Guest Post: I’ve A Confession to Make

Reprinted with permission from Brian Monson, Adventures with Wolf Packs. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced elsewhere in any form. Copyright March 16, 2018.

I’ve been doing this for long enough now that it’s about time I stop pretending and own up to the truth – I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to training our dogs. I never have, and I probably never will.

Raleigh and Iggy are the first dogs that are my personal responsibility, and the only dogs I’ve ever tried to train. I haven’t come from a long line of dog trainers, I’ve never even known a breeder, and the only thing for which I could’ve been a Junior Handler was an Xbox controller.

Having no background in anything related to dog training can be quite intimidating at times. It’s an insecurity I carry with me every time we go to a new class, trial, or other event with our dogs. Usually it seems like everyone else has been training for decades, and their dogs all have every letter of the alphabet attached to the end of their names, twice over. And the hardest part is knowing that my ignorance is probably just as obvious to everyone else as it is to me.

The rational part of me knows that I shouldn’t let it bother me. Everyone has to start somewhere, everyone makes mistakes, and we’ve found that the people with lots of experience are perfectly friendly and welcoming. Even still, it’s hard not to feel like I don’t belong sometimes.

But that’s the whole reason we started this blog – to help others overcome their reservations as well and try being more active with their dogs. It’s been incredibly rewarding to have so many new experiences and grow closer to our dogs, and we enjoy sharing that with others.

I know we’ve made lots of mistakes along the way, and I’m sure we’ll continue to make more. We just have to make sure we keep learning from them. In fact, one of the most valuable lessons we’ve learned about training dogs stems from one of our many mistakes.

Raleigh was the first dog that we adopted. We knew we wanted a more active dog to match our lifestyle, and Raleigh seemed like the perfect fit; she was sweet and affectionate, had limitless energy, and had a naturally playful attitude.

When we brought her home she was 9 months old, but had never lived outside of a shelter. Therefore, the stairs from the garage up into our townhouse were her first new experience. She was naturally apprehensive at first, but after coaxing her with treats she conquered both going up and down the stairs with grace and ease.

All of a sudden, 9 months of pent-up puppyhood energy burst forth into our townhouse. She had decided that the only thing in the entire world that’s more fun than going up the stairs is coming back down again. For the next thirty minutes, our home was shaken and stirred by the sounds of Raleigh plowing up and down the stairs at full sprint.

At first everything seemed fine – she was a young dog in a new environment, after all. She needed the opportunity to let out some of her energy! However, after a while it started to seem like she was a bit out of control, so I decided to stop her. When I finally got ahold of her, she seemed to be pretty far-gone. Eyes: fully dilated. Mouth: frothing. We wanted a high-energy dog, and we definitely got one.

That same energy carried over into general housetraining. We tried to stick with the reward-based training that seems to be the consensus among folks on the Internet. You know what I’m talking about – the training style that says if you ask your dog to do the right thing nicely enough, they’ll eventually do it. And when the dog finally does the right thing, you unload a dump truck full of treats into its mouth.

This carried on for weeks with no progress. Her energy levels were so high that she was continuously distracted, and rarely able to pay attention to anything we were saying or doing. We would continue to try commands that we had been saying for weeks, and she never once showed any level of comprehension.

When she just-so-happened to do the right thing we would tell her she was a good girl, give her treats and repeat the command to help her associate the command with the action. Although she loved her treats and was perfectly motivated by them, she was never able to understand that she was being rewarded for something that she did.

As our frustration kept building, she kept acting up and doing bad things, all the while not knowing that there were good things expected of her. Finally, my frustration came to a head and I blurted out a firm, “NO!”

I had broken the dog training dogma of positive reinforcement. But, that moment proved to be revelatory for Raleigh.

Suddenly she seemed to understand that the words we were saying indeed had significance and that she needed to pay attention. We noticed that she was finally listening for commands and trying to understand. She wanted to please us all along, but never understood that doing certain things made us displeased.

The solution for Raleigh was that in order for her to understand what she was supposed to do, she first needed to understand what she was not supposed to do. Obviously we still rewarded good behavior as one should, but we found that correcting misbehaviors as well helped her hone in on the right choices.

