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Unformatted text preview: 1 Using Adobe Reader to read your eBook
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for more comfortable reading, and other ways to customize
your reading experience. 2 Teach Your Dog
100 English Words The A+
Dog Training Program
For Good Manners
and Happy Obedience
By Michele Welton 3 Teach Your Dog 100 English Words, by Michele Welton
Copyright © 2010 Michele Welton. All rights reserved.
eBook Edition 2010 (Completely Revised), 2006, 2004, 2002
Published by Petbridge LLC, Yellow Springs, OH,
Petbridge LLC is minimizing its impact on the environment
and helping safeguard the world’s ancient and endangered
forests by making books available as digital downloads.
This book is intended to provide general information about dog
training. It should not be used as your sole source of
information for training your dog, as the advice contained
herein may not be applicable to your particular dog. The author
and publisher make no representations or warranties about the
accuracy, applicability, or completeness of the information in
this book, and assume no liability for any consequences, loss, or
damage caused or alleged to be caused by the information in
ISBN: 978-0-9797091-2-8 (eBook)
ISBN: 978-0-9797091-0-4 (Softcover) WOULD YOU LIKE A PRINTED EDITION
for yourself or to give to someone as a gift?
Order printed books from:
www.yourpurebredpuppy.com 4 ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hello! I’m Michele Welton and I’ve
been involved with dogs for over 35
years. That’s my husband and me in
the photo, with our Miniature Poodle,
Buffy (The Vampire Slayer).
We also have a Chihuahua named
Mouse, who came to live with us
when she was diagnosed with liver
cancer. Happily, her cancer is now in
Plus an energetic young Papillon named Jenna, who thinks
she’s a Border Collie and is obsessed with retrieving balls.
Again and again and again and again and again...
Lest you think I know only about small breeds, the first three
loves of my life were German Shepherds, and I’ve trained and
shown many breeds, crossbreeds, and mixed breeds in
competitive canine events such as obedience, agility, herding,
tracking, and schutzhund.
So, for over 35 years, I’ve been one or more of the following:
dog lover, owner, trainer, competitor, obedience instructor,
behavioral consultant, breed selection consultant, and author of
more than a dozen books on choosing, raising, and training
I’m pleased to meet a fellow dog lover! Enjoy the book, and
when you’re done reading, please visit my web site at
www.yourpurebredpuppy.com 5 MORE BOOKS BY MICHELE WELTON
Dog Care Wisdom: 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep
Your Dog Healthy and Happy
Learn how to raise your dog in all the right ways to avoid
health problems and maximize his chances of living a long,
healthy, comfortable life.
Dog Quest: How To Buy a Good Dog
Read this book BEFORE you get a dog. You’ll learn how to
choose the right kind of dog, find the right breeder or animal
shelter or rescue group, and select the right individual puppy or
adult dog – one who will grow up to be smart, good-natured,
These and other dog books are available
from the author’s website:
www.yourpurebredpuppy.com 6 Ch 1: How To Ruin a Perfectly Good Pet Consider these three philosophies:
! “Dogs should not be restricted by rules and
! “Dogs should be completely uninhibited.”
! “I just want my dog to be my friend.” If you want to raise a well-behaved dog, those three
philosophies don’t work.
Oh, you’ll end up with an unrestricted, uninhibited
dog, all right, but he will also be uneducated,
unruly, unreliable, and ultimately unhappy. Both
of you, in fact, will be unhappy. Keep reading and you’ll learn why an uneducated,
unrestricted dog is not a happy camper! 7 Is your dog rude?
I often get phone calls from distressed owners who
are having trouble with their dog. Let’s listen in on
a phone conversation between myself and a typical
We’re about to meet Kathy Armstrong and Jake – a wellmeaning owner and her good-natured but undisciplined dog,
both of whom will follow us through this book.
Kathy: “Michele, my dog Jake is being difficult. I can’t make
him do anything. He only listens to me when he’s in the mood.”
Michele: “I see. Would you say Jake is behaving rudely?”
Kathy (surprised): “What do you mean? How can a dog be
Ah, how indeed? Let us count the ways! Talking back Michele: “Does Jake sass you when you tell
him to do something? Does he bark back at
Kathy: “Well, yes, if he doesn’t want to do
Staying just out of your reach Michele: “When you reach your hand toward him,
does he often dart away from you, just out of
reach?” 8 Kathy: “Well, yes, if he doesn’t want to be caught.”
Hanging onto objects Michele: “Does he brace his legs and refuse to
let go when you try to take something away
Kathy: “Yes, if it’s something he wants to keep for himself.”
Pestering you Michele: “Does he persistently nudge or pester you for
attention when you’re trying to read the newspaper or when you
talk on the phone or visit with guests?”
Kathy: “Yes, when I’m not paying attention to him.”
Stealing food Michele: “Does he steal food off your plate when
you leave it unattended? Does he get into the trash?”
Grumbling when annoyed Michele: “Does he ever grumble at you when you wake him
up? Or when you try to move him off his favorite chair? Or
when you reach toward his food bowl while he’s eating? Or
when you touch some sensitive part of his body, like his tail or
stomach or paw?”
Kathy: “Yes, he does growl sometimes.” 9
Struggling during grooming Michele: “Does he fuss when you try to open his mouth to look
at his teeth? How about cleaning his ears? Or clipping his
Kathy: “True. He doesn’t like me to do those things.”
Running away from you Michele: “When you catch him doing something
wrong, does he run from you? Does he lead you
on a merry chase around the house or yard?”
Kathy: “Uh-huh. So he can’t be scolded.”
“Getting back at you” Michele: “When he doesn’t get his own way or when he’s
upset with you, does he ever chew things or pee somewhere in
Kathy: “Yup! I think he does that to get back at me.”
“Telling off” guests Michele: “Does Jake decide who’s welcome in your home and
who isn’t? Does he bark or grumble at visitors even after
you’ve let them in?”
Kathy: “Well, if he’s excited or if he doesn’t like them...”
Jumping on guests Michele: “Ah, and if he does like them, is he calm and polite?
Or does he jump all over them?” 10 Silence. Then... “I’m beginning to see your point.”
Michele: “And you said he only obeys when
he’s in the mood.”
Kathy (sighing): “You’re right, Michele. Jake
does do quite a few of those things. But are they
really that bad?” Why rude behaviors are bad
Michele: “I’m afraid so. Those behaviors are rude and
disrespectful. If a dog is allowed to do things that are rude and
disrespectful, he starts believing that he is higher in the pack
order than you are.”
Kathy (puzzled): “And the pack order is...?”
Michele: “You might also call it a pecking order. It’s like a
ladder. A ladder of hierarchy. Dogs are sociable animals who
like to live with other sociable animals in a group or pack. All
packs have a pecking order. At the top is the most dominant
animal, the Pack Leader. He or she establishes the rules and
makes the decisions for the group.
Next in line is the Number Two animal, who can
tell everyone else (except for the Pack Leader),
what to do. Then the Number Three animal, and so
on, right down to the most submissive one of all,
who can’t tell anybody what to do.
Now you might think this kind of structure sounds harsh, but
pack animals love it! They know instinctively that the wellbeing of the group depends upon each member being able to
handle his or her respective position. With a pecking order, they
know exactly where they stand with each other. They know
who is who in the pack. 11 The pack instinct is built into your dog’s genes, and it’s a
good thing, too. It’s why dogs wedge themselves so tightly into
our families, rather than prowling along the fringes, like many
Cats tend to be more solitary animals who like to
do their own thing. Dogs are pack animals who
like to belong. That one instinct makes a big
difference in the way each pet should be raised.
When a dog joins your family, even if your
family consists only of a single person –
YOU – a pack is formed. Oh, yes, in his mind it certainly is, and his instincts compel him
to seek out its structure. His two major questions are:
Who is the leader? Who is the follower?
Whoever is allowed to establish the rules
and make the decisions is the leader.
If you don’t establish yourself as the
leader, your dog will be compelled by his
instincts to assume that role. And now you
will see those “rude and disrespectful”
behaviors. Your dog isn’t really being rude
or disrespectful. He is simply carrying out his role as pack
leader. Since you haven’t assumed the role, he has to do it.”
Kathy (anxiously): “But I don’t want to rule or control my dog.
I just want him to be my friend.”
Michele: “Kathy, Jake can never be just your friend, because
friends are equals. Jake is your dependent. He depends on you
for his food, his health, his safety, his very life. There are times
when you need to do things with Jake that he doesn’t
understand and doesn’t like: 12 ! give medicine that tastes awful
! take something dangerous out of his mouth
! roll him over to remove a tick from his belly
Jake doesn’t understand that medicines will help
him, that some things he puts in his mouth will
poison him or choke him, that ticks carry disease.
Without this knowledge, Jake doesn’t know what’s
best for him. For his own safety, he has to accept
YOUR greater knowledge and judgment.
For your own peace of mind as your dog’s guardian
and caregiver, you must feel confident that you
can restrain and handle him in any way you see fit,
at any time you see fit. But if your dog won’t even accept minor things like clipping his
toenails or cleaning his teeth or giving up a toy or sitting quietly
while you attach his leash, then he’s certainly not going to
accept something major that you might need to do with him to
protect him or save his life.
You simply cannot take proper care of a dog if he doesn’t
acknowledge you as his pack leader.”
Kathy: “But I’m worried that if I take charge all the time, he’ll
Michele: “No, he won’t resent you. He’ll RESPECT you, and
when your dog respects you, he will not only behave
beautifully, but also he will feel happy and secure. Isn’t that
what you want for Jake?”
Kathy: “Yes!” 13 Ch 2: How to Raise Your Dog to Be Smart, Happy,
and Well-Behaved In a nutshell, if you want your dog to be smart, happy, and
well-behaved, he has to be a FOLLOWER – not a leader.
Why follower dogs are so happy and bright
Follower dogs are happier because they’re
secure Follower dogs know you have everything
under control, so they don’t need to worry
about trying to figure out our complicated
human world. They can relax and enjoy life
while you handle all the decisions.
Follower dogs are happier because they’re appreciated The positive behavior of follower dogs gets noticed – by
you and by other people. Dogs recognize smiles and
appreciative tones of voice and thrive on the attention.
Follower dogs are happier because they can go more places Well-behaved follower dogs are easier to bring along when
you go visiting and are often allowed to remain in places where
a dog causing a ruckus would be kicked out.
Follower dogs are happier because they know the
consequences of every behavior Follower dogs know which of their behaviors bring praise,
petting, and rewards, and which behaviors bring scolding. This
black-and-white understanding helps them choose which
behaviors to do, and which ones to avoid. 14
Follower dogs are happier because they learn what your
“human sounds” mean Like anyone who learns a foreign language, dogs feel
confident and empowered when they understand what
you’re saying. Finally, follower dogs are SMARTER because their brain has
been developed Teaching your dog ANYTHING spurs his brain to build
mental connections, which makes him more successful at
learning additional things. In other words, his intelligence and
learning skills start to snowball with the very first thing you
teach and keep snowballing with each new word.
Now...what dog wouldn’t love all that?
Kathy: “But why do I have to be my dog’s leader to
teach him things? Won’t he learn from me if I just
love him? Don’t dogs want to please the people they
Michele (smiling): “Dogs want to please the people they
RESPECT. They want to please leaders. Dogs take advantage
of non-leaders. Or ignore them. Or simply co-exist with them in
a sort of bland limbo.
They will love you either way – because dogs don’t equate love
with respect. 15 Dogs love blindly. They respect only those who have
earned it. So teaching them to respect you will in no
way diminish their love for you – and if you want to
take proper care of them, teaching them to
respect you is mandatory. So if you already have your dog’s respect
You need to know what to do to keep it.
And if you’ve lost his respect
You need to know what to do to get it back.
Kathy (smiling, too): “Okay, I think I understand why I need to
teach Jake how to be a good follower. Now tell me how!”
How to teach your dog to be a follower
Teaching your dog to respect you – to be a
good follower – means teaching him
vocabulary words, along with the rules and
routines of your household.
As you’re teaching him these words, rules,
and routines – and more importantly, as
you’re requiring him to LEARN these words, rules, and
routines – he will come to recognize and respect you as a
capable teacher and leader.
When he respects you, he will automatically adjust
his daily behaviors to better ones. Why? Simply
because that’s what dogs do. 16 Vocabulary + Rules = A Good Dog
Teaching your dog vocabulary words, rules, and routines means
Educated dogs are the happiest, smartest, most
confident dogs in the world. They have learned
so many words, routines, and good behaviors
that they fully understand what is expected of
! Educated dogs know what to do.
! Educated dogs know what NOT to do.
Dogs love the security of knowing what to do and what not
to do. And their teacher is the person they come to view as
their trusted leader. They look up to that person. They believe
in that person. They trust that person to do anything with them,
to handle them in any way necessary.
You want yourself to be that person. Which is why YOU
must always be the one to train your dog.
You’ve heard of dog training schools that promise to take your
dog to their establishment and train him for you, then send him
home to you?
I wouldnt even consider this. Dogs aren’t robots who can
be programmed by someone else to listen to you and do
what you say. Dogs listen to you and do what you say when
they respect you – and they respect you only when you are
the teacher and leader who earns their respect.
No one else can do that for you. You have to do it yourself.
An educated dog is a true companion, while an
uneducated dog is just a casual pet. 17 If you don’t educate your dog He will never be the dog he could have been. He
will always be less intelligent, less aware of his
own worth and abilities.
You know the old saying – a mind is a
terrible thing to waste! An educated dog is a thinking dog. He looks at
you and reads your facial expressions and body
language. He listens carefully. He pieces
together individual words into complex actions.
“Where’s your rope toy, Buffy? Where is it? Go find it. Oops,
not quite, that’s your hedgehog toy. Drop it. Go find your rope
toy. Is it upstairs? Go upstairs! Upstairs! Get your rope toy.
Good girl, you got it! Bring it here. Good! Now give it to me.
Drop it! Good girl! Yay!”
Interested in a dog like that? Good for you! My dogs are
like that – and yours can be, too.
First, your dog has to learn the meaning of all those
words. That’s where you – and this book – come in. How to teach your dog words
Is it really possible for a dog to learn human words?
Yes, he will learn words easily – if you consistently
LINK a word to its appropriate object or action.
Dogs learn language just as babies do, you see. You hold up a
teddy bear to your baby and say teddy over and over. 18 Now imagine if you said teddy to your baby – but never held up
the teddy bear. Your baby wouldn’t have the slightest idea what
it meant. Until you connect a word with an object or action,
words are only meaningless sounds.
Think about that. It’s very important.
When you listen to a conversation in a foreign language, you
can’t understand it. Because...
The words are not connected to
anything concrete. The foreigner chatters
on and on without pointing to anything in
the real world. Don’t foreign languages
always sound impossibly fast? They
sound like one long run-on sentence,
with no way to tell the words apart.
That’s what English sounds like to your dog.
But let’s say you’re speaking with a French
gentleman and he repeats a single sound – one
sound only – pom. He repeats it clearly and
distinctly, while holding up an apple and showing
it to you. You’d get it, wouldn’t you? You
wouldn’t know how to spell it – it’s actually spelled POMME –
but you’d understand that the sound pom refers to the round red
fruit with the stem and green leaves.
The sound has become a word.
A word is simply a sound with meaning.
So…to turn a sound into a word for your dog 1. Emphasize the sound clearly and distinctly.
2. Repeatedly show the object to your dog, or help him do
the action or behavior. 19 Ch 3: The Most Important Word to Teach Word #1: “No”
When you tell your dog “No”, you want him to learn:
! that this particular behavior is not allowed
! that he must stop the behavior
! that he must not repeat it
You might think that’s pretty obvious, right? Isn’t
“No” such a simple word that your dog should
understand it the first time you say it? Not at all. Your dog was not born understanding English. To
your dog, no isn’t a word at all – it’s just a sound, and like all
other sounds, it’s meaningless until you show him – repeatedly
– that it has a meaning.
Suppose you’re watching TV. When a commercial
comes on, you wander into the kitchen for a glass of
water. Through the window you see your dog Jake
digging a hole in the tulip bed. You raise the
window and shout, “Jake, no! No!”
Jake looks up, startled. He stops digging. You step away from
the window and you wait, watching.
If Jake resumes digging, you slip out the side door and pick up
the garden hose that you’ve coiled there for just this purpose.
You tip-toe across the lawn just far enough to get into range.
You shout, “No! No!” as you turn on the water and spray Jake’s
hind end. He leaps into the air and scrambles away as you
repeat, “No. No digging!” 20 Here’s what Jake learned He was digging. Unfamiliar sounds
floated through the air. He continued to
dig – and suddenly, mysteriously, he got
soaked from behind, and boy, was he
Jake thinks about it. The harsh sound no occurred AS he was
digging. Hmm. Perhaps his digging produced the sound, which
was then followed by a startling blast of water. Clearly the
sound should be considered a warning of some kind. Yes,
indeed, he will definitely become more alert the next time he
hears that sound. In fact, maybe he shouldn’t dig at all, in case
it was his digging that caused the sound – and the water – to
occur . . .
Jake is well on his way to making the correct association
that no is a sound with meaning – and that its meaning
is a warning or admonition. How to make “No” mean something
You might be thinking, “But I say ‘No’ all the time, yet my dog
doesn’t stop what he’s doing!”
That’s right, if all you do is SAY it, it will remain a
meaningless sound. Remember, to become a meaningful word,
you have to connect a sound to something tangible –
preferably something memorable.
With Jake, we accomplished that by sneaking out
with the hose. We could also have tried charging out
with a squirt gun and Indian war whoops.
The point is to add something startling or
unpleasant to the sound no so it takes on meaning and
becomes a word. 21 In other words, you must reinforce or “back up” your
“No” with something that makes an impression on
your dog. This reinforcement or “back-up” is called
a correction. Correction #1: Back up your “No” with Stern Body Language This is the mildest of all corrections and it’s the one to start
with, with virtually every dog and every unacceptable behavior.
In fact, for some dogs and many unacceptable behaviors, Stern
Body Language will be the only correction you’ll ever need.
Here’s what I mean by Stern Body Language:
! Draw yourself up to your full height.
Put your hands on your hips.
Lean forward toward your dog.
Pull your eyebrows together into a fierce frown.
Stare into your dog’s eyes and clip out your “No!” in a
deep baritone voice.
For example, if your dog gets into the trash, turn on
your Stern Body Language, lead him firmly to the
overturned trash barrel (act melodramatic – dogs
and small children respond well to it), and say
Honestly, many dogs – especially young puppies
and gentle, sensitive adult dogs – never need
anything more than this. So give your dog the
benefit of the doubt and start out with this one. If he
responds to it, excellent! 22 Correction #2: Back up your “No” with a Collar Shake and/or
Time Out If you find your dog back in the trash ten minutes later,
repeat the Stern Body Language but add a quick (one-second)
shake of his collar. (Caution: Don’t do this with an aggressive
dog! Instead, hire a local trainer.) After the quick collar shake,
put your dog in his crate for a 15-minute Time Out while you
clean up the mess.
Time Outs can be as useful for dogs as they are
for children. Time Outs also give YOU a chance
to calm down after your dog has done
something bad. Some trainers will tell you, “Never use your dog’s crate as
punishment, because then he will dislike the crate and won’t
want to sleep in it.”
Nonsense. I’ve always used the crate for Time Outs and my
dogs still love the privacy of their “den,” into which they go
voluntarily to relax and sleep. Correction #3: Back up your “No” with a squirt of water You’ve already seen this one in action. For many dogs, a
sudden spray of water from a plastic spray bottle or squirt gun
is one of the most effective reinforcers of the word “No.” It’s
especially persuasive for small dogs. Also, by the way, for
Unfortunately, some dogs pay no mind to the
pathetic little squirts of a typical squirt gun. You
can buy heavy-duty water cannons that look like
submachine guns, but obviously not for indoor
use unless you don’t mind living in Waterworld. 23 However, these big water guns work well outdoors. For
! for a dog who’s digging holes in the garden
! for a dog who’s getting into the trash barrel
! for a dog who’s standing on the back porch barking
A garden hose also works, though it can be
awkward to get to quickly and silently. Often
your dog has stopped his unacceptable behavior
by the time you’ve gotten the hose uncoiled and turned on. For
chronic offenders, clever owners hang a hose directly outside
the back door, with the water always turned on and a hose
control that allows for instant on-off when you flick the switch.
I do have to rain on your parade here by telling you that
some dogs enjoy being squirted. So this correction doesn’t
always hold water. So to speak. Correction #4: Back up your “No” with a sudden loud sound If you follow up your “No” with a vigorous hand clap, or
shaking a can full of pennies, some dogs will stop a bad
The Barker Breaker by Amtek is a commercial
“beeper” that you hold in your hand and activate
by pressing the button. It produces a loud highpitched sound that makes many dogs scramble
away from whatever behavior they were
engaging in. I’ve found it to be very effective.
(Just be forewarned that it’s loud and shrill for
human ears, too!) Visit www.amtekpet.com for
A plastic fly swatter is another effective sound-maker when
thwacked! against a table or wall. 24 Correction #5: Back up your “No” with balled-up socks tossed
at your dog’s hind end It’s the harmless but unexpected pop on the rear end that
makes many dogs think twice about repeating the behavior that
If you want your dog to know where the
correction came from, stare firmly at him when
he whips around in surprise. Repeat “No” for
good measure. “Are there times when you DON’T want your
dog to know where a correction came from?”
Yes, some dogs are more impressed when a correction
seems to come out of nowhere. If you say absolutely nothing
and simply pop your dog’s hind end from across the room, then
immediately go back to reading your paper, humming
nonchalantly, not even looking at him, your dog may conclude
that the correction is a natural consequence of that particular
In other words, the behavior itself is correcting him! If
he believes this, he is more likely to avoid the behavior
even when you’re not in the room. So which physical correction should you use? We’ve looked at five corrections (reinforcers) for the word
“No.” Which one should you use?
As I said earlier, start with the gentlest one – stern body
language. If that doesn’t work, pick one of the others. 25 A proper correction should make your dog stop
the behavior, drop his tail, flatten his ears, and
shrink his body a bit in submission. His facial
expression and body language should say,
“Oops! Sorry about that!”
If he flings himself onto his back, dribbling urine, you came on
much too strong. Don’t do that again!
If he keeps right on doing what he’s doing, or if he stops for a
moment, then goes back to the misbehavior as soon as you turn
your back, you need to choose a stronger correction. Or
combine two of them.
In other words, let your DOG be the one to tell you –
through his expression and body language, but most
of all, through the RESULTS – which correction is
most suitable for him. Every dog is different. Caution: If you try these corrections for a couple of weeks and
your dog is still unresponsive, you should consult with a
professional trainer. He or she can evaluate your dog personally
and help you figure out what’s going on.
Eight mistakes when teaching “No”
1. Repeatedly saying “No” without backing it up.
2. Trying to teach your dog that “No” means ethically or
3. Repeating the same correction even when it doesn’t
make your dog stop the behavior.
4. Asking your dog to stop what he’s doing – instead of
5. Smiling or laughing when you say “No.”
6. Petting your dog while correcting him. 26 7. Calling your dog to come to you when you’re planning
to correct him.
8. Chasing your dog so you can catch him and correct him. Let’s look at these mistakes one at a time.
Don’t say “No” without being willing and able to back it up When her TV show went to commercial, Kathy
wandered into the kitchen for a glass of water.
Through the window she saw her dog Jake digging
another hole in the tulip bed. She raised the
window. “Jake, no! No!” Jake stopped digging and
looked up but Kathy was already hurrying back to
the TV with her water. Jake resumed his digging.
Here’s what Jake learned from Kathy’s “correction”:
That when he does certain things that are enjoyable to him,
his owner’s head sometimes appears, and vague sounds
float out of her mouth.
Nothing else happens.
Jake logically concludes that the sound no is a coincidental
background sound – like the incidental sounds of flying dirt he
hears when he digs a hole. The sound no carries no
consequences, so he can ignore it, just like he ignores the
sound of the flying dirt. Just another one of life’s little
mysteries! 27 If you say “No” and don’t back it up by doing
whatever it takes to make your dog stop the
behavior, you’re teaching him that “No” is a
meaningless sound that can be ignored. Be especially careful when you’re occupied with
doing something like watching TV or talking on the
phone. Some dogs learn that if you’re busy, you
may yell at them, but you won’t make them stop.
Not a good lesson! Don’t try to teach your dog that “No” means “wrong” You may be wondering: “How can I get my dog to
understand which things are the right things to do,
and which things are the wrong things to do?”
The answer is: You can’t. Your dog will never
understand that some things are morally and
ethically right, while other things are morally and
ethically wrong. To your dog, there will never be anything inherently “wrong”
with grabbing a toy from another pet.
You can’t teach him values, such as Sharing Is Kind.
You can’t teach him to step into another living creature’s
shoes and empathize with their feelings. 28 Kathy held up her ruined sandal and waved it at her
“Jake, now you look at this! These sandals cost me
seventy-five dollars and now you’ve ruined them!
They were a perfect match for my turquoise outfit! It was
wrong of you to do this, Jake! It was mean! You’ve made
me very unhappy and you darned well better be sorry! Are
you listening to me, Jake? Do you understand me?”
Poor Jake. All he understands is that his owner is
holding up a chew toy and spewing out a long
monologue of harmless sounds. As she waves the
sandal around, he stares longingly at it. He
remembers where he got this tasty toy. He also
remembers that there were lots more in the same place.
Don’t bother asking your dog silly questions:
! “Don’t you know that your sister Fluffy will feel sad if
you steal her toy?”
! “Can’t you see that jumping on my white pants upsets
! “Don’t you understand that chewing up my Beanie
Babies is a mean thing to do?”
This is how your dog would answer those questions:
Don’t think of your dog’s behaviors as right or wrong. Think of
them as acceptable to you – or unacceptable to you. When
you correct an unacceptable behavior, don’t try to explain
WHY it’s unacceptable. Just use the sound no and turn it into a
meaningful word by backing it up with a correction. 29
Virtually every unacceptable behavior can
be handled this way. Don’t keep using a correction if it doesn’t work for your dog It’s tempting to choose a particular correction – for example,
the squirt gun – because you like it. But the question should
always be: Does it work for your dog?
The Armstrongs were sick of Jake’s incessant
chewing. Their living room upholstery was
beginning to look like Craters-of-the-Moon. So
Roger bought a plastic squirt gun, and when he
caught Jake chewing, he ran toward the dog,
Well! That was just fine and dandy with Jake! He leaped
happily into the air, trying to catch the water with his tongue.
The “game” ended when Roger, backpedaling frantically,
tripped over the ottoman and fell on his backside. An hour later,
Roger returned to the living room and found a fresh hole dug in
the sofa. Jake was curled up in it, chewing on the plastic squirt
This happens a lot. Owners will complain that they tried the
squirt gun (or fly swatter or collar shake) again and again. And
it didn’t work.
! Now, sometimes there is something amiss with their
timing. They may not have been quick enough in
applying the correction in close enough proximity to the
unacceptable behavior. Timing is critical.
! Or there might be something amiss with their body
language – their attitude as they’re carrying out the
correction. They may not be acting stern enough or 30 serious enough. Dogs can tell when your heart really
isn’t in a correction.
! And sometimes consistency is the problem. If you
correct your dog for a behavior one day, but allow him to
do it the next day without any correction, he will never
But often a correction doesn’t work simply
because you’ve chosen the wrong correction for
your particular dog. Your dog will show you,
by his body language and by the results,
if a particular correction works for him.
Dogs will do what is most to their advantage to do. If your
dog believes that the fun of doing a particular misbehavior
outweighs the discomfort he receives from a particular
correction, he will keep doing the misbehavior.
Only when the discomfort of the correction outweighs the
fun of the misbehavior will he stop doing the misbehavior –
because he believes it is no longer worth it – to HIM.
Every dog is different when it comes to
which correction will stop him from
continuing a particular behavior. You should strive for the gentlest correction that will stop the
misbehavior, but ultimately…
it is your DOG who is the decider of which
correction that must be. 31 Don’t ASK your dog to stop what he’s doing As Kathy struggled to pull another sandal out of
Jake’s mouth, she tried to reason with him. “Ja-a-aa-k-e,” she pleaded. “Come on now, Jake, be a good
boy? Let me have this, Jake. Be a good boy?”
Her wheedling tone, clutter of words, and all the
indecisive question marks sounded as though she were giving
Jake a choice. His answer was to wag his tail, clamp down, and
tug more firmly.
Your tone of voice means everything to your dog.
Keep your “No” short and uncluttered, your voice deep
and serious. This is more difficult for women, which is
why dogs often respond better to a man’s corrective
voice than to a woman’s. But don’t shout. Dogs interpret shouting as loss of control and
they conclude that you are a screechy, blustering person not
worthy of respect.
Or they become so fearful that their survival instinct kicks
in and they freeze up and become unable to think. A dog in
the throes of fear is intimidated by you, but intimidation is
not the same as respect.
A respectful dog is in perfect learning
mode, while a fearful dog is incapable of
learning a darned thing. 32 Don’t smile or laugh when you say “No.” Roger couldn’t help chuckling as he pulled Jake
away from the spitting cat.
“Hey, Jake,” Roger said. “Leave the cat alone.” But
he had to admit that it had been thrilling to watch
his athletic dog in full pursuit. Roger wasn’t fond of
Jake looked up at him, panting and grinning. He could tell by
Roger’s smile and relaxed body language that he wasn’t really
in trouble – that in fact, his master approved of his behavior.
If you secretly think it’s cute or funny when
your dog does something you don’t want
him to repeat, you need to keep those
thoughts off your face and out of your voice.
Otherwise, your dog will “read” your true
belief and conclude that your “No” isn’t really serious.
Again I remind you to match your stern voice with stern
! Draw yourself up to your full height.
Put your hands on your hips.
Lean forward toward your dog.
Pull your eyebrows together into a fierce frown.
Stare into your dog’s eyes and clip out your “No!” in a
deep baritone voice.
When correcting your dog, your voice, facial
expression, and body language are important! 33 Don’t add affection or petting to your corrections “Jake, how many times have I told you to stay off
the sofa!” Kathy complained. She wrapped her arm
around the dog and pushed him onto the floor, her
hand sliding along his back in a stroking motion.
When he was down, she tickled his head. As she
headed for the kitchen, Jake jumped back onto the
Many dogs are happy to “take a correction” if it includes
personal attention and touching. In fact, if they think you might
pick them up or pet them during or immediately after correcting
them, some dogs will deliberately misbehave just to get the
So make your corrections swift and impersonal.
! Don’t smile at your dog.
! Don’t pick him up.
! Don’t rest your hand on him while you’re scolding him.
Simply correct him, then turn your attention away from him
and go about your business. You want him to learn that only
when he is behaving well does he get personal attention,
smiling, touching, holding, and petting. Don’t call your dog if you’re going to correct him This is one of the most common mistakes made by dog
If you call your dog and he comes to you, and then you scold
him or do anything unpleasant with him, he will associate the
sound come with discomfort and he will thereafter be reluctant
to respond positively to that sound. 34 You never want your dog to think that obeying
“Come” might cause discomfort. And don’t try to trick your dog by adopting a
wheedling, coaxing tone: “Come here, Jake,
Mommy’s not going to hurt you, come on,
Because if your dog follows his trusting nature and believes
you – and then discovers your deception – he will not only
distrust the word “Come” but also he will distrust YOU.
No, whenever you need to correct your dog or do
anything uncomfortable with him, don’t call him. Go get him. Silently.
And if your dog runs away from you when you’re going to get
him? Don’t chase your dog. When the garbage can crashed to the kitchen floor,
strewing trash everywhere, Jake knew he was in
trouble. Kathy was rushing toward him, hands
outstretched. Jake feinted left, and rushed right. The
chase was on!
When they don’t want to be caught, many
dogs will dart just out of your reach and
lead you on merry chases around the
You should never play this game! 35 Promise yourself right now that you will never again run after
your dog – because every second that he eludes you cheapens
you in his eyes. He knows that he is defeating your efforts and
making you look like a bumbling fool.
Instead, track him down silently. Don’t run. Walk firmly and
purposefully, leaning forward with intent, keeping your
expression stony-faced, drilling your dog with your eyes.
Most dogs are baffled and unnerved by such persistent,
methodical following. In fact, many dogs eventually shrink
down and give up, and if your dog does this, make your
correction much milder to encourage this kind of yielding
Some dogs will actually freeze in position
whenever they’re caught doing something
unacceptable. They’ve learned through
experience that you will track them down, to the
ends of the earth if necessary, to give a deserved
correction, so they figure they might as well stop and get it over
Now, let’s assume your dog has given up and/or you have him
absolutely cornered so you can be sure of getting hold of his
collar without any risk of lunging at him and missing. What
should you do next?
1. Lead him briskly to the scene of the crime (the
stolen food, the chewed slippers, the
As you lead him, give his collar a few corrective jerks so
he can tell you’re not happy with him. But use common
sense! You would jerk a Chihuahua’s collar with one finger
– just a tiny little tug – and you would jerk a submissive
dog or first offender much more gently than a feisty,
dominant, or repeat offender. 36 2. Show your dog the bad deed and tell him firmly, “No.”
Another shake of his collar for emphasis, then either put him in
his crate for a 15-minute Time Out (if you need to clean up
some mess) or just let his collar go and don’t spare him a
second glance. If he tries to make up by fawning around your
feet with a sorrowful look, ignore him.
Your coldness at this time will impress upon
him how serious you are about
unacceptable behaviors. “My dog dances out of reach almost every time I
reach toward him – what should I do?”
A hand-hold will help solve this problem.
A hand-hold is a piece of light rope or sturdy
string attached to your dog’s buckle collar. It
should be just long enough to swing short of the
ground when he walks. (You don’t want him
stepping on it and jerking his own neck.) Some people cut an
old cotton leash to the proper length and clip it to the collar.
A dog who consistently runs from you should wear a
hand-hold whenever you’re around to supervise him. Be
sure to take off the hand-hold when you have to leave
him unsupervised – you don’t want it getting hung up
on something when you’re not around to notice and
Chase games in general You yourself (or your spouse or kids or whoever owned your
dog before you) may have taught your dog to run away from
you – by playing chase games with him. If you make little
teasing lunges toward your dog, or playfully stamp your foot at
him, and he dashes away from you, both of you undoubtedly
think this is a lot of fun.
It may be fun. But chase games are one of the
worst things you can do with a dog. Lunging at your dog and pretending you’re going to grab him
teaches him that when you move toward him, he can EVADE
you – exactly what you don’t want him to learn!
“What if my dog chases ME or my kids? Sometimes we
run and he runs after us.”
It depends on how your dog is doing the chasing:
If he’s an otherwise well-behaved dog, and if, when you stop
running, he settles down quickly, that’s fine. When HE chases
YOU, you’re being the leader and he’s being the follower.
All well and good. But if chase games get him so excited or intense that he nips at
your legs or slams his body against yours or tangles up your
feet, that’s bad.
Or if you stop playing and he won’t settle down but keeps
running in circles around you or keeps trying to goad you into
playing some more, that’s bad. 38 Now, some dogs just need to hear “No” a few times (reinforced
by a physical correction if necessary) and they’ll cease their
nipping or over-excitable behaviors.
But other dogs (often herding breeds, sighthounds, or terriers)
can’t handle any kind of chase game. Their instincts to get
rough or grab are just too strong.
Warning: Children should not play any kind of chase
game with a dog. Children can’t judge when a dog is out of
control and they can’t correct a dog with enough authority
when his behavior goes over the line.
For safety’s sake, don’t allow your dog to chase
any child, and don’t allow your kids to run away
from your dog. Ah-ah! (and other words that mean “No”)
Well, we’ve certainly spent a lot of time on “No”, haven’t we?
That’s because it’s the one word you need to control
your dog. You must be able to stop your dog from doing
anything you don’t want him to do.
If you can’t get your dog to obey “No,” he can never be a
well-behaved dog. But “No” isn’t the only word you might use to stop your dog
from doing some unacceptable behavior. There are other words
and phrases you can use as substitutes – and some of these are
even better than “No.” 39 Word #2: “Ah-ah!”
Anyone who has raised a child is intimately familiar with this
guttural sound. It’s a natural expression of warning and
rebuke and it’s perfect for misbehaviors that happen suddenly
For example, you’re cleaning tartar off your dog’s teeth
with a dental pick. He starts to pull his head away. You
need to stop this movement ASAP so you don’t accidentally
chip his gum. “Ah-ah!” bursts from your throat more
quickly than you can form your lips around “No.”
Try it right now, for practice. Make it a quick,
choppy, urgent sound. For many owners, “Ah-ah!” is actually a better word to use
than “No.” If you’ve been saying “No” to your dog for a long
time (without knowing how to enforce it), it may have
become a long-standing habit for him to ignore it. Starting
fresh with “Ah-ah!”, where now you know how to back it up
with something physical, is a great idea. Word #3: “Stop that”
I often use this phrase with a dog who is being persistent and
annoying, such as...
! a dog who keeps insisting on being petted
! a dog who keeps wriggling when I’m grooming him
! a dog who keeps whining for something
Your voice should convey annoyance and indignation.
Likewise your facial expression. Don’t smile or chuckle. 40
Correcting a dog effectively means being
an actor! Your tone of voice and facial
expression are important. Word #4: “Don’t touch”
Suppose you’ve caught your dog chewing on
your sneaker. Take it away and say “No!” as you
hold it melodramatically near his face. Now add
a slow, deep, ominous “Don’t...touch.” It’s a
phrase that comes naturally, so you’ll probably
say it with feeling.
You can also use “Don’t touch” as a pre-emptive warning to
let your dog know that something is off limits. For example,
you bring home a caged hamster and show it to your dog. Warn
him, “Don’t...touch” and reinforce physically, if necessary,
until he backs away and looks like he “gets” it.
With “Don’t touch,” you want to convey the message that the
object in question is very important to you and is to be treated
like one of your personal belongings:
! precious to YOU
! forbidden to HIM Word #5: “Leave it”
When you go for a walk, does your dog snuffle along the
ground for things to pick up and eat?
Sooner or later, a Vacuum Cleaner Dog will snatch up a piece
of chocolate, which is toxic to dogs. Or a cigarette butt.
Chewing gum. Aluminum foil. A piece of glass. 41 Nip this bad habit in the bud with “Leave it.”
“Leave it” is most useful when your dog is on a
leash so you can reinforce with a sharp tug that
turns him away from the temptation. If he has a weakness for some particular delicacy, you can even
stage a “set-up.” Drop the temptation on the sidewalk and
practice walking your dog past it, correcting him whenever he
tries to nose it, or lick it, or pick it up.
“Leave it” is also a great phrase to use
! When your dog is sniffing another dog and you suddenly
see somebody’s hackles coming up. You want your dog
away from there right now!
! When your dog is pestering the cat or rooting around in
the laundry basket.
! When you’re walking your male dog inside a pet supply
store and he’s sniffing with interest at a display stand
where, no doubt, other male dogs have left their “calling
You can easily come up with other situations where you’d like
your dog to immediately stop what he’s doing and move on
to something else. That’s the time for “Leave it.” 42 Word #6: “Hey!”
I doubt you’ll find this word in any other training book.
Nevertheless, it’s one of the most common words used by dog
owners and trainers alike. Really.
“Hey!” is a warning word that essentially means, “Hey!”
Seriously, that’s what it means. I use it to get my dog’s
attention when I can’t quite tell what she’s doing but I have a
concern that it might be something I don’t want her to do. I
want to get her attention quickly so I can intervene if necessary.
! She’s sniffing at the floor around the trash can. Could I
have thrown something away and missed the can?
! One of my dogs has finished her supper. The other dog
has not. The greedy eater is sidling surreptitiously toward
the slowpoke, hoping to sneak her head into the bowl and
snitch a few bites. “Hey!”
Many of these corrective words can be used
interchangeably. That’s fine. You’ll sort out on your own
which words and phrases work better for you and your dog and
a particular misbehavior.
Whichever corrective word you choose, remember, TONE
OF VOICE is all-important!
Try not to use your dog’s name as a corrective
word. You don’t want him to associate his name
with negativity. Now we come to a corrective word that some trainers consider
taboo (though most of them probably use it anyway, when no
one can hear them!): 43 Word #7: “Bad”
This is a controversial word because it’s used like so:
“Bad dog! Shame on you!” Child psychologists tell us
we’re not supposed to call our kids bad, that children
internalize our words and form negative self-images
based on our negative characterizations of them as people.
This doesn’t really hold for dogs, who are far too rooted in the
moment to do this kind of deep self-analysis. No matter how
bluntly you tell a dog that he is the very son of Satan, he won’t
start moping about his self-image and thinking of himself as
On the other hand, using the phrase “Bad dog”
might put YOU in such a negative mood that you
start thinking of your misbehaving dog as
inherently bad. As though he was born a bad dog
and will always be a bad dog.
This is not a constructive attitude at all.
So if your relationship with your dog isn’t very good right now,
you should probably avoid using the word “bad” to describe
any of his behaviors. It will only make it that much harder for
you to see your dog in a positive light.
But if your relationship is fine and you believe that he is
inherently a good dog, then you’re not going to do any harm by
occasionally reacting to some particularly odious behavior with
the outraged phrase, “What did you do? BAD dog. Shame on
“Bad dog!” is an honest human expression and we
all use it from time to time – yes, even the trainers
who tell you not to! 44 Ch 4: Happy words of praise Word #8: “Good”
“Good dog!” “Good puppy!” “Good boy!” “Good girl!”
Doesn’t that sound nice? It’s about time we got around to
praising our dog, isn’t it?
You don’t want to be in Correction Mode all day
long, just waiting for your dog to make some little
mistake so you can pounce on him! W hat a miserable
existence that would be, for both of you. No, if you’re
going to let your dog know which behaviors are
unacceptable, you must also let him know which
behaviors are acceptable – even desirable. Watch for good behavior! Praise your dog
whenever he does something you like – even
if it’s just resting quietly on his blanket, or
chewing on his bone, or sitting peacefully
beside the cat.
