Category - Dog Training

How to deal with “Leash Reactivity”

Imagine the following scenario. You’re happily walking your dog. He’s trotting beside you, sniffing everything he possibly can. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and everything seems perfect! Suddenly, your dog sees Mr. Hairy Pawtter, the front neighbor’s Poodle. His body becomes tense and he immediately starts barking like a maniac. You tell him to be quiet, but it’s useless; he’s now lunging and growling. As you try to walk away, feeling embarrassed and angry, people stare at you, judging your misbehaved, unruly dog. As soon as Mr. Hairy Pawtter is out of sight, your dog returns to his sniffing duties. Why does he have to hate other dogs? Why does he have to act like he wants to kill them all?

Leash reactivity can be a complex behavior. First, we need to make the distinction between aggression and reactivity. Although it may seem like aggressive behavior, it’s simply an expression of frustration (or fear, depending on the cases). Leash reactivity usually starts when the dog sees another dog and has a strong desire to approach him; since he’s unable to do so, he becomes frustrated. As a result, the dog starts whining, pulling on the leash and may even bark at the other dog. The owner feels embarrassed and punishes the dog. After a few repetitions, the dog wishes to avoid other dogs at all costs, since he gets punished every time he sees one! Frustration has evolved into fear. At this point, the dog wants to get away from other dogs, but he feels trapped by the leash; henceforth, he may try to bite. This is the Flight or Fight response in action! Once you remove the leash from the equation, the reactive behavior vanishes, and the dog may even act very friendly and sociable.

Should you throw your dog’s leash away, then? Well, not at all. Leash reactivity is trainable, and you can improve your dog’s behavior by changing his emotional state. If you choose to treat the symptoms only, you’ll probably fail; one must address the root to be successful. First, remember never to punish your dog by barking, lunging or growling; it will only create more fear and frustration. If your dog is reacting because he’s frustrated for not being able to play with the other dogs, teach him self-control skills, by rewarding calm behaviors. If he sees another dog, ask him to sit or to look at you instead. If he does, even if it’s just for a second, reward him with high-value treats or his favorite toy. Increase the behavior’s duration, by rewarding him for longer periods of time. On the other hand, if he’s reacting because he’s scared of the other dog’s presence, you need to work with classical conditioning techniques only. As soon as your dog sees the other, offer him a steady flow of high-value treats. Keep doing so until the other dog leaves your dog’s sight, even if he’s acting hysterically. After enough repetitions, he’ll start to associate other dogs with treats and, as a result, the reactivity will decrease.

Q&A: How do I stop my dog from peeing in the house?

I have a 9-month-old corgi (Yuki) and she was well-potty trained when she was staying with my boyfriend. She pees and poops in a designated area and pees on command every time. She rarely goes out as she’s still a puppy so she mostly pees indoors. Recently, she has come to stay with me and my parents love her so much that they bring her to potty outside at least twice a day. Initially she would pee on command on the pee tray but gradually she has stopped listening to me. She would still pee at home but she wouldn’t pee in the pee tray anymore. She will either pee in her playpen or in the kitchen when nobody is looking. How can I re-train her to pee on the pee tray again? I want to maintain the habit that she poops outside but I also want her to know that if she ever feels the need to pee/poop, she still can do so at home but only on the pee tray. I have tried not bringing her out so that she will pee at home but she just held her pee till we bring her out in the night. Help! What should I do?~Jane

Hello Jane and Yuki! I am pretty sure I can help you here.

You must have trained Yuki by offering some sort of incentive for eliminating in the designated areas. Yuki eventually learned ‘If I relieve myself here, it makes my owner happy, or I will get something. If I go somewhere else outside of the designated area, I won’t be rewarded or my owner will become upset/won’t be happy.’ Hence, your Corgi would go out of her way for what she perceived as a reward.

This regular routine changed when she moved. Her environment changed. Her human ‘pack’ family members even changed. Many dogs develop anxiety due to drastic changes like this; you’re actually lucky this is the only issue!

