Atlanta Humane Society Blog

August 12, 2010

Tips, Tricks and Tools by Mailey!

The AHS blog is kicking off a new series called Tips, Tricks and Tools by Mailey! This new series is dedicated to answering reader questions.  We want you guys to write in with all your inquiries on animal behavior and training. Here’s how it will work: e-mail your questions to, Mailey McLaughlin, our Animal Behavior and Training expert, will answer them and then they will be posted in one week.

We have 3 3 year old Malteses, 2 girls and 1 boy. The 2 bigger ones are from the same litter and have bonded more and the little one from a different litter is subservient to them. The 2 bigger ones bark when anyone comes to our house, and if we don’t put them on a leash, they will attempt to nip at their pant leg or skirt. If they get used to the visitor but the visitor gets and leaves the room and then comes back into the room, the barking and attempt to nip will begin again. We have tried to get them to stay but they will not when the guest gets up. Any ideas?

Another problem is that there is a dog next door and now when we go to let them out in the fenced in back yard, the 2 big ones immediately run to the fence and start barking even if there is no one on the other side. What can we do?

It can indeed be challenging to have multiple dogs, especially littermates or dogs that were raised together from puppyhood. They are harder to train and housebreak, and they tend to bond so closely with each other that they don’t respect the humans as leaders. It sounds like you have a case of “littermate syndrome” going on.

Fixing the problem means setting it up so that you can get their attention and train some simple commands that they can obey even when excited or distracted. They will need to be separated on a regular basis so you can establish some leadership. I recommend against getting multiple puppies at once, but if it’s already done, the best thing to do is keep them separated a lot as they grow up so they are easier to train and don’t develop hierarchy issues (this generally flies in the face of what people think is best; they get multiples so they can have companionship, but constant togetherness in growing puppies is actually detrimental to their growth). Since these guys are already grown, it’s going to be a little trickier, as they are not going to take to being separated much, I’d imagine. But with patience and work, it can be done.

I’d start crating them separately, in separate rooms, only allowing them to have time together a few hours a day. If they’ve never been crate-trained, this will probably be trying as they will likely cry more than the average dog in crate training. Be resolute and ignore the noise. One of the adults in the home should take over the training of one of the dogs, and the other adult the other dog, if possible. Teach them some basic commands like “sit,” “lie down,” and “come to me.” (Consult a good book like Kilcommons’ and Wilson’s My Smart Puppy, or hire a trainer to help you).

Keep them on leash (or keep them crated when you can’t be actively training them) when guests visit so that you can control them. Teach them to lie quietly beside you instead of allowing them to nip at pants legs. Leadership comes when dogs learn that you will allow certain things and not others, the right things will be rewarded, and you control all the good stuff. It is not harsh, but firm, and since dogs crave structure and a leader, most respond right away.

When they have a solid “come,” the hijinks in the yard will cease because you will be able to get their attention and call them away from the fence and give them alternative behaviors. Right now, they think barking at the fence is their “job.” They don’t know any other way to behave, so guide them to a better, quieter behavior, and reward.

The importance of consistent basics cannot be overemphasized, and even small breeds need training. They are still young, so they will learn. Good luck!

These answers were provided by Mailey E. McLaughlin, M.Ed., our Training & Behavior Manager and Certified Dog Trainer. For more information, email her directly at


August 4, 2010

Tips, Tricks and Tools by Mailey!

The AHS blog is kicking off a new series called Tips, Tricks and Tools by Mailey! This new series is dedicated to answering reader questions.  We want you guys to write in with all your inquiries on animal behavior and training. Here’s how it will work: e-mail your questions to, Mailey McLaughlin, our Animal Behavior and Training expert, will answer them and then they will be posted in one week. Here are our first batch of questions.

We have two dogs that rush the door when someone knocks or rings the bell. They try to push past us while we attempt to open the door and they tend to jump up on our guests when they first arrive. How can we prevent this?

You don’t say how old the little beasts are, but do they have basic obedience training? They simply believe that this is the way to behave at the door, and will continue to do this until they are given another option. Teaching them to go to a “place” you designate when the doorbell rings will give them a good alternative. You will have to teach this to them separately, when there is no one arriving, so that when you need them to do it, they will remember.

Doors are exciting locations for dogs, and this is not uncommon behavior. If they already know basic commands like “sit,” “lie down,” and “stay,” this will go a lot faster. In the meantime, do not let them “practice” the bad behavior when guests arrive; crate them or leash them so that you can control their excitement and then teach the new behaviors when things are calm. Treat them for going to the spots you designate, and make it fun and rewarding for them. Just remember that the excitement of visitors arriving will outweigh everything at first, but with repetition, they will get it.

