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Dog Training 411

posted July 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Mary Green

Q: I have a Great Dane who is 15 months old.  He is fairly well behaved.  He has the sit, stay, lie down, shake hands, and basic commands down fairly well.  I have problems with getting him to come.  Sometimes he will even look at me quite obstinately and go on with what he is doing.  This makes me feel like he knows what I mean.  I always praise him when he obeys, but if he does not feel like coming to me, he will not!  Any ideas?

A: It seems as though you have done a nice job teaching your Dane some basic skills.  By rewarding his good behavior, you greatly increase the chance that he will repeat this behavior.  The problem with getting a dog to come when you call him is that whatever he is already doing (sniffing, digging, and running away) is inherently more rewarding to him than whatever you may offer.  His obstinate look and his return to whatever he was doing is probably because he knows if he comes to you it is “The End of Fun for The Dog.”  So the challenge is to change his mind about that! 

Teaching your dog a reliable recall may be the single most important skill he ever learns.  It could one day save his life.  

First of all, to begin teaching your dog to come when you call him, you must be prepared to reward him every time he comes to you.  The reward needs to be of very high value to the dog; something he really likes.  It may be food, it may be a belly rub, or a favorite toy.  If you are using food as a reinforcer, it needs to be something extraordinary.  Save the usual treats for reinforcing other behavior.  

You may find that changing your command from “come” to something else like “here” will speed him up.  If “come” means to him “The End of Fun for The Dog,” “here” could mean “cookie party!”

At first start indoors, or in a relatively distraction-free area.  Say his name in a happy voice followed by your new command (make it a happy “hee-year”) and praise him for any effort to pay attention to you.  Pet him, feed him his treat slowly, and let him go again.  He will soon learn that checking in with you may mean cookie party plus more freedom!  

When you practice outdoors in a fenced area, you may want to have a light weight drag line attached to his collar.  If he does not come when you call him, you can step on the line and prevent him from going further away.  Walk up the line a bit and try again a little closer.

Never stop randomly rewarding (reinforcing) your dog for coming when called.  Even if you have practiced 2,000 times, it might be the 2,001st time that is an emergency.

Q: I have a seven week old Rat Terrier/Chihuahua mix puppy.  He seems to be impossible to potty train.  I take him outside and we could sit for an hour and he does nothing but stand between my legs shivering, then the second we get inside he attempts to do it on the carpet.  I take him right back outside and he does the same thing for another 30 minutes.  That’s when I give up and put him in the bathroom with a puppy pad and he does his business on the tile.  I’m starting to wonder if he’ll come around.

A: Let’s drop back and regroup.  At seven weeks old, your little guy should probably still be with his mom and littermates.  Since he’s not, I suspect that he did not have any early experience with house training.  Standing shivering between your legs is clearly a sign that he is stressed – if not terrified.  Staying outdoors longer isn’t going to help.  And it is wrong to punish a puppy for having an accident.  It is up to the owner to establish good house training management.

The ideal setup for such a small dog would be a crate (for short-term confinement) placed inside of a puppy pen (for long-term confinement).  The puppy pen would contain the crate, a water bowl, chew toys and a puppy pad.  The puppy pad would be placed as far away from the crate as possible.  At eight weeks, a puppy’s bladder capacity is only about one hour.  By confining him to his pen for the long-term (for example while you are off to work) he can learn to sleep in his crate and eliminate on the pad.  The crate door is left open so he can choose to get a drink, go potty, chew his chew toys or go take a rest.

When you are home, you can confine him short-term in the crate, and take him outdoors every hour to go potty.  Even if you are playing with him, or training him, he needs to go outdoors every hour. A young puppy will generally urinate soon after waking up, so instead of waiting for your puppy to wake up, wake him up and take him directly outdoors.  Give him only a short time (less than five minutes) to do his business, and take him back indoors.  Be sure that you give him treats for eliminating outdoors.