Six months later, we found ourselves welcoming our newest bundle of joy into the Wolfpack – Iggy. He was everything we had hoped for: playful, energetic, and most importantly, intelligent. Even as a bumbling puppy, he had a proclivity for observation. His little eyes were always darting about, soaking up as much information as possible from his surroundings.

When it came time to housetrain him, we couldn’t help but feel a little bit cocky. Considering the battle we had gone through to teach Raleigh, we thought we had found a bulletproof formula for training.

Iggy’s intelligence, mixed with his desire to please and his love of treats made training him a breeze. We found it only took a few repetitions for him to grasp an idea, and he was always listening for keywords.

As to be expected, he did slip up sometimes and misbehave. And when that happened we applied the Raleigh formula – reward the good behaviors and correct the misbehaviors. We would very firmly tell him, “NO.”

Something was different this time though. Whereas Raleigh responded well to these corrections, Iggy responded a little too well.

He definitely understood that he did something wrong. In fact, he understood so much that he wouldn’t return to the location where the dark deed occurred for days after. His tail would go straight down, and stay there for hours. It’s not that he was afraid, but rather that he was so disappointed in himself that he thought the only solution was to banish himself to Bad Boy Island, where he would live out the rest of his days. No amount of reassurance could pull him out of his pit of despair.

The important lesson that we learned from this was that you can’t train all dogs the same way. While some dogs thrive off of positive reinforcement alone, others may need a balance of positive reinforcement and correction to fully understand. You may find that it can be a learning curve to understand what’s best for your dog. However, if you remember that training styles should be adapted to fit the needs of the dog being trained, you and your dog will not only succeed in training, but also strengthen your bond.

The Wolfpack consists of “an ordinary couple with two extraordinary dogs.” Raising dogs has been more of a challenge than the Monsons could have ever imagined. They strive to keep their dogs involved in a variety of activities and to give them the best life possible. At their blog, they tell the stories of all of the triumphs, challenges, successes, and failures as of their wolfpack life.


Guest Post: The Art of Reward

It’s a hot, sunny, summer day at the beach. Not a cloud in the sky. The waves gently lap the shore, gulls call to each other. The sun is beating on you and you’re thirsty. You’re waiting for your friend. Finally you see them walking down the beach carrying a gift bag. “Sorry I’m late!” they call. “This is for you!” In the bag is a handmade wool sweater. “I knitted it myself! It is really warm and thick.” “Thank you!” you say, as you think …wow, nice sweater, weird, but nice. I don’t really like wool… and I’m not that keen on the color blue… why wouldn’t she just show up with a cold drink for me instead?

You’re stranded on a deserted island and your food and fresh water supply is dwindling fast. A very promising looking bag has washed up on the beach. Eagerly you run to it hoping for food, fresh water or a communication device. Inside are oodles of hundred-dollar bills. Drat!

Silly stories? Sure they are, but they illustrate an important point. Not all rewards are created equal. Things that are rewarding in some circumstances are not necessarily rewarding in other situations. What one person finds rewarding can be of zero interest to another. We are all different and so are our pups.

So how does this relate to us training our puppies with rewards?

When we work with rewards we need to make sure the rewards we choose are actually rewarding to the puppy. In essence this means that the puppy is the one who should be determining what we are using.

How do we do this? We need to observe our pups and learn their preferences. We need to get creative and have fun with rewards. We need to keep a variety or rewards on hand and aim to have plenty of fun surprises for our pup’s great performances! We must master the art of reward!

a hand drawn illustration of a puppy with a bubble above his head. In the bubble are four activities: a ball bouncing, a dog dock diving, a puppy getting a belly rub and a squirrel under a tree. The caption to the right the puppy “Hmm... what do I LOVE?" and below that "I know - let's go shopping for a pink puppy dress!"

Observe and Get Creative

Rewarding your pup with food is great as long as the pup loves the food. Some dogs prefer toys to food, others prefer a chance to chase something, greet a person or get a good belly rub or massage. What my dog finds reinforcing may be very different from what your dog finds reinforcing.

One of my favorite rewards for Fen is to let her chase a squirrel (as long as the squirrel has a good escape route) that I have called her away from. She has to come away beautifully twice and then on the third time she might get to chase. Not always, but sometimes.

