Teaching Sits and Downs – September 29, 2010

1. Start by sitting on the floor with your puppy where there are no distractions. Place a food treat right at your puppy’s nose and move your hand slightly up and back and as your puppy’s head follows, his butt should hit the ground.  When that happens, say YES and give him the treat. 

2. Don’t say SIT yet.  Your puppy doesn’t understand English and we don’t want to say the word “Sit” until we know he’s going to do it, so he associates the word Sit with the correct behavior. So practice a number of times until your puppy is easily going into a sit.  Once you know your puppy will sit, say SIT just before his butt hits the ground. Repeat this 2-3 times in a row and the next time, don’t put a treat in your hand but put your hand at his nose the same as before.  You want to fade out the food lure as soon as possible, but still reward him after he sits.

3. Eventually, start saying Sit before he sits and before you use your hand signal.  Say Sit, pause, then use your hand signal.  Repeat about 5-6 times and the next time, say Sit and wait for your puppy to sit.  Immediately say YES and give him a treat.  This is the way to get the behavior on a verbal command without needing the hand signal all the time.

4. Make sure you don’t lift your hand up too high with the treat which will cause your puppy to jump up.  If your puppy backs up instead of putting his butt down, use your other hand to block him from backing up, or try working in a corner so he can’t back up.

5. To teach DOWN, start with your puppy in a sit.  Use the same luring process but move your hand slowly from his nose towards the floor.  You may need to move your hand in towards his chest and then back towards you to help him slide down.  Every dog is a little different so go slowly and experiment with how you have to move his head so his body slides into a down.  Repeat a few times before adding the word DOWN. Don’t say DOWN until you know he is going to do it.

If your puppy starts to go down but his butt pops up, just start again.  Working on a slippery floor may help him slide into a down more easily.

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Getting Your Puppy Used to His Crate – September 25, 2010

1. Teaching your puppy to love his crate is an important part of preventing him from doing the wrong thing when you can’t watch him. It also provides a place for your puppy to be safe and get enough sleep. You want a puppy that loves his crate.

2. Start by tossing some treats and toys into his crate and then praising him when he goes in.  Keep the door open and let him go in and out.  Continue to do this when your puppy is alert and active.  Start closing the crate door and praise him while he’s in the crate and opening the door before he starts to whine or try to get out on his own.  Repeat this throughout the day, closing the door longer each time. It’s important to teach your puppy that being quiet gets him out of the crate, not whining or barking or pawing at the door.  Do not let him out of his crate when he whines unless he has to potty.  Err on the side of caution here.

3. Be sure to put him in his crate for all naps so he’s comfortable being there.  If you let your puppy cuddle with you for naps, he’ll have a harder time being left alone. Put toys in the crate and feed him there.  Give him a stuffed Kong to enjoy when he is in his crate.  Leave the room when he’s in there napping or when he is just lying there.  Get him used to being in his crate with everyone out of the room – so practice when you’re home, not just when you have to leave.

4. Continue to leave the room for short periods of time when he’s in the crate.  Come back and praise for quiet, calm behavior.  Leave for longer periods of time – then vary the times – so he’ll get used to being alone in the crate first while you are home as well as when you leave the house. 

5. Play games with the crate – Without alerting your puppy, drop a small dog biscuit in there. Then call your puppy and say to him, Where’s the biscuit? And then direct him to his crate. When he discovers the treat, praise him. Your pup should be free to leave his crate during this game. You can also tease your puppy with a toy and then toss it into the crate and close the door so your puppy can’t get it – then open the door and let him run in and praise him.

6. Don’t leave your puppy in his crate for too long so that he is ever forced to eliminate in there –otherwise you will be creating housetraining problems. Assess how long your puppy can stay in his crate without having to pee.  The general rule of thumb is one hour for every month old he is but longer at night.  If you have to be gone for more than a few hours at a time, create an alternate long –term confinement area for your puppy.  Xpen – with crate, pee papers, etc.

7. At night, place crate where you can hear your puppy if he starts to whine and take him out to eliminate.  Puppies will soon be able to last through the night but initially you may have to wake up to let him out once or twice.

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Teaching Your New Puppy to Come – September 22, 2010

Sit on the floor with your puppy on leash so he doesn’t go too far.  Toss a toy and then call him back to you.  Praise him and give him a treat.  Make this a fun game.  Don’t say COME yet.  You don’t want to call your puppy to come until you are sure he will do it.  Otherwise he won’t associate the word with the correct behavior.

