Tips and Tricks
During the spring of 2020, we made a series of videos and blog posts about a variety of training topics. Learn tips to train your dog at home, get ideas on curbing unwanted behaviors and watch videos on fun “party tricks” you and your dog can use to impress all your friends! Read the blog posts and watch the videos on this page or visit our YouTube Channel for more.
May 15: Trick – Fun with a Yoga Mat
The yoga mat trick puts your dog’s nose to work. It is a great way to introduce dogs of all ages to a novel object that will help them gain confidence and build problem solving skills.
What you will need:
A yoga mat and lots of small little treats (probably none that are too sticky or smooshy!)
Step 1: Find a spacious place that can fit an unrolled yoga mat.
Step 2: Place treats in a line centered on the unrolled mat for about half the length to begin with.
Step 3: Roll up the mat, leaving a piece of treat for your dog to see at the beginning.
Step 4: Guide your dog’s nose to the first treat and praise as he gets closer.
Step 5: Help your dog to find the other treats by unrolling the mat little by little for him to see each one. With practice your dog will start to unroll the mat all on their own with their nose!
Step 6: Start to use less and less treats in the yoga mat, the better your dog gets.
May 12: Trick – Find It!
“Find it” is a great alternate behavior to teach jumpers, reactive dogs, nippers or to use just for fun! It directs your dog’s attention down towards the ground where they are immediately rewarded with a tasty treat. “Find it” is easy to teach because it uses a dog’s natural inclination to sniff.
What you need:
Lots of small, tasty treats in hand.
Step 1: Start teaching “Find it” in a quiet, familiar place. Toss a treat to the ground, not far from you and say “Find it.” Make sure your dog sees you tossing the treat and allow him to go eat it. Repeat this several more times.
Step 2: Start tossing new treats while your dog is still looking for the previous one. Stand still and ask your dog to “find it.” If he has a hard time, direct your gaze towards the treat while tapping your foot next to it and wait for your dog to see it.
Step 3: Slowly start practicing the game in different environments, such as outside. Practice with different distractions, such as when you reach for a his leash before a walk. Once your dog masters this skill, it can be used to redirect him from jumping, nipping, barking and more!
Training Tip 1:
Let your dog know when the game is over with your release cue such as “All done!”
Training Tip 2:
Increase the value of the treats for more distracting situations. Pieces of meatballs or chicken may work better than kibble when your dog is really excited and has a hard time concentrating.
Training Tip 3:
Toss your treats AWAY from a distraction your dog is focusing on. If there is a neighbor’s dog walking on a leash down the road in front of you, toss the treats in the opposite direction behind you to redirect your dog.
May 11: Tip – Puppies, Dogs and Kids
When families with children decide to adopt and integrate a young puppy (or even an adult dog) into their household, it is a time of excitement and joy. Family members of all ages look forward to the endless joy a puppy will bring into the home for years to come. We offer these suggestions to make sure that both your puppy and your children have the best opportunity to grow up and thrive together.
Prepare a Management Plan
Management is how we prevent unwanted behaviors from starting and is one of the most effective ways you can keep kids and dogs safe! Thinking ahead can help keep a chaotic household under control. Set up areas and safe zones for when you need some separation between your puppy and your kids. Three of the most common tools we use to set up management areas are:
Set a leash boundary. This allows your dog to be able to observe the family and baby, but saves you the worry of him coming underfoot. Make sure to always monitor your dog on a tether and never leave him alone.
A crate can be a comfy oasis for your dog. Use crates for positive timeouts opposed to punishment for naughty behavior. Set a schedule so your dog can look forward to time in his crate with some tasty treats or chew toys.
Exercise Pens and baby gates are one of the most popularly used management tools in families. It allows kids and dogs to move freely in their respective spaces while keeping safe boundaries. Make sure to supervise activity and that the gate you choose is secure.
To teach children and dogs how to co-exist, there needs to be a parent around. Always supervise children and dogs. It doesn’t matter how lovely the child, or how easy-going the dog. Active supervision is when the present adult is awake, alert and not distracted.
Even if your puppy and child have a history of fun and appropriate play together, they will still need help recognizing when it is time for a break. Make sure play sessions are short enough to end on a good note. If you are unable to provide active supervision, use your management plan!