This is an example of watching and seeing what my dog loves and using it to reward her great recalls. It’s a win for me, for Fen and for the squirrel that always gets away, although the squirrel might not agree.

Another example of observation is Fen’s response to me clapping and cheering for her when she makes a great catch while we are playing ball. Her body posture changes, it lifts and she runs back to me a bit faster and showier, she looks so happy about her accomplishment and really appears to love the cheering on. Try cheering and clapping for your puppy the next time you are playing a game with them. Do they seem to respond to the cheering in a positive way?


What’s in your treat pouch? Our rule of thumb is a minimum of 4 different types of tasty food treats. Does your pup love the food in your treat pouch? If not it is time to experiment and see what your puppy gets excited about. Tasty pieces of cheese, turkey, hotdog or smoked duck are all usually good bets for pups that are food motivated. Kibble tossed with a tiny bit of bacon fat can be irresistible. The challenge is to get creative and have some really ‘high value’ puppy currency available for those times when you need it.

What’s in your puppy’s toy box? Is there a fun array to choose from? If the toys are always put away after play it helps keep them interesting to your puppy. It is really fun to let your puppy pick which toy she wants to play with during a play/training session. Put a few in a line on the floor and then see which one your pup picks up.

One of my students made me laugh when he told me that he buys all these nice toys but what his dog really loves to play with are old deflated balls and other things she finds in the trash. Good for him for being a keen observer of his dog’s preferences!

An Invitation!

We invite you to experiment and get creative with what you use for rewards with your pup. Have fun with it. Once you have a good sense of your dog’s reward preferences you’ll be surprised to find what a treat this is for you. Training, playing and working together becomes much more successful. You’ll both start having a blast!

Reprinted with permission from Ultimate Puppy. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright June 2017.

Sydney Bleicher, director of training, is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner. Sydney owns and operates Freshpuppy in Toronto. Inspired by Dr. Ian Dunbar, the noted animal behaviorist and best-selling author, Bleicher’s practice focusing on early socialization and prevention. Sydney is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She has been coaching all sorts of folks and their dogs since 1992. She has been featured on Breakfast Television, Animal House Calls and has written for Bark Magazine and Riverside Quarterly.


Guest Post: Tell Me What You Want (What You Really Really Want)*

Reprinted with permission from Upward Hound Dog Training. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright June 2017.

What would it take for me to get you to do something? Well, you’re thinking, it would depend on what that something is. OK, let’s say I wanted you to:

  • Drink a glass of tomato juice
  • Run 3 miles in flip flops
  • Clean out the garage
  • Give up coffee for a month
  • Lose 10 pounds
  • Play Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 (on an actual cello)
  • Swim the English channel

Those happen to be in the order I would rank those behaviors, from easiest to hardest. You’d probably rank those behaviors differently. Go ahead, rank them in your mind.

Now consider what somebody would have to give you in order for you to do each thing.

  • $10,000?
  • A date with George Clooney? (Oh wait, he’s married.)
  • A sincere thank-you?
  • A Louis Vuitton purse?
  • A pizza?
  • A bottle of 30-year-old, single malt scotch?
  • A new car?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. I drink tomato juice just because I like it. A new car would probably entice me to spend months learning to play Bach on a cello. But a Louis Vuitton purse? I couldn’t pick one out of a pile; they’re meaningless to me. And sorry, nothing would entice me to swim the English channel. Deep, cold water, strong current. Just no.

This is why trainers say that some behaviors are more “expensive” than others. It’s behavioral economics. We do it instinctively with each other, with our children, and in the workplace. Only we don’t always do it with dogs.

Consider the stuff you’d like your dog to do. Here are a few behaviors I’d like out of my dog Bruce, from cheapest to most expensive for him:

  • Bring his ball to me and drop it
  • Allow me to take away his bone
  • Wait at doorways
  • Lie quietly in his bed while we eat dinner
  • Offer me his paw for nail trimming
  • Come to me when called, even away from a running deer
  • Drop that bunny he just caught

Try ranking those behaviors in terms of difficulty for your dog, or come up with your own list of behaviors you’d like to teach or maintain. The list changes drastically from dog to dog, and also changes over time as their skills improve and your priorities change.