Now stand up near your puppy.  Get his attention and walk backwards.  He should start moving toward you and if he does, praise and give him a treat.  Just back up a few steps for now. This is a very important behavior to teach at kindergarten level before you ever try at college level (outside with you far away).

Now stand away from your puppy a few feet.  Get his attention and start moving backwards as before.  We are building up difficulty slowly with distance.  Starting out next to your puppy makes it easier for him.  Starting farther away from your puppy makes it harder.

You can start saying COME once your puppy is easily moving towards you.  You want to say your puppy’s name and make sure he’s looked at you first before saying COME.  If he doesn’t turn his head toward you, he’s not going to come so get closer.  If it is difficult to him to turn to you when you say his name, go back to Chapter 4 and practice!

Practice this inside and start adding distance and working in different rooms.  Play hide and seek – make it easy at first.  Always make coming to you the most rewarding and fun thing your puppy could ever do. Start adding distractions.  Put a toy on the floor or have someone else pet your puppy and call him away from those things.


  • -Always praise your puppy when he comes to you
  • -Teach your puppy that ‘Come’ means – run to me, there’s a party over here!
  • -Only call your puppy to come when you KNOW you have control over making it happen
  • -Always balance distance and distractions for level of difficulty – so work at a level where your puppy can be successful.  If there are distractions, work at a short distance away.  If there are no distractions, you can be a little further away
  • -Don’t call your puppy to ‘Come’ for anything she doesn’t like
  • -Never call your puppy in anger
  • -Call your puppy only once – and then make her come or walk away
  • -Always praise and reward your puppy for coming to you- make sure you reward and praise a lot!! (a full 20 seconds of petting for example)
  • -Never punish your puppy for coming to you – even if it takes awhile for him to get there.
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Tips for Fearful or Shy Dogs – September 20, 2010

If you have a dog who is shy or fearful, the tendency is for owners to try to encourage the dog to ‘make friends’ by forceing  him to get closer to people.   This can actually make things worse.  You must let the dog approach at his own pace when he is ready.   Here are tips for helping your shy dog.

The following tips on human body language are especially important when dealing with a fearful dog: 

  1. Let the dog come to you. If your dog is frightened, she must be allowed to decide whether or not to approach. Don’t restrain your dog and force her to accept contact from others. Remember the “fight or flight” response; if you take away the opportunity for flight, your dog’s choices are limited. 
  2. Turn to the side. Facing a dog directly is more confrontational than keeping your body turned partially or completely to the side; even turning your head to the side will make a frightened dog feel less anxious.  
  3. No staring, please ! A direct stare is a threat in the animal kingdom (and on New York City subways!). It is perfectly fine to look at your dog; just soften your expression and don’t “hard stare” directly into her eyes. Do not allow children to put their faces near your dog’s face or to stare into her eyes. 
  4. Don’t hover. Leaning over a dog can cause the dog to become afraid and possibly defensive. The one time I was bitten while working in a Los Angeles city animal shelter happened when I went to return an adorable, fluffy white dog to her pen. While placing her on the ground, I inadvertently reached over her equally adorable little pen mate who jumped up and bit me in the face. 
  5. Pet appropriately. Approaching dogs by patting them on the head is ill-advised. Envision the interaction from the dog’s point of view; a palm approaching from above can be alarming. Demonstrate with kids to teach them how to pet dogs properly. The child plays the role of the dog; tell the child that you will pet him in two different ways, and he is to tell me which is nicer. First,  reach your hand slowly toward the child’s cheek and stroke it, smiling and softly saying, “Good dog!” Next, bring your hand brusquely palm-down over the child’s head repeatedly, while loudly saying, “Good dog, good dog!” Kids almost invariably like the first method better. If dogs could answer for themselves, nine out of ten dogs would vote for the first method as well! It’s not that dogs should never be petted on top of the head, but that head-patting (or petting over the dog’s shoulders, back, or rump) should not be used as an initial approach. It is wiser to make a fist, hold it under the dog’s nose to allow her to sniff, then pet the dog on the chest, moving gradually to the sides of the face and other body parts, assuming the dog is comfortable. Likewise, a hand moving in quickly to grab for a dog’s collar is more potentially fear-inducing than a hand moving slowly to a dog’s chest, scratching it, then moving up to take hold of the collar.  
  6. Stoop, don’t swoop. Small dogs in particular are often swooped down upon when people want to pick them up. Fast, direct, overhead movements are much more frightening than slow, indirect ones. To lift a small dog, crouch down, pet the dog for a moment, then gently slip your hands under her belly and chest, and lift.  
  7. Watch your smile. While humans interpret a smile as friendly, a dog might not be as fond of seeing your pearly whites. A show of teeth is, after all, a threat in the animal kingdom. Smile at canines with a closed mouth.  
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General Training Guidelines – September 16, 2010


