Tarahill Cairn Terriers &
Wags to Wishes K9 Training 

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Help! My boy puppy is lifting his leg on everything!

Posted by k.mcclean on October 25, 2018 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (13)

Leg lifting and marking is an normal / instinctive male dog behaviour. Some boys are more likely to develop the habit of doing this indoors than others and this is a frequent reason why people resort to early neutering.  If you have a young male puppy here are some things you can do to minimize the likelihood that your puppy will become an indoor marker.

1. Close supervision - while your puppy is growing up you will want to keep him under close observation - crating, Xpens and umbilical training are all strategies you can use to help prevent your puppy from relieving himself and marking in the house.

2. Belly bands - for boys that have already started marking indoors a belly band can protect your furniture. Most boys will continue to mark despite the belly band and you need to be careful to make sure he does not develop skin irritation from wet bands. Some boys will still be able to direct urine out from under the belly band so these are not great solutions but they can help.

3. Discouraging the development of a marking habit -

  • Start by putting peeing on cue. Start this even before your puppy starts to pee lifting his leg. As soon as you see him squat (or if he is already lifting his leg to pee, as soon as he siddles up to something to lift his leg) say the cue "go potty".  Repeat this every time you see him start to pee. Reward him for peeing on cue.
  • When you walk your dog, allow him one or two pees to make sure he has a chance to empty his bladder. Take him over to something appropriate to lift his leg on and give your 'go potty' cue.  After that, do not allow him to lift his leg on anything.  If he starts to lift his leg, use a positive interrupter and an upbeat 'let's go' to encourage him to move on.  You may want to allow one more pee before he goes indoors.  While you are on your walk, do not avoid objects he may want to lift his leg on, but always be ready to gently and positively redirect.
  • Be sure to clean thoroughly any urine marked areas indoors - use an enxymatic cleaner such as Nature's Miracle or 50:50 vinegar : water solution.  You can purchase a special flashlight at pet stores that will help you locate areas where marking has occured and dried.  These old spots need to be thoroughly cleaned too.
  • Be especially vigilant if a new dog enters the household as marking is a way of establishing territory and introduction a new dog often trigger increased marking.
  • Castration will  reduce the frequency of urine marking in most dogs but it will not completely eliminate it. ~80% of dogs are reported to decrease urine marking with up to 40% of dogs showing significant improvement.  This potential benefit needs to be considered against the risks associated with neutering prior to sexual maturity.
4. If you are already past prevention...
  • If your dog is habitually marking in a particular spot - do a thorough clean with an enzymatic cleaner intended for removing urine.  If the area is carpetted, you may need to wet down to the underlay to thoroughly get rid of any residual odour.  Do not allow your dog access to the area until complete drying has occured. After the area is dry try moving your dog's bed to the area.
  • Teach your dog the 'go potty' and 'no marking' under #3 even if he is well into a habit of marking indoors.
  • Use a positive interrupter if you catch your dog in the act, then take him outdoors immediately, praise him and reinforce heavily when he pees outdoors.
  • Some trainers recommend putting a couple of drops of your dog's urine on a bandana and having him wear it whenever he is indoors. The theory is that he now carries his smell with him and this reduces his need to mark.  I cannot vouche for the success or this method.
  • Do not punish your dog for failures - this will only encourage him to do it behind your back and won't stop the behaviour.

Interactive toys - help for dogs that need something to do!

Posted by karen on December 14, 2013 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I love interactive toys - they keep my dogs busy when I need them out from underfoot, they help my gulpers to eat slowly, they stave off boredom on those long days when it is too cold, too hot or too rainy to go outside.  Interactive toys are a life saver if you have a dog that just cannot seem to burn enough energy off with physical exercise to keep them from being bored and destructive.  Some are useful for dogs that need to be on restricted exercise programs and are getting bored or frustrated.  Whatever the reason, interactive toys are a good investment.  There are many different ones out there, of course, not all are suitable for every dog, but with the burgeoning interest in interactive toys, there is bound to be one (and probably many) that are appropriate for any dog.

Here is a selection of some of the interactive toys in my house.


I especially like my swivel star by Dog Games puzzle toys for my puppies - this is a great toy to get young puppies into searching for food and working at something.  It moves very easily so even little pups can make it work. When they are still too small to 'play' with it, they learn to climb on and around it, then as soon as they are eating dry kibble, or little bits of solid food I place food in it with the segments opened up.  It is not long before they are pros at getting every last morsel from it even when it is presented to them closed up.


I like my Dog Pyramids when I am ready to give my dogs a physical work out and I don't mind the noise of them crashing it into walls and furniture. This is not a "quiet time" toy and not very suitable for using inside a crate. They are quite sturdy and both the small and large versions are suitable for my Cairn terriers. Be prepared for demands for them to be retrieved from under furntiture and other dog inaccessible locations!  The weighted bottoms make sure that they return to the upright position and limit the amount of food that comes out when they are tipped over.

For more quiet times, and a bigger challenge these two toys are better - they can be used in a crate.  The orange version is a Hartz toy.

