Puppy Love

Part One: House Training

By: Erin Wigginton, CPDT-KA


Who doesn’t love puppies? Tiny, adorable, playful, precious… little angels, right? They’re also known as “poop machines” and “teeth with tails.” In truth, they can be all of those things as they grow and develop. My mom said this about babies and puppies, “God made them so precious when they sleep so that we can forgive them for what they do while they’re awake.” I feel like that’s pretty accurate. I love puppies. They’re fun to play with and teach and train…and then it’s fun to give them back to their owners. Seriously, though, puppies can be a source of such joy and laughter if you can have a sense of humor and maintain some structure. I’m hoping to help provide some ideas for the latter so that the former is a little easier.

The subject of puppies is so huge that it has been the subject of many books, videos, blogs, and articles. Here I’m hoping to offer a few helpful tips on how to survive the worst of what puppies dish out. Here we go…


 Miniature English Bull Terrier pup, 6 weeks old, urinating

The bane of any puppy owner’s existence. Imagine having an infant that doesn’t wear a diaper. You’re up every couple of hours overnight and have to keep a close eye during the day to avoid accidents. Despite your best efforts there will doubtless be clean-ups galore. How can you minimize the mess and speed the house training process? Here are my suggestions. First, don’t expect too much of your puppy. Remember that her body is growing on a daily basis but her bladder is still teeny tiny. At eight weeks old she can only hold her bladder for 2-3 hours during the day. She may be able to sleep most of the night but during the day, with sunlight and household/neighborhood activity she will need more chances to go outside. EVERY time you take puppy outside, take tiny, soft treats with you and deliver a treat as soon as she’s done her business. Yes, I really do mean every single time. During the day and over night. As soon as she potties, give her a treat. Do NOT wait until she gets inside; by then she won’t equate the treat to going potty outside. When you take her outside either keep her on a leash or stay right next to her so you know exactly when she has done her business and you don’t miss an opportunity to convince her that pottying outside is the best thing to do. As your puppy ages she will be able to go longer between potty breaks but if you find that she’s having accidents at regular intervals or at the same time of day make sure you increase her trips outside.

When your puppy is inside she should have very little freedom to roam and should be closely supervised when she’s given more freedom. If a puppy can wander freely around the house there will be more messes to clean up and more bad habits to fix later. You can use a crate, puppy playpen, or leash attached to a piece of furniture or your waist to prevent unsupervised exploration. If you notice your puppy sniffing the floor or turning circles she probably needs to go out immediately. Pick her up (don’t try to coax her or walk her to the door as an accident along the way will be all but guaranteed) and take her outside. Give her a treat when she potties. If you must leave your puppy alone for longer than she can physically hold it you will need to make sure she has room to potty somewhere appropriately and then get away from it. This is best accomplished with a wire pen (ex-pen) attached to or surrounding a crate.

The crate will be where puppy rests and the pen will give her somewhere to potty when needed without having to lay in or next to it. I highly recommend using sod or turf squares in the pen since it will ease the transition to grass outside. If this isn’t possible you can use potty pads or a litterbox. You can get creative with the arrangement and, depending on your puppy’s habits you may want to avoid bedding that can be dragged into the potty area. You can also tie a rope or twine (cotton) through a Kong and other toys and secure it to the crate so the toys don’t end up in a mess.

Kong tied to crate

Lastly, when cleaning up messes it is of utmost importance to use a cleaning product with enzymes in order to remove all odor. This will help to prevent the puppy from establishing a habit of pottying in the same place inside. Some great brands are Nature’s Miracle and Simple Solution. When puppy makes a mistake don’t scold or punish her. This will only serve to convince her not to potty near you (which will prevent her from wanting to potty when on-leash) and/or hide before she potties inside (such as under a bed or behind furniture). Instead, simply clean up the mess and try to prevent any messes in the future by monitoring more closely or not allowing as much freedom. As your puppy gains reliability in house training she can earn more and more freedom in the house. Be sure to only allow your puppy to explore with supervision and watch for any sign that she needs to go outside. She should always be taken outside after waking up from a nap, after play or training, and after eating.

With some patient guidance, appropriate rewards, and strategic containment your puppy will soon learn where you want her to potty and where she should keep clean. You will learn how to tell when your puppy needs to go outside or you can teach her to let you know by ringing a bell. Just keep in mind your puppy is just a baby and needs to learn the skills to live in your home with your family. Hang in there and you’ll reap the rewards of a well-trained pup for many years to come!

