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Puppy Biting and Nipping

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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Teaching Your Dog to Say Please

In any home, whether it has dogs in it or not, good manners are appreciated. Things like pushing past your parents to rush outside or bugging them for candy while they were working were probably not allowed when you were young and they show that your relationship with your dog is not as strong as it could be. There’s no need to yell at your dog when he does things like bark or whine at you for attention or defend his dog food dish. What you need to do is teach your dog how to SAY PLEASE.

As with all of the training methods that we recommend, we want you to set your dog up for success. Tell the dog what you want her to do (in words that she knows or by reinforcing behaviors you like), and ignore the tricks you don’t want in your dog’s attention-grabbing toolbox. You get what you pay for with dogs. If it works for them, they’ll keep doing something, even if you don’t like it.
The Say Please Protocol is also called “Nothing In Life Is Free,” because you allow the dog to earn his keep. It’s a way of living with your dog that will help him behave better because he trusts and accepts your leadership and is confident knowing his place in the family.

How to teach your dog to Say Please

First, teach your dog some behaviors that he can do on cue. Use positive reinforcement methods to teach him some cues. At first, SIT is quite sufficient. This will be your dog’s default way of asking you for something. DOWN and STAY are also useful behaviors. “Bow,” “Speak,” “Sit Pretty”, and “Roll over” are fun tricks to teach your dog.

Once your dog has mastered one or more cues, you can begin to ask him to Say Please. Before you give your dog the things that it likes most in life, (food, a treat, a walk, a pat on the head) he must first respond to one of the cues he has learned. One way is to simply have your dog sit for everything, so that he his default method for getting what he wants is to sit. Soon, you won’t have to ask for it; you can just stand there waiting and he’ll offer a polite sit, to see if it works. You can ask him to do other cues as well, although the sit is your dog’s primary way to Say Please.

Once you’ve given the cue, don’t give Fido what he wants until he does what you want. If he barks at you or knowingly refuses to perform the behavior (unlikely – he probably just doesn’t understand), walk away, come back a few minutes later, and start again. Keep in mind that he may not actually know the cue in the context you are asking, and may need extra help at first. Or he may be so excited about the toy/treat/leash that he temporarily forgets everything he knows. “Extra help” includes a visual signal or even a lure. If you think the dog knows the cue and you end up using a lure, don’t feed the dog the treat that you used for the lure at that time (we don’t want to reward non-compliance!).

The Benefits of Teaching Your Dog to Say Please
The best benefit is that your dog practices the cues that you have taught in many situations, with many different kinds of rewards. Instead of having to do a long training session, you can practice behavior that the dog already knows throughout the day. Your dog no longer has to ask, “Why should I listen to my human?” because the rewards are things that he wants in his everyday life, not just food.

Some dogs display affectionate behavior that borders on being “pushy,” such as nudging your hand to be petted or worming their way onto the furniture to be close to you. Dogs don’t do these behaviors because they are mean or bad dogs. They do them because they work. Period. Requiring your dog to Say Please first shows your dog the polite way to get what it wants. If you simultaneously ignore the unwanted behaviors, they will disappear and be replaced with a nice sit.

Fearful dogs may become more confident by ‘obeying’ cues, because it allows the dog to understand some of the rules of the game. Making your dog or puppy Say Please before dashing off to do what she wants can help keep her out of harm’s way (in the car, at the door, et cetera). In a multiple-dog household, making each dog Say Please and releasing them by name can bring some peace and order to your life!

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General Training Tips

A good trainer is: Fast, Patient, Generous, Unpredictable and Variable.

In the beginning, you must reinforce a behavior IMMEDIATELY every single time you give the cue. This is called the “acquisition” stage of the behavior. As the behavior becomes more reliable, you can begin to delay the reinforcement (treat, ball, affection), or go to variable reinforcement (reinforcing every few times). You must stop being predictable! Here are some tips to make you be a better dog trainer.

