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Game On

posted March 27th, 2019 by
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Game On

Teaching responsible pet ownership through friendly family competition


By Travis Brorsen


Five-year-old Titan and 7-year-old Hattie had been begging their parents for a dog for years. Their parents, BJ and Kari, decided the kids were finally old enough to contribute to the care of a pet. They debated, researched, planned and finally settled on an Australian Shepherd Mix puppy. Known for their intelligence, energy and trainability, the Aussie Mix seemed like a good fit for the high energy Bender family. Hattie also struggles with anxiety, and they felt a dog could be a distraction and a comfort to her. BJ and Kari introduced the kids to the female pup, and they were instantly smitten. The family decided on the name, Rosé.


At first, the kids couldn’t get enough of Rosé’s spunk and playfulness. It was cute when she scooped up a toy or a sock and wanted to play tug of war. It was funny when she ran circles around them in the living room. In the beginning, Titan and Hattie were eager to help feed Rosé and let her outside, but after a few weeks, their excitement waned. Their parents were left to pick up the slack.


BJ, a senior marketing representative, and Kari, a dentist, both worked full time. While they loved Rosé and believed she was the perfect addition to their family, they were struggling to adjust to her feeding and sleeping schedule and also to match her seemingly boundless energy. Rosé was a gift for their children, but they also added her to the family to help teach them responsibility. How could they get their kids “back in the game” and encourage them to engage in Rosé’s care again?


BJ is a friend of mine from high school, and when he reached out to me on Facebook, I was happy to help. The Bender’s is a story I hear often, especially around the holidays. Kids ask for a puppy for a holiday gift and promise to help take care of it. The parents oblige. However, after a few weeks, the kids lose interest, and the parents take over.


Another issue with puppies is they can play rough. As the old saying goes, “It’s all fun and games until someone starts crying.” If a puppy nips or scratches a child, they may be hesitant to play with her again. It can be difficult for puppies to end a play session since dogs don’t have an on/off switch. Naturally, many of the calls I get after the holidays involve people asking me for suggestions on how to re-engage their children and get them involved with their puppy again.


My training philosophy involves meeting and spending time with my families and assessing their dynamic. I’m interested in what motivates them. I then develop a plan that utilizes their strengths and brings them together as a team. I believe the key when working with kids is to make the process fun and feel like a game! Interestingly, the process is the same when it comes to puppy training.


The Benders are a close-knit and active family. They love spending time outdoors and doing things together. Hattie and Titan both love sports and competition, especially with each other. I realized if I could develop a plan that would appeal to the children’s interests, as well as incorporate what motivates them, we could really turn things around.


My strategy with the Benders was to create a “family fun task chart” so that each person’s duties were crystal clear. For example, each week there are a handful of duties that have to be done: feeding, taking the dog out for potty time, walking, playtime and a training element like “sit.” I established four principal tasks for each week and gave each of them a different one each day. This way, it wouldn’t feel monotonous and, let’s be honest, nobody wants to be on poop duty every day.


I then added bonus points so the kids could be rewarded for going above and beyond. These included extra playtime, practicing the training element, picking up Rosé’s toys and putting them away, just to name a few. The only rule was, if the kids wanted to take on their parents’ tasks, they could get those points added to their name. I created a graph on a dry erase board, so each family member could track their progress. When I left the family that first night, I was going to offer a monetary reward for the winner, but after the parents saw the fire in Hattie and Titan’s eyes, they said family competition would be all they needed to motivate them.


After one week, it was time to check in. I was hopeful, but I really didn’t know what to expect. As I sat down with the family, Hattie shouted, “I’m winning,” and it wasn’t long until each member of the family had a story to tell about an experience they had during the past week. Titan piped in “I don’t mind picking up the poop; I really don’t!” BJ also recalled both children asking if they could spend extra time with Rosé.


