Ask the Trainer!

DougHeywood

Doug with “Coach” (adopted February 2014)

Doug Heywood is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) through the Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPTD) – the only independent and standardized certification program in the world.  To become certified, trainers must have at least 300 hours of documented training experience, be recommended by a veterinarian, client, and a colleague, and pass a comprehensive science-based exam in the areas of Animal Husbandry, Canine Ethology, Learning Theory, Equipment, Business Practices, and Ethics. 

Doug founded The Language of Canines, aka “TLC” to help people better understand and communicate with the dog(s) that they share their lives with.  The end goal being a better behaved, more predictable dog in real-world situations, rather then the traditional training rooms (read “box”) found in many of the large retail stores that offer dog training.

Doug is located in Cedar Park, Texas.  He has worked with several dogs from our shelter and has graciously offered to host this column.  (Thanks Doug!!)  If you have a question for Doug, please use the contact form at the bottom of this page.  You can also visit his website or Face Book page for more tips and information!

 

Q. Very loving to me but does not like any body else some time I think he could bite.  I live alone and can not go off for a night if so because I cannot have anyone come take care of her she wont allow it. I’m thinking of having her put down I cannot have company or family come to my house.

Hi, June, and thanks for your question!

Living with an unsocial dog can be quite difficult, but thankfully much can be done to address the issue and let you keep your dog and still have a life.  There are a number of potential reasons for this type of behavior.  To better understand what motivates this behavior let’s look at normal canine behavior.

Dogs by their very nature are resource guarders.  They attempt to control access to anything they consider of value.  A good example of this is when a dog snarls and warns someone away from their food bowl.  When the person moves away due to the threat of being bitten, the dog wins and gets to eat its food in peace.  If this happens repeatedly, the behavior becomes ingrained.  Overtime, the dog develops a conditioned emotional response.  In other words it’s self-fulfilling.

The same thing can happen if the dog is fearful or nervous around other dogs or people.  The dog learns overtime that if it displays a threatening behavior like growling or lunging, that the scary or unfamiliar person retreats.  Since it works, the dog continues to display the behavior.  This is a good time to address the growl.  A dog that growls is saying don’t do whatever it is your doing or I’m uncomfortable, leave me alone. The growl is an effort by the dog to avoid a confrontation that will lead to a bite.  So the growl is a good thing if you heed the message.

Now let’s talk about the human side of the equation.  When we live with dogs that are reactive, unpredictable, or unsociable, it’s common for us to be sensitized to the behavior, which causes the person involved to give off signals that the dog can wrongly interpret as danger.  If you are afraid your dog will bite someone, your mental and physical state can actually push the dog over the edge, potentially leading to a bite.

Most dogs will follow their human pack leader if they feel that this person can handle themselves, the dog and whatever situation that the dog is put in.  If the dog thinks you have this covered, it will be less likely to posture or aggress.

It’s also very common in these cases for the human guardian to isolate the dog, and avoid potential problems, which actually makes the dog worse. Dogs like us are social animals, and when we deprive them of social interaction, they tend to become socially retarded.

So, how do you fix it.  First let your dog know who’s in charge by being consistent and stable.  If your dog starts to growl where it’s not necessary, tell him “No” in a firm manner.  Don’t ever scream at or hit your dog, as that can frighten him more and make the behavior worse.  Be kind, but firm.  In short, don’t give him the option to misbehave.

Next find a reliable pet sitter or doggie daycare in your area that has experience with these kinds of dogs.  FYI, this won’t be too hard as this behavior is quite common.  Both of these options will give you a break and let you come back more centered and relaxed, which should help your dog do the same.

Lastly, don’t go it alone. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, enlist the help of a dog trainer to help you.

Good Luck and Good training!

Douglas A. Heywood, CPDT-KA

 

Q. We adopted a one year old chihuahua, for the first week she done amazing we was told that she did dribble a small amount when she got excited about being picked up. Otherwise she went to her puppy pad and outside we take her out o often but this morning she peed on my pillow and couch twice and she had been out and her pad was in place as well. We love her and don’t want to relocate her, please help!

A.  Hi Debra, and thanks for your question!  The dribble you spoke of is likely submissive in nature, and its not unusual. This should be better now that she trusts you more.

Regarding this morning’s incidents there are a couple of causes.  If she’s been doing well up to now, its a good idea to rule out any physical reasons for the problem, such as a urinary tract infection. When dogs have a UTI, they void frequent small amounts of urine due to the pain.  It may also be hard for her to hold it, which can be another sign of a bladder or UTI. I would rule this out with your vet.

If there’s no physical reason for the inappropriateness urination,then we have to look at a behavioral cause. I’m not a big fan of “pee pads” as they essentially teach your dog that it’s OK to pee in the house.  They do have a purpose, and that’s for dogs that have urinary tract problems or for older dogs, that may have difficulty mobility-wise.

I’m also anti-pee pad, because of how it works to house-train a dog or puppy. The thought is that you move the pad closer and closer to the door. And eventually outside and then your dog knows to go outside.  This can take days or weeks to accomplish.  It that amount of time you could have trained your dog to go outside multiple times and likely with fewer accidents.

To house-train you new addition, use a properly sized crate, and keep her in it when your not home, or unable to watch her.  The crate should be just large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably.  If the dog has more space than that, she will just do her business at the far end of the crate, and sleep on the other side.

Use can also use a clicker to speed up housebreaking.  Load the clicker, so that the dog has a positive association with it.  Once this is accomplished. Click at the exact second that the dog finishes relieving herself outside. Follow that with a treat or praise.  She will quickly learn that you want her to go outside and only outside- Problem solved.

One word of warning, if you catch your dog peeing in the house don’t yell “NOooooo” at the top of your voice, and charge the dog in a attempt to get it to stop. This can actually make the problem worse.

Instead, calmly pick up or move the dog outside and let her finish her business.  She’ll soon understand what you want her to do.

Good Training,

Douglas A. Heywood, CPDT-KA

 

Q. I have a standard schnauzer , i have had him for about six years now he was a rescue and he has come a long way since i first got him. when i first got my dog he was very docile and extremely hesitant to trust me, now he is very open and listens to me without hesitating , today i bought him a bed that is elevated off of the ground but he doesn’t seem to want to get on the bed, what can i do to make him comfortable so he wants to use his bed ?

