Welcome To Beginner Training
Created for dogs 5 months or older
Five Week Course (1-hour classes)
Beginner Training focuses on teaching dogs to pay attention to owners, learning obedience commands, addressing typical behavior issues, and prevention of negative issues or aggression. *Socialization not included.
Bark-A-Bout’s Intermediate Training Class is the next class following graduation of this Beginner Obedience Class.
Welcome To Beginner Training
Printable Handouts & Additional Resources
Everything that is stated on this webpage can be printed by clicking the Word Documents listed below. The Download will automatically start once the link is clicked.
Word Documents will automatically download once the link is clicked..
“Dog Body Language 101” by Fear Free Happy Homes
“Dog Body Language: Proper Play Examples” by Preventative Vet
“How To Read Your Dog’s Body Language When Training” by Kikopup
“4 Things Your Dog Is Trying To Tell You” by BeChewy
“Dog Communication: Dog Body Language” by Go Anywhere Dog
“How To Condition A Gentle Leader” by Jean Donaldson
“How to Crate a Puppy” by Zak George
“What To Do About Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety” by Zak George
Natures Miracle, Odor and Stain Eliminator
Owning A Dog
2 to 5 months : Puppyhood or Adolescence
You are forming your dog’s future temperament with socialization and training. This is when your puppy listens well and stays right by you – like a perfect angel. Enjoy it now, it will end shortly 😉
5 to 6 months: Pre-Teen and Flight Stage
Your once happy go lucky puppy that listened consistently will now begin to wander, ignore you and simply act like a teenage bozo. Continue your training, try to remain calm and make learning FUN!
6 to 18 months: Teenager.
Your dog will begin to test you and your patience. They may continue to act like a teenaged bozo, they will act as if they don’t even hear you! Remain calm and lower your “levels” if needed. Ask for much less out of your teenager! Use super high value treats/rewards – pay your Teenager WELL! Your dog’s hormones will also begin to come in, decide now if you will spay or neuter. *I have always spayed and neutered at 6 months old.
18 months to 3 years old – Moving Into Adulthood.
Aggression may arise and dogs that once have gotten along, may now begin to fight.
Fear Periods: 8 to 11 weeks old and again from 6 to 14 months old.
Dog’s go through 2 fearful periods throughout their early lives and tend to revolve around growth spurts and sexual maturation. They do vary dog to dog, but most fall into certain timeframes. If you notice that your once confident dog seems to be very insecure or frightened of new things, they may be in a fear period which may last up to 3 weeks or so. Continue socialization, but ask much less of your dog if they are fearful. Make sure they do not experience any major unpleasant experiences during these periods as these can scare a dog and unfortunately the fear can last a lifetime.
Socialization is the process of introducing your dog to the “human world” in a positive manner – People, animals, sights, places, sounds, things, textures, etc.
The most important time to socialize your dog is from 8 to 16 weeks old.
This stage is called the “critical early socialization window”. At this age, your dog is sensitive and must have only pleasant interactions. Any unpleasant interaction may result in a lifetime of fears! This does not necessarily mean that older pups can’t socialize, but every day past 16 weeks old, their willingness diminishes.
Begin socializing during the Critical Period and continue throughout your dog’s whole life:
Without Proper Socialization:
Your dog may grow up lacking proper “coping skills”, which can lead to irrational fears, stress, anxiety, reactivity and aggression. When they become older, they may not be able to deal with the “unknown”.
You may now have a dog that is:
– A bit shy
– Apprehensive with new things/places/sights
– Aggressive due to fear*
Common examples of an under-socialized dog who has missed the Critical Window:
*If your dog’s fears are extensive, they have progressed past simply “socializing” or introducing them to new things. Your dog may now need professional help from an experienced Behaviorist or Trainer, who can help manage and modify your dog’s behaviors and fears.
Puppyhood Is Challenging:
Your puppy should not have full rein of your house. Limit their area to a dining room or living room. Put up gates and close doors if needed. Use their crate or a puppy playpen. Have them on a leash or long line if needed. Keep them within your sight and open up their area slowly over months.
Provide your puppy with plenty of teething objects such as Bully Sticks, Big Frozen Carrots, Bones, Kong’s, Horns, Hooves, Antlers, and specifically made teething toys. Do not give them toys that mimic household items, socks, slippers etc. Put their toys in a designated bin and lead them there to take out toys. Puppy’s teeth from approximately 3 months to 6 months old. If your puppy has an “illegal” object, use your “trade” or “drop it” command and lead them (redirect) to the designated toy basket and teach them what you want them to chew on instead. If your dog is targeting a specific “item”, try a taste deterrent such as Bitter Apple. *Do not just use “no, leave it, go away etc.” Remember, this does not teach anything.
Eventually your puppy will find their voice. Do not encourage it in any manner unless you want a “barker”! Examples: your pup barks for attention, walk away. Your pup barks at another dog, quickly walk them in the opposite direction, away from what they want. Your dog barks to eat, put the bowl up and walk away. Teach your puppy that quietness gets them everything, after they stop barking for 5 seconds, give them what they want.
Prevention of Aggression:
This section is for Prevention of aggression, not for modification of existing aggression.
If your dog is actively displaying signs of aggression, you will need a Certified Trainer or Behaviorist who specializes in aggression.
NIPPING / MOUTHING
Why do puppies nip?
Exploring: Puppies explore everything with their mouths, just as toddlers explore everything with their hands.
Teething: Puppy’s teeth from approximately 3 to 6 months old and during this time, mouthing and nipping are especially common.
Attention/Play: Puppies learn when to bite and how hard to bite from their litter mates and mother during playtime. This is called “bite inhibition”.
Teach your dog to have a “soft mouth”:
Dog’s teeth should not press down harshly on humans. It is best to take over where your puppy’s littermates left off. If a puppy bit too hard, the other puppy would get very upset, yelp (sometimes very loudly or more softly like a cry) and walk away abruptly (“I hate you”).
*This cannot be skipped! Your puppy will never learn that human’s skin is sensitive and later on in life if they do actually bite, it will be much harder!
*If your yelping is over stimulating or making the nipping worse skip #2 and remain silent.
What Not to Do:
Do not interact or engage with your dog! Do not hit your dog, pinch their lips, tap or hit their nose, hold their mouth closed, say “no bite”, roll them over and pin them, yell at them etc. Do not talk to your dog or continue walking. Freeze! Do not pull away.
Other Rules, Advice and Reminders:
Housetraining takes a lot of time and commitment from the whole family in order to be successful. Dogs don’t just train themselves, although some are easier to train than others. Everyone in the household must be willing to help with the training, taking the dog out at all hours, supervising the dog so accidents don’t happen and cleaning up when they do. It may take several months for a dog to become reliably housebroken; you may take one step forward and three steps back. If you are patient and consistent in following the rules suggested below, you should be very successful in housetraining your puppy or dog.
