Tips and Tricks
Looking for canine training advice? You’ve come to the right place! The AWS Training Team has 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.
TIP: Reliable Recall
Having your dog reliably come to you every time you call them is one of the most important cues in the dog training world. It’s also one of our most frequently asked questions and biggest frustration points for pet parents when they come to class. It seems so simple of a cue, but in reality it takes time, patience, and consistency for your pup to reliably return to you when they hear that all important cue: “come!”
So, how does one achieve such an accomplishment with their canine companion? There are actually five favorite tips that we rely on when teaching your dog recall that are a surefire way to not only get them to return, but get them to want to return:
1. Never chant the cue. What we mean by this is never say your cue word (i.e “come”) more than once in a row. When you repeatedly yell “come!” over and over, what you’re really teaching your dog is that returning to your side should and can be done only when this cue word is repeated in a pattern. In other words, your dog will come only after you’ve shouted a number of times. Saying the cue word over and over before your dog reliably listens also makes it irrelevant. If your dog doesn’t listen the first time then they learn that the word must not mean anything because nothing (either good or bad) happened after it was said.
2. Don’t set your dog up for failure. There are some instances where a dog is so distracted or excited that coming when called is almost guaranteed not to happen. If you know your dog is in a position of high engagement and you’re pretty positive they’re not going to respond, don’t bother saying the cue word at all. Asking your dog to “come” or “heel” when they’re distracted is just setting them up to fail and will make you both frustrated. It will also reinforce to your dog that, once again, your cue word is irrelevant. Instead, set your dog up for success by practicing recall in a controlled environment.
3. Don’t expect too much. Dogs are definitely loyal and loving, but that doesn’t mean they want to blindly follow you into any situation when you ask. If your dog is scared or unsure of a certain scenario or activity, don’t call them and expect them to come. For example, if you’re trying to get your dog into the vet office and you know they dislike the vet, don’t call them or use your cue word in the parking lot as you drag them inside. This will ultimately teach your dog that the cue word is associated with bad things and it will make them not want to listen in the future.
4. Keep it calm and happy. No matter the situation or how frustrated you might have been in the moment, when your dog does finally return to you make it a celebration. Pet them, show them love, use your best baby voice, and really ham it up. If your dog learns that when they return they get praise, it will reinforce this in their brain and make them want to come in the future. You have to make yourself more exciting than the thing that is distracting them. Alternatively, if you get upset at your dog for finally coming, they’re going to assume you’re always angry when they return. So, what motivation would they have to want to come?
5. Motivation is key. When first teaching your dog recall, motivation is your best tool. As stated above, what motivation does your dog have to come to you? If there’s a squirrel, or another dog, or something tasty on the ground, why would they leave that to come to you? The key is making sure you have something better! If your dog ultimately doesn’t listen when you call them, calmly walk up to your dog with a treat, hold it to their nose, and lure them back to where you were standing. Once they return, say the cue word “come” and reward them for their efforts. If your dog is not motivated by treats, use a toy, squeaker, or their favorite thing to lure them to your side. Once they associate recall with getting a special treat, they’ll want to come every time!
TINY TIP: What’s the Most Important Cue Word?
We have a short, sweet, but helpful tiny tip for you today regarding cues for your dog. Cues are words, phrases, sounds, and even gestures that cue your dog to perform a certain behavior. For example, “sit” is the cue word for your dog’s butt to hit the floor. “Down” in the cue word for your dog to lie their body on the floor. It’s that simple! But with all the different cues out there, what’s the most important one?
While every cue is important in their own right, the simple cue of your dog’s name is arguably the most versatile. Getting your dog to provide you attention after you say their name is crucial to their future training. Reward your dog for responding to you after their name is called and soon they will learn that their name gets them a reward, and rewards make your dog want to work for you. Once your dog looks at you after you cue their name, you can then follow with another cue. Think of their name as a kicking off point that means “it’s time to pay attention.” Once your dog gets in this habit, training will become much simpler for you both!
TIP: Should I Train My Puppy at Home, or in Class?
You just got a new puppy and want to start their training right away. There are, of course, many different training classes out there designed specifically for puppies, but why could you not just teach them the same things at home? Ultimately you’re left with a choice: do you sign your puppy up for a professional class, or do you do some research and teach them at home? The short and simple answer to this dilemma is that you’re going to benefit more from taking your puppy to a class, but lots of the training is done at home anyway! It takes a village to raise a baby (or in this case, a baby puppy!), so taking your new pup to a class will ensure that you get the proper help and tools so you can raise them right!
