|My sister and mom made this photo set of my beloved Finn and my sweetheart Gavin. I see it every morning when I wake. It’s my reminder of why I do what I do. I love walks, specifically with my dog.|
My lug, my Finn, created that love. His endless energy, adventurous spirit, and into-everything-naughtiness inspired me to walk him, A LOT. It was bonding time, great exercise, and I noticed my mind was clearer and calmer after our strolls. One night, we were attacked by two dogs who pulled their person across the street to fight Finn. It was noisy, scary, and heartbreaking. Fortunately, we were both physically unscathed, but our walks changed. Finn was scared (for a good reason) and began barking and lunging at every dog we saw, even from blocks away.
I wanted to help him, to ease his stress, so I began calling trainers. One trainer told me that he could completely fix Finn’s reactivity with a shock collar. I knew absolutely nothing about training, but I knew I didn’t want to shock my dog so, I continued searching. After finding the trainer who helped me rebuild Finn’s confidence, my love also grew for my mischievous, brilliant dog. That’s when I fell into dog training.
After Finn peacefully passed, it took me a few months to feel ready to love another dog. When I rescued Gavin, my only two requirements were that he liked walks and was older than two years. Well, Gavin’s insatiable love for humans fooled me during our meet-and-greet into thinking that he loved walks. He loved meeting me and was happy to accompany me because I was new and novel. However, I learned quickly that Gavin was easily frustrated on walks, wasn’t food motivated at all, and was only six months old.
I tried every smelly dog treat I could find. I spent countless hours cutting up various cheeses, hot dogs, meatballs, deli meat, and more. My hands were always greasy. I ruined clothes. And, still, Gavin refused to eat treats when we were outside.
That’s when I began concocting Bark Pouch blends. I wanted Gavin to feel confident on walks, despite his sound sensitivity. And, for his safety, I wanted him to learn to walk on a loose leash happily and as easily as possible.
My walks with Gavin look very different from Finn’s walks, but looking down at his beautiful chocolate brown eyes while he smiles up at me, trotting along, brings me so much joy and peace.
And, my wish for you is that your walks with your dogs—no matter what stage your training—delight you in some way.
I met this dazzling dog when she was a wee little tyke. Even as a puppy, Kaia carried a lot of weight on her gorgeous shoulders. She absorbed every sound and sight that came her way and stashed them away in her canine crock. Fortunately, she landed in the perfect home, for her. I still remember saying and thinking simultaneously “that’s BRILLIANT” when her mom announced that she taught Kaia to alert her that the train was approaching to help overcome her fear of the “L” noise in their neighborhood. Read on for Kaia’s story.
How did you and your dog find each other?
I found Kaia online after our last dog passed away from illness. I couldn’t sleep without a dog in the house and wanted a dog that I could start agility with who had no genetic health issues. We were going to pick up her sister but fell in love at first sight with Miss Kaia.
What is the biggest assumption people make based on your dog’s looks?
That she’s friendly and enjoys being pet, but she just wants to work. Kaia is super snuggly with our immediate family and naturally thinks her job in the house is to be our service dog. If someone is hurt or sad, Kaia tries her darndest to comfort them. She hates when we’re walking, and random people try to pet her. I keep her a bit scraggly on purpose because it seems to prevent strangers from touching her. I tried to tell them “no, ” but it wasn’t working. My Shaggy Strategy works great to help keep random hands from invading my sweet girl’s space AND helps keep her in a better place.
What personality trait does your dog possess that contradicts his or her physical appearance?
She has the collie wobbles (physically shaky, fearful, and uncertain) so we can’t do agility. We didn’t want Kaia to get hurt or reinforce her nervousness. She also has food allergies. We’ve trained her very well, but stubborn Kaia can be sneaky when bored—she has a deadly taste for chocolate. Kaia can open any fridge and climb any counter. She’s pushed a chair across the room to open the refrigerator so she can eat the sweet treats she watched put away for safekeeping. We have to outsmart our dog DAILY to prevent her from figuring out our McGyver, steel proof containers, and super-sleuth hiding places.
What are the biggest obstacles you and your dog have overcome together, and what was most helpful?
