Dog Pulling on Leash

29 Aug 2017 | Filed in Dog Training

Why dogs do this

A dog pulls on the leash for several reasons:

• Sees, hears, or smells something exciting.

• Excess energy makes it hard for her to contain herself.

• Through experience, realizes that pulling on leash makes the handler walk faster or go the direction she wants.

• Because she can.

Why this dog behavior is a problem

Pulling on leash can start off innocently, but can become a problem for both the dog and the handler. The added pressure of the collar against the dog’s windpipe (trachea) can cause wheezing or coughing, which may be only temporary, or may cause long-term or even permanent damage to the dog. A dog who pulls strongly can cause the handler to lose balance and slip or fall. Strong leash pulling by a large dog, especially near roads with traffic, can lead to serious accidents.

Dog leash training tools

Changing from a neck collar to either a head halter or front-attachment body harness can bring an immediate solution to leash pulling. These tools provide a mechanical advantage for the handler and do not cause pain for the dog. Using a head halter or front-attachment harness immediately allows the handler to control the direction and speed of the dog, without needing a lot of physical strength to accomplish this, but the dog still needs to learn how to walk politely, without pulling at all.

Teaching your dog to walk on a leash

A good way to teach loose-leash walking to a dog who pulls on the leash is to show her that pulling no longer “works” they way she thinks it will. When your dog starts to pull, simply stop walking. Stand still and wait for your dog to realize she’s not getting anywhere.

If your dog continues to pull after you’ve been stopped for three seconds, start very slowly walking backwards. Your dog will realize she’s losing ground now, not gaining it. When the dog turns around to look at you, wondering what’s gone wrong at your end of the leash, the leash will loosen a little bit. At that point, you can praise her and start walking forward again.

By consistently repeating this process each time she pulls, she will start to realize that pulling activates your “brakes” and not your “accelerator,” and the frequency of pulling will gradually diminish and eventually disappear.

Once your dog understands how to walk without pulling when wearing a head collar or body harness, you’ll be able to re-introduce her to walking politely while wearing an ordinary collar.

Dogs That Dig Furniture

27 Jan 2017 | Filed in Dog Training

Why dogs dig at your furniture

The ancestors of our modern dogs had no comfy beds or couches to lounge on, of course, so when they wanted a comfortable spot to lounge, they’d simply make one.

Dogs today retain the instinct to do that. Dogs who spend time outdoors will dig a nest-like depression in the soil or dry grass that comfortably fits their body contours, and lounge there, alternately napping and surveying their territory.

Why a digging dog can be a problem

When indoors, this instinct is still active, and dogs will try to arrange the surface where they wish to lounge to fit their body. If this means digging a hole in the seat of your brand new lounge chair, the cost to repair or replace that cushion will never even enter your dog’s mind.

How to live with a dog that digs

One possible answer is obvious – keep the dog off the furniture, period. Provide your dog with her own personal blankets and pillows that you do not mind getting ruffled up.

If you wish to allow your digging dog to share your comfy furniture, but don’t want her to dig into it, lay a blanket or other durable fabric on the seat, with the edges tucked down around the sides of the cushion. When your dog indulges her instinct to dig a nest, she will untuck the blanket and rumple it up, instead of trying to dislodge and rumple the upholstery.

Flying With Dogs

30 Dec 2016 | Filed in Dog Training

Michelle Christner of Pittsburgh figured she’d save on kennel costs by taking her Miniature Pinscher foster dog, Cricket, on her flight to Florida. After all, she never had trouble flying with her Yorkshire Terrier-Poodle mix Mary Poppins, or her son’s Toy Poodle, Lil Bo Beep. Second thoughts emerged when she arrived at the airport and introduced Cricket to the leather flight bag meant to house her for several hours. After a five-minute struggle and some shoving, she finally got the feisty 8-pound pooch into the bag.

“Everyone within a mile of us is now hearing the frantic barking of what appears to be a completely insane Tasmanian devil disguised as a Min Pin. She was barking like she was going to attack someone — anyone,” recalls a mortified Christner. Her foster dog crooned at her feet throughout the flight — despite medications approved by her veterinarian, but often discouraged by others, including the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“She barked and clawed at the [bag’s] netting to actually make a hole so she could stick her head through,” Christner says. Ignoring a chew toy, the pooch “chewed on my shoe.”

The experience taught Christner some lessons about the right and wrong way to pursue canine air travel — a subject that divides animal lovers.

To fly or not to fly?