Get Everyone Involved
Before or shortly after welcoming your new dog, make sure the entire family is on the same page on what is and is not allowed by all parties. This can help when life gets chaotic and you have to make a management or training decision. Start as soon as possible building a positive relationship with your child and puppy. Depending on their ages, children can help in various ways to contribute to your dog’s training and stay engaged with the responsibility of care.
• For younger children, have them “train” the dog to do behaviors the dog is already familiar with, like “sit” “down” or “touch.” When the dog performs the behavior, you can both say “good job!” and give your child a treat to hand to the dog.
• Teach your kids how to give a treat on a flat hand. While it might be slobbery, there is a much smaller chance the dog will get nippy around the treat.
• For older children, ask them what they want their dog to be able to do. Working toward a goal they are invested in will help engage them in the training process. You can watch videos together or consult a trainer for how to teach the behavior if you don’t know how to show them. Give both your kids and dog space to make mistakes and still have a good time.
Puppy Play Tip
Playtime with the puppy (or dog) should be fun for everyone involved!
Avoid playing physically rough with your puppy. While wrestling with a puppy may be fun and cute when they are little, they grow fast and may not understand why they can no longer jump all over you and your kids.
Playtime can include reinforcing the behaviors you do want from your puppy such as sitting and waiting. Use toys to play with your puppy to keep their mouths appropriately engaged. Help your puppy release energy with a game of fetch or an exploratory walk.
May 2: Tip – The 3 Ds of Dog Training
The following text is from AKC.org, by Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT, (May 03, 2018). The Three Ds of Dog Training: Duration, Distance, and Distraction.
Have you ever been surprised when your dog failed to do something that you were sure you had trained him to do? Perhaps he stays beautifully when you stand beside him in a quiet kitchen. But when you ask him to “stay” at the dog park from 20 feet away? Not so much. You may have trained him well in the kitchen, but you forgot to consider the three Ds of dog training.
The three Ds are duration, distance, and distraction, and they affect almost any behavior. Dogs don’t generalize well, meaning if they learn to sit in front of you, they don’t automatically know that “sit” means the same thing when you’re on the other side of the room. As each D increases, it becomes more difficult for your dog to understand how to perform a behavior successfully. And if all three come into play without your dog having trained for each one individually, the chance of him doing what you ask is slim.
Duration is the length of time your dog maintains a behavior. Some behaviors don’t have a duration factor, such as spinning in a circle or jumping over a bar, but for those behaviors that require your dog to hold a position, like “sit” or “down,” the longer he has to hold it, the harder the task becomes.
Whenever you train a new behavior, be sure to start with a very short duration, like one second. Then build the duration one second at a time. Whenever your dog gets it wrong, go back to a shorter interval that you know he can handle and start building one second at a time all over again.
Be aware of when you give your rewards. For example, many dogs pop out of a “down” as soon as their belly has touched the ground because they get their treat when they stand up. Treat your dog while he is in the position you want to reinforce rather than waiting until he’s moved. You can also treat throughout the duration; if you’re training your dog to sit for 60 seconds, pop a tiny treat in his mouth at 20-second intervals, as well as when he’s finished. He will quickly decide that sitting is his favorite position.
Distance is how far away you are from your dog when he does a behavior. The farther away you get, the less reliable your dog will become. When you’re training distance, start small and build slowly. Make sure your dog can handle a relatively large distance with you in front of him before you start moving to his side or behind him. Save leaving the room for last. Dogs know when we can’t see them, so turning your back or walking out of sight is particularly challenging.
When training, always return to your dog before you release him or give him his final reward. Doing so will prevent him from anticipating his treat and following you as you walk away. Remember, the farther you go, the lower your dog’s rate of reinforcement will be. After all, you can’t slip him treats while he holds a position, as you did with duration, if you aren’t beside him. For a behavior like lying on his bed, you can reinforce the distance by tossing treats onto his bed as you walk away. Or consider using the Treat and Train Remote Reward Dog Trainer, a remote-controlled reward system which allows you to provide treats from a distance.
Distraction involves whatever else is going on around your dog when he does a behavior, from a squirrel running across the yard to the sound of the doorbell. If your dog finds it exciting or disrupting, it’s a distraction. Even extra-special treats can be distracting for some dogs. Be sure your dog can handle duration and distance before you start adding distractions. That means training new behaviors in familiar, quiet environments where you are the most interesting thing in the room.