  • Concentrate on and reinforce the things your dog is doing right. Try to ignore behavior you don’t want to see repeated. If you can’t ignore it, manage it.
  • Remember that the reinforcement (treat, ball, toy) you use has to be reinforcing to your dog! Kibble (dog food) usually isn’t enough, unless the dog is starving. Experiment with different levels of reinforcement – from regular treats up to pieces of leftover meat or cheese. Save your most potent reinforcement for the behaviors that are most difficult for your dog.
  • Placement of the reinforcement is extremely important. Where your treat goes, so goes your dog. Thus, if you want your dog to walk right beside you, make sure you deliver your treats next to your leg, at the dog’s head level. Try not to make the dog jump for a treat, unless you want the dog to do so – as in a trick.
  • Marking a successful behavior. As you teach each exercise, make sure your dog knows exactly what you want him to do. Do this by MARKING the precise moment the behavior occurs. We call this a bridge. So, in teaching a Down, the instant her entire body touches the ground, you say “YES!!!” and deliver a treat. As the behavior gets more reliable, stop saying “yes” every time she does it. However, each time you say “YES” a treat should be forthcoming.
  • Make it harder. When you began training your dog, you lured the dog into position. Once there you gave her a treat. Now we wish to prompt the behavior, mark the proper one, and reward intermittently from an unknown place.

    As an example, if you were trying to get your dog to lie down, you would begin by luring, then rewarding the behavior. By now, when you say “Down”, she lies down – but she does it much better when she sees the treat in your hand. So we have to teach her the ZEN of TREATS – in order to get the treat, she must give up the treat. Hold your treat in the hand that is not doing the signal. Show the dog your hand without the treat. Tell or signal the dog to Down, and wait for the dog to do so. Wait until she does. Don’t go back to the lure yet. When she does lie down, give her a wonderful treat from the other hand. You are teaching the dog that the treats she can’t see are even more potent than the ones she can. And it’s teaching her she doesn’t have to see the treat to do the exercise. (If she doesn’t down, she may not understand; go back to the beginning, and review until you get a good down with a lure).

    Do that for awhile. Then, delay the treat for a tad, and when you do deliver it, do so from a desk or counter. Then give it for two downs (twofer), then three, then four. But never go to no rewards. Try to vary your reward as well; different kinds of treats, a tug toy, or ball playing after a short session.

  • Never take a behavior completely for granted. That leads to the Straight A Student Syndrome. If no one pays attention to you when you’re being good….you’ll be bad! F students get a great deal of attention when they make a C, and they learn that creating havoc leads to more attention. Pay attention to the correct behavior!
  • Targeting. If you want your dog to follow your hand cues, one of the ways to accomplish that is by the use of a Target. This technique also fades the use of the treat quickly. You teach your dog to watch your hand forinstructions. Begin by showing him your palm. Put your other hand behind the back of your first hand with a treat in it, and stick them both in front of his nose. Most dogs are curious; when he touches your palm, say “YES!” and give him the treat. Do that 20 times. The 21st time, put your treat hand behind your back. When and only when he touches your Target hand, say “YES!” and give him the treat. Do that many, many times. Now move the treat someplace else, and do it again. Now have the dog follow your hand, and when he touches say “YES!” (the yes is a MARKER word that means “you got it!”) Now say “Touch” or “Target” when he touches your palm. When he’s got that, stop giving him a treat when he touches your palm with no signal. When he’s got that, make him do two touches for one treat…then three then four, etc., but never stop giving rewards completely.

Crime and Punishment

A word about the use of punishment. Punishment ONLY WORKS if it’s appropriate, delivered at the instant the erroneous behavior occurs, and is identifiable with that behavior. It is very difficult to appropriately punish a dog, since you CANNOT EXPLAIN TO THE DOG WHAT HE DID WRONG.

Most people punish at the wrong time. For instance, if you were going to punish the dog for not sitting, you must do so as the dog is getting up. Not after he has done so. Not after he is walking away. Not after he sneezes, or scratches. If you wait, he will identify the punishment with the sneeze, scratch or walking, and it will not be effective.

At its best, punishment focuses on what the dog did wrong, and doesn’t tell him what to do. This is why it is much more effective to just give a Negative marker (wrong, or uh-uh, or OOPS or Too Bad) and go back to the behavior, preparing to reinforce correct behavior.

In the home, punishment is virtually always counter-productive, since the timing is almost always way off, and the dog identifies the punishment with the punisher — you. She will begin to cower or act submissive whenever a certain set of criteria are met. For instance, you walk in the door after being gone for a long time and look around. Sometimes you then begin yelling, sometimes you don’t. What follows is very predictable — the dog goes into a submissive posture (“that guilty look”), just in case. She also may begin refusing to come when called (would you come to an unpredictable punisher?), or she will crawl, and sometimes submissively urinate. Not effective.

Punishment is also ineffective because it teaches animals to suppress milder warning signals (growling, raising of hackles). Aggression always occurs after a series of warning signals.

Go for positive reinforcement. It works better, and produces a happy, obedient dog.

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Tips for Interacting with Fearful Dogs (or Not!)

