Thursday, December 3, 2015

Darwin's Dogs Research Project

Darwin’s Dogs is an exciting new research project that is collaborating with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and dog owners nation-wide to understand how genetics influences behavior.
Through a series of short surveys on the Darwin’s Dogs website, we ask dog owners to tell us about their dog’s personality and behavior. After filling out the surveys, owners will receive an easy-to-use kit to collect a small saliva sample we can use for DNA analysis. There is no cost to participate, and any dog can join in - purebred or pure mutt. By understanding how genetic changes can lead to behavior differences — even for normal behaviors — we will have new insight into psychiatric diseases shared between dogs and people.

By bringing together geneticists, animal behavior specialists and pet owners, Darwin’s Dogs is looking for new ways to help both people and their best friends. To succeed, though, we need thousands of dogs to sign up. Please help us get as much data as we can by visiting

Saturday, August 8, 2015

New Puppy Day 4 - House training

Hi again Judy,

OK, after a few days things are starting to settle down now.  The puppy understands that crate time is a good thing and is actually sleeping thought the night (well until about 5 am anyway)!  We have the crates all set up and her area in the kitchen is all set up with her crate and bed and toys.  The kids are learning that the more they get excited, the more the puppy nips and chases them, and while they still have trouble with this I now have a way to keep the puppy from chasing them since she’s dragging her tether around and all I have to do is step on it to prevent the chasing and nipping problems we were having before.

My next question is about house training.  She keeps having accidents in the house and I’m wondering if it would be ok to put down pee pads for her?

Judy’s Response

I’m glad to hear the crate and the nipping and jumping are coming under control.  At this stage a lot of training is really about managing the puppy so they can be successful.  I.E. Making sure they CAN’T get into trouble in the first place. 

The same is true with house training.  It’s all about preventing accidents.  I do NOT recommend the use of papers or pee pads as ultimately this sends the puppy mixed signals (do you really want your dog learning it’s ok to eliminate in the house?).

So the trick here is to make your dog successful, this means setting up a schedule that works for you and your dog and taking them out frequently enough and at the right times so that they don’t have the opportunity to eliminate in the house.  In addition we have to help the dog distinguish that eliminating outside is a good thing, so every time they eliminate outside we click and treat!  Make sure you do that just AFTER the dog has finished, if you click too soon (while the dog is eliminating) some dogs will stop to get the treat and then finish the job as soon as they get inside!
Until you get to know your puppy’s routine I recommend you take the dog out at least every hour during the daytime.  Amazingly, most puppies can hold it overnight so no need to get up in the middle of the night unless the puppy is insisting on it.

In addition to the hourly trip outside, any time the pup is active they will need to eliminate more frequently (sometimes as often as every 15 minutes) and any time the pup wakes up from a nap – outside again!

Often house training accidents can be traced to a lack of supervision.  If you puppy is not under your direct and ACTIVE supervision (wandering around the gated area of your kitchen while you make breakfast is NOT active supervision), or outside under supervision then they should be in a crate or small gated off area, this could also be an exercise pen set up with their crate and bedding in it.

While under supervision watch for the tell-tale signs that your dog needs to go. 
-          Sudden disengagement from play
-          Sniffing
-          Circling
-          Running to a corner or hidden area of the room
-          Going to the door and looking at you expectantly (if you are lucky)
While not all puppies give these signs a lot will, you just have to learn to see them!

Good Luck - keep me up on what's going on.

Monday, August 3, 2015

New Puppy - Day 3 - jumping

Hi Judy,

Posi is settling down and getting used to us.  She did not cry nearly as much today as she did yesterday and she also slept much more.  I am sure she is both recovering from yesterday and last night as she did not sleep a whole lot coupled with being more comfortable with us.  While I cannot say she loves her crate yet, she is getting used to it and adjusting and if I had not had the great suggestion from you yesterday to get the smaller airline crate I am not sure where we would be right now.  Tonight she went into her crate on her own and is sleeping quite peacefully.  Not sure how long this will last but we are enjoying the peace and quite knowing she is safe in her crate!  Positive and progress for sure!  