A.  Hi Rose, Thanks for your question! First, please allow me the privilege of thanking you for adopting your “Pup” and taking the time to help him heal, that’s awesome!

Now, on to your question.  You can teach your dog to get up on an elevated platform,bed, etc. by using a clicker as a behavioral marker and combining that with tasty high-reward treats.  If you’ve not done so already, you’ll need to load the clicker.  This is easy to do and takes about a week to complete.  First, sit with your dog in a place with minimal  distractions.  You want to have 3-4 treats and your clicker in hand.  Press the clicker to get it to make the clicking sound and immediately give your dog one of the treats. You want to do this in quick succession “Click,Treat, Click Treat, until all the food is gone.

You’re then going to repeat this as often as you can for 4-5 days or until the dog responds to the sound of the click by spinning around to face you like he’s asking “where’s my treat!”  Congratulations!,  your dog has just been “clickerized”.

Next you’re going to lure him to the raised bed, by offering him a treat.  Its best to be on the other side of the bed, so that you can slowly move the treat across the bed and towards you. You’ll click every time a paw touches the top of the raised bed. when’s he’s easily doing that just click and treat for two paws, then three paws, (you get the idea).  Once he gets up on the bed with all fours, then ask him to sit.  Give him lots of praise and maybe jack pot him with several treats a one time.  Practice this until he loves his new bed.  You can also name it then, and ask him to go to bed!

One other thing. Many dogs develop a substrate preference, which means that they prefer one material under their feet.  Some dogs like concrete, others, just carpet.  If he shows a preference for siting or lying down on one type of surface, you’ll need a super high-reward and lots of practice to make him change his mind.

Good luck and good training!

Doug

 

Q. Foster Failer is what I am. I fostered Sparkplug (2years old) for 3 months (we found him tied to the office fence) the shelter got him a home and off he went. He was an amazing well behaved dog. No leash required all voice command. Just amazing. After arriving at new home he ended up being aggressive, stopped eating and went into hospital. 3 months later he was back at my house after 3 different adopters. Same attitude with all.
We didn’t have aggressive issues with our others dogs/people while we had him except with the English Bulldog. Sparkplug would latch on to him aggressively but only after he had been “bullied”.. (you can only take so much of being rooted around by an English Bulldog). Didn’t think much about it until he came back and became aggressive towards people (thinking he was protecting me). He has become very protective/possessive of me. He now turns on my 11 year old Miniature Schnauzer and doesn’t let go. So I draw the line here. This is my baby he is attacking. I have been in the cross fire at 4am when Sparkplug wakes up and attacks Gunner for no reason. He is still an amazing dog with me if we are alone. But no person or dog can get near me. How can I stop the aggressive behavior? I crate him after the attacks which I am sure isn’t great because ever since he came back he flips out in crates. For instance he is missing toenails because of it. Thank you in advance…… also he was potty trained before he left and when he came back he messes all in the house and tears up all the trash.

A. Hi, Roxi!  I’m sorry to read about Sparkplug’s issues,  I think however that I can help.  Dogs are highly social pack animals and much of their identity and confidence come from the pack. I often use the the movie Castaway (Tom Hanks) as an example.  In your instance, you are Sparkplug’s “Wilson”.

When dogs are removed from their pack (either canine or human) they often become lost on an emotional level.  Each time the dog is rehomed, they become a little more broken.

From your description, it sounds like Sparkplug is resource-guarding you! His aggression is an attempt to keep you all to himself.  Over time he has developed a conditioned emotional response (CER) to how he deals with anyone trying to get close to you.  He does this because it works in his eyes.

Here’s how you start to fix it.  First, make sure that he’s on a leash and that you have physical control of him.  You should keep the leash loose so as not to communicate any angst you may have to your dog.  Have a good supply of high-value treats when you go out with him.  The moment he sees another dog or human give him a high-reward treat.  We want him to start seeing an approaching person or dog as a good thing.

If he starts getting “tight,” aka stiff and hyper-vigilant or acts aggressively, separate him from you.  What we want for him to learn is that the aggressive outbursts do the exact opposite of what he wants and that is to have you all to himself.  Since he’s now crate-averse, try using a open pen instead or even a gate, that separates he two of you.  Make the separations just a minute or two to avoid increasing his anxiety issues.

You can also try using a head-harness.  Keep the leash loose and when he aggresses, just turn him around, but don’t leave. Just keep turning him.  He will eventually learn that acting out only makes him go in circles, and that he does not get what he wants.  Once that occurs the inappropriate behaviors should stop.

You can also use a thunder-cap.  A thunder-cap is similar to the blinders you see on race horses.  In the case of dogs it goes over the nose and around both eyes.  In effect it makes it harder for the dog to see things from a distance.  He will still see things close up, but not in clear detail, so it doesn’t push him over the edge if there’s a visual component to his aggression.  Finally, he may need to be on anti-anxiety meds for a while to drop the stress-hormone levels. Note- this should only be done as part of a behavioral modification program.

The inappropriate elimination and destruction issues are in my opinion, related to the separation issues.  As an example, I once had a client who’s dog would tear up everything in the crate because it had figured out, that if he tore up all the bedding in the crate, that he would be let out to get the crate cleaned.  Talk about a dog who played it’s owner!

Also, I would drastically increase Sparkplug’s exercise levels, as that will give him less energy to use for the bad things.

Good luck and Good Training,
Douglas A. Heywood, CPDT-KA

Q. Hi, Doug! I’ve had my dog Lucy for about a year and a half. She is a rescue dog who was owner-surrendered and has exhibited some behaviors which have made me question her treatment in her former home – fear of the broom, sudden movements, reaching over her, that kind of thing. She is a “sensitive soul” who is eager to please and very submissive to any discipline. She is snarly around food but otherwise gets along fabulously with my other two dogs (they love to play chase and just pal around). There has never been an actual fight over food, she just snarls whenever she eats, even if no one else is anywhere near her. Lucy is about 8 years old.

Over the last year she has had three separate “episodes” where she appears to be in pain. This started one year after I got her. Mainly she whines and cries incessantly and acts like she aches all over. She cries if I touch her, and she cries if I don’t touch her. I have taken her to the vet every time. The vet(s) cannot find anything wrong with her. We have done extensive blood work and x-rays, and everything seems to be okay with her physically. In fact, the vet said her x-rays were perfect with zero signs of arthritis. (Nonetheless, I have her on fish oil and Dasuquin supplements.) She stops the crying behavior usually within 24 hours or less and goes back to acting completely normal. Her appetite is not affected during an episode. Two of the three episodes have happened when my schedule has been “outside the norm” and I have returned home late at night rather than at my usual time.

