Posts Tagged ‘dog training’

Dog Trick Training Goals for 2014

February 3, 2014
Pierson on a Leash with Look Command

Because Pierson knows the “look” command, it is easy to get his attention so he can learn new dog tricks.

On Friday, I went over how I’ve managed to keep my New Year Resolution to teach Maya and Pierson more dog tricks. So far we are on the right track. But a resolution shouldn’t end after just one month. I want to keep going. So I’ve made a list of tricks and have resolved to teach at least one a month:

*Heel-Sit – Maya and Pierson know heel and they know sit, but they don’t know how to do both at the same time with a specific command. Yes, they will sit at my side if I stop walking at a walk, but I want them to be able to do it when I call them from across the yard or something.

*Sit in a Specific Spot – I think once they learn to heel and sit at my side on command, it will be easier for me to teach them to sit in a specific spot I point to. This will help me with photo-taking.

*Stand – Stand means to stand up on four feet after being in a sit or down position. Sephi knew how to do this one, but I don’t think I taught Maya. Or if I did teach it to Maya, I haven’t made her do it in so long that she’s probably forgotten.

*Back up – To back up means to walk backwards. I think it will be easy and fun to teach. It can be especially useful if Maya and Pierson are trying to crowd me for their treats or toys.

*Cover Your Eyes – I don’t think this one will be easy, but I think it would be fun to try anyway. They both know how to shake, and I saw in a book how I can get them to cover their eyes.

*Wave – I started this one with Pierson some time back but didn’t stick to it. Once I have a better idea on how to teach it, and when I commit to teaching more consistently, I think both he and Maya will get it.

*Roll in a Blanket – I bet Pierson will learn this one easily since he’s done it on accident a few times. He will already grab his blanket on command so it is a matter of getting him to roll over with it in his mouth. Teaching this to Maya will probably be more difficult since she has no interest in the blanket.

Pierson Playing with Blanket

Pierson was getting stir crazy in winter. He wrapped this blanket around his head by himself while playing.

*Jump Up – I won’t teach this to Maya because I am worried she may develop arthritis. She’s a Lab and I understand Labs are quote prone to this. Pierson, on the other hand, is quite bouncy. It will be a breeze to teach him to do this on command.

*Put Toys Away – This one will be the most challenging. I can already get them to pick up a toy, but to teach them to put it in their toy box will be a bit more challenging. Putting toys away is completely backwards from what they want to do with the toys!

I got many of these ideas from the “101 Dog Tricks” book by Kyra Sundance and her dog Chalcy. She has some great ideas on how to get dogs to put toys away and cover their eyes. The book does not give detailed step-by-step, like what showed on Friday for teaching “all the way” and “hold”. But since I am a certified dog trainer, I can fill in the blanks easily enough.

This list may change or be taught in a different order. But having a list will help me stay on track with our dog training resolution. If Maya and Pierson learn each trick so quickly, why am I taking a whole month between each? There are a few reasons for this:

1. Reinforcement – Repeating the same trick for several days helps them retain what they’ve learned.

2. Gives Confidence – By having Maya and Pierson do dog tricks they already know, they have the confidence and the desire to learn more.

Synchronized Spinning

Synchronized Spinning – Maya and Pierson have this trick mastered. So if they don’t succeed at a new trick, I give them the command for another trick they know well so that training ends on a positive note.

3. Keeps Training Fun – Learning is more fun when you do things right. If you’re being told you’re doing things wrong more often than you’re being told you’re doing things right, then learning becomes a chore. When dog training becomes a chore, it is more challenging and, therefore, more frustrating. We enjoy training and we want to keep it that way.

Dog Tricks for Treats

Learning is also more fun when you get lots of treats. 😉

Do you like teaching your dog new tricks? What are some dog tricks you want to try?

January Train Your Dog Challenge

January 31, 2014

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to teach Maya and Pierson more dog tricks. So far, I have been pretty good about keeping this resolution. Maya and Pierson have learned two new things this January.