Now onto biting and controlling the jumping.  Oh my goodness....the questions never end.  :))

Judy's Response:

I’m glad to hear the second day went more smoothly than the first, I look forward to hearing how she does overnight.

With regard to the jumping that you mentioned, again this is a very common behavior among puppies and a natural one as well.  Consider that to date, most of the interaction the puppy has had has been with litter mates, and if you got the opportunity to observe the litter for any length of time you know that it is often a chaotic, moving mass of fur and teeth!  Even the Mama dog will put up with a certain amount of jumping and biting for a time, but there comes a time that Mama will also no longer stand for it.

Interestingly most people believe that she will give a correction in the form of a bark and quick bite, and while that does occasionally happen more often than not the way Mama dogs let their pups know that a behavior is unwanted is they get up and walk away! 

So the three ways we teach our young pups not to jump (or bite) is to;
     Prevent the unwanted behaviors from occurring
a.       This means restraining your puppy during greetings so that they can’t jump.
b.      Putting the puppy in for a nap in their crate or exercise pen if they are overstimulated.
2      If they do jump on you, turning around and giving them no reinforcement for the behavior.
a.       This may include walking away from them preferably over a gate or through a door so they can’t follow you.
b.      If they are tethered, it will be easier to walk away as they can’t follow you forever.
3      Finally, and most importantly show the dog that they DO get attention and or treat rewards if they are calm and have all four feet on the floor when people approach.
a.       So once you’ve restrained your puppy (tethers are great for this) and you can move in and out of his/her range as required.  Be sure to return and give your puppy attention once they’ve settled down.

For greetings I like to use the ‘Hands Off’ game with all visitors and kids.

We tether the dog to a solid object so that we can approach and retreat and the dog will stay in place.  The tether can be as long or short as necessary but are typically about 4’ long.

As people come into the house, be sure to secure the puppy to something solid that is far enough away from the door so that the people coming in can comfortably stay out reach.

Let  your guests (or kids) know that they are welcome to pet the puppy as long as the puppy is calm and not jumping or mouthing them.  With very little puppies I do not ask them to sit, only that they keep all four feet on the ground.  As your guest approaches the puppy if the puppy gets excited simply have the guest back up a step.  Often people will raise their hands instinctively which is where the ‘hands off’ name comes from. They can then try again once the puppy has settled down a bit.  This can be a bit challenging in the beginning as they go back and forth, but the puppy will catch on quickly if they are consistent.  The puppy learns that jumping/mouthy behavior makes people go away and calm, feet on the floor behavior makes them come and give pets! 

It does help if your guests/kids do not make a big fuss!  The more they coo and use a baby voice, the more excited the puppy will get. 

A note about the word ‘off’!  I do not advocate (at least at this stage) using the word off for a couple of reasons.  One, it generally doesn’t work and secondly some dogs will learn to jump up just to hear the command off and get rewarded for it! 

Likewise, pushing the puppy away from you often ends up being more rewarding to the puppy than getting petted!  A basic tenant of training is a behavior that is rewarded will repeat.  So if the puppy thinks jumping on you will get them pushed away AND that is a really fun game, you are actually teaching your puppy to jump on you every time you push them off! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

New Puppy - Day 2


I cannot thank you enough for providing such great suggestions.  Posi is much more accepting of the smaller airplane crate.  She has even already slept in it.  I am sure we are still in for a long and wining evening but how great that she likes her surroundings.  I even took her out in the crate to pick up the kids from swimming and she did fine!  This is my new method of transporting her around the house and she seems to be ok with it.   We also bought her a play pen.  It is not exactly what you had in mind but she likes being in it and has taken a few naps in the space already.  
We have been playing lots of playpen and crate games with her and she seems to like them and loves finding her treats.  

All in all a successful first day.

We made it through the night.  There was a lot of crying and howling from both dogs (Cocoa in response to Posi) but it all worked out.  Posi did end up settling down in the crate although she woke up several times.  I finally got up at 4:00 with her and she did have to pee.  

She is a biter.  We are doing our best to distract her with chew toys and bones but she is biting us and the furniture already.  Do you have any other strategies?  Do you believe in holding their mouth closed and saying no?  Please advise.