“GOOD boy, Jake! GOOD dog! GOOD bone!”
Notice how you can use GOOD to refer not only to your
DOG, but also to the good thing he’s doing.
“GOOD sit!” “GOOD come!” 45 Five tips for praising your dog 1. Pitch your voice higher than usual. A low-pitched, serious
“Good dog” sounds more like a growl than praise. Dogs love
cheerful tones, which is why they often respond better to a
woman’s praise than a man’s. Brighten your voice when
telling your dog what a GOOD dog he is.
2. Exaggerate each syllable. Draw out your praise words.
“Gooood giiiiirl.” Brisk, clipped words sound more like
commands or reprimands. S-t-r-e-t-c-h out your praise words
so your dog can savor them.
3. Add a physical “back-up” to your praise words. Just as
you add a physical reinforcement to your correction words, add
a physical component to your praise words – a pat on the head,
a tickle under the chin, a rub of the chest, a moment of silly
play, or a treat.
4. Smile when you praise your dog. Many dogs are astute
observers and can see, hear, and recognize a smile. 5. Tell your dog he’s a good “puppy.” Yes, even after he’s all
grown up! The word puppy makes you think of cuteness,
fuzziness, and playful antics, and your voice will take on a fond
tone that older dogs enjoy. Trust me, it will make both of you
feel happy. 46 One of my favorite praise words is:
Word #9: “Yay!”
“Yay!” is a terrific word to use whenever your dog starts to do
something right and you want to reassure him that he’s on the
For example, when he’s learning how to climb stairs and he
puts his paw tentatively onto a new tread, encourage him
with a cheerful, “YAY! That’s it! GOOD boy!”
Also use “Yay!” when your dog is successful at
something you’ve been working on. For example,
after a successful housebreaking trip, “Yay! You did
it!” will let your dog know that he has accomplished
something that really pleases you. YAY! Your dog has learned nine words and phrases so far, all
related to correction and praise. These nine words are an
essential foundation for raising a good dog. They show him
with absolute clarity the consequences of everything he does –
positive and negative. Dogs learn almost entirely by
! the consequences of their actions
! your reactions to their actions
If you always attach positive reactions and positive
consequences to his positive behaviors…
and if you always attach negative reactions and negative
consequences to his negative behaviors... 47 your dog will choose to do the positive behaviors and
avoid the negative behaviors. Because it is to his
advantage to do so – and that’s what dogs do.
So even if your dog learned only these nine
words and no others, he would be very
much under control and quite a wellbehaved dog. But we have 91 more words to teach him! 48 Ch 5: Learn about your breed Before we continue teaching your dog words, you should find
out something about the typical temperament and behavior
of your dog’s breed.
Why your dog’s breed matters
Your dog does certain things because they are “hardwired”
into his genes.
Let me explain.
Most breeds were developed for a reason,
and that reason usually had to do with
working abilities, such as herding sheep,
killing rodents in the barn, chasing rabbits,
treeing raccoons, flushing pheasant, retrieving shot ducks,
pulling carts and sleds, guarding and protecting, and so on.
When developing breeds for working purposes, breeders found
that certain behavioral traits best suited each type of work. By
only breeding together dogs who had these behavioral
characteristics, these behaviors became “hardwired” into
your breed’s genes.
Working behaviors include:
! high energy level for working all day
! chasing and grabbing things that move (running children
and other animals, bikes, cars)
! aggression toward other animals
! digging holes
! barking, baying, howling
! suspiciousness toward strangers 49 ! instincts to explore, escape, and follow their eyes and
nose in search of adventure
! ignoring your commands in favor of making their own
decisions Good news and bad news about working behaviors The good news about working behaviors is this: If you want a
dog for, say, hunting or herding, you can choose a purebred
who was developed to do that type of work and there’s a decent
chance he will have inherited those behavioral genes.
The bad news about working behaviors is this: If you just want
a family companion, working behaviors can be a real
nuisance, and because they’re hardwired into the genes, they
can be very difficult to change. “But isn’t a dog’s environment – the way he’s
raised – more important than heredity?”
With some dogs, yes. When well-raised and well-trained, many
dogs with a genetic predisposition for undesirable
characteristics may not express those characteristics.
But with other dogs, NO – their genetic tendencies are too
strong to be changed. “Managed” to some extent, perhaps. But
For example, many Akitas and Pit Bull Terriers (certainly
not all, but many) will never tolerate another dog of the
same sex no matter how hard you try. In fact, trying at all
may lead to serious injury or death of the other pet. 50 Temperament and behavior are definitely influenced by
environment, which includes how you raise and train your dog.
But also important – and in some dogs, MORE important – is
innate genetic temperament. Everything starts with the genes
your dog was born with.
And take heed! The influence of environment can work
AGAINST you, too. If you choose a breed whose genes include
characteristics you want, but then you screw up his raising
and training (especially during the most important formative
period of seven to sixteen weeks old), those desirable
characteristics you thought you were getting when you chose
this breed can go straight out the window!
To sum up: Both genetics and environment are
influential in how your dog turns out. But within any
individual dog, one of these influences is often
stronger than the other. Breeds don’t always act the way you might expect And now...
After all this discussion about “typical” temperament and
behavior, I need to kick sand all over your clean floor by telling
you that some purebred dogs actually don’t have the
temperament and behaviors that are typical for their breed.
In other words, some purebreds don’t conform to the
In every breed, there are energetic individuals and placid
individuals. Stubborn individuals and eager-to-please
individuals. Dominant individuals and submissive individuals.
Standoffish introverts and good-natured goofballs who love
Purebred puppies, you see, are not guaranteed
to grow up to have a certain temperament or set
of behaviors. Why not?
Some don’t grow up with their breed’s typical temperament
because of how they were raised, especially during the most
formative psychological period of seven to sixteen weeks old.
We just talked about this – that many aspects of
temperament and behavior can be influenced by
environment, more so in some dogs than in others.
Other dogs don’t grow up with their
breed’s typical temperament because
one or both of their parents didn’t
have the typical temperament genes
for their breed. So they couldn’t pass
those genes on to their offspring.
Ironically, it’s okay for a dog not to inherit the typical genes for
his breed if they would have been for undesirable behavioral
Take, for example, a Jack Russell Terrier’s tendency to
inherit genes for high energy and stubbornness. If your
particular Jack Russell puppy happens to inherit genes for
calmness and obedience, he would be a non-typical Jack
Russell, but you’d probably appreciate it!
But non-typical genes can be bad if the behavior you were
expecting was positive. For example, if you chose a Golden
Retriever because you wanted a friendly, sociable dog, it would
be very disappointing if your Golden puppy turned out to have
inherited shy or aggressive genes. 52
You can minimize this risk by not acquiring a
purebred puppy unless you’ve personally evaluated
both parents to ensure that they have the traits
you’re looking for in your puppy. If you want to be even more certain of temperament,
acquire an adult dog rather than a puppy. There are plenty
of adult dogs who have already proven themselves to have the
characteristics you want. If you find such an adult, often from a
breed rescue group or animal shelter, don’t let “typical breed
negatives” worry you.
When you acquire an adult, you’re acquiring what he
So now you know that not all purebred dogs have the
temperament and behavior you might expect for their breed.
But don’t get sidetracked by this possibility. Unless you know
for sure that it’s true for your particular dog – that your Akita is
very different from other Akitas, for example – you should
assume that he is similar to other Akitas and you should find
out what the breed was developed to do, so you will be better
able to predict the behavioral traits your dog is likely to have.
By knowing what to expect from your breed,
you will be aware of potential trouble areas.
For example, when your terrier starts digging
holes, you’ll know that it will be harder to get
him to obey “No” than it would be with a digging Pug. Terriers
were bred to dig. Pugs were not.
Visit my website (www.yourpurebredpuppy.com) for
honest reviews of 180 breeds. 53 If you discover that your breed is stubborn or independent,
don’t despair! By teaching your dog new words and backing up
what you say, you will show him that you are a capable
teacher/leader who is worth respecting. Even a stubborn,
independent dog will understand this.
A dog is always inclined
to please someone he respects.
So even if your breed is challenging to work with in the
beginning, don’t give up. The first words are always the
hardest for stubborn dogs and slow learners. By the time
you get to the words further along in this book, your dog will
have gotten the hang of the concept that sounds have meaning
– and YOU will have gotten the hang of how to get across to
him the meaning of each new sound.
Teaching and learning will become faster
and easier for both of you! 54 Ch 6: Schedule of Training Which words to teach and when to teach them At two to three months old, I teach a puppy
His daily routine. Where his food and water dishes are located.
What times of day he will eat (typically morning, early
afternoon, and evening). Where his bed is. What time he goes to
bed. What time he gets up. Where he goes to the bathroom.
Where his toys are kept. What routes he will be taken on for
walks. And so on.
Dogs absolutely love routines. They feel safe and secure
when they know where everything of importance is located
in their world. They feel safe and secure when their lives
follow a predictable schedule, and when they can count on
you to say and do the same things again and again.
Routines reassure your dog that he knows what comes
next, that his world is the same as it was yesterday, and that
it will be the same tomorrow. Routines that YOU set tell
your dog that YOU are the establisher of the rules and that
he is the follower of the rules.
Start establishing routines in your dog’s life right
from the very beginning. Correction words. To stop what he’s doing when I say “No”
or “Ah-ah” or “Stop that.”
Praise words. What “Good!” and “Yay!” mean. (Puppies
especially love the sound of “Yay!”) 55 Crate training. To stay quietly in his crate at night when he
goes to sleep, and during the day whenever I’m not interacting
with him. (Not for more than two hours at a time during the
Housebreaking. I immediately introduce a young puppy to his
bathroom spot. However, he is still an infant and it will be some
time before his internal organs are developed enough for
reliability, especially during the day when his metabolism is
high and he is running around and needing to “go” every few
Toy breeds and hound breeds are especially slow to
housebreak, with many not being reliable until eight to ten
MONTHS of age.
Acceptance of being handled. I introduce the grooming
positions of “Sit”, “Stand”, “Open your mouth”, and “Give a
paw” while I handle the puppy all over his body, brush his coat,
brush his teeth, and clip his nails.
Food words. “Are you hungry?” “Supper!” “Biscuit!”
Gentleness. “Easy!” No biting. Take things gently from my
hand. No grabbing. At three to six months old, I teach a puppy
To lie down.
To STAY lying down for up to 30 minutes.
To look directly at me when I say his name.
To come when called.
To wait inside the door, even when it’s open, until I tell him he
can go through.
To walk on the leash without pulling.
To stop barking when I say “Quiet.”
To interact politely with strangers and other animals.
To “Give” or “Drop” whatever is in his mouth when told. 56 Starting at six months old and up, I teach…
The remaining words in this book, including advanced
exercises, retrieving games, and tricks. We’re going to work our way through the vocabulary words
pretty much in the order I just laid out.
So if you have a young puppy, this is a good schedule to
If you have an adolescent or adult dog, you can use the
same schedule in roughly the same order. Just go back and
add whatever words or behaviors your dog doesn’t know,
and/or skip over whatever words or behaviors your dog
already knows. 57 Ch 7: Respect Training Establish consistent household rules
Establish one set of rules for your dog – what
he can and cannot do.
Everyone in your family should follow those
Here are some examples:
If YOU don’t allow your dog upstairs, your spouse and kids
can’t allow it either.
If he can’t sleep on the sofa on Monday, he can’t sleep on it on
If he can’t jump on Aunt Martha when she comes visiting, then
he can’t jump on Uncle Fred either.
During these formative months of training, there should be no
“maybes” or “sometimes.” You may think you’re being flexible
by going back and forth about what your dog is allowed to do.
Your dog, on the other hand, pegs you as indecisive and he will
begin to test your rules to find out which ones are real, and
which ones are up for grabs.
Dogs do not do well with gray areas. If you allow
one gray area, your dog is driven by instinct to
second-guess another of your decisions, and
another, and another, to find out where the limits
really are. Decide on the rules. Stick to them. Consistently. Everyone. 58 Use the same words
Everyone in your family should use the same words, and those
words should mean the same thing to everyone. In other words, don’t do this:
Roger says, “Jake, sit!”
Kathy says, “Sit down, Jake!”
Roger says, “Come, Jake!”
Kathy says, “Here, Jake!”
Roger asks, “Do you need to go out?”
Kathy asks, “Do you need to go potty?”
This is very confusing to your dog! Don’t do this, either:
When Jake reared up and plunked his paws on
Kathy’s stomach, she said, “Down, Jake!” When
she found him sleeping on forbidden furniture, she
said, “Get down, Jake!” When he bounded up the
stairs into the attic, she pointed at the stairs and
said, “Jake, go down!”
Poor Jake. His owner is using the same word for three
different actions. To make matters worse, none of those
actions is what “Down” is supposed to mean.
When we get around to teaching “Down” to your
dog, it will mean a lying down position. It will
be much harder to teach this meaning if you’re
using that word to mean other things. 59
As we work through our 100 words, go over each
word with everyone in your family. Make sure you’re
all using the same word or phrase for the same
behavior or object. Don’t talk too much
By now you’ve probably noticed how important it is to
! SINGLE words.
! SHORT phrases.
In other words (how shall I put this kindly?), don’t talk too
This advice may be hard for chatty people to
follow. But if you babble incessantly at your dog,
he will struggle to pick out the few words he
knows – the few words that really apply to him –
from everything else you’re saying. Trying to wade through all
that “noise” is stressful and eventually he will start tuning you
out because he believes that understanding you is hopeless.
Obviously, this is not what you want!
So, during your dog’s formative learning time, instead of
rambling on and on about how your day went, use short
sentences that emphasize one pertinent word or phrase.
“Are you hungry? Want your supper? Time for supper!”
“Do you need to go out? Out in the yard? Go out!”
“Want a biscuit? Here’s your biscuit. Good biscuit!”
When your dog trusts that you will use simple
words that he understands, he will pay closer
attention to you. 60 Later, when he’s more settled and mature and further along in
his training, go right ahead and pour out your heart to him when
you need to – it’s one of the reasons we love our dogs so much!
But for now, keep your communication simple, i.e. short
Don’t allow sassiness
“Jake, sit!” “Bark!”
“Jake, sit down!” “Bark bark!”
Kathy tried to grab hold of his collar, but he danced
just out of reach. He bowed his front end to the
ground, hindquarters high in the air, tail wagging
impishly. “Bark! Bark!” he shouted. Kathy sighed and went
back to making toast for breakfast. A dog who barks back at you when you tell him to do
something is sassing you. This is as harmful to your
relationship as it would be if your child exclaimed, “I don’t
want to! Make me!” and you ignored it.
If you have a sassing dog, put him on leash
before you tell him to do anything. Or attach
a hand-hold that he can wear all the time
Leashes and hand-holds give you something to latch
onto when your dog barks back at you. Give it a
sharp tug when he sasses you and tell him firmly,
“No. Stop that.” 61 Don’t allow demanding behaviors
Jake stood beside the cupboard where the biscuits
were kept, then looked expectantly toward the
kitchen table, where Kathy and Roger were eating
breakfast. “Bark!” he said.
Roger looked up from his coffee. “No, Jake. I’ll
give you a biscuit when we’re done.”
“Bark!” repeated Jake. “Bark! Bark!” He scampered around in
circles, chasing his tail and acting silly.
Kathy laughed. “He’s such a character,” she said.
“Yeah, but we shouldn’t give him anything until we’re done,”
“Bark! Bark!” yelled Jake. He seized a plush hedgehog toy and
barreled around the kitchen, nearly knocking over a plant stand.
“I’m just about done,” Kathy said hastily, shoving her chair
back, still chewing her toast.
“Bark!” said Jake, running toward her, still clutching his
“Okay, fine, here’s your biscuit, “ Kathy said crossly. “Sit. Sit
down. Come on, Jake, sit!”
Jake crouched into a sort-of-sit, his hindquarters not really
touching the floor, poised for take-off. As Kathy lowered her
hand gingerly toward his nose, he exploded into mid-air and
grabbed the biscuit, accidentally scraping her thumb with his
“Well, at least he sat,” Kathy said with a sigh. 62 When you allow your dog to be demanding, he doesn’t
conclude that you are a wonderful person.
He concludes that wow, you are lower in
the pecking order than he had thought –
which makes him HIGHER than he had
Granting one demanding behavior, however
innocent it may seem, usually leads to another
demanding behavior. Why? Because a dog is compelled by his instincts to grab the
inch you offer and see if he can make it a foot. In this way, he
tests his position in the pecking order to see if he can advance
Your answer must be NO.
Note that your dog doesn’t actually have to GET the biscuit in
order to be demanding.
It’s the very act of barking or whining at
you, or poking you with his nose or paw,
that is demanding.
It goes without saying that you should not
give your dog a treat when he demands it so rudely. But you
must also make it clear that the demanding behavior itself is
Tell him firmly, “No. Stop that.” If he persists, put him
in his crate for a 15-minute Time Out. 63 Teach your dog when “Enough is Enough”
Word #10: “Enough”
“Jake, stop pestering me!” Kathy was sitting on the
sofa trying to read. She had been petting him, but
after awhile she just wanted to read. Jake was
having none of that. He kept shouldering himself
between her knees and wedging his head into her
lap. Kathy kept pushing him away, but he only
wagged his tail and came charging right back. That’s what can happen if you pet your dog too much, hold
your dog too much, or sit on the couch absently stroking your
dog every time you watch TV or read a book.
You may be creating an unhealthy dependency.
! Some dependent dogs become jealous toward other
people or other pets, because they don’t like you giving
your attention to anyone else.
! Some dependent dogs get so accustomed to your fondling
and cuddling that when you take your hand away or go
out for the day, they become angry and sulky. They may
act out their feelings by barking persistently, or by
digging holes, or by having housebreaking “accidents,”
or by destroying something.
! Some dependent dogs become nervous and insecure
about facing the world without your hand on their back.
When you’re gone, separation anxiety may drive them to
misbehavior – and such dependency, of course, is terrible
for their mental and emotional health. 64 There are two lessons to be learned here:
1. Don’t pet your dog too much.
2. YOU decide when to stop. How to teach your dog healthy independence When you sit on the couch with your dog, pet him for no more
than a minute or two. Then tell him, “Good boy. That’s
enough.” and take your hand away.
If he nudges for more, put him on the floor and tell him firmly,
“No. Stop that. Enough.” Say “ee-NUFF” with emphasis. Go on
watching TV. It’s up to him to find something else to do.
If he still persists in seeking attention, put him in his crate
for 15 minutes. Don’t pet him or speak to him as you do so.
Simply lead him to his crate, place him inside, and close the
door. “What if my dog nudges me when I haven’t been
Every dog occasionally solicits petting by
climbing onto your lap or nudging your hand.
This is normal. But when it happens frequently
and your dog won’t stop, it has crossed the line
to demanding/dependency. 65
Take control of his soliciting behavior 1. Pull your hands back. Put them behind your back if
necessary. If you push your dog away, you’re putting your
hands on him – which is exactly what he wants.
2. Tell your dog to sit. (We’ll cover the Sit command shortly.)
When he sits, pet him for about ten seconds.
Thus, petting becomes his reward for following YOUR
command, rather than your following HIS command of
“Nudge nudge, I insist that you pet me right now.”
3. After the ten seconds of petting, tell him, “Good boy.
Enough.” If he keeps trying to solicit more, put him in his crate
for 15 minutes.
Build routines for your dog
Each morning, as my husband walks down the porch steps on
his way to work, I stand at the door holding our dog Buffy so
she can watch him leave. “Bye-Bye, Daddy!” I call. It’s for
Buffy’s benefit rather than my husband’s. He’s getting into his
car and can’t hear me.
My consistent use of “Bye-Bye!” has led to Buffy’s
understanding that Daddy leaves in the morning and
returns later. (At least we assume that’s her
understanding! No one can really get into a dog’s head
and know for sure.) But I believe that in her mind,
“Bye-Bye” has come to mean temporary separation and it’s a
familiar phrase that she now expects as part of her normal day.
Our human world is so complicated for your dog
to understand that it’s important to build
predictable, familiar routines onto which he can
“hang his hat.” 66 ! Routines reassure your dog that, regardless of the
confusion going on in the hectic world of human beings,
everything in HIS little world is predictable.
! Routines reassure him that he knows what comes next –
that he knows what “this” event signifies, that he knows
what “that” event signifies.
! Routines reassure him that his world is the same as it
was yesterday and will probably be the same tomorrow.
! Routines reassure him that YOU are dependable, that he
can count on you to say and do things that he
As much as possible, structure your dog’s life around
routines. Do the same things in the same order – and
most importantly, use the same words. Speak well of your dog
When Roger welcomes guests into his house, he
always points at his dog Jake, who is invariably
bounding around the room, barking with wild
abandon. “That’s Jake,” Roger says. “Also known
as Pinhead. What a numbskull! Even flunked
obedience school!” His guests always chuckle and
look upon Jake with good-natured pity. 67 If your dog’s name or nickname is Dumbo or Bonkers, you
probably don’t think much of his mental
abilities. You probably don’t ask much of him,
The problem is that your dog can tell that you
don’t think much of his abilities – and he will
live up to those expectations. Your low
opinion and minimal expectations are actually contributing
to his “dumb” behavior.
Change his name or nickname, and you’ll
change your expectations of him. Then when
you start requiring more from him, he will
change his behavior accordingly. The same with names like Trouble. Or Devil. Or
Killer. If you expect your dog to be mischievous,
aggressive, or stupid, it comes through in your
voice, in your facial expressions, in your body
language. And your dog is likely to give you exactly what
I recommend using complimentary, optimistic names and
nicknames for your dog that suggest intelligence and good
If you’ve already named your dog something less than
complimentary, you can still change his name. Many
people who adopt a dog change his name. A more flattering
name (or at least nickname) can start your new relationship
off in a better direction. 68 Ch 8: Crate Training Eight reasons your dog needs a crate
I mentioned crates when I advised putting your dog in his crate
for a Time Out after misbehavior.
A crate is a plastic or wire cage, large enough inside for your
dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably to sleep. Every dog should have a crate.
A crate is a “den” – a place of security for your dog Just as children love to tuck themselves into clubhouses, dogs
love to take refuge in small enclosed darkened areas. In a
corner, under a table, behind the recliner, under blankets.
By giving your dog a sanctuary all his
own, you help him feel safe and secure.
A crate is an aid for housebreaking Your dog’s natural instincts are to not soil his sleeping quarters. 69 A crate prevents mischief Dogs are driven by instinct and curiosity to learn about their
surroundings, and they learn with their mouth –
picking up, chewing, and/or swallowing
anything that isn’t nailed down, and some things
that are! The instincts to chew are strongest
during the puppy/teenage months – two to
eighteen months of age.
These are natural instincts, but if left unchecked, they will
become bad habits and will be difficult to break later. Not to
mention the damage done to your home and belongings, and
the risk of your puppy getting into something that could
poison or choke him.
You can prevent these bad habits from
developing – and protect your puppy’s life – by
crating him whenever you leave the house for a
couple of hours. (But NOT if you need to be
gone longer than that – dogs should NOT be left
in a crate if you’re gone all day!)
A crate makes a great nighttime bed When your dog is sleeping safely in his crate, you don’t have to
worry about what else he might be doing all night. Eventually
you’ll be able to leave the crate door open or remove it entirely,
and he will continue to go into his crate, on his own, for
sleeping at night. “Can’t my dog sleep in my bed with me?”
In most cases, this isn’t a good idea. There are four
reasons why I recommend that your dog not sleep with you:
1. A dog who sleeps in your bed may end up viewing himself as
an equal to you, like the two of you are littermates. Not a good
lesson for a follower dog to learn. 70 2. When a dog sleeps in your bed, you may find yourself taking
great pains not to disturb him. If you start to roll over and your
dog groans or opens one eye and you stop moving, he may
learn that he can prevent you from “inconveniencing” him. Not
a good lesson for a follower dog to learn.
3. Some dogs will begin grumbling or even growling if you
accidentally bump them or disturb them while they’re sleeping.
Not a good habit for a follower dog to learn.
4. Finally, if you’re married or otherwise partnered, a dog in
your bed may position himself, deliberately or accidentally,
between you and your significant other. Um…that’s bad.
So unless you’re single, with a large bed and an
already well-behaved dog with no behavior
problems, your dog should sleep in a separate
bed, although IN your bedroom is okay, if you both
you and partner agree. A crate protects your dog in the car You and your children are buckled in – so too should your dog
be, either wearing a harness that’s attached to the seatbelt in the
back seat, or riding inside a crate that’s buckled into the back
A crate makes your dog a good visitor When you’re in a strange place, your dog may not behave as
reliably as he normally does. You don’t want him having an
accident or getting into mischief in someone else’s home or in a
motel. Bringing a crate along when you’re traveling or visiting
friends shows courtesy and respect for your host. 71
A crate confines your dog for short periods For example, when you’re washing the floor. When you have
guests over who are allergic to (or uncomfortable around) dogs.
When your dog is sick or injured and needs to have his
movements restricted. When you have multiple dogs and you
need to do something with one dog while the other one stays
out of the way.
There will be plenty of times when you need
your dog to be safely confined. Then you’ll be
glad you have a crate.
Your dog will have to stay in a crate at the vet’s or groomer’s A dog who is already accustomed to a crate will be much less
stressed when he has to stay temporarily in one elsewhere. As
our dog’s guardians, it’s our responsibility to prepare him for
the real world so he’s not frightened by normal things that
happen to him.
Plastic crates versus wire crates What I like about plastic crates
! Compared to wire-mesh crates, plastic crates have a
cozier, den-like atmosphere, which most dogs prefer.
! Plastic crates restrict your dog’s view of his
surroundings, making him more likely to curl up and go
! Plastic crates are warmer than wire crates. In cold
climates, if you turn your heat down at night, your dog
will be more snug and comfy in a plastic crate. This is
especially appreciated by toy breeds and shorthaired
! Plastic crates come in pastel colors and look less
“kennel-ish” than wire crates. 72 What I don’t like about plastic crates
Compared to wire crates, plastic crates are more difficult to
clean. With no removable pan, if your dog goes to the
bathroom in the crate, you have to reach all the way inside to
clean it. Yuck.
In hot climates, if you don’t have air conditioning, plastic crates
are stuffier than wire crates. This can be uncomfortable for
dogs with thick or heavy coats and it can be downright
dangerous for dogs with short faces who don’t breathe well
even in normal temperatures.
When I’m buying a plastic crate, I look for the
Pet Porter or Vari-Kennel brands, both made by
Doskocil. Compared to other brands, I find them
more durable, easier to open, and more secure
when closed. What I like about wire crates
! Wire crates come in collapsible models that can be
folded and stashed in your closet or in the trunk of your
! Wire crates have removable pans that slide out for quick
and easy cleaning.
! Wire crates allow more air circulation in hot stuffy
weather, a boon if you don’t have air conditioning,
especially for dogs with heavy coats or short faces. 73 What I don’t like about wire crates
Their openness doesn’t create that secure den atmosphere that
most dogs prefer. However, you can create that feeling yourself
by draping a towel or sheet over the top, back, and sides. Tuck
the ends of the towel under the crate so your dog can’t pull it
inside to chew on it.
Wire crates are not very elegant-looking. They can’t help but
look like kennels.
Wire crates clink and rattle when your dog moves around in
I don’t use wire crates any more, but when I did,
I preferred the Midwest brand, which is sturdy
and reasonably priced. How large the crate should be
A crate should be:
! tall enough for your dog to stand up in
! wide enough for him to be able to turn around in
! deep enough so he can lie down with his front paws
stretched comfortably in front of him, i.e. he shouldn’t
have to curl up in a ball to fit in the crate
Now, if you’ve acquired a breed of puppy that will be much
larger as an adult, then buying an adult-sized crate NOW means
he will have a huge area to sleep in. Too huge, in fact,
because your puppy will likely sleep in one half of the crate and
go to the bathroom in the other half.
Not very desirable, don’t you agree? 74 There are two solutions:
1. Go ahead and buy an adult-sized crate and make it fit his
current puppy dimensions by walling off the back section
with a divider that you buy or make out of wood or
metal or plastic.
2. Buy a smaller crate NOW for housebreaking, and buy a
larger crate later to fit his adult size.
Where to put the crate
Put the crate where there is family activity going on – typically
the kitchen, living room, or family room.
Don’t put the crate in an isolated area such as the
basement, utility room, or garage. Crates don’t need to be stuck out in the open. With a little
thought, you can incorporate a small crate into your decor by
fitting it under an end table, tucking it into a corner of the room,
and/or camouflaging it with silk greenery. 75 Other tips on locating the crate:
! If your dog isn’t housebroken yet, try to locate the crate
near the door that leads to the back yard. The shorter the
distance, the less likely he will have accidents between
the crate and the door when you let him out of the crate
and he really has to go.
! Don’t place the crate where the sun shines directly on it.
! Don’t place the crate where a heating/cooling register,
fan, or air conditioner can blow on it. Drafts are very
bad for dogs!
You can move the crate into your bedroom
at night, if you wish. What to put inside the crate If your dog is housebroken
Place a thick towel, blanket, or sheepskin pad inside the crate.
Remove any labels and fringes so your dog can’t chew on them.
Or you can buy a specialized crate pad made of foam with a
slick vinyl cover. I don’t particularly like these because the
cover is prone to staining and is hard to take off (for washing)
and even harder to put back on. And if urine somehow leaks
through the vinyl to the foam pad beneath, it can really stink. If your dog is not housebroken
Put newspapers in the crate. You can add a towel on top of the
newspapers, but it shouldn’t be too thick and absorbent –
because if your dog pees in his crate, you actually WANT him
to be a little uncomfortable on wet bedding. It’s a subtle
motivator for him to keep his crate clean. 76 Don’t put so-called “housebreaking pads” in the crate.
Don’t use them elsewhere, either. They encourage
your dog to go to the bathroom indoors – which is a
tough habit to break later on. Don’t put a water bowl in the crate. It will spill,
or your dog will splash in it and make a mess.
And drinking too much water just makes him
need to go out more. Makes sense, yes? Teaching your dog to sleep in his crate
Word #11: “Go Crate”
Some trainers will tell you to wait for your dog to go into the
crate on his own. Encourage him to go in, they say, by putting
his food dish inside the crate, or by tossing a toy or treat inside
– but don’t force him to go in.
Now, if you have an adult Great Dane, I agree. But with a
puppy of any breed, or a smallish adult, I prefer the direct
Provide your dog with some brisk play or exercise before his
first crating experience. If he’s tired, he’s more likely to nap
when he goes into the crate.
When you’re ready, lead him (or carry him, if he’s very small)
to the crate. Don’t call him with a “Come” command! You
don’t want him to associate “Come” with an experience that he
may not like at first.
Don’t worry, your dog will come to love the security of his
crate. But in the beginning, when it’s YOUR idea – and
then you close the door – he may consider the whole
experience a bummer. So don’t call him. 77 When you arrive at the crate, say in a happy voice, “Go crate!”
Place him inside, praise him cheerfully, and give him a quick
treat (for example, a tiny biscuit or piece of cooked chicken),
plus a Nylabone chew toy. (We’ll talk more about toys later
in this book.) Close the crate door and sit down in a chair across
the room to read a book.
Expect protesting. Ignore it. It should subside within a few
minutes when your dog realizes that it’s not working and
that he might as well chew on his bone or drift off to sleep.
As soon as your dog is quiet, wait five more minutes.
In other words, he must go five minutes straight without
barking or whining before you let him out. The right way to let your dog out of his crate Word #12: “Okay!”
The way you release your dog from his crate is very
important. If you rush toward the crate, fling open the door,
and welcome him out like a released prisoner (“Yay! You’re
free!”), then the next time you put him in the crate he won’t be
able to relax. He will be “wired” the whole time, just itching to
be released from exile.
So release him in a low-key, matter-of-fact way.
1. Walk casually toward the crate. Open the crate door and
say, in a quiet voice, “Okay, Jake.”
2. When he comes out, don’t touch him. Don’t pet or play
with him. Just say simply, “Do you need to go OUT?”
(We’ll be teaching this phrase very soon!)
3. Take him outside to his potty area. 78 Yes, even if he has only been confined for five
minutes. You want to establish the habit that after
being in the crate, he will always be able to go
outside. This routine will help him to “hold it” while
he’s in the crate. How to handle barking or whining in the crate If a full 30 minutes goes by and your dog still hasn’t settled
down for his five minutes of quiet time – in other words, if
he has barked or whined for virtually the entire time – it’s
time for a correction.
(Although if you have close neighbors, you shouldn’t wait
30 minutes – do it sooner!)
First, try correcting him from a distance. For example, you
might fire a well-aimed spray of water from a squirt gun or
spray bottle. Tell him “No” at the same time.
Other options include shaking a metal can full of coins, beeping
the handheld Barker Breaker I told you about in Chapter 3, or
whacking a fly swatter against the wall or coffee table.
You never know which correction will work
for any particular dog! Whichever one you try, stop it the instant your dog stops
barking or whining. The lesson should be that his own barking
causes a spray of water or a loud startling sound – and that his
silence stops it.
If corrections from a distance fail, thwack the fly swatter
directly against the crate or give the crate a mild shake, along
with a firm “No. Stop that.” 79 Under no circumstances – well, okay, if your house is on
fire! – should you remove your dog from his crate at any
time when he is actually barking or whining, or
immediately after he has barked or whined. Don’t even
remove him to CORRECT him. Many dogs, you see, are perfectly willing to take a correction if
it includes getting out of the crate.
Make sure every family member understands that your
dog must never be let out of the crate during (or
immediately after) barking or whining.
If you let him out, you are training him to bark
and whine whenever he wants out. Teaching your dog to go into his crate
After you’ve lead or carried him to his crate many, many times,
he will have heard the phrase “Go crate!” many, many times.
The next step is to get him to go into his crate when you tell
him to – without needing to lead him or carry him.
1. Wait for a time when you are both in the same room as the
crate. Choose a moment when he is looking at you. Gesture
toward the crate and say cheerfully, “Jake, go crate!” Your
voice should be happy and excited.
2. Walk toward the crate, patting your hands together to
encourage him to follow you. If necessary, take his collar and
lead him toward the crate, repeating cheerfully, “Go crate!
3. At the door to the crate, take your hand off his collar and
encourage him to go in. A strategic nudge or motivating him
with a treat may be necessary. 80 4. As soon as he’s inside, praise him. “Yay! Good crate!” Give
him the treat. Close the door. When he’s been quiet in there for
a minute, open the door and release him with “Okay.”
Remember to be very casual about releasing
him from the crate. You want him to be excited
about going INTO the crate – not hyped about
coming out! 5. Once he has come out, let him wander around for awhile,
then send him back into the crate. Do this routine three times
– no more. Then take him outside for his potty break.
Now it’s simply a matter of repetition and persistence.
Eventually you should be able to send him to his crate from
a different room. Follow behind him to make sure he ends
up in his crate. As with all vocabulary words,
never tell him to “Go crate!”
without making absolutely sure
that he does so. Dogs love patterns and routines. If you always send your dog
to his crate immediately before or after a certain event, such as
supper or bedtime or when you pick up your car keys, he may
begin heading for his crate as soon as he observes the
My dog Buffy is fabulous at learning patterns. When I was
teaching her to go into her crate, I would say, in a teasing
voice, “Guess where YOU have to go?” just before I said,
Well, it wasn’t long before all I had to say was, “Guess
where YOU have to go?” and she would make a beeline for
her crate. Guests get a kick out of it! 81 If your dog hates his crate
What if your dog really IS an adult Great
Dane? Or what if he’s a smaller dog who
resists going into the crate so forcefully that
it’s just too difficult for you to physically make
him do it?
Then you’ll have to move more slowly.
1. Place the crate near your dog’s favorite sleeping area. Inside
the crate, put a thick blanket with his scent (or your scent) on it.
In other words, not a freshly-washed blanket with no scent. You
want the crate to smell homey and familiar.
2. At mealtime, put his food bowl inside the crate. Place it
just inside the door where he can see it. Make sure the door is
propped open so it can’t accidentally close on him.
He’ll soon realize that he has to stick his head into the crate
to eat. Over some period of days, depending on his degree
of reluctance, slide the bowl further back in the crate until
finally he must enter the crate to eat.
3. At some point when he is doing well, close the door. If he
accepts this calmly, let him stay in the crate for only a minute
or two before you open the door and let him out.
However, if he protests, you’ll have to wait until he stops
barking or whining before you let him out.
Whenever your dog is not in his crate, leave the
crate door open so he can go in if he wants. Praise
him whenever he does go in of his own accord.
Occasionally give him a treat inside the crate. 82 If you work all day...
can your dog stay in a crate?
Absolutely not. Don’t leave your dog in a crate for more
than four hours during the day.
“But he sleeps in there all night!” you protest. Yes,
nighttime is different. When your dog settles down to
sleep at night, his entire metabolism (including his digestive
system) slows down. Sleeping for eight hours in his crate at
night is fine.
But after he has slept all night, he needs activity during the day.
You can’t head off to work for six or eight or ten hours each
day and leave your dog in a crate. It’s cruel. “What if I come home at lunch to let him
That’s not enough.
A crate is just too small for a dog to be stuck in. Dogs are
active, living creatures who need space to move around. Dogs
are not hamsters or guinea pigs.
Your dog would be terribly lonely. Dogs are sociable
creatures – they can’t be kept confined and isolated in a small
space for hours, with only a brief visit or two during the day.
Dogs require much more space, much more activity, and much
more companionship than that. 83
Sorry, but that’s how it is. Dogs cannot be kept –
happily – in a small confined space and without
ongoing companionship. “So what should I do if I work all day but still
want a dog?”
Honestly? You should get a different kind of
pet. If you absolutely must have a dog, I
recommend two dogs, who can keep each other
company. They should be adult dogs who are
already housebroken and well-behaved, so they won’t need to
be crated. And they should be small dogs who can get most of
their exercise indoors.
Do not get a puppy if you work all day. Puppies require far
too much attention to be left alone all day. To thrive and grow
to their potential, they require mini-interactions and brief
learning experiences sprinkled all throughout the day.
Don’t be tempted to get TWO puppies, either. Two
mature and well-behaved adults, okay. But two
puppies left alone all day just means that two of
them are not getting all the attention, socialization,
and training they need. If you work all day and already HAVE a puppy
…or if you have an adolescent or adult dog who is not
housebroken or is misbehaving during the day when you’re
gone – you’re faced with a very difficult situation.
For their own safety and to keep your house intact, puppies and
non-housebroken or destructive adults must be confined when
Yet you must NOT crate them
for more than four hours. 84 The solution – which is not a great one, but may be all that’s
possible under these unfortunate circumstances – may be an
exercise pen. An ex-pen consists of several wire panels hooked
together, which you can arrange in almost any shape. Get the
largest ex-pen you can find.
Or you might use a doggy gate to block off a laundry room, sun
room, or kitchen.
Whatever you do, don’t put your dog in a small room and
close the door!
Many dogs become frantic behind a closed solid door
and will bark and scratch vigorously to escape. So yes, an exercise pen or small gated-off room can work to
confine your dog all day.
But it doesn’t address the loneliness issue.
Your poor puppy should be running
around and playing during his formative
months. He should be interacting with
people all throughout the day.
A puppy left all alone most of the day is lonely and
unhappy and will never become the dog he could have
been. 85 Ch 9: Housebreaking Word #13: “Do you need to go out?”
If owners could choose only one skill they wanted their dog to
have, HOUSEBROKEN would be very high on the list!
The two keys to housebreaking
1. Confinement – so your dog can’t go to the bathroom in
the wrong place.
2. Regular or constant access to the RIGHT place to “go.”
Confinement means that until your dog is housebroken, he
is never allowed to walk freely around the house.
Confinement means every minute of every hour of every day –
unless you’re sitting with your dog, playing with him, walking
him, feeding him, grooming him, teaching him, or otherwise
interacting with him.
Don’t allow a non-housebroken dog loose in the
house when you’re not watching him. Because if you
take your eyes off him for just a few moments, he
can go to the bathroom on your floor – and the bad
habit is begun. Regular or constant access to the RIGHT place to “go”
means you let your dog outside or take him outside on a regular
basis (every few hours) – or else he lets himself out through a
doggy door at will. Or you can provide him with an indoor
bathroom – newspapers or a litter box. 86 Plain and simple, those are the two keys to housebreaking.
1. If you arrange things so that the only place your dog
CAN go is outside, or indoors on newspapers or in a litter
box, that’s the habit he will develop.
2. If, on the other hand, you give him too much freedom in
the house or if you don’t give him enough access to an
acceptable bathroom, then he will probably “go” in the
house – and that’s the habit he will develop.
It’s up to you!
So how do you provide both confinement and bathroom access
to your dog? There are three basic methods.
Housebreaking Method #1: Crating
You will confine your dog in a crate, and you
will take him outside regularly, to a specific
This is the most common method of housebreaking.
Whenever you’re not interacting directly with your dog, he is
safe in his crate.
In lieu of leaving him in the crate, you can tie his leash to
your belt so he accompanies you around the house, at least
for part of the day. Just keep an eagle eye on him so he
doesn’t pee on the floor right at your feet! Step-by-step housebreaking using the crate method Establish a regular feeding schedule, so your dog’s digestive
cycle will be predictable. Every dog is different in how quickly
he digests food and therefore how soon he needs to “go” after a
meal. 87 Generally, puppies under four months old need to eat four
times a day. Between four and six months, you can drop to
three meals a day, and between six and eight months, two
meals a day. (These are just rough guidelines – your dog’s
mileage may vary!)