I could tell they were on a good path, so I left the family for another week. The objective was clear, and the task was fun. When I returned for the final two-week check-in, I was amazed at what I saw. Rosé was responding to each family member in a different way. Rosé was attentive and responsive to the family. She was also calmer, and so were the kids. It seemed the routines and trust they were all building together had already started making an impact. As I looked around the kitchen, I saw another chart. I asked BJ about it, and he said, “Oh yeah, they liked the system so well, we are doing it with their household chores now.” Say what?!


In the end, BJ and Kari explained, Hattie and Titan didn’t need a tangible reward. All they needed was a little motivation and some friendly family competition.


“It’s amazing what kids will do when we believe in them and use positive reinforcement. It would have been easy to tell them they had to pitch in because they wanted the dog in the first place,” said Kari. “We never thought of turning it into a game. I guess that’s what we do when training Rosé as well, isn’t it?” I had to laugh and tell Kari, “Sometimes I feel like I’m training people with pet problems and not the other way around.”


While participating in this exercise, the children thought they were just having fun, playing with Rosé while enjoying a little family competition. But the reality was, they were creating habits of responsible pet ownership. Unbeknownst to them, they were also engaging in relationship-building activities that would create a bond with Rosé based on mutual love, trust and respect.


I have no doubt the relationships the children continue to build with Rosé and nurture with their parents will teach them life lessons about kindness, caring and learning. These lessons will impact every pet they have for the rest of their lives. I’m so impressed with the Benders’ commitment to Rosé and to each other, and I’m happy to have helped them with their success.



Travis Brorsen is one of the most sought after dog trainers in America today. Travis is founder and CEO of Greatest American Dog Trainers and is Animal Planet’s pet expert and trainer, hosting their new series, “My Big Fat Pet Makeover,” which just finished Season One.

Country Living Training Tips

posted May 30th, 2016 by
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Coconut Oil

Country Living Training Tips – Training 911

By Mary Green

I know lots of people who live on farms, ranches and other acreages. I think they are so lucky! I am pretty sure that my dogs would love to have some room to roam. The problem this presents, though, is dogs may roam off of the property. I am often asked how to teach the dogs to stay on the property.
Can dogs learn to respect and understand their boundaries? Can they be taught to stay home even when they are left loose?
The short answer is, as always, “that depends.” Some factors to consider:

• Intact dogs are more likely to roam than sterilized dogs.

• Dogs that lack human interaction are more likely to roam, so bring them inside!

• Dogs that are not bonded to people are more likely to roam.

• Dogs new to the household may be chased off by established family dogs.

• Owners must comply with leash laws in their area.

• No dog should ever be chained up.

• It takes time for a dog to learn boundaries. Never expect a new dog to stay put!

Many of my friends have dogs bred to work on the farm: the herders like Border Collies, Aussies, Heelers, and the guardian breeds like the Anatolians and the Pyrenees. These breeds or types of dogs have an innate sense of territory. They work with people. They have stock sense. They are more likely to stay close to the livestock, or hang out on the porch than perhaps a hunting dog would. They learn the territory in a natural manner by accompanying their owners, doing farm chores. It’s a natural evolution for many dogs.
Learning the ropes can be passed from older to younger dogs. The youngsters stick close by the elders who teach them what is allowed. They learn what to chase and not chase, what animals belong there, and what animals do not. They gain working knowledge of life on the property in an organic process.
If you don’t have a mentor dog, you can still train your dog to understand boundaries. Use a long line (like for tracking dogs) or a horse lunge line to allow your dog some freedom. You will hold on to one end as you would a leash, but you don’t reel it in or even pull on it. You call your dog and reward him for coming to you. Repetition is key to success in this. Over time, your dog will learn to stay close by. If you are one of the lucky folks who have property plus an ATV, you can teach your dog to ride on the vehicle with you, or run along with you as you do chores.
If you cannot be 100 percent sure that your dog will not roam off of your property when you are not present, then he must be confined in some manner. Failure to do so can result in his death. While it is unreasonable to expect someone to chain-link fence a 10-acre area, it is completely reasonable to expect someone to fence a suitable dog yard. At the very least, put up a chain-link dog run!
Not everyone without a fenced yard lives on a farm. I also know plenty of wonderful, responsible dog owners who live where fences are not allowed. There are ways to train dogs to stay on your property, even if you live on the golf course.
I am not a fan of the invisible fences where the dog has to wear a collar that delivers an unpleasant shock if he ventures out of bounds. These fences do nothing to prevent other animals from entering into your yard. There are also lots of dogs that charge out of dog doors, barking, lunging and snarling toward the barrier. The person, or dog, happening by has no idea that the dog will likely stop before the barrier. It’s pretty traumatic to that individual!
Even on a small unfenced property, you should teach your dog the boundaries in a positive manner. Make a routine of walking your dog along your boundary line. Walk every day, or several times daily, to help establish boundary understanding. All the reward, reinforcement and “good stuff” happens on your property.
Make it your habit to walk your dog on leash to your mailbox if it is at the curb. Practice your obedience training in your yard. Make that the place where all good things happen. Teach a solid come-when-called behavior, and practice it often with a really yummy reward.
My dogs get super excited when I say, “Do you want to go to Sharon’s?” because they know they will get to run in the meadow. They will smell all the favorite country aromas and forget for a little while they are city dogs. They would probably love to live on a farm… as long as they could be near me and sleep on my bed.