TEACHING ALL THE WAY (aka head down)

You saw Maya do the “all the way” trick posted on January 6th. Now I have a photo of both Maya and Pierson doing it together.

Head Down All the Way Dog Trick 002

Maya and Pierson have both mastered the dog trick where they put their heads all the way to the floor.

Have your dog lay down in front of you. Tell them to stay, and then squat down and put the treat in front of them. If they reach for it, say “no”, “eh eh”, or “wait”. Slowly bring the treat (or toy) to the floor, leading their nose downward. Say “all the way” or “head down” the moment their chin touches the floor. Then say “good” and give them the treat or toy as a reward.

If they have a hang of this, move the treat down and a little out so that their entire muzzle is flat on the floor. Next, work your way up to where they don’t just touch the floor, but actually rest their head on the floor for a few moments.

Eventually, you will be able to say the command without having to put the treat in front of their nose and leading them into the position. Don’t worry if they don’t get to this point right away, like Maya. Train for only a few minutes at a time and be sure your training session always ends with a reward. So if your dog doesn’t get to the point where his entire muzzle is on the floor, that’s okay. Reward him if he is at least getting his chin to touch the floor. Reward your dog for what he can do and stop training before your dog gets bored or before either of you get frustrated.

The hardest part of this trick for both Maya and Pierson was keeping them from trying to crawl after the treat in my hand. It’s easier to teach this trick if your dog already knows to stay or wait.

TEACHING HOLD AND CATCH (aka balancing a treat on the nose then flipping it into the mouth)

The next trick is still in progress. I’m trying to get them to balance a treat on their nose, and then catch it when I give the release command. Once again, Maya was the first to get a hang of the trick. She will hold still without me having to hold her nose while Pierson still needs me to touch him. Both of them are still trying to learn how to flip the treat into their mouths rather than flip the treat behind them. Maya catches them more often than Pierson.

Pierson Balances Dog Treat on Nose

“I can see the dog treat. Why can’t I eat it?”

To teach this trick, hold your dog’s muzzle. Be gentle. Don’t make them uncomfortable, but hold on well enough that they can’t move around. When they seem to be holding still, give the “hold” command. Reward.

Next, add a treat to the mix. Hold your dog’s muzzle and gently balance the treat on their nose. This is a very tough one for most dogs because the can see the treat and really want to move so they can get the treat. Hold their nose gently and say “hold”. If they try to move out of your hand say “no” or “eh eh”, whichever your dog is more familiar with. If you dog doesn’t try to move out of your hand, hold for a few seconds. If he does try to move out of your hand, hold for only a split second. Try to only hold for just under the most amount of time your dog will hold still. You can gradually increase this amount of time over several training sessions.

When you reward them, let go of their muzzle and give the release command. I can say “catch”, but I use “okay”, which is the command I use to release them from “stay” or “leave it”. At this point, don’t worry about whether your dog flips the treat in their mouth. You want to teach them to balance it first.

Once you think they understand the “hold” command means to hold still, cradle their muzzle in your hand rather than hold it. After several successes, simply touch their chin when you give the “hold” command. Eventually, you can have them balance the treat on their nose without you having to hold them still at all.

Pierson Tries to Balance Dog Treat on Nose

I still have to touch Pierson’s chin in order to get him to hold still and balance the dog treat on his nose.

To teach them to catch the treat rather than flip it backwards is not easy. The best way I can say to do this is to double-reward them when they do it. In other words, if you give the release command and the flip the treat behind them, let them get the treat as their reward. But if they actually flip the treat in their mouth, give them another great right away and give lots of extra praise. Make a big deal out of their success.

The hardest part about this trick for Maya and Pierson is teaching them to hold still. I think it was easier for Maya because I have sort of used it before when I tried to balance my glasses on her nose.

Maya Balancing Dog Treat on Nose

Maya is good at balancing a dog treat on her nose.

Student Dog Maya Wearing Glasses

Maya already knew how to hold still and balance a pair of glasses, so teaching her to balance a treat on her nose was easy.

January is train your dog month. Dog training doesn’t have to be a chore. Teaching tricks is a lot of fun. So take up the challenge and remember to keep training sessions short and train often.