Just as with duration and distance, start with small distractions and build slowly. For example, teach your dog to wait at doorways in a quiet room in the house before moving to the back door, then the front door, then outside. As you increase the difficulty, consider increasing the value of your dog’s rewards.
Don’t forget the power of the “leave it” cue. It will help you communicate to your dog that he can’t have the thing he wants right now. And for those distractions that are too tempting for your dog to resist, like that squirrel, start with the distraction as far away as possible.
Putting It All Together
When you’re training your dog, only work on one D at a time, leaving distraction for last. Only combine the Ds once your dog has mastered each one on its own. So when you’re working on distance, lower your duration back to one second and keep the distractions to a minimum. Set your dog up for success and don’t rush.
Any time you notice your dog struggling to perform a behavior you thought he knew, look at the three Ds. Chances are there is something too tricky for him to handle. Incorporate duration, distance, and distraction into your training to ensure your dog understands what you’re asking no matter what. You’ll soon have a dog you can take anywhere — without any surprises.
April 28: TRICK – Learning to Target
What is target?
A cue to get your dog to touch his nose to your hand.
Why teach it?
Because it is a useful foundation for many more advanced behaviors and gives you a way to capture your dog’s attention and direct his movements. For example, coming toward you to touch your hand is a great start on recall and touching someone’s hand is a nice alternative to jumping on them.
How to teach it.
Step 1. Cut up a large number of small treats.
Step 2. Present your hand a couple of inches away from your dog’s face. Praise and treat for any interest he shows, whether an actual touch of his nose to your hand or just looking at your hand. After the first few times, reward only for a full nose touch.
Step 3. Repeat this until your dog reliably touches your hand.
Step 4. Now add the verbal cue. Before presenting your hand, say, “Target” and then put your hand down. (Be sure to pause for a second between the cue and reaching down.)
Step 5. When your dog responds reliably to the verbal cue, begin to increase the distance of your dog’s head from your hand by a few inches.
Step 6. Keep increasing the distance little by little. Also move your hand to different positions, higher, lower, toward the side of your dog’s head—and try the exercise in different rooms of the house.
If your dog makes several mistakes in a row, go back a step and make the exercise easier. Even if he is doing great, throw in an easy version every now and again for motivation.
April 23: TRICK – Fun with Puzzles
Challenge your dog’s problem solving skills and give his nose a workout with puzzle toys. These games encourage your dog to use their sense of smell to find a delicious reward. Puzzles provide mental stimulation and enrichment that can help tire out dogs of all ages. These toys range from something simple like a muffin tin, to something more complicated where your dog has to flip covers, pull out a sliding door or tip something over. You can make your own or purchase one online or at a pet store. With practice, your dogs can progress to more and more difficult puzzles over time.
April 18: TIP – Clicker Training, Part 1
What is clicker training?
Clicker training means using a sound (a click) to communicate with your dog.
How does it work?
It is fabulously simple. First we teach the dog that the click means he has won a treat. Then we use the click to tell the dog when he has done something we like.
Essentially: When your dog does what you want him to do—like a sit or a down—you click and give him a treat. This gives your dog instant, specific feedback.
You can tell a child you will take him out for ice cream tomorrow because he earned good grades today. A dog, on the other hand, needs immediate pointers to help him understand what behavior he is being rewarded for. A clicker is the perfect tool for this.
Charging the clicker (teaching that “click” means treat)
Step 1: Grab a handful of really yummy treats cut into small pieces.
Step 2: Every time you click, give your dog a treat (be careful not to click and treat at the same time; the treat must follow the click, not precede or coincide with it).
Step 3: Do this standing up, sitting down, while moving about, indoors, outdoors. Basically, make sure your dog understands that the click means treat in all situations.
Step 4: Do the exercise a few times a day for a few minutes at a time until, when you click, you notice that your dog is eagerly anticipating the treat.
• Click only once.
• If you click you must treat. Even if it was a mistake!
• The clicker is not a remote control. Don’t use it to call your dog to you.
• Don’t give away that a treat is coming except with the click. For example, be careful not to reach for a treat, point the clicker toward the dog, or reach toward him with the treat before you click. Train yourself to insert a count or a word before you hand over the treat: Click. One one thousand. Treat.