She is outside during the day (with my other dogs). When an episode happens (it always starts after work), I let her inside when I get home she dances all around (which is normal) but whines and cries and acts like she hurts. I asked the vet if it was possible that her symptoms are behaviorally related, and the vet said it is possible but not certain.

Lucy is a vocal dog (she “talks” a lot), but she has never exhibited any behaviors I would interpret as separation anxiety. But she is a “sensitive soul” and is very eager to please. She does get scared whenever I take her to the vet (she trembles and shakes all over), and I’ve always wondered if she fears she’s being surrendered to the pound again. I know you cannot offer medical advice, but I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard of a dog acting out in this way, possibly because of an emotional reason or anxiety…? I don’t know what else to do. I’ve taken her to two different vets for different opinions, blood work, x-rays, etc. and no one can find anything wrong with her. She’s definitely not faking a specific injury, but is it possible she’s faking general distress? Or maybe not “faking” it, but could she be in emotional distress and I’m interpreting it as physical pain?

I love her and want her to be okay. Thank you so much for any thoughts you may have on this!

A. I’m sorry to read about your “pup’s” issues. Nothing is more frustrating and emotionally draining then to know that there’s something wrong and not know what it exactly is.

You did exactly what I would have done by reaching out to your vets to rule out any underlying medical conditions that might be causing or contributing to the symptoms you describe. As a trainer it’s unethical and unwise for me to give medical advice, however based on your comments, I think this is behavioral in nature, so I’ll share my thoughts along these lines. There’s a lot going on here, so I’m going to address the various issues separately to make it easier to follow.

  1. Reactions to sudden movements/changes in the environment:

I suspect that your dog many have trouble dealing with sudden changes in its environment. The technical term is Sudden Environmental Contrast or SEC. Our dogs are extremely sensitive to changes in their surroundings. You often see this on garbage pick-up day when the cans get put on the curb, and the dogs don’t want to walk that day, or have difficulties calming down. My Winter does this if I leave a tee shirt on the counter. She barks, as if to tell me something’s not right. There are some things to look for when considering SEC as a causative factor. A- you can replicate the behavior. B- you don’t see a specific trigger. C- the dog reacts to strange pictures- guy on a ladder, shirt on the table, someone carrying packages, sudden movements- like when someone gets up, enters the room, or moves unexpectedly. I also suspect that she was under-socialized, as it seems like there are some fear issues present as well.

  1. Resource Guarding-Food:

This is very common, especially with sensitive or reactive dogs. I often see this behavior in shelter dogs. Thankfully, the fix is relatively easy. I recommend that you change where you feed your dog- one day in the kitchen, the next day in the crate, the next outside on the patio, etc. This helps reduce what I refer to as “Mine Syndrome”. On the same vein, alter your feeding times, by 30 minutes +-. Just like us, dogs anticipate meal time, and get ramped up prior to feeding. Changing when they eat by just a little can help reduce the problem. It’s also a good idea to feed your dog separately from the rest of the pack, and pull the dish up so the dog does not guard the bowl or the last couple of pieces of kibble. Finally, if your not already doing so, feed your dog a nutrient-dense food. Good luck with this.

  1. Crying:

What you describe as crying, sounds to me like stress whining. My experience is that certain breeds are more vocal than others, and both of my shepherds do this, the reactive one, to a larger extent. Try walking her or playing with a ball and see if the behavior stops when she’s physically active- this would point to this being more of a call for attention as opposed to actual pain. I actually believe there might also be some separation anxiety issues present. Keep in mind that dogs are pack animals, and by default, they want to be with their pack leader. This is completely normal and understandable. As long as the dog is not damaging property or hurting itself. I take this as one way a dog shows me that it misses me.

Finally, let’s talk about reactivity and submission in general. Picture a ruler- on one end of the ruler, the dog is more confident, almost to a fault- possibly overly assertive or even aggressive. On the other end of the ruler, the dog is completely the opposite, that dog is extremely submissive and fearful. This “ruler” is the dog’s genetic makeup. In other words its hardwired into the dog. Depending on where they fall on the ruler, determines how assertive, submissive, or confident they are.

Now we can’t change the dog’s genetic defaults, they are what they are. What we can do however is to how the dog responds to its environment through positive training and behavior modification. With the proper training I can make the very assertive dog more biddable. Likewise, I can help the more timid dog be more confident, through intensive socialization. Let’s give you an example with your own dog and the vet visits. Right now your dog has a conditioned emotional response (CER) to the vet office, shaking trembling, etc. What I want you to do is create a new CER. Get a handful of your very best treats or her favorite toy, load her into the car, and go to your vet’s office. Walk her right up to the door, give her a yummy treat or play ball outside of the office and load her back into the car. Do this repeatedly until she no longer exhibits fear. One that occurs, actually take her into the office and have the receptionist give her the treat and take her home. Repeat as necessary. In essence, what you’re doing is deconstructing the old emotional bridge and building a new one. This process takes time. How much time you ask? My answer is as long as it takes.

Keep in mind that fear is an internally driven emotional response. I can’t make another person or a dog less fearful. What I can do, is create conditions where the dog learns internally not to be afraid. I promise you this works, but again it’s not a fast process. It takes time and patience I can also promise you that it’s well worth it.

 

Q. We adopted Pudge from Stephens County Animal shelter about a year ago! He is a great dog besides his chewing issue! He has gone through several mops, bicycles, dog collars and leashes, swings from our children playground set, toys, and even a trampoline! When the issue got worse we put up a large kennel pen to put him up when we weren’t outside with him, needless to say he escapes everyone and chews everything in sight! We were told if we got him toys for him to chew, that it would help the issue but it hasn’t one bit! He shreds the tennis balls, tire, and bones! Re-homing him is our last option! Please help!

A. Hi, Maria!  Sorry to hear about your “pup’s” chewing problem. Chewing is a common problem with lots of dogs, so this is a great post as I’m sure many of our readers struggle with this issue.