To see what’s next on our dog trick training agenda, come back on Monday to see. 🙂

Check out the blog hop below for more Train Your Dog stories, tips, and challenges.

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Learn More Dog Tricks – A New Year’s Resolution

January 6, 2014

Pierson's Fuzzy Feet

The first half of 2013 went pretty well with dog training. Then I got lazy in the summer. Sure, Maya and Pierson earned lots of treats by doing dog tricks, but they didn’t learn anything new. I only reinforced tricks they already knew. So one of my resolutions for 2014 is to teach Maya and Pierson more dog tricks.

I started this resolution out right on January 3rd when I taught Maya a new trick. I call it “all the way”, which means put your head down all the way to the floor. Maya figured out what I was trying to get her to do in the very first 3 minute session! Pierson was much too excited about the treats to get it the first time around. But by the third training session, which was on the 4th, he got it! Since our training sessions are short, it took Maya less than 3 minutes to learn and Pierson less than 9 minutes.

Teaching the trick was very simple. I put them in the down position, and then led their noses down to the floor and out. I put both the “stay” command and the “all the way” command together. Sounds simple, right? It was for me. But I have a really good training relationship with my dogs. We understand each other well. Maya and Pierson are good at figuring out what I want them to do, and I understand their limitations and try to work with them accordingly.

Pierson Head Down Looking Up

Me – “All the way.”
Pierson – “Okay, but I want that cookie in your hand.”

I think dog training works a lot better when you train together regularly, even if it is with stuff the dogs already know. Maya and Pierson get treats almost every day. And they know they always have to earn those treats. So when the treats come out, they are automatically ready to listen and take action. Plus, I keep the training sessions short. Three to five minutes at the most. It keeps us from getting bored, ensures I can find time, and several small sessions help them retain information better than one long session.

So what’s new on the dog training agenda? I sure would like to make it easier to get good photos of them. This means I need them to sit where I tell them instead of wherever they want. I would also like for them to stay in the position I put them in. So if I want their head to face a certain way, I need to teach them that stay means to not move at all. Maybe I will call it a “freeze” command. I’ve already started this a little with trying to get them to balance a treat on their nose.

I also want to do a different version of the “look” command where I have them look certain directions without me having to point. These dog tricks will really help me when I make more pet travel videos or take photos of them wearing their dog seat belts or using other pet travel products from my retail site. Although they will be learning these things for work, I will make sure it is fun. Maya and Pierson love to learn and I want to keep it that way.

We have a few more resolutions in 2014, including staying fit. But they aren’t “new” resolutions. They are just promises to keep doing what we are already doing. Maya and Pierson are already very fit and already eat healthy. We resolve to keep up with that trend.

So what is a New Year’s Resolution you have with your dog?

Dog Training Pays Off at Dogtoberfest

November 11, 2013

Last month I talked about how I fell short on dog training. Despite my shortcomings, Maya and Pierson have really come a long way. Maya’s behavior at Dogtoberfest reflected this. She was such a good girl!

Yes, when Maya first arrived she did try to drag my husband to the park where Dogtoberfest was held. But this was only because of her initial excitement. When Maya gets excited she is extremely difficult to manage. But I’ve learned that once her excitement wears off (about 10 to 15 minutes) she is much more manageable and will listen to my commands. So for the first 10 minutes of Maya’s arrival at Dogtoberfest there was pulling, barking, butt-wiggling, tail wagging, and all-around happiness. But for the rest of the day after that, Maya was relatively calm.

Dogtoberfest here in Lawrence was held downtown in South Park on October 6th this year. There were a lot of activities including a dog-walk-a-fest, disc dogs, canine good citizen, dog agility, dog training demonstrations, face painting for kids, bobbing for hotdogs for dogs, etc. In between activities, people could visit all the vendors and dogs up for adoption through the Lawrence Humane Society and various rescue groups.

Dog Maya Playing with Stick 2

There was not a single dull moment for my dog Maya at the Dogtoberfest. While I tended my booth, Maya found a stick to play with. Sticks are her favorite toys.