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

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. 
  Resist our human instinct to get closer to the dog to show him you’re not threatening.  This just makes him more fearful.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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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What is Mark – Reward Training?

One of the greatest gifts we can give our dogs is clear, concise and consistent communication.

Mark/Reward training is a simple way to communicate with your dog, letting him know, YES, that’s exactly what I want!” It helps your dog sort out what you’re really asking, and gives him a way to understand the rules. It’s the quickest way for a dog to learn and fun for both the dog and human as they learn together how to best communicate.

The first thing we want to do to get started is to ‘charge up’ the reward marker. Just say the word ‘YES’ (or click your clicker) and give your dog a treat within a second. Practice until you can deliver 10 treats in 15 seconds. The order is very important. The treat must come after the YES or click. Yes! Then treat. This is how your dog learns that YES predicts a reward.

Timing is everything. Be sure to say YES at the exact moment your dog does what you want. Then you can deliver the treat. Decide what behavior you are going to reward ahead of time. As your dog is first learning a behavior, ie, to look at you when you say his name, you may first decide to ‘mark’ just a head turn but then build up to ‘marking’ full eye contact.

Once your dog knows the behavior in that setting, move to random rewards. Rewards can be petting, neck scratches, tossing a toy, going outside in addition to just treats.

The best way to teach a new behavior is to reward every success, every time. The best way to keep a learned behavior strong is to reward it less frequently and randomly. Your dog will try harder knowing that he might get a reward at any given time. You can start to reward for every 2 sits or after 2 or 3 different behaviors. Sometimes make it harder and sometimes make it easier.

It’s important to transition away from food rewards when the dog has learned the desired behavior. Begin to introduce ‘life’ rewards. Still say YES when your dog does something you want, but instead of giving a treat, give a neck scratch, belly rub, play with a toy, go for a walk or anything else your dog enjoys. Keep observing your dog’s response to things and use rewards to keep the behavior strong. Use food rewards occasionally as well.

Dogs don’t generalize behaviors right away. Just because they know sit in the kitchen does not mean they know sit at the store or in your backyard. We have to re-teach them each behavior in gradually more difficult situations so they will eventually generalize. It’s very important to make things easier (what and how much you are asking for) when you train in a new place or with more distractions. If your dog can do a 30 second down/stay in your living room, start by asking for a 3 second down/stay outside and work up from there.

Keep teaching your dog and help him be successful. Keep him well rewarded through praise, food, games and other things that he enjoys.

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Some Tips for Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is an intense fear or dislike of separation (usually from a family member to whom they have become very attached), which often manifests itself as destructive behavior such as chewing, digging, barking, etc while they are apart.
You may find separation anxiety easier to understand if you bear in mind the fact that dogs are pack animals – they’re social by nature. It’s normal for dogs to form intense emotional bonds with their pack. No dog does well when left on her own, but some dogs REALLY don’t do well – and these are the ones that develop separation anxiety.

Typical problem behaviors include inappropriate urination or defecation, destruction, excessive barking and whining, hyperactive behaviors like tail-chasing, compulsive behaviors like repetitive licking or self-mutilation (for example, pulling out fur, gnawing at nails and skin), and depression, signified by withdrawal and lethargy.

Here are some guidelines that use training to encourage greater independence. 
Training involves a combination of methods, including:
1) desensitizing your departure cues
2) toning down your departures and arrivals, and
3) staging a series of absences

Desensitize Departure Cues
Your anxious dog will sense any act or routine you initiate as you prepare to leave. Putting on shoes and picking up keys are the most common examples. These actions are like triggers for your dog’s uneasiness.
You can easily break that association. Simply go through the motions of putting on your shoes, picking up keys (or whatever it is that clues in your dog to your departure) then don’t actually leave. Repeat this act until your actions no longer mean ‘owner leaving’. When your dog stays calm – the desensitizing is complete.

Tone down arrivals
If you give your dog a wildly enthusiastic welcome every time you walk in the door you send the message that, yes, this is a HUGE deal. Extra happy returns will not cure separation anxiety; rather they will make it worse. Resist the urge. Keep things brief and casual. Even ignore your overexcited pet for a few minutes until they regain some degree of composure.

Stage Exits
You want your dog to be alone and comfortable without you, so stage an exit. Practice leaving him confined to another room in your house for a few minutes while you’re at home – then gradually make your absences longer.
Try this: Walk out, but don’t leave – stay standing just outside the door, listening. If you hear whining, crying, or scratching, gently reprimand. This addresses the behavior right on the spot and helps them see that you don’t really vanish when you walk out the door.