General Concept: Make accidents impossible with management, do not punish mistakes, clean up accidents correctly and reward success in the appropriate desired place.
THE PROCESS / TEACHING: You think your dog needs to “go” – put your dog on a leash or a 10-foot line (some dogs need a little distance). You must go out with your dog in order to reward them, sending them out by themselves is not teaching your dog anything. If they are 20 feet away, how are you going to reward them within 1 second? Ring the potty bells if you are bell training and walk out to your designated potty area. Give your dog the “potty” cue. Make sure your dog understands this is not play time. You are out there for a certain purpose. If and when your dog eliminates, praise and treat your dog a few times (I give 3 pieces of chicken). Give your dog more time to go, they may still need to eliminate. If your dog Pees and Poops, you may then go back inside, but still closely watch your dog if they are young. If your dog does not either Pee or Poop and you have been outside for quite a while, you may then go back inside and monitor your dog very closely, keeping them right next to you or using the crate as a management tool. In 10 minutes, your dog will go back outside for another “potty” trip. Repeat the process until you have “potty” success!
HOW TO HOUSEBREAK YOUR DOG:
Where do you want them to go: Decide now as you may be teaching Forever Habits. Do you want them to potty inside the house on a pad or grass patch? Do you want them to potty in the front or backyard? Do you want them to potty in a certain area? Decide now!!!! Once your dog forms a habit it may be very difficult to break later on. I do not recommend pad training inside if eventually you want your dog going outside. I do not recommend doing pad training (inside training) and also teaching them to potty outside (outside training) as this is extremely confusing to a dog. I do not recommend putting pads in your dogs’ crate as this teaches them to potty in their “den”.
Physical Limits of Puppies/Dogs: Young puppies may physically need to eliminate every 1 to 2 hours during the day when they are most active. They may be able to control themselves longer overnight. Most young puppies need to go out 1 or 2 times during the night. Adult dogs may be able to hold their waste for 6 to 8 hours during the day and usually 8 to 10 hours overnight. These are only averages and individual dogs may be able to control their need to eliminate for longer or shorter periods than this.
Management: Make accidents virtually impossible! Supervise your untrained dog constantly, use a crate, baby gages and close doors to keep your dog in sight. Most dogs will not eliminate in a crate or pen (it’s their den), use this to your advantage. Make sure the crate is small enough with only room to stand up and turn around in a circle. If it is too large, the dog may eliminate at one end and lay on the other end. Block off rooms and stairways, keep your dog in a small area until they have proven themselves trustworthy.
What to watch for/when they need to go: Take your dog out after eating (usually within 2 to 30 minutes after), drinking, waking up, before going in or out of their crate, after extensive chewing, running or playing. Also look for “tell-tale” signs such as circling, sniffing, squatting, standing by the door, barking or a look of urgency or confusion. Puppies need to go out every 1 to 2 hours and older dogs need to go out every 2 to 5 hours (during the day). Do not take your dog out too frequently, this will not give your dog a chance to learn how to hold it, they will get in the habit of emptying their bladder every 20 minutes. They will also not learn how to “alert” you if you don’t give them the chance to do it on their own.
Communicate with your dog: Choose a “potty” word to label your dog’s behavior. Your dog will catch on to this word quickly. As your dog is in the process of eliminating, tell them what they are doing (this is how dogs learn words) “Potty, Potty, good girl”.
Choose a “potty” area: Have your dog on a leash or long line as you need to go outside with your dog. Go out the same door every time to eliminate confusion and choose an area approximately 20 ft. x 20 ft. Make this area separate from their play area so they don’t get confused. Pee pad training your dog: encourage them to use the pad instead of the grass using the same concept. Keep the potty pad in one area where your dog has quick access. Do not keep moving it as your dog will quickly become confused. You are trying to form strong habits.
Keeping a Schedule: Keep a log of your dog’s “potty” progress and put it on the refrigerator for reference. Make sure everyone in the house is aware of it and follows the rules and schedule.
Feeding: Make sure your dog is on a high-quality dog food. If your dog is being fed a low-quality food which contains mostly fillers, they will need to eliminate much more often, as their food is going right through them. Feed on a schedule – what goes in must come out. Feed 2 to 3 times per day on a strict schedule; put the bowl down for 15 minutes and then pick it up. If you leave it down all the time, you won’t know when your dog has to go.
Alerting “I need to go!!”: This is half of Training! Make sure you have a giant party if your dog tells you they need to go Potty; give treats, praise, petting for alerting you. Most dogs will whine, bark, circle or stand by the door. If you want to be very certain of your dogs “alert” you can teach them to ring a bell to go “potty”. Bell How To: Hang some jingle bells at your dog’s nose level by the door. Owner rings the bells and says “potty” before going outside, this teaches your dogs that the bells = potty outside. Do this for a week or so. Next, hold a treat behind the bells and your dog will take the treat and accidently ring the bells. Give the treat AS you are saying “potty” and then take them outside. Do this until your dog eventually catches on and realizes if they ring the “potty bells” they get a treat and they go outside potty (and get 3 more treats 😉).
Reward your dog: Use very high-quality treats such as chicken or liver to treat your dog’s success. Timing is essential as dogs live in the moment. You must reward them highly AS they are just finishing up. Calmly start praising AS they are going and just as they begin to stand up or finish, they receive the 3 pieces of chicken. Do not reward them after they stand up and walk away or when they walk into the house. You must reward your dog every time they eliminate in the preferred place. You are teaching your dog that “outside” or “pee pad” means “very exciting treats” and inside means nothing. Going outside is much more rewarding than going inside!
Punishing mistakes: Do not ever punish an accident by yelling or saying “no”, rushing at them (that’s still scary) or scaring them in any way. This will only teach your dog that “pottying” in front of you is scary and they will choose to do it behind the couch or in the other room. This will make housebreaking much more difficult. Even if you find an old accident (even 5 seconds ago), there is nothing you can do but smile, clean up the mistake and tell yourself to watch your dog more closely. If you do catch them in the act, simply smile ay “let’s go potty outside”. If your dog goes, reward them generously.
Cleaning up accidents: It is essential to completely eliminate the odor from your home by using cleaner containing “active bacterial enzyme,” like Natures Miracle. Do not use household cleaners containing ammonia, which mimics the smell of urine and may attract a dog back to eliminate. If you have an older dog that has had many accidents on your carpet, you may want to consider removing your carpet, housebreaking your dog and then buying new carpet. You can purchase a black light to find and illuminate mistakes.
There are three types of exercise for a dog. Mental, physical and enrichment activities.
Dogs are not meant to exercise once or twice a week. They are meant to exercise throughout the day, every day!
