When to Rethink that Puppy.


I am lipuppy chewingkely to get to flack over this but this is something I have been deliberating on writing about for some time.  I am addressing a few scenarios that in my opinion, are not usually good for raising a puppy.  I have tough training clients and tough dogs but I have an equal amount of normal, typical puppies who end up in homes of people who are ill prepared to handle them. For now I want to separate them into two groups.  The elderly/retired and the busy.  First, I love my Grandma more than you know but I would firmly tell her “Hell no” if she suggested she wanted a new puppy. Likewise, that family of 3 kids under 10 yrs old with busy parents who work 8-10 hr days should also consider other companion options than a new puppy.

Puppies are simple for the most part and even if you get a companion type breed like a Maltese or Yorkie you may be in for trouble if you aren’t prepared.  When I say prepared I don’t just mean you went to the pet store and bought $500 in toys, food and bedding.  I am talking about prepared to get off your butt every hour to take the dogs out, prepared to get on the floor and play with it, prepared to get up when it jumps on you, prepared to adjust your life you love 180 degrees to accommodate a furry toddler.  Seriously, there is nothing drastically different in your responsibility from raising a puppy and a toddler.  Puppies grow up faster but that first year or two is not something to joke about.

Let me just put myself in my clients shoes.  If I was 70 yrs old, retired and alone I may want to get a dog.  Sure a dog but that isn’t necessarily a puppy.  Puppies are fast, they nip, they pee and poo a lot and need to be exercised and be mentally stimulated to prevent problem behaviors.  The problem with many older clients is that they are well, slow and set in their ways. They don’t remember the difficulty of their last puppy. I hear this from their mouths every time.  Heck just getting the treat down to the dog’s mouth is a slow process, now put a leash in the other hand and ask for perfect timing.  It is a challenge.

My job is to find solutions to problems like this and I do, I promise, but this seems like needless pain and trouble when there is a simple option.  Adopting an older dog is such a good choice over a puppy.  They typically come potty trained and require less activity from the owner, assuming they wisely picked a breed that matched their lifestyle.

My other category of pet owners who may want to bypass a puppy is the “busy” family.  Don’t get me wrong. This actually works out ok sometimes but it is that special family and special dog that makes it work.  I am only saying that overall this is a more challenging situation.  From the get go I have more unwanted potty, chewing, nipping, attention seeking behavior than from a family who’s life is more consistent.  With busy family lives and little time because of activities and work, the puppy learns bad behaviors fast.  As much as I loved dogs growing up, I admit I was bit a few times because of my spastic and high energy behavior.  I didn’t get to have a puppy until I was over 10.  I think this was a great decision by my parents.

Now if you have a ton of money to spend on training, daycare, walking, etc. you may have a chance in either scenario but I am not writing this for you.  I am writing this for the average family who wants companionship from and dog and thinks starting from scratch with a puppy is the best option.  Let me remind you that even highly skilled dog trainers get flustered by puppies. These are little lives and when it doesn’t work out, puppies are likely to be re-homed or dropped off at a shelter when they are too much to handle.  Owners may even resort to last chance training protocols that involve unnecessary aversive measures, damaging trust between the owner and the dog, all in the name of having a dog who behaves like you want for your now sedentary or all too busy lifestyle.

Having said all this, I will always come running to the rescue when needed but I would like to see more thought go into the acquisition of a new dog.

Be well and wag tail!

OC Canine Coaching                                                                                                           http://www.occaninecoaching.com


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No means Yes? How your reinforcer may be punishing.

donut on dogs head

Just recently I got to sit down and watch Kathy Sdao’s “What not to Err”.  With her unique energy and quirkyness she touched on several things we do wrong when training our dog. This is for trainers and owners since we are both.  The most impressionable part of the presentation was her explanation of improper sequencing and how your food reward can be infected by punishment.  Two separate topics that can ruin training.

In sequencing it can be as simple as having your hand in the treat bag when you are clicking your dog for a finished behavior. I catch this all the time in my clients and sometimes myself if I am reinforcing very quickly.  Essentially you might as well drop the clicker if you are having trouble her since your hand in the bag is your new conditioned reinforcer.  Keeping it there and practicing clicking will make the clicker irrelevant and that would suck.  Another training misstep comes when your are working say with a fearful dog who doesn’t like other dogs or stimuli. You may offer a treat prior to the dog or trigger to help get through the situation and while you will surely distract the dog, you inadvertently tell the dog that the treat mean there is a scary thing approaching.  This happens in your vet’s office everyday.  Many vets give a cookie right before the shots or before any probing.  This is one reason there are dogs who people believe aren’t food motivated.  If you knew the food meant something scary is coming would you eat? This phenomenon is explained like this.  The emotion of the second stimulus always infects (backward in time) the emotion of the first stimulus.  The fear of the dog infects infects the previously good emotion of the food.

