- Setting up places for your dog to relax
- Working on bathroom skills
- Redirecting barking, chewing, and jumping tendencies
- Doing tricks that show happiness and affection
- Playing games togetherPrepping for Training — Mentally and Physically) and guide him along.
Using comfort stations when out and about
Whenever you travel, take your dog’s comfort station — bedding and a toy — along for the ride. It works like a security blanket works for kids: Knowing where to go and what to do helps your dog relax, no matter what the situation. Here are some special trips that you can make more comfortable for your dog:
– Car rides: Car rides are jarring for many dogs. Some get anxious and bark at the sights going by, and when the scene changes, they take credit for it and bark more. Other dogs get nauseous from the motion. In either case, create a comfort station or place a crate in your car so he feels right at home. Lead him in and out the same door, and secure him with a suitable leash. The consistency is comforting.
– Overnights: Like young children, dogs have consistent patterns, and they prefer familiar surroundings. If you’re planning an overnight, pack and put down your comfort stations as soon as you arrive at your destination.
– At the veterinarian, dog school, café, and so on: Short trips confuse dogs. When dogs are thrust into new situations with unfamiliar people and/or dogs, familiar directions and objects help them feel secure. Place your dog’s comfort station at your side or under your legs and encourage him to “Stay” if you’re forced to wait.
Party Time . . . I Mean, Potty Time
The most important routine your dog has to learn in leaving your home (also known as his den) is where to go to the bathroom. Think of it like teaching a toddler to go on the potty — but your dog’s toilet will be a place in your yard or well-organized papers in a corner of the house.
A polite request: Adding a bell to get your attention
If you teach your dog the bell trick, you can rely on him to tell you when he needs to go out to do his business. Some dogs even use the bell to remind their people when they’re hungry or thirsty, too. People either love this trick or they hate it.
When a dog needs to go to the bathroom, he’ll navigate to wherever you’ve coached him to potty. If a door blocks his way, hang a bell next to the door at his nose level. Here’s how to teach him to ring it:
1. Tap the bell with your fingers as you lead your dog through the door.
Be very relaxed about ringing them, staring at the bells — not your dog — and opening the door as if the two depended on each other.
2. Walk directly to your dog’s bathroom area.
Your dog should begin to ring the bell on his own within a week.
Some dogs ring the bell by nosing it, others by pawing it. Let your dog do what comes naturally to him. Avoid forcing him into the bell, or he’ll refuse to cooperate.
If your dog isn’t ringing the bell himself after a week’s time, rub a dab of butter on it before you bring him to the door; then encourage his interest and open the door the moment he sounds the bell.
Teaching your dog to potty in one place
Having a dog who eliminates in a designated place is a real advantage. No yellow stains marking up the lawn, no standing outside for hours waiting for your dog to go, a handy travel cue to take with you on trips — the benefits are endless!
You can teach this trick whether or not your dog is fully housetrained. And when you succeed, you’ll consider it no small miracle. Just follow these steps:
1. Select a “sacred bathroom area” in your yard and use white clothesline to create a 6- to 12-foot-wide circle to designate this area.
If you live in the city, modify the circle to encompass the curb.
2. Take your dog to this area on lead when you’re sure he has to go.
If your dog decides to play with the rope, soak it overnight in Bitter Apple spray (available at local pet supply stores), a nontoxic substance with a taste dogs find unpleasant.
3. If your dog goes potty in the circle, say “Get busy” as he’s peeing. Within a week you’ll be able to prompt the action with these very words. Cool!
4. When he’s finished, click (if you’re using a clicker) and treat, saying “Good dog!”
If he misses your mark, praise warmly but offer no treat. Have faith! Soon your dog will be as potty-trained as a 6-year-old. You can remove the circle once your dog is reliably going potty in the right place.