Dogs need to get out and about, explore, sniff, engage, see and experience new things. By keeping your dog in “jail” (only in the house or backyard), your dog may begin to act out and show “Red Flag Behaviors”. These include: nipping at the kids, steeling things, jumping on the counters, barking out the window constantly, bothering other household animals and pestering you constantly.
Take a step back and ask yourself, “Did I meet my dogs three exercise needs today”?
– Hide-And-Seek: Play the “Find It Game” with dog treats or toys.
– Sniff Walks: Go for a walk to specifically sniff fun things out. In fact, this really calms and tires a dog out!
– Foraging Toys: Intentionally give your dog a game to destroy. Put some treats in a box, poke some holes in it and tape it closed.
– Treasure Hunt: Provide your dog with a kiddie pool filled with sand. Hide dog toys for them to dig up and find.
For more info:
“How To Condition A Gentle Leader, ” by Jean Donaldson
Crates or “Puppy Play Pens” are a very useful tool for management and housebreaking.
Make the crate enjoyable!
Most dogs enjoy their crate or pen, and see it as their “safe den”. Your goal is to teach your dog to accept the crate/pen as a positive place to be in. Feed them there, give them bones, snuffle mats, lick mats, horns, antlers, bully sticks or fill a Kong with peanut butter and chicken and toss it in (freeze the Kong, it will last longer “Kongsicle”).
Do not ever let your dog out when they are whining or barking.
Wait 5 seconds. If your dog is showing panic by trying to escape, drooling, defecation/urinating – you may need to find a behaviorist who specializes in Separation Anxiety.
Do not use their crate/pen for punishment!
Do not feel bad by using the crate. Even when your home, using the crate will help with teaching your dog how to be independent/alone, an extremely important exercise. Begin with the door open, slowly close it for longer and longer periods of time over weeks to months. If your pup is with you all the time, you are risking Separation Anxiety which is very difficult to treat.
To Learn More:
“How to Crate a Puppy” by Zak George
“What To Do About Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety” by Zak George
Do not let your dog practice unwanted behaviors.
A dog or puppy that has not proven themselves trustworthy should NOT have full reign of your home! This would be similar to letting a 2-year-old child loose without supervision.
Anything left within reach of your dog is fair game!
Dog-Proof your entire house and yard:
– Put the garbage behind a door.
– Have the kids close their bedroom door.
– Have the kids play with their toys behind a gate or in their rooms with the door closed.
– Roll the rugs up and put them in storage for a few months.
– Clear off your coffee tables.
– Put the Kitty Litter behind a gate.
– Put your hamper in a closet and close it.
– Close the bathroom door.
– Cook dinner while your dog is in their crate with a Bully Stick.
– Use leashes (yes, even in the house)
– Use baby gates
– Use long tie outs
– Use their crate or playpen.
Learn To Speak “Dog”
HOW DOGS THINK AND LEARN:
Connections – Dogs learn by making connections. Something (=’s) Something.
Dog’s repeat what is rewarding! They repeat what “works”.
Pay very close attention to what your dog is getting out of a specific behavior.
What is it (=’ing).
Is it “working”?
– Your dog jumps on you. You push them off and yell. (Jumping = Attention).
– Your dog is pulling on their leash and you are being dragged behind them. (Pulling = Go).
– Your dog is whining in their crate and you let them out. (Whining = Freedom).
– Your dog is very excited when you arrive home and you pet them. (Excited Behavior = Rewarding).
Speaking Human – Dog’s do not speak human. You must teach a “human cue/word” very specifically if you want them to respond/listen.
So, if you are just “blurting” our words thinking your dog will listen and then getting upset when they don’t – ask yourself, did I teach that human “cue/word”? Is my dog trained well enough at that level (explained below) for them to respond?
Generalization – Dog’s do not generalize well.
A lot of my clients say their dog listens at home, but won’t listen at their friend’s house. This is due to Generalization – things are just “different”. You may need to remind/reteach a certain behavior or command in a new area. You won’t have to start from scratch, but you will have to backtrack and build your Levels up again (explained below).
Timing – Dogs live in the moment.
You have 1 second to redirect an unwanted behavior or reward a good behavior. You must catch your dog in the act, AS they are performing the behavior. When your dog is in training, I recommend having reinforcement/treats available at all times, just in case! Every moment is a “learning moment”.
Example of improper timing: A dog goes potty outside, then receives a treat when they walk in the house. The dog didn’t get rewarded for going potty outside, they got rewarded for coming in the house. The dog would need to be rewarded 1 second after going potty outside to make the appropriate connection.
Habits – Dogs learn by forming habits with many repetitions.
It may take 20 to 100 repetitions of a behavior before your dog understands it. If your dog has formed an “unwanted habit”, it may take a lot longer to replace the “unwanted habit” with a “new preferred habit”.
Canine Body Language –
Your dog is speaking to both humans and other dogs by using their body language. To prevent potential anxieties, fears and even aggressive responses, it is imperative that you and everyone that interacts with your dog understands exactly what your dog is trying to tell you.
Your dog could be saying:
“I am uncomfortable, back off!”
“I am feeling scared!”
“I am anxious about the children!”
“Help, this dog is smelling me and I don’t like it!”
Your dog may be sending off body language through their:
– Ear direction
– Their tail, the way a tail is wagging, laying down
– Sticking a tongue out
By closely paying attention to your dog’s unique body language and keeping a journal of your interactions and findings, you will have a stronger bond and trust with your dog.
Important Canine Body-Language State of Being:
Dog’s primarily communicate through body language. To successfully communicate and understand your dog’s needs and wants, you MUST learn to accurately read their body language.
They talk to both humans and other dogs by using their ears, tails, mouths, and more!
Is your dog saying: “I’m happy!”, “Go away!”, “Come closer!”, “I am stressed!”, “I’m afraid!”, “I may bite!”
“Fluffy” is wagging his tail, so most people assume she is “happy”.
But not always! Fluffy may be saying “Go away!”, “I may strike”, “I’m nervous!”
“Frank” is laying down and suddenly freezes. His body completely still. His paw tucked up under his body.
Does this mean your “Frank” is happy and relaxing? No. A dog that becomes still, tucks his paw under when lying down is a clear sign to say, “Go away, I am uncomfortable”.
“Callie” averts her eyes, lowers her head and turns it to the side as a child approaches.
Is Callie safe to approaching the child? No. “Callie” is showing avoidance by turning her eyes away, and turning and lowering her head. Her body language is saying “I am stressed about the oncoming child!!!!”
“Buddy’s” hair is standing up on his back when playing with his dog friend. Is Buddy being aggressive?
Take into account your dog’s entire behavior. The rest of Buddy’s body movements are loose and he is bouncing with an open mouth and relaxed tail just below midline. Even though Buddy’s hackle is raised, Buddy is showing signs of happiness and excited arousal.