Judy's Response:

Biting is normal for puppies, and it typically happens as a defensive behavior and one that escalates when they are tired.  What you may not realize is that most young puppies really don’t like to be petted on the head (or at all in some cases).  Remember their experience to date has mostly been other puppies and mama (who would pick them up by the scruff),  AND the only way the puppies have to interact is with their mouth, combine that with the fact that their teeth are like needles and it can be a bad combination.

So what to do.  
1) Use your hands less to move and position the puppy, instead clap your hands to get your puppy to come with you and reward them with a bit of food (dropped on the floor if she’s got an alligator mouth already)
2) to her collar/harness which she should wear all day, attach a short length of clothes line (usually 3-4 feet) which you are going to let her drag around.  You will use this clothesline to reposition her, move her around and prevent her from getting at the kids ankles WITHOUT having to grab her.  
3) start doing all the Click and Treat exercises outlined in the OMG! Article which you can read here .  This will help her to understand a) what she’s going that’s good and b) hands coming at her have food and are not going to grab her 
4) finally, often puppies get overtired like toddlers and this is when they become most mouthy, this is the time for some crate (or ex-pen) time or to have her tethered nearby.  By the way, anytime she is restrained like this she should be given a long lasting chew toy like a bully stick, Kong filled with peanut butter and frozen, or a frozen bone BUT if she has one of these items no one should approach her or try to take them away (especially the kids!).  We always take the dog away from the bone (remember that drag line in #2), not the bone away from the dog.

And no, grabbing her muzzle and telling her NO is not a recommendation I would make, in fact it will typically escalate the issue.

Friday, July 31, 2015

New Puppy Series - Day One

Hi folks, as some of you know I am out of town this summer, but have several people who have new puppies coming home.  As a result there are a lot of emails going back and forth as I help these new clients until I can meet with them.  I have decided to share their experiences with a series of posts that detail the back and forth communications we are having, with the hopes that it will help others having similar issues along the way.  Here is the first in my new series about new puppies.

Day one with a new puppy. - Crating Issues

I have a question - we brought the puppy home and she is only 7 weeks old.  She has never been in a crate before.  I gave her a few treats in the crate to entice her into it but she has no desire to be in there.  At this stage what do you recommend?  We tuckered her out and tried to put her in and she wailed and howled for about 15 minutes.  I got her to calm down and then took her out to try and have her go the bathroom, which she has not done.  We picked her up at 10:30 and she has not peed since.   She finally fell asleep in my daughter's arms.  I am curious as to your recommendation right now.  I called our vet who said we have to let her cry it out and maybe that is what we have to do.  She is just so young and I do not want to traumatize her.  

Would appreciate your thoughts.  I have read your crate training where you suggest acclimating the puppy to the crate over several days if they have not been exposed.  However, I am curious as to where she sleeps in that scenario.

One more question - how do I leave her, if she is not in the crate?  Do we take her with us during this process?  I wish I could tell you my life can come to screaching halt, but my kids have places to be.  :))  After the next two days, things calm down a bit but they have swim practice and a swim meet tmrw night.  My older dog did not react this way to his crate so I did not consider this.  YIKES......and silly me!!!

Any suggestions you have are appreciated.

Judy's Answer:

Unfortunately, some breeders do not acclimate their puppies to the crate before they go home.  I would opt to bring the puppy with you, as much as you can.  Alternatively, you can gate off a small area in the house like a puppy proofed mud room or bathroom.  Leave the puppy's crate in there with the crate door open, as well as water and a bed.  Do NOT put down pee pads but treat the area as you would a crate, i.e. the puppy is never left in the area more than a couple of hours at a time.   One alternative for larger kitchens or open concept homes is the use an exercise pen which can be configured to look like a crate without a top, and moved to any room you have the puppy in.  Remember the size of the pen should be just big enough to hold the puppy's crate and an additional bed, so that the puppy can sleep near the crate without going in.

In addition some puppies prefer the plastic airline crates as they are cozier, you can get these inexpensively at local retail stores like Wal Mart and Target.  

Here is the section of my training manual that talks about getting puppy used to his crate.