I was one of the vendors for Pet Auto so unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to check out all the activities and the other vendors. Maya stayed with me and showed off her new ClickIt Utility dog seat belt. She was an excellent model. And she was a good dog in other ways, too. Many people wanted to pet her. She actually managed to sit still in most cases. She did try to jump a couple of times, but I was expecting it and was able to keep her from doing it.

Dog Maya Playing with Stick 1

Yep, Maya really does love sticks. That red thing she is wearing, by the way, is her new ClickIt Utility dog seat belt.

Maya did very well with other dogs, as usual. Other than the initial excited barking in the morning of the event, she didn’t bark again for the rest of the day. I’m so proud of my Maya.

Have you had any recent breakthroughs in dog training?

Low Maintenance Dogs?

June 1, 2013

Want a dog that is relatively easy to care for? One that doesn’t require regular brushing, grooming, exercise, or other kinds of regular attention? Are there such dogs? I found some:

Stuffed Dogs

The Lowest of the Low Maintenance Dogs

LOL! Seriously, though. Even low maintenance dogs are work. Sure, some are more work than others. But they still require daily attention and care. Here is a list of the normal regular tasks that I do for Maya and Pierson:


  • Feed twice a day – Some dogs do well at being fed once a day while others, especially younger dogs, need fed at least three times a day. Consult your veterinarian for the proper feeding schedule and amounts. Some estimated feeding instructions on dog food bags are inaccurate.
  • Give plenty of water – I always make sure their water bowl is full of fresh water.
  • Potty time – I let Maya and Pierson outside several times throughout the day.
  • Pick up poop from the yard – Sometimes you can get away with doing this ever-other-day or even once a week, but for optimal health (and so Pierson won’t eat Maya’s poo), I do this every day.
  • Walk – Every dog needs exercise. How much varies per dog. Some dogs need more vigorous exercise, like running, while others just need a short jaunt. Maya and Pierson each walk about a mile or so almost every day (except in winter when I tend to get lazy).
  • Play – How often and how long varies per dog. Pierson has dog agility equipment in the back yard. He doesn’t use it on his own. I direct him to it and it is both playing and dog training. Both Maya and Pierson get bored with play after about 15 minutes or so.
  • Brush teeth – I never had to do this every day until I got Pierson the poop-eater. Some dogs who are good chewers can get away with a weekly brushing with a dog tooth brush and toothpaste.
  • Dog Training – Regular training is always a good idea, no matter how low maintenance the dog is. I do a short session of 3 minutes or more of dog tricks or obedience in order to keep the things I taught them fresh in their minds.
  • Wash food and water bowls.
  • Pet and cuddle.
Pull No More dog harness

I take the dogs for a walk almost every day.

Maya Yellow Ball 1

Maya will jump to try to catch this yellow ball, but it is too big so it bounces off her nose. She loves the game, nonetheless.

Pierson Makes it Through the Agility Tunnel

Pierson goes through the dog agility tunnel.

Brush Your Dog's Teeth

Brush your dog’s teeth so they look healthy like Maya’s.

Me and Maya on the Porch Swing

Maya’s not usually allowed on the furniture in the house, but I always let her cuddle with me on the outside porch swing.


  • Brush hair – In spring, Maya and Pierson need this done daily with de-shedding dog brushes. Some dogs may require more brushing while others may not require any.
  • Cut nails
  • Check ears and eyes – Clean as needed. Maya sometimes gets goo in her eyes. Pierson tends to get gunk built up in his ears.
My Dog Pierson Shedding

Springtime means more use of the de-shedding dog brush.

Maya Getting Nails Cut

Maya lies on the porch quietly and calmly as I cut her toenails. We’ve been doing this almost every week since she was a puppy.


  • Give a bath – Additional grooming may be needed for dogs that need haircuts, such as the some non-shedding varieties.
  • Wash dog beds
  • Give medications – I give my dogs monthly Heartgard and flea and tick preventions. Some people have found more natural remedies to prevent against heartworms, fleas, ticks, and other pests.
Pierson Towel

A wet Pierson after a bath. In summer, I give the dogs a bath outside. In winter, we go to Pawsh Wash.