So, what specifically about a classroom environment is good for a developing puppy? First and foremost, just the environment itself! Getting your puppy out of the home is a great way to introduce them to lots of different experiences and situations. Training classrooms have tools and equipment that you probably don’t have in your home that can be useful for a puppy to use. For example, ramps, tunnels, hoops, clickers, and mats are all tools that are found in everyday training rooms. These are used to help your dog overcome fears, cue them to positive developments in their training, and just have fun while learning!
Another important aspect of the training classroom environment are the other puppies and people in class. During a puppy’s development, it’s crucial for them to have as much socialization as possible between the age of 4-12 weeks old. This is when your puppy will really lock in their lifelong relationships with those around them and either have a positive, negative, or neutral feeling towards things. Interacting and playing with other puppies is so important because it shapes your dog’s brain to what’s appropriate play, and teaches them things about themselves that we as humans can not. Similarly, interacting and playing with strangers is also great for your puppy as they learn to trust other people and experience different smells, body characteristics, and mannerisms. Like we said, it takes a village!
As for the actual training, a classroom provides insider knowledge and experience that you might not be able to get at home. You can ask questions, follow other’s examples, learn together as a group, and help keep your dog on task. Being in a classroom with other dogs, people, sights, and sounds is a great environment to teach your puppy how to learn self control and focus on you, even when there is a lot going on around them. Plus, after most of the training your puppy gets some time to just let loose and play with the other dogs. The best part, though? You can take the knowledge you learned in class and practice at home with your dog. You obviously can’t be in the classroom 24/7, so taking home what you learned is crucial for your puppy’s success. That’s why, in the end, choosing to bring your pup to class is a win-win. They get great socialization and access to tools, but they also get to practice one-on-one at home with you!
So, do you have a new puppy at home? Are you ready to kickstart their training? Check out any of our upcoming Puppy Kindergarten classes!
TRICK: Learning How to Trade
Dogs have a hard time differentiating between what is appropriate for them to play with and what is not, especially if they are a young puppy. To your dog, a smelly shoe, a frequently touched remote, or a child’s doll are all free game to chew because they smell enticing and seem similar to other items they usually play with. It goes without saying, however, that to us as pet parents this behavior is annoying at best and downright dangerous at worst. Our dogs are self serving creatures which means without proper direction they’ll always choose the path that seems the most rewarding to them. As such, it’s our job to teach our pups what is appropriate to chew and what is not. For this, we’d like to introduce you to the ‘Trade’ cue!
Trading with your dog is exactly as it sounds: they have something you want and you must trade for it with another equally valued item that your dog will want to exchange. For example, if your pup has a nice stinky slipper, odds are they aren’t going to want to trade that for their regular, everyday rope toy. Instead, consider a high value treat like a piece of hot dog or some cheese, or perhaps a new and exciting toy that squeaks or makes sound. Once your dog sees that what you have is of equal or greater value to them than the sipper, they’re drop what they have and go for yours. This is called the “trade” cue and you should reward your pup for this behavior. After all, a fair trade is a fair trade!
Alternatively, you can teach your dog the “drop it” cue. Once your pup has “trade” down and knows that they aren’t giving up their high value item for nothing, you can attach the “drop it” cue. When your dog drop the item they have in order to take what you want to trade, assign the words “drop it” to the drop and then reward them for that. Over time, your dog will learn that “drop it” means they are going to receive a treat and you can skip the trade all together. Just make sure to always pick up or put away what they drop so your dog can’t immediately pick it back up again!
Lastly, no matter what stage of learning your dog is in with these cues, it’s important to note that chasing after your dog when they take something they shouldn’t will only enforce this behavior. This is because for many pups, stealing an item is a game. What is frustrating to us as our dog runs around the house with our sock in their mouth is actually a super interactive and exciting game of chase for our dog. As soon as we begin to yell and run after them, the game is on and our dog takes this as a sign that we’re playing along. It’s important, then, that we don’t reinforce this behavior by not running or getting excited. Once our dog realizes that we’re not interested in the game, they’ll become bored and drop the item. If they don’t drop it, then this is the perfect opportunity to introduce the “trade” cue and teach your dog that rather than chase, you’d like to give them something yummy or more exciting.