• Some dogs are startled by the sound of the clicker. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort (shies away, leaves the room) wrap the clicker in a towel or a sock to muffle the noise. Try again, and when your dog clearly shows he enjoys the exercise, unwrap the clicker a little at a time.
April 10: TRICK – Paws up
What is “paws up” and why teach it?
Paws up is when your dog moves towards an elevated surface on cue and places both front paws on it.
• Helps dogs of all ages with brain body awareness and coordination.
• Socializes puppies and dogs to novel objects and builds confidence through fun training.
• Adds a new “trick” to your tool box to use in many scenarios.
What you need before you start:
• A stable platform or object no taller than your dog’s knees. Suggested objects to start with include: a short step stool, hardcover book, or large upside down food bowl.
• Lots of treats for luring and rewarding.
Step 1: Place several treats on top of the platform and let your dog investigate and eat the treats.
Step 2: Once your dog is comfortable approaching and being next to the platform, hold a treat to their nose and slowly move it over the top of the surface. Keep moving the treat slowly in the same direction until your dog stretches their neck to reach for it or they put one or two feet on the platform. Reward with a treat!
Step 3: Keep repeating and rewarding for step 2 until your dog confidently and consistently starts putting both front paws on the platform.
Step 4: Now add the verbal cue “paws up” before luring your dog onto the platform. You can also add duration to this trick by waiting for longer and longer periods of time before rewarding your dog. Start with just a few seconds and build up 5 seconds at a time.
• Keep the hand that is holding the treat at face level of your dog. Holding it above their
head may cause them to sit or jump up.
• Don’t stick to just one object. Make it interesting for you and your dog and try with
April 7: TIP – Stay
Using the “stay” cue is telling your dog to wait for a brief period of time in one position. Use this cue if you need your dog to stay in one place for less than five minutes. Building this up in small steps will give a reliable behavior that you can use anytime!
Step 1: Grab a handful of tiny treats and bring your dog to a quiet area. Ask your dog to “sit” or “down”, put your hand up in a stop sign and tell them to “stay.”
Step 2: Give your dog five tiny treats in a row, one at a time. Release your dog with praise and a little petting or play!
Step 3: Let’s make this tougher! Repeat step 1, and this time take a small step away from your dog, then back in and give a treat. Do this four more times. Once you finish all five repetitions, release your dog with praise and a little petting or play!
Step 4: Repeat step 4, and gradually increase the number of steps you can take away from your dog. Once you can get about six steps away from your dog between each treat you can move on to step 5.
Step 5: Add some distractions. See if you can turn your back while you walk away, squeak a toy, or bend down to tie your shoe.
• If your dog will not stay between each treat, try to make sure that you’re bringing the treat right to your dog’s mouth so they do not feel the need to get up. You can use sets of three repetitions instead of five.
• Always release your dog before they get up. If they get up before you release them, you’ve made it too challenging and you need to move back to an easier step.
• Always walk right back to your dog before treating and releasing. We want them to understand the treat was for staying put, not coming to you.
March 29: TIP – The Name Game
Few things are more irritating than shouting your dog’s name over and over to no effect. Don’t assume your dog is ignoring you on purpose, though—especially if you have a puppy or recently adopted dog. Unlike people, dogs don’t automatically learn their names after hearing it just once or twice. The “Name Game” helps create a positive association for your dog with their name.
Start to play in your house when there are no distractions. Often the kitchen is a good place to start.
1) Say your dog’s name or nickname, one time only, in a clear, happy tone. The first few times work best when your dog wants to look at you anyway
2) Immediately, as they turn to look at you, praise them and reward with small pieces of treat, a favorite toy or something else your pup really likes.
If you say your dog’s name and they don’t look, do not immediately repeat it. We want your dog to focus attention on you when their name is called and not tune you out. If your dog is tuning you out, you can make it into a more enticing game:
• Say your dog’s name in a cheerful tone, then run away! Use your dog’s drive to chase you to increase their attention. Reward when your dog gets to you.
• Make a fun vocal noise (raspberries, chirping, anything!) When your dog turns to look for the silly sound, say their name and offer a reward for the attention.
• Play tag! Lightly touch your dog on the shoulder, say their name when they look at you, then run and hide. Treat your dog when they find you!
• Do the name exercise periodically throughout the day. Take particular care to say her name anytime you were going to give her something anyway.