Peeing in the playpen or kitchen: Your main problem is your dog peeing inside. You’ll have to go through potty training again, teaching her she is supposed to eliminate outside or in your ‘pee tray’, not anywhere she feels like. Don’t scold or chastise her, but keep constant supervision. This normally requires leashing your pup by your (or your parents) side so you are able to catch accidents 100% of the time, and running her outside every single time she begins to go indoors.

Set a regular, consistent bathroom schedule, and don’t alter it. When you can’t offer direct supervision, crate Yuki. Dogs will prefer not to eliminate in close confines or where they sleep. Yuki should probably begin sleeping in her crate during this potty training process.

If you want her to pee on the pee tray, you’re going to need to offer her incentive again; reward her when she does. Whenever she is about to pee, carry her directly to the pee tray. You can’t miss mistakes here, which will require her to be leashed by your side at all times.

Dogs will also prefer to eliminate in designated areas because they smell familiar. Even thorough cleanings don’t always mask the scent; change the bedding if possible.

To sum:
Offer Constant supervision
Reward desired behavior
Don’t reward mistakes, and don’t scold excessively either
Catch mistakes 100% of the time, correct by moving to desired location
Crate when you can’t have Yuki leashed by your side (if possible).
Set regular bathroom schedule; don’t deviate
Follow this advice, and I can all but guarantee your problem will resolve itself in time. With today’s busy schedules, I understand how it might seem difficult to offer constant supervision though.

Teach Your Dog to Heel in Three Easy Steps

Q&A: How to keep my dog from chasing cars when walking him?We’ve all seen the human and dog walking through the neighborhood that begs the question: who is walking whom? Either the dog is several feet ahead, excitedly straining at the leash as its owner frantically yells, “slow down!”, or the dog is lagging behind as the owner walks on, oblivious until the leash runs out of length and forces a stop.

A dog that strains at its leash or lags behind has not yet learned the all important “heel” command. While this behavior may seem cute in a curious puppy, it poses a great risk as dogs get older. Large breeds will be hard to physically control, while smaller breeds could become tangled under feet or in the extended leash length.

Ideally, a dog should walk next to its owner. A dog’s paws should be about even with the owner’s legs and feet, giving the dog room to explore visually while keeping him clearly within arm’s reach of the owner.

The good news is that whether you have a new puppy or a stubborn adult dog, you can teach your pet to heel! Teaching a dog to heel takes patience and confidence, but the reward of a relaxing and fun walk is well worth the investment!

Supplies Needed:
Basic Training Leash (not a retractable leash)
Your dog’s favorite treats
Safe, enclosed training space, such as a living room, garage, or back yard

Step One: Begin by placing the leash on the dog and commanding the dog to sit. Firmly hold the other end of the leash in your hand, and wrap the excess so the dog has enough length to comfortably move about 8 inches in front of you.

Command the dog to stand up. If he lunges forward or wanders around, have him sit again, and practice sitting / standing until he stands still and waits for the next command. Reward your dog once he’s mastered this step.

Step Two: Walk the dog in a large circle. If he steps forward, calmly call out, “Heel!” and stop walking. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and hold the leash. Gently tug on the leash to remind your dog to stay within reach and to call him back to you. Once the dog has mastered this, let the leash out a few more inches and practice again.

Step Three: Once your dog is comfortable walking beside you in a small space, move to a larger area and add some “distractions” – lawn chairs, stuffed animals, potted plants. Practice walking around these items while keeping the dog next to you. Remember, if your dog moves out of ideal position, call out, “Heel!”, go back a few steps, and try again.

Now that you’ve mastered this basic command, walks will be safer and much more enjoyable for the both of you. Head outdoors and enjoy the sights and sounds of your community with confidence!

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!

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!

How You Feed Your Dog Can Affect Training

dog-biscuitsDid you know that how you feed our dog can actually affect their training? A dog’s feeding routine is one of the first questions I’ve always asked my clients about, and so many hadn’t been aware of the impact that food, and how it’s served can have on behavior and the training process. Sometimes, implementing a small change during that first visit makes a big difference very quickly. Most dogs are fed one of two ways. “Free-feeding”, or leaving a bowl of food out at all times or for several hours at a time for the dog to eat whenever they want, is one. The other is serving food at regular mealtimes. Food is offered at somewhat regular times and either eaten right away, or taken up after a certain amount of time if not eaten. For example, you feed your dog in the morning while you get ready for work, but pick it up before you leave, eaten or not. I have always recommended to my clients to feed their dogs meals, if possible, rather than free-feeding. This has several benefits.