Dogs love to play and sometimes this cue can take a while for them to learn. After all, dogs live life to the fullest and aren’t always aware of what us humans deem as inappropriate. However, with dedication and consistency we know your pup will pick up this cue quickly… and then hopefully ‘drop it’! 😉
TIP: Managing Children and Dogs Together
Are you or someone you know expecting to add a new baby to the home soon? Perhaps you already have a baby who’s changing and growing and you’re now experiencing new challenges? Either way, if you also have a dog in your family this can be a stressful and confusing time. You want to ensure that both your child and your dog are comfortable, happy, and safe in their environment, but both parties can sometimes be unpredictable and express their needs in different ways. What’s a parent to do? Luckily, we’re here to help! While we don’t have all the answers, we do have four, surefire tips that will promote a happy and peaceful coexistence between your dog, baby, and yourself. They key is making sure everyone’s needs are met!
Physically managing your environment is a very important aspect of living peacefully with both children and dogs, especially for newborns or young babies. Having a designated area or space for your baby that is strictly off limits to your dog is crucial. Setting up baby gates or having a Pack n’ Play are both useful solutions, but it can also be something as simple as a tall highchair or the baby’s crib. Just make sure your dog is aware of the boundaries and be consistent and persistent in this pursuit. On the other hand, your dog also needs to feel like they have a safe space that they can retreat to that is off limits to your baby or toddler. A dog crate is great for this and you can even set it up in a different room that you know your baby can’t reach. Just like with your dog, ensure that your baby doesn’t invade this space and respects your pup’s boundaries!
It seems obvious, but supervision of children around dogs (or any pets!) is key. Your baby, toddler, or young child should never be left alone with the family dog, even if you feel confident that nothing will happen. Even the friendliest of dogs can be pushed to their limits and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. It’s better to always assume that something could go wrong, and supervise your child when they are with any animal. Practice appropriate interactions with your child like “gentle” and “soft touch.” Make sure to teach them that climbing on a dog, pulling on their ears, hitting them, or otherwise getting in their personal space is a big no-no. Of course, children don’t mean to be inappropriate with their touch, but it takes lessons and examples from the adults in their life to learn that animals have boundaries as well.
3. Body Language
Learning to recognize and understand your dog’s body language will go a long way in building a healthy relationship between your child and the family dog. Important cues and language to look out for are pinned back ears, a tucked tail, a rigid or stiff body, lip licking, heavy panting, turning their body away, and whale eye (which is when you can clearly see the whites of your dog’s eyes as they stare or look at what is making them uncomfortable.) These are all signs that your dog is uncomfortable or frightened, and it’s their way of telling you or your child to please back away or stop what you are doing. If your dog does this around your child often, remove your child from the situation and consider new ways for your child and dog to interact in the future. If, however, your dog has soft or loose body language, seems relaxed, is excited when you approach, is loosely wagging their tail, and their ears are up and perky, these are all signs that they’re happy for the attention and excited to interact with you or your child. It’s important to always give your dog the choice of wanting attention or not. If they clearly are not in the mood, teach your child to respect that.
*It’s also important to note here that reprimanding your dog for any of the above behavior that they may display when uncomfortable will make the problem worse. If your dog learns that displaying warning signs gets them in trouble, they may choose to skip those signs in the future and resort straight to biting. As we say, a growl is good!
When trying to teach both your dog and child how to interact with each other, training your pup can be a big positive. There are many helpful cues that you can use that will signal your dog to behave a certain way when around your child. “Stay,” “lie down,” “go to your place,” or “settle” can all be used to tell your dog to calm down or relax when your toddler is in the room, or to teach them to go to their own safe space such as their crate or dog bed. “Leave it,” “wait,” or “drop it” can all also be used to teach your dog to control their impulse control when around your child and allow them to walk by safely or pick something up without your dog intervening. And, of course, “gentle,” or “soft” can be used to teach your pup to use a gentle mouth or body language when playing or interacting with your child so they’re not knocked down or possibly injured by accident. Training your pup and working with them will always ensure a safe route to understanding and a safe coexistence with not only your child, but everyone in the home!
