Oh Behave™ Dog Training Blog

Positive reinforcement makes training fun! (954) 587-2711

Posts Tagged ‘Housebreaking

Finding Time To Maintain Your Training

leave a comment »


Play with me!

Working training into your daily schedule doesn’t have to be a chore.  As a dog trainer that completely understands the busy lives of her clients, part of my job is to help my clients find time to make training a part of their daily life.  Admittedly, when you get your new puppy or a dog that is new to you and your home, a lot of time has to be devoted to housetraining, socialization, bite inhibition training, basic obedience, and addressing special needs of rescues if needed.  Teaching your new dog or puppy how to get a long in your life takes a lot of up-front time and dedication.  For those of you that have trained with me, thanks for making that commitment to your new family member.  I know it was sometimes frustrating and emotional, but I’m sure most of you will agree it was worth it.  So what happens after all of this exhausting work during the first year?   Well, a few (very few) will get the training bug and go on to intermediate or advanced levels, competitive activities, or therapy work.  But most dog owners forget to maintain their new found skills and then find themselves in embarrassing situations at dog friendly events or out in public when they least expect their skills to fail them.

The key to maintaining your basic skills is to practice them often and in different environments. My best advice about remembering to practice and finding time for it is… MAKE IT FUN!  First think about some of the fun things you do with your dog.  A quick training session can take place in or near the parking lot of your favorite venue.  Some of Maddie’s favorites are:  a county park, a nature trail at a county park, dog friendly events, Sunday morning Jazzfest, or a quick trip to Starbucks.  Keep your practice session short.  The reward is getting to do whatever activity you came to do, once your dog completes a couple of quick cues.  Start with something easy.  Hopefully you’re not so woefully out of touch that your dog forgot ‘sit’ or ‘watch me’.  If you are in that category, you’re going to need a few remedial trainings at home in a distraction free environment first.  What else do you do for fun?  How about playtime in the backyard?  There’s no rule that says that playtime can’t include some practice too.  Why not incorporate a ‘down stay’ in exchange for throwing the ball?  How about a ‘drop it’ in exchange for a tug game.  Most dogs consider walks to be pretty fun.  Why not try some snazzy heeling in the driveway in exchange for a brisker than usual pace on the walk, or trying a new and previously unsmelled route?

I will leave you with my personal favorite for finding time every day to practice with Maddie:  training while multitasking.   Maddie has figured out that while I blow dry my hair is a great time to drop a toy at my feet and give me that pathetic look so I’ll kick it to her.  Currently, I am working on ‘back up’ in exchange for me to kick a toy.  There are no rules against multitasking while training.  You can also incorporate this into your TV watching rituals and cooking tasks.  Be creative and have fun!!


Getting the Most From Group Classes

leave a comment »


Enzo, a proud recent grad

Group dog training classes are typically reasonably priced and a great opportunity to learn valuable skills.  There are so many learning opportunities and socialization opportunities involved in taking a group class.  Here are some tips to make the most of your group class experience.

*Find a class taught by a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.  There are plenty of hobbyist dog trainers giving classes.  You will be much more likely to incorporate what you learn in class into your every day life if the teacher is a professional that receives continuing education, and is up to date on the latest training methods and equipment.

*Find a class that uses positive reinforcement methods and does not allow coercive, or aversive methods in class.  The old school jerk and pull leash corrections can lead to aggression or fear aggression in some dogs.

*Make note of any prerequisites and be honest with yourself about if you meet these requirements.  For example, enrolling in my Rally class if your dog doesn’t sit or down on cue would be very frustrating for the student. 

*Follow your trainer or their company on social media.  I post tons of articles, tips, and dog friendly events on the Oh Behave Facebook page and my Twitter page.  It’s free information from reputable sources.  Why not take advantage of it?

*If the teacher and space at the facility allow for it, arrive to class a few minutes early.  It’s a great opportunity to get individual attention from the trainer if he or she is not teaching another class.  In addition, most dogs need some time to acclimate to the environment before they are ready to give you their attention and focus.

*Read your syllabus and handouts, do your homework, and come to class prepared.  Your experience in class will be frustrating if you are not using the right equipment, treats, or have not practiced.

*If space and the teacher allow it, have all adults in the family attend class.  It is best to avoid changing handlers in the middle of class, but the adults in the family should be familiar with all of the practice exercises to provide consistency at home.

*Make friends with your classmates after class.  If appropriate, making friends with other students in class is a great way to continue to socialize your dog.  Some of my students have enjoyed the company of their classmates at dog parks and other venues because they made that connection in my class.  Remember, not all dogs are appropriate for play sessions with other dogs.  Be sure to ask the owner first.