Taming the Rude Greeter

posted May 21st, 2016 by
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What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Taming the Rude Greeter – Training 911

by Nancy Haddock

Imagine quietly relaxing on your sofa, enjoying a favorite TV program, when suddenly your peaceful evening is interrupted by a knock at the front door. Chaotic barking shatters the calm as Fido explodes into four alarm style while spinning and jumping as he prepares to spring onto your house guest with all the enthusiastic welcome four paws and a cold, wet nose can muster.

If this sounds familiar, do you long for a different scenario where your well-behaved pooch calmly and politely greets your house guests? 

Let us compare the above behavior with the sport of agility. Agility is a high-intensity sport in which dogs run through an obstacle course with adrenaline pumping through their veins. The dogs require an enormous amount of self control in the presence of heightened excitement. This is very similar to the heightened excitement many dogs experience when a visitor comes to the front door. You can use some of the same training techniques we use in agility training to teach your family pet to politely greet guests. 

Before we start, your dog must know how to sit on command. If you dog is inclined to bolt out the front door if it’s open, I suggest you start with a door to the backyard. 

Step One: 

Let’s begin by teaching the dog to sit while a door is opened and wait patiently for permission to go through that door. Position the dog two to four feet from the door. With the door closed, ask your dog to sit, and then reach for the door handle. If the dog moves, simply remove your hand from the door. Do not tell him “no” or “stay;” just simply remove your hand from the door knob. Wait until the dog is sitting still again and reach  for the door handle. If the dog moves, remove your hand from the door handle. If the dog holds still, start to open the door. As soon as he moves, shut the door. Continue repeating  this process until the dog remains seated      as you hold the handle. During this period, I absolutely say nothing to the dog, except “sit.” Most dogs catch on very quickly. If he sits still, I will reach for the handle and open the door, and if he moves, I shut the door in front of his face. 

Each time the dog remains sitting, open the door farther and farther, but always be prepared to shut it quickly as soon as he moves. When you can open the door to a width the dog can walk through, yet he shows self control by sitting politely, reward him by saying “OK” to verbally release him   to go out.  Next, call the dog back into the house and reward him with treats and           an enthusiastic round of petting and praise. Then, shut the door, ask your dog to sit and repeat the training process from the beginning.

This simple process presents the dog with stimulus (the door) and presence of a reward (going out the door). The dog must figure out which behavior earns him a reward. We have limited his behavior choices to simply either move forward or hold still. The dog should quickly conclude sitting politely still is what causes you to give him his reward of opening the door and allowing him to go outside. 

Step TWO: 

When your dog will sit still despite the open door, and not move until you verbally release him to go, you are ready to add more stimulus, such as the sound of knocking. I also add a food reward during this stage since previously the reward was being released to go out. Now your dog will not be released to go out but will be required to sit still. 