Let’s start with the fact that all dogs chew, and the majority of dogs chew to some degree their entire lives. Chewing is a hard-wired imperative, and not a true behavior problem. It really only becomes a problem when they chew our things or items that can injure them or make them sick.

There are a number of reasons that we think dogs chew. Dogs chew when they are bored, when they aren’t exercised enough, when they are fearful or stressed, and frankly, just because they like to chew. Dogs with separation issues often present with inappropriate chewing issues in an effort to calm themselves and release pent-up frustration or angst.

Now that we know some of the why’s, lets look at correcting problem chewing.

  1. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. A brisk 30 minute walk once or twice a day is a great way to burn off excess energy, and its also good for the human side of the equation as well.
  2. Make sure that your dog has access to “Approved” appropriate chew toys. An example of a bad choice, would be to give your dog an old shoe that you no longer wanted and gave to your dog to chew. The dog would then see all shoes as “approved” chew items. In this case, we set the dog up to fail.
  3. Plan for success- leaving your dog in the back yard unsupervised while you’re at work with a whole yard of chew choices, ensures that your dog will chew something he shouldn’t. The same is true indoors as well. Keep personal items picked up and only let the dog have access to their chew toys.
  4. Keep in mind that dogs have personal texture preferences! If your dog goes after the couch and your bed pillows, give him a plush chew toy as an alternative. If he likes old tires, try a kong or a bone.
  5. Interrupt your dog when you catch him chewing something he shouldn’t chew, but don’t punish him. Instead calmly take the item away, and replace it with an acceptable chew toy. Don’t forget to praise your “pup” when he chooses the right chew toy.
  6. Finally, use a crate or other enclosure to confine the dog until he can make better chew choices. Alert- crating your dog all day is not a good option, as it creates frustration, boredom, and can actually increase inappropriate chewing.

Hint: One of my favorite chew toys is a frozen kong toy with the back end stuffed with peanut butter. I freeze the stuffed Kong and pull out the “pupcicle” as a special treat or before company comes over to help calm the dog. Try it, they really work!

Troubleshooting: Don’t let your dogs chew ice. This can crack the dogs teeth or create something called a “Slab Fracture” where a piece of the tooth is shaved off. This can set your dog up for chronic dental problems.

Thanks for your question Maria, and good training!
Douglas A. Heywood, CPDT-KA

 

Q. Thank you for replying back to my questions and concerns.  This was valuable advice, and I have a lot to learn as well.  I am going to start working with Honey to crate her.  i think the crate I have is too large, so I will have to buy one to fit as you described.  Since she has been sleeping on the bed, should I keep the crate in the bedroom or in a room away from me?  When I got her from the animal shelter, they said she just cried because she did not like being in a cage, so I am worried about her crying all night long.  I am new at this crating method, so I need all the help I can get.  I want to do what is best for her.  I am looking forward to making progress on the potty training and chewing.

A. Hello again Crystal, I’m happy to read that you’re committed to doing everything you can to give Honey what she needs to become comfortable and adjust to your home and lifestyle. Please be patient, as this will be a journey rather than a destination, and one that will bring you so more more than you give.

You’ll be happy to know that you don’t need to go out and buy a smaller crate, just put a barrier into the back, such as the cooler I discussed in the last post.

As far as where you should place your crate, that’s a matter of personal preference. My dog’s crates are in our great room, far removed from the bedroom. That being said now that the dogs understand how to behave, I only crate them when we leave for extended periods.

Dogs are very opportunistic, and one they realize that they can affect their environment, then can be relentless. Since she’s been on the bed with you, I would transition her off the bed into a crate in your bedroom, and over the space of a few days, move her into another area of the house. Think of it in much the same way as raising human babies.

At first, the new parents get up every few minutes or hours to check on little Tommy. Tommy gets used to having mom and dad close, and when they leave the room, Tommy wails. In run mom and dad to the rescue. This happens again and again until mom and dad are so sleep-deprived , that they are living on caffeine shots, and energy drinks to get through the day. Finally, one day they say “No More”! They vow to let Tommy cry until he falls a sleep, several very rough nights go by, and suddenly Tommy, is sleeping soundly through the night, as are mom and dad!

Why?…Tommy learned to self-calm. Honey will learn to do the same thing if you let her. Hold the line! This is the real example of tough love. I often tell clients that “you either stay the course for a couple of days or weeks, or manage your dog for the next 12-15 years, take your pick.”

Good luck & Good Training!
Doug Heywood, CPDT-KA

 

Q. I adopted honey, a chihuahua mix, from the Stephens county animal shelter around the 1st of j]July, 2015. She is about 1 year old. She does not potty outside no matter how may times I take her out and she comes in and potty’s in the house. I have put potty papers all over the house but she will not go on the papers. She also has started to chew on my leather recliner. For the last two weeks she has chewed on three corners. I have bought rawhide chews, toys and rubber bones, left the tv on, etc.  The first day I brought her home I had to leave and she scratched the linoleum by the front door until it tore. She whines when I go outside so I feel she has separation anxiety. Today when I got home she had chewed on the chair again and chewed the sheet rock by the front door. She is so sweet and gentle and is good when I’m at home. This only happens when I go to work or leave her at home for long periods of time. I also have a male cocker spaniel and they get along very well. She sleeps in the bed with me all night but will get up sometimes and potty on the carpet. I have never crated a dog but have been told to try that. She is a great little watch dog and is great with my grandchildren. I want to work with her and just do not know what to do at this point. I want to help her any way I can without setting her back. She cows down if I scold her, and I feel she has had problems in her past. I appreciate your time and look forward to any advice you can give me. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

A. Hi, Crystal, and thanks for your question and bless you for opening your heart and home to Honey! Before we get to your questions I want to discuss the benefits of crating a dog, in your particular case, using a crate will address many of Honey’s problem behaviors.

The correct use of a crate, allows a person to humanely control the dog as well as keep it safe, during the early stages of training, and later on it becomes the dog’s respite in your home. As I write this, two of my three dogs are lying in their crates with the doors wide open just hanging out. This is the perfect example of dogs who view their crates, less as cages and more like dens.

The most important aspect of getting the dog to view the crate as a good thing, is how you first introduce the crate to the dog. I’ll take a yummy high-reward treat, and throw it towards the back of the crate, and let the dog get the treat and come right back out of the crate. I’ll do this multiple times until the dog is entering and leaving the crate in a more relaxed manner. Then I’ll start closing the door to the crate when the dog is inside, but not latch it. This still allows the dog to come and go as they please. After its become comfortable with this step, I’ll latch the crate for longer and longer periods of time. In just a few weeks the transition is complete. I also feed our dogs in their crates, which helps further define the crate as a positive place.