As he gets older, he will have a greater bladder capacity (about two hours at 18 weeks of age) and you may be able to do away with the puppy pen and continue to use the crate.a

Dog Training 411

posted April 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Mary Green

QMy male 8 month old bulldog seems to be like Oscar the Grouch when meeting new dogs. I went to visit a friend and meet her three-month old female bulldog and my bulldog growled at her and nipped her on the face. Then we were standing at the checkout buying dog food and an adolescent boxer pup came in and  my bulldog growled at him. My bulldog is so sweet at home. He loves all my children and always wants to be near me. We have a male Maltese who is neutered and they get along just fine.  I really must learn how to teach my bulldog to be kind and tolerant of animals.  

AThere are a lot of dogs that get along well with the dogs in their own family, but do not readily welcome outsiders.  The fact that he gets along with your Maltese is not necessary indicative of his sociability with other dogs.  It is good that he loves your children, but there are many dogs that love “their” children but may not love visiting children.  

Maybe when you were introducing your bulldog to the three-month old bulldog puppy, she came on too strong!  He may have been well within his rights to correct her.  He may have given her a warning that she didn’t heed.  He may have been more interested in exploring a new environment than meeting a new prospective friend.  It could be that when the young boxer came up to say “hi” your dog was minding his own business and was just telling the boxer to keep its distance.  Lots of adult and even adolescent dogs are not tolerant of puppies invading their space and coming on too boldly.

In order to increase your dog’s tolerance to other dogs, be careful not to force your bulldog to make friends.  It may be best to meet new friends in a neutral setting.  Use the leash for safety, but be careful not to telegraph your tension with a tight leash.  Try not to let visiting dogs overstay their welcome.  Be sure your dog has an escape route, or a place he can go to be alone.  

Do not punish, scold, reprimand, or correct him if he growls at another dog.  You never want to erase the growl; it is a warning sign that your dog is uncomfortable!  Instead, practice at a safe (comfortable) distance away from the other dog, and feed your dog something wonderful.  Instead of your bulldog becoming anxious or nervous at an approaching dog, he can learn that the presence of another dog means really yummy treats coming his way.  Say something like, “Look, Buddy!  Here comes a lovely boxer!”  Your jolly voice can convey the message of “all is well,” instead of a harsh “No Growling.”  Teaching your dog a cue that means to look at you is effective in breaking the eye contact that can often trigger an aggressive action between dogs. 

The behavior your dog is showing now at eight months could well be related to his early socialization experiences.  “Dogs have a sensitive period for socialization between the ages of 3 and 12 weeks. This means that pleasant exposures to people, other dogs and other animals during this time will have long-lasting influences on the sociability of your dog. Well socialized dogs tend to be friendlier and less fearful of the kinds of individuals they were socialized to.”1  

Still, that early experience should not be the end of your dog’s socialization.  There are lots of dogs that as puppies were well socialized and got along well with other people and dogs, and began showing fear or aggression later in their adolescent stage.

Whether or not your bulldog was adequately socialized to dogs as a puppy, you are right to take measures to help him become tolerant of other animals, and more dog-friendly, even if he does not want to be best friends!

QMy poodle, Chloe, is really a great dog except when I am on the phone.  If I stay on the phone for too long (in her opinion) she starts to get into trouble.  She will steal things and chew them up, or bark and carry on.  This can be very annoying.

AThat behavior would come under the category of Attention Seeking.  She knows that when you are distracted, she can engage in some naughty behavior that you can’t possibly ignore.  We have had good success using a “go to your place” cue and teaching the dog to stay on her mat while you are doing your activity.  Teach her to go to her mat by luring her with a treat a few times, then tossing a treat to the mat as you tell her to go to her mat, until you can say “Chloe, go to your mat” and she will go directly there, and you give her a reward.  To get her to stay on her mat while you are on the phone, have a supply of chew toys handy so that you can keep her interested in staying there.  She would not otherwise have access to these special chews.

1.  Socialization: It Isn’t Just for Puppies by Daniel Estep, Ph.D. and Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. 

Dog Training 411

posted January 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Mary Green

Q: My neighbor has informed me that my dog barks all the time, and she is going to report me to animal control.  What can I do?