Now, consider what you’re offering your dog in exchange for these behaviors.

If you’ve ever been told that your dog should perform for you out of respect or a desire to please, or for a sweet that’s a good boy!, I don’t blame you for believing it. It’s part of our mythology about dogs and what motivates them. But I bet if you’re relying on this one-size-fits-all reward strategy, one of two things is going wrong:

  1. You get the easy behaviors, no problem. But you get lackluster performance on the hardest behaviors. He will only come to you when he’s bored, or after much cajoling and treat-can shaking. Or you’ve simply given up on him ever being house trained. Maybe he’s just stubborn, you think.
  2. Your dog must be threatened, scolded or forced into performing. He must be held down for nail trims. Or you must use your Drill Sergeant voice and swat him to keep him from jumping on visitors. Or he wears a prong collar on walks to prevent him from dragging you across the park after squirrels.

(For the record, most dog owners I know don’t like using training methods or equipment that hurt or frighten; they just don’t see any other way to change their dog’s behavior.)

Again, it’s behavioral economics. Your dogs, like the rest of the world’s living breathing beings, are doing cost-benefit analyses all the time – what’s in it for me? – and you can leverage that to your benefit.

Make a list of the things that your dog loves most in life, from it’s kinda nice to it blows his mind. Don’t hold back. After all, we’re going for some very expensive behaviors. Here’s Bruce’s list:

  • Good boy!
  • Kibble
  • Zukes
  • Going for a walk in the woods
  • Peanut butter
  • Bully stick
  • Steak or cheese
  • Canned cat food

Choose a few rewards from your list that are easy to use. Payment has to come immediately after the behavior to have an effect, so most dog trainers go with food. It’s easy to carry, easy to dispense, and it’s at the top of most dogs’ lists.

(I’ve met a few dogs who would sell their souls for a ball throw, but that reward isn’t suited to every situation.)

For Bruce, we used steak when first training him to hold his paw still for a nail trim but, now that he’s good at it, we’ve shifted priorities and reserve the big guns for when we ask him to curb his prey drive. He’s always going to get mind-blowingly great stuff when he does a U-turn away from a running deer.

Remember, you get what you pay for.

* Thank you, Spice Girls, for this fabulous line.

Casey McGee is proud to be a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). This is a national certification demonstrating thatCasey has passed rigorous standards for knowledge and skills in science-based dog training and that she stays current on the science and techniques of the dog-training profession through continuing education. Also a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT), Casey studied with Malena DeMartini and is a graduate of her intensive training program. Finally, Casey is an honors graduate of Jean Donaldson’s prestigious Academy for Dog Trainers, where she earned her Certificate in Training and Counseling (CTC). At the Academy, Casey developed a special interest in fear and aggression, and dedicated herself to using the training methods with the best track record for meaningful behavior change.

Guest Post: Obedience, friend or foe?

By Marcy Stewart

Clothier quotejpg

Start your puppy off right.  Training should begin in puppyhood and will always be something you do throughout the dog’s life. Here are some tips for creating obedience as a lifelong habit:

  • Start with a good kindergarten puppy class that is aimed at teaching your puppy to learn from you. Make sure the class teaches the basic commands, such as loose leash walking, sit, leave it and come to name a few.  
  • A puppy play group can be used along with a puppy kindergarten class, but not as the sole means for socialization and training.   
  • As the pup moves from young puppyhood into adolescence (around 8 months of age), your young dog may have a working knowledge of basic commands and your expectations. The dog will need consistent rules and eventually an understanding of the consequences to breaking those rules. This does not mean you become ugly, or angry. It means you remain firm, and consistent. There will be times when the young dog will need reminding of how to act in a particular situation. Take this opportunity to remind the dog that what they are doing is unacceptable.  But don’t get caught reacting to unwanted behaviors. Instead, teach the dog what you want him to do and build on your successes.
  • Timing is key, you need to immediately respond to the inappropriate behavior to be able to show the dog, nope that is not what you should do, but do this instead.   