Whew! We’ve dealt with a lot! A short list: collie wobbles, gastro issues (she is allergic to beef and gets pancreatitis flares quickly), sound fears, and reactivity, dislike of other dogs and strangers, a hearty, independent streak, consistent need to be mentally stimulated, my own health issues, and sharing my attention and time with a child with my very physically and mentally active border collie.
Training, training, training, and more training has and continues to help. Not so much for my brilliant girl, but for ME! I had to learn to adapt to situations as they come up and not walk around nervously anticipating what MIGHT happen or I make her more nervous. I had to learn to listen to what she wants and to meet that by giving her what she needs. She acts as a service dog to me because of my health issues and enjoys it. Although, she’d never pass training or be able to travel on a plane because of her sound fears. So, we’ve worked on the things we can do, and with a border collie, the sky is the limit. For example, she would not walk under the L train tracks until I figured out to make it her JOB to alert me when she hears a train approaching. Then we trained to not alert me to planes, ambulances, fire trucks, and all the other city noises that are tough on a sound-sensitive dog. It’s always a work in progress. And tons of fun.
If you could make a sign for the world to see to understand your dog’s individual needs better, what would it say?
Do not pet!
Anything else you want to share?
You do not always get the dog you think you want. You DO end up with who you need and who needs you. Had I not learned any of this from my pup, mostly by listening—I would not be a good mom to my kiddo who has especially sound reactive SPD (sensory perception disorder). Had we not put so much into dog training and tried to do it all on our own, after I had a kid…wow, everything would have been so much work. My girls (pup and kiddo) though are the best!
It’s no secret. I melt like a chocolate bar in the glorious sun when I see a grey-faced dog. I met delightful Sammie when he was a blossoming boy and man, did he LOVE jumping on people. How could he not? Sammie was such a happy guy who had to share his excitement at the sight of a “PERSON!” Then, I had the golden opportunity to see him again nine years later to help teach this choosy canine to learn that other dogs were not as despicable as he seemed to think they were. Here’s Sammie’s story.
How did you and your dog find each other?
I saw a man walking a golden retriever puppy a few blocks from my house when I was driving to the store. I stopped to let the gentleman know that a fox was walking around the neighborhood. I’m not in the habit of stopping strangers on the street. But I had seen the pair strolling before and thought it was essential to keep that cutie-pie puppy safe.
We started talking about Sammie, the puppy, and he said: “Do you want him?” He continued by sharing that his girlfriend and her kids loved him. But they weren’t home often, so they felt guilty about the extensive amount of time Sammie was alone and cooped up in his crate. While this may sound awful to die-hard dog lovers, they did love him and took excellent care of him. He was healthy and well-trained in obedience at just 4-1/2 months old! They knew their limits, and I was lucky to have landed my darling dog.
What’s the most significant assumption people make based on your dog’s looks?
He likes dogs! Sammie loves people and will do ANYTHING to be near a human being. But he has absolutely no interest in interacting in ANY way with neighborhood dogs. If another dog dares to sniff Sammie, he makes sure the dog understands his displeasure with a warning growl and lunge.
What personality trait does your dog possess that contradicts his or her physical appearance?
Sammie is a big golden retriever, so people cross the street when they see us coming. If they only knew, he wants to lick them from head to toe and lean in for a good petting session!
What are the biggest obstacles you and your dog have overcome together, and what was most helpful?
I adopted Sammie when he was almost five months old. He was well-trained but not socialized at all (there’s a difference) and was fearful of other dogs. I shared my home with a 10-year-old Eskie mix and spent the necessary time and effort properly introducing my dogs. I wanted to make sure my home was peaceful, and my dogs were happy. But the sight of other dogs in the neighborhood turned Sammie into a barking, snarling, lunging lunatic.
The biggest obstacle came on walks with Sammie. If he saw a dog, he would bark and growl and lunge like a crazy boy! It took a lot to control him and get him to calm down even after the dog had passed us.
Enter Brandi and the “touch” cue. Redirecting Sammie’s focus from the dog to me using “touch” was a game-changer! Being the smart dog that he is and with Brandi’s fantastic guidance—it didn’t take long for both of us to enjoy our long walks.
If you could make a sign for the world to understand your dog’s individual needs better, what would it say?
All dogs stay away, PLEASE.
Anything else you want to share?