5. Pick up after your dog.
No dog will go where he’s gone 20 times before without cleanup. Would you? Though there are designer pooper-scoopers on the market, I’ve found it very tidy to cover my hand with a plastic bag, pick up the poop, and then turn the bag inside out to surround the deposit.
Do you have an indoor dog? The circle trick may not be necessary because your dog will usually go wherever you place the paper (or indoor potty). If you and your dog are seasoned travelers, however, a portable rope outlining the paper can help ease the travel transition for your dog.
For more tips on housetraining, check out Housetraining For Dummies, by Susan McCullough (Wiley).
Fending off Frustrating Habits with Fun
Your dog loves you, and he ate your favorite slippers just to show how much. It’s hard to understand dog thinking sometimes, but know that he chose something that carried the scent he holds most dear — your feet.
Dogs don’t frustrate the same way people do. From a dog’s point of view, wild barking, chewed shoes, and slobbery, overeager greetings are natural expressions of canine-centric respect and camaraderie. Your dog isn’t trying to frustrate you with bad behavior; he’s trying to bond with you: We’re all dogs here! Let’s sniff butts, dig up the begonias, and pee-mark all our stuff! Good times! Of course, the canine perspective isn’t always well-received in the two-legged world. You need to teach your dog the manners he needs to participate in the human world.
The first step in teaching your dog better manners is to understand and accept your dog’s perceptions (I discuss some of them in Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically). Frustrations clearly depend on who you’re speaking about. What may be utter aggravation to you — a barking dog, a destroyed shoe, an overeager greeting — is considered natural, dare I say respectful behavior from your dog’s perspective:
– Barking dogs often perceive their noise-making to be in high demand.
– Chewing a carefully selected item that has your scent on it is actually just a dog missing the one he loves.
– An enthusiastic jump angled toward the face of the visitor is a very normal canine greeting.
When discouraging one behavior, you must encourage another. So after you think about why your dog is doing what he does, make a discourage/encourage chart, like the one in Table 5-1. List all your frustrations in one column. Then write down alternative behaviors that could satisfy your dog’s impulses (without raising your blood pressure into the danger zone), and think about ways to encourage those replacement behaviors.
The upcoming subsections look at three ill-mannered behaviors — barking, jumping, and chewing — and tell you how to help your dog find more-polite ways to express himself.
Table 5-1 A Discourage/Encourage Chart
Behavior to Discourage
Behavior to Encourage Instead
How to Do So
Jumping at the door
Sitting or fetching a toy
When you first come home, ask your dog to sit or get a toy before you greet him.
Jumping on the furniture
Relaxing in a comfort station on the floor
Provide comfort stations with toys near the couch (for info on comfort stations, see the earlier section “Giving Your Dog a Place to Settle Down”).
Chewing on shoes
Chewing on toys
Place appropriate chew toys at each comfort station.
Barking at noises outside
Barking on command
Teach “Speak,” “Shhh,” and “Come tell me!” (see “Rehabilitating the incessant barker” in this chapter, and Chapter Barking, Counting, and Singing on Cue).
Rehabilitating the incessant barker
Most dogs bark, but some are more sworn to it than others — their breed impulses insist they alert you to every noise and motion. Other dogs are protective, and they assume this role if you don’t take it yourself. Regardless, if your dog’s a barker, you can find positive outlets for his gift in Chapter Barking, Counting, and Singing on Cue. But in the meantime, take a moment to curb his intensity by teaching him to bark on cue. You read that right — by teaching him to bark on command, you’ll be able to turn it off.
To teach your dog to bark on command, you need to use the following:
– Eye contact: Look at your dog alertly when you want him to bark. Break your stare when you want him to quiet down.
– Voice commands: You need two voice commands: “Speak” and “Shhh.” Enunciate clearly when you give your commands.
– Hand signals: You use snappy signals to both encourage barking and discourage it. To signal “Speak,” try snapping your fingers near your mouth. To signal “Shhh,” put your index finger to your lips as if shushing a child.