  • Act the way you want your puppy to act
  • Make all interactions fun
  • Stay calm, relaxed and confident


  • Play “Check it out”- bring puppy to new thing and treat
  • Watch for any signs of fear and happily remove puppy from situation
  • Continue to expose to people, kids, dogs, noises, traffic, etc.

 Training a new behavior

  • Use lure to get behavior
  • Give it a name only when you are SURE you’ll get the behavior
  • Fade lure quickly – use reward, not bribe
  • Reward while puppy is still doing desired behavior, not after he moves
  • Make it fun
  • Make it harder – different places, distractions, duration
  • Practice Release word – OK, All Done!!
  • Don’t over use puppy’s name


  • No ‘free lunch’
  • No ‘free feeding’/ pick up food bowl after 20 minutes
  • Sit/Wait for everything they want
  • Apply to games, attention, walks, feeding 

Taking Treats Nicely

Do NOT feed/treat puppy if he grabs for treat.  Practice at home with no distractions, then outside.  Puppy may get grabby in new environment or when over excited.  See me for various techniques.

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Puppy Biting and Nipping – September 13, 2010

1. Puppies explore with their mouths just like babies explore with their hands.  Puppies have sharp teeth and weak jaws – so this is the time to teach them to bite gently – and then not at all – before they develop the strong jaws of an adolescent dog. It is important to teach your puppy to reduce both the force and frequency of his biting.

2.  To do this, play with your puppy.  Sit on the floor and purposely put your hands near your puppy’s mouth.  If you feel a hard bite, say Ouch! And stop playing. If your puppy stops biting, lure him into a sit and reward and start playing again. If your puppy ignores the ‘ouch’, and continues to bite, say OOOWWW and leave the room.  Come back after a 20 second time out and do a little sit/down training before starting to play again.

3. An excellent way to practice this is to tether your puppy in an area where he can’t have any fun except with you.  Sit on the floor and play with your puppy and when you feel hard bite, say Ouch! Then get up and leave the area for 20 seconds.  Repeat this 10 times in a row twice a day.  You should be able to play longer and longer between hard bites. Then start reacting to the softer bites as well.  If you have children, each person should practice this exercise separately, starting with the adults.

4. Another way to teach your puppy to have a ‘gentle mouth’ is to hand feed him.  Your puppy only gets the food when being gentle – and not grabby. If your puppy likes to bite and grab pant legs, stop moving immediately and interrupt him.  Call his name and then ask him to do something else such as Sit.

5. Be aware that when your puppy is excited, he’ll be more mouthy and bitey.  So first practice when he’s calm.  When he is calm, you can do a lot of gentle petting and give him a nice belly rub.  If he bites, then all petting stops for 20 seconds.  Another consequence to biting is 30 second time out in his crate.  Don’t do this in anger – it’s just a neutral consequence to his biting – “Oops – time out – in your crate.”

If you don’t see an improvement in reduced biting, consult a Certified Professional Dog Trainer in your area.

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Touching Your Dog – September 10, 2010


Start by practicing on yourself so you can experience the effects from your dog’s point of view.  When you’re comfortable with controlling the speed and pressure of your touch, you can gently begin on your dog.

When working on your dog it will help you both to relax if you choose a quiet warm room with no distractions, away from other people and pets.  Do not restrain your dog.  If he walks away it means he’s not comfortable with what you’re doing. 

Speak in a quiet reassuring voice.  Breathe slowly and deeply.  Start on an area where he is comfortable being touched.  Always be gentle and gradually build up to longer periods of touching time.  Stop when your dog becomes bored or resists.  You don’t want him tensing up.  It can take time to build up trust and confidence but when this is achieved, it will deepen the relationship between you and your dog.

