Category Archives: Puppy Training

“A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of.”

“A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of.”
Ogden Nash

This is so true and because I am raising two puppies, I can assure you this stops being funny!
I open the door to the garage to put out the trash and both puppies rush out, get one in, the other stays out and plays hard to catch, I finally get it and when I open the door to get it in, the other comes out! They could play this game all day but I start to get exasperated.
A fast and fun solution is to teach them the “Touch my hand” game. It’s very easy, and the puppies love it. You start by placing the palm of your hand about 3 inches in front of your dog’s muzzle. Out of curiosity he will approach to smell and quite possibly touch it. When he does so, readily “mark” the behavior with an enthusiastic “YES!” and immediately give him a treat. The key is to get him to actually touch your palm. Because puppies are usually always interested in food, you can practise 5 or 6 times in a row gradually increasing the distance he has to move towards your palm.
Now you can use your palm to get your puppy in or out and to stay on the side of the door YOU want him on!
Below is sequence of photos that will help you see the training process.
Additional training tips:
1) If he does not actually touch your hand rub the treat on it first.
2) If he gets bored after just one or two reps, your treat is not good enough (try slices of hot dogs)
3) If he insists on smelling the hand that holds the treat, put it behind your back and hold your palm right in front of his muzzle.
4) Remember to “mark” the touching with an enthusiastic YES! followed immediately with the treat.
Happy training!


Play and Learn

Last weeks homework was for you to reward your dog many times for looking at you whenever you said his name. You see, if you say your dog’s name and he does not even turn to look at you, there is no point in calling him because he is NOT going to come; so you are just practicing the wrong behavior over an over.

I like to teach my dogs to come by playing a series of games. This not only makes it fun for both of us, but it also teaches him that coming to me is better than any other thing he is doing. When competing with very distracting stimuli, like a squirrel, or the neighbors horses, dogs or cats, I really need to make it worthwhile for him to stop the chase and want to come to me. Fun games are a great way to do this.

One of the first games that I play with Oliver and Amelia is called a restrained recall. I ask someone to help me by holding one of them by the collar ( I use a buckle collar, not a choke collar or any other type of correction collar), while I run away from him hooting, hollering, waving and acting very silly. At this point he is pulling trying to break way from the person holding him to chase after me. I will then turn around, kneel down and call him “Oliver COME! My helper will now let him go and he will come like he has been released out of a sling shot, running full speed towards me. All this time I will be praising and smiling. When he gets to me I pat him, shower him with praise and also give him super yummy treats.

We can usually repeat this 3 or 4 times allowing me to increase the distance that I run away from him. Since we live on a farm, my dogs can wander a few hundred feet from me, so I make it point to practice right from the beginning to come to me from a good distance.

I will continue to practice giving him a treat whenever say his name and he LOOKS at me; this is really the first step to a truly reliable recall, if I can get his attention, I greatly increase the probability of him actually coming.

Stay tuned for more games!

“Come!”… “Come!”…”Come here!”…”I said COME!”

If you have kids, you know that the possible responses to calling them are:
1) “What?”
2) “Wait a minute”
3) “I’m coming” (yeah right!)
4) Pretend they didn’t hear you.

No matter how many times you explain that if you call them is because you want them to come, you will invariably get one of the responses above.

I have news for you, your dog is your kid.

One of the most common complaints I get from dog owners starting a training program is: “He does not come when I call him”. The expectation is that I will wave my magic trainer wand and install on your dog a
come when called key just like the ones on your TV remote control.
What I hear is owners describing features they want their dog to posses just like they were picking a car. “I want a blue car, with leather interior, power windows, GPS, anti-lock brakes etc.” “I want my dog to come when I call him, even when he is running away from me at 40 miles an hour chasing something.”

I have more news for you. Coming when called is not a built in feature in your dog. You have to TEACH him to come.
Almost everyone’s attempt at teaching their dog to come are: to call him, and then call again, then again and again with the voice level escalating rapidly and then adding in some frustration and anger. Needless to say, if a raging person was yelling for me to come to them, I would seriously wonder if that would be a safe thing to do! Well, your dog is no different. To top it off, the consequence of coming is usually something “bad” from the point of view of the dog. For example, he was out running around having a grand old time sniffing, chasing a squirrel, barking at the neighbors cat, dog, kids and now you spoil all this by having him come in and end the fun!

To teach your dog to LOVE coming to you, you have to convince your dog that coming to you is the best thing that he could think of doing. Some good starting points are: using a pleasant and inviting tone of voice, calling your dog for things he enjoys, like mealtimes, walks, belly rubs and cookies.
If you have to do something “bad” from the
DOG’S point of view, then go and get him, snap the leash on and take him with you as opposed to calling. Yelling “Come” a million times when you know your dog is not going to respond is teaching him that he can ignore you.