Feeding habits should always considered in  the house training strategy. Free feeding can sabotage your new pet. Feeding regular meals will help establish a generally regular poop schedule. For puppies, that means you will have a good idea of when a big potty time is coming, before an accident happens – and setting your puppy up to succeed is the most important part of house training.


Training your dog requires motivation on your dog’s part, and it’s up to you to find out what your dog will work best for. Something your dog really, really wants, AND that you can use to your advantage. It can be anything from a bite of a treat to a tennis ball or tug toy. Whatever gets your dog excited that you can also control. Food, naturally, is a very popular motivator used for training because it’s readily available and goes over very, very well with many dogs.

But what if your dog is hard to train because she doesn’t seem to care about anything you can offer? She ignores treats and is not ball-obsessed. It seems that if you don’t leave food out, she’ll starve.  But actually, not having constant access to food should improve and encourage the development of a healthy appetite. This can really help with “only dogs”, who don’t have another dog around to “compete” with over food or toys.

When your dog looks forward to their dinner (and breakfast or lunch), mealtime becomes a fun and highly anticipated event, and you are the focus for what your dog needs and wants. Instead of the always-full “magic food bowl”, it’s YOU who brings the deliciousness. You have control of that resource and that gives you your dog’s attention. And that means more respect – and better learning!


Controlling meals also lets you easily keep an eye on how much is being consumed. If you’re trying to manage weight, portions are easier to control. If there is any change in appetite, you’ll pick up on it right away, and that can give you an early warning that your dog may be sick. And administering medication may be easier because it’s more likely to be eaten with a relished meal.

Depending on your dog’s age and specific needs, you may serve your dog as often as several times a day (puppies need more frequent meals) or as little as just once a day. Almost all dogs can benefit from meals rather than free feeding; but there are exceptions. Some dogs with medical issues and certain breeds are much more likely to experience conditions like hypoglycemia. If there is any question, ask your vet! But if your dog is okay to do so, consider feeding meals instead of free-feeding for awhile, and see what a difference it can make for you and your dog. Let me know what changes you notice!

How You Feed Your Dog Can Affect Your Training

Q&A: How to get my dog to stop ignoring me?

My 14 month old cocker spaniel, seem to show me little respect. She does not respond to me when I call her name and the recall is very poor. Also if I leave a side gate open and she is not tethered she will run off and it is then a trial to get her back because of the recall. On the lead training in the garden she is very different, sits, stays, will recall. I would welcome your comments, thank you


Greetings, and thank you for contacting us! I will try to address each issue separately and divide into smaller segments so you’re not overwhelmed with too much information. There are several explanations for your dog’s behavior, and the good news is that you can work on the issues and transform your dog into an active listener by following some easy steps.

Welcome to the Terrible Teens! Your dog is 14 months old which means she’s at the peak of the adolescent stage. Consider that dogs are considered “teenagers” generally between the ages of 6 months up to around 18 months. This is a transitory phase, meaning your dog is in between two temporary, yet very important, developmental stages midway from the puppy stage and the adult one. While your dog may seem to be maturing physically, she may have moments of reverting to puppy behaviors and show little impulse control. At this stage, dogs are often looking for ways to drain their boundless energy and keep their brains mentally stimulated. On top of that, during this stage, dogs may turn a deaf ear and at times they may act as if they have never heard a command before. Gone are the days during which puppies were following us from room to room eager to please us! It’s not a coincidence that, sadly, the majority of dogs relinquished to shelters happen to be in the adolescent stage. It can be challenging, it can be nerve wrecking, but it’s only temporary and the best part is that your dog is getting towards the end of it, even though it’s true that dogs will need training for a lifetime. Don’t feel discouraged. As with the human teenager phase, this stage will pass. I will be happy to offer you some guidelines to help you out.