While we’re on the topic of crates, let’s talk about how to properly select and size the crate. A properly sized crate should allow the dog to stand up without touching the top of the crate, and allow the dog enough room to lay down, and turn around comfortably. Any more room, and the dog will sleep on one side of the crate and use the other side as it’s attached bathroom (not a good thing if you’re trying to potty train your dog!).

I’m also not a fan of changing out crates as the dog gets larger. Instead, I get the crate that will fit the dog when it’s full grown. Many crates come with a divider that allows you to make the crate smaller for your puppy, and then move it back as the puppy grows until at last you remove the divider when the dog is full-grown. This is a much cheaper and hassle-free way to go about selecting a crate. For those crates that don’t come with a divider, slide a small plastic cooler in the back to limit the usable space until your dog needs it. A healthy dog will not mess where it sleeps, so this is a good way to reach the dog to hold its eliminations. A good rule of thumb is to crate the dog for 1 hour per month of age.

Crates are also useful for keeping your dogs safe and out of trouble, when you’re unable to watch them.

But I digress… On to potty training! In the case of older dogs, its not uncommon to see the dog develop a substrate preference to where it eliminates. This is especially common for dogs that have been in a shelter, as they get used to eliminating on the concrete floor of the shelter, which closely approximates your kitchen tile or back patio. In Honey’s case, it sounds like she has a preference for carpet. Rather than going into all the reasons why this might have occurred, let;s fast track to the solution! Crate train Honey, and let her out when you get up in the morning. Be careful not to dally, and go directly from the crate outside, and wait until she goes. Give her a treat and lots of praise when she succeeds and she should catch on quickly.

Once you have the crate in place, remove all the pee-pads. I hate them. In my humble opinion,all they do is train your dog to go in the house. They do have a place for dogs that leak or have medical conditions where they can’t control their bladders or bowels, but not as part of a house-training program. You can also “tether” the dog to you by hooking her leash to your waist, as dogs generally won’t pee while you’re standing right next to them. If you know how to use a clicker, you can use this as a tool to speed up the potty training process by clicking and treating Honey immediately after she finishes “doing her duty”.

Chewing – now or later?

The vast majority of dogs chew to some degree all of their lives. There are many theories on why dogs chew, from teething all the way to it just feels good. Knowing that simple fact, changes how we view chewing. Rather than focusing on why, let’s just assume they do and give them things they can chew, instead of your couch or shoes. My favorite chew toy is a “pupcicle” which is my term for a frozen kong toy with the back end filled with peanut butter. This is also a good way to get the dog comfortable in the crate when you have to leave for a bit.

It’s also,important for the dog to understand the “trade up”. Rather then chasing your dog around the house or scolding her when she’s got the wrong thing in her mouth, calmly call her over and offer her a higher-reward treat. Let the dog make the choice, and walk away with your shoes or couch intact. One last thing- dogs that don’t receive enough exercise or mental stimulus, often chew to burn up excessive energy or relieve boredom, so exercise her often.

I’ve saved the most complicated question for last, and that’s separation anxiety. This can be a very serious behavior issue, and it’s often misdiagnosed. Sure dogs that whine can have this condition, but not all dogs that whine actually have separation anxiety.

There are also degrees of severity from dogs that become nervous when you leave, to dogs that jump through a plate-glass window in an attempt to reunite themselves with their guardians. This condition tends to be present in a higher frequency with shelter dogs, which makes sense when you consider that they are basically pack animals that have been removed from their established dog pack or home. If you removed me from my family, I’d act out too!

There are a couple of things that can help lessen symptoms in mild cases, such as not making big deals of leaving and coming home, closing doors when you enter a room for a little bit of time, and changing your rituals, so your dog does not read and anticipate your leaving. Try this- on a day where you don’t have to work, set your alarm to get up at your normal workday time, do all the things you do to get ready for work,and the rather then leaving the house, sit down and read the paper or watch a little TV. Honey has likely already figured out your patterns and this will throw her off a bit and not in a bad way.

Severe cases often involve self-mutilation, so it’s important to seek the help of someone who has experience in dealing with these cases so you get the right diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes the dog needs to be on anti-anxiety medication for a while, which your vet needs to prescribe. Dogs that are on a dual treatment plan of behavioral modification and medication often do very well. For dogs with anything more then very minor symptoms, this is something best handled and guided by a professional.

Crystal, thanks for your questions and good luck and good training!

Doug Heywood, CPDT-KA

 

Q. To remind you, I wrote you about Dallas prior to adoption. Yes, she is busy, busy and always has a squeaky toy, bone or tennis ball in her mouth and going in and out the door. I should have named her Gracie Lou because she is also clutzy. A new problem has arisen, I just noticed the leg on my dining room table has be chewed on, can she really be that bored? By the way, she and Maggie (Lhasa Apso) have become buddies which surprises me because it was not the most pleasant beginning. I have renamed Dallas to Annie (as is little orphan Annie). She still makes me laugh even though she is a mischievous (sic) puppy. Dr Gary says she is around 18 months. Anyway, it there any hope in stopping the furniture chewing before it gets a big stop? Thank You!

A. Hi again Joyce, and I’m glad to hear that “Annie” is settling in well! Most dogs chew, and many chew past their puppyhood and well into their senior years. There are many reasons that dogs chew to include boredom, anxiety, frustration, and based on what I’ve witnessed with my client’s dogs, as well as my own, probably because they like it!

Dogs that chew 24/7 may have other undiagnosed health or behavior issues, so it’s a good idea to have your dog checked by its veterinarian, to rule out any potential health issues that may be causing this behavior.

Because this behavior is so ingrained in our “pups”, its easier and far less expensive to substitute acceptable alternate chewing items in place of your furniture. I’m a huge fan of the “pupcicle” (my name for the frozen Kong toy). I pack the larger hole in the bottom with peanut butter, and then freeze it. I give these to my dogs, when I have people over, or when it’s a rainy day and we can’t get in or normal walks. Its also great for dogs that have limited mobility due to injury or age, as it helps them work out unused energy that could otherwise become destructive.