Maya & Pierson on Dog Bed

It is probably time to wash the dog beds and blankets again.


  • Visit the veterinarian for an annual checkup – Additional visits during the year may be needed for unexpected health issues.
  • Travel – My husband and I travel at least twice a year. When we do, we either take the dogs with us or find someone to take care of them while we are gone. When they travel with us, it is by car and they wear their dog seat belts.
Maya Pierson SUV Dog Seat Belts

Maya & Pierson ride in the back of the SUV for our trip from Kansas to Texas. Both are wearing dog seat belts.

These are things all dogs need. So if you don’t have a dog, you want a dog, but want one that doesn’t require much responsibility, then look this list over carefully. If you feel you can’t provide one of them, then consider the kind of low maintenance dogs in the photo at the top of the page. Real dogs require real work. Fortunately, the rewards are infinite.

Did I forget anything? What regular tasks do you do for your pets?

***Added later… Rumpy Dog asked an excellent question. The purpose of my article was not to point out all the things you should be doing. I do not intend to criticize anyone who might do things differently. How I choose to care for Maya and Pierson are not intended to be held up as an ideal. I am not perfect. The purpose of this article is to show people who are considering getting a dog and people who are looking specifically for low maintenance dogs that there is still a lot of work that goes into caring for a dog. It is very sad when someone buys or adopts a dog, then gives them up later because the dog is more work than they expected. See my reply to Rumpy Dog below.

Thanks Rumpy for asking this question. 🙂

Ten Dog Training Mistakes I Make

May 25, 2013
Pierson on a Leash with Look Command

Teaching the ‘look’ command to get my dog Pierson’s attention when we see other dogs.

I read a great article some time back from Modern Dog Magazine. It listed ten dog training mistakes that people make. These mistakes are easy to fall into, and oftentimes we don’t even realize we are doing them. But once you recognize them, you can easily remedy them. I have listed the top ten below and also noted how I personally make those mistakes with Maya and Pierson.

1. I don’t train my dogs often enough. I tend to get lazy in winter when it comes to walking the dogs. As a result, every spring I have to start over with how to walk on a leash without pulling and with dealing with leash reactiveness with other dogs.

2. I sometimes repeat commands. I’m not supposed to say ‘sit’ more than once. Maya and Pierson should sit immediately after I give them the command. Otherwise, they learn they don’t have to sit unless I say it more than once. Honestly, I don’t make this mistake often in regular circumstances. But when we are in public and their attention is diverted, I find that I repeat myself. To overcome this mistake, I really need to work with Maya and Pierson regularly and in various situations – not just at home where it is quiet.

3. My training sessions run too long or too short. Actually, I think we’re fine on this. Our training sessions are generally short, but frequent. I make sure all training sessions end with success and I don’t drag out training to the point where it is no longer fun. Three sessions a day each lasting three minutes has worked perfectly for Maya and Pierson.

4. My dogs’ obedience behaviors are not generalized to varying conditions. This is what I meant when I talked about how I have to repeat commands in public situations.

5. I rely too much on treats and not enough on praise. Actually, this is another one that I don’t really have trouble with. Both Maya and Pierson have a number of commands they obey without having to be bribed with treats. For example, they obey the ‘play dead’ trick specifically for the belly rubs. Also, Pierson’s ‘speak’ command was taught exclusively for a praise reward.

6. I use too much emotion. No, I don’t get irritated or angry during training sessions. But sometimes I can go over the top with praise, especially in the beginning stages of training. Sometimes, this excites Maya to the point that she is no longer able to focus.

7. I am reactive, not proactive. I should have been working with Maya and Pierson on their leash walking and leash reactiveness before I started having problems. I should have been worked on their training at home before slowly introducing them to public situations. Since I didn’t, bad habits developed and now I have to work harder to overcome difficult behaviors.