Sammie is almost 14 years young now. He’s no longer dog reactive. I still do “touch” with my sweet senior for mental stimulation. But now I only need to put my hand in a position for him to nose my fingers. He knows what I want, which is excellent because his hearing is starting to fade— unlike my love for him and his adoration for people.
***This article is a re-post from 2016, sweet Sammie has since passed away but I’m so grateful to have met him and his amazing mom.
My heart hurts when I read about violence, natural disasters, and strife affecting too many people worldwide. I feel frivolous. I want to do more, give more, and be more to this world than what I’m doing now. I’m sad for so many people who abruptly and brutally lose their lives. And I’m sorry for those mourning their loved ones and those attempting to recover from destruction and deprivation.
I’m not a news or political expert. I’m just a dog trainer turned treat maker. But, when I close my laptop for the umpteenth time in a day because the hatred overwhelms me, I think about dogs and why we love them—their presence, loyalty, and unconditional love. I can’t help but wonder if dogs might be able to teach us to be better humans.
Approach every moment with zeal
When Gavin plays fetch, he’s not thinking about what he’s eating for dinner, worrying about his next veterinary check-up, or wondering what time we’re leaving the park so he can wiggle and jiggle for my brother. Not much interrupts Gavin’s beauty rest, except when he hears the click of UNCLE CHRIS’s key in the door. No matter how deep he’s sleeping or loud he’s snore-humming, under the covers, Lil’ Big Head jumps into the air like a rocket and races down the stairs as his tail whip-whaps the walls before he grabs a shoe and dances a circle around one of his most favorite humans.
Our dogs approach everything they love with all their heart, energy, and attention. Gavin exudes joy as he eagerly waits for me to throw his ball and sprints towards it with laser focus, then clumsily tries to grab the ball as it bounces off the swingset and catapults in the opposite direction. He’s incapable of reminiscing about a park we visited when he was a puppy and planning for his future. Gavin’s smiling, running, and totally into his fetch game—that’s it.
If I watch the sunset without checking my phone, it won’t change the world. However, mentally oohing and ahhing about the beautiful horizon as it shifts from bursts of peach and turquoise to a watercolor masterpiece of deep lavender and magenta will bring me more peace if I spent the same time scanning volatile debates on social media.
Be a shoulder
Dogs are always there—like a good friend who doesn’t just say “let me know if you need anything” but shows up on your doorstep, with a knowing look and a box of tissues. If I’m happy, confused, tired, or overwhelmed, Gavin, is ready to lean on or be the leaner. Lil’ Big Head will soothe the world’s worries by lean-laying all 60 pounds of himself against any willing snuggler.
Gavin listens, without agenda, comment, opinion, answers, or judgment. As a dog, he can’t tell me I’m ludicrous when I’m babbling about who knows what. However, maybe I’m meant to learn a lesson from his silence—to be a better listener—without chiming in, without waiting my turn to speak, and without fixing (oh, we retired trainers love fixing stuff.)
Lil’ Big Head inspires me to be the person who exudes Oprah Winfrey‘s famous phrase, “I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.”
When dogs scuffle, they’re quickly (usually) over their strife and onto more important matters like napping, eating, or playing. It’s easy to become preoccupied with the troubles of the world. However, if worry and stress consume us, we miss real opportunities to connect with our fellow humans in real-life.
Holding the door open at the drugstore for a stranger or waving another driver in front of me while I wait in traffic certainly doesn’t undo catastrophic events or horrible tragedy but reminds me that we’re all in this together. When I have to decide whether to run to the grocery or put it off another day and donate blood—I hope I make the right choice (however small).
Winter came in with a roar, didn’t it? If you were scrambling to find the right solution to safely (and quickly) take your dog or puppy outside in frigid conditions, you’re not alone. There are so many options to keep your puppy’s paws safe from ice, salt, and cold weather that it may be hard deciding what’s right for you.
Depending on your dog, booties may be the best option to keep your pup’s paws protected when outside in winter months. However, most dogs hate the way boots feel on their paws. And, technically, you should spend time BEFORE winter arrives teaching him to like his booties—but, the weather is unpredictable. So, if you haven’t trained your dog to accept his booties happily, there’s still hope.
Don’t create negative associations with your dog’s boots.