Knock on the door, and as the dog starts barking, ask him to sit near the front door and wait for him to quit barking. Then, immediately give him a treat. Reach out for the door handle; if he moves, remind him to sit and reward him. Knock on the door again and reward him if he remains seated. This is the exact same process of choice and reward we used before, only we have increased stimulus with knocking and switched the reward to food instead of permission to go out. However, even though I have shifted the reward to treats, on approximately every fourth successful attempt, I will release the dog to go. Alternating the reward increases his self control.

Step THREE: 

When your dog can successfully sit politely without moving through the knocking and opening of the door phase of training, we will increase stimulus by adding another person into the exercise. Employ the help of a friend or family member. Provide your helper with dog treats, such as a handful of kibble.  Instruct your helper to approach the door from the outside and knock. Ask your dog to sit and repeat the whole process above until your dog can successfully sit politely while you open the door as the helper stands quietly on the other side of the open door.  

Step FOUR: 

Finally, when your dog will remain seated as you open the door, instruct your helper to enter the house and immediately drop multiple pieces of kibble on the floor as he walks in. As your dog has almost finished all the kibble, your guest should drop several more pieces. As the dog finishes the kibble, quickly ask him to sit and reward him multiple times with treats. 

Dropping the kibble cleverly succeeds in two outcomes: no jumping and a guest calmly entering the house. By dropping the kibble on the floor, you have cunningly manipulated your dog’s behavior from rudely greeting a guest, to calmly welcoming a visitor. 

If step four does not go quite as smoothly as I have outlined above, simply send your helper back out the door and start over, just like you have done in steps one, two and three. This is a process, and it is vitally important your dog is successful with each step before moving on to the next. Also, if you live in a multi-dog household, only train one dog at a time. Place the other dogs outside or confine them to another room, so they are not distracting to the working dog.

Learning response time will differ with each dog. Just follow the plan and expect results!

Kids and Canines

posted May 7th, 2016 by
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What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Kids and Canines – Training 911

By Mary Green


My mailbox has been full lately with questions about kids and dogs. I grew up with dogs, and there were dogs in our household when my son was growing up. So from my perspective, kids and animals go together like peanut butter and jelly. But you must have a good plan of action and realistic expectations of the amount of work involved. And understand that all dogs aren’t Lassie, and all kids aren’t Timmy.

What’s a good age for a child to get a dog? School-aged children can help a lot with a dog! They can learn how to measure the dog food and scoop it into the dog bowl. Feeding the dog presents a great opportunity for the dog to learn some self-control, like sit and wait for food. If you teach the kids, and the dog, the kids can help brush the dog’s fur. Taking the dog for a walk should be a family activity—there should always be an adult present.

There are two very important rules for children to learn: Never touch or bother a dog while he is eating, and leave sleeping dogs alone. Obeying these simple rules reduces potential dog bites.

One mother writes, “How can I get my  16-week-old puppy to play gently with my kids. They are 1 and 3 years old.” My answer may not have been quite what mom wanted to hear. At 16 weeks of age, the puppy needs to be in a good training class, learning how to “sit” on cue, take treats gently, and how to settle. And the adults need to be training the pup.

A 1-year-old child is too young to play with a puppy. Children in this age range don’t generally have a concept of “personal space” that a dog may need. They also love to hug dogs (which dogs do not like), and they pursue dogs no matter where the dog tries to go! Every interaction between the puppy and the 1-year-old must be closely supervised by an adult. We certainly don’t want the puppy and the baby to be afraid of each other, so don’t segregate them—but supervision is essential to ensure a positive experience for them both.

A 1-year-old can learn how to properly pet a dog. Preferably an older, calm dog to start with! Use a stuffed dog if an older, calm dog isn’t available. The puppy can learn that cool things happen when the baby is around. If the baby is present, the puppy can be rewarded for calm behavior.