8. I am inconsistent. This goes hand-in-hand with number one where I don’t train my dogs often enough. When I am teaching a new command and trick, I am generally consistent to the point that they master it. Then I follow up every now and then to make sure they still remember. But I have not applied that same consistency with leash walking and leash reactiveness.

9. I lack confidence. Actually, I don’t think this one applies to me. I think I am pretty good at training when I put my effort into it. I know my own shortcomings, with the biggest being that I put off working on training aspects that I find the most difficult and time consuming (leash walking and leash reactiveness).

10. I don’t train to the individual dog. Actually, I don’t make this mistake either. At least I don’t any more. I used to train Sephi and Maya together. But after I got Pierson, I realized that training them to walk on a leash properly was a lot more difficult if I walked them both at the same time. So now, I walk them each separately. If I take them out to a public setting, I seldom take both of them at the same time. Even with fun training, I try to keep them separate. When I was teaching Pierson agility, I had Maya sit and stay while I worked with him for a minute or so. Then I had Pierson sit and stay while I worked with Maya on different tricks. This technique works really well since both got to practice their sit and stay in a situation where it was very tempting not to stay.

Even though I think I am relatively good at dog training, I am far from perfect. I am like a lot of other people out there with dogs in that I make mistakes too. It’s okay if we make mistakes, so long as we try to learn from them. What about you? Do you make any of these training mistakes with your dogs? Don’t be afraid to speak up. No one here will criticize you. 🙂

Top ten mistakes borrowed from the Modern Dog Magazine. Click for more info.

Following My Own Dog Training Tips?

March 23, 2013

Pull No More dog harness

My dogs are great, but not perfect. At home, they are the best most well behaved dogs. I don’t have to worry about them getting on the furniture, getting into the trash, chewing up my things, or stealing food from the table or counters. Even when I am not home I know I can trust them. But out in public, it’s like they are suddenly possessed. And I know it is mostly my own fault. Why is it that I can train dogs so perfectly at home, but still fall so short? I think I know the answers, but it is just a matter of implementing the following dog training tips:

Frequent and Consistent Dog Training
I have gotten really lazy this winter. I’d rather play with my dogs indoors or put on a jacket to play with them a few minutes outdoors than take them for a walk in the cold weather. This means any gains I have made by the end of fall with leash training are forgotten and I have to practically start all over again in the spring.

Socialization as an Ongoing Process
This same logic about frequency and consistency applies to how my dogs behave around other dogs. Since they haven’t been around other dogs much this winter, their behavior has gotten out of control again. In the fall, I took Pierson downtown once a week so I could help Dogtoberfest sell calendars to raise money for the Lawrence Humane Society. This was outdoors so we saw a lot of people and quite a few dogs. Pierson was naughty at times, but by the final week he was doing great. When winter came, I didn’t keep it up. Now, on those rare times in the winter when we do go for a walk, he goes absolutely nuts when he sees another dog. Maya does it too, although her reason is because she is so excited, not because she is being aggressive. If I had been exposing Maya and Pierson to other dogs more often over winter, would they be acting this way? Probably not.

Pierson's Real Dog Training Tips

My dog Pierson talks about how dog training really works. (Pin me!)

Don’t Let the Dogs Train Me
I just realized that Pierson has me trained. I don’t like my dogs to disturb my neighbors so if they start barking when they are outside, I make them come back inside. Yesterday, Pierson decided to start barking. It sounded like he was barking at something, generally at the squirrel that lives next door or at a person walking by the house. But when I went to go get him, he was sitting by the back door. Booger. He was barking at me to let him in!

This is an at home example, but does it apply to public situations too? Did I somehow train the dogs to pull on the leash when we go for a walk? If the dogs pull me on a walk, I stop and wait for them to stop pulling before moving on. That is how I am supposed to do it, anyway. But half the time, I don’t want to have to stop. After all, the walking is an exercise for me too. I want to get my heart rate up for cardio and so I can warm up in the cold weather, but I can’t do that if I have to stop every time Maya or Pierson pulls on the leash. I am just going to have to decide which is more important – leash training or cardio exercise. (If I stick with the dog training, eventually I can have it both ways.)