AIf your dog is in the backyard home alone while you are gone, there may be lots of reasons for the barking.  In order to resolve the issue, you may have to do some detective work.  Ask the neighbor for specifics about the barking, such as what’s going on when he is barking.  Set up a video camera, tape recorder, or do “recon” from a neighbor’s house.  Leave your house, drive around the block, park and sneak back to observe.  Once you have determined a cause, or causes, for the barking you can take corrective measures.  This is applicable whether your dog is outdoors barking in the yard or inside your apartment. 

He may be lonely or bored, and spending too much time home alone without enough to do.  How can you tell if this is the problem?  His barking may be very repetitive and may include howling, and he may be standing in the middle of the yard.  Adolescent dogs (those under 2 years), sporting dogs and herding dogs are particularly notorious for boredom barking.  

You can combat boredom by creating a more interesting environment.  Instead of feeding dog food out of a bowl, use food-stuffing toys such as Kong®, Buster Cube®, or Premier Busy Buddy® and let your dog “hunt” for his breakfast.  You can even put a few dog biscuits in a brown paper sack and hide them in the yard for a scavenger hunt.  Create a digging area in a child’s sandbox, hang a tether-ball from a sturdy tree branch.  Leave a good-sized knuckle bone outside for him to chew.  For indoor dogs, leave the TV or radio on to mask outside noises.

Maybe he is becoming territorial, or protective of the area.  If his barking sounds like an alarm (sharp, rapid) and his body posture is erect and targeted at something, he may be guarding.  Sometimes these dogs create paths that follow the fence line.  If he is barking at traffic, people or dogs passing by, you may have to restrict his access to certain areas of the yard, or windows.  When you are home, teach your dog a stop-barking cue by calling him to come to you and giving him a really good reward.  If you have a privacy fence, he may be frustrated by looking at the world through a slit in the fence.  If that’s the case, try creating a window by cutting out a small portion of the fence and blocking it with wire screening.

He may be afraid of something.  I worked with a client whose dog barked frantically and continually when he was left outdoors.  This was a newly developing problem and we were able to determine that he was frightened by the construction going on at another house.  We successfully integrated crate training indoors, and the dog was fine left alone.

Take a good look at your dog’s typical day.  Is he isolated for a long period of time?  Are you taking him on daily walks, playing fetch, grooming him, taking him for car rides, or going to training class?  Every dog needs physical exercise, mental stimulation, and social time with their family.  

Regardless of the reason, nuisance barking causes bad feelings between neighbors, and can potentially lead to removing the dog from the home, or even retaliation.  Devices such as no-bark collars (citronella, high-frequency noise, or shock) may appear as a solution, but these do not address the underlying cause of the dog’s barking, and often result in developing other bad behavior.

Q: What do you do for a dog with separation anxiety?  

AFirst, you have to know what separation anxiety is, and if your dog really “has” it.  Destructive behavior that happens when the dog’s owner is absent may just be an issue of boredom or access.  True separation anxiety occurs every time the dog is left alone.  The dog may become anxious when he realizes the owner is preparing to leave — gathering car keys, coat, purse, etc.  When the owner is gone, the dog may pace, whine, salivate, and destroy things.  He may shake or tremble.  In severe cases the dog may urinate and defecate, and self-mutilate.  

Mild cases may be helped by altering your patterns of coming and going.  Keep all greetings very low-key.  Change your routine; put your keys in a different place.  Leave the radio or TV on for company.  Teach your dog not to shadow you from room to room.  Dr. Patricia McConnell, says “All your dog needs to learn is:  crate = feeling good.”  A good crate training routine can be a lifesaver for a home-alone dog.  In her booklet, “I’ll be Home Soon,” Dr. McConnell has written great information that the average pet owner can use for a mild case of separation anxiety.

Serious separation anxiety cases are not easily treated without professional help, and perhaps the addition of anti-anxiety medications.

Dog Training 411

posted October 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Mary Green

Q: My beloved dog, Lucy, is getting up in age.  She hasn’t slowed down too much (at twelve years) but there are days that she doesn’t move around too well.  I would like to get a puppy before Lucy gets too old and crotchety.  Is it a good idea to bring a puppy into the house?