Breeders and dog fanciers routinely fly dogs without trouble. Airlines assert that air travel is safe for dogs, as does the Air Transport Association of America. But American Kennel Club spokesperson Lisa Peterson adds a caveat: “We certainly believe it’s safe to fly with your dog on any commercial airline flight, provided the owner takes certain pre-flight precautions.”

Several humane organizations and some veterinarians warn of hazards for dogs in the cargo holds of planes, citing incidences of dogs injuring themselves as they claw at the crate to try to escape or escaping when crates open accidentally on a tarmac. Don’t fly pets if possible, especially if the pet isn’t small enough to fit in a carry-on kennel you can take into the cabin, advise the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States.

Since record-keeping by the U.S. Department of Transportation began in May 2005, 30 pets became injured during air transport, 17 pets became lost and 49 pets died, according to a DOG FANCY review of federal records as of March 2007.

“I much prefer having the dogs travel with the owner inside a car or van because they can take breaks when appropriate, stretch their legs, and are being handled by people who know and love them,” advises Texas A&M University animal behaviorist Bonnie Beaver, DVM, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists diplomate, and past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “While many dogs travel successfully by air, I know of the horror stories where problems occurred.”

But, recognizing flying is sometimes unavoidable, experts advise that there is a lot to think about if you’re going to try it.

Practical advice

1. Definitely fly your puppy in the cabin as you coo and feed him tiny treats like beef extract on the tip of your finger, advises Tufts University veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

For a young pup during the crucial formative time in his life, being jostled in a cargo hold as a noisy plane takes off and lands is akin to taking Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at a theme park. Any “horrendous experience,” Dodman says, “can have long-lasting, lifetime effects.”

2. Choose the quickest direct early-morning or evening flight to ensure your dog travels when temperatures are favorable in the cargo hold and on the tarmac — and fly direct to ensure he doesn’t end up in a different city from you. Avoid flying during extreme weather — hot or cold.

“In general, I discourage people from flying with dogs that cannot actually be in the cabin with them,” Beaver says. “There are air traffic delays that can become real problems, and I certainly discourage dogs from flying if there is not a direct connection from origin to destination. Humans have enough problems making connections.”

3. When buying a crate or kennel, be sure it’s large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down in. Look for a sturdy one with locking bolts and strong metal doors. The strongest have four metal rods that fasten the door to the container, the federal government says. Further secure the door by adding tie wraps that can be cut in an emergency.

Many injuries, deaths, and escapes happen when dogs chew their way out of a plastic crate, push the door open, or take advantage of a broken or improperly latched lock. For example, a Golden Retriever named Skipper “lost teeth, cut his gums, and lost toe nails” as he chewed and scratched to try to get out of his kennel during a cross-country flight to Seattle in June 2006, according to a Continental Airlines report to the federal government. When another dog — a Greyhound named Gianna — arrived on a December 2006 Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle, she was discovered with her mouth and jaw stuck on the front gate of her kennel.

4. At home, get your pet accustomed to the travel carrier or kennel for at least one month, lest he put up a fight like Christner’s Cricket.

Joan Carlson, executive director of Florida’s Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County, took deliberate steps to acclimate her cousin’s new mixed-breed puppy, Little Bella, for a flight from Orlando to Philadelphia: She put special treats and toys in the carrier, as well as Bella’s meals. She let Bella walk in and out of the carrier at will. Gradually, as days wore on, Carlson closed the carrier to make Bella stay inside for a short time, then increasingly longer periods. Carlson eventually took Bella in the carrier on a short car ride to get her accustomed to the idea of motion. When the pair finally flew, Bella “was a little whiny at first,” Carlson says, but “it was her safe place. It was very easy to adapt to being in a crate and being on a plane.”

5. Don’t assume your pet will be accepted on the flight. Reserve a space for your dog — whether he travels in the cabin or in the cargo hold. Airlines have limited spots for animals.

6. Be sure your dog is fit to travel by getting him checked by a veterinarian a week to 10 days before your trip, as airlines require. Realize that pre-existing conditions could become a problem anyway. For instance, older dogs can have borderline kidney disease without their owners realizing it. They compensate by drinking lots of water, Dodman says. If such a dog gets on an airplane without free access to water, Dodman says, “you can precipitate renal failure.”

7. Don’t feed your dog for four to six hours before flight time, HSUS advises. A small amount of water before the trip is OK. Freeze a margarine tub filled with water and place that ice — not water — in the kennel’s water tray. That way, water won’t dump into the kennel and onto your pet, but hydration will be available as the ice melts.

8. On your dog’s collar, attach two pieces of identification — a permanent ID with your name and home address, and a temporary ID with the phone number where you can be reached during your travels. Also helpful: a microchip or tattoo as permanent ID. The more ID, the better.