Finally, time is on your side. Dogs will learn that you’re always coming back whether you’re leaving them in the car for a few minutes, or in the house for an afternoon. They will grow in confidence as they grow in maturity.

In the meantime, some things to do and keep doing:
Exercise – it’s my answer for everything I’m told, but it sure helps almost everything
Personal activities – remember they’re dogs. They enjoy chewing on things so give them something to chew on. They like company too. If they’re left inside, switch on the radio (soothing music please).
Visits – if you work long hours, arrange short visits from friends. (The great thing about having a very sweet and very obedient dog is that everyone WANTS to see them)

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Teaching Your Puppy His Name

1. The foundation of everything you need to teach your puppy starts with him responding to his name. When your puppy hears his name, no matter where he is or what he’s doing, we want him to turn and look at you as if to ask, ‘what do you want’? If you teach your puppy nothing else, no matter where he is or what he’s doing or how far away you are, if you can say his name and he’ll turn to look at you, you’ll always be able to call him away from trouble or prevent from doing something you don’t want him to do.

2. Start by sitting on the floor next to your puppy in a quiet room with no distractions. Say his name in a happy voice. If there are no distractions, the sound of your voice should get him to turn his head. The second he does, say “Yes” and give him a treat. Repeat this a few times. Then say his name again. Praise him when he turns his head but put the treat near his nose and move it slowly up to your face to get eye contact. Say YES and give him the treat.

3. Make sure you say his name only once. Don’t repeat his name over and over if he’s not looking at you. If he doesn’t look at you, say his name, then immediately put the treat to his nose, wiggle it to get his attention, and then move it slowly up to your face so he does looks at you. Then say YES and give him the treat. Make sure to say YES the moment he looks at you. This helps him understand exactly what he did to earn the treat and it’s faster and easier than saying good boy or good girl.

4. Practice often so your puppy starts turning his head to you whenever you say his name. Then slowly start to add difficulty. Work in different rooms. Put a toy on the floor as a distraction. Have one person petting your puppy while you call his name. Then add some distance – say his name when you’re standing 3-4 feet away. Then add longer eye contact. Praise him as he’s looking at you and delay giving him the treat for a few seconds.

5. Next, start working outside. This is a lot harder for your puppy. You’ll probably need to use a food treat at his nose when you first try this outside. That’s ok. The key is to help your puppy understand what you want from him. Adding difficulty as you practice is like teaching the behavior from kindergarten to college. Add difficulty slowly while keeping your puppy successful.

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Teaching Your Dog to Ring a Bell

This is a useful way for your dog to tell you he has to go out to eliminate.

Begin by hanging a bell or bells over the door handle of the door your dog goes outside by.
Every time you take your dog or puppy outside to go to the toilet physically get him to nudge the bell with his nose or paw. To begin training make sure he is in a calm state and preferably in the sit position. You can gently take his paw and make him touch the bell or gently position him to nudge the bell with his nose. I say ‘gently’ because we don’t want any fear associated with this procedure. As soon as the bell rings say the words ‘Go Potty’ or whatever words you choose. Praise him lavishly or give him a small food reward and then go outside immediately.
For a young puppy take him outside once an hour or a couple of minutes after eating or waking. Stand with him but don’t distract him at all. Let him sniff around. If he goes to the bathroom while outside tell him what a good dog he is while he is actually peeing or pooping
It is important to choose a word or phrase for your dog’s elimination. You can call it what ever you want as long as you are consistent with it. For example: While he is peeing say, “Do a pee, good boy, well done” or “Go potty, great work, good dog’ By saying these words your puppy will then be able to learn these words and associate them with the the action. Say the same words when he rings the bell to go outside.
DO NOT let him ring the bell if you are going out for a walk or a game in the yard. This would be a recipe for disaster. You don’t want him ringing the bell every time he wants to go out to have fun.
Good luck with your door bell training. One thing to remember is be consistent and do it every single time your dog or puppy goes out to potty.

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Help for Barking Dogs

With the quality of lives our dogs are living today as full-fledged members of our families, it’s hard to figure what they have to bark about! But all barks are not equal, and you must diagnose the cause before you can have any hope of eliminating it. Here are some techniques for diagnosing and then modifying this troublesome behavior…

Demand Barking
It is in our nature to respond and comfort the cries of our babies, whether they be of the human or canine persuasion. Of course, cries of true distress should not be ignored, but demand behaviors are a different matter. Yips of protest when your dog is first left alone in the crate, or an attention-seeking pup demanding to be plucked up into your lap, should not get the desired result, or you will be beleaguered by these behaviors for life. Instead, ask your dog for a polite sit (the doggie equivalent of “please”) before petting her. Approach her crate only when she’s calm and quiet. If your puppy barks at you for attention or for food, turn your back to her, or put her food away and leave the kitchen. In so doing, you’re teaching her that these behaviors impede progress rather than hasten it.

