Author - Junior Watson

Checklist For A Well-Behaved Dog

Think you’ve got your hound well-trained? Measure up again our 17-point checklist for well-behaved dogs and let us know how you scored in the comments section below 🙂

  1. Good dog checklistAble to walk on a loose leash without pulling
  2. Able to greet friends and strangers without jumping or shying away
  3. Able to walk without chasing bicycles, children, cars, squirrels, rabbits, balls, other dogs, etc
  4. Can quiet barking on command
  5. Understands nipping and mouthing is not allowed
  6. Able to be left alone at home without destruction, barking or anxiety
  7. Able to play, chew and relax without constant interaction with owner
  8. Able to relinquish food, toys or inappropriate objects at owner’s bidding
  9. Can be groomed or handled without complaint
  10. Is reliable with housebreaking
  11. Veterinarian or groomer can handle dog without a problem
  12. Does not rush through doorways ahead of owner
  13. Interacts appropriately with children
  14. Able to tolerate accidental nudging or grabbing (even when asleep) without snapping
  15. Will move location – even if on furniture or bed – when directed without growling or snapping
  16. Respects leadership of owner
  17. Tolerates at least, and my play or interact appropriately with other dogs

How did you score? Let us know by leaving a comment below!


How To Soothe A Carsick Dog

Most dogs and puppies are hesitant or reluctant when introduced to new situations and new places. This is a normal reaction – part of their survival instinct! Our job as their owner is to teach them that new places can be fun, or at least tolerable.

Carsick dog

The first place an owner should visit after bringing the puppy home is a veterinarian of their choice. The overall good health of the puppy needs to be determined at this time. This is also a good time to start a POSITIVE relationship with the veterinarian, his/her staff, AND the office overall. Find a small, easy to chew treat that doesn’t upset puppy’s stomach (SMALL hot dog bits, Bil Jack treats, Pounce cat treats, some other treat that is small & chewy). These treats will ONLY be available to puppy when encountering a “scary” situation. Give a couple treats to the veterinarian to give to the puppy. Give a couple treats to the technician to give to the puppy and likewise any other staff or people he encounters. He gets the treats when he approaches the person, but NOT when he hides, and NOT as a lure to get him out of hiding. As puppy realizes treats come from all the people at the vet’s, he will become happy and eager to return.

If your dog continues to be fearful and suspicious in subsequent visits, continue bringing treats and have ONLY the staff give them ( NONE from you!). Make extra visits to the vet when you do NOT have an appointment (call ahead to make sure they aren’t too busy!) to have people give treats and cheerful encouragement. Never, EVER stroke your dog and pet him and use what you feel is a reassuring voice to tell him: “It’s OK, Rover! They’re trying to be nice to you! It’s alright!” When you do that, you are reinforcing his fear: you are giving him all the praise signals that tell him his behavior is EXACTLY what you want!! (soft voice, quiet petting, etc.). Instead, with a fearful dog, he will only get a treat OR petting OR both, when he acts less fearful and approaches. Sometimes a favorite toy will get the puppy to forget his fear a little and “loosen up” a bit. Fearful puppies may also try to climb on or claw at their owner in seeming desperation of the situation. This should not be allowed or praised! Inadvertant praise for this can be something as simple as using your hands to gently remove him from your body. Instead us his leash and don’t touch him at all, or turn away, or stand up.

ANY time your dog goes to a new and potentially “scary” place, BE PREPARED!! These places can include: veterinarian, groomer, boarding kennel, pet store, friend’s house, park with other dogs, etc. ALWAYS have your dog ON LEASH – no leash = NO control! Have your “special” treats always handy, and give them to people to give to your dog appropriately.

If your dog is not used to or does not tolerate car rides, then he is already worked up even BEFORE he arrives at his new destination. EARLY and frequent exposure to car rides can make the transportation aspect a WHOLE lot easier. Dogs (and cats!) quickly learn to HATE car rides if they only go to the vet or to the groomer.

The SAFEST way to travel with your dog is in a crate or with a seatbelt. I like to use the plastic enclosed crates (Vari-Kennel or Furrari, for example), because they contain the hair, dirt, drool, and any accidents that might happen. Seat belts allow a little more freedom, but don’t allow the dog to run all over the car. Dog seat belts are sized to fit, and can be found at most pet stores (RC Steele catalog also carries them). Both will protect your dog should you have to stop fast or (God forbid) get into an accident.

A Remedy For Carsick Dogs

Dogs travelling, especially those who tend to get carsick should not eat 6 to 12 hours prior to travel.

