Puppy collar training 101 – A collar needs to be one of the first things you deal with when a new puppy comes home.
I usually purchase a cheap nylon collar long enough to allow room for the puppy to grow. I put a collar on my puppies within the first day or two home. My adult dogs have collars just loose enough to pull over their head (with a little difficulty), however, that is too loose for a puppy collar. A little leg can get caught in the collar very easily (especially since it is a new sensation around his neck). The puppy collar is put on so I can just fit a couple of my fingers under it.
Puppies do not like strange, new things. This collar will cause quite a trauma! Since pups cannot express their displeasure, or take their “hands” and try to remove it, they will scratch at it. This does not mean it “itches” – it just means it feels strange and somewhat uncomfortable.
Since I have a leash on my puppy whenever I take her out to “go potty” (see Thoughts on Puppies for details), she had to get used to a leash rather quickly! Puppies dislike a leash more than they do the collar. When you first attach the leash to puppy’s collar, let him drag it around for a little while (supervised, of course!). Next, pick up the end and let the puppy feel the resistance. You may experience anything at this point – from crying to twisting the neck, bucking, pawing, – some of the more resistant pups may actually urinate or defecate. Just remain calm and hold the leash. When the pup has calmed, you can either try the next step, or end the “lesson”.
After the “big fight” is over, you can attempt to encourage the pup to follow you with gentle tugs and a lot of “good dog” vocal encouragement. With very resistant pups, some delicious treats (soft, moist, TINY bits) can be great motivation. You should be upbeat and positive with the pup and there should be a lot of praise for correct behavior (i.e. walking with you while on the leash).
Although I have never myself had a problem, and I do crate my dogs with collars on, I know of dogs that have died by getting their collars somehow caught on their crate. Crate manufacturers recommend NO collars when crated.
Many pups, especially retrieving breeds, tend to mouth and chew their leashes. Generally, they outgrow this. If it gets so bad that there is a tug of war happening every time you attempt to walk, try spraying the lower end of the leash with a bitter type spray (available at your local pet supply shop) or wrapping the leash in tin foil (have you ever chewed on it…?)
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Is your furry friend not listening to you? Then you’ve come to the right place! Before we get started though, I thought you might enjoy this video:
On a serious note though, a dog that won’t listen is a troublesome thing. Here’s what you need to know (and do) to overcome the “My Dog Won’t Listen To Me” dilemma.
Talk to your dog. Do you know how much he/she understands? When your dog first comes home with you it is as if he/she has been sent to a foreign country. Dogs know no English, French, Spanish, etc. They must be shown what each word/phrase means – EVEN THEIR OWN NAME! Dogs DO understand “dogspeak” – the tones and body language of canines. The easiest way to get a concept across to anyone (including a dog) is to speak to them in their own language. Since we are unable to bark, etc., the best we can do is use our tone of voice to communicate our desires to our dogs early in our new relationship. With proper training techniques, dogs CAN and DO learn not only English, but whatever languages their owners use.
Start with your tone of voice. Women have the easiest time with what I call the “Good Dog” tone of voice – the one that is most often high pitched, soft, sweet, and generally in a falsetto. Men have the easiest time with the “Bad Dog” tone – the one that is deep (but doesn’t have to be!), stern, and sometimes gravelly. Men also have the easiest time with the “Command” tone – the one that is neither good nor bad, but has a firm (usually lower) tone. Try telling your dog that he/she is bad using the “Good Dog” tone; then try praising your dog using the “Bad Dog” tone. Watch your dog’s reaction to each. Even if they understand some of the words, they generally react to the tone first.
Many people have a difficult time getting their dogs to obey their “Command” tone of voice. Often it is because they “tell” their dogs in the form of a question: “staaaaaayyyyy?” – with a voice raising at the end of the command. Remember, commands must be firm, short, and to the point, with the tone going down at the end, never letting the word drag on.
To start to teach your dog your language, you need to combine the words with an action that shows the dog what you want, and some reinforcement – either positive or negative. Say your dog’s name. Does the dog respond (look at you, wag his tail, move toward you)? Your dog should ALWAYS have a pleasant experience when s/he hears his name – NEVER unpleasant. Some people create a new “Bad Dog” name to use for those bad dog times. To teach the dog his name, position your dog close enough to touch, preferably on a leash so s/he doesn’t move away. Say the name cheerfully and give his ear a tug, or his leash a tug toward you, or move his muzzle in your direction. When the dog looks in your direction, immediately use your “Good Dog” voice and praise and stroke your dog on the head or chest. Practice this until looking at you happens without the tug and continue to practice for the dog’s entire life! It reinforces the communication link between the owner and dog.