Your group class experience should be fun, informative and a great value.  Make the most of your experience.

Curse of the Good First “Baby”

with 2 comments

ImageSometimes I get accused of using too many human analogies when I discuss behavior, learning and motivation for pet dogs.  I avoid what is called “anthropomorphism”, that is, assigning human characteristics to animals.  However, all living things respond to positive reinforcement training.  In that arena, I find there are many similarities.

Sometimes it’s my clients that give me the good analogy.  I’d like to share with you the “curse of the good first baby” that a client shared with me.  I have seen episodes of Dr. Phil with similar parenting stories involving parental expectations and judgements, but hearing it first hand really amused me.

Sometimes we are just blessed with the perfect dog.  Perhaps a born follower, gentle, very attached to its owners…  This dog just doesn’t seem to need training.  He never jumps on guests (or is too small for that to be annoying), doesn’t run away, not destructive and is easily housetrained.  For those of us that have experienced “normal dogs”, this sounds almost too good to be true.  We have suffered the indignity of finding chewed up belongings, stinky messes, and begging our dogs to come to us in public when they get loose.  At Oh Behave, I don’t get a whole lot of phone calls from the owners of “perfect” dogs.

I get lots of phone calls in my line of work about the new dog that is just evil.  Of course, they tell me it’s a puppy, but it’s really already one and a half years old, not housebroken, destructive, still mouthy, runs out the door every time it’s open, and guests refuse to come to the house because of the jumping, mouthing, and incessant barking.  Just another day at Oh Behave Dog Training.

So I visited the home of one of these “evil” dogs and the owners tell me that they just can’t figure out what’s wrong with their dog. Their last dog never did any of the ridiculous behaviors like barking, jumping, running away, and peeing on the carpet.  I had to give them the doggie parent dose of reality: “most dogs will do what your current dog is doing unless you teach them to do something else.  There is nothing wrong with this dog, we just need to teach him what’s right.”  “Well what about our last dog?”, they ask.  I tell them how lucky they were to have had such a wonderful dog, but most people are not lucky enough to be blessed by the “perfect” dog twice in a row.

The dog mom starts to squirm & turn red.  She starts talking to me and her husband about her sister, brother in law,  and their children.  Evidently, the sister’s first child is an angel: as a toddler she was very sweet, never went through the terrible twos and slept through the night as a baby.  Apparently the sister and brother in law were pretty unforgiving and judgmental about the dog mom’s child parenting skills.  Dog mom would explain that her kids sometimes have tantrums, outbursts, trouble sitting still, and other normal, but not so desirable behaviors.  It’s normal. The judgements went on until the sister and brother in law had the second child.  Baby number two was colicky as a baby and was a terror through the terrible twos, and is still pretty much of a handful.  The sister thought she was such an amazing parent because her child was so amazing.  The sister thought my clients were bad parents because they had a child that just does normal childhood behaviors.  And so my clients had the doggie parent epiphany… even though their first dog was an angel, they basically sucked at dog training.

The good news is that training your dog is a skill that can be learned. My clients and their new dog all lived a much less stressful life by simply introducing some positive reinforcement training!  Now they think their current dog is an angel and I am happy to tell them what wonderful dog parents they have become!   They are truly great at training their dog.

Mind Your Manners

with one comment

ImageTeaching manners to puppies is pretty easy to do, yet many pup parents overlook this important step in puppy rearing.  The fact is that puppies are adorable no matter what they are doing.  However, many behaviors that may be cute now, are not so cute when a puppy grows to be a 75 pound monster. The way to keep your puppy from becoming that monster is to develop manners by teaching some impulse control.

When I get a 4 or five month old puppy in my group class, one of the first skills that I need to teach is a gentle mouth.  Some pups are completely unaware of the sensitive human fingers when gobbling down treats.  I’ll close my treat hand with the treats inside and let the puppy get frustrated.  He’ll bite, paw and try to bully me into releasing my hand.  The pup eventually gives up and backs away. That’s when I say yes and release my hand.

There are so many areas that impulse control can be taught at an early age: greeting guests, walking on a leash, getting out of the door, getting leashed up, coming out of the crate, waiting for the food bowl and many more.  Nobody wants to be knocked down by an exuberant dog during any of these activities.  That’s why it’s important to teach impulse control BEFORE the dog gets big enough to knock you down.

Take a look at the video at the link below of Sammy coming out of his crate.  Through several blocking techniques using the door or my arm, I prevented Sammy from barreling out of his crate. Instead, I taught him to sit and wait to be leashed.  I had already introduced a stay cue with Sammy, so the exercise was pretty simple and he caught on fast.