The 3-year-old child can give basic cues, such as sit, lie down, and stay, once the puppy understands these behaviors. Kids of this age can deliver a treat to the puppy, as long as the puppy has learned to take treats gently. Again, every interaction is well supervised by an adult. Playing together means there is a toy for the dog. It does not mean wrestling or chasing! It does not mean teasing the puppy with the toy. The child can toss the toy away and see the puppy get it—the puppy may not bring it back, but the interaction provides a positive experience for the puppy.

From another parent: “My 7-year-old son has been begging us to get him a dog. I don’t really have time for a dog, but he has his heart set. Is he old enough?”

Two (anonymous) quotes come to mind when I hear this question. “Every boy should have two things: a dog, and a mother willing to let him have one,” and “Every boy who has a dog should also have a mother, so the dog can be fed regularly.”

At 7 years of age, basically your son can feed and water the dog. He cannot be responsible for walking the dog. He cannot drive the dog to training class, and he needs a lot of support to train the dog. He can play with the dog if he is taught how to do so appropriately (no chasing, no wrestling). That being said, a dog can be a great friend to your son! As they both grow up, they can have a great relationship and do lots of things together. Just be realistic that for the time being, the majority of dog duties will fall to the adults.

“I’ve told my boys that if they don’t stop tormenting our dog he’s gonna bite them.” “Yes,” I thought. “He sure will.”

 Teasing a dog is a great way to provoke a bite. Teasing, tormenting, bullying, and scaring are not fun for a dog to experience. Younger kids may be able to understand   this if parents can relate it to how the kids feel when they are teased, bullied or tormented. Again, if proper adult super-vision is happening, this will stop! And don’t threaten to “get rid of the dog” if the kids’ (or dog’s) behavior doesn’t improve. 

Some dogs that have not been around children are fine, while others are very uncomfortable. Dogs that are used to children of a certain age may be wary of younger or older children. Your family dog may be safe and trustworthy around your own kids, but may not be safe around visiting children. Be smart! Do whatever management you need to in order to keep everyone safe. My advice to one pet owner whose grandchildren were coming to visit from out of state was to board her dog when they were here. It would be less stress on the family and less stress on the dog!

Each year nearly 2.8 million children are bitten by a dog. Most of these bites are not coming from some scary dog that got loose. Sensational stories make headlines, but most dog bites are more commonplace. Half come from the family’s own dog, and another 40 percent come from a friend or neighbor’s dog.*

I know that kids and dogs belong together. There are so many fun activities for kids   and dogs, like going for a walk or hike, playing fetch, running agility courses and just hanging out. I’ve seen some awesome Junior Handlers in the Obedience, Rally and Agility rings. My own dogs get super excited when my grandchildren come over. The older kids love to help with dog chores. Jackson, who is 6 years old, loves to let the dogs go outside. He tells them to sit and wait at the door, and sends them out politely. Julie, who is only 3 years old, is very proud that she can say, “Brutus, sit,” and using the hand signal, the 6-month-old puppy responds. They are going to have big fun with Grammy’s dogs, and maybe they will have a dog of their own some day.


*Colleen Pelar’s Living With Kids and

Who Trained The Trainer?

posted November 7th, 2015 by
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How to Select a Qualified Dog Trainer

By Nancy Gallimore, CPDT-KA


On two different occasions, I have been chatting with friends about dog training, and in the course of casual conversation, both people mentioned how stubborn their dogs were. I immediately questioned why they felt their dogs were being stubborn.

The answers were almost identical. “Because the moment my dog sees our trainer, he hides behind me. He’s just being stubborn and trying to avoid training.”

And this is the point where my heart falls to the floor. If your dog is not thrilled to the point of doing a happy dance to see your trainer, then something is wrong. If your dog does not see training as an opportunity to have fun with humans, again, something is very wrong.

Every dog is an individual training puzzle to be solved, and there are numerous techniques for training dogs. Modern training techniques should (and that is a huge “should”) focus on humane methods, positive motivation and teamwork between dog and handler. Nothing about training should make a dog want to be “stubborn.” And I’m here to tell you that when I’m presented with a “stubborn” dog, I can almost always replace that adjective with afraid, nervous, confused, stressed or frustrated.

