Devon Deneseus has been an active customer of UberDog Training with her 2 Great Danes Oakley & Callie, and her Corgi-mix Dabo for almost 2 years. From day 1 she picked up our training system with ease, and has continued to advance their training. Training dogs is a passion so currently Devon is interning with UberDog Training and is also a registered nurse working part-time. Along with shadowing lessons, doing marketing work, she was put on assignment of her very first puppy project – Tage. Tage is a male Golden Retriever puppy from Season’s Gold, who was chosen to go through our extensive puppy training program where the pups live with one of the UDT trainers or interns yo learn the fundamentals of being a great dog for life! This is Devon’s point of view – most puppy owners struggle with the same things, reading this will help you out with your puppy issues! You can pursue your dog training further by booking out your free demo on our homepage: uberdogtraining.com.
I pulled up to Romare Bearden Park in Charlotte, where I would be meeting another dog trainer to pick up my golden retriever puppy project, suddenly feeling nervous. What was I going to do with a puppy? How could I possibly know enough to train a brand new puppy to do much more than just the basics? Ashley Rodriquez, the other trainer, pulled up and handed me my pup, little Tage. “Definitely would recommend a bath. And he’s super hyper and barky, good luck!”
The thing with puppies is everyone wants one because they’re cute, soft, and cuddly, but no one thinks about the amount of work and patience they require. I always tell people that getting a puppy is like having a newborn baby and my experience training this puppy, named Tage (pronounced Toggy) by his owner, solidified that belief for me.
The first few nights were horrible; there’s no sugar coating that. UberDog Training crate trains all our dogs, and stressed, crying puppies are no exception. Tage spent majority of those first nights barking and whining in his crate and I spent majority of them holding my pillow over my ears. I had to take him out every two hours the first few nights and at 6:30 am, he was absolutely done being in the crate. However, his pure excitement to see me and the cuddles he offered up did make it worth it! Do not ever go to your dog and let him out of the crate if he is making all kinds of noise, even if he is breaking your heart. That will only teach him that barking will get him out and he will bark everytime he’s crated. Always make the crate a positive experience. I fed Tage all of his meals in his crate and always lured him in with treats. I never shoved him in the crate or picked him up and put him in it. Soon, your dog learns that the crate is a great, safe place to be and the barking and whining will subside.
The first week with Tage, I did not use commands to have him do anything; all I did was “free shaping.” Free shaping means that when your pup randomly performs a good behavior without being told to do something, you say “good” and when he is trying but not quite right, you say “nope.” Also, during the first week, Tage was tethered with a leash to me or an object at all times so that I could catch all his behaviors. For example, if Tage was wandering around and then suddenly sat down, I would say “good!” If he was about to jump on the couch, I would say “nope!” and restrict his ability to do so by stepping/restraining with a leash. Having Tage tethered to me helped tremendously with potty training as well. If he squatted to urinate inside, I would say “nope!,” pick him up, and run him outside. At that point, if he went to the bathroom while we were outside, I would give him a ton of praise. Never get angry with your puppy for urinating inside because it could cause him to be scared to go to the bathroom at all; simply say “nope” so he knows that’s not what you want, and redirect him outside. Even so, Tage kept having accidents in the house and crate, as many as six times in one hour. This was highly unusual and continued happening even when I restricted his water, so head trainer Katrina Kranz decided he needed a vet visit to check for a urinary tract infection (UTI). Turns out, that’s what was wrong and with antibiotics, Tage had fewer and fewer accidents. Dogs are smart and will do what you want if the communication and consistency are there. We knew Tage wasn’t stupid or stubborn; something else was going on. Pay attention to what your dog is trying to tell you.
Once I felt like Tage was picking up on things, I began using treats to lure him into a sit, down, or heel position. I did not introduce verbal commands until half way through the second week; I simply used a treat to get him to do a behavior and rewarded him as soon as he did it. We began working on down stays and building distance, and then in the third week I added in distractions while we worked on commands. Distractions can be anything from another person or dog in the vicinity to tossing food on the ground and expecting your dog to stay until released. To up the anty, I took Tage to various places like Lowe’s Home Improvement, local parks, and dog-friendly restaurants in Charlotte. Tage was doing fantastic, but he ended up being too reliant on treats. Rarely could I get him to perform a command without a treat in my hand or luring him with a treat. I was frustrated and couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t do it because I knew he understood what to do. Katrina suggested I slowly phase out treats and incorporate rewarding with a toy sometimes too, not just treats. Patience is definitely a virtue when training any dog, especially a puppy! I began rewarding every other time or every third time Tage correctly performed a behavior. Phasing out the treats worked like a charm and soon, Tage was following commands without treats. Always try to be sporadic and unpredictable with your rewards and with commands. Dogs will quickly learn patterns, which can be a good thing, but it also means they will learn, for example, that you will say “sit” twice, raise your hand over their head, grab a treat, say “sit” again, and then reward. Therefore, your dog won’t sit until you’ve completed that entire sequence.
Tage was excelling in all areas, but even though we cleared up his UTI, he was randomly having accidents in his crate still and in the house. This was possibly the most frustrating and concerning part of training him for me. Another vet visit revealed that the pH of Tage’s urine was too high. This caused it to have an ammonia-like odor and was irritating his bladder, potentially causing the accidents. A few days of a medication to correct this showed no improvement. We were beginning to think that he had learned it was okay to urinate in the house and crate because I couldn’t catch him having an accident every time back when he had the UTI. One of the hardest habits to break in dogs is when they’ve learned to use the bathroom in the house. Tage wasn’t ready to go to his new owner’s home until we could figure out how to fix this, so we had to extend his training for 2 weeks. It was disappointing for me and for his owner, but she was very understanding.
For the last week, I gave Tage to Charlotte dog trainers Samantha and Chris Howe to solidify his training and they tried putting him in a pen in the kitchen instead of in his crate. Thankfully, he has not had any accidents in the pen or in their house! Putting him in a new environment and trying out a crating alternative helped break the learned behavior of using the bathroom inside. Soon, Tage will be taken to his new owner’s home, where we will help integrate him on the first day and hopefully, we will continue to see this loving pup at classes from here on out!