Homework: Learn what your dog’s “baseline” body language looks like. This will help you notice when your dog’s body language changes or looks different and can signal that your dog is trying to “say something”.
What to look for:
All dog’s body language is different! Some dogs naturally carry their tail low, some carry their ears more to the front.
Additional wonderful online videos to learn about Dog Body Language:
“Dog Body Language 101” by Fear Free Happy Homes
“Dog Body Language: Proper Play Examples” by Preventative Vet
“How To Read Your Dog’s Body Language When Training” by Kikopup
“4 Things Your Dog Is Trying To Tell You” by BeChewy
“Dog Communication: Dog Body Language” by Go Anywhere Dog
Training Know How
Positive Reinforcement vs. Aversive Methods –
I choose to follow the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviors recommendations of using only Positive Humane Training Methods.
Dogs work well for rewards such as: food, praise, petting, toys, access to things they desire, love, walks etc. By using motivators, you will be the “good guy” instead of the mean “bad guy”.
Positive Reinforcement: Adding anything that makes a behavior stronger.
With the use of gentle, humane, modern/science-based methods, you will learn to gain your dog’s trust and compliance through rewards and motivators. These methods are strictly pain-free, force-free and fear-free.
Evidence supports the use of reward-based methods for ALL canine training:
Based on current, scientific evidence on on animal welfare, training effectiveness, and the dog-human relationships, the AVSAB recommends that only reward-based training methods be used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems.
AVSAB promotes interactions with animals based on compassion, respect, and scientific evidence. Based on these factors, reward-based learning offers the most advantages and least harm to the learner’s welfare. Research supports the efficacy of reward-based training to address unwanted and challenging behaviors. There is no evidence that aversive training is necessary for dog training or behavior modification”.
Training methods are most effective when they focus on teaching the animal what to do, rather than punishing them for unwanted behaviors.
The AVSAB says, “Common training issues such as jumping, barking, and housetraining can be managed by arranging the environment appropriately and reinforcing desirable responses. More serious behavior concerns such as aggression, anxiety and fear require a treatment plan that includes environmental management, behavior modification, and in some cases, medication. Environmental conditions that drive the behavior should be addressed and the dog should be set up to make appropriate responses. Management can include avoiding situations that lead to the unwanted behavior, while ensuring the safety of all involved.”
Quotes by the AVSAB regarding the use of Aversive Tools and Training Methods:
What techniques should be avoided during training?
The AVSAB says, “An appropriate trainer should avoid any use of training tools that involve: pain (choke chains, prong collars, or electronic shock collars), intimidation (squirt bottles, shaker noise cans, compressed air cans, shouting, staring, or forceful manipulation such as “alpha rolls” or “dominance downs”), physical correction techniques (leash jerking, physical force), or flooding (“exposure”). The learner must always feel safe and have the ability to “opt out” of training sessions. All efforts should be made to communicate effectively and respectfully with the learner.”
“Why should aversive training techniques be avoided?
The consequences and fallout from aversive training methods have been proven and are well documented. These include: increased anxiety and fear-related aggression, avoidance, and learned helplessness. Animals may be less motivated to engage in training and less likely to interact with human members of the household.”
Detrimental Effects on Animal Welfare:
In observational studies, dogs trained with aversive methods or tools showed stress-related behaviors during training, including tense body, lower body posture, lip licking, tail lowering, lifting front leg, panting, yawning, and yelping. Dogs trained with reward-based methods showed increased attentiveness to their owner.
Your dog is learning every waking moment, they are learning what “works” and what doesn’t “work” for them. Most unwanted behaviors are due to owners accidentally reinforcing the very behavior they didn’t want in the first place! You must first understand what reinforcement is to a dog. Reinforcement is anything that makes a behavior stronger. This can be anything your dog likes, such as: eye contact, talking of any type (even discipline), petting, praise, toys, walks, freedom, food, access to things etc.
Dogs will repeat what gets reinforced and rarely repeat behaviors that do not get reinforced.
Take a step back, look at everything your dog does. Is something “working” for your dog? What exactly is your dog getting out of a behavior? If it “works” for them, it is becoming a strong habit and your dog will certainly repeat that behavior again and more often.
Make sure your dog does not accidently get reinforced for poor behavior. Use proper management protocol until your dog is fully trained and trustworthy.
You must set up your dog’s environment to make it impossible for your dog to practice unwanted behavior. Make sure any person your dog comes in contact with are not reinforcing any behavior that you do not want repeated. Your dog should not be getting anything unless they are giving a behavior or in a frame of mind you want repeated – quietness, calmness, attentiveness, bravery, etc.
Examples of accidental reinforcement and lack of management protocol:
Rewards and Motivators –
Most dogs work well for treats, calm praise, toys, petting, love and life rewards.
Recommended Food Treats:
– Turkey hot dogs
– Freeze dried liver
– Freeze dried salmon
– Small soft “doggie treats”.
The higher the value and smellier the treat, the better response you will get!
If your dog absolutely could care less about treats, find their motivation such as praise, a toy, tug, etc. and use this to reinforce good behavior.
Dog’s will always choose the more rewarding option:
Whichever reinforcer you choose to use, remember that dogs will always choose the more reinforcing/rewarding option. If you are working around distractions and your dog is not responding, ask yourself “am I or that smell on the ground more rewarding?” If the answer is the smell, you need to make yourself more rewarding. Switch to higher value treats, make the exercise more of a fun game, use more treats or talk with a happy/higher pitched voice, etc.
CREATE A REWARD’S SCHEDULE:
Determine ahead of time how and when you will use treats when teaching your dog a new behavior.
Use a treat until the behavior is about 75% understood. Don’t use treats too long, as your dog will quickly get stuck on them.
Examples: A simple command such as “Sit” would be treated for a few days (30-40 repetitions). More difficult behaviors such as “Leash walking” would be treated a few months (200 – 2000 repetitions).
Use a treat every 2 times, 5 times, then 2 in a row etc. I call this “maybe – maybe NOT” method (they might get a treat, they might not). Instead of treating add some praise – I use “Thank You” in a soft happy tone. Try not to be too exciting, your dog will lose concentration. Continue using your “maybe – maybe NOT” method.
Anything your dog finds pleasant: having fun, petting, going outside, going for a walk, eating, play time, greeting people etc.
Example: If you “Down/Wait” you can say “Hi” to the neighbor.
Switch It Up:
Treat every so often, praise periodically and give plenty of “life rewards”.
If your dog performs something very difficult or makes a breakthrough, give them a “Jackpot Reward”, which is 3 or 4 treats in a row.
An example would be if your dog is performing or learning something very difficult such as “Stay”, Housebreaking or Leash Walking.
Where to Train and How to Progress –
Your dog’s training can be assessed using a “Level System”.