Continue obedience training throughout his life. Incorporate training activities in your daily routine: waits at doorways, gets in the car when invited, feed them after they sit, comes when called etc. Once the basics are mastered teach them new advanced commands to stimulate his mind. Dogs have to do in 18-22 months what it takes human beings 18-20 years to do: they have to grow up. A human child’s education begins at an early age, and they may attend school for 13 years and many continue their education for another 4 plus years in college or trade school.  Even as adults we may need additional training on new tasks that come up at work, getting a new phone, etc. Let’s create those opportunities for our dogs as well. One 6-week-obedience course or a few private lessons aren’t going to fix everything; although, it will lay down a great foundation. We will not be able to introduce all of life’s challenges or experiences in one 6 week course.  You must continue using what you have learned and strive to learn more. Give your dog the opportunity to succeed and teach him right from wrong.

Dogs do not learn about us by watching other dogs.  They do not learn through osmosis or some other form of divine intervention.  Dogs do not know how to act unless they are taught what is right or wrong. The moment the pup is born it is being trained or taught by their mother about how to be a dog, but the training necessary to life in a household with us must come from us.  The question is then, who should train a dog?  Simple answer, everyone that owns a dog should train their dog.  Each dog you own has their own personality and will not be the same dog as you had as a child or your last dog, the dog that just seemed to know what was right or wrong.  Suffice to say someone had to show the dog what was right and wrong or provided that training.  

Training is a joy for the dog and their owners.  It is a language you create between the two of you.  The language you are creating is one of cooperation, consistency, reward and praise.  Nothing about training a dog should be dominant or prohibitive.  We are showing them the way to a more successful life like we show our children the way to adulthood.   

Since we want the best for our dogs we should take the time to find a qualified instructor who can show us the best way to start bridging the language barrier between us and our dog.  We would want to make sure the trainer we choose demonstrates with their dog what we want our dog to look like or be able to demonstrate.  If the trainer’s dog does not sit when told the first time we should ask ourselves how effective of a trainer are they? Also take the time to monitor classes they offer and watch them interact with other people and their dog.  Get and call references of people they have worked with before.  Take the time to find the right trainer and training method that is right for you and your dog.  The dog will only succeed if you give them the right opportunities.   

Training a dog increases the bond we have with them by earning the dog’s respect.  The dog sees us as their leader if they have respect for us which is different than the dog having love or affection for us. Love and respect is a part of our relationship with our dog but love is different than respect.  Love is not earned but giving to us freely.  Respect must be earned. Our dogs will love us even though we do not have their respect.  A dog and their owner have love by their personal attachment to each other.  

Respect, on the other hand, is earned by teaching the puppy/ young dog self control and we are their leader.  Dogs live by a social structure of rank or hierarchy.  Our dogs need a clear leader and social hierarchy. The basic principle of the game follow the leader is a great example of how dogs live.  If the dog leads and you follow they are in the leadership role. If we do not take the role of the leader they will become unruly, ill-mannered dogs.  Gaining the leadership role should be carried out in a consistent non bullying way.  The leader should be silent, confident and in control.  Gaining a dog’s trust and respect requires rules and compliance with basic training commands, such as sit, down, stay, come. The dog will grant you only the respect you have earned so if you are in the follower role there will be no respect given to you.   Dogs should earn everything he gets, if we give in to every whim of the dog they will never learn to respect us and will become bossy.

We are not voted the leader for life, you earn the respect daily.  If you are lax in your leadership role the dog will easily climb right into the role and downgrade his respect for you.  This is a daily dialogue you will have with your dog.  The way you react to this dialogue will help shape your relationship with your dog.  Demonstrate the leadership role with your dog often and in every place you can think of and possible locations.  Act like a leader, earn the respect your dog desires.    

Basic obedience training is the most important aspect of raising a dog; they are happier and require fewer restrictions.  By training our dogs we are allowing them more freedom.  Freedom for dogs directly corresponds with their ability to exist harmoniously in the human environment Training a dog ensures a reliable dog that you are able to trust to be well mannered in a variety of situations.  They will respect your belongings and not tear up shoes, counter surf, potty in the house, etc.  They can be more reliable around children, tolerate people and other dogs, and walk without dragging their owner down the street.  Dogs given these tools based on basic obedience will be able to go with their owners on errands, trips, etc.  A dog without these tools may experience stress in these situations.  