You will notice that the flying saucer toy in the top picture looks a bit battered - thanks to my not very bright decision to take it to a dog training class where a dog that was much too big and too strong a biter had his way with it before we retrieved it.  So - be sure to assess the suitability of a toy for your dogs strength, play style and behaviours. One of my Nina Ottoson toys (see next paragraph) has a rather battered piece due to a careless moment on my part when a puppy ran off with a piece and chewed off several chunks, fortunately without ill effects to the puppy. Supervision is important!

There are other more complicated types of interactive toys - many of them require closer observation of the dog or active participation by the handler. Nina Ottoson has a variety of interesting and fun dog activity toys designed to make dogs think and problem solve - these are especially useful for dogs that need a mental workout on those days when physical workouts are not possible.  Check out her toys at http://www.nina-ottosson.com/

All dogs can benefit from the mental stimulation provided by an interactive toy but they are especially valuable for dogs with behaviour problems resulting from boredom or excessive energy. Interactive toys give your dog a job to do.  If your dog has no history of working for his food, start small and work up so that eventually you can deliver his entire meal in an interactive device. Clicker trained dogs and especially those that are familiar with shaping are usually very quick to catch on to intereactive toys because they have developed skills in experimenting with their behaviour to see what works. Dogs trained through aversive or punitive methods may take a bit longer to warm up to interactive toys as they may be hesitant to try new things.  If your dog does not charge in and "take charge" when you present him with an interactive toy, show him that you are hiding treats inside and show him how to get hem out. Reinforce him a few times for interacting with the toy even if his interaction is not successful in getting a treat out. Most dogs will quickly warm up to the game and in not time at all he will be successful, if you have chosen a toy that is appropriate for your dog.

Maybe YOUR dog would like a new interactive toy for Christmas!

Winter woes - or Keeping your dog from going crazy when it's too cold to go outside

Posted by karen on December 14, 2013 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (0)

It's winter in the west and already bitterly cold.  Only early December and the crew is already unhappy about venturing outdoors for more than a quite pee. Thankfully I have small dogs and we can get in a fair amount of exercise in a small space, and I have a training building they can run around in to burn off some energy if we need to.  But what do you do if  you don't have space, or have a big dog? Or one that needs more than just some tug play to keep him happy? The following suggestions are not only good for driving away the winter boredom, they are good for dogs that are "busy bodies" and find undesirable ways to keep themselves occupied if you are not getting in 4 long walks a day!

  1. Interactive toys - There are many different interactive toys out there.  Many need to be used under supervision - especially ones that are wooden, have small pieces or can be crushed, broken etc by a vigourous chewer, so this is not something to turn your dog loose on when you leave for work in the morning. They are however valuable tools to keep your dog from being bored.  Feeding all your dogs meals in an interactive toy is a great way to help him eat more slowly, make him use his brain and body to get the food and keep boredom at bay.
  2. Train, train, train - Training is a great way to exercise your dog's mind - you may have already observed your dog coming home from a class and crashing for a few hours. Mental exercise is as valuable as physical exercise in tiring a dog - and for highly energetic dogs can be even more effective than a long session of physical activity.  Training that actively engages your dogs brain - especially training that involves use of 'shaping' to get behaviour is a powerful way to give your dog a workout. 
  3. Give your dog a job - Teach your dog how to do things around the house. Once he has learned simple tasks, you can put him to work through the day as you go about daily activities. Simple service dog behaviours like closing doors, bringing you objects, opening cupboards etc are great examples of things you can teach. Check out Jesse's repertoire of tricks for ideas you might want (or not!) to teach your dog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9Fyey4D5hg
  4. Indoor exercise routines - If it is just too cold for outdoor exercise, do some indoor physical activities - tugging games, puppy push-ups (rapid sequence sits and downs +/- stands), walking on a treadmill or working on a balance ball are all indoor physical activities that don't require a lot of space. Rally obedience exercises are also doable in a small space and are a gentle physical workout for your dog.
  5. Games - Games that engage your dog's attention will help wear off some of that energy that can so easily get diverted into destructive behaviour.  a) Find the treats - take a handful of kibble or other dog treats and hide them all around a room.  Start with easy "hides" and even hiding treats in plain sight until your dog becomes proficient and understands that his job is to search out all the treats in the room. Gradually make the game more challenging.  b) Nose work or secnt work games engage your dog's natural scenting ability and are fun for most dogs. c) Free shaping games using any novel object are also great exercises for many reasons.  First, they provide a great mental workout, secondly, they help your dog become a more proficient shaper - and you too. In free shaping you present an object to your dog and click - reinforce any behaviour he offers related to the object. The idea is not to achieve any specific interaction with the object, but to see how many different behaviours your dog can offer with relation to the object. The beauty of this exercise is that the pressure is off - the dog is never wrong - and you don't have to get any specific behaviour out of the game to be successful.

For more about shaping - go to

For ideas about nose work games - go to:

Turn those long winter days into FUN, FUN, FUN for your dog!

Karen