Getting Puppy Used to His Crate

Some breeders will have already acclimated your new puppy to a crate before you get it, but if you do have a dog that is not comfortable with the crate yet the guiding word is go slow!  Start by luring the dog close to the crate with a yummy treat, toss it just inside the crate and let the dog reach in to get the treat.  Do not try to push the dog in the crate or close the door.  Walk away and repeat the process often until the dog is easily reaching in to get the treat.  Then toss the treat a little further into the crate each time, until the dog easily walks into the crate.  Remember, even when he goes all the way into the crate let him turn around and come right back out.  Repeat this process many times a day for a couple of days until the puppy happily runs into the crate in anticipation of those yummy treats!

Once he’s happily entering the crate, toss several treats or a chewy bone into the crate and begin closing the door for just a second or two while he eats his treats. Once he’s finished, let him right out.  Repeat this several times each hour.  Then begin increasing the time he stays in the crate a little bit at a time.  As you increase the time, toss a bone or a stuffed Kong into the crate to keep him busy and happy while the door is shut.  You can use meal time to feed him in his crate too.  You can also use nap time to help him become comfortable, lure your tired/sleepy puppy into the crate for his naps, shut the door to the crate and let him fall asleep.  Be sure to check on him so he can get out as soon as he wakes up!

For a dog that has had a bad experience with a crate or some rescue/shelter dogs that have a bad reaction to the crate, talk to me about the crate desensitization procedure.

Keep this routine up until your puppy understands that crate time is good time, filled with fun toys or chew bones, and a place to go when they are tired and want to get away.

There is a series of videos on You Tube showing Crate Games you can play to help this process.   Press Ctrl Click here to see crate game videos

Where to put the crate.

Locating your pup’s crate is often the key to success.  It should be in the room you use most often, but tucked off in a corner so when the pup is asleep he won’t be getting ‘his cage rattled’ by thundering hordes of kids as they stampede past.  The crate should be big enough for the pup to comfortably stand, turn around and lay down again.  Many large crates now come with dividers that can be used to make it smaller for the new pup and grow with the pup to full size. Consider draping the divider so that the pup can’t see all the empty space behind it. 

Tip:  I always recommend that new puppies sleep in a crate next to your bed, especially for the first couple of nights as they acclimate to their new home. If they stir during the night do NOT get up right away, just like people puppies will partially wake during the night and often go right back to sleep, so drop your hand down to the puppy and let them know you are there but don't jump right up!  Wait a bit to see if the puppy settles down again, if so go back to sleep, if not take the puppy out for a potty break and bring them right back to the crate for more sleep.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer Blast #2

Hi folks,

Welcome to my 2nd Summer Blast.  I hope you are all having a great summer!  I know we are.  I am still working on the final draft of my training manual (too many nice weather days!), those who have requested updates will get them before September.  I am also working on a major update to my web site, so if you go to (or send someone to) right now you will be redirected to my blog.  Hopefully it won’t take me too long to get the new web site up and running again.

The good news is – I have loaded the REGISTRATION LINK FOR GROUP CLASSES onto the blog.  For those of you who are anxious to reserve your spot in class here it is. Please feel free to contact me (email works best) if you have any questions about how group sign up works.  All the instructions are detailed at the top of the page.

For this edition of my Summer Blast I would like to encourage you all to bring fun into your relationship with your dog.  Remember that training while necessary, should also be fun not only for your dog, but for you!  With that in mind, below are some of the fun games I’ve gleaned that you can play with your dog or puppy.  If you are working with a new puppy, remember to make it easy so they don’t get frustrated and give up.

One note about games:  Don’t play any game to excess or it starts to look and feel like a training exercise!  Remember you never want your dog to walk away from a game, always quite while they still want to keep playing, that keeps  the game fresh and fun and they will look forward to playing it again the next time you offer.

Hide and seek
If you have two people – have someone hold your dog while you find a place to hide (remember to keep it easy for beginners). When you are ready, call your dog and wait until he finds you. When he does, make sure that you praise him and reward with a favorite treat.  You can play this in the woods off leash by waiting until your dog isn’t looking and hiding behind a tree.  If they need a bit of help call their name, clap your hands or make kissy noises to get them started.