Care should be taken when selecting chew toys to properly match the chew to the dog. For example, If my dog was an aggressive chewer and finished a chew toy in hours as opposed to days, I would probably steer clear of hard dense materials like antler or hard manufactured toys to prevent potential damage to the dog’s teeth. Be careful to properly size the object to reduce potential choking issues.

I also recommend that you monitor your dog, whenever they are using a chew, just in case a situation arises that needs your intervention.

Good luck and Good Training!
Doug Heywood, CPDT-KA

 

Q. We have Dallas on a play date. I have a poodle mix (Samantha) and a Lhasa Apso mix (Maggie) who we adopted coming up 9 years ago. These dogs feel everyone who comes to this house come to see them. Now we have Dallas, this dog is a 2 year old puppy, VERY active, overwhelmingly so for Sam and Maggie. She jumps always when bringing the ball back, just wanting some loving or attention. I really think this job needs a 5 yr old or a faithful jogger who can devote 24/7 to her, BUT I really like her and need to decide if I am capable of changing her enough because the change in Sam and Maggie from happy go lucky to shy and hiding is not acceptable. I don’t know her breed but she looks like some sort of Pinscher and I believe breed might have some bearing on how to go about taming down some of that spirit and …..I do not jog, run fast or walk the streets full of ruts!!!!

A. Hi Joyce!  First off, thanks for taking Dallas on a play date, as this is a great way to see if she is the dog that’s right for your pack, and its good for the dog to be out of the shelter environment, if only for a few days.

Dallas sure looks like a Manchester Terrier mix of some type, and the energy you speak of definitely describes the breed. The breed is actually one of the oldest “Rat Terriers” a name they earned in the early 19th century, as they were used to find and kill rats and similar vermin in the town of Manchester England.

In addition to a high-energy level, they form strong attachments to their humans and are especially loyal to their people. They also make great watch dogs are they are very observant. They generally do well with other dogs and kids as long at the children are gentle and well-behaved. Manchester Terriers don’t generally back down when pushed, so its a good idea to do a meet and greet to make sure all of the dogs get along.

Manchester’s are not by nature “couch potato” type dogs, although there are exceptions. That’s a little about the genetics of a typical Manchester Terrier. Now let’s talk about the nurture aspect a bit. Where a dog lines up in terms of default behaviors is a combination of its genetics and its upbringing. You can train a dog to become better mannered, more obedient, etc. however training does not change a dog’s default personality, it just helps the dog live/work up to its full potential. This is an important concept to understand. You can train the energizer bunny to walk in a straight line, but it’s still the energizer bunny!

Many dogs end up in shelters or re-homed, not because they were bad dogs, but because they were not the right fit for the adoptive family. I would be concerned that placing a high-energy dog like a Manchester with a less active family might be quite a challenge for a good long-term adoption, as it would require a more active person to handle a high-octane dog like a Manchester.

In terms of blending a dog pack, its really about finding dogs that can coexist with the other pack members. Most dogs will blend in to a new pack quite nicely if given time. At some point the dogs learn to just accept each other most of the time. This is referred to a learned irrelevance. The dog just kind of forgets that the other dog(s) are there- most of the time. The exception to this is when we humans get in the way and try to manage canine interactions between the pack out of a misguided sense of justice or fairness, as that does not really enter into how the dogs relate. Keep in mind that the more dogs you have the more behavior combinations you have as well, and with that comes more chances for disagreements between your dogs. Let the dogs figure out their places in the pack on their own terms as long as they are not openly hostile or dangerous to their pack mates.

I currently have three dogs in my pack, all with their unique and very different personalities. It works because the blend of these dogs work. When the more dominant dog draws a paw in the sand,the more submissive dog does not cross it (usually). When that happens my peace keeper dog intercedes to help diffuse things. I’m there as the stable pack leader to break any ties, and generally control the individual dogs and the pack as a whole. Most times, its like a beautifully choreographed dance, punctuated with brief moments of turbulence!

In the case of your potential pack, it could be that Dallas will turn out to be the dominant dog in your pack if you decide to keep her. It could also be that all of the turmoil and strife you’re seeing is the dogs working out their individual roles. At the very end of the day, I would say trust your gut. Most dog people, have a good sense about their “pups”. If it feels like your forcing things, you probably are. Take your time in selecting a new member of your pack. I promise you the right dog is out there for you and your other dogs, and I’d be willing to bet that he or she is a rescue!

Good luck and good training,
Doug

 

Q. I adopted my poodle at the first of the year and had him neutered. They said at the time they thought he was 9 or 10 months old. My problem is that he won’t potty train. I have a doggy door for my dogs to go outside whenever they need. Taz marks everything as he runs through the house. He is very hyper. Then he sneaks around and poops on the floor. I’m constant cleaning carpet. I leave both dogs in the garden room when I go to work or out of town. He gets mad at me and pees on the floor. I bought doggy diapers yesterday. My daughter helped me put it on. That night I tried to take it off, and he acted like I was killing him. After biting me, I wanted to, but didn’t. Today I tried to put the diaper on, and he screamed and bit me. All I had to do was show him the diaper, and he would disappear. I made him stay in the garden room all day.  I am to the point of taking him back to the shelter. That would really upset me because I am so attached. When he plays he is like a tornado going through the house. He plays with my bull mastiff, but when she gets tired of him, she snips at him, then he starts barking. It’s a wonder she hadn’t tried to kill him. Help! Please!

A. Hi Betty!  Thanks for your question. There are very few behaviors that bother we humans, more than a dog who can’t or won’t respond to potty training. First, let me say that I feel your frustration. To the untrained dog owner, it can seem like their dog is willfully and spitefully making the home one big bathroom ( this is not the case). Second, let me assure you that there is much you can do to cure this problem behavior.

My first concern when I hear about a dog that can’t seem to control his eliminations is to ask, if there is a physical reason such as a urinary or bladder infection, as this would cause the dog to eliminate frequently and often in small amounts. If he was fine before you neutered him or if this behavior is new, then I would definitely check with your vet to rule out a physical reason for this.

If there is no apparent physical reason, then it’s most likely a behavioral issue. There are many causes ranging from a preferred substrate preference ( meaning that the dog prefers to go on one type of flooring). An example of this would be a dog that will only pee on tile or concrete, because that it was they learned to do while living in a shelter. All the way to a dog that has separation anxiety or submissive behaviors, where he pees when you approach him.