Know your dog

As with many situations, it’s important to trust your gut when considering flying your dog. If you suspect your dog is a nervous Nellie who couldn’t take the flight, you’re probably right.

The drug maker Novartis Animal Health estimates that 15 percent of dogs suffer from some degree of separation anxiety, which, Dodman says, makes them poorer flight candidates. “Those dogs can’t be left alone,” he says. “They can actually chew through metal. They’re like Houdini dogs.”

Christner, for one, says her foster dog, Cricket, won’t be taking another plane trip. “I don’t think she was cut out to fly. She did not like to be confined and it made her crazy,” she says. Unless her name has been blacklisted after the Cricket fiasco, Christner says she will continue to travel with her other two dogs, “as they are true travelers.”

Electronic Collar Training Tips

30 Aug 2016 | Filed in Dog Training

An electronic collar emits a vibration or an electric charge to a dog’s neck when he engages in undesirable behavior. Also called E-collars or shock collars, these training aids are operated by a remote switch. Used as part of a positive training program, an E-collar can be a valuable asset in teaching a dog to obey, but care must be taken not to harm the dog. The stimulation pack on the collar may be adjusted to increase or decrease the level of the electric charge, depending upon the dog’s sensitivity level.Fitting

Innotek, the manufacturer of a wide array of dog training equipment, suggests adjusting the collar snugly while leaving enough room to easily insert a finger between the strap and the dog’s neck.

Use the collar on clean fur and remove the collar when you are not actively training the dog, taking care not to leave it on your dog longer than 12 hours at one time. The probes on the collar may result in a rash or sores if the collar is too tight or if it is on the dog’s neck too long.

Remove any other collars before fitting your dog with an E-collar. Metal clasps and dog tags may interfere with the efficiency of the receiver.

Training Session

Determine a behavioral goal and employ repetition during the training session. For instance, if your dog barks every time the doorbell rings, recruit an assistant to ring the bell a few times over a period of 15 minutes. When the doorbell rings and your dog barks, issue the command “Shush” and depress the transmitter briefly to reinforce your command.

Begin with the lowest stimulation level on the collar and increase it slightly if your dog does not respond. Some dogs will tolerate a strong shock, while others will become agitated by a low level of stimulation.

Avoid continuous stimulation; just a small shock will suffice. Continue the training sessions daily until your dog sits quietly when the doorbell rings.

Along with the collar, use treats to reinforce positive behavior. Even if your dog barks when the doorbell rings, praise him when he becomes quiet and give him a treat.


Not all trainers approve of using E-collars because a dog may not understand why he is receiving the shock, and he may become anxious or fearful. Electronic collars should not be used as punishment. In addition, puppies under 6 months old may not be mature enough for this type of training. Verbal commands must always be used in conjunction with an E-collar.

Spray Bottles for Dog Training

27 May 2016 | Filed in Dog Training

The spray bottle can be a handy tool for nixing annoying and unwanted behaviors. One quick squirt can distract your pooch and divert his attention. While spraying your dog can be a part of your training routine, you should take certain steps to do it properly and realize that it does, in some cases, have a downside.

Pros of the Spray Bottle

You can keep bottles all over your home so you always have one ready if Bubba misbehaves. Water is harmless — you’re not being mean, just distracting your buddy from doing something he shouldn’t. Some dogs become so fearful of it that they’ll take the long way around the room if they see the bottle on the table — you might not even need to use it.

The Downside

Your pal may become terrified of water. He’ll have no problem drinking it, but when it comes to bath time, forget it. Water is scary, so when you try to lure him to the tub, he may growl or snap. If Bubba seems terrified of the spray bottle, it probably isn’t an ideal tool for your situation. On the other hand, some pups couldn’t care less about the water and make it a game by trying to catch the stream in their mouths.

Training Tips

The trick to making the spray bottle effective is to not make a big fuss. It’s not meant to be mean or a way to tease your dog. If you see bad behavior, grab the bottle, give him a squirt and put it back down — ideally he shouldn’t see you pulling that trigger. Then toss him a toy to chew on and pat him on the head to enforce the desired behavior.

Dogs & Conformation Training

30 Dec 2015 | Filed in Dog Training

If you intend to show your purebred dog in conformation classes, it’s not enough for him to simply look beautiful. While dogs at conformation shows are judged on how closely they adhere to a breed ideal, they also must be well-behaved and well-presented. Because the finest dogs are the future of a breed, spayed or neutered animals can’t compete in conformation shows.