TIP: Treasure Hunt
A great way to engage your dog’s mind and body is through treat hunts. This can be something as simple as placing treats or kibble in a muffin tin or snuffle mat. Or you can take it a step further, as we did recently on a beautiful spring day. We filled a kiddy pool with stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes (some even had squeakers for added enrichment). Hidden amongst the stuffies were treats. Our dogs had so much fun! It kept them busy, it kept their minds sharp and it gave them some exercise. And as you can see, this enrichment works for dogs of all shapes and sizes! Try it at home!
TRICK- Loose Leash Walking
There are many different types of walks you can take with your dog, but loose leash walking is definitely one of the most desired by pet parents. Loose leash walking is defined as having your dog walking calmly on their leash with no tension at all in the leash. This often looks like having a sag or a “J” shape in your dog’s lead. The goal, therefore, is to keep your dog from pulling on their walks and having them be gentle and calm enough on their walk that you can achieve that “J” shape in their leash with absolutely no tension.
So, why do dogs pull on their leashes in the first place? The short and simple answer is that they’re excited to get where they’re going. Add in the fact that dogs have four legs to our two and can therefore get to their destinations faster, then it makes sense that they would pull as they try to achieve a pace that is natural to them. Of course, this can cause a lot of frustration for the owner as they try to slow the pace or direct their dog where to go, especially if they’re attempting to walk a dog who’s significantly bigger and stronger than them. Cue the loose leash walk! This type of walk is eagerly desired by owners because it means their dog is calm, in control of their impulses, and not pulling on their lead as they walk. Sounds great, right?
Of course, not all dogs naturally walk with slack in their lead, especially young or inexperienced dogs. So, how to we stop this behavior? The first rule is simple: don’t allow your dog to get to what or where they’re pulling towards. This can be achieved by putting your foot down… literally! As soon as there is tension in the lead and your dog begins to pull, plant your feet firmly on the ground and stop moving. Your dog will obviously have to stop with you and eventually they will learn that the more this pattern continues, the more the walk comes to a stop. In other words, your dog will start to associate tension from the leash as an interruption to their walk. Once your dog relaxes and slack is brought back into the leash, you can mark this behavior as desired with a cue word like “yes!” or “good dog!” and then continue the walk. This type of stop-go, stop-go training may be frustrating for both you and your dog in the beginning, but it will all be worth it when your walks start to become more relaxed and enjoyable. (Plus you won’t feel like your arm is getting torn off every time it’s time to take out Fido!)
A similar method of training to stop leash pulling is to do a U-Turn. This means that when your dog begins to pull and tension is in the lash, stop walking in the direction that you’re going and turn fully around to walk the other way. Just like with the ‘feet firmly on the ground’ training, this technique will eventually teach your dog that whenever they begin to pull, they will suddenly be forced to change direction and not get to where they were wanting to go. Again, as soon as your dog stops the pulling when you change direction, mark this behavior with a “yes!” or a treat reward and keep walking. Soon your dog will learn that slow and steady wins the race!
Practice loose leash walking with your dog everyday and we promise that eventually, your pup will understand that tension is bad, and slack is good. Dogs all learn at different paces and levels so don’t worry if your pup doesn’t get it right away. As one last tip, we learned earlier in the blog that allowing your dog to sniff on walks is very beneficial. So, to help stop the pulling, allow your dog to sniff and explore as they please for a couple minutes to release some of that built up excitement. Most dogs love the outdoors and they learn about the world around them by going on walks. Allow your dog this pleasure and make sure to keep their walks fun!
TIP- Canine Good Citizen Certification
Have you ever considered signing your dog up for a CGC course but weren’t sure what it entailed? If so, we’re here to help clear up any confusion you may have and hopefully get you and your pup excited to participate!
First off, the AKC Canine Good Citizen™ (CGC) program was created to provide a perfect framework for training your dog to become a polite member of society. There are many benefits to taking the test including having an achievable goal for your dog to work towards, assessing where they are in their current training education, helping to advance their basic obedience skills, socializing your dog to different environments, people, and items, and even for providing proof to insurance companies or rental properties that you have a polite, well-behaved dog. Thee CGC test is also, of course, the first step to training your dog for official therapy work. Dogs with the CGC certification can be used in nursing homes, hospitals, libraries, schools, and other outings to provide therapy work and education. It’s the closest thing to proof of a certified Good Dog!