The Run Away Game

This is a simple game to reinforce the dog for coming to you.  In a secure area (fenced in yard or big field) let your dog wander a big, then show the dog that you have yummy treats, when he starts toward you drop a couple treats at your feet and immediately run away.  The dog will likely run and eat the treats and when done look up to see where you’ve gone.  As soon as he looks up click or say Yes! And drop a couple more treats at your feet and run away.  Pretty soon the dog will be automatically eating and running to wherever you are and you will likely not have time to even say yes.  The game ends with lots of praise and treats when you can’t get away from your dog!

Keep Away/Monkey in the Middle

This is a two person game and is one for dogs who like to chase things.  Get a ball that your dog really likes to play with.  Sit 10-15 feet away from the other person.  Show your dog the ball and when he comes for it roll it to the other person.  Remember that nobody likes to be monkey in the middle all the time so you may have to let your dog get the ball a few times to keep their interest.  Also, when your dog does get the ball PARTY!  Yell happy noises and celebrate with your dog, after a minute or two, offer your dog a treat for the return of the ball so you can continue to play.

I would love to hear about games you’ve found that work with your dog and encourage you all to post any additional games on my blog where this notice will also be posted.

Have a happy, fun filled rest of your summer!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

New Website Underway!

If you have reached this blog via my web site at rest assured you are at the right place!

While my website is under construction please find all the salient information about my services here in my blog.

Welcome to Proper Paws Dog Training, a service dedicated to helping you develop a loving and mutually enjoyable relationship with your canine companion.  Proper Paws is located in Concord Ma. and is owned by Judy Bernard CPDT-KA.

Involved with dogs her entire life, Judy has trained her own dogs to be successful in obedience competitions and as therapy dogs.  In addition, for over 15 years, she has trained many dogs as family pets. She is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Certified Tier 2 Wag it Games Instructor, a Professional Member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, a member of the Pet Professional Guild, and an approved Evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program and AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program. Judy and her dog Winter also hold a Therapy Dog International Certification and regularly visit local nursing homes.

Judy has experience with many different types of dogs and creates a customized training plan that is fun, simple, and effective, reflecting each owners' unique goals and needs. She specializes in households with children and understands the unique challenges of raising puppies with children present.

Judy takes a positive approach to training the dogs as well as their people.  She has the experience to help you train your puppy right the first time or fix any issues that have developed with your dog over time.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summer Update

Hi folks I hope you are all having a great summer.  As you may know my summer is being filled by travels and travails.  So far I have managed to get my son off to his summer adventure in Colorado and begin re-writing my training manual as well as visit friends I haven’t seen for a long time.  If you are interested in receiving an updated version of the manual, please let me know and as soon as it is done I will send it to you.  It is going to have some new games, video links and an expanded tricks section!

Just a few reminders for pet safety since we are now in the heat of summer;
-          Never leave your dog in the car even for a few minutes with the windows cracked!  Cars can heat up extremely quickly and our dog’s cooling systems don’t work like our making them extremely susceptible to heat stroke!
-          Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh cool water available when you are exercising them on a hot day.  The only way for a dog to cool down is through panting or drinking cool water.
-          Keep your dog off the hot pavement – it can burn the pads of their feed and cause them to overheat quickly.
-          Never shave your dog thinking that will help them to keep cool.  Actually, double coated dogs with a thick undercoat like Goldens, Shepards and Sheep dogs are kept cool by their thick undercoat and shaving them exposes them to sunburn, bug bites and overheating. 
-          Don’t soak your dog with water (especially their back) as the insulating properties of their dense undercoat will be rendered useless if you do. 
-          Ways to help keep your dog cool include:
o   Clipping the hair of their underbelly and underarms
o   Providing cool and/or wet items for the dog to lie on like towels soaked in cool water
o   Providing shallow wading pools for the dogs to walk/lie in
o   Providing plenty of shade for them when they are in the heat
o   Providing plenty of air circulation (fans) in warm areas
o   Give your dog an ice pop!  Add a bit of chicken broth to water and freeze into ice cubes, it makes a great treat when the dogs are hanging out in the heat!

For those of you who have been helping me test my new group class scheduler – a big thank you!  I believe it is very close to going live now.