Do NOT leave food down all the time for your dog to
nibble at. It makes housebreaking too difficult. In
addition, your dog’s appetite is a good barometer of
his health and it’s easier to keep tabs on his appetite
when you’re offering him regularly spaced meals. Establish a regular in-and-out schedule. In the
beginning, try to take him outside about every two
Start with first thing in the morning. Then
whenever he wakes from a nap. Immediately after
he eats or drinks. Immediately after play periods.
Whenever he suddenly sniffs the floor or begins walking in
circles. And last thing at night.
When it’s time to go outside, ask him in a bright voice, “Do you
need to go OUT?”
Snap his leash on quickly. Tell him cheerfully, “Go OUT!
OUTside!” and head briskly for the door. Try to use the same
door every time.
Choose a potty area, which should be the same spot every
time, though you may have to experiment to find out where
your dog “goes” best.
! Some dogs prefer grass, whereas other dogs hate grass,
especially in wet weather, or when the grass is too deep,
or when it’s too short and prickly. Some dogs get so
preoccupied sniffing all the scents on grass that they
can’t focus on doing their business. Find another potty
area for sniffy dogs! 88 ! Some dogs prefer dirt. Some like gravel.
! Some dogs need privacy – they feel exposed out in the
open and prefer to “go” behind a bush.
! Some dogs can’t concentrate on their business if there’s
any activity going on nearby. They get distracted
wanting to gawk or bark. These dogs need a quiet, boring
! Some submissive dogs are too intimidated to “go” if they
can see another dog or hear another dog barking in the
! Male dogs who lift their leg need a vertical object to pee
against. Take your dog directly to his potty area, on leash. Encourage
him, in a pleasant voice, “Hurry up” or “Go potty.” But don’t
sound stern or commanding. Your dog needs to feel relaxed in
order to be able to go!
Now. . . stand still. Ignore your dog entirely – except for
watching him out of the corner of your eye. Do NOT make eye
contact with him or he will pay attention to you instead of
concentrating on doing his business. Don’t say anything to him.
Talking will only distract him.
If he just stands there or sits or lies down, take a few steps in
one direction or another to get him moving, then stand still
again. Your dog can circle around you, so there are plenty of
spots he can “go” within the length of the leash. If you walk
around too much, he will come to look at these outings as
walks rather than dedicated bathroom breaks. 89 Keep an eye on your watch. Allow your dog about 5
minutes. If he hasn’t gone by then, bring him back
inside and put him in his crate. Go about your
business elsewhere in the house. In ten or fifteen
minutes, take him back outside. From your persistence he will
learn that he must go to the bathroom – even a token drop or
two – before he is allowed to run and play.
When he finally does go, make a big deal out of
it! “Yay! Good boy!” Give him a treat. Then romp
and play with him before bringing him back
inside. Or bring him inside and play with him
indoors. Then, unless you’re going to groom him, or sit with him on the
couch, or teach him a new word, or take him for a walk, or
whatever, he goes back into his crate. Confinement, remember! Housebreaking Method #2: Exercise
If you’re gone more than four hours a day,
your puppy needs constant access to a
bathroom spot. You can lay down newspapers
on the floor and surround them with an
exercise pen. That’s where your puppy should
stay whenever you’re not interacting with him. Step-by-step housebreaking using the newspapers method 1. Shape the exercise pen tightly around the newspapers so the
papers fill all of the pen except for a small blanket or bed,
food and water bowls, and a toy. Leave no open space. 90 Few dogs want to soil their blanket, so they will almost
always go on the papers if you give them no other choice.
This builds the correct habit from day one.
2. Place your dog on his blanket in the pen. As you did when
crate-training, you should expect some initial noisemaking. If
the barking or whining doesn’t subside within a short time,
3. Whenever you see your dog use the papers, praise him
lavishly. After he has been using the papers reliably for several
days, slowly expand the size of the pen (or reduce the area of
papers covering the floor) so he has some room to play that’s
not on the papers.
If he makes a mistake by “going” on the now open floor inside
the pen, rather than on the papers, reduce the pen so that he
must go on the papers. Then give him another few days of
practice before you try again to expand the open area and
reduce the papered area.
Remember, your puppy should only be outside
the pen when you’re interacting with him or
when his leash is tied to your belt so that he
must follow you around. Housebreaking Method #3: Litter Box
A litter box appeals to many people because it looks tidier than
newspapers and is easier to clean.
However, many dogs don’t like to limit their
elimination to such a small area as a litter
box. If you’ve ever watched a dog looking
for just the right bathroom spot, you know how they like to
wander around in circles! 91
Litter boxes work best for tiny dogs such as
Chihuahuas, Maltese, and Yorkies. And even then,
the bigger the box, the better. A regular cat box is too shallow for dogs, who tend to back
up to the edge and leave their “deposits” on or over the side.
You may need to make your own box from a clear plastic
storage bin with high sides. Cut a squared-off U-shape in one
side to make a step-over entrance, leaving enough of the box
below the entrance to hold the litter in the box.
Litter boxes work better for females, because males who lift
their leg can spray urine everywhere. With males, the box needs
extra-high sides. Some people build a very large litter box and
include a vertical “pee pole” covered with plastic. Yes, really! Warning: Don’t use “clumping” kitty litter!
So-called “clumping” litter hardens into a tight compact little
ball when it gets wet, i.e. when urine soaks into it. When
clumping litter first hit the market, it seemed like a dream come
true because it was so easy to scoop up and much less wasteful
But most conveniences come with a price, and we now know
that when a dog or cat licks clumping litter off his paws or coat
and swallows it, the litter gets WET (from his saliva and
stomach fluid) and then guess what?
It clumps in his stomach –
and now Doggy or Kitty
are in serious trouble.
You can find out more about the dangers of clumping kitty litter
by doing a Google search. Or start with this web site:
www.thelighthouseonline.com/catmomtoc.html 92 So what kind of litter should you use? For both dogs and cats,
use litter made from recycled newspaper. Good brands
include Second Nature and Yesterday’s News. These litters are
non-toxic, dust-free, super-absorbent, and environmentallyfriendly. You can buy them at pet stores such as PetsMart and
at health food stores. Step-by-step housebreaking using the litter box method Word #14: “Go Box”
1. Shape your exercise pen tightly around the litter box so that
the box fills all of the pen except for a small blanket or bed,
food and water bowls, and a toy. Leave no open space.
Few dogs want to soil their blanket, so they will almost
always go in the box if you give them no other choice. This
builds the correct habit from day one. 93 2. Place your dog on his bed in the pen. As you did when cratetraining, you should expect some initial noisemaking. If the
barking or whining doesn’t subside within a short time, correct
3. Once your dog is quiet in his pen, occasionally encourage
him to step into the litter box by holding a treat in front of his
nose and leading him in. Tell him, “Go box!” as you do so.
Give him the treat once he’s inside.
4. Whenever you see him step into the box on his own, even
to play, praise him. If you actually see him go to the bathroom
in there, praise him lavishly and give him a treat!
5. After he has been using the box reliably for a week or so,
slowly expand the size of the pen so he has some room to
If at any time he makes a mistake by “going” on the now
open floor inside the pen, rather than in his box, reduce the
pen again so that he must go in the box. Then give him
another few days of practice before you expand the pen
Remember, he should only be outside the pen
when you’re interacting with him or when his
leash is tied to your belt so that he must follow
you around. 6. Occasionally use a treat to lead him back into the pen and
box so that he will remember where it is and have pleasant
associations with it. 94 Housebreaking Method #4: Doggy Door
In my house, we have a small mud room off the kitchen. In the
mud room is a doggy door leading outside to a small fenced
“potty” yard. When we were housebreaking our dog Buffy, we put a gate
between the mud room and the kitchen so that Buffy was
confined to the mud room, where she had access to the potty
yard via the doggy door.
Caution: The Doggy Door method of confinement and
bathroom access should only be considered if your dog
doesn’t bark when he goes outside.
Nothing is more annoying to neighbors than a dog
who can go outside at will and bark! Step-by-step housebreaking using the doggy door method 1. Confine your dog in the small gated room whenever you’re
not interacting with him. 95 2. For the first few days, remove the heavy flap on the doggy
door (or tie the flap up out of the way) so that your dog has free
access through the hole into his potty yard.
If he is reluctant to go through the hole at first, someone
should stand inside the room with him while someone else
stands outside in the potty yard, crouched near the open
hole. Take turns waving treats through the hole and calling
him. He should soon be running through the open door.
3. Once he has the hang of the open hole, you may want to hang
a light towel or cotton cloth over the opening for a few more
days, as a gradual transition toward the heavier vinyl flap. Use
the treats to teach him that he can push through the cloth and
that he only has to poke his nose through it or under it in order
to scramble through.
Eventually you’ll move on to the heavier flap.
Though it looks daunting at first, rest assured
that even toy dogs can move it. 4. Periodically throughout the day, go into the little gated room
and ask your dog, “Do you need to go OUT? Go OUT!” Use
hand motions to encourage him to do so. If necessary, lead him
to and through the doggy door by the collar. You go outside,
too, and put something across the doggy door, just temporarily,
so he can’t run right back in.
Don’t block the door on the inside, or else he might rush
through the flap and ram his head into the barrier!
5. Pick a spot to stand where you can observe your dog, but
don’t interact with him. Let him go about his business, which
hopefully will include going to the bathroom.
Do you see the advantage of separating the potty
yard from the main yard – and making it small? If
your dog can run around a big yard, he will want to
play and explore rather than focus on doing his
business. 96 6. After five minutes, if your dog hasn’t gone to the bathroom,
remove the barrier so he can go back inside the house if he
wants to. You can return to the house, too, and go about your
own business for ten or fifteen minutes. Then try again.
7. When he finally does go to the bathroom in the yard, make a
big deal out it! “Yay! Good boy!” Give him a treat. Then let
him out of the potty yard and romp and play with him for
awhile, either outdoors in the big yard, or in the house, before
returning him to his gated room.
In this way, he will learn that he must go to the bathroom –
even a token drop or two – before you will run and play
If your dog goes to the bathroom on the floor of your house,
here’s what to do:
1. Correct him.
! Get hold of his collar.
! Take him to the accident.
! Pull his head down near the accident – but not touching
it! Just close enough so he can see it.
! Tell him firmly, “No. Bad.”
This is a mild correction, because it is YOUR fault that
your dog erred. If you had been watching him closely
enough during this critical housebreaking phase, this should
not have happened. Every accident in the house is a step
backward in housebreaking. Don’t let accidents happen! 2. Take him to his proper bathroom spot.
! If it’s outside and you usually take him there personally,
then quickly snap on his leash, tell him, “Go out!” and
take him out. 97 ! If he uses a doggy door to get there, tell him, “Go out!”
and escort him to the doggy door. Make sure he goes
! If his bathroom spot is a litter box, tell him, “Go box!”
and take him there.
Of course, immediately after an accident, most
dogs will not need to go again. So this trip to the
correct spot will probably be unproductive.
Doesn’t matter. The point is to remind him where
you want him to go. 3. Put him in his crate for a 15-minute Time Out.
The Time Out will give you a chance to . . .
4. Clean up the mess.
Soap and water are not enough. Detergents will clean the
stain, but they won’t get rid of the microscopic odor particles
that will attract your dog back to the soiled area.
Ammonia-based household cleaners are the worst of all.
Urine contains ammonia, so your dog is attracted to
ammonia products. That’s not what you want!
White vinegar mixed with water does a decent job of
neutralizing odors, but the best type of cleaner is an enzymatic
cleaner that actually breaks down (eats) microscopic odor
particles. My favorite enzymatic cleaner is Nature’s Miracle,
which you can find at PetsMart and other pet supply stores.
How long it takes to housebreak a dog
Some dogs catch on to the concept in a week. Some dogs take
several weeks. Some dogs don’t get it for many months. 98 Just keep in mind that understanding the concept of
housebreaking is only the first step to actual, honest-togoodness housebreaking. The second step is for your dog to
be able to do it.
Up until four to six months old, puppies can’t
last longer than two to four hours during the
day without eliminating. Their bladder and
digestive system are simply not developed
enough to “hold it” longer than that.
In other words, if you acquire a eight-week-old
puppy, you’re going to need to be patient for
several MONTHS while your infant’s internal
organs develop. Adult dogs over a year old may be able to go eight hours during
the day without eliminating. However, many perfectly normal
adults can only go about six hours. You have to learn and
accept the limitations of your own individual dog.
But let me ask you this:
How long are YOU comfortable holding it? Don’t you
usually visit the bathroom at least once during the day?
Well, your dog should be granted the same courtesy!
Even if he can physically hold it for eight hours during the
day, he shouldn’t have to – day after day. It’s cruel.
In fact, some breeds are prone to developing urinary infections
and kidney stones when they’re forced to retain their urine all
Night time is different. At night your dog’s metabolism,
including his digestive system, slows down. Most adult dogs
(and many puppies) can sleep eight hours through the night,
without needing to go. 99 The hardest breeds to housebreak
Here are some of the hardest breeds to housebreak (listed in
alphabetical order, not order of difficulty!):
French Bulldog Italian Greyhound
Yorkshire Terrier Toy dogs dominate the list because owners often buy them for
the express purpose of “spoiling” and so they’re reluctant to
crate them. (“Little Snookums would be so unhappy!”)
The problem is, when a toy dog is loose in the house, he finds it
so easy to sneak behind a chair or under the coffee table, where
it takes only a few seconds for the deed to be done. The result
is hard to see and often goes undiscovered for weeks. By then
the bad habit is entrenched.
But even when properly crate-trained, toy breeds
often take much longer to housebreak. The reality is
that tiny dogs are not natural creatures and that
artificially manipulating their genes to shrink their
structure may also affect the integrity of their
So expect more problems with tiny dogs.
Be extra-vigilant about confining them –
some toys are not ready for freedom in the
house until eight or ten months old! 100 When to let your dog loose in the house
Gradually. Your dog needs hundreds of experiences “going” in
the correct bathroom spot in order to build the right habit.
If you grant freedom too soon, a sudden string of
accidents can set housebreaking back in a hurry.
If you’ve been working on housebreaking for at least a month
AND your dog seems to have the hang of it AND he is at least
five or six months old....
during a time when you’re reading a
book or working on your computer...
when you normally would have had your
dog in his crate...
let him loose in the room with you.
But take precautions:
! Close the door so he can’t wander elsewhere.
! While you’re working, look up frequently to see how
After an hour, take him outside. If he goes to the bathroom
when you take him out, praise him lavishly and give him
another period of freedom in the same room. Whereas if he
doesn’t go, put him in his crate for awhile, then try him outside
again. Once he’s successfully gone outside, give him another
period of freedom in the room with you.
As you can see, you don’t throw your house open to
him all at once. One room at a time. One hour at a
time. And if he has an accident when you’re giving
him more freedom, go back to crating for awhile. 101 Problem: soiling the crate
If your dog is going to the bathroom inside his crate,
re-read the section on crate training. Be sure you’re following
the step-by-step instructions.
! Make sure the crate is small enough that your dog can’t
sleep in one end and go to the bathroom in the other. Use
a smaller crate, or put in a divider.
! Make sure you’re not crating your dog longer than he
can physically hold it. He should not be crated for more
than four hours during the day. (A puppy can’t hold it
for more than TWO hours.)
! Make sure he has had a chance to go to the bathroom
before you put him in the crate.
! Make sure he hasn’t drunk a lot of water
just before being crated. And there should be
NO food or water in the crate.
! Make sure the bedding material is not TOO soft and
plush, else it will absorb urine and allow him to sleep in
comfort after he pees. If he does “go” in his crate, you
want him to be a little uncomfortable!
! If your dog is urinating in the crate multiple times a day,
have your vet test for a urinary infection.
! Make sure you have worked out a reasonable eating and
For example, my dog Buffy goes outside to the bathroom at
7 a.m.. She eats breakfast at 9 a.m. and goes outside through
her doggy door at various times during the day. She eats
supper at 9:30 p.m., goes out for the last time around 10
p.m., then sleeps all night. 102
You and your dog will need to work out your own
best schedule – but there does need to be one. If your puppy is having difficulty making it through the night,
move the crate into your bedroom. If he cries in the night,
take him outside. His need to go out at night should diminish as
he gets older.
Problem: excessive leg-lifting
Most male dogs lift their leg to urinate, but some
do it too much. Excessive marking is more of a
dominance issue than a housebreaking issue.
A male dog lifts his leg to spray his urine as high
as possible, thereby marking his territory. He’s
saying, “I was here! I’m one big bad dude and I claim this
Unneutered males are the worst offenders. But some
neutered males do it – and some dominant females
(whether spayed or not) do it, too. Some breeds are worse than others in their compulsiveness to
mark territory. Toy dogs, for example, can be obsessed with
marking. Some toy dogs dash around like little wind-up toys,
lifting their leg busily on every vertical object larger than a
blade of grass. Terriers, with their feisty personalities, can be
compulsive markers, too. Here’s what to do about excessive marking Neuter your dog. Testosterone increases dominance
problems. Neutering will decrease (but not completely
eliminate) your dog’s testosterone levels so that he doesn’t feel
so compelled to be in charge. 103 Absolutely do not breed your dog. A male dog who has
been bred is more likely to lift his leg everywhere,
including inside your house. Just what you need, right?
Confine your dog. A dog who is marking in the house should
not be allowed freedom in the house. Until his marking is
under control, he should be out of his crate or pen only when
you’re interacting with him – walking him, feeding or
grooming him, training him, and so on.
If you want to have him out while you’re puttering
around the house, tie his leash to your waist.
Now he must follow you around. Both physically and
psychologically, this helps establish you as the
leader and him as the follower. Clean marked areas thoroughly. Use an enzymatic cleaner.
Soap and detergents don’t get out the microscopic odor
particles that attract your dog back to the same area. My
favorite enzymatic cleaner is Nature’s Miracle.
Work hard on this 100 Words program. It will increase your
dog’s respect for you and make him less likely to mark
After you’ve taught him all of the obedience words,
practice a quick succession of them, for five minutes
straight, several times a day. “Heel. Sit. Stay. Come. Sit.
Down.” Again, this is the leader-follower scenario where
you are giving commands and he is following them.
Always good for building respect! 104 Problem: excitable/submissive urination
Urinating when excited or nervous is NOT a housebreaking
Excitable urination An excited dog, especially a young one, isn’t always able to
maintain control of his bladder. If he is very happy to see
someone, his bladder may accidentally let go when the person
reaches toward him.
Submissive urination In the wild, a submissive canine, upon
meeting a more dominant canine,
crouches and releases a little urine,
which is an instinctive canine signal
that says to the dominant dog, “I mean
no harm. I accept your superiority.”
A submissive dog may do the same thing when a PERSON
bends over him, or reaches toward him, or raises their voice at
him. Submissive urination is most common in gentle, softtempered dogs such as spaniels. It’s critical for you to understand that your piddling
dog is NOT doing this on purpose! It is an
instinctive behavior that he has no control over.
Corrections will only make him MORE submissive
and MORE prone to piddling. 105 Here’s how to deal with excitable or submissive urination ! When you greet an excitable or submissive dog, don’t
make eye contact or approach him head-on. Instead,
turn your body slightly to the side so you don’t look so
! Don’t lean over him or reach your hand toward him –
let HIM come up to you and touch YOU when he is
In other words, don’t focus your attention on
an excitable or submissive dog. Look past him
rather than at him. It is the anticipation of being
touched, or petted, or picked up, or stared at,
that sets off the uncontrollable urination. The good news is that submissive urination and excitable
urination are most common in puppies and adolescents.
If you don’t punish the puppy for it, and if you develop his
confidence in his own abilities by teaching him vocabulary
words and positive behaviors, submissive or excitable urination
usually (but not always, unfortunately) goes away with
maturity. 106 Ch 10: Handling Your Dog
(Without Getting Into World War III)
A dog who protests or grumbles or makes a fuss when you open
his mouth, brush his teeth, clean his ears, clip his nails, trim his
coat, brush him, or bathe him...
...is second-guessing your decisions about
what is best for him. He is making a
statement that he doesn’t trust you to handle
the leadership role.
In my canine health book, Dog Care Wisdom: 11
Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog
Healthy and Happy, I show you how to actually
groom your dog – brushing and bathing, cleaning his
ears and teeth, etc. But Teach Your Dog 100 English Words is about training
and respect, so in this book we’re going to focus on using
vocabulary words that teach your dog to accept being handled
and groomed. WORD #15: “TIME FOR GROOMING”
“Buffy! Time for grooming! Let’s go in the basement!” Our
grooming table is in the basement, you see. Try to have a
specific place set aside for grooming your dog. I’ve guided
Buffy down to the basement so many times that she knows
exactly where to go. She runs downstairs and waits beside the
grooming table so I can boost her up. 107 Sit and Stand: the basic handling positions To teach your dog to accept handling and grooming, first
choose a surface with good footing. Don’t do these exercises
on a slippery vinyl or wood floor!
For small dogs, a table (covered with
rubber matting or toweling) is good. You
have more control over your dog on a
table. Just keep your hands on him so he
doesn’t jump or fall off.
Your goal with these exercises is to have your dog sit and
stand calmly while you touch and feel all over his body.
! With puppies under four months old, it’s enough to
simply introduce these basic positions and accustom him
to being handled. Don’t be a perfectionist with puppies!
! With dogs six months or older, you can be stricter,
teaching your dog not only to accept being handled, but
also to maintain each position exactly as you teach it. WORD #16: “SIT” (introduction to sit)
With your dog standing in his grooming area, say “Sit” and use
your hands to place him into a sit.
Here are two methods to do that:
One method is Pull Up and Push Down. With your right
hand, pull up on his collar. With your left palm, push down
on his hindquarters (just behind his two hipbones, or at the
base of his tail). Be sure you’re not pushing on his back –
his spine and vertebrae are too sensitive for heavy pressure. 108 Another method is The Fold. Place your right palm on his
chest. Place your left hand (if he’s small) or your left
forearm (if he’s larger) across his rump (below his tail and
above his knees). In one smooth motion, push his chest
toward his rump, while tucking his back knees forward to
fold him into a sit over your hand or forearm.
However you accomplish it, the moment your dog is sitting, tell
him “GOOD sit.” This is one time when you should keep your
praise quiet and calm. If you praise too enthusiastically, he
will get excited and start jumping around.
You want him to succeed with this new word, so
hold him in position with your hands for 5-10
seconds. After 5-10 seconds of sitting – still holding him in position
with your hands – move right along to the next word. WORD #17: “STAND”
1. Remove your right hand from his chest and hook your
fingers in his collar under his chin.
2. Quickly place your left hand, palm DOWN, under his
stomach, way back in his groin area where his hindquarters are
all bunched up as he sits there.
3. Draw out the word “St-aa-aa-nd” as you pull his collar gently
forward with your right hand and press upward with the BACK
of your left hand into your dog’s lower stomach/groin area.
Don’t turn your left hand so the palm is UP. With your
palm up, it’s too tempting to clutch into his stomach with
your fingers as you lift him up – this could startle or even
hurt him. So use the BACK of your hand to raise him into
a standing position. 109 4. Once he’s standing, keep your left hand (palm down) under
his stomach to prevent him from sitting. Stroke his chest with
the fingers of your right hand. Praise him, “Good stand. Good
5. After 5-10 seconds of standing – still holding
him in position with your hands – tell him,
“Sit” and guide him into a sit again.
Alternate “Stand” and “Sit” five times. Keep him in
each position for only 5-10 seconds. As your dog improves Eventually (after several days of practice), take your hands
away. If he doesn’t hold the sit (or stand) position when you
remove your hands, say “Ah-ah” the instant he breaks position
and re-place him with your hands. Be patient but persistent.
Touching your dog all over his body
When your dog is reasonably proficient at holding the Sit and
Stand positions – even if you still need to steady him a bit with
one hand – you can start teaching him to accept handling.
With your dog in a sitting position 1. Run your hand over his body, and your fingers through his
2. Put one hand under his chin to lift his head
up so you can peer into his eyes. Rub your
index finger around the inner corner of his
eyes, as though scraping off sleepy seeds.
3. Rub around the base of his ears. Peer inside his ears. Stroke
the inside of his ears gently with your thumb. 110 4. Cup your hand over the top of his muzzle for a few
seconds. A leader dog will occasionally rest his muzzle across
the muzzle of a follower dog, so it’s good to occasionally
remind your dog of the correct order of things!
Praise your dog (quietly) each time he accepts handling.
If he fusses or stands up, caution him, “Ah-ah!” and
scoot him (patiently) back into his Sit. WORD #18: “OPEN YOUR MOUTH”
Your dog should still be sitting. Put one hand under his chin,
holding his head up. Say, “OPEN your mouth. OPEN.” Use the
thumb of your other hand to lift up one side of his lip so you
can look at his teeth.
Slide your fingers around his lips, getting him used to the odd
sensation of his lips being pulled away from his teeth.
Touch his teeth, gently rubbing them with
the tip of your finger. Start with his biggest
teeth, the four sharp pointy “canines” (two up
and two down). Move on to his incisors – the
upper and lower row of small teeth across the
front of his mouth. Finally, the back molars. WORD #19: “PAW”
With your dog still in his sitting position, gently tap the back of
one of his front legs, down near the ankle. This will become a
signal to him – a gentle tap behind a foot means you’ll be lifting
it up. Follow the tap by saying, “Paw” and close your hand
very lightly around his ankle. Don’t grasp the paw itself –
you’re too likely to squeeze it. 111 Raise his paw just a couple of inches and hold it there for just a
few seconds. Praise him, “Good boy. Good paw.” If he tries to
pull his foot away, tell him, “Ah-ah.” Make sure he remains
sitting. When he has been calm for a few seconds, let go.
Repeat with his other front foot. Tap behind it. Say, “Paw”
and lift it up.
Eventually (not necessarily in this first session!), move on to
spreading his toes and gently rubbing a finger between them.
Gently grasp each toenail, one a time, between your thumb and
index finger. Fold the paw gently backward so you can touch
the pads of his foot. Now the back feet To handle his back feet, you need to get your dog standing up,
which you already know how to do: “St-aa-aa-nd.”
When he’s standing, tap the back of his right rear foot, say,
“Paw” and close your hand lightly around his ankle. Raise his
leg a couple of inches. When he accepts this calmly for a couple
of seconds, let it go. Repeat with his left rear foot.
As with the front paws, eventually you want to be able to
handle every part of his rear feet – including the toes, nails,
Your vet will love you for teaching your dog to sit
and stand quietly for examination! 112 The best positions for actually grooming your dog For brushing, I have my dog “Sit” or “Stand.”
For cleaning her ears and the corners of her eyes, I have her
For cleaning her teeth, I use “Sit” and “Open your mouth.”
For clipping her nails, I use “Sit” and “Paw.”
See how useful these words and positions are? If your dog growls while being handled
Growling or snapping is a frightening
sign of disrespect.
A growling dog believes that he is higher in
the pecking order than you are, and that you
have no right to be handling him or making
him do anything he doesn’t want to do.
Some really spoiled dogs become positively theatrical when
you try to clip their nails. Now, if you feel inclined to support
other people’s kids through college, you can head for the vet’s
office or grooming salon every couple of months simply to
have your dog’s nails clipped.
But good gosh, if your toddler threw a tantrum and
wouldn’t “let” you clip his fingernails, would you give
in and take him to the pediatrician or beauty salon? I
mean, really now! However…a word of caution! Some common sense and
judgment are required here. 113 ! If your dog is a puppy and is simply acting out with
fussy growls and baby teeth, you should be able to use
the respect training program presented in this book to
change the pecking order in your household and bring
him under your control.
! But if your dog is an adult and especially if he is large
and/or truly aggressive, you should call a local trainer
who can schedule a few private lessons to help you
Speaking for myself personally, I would not keep a dog who
wouldn’t “let” me clip his nails or clean his teeth. What else
might such a dog decide I can’t do? I would never trust him and
I would never feel confident of my ability to handle him in an
Remember, my book on canine health care, Dog Care
Wisdom: 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your
Dog Healthy and Happy, explains the specifics of how
to actually groom your dog. The dreaded “bath” word
WORD #20: “BATH”
Most dogs learn this word quickly because
it’s associated with such a dramatic event –
being required to stand still while being
doused with water and scrubbed with
Like many children, many dogs dislike baths. So you might
think that you should avoid teaching them this word because it
tips them off to the upcoming event.
You’re right, it does tip them off… 114 ...but it’s so funny to see my dog’s melodramatic reaction
when I hold up the shampoo and towel and say, “Want a
BATH? Time for a BATH!”
She looks like a deer caught in the headlights. She drops her
tail, lowers her body nearly to the ground, and creeps toward
her crate, hoping that perhaps I’ll forget what I just said.
I’m so mean!
Once in the bath, I use “Stand” rather than “Sit” because many
dogs, especially smaller ones, dislike sitting in water.
Fussing in the bath should be corrected with: “Ah-ah” or
“Stop that,” backed up by a physical correction if
Poor behavior can be caused by poor grooming If your dog has any behavior problems, look seriously at
how he is groomed. You’d be surprised at how many behavior
problems are caused or exacerbated by poor grooming.
For example, does he have hair hanging across his eyes? A dog with hair hanging across his eyes may act
nervous, timid, barky, suspicious, or aggressive –
because he can’t see the world clearly.
He may see only half a person walking toward
him, or a disembodied arm reaching for him.
He may not be able to visually locate and identify the source of
sounds, so he barks more.
He may have a short attention span because he can’t focus on
what you’re trying to show him. 115 He may be physically clumsy because he can’t see where he’s
As all that hanging hair shifts and blows around
in the breeze, the world appears to change
right in front of his eyes. It’s no wonder his
behavior is unsettled! SOLUTION:
Trim the hair short across his eyes. Yes, even if your breed is
supposed to have shaggy facial hair, trim it short. “Show
dogs” may need hair hanging across their face in order to win a
ribbon, but your companion dog needs to SEE. Period.
You could lift the hair off his eyes and bunch it
over his head with an elastic band or pretty bow,
but then you’ll never know for sure whether it’s
pulling on his skin and making him uncomfortable.
Just trim it short, is my advice. Does his coat have mats or tangles? Mats and tangles pull on your dog’s skin whenever he
changes position or moves.
Imagine how irritated and hypersensitive you
would feel if you couldn’t sit or lie down or walk
in comfort. SOLUTION:
Brush a long coat at least every other day. Especially comb
through the armpits, chest, and stomach, and up inside his groin
(lower belly), where painful mats often go unnoticed. 116 If you can’t spare the time for so much brushing,
trim his coat short. Again, it doesn’t matter if
his breed is “supposed” to have long hair. His
comfort is more important than anything else.
Warning: Some kinds of dogs should NOT be clipped short,
namely “spitz type” dogs with thick double coats (like Siberian
Huskies, Chows, Pomeranians, etc.)
If you shave or clip these coats, you can damage the
hair follicles and create a chronic skin problem. More
hair will fall out and the coat may not grow properly for
years. Is his skin itchy? It’s hard for an itchy dog to pay attention and learn, or even to
sit still or lie down comfortably. Itchy dogs fidget!
Itchy skin can be caused by:
! Bathing too frequently.
Bathing with the wrong shampoos.
Not rinsing thoroughly enough.
Fleas, allergies, and other skin conditions.
Feeding commercial dog food – This is an often-missed
but major cause of skin problems! SOLUTION:
In my canine health book, Dog Care Wisdom, I discuss proper
feeding, bathing, and flea control. 117
Are his toenails too long? If your dog is reluctant to go for walks, check his toenails. It’s
hard to walk comfortably with long toenails! Check
dewclaws, too – the extra 5th nail on the inside of your dog’s
ankles. Some dogs have them, and some don’t. If left
untrimmed, dewclaws can grow in a complete circle and pierce
your dog’s skin. Ouch!
Are his teeth coated with plaque or tartar? Along with making your dog feel uncomfortable, which can
cause him to act grumpy or nasty, bad teeth are a serious
health hazard. Blood vessels in the gums lead straight to the
heart, so minor infections in the gums can quickly become
major infections in the heart.
Are his ears dirty or clogged with hair or infected? Unhealthy ears can make any dog feel miserable and grumpy.
SOLUTIONS: In my canine health book, Dog Care Wisdom, I explain how to
keep your dog’s nails clipped, his teeth brushed, and his ears
clean and healthy. As you can see, a poorly groomed dog is not in an ideal frame
of mind for learning.
So keep him well-groomed. If his hair, skin, toenails,
eyes, ears, and teeth feel clean and comfortable,
he’s one more step along the road to a positive
attitude and a bright, alert mind that’s ready to learn. 118 Ch 11: Quickly-Learned Words Most dogs are eager for food, and any time a dog is eager for
something, it’s much easier to teach him the words and phrases
attached to it.
“Do you want…?”
WORD #21: “ARE YOU HUNGRY?”
WORD #22: “WANT TO EAT?”
WORD #23: “WANT SOME FOOD?”
Ah, phrases that are music to canine ears: “Do you want...”
“Want to . . .?” “Want some . . . ?”
These are great phrases to teach your dog early on, because
they’re associated with getting something good; therefore,
dogs learn them quickly. You want your dog to quickly learn
the concept that sounds have meaning.
That is, dogs learn them quickly IF you quickly
provide what you’re promising. “Jake, are you hungry?” Kathy asked. She was
stirring soup on the stove for herself and Roger.
Jake cocked his head with interest and Roger picked
up the dog’s food bowl.
Jake began dancing with excitement. “He knows his food
bowl,” laughed Roger. “You want to eat, huh, Jake?” Jake
leaped into the air trying to grab the bowl.
“Oops, wait a minute,” Roger said. “I need to go down to the
basement and get a new bag of kibble.” He set the bowl on the 119 kitchen counter and headed for the basement. Jake stood
uncertainly in the middle of the kitchen, looking from the food
bowl to the basement stairs, his tail beginning to droop.
The minutes ticked by. “Roger!” Kathy called. Roger clumped
up the basement steps, looking sheepish. “I got distracted,” he
said. “I saw that lamp I’ve been trying to fix and thought I’d
check the switch again.”
Kathy chuckled. “And I see you forgot the dog food. Well, our
soup’s ready, so Jake will have to wait until after we eat.” She
put Jake in the yard and they sat down to supper. Poor Jake! Dogs live in the current moment.
Don’t get your dog excited about the
possibility of food, and then dilly-dally before
giving it to him.
The longer the delay between the time you say a
word, and the time you provide the correct object or action, the
harder it will be for your dog to grasp the connection.
You have to say a word and then
IMMEDIATELY provide the correct object or
action. A minute’s delay is too long! Here’s the right way to turn meaningless sounds into
Each evening, around 9:30 p.m., I ask my dog Buffy, “Are you
HUNGRY? Want your FOOD?”
I get her bowl from the same cupboard. I set it on the same
counter. She jumps onto the same love seat and lies hanging
over the edge, watching my every move. 120 When her supper is ready, I place her bowl on the floor in the
same spot I placed it last night. “Here’s your FOOD! Time to
While she eats, I clean up our own supper dishes.
When she finishes eating, I ask, “All DONE?” I put her bowl in
the dishwasher and she waits confidently for the question she
knows comes next. “Do you need to go OUT? Time to go
Exaggerate the key words. Pronounce them more
deliberately than the other “filler” words in the
sentence. Keep your sentences short and crisp.
That’s how you turn sounds into words for your dog. Feed more than one meal a day
WHAT to feed your dog is a complicated question that I
answer in another book I’ve written, called Dog Care Wisdom:
11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and
Happy. It’s available from my web site at
If you’re currently feeding your dog any brand of
kibble or canned food, Dog Care Wisdom is a
must-have book! HOW OFTEN to feed your dog is a simpler question. Puppies,
pregnant females, females nursing puppies, and dogs with
certain health problems should eat three or four meals a day. All
other dogs should eat twice a day.
No dog should eat only once a day, or else his stomach will
growl, he will feel empty and uncomfortable, and he may
even spit up white froth or bile. Think of how empty YOU
feel when you haven’t eaten all day. 121 Avoiding food guarding
It might seem natural to place your dog’s
food bowl in a distant corner or in his crate
and leave him completely alone to eat it “in
peace”…but it may lead to a dog who
doesn’t react properly if you ever need to
interrupt his meal, or if a child accidentally
intrudes upon his meal.
Assuming that your dog does not already have a food guarding
problem, you can prevent one from ever developing by
accustoming him to having people around while he is eating. To avoid food guarding, follow these guidelines: ! Put your dog’s bowl in the middle of the kitchen floor
while you’re cooking your own meal, or washing the
dishes, or cleaning the countertop.
! At some point while your dog is eating, walk over to him
and add a yummy treat (a piece of chicken or cheese,
etc.) to his bowl. Say cheerfully, “Good FOOD” as you
! At another point while he is eating (not necessarily the
same meal), ask him, “Want some FOOD?” and pick up
the bowl completely. Place a yummy treat into the bowl
and return it to your dog.
“Here’s some FOOD!”
These simple techniques turn your presence
and the removal of his food dish into good things
in your dog’s eyes. 122
If your dog is already showing signs of food guarding First of all, how can you tell? Well, if you approach your dog while he’s eating and he…
! stops eating and stares at you
! or pushes his head deep into the bowl and freezes his
! or curls his lip or actually growls
…you have a problem. What should you do?
Well, some common sense and
judgment is required here.
! If your dog is a puppy and seems to be simply “acting
out” with fussy growls and baby teeth, you should be
able to use the respect training program in this book to
change the pecking order in your household.
! But if your dog is an adult and especially if he is large
and/or truly aggressive (if he has ever snapped at or
bitten anyone), you should call a local trainer who can
evaluate him up close and personally. 123 If you believe it’s safe and you want to try working with your
dog on your own, here’s what you might try 1. Prepare your dog’s meal but don’t put it in his regular
bowl. Instead, put it in a separate dish, then place his
regular food bowl (empty) on the floor.
2. He will run to the bowl and be surprised to find it empty.
When he looks up at you inquiringly, bend down, holding
the full dish of prepared food in your hand. Place two
spoonfuls of the food into his empty bowl on the floor.
3. He will eat it quickly and look up for more. Repeat until
the food is gone.
From your dog’s point of view, having you near
his food bowl is now a good thing! He had been
guarding the bowl so you couldn’t take food
away – but now he sees that you’re GIVING him
food. 4. Do this for a full week. Then start him off with half a
bowl of food, and when he finishes that, add the
5. Then begin putting in the remaining half just before he
finishes the first half – so you’re actually adding food
while he’s eating. Soon you should be able to pick up the
bowl while there’s still food in it, so you can add the last
You might be wondering if you should simply correct your dog
with a “No!” and a physical back-up, like you do for most
I don’t recommend that approach for food guarding.
Dogs who guard their food are often anxious and defensive,
and if you give the wrong correction or a wrongly-timed
correction, you could make things worse or end up bitten. 124
It goes without saying that allowing a child
around a dog who is guarding his food would be
the height of idiocy! Teach your dog to ask for water
WORD #24: “WANT WATER?”
When your dog’s water bowl is empty, lead him cheerfully over
to the empty bowl and tap the bowl so he leans down to sniff it.
Ask him, “Want WATER? WATER?” Try to keep his
attention as you get the bottled water and pour it into his
bowl. “Want WATER? Good WATER!”
When you give a NAME to this innocuous substance that your
dog drinks, it takes on more importance in his eyes. Enough so
that he may paw at his water bowl when it’s empty, thereby
letting you know it needs to be filled. He may even pick up the
bowl and flip it around, or bring it to you. You can almost hear
him saying, “WATER! There’s supposed to be WATER in
A variety of food words
WORD #25: “BISCUIT” (or “TREAT”)
WORD #26: “COOKIE” (or other food word)
Some owners call every treat a treat (or biscuit).
Other owners prefer different words for different
types of treats. Biscuit might be used for a
commercial dog biscuit, while cookie or cracker or cheese
might be used for those specific snacks.
Whichever words you decide to use, I like to establish a
scheduled Biscuit Time – for example, mid-morning. Dogs
love patterns and quickly learn to look forward to Biscuit 125 Time. In this expectant frame of mind, they are ready and
willing to listen to their new word and associate it with its tasty
There is one DISADVANTAGE to a fixed Biscuit Time:
Some dogs become too rigid about it. They start getting
restless, pacing or whining or nudging you. They may even
become upset if you’re late.
With such rigid dogs, adhering to a schedule is not a good
idea. Instead, offer their biscuit at random times – one day,
give it in the morning, next day in the afternoon, third day
in the evening. Occasionally skip the biscuit altogether.
A random schedule makes rigid dogs less expectant
and thus less stressed when things don’t happen
according to their expectations. What should you do at Biscuit Time? Ask your dog, “Want a BISCUIT? Who wants a BISCUIT?
How about a BISCUIT?”
Proceed jauntily to the cupboard and take down the biscuit box.
Rattle it and repeat with excitement, “Want a BISCUIT?”
Make a big show of taking the biscuit out of the box. Your dog
may already be excited, but if this is your first time doing this,
he may not know what it is. You may need to hold it near his
nose to give him the idea.
It should be noted that some dogs couldn’t care
a fig about commercial dog biscuits. To get them
excited, try a cheese cracker or oatmeal cookie.
Never offer raisins or grapes –
these can be toxic to dogs. 126 “Easy!” Teach your dog to be gentle
Once your dog is focused on the biscuit (see above), he’s going
to lose interest fast if he doesn’t get to eat it.
But we want him to eat it in a CIVILIZED manner.
So we’re going to add a polite behavior to Biscuit Time –
your dog must take the treat GENTLY from your hand.
He mustn’t grab at it like a starving savage.
WORD #27: “EASY!”
1. With your dog in front of you – it doesn’t matter whether
he’s sitting or standing or even walking around – hold the treat
in front of his mouth.
Don’t hold it too high or else he’ll jump for it, which is not
the calm behavior you’re trying to teach!
