Doggie Boot Camp


Dog Plus Cat Versus Small House/Small Yard

By David Dickey, CPDT

Kathleen Gage and Jamie Berger of Hermosa Beach live in a 1200-square-foot home and have employed some successful strategies with their Yellow Labrador, Shiloh, that can help you keep the dog you want in the space you have.

Kathleen knew she wanted a Labrador from the beginning. “It’s simple. I love Labs and always wanted to own one,” she said. Her problem was that her living space was small, and backyard space was even smaller. Kathleen realized if she didn’t have a plan from the beginning that a big dog in a small house could become a big mistake.

The first thing Kathleen worked on when she brought home her female Lab puppy, Shiloh, was to go to the bathroom in a special dog litter box just outside the back door. Kathleen knew that positive reinforcement is the best motivator. “It was actually quite easy to teach,” said Kathleen. “We simply rewarded her every time she went to the bathroom in the proper place,” said Jamie Berger. Rewarding a dog when she does something right lets it know what you want. Using this housetraining technique from the beginning has been very helpful. “The litter box is a quick fix to get her to go to the bathroom at night or when I can’t walk her, since I don’t have a back yard or grass,” said Kathleen.

Another secret to Shiloh’s integration into the household was that Kathleen chose to have the dog interact with her cat, “Chanel,” as soon as possible. When Kathleen introduced the two, “Chanel was actually bigger at the time.” The introductions were kept positive, and now Shiloh gets along great with the cat. “They’re great play buddies,”said Kathleen. “They’ve become so bonded that when we take Shiloh for a walk, Chanel is always waiting in the window for Shiloh to return,” said Jamie.

Although Shiloh was only eight weeks old at purchase, Kathleen decided to start training as soon as possible. This is an excellent idea. It’s important to teach your puppy positive behaviors as soon as possible in order to avoid future problems. “I knew Shiloh was going to be a big dog and knew I wanted to have her well-trained from the beginning. For that reason, we started training practically from the moment she walked in the door.” Training with positive reinforcement rather than fear or aggression motivates animals to learn at a relatively young age.

Big dogs need a lot of exercise. Failure to provide some way of expending their energy can create many behavioral issues associated with boredom or attention-seeking. “In addition to taking many walks, we also take her to the dog park and play with her in the house,” says Jamie Berger.

In my opinion, Kathleen and Jamie have an excellent routine to make sure Shiloh gets the proper amount of exercise. “We walk her in the morning after we feed her, again after her evening meal and finally just before we go to bed,” says Kathleen.

This is excellent training because not only have they set up a predictable schedule for the dog, they’ve taught Shiloh to go to the bathroom on the walks by taking her out after she eats. “About 15-30 minutes after a dog eats the gastrocolic reflex triggers the intestinal process and causes them to eliminate. A really obedient animal can learn to override this and go on command.” said Shiloh’s Veterinarian Dr. Goodell from Bay Animal Hospital in Manhattan Beach. This is what Shiloh has learned to do.

Shiloh is now six months old and can officially be called a teenager in the dog world. Kathleen Gage and Jamie Berger have averted many issues that untrained dogs’ owners experience. Shiloh’s and Chanel’s interaction has helped make Kathleen and Jamie’s house a home. Employing the correct strategy from the beginning and being consistent are the keys to a well-trained, obedient dog, no matter where you live.


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