So there you have it. I am great at giving advice on how to train dogs, but not very good at taking my own advice. I know what to do, but have gotten lazy about doing it. And now I am paying the price. Winter is almost over so no more excuses. It’s time to get off my behind and put my words into practice!

What about you? Do your dogs have behavior problems that you know certain dog training tips can fix, but you just haven’t done them yet? I’m sure I’m not the only one so fess up! 😉

My dog Maya as an angel and devil

I should change this to read, Angel at Home; Devil in Public. (Pin me!)

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Crate Training Your Dog is not a Substitute for Dog Training

March 9, 2013
Maya in her pet crate

Maya no longer has to go in her pet crate, but she does so because she wants to.

I recently joined this great G+ discussion group for dog psychology. And I’m learning so much! Not only have I gotten ideas for how to work with Pierson’s dog aggression issues, but I’ve also gotten a great perspective from other dog people all around the world. A topic that was discussed recently was crate training.

When the topic was brought up, all the strongest advocates for crate training were from those living in the US. Many outside the US felt that using a pet crate was unnecessary. From their perspective, this tool for training is an American fad.

Why is crate training your dog so popular in the US but not elsewhere like in Europe where people there love and care for their pets just as much as we do? Someone in the G+ discussion mentioned Cesar Milan. We’ve heard from numerous famous dog trainers about how great it is and it has caught on like wildfire. We hear all the hype about how helpful it is for potty training. We hear about how much dogs enjoy the makeshift ‘den’. And we hear it is a great behavioral solution to keep dogs from chewing on their stuff when they go to work all day. And sometimes the message goes so far as to say there is nothing wrong with leaving a dog in a pet crate all day.

Some of these things can be true. But the pet crate is merely one of many tools you can use for dog training. How many people do you know use the dog kennel as the one and only training method and as a substitute for other training? Because people are busy, they leave the dog in the crate all day while they go to work and don’t do much obedience training at all. For example, instead of training a dog to chew on his own toys and not your stuff, some people simply put their dog in a crate. Instead of rewarding a dog for going potty outside, some people only potty train by leaving their dog in the crate. And instead of teaching a dog not to get on the furniture, the dog is left in the crate so that he can’t get on the furniture.

Crate training your dog can be a very helpful tool. But you have to train them outside of the crate too if you ever expect them to really learn to behave properly. Have your dog stay in the crate when you aren’t home, but train them when you are home. Teach them the boundaries, like not being allowed on furniture. Give them alternatives to chewing on your stuff. Teach them that going potty outdoors is the best behavior. And test them from time to time by leaving them out of the pet crate when you are gone for short periods to see what they do.

There may be times when you have no choice but to leave your dog in a crate all day. I’ve done it on accident when I spent longer away than intended and my pet sitter wasn’t available. If you work all day and you don’t work close enough to home to visit your dog on your lunch break, make arrangements with a pet sitter. While a dog may be comfortable in their pet crate, it can’t be good to leave them in there for 9 to 10 hours straight.

Maya was the first and only dog I have ever crate trained. It did have great benefits in that it helped me potty train her and helped to keep her from chewing up my stuff when I wasn’t home. But because I also trained her in other ways, she no longer has to be locked in her crate. She goes in there on her own when she feels like it. It still is her security ‘den’. But because I can trust her not to get on the furniture or get into things when I am not home, she doesn’t have to go into her dog kennel unless she wants to.

Trying to crate train Pierson ended in disaster. He tried so desperately to escape the pet crate that I believe the bloody nose he got the following morning was a result of that fierce desperation. So Pierson was trained without one and he is now just as well-behaved and trustworthy as Maya.

If you are crate training your dog or if you promote using the dog kennel for training, remember that other obedience training methods must be used in conjunction. Don’t use the pet carrier as a substitute for dog training. Getting a dog means taking responsibility and taking responsibility means taking the time to train your dog without taking shortcuts. Positive reinforcement training is a great bonding experience and a fantastic way to get a well-behaved dog that doesn’t have to stay in the crate if he doesn’t want to.