A good way to get started is by using a quick, light flicking motion against the direction of hair growth.  Using a relaxed, cupped hand, gently go over the body as if flicking off dust.  This touch is ideal for fidgety or touch-sensitive dogs.  After a few seconds of this, you can move on with your hands in a raking shape (the heel of your hand and fingertips in contact with your dog) and make long strokes.  Start under your dog’s tummy and work up towards his back.  Your dog should now be settled and ready for the next stage.

With one hand lightly resting on your dog, use the flat of your other hand gently to push the skin around in a circular motion. Start off quickly, and then gradually slow your breathing and your hand movements.  As you slow down, be very aware of your breathing – concentrate on making single circles and felling the skin sliding over the top of the muscle.

Do this randomly all over your dog’s body, and use only enough pressure to slide skin over muscle.  Gradually work towards the more sensitive areas, such as the paws, then gently spread the toes and work between the pads.  At any time you can gently slide your dog’s ears between your fingers and thumb.  The ear contains all the acupressure points of the body and by these gentle sliding actions the whole body is affected.

As you gain more experience, experiment with different light touches.  Some dogs find fingertip contact very pleasant but others may find it uncomfortable.  Watch your dog’s face and body and be sensitive to any changes.  If your dog finds any of the touches too invasive try lightening the touch.

When you’ve finished, gently make long strokes over your dog’s whole body to join up the areas you have been working on.

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What to do with Your Puppy – September 9, 2010

Don’t Expect Your Pup To Understand Sentences

It’s okay to babble along to your pup as you care for it, just don’t expect it to understand anything you’re saying. It will only understand the tone of your address. Dogs can learn a number of word cues (“commands”) – even hundreds of them – but they are just that, word cues. A pup can and should be taught at least a few words of human language. In English, “Sit!” and “Dinner!” are a couple that might be useful on occasion. But if you tell the dog, “Sit in your Dinner”, the meaning is lost. Dogs do not have a language center in their brains like humans do, and they cannot fathom syntax. Use one-word commands when communicating. Say the word clearly. Say it only once. And say it with importance. Reward the desired response immediately. Do not use the pup’s name when addressing it (unless the pup is at a distance). Do not repeat commands. Dogs hear even better than we do. Their “deafness” is usually not attributable to poor hearing. It is selective – they choose not to obey. Remember that if a dog does not respond to a verbal cue it should not be punished. The opposite of reward is not punishment – it is no reward.

Don’t Allow Young Children (Under 6 Years Old) To Interact With Your Pup Unsupervised

It comes as a surprise to many people to learn that children and puppies, though both cute, cannot be trusted alone together. Bad things can happen. Children are naturally curious. Often a child will do “something bad” to the pup by way of experimentation. In one case, a dog bit a child and the dog had to be euthanatized. On post-mortem it was found that the child had jammed a pencil into the dog’s ear, snapping the end off after penetrating the dog’s ear drum. If accidents like this are to be avoided, complete supervision is necessary. It’s not usually the dog that starts the trouble, it’s the child. If you can child-proof your dog, there should be no cause for concern.

Do Not Feed It Human Food: Do Not Feed It From The Table.

Puppy food is best for pups (AAFCO approved, is most desirable). Adding an assortment of human foods in who-knows-what quantities will not only detract from the optimal (proprietary) food but will encourage fussiness. Also, if the human food is fed from the table, you will wind up with a dog that mooches around the table at mealtimes, always begging for food. Start out the way you intend to continue. Set limits and be firm about them.  Make sure that you feed your pup a good quality food.  This is essential to his good health.

Do Not Expect Love And Attention To Substitute For Good Puppy Parenting . Young pups are so adorable that it is very tempting to always give them all of the love and attention you possible can. But it is also important to set limits of acceptable behavior. This is especially important as they go through the canine equivalent of “the terrible twos” at about 4-5 months of age. Bad behavior, like excessive or hard nipping, should be punished by immediate withdrawal of attention (following sharp exclamation of a word like “Ouch” or “No-bite”). This is how puppies communicate their likes and dislikes to each other. Spare the “Ouch” and spoil the dog!


One simple rule is to make the pup work for food and treats. “What’s work?” you ask. It’s having the pup “Sit” or “Down” in order to receive food and treats (like Grace). This will make sure that the pup always views you as its true (resource rich) provider and, therefore, leader. Problems of owner-directed aggression downstream can be all but completely addressed by this simple measure. Don’t give everything away. Insist on good puppy manners: Manners maketh the pup.