As tempting as it is, don’t laugh at your dog when he’s trying to walk for the first time in boots. Your pup is emotionally savvy, and your heckling will only make him hate his booties more. And, please don’t drag your dog, ever.
If your dog doesn’t walk in boots, try crouching down—if your knees can handle it and your dog doesn’t have a bite history. This inviting posture is more encouraging to sensitive dogs than hovering and repeating “COME ON” ad nauseam. You can also encourage walking by placing amazing treats on top of your shoe. When dogs drop their heads, they naturally relax, and a dog who’s feeling at ease will more likely walk than a stressed-out pooch. If your pup still won’t budge, it’s time to make booty training a priority. Pick a time of day in the house where you merely reward your dog for wearing one boot, then two, then three.
You may also consider using a lighter weight boot. The first booty I tried with Gavin was massive because he gets so cold so quickly, and I wanted to protect his delicate paws as much as possible. But, the heft of thick-soled boots was too much for him, so I switched to MuttLuks. The fleece lining keeps his toes toasty, and I love the length of the sock which adds extra warmth. Occasionally a wayward boot slips off into the snow, but when I’m diligent about pulling the sock all the way up so there’s no gap between his toe and the boot, they stay on nicely.
If you’re looking for protection from harsh, unsafe sidewalk salt and don’t need added warmth, a lot of my dog-loving clients and friends rave about PAWS disposable boots. They’re relatively easy to get on your dog’s paws, and because they’re super thin (like a balloon), fussy pups may more quickly acclimate to wearing them.
Let’s say your dog loathes wearing booties, how do you keep his paws protected? Finn loved walks, no matter how cold it was, but I knew he’d be miserable in boots. So, I used various salves and sprays over the years. The trick when using thick balms like Musher’s Secret is to cover your dog’s paws RIGHT before walking outside. Otherwise, the goop makes a mess on your floor.
However, even the thickest layer of goop was no match for some of my neighbor’s sidewalks covered in layers and layers of non-pet friendly salt. To keep Finn’s paws protected, as we approached those sections, I’d ask him to walk in the parkway rather than the sidewalk to prevent any chance the salt might work its way through the protectant and burn his paws.
When we arrived back home, I wiped Finn’s paws off with a warm, wet washcloth to assure he didn’t track in dirt and salt and to clean any remaining goop off his paws. If you forget to rub protectant on your dog’s paws before an outing, don’t use a wet washcloth. Lingering salt on your dog’s paws may be absorbed, according to a trusted veterinarian friend. Instead, wipe your dog’s paws with a dry cloth.
I’m sure you’re as ready for sun and spring as I am. However, I hope these quick tips will help keep your dog or puppy happy, safe, and comfortable all winter long.
Given that everyone with access to the internet can post their opinions or poorly researched articles, it’s tough to determine true and false information about dog behavior. Too often, folks rely on shared knowledge from family and friends, who base conclusions (that you’re relying on to keep your family safe) on one dog they’ve known, a story they heard from a co-worker, or a tragic tale they read online.
Our canine companions and two-legged loved ones pay if we’re not comparing facts or looking to scientific sources to prevent scary situations.
Read on for two myths that are commonly shared to prevent dog bites and well-founded ways to keep your family safe.
Myth Buster #1: There are no dangerous breeds.
I could tell you that I live with a dog who looks like a breed often labeled as “dangerous” and that he’s the sweetest, smushiest being I’ve ever met. I could also tell you that while two dogs who broke out of their backyard attacked us that Gavin laid there, helpless, rather than attacking back. And I could also share that my dog has volunteered with 100s of school children and hospice patients, all of whom loved him for his gentle, affectionate nature—all true.
However, I’m telling you there is no dangerous breed because I formally studied animal behavior, alongside world-renowned experts, when I obtained my master’s degree. I’ve worked with more than 3,500 dogs since 2001. And I’ve met dogs of every breed that wiggled and jiggled and I’ve also met dogs in the same breed family who scared me so badly that it took days for my nerves to recover from fear.
When we label a dog dangerous because of his breed, purely based on head, ear, or body shape—nice dogs die every minute because people overlook them in shelters. Sure, there are aggressive dogs in shelters, but often dogs are barking as you pass them because they desperately need attention and mental stimulation, that shelter volunteers can’t always provide. And these homeless dogs are locked up in a loud, strange place, with only a cold concrete floor to sleep. Once those dogs have a safe, warm home and appropriate exercise, many of them relax and become amazing family dogs.