Below is a desensitization program to help your dog get over his carsickness:

  • Put dog in car, parked in driveway. Have a desirable to or tennis ball for him to play a little with. Leave car after a couple of minutes. Do this several times a day for several days to a week, depending on how successful the dog is at not getting sick. Increase the time in the car each day (as long as he doesn’t get sick).
  • Put dog in car, car parked with engine running. Repeat for several days to a week, length of time in car increasing again from a short time to longer, as long as dog doesn’t get sick.
  • Put dog in car, idling in driveway, move car down and back up the driveway. This stage may best be done with two people: one to drive, and one to handle dog. Do this stage several days to a week. Perhaps you can end up driving the car up and down the driveway several times before moving to the next stage. (Your neighbors will wonder WHAT you are doing!!)
  • Take the car around the block ONCE – QUIT. Do this several days in a row, then try to go around TWICE.
  • NOTE: ALWAYS back up to the step before if you get any sickness or drooling (sign of nausea!) at all, and work in smaller increments toward the next step, and take a longer time getting there. The object her is to do as MUCH as you can with NO sickness!
  • Take the car to a close convenience store or dry cleaners or such. Leave him in the car (with your helper, especially if he has any tendency toward panic or destruction), come back, drive home.

I think you have the idea, now. This process can take a week or 2 months, depending on the dog! Some dogs may never get over carsickness.

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Keeping Your Dog Off The Beloved Furniture

Dogs want to be in our faces. They know communication happens from our faces. The only problem for them is our faces are out of reach! So, in order to get there, they jump up on us. For non-dog people, this is disrespectful and annoying. For most dog owners it is, too.

How to keep the dogs off the sofa

As in teaching any new behavior, a command needs to be attached to the action. “OFF” is my choice, because “no” is already said TOO often. Many people choose “down”, but that command usually is already used for putting the dog in a prone position. If given the choice, they may make the wrong decision.

Teaching The “Off” Command

When Bailey my Golden Retriever was young, I thought I could use “down” for lying on the floor, as well as getting “off” people, as well as getting off furniture or beds. One day, my mischievous adolescent jumped onto the bed and was using it as a trampoline. I demanded “DOWN!”, and she laid down on the bed! Now, she did NOT disobey me, she just made the wrong choice for the meaning of the word! As the light went off in MY head, I had a REALLY good laugh!

OFF can be used to remove paws from bodies, counters, or furniture; it will mean the same to the dog. Before any OFF training begins, the SIT command must be trained and understood (see related article). Sit is the foundation for control and leadership. Sit will then be the choice for the dog to make instead of jumping, or after OFF.

There are several ways to teach “OFF” — some are more confrontational than others.

The least confrontational way to deal with OFF is to turn and/or back away from the dog when he jumps on you, using the OFF command, then SIT. Always PRAISE when the dog makes the correct choice.
Most jumping dogs can be seen before they make contact. Try raising a knee in the air BEFORE the dog connects with you, and use the OFF command. Jumping on you will be difficult and uncomfortable because your knee will be in the way, and some of the more exuberant dogs will hit your knee and find it unpleasant. If you raise your knee AS the dog jumps on you, your timing will be off, and your dog may be hurt. I don’t recommend this method because it may be too forceful for some dogs and may cause injury, it puts you off balance and is not a nice gesture for other people (especially kids) to see.

My favorite method to teach “OFF” is to have a training collar on the dog and put him in a sit in front of you with his leash attached to the collar. Let the leash dangle onto the floor, and firmly step on the leash where it angles onto the floor. “Set up” the training by making the jumping inviting (talking cute, “eating” a treat, etc). When the dog tries to jump, he will self correct WHILE you are telling him “OFF! SIT!”. Do this several times in a row, and most dogs will start to get the idea after the 2nd or 3rd try. Some of the more exuberant dogs will seem to be dense about it, and have to be reminded a little firmer. This method needs to be done a couple times a day, for several days or more. Each time you practice, the dog will remember quicker. After you think the dog understands what “OFF” means, you can then do the same thing with the leash, but actually act like you are inviting him to jump: tap on your chest with both hands, talking cute – “Do you want to come up?” and then reinforce with “NO, OFF, SIT!”. Be careful you don’t praise so enthusiastically that you inadvertently encourage your dog to jump up again.

The Method

Two people are needed for this method: one to handle the leash and dog, and one to “encourage” the dog to jump. The dog needs to have on his training collar and leash. The Handler and dog approach the helper, and the helper encourages the dog to jump. The Handler MUST have good timing, and needs to give a quick “pop” on the leash and collar with the command “OFF!” (the tug should be in a downward fashion, in the opposite direction of the helper). NO PULLING the leash – the handler must TUG & RELEASE (“pop”) the leash and collar. If done correctly, the dog’s paws NEVER touch the helper! SIT should come after OFF, and the praise comes from the Handler, NOT the helper. This should be done 5 to 6 times a session, depending on the dog.