For those that are looking forward to training again with me next fall there will be a few changes to my schedule.  Lesson appointments will extend from 8 am – 3pm next year, as I’m shifting my schedule up by half an hour and adding another appointment block from 2-3 pm.  I will also be offering a couple of new group classes in the fall – Puppy Kindergarten Group Class with the option to combine that class with 2 private sessions, a Beginner Obedience Class for people with older dogs, rescues and/or puppies over 6 months old who need the basics and Manners 1 which is a more advanced obedience class targeted toward those who’ve done Puppy K and Graduate Puppy who want to concentrate on taking those behaviors they’ve learned to a whole new level (lots of field trips in that class to public areas). 

The class schedule is already posted on my blog at and I will soon have an all new on line scheduling program ready for you to reserve your spot in those classes – like me on Facebook for updates on schedule availability .  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Find It!

One of my favorite games to play with my dog is Find it!  We started playing this game when she was very little, almost from the day she came home.  It has morphed into various forms including Hide and Go Seek with my son, finding lost keys, finding hidden toys and her very favorite, the 45 minute keep you busy while I’m gone variety, where I run around the house just before I leave for the day and hide many single pieces of kibble and some really yummy treats all over the house for her to find after I leave! 

Beginning Level  - Teaching the word!

Remember that your dog does not know what the words ‘find it’ mean, and while the end game is all about the dog using their nose to find things in the beginning we just want to teach the dog to look for treats when we say ‘find it’.

Step 1 - We start by tossing a treat away from us and saying the words ‘find it’ in a fun happy voice.  The treats should be highly visible to the dog, preferably still moving so the dog will chase them.  Once the dog finds the first tossed treat, toss another on in the opposite direction, but still within sight!  Play this simple game a couple of times a day for a couple of days until the sound of the words ‘find it’ gets your dog excited and looking for something on the floor.

Step 2 – When your dog starts to understand the word, you can start tossing the second treat in a way that is a ‘blind toss’ meaning your dog can’t see the treat as you toss it.  Make sure you are still using highly visible treats and the smellier they are the better, this will help your dog start to use his nose!  You can do this by tossing around a corner, or stand in a door way and toss from one room to the other, or use your kitchen island as a blind, first tossing down one side of the island and then down the other.  However you do it the idea is that you say ‘find it’ and rather than chasing a moving treat the dog has a general idea of where you’ve tossed the treat but has to put his nose to the ground to find it.  Advance to the next step when your dog easily finds all the treats you toss.
Tip – if at any time your dog looks to you for guidance about where the treat is, simply shrug your shoulders and say, “I don’t know, you have the nose!”  If they are really struggling you can walk closer to the treat but try to resist the urge to show them (no toe tapping or pointing) where the treat is, this will only teach the dog to come to you rather than use their nose to find it. 

Teaching the Nose ‘Find’

Step 3 – Repeat step 2 with treats that are less visible, match the shade of the floor with the shade of the treat.  Advance to the next step when your dog easily finds all the treats you toss.

Step 4 – The stationary hide!  In this game we ‘hide’ three treats as your dogs watches you, if your dog doesn’t have a good solid ‘stay’ have someone else hold the dog while you hide the treats, again let him see where you are hiding the treats.  When all three treats are hidden in plain sight, the person holding the dog can release the dog with the ‘find it’ cue.  Repeat hiding the treats in the same 3 spots over and over until the dogs knows where to go and instantly goes there.

Proofing the behavior

Step 5 – The stationary blind hide.  Using the same three hiding spots, position your dog where he CAN NOT see you hiding the treats, place the treats in the same three spots you used before, then release your dog with the find it command!  He should go right to the same spots you’ve been using all along, if so continue to step 6, if not repeat step 4 a few more times.

Step 6 – The stationary blind hide with a twist!  Position your dog where he cannot see you hide the treats.  Place the treats 6” away from each of the three hiding places you have been using.  Release your dog to ‘find it’!  Your dog should go to the original hiding place as in step 5, but instead of finding the treat he/she will have to use their nose to locate the prize.  Make sure the treats are smelly and similar in color to the flooring.  Repeat until the dog finds the treats regularly.

Step 7 – Begin hiding the treats in more varied places around the same room that you’ve been using. 

Step 8 – Begin hiding treats in other rooms.