Since there are so many potential reasons for this, I recommend that we focus on finding a solution to your pup’s behavior. First, ditch the diapers. Diapers are one solution for dogs that don’t have control of their bladders due to physical causes or cognitive dysfunction such as dementia. Putting a dog into a diaper without these problems could cause the dog to develop a preference to other soft cottony things like your bedding.

If you don’t have a crate, get one. Yes, I realize that your dog has outside access through the doggy door, but obviously, that’s not working at this point. When you leave for work or the store, crate your dog. When you return, very calmly let your dog outside to go do its business. Use a clicker to mark the moment your dog finishes and treat him. Avoid making a big deal of your comings and goings. – A word on the crate, it needs to be just big enough that your dog can stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably, and not an inch bigger.

Regarding the fecal incidents- you can tether your dog to you, to avoid further “accidents”. It also helps if you claim the rooms you don’t occupy much or at all, by spending time in them. There is a reason that most dogs don’t sneak off and leave you butt muffins in your bedroom, as that’s where your scent is the strongest.

Lastly, you need to neutralize any past accidents by using a cleaning product that neutralizes pheromones. This removes the biological marker that tells the dog to go there again. You can buy a black-light flashlight at the hardware store to see where the dog has left its mark (pardon the pun).

Good luck, and good training,
Doug Heywood, CPDT-KA

 

Q. We adopted a female Rhodesian mix. We have had her about a month. She is about a year or 2 old. She is great with our other 2 dogs a Rhodesian and a Lab . We got her at a shelter, it appears that she was abused by a man. She has a fear of my husband. She is great to everyone else. He has never threatened her or raised his voice. He has given her treats and she will not take them from him. She will wait til he puts it in front of her then she won’t take it . Til one of the other dogs shows interest. The trust issue is one thing I need help with. She is loving and caring just needs help with the trust socialization. I am open to any ideas. We love her and want her to be happy and free of any fears. I know it will take time. But I need some help . Thank you.

A. Sorry to read about your “pup’s” issue, as I know how frustrating it is in these situations. Before I go into detail on how we deal with your dog’ fear issue, I want to comment on the abuse concern. While animal abuse certainly occurs, it’s not as widespread as many of us believe. In the case of dogs, my experience has been that many more dogs are the victim of neglect rather than physical abuse.

We human’s love a juicy back story, and sometimes the ones you hear are either blatantly false, or incorrect based on our own flawed perceptions. The good news is that while knowing what a dog’s history is can be helpful in rehabilitation, its not always necessary. The bottom line is that you can put a troubled dog into a good environment, and with the right therapy, training, and patience, get a good dog back. Now on to your question:

Dogs primary language is positional. Because of this, they are naturally tuned to body language, especially ours. If fact, they are so sensitive to this that its possible to command a dog by position alone. From a physical standpoint, men are generally larger than women, their voices are lower, and they simply command more physical space. Frankly, we men are not always that approachable (sorry guys).

If your husband is tall or large physically, has a deep booming voice, or naturally commands his space, your dog may find him a little frightening. Have your husband go to the floor with treat in hand (hint: use broiled chicken or some other high reward lure). Have hubby call your dog in a high pitched, friendly voice, and lean back as far as he can on his back legs. Almost to the point of falling backwards. He can also try siting on the floor and tossing treats to the dog from a distance, while turning a bit to his side, so as not to be facing his dog directly.

Its important not to tower over the dog when trying to get the dog to engage with him. I also recommend having him remove his hat if he wears one, as this can change his silhouette, and make him less imposing. The most important thing to have is time and patience. If your husband is frustrated, your dog will definitely keep his distance.

There is something called “learned irrelevance” that also applies. When a dog is exposed to something its unsure or scared of without a negative outcome over the space of many encounters, the dog can learn to disregard the trigger. Its one of the reasons that a dog can learn to be friendly with a cat or accept a new dog into the pack. The key point is that this process takes time, and positive or at least neutral experiences. Don’t push to hard or fast, and just be open to slight improvements over time. Put another way, I can’t teach you not to be afraid of something, as that has to occur internally. What I can do, is to set up a safe environment- one that allows you to become less fearful.

Good luck and please let me know how it goes.

Good training!
Doug

 

Q. My dog is a great dog, but he’s a runner. How do I get him to come back to me when I call him?

A. This is a common problem with dogs that have been caged too long or who are not getting adequate exercise. Shelter environments can make this problem worse. Coming when called, is also known as “Recall”. To get a good recall, prime your dog for success. He or she has to win every time, so don’t call your dog to you when you know that it won’t come, such as when it’s eating or distracted by other dogs at the park. When you have your dog’s attention, call him or her to you in a cheerful tone. If the dog seems hesitant, drop to your knees and lean back away from the dog with your arms extended to the side and away from your body. When the dog gets to you treat and praise it for doing a great job!

 

Q. How big will my puppy get?

A. I’m often asked how big a client’s puppy will get, and while there are no hard and fast rules, particularly in very young puppies, there are some observations you can make to give you a pretty good estimate. In general, the size of your adult dog is dependent on it’s genetics (aka- breed) and nutrition. Since you can’t do anything about the dog’s genetics, your focus should be on providing your puppy with a good nutrient-dense dog food.

  • To find the approximate weight of a toy breed, double it’s weight at 6 weeks and then double again. For example: 4.5 +4.5 = total weight as an adult of 9 lbs.
  • For medium to large breeds, double the dog’s weight at 14 weeks and add and additional half. For example:
    20 + 20 = 40 + 10 = total weight of dog as an adult of 50 lbs.

This is just a ball-park figure, but it should be pretty close. Remember that dogs reach their full height before they reach their full rate, and that this occurs between 4-6 months. At 6 months most dogs will be 75% of their adult height. So the dogs grows up before it grows out. Larger breeds take longer to reach their full weight than smaller breeds- some taking almost two years to reach their full adult size.

 

Q. My dog jumps on everyone she meets, How do I stop this behavior?

A. Most dogs jump up onto people because they are excited and as a form of greeting. The best way to get a dog not to jump is to teach it a reliable “sit” command. When the dog starts to jump up, give the dog a firm “sit” command. The idea is to replace the unwanted behavior (jumping up) with a new, acceptable behavior, which in this case is sitting. Dog Pro’s call this a differential reinforcement of an incompatible behavior or a DRI for short.