A Matter or Bonding

We often think dogs aren’t respectful to us, when in reality, they’re just not in tune with us because we haven’t given them the opportunity to bond with us and learn that we can be the source of wonderful things. You mention she is tethered outdoors. If she’s tethered for a good part of the day, this could be preventing her from bonding with you as she should. You may be therefore missing out many opportunities to interact with her, observe her and meet her social needs. If your dog is often tethered, she will also likely have pent-up energy, so as soon as she’s loose she’ll enjoy releasing that energy, and on top of that, she’ll likely enjoy the exhilarating feeling of being free. On her free romps around the neighborhood, she ‘ll also likely get to sniff around, perhaps meet other dogs and people, chase animals and even eat something yummy she’s not supposed to. All of this is highly reinforcing, meaning she feels good about it so she’ll try to escape more and more. Worst of all, all these positive experiences are happening in your absence, and when you go get her, all these wonderful things end, making you the party pooper that ends all the fun. It’s not surprising therefore why she’s trying to escape and ignores your efforts to call her back. As much as this all sounds like bad news, there’s some really good news coming up.

The Secret to Obedient Dogs

You can change things for the better! The most obedient dogs I have seen come from homes where the dogs are kept in the home with their owners. Often, dogs are relegated to the yard either because they are misbehaving or have poor potty manners. Yet, being left in the yard or tethered, doesn’t give them give them the opportunity to learn anything other than getting frustrated as they wish they could be with their family or escape the yard for an adventure where they get to meet other people or dogs. So I would suggest starting today, keeping your dog indoors with you and working on training her inside. People are often surprised how good their dogs become once they are welcomed indoors. Sure, they may struggle the first few days, but most dogs are great in the home once their needs for exercise and mental stimulation are met.

Keep that Brain Busy!

Your dog is a hunting breed; indeed, as you may already know, the cocker spaniel was used to hunt birds, to be specific, a species of woodcock (hence, their name cocker). This means these dogs need a certain amount of exercise and mental stimulation. Instead of letting your dog walk herself and enjoy the amenities of the outdoor world, take her with you on daily walks and make yourself the source of great happenings by teaching her to walk next to you and getting wonderful treats from you when she’s in heel position. At home, provide ample of mental stimulation by offering interactive toys. Get rid of the food bowl and hide her kibble around the home, make a trail out of kibble or stuff it in a Kong. Keep her happy and busy!

Make Coming to You Music for Her Ears!

The recall command (coming when called) is one of the most important commands dogs will learn. Often this command is poisoned, meaning that it loses it’s potency as it becomes associated with negative events. For instance, if you call your dog when it’s time for bath time and your dog hates baths, next time, you call him you can’t be surprised if he’s hiding under the bed because he has learned to associate his name with the negative event (the bath). If you have been calling your dog when she escapes, only to tether her again, or even worse, scold her and then tether her, the recall command weakens as the dog learns it’s highly inconvenient attending to the command as it means being involved in a negative situation. So how to remedy this? We change the recall command so to give it a fresh new meaning and we make it as highly reinforcing as possible. So if you used to say “Over here, over here!” let’s transform it to “Daisy coooome!” said in the most happy and upbeat voice you can make.

Start with Low Distractions

Why does your dog listen to you when in the garden on lead? First off, she knows that when she’s on lead, she’s prevented from escaping. Second, the recall on lead has a different meaning than the recall once she has taken off and escaped the gate. When you call her when she’s on lead, to her it may be interpreted as: “come to me since you have no where better to go” versus the recall when she’s going, going, gone from the gate may mean:”come here, come here, so I can tether you again!” It’s a no-brainer deciding which command to listen to.

Once your dog is inside with you, your dog will be more in tune with you and you can take advantage of many opportunities to make the recall command as wonderful as it should be. If she loves her kibble, prepare it when somebody else holds her by the lead or opens the crate door to release her. This will build some anticipation. When the meal is ready, call her (your helper will be ready to unsnap the lead the moment you call her) and put the bowl down. Do the same when you buy her a new toy, bone or it’s time to go on walks if she loves walks. The recall needs to be a predictor of wonderful things so she doesn’t have to think twice wondering if it’s worthy of responding to. These are natural ways to polish the recall. Then, you can make purposely set recall sessions to make the recall further worthy listening to. Again, have a helper hold her, and call her, and when she comes to you, give her several small pieces of high-value treats in a row to leave a big impact, everlasting memory on her mind. Only after she does very well in the home responding to your recall every time you call, move to the yard.