Step 9 – Begin hiding treats in locations other than the floor.

Other Find it Games

Hide and Go Seek

Have your kids hide in plain sight, give each a doggy treat.  Tell the dog to ‘Find Joey’ or ‘Find Sally’ and have only the child whose name was called reward the dog when the dog approaches.  With enough repetitions, the dog will learn to seek only the named child.  As the dog catches on to this game the kids can hide in more and more difficult hiding places!  After several years of playing this game with our dog as the two of them grew up together my pre-teen son was hiding in places like the top of the washer and dryer, in closets, behind chairs, in shower stalls – the list was endless.  It became the go-to game on rainy boring days.

Muffin Tin Find It

Using a muffin tin (a 12 holer works best) place a treat in ONE of the muffin cups.  Place the tin on the ground and tell your dog to ‘find it’.  Repeat 2-3 times until fido is finding the treats with little problem.  The after you place the treat in the muffin tin, place a tennis ball on each of the muffin cups so that the treat location is hidden. Place the tin on the floor and hold on to is as now the dog has to find the hidden treat AND get to it.  Some dogs will use their paws, some will push the balls out of the way with their noses and some will pick the ball up with their mouth to get to the treat. 

The Box Drill

Use 5-6 empty cardboard boxes (small to medium sized are best like the ones from Amazon), scatter the boxes about and while the dog is NOT looking (have a helper hold the dog out of sight) place 2-3 treats in one of the boxes.  Release the dog with a ‘find it’ cue and watch as he finds the treats and then is rewarded for his find.  As he gets better and better at this game you can start closing the lids on the box, be sure to reward him when he finds the right box by dropping treats on the top of the closed box.

The Dropped Glove

Once your dogs knows what find it means, you can start playing the game anywhere!  While out on the trail, drop an old glove on the trail when  your dog isn’t looking, then call him to  you and point him in the direction of the glove and give the ‘find it’ cue.  Be sure to whoop and holler and reward lavishly when he finds the glove.  Gradually increase the difficulty of this game by leaving the glove further and further behind or throwing the glove off the trail a bit so the dog has to use his nose, not his eyes to find it.

The Key Chain Find

This works best if you have a leather fob on your key chain, it will naturally retain your scent.  Start easy like you did with the food finds, drop the key chain on the floor and say ‘find it’ when the dog picks it up praise and reward.  Then ‘hide’ the keys just like you did the treats in the first exercise, slowly increasing the difficulty.  Be sure to reward lavishly every time the dog finds your keys.  You can even put specific words to specific items, like ‘find my keys’!  The more you play the better your dog will be at the game.  This one can come in really handy if you lose your keys a lot!

I hope this has given you the information you need to build a great behavior and some fun games you can play with your dog. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

101 Things to Do with a Box

101 Things to Do with a Box

One of my very favorite activities to do with Winter on a yucky day when we are both bored!  Try it and let me know how it works for you!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The shark in my kitchen/the kangaroo at my door!


Young puppies often get into a nippy phase, some are nippier than others.  If there are children in the house this can be especially vexing as the squeals of pain and flailing hands and arms make the puppy even more excited and liable to nip and jump even more in response, add tears to the equation and we have total meltdown!

The first thing to do in the face of a nipping, jumping puppy is to quietly, calmly walk away.  Many people will tell you to yell ‘ouch’ loudly and while this may interrupt the behavior for a moment it is not likely to result in any real learning unless you immediately disengage.  This means walking away and over or through the nearest gate or door.  Give the puppy a clear message that this type of behavior gets them NOTHING!  I will often use great theatrics to emphasize this point, “Uh oh, now I have to leave, toooo baaaad.”all while I am getting up, disentangling whatever body part or clothing my now budding shark has attached himself to and walking calmly away making no eye contact or other admonitions.  The point is that the puppy’s behavior is IMMEDIATELY met with and removal of my attention, remember you have about a second and a half to remove what the puppy wants (your attention) in order for them to understand their behavior made you go away!  Act indignant, not mad, the puppy really doesn’t know any better, they just know this is how they play.
OK with that piece of information you may still have times or situations where leaving is either not possible (kids are involved) or ineffective (puppy decides to pursue you relentlessly to the nearest exit and it becomes a game to him).  NOW WHAT?!