Training your dog basic commands may very well save your dog’s life.  If your dog gets out of the yard they can easily be called back to you by using the basic ‘come’ command and avoid tragedy.  If the dog is untrustworthy and reactive around children biting of the children will occur and may result of the dog being put down. The #1 reason dogs get abandoned at shelters or turned in to rescue is due to a lack of training, and the behavior problems that result

Training a dog is a necessary step to owning a companion dog and takes time and patience.  There are many debates about the best method or approach, although I won’t get into that here. Suffice to say that one important aspect of training dogs is to be consistent.  Training that starts in puppyhood should be direct, simple, and fun with lots of rewards and praise. As the dog matures, we begin to ask a bit more from the dog in terms of impulse control and prompt responses to learned commands. This doesn’t mean you have to be disagreeable, but our dogs benefit when we make clear distinctions of our expectations of our rules, as well as giving the dog a clear understanding of what will happen if they break a rule.  We cannot change what our rules are to suit our mood.  Negative emotions like anger or frustration should never come into play when training, always be calm and positive.  Never, ever train your dog when you are angry.

Clear and consistent rules will make training successful.  How can you be clear and consistent, by only saying the command once.  As the dog is learning the command we have to help them know what the command means so this is when we are teaching the behavior.  While we are teaching there should be no negative corrections at this point we should be guiding the dog.  Once the dog knows the command ‘sit’ if the dog does not sit the first time it is told to sit a correction needs to be made immediately.  By doing this you are being consistent and tells the dog your expectation of the command.  If you chant the command you are only undermining your training and leadership and giving the dog a confusing message.

It is a feature of their personality that dogs don’t generalize well. So training and teaching will have to occur in varied locations. Training our dogs should take place everywhere and anywhere.  We should look for opportunities to train.  A dog needs to learn to deal with unexpected as well as expected stimuli.  Since dogs do not generalize very well our biggest mistake as owners is when we do not teach our dog that they can listen to our commands in the presence of challenging distractions.  

When our dog barks or lunges at a person riding by on a bike this is a learning opportunity.  We just learned that this distraction is a challenge for this dog.  Once we see this behavior in our dog we need to teach our dog that he can endure the stress or challenge by backing the dog up and reducing the stress on the dog.   As we teach the dog that he can withstand the challenge at a distance from the distraction we slowly close the distance between the distraction and our dog.  Our goal is to eventually have our dog be able to walk calmly next to the distraction without them reacting to the distraction.  By teaching that the dog can withstand a challenge by following our lead we are teaching them life skills to help them become well adjusted dogs.  There are so many things a dog will come in contact during his lifetime, a person in a wheelchair, children running, elevators, automatic doors, these are just a few of the distractions or challenges that become training opportunities.  As we approach these new environments with our dog we take the time to show the dog how to respond to our commands in the presence of new things.  This is a continuous conversation we have with our dogs, the opportunities are endless.  

So why train a dog? Because training a dog to be a responsible, trustworthy member of the family is the first and best means to empty out shelters, and take active, positive progressive steps to make sure they don’t fill up again.

Teaching the Human

Charli Saltzman

Now that you know what the clicker is, it’s time to teach you how to use the clicker yourself. Because I am not an expert, I am taking much of this information from a clicker website. On this website, a guide dog owner discusses the use of the clicker. When you start working with the clicker, there is one thing that is extremely crucial to the success of clicker training.

Timing is the most important. Let’s look at it this way. Say you are walking your dog down a street and see another dog. Usually, your dog may get excited or nervous, but this time, your dog just keeps walking. You stop and praise her, saying “good girl”, but by that time she has her head on the ground sniffing. To her, when you are saying good girl, you are saying that sniffing is the behavior you are wanting her to do. Clicker training is just a quicker way to praise the behavior you want. I’m going to give you a few tips that may help you when learning timing with the clicker.