Yard Work (with Gates Closed)!

In the yard, repeat the work done indoors. Have a helper hold her on leash, and then unsnap it when you call her. She should come running to you at full speed. Praise lavishly and reward with several tid bits in a row. It’s good to use super high value treats outdoors, think low-sodium hot dogs, cheese, freeze-dried liver or meatballs. You can even create a fun game of hide ‘n seek by having your helper hold her while you hide somewhere and call her to find you. Always make a great deal of coming when called. Also, when you are in the yard with her and she’s off leash (and the gate is securely locked), practice rewarding voluntary check-ins. This means rewarding her with treats every time she voluntarily comes near you. This makes you interesting, sometimes even more interesting than other stimuli in the yard.

A Word of Caution

Let’s face it, not many dogs resist the temptation of escaping a yard or an open door! Even more so dogs who had the opportunity to taste the freedom associated with exploring the world. With your daily walks and all the positive interactions with you, the outdoors will hopefully look less tempting. Note: It’s imperative that during the training stages that gates stays always closed. Actually, a gate should still be closed anyhow no matter how trained a dog is. Dogs are animals, and no training is ever 100 percent effective, which is why it’s unethical for a dog trainer to give guarantees. Just as we wouldn’t keep driving when we notice a ball on a street assuming that a child would be wise enough not to cross, we shouldn’t expect our dogs to ignore an open gate, even if we are there calling them.

Setting for Success

Of course, we can train and work hard on proofing our recall training so that in the event of a door or gate being left accidentally ajar, we have a higher chance our dog will make a good choice and come to us, compared to a dog who has had no training, but we must think that there is no way to guarantee through training the ability to overcome all of the risks dogs may be exposed to. An option you have, should you want to work on training your dog to make good choices despite an open gate, is using a long line (often sold in horse and tack supply stores). A long line allows you to safely practice recalls with the gate open while having control on your dog should she decide to ignore your recall. This training should be done gradually, keeping the long line shorter at first and practicing at a distance from the gate, then making the line longer and practicing closer to the gate. Don’t forget to always reward a lot for coming to you!

The Bottom Line

Yes, many dogs will come to you despite leaving an opened door or opened gate, (I know many dogs who would, including mine) but we shouldn’t take it for granted. There are always chances dogs will follow their instincts and desires which exposes them to danger. Many dogs are killed from escaping doors and yards (being hit by a car, exposure to toxins, eaten by predators) so it’s our responsibility as dog owners to ultimately keep them safe. It’s by far a safer option to simple close a gate than to gamble and expect our dogs to come to us in spite of the gate open especially that day we are at a disadvantage such as not noticing in time or the dog being unable to hear us because of a loud truck passing by.

The bottom line is that we can prevent dogs from making wrong choices, by controlling their environment and setting them up for success. Your dog is young, she’s in the teenager phase and is in need of some training. With your help, if you can set higher and higher goals gradually, you can help her learn how wonderful it is to stick by your side and how wonderful it is to come to you. As she further matures, she’ll also gain better impulse control and with your help she can potentially become a wonderful companion. I hope this helps! Sending you my best wishes and happy training!

Stuck in a “Duh” Moment

Gone are the days when your puppy was eager to please you. You’ll now likely notice your dog act as if he has never heard a command before. These “duh!” episodes of memory loss are quite common during the adolescent stage and will require your patience and understanding. Getting mad and frustrated when your dog doesn’t come to you when called won’t do any good. Fortunately, this is a transitory phase and you’ll eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

More Independence

Just like human teenagers, adolescent dogs will want to have it their way and will want more independence. We can’t blame them: this is the age where in the wild, canines separated from their families to form their own. They are lured to trying new behaviors and testing their boundaries. Gone are the days when your puppy loved to stick by your side and would come running the moment you were out of sight! There are many more interesting sights, smells and sounds at this time just waiting to be discovered.