2. Say, “EEEE-zee.” Draw it out as a long cautionary word,
since you’re cautioning him to be careful.
If he tries to snatch at the treat, say, “Ah-Ah!” and jerk it
away – don’t let him have it. Caution again, “EEEE-zee”
and give him another chance to be a lady or a gentleman.
3. Only release the treat when he takes it gently from your
fingers. And praise him quietly as he eats it: “GOOD boy.
GOOD. GOOD BISCUIT.”
Your dog is being introduced to the idea that treats
do not fall from the sky like manna from heaven, but
rather are EARNED through positive behavior. “Easy” is a word you’ll use in many other circumstances, too.
It’s a control word that cautions your dog to be calm and
gentle, so you can use it whenever he gets too excitable or
engages in rough play. 127 Ch 12: Basic Commands
Sit on command
In Chapter 10, you introduced “Sit” as a basic handling and
grooming position by placing your dog into a sitting position
with your hands. Now you’re going to teach him to sit when
you tell him to.
Your dog will learn to “Sit” before he gets his biscuit.
Think of it as his way of saying please.
! Your dog gives you something (a polite sit).
! Your dog gets something in return (a biscuit). Here’s how to teach “Sit” 1. With your dog standing (or dancing around!) in front of you,
hold the biscuit so that it gets his attention.
2. When he’s looking at the biscuit, say “Sit.” Say it only once.
Say it crisply. Pronounce that “t” at the end: “siTT.” Your voice
shouldn’t go UP at the end – in other words, don’t say “Sit?” as
though you’re begging him.
3. Move the treat away from your body and up to
a level just above your dog’s head. Because he
has to bend his neck back to see the biscuit when
it moves over his head, and because his neck
can’t bend very far while he’s in a standing
position, he may automatically drop his
hindquarters into a sitting position.
Don’t hold the biscuit too high or else he’ll jump for it! 128 If the movement of the biscuit doesn’t encourage him to drop
into a sit on his own, use your hands to place him into a sit.
You already know how to do this from your grooming practice,
but let’s review:
One method is Pull Up and Push Down. With your right
hand, pull up on his collar. With your left palm, push down
on his hindquarters (just behind his two hipbones, or at the
base of his tail). Be sure you’re not pushing on his back –
his spine and vertebrae are too sensitive for heavy pressure.
Another method is The Fold. Place your right palm on his
chest. Place your left hand (if he’s small) or your left
forearm (if he’s larger) across his rump (below his tail and
above his knees). In one smooth motion, push his chest
toward his rump, while tucking his back knees forward to
fold him into a sit over your hand or forearm.
4. However you accomplish it, the moment your dog is sitting,
tell him “GOOD sit.” This is one time when you should keep
your praise quiet and calm. If you praise too enthusiastically,
he will get excited and start jumping around.
5. Take your hands off him.
If he holds his sit for even a couple of seconds, give him
If he doesn’t hold the sit, don’t give him the treat. Use
your hands to replace him in the sitting position. If he gets
up again, reposition him again, but be firmer. If he
continues to stand up, use one hand to hold him in position.
In the beginning, you want him to succeed, even if he
needs help. After a couple of seconds holding him in
position, give him the treat.
6. When you give him the treat, raise your voice into a cheerful
“Okay!” This is the same release word (Word #12) you used to
let him out of his crate. “Okay!” means that he no longer needs
to hold his sitting position. At first you may have to encourage 129 him to move, but he’ll quickly learn what “Okay” means. In
fact, it will become one of his favorite words!
7. Pick up a second biscuit and repeat the exercise. Then repeat
one more time, for a total of three times. And that’s enough
for one session.
For training ANY word, three to five times is always
enough repetition. Don’t bore your dog. Within a few days, your dog should catch on and begin sitting
when you say “Sit” – or at the very least, he should begin
holding the sit once you guide him into it with your hands.
If after a few days he’s still not getting it, you’ll need to
become more insistent. Use a sharper tug on his collar and a
firmer push on his hindquarters. You want to send the message
that he would be much more comfortable if he sat himself
rather than waiting for your “guidance”! If he is sitting properly on command, but he keeps breaking the
sitting position before you tell him “Okay”, start saying, “Ahah” AS he breaks position.
Timing is very important here – he must hear the “Ahah” AS he is getting up, so that he’ll associate the
corrective word with the action of breaking the sit.
Also, when you replace him in the sitting position after he has
broken it, be firmer with your hands and voice. Again, the
message should be that you’re not going to keep helping him
forever – that he needs to start doing it right or face a
In other words, you’re switching from gentle
guidance to firmer correction. 130 Lie down
WORD #28: “LIE DOWN” (or “DOWN”)
“Down” means your dog should lie down. Try
to use “Down” only for that specific purpose –
to tell your dog to assume a lying down
I don’t recommend using “Down” to mean “Get off the
furniture” or “Stop jumping on people.” “Off” is a better word
in those cases. (We’ll learn “Off” later in this chapter.) For
jumping on people, you can also use “No” or “Stop that”
reinforced with a physical back-up, just as with any other
unacceptable behavior. There are three ways to teach your dog to lie down.
Hands only (the gentlest method) 1. Put on your dog’s leash and have him sit on your left side.
Crouch or kneel beside him, on his right side. Tuck the leash
under your knees so both your hands are free.
2. Place your left hand, palm down, on top of his shoulders.
You can hook your fingers in his collar for more control.
3. Place your right hand and wrist, palm up, against the BACK
of his front legs, down around the level of his ankles.
4. Say, “Down” and sweep your right hand and arm forward
and slightly upward. This scoops his front legs forward and
slightly upward so his legs come to rest across your hand and
wrist – and maybe across your forearm, too, if he’s a big dog. 131 5. At the same time, push down on his shoulders with your
left hand – and with both hands working together, lower him
into a lying down position. Repeat “Down” as he goes down. Hands and leash If your dog is too antsy when you fiddle with his front legs,
rest your left hand on his shoulders as before, but instead of
placing your right hand behind his legs, grasp the leash very
close to his collar – just below the snap.
Say, “Down” and push down on his shoulders at the same
time as you pull or tug the leash downward and slightly to
the right. (Pulling straight down makes it too easy for your
dog to brace himself and resist, while pulling slightly to the
right throws him off-balance a bit and encourages him to
sink into a lying down position.) Repeat “Down” as he goes
down. Foot and leash I recommend this method only for dogs who strenuously resist
(or growl) when being physically handled.
1. Put on your dog’s leash and have him sit.
2. Hold the end of the leash in your right hand so it forms a
large U-shaped loop between your hand and your dog’s collar.
3. Say, “Down” and step on the U-shaped loop with your left
foot as you pull the leash upward with your right hand. You’re
using your foot as a pulley, you see. 132 As you pull the leash up on YOUR side of the foot pulley,
your dog’s head should be pulled smoothly down to the
floor on HIS side of the foot pulley. Repeat “Down” as he
Now, the Foot-and-Leash method doesn’t always go so
smoothly, which is why I recommend it as a last resort!
Often a dog will struggle as his head is pulled toward the floor
by unseen forces. If you keep up the pressure calmly, many
dogs will eventually relax and lie down, but some dogs will
continue to resist.
! Make sure you’re planting your foot pulley properly.
Your foot pressure should be firm enough so the leash
doesn’t slip out, yet with enough “wiggle space”
underneath the sole of your shoe so the leash can slide as
you pull it upward. You may need to experiment with
different shoes to find one that allows the leash to slide
! Make sure the loop is formed fairly close to your
dog’s collar. If the loop is too far away, there will be a
lot of leash to slide through your foot pulley and your
dog will have more time to brace against it and struggle.
Experiment with forming the loop at different places
along the leash until you find the most effective fulcrum
Lie down for 30 minutes
Now. Once your dog is lying down, you’re only halfway there.
Now you need to KEEP him lying down – for 30 minutes.
Yes, 30 minutes!
In most obedience classes, your dog learns to lie down and stay
for three minutes while you stand at the end of the leash.
Unfortunately, in real life, this is useless! 133 Say you have guests over. After your dog greets people, you
want him to lie down. You don’t want to have to stand at
the end of his leash and stare at him – and three minutes is
much too short a time to be helpful.
No, what you want is a dog who will lie down in
a corner of the room, off leash, while everyone
else moves freely around the room. After awhile,
you can allow him up to stretch, visit, go outside,
etc. A reasonable time for him to remain
down is a half hour or so. You might think your dog will never stay down for 30 minutes,
but he will. In fact, it’s EASIER for him to stay lying down for
thirty minutes than for three minutes!
Why? Because during a 3-minute down, he is waiting the whole
time to get up. He watches you intently, shifts restlessly, tenses
his muscles whenever you look in his direction. He is poised for
the slightest sign that the three minutes are up.
Whereas, during a 30-minute down, most
dogs relax and go to sleep. How to teach the 30-minute “Long Down” 1. After you place your dog down, hold him there for a few
seconds with your hands, praising him softly. Then remove
your hands. He will probably jump right up.
The INSTANT he starts to get up – don’t wait until he’s
all the way up! – use your hands and/or the leash to stop
him, and patiently place him back down. 134 It is essential that you be QUICK here! Don’t give your
dog time to jump all the way up and cavort around. As
soon as he BEGINS to rise, dart your hands in there and
replace him in the down position – or tug him back down
with the leash – or both.
Patience and persistence are the keys to this very important
exercise in control. The first time you try this exercise, your
dog may get up 100 times. No problem! You will replace him
This is an exercise, pure and simple, of
who can outlast the other.
If YOU don’t give up, your dog will eventually sigh and stay
down – and as far as leadership goes, you will have just taken a
giant step forward in his eyes!
There’s an old saying: The stonecutter hammers
at his rock a hundred times without so much as
a crack showing. Yet at the hundred and first
blow it splits in two, and it was not that blow that
did it – but all that had gone before. Jacob Riis Amusing antics your dog might try during the Long Down He might stare at you
! It might be an intent stare as he tries to send you a
telepathic message: “I want to get up right now.”
! It might be an eager-beaver stare: “Time to get up now?
Huh? Is it?”
! It might be a hopeful stare: “Wouldn’t
you rather play with me? Can I crawl
into your lap?” 135 ! It might be a pitiful stare: “This is awful. You’re so mean
to me. I feel miserable.”
Or he might flatten his ears and refuse to look at
you at all, his body language clearly saying,
“Fine, then. Have it your way. I’m never talking
to you again.” Your response to all of these should be
Ignore it. Don’t make eye contact with him. Many dogs
interpret eye contact as an invitation to interact with you. In
fact, your dog may try very hard to make eye contact during
the Long Down so he can assume his most charming or
pathetic expression and persuade you to stop this foolish
exercise and play with him instead. He might inch forward
“There, that didn’t hurt anything, did it? After all, I’m still lying
down. How about another inch? How about two inches? Gosh,
I’m a little stiff…how about a big s-t-r-e-t-c-h of my front
legs…ohh, that felt good...let’s try another stretch...let’s crawl a
little while we’re at it...”
Your response should be
Don’t allow the first inch. Scoot him immediately back to
his original position. With a small- to medium-sized dog,
you can often slide him back without even raising him from
the down position.
Be careful with your hands here. Don’t stroke or pet your
dog as you slide him. Believe it or not, some dogs will
deliberately crawl around just so you’ll put your hands on
their body when you move them back. Be quick and
businesslike as you slide your dog back to his original
position and immediately get your hands off him. 136 He might discover imaginary fleas
“They’re so itchy! I MUST sit up and scratch
Your response should be
There are no fleas. Place him back down without waiting for
him to finish scratching. If you wait, as soon as he’s done he
will stand up and amble away, hoping you’ve forgotten about
this whole stupid exercise.
He might nibble at the carpet, or chew on his leash, or
whine or bark at you
“I need something to do! I’m so bored!”
Your response should be
Tug the leash. “No. Stop that.” He might shift position by rolling from one hip to the other,
or flop onto his side so he’s sprawled flat Your response should be
Nothing. Your dog doesn’t have to be a statue. He just
has to stay lying down in his original PLACE. 137 Just watch out for the clever dog who tries to extend his
flop into a Roll Over trick, which puts him well away from
his original position. If he rolls all the way over, put him
back in his original position so he’s not tempted to go any
further. Three reasons why the Long Down is one of the most valuable
exercises you can teach your dog 1. The Long Down is practical. Every owner, at one point or
another, needs his or her dog to lie down and stay put.
2. The Long Down is calming. Your dog learns to relax and be
patient – qualities that are especially important to instill in
energetic or excitable dogs.
3. The Long Down establishes you as a
leader. Your dog learns that sometimes he
has to do something simply because you
say so. Yes, it’s boring. He isn’t being petted or cuddled or
spoken to. He can’t entertain himself by chewing on a toy. He
has to just lie there quietly – because YOU want him to.
There is no better exercise than this one for
establishing leadership with your dog! Releasing your dog from the Long Down When the half hour is up, call out in a cheerful voice, “Okay,
Jake!” and encourage him to get up. It won’t take much
It’s very important that YOU always be the one to
release your dog from the Long Down. 138 If anything interrupts you before the half hour is up (say,
the phone or the doorbell), release your dog with “Okay!”
and get him up before you walk away.
Otherwise he will almost certainly get up while you’re busy
elsewhere, and you won’t be able to correct him from a
distance. So think ahead and release him first.
Don’t ever let him think he can decide for
himself when to get up. Practice the Long Down every day. As your dog gets more
reliable, you can progress to sitting in a chair and watching TV
or reading a book. Just keep one eye on him. You don’t want
him wandering around the room while you’re
engrossed in Chapter Six!
When you can depend on your dog to stay put
while you’re right there beside him, begin
standing up and walking around the room.
Eventually you should be able to leave the room
for a minute or two and return to find him still lying down
where you left him.
What a marvelous exercise in self-control! Growling or snapping when you work on “Down” Growling or snapping is a frightening sign of disrespect. A
growling dog believes that he is higher in the pecking order
than you are, and that you have no right to be handling him or
making him do anything he doesn’t want to do. 139 This is an attitude problem, a relationship
problem between you and your dog. The
problem may have been going on for some time –
or it may be rearing its ugly head for the first
time because making your dog lie down is all about
leadership and Who-Is-In-Charge.
Dominant dogs instinctively recognize that if they
give in on this exercise, they are allowing you to be
the leader – and some of them are not willing to do
that without a fight. Caution! Some common sense and judgment are required
! If your dog is a puppy and is simply “acting out” with
fussy growls and baby teeth, you should be able to use
the respect training program presented in this book to
change the pecking order in your household and bring
him under your control.
! But if your dog is an adult and especially if he is large
and/or truly aggressive, you should call a local trainer for
an up-close evaluation and assistance.
Speaking for myself personally, I would not keep a dog who
wouldn’t “let” me place him into a Down position.
What else might he decide I can’t do? I would never trust
him and I would never feel confident of my ability to
handle him in an emergency. 140
If you do want to try working with an aggressive dog on your
own, here’s what you might try Adapt the Long Down exercise as follows:
1. With your dog on leash, sit on a chair. Tuck most
of the leash under your behind so you’re sitting on it.
Measure out just enough leash so your dog could lie
down (if he wanted to) right beside the chair. Give
him no more leash than that.
2. But he doesn’t HAVE to lie down. He is free to sit or stand,
if he wants to. So this isn’t really a Long Down exercise, but it
IS an exercise in control and leadership...
...because you are going to limit his actions.
! If he stands on his hind legs and puts his paws on
you, snap the leash downward.
! If he barks at you or nudges at you, snap the leash
! If he chews on the leash, snap it out of his mouth.
Add “No” or “Stop that” to each snap.
3. Since you are correcting him when he jumps, barks, nudges,
paws, or chews, and since the very short leash doesn’t allow
him to go anywhere, and since you will not pet him or talk to
him or even look at him, he will eventually decide to just
stand or sit or lie down quietly. Good! Round One goes to
Here’s what else you should do with a growling dog 1. Neuter him. Testosterone makes dominance problems much
worse. Neutering will lower your dog’s hormonal levels so that
he doesn’t feel so compelled to be in charge.
Don’t breed any dog who has growled at you. Such
genes should never be passed on. 2. Confine him. A growling dog should not be allowed
freedom of the house. Put his leash on him and attach the other
end to your waist. Now he must follow you around. Both
physically and psychologically, this helps establish you as the
leader and him as the follower.
3. Work hard on this 100 Words program. It will increase
your dog’s respect for you. After you’ve taught him all the
obedience words, practice a quick succession of them, for five
minutes straight, several times a day. “Heel. Sit. Stay. Come.
Sit. Down.” Again, this is the leader-follower dynamic where
you are giving commands and he is following them. Good for
Finally, for a growling dog, I recommend a book
called People, Pooches, and Problems, by Job
Michael Evans. Job passed away some years ago
and is sorely missed by the dog training
community. He loved dogs dearly but he
brooked no nonsense from them when they acted
up. His Radical Regimen for Recalcitrant Rovers
program, included in his book, is must-reading for anyone with
an aggressive dog. It meshes well with the Respect Training
Program you’re learning now! 142 Teach your dog his name
WORD #29: YOUR DOG’S NAME
1. Put a handful of treats in your pocket, and with your dog on
leash, wander around your house or yard. When his attention
is elsewhere, say, when he is sniffing something, stop walking
and say his name clearly, “Jake!”
2. If he doesn’t immediately look at you, give a gentle tug on
the leash. Not a correction – just a very gentle tug to get his
attention. The instant he looks at you, praise him, “Good boy!”
and give him a treat.
3. Resume walking. When his attention has wandered away
from you again, repeat the exercise. After three to five
repetitions – no more! – stop for that session. It shouldn’t be long before your dog looks at you
immediately when you say his name.
Remember this guideline of three to five repetitions.
Whether you’re teaching your dog something new or
practicing something he already knows, do it only
three to five times. More than that is boring. 143 Watch me (Pay attention)
Now we’re going to teach your dog to sit still and pay attention
WORD #30: “WATCH ME”
STEP ONE 1. Put your dog’s leash on and lead him into a quiet room.
2. Tell him to “Sit” and stand in front of him, facing him. With
a small dog, kneel in front of him.
3. Put one hand under your dog’s chin and
your other hand on his forehead. Tilt his
head up so he is looking into your eyes.
4. Say, “Jake. WATCH me. WATCH me.”
5. Look into his eyes for fifteen seconds, gently stroking him
under the chin and repeating quietly, “Jake. Watch me. Watch
6. After fifteen seconds, remove your hands and say quietly,
“Good boy.” Unsnap the leash and let him go.
Practice this enforced eye contact twice a day
for a full week. It seems like a simple little
exercise, I know – but it shows your dog that you
can restrain his movements and keep him calm
and focused. This is a powerful lesson in
STEP TWO OF “WATCH ME” For the second week, put your dog’s leash on and have him sit
beside you on your left side. He should be facing the same
direction you are, his head and ears about six inches from your
left leg. This position is called Heel Position.
Throughout the rest of this book, we’re going
to be doing several exercises that require
your dog to sit in Heel Position and stay
there, so it’s an important position for
him to learn. Let’s work on it! 1. He must remain in Heel Position, sitting beside you, for
! If he stands up or lies down or walks away, use your
hands and/or the leash to re-place him in the same sitting
position beside you.
! If he continues to break position, start saying, “Ah-ah!”
AS he breaks position and replace him more firmly –
with a sharper tug on his collar and a sterner push on his
2. When your dog will remain sitting for 10 seconds, he
must then do so while paying attention to you.
! While he is sitting in Heel Position, say his name, “Jake.”
He should look up at you – but he must not get up!
Put him back in position if he does.
! Once he is looking at you AND holding his sit position,
say in a calm voice, “Watch me.” If he keeps looking at
you for even a second or two, praise him. “Good
watch.” 145 3. Release your dog from Heel Position.
Raise your voice into a cheerful “Okay!” – the
release word. You may have to encourage him
to move by walking forward yourself and
guiding him with the leash so he breaks out of
the Sit position and begins moving around. But
he’ll quickly learn what “Okay” means.
Over the next few weeks, increase the time you
ask your dog to look at you. Start with just a
couple of seconds and build up to ten seconds.
During these longer times, occasionally remind
him, “WATCH me. Good. Watch me.” Now. That’s how the exercise is supposed to go! But what if it
doesn’t go so smoothly?
If your dog doesn’t respond to his name at all You need to go back to teaching your dog his name, Word #29.
You’ll be walking around your house and yard with your dog
on leash, occasionally saying his name, rewarding with a treat
when he looks at you, reminding him with a gentle tug on the
leash when he doesn’t. If your dog keeps getting distracted and looking away There are several things you can try:
! Move your index finger near his eyes to catch his
attention. Then draw your finger quickly back toward
your own eyes to remind him where you want him to
focus. Do this rapidly in a flicking motion. 146 ! With a large dog whose head is close to your left hand,
tap his skull gently with your fingers. Trainer Diane
Bauman calls this, “Knock, knock! Anybody home?” Or
use your left hand to gently(!) tug on his cheek or beard.
! Tug on the leash to get and keep his attention.
! Hold a treat or toy near your mouth so he must look up at
you to see it. Move it around slightly as you remind him,
“Watch me.” At the end of the exercise, after you release
him, give him the treat or toy.
This one often works like magic – but don’t fool
yourself. Your dog is really looking at the treat or
toy, not at you. The whole point of this exercise
is for your dog to pay attention to YOU. So if you
resort to this trick, do it only for a short time. ! If nothing else works, lift his head with your hands and
hold it so that he must look at you. “Watch me” is an important concept
for your dog to learn.
If he won’t pay attention to you,
it will be harder to teach other words
that require his attention.
Come when called
WORD #31: “COME”
Along with “No,” “Come” is the most important word in your dog’s
vocabulary. For the rest of his life, your dog should never hear the
word “Come” without being required to obey it. 147
Every dog that I have ever owned, large or
small, young or old, of every breed, has learned
to come when called. Unlike fun words such as “Shake hands” or “Roll over,” where
it doesn’t really matter whether your dog learns it or not....
“Come” is a mandatory word that must be mastered. Three steps in teaching “Come” Study each step carefully before you start working with your
dog. Don’t skip any of the steps! The first two steps are on
leash so you can MAKE your dog come if he chooses not to.
For the rest of his life, your dog should never again hear
the word “Come” without being required to obey it. In
the beginning, you need a leash to guarantee that your
dog comes every single time he hears the word.
Step #1 in teaching “Come” 1. Put a handful of treats in your pocket, and with your dog on
leash, wander around your house or yard. When his attention is
elsewhere, say, when he is sniffing something, stop walking
and say his name clearly, “Jake!”
This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? You did this when you
were teaching your dog his name. When he hears his
name, he should turn to look at you.
2. When your dog looks at you in response to his name, crouch
down, open your arms invitingly, and call in a happy voice,
“Come!” 148 3. The instant he starts toward you, pat your hands together
gently – don’t startle or scare him – as you praise and
encourage him, “Come – good boy!”
Make sure the leash hangs completely loose as
he comes toward you – don’t reel him in like a
fish! 4. As he approaches you, don’t reach out to grab him. Keep
encouraging him with your hands and voice to come all the way
to you until his nose or head touches (or practically touches)
5. Pet and praise him for a few moments, then tell him, Okay!”
to let him know he doesn’t need to stay near you any longer.
6. Begin walking again, and when he wanders to the end of the
leash and becomes distracted again, repeat the exercise. But what if…? ! What if he doesn’t come to you?
! What if he comes partway, but stops?
! What if he comes to you, but runs past you?
Ah, that’s why you attached the leash!
Use it to guide him to you. Then praise him as though he
had come on his own. You want him to SUCCEED at
doing the action that fits the word. One way or another,
he must come to you.
! Practice indoors. Practice outdoors in your yard. Keep
the leash on so he MUST come. 149 ! Give him dozens of experiences hearing the word
“Come!” and dozens of experiences coming toward you.
! Praise and encourage him the instant he starts moving
toward you, as well as when he arrives. Occasionally
give him a treat.
Step #2 in teaching “Come” After a week of practice in your house and yard, we’re ready to
practice away from home. Take your dog for a walk. When he
is distracted by something, such as sniffing a fire hydrant or
watching another dog across the street...
1. Stop walking. Stand still. (It’s okay if HE keeps walking.)
2. Call, “Jake, come!” and immediately start backing up –
3. If your dog responded properly to your Come command, he
will already be moving toward you. As you back up, make sure
the leash hangs completely loose – don’t reel him in. Pat your
hands together and encourage him, “Come, good boy, come!”
4. After backing up about ten feet, stop walking, but keep
encouraging your dog to come all the way to you. Praise and
pet him, then tell him, Okay!” and continue your walk. Watch
for another distraction so you can call him again. “But what if he doesn’t come?”
That’s why a leash is so essential!
If your dog ignores your Come command and just stands there,
it will be only a moment before you reach the end of the
leash. You’re backing up, remember? 150 When you reach the end of the leash, keep going! If your dog
is inattentive or focused on something other than you, he’s
going to get a pretty strong jerk that will compel him to come
toward you – and once he does start moving toward you, pat
your hands together and encourage him. Keep backing up,
making him cover a goodly amount of ground. Then stop and
act as though he had come to you on his own – praise him
The message should be that Coming To You is
always associated with goodness. Step #3 (final step!) in teaching “Come” With your dog’s leash attached, take him outside in your yard
and drop your end of the leash. Watch for a time when he’s
wandering around, not looking at you. Call cheerfully, “Jake,
come!” If he comes all the way to you, praise!
If he doesn’t come – if he ignores you, or just stands there
looking at you, or heads off in another direction – repeat, “Jake,
COME!” once more, in a firm, serious voice. If he responds to
your stronger tone and comes all the way to you, praise him
But if he still doesn’t come, don’t say another word.
JUST GO GET HIM.
As you walk toward your disobedient dog, he
may move away from you. No problem – you
remember from Chapter 1 what you should do
if your dog runs away from you, don’t you?
! Track him down silently.
! Don’t say anything.
! Don’t run. 151 Walk firmly and purposefully, keeping your expression
stony-faced, drilling your dog with your eyes.
Baffled and unnerved by your persistent, methodical following,
your dog will most likely, fairly quickly, shrink down and give
up. Or you will get close enough to step on the end of the leash
and stop him in his tracks.
So. Whether he just stood there waiting for you, or whether
you had to track him down, the goal is to get hold of his
Once you have the leash in your hand, give it a good snap (just
a tug for very small or sensitive dogs – use common sense!) to
propel him in your direction. Then start trotting backward,
saying, “Come! Come! Come!” Your voice should be quite
firm here – not cheerful. After all these weeks, your dog knows
darned well what “Come!” means, yet he chose to ignore it.
Back up all the way to the point at which you were standing
when you first called him – the point at which, had he obeyed
this word that he fully knows, he would have ended up.
When you both arrive there, change your attitude
dramatically. Smile! Praise him! Pet him! Scoop him up,
if he’s small! Do whatever gets his tail wagging!
The message you want to send is this:
“The place where I am when I call you (Point A) is a happy
place full of praise and petting. If you come to me on your
own, you’ll get all that praise and petting immediately.
If you don’t come on your own, I’ll come get you and it
will not be a happy experience. I’ll correct you all the
way from Point B (wherever you are when I catch you) to
Point A (where I gave the command in the first place). So
you see that you end up in the same place anyway. Now,
wouldn’t you rather do that the easy way?” 152 This is a critical lesson for your dog to learn –
namely, that one way or the other he has to do what
you say, and that doing it right away, on his own, is
much more comfortable and rewarding than being
made to do it. Practice this exercise every day until your dog is rock-solid.
Then replace the dragging leash with a shorter hand-hold (we
talked about hand-holds in Chapter 1). A hand-hold gives you
something to grab if you need to catch and correct him.
To sum up, then:
For the rest of your dog’s life, each and every time
you say “Come!” you must see to it that he does so.
One way or another, he must end up at the point
where you called him. With this word more than any other...
if you are not in a position to enforce it – should he
happen to choose this moment to disobey it – for example,
if you’re on the phone, or in the shower, or on a ladder
painting the house, and you know that you won’t be able to
go get him quickly if he disobeys you –don’t call him.
Wait (stay inside open doors and gates)
WORD #32: “WAIT”
Be honest – has anything like this ever happened at your house?
“Watch out for the dog!” Kathy cried. Her friend
Mary Sue had just arrived and started to pull open
the screen door so she could come into the kitchen.
Spotting the crack of daylight, Jake made a mad
dash for it. Mary Sue leaped backward and managed 153 to slam the screen door a millisecond before Jake barreled into
it, leaving yet another nose print in the battered black mesh.
Mary Sue looked down through the screen at the Armstrong’s
exuberant dog. “What a nuisance,” she thought. This behavior is unacceptable for two reasons:
First, it could cost your dog his life. If he
gets through the door and spies some
temptation running down the street – a cat or
a squirrel, say – he will probably take off and end up hit by a
car. It happens all the time.
Second, it’s unfair to your guests. Visitors shouldn’t have to
be paranoid about your dog barreling past them. As our dogs’
guardians, WE have the responsibility of teaching them to stay
put, even when a door or gate tempts them.
So here’s a better story. Mary Sue had just arrived
at Kathy’s house and started to pull open the screen
Jake bounded toward the opening, but Kathy called,
“Jake, wait!” and Mary Sue watched as the
exuberant dog skidded to a stop and stood still, wriggling
eagerly, waiting for her to come all the way in.
Mary Sue stepped inside, closed the door behind her, and
looked down at Jake. “He’s so well-behaved!” she thought.
Yes, a much better story! 154 Here’s how to teach “Wait” 1. You and your dog are inside your house. With his leash
attached, walk toward the front door as though the two of you
are heading out for a walk.
If you have a screen door on the outside of your
front door, prop it open ahead of time so it won’t
be in the way when you open the front door. In other words, when that front door opens, you want your
dog to see an “open shot” to the Great Outdoors.
2. When you reach the front door, tighten the leash, say, “Jake,
wait” and open the door.
3. Your dog will probably try to rush out. Say “Ah-ah” and use
alternating pressure on the leash to show him that you don’t
want him to go through the door.
Alternating pressure means you tighten the leash only
enough to PULL him slightly backward, then you quickly
loosen it to give him a choice again. Be quick! Don’t let
him get all the way through the door before you pull him
Tighten the leash the instant his toes go
over the threshold and loosen it the instant
his toes are back inside. Your first few pulls should be just strong enough to
slide/drag/propel him back into the house. But if he continues to
rush for the door each time you loosen the leash, make your
pulls sharper, more like a corrective jerk.
Use common sense! TUG a Chihuahua! Gently! 155 4. You may need to “check” your dog with the leash a couple of
times or you may need to do it ten (or more!) times. It doesn’t
matter. When the light bulb finally goes on and he WAITS
inside the open door with no tension on the leash, praise him
quietly. (Don’t get him all excited.)
5. Close the door and lead him into another
room for a short break, then head toward the
front door again and repeat the exercise a
second time, and then a third time.
Three times is enough for one session. You
can do another session of three “Waits” later in
the day, if you wish. “Wait” on a completely loose leash After practicing “Wait” for a couple of days as described above,
make one important change. As you approach the front door,
don’t tighten the leash at all. Keep it loose. Just say, “Wait”
and open the door.
Without the reminder of the tight leash, your dog may try to
rush through when the door opens. The instant his toe crosses
the threshold, say “Ah-ah” and tug him firmly back inside the
house. Once he’s inside, say again, “Wait” and slacken the
leash to give him another opportunity to rush through.
And another, and another, and another, until he accepts the
reality that “Wait” means the same thing today as it meant
yesterday – not to go through the door.
The choice is ultimately his – your job is simply to provide
the consequences. Each time he steps out, he is tugged back in,
which makes it crystal clear that stepping over the threshold
gets him nothing but discomfort. 156 Dog training means providing your dog with
opportunities to take some action while you
provide a positive or negative consequence
to that action. Your dog will do what benefits him most and he will avoid
doing what makes him uncomfortable.
It’s up to YOU to provide the benefits (praise, petting,
treats) and the discomforts (corrections) so he will make
the choices you prefer or that are best/safest for him.
When your dog finally stays inside the house with the leash
loose and the front door open, praise him quietly.
Close the door and lead him into another room for a short
break, then head toward the front door again and repeat the
whole exercise a second time, and then a third time.
“Wait” with distractions The next step in practicing “Wait” is to add distractions. When
the front door is open and your dog is standing there and the
leash is loose:
! Hum or whistle a happy tune.
Do a few knee bends or jumping jacks.
Talk to an imaginary visitor at the door.
Sit in a chair near the door (inside the house) and read
aloud from a book. What should your dog be doing during this time? Well, he can
just stand there, or sit, or lie down, or walk around within the
limits of the leash. It’s his choice. He simply can’t pass
through the open door. (No barking, either!)
Is he still waiting? Good! 157 !
! Have your son walk by, OUTSIDE the door.
Have your daughter walk by, bouncing a ball.
Have your son run by.
Have your daughter skip rope in the front yard.
Whether it’s you or your kids providing a
distraction, it must be done in a way that’s fair to
your dog. Don’t speak to your dog. Don’t look
directly at him. No teasing! When your dog is doing well with distractions on a regular
leash, graduate to a 20-foot leash or rope. Now you can get
quite a distance from him – always staying inside your house,
of course. Your dog may choose to walk around the room with
you, or he may decide to hang out near the open front door,
peering out. The only thing he cannot do is cross the
threshold (or bark or chew on the woodwork!)
“Wait” while YOU go outside 1. Switch back to a shorter leash. With the front door open and
both of you standing there, repeat, “Wait.” Now YOU step over
the threshold. Keep some tension on the leash – upward and
backward – as you step through, to help hold your dog in
position on HIS side of the door.
2. As soon as your foot hits the ground outside, turn and face
him. Now he should be inside the house, and you should be just
barely outside, on the porch or stoop, holding tension on the
leash to keep him indoors.
3. Caution him, “Wait” and loosen the leash. He may try to rush
outside to join you. The instant his toe crosses the threshold,
use the leash to bounce him back inside the house. You stay put
on your side. Once he’s back inside, caution him, “Wait” and
loosen the leash again to give him another chance to either rush
out or stay put. 158 No matter how many times you have to bounce him back
inside, when he does finally stand there – actually, he can
stand or sit or lie down or even walk back and forth, just so
long as he stays on his side of the threshold – he has just
done a marvelous “Wait.”
4. Praise him. But softly, so he isn’t tempted to
rush out to you. “Good boy. Wait. Good boy.”
Hold up your hand like a stop sign, to help
5. Finally, say, “Okay! Come!” That should bring him running
across the threshold! If not, use the leash to encourage him to
join you outside. “Good boy!”
Now it’s simply a matter of getting further away from
the door – gradually – and adding more tempting
distractions as your dog waits inside. Sometimes, instead of calling him outside to join you, go back
inside the house, praise your dog for waiting, and close the
door. In other words, don’t always give him an “Okay!” to
In practical life, as you know, there will be many times
when you need to go outside for a moment by yourself –
say, to accept a package from UPS. Then you’ll go back
inside the house without your dog ever being allowed out.
So he should learn right upfront that he doesn’t always get
to cross the boundary after “Wait.”
Other places to practice “Wait” Have your dog “Wait” before going INTO your house, too. For
example, after a walk, say, “Wait” and open the front door but
don’t let him go IN until you’ve given the “Okay.” 159 Have him “Wait” at the back door before you let him out into
the yard. Or have him “Wait” before coming into the house
from the yard, after a potty trip.
Have him “Wait” before going through sliding patio doors.
Have him “Wait” before going in – or out – of the gate to your
Have him “Wait” on one side of an open doorway, such as the
doorway between your kitchen and living room.
Have him “Wait” at the top of the stairs before going down.
Or at the bottom of the stairs before going up.
Don’t ask your dog to “Wait” OFF-LEASH anywhere
where he could dash into a busy street. A dog will
always choose the worst possible moment to forget
or ignore a word – and all it takes is once for your
dog to be dead. Teach your dog to “Wait” inside your car When your dog is in the back seat of your car, you should be
able to open the car door without him jumping out.
WORD #33: “Go car”
1. With your dog on leash, walk toward your parked car. When
you reach the rear door, say, “Wait” and open the door. The
first couple of times, hold the leash slightly taut to remind him
of what this word means.
2. When you do loosen the leash, be prepared to check your dog
quickly if he tries to jump in. Once he is waiting at the open
car door with the leash loose, tell him, “Okay! GO CAR!” and
encourage him to jump in. Help him, if necessary, by using
your hands to boost him up – or use treats to motivate him. 160 Pick up a small dog and physically place him into the back
3. Now for the hard part! Close the door and let him stay in the
car alone for ten seconds. Then caution him (through the closed
door) to “Wait.” Open the door and quickly get hold of the
leash so you can stop him if he tries to jump out. Caution him
again, “Wait” and completely loosen the leash to give him the
opportunity to stay in or jump out.
And another opportunity, and another, and another, until he
realizes that “Wait” means the same inside the car as it did
inside your house. “Good boy!” Close the door and repeat
4. After three to five repetitions, let him come out. “Okay,
Jake!” That should bring him bounding out. (If he is small, lift
him out yourself – don’t let him injure himself by jumping.)
5. When he’s no longer making any attempt to jump out when
the door opens, switch to your 20-foot leash so you can get
further away from the open car door, yet still have control over
him if he should leap out.
Oh, and add distractions – you know about distractions!
Riding safely in the car
When we practiced “Wait,” your dog was loose in the back seat
while he was learning not to jump out of the car. But it isn’t
safe for him to RIDE loose in the back seat.
As Jake leaped – for the third time – from the back
seat into the front seat, Roger startled and jerked the
steering wheel violently to one side. “Jake!” he
shouted. “For the love of Pete, will you settle
down?” 161 With the wind whistling in through the open windows, Jake
couldn’t hear anything. The excited dog thrust his head out the
passenger window, squinting his eyes against the wind. He
bounded across the front seat and into Roger’s lap, craning his
neck out the driver’s window to see if things were more
interesting over there.
“Jake!” cried Roger, shoving at the dog and struggling to steer
with one hand. Jake leaped into the back seat again, plunked his
paws onto the rear window ledge, and began barking vigorously
at a motorcycle behind them. “Jake!” Roger shouted in vain. If you allow your dog to ride loose in the car You’re putting your dog, yourself, your passengers, and every
other driver and passenger on the road in danger.
In a crash, warns a highway safety article in Readers Digest,
loose objects, including pets, become deadly projectiles. In a
30 mph crash, a 15-pound object loose in the back seat
continues hurtling forward at 30 mph until it strikes someone or
something with 300 pounds of force.
In other words, even a Miniature Schnauzer, because of
momentum, becomes the equivalent of two Saint Bernards
hurtling forward to fracture the skull or break the neck of
someone in the front seat.
The Institute for Highway Safety says, “After the
collision outside, there are always collisions inside.
Both wreak havoc.” Your loose dog may not only cause injuries during an accident,
he may actually cause the accident by jostling your arm or
engaging in some antic that distracts you from paying full
attention to the road. 162 And it’s not just you and other people who
will be hurt. Your loose dog will be battered
against the windshield, or flung through an
open or shattered window or doog into the
street. The impact will injure or kill him or set him loose in
traffic, where he will take off in a panic and be lost or hit by
Please, folks, if you truly care about your dog, secure him in
the rear seat:
! with a special canine harness and seat belt like the Ruff
Rider Safety Harness (www.ruffrider.com)
! or in a crate that has itself been buckled into the rear seat
so IT can’t hurtle around the car during a crash.
Don’t buckle your dog into the front seat of a
car with airbags. Airbags blast out of the
dashboard at a fearsome speed that can kill a
dog. Too idiotic for words ! Riding on your lap while you drive?
! Riding in the open bed of a pickup truck?
! Riding on the rear window shelf? 163
Another use for “Go car” Along with using “Go car!” for actually getting into the car,
you can also use it to cue your dog that a ride in the car is
Attaching a word to an upcoming event helps
your dog develop the mental skill of visualizing
that event and anticipating the fun that goes
with it. While you’re still in the house, ask him, “Go car?” Then follow
up immediately by clipping on his leash and heading toward
Make sure there’s no delay! Don’t ask your dog if he wants to
go for a ride, then get bogged down looking for his leash,
checking the weather, finding the right jacket, visiting the
bathroom, grabbing a snack, or answering the phone.
Make your preparations ahead of time. Find out what the
weather is and decide which jacket you’re going to wear.
Put a snack in your pocket. Go to the bathroom. Check to
see that his leash is in the closet where you thought it was.
THEN ask your dog, “Go car?” and whisk him out to the car
right away. “What if my dog doesn’t LIKE riding in the car?”
Well, has he had the chance to associate car rides with a
fun time? Or does he only ride to the vet’s office or to the
groomer or boarding kennel?
If so, he is likely to have an unpleasant association with car
rides and your cheerful “Go for a ride in the car?” may send
him running into his crate or under the bed. 164 You may be able to fix this by taking your dog to fun places.
Drive him to the park. To the woods. To the beach. Even if only
a block away! Play cheerful music and sing along. Have
someone ride along with you and feed your dog his favorite
The goal is to give your dog
pleasant associations with the car
so he will change his opinion of it. Sit-Stay
When you were teaching your dog to pay attention to you
(Word #30: “Watch me!”), you taught him to sit quietly beside
But what if you want him to STAY sitting even when
you’re not standing beside him?
WORD #34: “STAY”
1. Start with your dog sitting in Heel Position,
which means on your left side, facing the same
direction you are.
2. Fold most of the leash into your right hand so
there isn’t much leash between your hand and his
collar. You want it to be very short, not hanging in
a loose loop.
3. Place your left hand in front of your dog’s face, about six
inches from his eyes, your palm open and facing him, your
fingers pointing down. This hand signal suggests to your dog
that you want him to remain where he is.