The goal is to reach a perfect “Level 100”. Level 100 is achieved after your dog can perfectly perform a command or behavior around very large distractions in new areas.
Levels between 1 and 100 must be accomplished at a slow and steady pace. Progression to a higher level can only happen once a command or behavior is consistently performed well. If and when your dog begins to fail a particular level, regress to a lower challenge level, and repeat that level until the behavior or command can be performance well with consistency. For example, although your dog may understand a certain “command” this does not mean they are ready to jump from Level 20 to Level 50, “performing around a small distraction”. Take it slow and repeat the levels until consistent.
An example “Level 100” would be:
Perfectly performing a command, such as “Stay” in a public area like a park while off-leash, with many large distractions such as dogs barking and children running around, yelling and screaming.
Example of “Loose-Leash Walking” Level System:
Level 1: Begin Learning the Behavior/Command. No Distractions.
Learning “Let’s Go”.
Level 20: Understanding the Behavior/Command. No Distractions.
Understanding what “Let’s Go” means, while practicing in the house.
Level 50: Mastering the Behavior/Command. Adding Small Distractions.
Mastered “Let’s Go” in the house, now moving to the front porch.
Level 75: Mastered the Behavior/Command. Adding Larger Distractions.
“Let’s Go” is already mastered on the front porch, now practicing down the street.
Level 90: Mastered Behavior/Command. Working on Generalization.
Learn how to walk in new areas.
Level 100: Mastered Behavior/Command in New Areas with Large Distractions.
Your dog can now perfectly walk loose-leash in new areas with large distractions. (May have taken months to build up to).
How to Teach a Word / Command – This is very important, as dogs do not speak human, you must first formally teach your dog words in order for them to understand them.
Get your dog’s attention, give your hand sign and verbal “word”. Only say the word 1 or 2 times and then give your dog time to think about it. If your dog responds, follow your Reinforcement Schedule and Level System (explained above). If your dog does not respond, give the hand sign and verbal word again, while giving them plenty of time to think about it. If your dog still does not respond, go back to step 2 and then retest again.
Get Your Dog’s Full Attention:
Only tell your dog what to after you have their full attention. To grab their attention say their name, make kissy noises, tap them on the shoulder, scratch their butt, jiggle their leash, step in front of them etc.
Tone of voice:
Your tone of voice should be motivating and straight to the point.
Do NOT bribe your dog. When you have to hold out a treat in your dog’s sight in order for your dog to listen to you this is bad. This is very different than using a Lure. (how?)
Over-Repeating A Command:
If your dog knows a command well and they are choosing not to respond, do not keep repeating yourself. This may teach your dog that they can ignore you. Instead
1. Ensure you have their undivided attention.
2. Assess that they are on the Level you are asking.
3. Make it more “fun” for your dog.
4. Walk away for 5 seconds and then try again.If they still don’t respond, end the exercise. Dogs have “free will”, and we can’t force them do things.
Everyone interacting with the dog must use the same “words” and hand signs.
For example, “Down” and “Off”. “Down = Lay on the ground”, and “Off = Get Off Me”.
Practice commands during your normal daily routine, in little, short fun sessions.
Make training fun and always end on a good note before anyone gets bored.
Doing dishes: Practice Down/Stays.
Walking to get the mail: Practice waiting at the door and walking nicely on a leash.
Watching TV: Practice some Sits and Watches.
Feeding your dog: Practice Sit/Wait/Look and release them with “Okay”.
Grab Your Dog’s Attention
Marker Word: A short, verbal Marker Word will instantly reinforce a positive behavior.
After hearing the Marker Word, your dog will successfully make the proper association between a desired behavior and an anticipated reward.
Dogs tend to learn quicker and easier with a “Marker Word” than those taught without one.
Choosing a Marker Word:
Example Marker Words: Yes! Thanks! Awesome! Correct!
Do not choose: “Good Girl” or “Good Boy” as two or more words takes too many seconds to complete saying.
Verbal Reinforcement Must Immediately Follow A Desired Behavior:
Your Marker Word or “bridge” will immediately cue your dog that they have successfully completed a task by ‘Check Marking’ a specific behavior. Without a verbal Marker Word, too much time may lapse between a desired behavior and treating your dog. In that case, your dog may be onto something else, and unintentionally believe they are being rewarded for a completely different behavior.
A Treat Is Coming!
Once the Marker Word has been spoken, your dog will anticipate a treat is coming and on the way. By saying the Marker Word, you’ll have a few extra seconds to supply the treat.
>> Before formally giving your dog the Marker Word, you must select a word and teach your dog the word. We worked on some of this during class.
Marker Word Homework:
Continue to say your “Marker Word” and quickly give your dog a treat. This reinforces the concept that “Word” = Treat. Do this 20 times per day throughout the next week. During the next class you will learn when to best use your Marker Word.
“Name Game”: Grab your dog’s attention by calling their name.
Prepare by grabbing a handful of treats. While sitting, say your dog’s name in a happy tone. If your dog looks at you, quickly treat them. Progress to standing up and treating, and then walking around and treating.
*Do not ever use their name in a negative way or tone!
“Name Game” Homework:
Practice luring your dog away from distractions and onto you while at home. Continue playing the game until you can successfully call your dog’s name and they immediately look at you. When your dog starts to catch on, randomize when to give them a treat – your dog might get a treat, they might not.
“Luring”: Redirect your dog’s attention away from a distraction and onto you.
When a dog has their attention on something else, hold a treat to your dog’s nose like a magnet to redirect their attention away from the distraction and onto you. Their attention shifts from the distraction and onto the treat. Their focus stays on the treat like a lure with their sight. By shifting their focus onto the treat, they will receive the treat.
This technique is used a lot during your Beginners Obedience Program.
Practice luring your dog into different positions such as: Sit, Down, Roll Over, Through Your Legs, Move to the side you want them walking on, etc. Make sure to fade out the lure when your dog begins to catch on. Eventually remove the lure out of your hand and use your pointer-finger. Give them the treat from the other hand and use random reinforcement.
“Watch”: Your dog holds their gaze at you when asked.
Hold a treat with your middle finger and your thumb. Hold your pointer finger up. Hold the treat to their nose and lure your dog’s eyes to your eyes while using your pointer-finger to point at your face or nose. It is important not to say “Watch” until they are actually watching, labeling their behavior AS they “Watch”.
Do the above steps, and then treat your dog. Repeat this 50 times in all different areas of your home. Your dog should then understand the command and you can then ask your dog to watch you before they receive “life rewards” such as: playtime, food, petting, going outside, putting the leash on, etc.
“Find It” Game: Pull your dog off of a distraction or to redirect their attention.
You must first teach the game before you are able to effectively use it around major distractions such as: dogs barking across the street, squirrels, distracting children, etc.