Now to address how you can make no mean yes or punishment mean reinforcement we go into improper sequencing and timing of corrections/rewards.  Have you ever seen a leash pop followed immediately by a treat for compliance.  It happens all the time. I have even been guilty.  Well that leash pop eventually turns into the reinforcer since the emotion of the food infects the correction.  So your NO just became a Yes.  I wonder why your pulling harder than ever and correcting more and more without any results?  This is Classical conditioning at its rawest form.  This happens with people too.  Has your bank ever sent a note that says, “Dear valued Customer”?  Well as nice as that sounds you know it probably isn’t going to be good.

So if you are using corrections please leave some space inbetween the reinforcer or better yet learn how to squash the corrections in the first place.  Make sure you are adding the reinforcer after the dog is aware of the stimulus or after a certain behavior because even more importantly you aren’t actually conditioning the dog to accept the scary dog at all unless the food comes after the sound or appearance of the dog.  If you haven’t seen Kathy Sdao talk or read her work I highly advise you do as well. She is full of great info and fun to watch.

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Captain Opportunity

dog looking at food

I’m a week in to a 3 week board and train with a 6 month old GSD and there are plenty of behaviors that I want to work on that aren’t traditional obedience like sit, down, come, etc.  While we are working on these every day, I realized for the thousandth time that its the jumping, encroaching while eating, getting in my way, barking, pacing that drive me crazy.  Well crazy enough. I happen to have my two dogs and two others here as well so I have a lot going on in my smallish two bedroom.  The new stirrings and erratic movements of a puppy shepherd in the home can be irksome when you are used to calm and this is what I am sure my clients feel with their new pups and rescued dogs with poor manners.

Why was I fighting what I new I had to do. It was so easy. I didn’t have to get a clicker out or a leash( although a tether would help), just have some handy treats around which I already did and finally get up off my lazy butt.  Training never stops and I need to be as accountable as I expect my clients to.  What would I tell them if they were in this position?  Of course, the same thing I almost always say. Manage first, look for alternate incompatible behaviors to reinforce and correct last if at all. 

So while I was eating steak and watching TV at the coffee table trying to keep the puppy from hovering I decided to stop using the failing leave it cure that was not proofed and under stimulus control.  I grabbed some really good bacon jerky and sat back down.  Even though the jerky drew the dogs in more (conditioned response to grabbing treats) I was able to reinforce the leave it and walk over and set the puppy into place which we are also learning.  My dogs were fine and listening and now I was actually training.  I started with a big piece of jerky and then randomly tossed jerky on the mat so the pup couldn’t tell when they were coming. When he got up once I shaped him back and reinforced faster for a bit.  Soon he started going there on his own if he got up.  There really is nothing like training in real life anyway.   How else would you expect to get the pup to learn?  I wasn’t using punishment and so he wasn’t going to generalize the behavior without adding the distractions and the changed, more challenging environment.

The same went for the rest of the days training.  I did a lot of work on counter surfing and I did two session on shaping a back up cue.  The down, sit, place and leave it we already worked on payed off but the real training started when I got uncomfortable and got off my butt.  Instead of getting frustrated and fighting with your dog, or yelling or getting mad because your dog is an opportunist and doest know the rules, take a deep breath and think, what would my trainer say?  Be the same opportunist, and reinforce something else that you want.  Set up the environment to make what ever it is easier and when you fail, try again.  Im sure your dog loves you for this too.

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How hard is punishment? A reality check.

brian hits peter

On almost every consultation there is something the client wants me to stop there dog from doing.  Many are normal canine behaviors while others are aggressive, anxious, or fearful  responses.  Regardless, corrections and punishment, which don’t fool yourself, are one and the same, are used to decrease the unwanted behavior.  What I want to impress on you is the difficulty of doing this correctly and why I first suggest you try your damnedest to learn to manage the environment and reinforce incompatible behaviors first and resort to punishment last.