Preparing for a New Dog

January 24, 2012

If you are having a new dog join your family, there are a few things you want to prepare for. Being prepared means you are less likely to be caught off guard and you have an idea of what to expect. Preparing for a new dog includes getting supplies as well as puppy proofing your home and yard.

Pet Supplies
By preparing for a new dog, you will be making sure that you have the basic pet supplies on hand. Basic pet supplies include a dog collar, leash, dog bed, dog brush, pet toenail clippers, dog car harness for traveling in the car, pet food, dog toys, and perhaps even a dog house.

Dog Training
If you have never trained a dog before, you will want to sign up for a dog training class. Also, read up on crate training, potty training, and basic obedience training.

Preparing for a new dog also means making sure you have the finances to care for a dog. Your initial costs will include pet supplies, initial checkup and shots at the vet, a monthly supply of Heartgard, flea & tick preventative, and spaying/nuetering costs. Veterinary checkups and shots will be an annual expense. Heartgard and flea & tick preventative will be a monthly expense. Then, of course, you have the regular expense of pet food. And you will want to make sure you have funds available for any pet health emergencies.

Potty Training
Consider buying good cleaning agents so that you can clean up any accidents in the house. If you are paper training, try using puppy pads instead of newspaper. Crate training will help potty train your dog too. Make sure you or a member of your family is able to let your new dog out regularly in order to reduce any chances of a potty accident.

If your new dog is under two years old, the chances are very good that he is going to chew on things. Crate training helps to keep your new dog from chewing things he is not supposed to when you are not home to watch him. When you are home, it also helps to restrict access to certain rooms. Consider baby locks for cabinets and keep things like shoes picked up. And buy your new dog lots of different kinds of chew toys.

Make sure your yard doesn’t have any holes under the fence. Watch your dog when he is outside and if digging, consider running chicken wire along the bottom edge of the fence.

If your dog will be outdoors a lot be sure to start correcting for barking as soon as possible. You do not want to disturb neighbors. For extreme barkers, you may use a bark shock collar or a collar that sprays an irritating smell.

Preparing for a new dog will help greatly in preventing inconveniences and behavior issues. By preparing for a new dog, you have a better idea of what to expect and won’t be surprised if something gets chewed or if your new dog has an accident in the house. You will also be better equipped to correct any issues and develop your new dog into a valued member of the family.

Dog Training Can Be Fun – Just Look at Maya

January 9, 2011

Remember the post where I said I was going to teach Maya some dog tricks from the book, “101 Dog Tricks”?  I was finally able to set aside some time and teach Maya how to shake hands with either her left or right paw.  I also taught her to spin circles.  These tricks were super simple to teach her and took almost no time.

Maya already knew how to shake paws, but she didn’t know the difference between left and right.  The book actually has you use one hand signal and two commands.  The two commands are “shake” for left paw and “paw” for right paw.  Despite the different commands, I think Maya figured it out by whichever hand I put out.  If I put out my right hand, she gives her left paw, and vise versa.

Spin circles was a little more difficult, but not by much.  The book actually teaches to spin either clockwise or counter-clockwise.  I have only taught Maya clockwise.  The command for clockwise is “around” but I say “turn around” instead.  Maya actually learned it so well that I don’t have to say anything.  I can actually just turn my hand in a circle and she does it.

How much time did I spend?  Less than 5 minutes a day for about 15 days.  I know my recent post about procrastinating was less than 15 days ago, but I have actually been working on these tricks for some time – just not every day in a row.  The “shake” for example, was started when I first bought the book and did a review.  However, I procrastinated and worked with Maya maybe once or twice a week – less often during the holidays.  But after the holidays and after my procrastination post, I worked with her every day until she completely understood.

These tricks aren’t very useful in the everyday scheme of things, but they sure are cute.  And just look at how much she enjoys it.  Remember that teaching your dog tricks is a good way to help your dog learn that training can be fun.  Teaching your dog tricks is also a good way to bond and establish a good relationship with your dog which will eventually lead to an all-around well-behaved dog.