Try this link for explicit instructions.

These answers were provided by Mailey E. McLaughlin, M.Ed., our Training & Behavior Manager and Certified Dog Trainer. For more information, email her directly at

April 24, 2010

Puppies and Spring

Filed under: About Animals, Dog Training, Education — trainingworks @ 10:44 am

“A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the king.”

~Emily Dickinson

Ah, spring. Who can resist the warm sun-drenched days, the smell of new growth, and the prospect of a new puppy? Maybe the puppy part is the madness of which Dickinson speaks. Sure, housetraining a new puppy is easier in the warmer months than in the dead of winter, but are you sure you and your family are ready?

Spring is puppy and kitten “season,” so finding just the right canine pal shouldn’t be difficult. Of course, you’ve done your homework and decided what breed(s) would fit best into your life based on their inherent characteristics and needs. You’ve waited until your youngest child was of school age, since the experience of school can teach them patience and helpfulness (and it’s easier to raise a canine baby when you aren’t also raising a toddler or a newborn). Summer will be along in a few months, so the pup will be prepared to attend training classes about the time school is getting out and the days are lengthening. Looks like everything is in order.

We are dedicated to finding lifelong homes for our adoptable animals, and we know that training keeps dogs in their homes more often. So mind the following:

1. Training begins as soon as puppy arrives home. Puppies are sponges and soak up everything, good and bad. Don’t allow him to do things now that you don’t want him to do to you—or anyone else—when he is older and larger. This includes mouthing your hands or clothing, jumping up and put his paws on you, or playing with contraband items. Prevent “naughty” behaviors (be proactive) instead of punishing the pup later (being reactive).

2. Since the majority of aggression is fear-based, and results from undersocialization when the pup was 3 weeks to 12 weeks old, get puppy out in safe areas and let him meet the world in a positive way. Until he’s had his vaccinations, steer clear of highly-used doggy gathering spots such as pet stores and dog parks, but he can go in the car with you (as long as it is cool outside and he’s not left in the car by himself) and you can carry him lots of places and have nice people pet him. Confer with your vet about immunization safety first.

3. Give that pup some structure, and he’ll thank you for it. Crate-trained dogs are easier to housebreak and obedience train, are better adjusted, and are less likely to have separation-related issues than dogs who are allowed to run about the house or are left in a yard too much. The crate, properly used, is a wonderful tool (see my previous posts on this blog about crate training).

Remember this: the more energy and effort you put into making the timely and proper selection of a dog, the less time, effort and patience you will need raising and training him. Do your homework first. He’s going to spend many wonderful years at your side if you plan accordingly.

Our Behavior department can help you with crate training, obedience training or any questions you may have. Our behavior hotline (we can also answer your questions before you select your new pet) is free. Call (404) 974-2899, or email

April 17, 2010

Save Your Sanity: Using Your New Dog Crate (Part 2 of 2)

Filed under: About Animals, Dog Training — trainingworks @ 10:35 am

You’ve decided to crate-train Fido, and you’ve acquired the correct crate. There is no one correct method for every dog, but there are guidelines, depending upon whether you have a young pup (8-16 weeks) or an adolescent/adult dog. Young pups are the most impressionable between 8-10 weeks of age, so positive experiences (crate and otherwise!) introduced during this time will be of great benefit to you both. An adult dog may or may not have had previous experience with a crate (depending on its past), so it may take a bit longer to acclimate him. With any age of dog, crate introduction must involve patience on your part, a positive attitude and manner about the crate, and lots of rewards for good behaviors. The Atlanta Humane Society has a detailed instruction booklet that can assist you with puppies or adults; email me at to request one by mail.

Young pups are physically unable to control their elimination functions until they are four months old, so you must be diligent to make sure that they get outside in plenty of time to “go” and be amply rewarded. As a rule, a pup can “hold it” for as many hours as he is months old, plus one (a three-month-old pup can hold it approx. four hours). Having a reliable person come in during the day to let him eliminate is an important part of using a crate for housebreaking.

Proper housetraining is all about building good habits. Confine the dog when you are not supervising him (no chance for accidents to happen), and make sure he has lots of chances to succeed, i.e., to eliminate outside and be amply rewarded. Praise him happily just as he is finishing his business. Do not punish him for his mistakes! Simply clean the area thoroughly with an odor neutralizer such as Nature’s Miracle and make a mental note that he needs to be diligently watched. If the dog has an accident, it is the human’s fault—not the dog’s.

Some general rules to keep in mind:

Mailey’s dog Whirling Dervish runs to get in her crate in anticipation of something wonderful.

Introduce your dog gently to the crate; do not force. Use positive reinforcement techniques to make Fido WANT to be in or around the crate. Be patient. Begin crate training at the start of a long weekend for best results. If you do it right, soon your dog will love his crate!