Of course it’s still possible to teach manners to an unruly 75 pound dog.  I do it all the time.  It sometimes takes tools to give a small owner more leverage and alot of patience to undo a behavior that is ingrained.  It’s oh so much easier to teach a puppy some manners from day one.

Double Trouble!

leave a comment »

ImageA new puppy!  What could be more adorable?  Two puppies?  Maybe… maybe not.

Yes, I know how it happens… ohh they’re both so sweet… how could we choose… they’ll be lonely without their brother/sister…

Trust me, I have to be not only the trainer, but also give tons of moral support to owners of ONE puppy that has the family on the verge of tears, collapse, or nervous breakdown.  Taking home two young pups at the same time is usually double trouble.  The biggest challenge two puppy households face is the tendency of the pups to bond to each other, rather than forming meaningful bonds with their human family members.  Many times the puppies become co-dependent and are inseparable.  Owners often underestimate the time and commitment needed to properly raise two pups; resulting in untrained and undersocialized dogs.  I would discourage anyone who is considering two pups from taking the plunge, but here are some suggestions for responsibly raising two pups at the same time.

Buy each pup his/her own crate and crate them separately. Housebreaking will fail miserably with the pups sharing a crate.  They will have plenty of together time, they don’t need to sleep together.  Crates are for sleeping and down time.  Pups crated together may like to play rather than sleep, possibly undermining your precious sleep.

Train each puppy separately.  The timing involved with marking and rewarding good behaviors is entirely too difficult to coordinate with two pups.  Try to cue a sit and if they both sit, you have to reward them both immediately to be most effective.  How many hands do you have?  Even if you have two family members training the pups at the same time, each will likely be distracted by the other.  Again, undermining your success and effectiveness.

Give the pups separate play times.  It’s good to create a bond with the humans as well as giving confidence to each pup.

Walk and socialize them separately.  This will allow each puppy to develop confidence and bonds with humans and other dogs at his own pace.

Good luck with housebreaking.  Vigilant supervision in required to properly housebreak a puppy.  I usually suggest a full lock down in the first three weeks.  This includes tethering the dog to the human or using an exercise pen.  The execution of a good housebreaking plan is completely overwhelming for a family with two pups.

And finally, the cost… for the first time puppy owner, the costs of just one pup is a real slap in the wallet.  Get ready for a real punch to the wallet with two.

Trust me, one puppy can fill your heart and your home with enough love for everyone!  Wait until you have ONE confident, well trained, and well socialized DOG before you bring home puppy #2!

Written by dawnhanna

November 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm

The Four P’s Of House Training

with one comment

Potty Time

On Leash Potty Breaks

That’s PROPERLY PLACED PEE AND POOP.  House training a puppy or even an adult dog can be errorless and speedy with consistency and structure.

There is a 2 part formula for efficiency and effectiveness:
*Preventing improperly placed pee and poop.
*Rewarding properly placed pee and poop.

Without prevention, accidents happen and owners become frustrated because they have fewer opportunities to encourage properly placed pee and poop.  Without rewards, accidents will occur when freedom is allowed.

Rewards: Imagine there was a magic patch of grass in your backyard.  Imagine that if you urinated on the magic patch of grass and hundred dollar bills immediately sprouted from the ground.  Hmmm…  If I had a magic patch of grass, I’m not sure that I’d ever use the toilet again.  Of course, dogs are not motivated by hundred dollar bills, so it’s up to the pet parents to find their dog’s “hundred dollar bill”.  If a dog successfully places pee or poop, there should be something extraordinary for the dog immediately following the “P” event.  It could be the freedom to run around the yard, maybe enhance the experience by chasing the dog; a game of tug; a tasty treat; a walk around the neighborhood.  You’ll have to do some proactive scheduling to be able to give timely rewards.

Prevention: The prevention piece of the solution involves tools like leashes, crates, gates limited freedom and vigilant supervision.  The limited freedom is temporary.  Freedom is allowed slowly as the dog learns about the rewards associated with properly placed pee and poop.  A properly sized crate is the only place where the dog should be placed unsupervised.  Puppies and adult dogs are unlikely to use the bathroom where they eat and sleep, so this is an ideal area to leave the dog when the owners need to live their lives.  Potty breaks at the designated potty area should be on leash so the dog does the business at hand rather than busying himself playing.

If you are house training an adult dog, your challenge will be undoing the habit of improperly placed pee and poop.  If you are house training a puppy, you will be challenged by the short holding times of a small bladder or bowels.

There are many more details and best practices to efficient and effective house training.  Consult a positive reinforcement, certified professional dog trainer for assistance.