Stay Tuned for Part Two of Puppy Love, Chewing


Training With Passion

Interview By: Marie Collett

As professionals we are always striving to learn more and increase our skill level, however this passion is not limited to training professionals. There are also amazing owners who see their furry family members as both student and teacher, and through their commitment to developing that special bond acquire a level of knowledge that could rival that of many full-time trainers. Eileen Anderson, of eileenanddogs.com, is one of these owners and we were privileged enough to correspond with her about her personal quest for knowledge.

Through reading her award-winning blogs we are able to witness those precious moments between Eileen and her dogs when a mutual understanding emerges and see how it strengthens their bond.  There are aspects of behavioral science that are admittedly difficult to navigate or comprehend, but she has a gift for being able to cut through the jargon and make the material more accessible, allowing readers of varying skill levels to understand and apply the lessons to their own lives with their beloved pets.  You may remember some of Eileen‘s posts as ones we’ve shared on the Helping Hounds social media pages.  Here’s a little bit of background in case you’re unfamiliar with her work.

Eileen Anderson, BM, MM, MS


Eileen is a passionate amateur dog trainer who writes about learning theory, her life with three dogs, and force free training in her blog and other publications. She brings a science background, critical thinking skills, and teaching experience to her writing, with a focus on making training accessible and learning theory comprehensible to pet owners.

Eileen has worked professionally as a writer and academic editor, a network administrator, taught remedial college math, and trained all levels of computer skills in academic and workplace settings. She has a lifelong passion for making technology accessible to women, people with low literacy skills, and other underserved populations. She is now channeling that same urge to translate, explain, and make concepts comprehensible into the subjects of humane treatment of dogs and joyful companionship between dogs and people.

She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music performance, and a master’s degree in engineering science. She received the Certificate of Excellence for completion of Susan Friedman’s professional course, Living and Learning with Animals, in 2012. She lives in the mid-Southern U.S. and works at a non-profit that helps impoverished women access medical care. 

When we contacted Eileen to request this interview, she was gracious enough to not only answer our questions but to include some wonderful links and videos as well, which help to illustrate some of the discussion points.

How did you become interested in dog training and behavior?

Like many people, I got a “problem” dog, although I hate calling her that now. The only problem was my ignorance! I got Summer in 2006, and at the time I had one other dog, my rat terrier Cricket. Before that, all my dogs had gotten along with each other OK and fit into my human life without a lot of trouble. I was not prepared for it when Summer, who was more than twice Cricket’s size, was aggressive towards her. (Actually, I’m not sure Summer “started” it, but the size differential made it a serious problem.) She could also jump my back yard fence, chewed everything, and drooled and ignored food toys when I tried to crate her. Before Summer, all my dogs had spent their daytimes in my yard all day when the weather was good, and just the fact of her fence jumping changed my life completely. I could never again “send” my dogs into the yard to potty or to spend a couple of hours unsupervised; I would have to go with them every single time. This seems like a trivial and natural thing now, and I no longer even want to leave my dogs in my yard unattended for any length of time. But at the time it was devastating to me, as were some of the other changes I had to make. I hadn’t known I was taking on a “project” instead of just getting a dog.

In any case, I ended up at the local dog obedience club, hoping that “obedience” would help Summer’s aggression and other issues. It didn’t help in a big way, but it started me down a road to find positive reinforcement training, classical conditioning, and learning theory. Summer is a much happier and confident dog now, and I have trained every other dog who has come into my life as well. Getting Summer changed the direction of my whole life, and I will always be grateful to her for that, besides appreciating her for the cool dog she is.

Do you have a favorite breed?  We won’t judge!

I must say I do. I love rat terriers. Even to look at one makes me feel warm and happy. The sharp lines, their short coats and bouncy movements, their musculature—they just look “right” to me. I’m sure anyone who loves a particular breed knows that feeling. I am partial to terriers in general, but rat terriers are the ones for me. I love that combination of tough and sweet. When they are patrolling for varmints they are singleminded and all business. When they are in the house with their people you couldn’t imagine a sweeter companion.

I don’t currently have a rat terrier at my home and I may never again, but I am “godmother” to one dear rat terrier whom I see frequently. All my own dogs right now are mixed breeds. I have to put in a word for Zani though, my little hound and terrier mix. I think she **should** be a breed. Don’t worry; I’m not intending to add more puppies to the world! She is spayed. It’s just that she is perfect! Such a great looking, clever, and good-natured little dog. (She may be part rat terrier; that would explain why she too looks so “right” to me!)

What is your favorite type of behavior modification or training issue to tackle and why?

I love doing classical conditioning and counterconditioning. I love the idea—and the reality—that you can help an animal become more comfortable in the world simply by creating predictable good associations. It can be a long-term project, such as the work I do with my formerly feral dog Clara, under the supervision of a skilled trainer. Or it can be as easy as my five-day project that helped Zani overcome her discomfort with the movement of the elliptical exercise machine in my back room. When you free an animal of fears and phobias, they are free to make more choices in the world and have much more enriched lives. It is thrilling to me that I can help a dog do that.