There are a few things you can do to work on timing. Some of these practices can be done by yourself, and others require another person to assist you. However, if working on your own works easier for you, here are a couple things you can do. If you can, have a recorder handy during your practice so you can record yourself. Turn on a radio or something where someone is talking. Choose a word that you are going to click on while listening to the radio. It should be a word that will be commonly used such as “the”. When you hear that word, try and click right on time. After practicing this a few times, listen to your recording and see how you did. You will find that, with practice, you can get better and better with clicking at the right time. You can also practice by dropping an object and clicking immediately when it hits the floor.

After practicing several times with clicking on time, it is time for the fun part. Now, you must teach your dog the importance of the clicker. I briefly touched on this last time, but there is a simple way to help your dog understand that a clicker means a treat is coming. When you begin, have either a treat pouch with treats on you or have a bowl of treats beside you. Start when your dog is across the room from you. I had sort of an advantage because Joba already new clicker training and was good at it when we were training for new behaviors. All I had to do was start clicking, and he knew a treat was coming. Your dog will be able to get to this point. When you begin, you don’t want to click right in their face. It may startle them, therefore defeating the purpose of the training. The dog must learn that the clicker is fun, not scary. So, stand across the room, away from your dog, and click. After clicking bring your dog a treat. In reality, it should only take about seven times before your dog realizes that, every time that little sound is heard, a treat is coming.

Before teaching your dog a new behavior with the clicker, reinforce an old one just to make sure your dog is understanding that click means reward. If your dog knows the command sit, tell your dog to sit. The instant he is sitting, click and treat. While the clicker is definitely not a toy, have fun with it. Every training session you do with your dog, whether it be clicker training or basic obedience, make it enjoyable for you and that precious dog. Training with your dog always strengthens the bond between both of you. And if you can, involve family and friends in the training. It can be a fun family activity.


Sue W Martin

Teaching Your Dog New Games

Charli Saltzman

It’s a cold and rainy day, and you and Buddy are stuck inside the house. You, of course, have plenty of things you can get done that day, but poor Buddy is so bored. What can you do for your furry friend? If you don’t do something, both you and Buddy will go crazy. Well, how about a fun game called “Find it”?

Dogs have an excellent sense of smell. This is why “find it” is the perfect game to teach your dog. First, you start out with one of Buddy’s favorite toys. This could be a bone, ball, or rope. Put Buddy at sit, and tell him to stay. Start by placing the toy only a short distance from Buddy, right where he can see it. Then give the command: “Buddy, find it”. If it is the dog’s favorite toy, he will immediately run and grab it. When Buddy grabs the toy, give him lots of praise. Do this a few times, only placing the toy in plain sight. You may only make it through this step for the first day.

On the second day you play this game, start out with the same distance but gradually move it further and further away. Eventually, you can move the toy as far away as hiding it under a blanket or in another room. You have to make sure Buddy is not watching you hide the toy. When I play this game with Joba, I leave him at rest in the living room, go into my bedroom, and close the door. Then, I place the toy in either the back of his kennel or wherever it is out of sight and he actually has to sniff for it. After I hide it, I open the door and tell Joba to rest. After that, I give him the command to find it. He will race all over the apartment looking for his favorite toy.

This game can be advantageous. First, it can force the dog to use other senses rather than sight. Not only that, but it keeps a dog’s mind focused on a particular task. Maybe your dog loses attention quickly. Joba does sometimes. But this is why it is important to begin simple, take your time, and, most importantly, have fun. This game is a step by step process.

This is also a good alternative to playing fetch in the back yard. Playing fetch in the winter is often difficult because this Nebraska weather can become extremely cold. This “find it” game allows your dog to move around. Yes, tug-of-war is another fun game, but I would tell you to take caution when playing this little game. When you and your dog are tugging back and forth on a rope, you should make sure that you end up with the rope and not your dog. The last thing you want to do is allow your dog to think he has the right to take things out of your hand. However, I play tug-of-war with Joba all the time because he knows when I am serious and when I am playing. If we are in the middle of a game, or if Joba has picked something up that he shouldn’t have in his mouth, he will immediately drop it if I use a serious tone. I use the words “drop it” and “out” to help him understand that playtime is over and I want him to give me the toy so I can put it away.