Labeling a dog dangerous doesn’t prevent bites. Monitoring a new dog’s behavior, slowly introducing your dog to family and friends, and praising and rewarding him for making good choices, maintaining relaxed body language, and not cowering or tensing in real-life scenarios will prevent dog bites. However, not giving a dog space who’s exhibiting warning signs or allowing a toddler to corner a trembling or growling dog will put you and your family in danger, no matter what breed, color, shape, or size.
This leads to a horrible side effect when we label some breeds as dangerous. By default, a dog who’s not that breed is automatically considered safe. What then happens is Breed A isn’t left alone with your child, because you read somewhere that dogs who look like him are conditioned to hurt people. However you deduce that it’s ok to keep Breed B in the same room with your toddler while he’s chewing on a bone because Breed B isn’t on some dangerous breed list—Breed B is fluffy, Breed B is the same breed of dog you had growing up, and he never bit anyone.
Every dog is different. Assuming a dog is safe because his physical characteristics are similar to your childhood dog puts the people you love in potentially dangerous situations.
It takes an entire year to know an adult dog, to really understand what makes him happy, scared, defensive, or none of the above, so practice common sense. Reward your dog when you walk towards him and his bone and praise your dog for any relaxed body language on walks, even if a child is two blocks away.
Myth Buster #2: It’s not always how you raise dogs.
Yes, puppies have development periods, and the more positive experiences a puppy has as he’s maturing have long-term effects on his behavior. A puppy who’s had a traumatic or scary experience around children at five months of age is more likely to develop fear-based behaviors towards children than a puppy who’s been introduced to one child at a time, at a pace that keeps him carefree.
However, dogs are intelligent, emotional, and social creatures. I’ve met countless rescue dogs that softly lean into the first person that offers a loving lap, even after being neglected and abused for years. And, I’ve seen homeless dogs with horrible scars indicating they’ve been attacked by other dogs yet, they play bow and wiggle for new dogs they meet in controlled, thoughtful introductions.
Again, the key is to use common sense. You don’t bring home a dog with an unknown history or a terribly sad past and just let him loose with your resident dogs, hoping for the best. You let them sniff each other through a fence (at a distance and butt first). You walk them together. You traipse around in large circles, on a leash (how dogs not seeking conflict approach each other) without physical contact in a neutral area—always watching body language before getting one inch closer to each other. For some dogs, the acclimation process may take weeks and months before you’re ready to let them off-leash (no toys, food, or other valuable resources), but it’s worth the time to keep your precious pup safe and not send a dog who’s already experienced trauma and abandonment back to the shelter.
Every dog is different. Give your rescue dog time to take in the smells and sights of his new home before any face to face introduction, people, or dog.
It may seem easy to consider a dog unsafe based on his looks or to assume puppies can’t develop behavioral issues (another myth for another day). However, once you see low-level stress signs and give your dog more time and space to acclimate to his world, you can’t unsee these subtle behaviors that will keep everyone safe.
What’s more adorable than a puppy dressed as a skunk or a stuffed cowboy riding on your dog’s back? For some dogs, it’s the appetizer on a miserable menu that Halloween dishes out. Read on to find out how much (if at all) your dog should be included in Halloween hubbub.
To dress up or not dress up.
While you’ll likely get many likes on the photo of your gussied up pup, it’s not for every dog. Many dogs dislike all the gear and gadgets (often bulky or physically restrictive) involved in elaborate costumes. However, some dogs LOVE dressing up. Every dog is different, so watch your dog’s body language. If his mouth tightens, his posture appears hunkered down, or he lays on the ground with sad puppy eyes, it’s unfair to leave the costume on him and even worse to laugh while he’s silently begging you to remove the distressing duds.
If you’re unsure, start with minimal attire like our friend Indy. His bow tie, cufflink ensemble, is super cute, and he looks like he’s ready to join the party rather than collapsing into crestfallen costume condition. You may also notice that Indy isn’t wearing a top hat or fancy glasses. A lot of pups dislike objects on their face or head. Think before you dress up your dog to make sure his disguise is just as fun for him as it is for you.