 

Q. I have a 6 year old dachshund named Lola. She is very sweet but I think has some of the typical dachshund traits. She can be dominating and territorial – so barks at the slightest sound from outside. She will also go on the aggressive side w/ strangers. She also has some separation anxiety -barks and howls. How can I work with her on these issues? I am moving to a pet friendly apartment but all that barking can cause me some issues. I am thinking of getting her some behavior classes as well.  Thanks so much!  DeAnna

A. The name Dachshund literally means “Badger Dog” so I’m not surprised that she’s a bit on the bold side. Barking is a common behavior in this breed, and they tend to be loud barkers. There are a couple of things that you can do to reduce the barking episodes, even if you aren’t able to get Lola to stop barking completely due to the breed tendency.

The first solution is to train your dog not to bark. Yes, its possible! To do this you need a marker of some sort. A clicker is a great tool for this, however you have to “load” it first. You’ll also need some treats. Now the next part of this may sound counter- intuitive, but bear with me for a moment. We are going to teach your dog to bark on command! The next time that Lola barks, you are going to mark the behavior with the clicker or a verbal “Yes” and immediately treat her. In a short while she will learn that if she barks, she gets a treat. Once she get’s the concept, you are going to add the word “bark”. I also pair this with a hand signal. Mine is to make a hand gesture like someone is “chatty” (tap the fingers and thumb together).

Once she has the word and the hand signal down pat, we are going to fine-tune the barking so she only barks once. Trainers call this shaping. Simply put, if she barks repeatedly she does not get treated. She will learn to only bark once, and on command.

Now comes the good part. In the space between the bark, when she’s quiet, you will click to tell her she did something good and treat. Again, once she gets it you’ll add a word or sound (I use Sheesh…) you can even use “quiet”. I pair this with a hand signal (index finger, up to my lips). Now you can effectively turn the barking on and off.

Keep in mind that Dachshunds are great watch dogs, hence the barking tendencies. Be patient. The other thing you can do is use an electronic bark deterrent, like a “Sonic Egg”. Each time the dog barks the device emits a high-pitched sound that distracts the dog. Note if it’s used too much, these devices can become ineffective.

Stranger aggression can mean different things to different people. If Lola, growls or shows her teeth, when a stranger approaches, she could be fearful and communicating the warning “Stay away.” Because human’s don’t speak the same language as dogs, we often fail to recognize and or heed the message and continue to approach the dog, who eventually bites, and now gets incorrectly labeled as being aggressive.

In contrast, a truly human-aggressive dog ( and few really are) goes on the attack when it sees a human. This type of dog often bites it’s victims multiple times, shakes the victim, in an attempt to kill it and in extreme cases, will then consume its victim. These dogs are often euthanized because of the high degree of danger they pose to humans or other animals.

Dogs that bite, either out of fear or aggressively need to be evaluated by a trainer or behaviorist with experience working with these cases. This is one of those times that it’s in everyone’s best interest to have the dog evaluated and trained by a professional. The good news is that the vast majority of these dogs can be successfully treated and go on to live long and happy lives in a home environment.

Separation anxiety (SA) is a complex behavior which is found across all breeds of dogs. When you consider that dogs are pack animals, its no wonder that we see these behaviors in our blended human/canine packs. If my dog sees me as its pack leader (and that should be your goal), then the dog should want/ need to be around me. That’s completely normal. It becomes a problem when the dog damages property or injures itself in an attempt to reunite itself with the object that it can’t be separated from. Usually the object of the dog’s desire is one person in the family, however it could also be another dog, or even an object.

The treatment depends on the severity and degree of SA present. Severe cases sometimes require a multi-pronged treatment plan that requires behavioral modification for the dog, training for the owner/family, and occasionally short-term use of anti-anxiety medicine prescribed by your vet. Mild cases can be often be successfully treated by changing your coming and going habits, as well as how you interact with your dog when you return home. The goal is not to make a big deal when you leave the house, as in “Mom’s going to work now”!

The same thing is true when you return home. Resist the strong urge to enthusiastically greet your pup at the door. Instead, enter the house calmly, ignore your dog until it calms down, and then give it a command like sit or down. When the dog is able to remain calm, then feel free to lavish it with attention. You can also change your routine. If your ritual is getting your coffee in the morning and then grabbing your briefcase or purse, before you jet out the door to work, then occasionally get you coffee, purse, and keys, and go sit down on the couch for five minutes. FYI, the look on your dog’s face when you do this on Monday morning will be “Priceless” so have your camera ready! The whole goal of behavioral modification for SA, is for the dog to realize that you are coming back. For this reason, therapy is often done slowly on the dog’s schedule.

DeAnna, thanks for your questions, and I hope you find the advice helpful. Don’t be afraid to enlist a trainer or behaviorist if you need more help.

 

Have a question for Doug?  Contact him with your question using the form below!

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2 thoughts on “Ask the Trainer!

  1. Doug mentioned using a black light to identify where the urine stains are to neutralize them. I just wanted to mention to you that over the years, I have had dogs pee in my house too (!) and have used the black light with great success. It was really cheap to do! I went to Lowe’s and got a hand-held utility light (the kind they hang under the hood of a car when they’re working on an engine at night). It was plastic and super cheap, like $3 or $4 I think, and I bought one of the black fluorescent bulbs (the squiggly kind) to put in it, and that was only a few dollars too. Those urine stains light up like the Fourth of July – it’s shocking and awesome all at the same time!

    To neutralize the stain, I used a product called Anti Icky Poo that I ordered from Amazon. I got the gallon size because I had a lot I needed to address. It was somewhat expensive (around $40 for a gallon I think), but much less than replacing the carpet! You pour it on nice and heavy so it really wets the carpet and the padding underneath. You just let it stay on
    there (don’t blot it up), and it has enzymes that “eat” up the urine residue. It works really well, even on cat urine!

    My dog Trigger that I got from SCAWC peed on a power strip one Christmas Eve when he was potty training. The power strip had my t.v., VCR, streaming device, and computer all plugged into it! I nearly died!! It fried the power cord for the streaming device, but everything else was okay. The surge protector really worked! That was over two years ago, and Trigger is still with me. He is such a good boy, and now-a-days he can pee on command when I say, “Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle!” LOL…

    And Doug, thanks for all your help!!

    Like

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