Teach other words the same way. Simple one word commands work best. Say the dog’s name (to get his attention – remember that communication link!), follow with a command, and then SHOW him what you want. PRAISE IMMEDIATELY when the action is completed – even if you MADE him do it! Eventually you dog will learn to respond to the command without needing to be shown – but you should never forget to praise!
Sometimes words are not enough when communicating with a dog. Since dogs must learn what each word means, all the other “extra” words are just a bunch of “Blah, Blah” to them! Consider the Gary Larson cartoon that shows an owner scolding his dog, Ginger, then shows what the dog hears “Ginger, blah, blah, blah, Ginger, blah…”.
I have learned that a sort of modified canine language can get a dog’s attention faster than human words. Those of you who have been dog owners probably have already learned just how insignificant the word “NO” is to a puppy. This is especially true if it is said frequently (kinda like kids, in that respect…). the word “no” to a dog is a nice soft word, with no sharp sound to it. Therefore there is nothing in the word to catch a dog’s attention, or to stop them from continuing the action you wish to halt. I find a gravelly, growly “EGH!” (hard to spell a sound but it’s like you are vocalizing while pushing air out of your lungs) can be used to halt activity. Or try “Angh, Angh!” – our sound for no, without saying the word – only say it with a growl, and sharply. That is also a good sound to use! If you are having problems with your dog mouthing you, try a very shrill and loud “OW!!”, which ususally stops them in mid-chew! Their littermates and other dogs use sounds like that to set limits on mouthing behavior.
“Praise Sounds” are harder to create. My dog knows she has done really well when I say one of several words I reserve ONLY for really good work: EXCELLENT! or ALRIGHT!, or PERFECT! I say them very cheerfully, but not with the falsetto “Good Dog” voice. I will often follow any of these words with a beloved scratch on the chest, or an extra-special tidbit (small and chewy, not crunchy) that I use only for extra-special rewards.
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Dogs need leaders. They operate on a “pack” system: there are leaders and there are followers. If this system does not exist in a household, often the dog will slip into the leader spot. In their mind, somebody needs to be the leader. Although many dogs would rather not have that spot, they will still end up there, because no one else in the household has demonstrated clear leadership.. To dogs, leaders have certain roles, privileges and honors. Leaders are responsible for pack safety. Leaders are responsible for providing food and shelter sources and they have dibs on the best stuff. Leaders have the best and highest sleeping spots. Leaders decide when the rest of the pack eats, sleeps, eliminates, and plays.
Some breeds of dogs tend to be more dominant in nature. Others are more submissive or easygoing. To start out right with ALL dogs, leadership needs to begin in puppyhood. This leadership isn’t nasty or violent, but it is always firm and fair. Some behaviorists may discuss shaking a dog up or alpha rolling. These methods have a place ONLY in a fair and non-violent way, and should NEVER be started with half-grown or adult dogs. . With most dogs your leadership position is easy to have and maintain. Other dogs must be reminded daily, if not more often.
The following leadership checklist includes things every dog owner should follow. How strictly the list is followed depends on how pushy the dog is. Most of the items on the list, however, should be followed to some extent; some people don’t realize how dominant their dog really is. Many dogs are quietly (or not so quietly) pushy.
Most items are very self explanatory. Most items you can start today and do yourself. If you have ANY trouble understanding anything, or if your dog growls or snaps at your for any reason, you need to enlist the help of a trainer who has knowledge about leadership behavior.
Your dog will thank you for the structure and leadership you provide!
* Words in parentheses are suggested commands you can work to teach your dog. *
Most people like dogs. Often, dogs become nuisances because their owners allow them. Many neighbors have stopped talking to each other over dog issues. This checklist is to help you insure good relationships with your neighbors where dogs are concerned. Of course, it won’t necessarily help you in other neighborly areas!
The biggest nuisance, especially in homes that are close together, is noise. If your dog starts to bark, quiet him, or take him inside. Everyone has the horror story of someone in their area that seems to ignore their dog, who howls deep into the night.
The next nuisance is doggy doo doo! It is unpleasant to pick up, but it is more unpleasant for you AND your neighbors to smell. Dog stool left in the yard, needless to say, is unsanitary, and can be a continuing source for your dog to pick up intestinal parasites (if he has them to start with).