A: Sure!  If you want another dog and can meet the needs of a puppy – go ahead.  Don’t get a puppy to just keep Lucy company!  If Lucy has never been fond of other dogs, or you know that she is aggressive to other dogs, it may not be a good idea, though.

If you decide to add a puppy, you will need to help Lucy make adjustments.  First, do your homework.  Be sure that the breed or type of puppy you select has characteristics that would fit well with Lucy’s personality.  Don’t select the most hyper puppy, or one who seems to pick on the littermates.  You might consider getting a puppy that, as an adult, will be smaller than Lucy, and often it is best to select the opposite sex to your established pet.  

Once home, it is important to supervise the new puppy with Lucy.  Try not to let the puppy overwhelm Lucy with rough play and unsolicited attention.  If Lucy growls at the puppy, she is telling him she doesn’t like his behavior.  Young puppies need to learn boundaries from older, reasonable dogs.  Don’t scold Lucy for correcting the puppy.  On the other hand, if Lucy is handing out unfair corrections to the puppy, you should intervene.  Use the crate, or a barrier such as a baby gate to confine the puppy to an area away from Lucy to give her a break.

Adding a puppy to your household should not change the routine for your established pet.  Lucy still needs her alone time with the family.  She may even need extra attention.  She does not have to mind the same rules as a puppy – rank has its privilege.  Many older dogs welcome having a buddy and exhibit more playful behavior than they have in years.  Best of luck!

Q: I was told my dog had to be sedated to be groomed or he couldn’t come back!  I don’t want my dog drugged.

A: Probably the groomer felt that the dog was too stressed out, too aggressive to handle, or too matted to be groomed.  Only a veterinarian can prescribe a sedative for your dog, and would most likely run some tests first.  A veterinary clinic that provides grooming would be able to monitor a sedated dog during the grooming process.

People will tell me that they don’t brush their dog because “he doesn’t like it,” or “he bites me when I try to brush him.”  So the result is a very matted dog who behaves badly when the groomer attempts to do her job.  Not exactly a win-win situation. If your pet doesn’t allow you to brush or comb him, he is most likely not going to be happy about a stranger.

Every dog should be able to accept brushing and combing, nail trimming, ear cleaning and tooth brushing.  Routine maintenance will make a huge difference when it comes time for the “big groom.”  

Begin with gentle handling exercises.  Have him sit while you pet him with long strokes, and firm pressure from his head to his rump.  Head to tail — don’t go against the growth of his coat.  Do the same thing with the dog standing.  Gently stroke down his leg from his shoulder down to his paw.  Massage his ears, gently lifting the ear flaps.  Feed him some good dog treats while you are doing this.  Next, introduce the nail clipper and the brush.  Hold the tool, feed the dog a treat – don’t touch him with the tool at first.  He can actually alter his emotional response to the presence of the tools, and soon will be happier to see them!

Gradually begin brushing or combing the dog.  Keep rewarding his good response with treats.  If he growls, snarls, shows teeth, snaps or tries to bite, just stop what you are doing.  Let him settle down and go back to the step where you were able to brush him or stroke him before, and try again.  Becoming angry or excited yourself will not help him to calm down, and may make the situation worse.  Instead, maintain your calm and cool! 

If your dog is a young puppy or this is a new behavior for an older dog, you may be able to work out his problems.  You may need to enlist a groomer or trainer to help you with this.

If this is a longstanding problem, and your dog has been fired by groomers, but you can handle the dog, you may need to learn to groom him yourself.  

Q: What should I look for in a training class for my puppy?


A: The major benefit in attending puppy class (often called “puppy kindergarten”) is the opportunity for socialization!  Puppies in the class should be under five months old, and could be as young as 8 weeks in some programs.  The value of early puppy socialization far outweighs the slight risk for a puppy to be exposed to infectious diseases*.  Puppies should have at least received their first set of vaccinations prior to entering class.  Look for a low instructor- to- student ratio.  There should be well supervised off leash play time for puppies.  Class curriculum should be geared toward responsible pet ownership, and should include instruction on basic skills.  Puppy kindergarten should not be a formal “obedience” class.  You should receive instruction about equipment, and what is appropriate or not for puppies!  