A crate is not a replacement for responsible parenting. Quality time with your dog is an integral part of a good relationship. The crate should only be a tool to keep the dog and the house safe when you are away or busy, NOT a baby-sitter for an unruly dog. Time spent in the crate should be carefully balanced with proper exercise, training, and socialization.

Never release the dog if he is whining or barking! This only serves to reward those actions. You will have to put up with some noise for a while when you start using the crate, because your pooch wants to be with you. Be firm. Stand at the door until he is calm, then release. You want your dog to associate “door opening” (REWARD) with “quiet” (HIS BEHAVIOR).

Plan on using the crate even after housebreaking is finished. It’s a great help with obedience training, and has many other uses. Properly-crate-trained dogs are generally more balanced, easier to train, and less stressed. They also do better at boarding kennels (you never know when you might need one), traveling (a crate in the car is the safest way for your dog to ride), and during times of stress in the home. The idea is that you wean the dog out of needing the crate so much as he gets trained, but you still use it a little every day to keep his training balanced.

For more explicit instructions (from housebreaking to adult dog safety) regarding the crate, contact the Behavior Department at (404) 974-2899, or

April 7, 2010

Save Your Sanity: Invest in a Dog Crate Part I

Filed under: Dog Training, Education — atlantahumanesociety @ 10:17 am

The most important tools to help you build a solid relationship with a new dog (puppy or adult), and save your house from devastation (and your life from major frustration) are basic obedience training and a sturdy dog crate.

Contrary to what some people think, using a dog crate properly is not cruel. Giving your new pooch too much freedom in the house before he is properly trained is harmful to the relationship you must develop with him, and could lead to disastrous results. Non-housebroken, destructive dogs do not make good pets, and often end up in animal shelters, or worse. Proper use of a dog crate will strengthen your bond, keep your dog safe, create a well-balanced pooch, and allow you quality time with a pet you will want to have around. Plus, it is simply the easiest way to train and housebreak your dog.
There are two basic types of crates available for training a dog. Wire crates come with a sliding pan floor for easy cleaning, are collapsible for travel, allow the dog visual access to you, and allow air to circulate freely. The heavy plastic type crates (often airline approved) are not as easy to clean but have more of a cozy “den” feel that many dogs seem to prefer, typically keep dogs safer, and may help to give shy dogs a sense of security. The crate should be large enough to allow the dog to lie down comfortably but not so big that a puppy can eliminate in one corner and escape his mess. A larger crate can be effectively partitioned for puppy housebreaking purposes, negating the need to purchase another crate later. The idea is to create a “safe space” for your dog that he can use even as an adult, so plan on relying on the crate throughout the dog’s lifetime, and buy the best you can afford.

Until he is completely housebroken and trustworthy around your personal belongings, he should be crated whenever you are not actively watching him, but this does NOT mean he should stay in the crate for more hours than he can handle.

PUPPIES can “hold it” for the number of hours they are months old, plus one (e.g., 3 month-old pup=about 4 hours). They should not be crated for longer periods than this.

ADULT dogs, especially housebroken ones, can generally be safely crated for the length of a workday, but a lot depends on the dog and your schedule. If you acquire an adult who is not yet housebroken, use the puppy rule until he is.

Once he is reliably housetrained (this can take anywhere from 2 weeks to several months), has shown he will not resort to destructive chewing, is not suffering from separation issues, and is doing well with his obedience commands, you will use the crate less. Use it as a place to put him safely away when company is coming, workmen are in the home, simple “just because” time-outs, or you are taking a car trip. It can remain in place with the door left open , and he may seek it out from time to time. As long as you don’t use the crate as a “babysitter,” your dog should be comfortable in it.

For more explicit instructions on how to use the crate properly, call the Behavior Department of the Atlanta Humane Society for free literature at (404) 974-2899.

Next time: Getting the dog used to the crate, and more!

by Mailey E. McLaughlin, M.Ed., Certified Dog Trainer
Behavior & Training Manager
Atlanta Humane Society

March 27, 2010

Manners Matter!

Filed under: About Animals, Dog Training, Education — trainingworks @ 10:26 am

The AHS Behavior Dept. is working hard to get the older puppies and adult dogs more adoptable. Our “Paws2Teach” classes enable us to socialize and train dogs on a weekly basis, and the dogs definitely improve with every lesson.

Here is volunteer Christy teaching Bear how to “settle” and accept petting calmly. This is such an important skill for dogs to know, and many simply don’t. Often, that’s why they ended up at the shelter to begin with!

I couldn’t do this important work without my P2T volunteers! I love you guys.


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