Training Tips

Radar the Border Collie stands beneath a rainbow in a field of green.

There is hope at the end of your dog training rainbow!

There’s light at the end of your dog training rainbow!

Dog Training Tips

5 Important Things to Know About Behavioral Issues

  1. Rule out a possible medical reason for your dog’s behavior. Does your dog growl or attempt to bite you when you pick him up to put him in the car, for example? Better to make sure he is physically fit before you attempt any behavioral changes.
  2. Whether you want to decrease a bad behavior or increase a good behavior, be sure you know what motivates your dog to act the way he is acting. Look first at your own behavior and rule out anything you may inadvertently be doing to reinforce a bad behavior. It is very easy to accidentally reinforce a bad behavior, even though you have the best intentions for you dog. We can teach you how to isolate your own behavior so you can help your dog.
  3. Think Like a Dog. When dealing with a behavioral issue in a dog, try to enter his doggy brain and figure out why the dog is doing what he is doing. Does he just want attention? Is he chewing on your shoes because he is a puppy and his gums hurt with his new teeth growing in? Know your breed (or mix of breeds) that is predominant in your dog. Shelties, for example, tend to love to bark. Find out for yourself why Shelties and many terriers love to bark – it’s in their genes.
  4. Through years of work with all types of dogs and all types of behavioral issues, we have learned that the single most effective thing you can do to lesson your dog’s unwanted behavior. Want to know the secret? It’s called exercise. Take your dog out into the world and explore together. Take long walks, run together, learn Agility, Fly Boy or any of the many dog activities that exist today. You must provide adequate mental and physical stimulation – every day.
  5. Know that behavioral problems can take longer to fix than can simple obedience commands. You must allow time for your dog to understand that you want his behavior to change. The onus is on you to be a leader worthy of your dog. Once you know how to reach inside your dog’s mind and win his loyalty and acceptance of your leadership position, you can then teach the dog’s body to follow your direction. Leadership is earned, even with a dog. We can help you become a great leader. To start down this healthy path, good pack leaders are fair and consistent and communicate clearly.

Behavioral Issues

The following suggestions are just a few ways to help your dog learn how you want it to behave. Behavioral issues can be tricky and to solve them, they require consistent, fair and kind leadership from you, the pack leader. If you run into any trouble with your dogs when applying any of these tips, do not hesitate to set up an appointment with us. Our goal is to help your dog become happy and well adjusted, so you can enjoy your partnership for the life of the dog. We go over these tips in detail in class.

Crate Training

Why crate train? Isn’t it cruel to put a dog in a crate? Won’t they get bored? How does crate training my dog solve behavioral issues?

These are common questions dog owners have, and they are all valid questions we want to answer for you. Crate training – if done properly – is not cruel. Dogs like to burrow and sleep in a den in the wild, and our dogs generally like the coziness an protection that a crate can provide. So long as the crate is never used as punishment, the dog learns to love his own special den. When you add a comfortable sleep surface such as a blanket or a bed and throw in some interactive toys, most dogs love to be in their crate!

Why do we recommend crate training your dog? Besides providing a sanctuary for your dog, crate training is a great tool in house training a dog. It also can be a safe, quiet, secure place for a dog to go to when you have a full house of guests and loud commotions of a party or any type of gathering. It can put the kibosh on such unwanted behaviors as digging and chewing.

Tips for Successful Crate Training:

  • Never, ever force your dog into the crate
  • Potty your dog outside prior to going in the crate and every 4-8 hours after that
  • Put crate in a convenient location with not a lot of noise or traffic
  • Leave the door open, place a treat in back of crate and let dog retrieve the treat
  • Repeat this many times until you can shut the dog in the crate for a minute or two
  • Gradually – and we do mean gradually!! – increase the time the dog spends in the crate
  • Provide water, a blanket and safe, interactive toys for the dog in the crate

House Training

This issue is critical to pet owners and it should be the very first thing you work on with your new puppy or adult dog. Most dogs are naturally clean and like their sleeping areas to remain clean. Sometimes dogs from pet stores/puppy mills have learned to pee where they sleep as a result of being cooped up in a small area for too long. Even this type of dog can learn to do his business outside!