There are several other games you can play with your dog, but keep in mind that your dog might also enjoy just having you sit and pet him or her. Dogs love the attention. So, on those rainy days when you and Buddy are bored, try the “find it” game. You may find that it’s a lot of fun. Plus, all the time you spend with your dog is helping your bond with your dog grow stronger.

Training Your Dog

Charli Saltzman

I’ve been focusing on only the Seeing Eye, but I would like to change it up a bit. I want to talk about training your dog. Now, because my dog lived with a puppy raiser and was house trained, I did not have to start from the very beginning. However, a dog in a new environment can often cause trouble. I know this first hand.

When I received my first dog, he was two and a half years old, well passed the puppy stage. I didn’t have to worry about him getting into my things and chewing them up. The Seeing Eye would tell all of the students to puppy proof your room. By puppy proof, I mean put anything away that a dog can get ahold of. This may include clothes, blankets, phone and computer chargers, and about anything that a strong dog with strong teeth has the ability to destroy.

I remember not really paying attention to this the second time I went back to get Joba because I had had no trouble with Errol. However, one night while I was in my dorm room at the Seeing Eye, I realized I’d better listen up. I realized this when Joba happily ran over to me with one of my shoes in his mouth with his tail wagging a hundred miles an hour. It was so cute, but the dog guide owner in me told me I’d better correct him and make sure he knows he is never to grab and play with my shoes.

I started putting things away so Joba couldn’t reach them. Then I got home to my apartment. It didn’t take long before two leashes and my phone charger were destroyed. Let’s just say I wasn’t very happy. I knew I had to make a change. It required some more training. The Seeing Eye gives us training and obedience techniques while we are in class. Usually an obedience practice takes up to five minutes. Do this once a day, and you’ll be all set. Keep in mind that these techniques will not burn all the energy a young dog has which is why, later on, I will talk about other techniques to help burn off some of that energy. But just for this post, I am going to give you some obedience instructions that you can practice at home.

First, have your dog on leash by your side. Then, take a step forward and say, first of all, your dog’s name and then heel or come. This can be good leash practice for your dog. Then, once you’ve walked forward a few steps, start backing up saying, again, your dog’s name and then come. You always want to say your dog’s name before giving a command. It helps your dog know you are communicating to him and not to someone else. Once you’ve taken that step back, tell your dog to sit. If your dog has not learned the sit and stay commands, you can place your hand on the dog’s back and push lightly while telling your dog to sit. Eventually, your dog will put two and two together, and you will be able to simply use the command. Repeat those three steps three or four times before moving onto the next step, teaching your dog to stay.

At the Seeing Eye, we use the command rest. Basically, rest means the same as stay, so feel free to use the stay command if you would rather. When you start out, you will have your dog at sit. You will face your dog and give the command down. Again, if your dog isn’t familiar with this command, pulling lightly down on the collar or leash will gesture to the dog that you want him to lay down. Then, give your dog the command to sit, pulling upward slightly on the leash. Once the dog is sitting again, give the rest or stay command. If you have a flexi lead leash, you can allow it to go as far out as the leash allows you to. If your dog does not stay and tries to follow you, give a gentle correction and tell the dog to sit again. Repeat these steps three or four times. That completes the obedience training.

Before I close, I want to offer you some advice. First, if you are able to, it is always a good idea to start the dog on this training when he or she is a young puppy. But while I’m not an expert on the appropriate age to start a dog on obedience, I believe you can work on this when the dog is older. Another thing to remember is to not get too frustrated. Dog guide users have dogs that have already been trained. While we may be new beginners with our new dogs, the dogs are already familiar with these commands. We just learn the commands and reinforce them.

If you are starting fresh with your dog, it may not be easy right away. However, if you get frustrated, your dog is going to get frustrated. I know it may not seem like it sometimes, but dogs love to please their owners. A dog can tell when you are not pleased with it, and just like a person struggling to learn something new can get frustrated and shut down, a dog can do the same. You can decrease this frustration by giving your dog lots of praise and petting. In fact, that is the best reward you can give your dog. Every time your dog obeys even a simple command such as sit or stay, praise your dog with enthusiasm. If you praise your dog, he or she is going to want to repeat that behavior that makes you proud.

Want more tips? Visit the following link.

Dog Obedience Training