Category - Dog Training

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.

Q&A: Making a rescue dog feel at home


I am adopting my first shelter dog tomorrow. She is 8-10 weeks old. They found her and 3 other puppies when they were maybe 4 weeks old. She isn’t very timid or anything like that but she is VERY shy. Is this because she hasn’t had much human interaction and she doesn’t know how to react? Also, are there any tricks to get her to warm up to me and be her puppy self?

Hi Bri.

Some puppies are naturally very shy. Your new puppy may be more so in that she has had little contact with humans in the first few weeks of her life. Regardless though, you really will just need to give her time to warm up to you.

The bonding process takes time, and she will ‘come out of her shell’ the more she gets to know you and feel comfortable in her new environment.

Many 8 week old puppies are calm and sleepy, but typically by the time they have been in their new homes a few weeks they become much more lively!

If you give her love and affection, a good routine, and start doing some basic obedience with her right from the start, I am confident she will be fine. The transition from a kennel environment with her litter mates to a new home can take a bit longer for some pups, just be patient.


Q&A: When should I reward my dog?

When starting reward training for recall if your dog doesn’t come on the first call but does come after a couple of calls, should you reward this? I understand that we shouldn’t growl for not coming straight away but to reward him/her for coming after a couple of calls to me. I’d be very grateful for any tips. Thanks, Lana

Hi Lana.

It is great that you have started to work on off lead recall with your dog, and treats for coming to you is certainly the best way to start.

The biggest thing is that you do not call her more then once. If you are going to use the ‘come’ command, you say it one time only, and if she does not come to you, you need to go and get her. You would then praise her when you get hold of her, so that it is a positive experience for her. If you have to go get her though, I would not give her the treat, just verbal praise.

If you are finding that she is not coming the first time, you need to return to practicing recalls on a long lead. You can buy a long training lead, or simply get a long piece of rope to attach to her collar. You can begin with having her sit and stay and then back away from her. Then in a clear and excited voice, call her name and say ‘come’. You can also crouch down to encourage her to come to you. If she is running toward you, you can encourage her to continue by praising her as she is coming in.

If she does not respond though, or even if she comes part way but get distracted, tell her no and give her a jerk and release collar correction. Do not reel her in like a fish, just indicate to her through the lead and collar to make the motion herself. When she gets to you, have her sit at your feet and give her a treat and calm praise. Call her to you frequently, and then release her with an ‘ok’ command. If it is fun, and she gets praised/rewarded, she should like the game!

Remember, though you do not want to be repeating yourself on this command, or else she will learn to ignore you. Like many aspects of training, if you are finding she is not reliably coming to you the first time, you have probably progressed too quickly and need to go back to working on a lead and/or at shorter distances.


The Best Dog Training Advice

Last week we asked our readers to share the best dog training advice they’d ever received.


Image via here

First to share with us was Helen Nicks:

“The best dog training advice I ever received was to use a ‘Halti’ type collar to stop pulling on the lead. Worked wonders!”

Have you been given any great advice? Share it with us below!

It’s Your Turn

Every week between the Q&A’s and doggy insights we post a handy tip on our website to help you and your dog get along a little better.

Now we’re turning the tables and asking you – our loyal, dog-loving readers – to share your tips with us.

What is the best dog advice you’ve ever received?

Comment below or email us and we’ll make sure your tips are posted for the rest of our readers to learn from (with your name, of course).

And hey, if you want to throw in a photo of you and your best furry friend, you know we won’t object.


Dogs and Fireworks

sad-dogHow to keep your dogs ears safe from big bangs

Halloween is upon us, and, while it is not usually a time for big bangs and displays of light, you might encounter the odd firework or two.

Now, we all know that dogs and fireworks don’t go together, and that dogs hear things a lot louder than humans do, so we thought we’d put together a list of tips to help you and your dog through any unexpectedly bright Halloween celebrations.

The first, and perhaps the easiest thing to – but something that only works if you know the fireworks are coming – is to make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise during the day.

Make sure your dog has a safe and comfortable place to take refuge inside your house.

Try to keep your dog in a calm state – this means keeping stimulation to a minimum. Cover the crate or draw the blinds and keep him/her subdued with lots of tummy scratches. A Kong or favorite chew toy will be a good distraction, and a healthy activity for your dog.

If you must use a sedative, make sure it is something prescribed by or recommended by your vet.

Finally, make sure you prepare yourself for fireworks. Humans can easily transfer their feelings, shock or anxiety so try keep your cool.

Good luck!


Is there something that helps your dog get through festive fireworks? Let us know


Is my dog scared of me?

scared-dogHi DTB

I recently adopted a 3yr old pit mix female who has taken very well to my 11 year old daughter but is very skittish around me, me being a male. I have tried the treat trick and she still doesn’t like to come to me. If I sit on the couch not that I condone this behavior, I have allowed her to come up next to me but she still is very apprehensive. Understanding this is a new environment for her, are there any other suggestions to help with comforting her towards me. Thank you for your time.


Hi JD.

So as you have probably already guessed, it is likely that your dog was previously abused by a male. She obviously has trust issues, and as is typical, has associated all males with this behavior. The main thing that is going to change this is simply time. Try not to raise your voice around her, and do things like raise your hands quickly or make loud noises in front of her. It can take dogs 6-12 months to really bond with their new owners, even if they have not been abused, so this too will take time. You don’t want to create other behavioral issues by allowing her to do things that you do not want her to do though, ie: get on the couch. So treat her as you would any dog that you want in your house, but always be conscious that she is nervous. Never force her to be patted or moved close to you if she is uncomfortable, just let her come to you. Treats are always good to help encourage her, but it has to be on her terms.

Over time I am confident she will learn to trust you!