Unlike one popular best seller recently explained that dogs need to be free, that just won’t work in our society! Free roaming dogs can get in many types of trouble. Besides the mess in other yards, they can dig holes, chase and/or hurt other dogs, chase and hurt cats (roaming cats can be yet another issue!), kill wildlife, get themselves hurt by running in front of or after cars, chase kids or delivery people, knock down and hurt people, or any of a number of other things. Dogs can also form packs, like gangs of kids, which become much more troublesome than individual dogs.
When your dog is not on your property, ALL dog stool must be removed! So many people walk their dogs to intentionally avoid having to clean up their own yard! They allow their dogs to poop anywhere they will, then walk away. I have walked in nice upper class downtown areas of cities (Birmingham, Michigan, for example!) where nice upper class people let their dogs poop on the sidewalk and – oops! – don’t have a bag to clean it up! I think the city has even installed bag dispensers, and still the poop remains on the sidewalk!
Rule of thumb – CARRY A BAG! It is very easy to use, and you don’t have to carry a pooper-scooper, paper towels, bags, etc!
If you want to leave your dog in your yard while you are not home (something I prefer NOT to do), make sure your dog is not posing a problem for any of your neighbors in any way. Ask a neighbor to inform you if your dog is barking while you are away. Then FIX it!
If you leave your dog in your yard while you are not home, make sure your dog has each essential: shelter (either from hot OR cold OR rain, etc) and water (in a container he cannot knock over).
Dogs left in yards alone are open for teasing by neighborhood kids, other dogs, and cats. If they are nuisances, then they are also open for abuse by your neighbors, or someone else who doesn’t appreciate your dog like you do.
Meter readers and others are able to come and go from your yard if it is not locked. This leaves the possibility of gates being left ajar. Even if you don’t leave your dog out while you are gone, you may have a gate that is not in plain view that you don’t realize was left open. Suddenly you realize your dog has left your yard – I’ve been there; NOW there are locks on each of my gates! If you do leave your dog in your yard and the gates are not locked, you open your dog to problems from meter readers or delivery people who may be afraid of dogs. Whether or not your dog is aggressive, they may perceive it, and he may be sprayed with mace or pepper spray (I’ve heard of that happening, too).
People who live in the country and have space also have to be considerate of their neighbors. Dogs left to roam often end up chasing neighbors’ livestock or eating their chickens! When your dog is with you on a walk, have your dog ON A LEASH (see related article)! Unleashed dogs cannot be controlled.
If you are fortunate enough to live in a place that has a park that allows dogs or a special dog park, protect your privilege by cleaning up after your dog! Many dog parks and regular park privileges are now being removed because of the mess that dogs leave and owners don’t clean up!
If you do take your dog to a dog park, try to understand your dog’s behavior toward other dogs. Know when to remove your dog from a potentially volatile situation, either because of your dog, or because of another dog. Also, understand that not all dog owners understand their dogs. Many people will view their dog approaching another dog wagging his tail and standing upright as ” he just wants to say hi”, when in fact, he is posturing to the other dog and they are trying to figure out who is “big man on campus”!
Understand that not all dogs are “dog park” material. Some shy dogs become much too overwhelmed. Some more confident dogs can turn into bullies. To some dogs, all the stimulation of all the activity can put them into sensory overload.
All in all, the best rule to use as a neighborly dog owner is to be sensible. Expect from yourself as a dog owner what you would expect from someone else. Or better!
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Puppies in a litter are often named by the breeder reflecting a physical attribute the pup has (“Big Boy”, “Socks”, “Brownie”), or because of a specific collar color the breeder has put on them (in the case of dogs looking the same, like Golden Retrievers).
Rescue dogs either come with the name they had at their previous home (if known), or a name given to them by the shelter or rescuer.
There is no reason not to re-name a rescue dog or new puppy that you adopt into your home. If you use that name in a positive manner and always associated with good things, the dog will quickly learn to understand that name means HIM!
I own 2 rescue dogs. Both came from not-so-bad situations. Mickey lost his Dad to cancer, and Remington was too much attitude for his previous owner. These dogs have their original, given name. I chose to keep their names because they never had any terrible experiences associated with their name.
I fostered a Border Collie rescue for Great Lakes Border Collie Rescue who was kept in a corn crib for a year and had much baggage come with him into rescue. The instant he left his previous owner’s hand he got a new name, Kip, and will never hear his name from his previous life again. He got his new name to not only symbolize a new life for him, but also to shed all the bad things associated with his previous name.
Getting your dog to understand his new name is easy: his name is used when training and reinforcing commands, and is also used when giving treats (“Good Kip!” treat “What a good boy, Kip!” treat). The new name is ALWAYS used in a positive manner.