At the same time, say, “Stay.” Say it only once. Say it
crisply. Your voice shouldn’t go UP at the end – don’t say
“Stay?” as though you’re begging him. 165 4. Take one small step forward with your RIGHT foot. It’s
furthest from your dog, so harder for him to see it move. If you
stepped forward with your left foot, he might follow your leg
motion and try to walk with you.
5. After your one step forward with your right foot, pivot to
face your dog so you’re standing only a few inches in front of
him. AS you’re taking this one step and pivoting, raise the leash
over your dog’s head so it’s slightly taut. Slightly! Don’t
strangle your dog! It should be just snug enough to suggest to
him that he should hold his position even though YOU’RE
If he should start to stand up, don’t repeat the word
“Stay.” Dogs connect the word they hear with the action
they are performing at that moment. You don’t want him
to connect the word “Stay” with the action of moving!
Instead, say nothing – just be very quick with the leash,
tugging it upward and slightly backward (toward his
hindquarters) in an attempt to check him before he gets up.
The goal is to keep him in position so that he never makes
it all the way to his feet.
If you’re too slow and he does make it all the way
to his feet, try not to move your own feet. Just
hold his front end in position with the tight leash,
reach over his back from your position in front of
him, and push his hind end back into a sit so he’s
sitting in the same place he started. Then remove
your hand from his rear end and continue to hold
the leash slightly taut over his head.
If he tries to lie down instead, again be very quick and
check him with the leash BEFORE he goes down. If you’re
too slow, you’ll have to use the leash or your hands to pull
him back up and replace him in the sitting position. 166
If he keeps breaking position again and again, add a
firm “Ah-ah!” AS he is breaking. Make your tug on
the leash sharper and your push on his hindquarters
sterner. 6. Aim for your dog to hold his Sit-Stay for ten straight
seconds. Count in your head: one one-thousand, two onethousand, etc. Each time you have to correct him, start your
7. When he has held his position for ten seconds, pivot back to
his side. Use the slightly taut leash over his head to help him
hold his position. Dogs often get excited when they see you
coming back – but he must hold his position!
8. When you get back to his side, pause for five more seconds,
so that he learns not to misinterpret your return as a cue to get
up. If he does get up, just reposition him. Say nothing. Count to
five seconds again, then praise him mildly (so he doesn’t get
too excited). “Good stay. Good.” If he gets up when you praise
him, just reposition him. Praise him mildly again.
9. Finally, when he is holding position for your praise, you can
release him with a cheerful “Okay!”
Practice “Sit-Stay” only three times at each session.
More than that would be tiring and boring. 10. Each day, add another five to ten seconds to your count so
that by the end of the week he is holding for about a minute.
Also begin to relax the leash so you aren’t holding it over
his head as a reminder to hold position.
Finally, back a step or two away from him – but don’t go
all the way to the end of the leash just yet. 167
Don’t try to rush your dog through Sit-Stay training! For example, don’t push your dog to hold a Sit-Stay for a full
minute on the very first day, thinking smugly that he is a fastlearning wonder dog who doesn’t need to practice.
PRACTICE is what makes a dog rock-solid
on the Sit-Stay. Like the concert pianist who
faithfully practices simple finger exercises for
years, even when he could do them in his sleep,
a dog who practices short sit stays every day will end up
much better trained.
Advanced Sit-Stay Can your dog do these four things?
1. Hold a Sit-Stay for about a minute?
2. Hold a Sit-Stay even after you’ve returned to his side?
3. Hold a Sit-Stay even while you’re praising him?
4. Hold a Sit-Stay until you release him with “Okay”?
5. Have you been practicing every day for a full week?
Yes? Then let’s make it more interesting for both of you! Circle around him Instead of returning to his side via a simple pivot, circle
around him counterclockwise. In other words, walk behind
him and return to his right side from the rear.
The first few times you try this, hold the leash slightly taut
above his head as you go around him, to remind him not to
move. Otherwise he may try to turn with you, to see where
you’re going. With a medium to large dog, you might even
place your left hand on his head as you’re going by him, to help
hold him in position. 168 If he turns his head to watch you, that’s fine, but
he mustn’t swivel his body around to follow you. Add distractions Remember the distractions you used to “proof” your dog when
he was learning WAIT (Word #32)?
Time for those distractions again!
Instead of standing still, walk back and forth in front of him.
Or circle around him as though returning to your position
beside him – but don’t stop; make a full circle until you’re back
in front again. Cough. Laugh. Hum. Whistle a happy tune.
Recite a poem. Do a few knee bends or jumping jacks.
After a few days of these simple distractions, is your
dog still holding his Sit-Stay? Great! Have one of
your kids walk by, bouncing a ball. Have one of your
kids run by. Have one of your kids skip rope.
Be fair! Instruct your child not to call your dog, not to
even look at the dog. Don’t tease your dog by
staring at him or by encouraging him to break. Increase distance After a week of distractions while you’re standing right in front
of your dog, move to the end of the leash and repeat the
If your dog breaks his Sit-Stay while you’re at the end of the
leash, go back to him to correct him. Don’t try to correct him
from the end of the leash. You’ll only end up pulling him
TOWARD you. 169 Especially don’t call out, “Stay!” when you see him starting to
move. He should never hear this word when he’s in the process
Instead, let him experience the
consequences of moving, which means you
say “Ah-ah!” as he is breaking, then you
rush at him, grab him, and firmly reposition
him in his original spot – the exact same
spot. This is a good time to emphasize that you should not
stare at your dog when practicing “Stay.” If you meet his
eyes, he may think you’re inviting him to come to you. Or
he may feel uncomfortable under your scrutiny and try to
avoid your gaze by lying down or walking away.
So look to the right of your dog. Look to the left. Look up
and count the dust bunnies on the ceiling or the clouds in
the sky. Rely on your peripheral (corner-of-your-eye) vision
to keep track of your dog so you can quickly correct him if
necessary. Increase time Begin increasing time, slowly, from a minute to two minutes,
then three minutes. That’s plenty long enough for sitting still. Finally, drop the leash The complete Sit-Stay program should take about a month to
accomplish. Remember, if you rush through it, your dog will
never be as solid as a dog who got to practice every day for the
full month. 170 In the end, your goal is to be able to walk around the room
doing normal household chores for three minutes while your
dog holds his Sit-Stay. What a fine dog!
If you need your dog to stay put for longer
than three minutes, leave him in a lying
down position. It’s much more comfortable
than sitting. “What’s the difference between Wait and Stay?”
WAIT means “Don’t cross a specific boundary.” You use
“Wait” when you don’t want your dog to pass through a
doorway or gate, or enter a room, or go up or down a flight of
stairs – until you say so.
The boundary must be clear to your dog. In
other words, he must be able to SEE the
difference between “here” and “there.” For
example, a physical marker such as a door
frame, or gate posts, or stairs. Or an obvious
change of footing such as vinyl floor to carpet, or grass to
With “Wait,” as long as your dog doesn’t cross
the boundary, you don’t care whether he
stands, sits, lies down, or wanders around on his
side of the boundary. He simply can’t cross it. 171 STAY means “Hold an exact position.” You put your dog in a
specific place and position, and he must stay in that place and
If you put him in a sitting position, he has to stay
sitting in that exact place. He can’t lie down, or
stand up, or move two feet to the right.
As you can see, “Stay” is much stricter than “Wait.”
Sometimes you need that strictness. For example, you may
want your dog to sit and stay so the vet can examine his ears. It
won’t do for your dog to suddenly stand up, or flop onto his
side, or wander around the examining room.
When you need your dog to sit or lie down or
stand still in one particular spot, that’s when
you use “Stay.” Emergency Down (with hand signal)
There’s one final Down exercise to teach your dog.
! It’s impressive.
! It will wow your friends.
! It could save your dog’s life.
Suppose your dog gets away from you at the worst possible
time – you’re downtown and the leash breaks or he pulls it out
of your hand. He runs across the street. You call him. He turns
to come back to you.
But there is a car coming.
Sometimes “Come!” isn’t the best word to use to
gain control of your dog. Sometimes you just want
your dog to stop dead in his tracks – and stay
there until you arrive. 172 Those are times for the Emergency Down.
You shout, “Down!” You raise your right arm high in the air, a
signal clearly visible from afar. Your dog drops like a stone to
the ground and stays put while the car whizzes by.
Now, is that impressive, or what? Do you see the value of
such an absolute control word?
Four steps in teaching the Emergency Down
Step #1 of the Emergency Down 1. Put a handful of treats in your pocket, and with your dog on
leash, wander around your house or yard. When his attention is
elsewhere, say, when he is sniffing something, stop walking
and say his name clearly, “Jake!”
Sound familiar? This is the same first step for
teaching your dog his name, and also to come
when called. When he hears his name, he
should turn to look at you. 2. When your dog looks at you in response to his name, raise
your right arm high in the air – a sharp, definitive gesture, all
five fingers pointing firmly toward the sky and your palm
facing your dog.
3. At the same time, say, “Down!” and take a large fast step
toward him. Grasp the leash just below the clasp and stop him
in his tracks before he can take any steps toward you. Tug the
leash downward to encourage him to lie down. If necessary,
push down on his shoulders – but this shouldn’t be necessary if
you’ve already taught him to lie down on command. (Word
#28) 173 The goal is to keep him as close to his original position
as possible. Remember the example where your dog was
across the street and a car was coming? If you gave him the
down signal and he walked several feet toward you before
lying down, he might be under the wheels of the car!
So be picky when teaching this word – your dog
should lie down as quickly as possible and as close
to his original position as possible. 4. Once he is down, praise him softly, “Good boy” and caution
him, “Stay.” Step back to the end of the leash and wait about
5. Then return to him and release him: “Okay!” Now praise him
lavishly and cavort around with him to let him know he has just
accomplished a wonderful thing.
This can be a stressful exercise for a dog, so don’t
practice several Emergency Downs in a row. One is
enough. Then play with your dog and don’t try
another one until later. Step #2 in teaching the Emergency Down After a week of using your hand on the leash to stop him in
his tracks and help guide him down, it’s time for him to start
assuming this responsibility himself.
Give him the down signal and tell him, “Down!” If he keeps
moving toward you, use the leash to bounce him firmly back to
his original position – where he was standing when you gave
him the command – and then use the leash, just as firmly, to put
These are corrections now, not gentle guidance.
It’s also time to start practicing this exercise when you’re
out for a walk – on-leash, of course. 174 Step #3 in teaching the Emergency Down We’re going to get more advanced now!
1. Put your dog in a Sit-Stay and go to the end of the leash.
Raise your arm in the down signal and tell him, “Down!”
2. If he lies down immediately, praise him quietly – don’t get
him excited – and caution him to stay put. “Good. Stay.” Wait
ten seconds to allow him to settle, then return to his side as
though completing a regular Sit-Stay exercise. Release him
with “Okay!” and praise him vociferously!
What if he didn’t immediately lie down when you told
him to? Take a large fast step toward him, grasp the leash
just below the snap, and firmly tug him down. Step back to
the end of the leash, wait ten seconds, then return to his side
and release him.
3. Play with your dog for a few minutes, then place him in
another Sit-Stay. But this time, CALL HIM. “Jake, come!” He
should do this part flawlessly!
4. Play with your dog for another few minutes, then place him
in one more Sit-Stay. This time, return to his side without
either downing him or calling him.
You’re teaching your dog to pay close attention
to your words! By varying what you say and do,
he must listen carefully, rather than trying to
anticipate. Also vary your time and distance. One time, wait 30 seconds
before you down him or call him or return to his side. The next
time, wait 60 seconds. Then a short 15-second wait. Practice on
a regular leash and a 20-foot leash. 175
Step #4 in teaching the Emergency Down 1. With your dog’s leash attached, take him outside in your yard
and drop your end of the leash. Maneuver yourself so that he is
about ten feet away from you. Watch for him to look up and
make eye contact with you. At that moment, raise your right
arm high in the air and call in a commanding voice, “Down!”
2. If he goes down immediately, caution him, “Stay!” Walk
toward him, repeating your caution to “Stay. Good. Stay.”
When you reach him, crouch down and pet him and praise him
softly. Make sure he stays down as you do so. Then release
him with, “Okay!” and really, really praise him!
3. If he doesn’t go down immediately – if he just stands there
looking at you – repeat, “Down!” in a firm voice. Your arm
should still be in the air giving the down signal. If he responds
to your stronger tone, follow through as described above, as
though he had gone down properly the first time.
You’re giving him some leeway while
he’s still learning! 4. But if he doesn’t go down on the second try, it’s time for a
correctoin. Walk purposefully out to get him.
He will probably realize that you’re coming to correct him
and he may try to evade you. Remember, don’t speak to
him or chase him – just track him down until you can get
hold of the leash.
Lead him all the way back to the spot where he was
originally standing when you told him to lie down. Use the
leash to put him down there, and tell him, “Stay.”
Then walk back to where YOU were originally standing
when you first told him to lie down. Wait ten seconds for
him to settle, and return to him. Crouch down and pet him
and praise him softly. Make sure he stays down. Then
release him with, “Okay!” 176 Practice this exercise every day until your dog is rock-solid.
Then replace the dragging leash with a shorter hand-hold
(discussed in Chapter 1). A hand-hold gives you something to
latch onto if you still need to catch and correct him.
“OFF” (the furniture)
WORD #35: “OFF”
Some owners don’t want their dogs on the
furniture, especially if the dog is huge, or sheds
a lot, or slobbers and drools.
But certain breeds, especially toy dogs and
sighthounds, love being on the furniture. Toy
dogs like to be up high where they can see better and feel
protected. Greyhound type dogs, with their smooth hair and thin
sensitive skin, are most comfortable when snuggled into soft
In my opinion, if you choose one of these breeds, it’s
unkind to keep him off all the furniture. Some owners find a middle ground. They don’t mind their dog
on some furniture, but they have one or two special pieces on
which they would prefer their dog not sleep. If you’re in this
camp, I suggest that you simply use “No” whenever you catch
your dog on the forbidden piece of furniture.
I’ll tell you why. There are some things you want your dog
never to do. That’s what “No” is for. If you never want
your dog on a specific piece of furniture, tell him “No”
whenever he gets up there and chase him off.
BUT... 177 If your dog is usually allowed on the furniture, but you want
him to stay off it temporarily, you should use a different word.
For example, suppose a guest who isn’t comfortable with
your dog is sitting on the couch. Or perhaps you’re sitting
on the couch with a plate of food on your lap. Or perhaps
you’re lying on the couch because you’re sick. Or maybe
you have important papers strewn across the couch.
These are all examples of when you might not want your dog
on the couch. Since he is usually allowed up there, he would be
confused if you suddenly told him “No.”
That’s why you need a different word – one that means “Sorry,
big guy, but the couch is off limits for the moment.”
That word is “Off.” Combine it with a natural waving
motion of your hand and make sure he does get off,
even if you have to guide him by the collar. As an example, my dog Buffy lies on the couch with us when
we’re watching TV. But when food appears, she is not allowed
to remain on the couch. We’ve been so consistent in telling her
“Off” whenever food appears that she jumps off as soon as she
sees the dinner plates in our hands.
If you teach this simple word and routine to
your dog, your guests will be impressed –
and appreciative! “Shoo” (Be somewhere else!)
WORD #36: “SHOO”
Some people prefer “Shoo” while others prefer “Git” or “Go
on” or “Move.” It’s hard for me to describe exactly where this
word should be used, but you will use it, I promise you. 178 When it fits the situation, it comes quickly to mind as
the perfect word.
For example, I don’t allow Buffy in the Bird Room where I
raise canaries. She is a gentle dog who wouldn’t hurt the birds,
but they don’t know that, and her presence makes them
So she accompanies me to the Bird Room door, where I remind
her, “Wait.” She stops obediently, waiting in the hall –
sometimes peeking into the room, sometimes lying down just
outside the door, sometimes wandering away for a drink of
water, always coming back to check on my whereabouts.
But occasionally she sneaks into the Bird Room, just a few
steps. She stands there, watching. When I spot her, I wave my
hand at her in a rapid shooing motion. “Buffy, git!” I say.
“G’won!” And she scampers out.
Pronounce the word crisply, combine it with a natural shooing
motion of your hand, and make sure your dog moves away
from whatever you want him to move away from, even if you
have to guide him by the collar.
! Dog standing in the garden. Crushing flowers! “Shoo!”
! Dog wandering into the garage. Antifreeze in there!
! Dog begging at the table. “Shoo!”
! Dog poking his head into the bedroom. You and your
spouse are engaged in...um... “Shoo!”
I told you that when it fits the situation, “Git!”
or “Shoo!” comes quickly to mind as the
perfect word! 179 “Go lie down” (when you’re busy)
WORD #37: “GO LIE DOWN”
This phrase is a combination of “Shoo” and “Down” – you
want your dog to move a distance away from you and lie down.
Unlike plain old “Shoo,” where your dog simply needs to take
himself elsewhere, “Go lie down” requires him to assume a
“Go lie down” gives you more control over your
dog, which can be useful when, say, you have
guests over. Once your dog has learned both “Shoo” and “Down,” it’s an
easy matter to combine the two.
1. Point or wave your hand toward a corner of the room and tell
him, “Go lie down.”
2. Lead him by the collar (Gently! You’re teaching him a
phrase he doesn’t yet know!).
3. Tell him “Down” when you reach the corner, and see that he
does so. 180
One problem with “Go lie down” There is one aspect of “Go lie down” that does present a
problem. You might remember, when we were teaching your
dog the Long Down, that you were cautioned NEVER to put
your dog in a Long Down and then let yourself get distracted.
Do you remember why?
That’s right. If you get distracted, he will break the Long Down
and wander away on his own, without waiting for you to release
him with “Okay!”
Well, that’s what can happen with “Go lie down”, as well. If
you send your dog across the room to lie down, and then forget
he’s there, he will soon stand up and walk away.
Not good for your Leader—Follower relationship!
So...I suggest using “Go lie down” only when
you’re sure you will remember to keep an eye
on your dog and will release him yourself within
30 minutes. 181 Ch 13: Walking and Exercise The best collars and leashes
I DO NOT recommend choke collars. A choke collar applies sudden pressure
concentrated at a specific point on your dog’s neck.
A choke collar can damage your dog’s windpipe.
The choking sensation frightens many dogs. And
choke collars can tear the hair around your dog’s
Choke collars are sometimes called “training collars” but
they’re not needed for training. I don’t recommend them.
Instead, I recommend a flat buckle collar of
nylon or leather. It simply buckles around your
dog’s neck. Most dogs never need anything
For small- to medium-sized dogs, the buckle collar can be
5/8 inch to ¾ inch wide and single-layer. For large, strong
dogs, you might want a collar that’s an inch wide and
For toy dogs I like the Top Paw Sunburst
collar, which is 3/8 inch wide and made of
very soft fabric that allows the buckle “to seek
its own hole” so it’s completely adjustable for
a perfect fit. It comes in lengths as short as 8 inches.
For longhaired dogs, instead of a flat collar, you may prefer a
rolled collar, which is made of narrow, rounded leather that
doesn’t squash the hair. 182 A harness is no good for training because the leash connects to
the middle of your dog’s back, which means you can’t guide his
head. To teach many words, you must be able to guide your
However, a Y-shaped harness is
recommended for walking toy dogs, who
often have delicate windpipes. A Y-harness
doesn’t encircle the throat. The straps come
down from each shoulder to form a Y on the
chest. The tail of the Y goes down between the
front legs, where it eventually meets up with
the strap that wraps around the stomach.
Unfortunately, a Y-harness is hard to find. Most harnesses
in pet stores have a strap that wraps around the throat –
which defeats the whole reason for getting a harness in the
first place! My favorite leash is made of cotton webbing, which feels like
flexible cloth. Usually it’s olive green or black. Unfortunately,
a cotton web leash can be hard to find. Most leashes at pet
stores are made of nylon, which can be stiff and a bit sharp in
your hands. Leather leashes are nice but very stiff unless welloiled or until well-worn.
Chain leashes are terrible – don’t use them for anything. Chain
leashes are cold, they clank and clatter against your dog, and
they’re only as strong as their weakest link.
A retractable leash is too clunky and
awkward for training, but okay for walks. Just
don’t abuse it. I’ve seen people allow their
dog to roam to the end of a 16-foot retractable leash in a crowd
of people. The dog could approach people who didn’t want to
be approached, jump on them, and tangle the leash around their
legs. 183 Use retractable leashes sensibly. You can allow full leash length
in open fields or parks or along quiet roads. But when people or
other dogs are nearby, or when you’re walking near a road with
traffic, shorten the leash so your dog is close beside you and
fully under control.
PetsMart stores (and online at
www.petsmart.com) have many of the collars
and leashes I recommend. Teach your dog to walk without pulling
WORD #38: “GO FOR A WALK?”
As you might guess, this is a beloved phrase that dogs learn
very quickly! All you need do is say it in a happy tone, then
follow up immediately by clipping on his leash and taking him
for a walk.
Make sure there’s no delay! Don’t ask your dog if he wants to
go for a walk, then get bogged down checking the weather,
choosing the right jacket, grabbing a snack, visiting the
bathroom, and hunting around for your dog’s leash.
Make your preparations ahead of time. Find out what the
weather is and decide which jacket you’re going to wear. Put a
snack in your pocket. Go to the bathroom. Check to see that his
leash is in the closet where you thought it was.
THEN ask your dog, “Want to go for a WALK?” and whisk
him outside right away.
When introducing new words, you must deliver on
your promises very quickly so that he makes the
connection. If the phone rings on your way out, let
the answering machine get it. You’re going for a
walk! 184 WORD #39: “WHERE’S YOUR LEASH?”
After your dog shows that he understands “Want to
go for a walk?” (by dancing around with
excitement), add one more level of complexity:
“Jake, where’s your LEASH?”
As with any other object word, you teach “leash” by repeatedly
holding up the leash, showing it to your dog, and emphasizing
the word. Put it in its rightful place – always the same place – a
hook on the wall, table by the door, shelf, drawer, or closet.
Now encourage your dog to run to it: “Where’s your LEASH?
Find your LEASH!”
Run to the leash yourself. Make a big production out of
showing it to your dog. “Yay! Good leash!” With dogs (and
small children), melodrama is very effective.
If your dog likes to hold things in his mouth, you can try
offering him the leash and encouraging him to carry it to the
front door. Otherwise, just be satisfied if he has obviously made
a connection between the sound leash and its matching object.
Now take him for a walk!
How to go for a walk Once you’re actually out walking, your dog should walk
politely. Nobody wants their dog to pull and lunge and gasp on
the leash like The Hound of the Baskervilles. 185 Why pulling is bad ! Pulling is uncomfortable for the person holding the
leash. Even if YOU can hold onto your pulling dog, how
could anyone else take him for a walk if they ever had
! A pulling dog is being disrespectful. You are on this
walk, too. YOU, in fact, are supposed to be the leader
who sets the pace of the walk. A pulling dog hardly even
knows, or cares, that you’re there. He is not showing a
good follower attitude.
! A pulling dog is not practicing
self-control. He’s acting
impulsively and focusing on
Teaching your dog self-control is important if you want a
! A pulling dog is representing his breed poorly in
public. You don’t want people shaking their heads at the
(insert your dog’s breed) who can’t even walk on a leash.
Whichever breed we choose to raise and train, we need to
do our part to show the public that this breed is capable
of good manners – and that WE are capable of training
him. Does your dog have to “heel” when walking? There are two ways you can go for a walk with your dog.
1. You can have him heel very close beside your left leg. This
is a very formal way of walking. It’s what you see in AKC
obedience competitions. 186 2. The more informal way of walking is to let your dog wander
a little in front of you or off to either side – just as long as he
doesn’t pull on the leash.
Right now we’re going to learn this second way
of walking, the informal way. (We’ll learn the
more formal heeling later.) Honestly, the informal way of walking is much more useful
because most of the time, when you take your dog for a walk,
you want him to enjoy himself. You want him to have some
freedom on the leash so he can sniff around and even relieve
himself if necessary. You don’t want him to be so concerned
about maintaining an exact position beside you that he can’t
even enjoy the scenery. You just don’t want him to pull! How to handle pulling on the leash The natural tendency when your dog starts to pull on the leash
is for you to pull backward, trying to hold him back. But if your dog is pulling in one direction and you’re pulling in
the other direction, how can there possibly be a loose leash
between you? You’re both pulling!
No, the key to counteracting pulling is a clever technique called
the Quick Tug and Relax. 187 Here’s how you do the Quick Tug and Relax:
1. Move your hand forward – very, very quickly! That’s
right, move your hand toward your pulling dog. This quick
movement in the same direction as your dog is pulling will
create a tiny bit of slack in the leash.
2. Now move your hand backward – very, very quickly. The
instant you have that tiny bit of slack from your forward
movement, TUG your hand backward. Don’t pull the leash
steadily – TUG it quickly.
This sudden forward-backward movement will throw your
dog off-balance – and if you’ve done it with just the right
amount of force for your dog’s size and personality, it
should propel him a few inches in your direction, which
creates a nice loose leash.
3. Now relax your hand.
As you do all three steps, keep walking. If your dog
surges forward again and tightens the leash, repeat
the three steps: Hand forward – fast. Hand
backward – TUG. Relax. If your dog KEEPS pulling If you’ve been doing the Quick Tug and Relax repeatedly, yet
your dog continues to pull, add these two steps:
4. As you do your backward TUG, turn and walk briskly in
the opposite direction. Your dog will find himself behind you
and will need to hurry to catch up with you. (Doesn’t it feel
more satisfying to have him behind you and scrambling to catch
up, rather than pulling ahead?) 188 5. After taking only a few steps in the new direction, suddenly
reverse yourself again so that now you’re walking in your
Again your dog will find himself trailing behind and will
have to scramble to catch up.
It won’t be long before he realizes that for some
bizarre reason, whenever he tightens the
leash, it causes you to walk in the opposite
direction! How odd! Your frequent changes in direction will hinder him from
progressing on his walk – and those leash tugs make him
To avoid these problems, he will begin taking on the
responsibility for keeping the leash loose himself.
That’s right. You’ll soon notice that whenever he feels
himself getting too far ahead, he will hasten to slow down
before you have a chance to do one of your cuckoo
You’ll probably also notice him occasionally glancing over his
shoulder to make sure you’re still there. Before, you see, when
he was pulling, he didn’t need to look at you in order to know
where you were – he could feel you at the end of the taut leash.
Now, with the leash loose, he must actually pay some attention
to your whereabouts by checking back with his eyeballs.
Your dog should be paying attention to your
whereabouts. It’s a simple matter of respect! 189 Very strong pullers: a special case For very strong dogs who pull so hard on
the leash that the Quick Tug and Relax
doesn’t work for them, a prong collar is
the next step up.
A prong collar works somewhat like a choke collar
in that the collar tightens around your dog’s neck
when you tug on the leash. But unlike a choke
collar, a prong collar has rounded, blunt-edged
“prongs” that spread pressure evenly around your
dog’s neck, and just as importantly, the collar can
only tighten so far – never enough to choke him.
A prong collar has been referred to as power
steering because you only have to give a gentle
tug and most dogs respond quickly. How to put on a prong collar 1. Grasp one prong with one hand and its neighbor prong with
the other hand.
2. Pinch one of these prongs together until it disengages from
3. Move your hands apart to open the collar into a U-shape.
4. Place it around your dog’s neck, up high behind his ears. 190 5. Slip the two prongs back together, which closes the collar
around his neck. The collar should be snug enough that it
doesn’t slide. If you need to make it smaller, take it off and
remove a prong. If you need to make it larger, buy additional
prongs or move up to the next size collar.
6. Arrange the collar so the prongs are on TOP of the neck.
The section of the collar without the prongs goes under the
neck, where the skin is most sensitive.
7. Slide the ring that the leash attaches to onto the RIGHT side
of your dog’s neck, and clip on the leash.
Most dogs who need a prong collar need it only for a
very short time, to settle them down and bring their
rambunctiousness under control. Then you can try the
regular buckle collar again. Alternatively, some dogs who don’t respond well
to a regular buckle collar do well with a head
halter. Gentle Leader and Halti are popular
The theory is that where the head goes, the rest of the body
follows. For some dogs, these halters work almost magically,
turning a hyperactive puller into a calm follower with very little
effort on your part. For other dogs, these halters don’t work
at all – some dogs will fight the pressure on their face and
Head halters require different leash-handling techniques
than the ones we’ve talked about in this chapter. Gentle
Leader offers a video that shows you how to use the halter
and handle the leash. 191 Things your dog shouldn’t do on a walk
! He shouldn’t snuffle constantly along the ground
looking for things to eat. Tug firmly on the leash and tell
him “Stop that” or “Leave it.”
! He shouldn’t bark or growl at passersby or other dogs.
(We’ll cover this in Chapter 15: The Sociable Dog.)
! He shouldn’t stop to lift his leg on every single bush, fire
hydrant, and telephone pole.
Dogs who try to pee against every vertical
object are obsessed with “marking territory.”
Leaving their scent makes them feel bossy
and self-important. This attitude often carries
over into other areas of their life, such as
ignoring your rules or bickering with other dogs.
Unneutered males, especially those with dominant
personalities, are the biggest offenders when it comes to
compulsive marking. But some neutered males do it, too,
and even females, spayed or not, may do it. Don’t allow compulsive marking Once your dog has peed a few times, that’s enough. If he tries
to keep stopping, just tell him “Ah-ah, let’s go!” and keep
towing him along at a steady clip.
He’ll soon learn that he must relieve himself as soon as
you go out rather than holding it for distribution throughout
the walk. Having taken care of business early on, he can
relax and look around during the walk, instead of lunging
for every blade of grass and turning the walk into a
compulsive pee-fest to show everyone how tough he is. 192 Teach your dog to find his way home
WORD #40: “GO HOME”
No one wants to imagine this happening . . . but
suppose your dog somehow gets out of your
house. He wanders along the street, by some
miracle avoiding being hit by a car. Then he
takes a good look around and decides that the
big wide world is no place for this little doggie!
He wants to go home. But does he know his way home?
Many dogs seldom see their house from the sidewalk. How can
they find their way home if they get out?
Sure, some dogs might backtrack their own scent home. Others
might wander around aimlessly and accidentally end up near
their house, where they might pick up their scent or their
owner’s scent on the gate or driveway.
But your dog will have a much better chance of finding his way
home if he learns what his house and yard look like from the
street – and how to find them when he’s down the street or
even on a nearby street. Teach your dog to find his way home 1. Choose a door to designate as HOME. As you’re leaving the
house with your dog, on leash, place one of his favorite treats
at the home door, perhaps on the door mat. Make sure he sees
you do it – make a big show of it!
2. Lead him a very short distance away, just down the steps or
down the walk. 193 3. Turn and point him in the right direction, and encourage him,
“Go home!” Then RUN to the door with him – let him pull on
the leash all he wants for this exercise – and point out the treat
so he can gobble it up.
With such an incentive, he’ll master this
phrase very quickly! 4. After he has learned the concept and dashes immediately to
the door every time, drop the leash – as long as your dog is
reliable with “Come!” and as long as you’re not on a busy
street. Let him drag the leash to the front door while you
trot along behind him.
5. Now it’s only a matter of getting farther and farther away and
showing him the way home from different directions.
Don’t dawdle once you’ve told him “Go home!” Don’t let
him stop to sniff anything. Get home fast so he makes the
connection. Encourage him all the way, “Go HOME!
Home, home!” If he tries to turn up the wrong street or
driveway or walkway, use the leash to check him gently,
“Ah-ah, no-no. Go HOME!”
Always have a treat waiting for him at home, or give him
one from your pocket when you arrive. And if, heaven forbid, your dog ever does get out, prop open his
home door so he can enter the house. You don’t want him
finding his way home to a closed door and wandering away
again. (Of course, if you have other pets, confine them in other
rooms while the home door is open.) 194 How much exercise your dog needs
Every morning before work, Roger took his dog
Jake for a five-minute walk. They walked down the
driveway to the corner, where Jake lifted his leg on
a telephone pole. Then back home again. After
supper, Kathy took Jake once around the block.
So when the vet suggested that Jake’s high energy level and
frequent misbehavior might call for more exercise, Roger and
Kathy exclaimed, with indignation, “What?? He gets plenty of
exercise!!” Energetic dogs require vigorous daily exercise. That doesn’t
mean a leisurely walk around the block. It means several
miles, or a good hour or so, of brisk exercise each and every
Now, if you happen to have two or more
dogs who romp and play with each other in
the house and yard, they will burn off energy
through wrestling and chase games. Add
some brisk sessions of ball-playing or stickfetching, and they’re pretty much all set.
If you don’t have multiple dogs who play with each other, YOU
need to exercise your high-energy dog. Otherwise he will
become restless and hyperactive and will try to release his pentup energy through destructive chewing, digging, and barking.
Many dogs described as hyperactive or
destructive are simply dogs who aren’t
getting enough exercise. A hyperactive, destructive dog is trying to vent bottled-up
energy. You cannot fix this kind of misbehavior with
training. You must provide more exercise. 195 Not like this!
The reality is that many breeds were never intended to be pets.
They were developed for working purposes and have
inherited instincts for high energy. A breed with strong
working instincts may bounce off the walls because, instead of
providing him with a good hour or more of brisk daily exercise,
you’re walking him around the block or assuming that he’ll
exercise himself if you simply stick him outside, alone, in the
Examples of active working breeds include Airedales,
Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Border Collies, Brittanys,
Dalmatians, Giant Schnauzers, Jack Russell Terriers,
German Shorthaired Pointers, Irish Setters, Siberian
Huskies, Springer Spaniels, Vizslas, Weimaraners, and
plenty of other breeds.
If you can meet their exercise needs, these breeds are fine. If
you can’t, the dog deserves another home that CAN, and you
need to choose a different breed.
Don’t try to fit a square dog into a round family! Both
Dog and Family will be unhappy. 196 Exercise suggestions for active breeds !
! Walking. For 45-90 minutes, once or twice a day.
Free running. In a safe, enclosed area.
Fetch games. With balls, sticks, or Frisbees.
Playing with other dogs.
Doggy obstacle course. See Chapter 19.
Carting, sledding, weight-pulling.
Hiking/backpacking. Caution! These exercise suggestions are for healthy,
normally-shaped adult dogs. Puppies and
adolescents have very different exercise
requirements, or you may damage their bones and
joints. Senior dogs, overweight dogs, toy dogs, giant dogs, and
flat-faced dogs also have special exercise requirements.
My health book, Dog Care Wisdom: 11 Things You
Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and
Happy, includes specific exercise programs for all
these different ages, sizes, and shapes . 197 Ch 14: The Quiet Dog Dogs who bark too much at the door
Does your dog bark when someone comes to the door? Good
for him! Watchfulness is a natural canine trait.
But too much of a good thing can be...annoying.
! Does your dog keep barking even after you open the
! Do you find yourself trying to read your
visitor’s lips over the racket your dog is
! Do you need to grab at your dog and try to shush him
while also trying to pay attention to your visitor? Excessive barking at visitors must be stopped If your dog keeps barking even after you’ve answered the
! he is taking it upon himself to decide whether a visitor is
a threat or not, when he should be leaving that decision
up to the pack leader, which is supposed to be you.
! OR he is simply barking mindlessly, displaying no selfcontrol whatsoever.
Either way, this is not the kind of dog you want. 198 On-Off Switch – “Speak” and “Quiet”
Once your dog has sounded the alarm, he must turn the
situation over to you. If YOU decide the person at the door is
harmless (even welcome), your dog must accept your judgment
and close his mouth.
To do that, he needs an On-Off Switch. You will
teach your dog to bark on command, and to STOP
barking on command. This allows him to use his
voice sometimes, which is natural for him to do. WORD #41: “SPEAK”
What makes your dog bark? The doorbell ringing? Vacuum
cleaner turning on? A jingling collar that suggests another dog
How to teach your dog to speak 1. If you have a helper, have him or her do whatever
makes your dog bark, i.e. ring the doorbell, turn on the
vacuum cleaner, or jingle a collar. If you don’t have any
assistance, obviously you’ll have to do this yourself.
2. Your dog will probably be barking already, so encourage him
to keep doing so: “Speak! Good boy! Speak!” Add a hand
signal by making a “talking mouth” with your hand, i.e.
moving your fingers up and down so the four fingers close to
touch the thumb, then open again, then close again, like a fasttalking mouth (gab-gab-gab). Keep him excited. Make
speaking on command a really fun experience!
If he is reluctant to cooperate, sometimes barking yourself
(“Speak! Ruff! Ruff!”) will motivate your dog to chime in.
You might even tie him to a post or have someone hold his 199 leash while you stand just out of range with a tempting toy
or treat and encourage him to “Speak!” Such playful teasing
is okay in the beginning. Don’t worry, you won’t need to
keep doing it once your dog learns the word. WORD #42: “QUIET” or (“NO BARK”)
1. Make sure your dog has his leash or hand-hold on.
Have a friend come to the door and knock or ring the bell.
2. Your dog will probably rush the door, barking. Go with him.
Even though he is already barking, TURN HIM ON with
“Good boy! Speak!”
3. Then TURN HIM OFF. “Enough! Quiet.” Your dog is
already familiar with “Enough” (Word #10) meaning “No
More,” so he may stop barking. If he doesn’t, correct him with
a spray of water from a squirt gun, or a sideways snap of the
leash, or a commercial beeping device like The Barker
Breaker by Amtek, which produces a loud high-pitched sound
that makes many dogs scramble away from whatever behavior
they were engaging in. (Just be forewarned that it’s loud and
shrill for human ears, too!) Visit www.amtekpet.com for more
Correct your dog as many times as necessary until he
stops barking. (Your friend outside will just have to be
4. When your dog is finally quiet, open the door and let your
friend in. If your dog jumps on your friend, use the leash or
hand-hold to tug him off. “No! Stop that!”
Your friend can also correct jumping by refusing to
reach down and touch your jumping dog. In fact, he
can bring his knee up quickly so your dog bumps
against it. Only when your dog has four feet on the
floor should your friend reach down and pet him. 200 Stopping barking when you’re not home
! Does your dog stand at the window and bark at the
neighbors when they’re outside in their own yard?
! Does he bark at the neighbor’s dog?
! Does he bark at passersby on the sidewalk?
! Does he bark when other neighborhood dogs bark?
! Does he bark at the garbage truck, the UPS truck, or
other vehicles that pull up anywhere on the street?
Now, if your dog offers a few woofs when these events occur,
fine. He’s being a good watchdog.
But if he barks for more than
he’s a nuisance.
Yes, you read that right. Thirty seconds. A well-behaved dog
does NOT disturb the neighbors. If my neighbor’s dog were
to bark on and on at me when I’m in my own yard, or if he
barked at anything and everything that caught his attention, I
would call Animal Control with no hesitation whatsoever.
Your neighbors have a right to peace and quiet
in their own home and yard.
I’m serious about this. A dog who barks and barks is not a
watchdog. He’s The Dog Who Cried Wolf. No one even comes
to their window to see what he’s barking at any more. He’s a
If this describes your dog, the first step in quieting him is to
think about WHY he’s barking so much. 201
WHY is your dog barking? He may be barking at passersby because he’s trying to chase
them away from his territory. And you know what? In your
dog’s eyes, it works! If people walk by his house and he barks
and they keep right on going, your barking dog believes he
chased them away.
Or he may bark for the opposite reason – because he views
passersby as potential playmates who might be encouraged to
come closer with enthusiastic barking.
He may bark because he’s trying to call you home. Such dogs
usually have an unhealthy dependent relationship with you.
They think they can’t get through the day without you.
Since you invariably DO come home at some point, your
dog believes that his barking works. So each day he
repeats it until “you finally hear him” and come home! Other dogs try to call you home, too, but
not because they miss you – rather,
they’ve become accustomed to being the
center of attention and they’re annoyed
that you’re not there to entertain them.
These are the same dogs who demand attention
when you have guests over, or when you talk on the
phone or hug your spouse. Some dogs bark because they’re not getting enough physical
and mental exercise to tire them out. They’re restless and bored
and need to vent their energy.
And some dogs bark because they’re truly lonely.
Most dogs are sociable creatures who need the
companionship of other sociable creatures in order to
feel happy. You might try to convince yourself that
your single dog is happy being left alone all day,
because it makes you feel less guilty – but he isn’t. 202
How to stop barking when you’re not home Block your dog’s view of his territory. Pull the
shades or drapes, or put other barriers between
your dog and the outside world. Or leave him in a
room without a view – or in an indoor pen. For
short periods (no more than four hours!), you can
leave him in a crate.
Muffle sounds from outside. Put on the TV, radio, or CD
player. Let him listen to something peaceful and restful –
classical music, soft jazz, or environmental/nature sounds.
Don’t leave him with hard rock or rap music, or with sitcoms.
Loud, excitable, argumentative voices are stressful to listen to.
Encourage independence. Re-read Word #10: “Enough” to be
sure you’re not fostering an unhealthy dependent relationship
with your dog. He must learn how to stand on his own four feet
and entertain himself without you always being there with him.
Don’t allow demanding behaviors. Re-read Don’t Allow
Demanding Behaviors (Chapter 7) to be sure you’re not
allowing your dog to demand biscuits, or petting, or playtime.
He must learn that he cannot order you around, which includes
barking to demand that you come home.
Provide more exercise. Re-read How Much
Exercise Your Dog Needs in Chapter 13.
Many barking dogs are not getting enough
Stage corrective set-ups. This means leaving the house,
lurking close by until you hear your dog barking, then charging
back inside to correct him.
Get your dog a companion. If your dog must be
alone for more than four hours a day, consider
getting a second dog. Most dogs are sociable
creatures who need companions all day. 203 Of course, there are some dogs who are too aggressive to
live safely with another dog. Similarly, some dogs are too
old or frail or set in their ways, and might feel threatened by
another dog usurping their position. But most normal,
healthy dogs would love a carefully-chosen companion who
complements their size and personality.