The first thing to do is to try to never let an accident happen in the house. Take your dog outside every 4 hours or so and tell him to “go potty.” When he does, praise and treat him with three treats to create a reward history. Crate training comes in handy while you are house training. Be sure to get the correct size crate for your dog. You can also tie a leash to you and keep your pup with you at all times except for outside potty business. Soon the dog will learn that he should be doing his business outside.

This is very important: NEVER punish your dog for soiling in the house if you did not catch him in the act. He may act guilty as you punish him but in reality he is responding to your anger at finding the mess. Dogs live in the moment and he literally cannot take ownership of something he did even a few minutes in the past. When you do catch him in the act, try using an empty metal can filled with coins and shake it at the dog when you catch him soiling the house. This must be coupled with the reward history for peeing/pooping outside.

You can use a litter box to potty train puppies. We will go over litter box training in detail in class.

Jumping Up on People and/or Counter Tops

This is an all-too-common problem for pet owners. Luckily, it is one of the easier ones to fix.

We start by first looking at our own behavior to be sure we aren’t adding to the problem. Greeting your dog in an over-excited way can result in him jumping on you. He is saying “hello and welcome home!!!” with just too much enthusiasm. You can each greet each other after an absence but let’s work on keeping it polite.

First train your dog to have a reliable “sit” command. Once he has this, anytime he offers to jump up on you or your guest, at the moment his front pays leave the floor, command him to sit. Once he does, praise him and treat him. You can fade out the treats later. You could also send him to “place” or tell him to lie down. The important thing is to catch him doing the right thing and completely ignore the wrong thing. You can even turn your back to him and cross your arms and wait for him to stop jumping. Soon he very well might try a “sit” just to try to get you to pet him. Please do so and make a big deal out of the right behavior.

Chewing Issues

Are you tired of finding your expensive shoes chewed up by your dog? Has your dog decided he loves the taste of your couch? No worries, we can stop that unwanted behavior!

Why dogs love to chew:

  • Dogs chew for many reasons. Here are a few of them:
  • They like to chew! It’s fun and it’s something to occupy their time
  • They may be teething (4-6 month old dogs)
  • They chew to relieve stress
  • Owners may inadvertently reinforce chewing on the wrong thing

Some tips to stop unwanted chewing:

  • Supply your dog with toys, bones, or other things you want him to chew on
  • Dog-proof your home and crate train your dog
  • Don’t give your dog old shoes to chew on
  • Rotate chew toys
  • Don’t punish him for chewing on the wrong thing unless you catch him in the act
  • Keep your dog mentally and physically active

Digging Issues

If your dog is making a mess of the daisies, and the front yard, and by the porch, don’t fret because we have solutions! Dogs dig for many reasons but here are a few:

  • They are bored — this shows up as excessive digging
  • They like to dig — it’s natural for them to do so
  • They were bred to dig (as were some terrier breeds)
  • They are looking for a cool place to sleep
  • Unaltered males may dig out of a fence to search for a mate

First and foremost, owners need to provide adequate amounts of mental and physical stimulation for their dogs – and they may very well need to increase both to help a digger. Digging is often self reinforcing for the dog – they enjoy digging.

We discuss these solutions in detail in class, but here are some tips to stop this pesky behavior:

  • Never let the vice show up in the first place
  • Obedience training helps you and the dog communicate better
  • Provide a variety of toys and appropriate things for your dog to find after you have hidden them in the yard
  • Provide your dog with his own digging sand box and praise him when he digs there
  • Fill existing holes with pine cones or feces to deter more digging in those areas
  • Never correct a dog after it has dug a hole and you did not catch him in the act of digging it – you need to catch him in the act for punishment to be effective.
  • Supervise your dog and crate him when you cannot supervise him

Barking Issues

Dogs bark and sometimes bark too much for human ears for many reasons. A few reasons include:

  • They are bored — this shows up as excessive barking
  • They like to bark — it’s natural for them to do so
  • They were bred to bark (as were some terrier and herding breeds)
  • They bark to inform of an intruder
  • They bark to let pack members know where they are
  • Over-stimulation in their environment

Here are some tips to combat this pesky dog behavior:

  • Stop this behavior before it stops by socializing your puppy
  • Daily exercise burns off excess energy
  • Crate-train your dog and keep him crated when you cannot supervise him
  • Give your dog an interactive toy to keep him busy
  • Feed your dog his dinner in a toy to make him work for it and stay busy
  • Use a bark collar if necessary