You can train your dog to “Speak” and “Shhh” in these four lessons:
1. Lesson One: Get something your dog lives for, a ball or a treat for example. Secure him to a post or tree and hold his prized object just out of reach while you encourage “Speak” and look at him intensely. When he does bark, reward him with the object immediately and cheerfully. Begin to add the hand signal to your voice and eye cues. Repeat this procedure until your dog reacts quickly to the “Speak” command.
When you’re ready to stop say “Shhh” and turn your attention to something else. If you’re using a clicker, click when he is quiet, and reward and praise him. Repeat this process until your dog responds to both “Speak” and “Shhh.”
2. Lesson Two: Encourage your dog to speak throughout the day for positive things, such as a meal or a walk. If he speaks out of turn, just ignore him.
3. Lesson Three: Now it’s time to turn your dog’s focus to “Shhh.” Secure your dog and stand in front of him with something tasty or fun. Say “Speak!” After a few barks, say “Shhh.”
4. Lesson Four: Practice your commands throughout the day, varying which ones you reinforce. Sometimes reward the “Speak,” sometimes the “Shhh.” Have your dog “Speak” and “Shhh” two or three times before rewarding him. He’ll be so proud of his new trick, and so will you!
Reconditioning the jumper
Everybody knows a jumper — a knock-you-over-when-you-come-in jumper, a muddy-paw-prints-on-the-couch jumper, a counter cruiser. So what can you do? The first step in solving your problem is to remember the chief motivation for your dog’s jumping: attention. Jumping is a surefire attention-getter. Your dog will die for it. And if he jumps up and you yell at him, he’s getting attention. That makes jumping a guaranteed rewarding activity, so why should he stop?
To resolve any jumping problem, you need to remove the reward and let your dog do the math himself. This section offers some solutions to the most typical jumping situations.
Calming a homecoming jumper
You have two choices when you come home and your dog jumps on you:
– Ignore your dog, cross your arms, and look up. Encourage everyone in the house to do the same.
– Very discretely use a spray mist (such as a mouth spray or commercial concoction) to create an invisible boundary between you and your dog. Ignore your dog as you do this; the moment he stops leaping skyward give him a command like “Sit,” “Dance,” or “Roll over,” or direct him to a play toy, as you encourage a more appropriate alternative for his enthusiasm.
If you choose to spray, look away as you do it (so your dog won’t take it as a personal attack) and don’t ever spray your dog directly. Always redirect your dog the moment he stops jumping at you. After your dog catches on to the correction, you can use it to keep him away from company. Using the same principles of an invisible boundary and no attention, you can discourage your dog’s two-pawed greeting without making a fuss. Make sure your guests know not to greet the dog until he has settled down.
Have a basket of balls or a squeaky toy by the door and toss one down when you come in or when you’re welcoming a visitor. This teaches your dog to focus his energy on his toy, not you.
Dogs mimic your energy level. If you come home to an excited dog, or if your dog flips out when the doorbell rings, stay calm. If you get excited in your attempts to calm your dog, you’ll actually be getting your dog supercharged.
Correcting a counter cruiser
Do you have a counter cruiser? This dog jumps on the kitchen counter to look for crumbs or sneaks a paw to steal a tidbit. It’s a nasty little habit that’s hard to break.
First of all, realize that as soon as your dog is on the counter or has successfully stolen a bite, you can’t correct him. Let it go. Any corrections after the fact will come across as envy — your dog will think that because you’re interested in what he’s doing or what he has stolen, the object must be truly valuable.
To discourage a counter cruiser, you need to correct the thought process. Each time you see your dog sniffing the counter, say “Don’t think about it!” in a no-nonsense tone. Because you’re smarter than he is, you may try setting up situations (say, a piece of pizza on the kitchen counter) where you can catch your dog contemplating a theft and administer the correction. (See the section on teaching your dog “Nope” in Chapter Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons.)