Obviously, all dog trainers do not bring the same level of experience, skills and methods to the table. Dog training has evolved significantly over the past few decades to embrace positive, dog-friendly, motivation-based methods versus correction-based techniques. This transition has had a profound effect on not only training but on relationships between humans and their dogs.

Positive reinforcement training found its roots among exotic animal and marine mammal trainers. Think about it… If you can train a large predator, such as a killer whale or a tiger, by focusing on capturing and rewarding desired behaviors, there is no reason you can’t do the same with your dog.

This is especially important to consider when working with dogs demonstrating fear or aggression issues. As knowledge of animal behavior is strengthened through scientific research, the findings reveal that using aversive training methods when working with fearful or aggressive dogs can actually lead to worse behaviors. Meanwhile, the studies also show focusing on rewarding the animal during moments of appropriate behavior can alleviate fears and anxieties, boost confidence and help create more well-adjusted dogs.

This article, however, is not really about how to train your dog as much as it is about how to select someone to help you train your dog. Truth be told, anyone can hang out a shingle, claiming to be a professional dog trainer. This industry is not regulated, so it falls on the shoulders of dog owners to do their homework and do background checks.

For the dog owner looking in from the outside, it can be quite confusing to figure out which dog trainer will be the right match, which dog trainer has valid skills and ability to properly read a dog and construct a sound training plan. You look at websites; you talk with friends; perhaps your veterinarian has a recommendation.

What it boils down to is this: don’t be afraid to ask questions. You wouldn’t hire a babysitter without background information. You wouldn’t select a contractor to remodel your home without doing some research. The same diligence should hold true when selecting a dog trainer.

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) is a professional organization for people who are committed to becoming better trainers through education. The organization also offers great public information about different training methods, as well as suggestions for how to find responsible, reputable trainers.

According to APDT, it’s a good idea to use open-ended questions so that trainers can explain their personal experiences, methods, and philosophies to you in depth. Here is a list of questions you can use as an interview guide, some from APDT, some suggested by certified trainers in the Tulsa area:

How long have you been a professional dog trainer?

How/why did you become a dog trainer.

How long have you been training your own dogs? What types of things do you do with your own dogs? Have you achieved any titles through competing with your dogs in obedience, agility or other events?

What is your educational background in the area of dog training and behavior?

Have you recently participated in any continuing education or attended conferences or workshops?

What methods of training do you endorse?

If you teach group classes, may I come observe a class?

What type of equipment or training aids do you typically use?

Can you provide a list of references? (Clients and veterinarian references would be ideal.)

What professional associations do you belong to? If none, why?

What are your credentials, and do you have any certifications? If yes, through what organization? What are the requirements

for certification? (For example, the letters CPDT-KA following a trainer’s name stand for Certified Professional Dog Trainer -Knowledge Assessed, a certification through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.)

The answers to these questions can help you find a trainer who will help you achieve your goals with your dog, whether you just want a well-mannered companion, or whether you are having issues with your dog that need to be resolved.

Your dog is an important part of your family and your life. The guidance of a good trainer can help you understand the learning process from the dog’s point-of-view, so you can avoid the “stubborn dog” pitfalls and work toward nurturing a mutually-rewarding relationship.

Above all, remember that training with your dog should be fun for everyone involved. Listen to your gut. If you have a trainer asking you to do things that make you and/or your dog uncomfortable, perhaps it’s time to find a new trainer.

Training 911

posted October 31st, 2015 by
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That Dog’s Got Skills

By Mary Green


My new friend asked, “What are the most important skills you can teach a dog?”

I had a fun conversation the other day with a first-time dog owner.  Like any “new mom” she was feeling overwhelmed about training her dog and was getting way too much unsolicited advice about what to do. As a dog trainer, I am always asked about how to fix many behavior problems, but I don’t get much opportunity to talk about how to prevent behavior problems. As we chatted, I thought about her question and what dog owners really need to train. It’s pretty simple, really.