Put a treat 4-inches away from your dog. Point at it and put your finger right on it. AS your dog goes for it say “Find it” in a fun happy tone, (remember this is a game).
“Find It” Homework:
Repeat the “Find It” game 20 times at home. When you say, “Find it!” and your dog immediately starts searching the ground for a treat, increase the challenge by tossing the treat one inch farther away. Begin practicing this game without distractions. As your dog gets better at the game, increase to more challenging distractions.
“Sit”: Sit on command.
Hold a treat Lure to your dog’s nose and slowly move it over their head towards their tail. They will follow it and their behind will hit the floor. Do not hold the treat too high or your dog will jump. If they jump, start over. The moment their behind hits the floor say “Sit” and follow up with a treat reward. This is teaching your dog that the word “Sit” = behind on the ground.
Get your dog’s full attention, give your hand sign (hand moving up over head towards their tail) while saying “Sit” (with no treat in your hand). If your dog responds, they understand the word. If not, continue to label their actions a bit longer and then re-test again. Repeat the sit command at least 50 repetitions over the course of a few days. After it is clear that your dog fully understands the command, switch over to “Life Rewards” and randomize whether he will receive a treat after sitting.
“Okay”: Your dog is “released” and can move freely or receive something.
*You may learn this Week 1 or Week 2 depending on how many dogs in class have successfully mastered the “Sit” command
Ask your dog to “Sit”. Outstretch your hand and say “Okay”. Your dog will not receive a treat, as the reward is simply “freedom”: freedom to move, freedom to get a toy before you pick them up, etc.
*Randomly reward for “sitting”.
Behavior Modification That Lasts A Lifetime
Identify root causes behind naughty behaviors. Dogs generally are not “naughty” on purpose!
Ask yourself “Why is my dog misbehaving?”
Be aware of “why” your dog is naughty, make sure you meet their needs, and stay away from potential “triggers” .
Common reasons would be:
– Lack of management
– Too much freedom
– Not enough enrichment exercise
– Accidental reinforcement
– Lack of nutrition, etc.
Common Trigger Examples:
Tired: Leads to nippy puppies.
Under-exercised: Leads to pestering the children.
Too much freedom: Leads to potty mishaps.
Hungry: Lead to chewing inappropriate objects.
Teething: Leads to nipping your ankles.
Over aroused/stimulated: Leads to jumping and mouthing.
Behavior Modification Homework:
Make lists so you can stay attentive to each of your dog’s behaviors. Use these lists to start heavily reinforcing “Wanted Behaviors” and avoid accidentally reinforcing “Unwanted Behaviors”.
Make a list of “Wanted Behaviors” that you desire your dog to exhibit: ie. Calm, Quiet, Attentive, Brave. Start rewarding your dog heavily when they showcase any of these behaviors on their own. .
– Your dog decides to sit quietly at your feet and wait for attention. Praise and pet them calmly.
– Your dog decides to walk by your side or follow you on leash. Don’t ignore them, give them a piece of chicken for every step.
– Your dog decides to lay on their dog bed instead of bothering the children. Walk by quietly and toss treats on the bed next to them and walk away.
– Your dog looks at you for no reason. Praise them, give treats and petting.
– Your dog decides to abstain from barking at the mailman. Give him a handful of treats scattered all over the front porch!
Dogs repeat what gets rewarded. Replace the “Unwanted’s” with the “TO DO’s”.
Make a list of “Unwanted Behaviors” you don’t want your dog to exhibit. Next to that column, make a list of a “To Do” items you can encourage, as soon as your dog displays an “Unwanted Behavior”. Avoid accidentally reinforcing “Unwanted Behaviors” with attention, and immediately do the “To Do” action instead.
Food Bowl Guarding Prevention:
Avoid your dog seeing you as the “bad guy” around their food dish, as they may begin to display aggression. Instead, teach your dog to LOVE when people walk by their food dish, touch their food bowl or pick it up.
*Do not ever put your hands in your dog’s food bowl. If your dog is already showing warning signs of food bowl guarding, talk to your obedience trainer immediately before taking any action steps.
Aggressive Warning Signals:
Stillness, tensed body posture, braced legs, head lowered over something, harsh eyes, eating faster, yawning, tongue flicks, ears pushed back or pointed forward, tail tucked down or pointing upward, lip curling up or growling.
Food Bowl Guarding Prevention – Homework:
Carefully assess that your dog is in his “neutral” state. You can only proceed when your dog is in his neutral state.
Every mealtime while your dog is eating, simply toss a piece of cheese near or in their food dish and walk away. After a few times, pick up their bowl and put some cheese in it and give the bowl back.
Soon, your dog will look forward to your approach while they are eating, and not view you as a threat, but as a treat-supplier.
Prevent “Object Guarding” : Your dog look forward to you approaching, touching and taking their valuables, by “Trading Up”. They will learn to not dread your approach.
*If your dog is already showing warning signs of aggression – do not “Trade”. Talk to your obedience trainer immediately for training advise.
Dogs can guard many different things in which they find valuable – food bowls, chew toys, sleeping places, kennels, certain people or even just a tissue.
Potential reasons behind Resource Guarding:
Lack of Socialization:
This can lead to an insecure dog. Dogs who are not properly socialized young tend to grow up lacking confidence and have poor “coping” skills. This can lead to resource guarding behaviors.
Puppies Removed From Litter Too Soon:
Puppies taken away from their litter before the age of 8 weeks old tend to have insecure temperaments which can lead to Resource Guarding.
Dogs who are on a low-quality food may tend to guard their food due to lack of nutrition issues.
Owners “Teaching Their Dog A Lesson”:
Owners try to teach their dogs that they can and should be able to “mess” with or take their values. They take things away on purpose, mess with their bowls, pet them when they are eating – all just to prove that they can. In reality this can lead to a dog learning that people are “mean” and begin to become insecure around their values.
Owners Instilling “Discipline”:
Owners who discipline a dog when they have an inappropriate item. Hitting, scolding, chasing or corning a dog. By doing this, a dog is learning that people are “mean” and “annoying” and therefore become fearful and defensive over time.
Owners who “take”:
Owners who keep taking away dog’s values over and over again can lead to Resource Guarding. The dog is learning once again that people are “mean” and “annoying” and therefore begin to feel the need to guard their belongings.
Signs of Guarding / Warning Signs “I’m Uncomfortable” – do not approach your dog if they are showing any of the following:
Step 1: Put a Management System into place. Use baby gates, long tie outs, crates etc. to manage your dog’s whereabouts. Make every person aware of your dog’s “triggers” and Management Protocol that interacts with your dog.
Examples: If your dog guard’s slippers, there should never be slippers available. If you know your dog guards their food, they eat in their crate behind a closed door. If your dog guard’s furniture, your dog is on a long tie out away from the furniture. If your dog has issues with visitors and guarding, your dog is behind a gate when visitors are over.