Keep counter visits unappealing by making sure there’s nothing there your dog will want. Whenever you’re not in the room to teach him right from wrong, anything on the counter is fair game.
Reclaiming your seat on the furniture
Most people invite their puppies on the furniture, only to regret it later. To discourage your dog from getting onto the furniture, attach a short lead (8 to 12 inches) to his buckle collar and pull him off each time he puts even one paw on the furniture, saying “Excuse me!” in a very lofty tone.
To give your dog a place to go instead, set up doggy comfort stations on the floor, as I explain in the earlier section, “Giving Your Dog a Place to Settle Down.”
Rehabilitating the chewer
The chewer likes to put everything in his mouth. Toys, shoes, paper towels — it’s all the same in his eyes. Correcting a dog is like yelling at an infant: It doesn’t register. In fact, yelling at a dog when he grabs a sock is perceived as prize envy (you want what he has), and that’s what results in destructive chewing.
Instead, encourage your dog to show you his prize by praising him every time he picks something up, and reward every delivery with a treat from a treat cup. You may think you’re rewarding delinquent chewing, but in fact, chewing itself won’t become a problem because your dog will be happy to show you his treasure.
Of course, you need to teach your dog that he just can’t chew certain items, fair in his mind or not. It’s similar to teaching 5-year-old kids they can’t sip your coffee or wine. Shoes, toilet paper, and kids’ action figures are all off-limits, even though they’re often lying about on the floor. Here are some tips to help you teach your dog this lesson:
– In each room you share, arrange a comfort station. Place your dog’s favorite chews and toys in this area so he reliably finds them there when the need to nibble strikes. I describe comfort stations earlier in the section “Giving Your Dog a Place to Settle Down.”
– Direct your dog to an approved chewable. Each time you notice your dog start to fidget, direct him to his bone or toy with a command such as “Bone” or “Toy.”
– Keep a spray deterrent near areas he likes to nosh. If you notice your dog chewing on an immovable object, approach him calmly, spray the object with a taste deterrent such as Bitter Apple as he’s chewing it (be careful to avoid spraying his face) while saying “Nope” (or “Wrong”), and then direct him to his bone or toy with a cue.
You can spray your valuables ahead of time to discourage any test chewing before it happens!
Starting with Some Simple Moves: Tricks for a Happy, Loving Dog
Whenever I listen to clients complain about their dog, I turn to the dog and say, “Well aren’t you the naughtiest, most terrible little monster! What a nuisance you’ve become.” I say it, however, in such a sweet, loving voice that it causes every dog to squirm with delight. The owners can’t help but fall in love with their adoring doggie all over again.
One of the fastest ways for you to get addicted to trick training is to teach your dog some easy tricks that showcase that puppy love. And dogs, like people, love to succeed, so the surest way to get your dog addicted to trick training is to start with a few surefire winners. Here are a few tricks that everyone can master — people and dogs of all ages!
A tail-wagging trick: Are you happy?
If you’re happy and you know it, wag your tail! Teaching your dog how to wag his tail on command is so easy. If a tennis ball brings the tail into action, hold up a ball; if food gets the tail to wag, use that. Catch your dog wagging, praise him for it, and think of a clever cue word to command each time (like “Wag”). Use your cue word in a positive, inviting tone, and watch your dog come alive.
Now add a hand signal like waving your right hand back and forth. Start out with a pronounced sweep, and then phase off until you can make small motions with your index finger.
If you’re in front of a crowd, you can ask really difficult questions and tell your dog that if he agrees, all he has to do is wag his tail. It goes like this: “I’m going to ask you a hard question and if you agree, all you have to do is wag your tail. Ready? Would you like everyone to give you a hug?” Signal your dog and voilà! A surefire crowd pleaser!
“Give Me a Hug”
“Give Me a Hug” is a breed-selective exercise. If your dog is injured, has dysplasia, or is skeletally challenged (like a Basset, a Bulldog, or a giant breed), avoid this trick. And don’t forget — if your dog refuses, move on.