The last method is the person the dog jumps on takes each forepaw in each hand when the dog jumps, holds them, and walks INTO the dog, repeating “OFF, OFF!”, and the dog will roll into a sit or walk clumsily backwards. If necessary (ONLY IF), the paws can be squeezed and/or the rear toes can be lightly stepped on.

Dogs on the sofa

“But what about when someone comes to the door?”, you say. Have a leash and training collar readily accessible by each entry door. Call out the door: “Just a minute! I’m training my dog not to jump!” I’m sure the people on the other side of the door will be more than happy to wait! Then use the moment as a training opportunity! Or, if you don’t have time, crate the dog. But remember no teaching happens to a crated dog!

Never use your hands to push the dog off of you, because dogs will misunderstand the touch as petting or praise. If the training method you are using doesn’t require the use of your hands for leash control or grabbing paws, then your arms should be folded away from the dog.

A few last words about OFF:

After your dog understands the commands SIT and OFF, your command to the dog, if your timing is right, will be “SIT!”, and no paws will touch your body. If your timing is not good, then the command will be “OFF! SIT!”. Also, once the dog understands what OFF means, then the word can be used as a reminder BEFORE he jumps up. Remember – dogs DO NOT understand “sometimes” or “maybe”. If you don’t want your dog to jump, he should never be allowed to jump!

Dogs also don’t understand when you are in your work clothes (therefore “no jumping”) as opposed to your weekend clothes (OK to jump)!! Once OFF, always OFF, or you have a jumping dog and you deal with it!
I myself have dogs who jump because I have allowed it, but they also understand the “OFF” word. I also have a word to invite them to jump up. I tap my chest and say “UP!” As always, consistency and praise for appropriate behavior is the answer.

How To Get Your Dog To Settle Down

PLACE! An effective way to deal with a dog that paces and does not relax is to interrupt that undesirable behavior. This is also an effective alternative to constant pestering.


Using The Place Command:

  1. Use the umbilical leash to stop the pacing
    1. Step on leash and pick it up
    2. Hold leash
    3. Take dog to desired “relax” spot
  2. Teach dog a word for the desired spot, like “in your bed”, “go to your place”, or just “place”…
  3. “Relax” spot should be a comfy bed, a throw rug, or an old blanket or towel. “Relax” spots can be placed in several or many areas of the home!
  4. Take dog to “relax” spot, and enforce “relax” or “settle” with a foot on the leash (which means you need to get comfortable, too, so you can be there with your foot on the leash!).
    1. Dog should relax for at least 5 to 15 minutes, up to 30 minutes with foot on leash to keep him in place.
    2. Release ONLY when he is nicely settled (not settled and revving up for another struggle!).
  5. Praise quietly when he is “relaxed”. Give him a tiny soft-moist treat brought down to his level, firm stroke from head to tail, quiet voice praise.
  6. Give him a special chew (if you choose rawhide, it should be a more durable type like what is called “pressed” or “compressed” rawhide) or a treat-stuffed toy to keep him busy in his place. Offer this only when he starts relaxing with the enforced down.
  7. When he starts to understand the command “go to your place”, he won’t need to be reminded as much with you taking him there with the umbilical leash, and eventually should be able to have it removed.

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How Can I Tell If My Dog Is In Pain?

I know this article isn’t really a training article, but I thought it would still be helpful.

How to tell if your dogs in pain

Lately, with the release of a very nice anti-inflammatory/pain medication (called Rimadyl), people have been wondering if the drug would be appropriate for their dog. I have had calls from owners saying “My dog is favoring his hind end, but he doesn’t seem to be in pain. I wonder if this Rimadyl is something I should try for him?”

Think about us as humans…Many of us suffer from arthritis, or lower back pain, or frequent headaches. Unless the pain is sharp and sudden, you wouldn’t know that the person next to you on the bus is was even in pain! This is the same for dogs!

I guess this is where behavior and training can be a part of this article…

Sometimes you may talk to another person and that person will snap a smart and nasty remark at you. Later, that same person may approach you and apologize for his behavior and explain that he has the worst sinus infection in the world. Pain can drive people and animals to act crossly!

Say you have an older dog (sometimes this can pertain to dogs of any age), and your dog snaps at you for no reason. This behavior has never happened in the past. Have your veterinarian first look for any physical cause and then for a mental or training problem. Growling/snapping because you touch his side may mean pain there (it may also mean “Don’t touch me there!”) .

Dogs cannot tell us when they feel poorly – in words at least.
We veterinary professionals must look at the dog and see what he tries to tell us in his actions and demeanor .