CAUTION! If your dog is barking because he’s
lonely (because everyone at your house works or
goes to school), DO NOT GET A PUPPY to keep
him company. A puppy will follow the lead of your older dog and soon
you’ll have TWO barking dogs! And puppies require far too
much socialization, training, housebreaking, and
companionship – sprinkled throughout the day in short
bursts. Puppies belong in homes where someone is home
most of the day.
No, for a lonely barking dog, go to the animal shelter or dog
rescue group and choose an adult companion who is a calm,
I’m assuming here that your dog is an INDOOR dog
who is barking when he is INDOORS.
Stopping barking in outdoor dogs
If your dog is outdoors when he barks – especially if you’re
not home – you’ve got a MAJOR problem.
When an outdoor dog is barking, it’s unfair to your neighbors
to wait while you experiment with ideas such as blocking his
view, increasing his exercise, etc., based on the hopes that his
barking will stop. As you’re futzing around with his
environment to see what might work, he will still be disturbing
the peace of other people. 204 As for getting him a companion to keep him company,
forget it. TWO outdoor dogs who are barking are far
worse than one!
No, there is only one solution for outdoor
barking: BRING YOUR DOG INDOORS
whenever you leave the house. Period. Sorry. We don’t always get what we
want. If you want to be a responsible
owner and a responsible neighbor, your
barking dog cannot be an outdoor dog.
It’s all for the best, anyway,
because outdoor dogs are not happy.
Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s how it is. Sled
dogs and livestock guardians are okay with
living outdoors because they’re allowed to
regularly perform the work they are genetically
“hardwired” to do. They’re willing to give up family life in
order to “follow their genes” and work.
But if you want a dog as a family companion,
only an indoor dog can fulfill this role.
Dogs are sociable creatures who need to be close to their
families – lounging in the same room, listening to
conversations, waiting for you to come out of the bathroom,
bringing toys to you, lying on the rug near the fire or television. 205 Dogs who spend most of their time outdoors are forced to stay
“outside” their pack, living on the edge of it, never really
immersed in day-to-day family life. An outdoor dog will never
be the well-behaved companion that an indoor dog can be.
This book is intended for people who want a true family
companion, whose intelligence and good behavior can
be developed as fully as possible. That won’t happen
with an outdoor dog. So if your dog is outdoors because a family member is allergic . . . he needs a different home, and you need a different
breed. Consult my dog buying guide: How To Buy a Good
Dog for assistance with this.
If your dog is outdoors because he’s too rambunctious . . . you need to offer more exercise (and
training). If he needs more exercise and
training than you can provide, then again, he
needs a different home and you need a
different dog who CAN be happy with your
amount of exercise and training.
If your dog is outdoors because he’s destructive or not
housebroken . . . you need to start crate training and housebreaking.
Re-read Chapters 8 and 9. And at the risk of sounding like a
broken record, if you don’t have the time, or if you work all
day (no dog can be crated all day), he needs a different
home and you need a different dog who is already
housebroken and well-behaved indoors.
Whatever you have to do, if you want a true
family companion, bring your dog indoors or find
him another home. 206 How to leave your dog home alone
“Jake, sweetie, Mummy and Daddy have to go out
for awhile, okay? We’re sorry we have to leave you
all by yourself. But we have to, Jake. Don’t be mad
and don’t be scared – we’ll come back, we promise!
Be a good boy, okay? We love you, sweetheart, it
will be okay, we’ll be home soon!”
Ewww! Don’t do this! When you have to leave your dog alone
for a few hours, don’t make a big emotional scene. A huge
exit revs up your dog’s nervous system and creates anxiety,
which he will probably try to relieve through chewing or
digging or barking.
1. Tire him out before you leave. Take him
for a walk. Let him run in the yard. Throw a
ball or toy for him to retrieve. Practice some
2. A few minutes before you leave, take him
outside to relieve himself.
3. Turn on soothing classical music or tune the TV to a local
community station that plays pleasant elevator music.
4. If your dog will be in his crate while you’re gone (no more
than four hours!), put him in now. Give him a Nylabone or
heavy-duty Kong toy to chew on.
5. Sit quietly in a chair for a few minutes, reading the paper or
watching TV. When your dog is quiet and relaxed, get up from
your chair and say, “Good boy, Jake. Wait here.” Then leave.
No fondling, no emotional good-byes, no lingering looks.
Just leave matter-of-factly. 207 Similarly, when you come home . . . don’t burst in the door and overwhelm your dog with hugs
and kisses and shrieks of glee.
Such a melodramatic entrance, after many quiet hours alone, is
too stimulating for your dog’s nervous system. He will soon
begin to anticipate your homecoming long before you get
home, and as he awaits the big emotional scene, he will become
restless and anxious, which he will probably try to relieve
through chewing or digging or barking.
1. Open the door and come in. Say calmly: “Hi, Jake.”
2. IGNORE HIM FOR A FULL THIRTY SECONDS –
whether he is loose in the house and jumping all around you, or
whether he is in his crate.
Hang up your jacket. Put your bags on the counter. Put
away your purse. Don’t pay any attention to your dog –
don’t even look at him. If he barks or whines or jumps on
you, correct him with a quiet, matter-of-fact “No” or “Stop
3. When the thirty seconds are up, he should be calmer and
more settled. If he’s in his crate, now is the time to open the
crate door and say calmly, “Okay.” Tell him, still calmly, what
a great dog he is and how pleased you are to see him. Ask him,
“Do you need to go OUT?” and take him directly outside to the
Modeling calm, controlled behavior helps your
dog to be calm and controlled, too. 208 Ch 15: The Sociable Dog Your dog’s attitude toward people
WORD #43: “PEOPLE”
In one sense, “people” is simply an object word, like “biscuit” –
so you can teach it like any other object word. When your dog
sees or meets a person, you say, “People! See the PEOPLE?
Look, people are coming! Good people!”
But in another sense, “people” is different from
“biscuit” because most dogs have good feelings
about biscuits, while individual dogs react very
differently to people. ! Some dogs love everybody. My dog Buffy, as
the saying goes, never met a stranger – she
treats everyone she meets like a long-lost
! Some dogs are fine with their own family and perhaps a
few family friends, but aren’t keen on strangers.
! Some dogs are fine with people of one sex, but not the
other sex. “Tippy’s fine with women,” an owner will
explain. “But he’s afraid of men.”
! Some dogs are fine with adults, but leery of children. (A
few dogs are the opposite – they’re fond of kids, but
wary or suspicious of grown-ups.) 209 ! Some dogs are suspicious of certain
physical features – a beard, a hat, dark
sunglasses. Some dogs react
aggressively to uniforms (police
officers, mail carriers, UPS drivers). A
few dogs are so observant they notice
skin color, and if it’s different than what they’re used to,
they may react with suspicion.
! Some dogs dislike ALL strangers.
! And some dogs ignore people. They will glance at a
stranger, then go back to sleep. Their motto is: “Live and
Your dog’s attitude toward other dogs
WORD #44: “DOGGY”
When I’m speaking to my dog about herself, I call her a dog.
“Buffy, what a good DOG you are!”
But when I’m speaking to her about OTHER dogs, I call
them doggies. “See that DOGGY? He’s a good doggy!”
Just as individual dogs react very differently to people, they
react very differently to other dogs.
! Some dogs are happy to meet other dogs.
! Some dogs are fine with other dogs they know well, but
not so much with strange dogs.
! Some dogs are fine only with dogs of the opposite sex.
! Some dogs are extremely tolerant with puppies, but not
with other adult dogs. 210 ! Some dogs are fussy about the SIZE of another dog.
Whatever their own size, they may dislike very large
dogs or very small dogs.
! Some dogs are fussy about the
BREED of the other dog. They may
be fine with their own breed, but
dislike other breeds. (This is
especially common in toy breeds, Dachshunds, and
sighthounds.) Conversely, they may be fine with other
breeds, but less so with their own breed. (This is common
in fighting breeds like Pit Bull Terriers.)
! Some dogs are aggressive (or shy) with virtually every
! And some dogs just ignore other dogs. “Just leave me be
and we’ll get along fine,” is their motto. Why your dog is (or isn’t) sociable
Your dog’s attitude toward people and other dogs is partly the
result of ...
his breed. Some breeds inherit genes that make them suspicious toward
strangers or dominant/aggressive toward other animals.
Research your dog’s breed for clues about the genes he may
have inherited. Guarding breeds, mastiff breeds, livestock
guardians, and terriers are likely to have inherited such genes
because those traits helped them accomplish their intended
It’s much more difficult to change behavior that is
genetically “hardwired” into a breed. 211 Your dog’s attitude toward people and other dogs is partly the
his parents. If your puppy’s parents and grandparents were good-natured
toward people and other dogs, there’s a good chance they
passed along those genes to their puppies. But if a parent or
grandparent was aggressive or shy, they may have passed along
those genes instead. Your dog’s attitude toward people and other dogs is partly the
how long he lived with his mother and siblings. THE FIRST SEVEN WEEKS of a puppy’s life are critical in
determining how he will later act toward people and other dogs.
This is because a puppy’s mother and siblings teach him
something called bite inhibition.
Bite inhibition means jaw control. If a puppy bites too hard
during play, his mother or sibling will react dramatically,
pouncing on the offending puppy and giving him a good shake
or retaliatory bite. If the puppy responds properly to this
chastisement, by becoming submissive, cringing abjectly, and
pretty much shouting, “I’m sorry!” mother or sibling will be
satisfied that they have gotten their message across.
In this way, a puppy learns to restrain his biting, to respect
other dogs, and to recognize and respond properly to the
social signals of dominance and submission. 212 A puppy removed from his mother and siblings before
seven weeks of age missed these vital early lessons – so he
frequently ends up being mouthy and nippy, resistant to being
handled or corrected, or aggressive toward other dogs.
Now for the flip side...
A puppy shouldn’t be left with his mother and siblings
longer than twelve weeks. Why? Because by then, a pack
order (pecking order) will have developed, and if a puppy is at
the top of this ladder for too long, he may always be too
dominant or aggressive toward people or other dogs.
Conversely, if a puppy is at the bottom of the ladder for too
long, he may always be on the submissive or timid side.
The moral? Bring home your puppy at seven to twelve
weeks old. Or if you’re considering a puppy older than
twelve weeks, make sure the breeder separated the
puppies prior to twelve weeks so each puppy could
develop its own personality.
In other words, don’t buy a 6-month-old puppy
who has spent all this time living in a kennel run
with his siblings. Your dog’s attitude toward people and other dogs is partly the
his early environment. If your puppy was harmed or frightened by
a person or another dog when he was
young, he may end up aggressive or
fearful. Early imprinting can be difficult
to change. 213 Your dog’s attitude toward people and other dogs is partly the
how he is handled during adolescence. Adolescence starts at 6-9 months old and ends at 12-24
months old. Smaller dogs have the shorter adolescent periods,
while larger dogs have the longer.
Adolescence in dogs (as in people) is an awkward time of
change and upheaval. During adolescence, a dog’s attitude
toward the world may change from week to week – even from
day to day! This is also a difficult time for owners, because up
until then their puppy may have been getting along famously
with the world.
But during adolescence, when the
hormones kick in, that sweet puppy may
change – a lot. He may suddenly become
skittish, spooky, or suspicious, especially
between eight and eighteen months of age.
It may be temporary, just a stage that will pass in a few
IF the puppy came from good-natured parents, lived with
his mother and siblings for seven to twelve weeks, and has
always had positive experiences with strangers and other
dogs. Just keep socializing him (I’ll explain how in just a
few minutes) and keep correcting any signs of aggression or
skittishness (again, I’ll explain how in a few minutes).
OR . . . your puppy’s changing temperament may be permanent
as bad genes or a bad early environment begin to catch up with
him. 214 Unfortunately...
! if you chose a breed with a reputation for aggression…
! or if one of your puppy’s parents had a poor temperament
and passed those genes along to your puppy…
! or if your puppy was removed from his mother and
siblings before seven weeks old so that he didn’t receive
bite inhibition training…
It may be too late to fix things. You can’t change the genes
your dog inherited and you can’t go back in time and add
positive experiences or undo negative experiences during
the critical early weeks of his life.
All you can do is to keep socializing and keep
correcting signs of aggression or skittishness. It
may make a difference – or it may not.
Unfortunately, some temperament problems
can’t be fixed. How to socialize your dog
Dogs feel most secure when they know how to interact
positively with strangers and other dogs, and when they’re
comfortable with the sights and sounds of the big wide world.
So take your dog out into the world – don’t keep him sheltered
at home Take him to:
! ball games
! walking paths
! pet supply stores 215
Point out other people and dogs “Look, Jake. A doggy. A GOOD doggy!”
“Look, Jake. People! GOOD people.”
Associate strangers and other dogs with
treats and play.
When other people and dogs are around,
become all smiles and laughter. Pull a
toy from your pocket and play with
your dog. Speak cheerfully to him,
“Here’s your TOY! What a GOOD dog
you are! Yay!”
If his tail is up and wagging, give him treats and keep
If you sit in a crowd of people and reward your dog
with food and play, he will be more likely to
associate people with good things! By the way, you can do exactly the same thing to accustom
your dog to thunderstorms, gunshots, low-flying planes,
fireworks, and emergency sirens. When the thunder starts
rumbling, put on cheerful music, break out the toys and treats,
and play with your dog. Encourage him to bounce around and
give him treats when his tail comes up.
Professional trainers do this when they raise puppies to be
guide dogs for the blind, or police dogs, or hunting dogs. It
would be bad if these dogs were frightened by
thunderstorms or sirens!
So right from the get-go, savvy trainers turn
Thunderstorm Time into Happy Time. 216 Interact with strangers and other dogs Say “Hello” to lots of people. Ask them what
time it is. Comment on the weather. If you
see a dog who looks friendly, stop to pet it.
Smile. Your dog can hear a smile in your
voice, and he recognizes cheerfulness. You
want to send him a message that you’re happy to see other
people and dogs.
Your dog draws conclusions from YOUR
mood. If you’re happy and confident, he will
conclude that the world is nothing to worry
about. If you’re tense and anxious, he is more
likely to be, too. Loosen your dog’s leash One of the most common mistakes owners
make is holding their dog on a taut leash
when they approach people and other dogs.
A taut leash makes some dogs more
aggressive! They can literally feel your presence at the other
end of the leash and they conclude that it’s safe to threaten
another dog or person because you’re right there to “back them
up.” In other words, the leash becomes their umbilical cord.
When they feel that connection, they act like Attila the Hun.
Conversely, a taut leash makes some dogs more timid or
nervous because they feel trapped and unable to escape.
Finally, a taut leash communicates to your dog that you’re
concerned or worried about the situation, which makes HIM
concerned and worried about the situation. 217 So don’t hold your dog tightly beside you like
Instead, use the Quick Tug and Relax technique
(Chapter 13) to keep the leash loose. Letting strangers interact with your dog Keep treats in your pocket. If anyone
shows interest in your dog, tell them
you’re working on socializing him with
people. Most people are happy to help with
this. Hand them a treat and ask them to
give it to your dog.
If they want to pet your dog and he’s very small, ask them to
turn their hand so their palm is facing UP and scratch their
fingers against his throat and chest rather than patting his head.
Demonstrate this with your own hand.
Many toy dogs hate giant hands descending
from the sky onto their tiny heads! If too many
people try to pet them like this, they may
become hand-shy. Letting other dogs interact with your dog Be cautious about letting your dog sniff noses with other
dogs. Personally, I prefer to know the other dog before I allow
this. This is especially true when I’m socializing a puppy or a
timid dog, where any mistake could have catastrophic
consequences in his future attitude toward other dogs. 218 I’m even more cautious with toy dogs, so much so
that I seldom allow a toy dog to sniff noses if the
other dog is considerably larger. In fact, if a strange
dog is bearing down on us, even if he is on a leash, I
veer away so my toy dog is out of reach – or I pick up
the toy dog, just for safety.
Don’t underestimate the danger here. I have been the unhappy
eyewitness to the horrifying spectacle of a large dog suddenly
grabbing, shaking, and seriously injuring (and in one tragic
case, actually killing) the smaller one. The speed with which it
happens is unbelievable. The problem is that larger dogs often view toy dogs as prey. A
sudden movement, such as your toy dog pouncing on a leaf, can
trigger chasing instincts even in a nice dog who means well. He
can seize your little one before he even thinks about what he is
doing – before you have time to move or draw a breath. It has
happened time and time again. Even if an owner assures you that his dog is good with other
dogs Take it with a grain of salt. Dog owners are always assuring
people of their dog’s friendliness and good nature. Just ask any
(bitten) vet, groomer, or mail carrier how many times he or she
has been told, “My dog would never bite.” 219 Sad to say, many owners know little or
nothing about their own dog. Even worse,
they have little or no control over its
behavior. This is especially a problem when
two dogs are different sizes. Owners of
larger dogs are often blissfully unaware that even a friendly
head butt, or playful pawing, can harm a smaller dog.
For safety’s sake, if you own a small dog, assume that:
! Other owners don’t understand the prey instinct.
! The efforts of other owners to control and restrain their
dog will be slow, weak, and ineffective.
How to correct aggressiveness or fearfulness If your dog doesn’t want to interact with other
people or dogs, don’t force him.
Many dogs, like many people, are introverts. If
your dog hangs back a bit and isn’t interested in interacting
with people or other dogs, don’t force the issue.
But don’t accept !
! barking or woofing
hiding behind your legs, tail tucked
standing up on hind legs, pawing at you to be picked up
bolting fearfully to the end of the leash, trying to escape
lunging toward people or other dogs in an aggressive
manner 220 If your dog displays any of those negative behaviors 1. Tell him firmly that such behaviors are unacceptable. “No.
2. Use the Quick Tug and Release technique (Ch.13) to
maneuver your dog into a loose-leash position beside you.
3. Some dogs who are acting up benefit from being
put into a Sit-Stay. A dog who is concentrating on
something positive and specific, such as holding a
Sit-Stay position, can’t be doing something
negative, such as trying to fight or run away.
4. You might even run him through a quick
obedience routine, working on whatever words he knows so
far: “Sit. Stand. Sit. Down. Stay. Come. Sit. Good boy!” Use
your voice and the leash to keep his attention focused on YOU. Don’t “reassure” a dog who is displaying negative behaviors Saying soothing things like “It’s okay, it’s all
right, don’t worry, nobody’s going to hurt you”
may seem like a perfectly natural thing to do –
BUT your dog interprets petting and soothing
! as praise of his aggressive or fearful behavior
! or as confirmation that there IS something to be
concerned about but that YOU’LL protect him.
You don’t want to send EITHER
of those messages to your dog. 221 Just focus on STOPPING the unacceptable behavior – by
correcting it as you would any other unacceptable behavior.
Tell your dog, “No” or “Stop that” and back it up with a
physical correction, if necessary.
Your dog doesn’t have to LIKE people or other dogs.
But he must ACCEPT them. He cannot express his
negative FEELINGS through inappropriate
BEHAVIOR. Whatever corrections you have to make, once your dog is
behaving appropriately, say goodbye to the other person or dog
and stroll away. Tell your dog what a good boy he was and give
him a treat. Even if he never becomes friendly and outgoing
with people, he may actually come to look forward to meeting
them – because he gets praise and a treat.
Please take this chapter seriously. Socialize
your dog thoroughly and don’t allow any display
of aggressive behavior. Consider the legal and
financial liabilities if you end up in civil or
criminal court. Fearfulness can be just as dangerous as aggression A dog who is afraid may react defensively by lashing out at
anything that startles him. So don’t think that just because
you have a shy or timid dog, you don’t have to
worry about him biting anyone. Shyness can be
a serious problem in dogs, especially in large
breeds who can do a lot of damage if they snap
or bite – whether out of aggressiveness or out
of anxiety or fear. 222
If you have a truly fearful dog A book called Help for Your Shy Dog (by Deborah Wood)
discusses the problems that come with owning a shy dog,
including submissive urination and fear-aggression. Many
owners unknowingly “enable” their dog to be fearful, similar to
the well-meaning family of an alcoholic, which covers for the
dysfunctional person, and in so doing, supports the wrong
habits. Remember, DON’T do these three things with a fearful or
suspicious dog: 1. Don’t reassure him by telling him “It’s okay.”
2. Don’t pick him up “to make him feel safe.”
3. Don’t tighten his leash to keep him close to you.
All of these reactions seem like perfectly natural
responses to your dog’s anxiety, but they
actually encourage him to be even more
nervous or suspicious. Your dog’s attitude toward children
There are three common myths about dogs and
(1) All dogs love children. (2) Dogs and children
go together. (3) A dog would never harm a child.
Whereas the reality is that many dogs really don’t like the
loud voices, quick movements, and yo-yo emotions that are
the natural characteristics of wee human beings.
! Sensitive dogs (such as toy dogs and sighthounds) are
often startled by the unpredictability of children. 223 ! Feisty dogs, such as terriers, often won’t put up with
nonsense from little life forms whom they view as below
themselves in importance.
You can do everything right with your dog – train him well,
socialize him well – and still, because of his genes, or his
individual personality, or the arrangement of stars and planets
in his horoscope, he may not like children. What he DOES have to do
is ACCEPT children.
There’s no mystery or special techniques for accomplishing
that. Take your dog to parks, playgrounds, and ball fields, point
out children (“People! Good people!”), praise good behavior,
and correct unacceptable behavior. WORD #45: “BABY”
Because they’re so vulnerable, I like to give
infants and toddlers special status with a word
of their own. I combine their special word with
two other words my dog already knows: “Don’t
touch” and “Easy.”
Putting these words together, I present the infant or toddler to
my dog as a possession of mine – and as such, something to
be respected and unharmed.
MINE.” 224 Your dog’s attitude toward cats
WORD #46: “CAT” (or “KITTY CAT”)
Some dogs sniff at felines in a friendly
manner and may even attempt to play. If the
cat is willing, their play usually takes the form
of mild wrestling and mock chase games – where the cat often
does as much chasing as the dog!
Some dogs ignore cats. They will glance at a cat, then go about
their own business.
Some dogs are cautious around cats. It may be an instinctive
caution, where the dog can tell from the cat’s attitude or body
language that there is something unusual about these small
creatures that he had better respect.
Or it may be a learned caution, where he has actually
encountered feline claws and discovered to his chagrin
that cats should be avoided! Some dogs are fine with cats in their own family, but not with
Some dogs will chase every cat they see but
usually just for the fun of the pursuit. If the
cat suddenly turns to defend itself, most
dogs slam on the brakes and back off.
Finally, there are cat killers. These dogs will readily grab and
kill a cat and may even deliberately stalk them. 225 Your dog’s attitude toward cats is partly the result of
his breed. Some breeds have a high prey drive, which
means they see other creatures, especially
smaller ones that flutter or run, as potential
prey. This includes cats, small dogs, squirrels, hamsters, birds,
Dogs with a high prey drive have strong instincts to hunt or
chase small critters, grab them, shake them, and/or kill
them. Remember – most purebred dogs were developed as
working dogs. They hunted, chased, stalked, guarded, and
fought. So it really isn’t surprising that many purebreds
have a high prey drive. Your dog’s attitude toward cats is partly the result of
his first experiences with cats. If a puppy was introduced to a carefullychosen cat who held her ground and showed
warning claws when the puppy got too
pushy, there’s a good chance he will develop the proper
respect for cats.
If, on the other hand, the first cat he saw fled up a tree, his prey
drive will be reinforced and he may become bolder and more
aggressive toward small creatures that run. 226 Finally, if a big ol’ tom cat turned on him and let
him have both barrels, a puppy can be seriously
hurt, not only physically, but also psychologically.
He may end up terrified of cats – or obsessed with
The moral? Introduce your dog to cats when he
is a puppy. Try to find a friend with a dog-wise
cat who knows how to put dogs in their place
without hurting them. Your dog’s attitude toward cats is partly the result of
how you encourage him to react to cats. If you’re like me, you’re annoyed at irresponsible cat owners
who allow their cats to roam free – to use your garden as a litter
box, to spray their urine against the wheels of your
car, to get into your trash, to stalk the goldfish in
your garden pond, and to ambush the wild birds who
visit your feeders.
So why shouldn’t your dog protect your property by
chasing trespassing cats?
Concern #1: Your dog could injure or kill the cat.
A loose cat who damages your yard is a nuisance, yes, but the
real problem is the owner who allows him to do so. No cat
deserves to be hurt or terrified. You may also end up paying vet
bills and the cat owner may retaliate by opening your gate or
seeing that some other “accident” befalls your dog when you’re
not home. 227 Concern #2: Your dog won’t be welcome in homes that have
If you have friends or relatives with cats, it will be difficult to
take your cat-chasing dog with you when you visit.
Concern #3: Your dog could end up hit by a car.
Dogs who become enthusiastic cat chasers will dash through
open doors, leap from car windows, climb over fences, and rush
heedlessly across the street.
Since you never know when a cat may appear from the
shadows, cat-chasing dogs are risky to take anywhere.
Concern #4: The chased cat could fight back.
Feline teeth and claws carry lots of bacteria, which means cat
scratches and bites are likely to become infected. And a dog
who is hurt by a cat may develop psychological fears and
All in all, it’s better not to let your dog chase cats. How to handle cat chasing Use cautionary words that your dog already knows:
“GOOD kitty. Easy! Don’t touch! EASY with the kitty.”
Make it clear to your dog, by your strong tone of voice (and
leash corrections if necessary) that you are claiming the cat as
YOUR possession – and as such, it must be respected and
If he persists in barking or pestering, “No! Leave it” may
jolt him away from his focus. A squirt gun or spray bottle is
often effective, as well. 228 Your dog’s attitude toward other critters
WORD #47: “SQUIRREL”
What about squirrels? Should you
encourage your dog to chase squirrels?
Again there is the pro side – it seems like
a good idea to send your dog after
squirrels who dig holes in your garden,
bury nuts in your flowerpots, and
monopolize your bird feeders. And most
dogs love chasing squirrels.
But again there is the con side – squirrel-driven dogs who
forget boundary training and self-control in their lust to get the
squirrel. They dash through open doors, slip their collars, jump
out of your car, and so on.
Dogs who have been encouraged to chase things
often do so at the worst possible time. And then
they never chase anything again. Also consider the panic of the fleeing squirrel. Even if you
know that your particular dog has virtually no chance of
catching the squirrel, do you really want to be entertained by an
exciting chase if the cost is a terrified little creature?
Finally, consider that some dogs who start with chasing
squirrels progress to chasing other creatures – such as your
neighbor’s cat or small dog.
All in all, the safest solution might be: “See the
SQUIRREL? Good squirrel. Easy. Don’t touch.” 229 WORDS #48-50: OTHER ANIMALS
Songbirds may frequent your feeders, or you
may have a parakeet or canary. Wild rabbits
may hop through your yard, or your kids may
have a Holland Lop or New Zealand White.
You may have a pet ferret. You may own a
horse, or horses may live across the road. You
may keep chickens or goats. Deer may graze nearby. Skunks or
raccoons may wander through your back yard at dusk.
Expand your dog’s vocabulary by teaching him the names of
“Ferret. GOOD ferret. Easy! Don’t touch! EASY with the
It’s a nice feeling when your dog is peaceful
toward other living creatures. 230 Ch 16: The Playful Dog The best toys for your dog
For exercising jaws and mind, relieving boredom, and venting
energy, I recommend these toys:
Nylabones®. In my opinion, these are the safest
commercial chew toys. But even Nylabones require
very careful monitoring. I never allow my dog to EAT
one of these hard nylon chews, but only to gnaw on the
ends until they’re frayed. Then I throw it out and buy a new
Kong® toys. Made of thick, heavy rubber and often
enjoyed by vigorous dogs with strong jaws.
Cotton Rope Toys and Nylafloss®. These massage
the teeth and gums. Take them away when frayed.
(If your dog pulls out and swallows the strings, these
toys are a no-no.)
Balls. Many dogs love the fuzziness of tennis balls. Hard
rubber balls may also be appreciated. Small dogs often prefer
soft rubber balls, especially hollow ones that squish so they’re
easily gripped by small mouths.
Be careful with the size of the ball! Make
absolutely sure your dog can’t swallow it. If he
is a chewer, soft rubber isn’t safe and neither is
a squeaker inside. Stuffed (plush) toys. IF your dog doesn’t
destroy them. Remove plastic eyes and nose,
ribbons, bowties, stringy tails, care labels, etc.
Avoid beanbag toys – guess why? 231 Homemade toys include old socks or towels knotted together,
and plastic water jugs or mouthwash bottles with the cap
removed. Again, these toys are only suitable for dogs who are
not serious chewers. For interactive fun, tie a string or rope to
these toys and drag them around for your dog to chase.
Always think safety! Replace socks when
they fray. Replace plastic jugs when they get
punctured enough to have sharp edges. The worst toys for your dog
Rawhide. Can peel off in soggy strips and choke your dog, or
obstruct his stomach or intestines. Often processed with
chemicals such as lye.
So-called “ingestible” chews such as cornstarch bones and
Greenies®. Despite the marketing hype, dogs were never
intended to eat the ingredients in these things and dogs have
choked to death on them.
Pig’s ears. Become soggy and slippery and can lodge in your
dog’s throat. Ingredients-wise, they are loaded with fat and can
cause diarrhea and vomiting. To top it off, they stink and can
stain your carpet.
Cow’s hooves. Can break into sharp slivers that can punch
through your dog’s throat and intestines.
Anything that says smoked. Loaded with cancer-linked nitrites
Soft rubber/vinyl toys. Lightweight squeaky toys are fine for
very gentle, non-chewing dogs (especially small dogs) who like
to carry them around, chase and retrieve them, even sleep with
them. But many dogs destroy them in about thirty seconds and
some dogs swallow the pieces, including squeakers or bells
Know your own dog! Never assume that just
because a toy is offered for sale at the pet store that
it must be safe for your particular dog. How many toys in the Toy Box?
If your dog does not have any rude behaviors Provide many toys of different sizes, shapes, and textures.
Toys stimulate your dog’s mind as he pokes, prods, mouths,
and figures out how to play with the toy. Offer a variety of
Nylabones, hard rubber toys, balls, ropes, knotted socks – and
for SOME dogs, carefully-chosen stuffed animals, soft rubber,
or vinyl toys that squeak or make other interesting noises.
To maintain his interest, I recommend rotating your dog’s
toys. Let him have a few toys for two or three weeks, then
put them away and offer a different set of toys.
Rotating toys keeps your dog’s mind open to
accepting new things, which is a healthy attitude.
You don’t want a rigid dog who is so focused on
one special toy that he gets upset when it can’t
immediately be located.
Removing toys also makes them seem new and
exciting when you return them. However, if your dog has any rude behaviors or if he is a
destructive chewer Pick up all toys except for two.
Giving lots of stuff to a spoiled dog is as
unwise as giving lots of stuff to a spoiled
child. Pick up the toys until your dog’s
behavior improves. 233 If he is a destructive chewer, it’s especially important to pick
up most toys. Because if the floor is littered with a zillion toys,
your dog may assume that everything is a toy and is potentially
chewable, including your belongings.
With a destructive chewer, I don’t rotate toys, but instead
choose two toys, and two toys only. This makes it more clear to
him that these two objects are the only things he is allowed to
chew on. Everything else receives a “No” or “Don’t touch” and
is off limits.
The good news is that most destructive chewers grow out of
the habit with maturity, increased exercise, and respect
training. So it won’t be too long before you’ll be able to add
more toys to your dog’s Toy Box and begin rotating them
Dealing with possessiveness
If your dog ever becomes overly possessive of a
toy and won’t give it to you, or growls over it
when you approach him, take it away
For a full month.
In this way, he may come to appreciate that toys are not free
gifts, but are privileges that you can bestow and take away,
based on his behavior.
To AVOID possessiveness, work on the next exercise. 234 “Give” – teach your dog to let go of his toys WORD #51: “GIVE”
There will be many times in your dog’s life when you want him
to give up an object that he is clutching in his mouth.
“Jake, let go!” Kathy said in frustration. Her dog
had pounced on her scarf and was now clinging to it
while Kathy tugged fruitlessly at the other end. R-ii-i-p-p! went the scarf, and Kathy wailed in despair,
let go of her end, and grabbed Jake’s head before he
could escape with his prize. With both hands, she
tried to pry his jaws apart. Jake wagged his tail good-naturedly,
but refused to let go.
The solution is to teach your dog to
relinquish any object – including his toys –
when you tell him to. Here’s how to teach “Give” 1. Play with your dog – get him romping around with a toy or
stick or sock in his mouth.
2. When he cavorts close enough to you that you can take hold
of his collar without needing to snatch at him, do so. A grip on
his collar gives you control of his head.
3. In a cheerful voice, say “Jake, give!” and try to take the toy
from his mouth. If he lets go, praise him and give the toy right
back to him so he can play with it some more. 235
In real life, you will often take things away from him that
he can’t have back. But when you’re teaching this word,
he will be much more willing to go along with it if he gets
the object back! 4. If he didn’t give up the toy, you’ll need to open his mouth
and take it.
There are two ways to get your dog to open his mouth:
! Pressure on his lower jaw. Place your hand under his
jaw, palm up. Your thumb should be on one side of his
jaw, your four fingers on the other side. Using all five
fingers, press his LIPS firmly inward against his TEETH
as you say again, “Give!” If you’re pressing in the right
place, his mouth will open. Take the toy and praise him.
! Pressure on his upper jaw. Place your hand on TOP of
his muzzle. Your thumb should be on one side of his
muzzle, your four fingers on the other side, with the top
of his muzzle nestled in the fleshy crook of your hand
between your thumb and forefinger. Press all five fingers
against his lips so that his lips press inward against his
teeth. His mouth should open.
As soon as you have the toy, praise him with enthusiasm, just
as you would if he had given it up of his own accord. Toss it for
him again so he can play with it again.
5. Practice with a variety of items – most of which you should
return to him. As a change of pace, take an object from him
and give him a treat in return.
Soon he should be willing to give up whatever he has in
his mouth, knowing you will probably give it back to him
or will substitute a tasty treat. 236 “Drop” (whatever is in his mouth)
WORD #52: “DROP”
If your dog picks up something he shouldn’t, you need a word
that tells him to open his mouth and DROP it onto the ground.
You’re thinking, “Wait a minute! I just taught my dog to
“Give!” Yes, that does work for many objects. But
do you really want your dog to spit a half-chewed
cigarette butt or dead bug into your hand?
No, it’s better to use “Give” when you want your dog to
actually relinquish something into your hand.
When you simply want him to spit something out, even when
you’re some distance away from him, a better word is “Drop.” Here’s how to teach “Drop” 1. Play with your dog – get him romping around with a toy or
stick or sock in his mouth.
2. Suddenly call out, “Jake, DROP!” Your tone of voice is
important – it should be firm and commanding, but not angry.
3. If he actually drops the toy (often from sheer surprise), praise
him. Quickly pick up the toy and toss it for him so he can have
If he didn’t drop the toy, walk toward him, keeping your
body language relaxed and smiling. In a calm, friendly
manner, take hold of his collar. Say again, “Drop!” and
gently open his mouth (you learned how to do that with
“Give”) so the toy falls to the ground. Praise him, pick up
the toy, and toss it for him. 237 5. Practice “Drop” with a variety of items – most of which you
should return to him. As a change of pace, have him drop an
object and give him a treat in return.
WORD #53: “TUG”
If your dog has a strong-willed, dominant, really feisty, or
aggressive personality, or if he is displaying rude behaviors
(hopefully you’re working on these!)…
Tug-of-war is one of the WORST possible games.
Do you really want to encourage such a dog to clamp down
with his teeth, growl, shake his head, resist and fight against
you? Not hardly! “What about if my dog is sweet and gentle and
doesn’t have any rude behaviors?”
Then tug-of-war can be great fun for both of you – as long as
YOU always win the game. Here’s how to play tug-of-war with a sweet, gentle, wellbehaved dog 1. When your dog brings you a suitable tug toy (rope, knotted
sock, floppy stuffed animal) and tries to get you to play with
him, take hold of one end and encourage him, in a cheerful
voice, to “Tug! Tug!” Play for only about ten or twenty
seconds, then stop tugging, hold your hand very still on your
end of the toy, and say, “That’s ENOUGH. GIVE!” 238 2. Your dog knows both these words and should let go of the
toy. Praise him, offer the toy again and resume the game for
another ten or twenty seconds, then end it again with “Enough.
Give.” Give him lots of praise, give him the toy back to do with
as he chooses, and go about your own business.
On the off chance that your dog didn’t let go of the toy
when you told him to, you know how to open his mouth and
take the toy away (Word #51: Give). If you actually have to
do this, you need to spend some more time working on
“Give” before you play any more tug games with him.
Never let your dog run away with the toy! Tug is
a game that he should not win.
He will have plenty of fun PLAYING the game – he
doesn’t need to win. On the contrary, the
psychological aspects of winning this contest are so
important that you should reserve them for yourself. If your dog becomes overexcited during this game, vigorously
trying to tear the toy away from you, fiercely growling or
snarling, or grabbing at your hand instead of the tug toy…
Say sharply, “Ah-ah! No! Stop that!” Stop the play and
have him “Give” you the toy. Hold it in front of him and
warn him, “Easy! Easy!” If his body language appears
chastised and repentant, resume the play, but make it a
much less vigorous game. Remain watchful. A repeated
offense of overexcitement or aggression warrants an
immediate end to the game. And don’t let him have the toy
– put it away.
Many dogs simply can’t play any kind of tug game because it
makes them more dominating and disrespectful.
Young children should not play tug of war with a dog.
Children can’t judge when a dog is out of control and they
can’t correct a dog with enough authority when his behavior
goes over the line. 239 Teach your dog to “fetch” a toy
WORD #54: “TOY”
In the beginning, you may want to call ALL of your dog’s toys,
simply, TOY. Later we’ll give individual names to some of
them – and we’ll teach your dog to differentiate between them.
But in the beginning, especially when your dog is just a
puppy, it will be easier for him to learn the concept that
ALL of his playthings have the same appellation: TOY.
Teaching this concept is simple. Each time
you play with him, show him the toy and
name it. “TOY! See the TOY? Good TOY!”
Remember to emphasize the word you want
him to learn. A few extra words are okay, but
too many will dilute the importance of the
one word you want him to pick out.
Shake the toy, bounce it, roll it, toss it, do whatever it takes to
get your dog looking at the toy, and over time, recognizing that
his playthings have a specific sound. WORD #55: “FETCH” (or “GET IT”)
Once your dog knows the word toy, you’d probably like him to
DO something with the toy. To run after it when you throw it.
To bring it back so you can throw it again.
We call this retrieving, or more informally, fetching.
The good news is that some dogs are natural retrievers.
The bad news is that most dogs are not! 240 Some dogs are natural retrievers Sporting (gundog) breeds, such as spaniels,
setters, and retrievers, are often natural
retrievers because they were developed to
find and fetch game birds for hunters.
Herding breeds, such as collies and shepherds,
are often natural retrievers. They were
developed to chase and gather moving
sheep so it’s usually easy to extend those chasing and gathering
instincts to thrown objects.
And some small breeds, such as Poodles, Papillons, Jack
Russell Terriers, Fox Terriers, and Boston Terriers, are
often natural retrievers.
But most dogs are NOT natural retrievers Breeds such as Beagles and Basset Hounds are
examples of hunting dogs who DON’T have
retrieving instincts. They track down prey,
sometimes kill it, but they don’t bring it back to
the hunter. Thus, they have strong chasing instincts and might
run after something you throw for them, but they will seldom
bring it back.
The same is true of “northern” breeds such as Alaskan
Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and Akitas. They have strong
predatory (chasing) instincts, but they’re more inclined to eat
their prey – not bring it back.
Similarly, terriers were developed to chase and kill vermin, not
fetch it to you. Most terriers are too possessive and independent
to bring things to people. They would rather keep things to
themselves! (Although some small terriers, especially Fox
Terriers and Jack Russells, do seem to be “hardwired” with
retrieving instincts. In fact, they’re often obsessive retrievers!) 241 “If my dog is not a natural retriever, are fetch
Not necessarily. A dog who is not a natural retriever may
still be able to learn to retrieve. But the training process can
be difficult because you’re going against your breed’s natural
Here’s an example of how difficult retrieving is for many dogs:
In AKC obedience competition, many dogs succeed at the
novice level, but far fewer succeed at the intermediate and
advanced levels. Why? Because at the novice level, dogs
simply have to heel, sit, lie down, stand, stay, and come.
Every dog can learn those things. But at the intermediate
and advanced levels, dogs have to retrieve – and that single
requirement knocks out a whole lotta dogs!
So if you have a dog who won’t retrieve, don’t feel
alone. You can try to teach him, but don’t get
discouraged if the training doesn’t go as quickly or
smoothly as you’d like. There are many ways to teach retrieving, such as...
The Natural Retriever Method (puppies and adults) Choose a long hallway in your house. Close all the doors along
it, so that once your dog has run down the hallway he can’t
duck into any side rooms.
Get your dog excited about his toy. When he’s
barking and jumping for it, toss it down the hall.
Encourage him, “Get your toy! Get it!” or “Fetch
your toy! Fetch!” 242 If he runs to get it and, miracle of miracles, brings it back to
you, tell him cheerfully, “Give” and take it from him – or just
“Drop” so he drops it on the floor.
There! Wasn’t that easy?
Of course, there are any number of things that can go wrong!
! If your dog brings the toy back to you, but hangs on and
refuses to give it up, that’s not a problem. You know
how to open his mouth and make him “Give” it or
“Drop” it. (Words #51 and 52).
! If he runs to the toy and picks it up, but won’t come
back with it, or if he grabs it and runs off with it, call
him: “Jake, come!” If he obeys, praise him (if he
happens to bring the toy along with him, that’s an extra
bonus!) But if he drops the toy along the way, that’s
okay, too – just go get it yourself, and try again.