While taking the course for the Canine Good Citizen test, expect to work on basic obedience skills as well as more advanced concepts such as meeting strangers and other dogs, working through distractions, and learning how to be touched and groomed by many hands. A lot of the time, this means class is taken out into the real world where dogs learn to listen and focus in a busy environment with lots of distractions. You can definitely expect to have to put in the extra work! When it comes time to finally take the test, your dog will be graded on ten key concepts and whether or not they can showcase them with confidence. These ten items are:
1. Accepting a Friendly Strangers
2. Sitting Politely for Greetings
3. Appearance and Grooming
4. Walking Politely on a Loose Lead
5. Walking Through a Crowd
6. ‘Sit’ & ‘Down’ on Cue, & ‘Stay in Place’
7. Coming When Called
8. Reaction to Other Dogs
9. Reaction to Different Distractions
10. Supervised Separation from Owner
*You can learn more about these test items and what they entail on the American Kennel Club website.
Whether or not you intend to use your dog for therapy work, insurance, or just want to further their education, the CGC test and certification is a great tool to have in your dog’s training belt. It can be rewarding, fun and helpful in many scenarios. Plus, you get bragging rights that your dog is, in fact, a certified Good Boy or Girl!
Check out our Intermediate and Advanced level Training Classes schedule for our upcoming Canine Good Citizen Prep classes!
TIP- Hiking with Your Dog
The weather is finally warming up (hello 60°!) and that means more opportunities to get out hiking with your canine companion. But before you just grab the leash and go, there are a few safety procedures and important items that you should have before you head into the great outdoors with your dog. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
For starters, choose a trail or hiking destination that is an appropriate fit for you and your dog. Ask yourself if you feel like you are avid outdoorsmen or if you’re better suited to lighter trails with fewer obstacles. Age, breed, size, and health conditions are all things you should consider about your dog before taking them out on a strenuous hike. What can they physically do, and what should they avoid? More well-traveled paths are always safer and tend to have less rocky terrain. A good source of information for finding the perfect hiking spot for your dog is BringFido and Dogster, two websites with very specific and helpful tips on hiking safely with your furry friend.
Another thing to consider before going hiking with your pup is the weather. Do some research beforehand and try to be the best meteorologist you can be. How will the temperature be throughout the day? Is it going to storm or be very windy? When is sunset and how long does it take to get dark? All of these conditions can play a major role in the safety of your hike for both you and your dog. Once armed with the knowledge, however, you will know whether or not to bring some extra clothes, a flashlight, or more water. You can never be too prepared because the weather outside can change quickly!
As for provisions, it’s always a good idea on any hike to bring plenty of snacks, water, and utensils. Make sure to bring enough for you and your dog since dogs require water to cool down more than us humans. Bringing hardy snacks full of protein to fuel you both is also a good idea. Some high-end dog treats mostly consisting of meat is a must-have for Fido! Make sure to also carry some kind of container or canister for you dog to drink/eat out of so you know they’re staying hydrated. If you noticed your pup not wanting to stop to eat or drink, it might be a good idea to slow down the hike, or turn around for the day. Sometimes dogs don’t know what’s best for them!
Lastly, always bring a first-aid kit on a hike and make sure to tell at least one person where you’ll be going (or, better yet, hike with a friend!). First-Aid kits should have medical supplies for both you and your dog, as well as other necessities like bug spray and sunscreen. It’s a good idea as you hike to check your dog routinely for injuries, no matter how small, as dogs tend to not let on when they’re hurt. Never push your dog into doing something they don’t want to, like jumping over rocks or climbing up steep inclines, as this can cause injury more easily. Also keep in mind that you will be in the woods or other closed-off area, so you’ll probably encounter some wildlife. Do some research and know what kind of wildlife is in the area so you can keep your dog and yourself safe. If you have a pup who likes to chase or bark at other critters, consider keeping them on leash during your adventure.
Hiking with your dog can be a lot of fun, but it also requires some research and consideration. Being prepared will ensure that you and your canine companion remain safe, healthy, and ready for a good day in the great outdoors!