Lets remember not all punishment is physical or vocal or scary.  With negative punishment we can remove something favorable to the dog and keep right along with a positive reinforcement schedule. We can step it up to negative reinforcement even and still I have not harmed the dog.  Lastly we have positive punishment which is adding an aversive/punisher to decrease the likelihood of behavior.

Now here come the hard parts. Timing, consistency, and degree of intensity.                                                                               No matter what kind of punisher you use you need to have all three criteria in order.  First your timing needs to be within half a second! Whoa.  How many times have you yelled at your dog or swatted them off of you after a few seconds of doing something like jumping or barking?  and do you sometimes let it go on longer or ignore completely?  Let me guess.  The barking jumping or lunging is worse that before.  That is because you failed to punish every time, within half a second and at an intensity high enough to stop.   How on earth can you succeed at punishment?  Truth is you will most likely fail and in turn cause the behavior to worsen and possible cause other unwanted behaviors depending on how you punish.  If you knew how intense the punishment had to be you would be uncomfortable and well you should.   Lastly if you want to get even more specific, the punishment should not be associated with you. Now that is a tall order that even I have trouble with.

This is why I love clicker training.  It takes no strength, cost $5, and although it requires the same timing( which you can practice) , you don’t have the same fall out if you fail to click or click wrong.  The intensity is alwaysthe same unless you use better treats or rewards and you don’t have to worry about nasty side effects like anxiety and fear.   Not only that but it doesn’t inhibit learning. It actually speeds up the process by nearly 50%.  Save your strength for the gym and your voice for the big game.  Leave the training smiling and excited to start again and not upset and tense from correcting so much. Punishment takes a tole on you too, more than you know.  More on that to follow.

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A Walk Starts With a Look

 doglookingwalkingLets see how easy I can put this concept of walking your dog and how when your training this “trick”, which it is, you are really training several smaller “tricks” compiled into one.  As the title states, it all begins with a look.

My clients often get frustrated that they can’t get the new puppy or dog to walk to the park or around the block with out weaving or pulling or stopping or barking.  Lets forget about barking or reactivity for now and just touch on the basics.  There is a reason I teach focus and attention first and continuously throughout my sessions.  Everything else I want my dog to do for me is contingent on having this attention.  So before I take that first step or better yet before the leash even comes out or clips on, I get my dogs attention.  Forget how I do this.  There are many ways.  The point is if I don’t my dog is most definitely practicing something else I would prefer them not to do like jump around, rush the door, or take off without me.

So very often I won’t even start the walking in a 6 week training course until the 3rd week.  By that time we have learned how to reinforce properly and we have begun to sit, hand target and offer eye contact by default.  All of these I use on my early walks. So to be even more clear, I don’t want my clients doing much real walking initially either.  What! Yep. I don’t want the dog to practice walking incorrectly either. They can get their exercise out with play and you can take your walks without them.  To socialize is the only reason I want my clients taking them out on leash and making mistakes here.   When we train walking we are generally walking in circles and back and forth, in fact you can do it all in your home in many cases.

Think about this.  All the problems you face on a walk manifest when your pup or dog takes their eyes off of you.  I don’t need them to competition heel but imagine your dog pulling 6 feet ahead and breaking his neck to look back. Doesn’t happen.  How to they sniff pee or eat leaves and look at your face? They can’t.  So why not teach the hell out of attention and focus? I do and I don’t ever take that for granted even as an adult.  Instead of expecting a walk I work on reinforcing your dog with treats about every 2 steps and clicking or marking the look in my eyes.  I walk slow and turn a lot.  I change direction and keep my treats coming right to my left leg which is where the nose is.  If my dog gets ahead of me, I stop immediately and click and treat the second they look back to find me and move on with a turn which puts them behind me again.  As soon as they start to follow I click/treat again.  Remember if they get ahead of you, your reinforcement rate is probably too slow. In between all of these movements I am stopping and getting a sit with eye contact.  The instant I my foot moves to walk I click/treat the dog for not taking off ahead of me and by default paying attention to my face rather than my leg.  Last but not least in this walking training, remember to talk and engage with your dog.  Use his name and make kissy noises, keep their attention or lose it and start over. The leash should be the last line of communication if you are doing this right.  If you are really good you don’t even need a leash but that is not advisable.  For more training info please go to http://www.OCcaninecoaching.com or find me on Facebook.