Step 2: Consult with a Veterinary Behaviorist or Certified Behaviorist who specializes in Resource Guarding and uses humane positive reinforcement methods.
Carefully assess that your dog is in his “neutral” state. You can only “trade” if your dog is neutral.
Walk up to your dog and say the word “Trade” in a jolly voice. Drop 3 treats (or a more valuable legal object) to trade-up. Remove the original object when your dog goes for the treats or more valuable object.
Practice this with all of their belongings. Utilize the “Trade” technique to remove “forbidden objects” from them.
Jumping: Teach your dog that jumping up on people = No reward.
Your dog must learn an alternative attention seeking behavior – 4 feet on the floor = Attention. This must be your dog’s choice. Do not ask your dog to “Sit”, as strangers do not know to ask your dog to “sit” to avoid being jumped on.
Once your dog does the desired behavior, reinforce with praise, petting, attention and treats enough to form a new habit.
This is an everyday training exercise that takes 5-minutes per day, broken up into five, one-minute sessions. This training will take continual repeated practice and effort over the course of your dog’s lifetime. Without the effort, your dog’s very commong jumping up problem will never go away. Training begins with immediate family members and will eventually extend to houseguest visitors. When your dog jumps onto you, do not look at, touch, or talk to your dog by saying “Off!” or “No!”. These accidental reinforcements will give your dog the opportunity to practice their unwanted behavior. If your dog continues to “practice” and randomly gets reinforcement by anyone, ever, this behavior will not go away!
Instead, if your dog tries to jump up onto you, quickly turn around and walk away. Pause for 3 seconds and turn around to see if your dog has all four feet on the floor. If so, give them a great reward with calm attention or treats. The concept is not to just turn around, you must heavily and consistently reward your dog for not jumping.
*If your dog has received accidental reinforcement for jumping up onto people, through eye contact, getting touched or verbal acknowledgement, your dog’s jumping is now considered a “strong habit”. In this case, expect to put in double the amount of effort to reverse this strong habit and teach a brand new acceptable habit in its place.
Jumping Management: if you can’t explain the new rules to strangers, have your dog on a leash so they can’t practice jumping. *Make sure you tell houseguests your dog’s rules.
Most people want to know how to stop barking, but it’s not that simple. You must first determine “why” your dog is barking in order to stop the barking. Barking is typically a “symptom” of something else.
WHAT NOT TO DO: Do not yell at your barking dog.
This will only make your dog’s barking worse, as it sounds like you are barking along with them!
This will accidentally reinforce your dog for barking!
Accidental Reinforcement Includes:
– Giving Eye Contact
– Letting them outside
– Praising them
– Soothing them
– Comforting them
– Picking them up
– Smiling at them
– Let them sit with you on the couch etc.
Do NOT PUNISH your dog by yelling at them or by using aversive tools such as spray bottles or cans filled with pennies to scare your dog. This may cause your dog to become insecure and aggressive.
POTENTIAL REASONS YOUR DOG BARKS:
Lack of Socialization / Fear / Uncertainty:
If your dog is barking due to a lack of social skills or they are afraid of something specific like a person, dogs, items, noises, etc. the barking is a “symptom”. In order to get rid of the “symptom” (barking) you will need to eliminate your dog’s fear of the object, or work on their social skills.
A dog will alert you when someone approaches you or your house. This is very typical and normal behavior, so long as your dog doesn’t continue to bark for an extended amount of time. Typically, you should be able to step in and redirect your dog to a more appropriate behavior, by simply saying “Thank you. Let’s go find your Kong.”
Dogs will bark out of excitement – “Look Mom, another dog!!!!” This is typical and normal. You can redirect or give a “Quiet” command, or walk your dog away from whatever they were barking towards. Walking away is a “negative consequence”. Repetition is essential with this technique! “Barking = Dog” will fade away after your dog begins to see the association that their barking means they have to depart from their friends. Return your dog to the party after your dog quiets down.
Some dogs will bark when they feel insecure or anxious. To relieve pent-up energy and anxiety, these types of dogs need up to 2 hours per day of mental and physical exercise. To address their root cause of their insecurities, you may also need to build your dog’s confidence through obedience training, agility or some type of activity, such as: backpacking, biking, playing fetch, hide-and-seek, finding treats, etc. It is very important that you do not reprimand your dog for their anxiety, as this will worsen their anxiety and the barking will increase.
This style of bark can easily be identified with a sad and lonely tone. This bark will stop as a “symptom”, once you give your dog proper daily mental and physical exercise. *Only do this after your dog stops barking.
Has your dog learned to bark to get your attention? Barking = Attention.
By accidently reinforcing the barking, by making a big fuss when your dog barked – looking at them, touching them or talking to them, your dog has learned that barking works! If this is the case, change your dog’s association with barking by teaching them that barking = nothing! Ignore their barking by walking away. Repeat this concept consistently with every person that comes in contact with your dog. This may take weeks to months before you see results, and must be continued throughout their whole life. Meanwhile, make sure your dog is getting plenty of attention for being quiet and plenty of exercise throughout their day.
*Beware! The barking will get worse before it gets better!
At first your dog will be thinking “What’s happening here? My barking worked before! I need to try harder!!!” This is your dog’s last-ditch effort before “extinction”.
Utilize the “Quiet” Command for nuisance barking. Wait for your dog to bark and then wait for them to STOP for 1.5 seconds, say “Quiet” mark and treat WHEN THEY ARE SILENT!. You are labeling the action of stopping the barking. Repeat 100 times or so. This will take several repetitions in a lot of different circumstances before your dog understands what this word means. Test out the word “Quiet”, as your dog is barking – say “Quiet” while your dog is in the process of barking – if they stop, they understand the word. If not, continue to teach and label your dogs “Quiet” AS they stop barking for a few more days and then repeat the test.
PEOPLE COMING INTO THE HOME OR WHILE OUT FOR A WALK:
Some dogs misbehave when people come into their home. Some bark uncontrollably, become overly-excited, jump, or pester for attention.
Why do dogs pester and jump?
Most of the time a dog pesters as an attention-seeking behavior. They want you to engage with them, talk to them, look at them, touch them, fuss over them, play with them, yes – even yell at them. Attention is attention, even if it’s discipline!
If a behavior “works” for your dog, they will repeat that behavior. Repeated over time, this behavior will strengthen and become a strong habit.
Looking at a dog, talking to them (even saying “no” or “quiet”), touching them, petting them – any engagement what so ever! In order to rid your dog of this unwanted attention seeking behaviors, they must NEVER get accidentally reinforced for barking, jumping, or excited behavior again when meeting any person. This is referred to as “management”, until your dog is thoroughly trained or taught an alternative “attention seeking behavior.” You must not let your dog Practice an unwanted behavior. Use leashes, gates and crates if needed.
