Monday, July 7, 2014


Today's blog post will be focusing on teaching stay. I'll be using a twelve-weeks-old Keeshond puppy as a test subject because little Tallinn will be more fun than theoretical troubleshooting and she's more than a little photogenic.

What to do
First, have the dog sit and tell them firmly (but kindly) to stay. Personally, I like to have dogs on hand signals too so paired with the "stay" position your hand as depicted in the picture below with my dog, Razza.

Granted hand motions do not mean that much to little puppies who are really just starting to learn. With Tallinn, I just said "stay" and took a step (or two) away then went back to reward her with a treat.

Tallinn was actually great at picking up stay given she doesn't really know sit or down yet. I found that rushing away while she was busy chewing her last piece of treat worked wonders because she was too distracted to care.

After the dog starts staying semi-reliably start to add a release word like "okay" to free the dog before rewarding them. For most dogs this is more than a few sessions into learning what "stay" means so feel free to wait to introduce it.

In the future, I would consider trying having a second person hold the dog to give a more excitable dog a better chance at staying to be rewarded. Just teaching the concept of staying in one place is difficult in the beginning so it's just not worth it (unless your dog already knows either sit or down) to discriminate as long as they're staying roughly in the same space.

Tallinn's Best Attempt at Stay
Note: Tallinn was already quite tired from an earlier long dog walk.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Housebreaking can be an exhausting process. Only very consistent training can reinforce the concept that dogs should empty themselves outside...not on the pretty wood floors. Much of the time if the puppy was raised by a great breeder they will be well on their way to being house trained when they go to their homes, but the nervousness and newness makes this continuity difficult. According to EasyDogTrainingCenter, housebreaking can also be a great way to begin the relationship of dog to owner.

There's a reason puppies are cute--it's to help owners put up with all the early morning "I want to go outside" whining. Puppies don't want to dirty their surroundings anymore than you want to stay in nasty dirty gym clothes for hours.

So just be persistent about taking the little darling outside (yes, even at 2 am).

Accidents do happen, they're inevitable. Be they owners deciding to ignore the puppy sitting staring at the yard intently, or the puppy waking up and getting too excited. Just move on and clean up the mess and don't forget to spray a de-odorizer/anti-stain spray. The de-odorizer spray makes the scent go away so the dog (or another dog for that matter) doesn't smell it and want to mark in the same spot again (beside the obvious that we don't want to smell it either).

As for that precious hardwood floor we discussed earlier, there's hope for getting the odor out of it as well: eHow

Monday, May 26, 2014

Leave It

It can be incredibly frustrating to deal a dog that wants to check every little thing out on walk or in the backyard. Whether it be human food, roadkill, or a toy there are plenty of items we would rather our dogs not be quite so close too. This is where the "leave it" command comes in, "leave it" tells the dog to well leave it alone. According to Dog Commands it is also the basis of the treat balancing on the dog's nose trick.

In general, we deal with the most random stuff that we don't want our dogs to be getting into while out on dog walks so it's also the best place to start training. Grab some treats or a toy before you leave the house then wait for your dog to be distracted by something. When the dog is distracted and wants to go check something undesirable out, firmly state "leave it" then distract them with the reward. 

Petfinder details a more intensive version which involves several layers of training in the process of rewarding with the distraction along with some progressive stages. Another thing to consider is that they are defining the command as simply not picking up whatever it is the dog wants rather than completely not going near it.

Here's an interesting clicker training version from Youtube

Monday, May 19, 2014

Destructive Chewing

Given that I've just been back visiting puppies for the weekend I thought it'd be fitting to make this week's post about how to stop, or at least lower the frequency of unwanted chewing behaviors. The general approaches to resolving this unwanted behavior include bitter apple spray (or an equivalent), taking away options and replacing them with toys, and hiding all items that might be chewed. Note that many dogs chew to relieve issues with their situation and environment so it may be worth looking into when and why your dog is chewing.

According to Easy Dog Training the top 3 reasons for chewing are 

  1. Natural desire to chew. Dogs naturally explore the world with their mouths; thus, chewing for them is innately fun, stimulating, and self-rewarding (especially if chewing on something tasty).
  2. Nervousness, loneliness, or boredom. Dogs use chewing as an emotional outlet. Dog chewing makes up for a good pastime and is also soothing or comforting especially for anxious dogs.
  3. Lack of exercise. Under-exercised dogs are more likely to chew as a way of burning up all their pent-up energy.
The bitter apple spray approach occasionally doesn't work because some dogs don't care about the bad taste, but for the rest it's wonderful at providing classical conditioning which pairs chewing with a bad taste. Replacing whatever the dog is chewing with a toy or otherwise interrupting the dog to do something else is great at forcing the dog to think about something else. 

Monday, May 12, 2014


Many prefer to train "stay" before "come", but teaching a dog to come when called is simply a lot easier to do than making a young dog sit still for any length of time.

I like to train a dog or young puppy to come by having two people a few feet apart sitting on the ground. Have one person hold the dog while the other calls the dog, and squeaks a toy or offers treats. Next have person one release the dog and watch as the dog travels to person two. Person two will then need to reward the dog with praise, treats or a toy.

If the dog is older, or already knows how to stay on command then having two people isn't really necessary, but taking a different command out of the situation makes it easier for the dog to focus.

Helpful Links
Video of training stay and come
Alternative verbal method
Alternative which turns training into a game

Update: July 7th, 2014
Did this activity with 12 weeks old Tallinn today and it was a lot of fun!

Not only did she learn that coming to people is a good thing (we tried to pair it with the word "come"), but she was very tired and slept for hours afterward (our favorite part).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


To teach a dog to shake/paw  (put their paw in your hand) I personally like to begin by rewarding the dog for pawing before they know the command. Many dogs actually already shake naturally as either a way of playing or trying to get attention. This tells the dog that it's a desirable action before giving a name to  it.

What I like to do is teach the dog to shake as a way of asking to be pet. Warning, if your dog is particularly needy you may not want to tie shaking to being pet or the dog might start whacking your arm while you're relaxing.

If the dog isn't naturally paw-driven, what you can do is gently pick up one of their paws then reward them. With a little repetition your dog will learn that the action equals a reward too.

Link to a Youtube video tutorial training shake

Monday, April 28, 2014


Now that you've theoretically been practicing sit with your dog every day for more than a week, let's go ahead and introduce down. Training your dog to lay down is interesting because (in my experience) 50% of dogs want to lay down and be mentally checked out, the other 50% would much rather obstinately operate on selective hearing and well not lay down.

Much like I explained in my "The Sit" post, this is a command that different trainers all have different approaches and opinions on. Dog obedience instructors I've had despise the use of food in introducing a command because they usually think it's distracting. Personally, I want my extremely food-driven dog to think of laying down on command fondly. Praise will work just fine if your dog is attentive and listens well.

To begin with have the dog sit next to you in a heeling position. Then take your right hand and step in front of the dog and squat down and hover your flat hand in front of the dog about a half foot above the ground.

Kneel down with the dog while saying "down" (if you want the dog to be on a verbal can just stick with the visual hand signal). When the dog lays down completely reward him/her.

Other sets of instructions for how to train your dog to lay down are Dog Training Central and Petplace. For trouble shooting I recommend visiting The Dog Guide.

Puppies Update
The 2.5 week old litter has their eyes open and are starting to play and develop personalities.