TRICK- Rainy Day Fun
April showers bring May flowers! We’re just as excited about spring as you are, but seeing that we’ve entered the rainy months, our canine companions might not share our enthusiasm. On days when the weather is a total washout and not inviting to head outside, our pups can become a little stir crazy and crave the normal amount of exercise and mental engagement they would on days spent outdoors. As such, we have a few fun and simple indoor training ideas for you and your pup to keep them happy, entertained and, of course, tired!
Rolling Out the Red Carpet
This trick requires only a towel or yoga mat, and some small, tasty treats. Lay out the towel or mat flat on the floor, and then line your dog’s favorite treats up on the mat in a row. Roll the mat back up with the treats inside, and leave one out in front for your dog to easily find. Your dog will use their nose to then find the rest of the treats by pushing on the mat to unroll it and reveal the hidden goodies. You can even put a cue to this trick such as “push” or “find it.” Essentially, your smart pup will look like they’re rolling out their own red carpet!
Toilet Tube Push Toy
This trick requires only a toilet paper tube or a paper towel roll, and some more tasty treats! Take your tube and stuff it full of your dog’s favorite treats. Fold in and pinch off each end of the tube and then cute a small hole in the middle just large enough for one treat to squeeze through at a time. Put the tube on the ground and allow your dog to sniff out the treats. They will use their nose or paws to push the tube around and try to get the treats out, just like a puzzle toy. This will wear your dog down mentally and keep them entertained for quite a while!
This trick is similar to hide-and-go-seek except instead of hiding yourself, you’ll be hiding treats. Mark out places in your home where you can tuck away some tasty treats and then hide them for your dog while they’re out of the room. Then, release your pup and use the “find it” or “fetch” cue to see if they can seek out all the hidden treasures. If your dog is struggling or new to the cues, leash them and walk them around the path you hid the treats so as to gently guide them in the right direction. Every time your pup finds the treasure, say the cue you want them to associate it with and then reward them for their efforts!
This fun trick involves you tossing or throwing treats across a room or hallway of your home, so make sure there is enough space for the size and speed of your dog as they move. As the name implies, simply toss one of your dog’s favorite treats across a room and then have them fetch it on cue. You can use the “touch” or “target” cue to have your dog return to you by holding out your palm and having them touch it with their nose. Once returned, throw another treat and ask your dog to fetch it. It’s a simple game, but it does the trick! Soon your pup will me tired out both physically and mentally and ready for a long, rainy day nap!
Bad weather days can be a real bummer for an active dog, but with some simple tricks and tips, you can both have fun indoors learning and playing together!
TIP- The Benefits of Sniffing
Does your dog ever stop to sniff during walks for what seems like minutes on end? It may be annoying to you, but your dog is sniffing for a reason and it can actually be very beneficial and rewarding for you both. A dog’s nose is their biggest and best tool for receiving information and learning about the world around them. As such, when your dog stops to take in a scent, they’re essentially “reading” the information that they smell and engaging in many mental gymnastics while they do it. It’s hard for us humans to understand, but a dog reads scents the way they we may read a very thick and exciting book, or perhaps complicated instructions on a building manual. This is called “mental enrichment” and it can be just as exhausting to your dog as physical enrichment or exercise. Have you ever felt sleepy after reading many chapters in a book or physically drained after solving complicated math problems? Well, your dog feels the same way!
On the other side of the coin, dogs also spend time sniffing to calm themselves down and help lower their heart rate. In fact, the quicker your dog sniffs, the faster their heart rate slows. If your dog is overly excited or eager to go out for a walk but then constantly stops to smell things along the way, it may be that they’re helping themselves to calm down so they can better take in information. An anxious dog will more commonly have their nose glued to the ground than a confident dog. Again, this may seem annoying to us humans, but the calmer and more relaxed your dog is on a walk, the better they’ll listen to cues. If you’re attempting to train your dog when out for a walk, consider putting your pup on a long lead which will allow them to walk ahead and sniff, while also still be under control in case you need to call them or provide direction. Purposely placing treats on the ground for your dog to sniff out is also a great way to help keep them calm, work their body as well as their brain, and reward them for their efforts for doing so.