*Dr. R. K. Anderson’s Socialization Letter,

Dog Training

posted July 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Mary Green

Q. How do I keep my 30 lb. dog from lumbering across my lap and trying to exit the car before I can get out first?  I get a mouth full of red dog fur, not to mention being squished.

A.  The quick solution is to have your dog secured in the car by using a car harness.  The harness attaches to the lap or shoulder seat belt.  Bolting through any open door, be it the front door, car door, or gate, can be a dangerous practice.  

Teach your dog to wait at openings and only proceed through when directed.  First, teach her to Sit and Wait to get a treat.  It’s easy!  Just instruct her to Sit, then tell her to Wait.  Use your hand like a stop sign showing her the palm of your hand to reinforce waiting.  After a couple of seconds, tell her good girl, and let her come to get the treat.  Gradually increase the length of time she has to wait.  

Over time, repeat the process at all the places she would be likely to bolt.  For the car, practice in the garage or another secure area, and make her wait while you gather your belongings, take the key out, open the car door – and finally get out.  She should not be invited out until you have control of her leash.

Q.  We have two Shih Tzu dogs.  One is 6 yrs. old and the other is 5 yrs. old.  They are house-trained, but when I’m at work during the day or when we are asleep in the night, they will sometimes wake me to go outside, and other times, they just pee.  I clean the carpets continually, but I always smell dog pee.  How in the world will I ever get them to stop?  Are they doing it to spite me?  I know they are capable of holding it for 8 hrs.

A.  There are many reasons why dogs eliminate in the wrong place, but they really don’t do it out of spite.  First, rule out any potential medical issues that could be masquerading as behavior problems.  If the dogs are male, and un-neutered, the behavior may be urine marking.  Neutering can help reduce marking.  If the dogs are spayed females, there may be a problem of a leaky bladder, which can be helped through medication.  A urinary tract infection can also cause a dog to have accidents.  

If there are no medical reasons for the misbehavior, you can address other causes.   First of all, going from a full bladder to an empty bladder feels very good to the dog – and becomes very self-rewarding!  If you need to go…go! It can be caused by bad habit and reinforced by lingering odor.  The next time you clean the carpets, rent or purchase a black light and thoroughly check for spots.  Clean with a good enzymatic cleaner, such as Nature’s Miracle or Simple Solution, and re-check with the black light.

Management such as crating or confining the dogs while you are gone can prevent accidents.  Perhaps you can install a doggie door so that they can go out as they need to.  You could teach them how to ring a dog doorbell to give them a clear way to indicate that they need to go out.  In the morning, and when you first come home from work, take them out to potty twice in a short period of time.  If they have been outside for a long period of time, let them know it’s Last Call.  Be sure they go potty before you let them in.  If they are sneaking off to go potty, use a baby gate to keep them in the bedroom at night.  Or put a jingle bell on their collar so you can hear them if they stir.  Do not allow them to tank up on a full bowl of water before bed time, or before you leave them for a long period.

Q.   I live in the Tulsa metro-area and I own a herding breed dog.  I would like to learn more about herding livestock and maybe earning herding titles with my dog.  Can you give me some ideas about the characteristics of a potential herding dog and how I can get started?

A.  It can be said that every dog needs a job.  But unemployed herding breeds, such as Border collies, cattle dogs (heelers), collies, and Australian shepherds, can get into a lot of trouble by practicing herding behavior on children, cats and cars.  If your dog has a keen instinct to chase things that move, or see if he can make things move, and has the drive to keep up the game, he may do well on stock.  Herding dogs must work closely under the direction of their handler, by verbal commands or whistle commands.  They are never allowed to endanger the stock.  In competitions, dogs may herd sheep, cattle, and even ducks!  There are several organizations that sponsor herding trials where you can earn titles with your dog.  I’m only familiar with the AKC.  There is a newly formed club, 4-Corners Herding Association which will offer herding clinics and trials.  Their website is  A Google search of “getting started in herding” would be a good way to find more information.