How To Stop A Dog From Pestering:
Learning Options –
Reinforce good behaviors –
If your dog sits and waits instead of jumping – reinforce, reinforce, reinforce!
Obedience Commands –
Teach your dog what to do (form habits) when you answer the door and people walk in the house. This will take many months to master before you actually invite “helpers” over to practice/teach. Start with foundation commands – “place”, “sit or down/stay” and “leave it”. Build each command to a very high level before actually having people to your house. After you have mastered your foundations commands, practiced with just your family pretending to be visitors, you must then invite people over to practice (helpers). If at any time your dog fails, have the person leave and lower your levels (move the place farther away or practice with just family members first).
– “Place” – teach your dog “place”. Position their “place” at least 6 to 8 feet away from the door. build your levels of Place – adding distance (go to their place) and distractions.
– “Stay” – begin with just a short period of time and build up to 1 minute. Next work on approaching the door while they are in position – reward them generously for “staying”. Build up to being able to open the door. Next you must add distractions – practice opening the door, have someone knock on the door, etc.
– “Leave it” – begin with your dog in a “stay” – you have already practiced walking to the door. You must now add “leave it” as you practice walking to the door, touching the door, opening the door.
Dog goes away –
Invite someone over to practice. Have the person knock on the door, put your dog on a leash and invite the people to come in. If and when the dog jumps quickly walk them 10 feet away from the Visitor. Do not look at them, say anything or touch them. When they calm down walk the dog towards the Visitor. If they jump again, the dog walks away. If the dog does not jump, they receive a treat and attention from the Visitor. Repeat this several times until your dog understands that calm/non-jumping gets the Visitor or person on the walk. Practice this with a LOT of visitors to form a strong habit.
*Don’t forget to then redirect your dog to a more exciting Toy/Food Game after they have met the visitors.
*During Walks – if your dog barks, jumps or becomes very excited when walking or approaching something/someone – nonchalantly turn them around (in a circle – do not pull them backwards) and walk them in the opposite direction. This behavior must never make them move forward or towards something they want. This would be accidently reinforcing the behavior. Calm, quiet and 4 on the floor makes dogs move forward and receive anything of value.
Person goes away –
Invite someone over to practice. Have the person knock and then come in. If the dog jumps the Visitor quickly goes back outside. This also works if the “visitor” is you (the owner) – follow the same technique. This teaches the dog that jumping makes the “fun person” go away. Repeat as many times as it takes for the dog to realize when they don’t jump, the visitor gives a treat and some attention. *Practice this with a LOT of visitors to form a strong habit. *Don’t forget to then redirect your dog to a more exciting Toy/Food Game after they have met the visitors.
Create a New Habit –
Alternative Behaviors. Teach your dog to “search”, “shake”, “touch”, “high five”, grab a ball for a game of fetch, “spin” etc. instead of jumping, mouthing or barking 😉
Example of how to teach “Search” when people come through a door:
Begin teaching this habit with just the family first to create a strong habit. Walk through the door and quickly before your dog misbehaves toss 10 treats off to the side (do not do this if the dog is barking or jumping). When your dog is done with the treats, go back outside and repeat the process. Repeat enough times that when a family member walks through the door, the dog begins sniffing and looking for the treats before you even throw them. If and when this happens, you have created a “search” habit. You must now work on generalization with new people. Start with just one person that your dog knows somewhat well to create this new habit. Eventually inviting new people over to practice/teach.
*Don’t forget to then find your dog something more exciting to do!
Teaching your dog not to counter surf will take a lot of time effort and also a very high-level obedience. Your dog will need to learn “leave it, “back”, “down/stay” and “go to their place” – all at high levels (all taught in Intermediate Class). This will help control your dog around counters. Until you are able to reach this high level of training there are other things you can to do to help curb counter surfing.
Reinforce Good Behavior –
If your dog is behaving around tables or counters – don’t just ignore the good behavior. Reinforce 4 feet on the floor. Repeat, repeat, repeat!!!
Known Commands –
“Off” or “Down”. Teach your dog the command and then use this if or when your dog is on your counters. You must then redirect them to a more exciting, appropriate activity or they will just jump right back onto the counter.
Exercise and a Bored Dog –
Your dog may be telling you something. Did you meet their mental, physical and enrichment needs for that day? If you own a high energy or working type dog, you will need to keep those needs met or you will see some “red flag” behaviors such as counter surfing, pestering the kids, barking out the window etc. Dogs that tend to counter surf tend to need more enrichment exercise – enrichment is things that a dog does in nature such as hunting, sniffing, tracking, chasing etc. Most of these dogs tend to counter surf, steel laundry for the scent and may get into the garbage. They are using their natural Hunting/Searching Skills. Some dog’s enrichment needs are higher than others, some have more natural tendencies to want to search, dig and track – leading to a lot of unwanted behaviors such as counter surfing, steeling laundry and digging in the yard. Fulfill your dog’s Enrichment Needs to help with unwanted behaviors!
“Hide the treats/find game” – put your dog in the other room. Hide treats all around the house (start easy, in plain sight). Let your dog out and point the treats out while saying “find”, this teaches the word “find”. Each time making the treats harder to find. Eventually you can just let your dog out, yell “find” and they will use their nose and searching tendencies to find all the treats.
“Scatter game” – grab a handful of treats or kibble and toss it all over the yard.
“Box” – get a box and put 10 treats in it. Poke holes in the side and put some tape on it to keep it closed. Let your dog sniff and destroy the box to get the treats out.
Facebook Group – join the Facebook group Canine Enrichment Ideas. There are always great ideas on how to fill your dog’s Enrichment Needs.
Never leave your dog unattended to “practice” counter surfing. Practice makes perfect. Always have your counters clear of anything your dog can get their mouth or paws on.
Some dogs will scavenge or counter surf due to lack of nutrition. Make sure your dog is being fed a high-quality dog food with mostly meat protein (chicken meal or salmon meal – it must say “meal”), veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach etc.) and high-quality grains (barley, brown rice, oatmeal etc.). If they are being fed a lower quality food with low quality ingredients such as “meat” by products, wheat, soy, corn, brewers rice, white rice etc – they may be counter surfing to find nutrition.
Alternative Behavior –
Instead of Counter Surfing – teach your dog to “floor surf” if you do not want them counter surfing. Meanwhile always keep your counters empty just in case your dog does jump on them they will not be rewarded in any way. Counter = Boring!
How To: Put your dog away. Put treats all over the floor in the kitchen. Let your dog out and have them stumble across the treats on the floor. This teaches your dog the floors are the place to search – not the counters. Do this 2 times per day for two weeks to form a “floor surfing” habit.