so I’ll just give a couple of quick tips here along with links to follow for more details.
- When it’s happening intensely at 10pm-midnight, it’s likely that the pup is tired. Puppies can get hyper and cranky when they are tired just like little kids do. You may need to look into crate training or putting the pup in an ex-pen or something of that nature for his bedtime routine. You may also want to go for a walk right before bed to get some of that late night energy out.
- playing tug as well as using chew items for The Pacifier Technique are good ways to interact with the pup to avoid lunging and biting problems.
- The Play Hard To Get Rule, which is covered in my Separation Anxiety book, is also super helpful for curbing lunging and biting issues in puppies as well as having a host of other character development and relationship building benefits. Basically, it means that you only give the pup attention on your terms, which means you must be the one who initiates all interactions. Another way of saying this is that the pup gets your attention “by invite only” and all attempts by the pup to initiate attention from you should be ignored…with the exception of needing to go potty. This teaches the pup to have patience, impulse control and manners.
- If the lunging and biting are happening while walking your pup, you need to learn how to handle the leash properly and get some basic obedience lessons. Leashes can cause a lot of frustration for dogs so I usually start young puppies off on a Flexi Lead (retractable leash) and then switch to a regular six foot leash as we begin formal training.
When a puppy is kept 100% indoors, they will go stir crazy, they will get cabin fever, they will be unsocialized, hyperactive, destructive and they will have no choice but to pee and poo indoors. These typical puppy problems are troublesome enough, even for pups that do get plenty of time outside, but quarantining is guaranteed to make it all the more difficult. So, to whatever extent you can do so safely, I would recommend getting your pup out in the world asap. It is important to realize that your pup will never be 100% safe, not even after being “fully vaccinated”, because vaccines are not 100% effective. The idea is to do the best you can to balance being safe from diseases while also caring for your puppy’s mental development and, of course, teaching them to go potty outside.
May the force be with you.
Chad Culp – Certified Dog Trainer, Canine Behavior Consultant, Owner of Thriving Canine.
© Thriving Canine 2022
A Cautionary Tale of the Smiths (Puppy Book Excerpt)
Q&A: How To Stop Puppy Jumping, Nipping, Barking, Digging
Eight Steps To Stop Jumping
Video: How To Stop Puppy Mouthing and Biting
Video: Handling, Restraints and Physical Exams
Video: Puppy’s First Walk, Using a Flexi Lead
Video: The Pacifier Technique