Recreational Barking
Recreational barking is often misdiagnosed as separation anxiety because it frequently happens when the family is absent. When barking is the sole symptom, first investigate the possibility that it’s recreational. The act of barking is self-reinforcing so it is a behavior that is likely to intensify without modification. Increase exercise, particularly before leaving for long periods of time, so that your dog is tired and ready for a rest in your absence. Hire a dog walker to break up the time that he is left alone. Incorporate fun mental challenges like stuffed puzzle toys for your pup to work on in solitude. Leave some classical music playing: It can be relaxing and it can also dampen outside noises that might provoke your dog to bark. As a last resort, the use of a citronella bark collar can inhibit the behavior by establishing an unpleasant consequence.

Barking Due to Separation Distress
Separation distress-related barking (whether it be due to separation anxiety or simply hyper-attachment) usually happens immediately upon being left alone. In the case of separation anxiety, other indicative symptoms are destructive (or self-destructive) behavior, breaking of housetraining in a housetrained dog, or anorexic behavior.
You must treat the underlying cause of your dog’s barking by gradually building his tolerance to periods of separation. Most importantly, never use punishment in an attempt to decrease separation anxiety-related barking, as it will only increase the anxiety in an already anxious dog.
Fear-Driven Barking
Under-socialized dogs may bark when in the presence of certain people, other dogs, or unfamiliar circumstances. My dog Trista barked when she saw horses for the first time on Mackinac Island in Michigan. This was fairly problematic since Mackinac relies on horses and horse-drawn vehicles for the majority of its transport. Within ten minutes of her first contact with horses, Trista was able to sit quietly near horses and even go for a horse-drawn carriage ride with the family. By using desensitization and counter-conditioning the fear was treated and thus her barking was eliminated.
Punishing fear has the same unfortunate result as punishing anxiety – it only escalates the emotional trauma that the dog is experiencing. Treat the fear and the barking will resolve itself.

Communicative Barking
One of my clients has a darling English Bulldog named Bella. Bella is a happy girl and so she should be: She has an affectionate, attentive mom and lives a very good life. There are times, though, when Bella needs to speak up! – when her Tricky Treat Ball rolls out of her reach under the furniture or when she needs a potty break. Bella’s not pushy, though; she lets out a single yap and waits for the attention she requires. This is perfectly appropriate doggie behavior.
Gone are the days when dogs are to be seen and not heard. Communication is a necessary and essential part of our relationships with our canine family members and should not be squelched completely. So, rather than barking back at your dog, identify her grievance – whether it be one of an emotionally stressed dog or of a too-pampered pooch – and treat the cause.

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Three Stages of Lure/Reward Training

When training a new puppy, here are guidelines that will help you make you and your puppy successful!

  • To phase out food lures
    To phase out food rewards and replace with life rewards
    To increase reliability by calmly persisting and insisting

Stage One:

Teaching dogs what we want them to do.  Remember we are teaching our puppies English as Second Language — English words for doggy behaviors and actions.

Food Lures -> Hand-signals -> Verbal Commands
Food lures are phased out once the dog learns the meaning of hand-signals (in the very first session) and hand-signals (hand lures) are then used to teach the dog the meaning of verbal commands.  Lure the behavior with a food lure, then fade that to a hand signal.   Say the verbal command first, and then lure the behavior.  Your dog will learn this association and then respond to the verbal command.

Stage Two:

Motivating dogs to want to do what we want them to do.
Food rewards are phased out and replaced with Life Rewards.

Get More-for-less, i.e., more behaviors for fewer food rewards

Differential Reinforcement means only rewarding your dog for above-average responses with better responses receiving better rewards and the best responses receiving best rewards.   Instead of offering a food treat each time, just praise your puppy and offer some physical affection.

Life Rewards — Food rewards are phased out entirely and replaced with Life Rewards.   Dogs must perform a simple behavior, such as Sit,  before meals, before going outside, before play, before greetings, etc.
Stage Three:

Even though a dog may understand the meaning of the verbal command and has been motivated to want to comply, there will be occasions when he doesn’t. However, there are infrequent occasions when absolute reliability is essential for the dog’s well being and safety. Use persistence and insistence to get the response you are looking for.  Basically, make sure follow through and don’t give up.

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