Happy training!

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What is your dog telling you?

What is your dog telling you?

The more often you know when your dog or another dog is stressed, unsure or nervous, the better your chances for more safe and calm dog interactions.

Recently I have been called on for several concerning behaviors between my clients and there dogs which ended up in bites to friends faces, lunging at passers by and other similar behaviors.  Between the dog who bit and the person being bit or lunged at, there were warning signals in almost all cases.  These warning signals are learned by dog trainers either by chance or hopefully because they took the time to learn them ahead of time.  Having said that, when selecting a trainer to work with your dog, if they said they are used to dog bites, you might want to keep looking.  In 4 years I have had one real dog bite due to redirection from breaking up a dog fight.  Since then only nips from chihuahuas and privileged lapdogs who needed someone with no apprehensions to handle them.  Now let’s get back on track.  There are at least 20 cues a dog may give you that they are stressed or uncomfortable.  If you pick up them you will save a lot of worry about how to handle certain situations and be more confident in further dog on dog/people interactions.

The chart above helps to illustrate these behaviors and an even more simplistic resource is a short book by Turid Rugaas titled “On Talking Terms With Dogs, Calming Signals”.  It is an e-book for under $10.

Essentially, your dog yawning, licking its lips from the front or side, sniffing the ground, turning their head, turning their body, laying down, sitting, softening their eyes or lips, raising a paw and even curving around other dogs approaching is dog communication which predicates the fight or flight response we as humans are naturally conditioned to understand.

You can use these signals to calm your dog or other dogs down just as they do and to understand when to remove your dog from a certain situation.  IF YOU FREQUENT DOG PARKS, PLEASE LEARN THESE SIGNALS.  Talk to your friends about these signals so they can engage your dog correctly if they have a nipping problem or any fear issues.  You will learn how leaning forward over your dog or even putting an arm around the dog can make it uncomfortable by noticing the subtle yawn, head turn and lip lick as you engage it.  To add to the understanding of these natural dog signals learn the behaviors that are customary in humans and less compatible in canines like the afformentioned leaning over to greet and body hugs with close eye contact.

Understanding this takes little time and can save someone from a random 12 stich bite to the face which probably had little or nothing to do with the dog being aggressive and more to do with someone intruding on a dogs space and not noticing the 2-3 signs even before a growl that the dog wasn’t into meeting you that day.

Please find me for help at http://www.OCcaninecoaching.com for more info.  Thank you for following.

Bryndon Golya

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It’s a focus and attention thing, It’s a focus and attention thing, Hello?

We have all been in conversation with someone and just zoned out or possibly been watching television and had someone ask a question only to hear them shouting at us a minute later saying the same thing.  Now, does this behavior sound familiar when you are walking your dog or asking for them to sit or stay?  I am sure it does because even I forget once in a while to get my dogs attention before I ask for something from them.  In almost all my training encounters I experience frustration from dog owners who can’t get their dog to listen to them even though at some times the dog performs the asked behaviors with no problem.  In the majority of those meetings I immediately notice the owner talking to the dog either like a person or without the dog looking in their eyes or even general direction.  I have many training requests to help with walking, staying, coming when called, and solving problem behaviors that I can help with but with owners who want to immediately delve into said problems and not a base concern of lack of attention and focus.  Why do you think I teach this on the first meeting of all my puppy classes? So they have the foundation for everything else you will ever need.  It shocks me that you can go to 6 weeks of Petco/Petsmart training and spend 10 minutes or less on this, then skip onto walking and other work where the dog is supposed to listen to you in order to perform the desired task.

There are lots of ways to achieve focus and attention and if you’re having problems with your dog listening when out and about, then bring it back home with no distractions and start from scratch.  You can do puppy training with a 5 year old dog too.

I suggest if your dog is treat driven to use a clicker to mark with a click every time you notice your dog look in your eyes.  Move treats away keeping your dogs eyes glued to them and wait patiently for even a glimpse into your eye.  Click immediately and offer a treat.

Move out of your dogs view by taking a few steps around them and wait for them to find you and your eyes.  Click and treat again.   Tie your dog to your belt with your leash and toss a toy or treat away from you and wait for them to give up and find your eyes in frustration.  Click and treat again.   Before you walk out your door on a walk or you offer food to your dog, make sure they look in your eyes.  Then give them the go ahead to proceed.   You can accomplish this in with just 2 ( 5 min.) training sessions a day.