Lastly, when you take your dog out for their morning or evening walk, allow enough time for your dog to do some scent work and sniff to their heart’s content. For us humans, a walk is a way to get from one place to another but for dogs, a walk is an opportunity to catch up on all the smells and information around their territory and home and to work their brain for some mental stimulation. Think of this time as a meditation for both you and your pup where you can both take it slow and look at the world around you. If you find yourself becoming frustrated with your dog constantly stopping to sniff, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this walk is for them. Ask yourself, “why is my dog sniffing and how can I help them to better calm down on this walk?” Once you understand that your dog is not trying to inconvenience you and is just trying to learn, think, and relax, you’ll better connect with your dog and your walks will become more rewarding for the both of you. Plus, the more you allow your dog to sniff, the more tired they will become and the more likely they’ll relax and sleep when you get home. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog!
We hope you have more enjoyable and relaxing walks with your furry friend. Happy sniffing!
TIP- What Exactly is a Front Hook Harness?
As the name suggests, a front hook harness is a body harness that goes across a dog’s chest and back. It always has a ring where a leash can be hooked onto the front of the harness rather than on a collar around the dog’s neck. As such, front hook harnesses are great for both walking and training with your dog as they take pressure off your pup’s neck and trachea, helping to prevent physical harm and damage to those sensitive areas.
When training, a front hook harness is a great tool to have as, when fitted properly for your dog’s size and body shape, it deters them from wanting to pull. The magic behind the front hook harness is the slight pressure it puts on your dog’s chest when they start to pull. This pressure on the chest makes your dog instinctually stop and when they do, slack is applied to the leash and the pressure goes away. Over time, this behavior is reinforced and your dog will eventually learn that when the leash is slack (i.e. they’re not pulling), there is no pressure on their chest and the walk is more enjoyable.
Along with the applied pressure, the front hook harness has another nifty trick up it’s sleeve in that when your pup pulls, the harness is designed to turn the front of your dog’s body back towards you. This will make it easier for them to catch sight of you and listen or look for cues. It also adds to the pressure and makes your dog stop pulling, if only for a second to add slack to the leash. Again, when practiced over time, this turning of the body will teach your dog that pulling is not as enjoyable as gentle walking, when slack can be applied to the leash.
Keep in mind that the right size and fitting of a front hook harness is key. If the harness is improperly fitted it can, at best, not work properly for training and, at worst, cause damage to your dog. If the harness is too tight, it can interfere with a dog’s gait by applying pressure onto their shoulders and back rather than they’re chest. This is bad news for developing puppies’ bodies, especially if your young pup is a puller. On the other hand, if the harness is too loose and hangs baggy from your dogs body, it will allow room around the chest for the harness to go slack even when the dog is pulling, so they don’t get the pressure from their pull. A properly fitted harness will fit snuggly around your dog’s chest and back, but will allow room for two of your fingers to slip under the harness vertically, assuring that it’s not too tight. If there is any slack in the harness as time goes on, it may need to be tightened.
Font fitting harnesses are a great tool to have for walking, training, and keeping better control over your dog. When used properly, they’re safer, more comfortable, and more manageable than just a regular collar, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your pup picks them up. Happy harness walking!
TIP – Train Outdoors with Everyday Objects
Take a stroll, a hike or play ball in the backyard. This time of year is a great time to add in your training games. Take treats on your walks and ask for intermittent sits, targets or check-ins as you go for rewards. This will encourage your dog to check-in with you more often and add more enrichment to your walks. Just make sure to let them have plenty of time to just sniff and explore too.
Another fun activity you can add to your walks is some easy dog parkour! What is dog parkour? It’s natural agility that can be done on a walk, on a hike or on an urban adventure. Dog parkour is modeled after human parkour, a type of training regimen that involves quickly scaling, jumping and running over, around and past natural obstacles, such as benches, rocks, fences, etc.
Make sure to keep it safe for you and your dog! While human parkour can be extreme and not for the faint of heart, dog parkour can be scaled down and enjoyed by dogs (and people) of all ages, breeds and abilities. Always check with your vet if you have questions about your dog’s physical ability to do activities.
On your hike, when you come across a large boulder, take a moment to practice paws up.
Adventuring to an urban area, find a playground (without any children). See if your dog will crawl beneath the swings, climb the equipment or even try the slide!
You can also try parkour at a park bench – see if your dog will jump up and stay.
Again, make sure to bring treats with you on your walk and look for some everyday objects to use. Be creative and practice parkour safety. Avoid trespassing and have fun!
TRICK – Fun with a Yoga Mat
This is a really fun one! 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
TIP – Playing Tug
TRICK – Roll Over