Author - Ivan Petersel

How to Potty Train With Dog Doorbells

8184gGuSRwL._SL1500_Teaching a dog to ring a bell to go outside is a great command.  It opens up communication between the dog and owner.  It provides a way for the dog to communicate it’s needs.  Sometimes the dog will ring it to potty and sometimes it’ll ring the bell just to get fresh air.

I like the hanging bells the best.

So, how do you teach a dog to ring a bell to go outside?  First, you should already understand clicker basics.  Using a clicker or another marker will be necessary for teaching your dog.

It is paramount that you truly understand clicker training. I can not over emphasize this point enough.  The timing of the clicks is crucial and this is something that your average dog owner fails to comprehend.  A half a second off is too much.  You must be precise with your clicks.    Keep this in mind as you read the rest of the tutorial.

Assuming that you understand clicker training, take out your dog bells.  Before we start clicking, we want to desensitize the dog to the bells.  For some dogs, this step will only take a minute.  Other dogs may be more alarmed by the sound of the bells.

Either way, allow the dog to sniff it, paw at it etc……  Allow the dog to investigate it and get used to this new object.  During this process, keep a bait bag on you that is filled with high quality treats that are organic.

After you are satisfied that the dog is comfortable around the bell, that’s when the real training begins.  We want the dog to associate ringing the bell with getting a treat.

When a dog knows that you have treats, they will try anything.  They will nudge your hand, jump on you and eventually touch the bell.  When the dog touches the bell, click & treat.  Personally, I like to say:  “Bell” or “Good Bell” in a high pitched voice.

I wean the dog off of treats quickly.  I switch the reward to opening the door and letting the dog go outside.  Sometimes, I’ll give treats as soon as we go a few steps out of the door.

This is one of the few commands that has a really unique reward.  Going outside is amongst a dog’s favorite things to do.  Eventually, they will learn that ringing the bell is the “key” to going outside.

Some dogs will take advantage of this and ring the bell all the time.  However, if you know your dog doesn’t have to potty then it’s at your discretion.  The intermittent reward will not cause your dog to forget how to use the bell.

It sounds simple but really it is.  Place the bell on the door and wait for her to touch it or paw at it.  Remember, dogs will try anything to get to a treat.  Soon they will make a connection and say:  “oh, this is what my owner wants me to do!”  Eventually, they will have that “Ah Ha” moment.  Take advantage of that moment and build on it.

Most dog owners have this level of communication with their dogs.  It’s guaranteed to impress your friends!

How to Teach Your Dog to “Leave It”

dog-chewing-shoesI hate it when I have dog treats on me and a dog keeps nudging me physically for the treat.  Wouldn’t it be swell if there was a command for the dog to “leave it?”  Well, there is and as you probably guessed, it’s called the “Leave It” command.

“Leave it” is a very useful command.  What it teaches your dog is that if you “leave it” then you get it.  This is counter intuitive to a dog but I’ve never seen a dog not figure it out.

There are many ways to teach the leave it command.  In future articles, I’ll teach alternative methods for this command.  For now, let’s focus on the simplest way to teach the “leave it” command.

What I do, is present a treat to the dog.  I like to start with a low value treat and work my way up to a high value treat.  An example of a low value treat is kibble.  An example of a high value treat is steak.

I place the treat in a closed hand and wait for the dog to react.  They will do all kinds of things to get the treat.  Some examples include: nudging, pawing, licking my hand etc……

The moment that the dog resigns or looks away, I click and treat.  I recommend buying a high quality clicker for this.

When I click, I always say “leave it” or “good leave it.”  I never say things like “good girl.”  I always say things like “good leave it” or “good stay” or “good fetch” etc…..

I also use a chipper voice when the dog does something right.

Basically, you are conveying to the dog that “leaving it” means getting it.  Being pushy about it means that the treat will remain inaccessible.

To summarize:

  1. Present a treat in a closed fist. Alternatively, You can put a treat on the ground and cover it with your hand.
  1. Wait for the dog to do everything possible to get to that treat.
  1. Be Patient. Remain unfazed by the dog’s behavior and keep the treat covered until the dog leaves it alone.  This usually takes anywhere between 30 seconds and 7 minutes.
  1. Click and treat at the moment the dog leaves the treat alone. The second after you click, say: “good leave it” or “leave it”…. eventually, you’ll say “leave it” before they look away.  At the beginning, we just want the dog to associate the command with the action.

After the 4 steps are down, you can expand the lesson.  You can experiment with lengths of time, types of treats etc….  The most important thing is to set your dog up for success.  Know their limits and what they can achieve.  Success comes in increments.  Don’t rush your dog.  Guide your dog and make learning fun!