So the next time you ask your dog to do ANYTHING, make sure they are looking at you, in your eyes, even for 1 second.  You will notice they listen much more when they know you are talking to them and good things come from it.  My dogs don’t get fed or get to play with a ball or even go outside without focused attention.

Lastly, regardless of your dogs attention, stop saying sit, down, stay, leave it and especially “come” 5-10 times.  Say it once, wait for two second, if no response get attention and firmly ask again with eye contact and enunciate your command.  Keep it to ONE word if possible.

With this basic work and understanding you will be on your way to easier communication and obedience.

Call me when you are ready for focus work and obedience around major distractions😉Image

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Dog food. More controversial than the Pope.

dog food served

So very much is less controversial and misunderstood as dog food and what is in it. We have so much information at our disposal and opinions change weekly on what is best to feed your dog especially if you are looking for your food to help your dog live long and healthy and with few complications. I can’t begin to offer you my entire side of the story here or you would lose interest but lets get part one of 10 or 20 started.
I do believe you are what you eat. Especially for dogs. Much of the rest seems to rely on genetics and acute care.
There are at least 100 different dog foods, kibble and wet to choose from and as many supplements to list as well.
So what is the best dog food for my dog? I get asked this weekly and I don’t have a single answer because I tailor the answer to your dog. Just like I train your dog to your liking and around your abilities I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer but I do believe there are some basic truths and rules to keep you on track. I will mention what I feed at the end of this.

Since this is part I, lets stay simple. I am going to list a few easy rules.
1. Don’t buy dog food from a grocery store. They all suck for the most part. 1% may be ok.
2. Don’t believe the crap marketing on TV. It is the same crap marketed towards you.
3. Your dog needs meat and a lot of it. Your dog is not a vegan or vegetarian.
4. Grains aren’t as bad as what is replacing them, (in many cases)
5. Your dogs skin, coat and internal health are reliant on his quality of feed. Your 15 year old Lab who lived on Alpo and Purina got lucky and probably wasn’t as healthy internally as you thought. God bless him.
6. Learn how to read a dog food label. You did it for you and your child so do it for your dog.
7. Don’t free feed your dog. This is both a health and behavior issue. More to come later on this.
8. Cooking for your dog isn’t always as great as you think

Lets go through these points here.
Grocery store foods as well as many others are filled with “fillers”, inferior products, and bad preservatives. What is the point?
Even Blue and Wellness who do extensive marketing can improve on their dog food so don’t believe the marketing.
If you don’t have a specific animal protein first and a meat meal with a named meat after, you probably don’t want it. No by products or generic animal protein, or corn, wheat, or grain proteins which you will find often as a gluten. Pay for meat.
Hey! believe it or not some dogs can tolerate carbs better than we thought but I still don’t like them. Brown rice and Oatmeal are decent grains and can be better than grain free in many cases.
Potato, potato + grains, sweet potato, and tapioca are all replacing the grains in many cases. Most of these are even starchier or sugary than the original grains. You all just freaked and said no grains so this is what they give you. Look for low sugary fillers if you must. Ideally peas, chickpeas, lentils etc.
The Glycemic index of a Russet potato is 70-100 where as a chickpeas is around 30-40. Sugar breeds yeast which, well, is a problem. I see as many dogs with yeast issues as I do flea issues.

If you have a skin or internal problem look to your food first and then call a nutritionist, not a vet. While I love my vet, I don’t follow his nutrition advise. We agree to disagree and I only see him once a year to have a nice hello and maybe a rabies shot. My dogs are healthy.

You can go to dogfoodadvisor.com to understand a pet food label as they are confusing and learn about how they are tricking you by ingredient splitting to make the meat content look larger or the protein level seem high even though it is not from meat.
Free feeding is just a power give to your dog and it can also make them overweight. Imagine a bowl of doritos or chocolates constantly up for grabs. It also doesn’t let you know when something is wrong as you don’t always see them eat.

Finally, cooking is great and you can make some good food but don’t forget there are lots of vitamins and minerals plus other additives you will want to include. Just boiling chicken with rice and sweet potato isn’t going to be the best for your pet. Even if you cook broccoli or other veggies there is still a lot you missed.