! If he refuses to obey your “Come” command, forget
about the fetch game and make sure he obeys “Come.”
(Word #31.) Remember, he must obey that essential
word every time. If you try the Natural Retriever Method repeatedly and your
dog chases the toy but never brings it back – or if he won’t
chase the toy at all – you’ll need to decide how important it is
to you that your dog retrieve.
Because there ARE step-by-step methods that will teach
most dogs to retrieve. But they’re a bit complicated, so I
prefer not to use these methods until a dog is an adult and
able to pay close attention.
The Systematic Food Method is one of those step-by-step
methods that can work for reluctant adult dogs. 243 The Systematic Food Method (adult dogs) If your dog is a chowhound who will do almost anything for a
food reward, this method may work for him!
You will systematically teach your dog to !
! take a toy from your hand
hold the toy without dropping it
reach for the toy when you hold it away from him
bring the toy back to you when you toss it This method works best when your dog is hungry, so skip his
morning meal for a couple of weeks while you’re teaching this
exercise. Don’t worry about him STAYING hungry. He’ll be
getting plenty of food during your practice sessions.
Choose a soft treat that’s easy to gulp down. Tiny pieces of
cheddar cheese (REAL cheese, not processed American cheese)
or cooked chicken work well. Or small kibbles. Don’t use a
treat that takes too long to chew or that scatters on the floor and
distracts your dog as he snuffles around for crumbs.
Choose a toy that fits comfortably in his mouth. It shouldn’t
be so small that it could roll back into his throat. And it
shouldn’t be so bulky that it would be uncomfortable. A
wooden training dumbbell, available at pet supply stores, is a
good choice for teaching retrieving. First, teach your dog to open his mouth for the toy
1. With the treats in your pocket, choose an area that’s
quiet and free of distractions. Get your leashed dog sitting on
your left side. Kneel down and tuck the leash under your knees
so both your hands are free but you still have control of him. 244 2. With your left hand, hold onto his collar. With your right
hand, hold the toy in front of his mouth so it is actually
touching his mouth. In a cheerful voice, say, “Get it!” or
“Fetch!” He probably won’t open his mouth, so you’ll have to
help him, like so:
Take your left hand off his collar and place it on TOP of his
muzzle. Your thumb should be on the right side of his
muzzle, your four fingers on the left side, with the top of his
muzzle nestled in the fleshy crook of your hand between
your thumb and forefinger. Got that so far? Now press all
five fingers against his lips so that his lips press inward
against his teeth. His mouth should open. With your right
hand, quickly place and hold the toy in his mouth as you
repeat, “Get it!”
3. After only a few seconds, praise him, “Good boy!” and say,
“Give” as you remove the toy from his mouth. Immediately
give him a treat.
4. Repeat the exercise four more times, then STOP. Later in
the day, do another five repetitions.
If this method is going to work for your dog, by
the end of the week he should be voluntarily
opening his mouth when you touch the toy
against his lips. Next, teach your dog to hold the toy
1. Place it in his mouth and say, “Hold it.” Put one hand under
his chin, stroking it a bit to keep his muzzle tilted slightly
upward so he is less likely to spit out the toy. Praise him
softly, “Go-oo-od boy” as he holds the toy.
2. After only a few seconds, say, “Give.” Remove the toy,
praise him, and give him a treat. 245 If at any point he tries to spit out the toy, try to intercept
him by saying, “Ah-ah” and quickly closing his muzzle
around the toy. If he does manage to spit it out, simply start
again. Replace it in his mouth and say, “Hold it.”
3. Once he is holding the toy reliably, move your hand farther
away from his mouth. Gradually increase the time he holds
the toy to ten seconds. That’s long enough. Now teach him to move around with the toy in his mouth
1. When he will hold the toy for ten seconds without your hand
on his mouth supporting it, give him the toy to hold.
2. After only a few seconds, suddenly stand up and say, “Come,
Jake!” Quickly place one hand under his chin to help keep his
head up and holding the toy. Hook your other hand in his collar
under his neck and guide him to follow you as you walk
backward a few steps.
As before, if he tries to spit out or drop the toy, try to
intercept him by saying, “Ah-ah” and quickly closing his
muzzle around the toy. If it does fall to the ground, simply
start again by replacing it in his mouth and saying, “Hold
3. Work up to moving your hand completely away from his
mouth as you walk backward. You want him to be able to
follow you around holding the toy.
4. Since he knows how to “Sit” and “Stay” and “Come,” you
can also put him in a Sit-Stay, holding the toy, and have him
Come to you, still holding the toy (hopefully!). 246 Finally, teach him to reach for the toy
1. Once your dog will hold the toy as you both walk around,
you can progress to this final step. With your dog STANDING
on your left side, hold onto his collar with your left hand. With
your right hand, flash the toy an inch in front of his nose.
Say, “Get it.”
If he reaches forward and takes it, remind him to “Hold it.”
If he holds it, praise him, “Good boy!” Say, “Give” and take
it from him. Praise and treat! Good job!
If he DIDN’T reach forward to take it, use your grip on his
collar to move him toward the toy until his mouth presses
against it and he does take it. Praise him! Say “Give” and
take it from him. Treat!
2. Once he has this down pat, encourage him to reach farther for
the toy. Offer it a couple of inches in front of his nose. “Get it.”
When he reaches toward it, turn smoothly clockwise as you
sweep the toy slowly away from him at eye level. This
encourages him to “chase” and grab it.
3. When he can catch the moving toy held a full arm’s length
away, begin lowering it toward the floor. Make sure he has to
bend further down each time to catch it. Soon you will place it
on the floor just in front of you, with your fingers touching it,
then with your hand near it but not touching it.
4. Finally, toss it in front of you only a couple
of feet away. At first you may need to point to
the toy and urge him to pick it up. You may
need to step forward and touch the toy as you
encourage him to come pick it up. But soon he
should be moving forward to retrieve it on his own.
And there you have it – a step-by-step program
for teaching a food-oriented dog to retrieve. As
with all retrieving methods, it works for some
dogs, and not for others. 247 The Compulsive Method (adult dogs) If your dog doesn’t respond to the Systematic Food Method and
you really do want him to learn to retrieve, consider the
Compulsive means that you make your dog retrieve.
It sounds grim, but when you think about it, anything we
require our dogs to do is “compulsive.” When you tell your
dog to “Come,” you add positive consequences when he comes,
and negative consequences when he doesn’t. That’s
compulsive. One way or the other, he has to Come.
The Compulsive Retrieve works the same way.
You start out by teaching your dog to open his mouth and hold
the toy, just as you did with the Systematic Food Method.
But when you get to the step where your dog must reach for the
toy, you add a negative consequence if he refuses.
A negative consequence means pinching his ear between
your thumb and forefinger until he reaches to take the toy.
Now, calm down! With your thumb and forefinger,
right now, pinch your own earlobe. Don’t use your
finger NAILS – just the PADS of your fingers. It’s
annoying, but certainly not excruciating, right? The Compulsive Method produces the most
reliable retriever. Even if your dog is distracted
by something, he will fetch whatever you send
him after, because he knows there will be
negative consequences if he doesn’t.
If you’d like to try this method, I recommend a book called
Beyond Basic Dog Training (by Diane Bauman). It covers
the Compulsive Retrieve. 248 Teach your dog to “bring” you a toy
Suppose your dog picks up a toy and you’d like
him to bring it to you. Since he’s already holding
it in his mouth, it doesn’t make sense to tell him to
“Fetch it!”, right?
You need a different phrase:
WORD #56: “BRING IT HERE”
HOW you teach this word depends on the specific situation. At
this point in your dog’s training, you have several helpful
words at your disposal that you can combine to guide your
dog into the behavior you want him to do.
Let’s look at an example:
Your dog picks up a toy and stands looking at you. Say,
“BRING your toy! BRING it here!” Crouch down and clap
your hands to encourage him to come to you.
If he doesn’t come, or if he runs off with the toy, call him with
“Come!” Yes, he might drop the toy as he runs toward you, but
you can still praise him for obeying “Come” and then quickly
send him back after the toy with “GET it! Get your toy!”
(Assuming he has already learned to retrieve, of course.
With non-retrieving dogs, there simply isn’t a way to get
them to go pick up a dropped toy and bring it to you.)
If your retrieving dog does go back to pick up the toy and starts
to head toward you with it, add the new phrase, “BRING it
You want him to connect the phrase “Bring it
here!” with the action of heading toward you with
something in his mouth. 249 “Bring it here” is also useful when your dog has picked up
something that you want to take away.
For example, my dog Buffy is often delighted to discover my
nightgown on the bed, and she runs off with it. This isn’t a
crime, but I would like to have my nightgown back! So I tell
her, “Bring it here!” I praise her for bringing it to me. I tell her
to “Give” and I “trade” the nightgown for one of her own toys –
or a treat.
Teach your dog to “find” a toy
WORD #57: “FIND IT”
“Where’s your toy? Find your toy!” is learned
eagerly by natural retrievers (or those who have
learned to retrieve by one of the other methods
Even for a dog who won’t retrieve, “Find your toy!” can be a
fun game. You may be able to coax him into searching for and
locating his toy, even if he won’t bring it back to you.
So let’s give it a try:
1. Choose a favorite toy for your dog to find. (Pick up all of his
other toys and put them away so he won’t become confused.)
2. Place the chosen toy across the room so he can see it.
Encourage him, “Where’s your TOY? FIND your TOY!”
3. Some dogs will immediately run to the toy, but most will
need help. Guide your dog toward the toy by pointing and
motioning. Walk toward it, gently clapping your hands to
encourage him to follow. If necessary, go right up to the toy
and touch it – anything to help him succeed. 250 4. When he finally spots it, use the familiar words, “Get it! Get
your toy!” or if he’s already picked it up, “Bring it here! Bring
5. Once he understands that “Find!” means he needs to scout
around and use his eyes and nose to search for something, you
can place his toy in another room and send him after it.
Be supportive and helpful. Don’t just stand
there and watch your dog fail! Follow him
around and encourage him, “Where is it?
Where’s your toy? Find it! Good boy!”
Never allow your dog to fail
when you tell him to “Find” something.
If he can’t find it, or if he becomes discouraged and stops
looking, it’s up to you to help him succeed, even if you have
to lead him right to the toy. He will only develop confidence
and persistence if you show him that the toy IS findable – every
When there are multiple toys lying about, your dog should be
allowed to choose whichever toy catches his eye or appeals to
him at the moment. I enjoy watching my dog select which toy
she wants to bring to me. I wonder what criteria she uses to
decide – are dogs “in the mood” for certain toys at certain
times? It’s a mystery! “Find your cookie!” For dogs who have absolutely no interest in finding a toy, have
them find treats instead.
Hide a treat under a crumpled towel and tell your dog,
“Where’s your cookie? Find it!” Show him how to sniff and
snuffle under the towel looking for the treat. 251 The musical toys game
Place one of your dog’s toys across the room. Beside it, place
a very unappealing non-toy – such as a hammer or dictionary.
Send your dog to “Get your TOY!” (I hope it goes without
saying that you should make sure he retrieves the toy, and not
the hammer or dictionary!)
Repeat this with different toys until he can’t help but get the
idea that TOY means his own personal playthings – ANY of
them. Now we’ll make the game a lot more challenging (and fun) by
teaching him the names of individual toys.
WORDS #58-62: INDIVIDUAL TOYS
Which toys are your dog’s favorites? Ball? Rope? Sock? Bone?
Certain stuffed animals? Name them!
Here’s how I taught my dog Buffy the names of her stuffed
rabbit, duck, teddy, and dolly.
I put away all toys except the rabbit. For a few days
she and I played only with the rabbit. She carried it
around and wrestled with it and I used every
opportunity to name it for her: “Is that RABBIT? Do
you have RABBIT? Good RABBIT!”
I threw it for her, encouraging her to “Get RABBIT!” I hid it in
another room, encouraging her to “Find RABBIT!” Of course,
with no other toys to choose from, she brought the rabbit every
time. 252 Then I brought out her stuffed duck. I placed them side by side
and said, “Get RABBIT!” The first time I tried this, she
grabbed the rabbit. Wow! She was a genius!
Well, not exactly. The second time I sent her for the rabbit, she
tried to pick up the duck.
But I was watching for this, and the instant she put her
mouth around it, I said, “Ah-ah” and she shied away from
it. “Get RABBIT!” I encouraged her cheerfully. She
grabbed the rabbit. “Good girl!” I said.
During one attempt, she was too quick. She seized the duck and
brought it to me. In a very mild voice, I said, “No-no” and put it
back with the rabbit so she could try again. Soon she learned
that she only got praise when she got the rabbit.
After a few days of fetching the rabbit, I put it
away entirely and focused on the stuffed duck. “Is
this your DUCK?” and “Get your DUCK!” and
“Find your DUCK!” Then I put the duck beside
another toy (NOT the rabbit yet) and she retrieved
the duck while ignoring the unnamed toy.
The hard part came when I placed the rabbit and the duck side
by side. I sent her first for one, then the other. Now she had to
remember which word went with which toy!
This game really develops your dog’s thinking
skills and memory. Once your dog knows several toys by name, you can play
Musical Toys! Gather all the toys whose names your dog has
learned and place them in a small group on the floor.
Then send him after each one, one at a time:
“Get your rabbit!” “Good boy!” “Give!” 253 “Get your duck!” “Good boy!” “Give!”
“Get teddy!” “Good boy!” “Give!”
“Get dolly!” “Good girl!” “Give!”
I play a similar game with Buffy where I send her in search of
a specific toy. For example, “Find DOLLY!”
She runs from room to room, rejecting all other toys in favor of
Dolly, which she eventually locates and brings to me. If she
can’t find Dolly on her own, I go with her on a
Dolly Hunt until we find it together.
If at any time she returns with the wrong toy, I
take it from her, saying gently, “No no… find
DOLLY!” Then I go with her on a Dolly Hunt.
Remember, make sure your dog succeeds!
Teach your dog the names of family members
WORDS #63-66: NAMES OF FAMILY MEMBERS
Your dog can learn the names of the people in your family.
Many owners refer to each other as Mommy and Daddy.
Grandparents are often referred to as Grandma and Grandpa.
And of course there are the kids.
To teach people’s names, simply refer to them
by name whenever your dog sees them.
“There’s DADDY! See DADDY?”
Also refer to them by name when your dog is ABOUT to see
them. For example, when Daddy is coming up the walk, alert
your dog (“Here comes Daddy! Daddy’s coming!”), and when
Daddy actually opens the door, switch to “Here’s Daddy!
Make sure Daddy is within seconds of opening the door
before you alert your dog. 254 When introducing new words, deliver on your promises
quickly so your dog makes the connection! WORD #67: “GO TO (FAMILY MEMBER)”
Fun game! Send your dog back and forth from one person
1. Start with only two people. Each person crouches or kneels
down, facing each other about fifteen feet apart.
2. One person holds the dog by his collar and says, in an excited
voice, “GO to Mommy!” Whereupon Mommy calls, “Jake,
3. When Jake runs to Mommy, he is greeted with praise and a
treat. She takes hold of his collar, points him in Daddy’s
direction, and says, “GO to Daddy!”
4. Three times to each person is enough for one practice
Add other family member one at a time. Eventually
everyone can form a circle and play round robin,
sending your dog around the circle to various family
members. Only the named family member may give
him a treat. The hide and seek game
This game needs no explanation except for how to
teach it. Daddy is going to hide, although his first
“hiding place” should be no hiding place at all.
Daddy should simply stand across the room in plain
sight. 255 “Where’s Daddy? Find Daddy!” For a dog as bright as
yours, this is a no-brainer! When your dog rushes over,
Daddy rewards with praise and play.
Next, Daddy hides behind a door in the next room. “Where’s
Daddy? Find Daddy!” Some dogs will get the idea immediately
and begin scouting around, sniffing the floor or air-scenting
(trying to pick up Daddy’s scent from the air).
Did you know that we’re constantly shedding dead
skin cells? That’s the “scent” a dog follows when he
tracks someone. Other dogs will need a lot of help with this game. Go with your
dog as you motion with your hands to guide him toward
possible hiding places. Peek behind doors and shower curtains,
behind chairs and sofas. Make sure your dog looks, too.
“Where’s Daddy? Is Daddy here? Find him!” But look for only
a minute or two before you “stumble upon” Daddy’s hiding
place. Celebrate with whoops and cheers “Yay! It’s Daddy!
You found Daddy!”
Eventually you can be more creative with your hiding
places, but make sure your dog succeeds every time.
Never let a search go on for more than a couple of
minutes or your dog will become anxious, discouraged,
or bored. Teach your dog the names of other pets
WORDS #68-69: NAMES OF FAMILY PETS
If you own other dogs or cats, there are three reasons your dog
should learn the individual names of each pet.
1. When you need to correct one pet, using its
name will reassure the others that they need not
worry, that they’re not the one in trouble!
“Buffy. This is bad!” 256 2. When you’re giving treats, using each pet’s name as you
offer the treat cautions the others to wait their turn.
For example, with both Luke and Buffy sitting in front of
you, focus your gaze on Luke. Say, “Luke” and offer him a
treat. If Buffy tries to grab it, correct her. “Ah-ah! Buffy,
no.” Give Luke a reassuring pat on the head and try again.
Buffy will soon get the message that “Luke” refers to the
3. Finally, if your dog has learned “Find it,” he may be able to
search for a specifically-named pet. “Buffy, where’s Luke?
Find Luke!” could come in handy if Luke isn’t responding to
Now, realistically speaking, most likely Luke is simply snoring
under the bedcovers and won’t appreciate it when
Buffy jumps on him! But YOU’LL be relieved to
know where he is. And if Luke really was trapped
somewhere, Buffy might find him. Hey, it’s
possible! 257 Ch 17: Advanced Words Teach your dog to “GO” wherever you send him
Your dog has learned the word GO as part of several phrases:
! Go crate.
Go lie down.
Go for a walk?
Go to Daddy! There are many more places your dog can “Go.” WORD #70: “GO STAIRS”
You’ll get a real workout with this one! With your dog at your
side and treats in your pocket, stand at the bottom of a
Point your arm dramatically up the stairs. Tell your dog, in an
excited voice, “Go stairs!” and RUN upstairs with him. Give
him a treat when you reach the top.
Now point dramatically down the stairs. Say, “Go stairs!” and
RUN downstairs with him. Give him a treat at the bottom.
If you want, you can say “UPstairs” for going up. But don’t
say, “DOWNstairs” for going down. It’s better to reserve
“Down” for one meaning and one meaning only – to lie down.
Lying down and going downstairs are two very different
actions, so you’re likely to confuse your dog if you use “Down”
in any way other than to lie down. 258 When my dog Buffy is lying on the sofa, I pretend to sneak
toward the stairs. She raises her head, watching me intently.
Her muscles tense. Suddenly I shout, “I’m going UPstairs!”
and I make a mad dash for the stairs. She leaps off the sofa,
barking happily, and chases me up the stairs. Retrieving From Upstairs If your dog will retrieve, place a favorite toy at
the top of the stairs and send him after it. “Find
your ball! Go stairs!”
You will need to help him with this combination at first, by
running up or down with him. But soon he will come to trust
that when you combine “Ball” and “Stairs,” there really is a ball
for him to find – and the STAIRS will take him to it.
Never lie to your dog – even accidentally. If you point him in
the direction of the stairs and tell him his ball is that way, it had
darned well better be there!
Because if he bounds up the stairs, trusting what you say
and eagerly anticipating finding his ball...and it isn’t
there...he will begin to doubt your word.
So make sure you know that a particular toy
is indeed where you tell him it is, before you
send him for it. WORD #71: “GO INSIDE”
When you’re outside in the yard with your dog,
get his attention: “Jake!” With a dramatic wave
of your arm, point toward the door of your house
and hold your arm extended in that direction. 259 “Go INside. INside.”
Run toward the door yourself, encouraging your dog to
accompany you. “Good boy! Go Inside.” When you reach the
door, open it and motion him through. “Inside. Good boy!”
It shouldn’t be long before you can stand in the far corner of
the yard, wave your arm toward the back door and call, “Go
INside!” and your dog will make a beeline for the house.
“Inside” can also be used for any situation where you want your
dog to go INTO some sort of enclosure.
“Go car. Inside. IN.”
“Go crate. INside. IN.”
As your dog’s vocabulary grows, you can
combine more and more words! WORD #72: “GO COUCH”
WORD #73: “GO CHAIR”
Choose two pieces of furniture you don’t mind your dog
jumping on. Let’s say a couch and an easy chair on opposite
sides of the living room.
Get your dog’s attention: “Jake!” With a dramatic wave of your
arm, point toward the couch and hold your arm extended
toward it. “Go couch. Couch!”
Run toward the couch, encouraging your dog to come with you.
Motion for him to jump onto it. Hold a treat right over the
couch if necessary, or take his collar and help him jump up.
Give him the treat once he’s up there. 260 Now it’s only a matter of encouraging your dog to
jump onto the couch without your needing to run
all the way with him. Eventually you want to be
able to stand across the room and send him onto
the couch. Once he’s up there, you can caution him to “Wait”
while you go to him and give him his treat.
For variety, once he has jumped onto the couch and turned
to face you, raise your arm in the Emergency Down signal
and tell him, “Down!” When he lies down, count silently to
five. Walk over and give him a treat. Make sure he holds his
“Down.” Caution him to “Stay,” if necessary. Walk back to
your original position. Count to five again. Then release
him with “Okay!”
Go through the same routine when teaching, “Go chair!”
Then, just as you did when you sent your dog to fetch alternate
toys (The Musical Toys Game), send him to the couch, then to
the chair, then back to the couch. Sometimes give him a treat,
sometimes just praise and petting. Sometimes ask him to
“Down!” on the couch or chair. Sometimes send him directly
from the couch or chair to his crate, or upstairs to fetch a toy.
Games! Variety! Dogs love ’em!
Heeling on your left side
WORD #74: “HEEL”
Let’s talk now about a more formal type of walking, called
heeling. 261 Heeling means your dog walks at your left side,
with his head very close to your left leg. The
leash hangs completely loose, forming a big Ushaped loop between your hand and his collar.
A heeling dog is very attentive to you. If you
turn to the right or left, a heeling dog will turn
with you, maintaining his position close beside
your knee. If you slow down or speed up, a
heeling dog will slow down or speed up, too. If
you stop walking, a heeling dog will sit beside you and wait for
your next move.
A heeling dog is impressive to watch
and very easy to walk! Ah, but...is such a walk fun for him? For short periods, yes, it
can be – especially when you make a game out of it, making
quick turns, encouraging him to maintain his position, and
praising him for his attentiveness.
Heeling is a terrific exercise for teaching your
dog to pay attention to you! But as I mentioned in Chapter 13 (Walking and Exercise), on a
normal walk you want your dog to have some freedom on the
leash so he can sniff around a bit, and relieve himself if
necessary. You don’t want him to be so concerned about
maintaining an exact position beside you that he can’t even
look around at the passing scenery.
For normal walks, I simply want my dog to
walk without pulling on the leash. She can be in
front of me, or behind me, or off to one side or
the other. Just so long as she doesn’t pull!
But there are times when you need more control, when you
need your dog closer to you. 262 For example, if you have to walk through a crowd of
people. Or if there is a dog or cat or squirrel nearby. Or if
your arms are full of groceries and you can’t be tripping
over a dog walking in front of you or running back and
forth from your left side to your right side. At these times,
the word “Heel” comes in mighty handy. Is your dog ready for heeling? To compete with your dog in official obedience trials, the
heeling exercise must be extremely precise – more so than what
I’ll be showing you here.
So if you think you might have any interest in showing your
dog in obedience competition, you need a book that teaches
precision heeling. I recommend Beyond Basic Dog
Training (by Diane Bauman). But simple, non-competitive heeling
is not difficult to teach –
IF YOU CAN KEEP YOUR DOG’S ATTENTION.
If you’ve already taught your dog “Watch me!” (Word #30), if
he looks at you when you say his name, if he maintains eye
contact with you, you can move on to basic heeling.
Heeling “clues” you should give your dog 1. Have your dog “Sit!” on your left side before you start to
heel. He should be facing the same direction you are, his head
close to your left knee or ankle, depending on his size.
If you always start your heeling by having
him sit in Heel Position, he will soon pick
up on this clue. 263 2. Take your first heeling step with your LEFT foot. Since he’s
sitting on your left, if you move your left foot he will
immediately see it and can quickly rise from his sit and
maintain his position walking beside you.
3. Make your first step a SMALL step. This gives him more
time to rise and keep up with you. Starting to heel 1. With your dog sitting in the heeling position on your left
side, call his name, “Jake!” When he looks up at you, say
“Watch me!” and make sure he is focusing on you.
2. Say, “Jake, heel” and take your first step – a small step –
with your left foot.
3. Walk only six or eight steps and keep his head from getting
ahead of or behind your leg by using the technique you learned
about in Chapter 13 – the Quick Tug and Relax. (Go back and
read about that technique if you need a quick refresher.) Making an about turn An about turn means turning and walking in the opposite
Your about turn should be made to the RIGHT – away from
your dog. As you turn, lower whichever hand is holding the
leash to the level of your dog’s head and use gentle tugs on the
leash to guide your dog to make the turn with you. Keep
walking as you turn – don’t stand still and wait for your dog.
Keep moving, and encourage him, “Keep up, Jake. Good boy!” 264 An alternative, if it works better for your particular dog, is
to bend forward at the waist as you make the turn and pat
your hands gently together, out in front of you and down
low at your dog’s eye level, to catch his eye. Encourage
him, “Keep up, Jake! Good boy!”
After heeling a bit in the new direction, make another about
turn and heel some more. Stop heeling and have your dog sit You’re probably dizzy from all these about turns! Time to stop
walking. But HOW you stop is very important:
1. Take a couple of short baby steps.
2. Plant your right foot and STOP moving it.
3. Bring your left foot slowly into position beside your planted
If you’re consistent about it, the short baby steps,
planting of your right foot, and slow movement of
your left foot will all become clues to your dog
that you’re about to stop walking. This will help
him stop with you. 4. AS you stop walking, say, “Sit.” Pull up on the leash with
your right hand and push down on your dog’s hindquarters with
your left hand so that he is sitting straight beside you, facing the
same direction you are. Praise him!
If you’re consistent about having him sit every time you stop
walking, he will eventually start to sit as soon as you tug the
leash upward, without your needing to say “Sit.” Soon after
that, he will start sitting before you have a chance to tug the
leash or say anything. This is called an automatic sit and it’s a
good thing! 265 Heeling is mentally tiring for a dog. Practice for
only two or three MINUTES at a time. You can
always hold another two- or three-minute heeling
session later in the day. Fun heeling patterns After awhile you’ll get bored with walking in a straight line,
making an about turn, and walking in another straight line. Try
these different heeling patterns:
Make a 90-degree turn to the left. Continue walking.
Make a 90-degree turn to the right. Continue walking.
Walk faster. Break into a trot, with short quick steps.
Walk slower. Take l-o-n-g s-l-o-w steps, dragging out each
step so your foot is in the air longer than usual. Caution: Don’t
take slow, short, baby steps or your dog will become confused.
He’ll anticipate that you’re going to stop and he will keep
trying to sit.
Walk in circles. First large circles, fifteen feet across. Then
smaller circles, five feet across. Circle to the right. Circle to the
Combine two circles into a figure-8 pattern around two posts
(or two chairs, two books, two rocks, two orange traffic cones)
placed on the ground about eight feet apart.
Are we having fun yet? 266 Heeling on your right side “Why do dogs always heel on your LEFT side?”
A popular theory is that hunting dogs and guard dogs
traditionally walked on the left side so the hunter or soldier
could carry his weapon in his right hand.
In obedience competition, your dog always heels on your left
side. But for practical purposes, your dog can learn to heel on
both sides, as long as you use a different command for each
side. If you use “Heel” for heeling on your left, then for your
right side try a command such as. . . WORD #75: “RIGHT SIDE”
Start out with your dog heeling on your left side. As you’re
walking along, say cheerfully, “Jake, RIGHT side!”
Then do the following (read this carefully and look at the
diagram on the next page before you try it with your dog):
To switch your dog from one side to the other, make an
about turn to your LEFT (the opposite direction from your
usual about turn). As you turn, use the leash to guide your
DOG into making an about turn to his RIGHT. Both of you
continue heeling in the new direction, except that he’s now
on your right side. 267 Here’s what it looks like: After you’ve made the switch, heel with your dog on your right
side for a dozen steps, then say, “Jake, HEEL” and make
another dual about turn, toward each other as before. This will
put him back on your left side. Heel with him on your left side
for a dozen steps, then switch again.
Most dogs enjoy these quick switches if you
make a game out of it – aiming for enthusiasm
rather than precision! “Come Front” (come and sit in front of you)
WORD #76: “COME FRONT”
When you call your dog and he comes to you, what happens
when he reaches you?
Does he jump all over you? Frolic in circles around you?
It’s okay if he does! We’ve allowed him to do so. We just
wanted him to COME.
But in obedience competition, when you call
your dog, he must run to you and sit directly in
front of you, facing you. This is a controlled
position that can be useful in everyday life, too.
Sitting and facing you, your dog is focused on
YOU rather than on whatever distraction you
called him away from. Sometimes you need this focus. 268 To tell your dog to come sit in front of you, facing you, we use
the phrase “Come Front” instead of “Come.”
You can use “Come Front”:
! When you’re calling your dog away from a distraction,
so that once he gets to you, he has to concentrate on
doing a proper sit and looking up at you, not at the
! When you need your dog close enough to put your
hands on him – for example, to clip on his leash or pick
him up. Teaching “Come Front” 1. Stroll around the yard with your dog, on-leash. When his
attention is elsewhere, call, “Jake, come FRONT.” Come he
already knows, so emphasize the new part of the phrase.
2. TROT backward. As he comes toward you, pat your hands
together in encouragement and repeat, “Come FRONT. Come
3. When he is at a good point just in front of you, STOP and use
the leash to help hold him there in front of you. Have him sit in
front of you, facing you.
Once he is sitting, observe his position. Is he
close enough to you that when you extend your
arm straight out, your palm is directly over his
head? If he’s even closer than that, fine! You
just don’t want him further away than that.
If he is sitting too far away or really crooked (you’re
facing north or south, while he’s facing east or west), take a
few more steps backward. Repeat, “Come FRONT” and try 269 to get him sitting straighter, either using a treat to entice
him into a better position, or the leash, or your hands.
5. Once he’s sitting close enough and straight enough, praise
him and release with “Okay!”
You can also practice Come Front by having
your dog hold a Sit-Stay and calling him,
“Come FRONT.” The Finish (return to heel position)
When your dog is sitting in front of you after “Come Front” and
you want him to go to the heel position on your left side, this
movement, in obedience competition, is called The Finish.
Let’s say your dog is sitting in front of you, facing you. To go
to heel position, there are two directions he can go.
1. He can move toward your left, which is a direct line to
the heel position.
2. Or he can move toward your right, go around behind
you, and come up into heel position.
We’re going to teach your dog both of these directions and
you’ll be able to give him a command and hand signal telling
him which way you want him to go. If you turn this exercise
into a cheerful game, most dogs find it fun! 270 WORD #77: “SWING”
This word will tell your dog to go to heel position by going
directly to your left side.
1. With your dog sitting in front of you, facing you, reach out
with your left hand and grasp the leash very close to his collar,
as close to the snap as possible.
2. In a cheerful voice, tell your dog, “Swing!”
3. Take one large step backward with your left foot, sweeping
your left hand and arm to the left and backward in a large arc,
using the leash to guide your dog past your left leg so he is
behind you, before turning him in a left about-turn so he is
facing the same direction you are, with his head close beside
4. Use your hands to guide him into a sit in heel position. WORD #78: “AROUND”
This word will tell your dog to go to heel position by going to
your right, behind you, and into heel position at your left.
1. With your dog sitting in front of you, facing you, reach out
with your right hand and grasp the leash very close to his
collar, as close to the snap as possible.
2. In a cheerful voice, tell your dog, “Around!”
3. Take one large step backward with your right foot, sweeping
your right hand to the right and backward in an arc, using the
leash to guide your dog past your right leg, and around behind
you. 271 4. As he comes around behind you, switch the leash behind
your back from your right hand to your left hand and step
forward with your right foot so it’s back where it started, as you
smoothly continue to guide your dog up beside your left leg.
4. Use your hands to guide him into a sit in heel position.
With both of these exercises, you can also use food
to help lure your dog into heel position. “But where are the hand signals?” you ask.
Ah, look closely! You’re introducing them to your dog when
you swing your left hand to the left, or your right hand to the
right. When you’re first teaching these exercises, your hand is
holding the leash, but eventually you’ll be able to sweep your
hand to the left or right – without holding or guiding the leash
– and your dog will automatically move in the indicated
direction! 272 Ch 18: Fun Tricks Most dogs love learning tricks. When they
discover that certain behaviors make you laugh
and applaud and reward them, they will even
offer those behaviors on their own, hoping for a
positive reaction from you. Dogs LIVE for this
kind of attention!
Six Commandments For Teaching Tricks !
! Offer treats.
Practice for only two or three minutes at a time.
Don’t ask for the same trick more than three times.
Praise and encourage the very beginnings of a trick.
Guide your dog gently with your hands.
NO CORRECTIONS when teaching tricks. No corrections? Then why do we use corrections for other
words such as “Come” and “Stay”? Because those words are
essential, while tricks are optional bonus words.
If you can guide and encourage your dog to do a
particular trick and he enjoys doing it – great! If he
doesn’t seem to understand a trick, or can’t do it, or
doesn’t like doing it – then simply don’t ask him to do
that trick. So, without further ado, here are twelve popular tricks! 273 Shake hands
WORD #79: “SHAKE HANDS”
The classic dog trick. Even people who have
never owned a dog will stretch their hand toward
someone else’s dog. “Hey, fella, wanna shake
hands? Gimme a paw!” Here’s how to teach “Shake hands” 1. Have your dog sit in front of you, facing you. You may want
to kneel down to be closer to his eye-level.
2. Extend your right hand, palm up, toward either of your dog’s
paws and in a cheerful voice, invite him to “Shake hands!” or
“Give a paw!”
3. With the fingers of your right hand, tap (or tickle) the BACK
of your dog’s front leg, down near his ankle. When he lifts his
paw, slide your right palm under his paw so his foot is resting
on your palm. Don’t grab or squeeze! Just let it rest on your
hand. “Good boy!”
4. When he will lift his foot readily as you touch it, hold your
hand NEAR his leg, but not touching it. Say, “Shake hands.” If
he lifts his paw without your needing to touch it, he has the
5. With some dogs, you can progress to offering your hand
higher and higher until finally you can stand in front of him
and hold out your palm and he’ll lift his paw high to reach your
hand. At this point, some owners switch to the phrase, “Gimme
An occasional dog is reluctant to shake. W hen you
touch his paw, he’ll pull it back. Or he’ll raise it, but not
want to rest it on your hand. He may be afraid that you’re
going to grab or squeeze. Be patient and gentle, but if he
continues to resist this trick, don’t push it on him. Are you speaking to me?
WORD #80: “ARE YOU SPEAKING TO ME?”
You’ve already taught your dog how to “Speak” (Word #41).
It’s a fine trick in and of itself, but here’s a fun twist you can
When my dog Buffy woofs at me, politely, trying to tell me
something or entice me to play, I ask, “Buffy, are you
SPEAKing to me?”
She barks again, more enthusiastically.
“What are you SAYing?” I ask her, innocently. “What are you
SAYing to me?”
“BARK, BARK!” she shouts happily.
Guests always get a kick out of this exchange!
At first you’ll need to emphasize the key words: “Are you
SPEAKing to me? What are you SAYing?” If your dog seems
confused, you may need to prompt him with the simpler and
more familiar “Speak. Speak.” But soon he will learn the
pattern of your phrases and won’t need the prompting. Dogs produce very different sounds in response to these
! Some dogs will offer a single sharp bark. 275 ! Some dogs will unleash a series of barks.
! Hound dogs may produce a bay or howl.
Buffy makes a rolling, musical grumble (RR-rr, RR-rr, rr-rr-rr),
like she’s trying to converse with me. It’s really cute!
If your dog offers an especially unusual
sound, such as a howl or conversational
grumble, you might try giving it a separate
word, such as SINGING. Encourage your
dog (with praise and treats) to reproduce it
and attach “Sing” to it. Playing a musical
instrument or certain recordings brings out the
inner songster in some dogs!
As with all tricks, there are some dogs who just won’t
do this one. They stand there mutely, staring at you
as you cavort around and cajole them to “Speak!
Speak!” until you feel like an idiot. Crawl
WORD #81: “CRAWL”
If your dog can “Lie Down” and “Come,” he may be able to
What is required for this trick is for your dog to lie down and
creep forward, keeping his belly close to the ground while
propelling himself toward you with his paws.
Many dogs will crawl. Police dogs crawl under fences. Search
and rescue dogs crawl under obstacles. Terriers crawl through
underground tunnels to reach their prey. Movie dogs, such as
Lassie, are master crawlers, often whimpering pitifully as they
creep toward the camera. 276 Here’s how to teach “Crawl” 1. Have your dog lie down, either on your left side (in heel
position), or in front of you (facing you). Experiment to find out
which position works better with your dog.
2. Place your left hand on top of his shoulders. With your right
hand, hold a treat just in front of your dog’s nose and begin to
draw it away from your dog, wiggling it in an enticing manner
– but keep it close to the ground so he will keep his head close
to the ground, too. Hold his shoulders down gently so he can’t
stand up. Draw out the word, “Cra-a-a-w-l?” in a long, slow,
If he manages to push past your restraining hand and stands
up, just replace him in the down position. No corrections.
“Down . . . good boy. Cra-a-a-w-l?”
3. If he wriggles forward, even just an inch or two, praise him
enthusiastically and give him the treat. In the beginning, you
want to reward even the slightest glimmer of understanding and
effort. Eventually extend the distance he needs to crawl before
you give him the treat.
You can teach some dogs to crawl under a chair or low
table, or even under someone’s legs! A potential problem with this trick is that some dogs become
less reliable doing a Down-Stay. Once they learn to crawl, you
see, they’re tempted to try it when they’re supposed to be lying
down and staying. If this happens with your dog, I would drop
this trick from his repertoire. A reliable Down-Stay is more
valuable than being able to crawl. 277 Play dead
WORD #82: “PLAY DEAD” (or “GO TO SLEEP” or
1. Have your dog “Sit” and “Stay” while you face him from a
foot or two away.
2. Form a “gun” with your right hand by pointing your right
index finger at your dog, your other three fingers curled into
your palm, your thumb sticking straight up. Say, “Bang!” or
“Play dead!” as you jerk your hand up like you’ve just shot
3. Step forward quickly – but not
threateningly as if you’re going to correct him!
Gently guide your dog into a down position and
then roll him flat onto his side, repeating
“Bang” or “Play dead” as you do so. Hold his
head gently on the floor for just a second of
two, repeating, “Play dead! Good boy.”
4. Then say happily, “You’re ALIVE!” and encourage him to
jump up and get his treat.
If you don’t like the idea of “shooting” your dog, just substitute
the more peaceful “NAP time” or “Take a NAP” or “Go to
SLEEP” combined with “Wake up!” as the release word. As a
hand signal for this version, place your palms together as
though in prayer and rest them against the side of your face like
a child going nighty-night.
This trick has practical uses. If your dog will lie flat on
his side, it’s easier to examine his stomach for fleas or
burrs or groom tangled hair. 278 Roll over
WORD #83: “ROLL OVER”
“Roll over” seems like a simple extension of playing dead…
But many dogs can’t do it. Giving that extra little push to roll
themselves completely over is difficult for many dogs and
impossible for some.
Body tension is the most common obstacle.
A rolling dog needs to be relaxed so his
spine is supple and flexible enough to roll. If
your dog feels stressed or nervous, he will tighten up and then
this trick will become impossible. Here’s how to teach “Roll over” 1. Have your dog lie down, either on your left side (in heel
position), or in front of you (facing you). Experiment to find out
which position works better with your dog.
Now, there’s something you need to observe here. When a dog
is lying down, his front legs are stretched in front of him, while
his hind legs stick out to one side or the other.
Notice whether your dog’s hind legs are sticking out on his
left side or on his right side.
2. Kneel beside him. Hold a treat an inch in front of his nose.
Say, “Roll over!” and start moving the treat slowly on a straight
line from his nose toward his elbow so that he must turn his
head to follow it. (This must be the elbow on the same side of
his body as his hind legs are sticking out.) As he follows the
treat, his nose will move toward his outstretched back feet.
Then lift your hand up so it crosses over his head – toward the
opposite side from his back legs. 279
Hold the treat mostly concealed in your fingers so
that he can nose at it, but can’t eat it. 3. As his head turns to follow the treat, his body will tilt away
from the treat and partway into a roll. Place your other hand
(the hand without the treat) on his shoulder to push him further
over onto his back and hip – and at the same time maneuver
your treat hand in such a way as to LURE him into rolling over
the rest of the way.
It’s very hard to describe the correct motion – you have to
try it yourself to get the knack of it!
4. As soon as your dog makes it over, even if you have to roll
him yourself, give him the treat and lots of praise.
Only ask your dog to roll over on soft surfaces like carpet
or grass, or on your bed if he’s small. NEVER ask him to
roll over on concrete or on a wooden or vinyl floor – these
are too hard on his back and spine.