What was your proudest training moment?

It actually relates to the classical conditioning I mentioned above. As a non-professional, I sometimes get training ideas that are not all that well thought through. They may have unintended consequences even if they succeed with the thing I intend. But this one was my own idea and it turned out great. When I got my feral puppy Clara, I was concerned that she would pick up Summer’s reactivity. Summer had at that time several triggers that happened frequently at home, including that the sound of delivery trucks would send her around the bend. Clara already had enough challenges from growing up in the woods; I didn’t want to add to her plate. So very early on I started giving her a great treat (canned cheese, her favorite) whenever Summer would bark. I did it so consistently that I got the full Pavlovian response; Clara would actually smack her lips and salivate when Summer would bark. Besides running to me wagging her tail. All the side effects of this training were good. It caused Clara to come looking for me whenever Summer barked, which then morphed into a strong recall. Little Zani learned the association and started showing up too, which inoculated her nicely from catching Summer’s habit. And finally—over the course of a couple of years—it took some of the potency out of Summer’s own reaction. She is learning to interrupt herself and come look for me instead of going nuts over trucks.

What is the one thing you would most like all dog guardians to know?

That you don’t have to have an adversarial relationship with your dog. Positive reinforcement based training is effective, and not just for easy dogs or tricks. When I first read about it, I couldn’t find any force free training local to me. I figured that positive reinforcement based training must be an exaggeration, some kind of wishful thinking. I was wrong. As I have learned more and more about it, every example I have ever seen of it “not working” is because of the limitations of the trainer, never some inherent quality of the dog. Training is a skill, and there is a learning curve. The people reading this are fortunate to have the wonderful trainers at Helping Hounds Training to help them learn those skills and enjoy their lives with their dogs…

In addition to the established eileenanddogs.com, Eileen also has a new website and an upcoming e-book that focus on sharing life with a dog who has dementia.  With her characteristic accessibility and empathy, both promise to be valuable resources for anyone looking for information or support in regard to this condition.  The website is http://dogdementia.com and the working title of the book is Loving and Caring for a Dog with Dementia.

She does it at home! Why not here?!

Written By: Erin Wigginton, CPDT-KA

Have you ever wondered why your dog is an obedience rock star at home or in her group class but if you try to take her to the dog park or Petco she acts like she’s never heard “come” or “sit” before in her life? It’s the same story for dog owners everywhere and I hear “She really does KNOW how to (fill in the blank).” My response is always the same; “I know. I believe you. But to her, this context is so different that it’s too hard for her to follow instruction. Context matters and contextual changes that seem minute to us can make a world of difference to your dog.” She’s not being stubborn. She’s being a dog.


Dogs are incredibly observant creatures. They constantly notice (and are distracted by) things that we take completely for granted. The level of distraction that your dog faces with every outing is inversely related to how much practice he’s had around those distractions. Simply stated, the more practice your dog has in a certain context the less distracted he’ll be over time. It’s a process of desensitization. Consider the following. How many times a week do you leave your house? Where do you go? What do you encounter and experience? Now consider how many times in that same week your dog leaves your house. What does he experience? Who or what does he encounter? It’s probably a safe bet that you spend considerably more time outside your home than does your dog. It stands to reason, then, that everything (or at least most everything) you typically encounter are things that haven’t been novel to you in quite some time. Nothing is new or scary or exciting. For most dogs it is exactly the opposite. EVERYTHING is new and exciting…or scary and too much of either of those emotions (excitement or fear) will temporarily negate any training skills you’ve taught your dog. Add to that the fact that your dog isn’t just seeing and hearing all these distractions but he’s smelling all of them too and you’ve got a tough situation for us as dog owners.

So what do we do with that? How do we overcome it? The same way you overcame it as a child or young adult…exposure and practice. Now, I’ve written about socialization and fear periods in dogs and how those can shape the long-term behavioral health of dogs. Here and now I’m suggesting tips for behaviorally healthy dogs, young and old, whose owners simply want better reliability in different situations. If your dog if fearful (cowers, trembles, won’t take food, etc.) of many (or any) new situations or people or if your dog is reactive (barking, lunging, etc.) in new situations it’s time to call a professional for help. Never take a fearful or reactive dog into a situation which is likely to evoke a negative response without professional guidance.

For those fortunate folks out there with happy, confident dogs I offer this advice: practice, rest, repeat. 