I you would like to polish your dog’s recall skills, do the following homework during the next week. Write down how many times you call your dog for pleasant things versus unpleasant things. If the unpleasant outnumber the pleasant, you will know why your dog refuses to come to you in the first place. Remember pleasant is defined by the dog not you.
Carry treats in your pocket and reward your dog with one every time you say his name and he stops what he is doing to LOOK AT YOU, add some lavish praise too. Resist the temptation to call more than once or even better do not call at all if you know your dog is very distracted and the probability of him obeying you is close to zero.

In next weeks post I will give you more homework and additional exercises for you improve your dog’s recall skills. Until then, happy training!

Capital “B”

I am still trying to find that “perfect” home for Oliver’s brother Brian, but his sister Amelia is quickly sneaking into my heart; and with every day that passes I find it highly unlikely that I will be able to sell her! My family is not surprised at all as they have given up on my dog craziness. I cannot help but see in her the mischievous qualities I just ADORE in my long lineage of black Bitches with capital “B”: Great great-great grandma “Gale”, Great grandma “Stormy”, Grandma “Clarissa” (Oops, she is yellow) and mother “Holly”. Honorary mention goes to Auntie “Sabrina” the mischievous Queen!

I now believe that at least in Labradors, just like there are genes for color, and tail and ear set, there other special genes. Let me explain…
There is one gene she inherited from great-great-great grandma Gale that determines whether you will ever be able to clip your dogs nails without the assistance of ten other people. I discovered Amelia had it when she was just 10 weeks old. Never mind the fact that I have been clipping these puppies nails since they were 3 days old.
Another regulates the force with which a dog will hurl his whole body towards you, so that you may notice she wants something. Amelia has it.
The -push through furniture, other dogs and anything else that may lay in it’s path, to get to be petted first gene- Amelia has it.
The pretend you want to lick my ear and then bite it with those super sharp puppy teeth gene, yep, she has that on too!
As well as the -sneak out the door without you noticing- gene, so that you can then spend 10 minutes calling “Amelia, Amelia, has anyone seen Amelia?” while you secretly fear for the integrity of your beloved possessions!

So for the sake of continuity, this Blog will still be called “See Oliver Grow” with the addendum “and See Amelia Run” and raise havoc in the Scannone-Merida family!

Three Firsts!

Last Sunday we went to the beach. We really like Crescent Beach on the East Coast, it is about a 2 hour drive from where we live. It welcomes on-leash dogs and is a short walk from the parking to the beach, most of it through a boardwalk, which makes it relatively easy to lug all the stuff we usually carry (chairs, cooler, umbrella).

So we took Oliver and his mom Holly as she loves the water and would be a good “role model” for him. It was his First car ride, First time on leash and First beach outing! and I was truly amazed at how well he did.

This beach outing is part of Oliver’s socializing. It is very important that I expose him to a lot of places, things, noises, people and other dogs for him to grow as a confident and well adapted dog.
The ideal socializing period for a puppy is from 2 to 6 moths old and you know what? Time flies so I need to act fast because after this window of opportunity, socializing, though not impossible, will be much harder and I will really have to work very hard to help him overcome any issue he might have. So if life were perfect I should have taken the time to do each step individually; but the alternative would have been to not take him at all. I think that when it comes to socializing, “the more the merrier”, so off we went on our “Three firsts” adventure.

Probably because there was so much other stuff to sniff and look at, he did not even notice he had a collar and a leash, watching his mom play retrieve in the ocean gave him a lot of confidence as he waddled, a little worried into that water that rolled back and forth and smelled funny. We were very lucky that the ocean was pretty calm that day, so we were able to carry him to the point where the waves were not crashing and he swam quite a bit. At home he swims in our pool two to three times a week, so this helped a lot. Walking along the beach lot’s of people came to pet him which was really great for his social skills. Needless to say, he conked out the whole 2-hour drive back home!

When exposing a young dog to new things, he will cue off your attitude. So your feelings, body posture and tone of voice will determine his attitude to the new stimuli. I never for a second doubted that he would take well to the ocean, so by not cooing and pampering (“It’s OK, it’s OK”) but just encouraging to chase his leash through the turf, watch his mom retrieve a toy and sitting calmly without reacting to the waves he decided it was OK.

A hot button for me regarding my “the more the merrier” approach to socializing is the fact that we are usually scared into NOT socializing our puppies until they have completed their vaccination schedule. Well that is not going to happen until my puppy is 6 months old and by that time my window of opportunity will be closed!
I understand the reason for this: my puppy could die from contracting a disease. Now consider this: most of the dogs that end up in shelters (which have a very real chance of being killed) are there because of behavioral issues. I am convinced this could be avoided by proper socializing and training which can only be accomplished if your puppy is out and about. So take your puppy everywhere you can, let him play with other dogs, walk him where he will meet lot’s of people, everyone will want to pet him and enroll him in an obedience training class a.s.a.p!

The sooner the better and the more the merrier! And take lot’s of photos because 6 months go by FAST.