That’s the fun part – and it’s completely up to you! If you need some inspiration, check out Rover.com’s Top Dog survey:
Do you feel guilty when you leave your dog with nothing to do while you are at work all day? Some people hate to leave their dogs alone at all, and opt to take them to “doggy daycare” facilities. This can be a problem too. You can end up with a dog that can never be left alone – ever!
While my dogs are young (generally 2 years and under) I leave them crated whenever I am not home. I like to leave them with some projects to keep them busy, though I REALLY think they just sleep when I’m not home.
Different surfaces to chew, like hard Nylabones, soft Gumabones, Booda Bones (edible bones made of compressed cornstarch), etc. I try to leave several different choices. I DO NOT leave rawhide or rope bones in the crate unsupervised – or anything else that can be chewed up too quickly or torn apart.
My favorite thing to leave for lonely dogs are toys stuffed with goodies, like Kong or Tuffy toys (made by the Kong Company – choose an appropriate size) or a sturdy sterilized bone (which is the ONLY real bone I recommend). You stuff these items with something irresistible. Try peanut butter, “squeezy cheese” (the kind that comes in a can at your grocery store, DO NOT use hunks of cheese, the dog may choke on them), dog food, soft moist treats, goldfish crackers, bread, etc. For more “stuffing” recipes visit the Kong web site.
Another alternative is to use a “Buster Cube“. These toys, which resemble plastic dice, are available at your local pet supply store. You fill them with dried dog food and teach your dog to tumble the cube around to get the food out. Since the treat is not messy, these can also be used when your dog is old enough to be left alone uncrated. Remember, this food is part of your dog’s daily intake, so feed less at mealtime. If you like, you can feed the whole meal from the cube.
Your dog will be less stressed or worried if you also confine him (just like you do when you leave) for random and variable times while you are at home. Then confinement doesn’t become a signal of being left alone. Watch for more on crate training and proper use of crates in an upcoming article.
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“My dog pulls too much”.
“My dog stays right by me”.
“My dog wants the freedom to sniff and mark trees”.
“It’s not fair to confine a dog with a leash”.
“So, WHY should I leash my dog?”
Once you teach your dog that walking on a leash does NOT mean pulling (please attend a local dog obedience class – they will teach you how!), leashes are a wonderful control tool. Proper use will be most symbolic to your dog – you are the leader and YOU decide where both of you will go. Leashes set boundaries for dogs. A dog that runs loose and “thinks for himself” has no reason to respect another. A dog that runs free can, in a split second, decide to dash into the street, chase another person, dog, car, cat, or just plain take off
“My dog stays right with by me”. Trust like that can be a dangerous thing!
If your dog walks with you without a leash, they are free to do anything you may – or may not – want them to do! Other loose dogs, strays, or wild animals may tangle with your dog. You have no control. On leash, you still may not have control over the other animal, but on-leash control (along with a good “LEAVE IT” command) could help prevent the encounter in the first place. Dogs are very instinctive and reactive. If a running squirrel, cat, rabbit, or deer crosses your path, the dog’s chase instinct (prey drive) clicks in. No amount of voice control will stop the chase! Many dogs have been lost chasing deer. A strange noise or movement can instantly change your dog into a non-thinking, reactive beast. Off they dash, brains out of control, leaving you definitely out of control.
Training, in general, involves well timed and consistent praise and correction. You cannot control a dog, let alone train a dog, without leash and collar control. Leashes help keep your dog close by you so you can use well timed corrections and praise.
One of the most important things to teach a dog is the recall (“COME”) command. Many dog owners find this one if the most difficult excercises to teach and reinforce. Because people often view the command as easy to understand, they quickly move to off leash recalls. The fact is, consistent and repetitive training ON LEASH is the ONLY WAY to achieve a recall that happens every time (watch for more about recalls in upcoming articles). Without a leash, your dog has choices: that neat tree with all the smells, that squirrel, or you. Hmmm…I suspect you will be number three on that list of choices! You need to remove the choices so that there is ONLY ONE CHOICE – YOU. By removing the wrong choices, you can avoid all the negative (and nagging) attention your dog may get from incorrect choices.
“I said COME. COME SPOT. COME. COME HERE NOW!! RIGHT NOW!!!!
By quickly showing the dog the correct choice – with leash and collar attached – you can quickly praise for that correct choice, even if you had to make the dog obey. This will help to show that your, as leader, have everything under control and your dog has nothing to worry about.