The bottom line, if your dog looks miserable, take off his costume.
The masking effect
Once a year, your pup is exposed to people wearing imposing paraphernalia covering their eyes and causing them to move erratically, evoking confusion and fear to even the most people-pleasing pet. When your neighbor’s child wears a large hat or mask, her silhouette changes—she’s no longer the same person to your dog. So, to assure everyone has a happy and safe Halloween, grab some treats and train your dog to like ghoulish gizmos. Put on your jumbo sunglasses or clown wig and reward your dog for remaining wiggly. Play a Halloween sound on your laptop (low volume) and reinforce your pup for relaxed body language.
Often when I coach folks to desensitize their pups to sights and sounds that might scare them in an unfamiliar place or with an unknown person, their response is, “I tried it, but he didn’t do anything, so I stopped.” Why would you stop? You’re not training your dog to run, cower, or tremble when you put on a unicorn wig. You’re teaching him to relax when someone he knows and trusts dons a Medusa headdress, so when a stranger wears the same costume, it’s less scary.
Spend five minutes a day creating positive associations with Halloween garb, so your pup is less spooked.
In dreamland, it’s a grand idea to include your dog in trick-or-treat festivities, but, as I’ve already mentioned, costumes can be downright unnerving to dogs so, a parade of masks, hats, glasses, and devilish duds coming at your dog may cause horrible trauma. Not only are you asking him to endure endless eerie ensembles, but groaning, creaking, and rattling lawn decorations make trick-or-treating extra terrifying for fearful pups.
If you choose to keep your pup at home, someone should stay home with him, ensuring he feels extra safe. For some dogs, kids galore at the door incite the SOMEONE’S HERE response over and over again, so plan to make sure your precious pup doesn’t escape—one second of sidewalk stirring could send him scurrying into the street.
For the specially scaredy dogs (especially if you can’t stay home), it’s best to put a nice note on the door asking neighbors not to ring the doorbell. If you leave a basket of candy for trick-or-treaters on the front porch, you’ll prevent your pup from getting roused up every two seconds and still be a good neighbor.
Help your fearful or anxious dog by staying home and preventing commotion that may scare him.
While Halloween is fun for many humans, please keep these tips in mind, so your hound’s holiday isn’t a harrowing experience.
After a long day at work, all you want to do is relax with your dog, right? Some dogs are happiest when snuggling on your lap while you binge-watch your favorite show. However, many dogs need help calming down. Here are a few tips to help your tireless dog rest when you need to unwind.
Make sure you’re meeting your dog’s mental and physical needs. Too often, folks expect their dogs to chill out when they return home from work when their dogs have been alone, often sleeping, all day. Unfortunately, that’s an unfair expectation. For some dogs, a neighborhood jaunt sufficiently provides what they need to nap while you eat dinner and catch up with your partner. However, some pups need a much longer walk, a hearty game of fetch or tug, or training. Tricks, games, and exercise are great ways to burn energy AND have fun with your dog, so he’s more likely to sit around with you.
Teach your dog to relax.
Some dogs don’t naturally know how to relax—they always need to be doing or into something. So, it’s your job to teach your insatiably curious canine how to do nothing when you need it most. For your busy-bee dog, practice the Do Nothing Game, so he gets rewarded for, well, doing nothing (a variation on Sue Sternberg’s the Nothing Game).
Step One: Grab a handful of non-smelly treats (broken into teeny tiny pieces) and your smartphone. Pull up the clock application on your phone and click on the stopwatch. Next, start the timer and place your treats behind your back. If your dog is not barking and not jumping for five seconds, say “yes” and treat him. Repeat at the ten-second mark, repeat at the 15-second mark, and continue for one to two minutes.
Step Two: Assess your dog’s capabilities. Was Doing Nothing for five-second increments easy for your dog? If yes, then begin treating at the ten-second mark and in ten-second increments the next day. If the exercise was extremely difficult for your dog, use less exciting treats, and treat him in two-second increments. Now you see why I suggested TEENY TINY treats, don’t you?
Step Three: Increase your dog’s time to Do Nothing, based on his personality and capabilities. You’re not in competition with anyone, and every dog is different. If it takes an entire month for your dog not to dance around, not tap his paws, not nudge you, and not bark for ten-second increments, it’s time well spent because you’re teaching him to do what you want—relax.