Remember, this is a difficult trick for many dogs,
and an impossible trick for some. If your dog
can’t do it, or doesn’t like it, skip it and move on
to something else. Beg
WORD #84: “Beg”
This is an old-fashioned trick that some dogs do
easily. Other dogs can’t do it at all, because sitting
upright on their hindquarters requires them to hold
their backbone firmly erect, plus maintain a good
sense of balance. 280 You should not allow dogs with a long back (like
Dachshunds and Basset Hounds) to do this trick – it
puts too much stress on the weak vertebrae in their
long spine. Here’s how to teach “Beg” 1. Have your dog sit, facing you. Some owners find it helpful to
put large dogs in a corner – facing OUT, of course, duh! The
walls help provide support for balancing.
2. Hold a treat just above your dog’s head and say, “Beg” in
a cheerful voice. If your dog tries to get the treat by rocking
back on his hindquarters and lifting his front paws off the
ground, even just a little bit, give him the treat and praise him.
You need to hold the treat at just the right spot
over his nose for him to sit firmly on his
haunches and balance properly. You’ll have to
experiment to find the right spot for your dog.
If you hold the treat too high, he’ll stand up
on his hind legs rather than rocking back onto
3. If you can’t seem to lure your dog into lifting his front feet,
you may need to lift his front legs yourself, rocking him slightly
backward so that he settles onto his hindquarters. You can
drape his feet lightly over your wrist or forearm to help him
balance. Or try putting your hand under his chin to help him
This position can strain your dog’s back
muscles if done for too long. A few seconds
is enough. 281 Dance
WORD #85: “DANCE”
Dancing is different from begging. Begging asks
your dog to sit up on his hindquarters and wait for
you to give him the treat, while dancing asks your
dog to stand up on his toes and waltz around,
soliciting the treat. Here’s how to teach “Dance” 1. Hold a treat just above your dog’s head and say, “Dance!
Dance!” When he reaches for it, raise it higher and wiggle it
around to entice him to rise up on his toes and stretch for it.
You’ll need to hold the treat higher than you do for “Beg,”
because you want him to stand up on his toes. But not
TOO high, or he’ll get frustrated and will simply bark at
you or give up.
2. At first, as soon as he extends himself even a
little bit, give him the treat and praise him.
Gradually coax him to stay up longer and dance
around more. Repeat, “Dance! Good boy!
Dance!” as he’s sashaying around.
3. As with begging, if the treat isn’t enough to lure your dog
into standing up on his toes, lift him up yourself. Once he’s up
on his toes, hold his paws very gently (don’t squeeze!) or drape
his front feet over your wrist and waltz around with him.
I sing the old Australian folk song “Waltzing
Matilda” when I dance with my dog. No, I
don’t feel silly at all. Well, okay, maybe a
little silly. 282 Circle (Spin)
WORD #86: “CIRCLE” (or “SPIN”)
All your dog has to do for this trick is to turn
around in a tight little circle. Many dogs get
so excited doing this trick that they chase their
tail! Here’s how to teach “Circle” With your dog standing in front of you, show him a treat. Say,
“Circle!” and lead his nose with the treat so that he turns in
a tight circle. When he has made one full revolution (so that
he’s facing you again), praise him and give him the treat.
When he will turn readily around being led by the treat, try
motioning him in a circle with your treat hand, without actually
putting it in front of his nose. “Circle!”
HINT: Always turn your dog in the same
direction, and make sure your hand motion is in
that SAME direction. 283 Kiss
WORD #87: “GIVE A KISS”
Some dogs love this trick, while others refuse to
do it. Many dogs will kiss their family, but not a
For those who like it, it’s easy to teach. Whenever your dog
licks your face on his own, say, “Give me a kiss!” You can
encourage him by dabbing a little peanut butter on your
Caution: YOU might think that being licked by a dog is
wonderful, but many people do not like to be licked. If you
share your home with such people, I recommend that you
don’t teach this trick, because it’s hard for a dog to
remember who he can kiss, and who he can’t. Remember
the value of consistent rules!
Also keep in mind that some people are allergic
to canine saliva and can end up with a runny
nose, runny eyes, or stuffed head from a simple
Word #88: “CATCH”
When giving a treat to your dog, you don’t
always have to hand it to him. You can toss it to
him and he can catch it in mid-air, like this.
Well, okay, maybe not exactly like this! 284
To teach your dog to catch a treat (or a toy): 1. Position yourself so you’re about a foot away from your dog.
Once he notices that you have a treat, he will naturally try to get
closer to you, so you may have to dance around a bit to create
some space between the two of you.
2. Hold up the treat so he sees it. Say, “Catch!” and toss the
treat gently toward his mouth.
3. Be ready to move! Because if it bonks him on the head or
falls to the ground, you need to grab it with your hand or cover
it with your foot before he can snatch it up.
He should only get the treat if he catches it. I
know, I know...this is easier said than done! Some dogs have excellent eye-mouth coordination and
learn this trick quickly. Other dogs take much longer. With
a reluctant dog, try kneeling right in front of him, holding
your hand only a few inches from his mouth and tossing it
from there. Aim right for his mouth, which may encourage
him to make a token grab for the oh-so-close treat.
Some dogs are really uncomfortable when
you toss anything toward them. If your dog
is intimidated by a tossed treat, this is not
the trick for him. Don’t frighten him. Back up
WORD #89: “BACK UP”
“Back up” is one of the most practical tricks because there are
many times when you want your dog to move backward a few
! He may have followed you across your property line or
through a gate. 285 ! He may be too close to a delicate project you’re working
on, or to a potentially dangerous object.
! He may be too close to something he might frighten, such
as your parakeet.
In all of these cases, moving backward a bit would put him in a
better or safer position. Here’s how to teach “Back up” 1. With your dog standing in front of you, show him this new
hand signal: Hold your hand about a foot in front of your
waist, palm facing you and fingers pointing toward the floor.
Now, keeping your wrist still, bend your hand and fingers away
from you and then back toward you in a SLOWLY repeated
flicking motion, as though shooing away a pesky critter.
Be sure to make this motion slowly.
A more vigorous flicking motion belongs to the
“Shoo!” command (Word #36). 2. As you motion him backward with your hand signal, say,
“Back up. Back. Back.” Take a few small steps toward him
and repeat, “Back up. Back. Back.” You’re trying to crowd him
so he’ll step back.
3. If he takes even one step backward, praise him and give
him a treat.
If he knows how to “Catch” (Word #88), you can toss
him the treat instead of handing it to him. Then you
don’t have to walk toward him, and he won’t be
tempted to run toward you. He can stay wherever he
backed up to, and still receive his treat. 286 4. If instead of backing up in a fairly straight line, he repeatedly
tries to sidestep you when you move toward him, practice in a
hallway or other narrow passageway where he doesn’t have
much room to maneuver. If the only direction he can go is back,
he’ll learn it more quickly.
5. Over time, you’ll want him to keep backing up as long as you
keep flicking your wrist. And you’ll want to cut down on
stepping toward him and rely more on your hand motion and
your voice to “back him up.”
6. If time goes by, and he still won’t respond without your
stepping toward him, hold a lightweight stick or fly swatter
vertically beside your leg. As you give him your hand signal
and tell him to “Back up,” raise the lower tip of the stick and
poke or tap him lightly on his foot or leg. That may do the trick!
WORD #90: “SAY YES”
What seems like a simple trick of your dog nodding his head
up and down can be made into a real performance if you’re
willing to play it up.
“Buffy, I think the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup this year,
don’t you? Say YES!”
And of course your dog nods her head in agreement!
This is an easy trick to teach – but not necessarily an easy one
to learn. That sounds cryptic, I know, but it just means that the
teaching technique is obvious – you move a treat up and down
so that your dog’s head does the same thing – and yet many
dogs won’t progress to doing it without the treat. Perhaps the
nodding motion is not natural enough to them. But it’s such a
great parlor trick that it’s worth a try. 287
Your signal for this trick is...wait for it...nodding
your own head up and down! Wave
WORD #91: “WAVE”
This is an extension of Shake Hands (Word #79). Once your
dog will place his paw in your palm, you can progress to
holding your palm outstretched and changing the command to
“Wave.” The familiar signal of your outstretched palm will
probably be enough for him to lift his paw, and as soon as he
does, praise him and give a treat.
Once he is reliably sitting still and lifting his paw, change your
hand signal from an outstretched palm (which belongs to Shake
Hands) to a more wiggly motion like an actual wave.
He will understand this transition more quickly if you offer
the new hand signal (the waving hand) right before the old
hand signal (the outstretched hand).
In other words, you “morph” the new signal into the
old to give him confidence that he is doing the right
thing and eventually you fade out the old signal
WORD #92: “WEAVE”
Wait, didn’t we just do this one? Not exactly. Word #91 was
WAVE. Word #92 is WEAVE. 288 In this trick, your dog does a figure-8 pattern through and
around your legs, like so...
From a starting position in front of you, he walks
between your legs, veers to his left and comes
around your right leg, then walks between your
legs again and veers to his right to come around
your left leg, ending up in front of you again.
A figure-8 pattern.
How do you get him to do this? With treats! You’re going to
lure him through the pattern with a treat held in front of his
nose. “Weave. Good boy. Weave.”
You’ll actually want two treats, one in each hand.
1. With the treat in your right hand, put that hand behind your
right thigh and then move your arm over to your buttocks so the
treat is visible to your dog between your legs. Use it to entice
your dog through your legs and around your right leg. When he
reaches his original position in front of you, give him the treat.
2. Now use the treat in your left hand to do the same thing on
the other side.
3. Keep encouraging him to “Weave” as you coax him through
the entire figure-8 pattern.
It’s possible to do this trick as part of the “Heel”
exercise (Word #74). However, your dog must
be able to heel off-leash because he needs to
weave through your legs as you both walk. Very
impressive! 289 Ch 19: Doggy Obstacle Course The sport of Dog Agility
Over the hurdles! Up the ramp! Across the plank! Down the
ramp! Through the tunnel! Up the climbing wall! Down the
climbing wall! Across the teeter-totter!
Is this a playground? Yes, a playground for dogs. Dog Agility
is an obstacle course for dogs – and dogs love it!
The next time you sign onto the Internet, check out this terrific
animation of Dog Agility:
www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/ebooks/agilityanimation.html In Dog Agility, your dog runs around the
obstacle course, off-leash. He climbs on, over,
and under the obstacles. You run beside him,
directing him toward the next obstacle. He must
follow your directions at all times.
The obstacles are arranged in different patterns.
Beginning dogs run on simple courses, while advanced
dogs run on more challenging courses. As you might expect, the best dogs for Agility are those who
are lively and athletic. However, Agility can be enjoyed even
by overweight dogs, and by deformed dogs like Dachshunds,
Bassets, Great Danes, and Pugs – IF you set the obstacles at a
very low height and simply WALK your dog through the
course, perhaps even on-leash. 290 Cautions!
! Be especially considerate of elderly dogs. Their eyesight
and balance may be failing and though they may be
enthusiastic about trying the course, you must constantly
monitor them for safety and be prepared to physically
! Dogs with health problems, such as heart disease or
arthritis or hip dysplasia, should be cleared by your vet.
Some of these dogs will be okay as long as you pick out a
few simple obstacles, set them at the lowest possible
height, and walk your dog over them on-leash.
! Puppies and adolescent dogs should NEVER be
allowed to run through an obstacle course full-speed or
jump over anything higher than six inches. Their bones
and joints are still growing and can be seriously,
perhaps irreparably, damaged by too much running or
jumping. What’s so great about Dog Agility? ! Agility provides a constructive physical outlet for your
dog’s energy and enthusiasm.
! Agility requires your dog to think and pay attention. He
must follow your directions, remember the names of the
different obstacles, and remember how to negotiate each
! Agility makes you and your dog true partners. You have
to work closely with your dog, which creates a healthy
bond between the two of you.
! Agility builds self-confidence. Learning to conquer
challenging obstacles and (if you go to a public agility
class) performing in a new environment in front of 291 strangers are valuable skills that will carry over to other
areas of your dog’s life.
If you own a timid or nervous dog, definitely try Agility
to boost his confidence and bring him out of his shell. You can compete in agility Agility is the fastest-growing dog sport in the United States.
You’ll often see it on TV on Animal Planet. Spectators love
watching the enthusiasm of the dogs as they race against the
In an Agility trial, each Owner-Dog
pairing runs through the course
individually. In each size division, the
winner is the pairing with the fastest time
and the fewest faults (penalties for
knocking over a jump, refusing an obstacle,
taking an obstacle out of turn, etc.)
To find agility clubs in your area, search Google online for
“agility clubs”. What happens in an Agility class? Your dog will be introduced to the obstacles, which will be set
The goal is to build his confidence by showing him that
the obstacles are really a piece of cake! Agility class resembles a gymnastics class. You walk or trot
your dog over an obstacle and the instructor and several
assistants stand alongside as “spotters” to make sure your dog
doesn’t fall. 292 Since a leash throws off his balance, it needs to come off very
soon so your dog can progress from walking and trotting to allout running.
Therefore, to take part in an Agility class, your dog must
be reliable off-leash. He must come back to you when you
call him, and he must not be aggressive toward people or
Very few corrections are used in an
Agility class. Instead, you entice your dog
with treats and praise, guide him with your
hands, and make the whole experience
light-hearted and fun. Once your dog learns the basic obstacles ! The height, length, or steepness of each obstacle will be
! Obstacles will be set up in sequence so your dog must do
several in a row instead of just one. In competition, a
course includes over a dozen obstacles.
! You’ll learn the voice commands and hand signals to
direct your dog around the course.
An Introductory or Beginner’s Class usually runs
eight to twelve weeks. Then you move on to
Intermediate and Advanced classes – and perhaps
on to competition. If I join an Agility class, do I have to compete in a trial? No, absolutely not! You and your dog can simply take the
classes and have fun with the training. 293 You can even skip the classes entirely and buy or build your
own obstacles at home.
However, obstacles can be dangerous if you don’t build them
solidly enough, or if you allow your dog to perform an obstacle
incorrectly. Obstacles can collapse. Dogs can fall or pull
muscles. Dogs can be injured doing Agility.
If you’re going to build your own obstacles, I strongly
recommend that you buy step-by-step plans that include exact
measurements. Or buy ready-made obstacles. Visit
www.affordableagility.com and www.agilitykits.com Now let’s look at eight basic obstacles.
Jumps and hurdles
WORD #93: “JUMP” (or “OVER”)
Jumps can be solid hurdles, or they can be bar jumps – two
vertical posts holding one or more horizontal bars.
You can build bar jumps out of plastic PVC pipe, which is
lightweight and inexpensive. However, white PVC is hard for
your dog to see, so buy some brightly colored contact paper,
cut it into strips, and wrap the colored strips around the white
pipe at spaced intervals.
Jumps are usually arranged in sequence – your
dog jumps several in succession. So build or
buy at least three jumps. 294
How high to set jumps You never set the height of a jump based on how high your dog
CAN jump – but on how high he SHOULD jump.
! Your dog needs to develop his muscles for jumping.
! He must learn when to take off and how to land safely.
! He must learn a comfortable rhythmic stride between
When you’re teaching your dog to jump properly, jump heights
should be set VERY LOW so he can concentrate on these
How low? One formula says to keep jumps set at the height of
your dog’s elbow – or 12 inches – whichever number is
Another formula says to keep jumps set at HALF the
height your dog would need to jump in competition.
Depending on which organization is running the trial, your
adult dog would need to jump, roughly:
HEIGHT OF DOG
Dog up to 10”
Dog 10” to 14”
Dog 14” to 18”
Dog 18” to 22”
Dog over 22” HEIGHT OF JUMP
Jump 8 to 12”
Jump 16 to 22”
Jump 20 to 24”
Jump 24 to 26” Even after he is a skilled and experienced jumper, your dog
should not practice at these competition heights or he’ll wear
out his joints. HALF his competition height is plenty enough
for regular practice. Keep those jumps low! 295 Extreme caution: puppies and adolescent dogs Most owners are not aware of how fragile the bones
and joints are in growing puppies and adolescent
dogs. Until their expanding growth plates have
stopped growing and are fully closed, jumping too
high can severely damage them, sometimes irreparably.
Ironically, it is the impact of LANDING after the jump that
causes the most stress on the bones and joints.
When do the growth plates close? It varies by breed. For most
breeds under 50 pounds, growth plates close around 9-12
months. For most breeds over 50 pounds, growth plates close
around 10-14 months.
Until their growth plates have closed,
a puppy should only jump
his height at the elbow, or 12 inches –
whichever number is LESS. Secure footing is essential More dogs are injured during their take-offs and landings than
during the actual jump. They either slip on a surface that’s too
slick or they come down hard on a surface that’s too rigid and
1. Make sure the area in front of the jump, where your dog will
be pushing off the ground, has secure footing.
2. Make sure the area behind the jump, where your dog will be
landing, has secure footing AND is soft and cushioned. 296 That means
! soft grass
! cushioned rubber matting
! cushioned carpeting securely fastened to the floor
Never allow your dog to jump on a bare wooden
or vinyl floor, or bare concrete. Teaching jumping 1. Place two or three jumps about ten feet apart. Set each jump
only a few inches high.
2. With your dog on leash, WALK over the series of jumps
with him. Reward with a treat when you’ve cleared the last
jump. Repeat your walk several times – and that’s enough for
3. Eventually you will TROT over the jumps with him. Then
4. Finally, run toward the jump with him, but at the last second
YOU veer around the side of the jump while he goes over
The major mistake made by impatient owners is to take
their dog off-leash too soon. An off-leash dog can easily
veer around the jump – and once this bad habit has been
introduced to his brain, it can be very difficult to cure. Be
patient! Keep your dog on-leash until his brain has formed
the rock-solid pattern that “Jump” always means OVER –
and never around. 297 Pause Table
WORD #94: “GO TABLE”
The Pause Table is a small platform, three feet square, set on
four sturdy legs 8 to 24 inches high, depending on your dog’s
size. You tell your dog “Go table!” and he jumps onto it,
whereupon you tell him to “Sit” or “Down.” He holds that
position for five seconds, then you send him on to the next
The Pause Table is a control exercise, so I don’t
recommend teaching it to puppies. Puppies should be
encouraged to move and play in agility. Too much control
too early will diminish their enthusiasm. Teaching your dog to jump on the table Make absolutely sure the table is covered with securelyfastened, non-slip carpeting or rubber matting.
1. Pat the table with your hand, tell your dog in a cheerful
voice, “Go TABLE!” and hold a treat above it. When your dog
jumps onto the table, place the treat ON the table so he can eat
2. Caution him, “Wait...wait...” (Word #32) while you count
silently to five. Then release him with “Okay!” (Word #12) and
encourage him to jump off the table. 298 3. After he has had some practice with this, place a treat ON the
table so he can see it. Take him by the collar and lead him about
six feet away. Turn him toward the table and encourage him,
“Go table!” Release his collar and run to the table with him. He
will probably beat you there and jump up to eat the treat, but if
he doesn’t, pat the table to encourage him to jump up. “Go
Each time you practice this, hang further back so he is
running to the table without you needing to run beside him.
Gradually extend your distance until you can send him to
the table from a good twenty feet away!
Remember to have him “Wait” for five seconds before
saying “Okay” and letting him jump off. At this point, he
doesn’t need to sit or lie down – he just needs to stay up
there without jumping off.
4. Place a low hurdle in his path. Tell him, “Go table!” and
make sure he jumps the hurdle on his way to the table. You
may need to put him on-leash at first.
5. Finally, instead of placing a treat on the table beforehand,
keep it in your pocket and simply send your dog to the table.
When he jumps up, looking for the treat, do the Emergency
Down. Raise your right arm high in the air and say, “Down!”
When your dog hits the deck, caution him to “Stay” and then
trot over and give him his treat.
Never reward your dog for jumping OFF the
table. If he jumps off before you reach him, say
“Ah-Ah! Go table!” Only give him his treat ON
the table so he learns to get up there and
stay put. 299 Dogwalk
WORD #95: “WALK IT”
The dogwalk is really a catwalk – but of course, as a matter of
pride, we can’t call it that!
It’s a wide balance beam (ten inches wide) with a ramp at each
end. The beam is three or four feet off the ground. The two
ramps and the central plank are each twelve feet long, so the
whole obstacle is 36 feet in total length. Your dog walks up one
ramp, walks along the central plank, and walks down the far
Stepping on and off the ramps at the very bottom is
mandatory. Your dog may not leap onto the Up ramp so
that he starts halfway up it, and he may not come
halfway down the Down ramp, then leap to the ground.
This is unsafe! In fact, it is so important that your dog step on and off each
ramp properly, that the first three feet of the Up ramp, and the
last three feet of the Down ramp are painted a bright color
(usually yellow). This area is called a contact zone. Your dog
must step on the contact zone on the way UP and on the way
DOWN. Teaching the dogwalk 1. Ignore the ramps at first. Simply lay the central plank flat on
the ground and encourage your dog to walk its length. Keep his
leash on to guide him.
2. Next, rest the plank on supports a few inches high. Keep the
leash nice and loose so he can balance himself as he crosses
the plank. 300 When you’re first teaching the dogwalk, don’t use any
commands. That sounds odd, but this is a new exercise and
if your dog is at all nervous, he may connect whatever word
you say with his fearful feelings. Then whenever you say
the word, his automatic response may be to become
So just walk your dog over the plank again and
again, with only praise and encouragement. Once
he shows understanding and confidence, begin
adding the phrase “Walk it.” 3. Next, your dog will learn the Down ramp. Prop one end of
the ramp on your Pause Table. Set the other end of the ramp on
Since the ramp is not affixed to anything, you’ll need a
helper to hold it securely in place. If it suddenly plunked to
the ground while your dog was walking on it, it would be
too low to hurt him physically, but psychologically, it
would be very bad and he might never want to walk on it
4. Place a target (for example, a paper plate or plastic lid) at the
bottom of the ramp, on the floor. Place a treat on the target and
position the target so that, when your dog stops to eat the treat,
his front feet will be on the floor while his back feet are still on
the ramp. This helps teach him to stay on the ramp all the way
to the bottom.
5. Once your dog has mastered going down to eat his treat, have
him go UP the ramp to a target ON the table. Then put a ramp
on each side of the table and have him go up one ramp and
down the other.
6. Now you’re ready to graduate to the real dogwalk. 301 If your dog is small, pick him up and place him halfway
down the Down ramp. Have him simply walk down to the
target (and treat!) at the bottom.
With larger dogs, place the pause table beside the Down
ramp at the point where the table is about level with the
ramp. Have your dog jump onto the table, then encourage
him to step onto the Down ramp and proceed down the
ramp to the target at the bottom.
Once your dog sees that he can walk DOWN this
“Great Big” dogwalk, he will be more confident about
going UP the ramp, across the central plank, and
down the other side. Doing the dogwalk with puppies Puppies can do the dogwalk IF they have enough
physical coordination to balance on the plank.
But I recommend focusing your puppy on the
CONTACT ZONES. Use a puppy-sized plank – a generous
24 inches wide and only six feet long. Paint the contact zones
(the first two feet and the last two feet) bright yellow. Leave the
center of the plank unpainted.
1. Prop some bricks or a cement block under each end of the
plank so it’s raised up a few inches off the ground.
2. Now teach your puppy that the contact zones are where the
treats are! Lure him onto one contact and have him sit there
while he eats a treat.
2. Have someone else show him a treat at the other end of the
plank. When he walks across, have him sit there and eat the
This teaches your puppy that the start and finish of
the dogwalk is where the action is! A-frame
WORD #96: “CLIMB IT”
The A-frame is a sloped climbing wall shaped like the letter A,
with a peak about 5 or 5-1/2 feet high. Your dog goes up one
side of the A and down the other side.
Each incline is three feet wide, and eight or nine feet long. The
inclines are hinged together with chain to form the A shape.
Narrow wooden slats nailed horizontally onto each incline
provide secure footing as your dog scrambles up one side, over
the peak, and down the other side.
As with the dogwalk, the objective of the A-frame is not
just to scale it – but to touch those contact zones at the
bottom of each incline. Your dog is not allowed to leap onto
the UP incline above the yellow contact zone – nor can he
jump off the DOWN incline after coming only partway
down. Teaching the A-frame 1. Lower the A-frame until it is nearly flat, with only a very
slight incline that your dog can literally walk over. Use the
new command “Climb it.”
2. After several such walk-overs, adjust the chains to make the
angle steeper, which boosts the peak to two or three feet high.
Now teach the contact zones, just as you did with the dogwalk.
This means using a target and treat to encourage your dog to
walk all the way to the bottom of the incline, rather than
jumping off halfway down. 303 To teach contact zones, place your small- or medium-sized
dog halfway down the Down incline and have him walk
down to a target at the bottom.
With larger dogs, place the pause table beside the Down
incline and have your dog jump onto the table, step onto the
incline, and proceed down the ramp to the target at the
Remember to position the target so when your dog eats
the treat, his front feet are on the ground while his rear
feet are still on the incline. 4. Gradually place your dog higher and higher on the Down
incline so that he is coming down further each time. Soon he
will be near the top, coming all the way down. Then place him
on the peak itself. Then on the Up incline just beyond the peak,
so he has to clamber over the peak and then down.
5. Finally, he will be ready for a run by. Put his leash on and
lead him about ten feet from the A-frame. Focus his attention
on the obstacle – make sure he is looking right at it. Encourage
him to “Climb it!” and run with him toward the A-frame. Make
sure he commits to it (is clearly focused on the incline and
heading up it) before you run around the side to meet him on
his way down. Keep that leash nice and loose so you don’t
throw him off-balance.
The major problem with the A-frame is impatient owners
making the peak too high. For virtually all practice
sessions, the peak should stay at four feet high. On
a steeper slope, your dog has to fight gravity coming
down, which makes him more likely to start jumping off.
Bad! Puppies should only do the A-frame set at TWO
feet high. They should be able to run over it
without needing to “climb” at all. As with the
dogwalk, focus on contacts – your puppy gets treats
on the contact zones. 304 Tunnel
WORD #97: “GO TUNNEL”
You’ve seen children’s play tunnels. Most of them are made of
very cheap and flimsy vinyl, but Toys R Us® sells (or used to
sell) a nice nylon tunnel that’s higher quality yet still
inexpensive. It’s only six feet long, but if you buy two of them
and hook them together, it makes a pretty good dog agility
tunnel for smallish and midsized dogs. It even folds up into a
compact hoop for easy storage.
You can also buy a regulation tunnel from an agility
equipment manufacturer. I recommend a 15-foot tunnel. Much
shorter, and you’ll find it difficult to bend the tunnel into the
traditional “U” or “S” shape. For variety, you can make short homemade
tunnels out of trash cans with the bottom cut out, or
out of open-ended refrigerator cartons. 305
Teaching the tunnel 1. Compress the tunnel until it’s only three feet long. Have a
helper hold your dog by the collar at one end of the tunnel
while you crouch at the opposite end. Stick your head inside
and call, “Jake, here I am, Jake!” Wave a treat inside the tunnel
to get his attention. You want him to peer in and make eye
contact with you. When he does, call him, “Jake, come!” If he
even sticks his head in, encourage him, “Yay! Good boy!”
2. Once he’s all the way in, your helper should block the
entrance so your dog can’t suddenly change his mind and try to
back out. Once he’s in, whatever you have to do, he MUST
come out the other side. When he reaches you, he gets praise
and a treat.
3. Once your dog is going through without hesitation, gradually
extend the length of the tunnel. Be sure to brace it securely
along both sides so it can’t roll while your dog is inside, which
could really spook him.
4. Finally, he will be ready for a run by. Put his leash on and
lead him about ten feet from the tunnel. Focus his attention on
the obstacle. “See the tunnel? Go tunnel!” and RUN with him
toward the tunnel. Make sure he commits to it (has fully entered
it at a good pace) before you run around the side to meet him on
his way out.
The most common problem with the tunnel is when
your dog changes his mind and comes out the way
he went in. Once established, this bad habit is
difficult to break. The moral is: When teaching the
tunnel, always use a helper who can block the
entrance! 5. When your dog is completely confident about negotiating a
straight tunnel, curve it into a “U” shape. This is
psychologically difficult for many dogs because they can’t see
any light at the other end. They have to enter the dark end and
trust that there will be an exit. 306 6. Finally, curve the tunnel into an “S” shape.
Tunnels are perfect obstacles for puppies, and
also for adult dogs with physical limitations who
can’t jump or climb well. Chute
WORD #98: “GO CHUTE”
The chute is simply a collapsed tunnel. One end is an open
barrel, two feet long, which turns into a twelve-foot length of
lightweight fabric material spread out on the ground. Your dog
enters the open barrel and dashes under the fabric, lifting it up
and making it ripple as he runs under it and out the far end.
For some dogs, the chute can be intimidating, because
when they peer into the open barrel, the “tunnel” peters out
into the ground. Your dog must learn through experience
that he really can push his way under the fabric and emerge
at the other end.
Other dogs, like my dog Buffy, love the sensation of
running under the fabric. In fact, the chute is her all-time
favorite obstacle. (These are often the same dogs who
love burrowing under the bedcovers!) Making a chute Like other obstacles, chutes can be bought, or made at home.
For the barrel part, you could use a heavy-duty plastic or rubber
trash can with the solid end sawed off. Sand or tape any jagged
edges, or attach foam padding all around the entrance. Attach
non-skid rubber strips or matting inside the bottom of the barrel
for secure footing. Finally, make sure the barrel rests in a sturdy
cradle for stability. 307 For the chute fabric, you might sew plain bed sheets together,
but the best material, by far, is midweight nylon. It’s durable,
water-resistant, and doesn’t stretch or twist when dogs run
through it. Don’t use stretchy fabrics such as knit, or superlightweight fabrics such as ripstop nylon. Where it attaches to
the barrel, the fabric should be six feet wide, while the free end
flares out to eight feet wide. You can secure the fabric to the
barrel with wrap-around bungee cords. Teaching the chute 1. First your dog should simply run through the barrel, so fold
up the fabric around the barrel so it doesn’t block your dog in
any way. As you did when teaching the tunnel, have a helper
hold your dog by the collar at one end of the barrel, while you
call him through the other end.
2. When you begin extending the fabric, hold it up in the air and
wide open with your hands at first, so your dog can still see you
at the other end. He simply has to run through the open fabric to
3. Continue to extend the chute until your dog is running
through the full twelve feet when it’s wide open and held up off
the ground. Then begin lowering your end of the chute when
your dog is about three-quarters of the way through. He will
feel it touch his shoulders and back as he runs through the last
quarter. As he gains confidence that this “thing” is not going to
smother him, lower the chute when he is halfway through, then
one-quarter of the way through, and so on.
4. Finally he will be ready for a run by from about ten feet
away. Focus your dog on the chute. “See chute? Go chute!”
Make sure he commits to the chute before you release his
collar. As always, have a helper standing by to block the
entrance to the barrel so your dog can’t change his mind. 308 Tire jump
WORD #99: “GO TIRE”
The tire jump, which is a tire suspended off the ground
between supports, is a combination of a jump and a tunnel. The
opening of the tire is 20-24 inches wide, and its height off the
ground is whatever height your dog has to jump for other
Any hoop can form the tire. If you use a real car tire, tape it
closed all around so your dog can’t catch his foot in the slit
when he jumps through.
The trickiest part of homemade tire construction is making
it adjustable. You need to set the tire low for teaching
purposes, and raise it only an inch or two at a time until
you reach full height.
To make the tire adjustable, handy people have
used chains, airline cable, hooks, eyelets, and
cleats. Or you can just buy one from an agility
equipment manufacturer such as
www.affordableagility.com or www.agilitykits.com Teaching the tire jump First you need to convince your dog that he can indeed fit
through this strange circle!
1. Hang the tire only a couple of inches off the ground.
2. Have a helper hold your dog by the collar on one side of the
tire while you go to the other side. Establish eye contact with
your dog through the opening of the tire, pat the bottom of the
tire, and encourage your dog to hop through. 309 3. Once he is coming through without hesitation with you on
the opposite side of the tire, progress to run bys from about ten
feet away, where you run with your dog to the tire and send him
through while you go around it. Focus your dog on the tire first.
“See the tire? Go tire!” Make sure he commits to the tire before
you release his collar.
4. Raise the height only an inch or two at a time.
The major mistake with the tire jump is raising the height
too quickly. The tire is a difficult obstacle that requires
absolute precision, especially for larger dogs who just
barely fit through the opening. You must go slowly with
this obstacle. If you rush your dog by raising the height too quickly, he will
hesitate at some crucial point, doubting his ability to “hit the
bulls-eye” that high up. If he loses his nerve at the last second,
he will take the easy route by ducking under the tire or
squeezing between the tire and the frame – and you will have
pushed him into a bad habit that might be difficult to break.
So go slowly. Raise the height only an inch at a time, and
work on that height for several sessions before raising it
another inch or two.
5. Now, once you have the tire at full height, leave it there.
Yes, this is different advice than I’ve given for other
obstacles! Usually I recommend keeping obstacles low so
you don’t put stress on your dog’s bones and joints.
The tire jump is different. The tire jump requires such
precision that once your dog has learned how to launch himself
through the circle at a particular height, he needs regular
practice at that same, consistent height so he doesn’t forget
where the bull’s-eye is, so to speak. 310
Of course, if he’s not going to compete in agility,
simply choose a low height that will be easier
on his bones and joints – and set it there all
the time. The tire jump requires physical and mental
coordination that puppies should not be asked for.
It’s too risky when their body is still developing. If
you’re going to do the tire jump with a puppy, set it
at only a couple of inches off the ground. Teeter-totter
WORD #100: “GO TEETER”
The teeter-totter (seesaw) is another tough obstacle.
The teeter is a single plank ten inches wide and twelve feet
long. Like a children’s seesaw, it’s set on a hinged support so it
goes up and down at either end. It’s only two feet off the
ground, so this not a high obstacle – its difficulty is in its
movement, which most dogs find unsettling.
To negotiate the teeter, your dog walks up the plank to the
pivot point (tipping point) near the center of the board.
Then he creeps forward until his weight tips the other end
of the plank down so he can walk down to the bottom.
Like the dogwalk and A-frame, the teeter has
contact zones at each end of the plank that
must be touched. 311 To keep the teeter from banging and startling
your dog as it hits the ground, attach a strip of
foam or rubber to each end of the plank, along
the bottom edge. You’ll need helpers You will need at least one helper to teach this obstacle –
! One helper stands on one side of your dog to prevent him
from jumping off the side of the teeter when it starts to
! You stand on the other side of your dog, holding his
! Your second helper holds the far end of the teeter firmly
in the air so the ramp won’t move when your dog makes
his first trip up the incline. You don’t want to scare him
on his first trip! 312
Teaching the teeter 1. Lead your dog by the collar up the ramp. When you reach the
pivot point, STOP and give him a treat around the center of the
plank where his weight would normally begin to tip the board
The pivot point is different for each dog. The smaller the
dog, the farther past center he will need to go before his
weight is enough to begin tipping the board.
2. As he chews his treat, your helper should slowly lower the
far end of the teeter to the ground. (Your other helper should be
ready to steady your dog in case he tries to leap off when the
board begins to move.) Hopefully, eating the treat will hold
your dog’s attention so that he hardly notices the board moving.
3. Once the ramp is resting firmly on the ground, walk your dog
calmly down and off the ramp.
Repeat this simple, confidence-building walk-over many
times. Don’t use any commands other than encouraging
words. For many dogs, the teeter is the obstacle that
becomes their nemesis because they have a scary initial
experience. So take this obstacle slowly and don’t attach
its name yet. 4. When your dog is comfortable walking up the ramp to the
pivot point and eating his treat, begin adding the phrase, “TIP
it!” to cue your dog that the plank will begin to move at this
particular point. 313 5. Eventually it will be time for your dog to start tipping the
board himself. Have him take one step past the pivot point as
your helper lowers the ramp only a little bit – as though your
dog’s step had actually pushed it down that far. Stop right at
that point and give your dog a treat for his successful step.
Now have him take another step – accompanied by another
slight lowering of the board – and accompanied by another
treat. Step by step, your dog should come down the ramp
with your helper guiding the end of the teeter so it doesn’t
come down too fast.
Your dog should get lots of treats on the teeter,
which will build his confidence and enjoyment of
the obstacle. You still have work to do on this obstacle and I recommend
getting help from a dedicated Dog Agility book, because this
can be a tricky obstacle. But soon you will be able to progress
to a walk-by and then a run-by. That’s when you start attaching
the phrase “Go teeter!” A beginner’s teeter – good for puppies, too For puppies (and sensitive adult dogs who are intimidated by
the big teeter), you can build a beginner’s teeter. Instead of a
plank set two feet off the ground and a pivot point that tips the
teeter sharply, you place the plank about six inches off the
ground, resting atop a wooden sphere that’s been cut in half.
This rounded fulcrum gently rocks the teeter toward the ground.
You can also place a three-foot-square piece of plywood
atop a tennis ball. Play with your puppy on this moving
platform by luring him on and off with treats. His
confidence will build as he discovers that the rocking board
is fun and harmless! 314 Everyday obstacles – use it or lose it!
The world is filled with obstacles for your dog. Look around
for them. A large boulder he can jump onto. A fallen log he can
walk across. Playground equipment at the park. Neighborhood
kids on their hands and knees, bunched up next to each other,
arching their backs and forming a human “tunnel” your small
dog can run through!
Show your dog how to traverse:
! stairs (including those with open risers)
! a narrow foot bridge
! railroad tracks
! manhole covers
! vinyl and tile floors
I’ve seen dogs walking along the sidewalk suddenly bolt
sideways because their foot touched a metal manhole cover.
Some dogs raised on wall-to-wall carpeting don’t know how to
walk on slippery vinyl. A Doberman I knew refused to walk
across a wooden or tile floor because he didn’t like the clicking
sound his toenails made.
Then there was the young Rottweiler arriving at his first
agility trial. He was clearly happy to be there, ready to show
off his abilities to “Jump!” and “Climb it!” and “Walk it!”
Except that he balked at walking up the half-dozen stairs
leading to the exhibition floor! His frustrated owner spent
the next ten minutes trying to coax her 120-pound dog
upstairs. “He’s never seen stairs before,” she admitted
The little things we forget to teach! 315 Get your dog out into the world. He
needs lots of experiences so he learns to
trust that anything you ask him to do is
possible and safe.
Seeing the world stimulates his brain, as
well as his body. A stimulated brain develops new connections
between brain cells, and dogs with lots of connections between
brain cells think more quickly – they actually become smarter
and more capable of figuring things out. And a stimulated brain
has a greater ability to grow new cells, which is especially
reassuring as your dog ages.
So help your dog develop a healthy brain. Take him out
into the world and let him PRACTICE the vocabulary
words you’re teaching him! Challenging activities your dog can participate in
Thirty minutes of participating in a mentally challenging
activity will make your dog happier (and smarter) than a boring
two-hour walk. Dogs love mental exercise!
Musical freestyle (doggy dancing)
Weight pulling 316 Find out about these sports by Googling them on the Internet.
You might start at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_sports
Dogs who participate in challenging activities
become smarter, happier, more confident, and
better-behaved. Help your dog be the best he can
be. Have fun with him! 317 Ch 20: Dog Care Wisdom: 11 Things You Must Do
Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy You might think you already know how to raise your dog –
what to feed him, when to get his shots, when to have him
spayed or neutered, how to prevent fleas, how to recognize
symptoms of health problems, and so on.
The problem is
When it comes to raising your
dog, most of what you’ve read
or been told to do is based on
MISINFORMATION. For example, you may have read or been told...
! That you should feed your dog a premium dog food like
Science Diet or Iams.
! That you should feed your dog kibble because it’s good
for his teeth.
! That your puppy needs three or four shots for
distemper, parvovirus, coronavirus, leptospirosis, and
! That your adult dog needs annual booster shots.
! That your dog needs to be wormed regularly. 318 ! That you should control fleas with a flea collar.
! That you should neuter your dog at six months old.
! That you should choose a vet based on how friendly he
is, or how happy your dog is to see him, or how
reasonable his fees are.
ALL OF THIS IS INCORRECT. That’s why I wrote Dog Care Wisdom: 11 Things You Must
Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.
! To tell you WHICH THINGS you’ve read about or heard
about, when it comes to raising your dog, that are
! And to give you the RIGHT information about raising
your dog the RIGHT way, an 11-Step Health Care
Program that will keep your dog healthy and happy for a
lifetime. In Dog Care Wisdom ! You’ll learn how to feed your dog. I’ll recommend the
best foods – and tell you which foods are the worst.
! You’ll learn that vaccination requirements have changed
drastically – for example, your dog no longer needs
annual booster shots. Most vets won’t tell you this
because they make money giving vaccinations. I’ll tell
you which vaccinations your dog really needs and
which ones are a waste of money – or harmful. 319 ! You’ll learn how to keep fleas and ticks off your dog –
I’ll even name products you shouldn’t use.
! You’ll learn how to keep your dog safe. I’ll tell you
about 25 safety hazards in your home and yard, and 20
things that are probably in your house right now that can
cause itchy skin and allergies in dogs.
! You’ll learn how to groom your dog – how to bathe him,
clean his eyes, ears, and teeth, clip his nails, and trim or
clip his coat.
! I’ll tell you how to decide whether you should breed your
dog, the advantages and disadvantages of neutering, how
old your dog should be for neutering – and why neutering
at the wrong age is a mistake.
! You’ll learn how to find the right vet. All the effort
you’ve put into keeping your dog healthy can be undone
in the blink of an eye by the wrong vet. I’ll tell you
exactly what questions you should ask your vet to
determine whether he’s any good.
Good health over a lifetime doesn’t just happen
by luck. What you do NOW will affect your dog’s
health for years to come. 320 When you follow the complete health care program in Dog
Care Wisdom, you will be doing everything you can for your
dog to live a healthier, happier, longer life. You’ll avoid
unnecessary vet expenses, too! Honest. You will. To purchase Dog Care Wisdom: 11 Things You Must Do
Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy,
visit my website at
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This document was uploaded on 07/23/2010.
- Spring '09