All of the following can indicate pain in dogs:

  • Limping
  • Scratching
  • Favoring
  • Licking an area
  • Unusual mouth movements
  • Turning the head to look at an area frequently
  • Running in circles
  • Erratic movements
  • Snapping at people, other dogs or self
  • Reluctance to get up or lie down
  • Reluctance to climb stairs or climb into a car (usually an older dog)
  • Panting for no obvious reason
  • Sometimes even just an odd look to the eye or face

Remember, more often than not, you will not see your dog cry out or verbally express himself when he is in pain! You need to watch for the signs.

How To Stop Excessive Dog Barking

A dog’s natural instinct is to protect his home & property. A dog that is unsupervised or out of reach cannot be corrected for barking (or digging, or chewing…). In order to work with barking, therefore, the dog must be supervised and easily reached during times of (possible) barking.

how to stop a dog barking

To facilitate teaching not to bark, you do NOT have to wait for the situations of barking to happen. Enlist help, and set up the situation! Practice several times in a row to teach. The easiest way to work with barking (as with anything) is to have the dog on a leash (or umbilical leash – a little safer). That way, it is easier to catch and correct (and praise!) the dog.

Methods to stop excessive dog barking:

  • First, pick a word or phrase that will be your command to stop barking. Suggestions can be: “Quiet!”, “Enough!”, “No Bark!”, “Hush!”, “That’ll Do!”.
  • I never use “Shut Up!”, and I prefer not to use “No”.
  • Set up for barking, and have a leash on the dog. When the barking happens, take the leash (step on the leash if you have to “catch” the dog or just have the leash in your hand to start!), give a firm tug horizontally to the floor and firmly use your word.
  • When the dog is quiet, calmly & quietly praise (“GOOD quiet”). Sometimes a tiny soft-moist treat can reinforce your praise (brought down to the dog’s level).
  • If the pop on the leash doesn’t help, you can incorporate a squirt bottle into the equation. Give a sharp series of squirts right in the face, firm command to quiet, and, for extra measure, have the dog SIT. Your correction should only be as firm as it needs to be. You can also use a small “shaker container”. Do not use these tools to threaten.
  • I like to teach a command for “guard barking” – my command is “Who’s there?” My dogs will run to the door and bark. I tell them “Good who’s there!” and then I will use my quiet command to tell them that is enough. I use this to get my dogs to respond to the doorbell or knock.
  • If I have an excessive barker, or to make my point of QUIET clearer, I will enforce a firm DOWN. This is a leadership gesture on my part (I am the leader, and you comply with my wishes) and also a dog in a down generally does not bark. You can make sure the dog remains in a down by stepping on the leash.
  • Although you have no way to correct barking when you are not home, you may want to leave a tape recorder or video camera on to see when barking happens, what causes the barking and the duration of the barking. Guard barking, for example, is handled a little differently than lonely or random barking.

Barking is a normal dog behavior. In excess, it can be irritating. If controlled, barking can be useful!

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Ensuring A Safe & Happy Holiday Season

In the eyes of your dog(s), the Holidays are a time of change. Consider how Christmas looks to them:

  • A tree, the likes of which they normally see outside, arrives inside the house. (“Great, an indoor bathroom!”) It is often set up in an area that breaks their outside watch position (blocking a picture window or doorwall).
  • This odd inside tree also gets covered with really fun looking dangly things – which must be tasted and pushed around.
  • Next, flashing lights will really stimulate many dogs, especially visual breeds such as herding dogs.

THEN, after the tree arrives, strange items appear underneath, with glittery ribbons and other tantalizing ornaments. These must be tasted and maybe removing the outer covering would be a lot of fun. My dogs can always find the gifts wrapped for them – these cannot be left under the tree!


The topper is your attitude during this fine season. We all know how stressful and rushed the holidays have become. It may look to your dog like you’ve really gone off the deep end this time!

Things you can do to minimize risk and maintain routine (which dogs need)

  • Limit access to reachable decorated areas like trees, garland, candy on tables, etc. If necessary, use baby gates to block certain areas, crate your dog, or confine the dog to one room or the basement. Access to decorated areas should ONLY be allowed with supervision.
  • Keep all routines the same: feeding times, outside times, walk/exercise times and bed time.
  • Keep diet the same – resist offering extra table scraps, especially if your dog has difficulty tolerating dietary changes.
  • If you are stressed, take advantage of what your dog can offer you in the stress relief area. Spend time grooming, walking or playing with you dog.
  • If your dog ingests an ornament or other decoration, do not automatically induce vomiting. Sharp edges will cut and puncture on the way down AND on the way back up! Call your veterinarian for advice on how to handle the situation.
  • If you must let your pet in an area of low-hanging ornaments, don’t decorate a tree with tinsel or any other stringy item. If ingested, these could require complicated surgery to remove. All ornaments should be kept higher than the dog is able to reach.
  • Avoid adding anything potentially toxic to the water for your Christmas tree. Remember it’s at dog level and they may drink it.

Have a safe and Happy Holiday!

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