The longer it takes for your dog to learn this game, the harder it is for him to relax, and the more important it is for you to practice.
Be proactive before you sit back. If you’ve had a crazy day and can’t walk or train your endless energy dog, give him something to occupy himself before you sit down for the night. Providing a hearty chew (supervised, of course) or a frozen Kong prevents begging for attention, chewing up shoes, and barking at every neighbor who passes your home. If you’re giving your dog many bones and toys to prevent naughty behavior, please revisit the first section. Your dog may need more mental or physical exercise.
Never reinforce unwanted behavior.
One of the easiest mistakes to make is sitting on the sofa, ready to relax, and your dog barks, so you grab a bully stick from the pantry to occupy him. Unfortunately, giving a chew toy at that moment will reward your dog for barking. Don’t wait for your dog to act out to give him a busy toy. Give it to him as a preventative tool before you sit down, and before he barks.
Not all dogs love relaxing and napping. However, you can teach your perpetually peppy puppy to hang out with you without always needing something to do with practice.
Many dog problems arise from one main issue—lack of impulse control. Your dog sees another dog across the street, leftover dinner on the table, a squirrel running up the tree, or a child tossing a ball at the park, and he MUST HAVE IT. Whether your dog is pulling, jumping, or grabbing what’s not his, it’s embarrassing and potentially dangerous.
Teaching your dog or puppy to “wait” will prevent a trip to the emergency room because he devoured a chocolate bar from your purse or chased a critter into a busy street, pulling you along with him.
Here’s how to teach your dog to pause when he wants something.
STEP ONE: Start with the most boring treat possible. If the treat is only mildly appealing, your dog will more likely understand that “wait” means wait. Hold the treat over your dog’s head and if he’s not jumping, not barking, and not grabbing the treat from your hand, say “yes” and give your dog the cookie. Repeat the exercise using the same treat a few more times.
STEP TWO: Use a more appealing treat OR ask your dog to wait longer for the same treat. For dogs to succeed, you can’t increase two aspects of difficulty at the same time. You’ll confuse your poor pup. By increasing the value of the treat separately from requiring a longer “wait” time, your dog will understand what you want MUCH quicker. Repeat this step every day for at least a few days.
STEP THREE: Ask your dog to “wait” for everything he likes: walks, food, couch time, toys, and play. If your dog loves walks and jumps around like a wackadoo when you’re trying to get outside, don’t wait until you’re opening the door to ask for a “wait.” Give the cue as you walk towards the door, “yes” and grab the leash if he’s still calm (this may mean kinda sorta composed, tranquility takes time for some dogs). Grab your keys if he’s not jumping around. Say “yes” and place your hand on the doorknob if he’s not squealing and nipping your arms. To your dog, every movement you make indicates he’s going outside. Use your interactions to encourage good behavior, and you’ll not only have a better behaved dog, but you’ll use less treats teaching him to be a good boy.
Avoid common mistakes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends show off their dog’s best trick by placing a treat on the ground and saying “leave it, leave it, leave it.” Then, they tell their dog “ok” while I stand there wondering how confusing it must be for the dog. First, the treat was forbidden, then the treat wasn’t forbidden.
Use “leave it” for items that are always off-limits, and “wait” for permitted items.
The second issue I commonly see is folks practice “wait” with treats and food but not with other life rewards. If you’re not practicing “wait” at the door, your dog is not going to learn to calmly, patiently wait at the door. If your dog is too excited or you lack the patience to train “wait” at the door, practice AFTER a walk or playtime in the backyard. If your dog is tired, he’ll be more likely to await instruction before walking through the door—saving time and frustration.
The last unwritten rule: Don’t make your dog work for something he hates. If you have a hard time getting your dog to eat, it doesn’t make sense having him “wait” for dinner. You’ll only add social pressure to a situation where your dog is already struggling. Your time is better spent placing his toys in a closet and having him “wait” before you initiate a tug or fetch game. And, remember “wait” is not “sit.”
You’re looking for calm, polite behavior before you give your dog what he wants. If you practice “wait” throughout the day, your dog will learn patience, even when he sees something he REALLY wants.