I am done for know but next time I will go more in depth on specific feeding options like what I feed, which is right now….a 75% raw food diet, between 80-95% animal, 20% kibble (high protein low carb/filler kibble), with added nutrients like flax or coconut oil, a joint supplement like Phycox, and sometimes a kelp based powdered vitamin such as Nupro. All in all it only takes me 3 min. to prepare my dogs food and I have 3 dogs.
Lastly, my black lab is so shiny she turns blue with a camera flash and no one is overweight or suffering from any disease or medical condition. My dogs are 2,4, and 8. I plan to keep them this healthy for a long time.

Until next time.

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A dog in control, boundary training for safety.

JJ's boundary is the front door

Wouldn’t it be nice to be 100% confident that your dog will stay in your yard even without a fence or leash (ok, 95%)? Is there a room in your house your dog must remain out of, such as baby’s room, your formal dining room, or your business office? Are you frustrated with your dog trampling your flowers in the garden you worked so hard on?

There are many ways to contain or control a dog including fences (visible or electronic), chains or tie-outs, pens, leashes, gates, etc. However, none are fool-proof and none truly provide your dog with freedom and a happy life, nor do they teach them anything, only contain them.

Boundary training is an easy and much more reliable alternative. It involves teaching your dog where a boundary line is and that he is not allowed to cross that line, EVER. It’s not as hard as it sounds, just takes a little time and consistency. Fifteen or more minutes a day, every day, for a few weeks, and consistent reinforcement after that. Here’s how to do it.

Prerequisites: It helps if your dog understands basic commands such as “Stay”, “No”, “Leave it”, “Come” and will heel on leash. Be aware that this method of training may not work on every dog. It is best to start with a puppy or young dog. Adults can also learn but it may take a bit longer depending on the dog. Only you know your own dog and how easily trainable they are. Most dogs can easily learn a boundary or “territory”, and most are more than willing to do so. A neutered dog is less likely to want to roam.

For the sake of this article we will use the yard as an example; creating indoor boundaries such as a doorway should be easier to accomplish in a shorter amount of time using the same basic concepts.

1. Take time to decide where the boundary line is. Walk the perimeter without your dog. You can buy little flags to put in the ground temporarily or simply use natural landmarks like trees, driveway, sidewalks, garden edges, etc. Dogs have an uncanny ability to remember visual markers and also incorporate their sense of smell. It is best to keep the boundary line a minimum of 2-3 feet (or more) back from the “real” boundary. In other words, 2-3 feet back from the street or sidewalk, etc. Involve your spouse or other family members so that you all agree on and understand the boundary lines.

2. Once you’ve defined the boundary, begin to walk your dog along the boundary on a leash (even if you are creating an indoor boundary). Walk the dog around 4-6 times a day for 2-3 days. Let them sniff. Do not allow your dog to cross or step over the imaginary boundary line, even an inch. If she does, a simple pop of the leash and a “No” or “Ah-ah” command is all that is necessary.

3. By about the third day continue walking the boundary every day but begin having your dog walk up to the line and stop. If your dog understands the “Wait” or “Stop” command, this is the time to use it. Work on this for 2-3 more days, reinforcing that they are to stop at that boundary. A simple “Ah-ah” also works.

4. After a week or so YOU can begin crossing the boundary yourself while your dog stays behind it. Use the command “Stay”. Step over the boundary a foot or two, turn and face your dog and make them stay. Return to your dog and treat and praise. Begin to toss a treat or favorite toy just a foot or two over the boundary. Here is where the “Leave It” command becomes important. Your dog will learn that ANYTHING outside the boundary line is off limits and they must “leave it”. Use a separate treat and lots of praise when they obey. If your dog looks at you when you toss the treat over the line, it’s party time! Huge reward and praise for that! He is beginning to learn to respect the “leave it zone” and give you his attention instead!!

5. Continue this exercise in different locations along the boundary line. Consistency is a must. He is NEVER to cross the boundary line without your permission. If you are going to take him for a walk you can use a key phrase like “Ok, Let’s go for a walk”, or something similar that is only used at that time, that is your release/permission phrase and that is the ONLY time he is allowed outside the boundary. Determine your release or permission phrase ahead of time. It might be something like “Free Dog!”. Later on when he is advanced simply presenting the leash might serve as his permission cue.

6. After a couple of weeks of reinforcing the boundary over and over every day, your dog should be catching on. It is time to drop the leash and let it drag. Repeat Step 4 but without holding the leash (or you can use a long line if that is more comfortable at this point). Now it is up to your dog to show you what they’ve learned on their own. Use lots of treats and praise when they remain inside the boundary or ignore items tossed over. Be sure to give treats INSIDE the boundary line so you are not tempting them to cross.