You can build a trusting relationship on your confident leadership – by using a leash!
One of the most frequent questions I get, aside from the more destructive behaviors, is about dogs eating poop!
A couple of my dogs especially like the frozen variety (“poopsicles”), and will eat more stool in the wintertime. I have also talked with people whose dogs like to eat fresh stool.
I don’t really think anyone has the definitive answer for this, but here are a few theories:
I don’t think there is any one way to get dogs to leave stool alone. Below are a few suggestions. You can try any or all of the below!
The best help to curb poop eaters is to keep the stool as cleaned up as possible. I will always joke with people and tell them to teach their dog to poop in a shovel! There is a product available through your veterinarian called “For-Bid”. It is an additive for the dog’s food that supposedly will make the stool less desirable for them (as if it already isn’t!). Some people have success with mixing meat tenderizer like Adolf’s into the dog’s food each meal. It is supposed to have the same effect as For-Bid. Solid Gold now makes a product additive called S.E.P. (Stop Eating Poop) that can be tried, as well.
Accompany your dog outside each and every time, and teach and use a command such as “Leave It!” to get him to avoid stool. Your neighbors will wonder what you are doing with this one: go outside and sprinkle an ample quantity of Tabasco-type sauce on each and every stool. The sauce has to be very hot, because some dogs enjoy the more mild hot sauces.
Spray a bitter apple, bitter orange or similar deterrent on each stool.
For dogs who will turn around and eat their own stool as soon as they are finished, or for those who eat others’ stool as they are pooping, the best way unfortunately is to have your dog on leash and use the “leave it” command.
Most dogs find cat “cookies” irresistible. It is very hard to deter a dog from eating cat poop, because, like eating any poop, it is self-rewarding behavior (the behavior itself is its reward). Cat litter boxes cannot be sprayed with bitter orange or anything like that, or the CAT will be discouraged from using it! In my household, I just position the cat boxes in places the dogs cannot reach. I use a covered litter pan in one area, which is a great deterrent for bigger dogs. In another area, I have the litter box blocked by a baby gate leaning against the doorway so only the cats can fit through (I have taught my dogs to respect the baby gates). A cat door to the basement can be used. Or a door can be kept open only a little, using some means to both keep it open and keep it closed enough so the dog can’t get through.
One word of caution about dogs and cat stool. The new clumping litter can pose a health threat to dogs if they eat it. Think of what the litter does when urine is deposited in it. Similar things can happen in a dog’s stomach if he eats enough of it.
We’d love to answer them! Feel free to contact us regarding any shelter dog adoption questions, or canine Q&A in general!
We were up north at my family’s cottage for the Christmas holidays when Bailey, my Golden Retriever, was just a year old. Back then, we had two dogs: Bailey and Betsy, a seasoned Shepherd Mix. One cold but bright and snowy day, we ventured to the Ocqueoc State Park trails for a walk and a romp in the wonderful northern Michigan snow.
Both dogs were off leash and having a grand time running ahead of us and back, never venturing far – our voice commands kept them close. We had fun exploring the frozen waterfalls and river, and walked down the ungroomed cross-country ski trails until we became tired and cold.
Our walk back towards the parking area started uneventfully, until a cross-country skier loomed up behind us and rushed past – never saying a word; not “excuse me”, “coming through”, nothing. To my Golden puppy, he was an ALIEN! She saw him coming and turned and ran down the trail ahead of him. Both dog and skier were quickly out of sight, with us yelling for Bailey after them. The skier NEVER stopped! We ran through the 4-6″ of snow as fast as we could, hoping to find Bailey off in the woods.
We came to a fork in the trail and one of us went one way, one the other, both calling Bailey’s name constantly. Betsy chose to stay with the person I was with, and they made it back to the parking lot before me. Breathless, she asked the people there if they had seen a dog run through. They said they had, and that she had continued OUT of the lot! Quickly she got into the truck and drove in the direction she thought Bailey had taken.
As luck would have it, she found fresh tracks in the snow on the road and followed them to where they turned down another road. This road led directly to the main highway! Turning down the road, she finally caught sight of her, STILL RUNNING. She quickly drove closer and called out of the truck after her. Bailey turned her head and kept running. Stopping the truck, she sent Betsy off after her, and that is what got Bailey to stop, look and come back to her.
I am telling you this story so you can learn from my experience. There are several morals to this story:
The lesson is simple – always keep your dog on a leash, unless you are in a completely secure, safe environment. If you have trouble handling your dog on a leash, read our leash training guide.
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