My top 3:


Come when called




Isn’t it amazing that most dogs figure this out pretty quickly? They sit quickly if you head for the cookie jar or the treat bag. Even very inexperienced pet owners can figure out how to get their puppy, or dog, to sit. If you’re not sure, just take a little treat and “lure” the puppy by moving the treat over his head (and slightly toward his back) and give him the treat as his knees bend or his rump hits the ground.  So many behavior problems or challenges can be avoided with a rock solid “sit” cue.

Anti-jumping up: sit for all petting.

Bolting: sit at all doorways, intersections, etc.

Lunging on leash: (turn away) and sit will diffuse many tense situations.

Impulse control: sit to get the leash on/off, sit and wait for food, sit to come out of crate or confinement… and so on.


The science of operant condition, an approach labeled by psychologist B.F. Skinner, tells us that behavior which is rewarding has a higher likelihood of being repeated than an un-rewarding behavior.  Our dogs sit because they know that if they sit, good things happen. You can build your dog’s willingness to sit by giving him treats and other things he likes for sitting.  You are making deposits in his brain bank, which is creating a “reinforcement history.”


Come when called.

A solid “recall” can be the one skill that can save your dog’s life.  I want my dog to come each and every time I call him.  I want this to be a reflexive action rather than a decision. There are many reasons why your dog may not come when you call.


He is having too much fun: sniffing, playing with another dog or person, chasing something, or playing keep-away.

Something scared him, startled him or caused him to panic and bolt.

He is anticipating a reprimand or a punishment.

He has insufficient “reinforcement history.”

Too much freedom without enough training.


Regardless of why he is not coming when you call him, you would practice basically the same way. You would do many, many practices in a place where there are no distractions—inside, away from the other animals, with a handful of yummy treats; say, “Brutus, come!” and give him a treat for coming to you. Then give him a second treat as you touch his collar, so he can’t dart away. Gradually add distractions and practice in different safe locations where you can be 100-percent sure that your dog cannot fail.

The best way to have that reliability is to always reward your dog in some way for coming to you.  Pet him if he likes that, give him a treat, play tug, go for a car ride or a walk. It will build that reflexive head-turning, spin-on-a-dime, solid recall.

There are some common things that dog owners do to cause their dogs not to come.  For example, don’t call your dog to scold him for something such as getting into the trash or having an accident. Don’t call him when you’re angry! Don’t call him and trick him into something he doesn’t like. If I’m putting my puppy in his crate, I say, “Brutus, get in your house!” and he learns that there will be a treat in there.

If he didn’t like going into his crate, I would just go get him and put him in.  In my experience, many dogs (puppies and small dogs especially) don’t want to come because they have been pursued and picked up. They don’t like this, so they run away. This is especially problematic if children have been chasing and grabbing them.



I see a lot of dogs that have absolutely no ability to calm themselves. Many of them have trained their owners to be at their beck and call. They seek and solicit attention in a number of ways such as barking, whining, stealing things they shouldn’t have, pawing or scratching, begging, and going inside and outside incessantly. And I see some really exhausted owners.

If you have a puppy, start him early on stuff-able, chewable toys, such as Kong toys.  There are lots of products available that are safe to leave with a puppy. Stuffing a toy with your dog’s food, treats, biscuits, etc., and putting that in the crate with him can really help him settle down.  This isn’t just for puppies—all dogs can benefit from chew toy training.

Give them a place to settle down besides the crate. Teach him to go to his mat and settle down there. That’s a safe place where good things happen. He can be with the family, but the children are not allowed to disturb him when he is on his mat. He can hang out with you without being underfoot.

Respond to his attention-seeking behavior by telling him to sit before you pet, get up, or otherwise engage him. If you can learn to observe your dog for calm behavior, and reward him for that, he will hit that point of decision whether to be calm or not. If he has had more rewards for calm–the impulsiveness can fade away.

If you would like more information about teaching some of these behaviors, check out our website at On the “what we do” page, there are some one-page .pdf files you can review or print!

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