Work hard to remind yourself, whatever happens, that this is a baby you are dealing with. If you lose your cool, you will act incorrectly, your puppy will think you have gone crazy, and you will lose its respect and trust. Be a good puppy parent. Think cool.

Following these simple rules of what NOT to do can help create the dog of your dreams as opposed to a canine nightmare. The basics are the same as in child raising. Be fun, be fair, but be firm (the 3 F’s) and set limits. Children are happier when their parents are obviously at the helm, and so are dogs. Dogs need strong leaders if they are to be model canine citizens.

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Good Behavior Spontaneously! – September 7, 2010

Wouldn’t it be great if your dog naturally offered you good behaviors all the time? Just think about life with a dog that you didn’t have to nag to get them to sit, down or watch you. Is this an elusive dream? NO! It’s all possible and quite easy to achieve. To start this process you can do a couple things. The first way is to capture the behavior when it occurs. This basically means catch your dog in the act of doing something good, mark it with a word like “YES” or clicking so he knows he did the right thing and reinforce him with a treat. I prefer to use this technique whenever possible. For example, wait for your dog to sit on his own, yes/click and treat.

The second way is to lure the behavior. With this technique, one would use a food lure to get the dog to do the behavior, yes/click and reinforce him. Once the dog understands how to do the behavior, you can begin to teach him to offer the behavior on his own.

For sits begin by asking for or luring a couple sits to “prime the pup” and then reinforce. Now move so the dog will get up and you just stand there and smile at your dog. You can talk to him, but don’t cue the sit in any way. The second he sits, YES/CLICK and treat. Repeat every time he offers the sit. The more you reinforce it the more ingrained it will become, until your dog begins to offer it as a default behavior any time he wants something or doesn’t know what else to do. For eye contact carry some non-perishable treats around with you or stash them around your house. If your dog spontaneously gives you eye contact, YES/CLICK and treat. Repeat this often.

For downs repeat the same process you used for the sit. Lure a couple downs and then just wait for your dog to offer it on his own. Be sure to reinforce him when he does. If he doesn’t offer the down on his own, help him out by using the down hand signal only and reinforce when he does. Now gradually fade out your hand signal. For example, if you currently have to move your hand all the way to the floor to get your dog to down, the next time stop your hand 2 inches from the floor, etc.until you don’t have to indicate the down with your hand at all. This is a good spontaneous behavior to teach dogs who jump on people.

Reinforcement doesn’t always have to come in the form of treats, although using treats at first will speed things up. If can be a toy, a kind word, a smile, petting, a walk, chasing a squirrel, etc. Be sure to always reinforce good behavior in some way every time.

Most dogs do not like to be pet on top of their heads initially. They usually don’t mind if you come back to their heads, but most do not like the sight of your hand coming down towards their heads. It can be intimidating to them. When you reach your hand towards your dog’s head how does he react? Does he look away, back up, lick his lips, yawn, duck his head or run away? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your dog does not want to be pet on the top of his head.

Keep in mind that in the winter when it’s dry and there is a lot of static electricity if you pet the top of his head and shock him, you’ve not only NOT reinforced him, but you’ve punished him too. Remember, reinforcement must be reinforcing to your dog not you! If your dog does not like it, it’s not reinforcing.

Get in the habit of observing your dog and then reinforce them for good behaviors. He won’t feel compelled to do bad things to get your attention because doing good things will always pay off for him. Train yourself to be more in tune with your dog and you will be on your way to a loving, well-mannered and respectful relationship.

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Fun Dog Quotes – September 3, 2010

“Lots of people talk to animals…. not very many listen though, and that’s the problem” – Benjamin Hoff 

“If you want the best seat in the house…Move the dog…”  Anonymous

“If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two.” – Phil Pastoret

“Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”- Roger Caras

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” -Mark Twain

“If your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise.” – Unknown

“Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog.” – Franklin Jones

“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” -Andy Rooney

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”- Josh Billings

“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” -Ben Williams

“The reason a dog has so many friends it that he wags his tail instead of his tongue.” – Anonymous 

“Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.” ~Corey Ford

“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.” ~Edward Hoagland

“When a dog wants to hang out the “Do Not Disturb” sign, as all of us do now and then, he is regarded as a traitor to his species.” ~Ramona C. Albert

“Listen to your dog when he is whispering instead of waiting until he is shouting at you.” ~Robyn Hood (TTouch Instructor)

“Dogs aren’t into big agendas. They just want to know where & when it’s safe to pee.”
– Jean Donaldson

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