Dog Agility Training – Teaching the Proper Jump

Acd_agilityMany people are interested in dog agility training.  However, they don’t know where to start.  Let’s start with how to teach a dog to properly jump.  For the sake of this article, we’ll be using a 24” height dog as an example.

If you are going to be doing this from home then you’ll need 3 – 5 jumps.  The jumps can be made with PVC.  They are cheap.  Just doing a web search for dog agility equipment.  They are easy to find.

A dog’s stride is 3 times her jump height.  So, a 24 inch dog has a stride of 72 inches.  A 20 inch height dog has a stride of sixty inches.  You’ll want 2 strides between jumps.  So, a 24 inch height dog will need the jumps 144”  or 12 feet apart.  A 20 inch cutie needs jumps 120” or 10 feet apart.

The front paws leave the ground, the back feet push off the legs tuck up and under as the back arcs and head drops.  This allows the dog to land with the front paws at almost  the same time, at least 24 inches past the jump and the back legs untuck and land last.

The takes a lot of pressure off of the front legs and helps prevent knocked bars and protesting on the dog’s part.

When you start training, the jumps should be no higher than elbow height.  Also make sure that the bar is on the landing side.  This way, it will fall of easily if the doggy hits it.

Have your dog in a “stay” position while she is 12 feet away from jump #1.  Then, walk to the end of the jumps.  Now, give your dog a “come” command and before they reach each jump, say “JUMP” or “HUP” or whatever command you’ve chosen.  When the dog reaches you, give an extreme amount of praise.  Your dog worked very hard.  This is a physical and mental workout for a dog.

Sometimes dogs need to start with 1 jump.  Some can handle 2 or 3 jumps in the beginning.  Every dog is different.  Not every dog was born to be a champion agility winner.

Many owners say the “come” command when they are at the end of the agility area.  In other words, the dog is running towards the owner.

Advanced handlers can send the dog out.  This means that they stand at the beginning and send the dog out to jump over the bars.

If you are a newbie, I wouldn’t raise the bar more than one inch per week.  You want to set the dog up for success.  You don’t want to risk injury and disappointment.  The process should take weeks and months.  It shouldn’t be rushed in days.  Some dogs thrown themselves over when not trained properly.  This can injure the dogs.  The best thing is to find an agility trainer in your area.

Crate Train That Puppy With a Treat!

Crate training has become one of the major fundamentals in training your dog or puppy. From potty training to trick training, the use of a crate can be a major building block and tool to reach successful and reliable behaviors from your canine companion. The crate can be a useful tool and help manage life with a dog in the home. However, using the crate in a proper manner means teaching your dog or puppy to not only go in on his own, but to love being inside his crate!

Step One, Step In

It is best to use a high value treat, such as real meat or cheese to begin crate training your puppy. A high value treat is something your pup would really love, but should be in very small pieces that are quickly eaten so as not to distract your dog for too long. This will help your pup to develop a positive association with his crate.

Photo by Jim Larrison

Toss a treat into the opening of the crate, just inside the door. Your pup should have to put his head inside to pick it up, but not walk in just yet. When he gets the treat, you can click your clicker or say “Yep!” to let him know he did a good job. Repeat this a few times before moving on.

Next, toss the treat into the middle of the crate. The goal is to encourage your pup to set both front feet into the crate to get the treat. If he only leans in without putting his feet inside, toss the next treat in further. If he hesitates after getting the treat to investigate the crate, even for a moment, click or say “Yep!” and reward him yet again. Hand him the treat while he is still inside, not when he steps out! If he willingly steps all the way in, do it again! He is catching on that being in the crate is a good thing.

The last part to the first step is tossing the treat all the way into the back of the crate. He must place all four feet in the crate to get the treat and turn around to come back out! For every two seconds or so that he remains in the crate on his own, he should be rewarded. He will eventually need to come back out, though, to continue this exercise. You can toss a treat a few feet away from the crate for him to fetch, then continue.

Closing the Door

You don’t want to slam the crate door on your pup or make him feel nervous about being closed up in the crate. This is why it is important to help him become comfortable in the crate and trust that it’s not only a safe place but a comforting place to be.

Toss the treat all the way into the back as done before. When your dog is all the way and eating his treat, gently close the door, but don’t lock it yet! Right after closing it, hand your dog a treat through the crate bars or drop one in so he can easily get it. Then, open the door back up so he can come out if he wishes. If he stays, reward him for every two to three seconds he remains in. As you may have done previously, you can toss a treat out on the floor for him to fetch so you can repeat this practice.