• Remember that your dog’s name is not a cue. It’s just an attention-getter. So if you want her to actually do something other than look over at you, tell her what that something is. For example, “Bailey, come!” or “Bailey, sit!” Don’t just say “Bailey” and expect your dog to guess what you want. Dogs are smart, but they don’t read minds any better than we do.
March 27: TIP – Playing Tug
March 24: TRICK – Roll Over
March 24: TIP – Puppy Biting and Chewing
One of the best things about puppies is how curious they are. We love watching them encountering new situations each day and helping them navigate through them. However, the downside is that puppies explore the world through their mouths! This can lead to some less than desirable bites to your hands, clothes, and household items. While we do not want to discourage a puppy’s inclination to try new things, we do want to let them know the best way to go about it. Let’s explore ways to help our puppies use their mouths appropriately and encourage time to settle.
Chewing on inappropriate items: Every puppy owner knows what it’s like to have something stolen and chewed! As unwanted as this is, it can be a great time to teach our puppies how to trade and direct them towards their own toys. The most important part is to stay calm! We do not want our puppies to think that stealing things they shouldn’t is a game.
If your puppy grabs something they shouldn’t (and it is not life-threatening) you should:
- Calmly call your puppy over to see if they will leave the item on their own. If they do, praise them and give them a toy they can play with! If it doesn’t work…
- Get some treats and trade your puppy for the item they are holding on to. If they will trade, gently remove the item and give them something else to play with.
Always offer a toy or treat to trade for the item in their mouth. Praise your puppy for letting go of the item it has. We want our puppies to trust us, and not become possessive of items they steal.
And of course, be prepared! Puppy proof your house and supervise your puppy. If they can’t get to those coveted objects in the first place, they cannot practice stealing them! If your puppy is chewing on furniture, you can use gate or exercise pens to limit their access to these places.
Biting hands and other body parts: Those little shark teeth can hurt! Puppies will bite and nibble at different times during the day, and for different reasons. Sometimes it is for lack of something better to chew on, sometimes it is because they are frustrated, and sometimes it is a state of over-arousal where play can get too rough. Let’s pick the reasons apart and talk about ways to help decrease the biting.
If your puppy is casually chewing on your hand…
This is something to discourage by gently giving your puppy something else to chew on. Direct them towards a toy or food puzzle. If you do not want your puppy chewing on other people’s hands, they cannot be allowed to chew on yours either. If your puppy has enough things to chew on, and you can guide them to these items you will notice your puppy is less likely over time to pick your hands as a chew toy!
If your puppy bites when you tell them “no” or physically remove them from something…
Puppies may get frustrated when they don’t understand the rules of the human world they live in. They typically do not know that it is bad to jump on the counters, grab your socks out of the laundry, not eat an entire jar of peanut butter. To them, the fun is being taken away and they are using their mouths to show you how upset they are! To help cut down on frustration, training your puppy what are and are not allowed to have access to is important. You can set your puppy up for success by making sure their environment is set up with all the things they are allowed to have in it. Give them all the right answers! This way when they have choices later on they will more likely pick the right path. Putting a leash on or going into a crate should be a fun activity, not just the end to the fun activity.
If your puppy bites when playing with you…
It’s all fun and games until the puppy won’t stop biting! Puppies can get overstimulated by many things, play is a big one. It all starts out fine, then after a couple minutes you start to notice that your puppy no longer wants their toys – just your hands and clothes! The first thing is to try and redirect them to a toy. And if that doesn’t work, we need to help them understand that this is not an acceptable form of play. You can do this by quietly standing up and walking away for a few moments, then re-engaging with a toy. If that doesn’t work, try separating yourself behind a gate for another few moments before re-engaging. The break in play will let your puppy know that when they get bite-y the game stops. When they have a soft mouth you can continue play.
Ok… But my puppy REALLY bites hard!
True puppy aggression is rare, and if you think this is what you are seeing please contact a professional. For the rest of the puppies, it is OK when your puppy is biting and will not settle down to place them in a crate or exercise pen with something nice to chew on. We recommend KONG toys stuffed with peanut butter and treats or bully sticks. This will prevent your puppy from practicing biting you and direct their energy towards something appropriate. It is ok to do this several times a day.
Make sure your puppy has many opportunities to explore and exercise during the day (mentally and physically). This will help cut down on the biting and chewing as well as tire your puppy out!