Crates and Tethers!

One of my favorite techniques to use to prevent the puppy from nipping and jumping in the first place or prevent a repeat performance is a tether.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, a 4’ length of cotton clothesline and the kind of clip you find on a regular dog leash is all you need.  Both are easily obtained at your local hardware store.  The trick is KEEP THE TETHER ON THE PUPPY EVERY TIME HE/SHE IS OUT AND ABOUT IN THE HOUSE.  This gives you a handle to grab (puppies are notoriously hard to catch if they don’t want to be caught) if the puppy starts to get into trouble.  It allows you to prevent further trouble by attaching the tether to a solid object and providing the puppy with something else to do like chewing on a Kong, antlers, soft stuffed toys rather than your hands.  This is an important point as tether the dog is not a punishment, it is a preventive measure.  The puppy needs to be provided with mental stimulation and/or an appropriate chewing outlet.
If there are kids in the house, the FIRST time the puppy nips and you hear ‘Ow!’ from the kids, step in, tether the puppy and instruct the kids that the puppy needs to have a time out for a bit.  Kids generally understand a time out means the puppy is not allowed to play anymore.  Actually, we are creating space for the puppy and providing the puppy with something appropriate to chew on while preventing the puppy from practicing the undesired behavior.  This can also be done in a crate, particularly if the puppy has been out all day and may be over tired.  Puppies are a lot like toddlers, they don’t always take a nap when they should and may get over tired, over stimulated and end up being out of control without the means to settle themselves.  Just like your overtired toddler who complained that he wasn’t tired as you put them down for a nap, but 3 minutes later you find him totally sacked out in the crib, crate time can be good for a puppy. 

Of course the best course of action is to prevent the nippy behavior in the first place!  If it is recurring every day under the same circumstances, try to remember to put the puppy in the crate with a bone or long lasting chew toy BEFORE he has the opportunity to practice this very undesirable behavior.


Now let’s talk about that kangaroo at the door!  If your dog has access to the door that visitors use to come in to the house you may already know what I’m talking about.  Dogs and puppies like to greet people as they come into the house, but they like to greet face to face and there’s only one way to get their face closer to the people they are greeting – JUMP!  Trying to command a squirmy puppy to sit or down probably isn’t going to work and sometimes the people coming in are the problem, 
“Ooooooh a puppy!  Oh it’s ok if he jumps on me!”.  The bottom line is really, if you don’t want your puppy to do something when they are full grown, don’t let them practice that behavior now when they are a puppy!

What to do?

Remember the tether?  It works great in this situation too!  By having the tether on the dog whenever they are out of their crate you can be ready even if people show up unexpectedly.   You have one of two choices.  The first is the step on the tether close enough to your puppy that he just can’t get his front paws off the ground.  This way no matter how much the guest gushes the puppy simply can’t jump, since they are effectively anchored to the floor.  In the meantime, every time the puppy settles into a sit position you can click and reward for making a better choice than jumping.  You can also use this method when the dog is on leash in public, hold the leash handle only, let the rest of the leash droop to the ground and step on the leash as near to the puppy as you can.

The second alternative is to have an anchor point (like a clip or tether tied to a stair rail) near the door that you can clip the tether to before you open the door.  It must be far enough away so that guests can easily get in and out of the door without coming into the puppy’s space.  Instruct the guests that they may pet the puppy IF the puppy has all four feet on the floor, and the second the puppy doesn’t they must back away and take their hands off the puppy.  Repeat until the puppy learns all four on the floor and calm gets him petted.  I call this the Hands Off Game since the result of the puppy moving is to quickly take your hands off the puppy until they calm down.

Clearly neither of these solutions work in every situation, so the uber friendly guest that ‘doesn’t mind if the puppy jumps’ gets greeted with the puppy anchored under foot.  The guests that can and will follow instructions (kids are generally great at this) get the ‘hands off’ game with the puppy tethered but acting of his own free will.  The tether near the door is a great solution if the pizza guy comes a lot too, puppy learns to sit away from the door and not dash through it every time it opens!

Thursday, January 1, 2015