When you think your dog is comfortable with the door closed, you can ask him to stay in for longer periods, periodically giving him a treat and opening the door.  This is so that instead of feeling trapped, he will feel safe!

Remain Patient

Many dogs can become fully crate trained in one to two days, but always go at your dog’s pace. Keep each training session short, under 15 minutes! Short sessions mean your dog won’t get bored and will always look forward to the next sessions!

Helping a Dog That is Afraid of Thunder or Fireworks

jack-russelDogs can be very afraid of loud sounds. For some owners, this is a MAJOR PROBLEM. For the dog, it can be extremely traumatic.

Most owners don’t know what to do. What usually happens is this:

1. The dog will be shaking from fear.

2. The owner will pet the dog in order to calm it down.

This rarely works. In fact, I have never seen this work! What usually happens is that the petting has the opposite effect.

While petting the dog, the owner is unwittingly nurturing insecurity in the dog. This can make him think that shaking and being scared is pleasurable to you.

There are many ways to desensitize a dog to loud sounds. In this article, I will discuss 2 simple methods. For the 1st method, you’ll need a recording of thunder and/or fireworks.

Play the recording at the lowest level possible while the dog is eating or playing with you. Every few days or a week, raise the volume one notch.

The idea is to gradually associate thunder with eating, playing and good times. If the dog starts shaking at a certain volume, do not raise the volume any higher. If this happens, continue to work with the dog at that volume or lower.

Once the dog has success with a certain volume, then it is time to move up. This method will not work on all dogs. There is no “one size fits all” solution for all dogs. Every dog is different.

Looking for a simpler approach? What if electromagnetism was causing your dog to fear thunderstorms?

Every heard of the “Storm Defender” for dogs? It’s like a cape that can help them cope. In my experience, it’s more effective than the thunder shirt. Here is a link for the Storm Defender cape for dogs.

One Way to Reduce Dog Fights in Dog Parks

Photo by runge.marius

Dog fights in dog parks are very common. I have seen many personally. On rare occasions, dogs have even been killed in dog parks.

There are many ways to prevent or lessen the odds of a dog fight. Today, I’ll outline one of the simplest ways.

What I am going to write will sound counter intuitive to many dog owners. Yet, it is a simple trick that has been shown to work.

Let me start out by saying that many people bring their dogs to the dog park for the wrong reason. They bring their dogs to the dog park for exercise. This is a bad idea.

Dog parks should be used for socialization not exercise. For example, many people will throw a ball in the dog park. They do this so that there dog will run after the ball and get exercise.

I never bring toys into the dog park. I don’t even go in if I see someone with a toy. Fighting over toys is one of the most common issues in any dog park.

However, avoiding toys is not what this article is about. This article is about exercising your dog before they enter the dog park.

As I stated earlier, this will sound counter intuitive to many dog owners. I wouldn’t have believe it myself if someone had told me this a few years ago.

However, my experience has taught me a new way to look at things. I have personally seen and broke up dozens of dog fights.

Dog fights are very dangerous. Often, many dogs will get involved and sometimes humans get bit too.

A tired dog is generally a good dog. A common scenario goes like this. A person works all day while their dog is home alone.

When the owner comes back, they feel bad and take the dog to the dog park. There is nothing wrong with that but they should go for a long walk first.

The average dog needs a 1 hour walk before entering a dog park. A high energy dog may need a 45 jog before entering the dog park.

Bringing a high energy dog that has not been exercised first can cause a bring problem. That dog may be the aggressor. Or, that dog might agitate another dog.

Imagine if every owner brought their dogs in tired. I don’t mean that every dog should go into a dog park in order to take a nap. That would be silly.

Tired does not me exhausted. They still need enough energy to play and socialize. However, they shouldn’t have too much energy. This is what often leads to dog fights.

There are other reasons for dog fights. It can not solely be blamed on not exercising the dog. But, exercising the dog first will reduce the chances of a dog fight.

It allows them to sniff, play in a less rough manner and generally be less anxious.

Don’t believe me. I don’t want you to believe me. I want you to experience this yourself.

Jog with your dog for about 30 minutes before going into the dog park. Experience the difference in you own dog’s behavior.

Keep in mind, dog’s are often meeting new dogs in the dog park. They don’t know each other. Bringing them in calm is a safe way to introduce them to each other.

I’m not saying that this will prevent all dog fights. There are many factors that can lead to dog fights. With that being said, exercising them first is one way to reduce the chances of a dog fight from happening.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the dog park!