7. Once your dog is consistently respecting the boundary line and ignoring treats, toys, etc., raise the stakes. Begin to incorporate more tempting distractions. Have family members or friends walk outside the boundary, ask the kids to toss a ball or act goofy on the other side of the boundary, ask a neighbor to help. Have someone jog by. For a real test, have the neighbor bring their dog out on leash and walk by. Or walk over to your neighbor’s yard and have a conversation for a couple minutes while your dog waits behind the boundary. These are advanced steps, work up to it gradually, stepping up the temptations as your dog shows he is ready.

8. When she makes a mistake, always go back a step or two and start over. The rules must be consistently and continually reinforced. The key to this training is to NEVER break the rules without your specific permission word or phrase. If she is allowed to cross the boundary one day and not the next it will only confuse her. Do not punish harshly when mistakes are made, just go back a few steps and help her to re-learn.

9. Practice walking toward the boundary as you FOLLOW your dog, walking behind him. The goal is for him to stop at the line on his own. You can use the “Stop” command if necessary. It is a good command for your dog to learn anyway, especially for this training. Call him to “Come” to you, away from the boundary. Remember to use lots and lots of praise and treats when he obeys.

10. Get creative on how you work with your dog to reinforce the boundary. Incorporate different types of temptations, with you standing at different places. But it is crucial that steps 1-5 are accomplished solidly first, no matter how long that takes. Play fetch with your dog and every now and then purposely toss the ball beyond the boundary. If she stops and does not go after it, praise her like there is no tomorrow, that is a huge accomplishment! Run alongside her and purposely cross the boundary, the goal is for her to stop as you continue on. Whenever you and your dog are outside incorporate little tests and reinforcements. This training is something you continually reinforce over and over for the lifetime of your dog. You want it to become so ingrained into her that it is a natural behavior. Getting her to cross the boundary will become nearly impossible if this training is accomplished successfully.

Devoting a few months to this training will result in one of the most well trained dogs you could imagine. Your dog can enjoy the freedom of running loose in your yard, even if there is no fence, and you will have complete peace of mind knowing he will not run into the street, dash off to visit the neighbor’s dog, or run away.

I suggest boundary training even if you have an invisible fence or other containment method, as those are strictly “containment” methods, they do not “teach” the dog about boundaries, and if the dog is determined or smart enough, they can outwit any “containment” method, as some of you may have experienced. Also, tying a dog up or keeping them kenneled only makes them want their freedom more, ultimately creating an unhappy, frustrated dog with even more desire to escape.

Most dogs are more than happy to do what is expected of them once they are taught what that is. Containment methods never teach a dog anything, and so they will think it is ok to run off if they can find a way out. Your goal should be to teach, not just restrict your dog. A solidly trained dog will not leave your yard or enter off-limit areas, without your permission. To me, that is the ultimate form of containment. And what a gift to give your dog – freedom from chains, cages or shock devices. Your dog will thank you!

A word of caution… You should never leave your dog unattended in your unfenced yard (i.e. when you leave the house), no matter how well trained. You are ultimately responsible for your dog’s safety at all times.


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Let’s get smart here

Let's get smart here

I wrote my thesis on how to wear houndstooth.

Ok guys, you may not know it but I know what is going on before you even try to tell me.  I mean, come on, I am a dog,  my ancestors and I have been around for a while and we still hardly understand a damn word you say.  I know a certain curse word or two mean to move out of the way but before that I can tell by your breathing, posture and facial expression what might be going down.  I knew the way that my Mom and Dad called me over earlier that I was going to put into some ridiculous outfit and made to sit still for some odd reason.   Let me just say this.  From my understanding you humans can sit at a table together and have a conversation and 80% of how you interpret each other comes merely from facial expression, posture, tone, and inflection to say the least.  So If your dog only knows 20-30 words of your language, and that is pretty good, imagine how much of his actions and decisions are based on the same things and not on what you have said.   Seriously consider your actions and emotions and how they affect your dog.  We pick up on your vibes and the better you feel, the better we feel.  Try to de-stress and smile more.  Worry less and we will be more balanced and better behaved as well.  That is all for now, I seriously have to nap.  Mozzarella out!

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