You can teach this command in several ways. If your dog loves to wrap his paws around you, you can reinforce this behavior when it’s happening by using a clicker (as I explain in Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically), or you can cue your dog by luring him and pairing his cooperation with a word like “Hug.” Reward your dog when he’s in the hug position — this method works best for calm dogs who are not prone to excessive jumping.
For jumpy dogs, try a more sedate method. I taught my wild-child dog Shayna to hug by first ignoring the behavior when she was jumping all over me and then sitting with her and organizing it this way:
1. Kneel down on the floor or sit in a chair and give your dog the “Sit” command.
Check to make sure your dog is sitting square on the floor, not leaning to either side.
2. Lift your dog’s front paws gently and place them on your shoulders as you say “Hug.”
Give your dog a thorough pet and/or a reward.
3. Say “Okay” and help him down.
Do Steps 1 through 3 only three times per session, and stop if your dog becomes too energetic or starts to nip. Leave the leash on and give a tug on the leash as you say “Shhh!” if your dog gets too excited while on two paws. Also, try practicing “Hug” when your dog has less energy.
The silent signal for “Hug” is to cross your arms over your chest and tap your shoulders with your fingers. You can demonstrate the signal each time you say “Hug.” Be patient while teaching this sign language — it may take a while for your dog to make the connection.
Getting your dog to give you kisses is a real delight — unless you hate dog kisses. You can teach this trick quickly by association, simply saying “Kisses” whenever you’re getting a licking.
If your dog is licking out of control, make it more of a two-step process:
1. First teach your dog “Enough” to signal him to stop licking.
Keep a short (8- to 12-inch) leash on your dog and say “Enough” in a pleasant but serious tone. If your dog doesn’t listen, tug the leash as you withdraw your attention.
When discouraging licking, look away and not at your dog. If you look at your dog, you’re essentially saying, “Do it again!”
2. Teach your dog to lick on cue.
To teach your dog to lick you, take a frozen stick of butter and rub it on the back of your hand. During a period when your dog is calm, go to him, extend your hand, and command “Kisses” as he licks your hand. When you’ve had enough, just say so — “Enough!”
To teach your dog to give someone else a kiss, such as the next-door neighbor or a member of your audience, use a stick of butter during the teaching phase. Ask a few people to help you out, and rub the backs of their hands with butter before you instruct your dog to give them a kiss. Have them extend their hands to your dog and say “Kisses” as you point to the buttered hand. Soon your dog will be seeking out hands to kiss, butter-coated or not. This trick is handy if you have kids over; putting butter on their hands encourages licks, not jumping.
When your dog knows the trick, you can add a hand signal: Rub your right index finger on the back of your left hand, as though your finger is your dog’s tongue.
Introducing Interactive Play
Dogs love to play. The more you can let go and roll with their enthusiasm, the more fun you’ll have. Some games, like tug-of-war and wrestling, inspire confrontation, so use the games in this section instead to format your fun. Interactive activities like “Catch Me” and “Hide and Seek” can build your bond and inspire respect.
“Hide and Seek”
“Hide and Seek” is a great game and also reinforces that indispensable “Come” command. You need one to four players and a treat cup, and your dog needs to know his name and the “Come” command. “Stay” also comes in handy (see Chapter Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons).
Start with this game inside, one-on-one:
1. While your dog is occupied, go into an adjoining room with a treat cup; call out his name and shake the cup.
Use a disposable plastic cup filled halfway with small treats, such as Cheerios.
2. When you hear him running, say “Come” clearly.
Praise him, offer a treat, and let him return to whatever he was doing, putting the treat cup away — or he may never leave your side!
3. Increase the level of difficulty by calling him from two rooms away.
You should still be in sight, not hard to find.
4. After a couple of days of hiding in plain sight around the house and calling from room to room, go into the adjoining room and hide behind a chair.