Mary Green, Certified Pet Dog Trainer, is the owner of K9 Manners & More in Broken Arrow.  She is a consultant for the Tulsa SPCA, trainer for TheraPetics Service Dogs of OK, and is a monthly guest on the KOTV Noon News.

Have a training question for October?  Email [email protected].


Good and Bad Behavior

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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Q. We have a Labrador retriever, almost a year old, who jumps up on us all the time. We can hardly walk outside without him jumping all over us. He knocks down the kids, and is impossible to pet because he’s so wild. Will he outgrow this?

A. The short answer is, no, he will not outgrow this. He is jumping on you to get attention, and if he spends a lot of time outdoors alone, he is lonely! You can, however, teach him how you would like him to greet people. The first step is to prevent him from practicing this behavior, especially when children are present. The goal is for him to sit as an alternative to jumping up on people. You can accomplish this without using harsh methods such as kneeing the dog in the chest, which are ineffective and potentially dangerous to dogs and people.

To begin, set aside 15 minutes that you can spend working with your dog without any other people or animals around. Practice in the area where he is used to greeting people. Have a good supply of really yummy dog treats in your pocket, or fanny pack. With a treat in your hand, step toward the dog, into his space, and while he has four feet on the ground, give him the treat. Keep the treats coming as long as he has four feet on the ground. You can step into the dog’s space or you can turn away from the dog, but you must only reward when he has four feet on the ground.

To teach sit, you will let the dog sniff and lick the treat in your hand, but don’t let him eat it. Lure the dog using the treat so that while he is licking, you cause his nose to point upward. While his nose follows the treat, his knees will bend and his rump will touch the ground. At that exact moment, give him the treat, say, “Sit,” and follow with a “Good Boy!” Lure him with the food only a few more times, then wait for him to sit voluntarily. He will, and then you will reward him with treats and praise. Again, wait for him to sit voluntarily and reward him.

Practice a few times alone with the dog, and then recruit an adult volunteer. Now the praise and reward will come from the other person. The dog will anticipate getting food, and will try what worked before…the sit!

As your dog learns to sit when a person approaches, he will also be learning to sit to accept petting. As he sits, and you praise him, pet him with long strokes. If he gets up, you will say “anh anh” and remind him again to sit.

Q. I’m the proud owner of a 10 week old puppy. He’s doing really great in most areas, but he bites at our hands all the time and even draws blood. How do we stop him when he bites?

A. Congratulations on your new addition! I suspect he is really mouthing rather than biting you. All puppies go through a process of learning bite inhibition. They begin using their teeth on their mother and their littermates in play, to get resources, when they’re mad, or when they’re excited. We must teach them that humans are not tough like their siblings nor do we like to be treated like chew toys. It takes lots of patience on your part and lots and lots of practice to help him learn to use his teeth appropriately.

The first step is to“yelp” like a puppy would when his sibling bites hard. When you receive a “bite” that is particularly sharp, make a high-pitched “ouch” sound, and stop petting or playing. You may see the puppy retreat slightly, which is a good sign. You should act offended, and he should act sorry. You will probably repeat this process several times in a row, and if he persists, just end the interaction. Walk away, do not continue giving him attention.

Offer him a toy to chew on instead of your hands. As you are petting, grooming, or playing with your puppy and he puts his teeth on you, firmly say, “No Bite.” As you say this, rest his chin in the palm of one hand, so that your fingers curl upward and gently around his lips (not over the top of his muzzle), and place your other hand on his collar. Hold him very gently, as if you were holding a bird in your hands. You should see his tongue quickly flick out and lick his lips. That’s his way of apologizing. When you see this, remove your hands, pet him gently and tell him that he is a good boy.

Never discipline a puppy by shaking him, spanking him, or clamping down on his muzzle. Never tease him with your hand gestures. Play with toys with him rather than your body!

Mary Green, Certified Pet Dog Trainer, is the owner of K9 Manners & More in Broken Arrow. She is a consultant for the Tulsa SPCA, trainer for TheraPetics Service Dogs of OK, and is a monthly guest on the KOTV Noon News.

Story by Mary Green

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