Conformation Shows

Start by familiarizing yourself with the breed and grooming standard for your particular dog, then the rules and regulations regarding conformation classes. Visit shows or watch them on television to get a feel for the competition. Speak with breeders about purchasing a show-quality puppy. Pet-quality puppies make wonderful companions, but they won’t make it in the show ring. Before starting conformation-specific training, make sure your puppy or dog has what it takes to succeed. If he’s got the potential, your local parent breed or an all-breed club can help you navigate the next steps.

Basic Obedience

Training for the show ring should go hand-in-hand with basic obedience training. Your dog should know the commands “sit,” “stand,” “stay,” “down” and “heel.” Work particularly on “stand and stay,” as this is the position in which the dog is judged. Taking your puppy to obedience classes also exposes him to other dogs, a must for the potential show canine.


To best display his assets, your dog must learn to “stack” correctly. Some dogs do this naturally, while others need considerable training. Although the correct stack varies by breeds, in most cases the animal’s forelegs stack in alignment with the withers, with rear pasterns aligned at a 90 degree angle from the ground. You are permitted to manually stack your dog, moving each foot into the correct position, but free-stacking is preferred. That involves not touching your dog, but having him stack himself via voice or gestural commands.


Training your dog to look at you on command is imperative if you plan to compete. So-called “bait training” uses a food incentive, but a few other incentives work as well with canines. Start by repeating a word, such as “treat” while your dog consumes his food. That ensures the word has a pleasurable connotation. During obedience training, keep treats — or kibble — in your pocket and use the term when your dog is performing a stand-stay. Your dog looks at you while extending his neck, which, if done correctly, puts him in the correct pose for showing off the breed silhouette. While you can use the word whenever you want the dog’s attention, do not use it when your dog sits, as conformation classes do not involve sitting and you don’t want him to react improperly.

Potty Training Tips for Chocolate Labradors

29 Nov 2015 | Filed in Dog Training

Once called the “lesser” or “St. John’s” Newfoundland, the dog we know today as the Labrador retriever was originally bred for water retrieving. It still excels at this task today, but it has also soared in popularity as a family dog. According to the American Kennel Club, it is the most commonly owned dog in America. The AKC recognizes three different colors for Labradors; black, yellow and chocolate. These intelligent, friendly, easygoing and energetic dogs have come to be known as “labs.”

Use a Crate

Using a crate is not cruel. Your chocolate lab can come to enjoy a nap or some time away from young children inside its crate. Labs dislike going potty and sleeping in the same place, so a crate can help you potty train your lab by eliminating messes while you aren’t home. To save money, purchase a crate that will be large enough for your adult Labrador (which can weigh up to 80 pounds) to stand up and turn around. If your lab is still a puppy, purchase a divider to shrink the space down so that your puppy won’t have room to use a corner as a bathroom area. Tuck treats into your dog’s bedding inside the crate to encourage it to explore the crate on its own. Give it time to get used to the crate before locking it inside.

Frequent Potty Trips

Your chocolate lab should be able to hold its bladder about one hour for every month of age. This means that a four-month-old lab can reasonably be expected to hold it for four hours, but you should give your lab opportunities to relieve itself more frequently than that. Walk it outside on a leash every two to three hours. Go to the same spot every time. Encourage your chocolate lab to go potty. When it does, reward it with treats and praise. Your affectionate lab will love the attention it is getting from you. You can also play a quick game of fetch as a reward. This type of positive attention will teach your lab that it is going potty in an appropriate place.

Correcting Mistakes

Unless a health problem is causing your lab to make messes in the house, it probably doesn’t know where it is allowed to go and where it isn’t. Your job is to teach it. Using positive reinforcement when your dog potties in the yard will help. In addition, teaching it not to go inside the house is simpler than you might think. Interrupt your lab with a noise whenever you catch it making a mess in the house. Take it outside, encourage it to potty and reward it when it does. Labs are affectionate dogs and don’t respond well to punishment or negative reinforcement. These methods can create fear and further complicate house training.

Teach Your Lab to Ask

As your lab learns where it is supposed to potty, you can start to teach it to ask when it needs to go out. Tie a bell to your doorknob. Show it to your chocolate lab and encourage it to “touch” the bell with its nose. Reward it with praise and a treat when it does this. After your dog learns to touch the bell, start requiring it to touch the bell before taking it outside. Don’t open the door until it does ring the bell. When it does, let it out immediately. After your lab goes potty, praise it and reward it with treats. Eventually you can start withholding the treats, but your chocolate lab should always be rewarded with a trip outside when it rings the bell.

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