After your dog catches on to this game, you can increase the difficulty of your hiding places and add another teammate. Eventually, your two-legged geniuses can play a game to see who gets found first and who gets found last. Gradually phase off using your treat cups.
The name game: Where’s Sally?
Teaching your dog everyone’s name couldn’t be easier. Pick one person at a time and have the person sit across the room with a treat cup. Instruct your dog to find that person by name. For example, say “Where’s Sally?” and have Sally shake the cup the moment she hears her name. Progressively ask Sally to distance herself from you, having her in various rooms of the house so your dog will always be curious to find her location.
After your dog is eager to track Sally (and her treat cup), reintroduce her nearby — but phase off using treats. Sally can call and encourage your dog with praise instead. Soon just her name will inspire enthusiasm.
The shell game
Dogs love to be included in the shell game. Whether you’re sitting at home or on an adventure, you can use shells, cups, or even sand piles to hide your dog’s treat or toy under one of three stacks. After you shift the stacks about, ask your dog, “Where’s your bone?” or “Where’s your toy?” If your dog’s confused, pretend to sniff each pile — he’ll copy your example and find the bone or toy soon enough.
I’ve always hated games that involve people chasing dogs, especially when that game involves a coveted laundry item. Games that encourage your dog to focus on and follow you, however, are a real prize when it comes to training and having fun. These games also reinforce the extinction of bad habits, such as nipping and jumping.
To play “Catch Me,” a variation of the children’s game “Red Light, Green Light,” you need one or two players and a dog toy. Your dog needs to know “Sit,” “Wait,” “Down,” “Stay,” “Okay,” and “Nope.” (See Chapter Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons for details on these commands.)
1. Turn and face your dog from about 3 to 6 feet away; say “Catch me” and then turn and run.
2. After a few feet, pop back to face your dog and command “Wait!”
3. Treat your dog when he stops, then say “Okay, catch me,” and run again.
4. Now that he’ll stop, try another quick command like “Sit” or “Down,” luring your dog into position if he’s confused by the excitement.
5. Follow each stationary command with “Okay, catch me” to continue the game.
6. When you’re through, tell your dog “Okay” and give him a favorite toy.
Keep the game short, just one or two minutes.
Some dogs get too excited or overwhelmed by this game. If yours isn’t cooperating, try a different game. If he goes wild, racing in a big circle playing hard to get, guess what? — this isn’t the game for you!
I know I’ll catch some flak for writing about “Catch Me.” People are always asking whether high-energy games encourage mouthing and jumping. My response? If it escalates the dog’s bad behavior uncontrollably, leave it out. If your dog enjoys the game and you can curb naughtiness with a sharp “Nope” or “Wrong” (see Chapter Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons), then go for it. “Catch Me” is a fun activity and sharpens your dog’s impulses, teaching him to follow — but not jump or nip at you.
A treasure hunt game: “Digging for China”
Have you considered hiring your dog out to the local excavating company? The prerequisite, of course, is to teach him to dig on command. Equip yourself with a clicker, garden gloves, and treats, and then follow these directions to play “Digging for China”:
1. Find a private area in your yard to teach your dog to dig; bury some treats 1 inch under the ground to pique his interest.
2. Start blissfully digging yourself, unearthing the treats as you go and handing them to your dog.
3. Reward your dog for joining in, saying “Go dig!”
4. Now try hiding a few treats or a toy before bringing your dog to his digging spot; then give the command “Go dig.”
Like an archeologist discovering treasures, he’ll unearth them with obvious delight.
I can already feel the page trembling; you may be worried that without your approval, your dog will unearth your shrubbery and carpets. Though I won’t promise you a rose garden (no pun intended), most dogs who are reinforced for digging in one area usually stick to it. By teaching your dog to dig in specific locations, you’re able to discourage him from digging in other places.
by Sarah Hodgson