Practice: Get your dog out into different situations around new and interesting stuff. Figure out what your dog finds the most interesting or distracting. Write a list if there are more than a few. Then tackle the list one thing at a time. At first, distance is your friend. If your dog finds other dogs distracting, ask friends to help you with their dogs. Go for walks together but keep enough distance between your dog and your friend’s dog that your dog will still comply when asked for simple cues like “sit” or “wait”. I also really like using dog parks for this kind of practice. The trick is to keep your dog outside the fence. The fence keeps the other dogs from getting closer than you want them to, meaning you can use distance to your great advantage while still having a great opportunity to practice basic skills with your dog. When your dog is as compliant as you’d like him to be you can decrease the distance between him and the distraction and keep practicing. During this process I use food rewards even if I’ve replaced food with other rewards at home because I’m asking more of my dog in these new contexts and I need him to understand what I want and that it’s worth it to comply. If you use a clicker, that’s even better. 


Rest: Always set a time limit (I usually recommend no more than 10 minutes) for practicing before you take a break. Taking a break will help your dog (and you) lower your stress level and perform better in the long run. A break can be as little a 2 minutes or as long as you need it to be. Don’t push your dog or yourself to a point of frustration. You want training to be fun and your relationship with your dog to remain strong. Show your dog that he can trust you to be fair in your expectations without getting frustrated with him for getting excited to see that new goldendoodle or the new neighbor.

Repeat: Practice often, two or three times a week if you can. The St. Louis area has a long list of dog parks and dog-friendly businesses where you can practice around all sorts of distractions. Some of my favorites are:

slater 2

It takes time and practice to teach a dog to be compliant in many different situations but it IS possible! Get out there and practice with your dog. Put in the time and effort. I promise you’ll be glad you did!



The Young Dog’s Fear

Written By: Erin Wigginton, CPDT-KA

Most of us have heard recommendations to socialize our puppies and I think that we can all agree that appropriate socialization is a wonderful thing. But why are we, as canine professionals, so adamant that appropriate socialization occur while the puppies are under 16 weeks old? Surely a five-month-old puppy should still be socialized. Yes, of course, but here’s the rub…socialization can become much more risky and remedial once a puppy crosses the threshold into adolescence and enters what is known as the “secondary fear period” (also known as “fear of new situations” or “FNS”). The “primary fear period” or “fear impact period” occurs while puppies are, usually, still with their mothers and have not gone to separate homes. Therefore, I will be focusing on the secondary period since it is most often experienced by new owners.


Before I go any further, allow me to define the “secondary fear period”. The “secondary fear period” occurs anytime between the ages of four months and eleven months of age. It is a time during which puppies are developing quickly both physiologically and mentally and are learning to test and experiment with their surroundings. This stage of development has great potential to shape your adolescent into a fantastic adult dog. Lacking early, appropriate socialization, however, it also has great potential to traumatize your youngster and create life-long behavior problems.

To safely maximize the potential in your young dog you can follow these simple steps:

Pay attention: Watch you dog for signs of stress or insecurity such as yawning, panting, or refusing treats (Signs of Fear In Dogs). If you notice these signs, remove your dog from the situation and give him time to calm down in a safe place. Unless your dog’s safety is at risk (an emergency trip to the vet, for instance), NEVER force your dog to endure a situation in which she is over-stressed. These situations can quickly turn from anxious to aggressive if you don’t help your dog to feel safe. Dogs can’t learn if they don’t feel safe so, safety FIRST and THEN training!

Take it slow: If you see that your dog is nervous, give him options. Allow him to go at his own pace to explore/investigate/greet and never push/pull him toward something he’s unsure about. If someone tells you you should just make your dog “face his fears”, have them consider that if you take away a dog’s option to flee, all he’s left with is the option to fight…who wants that? It also demonstrates to your dog that he can’t trust you to keep him safe which hurts your relationship and will slow any training process!

Enzo Greeting 2

Make positive associations: If you know your dog will be exposed to something new or potentially frightening, make sure you bring truly tasty treats with you. As your dog behaves appropriately and becomes less fearful of the new situation, reward him! This will help him to associate wonderful things with formerly stressful situations and help him be more comfortable in the future. I always do this when taking youngsters to the vet. 

Practice often: Improvement doesn’t happen without deliberate practice. Practice short sessions (15-30 minutes) a couple of times each week. It’s also helpful to keep a journal of your progress. It can help you see what needs more work and also be rewarding to look back on and see how far you’ve come!

Get Help!: If you are concerned that your dog is very fearful or even becoming aggressive in certain situations it’s time to contact a professional. Talk to your vet about options and search for a reputable force-free trainer in your area (www.apdt.com or www.clickertraining.com). If you happen to be in the St. Charles, MO or St. Louis, MO area, feel free to contact Helping Hounds! We’ll be happy to help!