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#6: 10 Tips from a Professional Dog Trainer

Posted by gooddogdc on October 10, 2013 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (1129)

#6. For all of my behavior clients out there, you’ve all heard me say this one a lot! Behavior issues are like gaining weight. Whether your issue is destruction, jumping, barking, fear, or aggression, it’s time to take an honest look at how much behavioral “weight gain” he’s put on.

How severe are your dog’s behavior issues? If he’s put on 30 or 40 lbs of behavioral baggage over several years, it is not going to go away overnight. Crash diets are too good to be true. Instead hard work, habit change, and a time commitment are all needed for long-term behavior change success.

Stick with it though, and your hard work will pay off I promise! It is worth it and I am cheering for you!

#7: 10 Tips from a Professional Dog Trainer

Posted by gooddogdc on October 7, 2013 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (1178)

#7. I think toys are one of the most under used supplies out there. If you buy a bunch of toys and leave them around the house for your dog to play with whenever he feels like it, sometimes he might play, but often those toys become pretty boring to him. Instead try putting all of your toys up. For young pups leave down chew toys only (medium to hard in texture toys meant for chewing).

Start with one very special toy and start building up your dog’s desire for it. Often a plushy, squeaky toy is an easy place to start. I really like those long skinny ones with no stuffing because you can use them for light tugging and they seem to peak a dog’s interest better than some. I also try to make sure that the toy I am using is small enough to easily fit in a pocket so that I can use it later for training.

Many dogs do not like playing with toys, but enjoy playing with you. For those dogs: several times a day, when your dog seems a bit active, surprise your dog by whipping the toy out of your back pocket. Proceed to act like a total goofball, running around, do high-pitched baby talk, all the while playing with your toy. If at any point your dog plays with the toy at all, praise him heavily and act even goofier. After 20 seconds of madness, put the toy away and sit down ignoring your dog. Pretend like nothing ever happened. Keep this up until your dog is actively engaging with the toy.

Once your dog realizes that this one toy is the key to getting his owner to be FUN, he will slowly start to become obsessed with the one toy. At that point, you can start making your dog work for it. “Sit” to play with the toy, “down” to play with the toy, etc. Once your dog is obsessed and working for one toy, you can slowly start to add others into the mix.

Toy training is lots of fun! The best part is that it makes your dog interested in you. It is definitely a relationship builder and playing with your dog will give you great focus from your dog and a killer recall. Happy training!

#8: 10 Tips from a Professional Dog Trainer

Posted by gooddogdc on October 2, 2013 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (652)

#8.  Number eight is all about food!!!  Giving food to your dog is the equivalent of giving cash to a person.  They almost always really want it – unless they have a ton, then it becomes less valuable (yet another incentive to watch your dog’s waistline!).  Quality also matters.  A kibble is like giving your dog 50 cents.  Giving your dog bits of chicken is like forking over $20 bills.

Food is also one of the key ways to change your dog's underlying emotional state.  When used correctly, food can help to make an aggressive dog friendly and a fearful dog confident.  It is one of the most powerful training tools out there.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see with food is when food becomes a bribe and not a reward for correctly performed behavior.  I'm not talking about using food as a distraction for your dog, that is a great use.  I'm talking about using food in such a way that your dog won't perform unless he can see the food or knows that you have it.  If your dog will only sit if he sees you holding a treat, that is a problem. 

On the same token, I've seen dogs who become unintentionally spoiled by well-meaning owners who get frustrated and even aggressive if they don't get food when they want it.  I particularly see this type of behavior in dogs who are rewarded for every correct response.  If the owner does not reward, the dog doesn't know how to deal with it appropriately.

Avoid falling victim to the misuses of food by "losing the lure" early in your dog training.  Avoid showing your dog a cookie to get him to perform.  Instead work on surprising your dog with a treat for correct behavior!  Also, remember to think of your training in levels.  Something that your dog has already done hundreds of times may not always need a food reward after.  Save your best treats, such a roasted chicken, for really amazing, impressive things or for when you are trying to teach your dog something new!  Happy training!


#9: 10 Tips from a Professional Dog Trainer

Posted by gooddogdc on September 30, 2013 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (689)

#9. Your dog is who he is. And, in learning to live successfully with your dog, compromise is the name of the game! You can modify his behavior. For example, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that you don’t want your dog to growl, bark, lunge, or run away from things. However, the core of your dog is a different story.

If your dog is a sweet, slightly shy guy, then no matter how much work you do, trying to train him to be a guard dog is not going to go well. If the core of your dog is an intense, quick to aggress, high-energy, anxious dog then trying to make him into a mellow therapy dog may not work. Instead, work on accepting the dog that you have and working on things with your dog that compliment him and help him to be a better dog but that don’t try to change the core of him or you both may end up frustrated.  

I hope this tip helps in your quest for the best relationship possible with your dog!  Happy training!

#10: 10 Tips From a Professional Dog Trainer

Posted by gooddogdc on September 27, 2013 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (384)

And the countdown begins today with #10!

#10. Your dog’s life can be pretty boring, especially if they are young or energetic. Help your dog out by taking a different route on your daily walk, or even switching to the opposite side of the street.  You could also add 15 minutes to your daily walks, which makes a big difference for many dogs.  Also, dogs usually appreciate weekend excursions to a friend’s house or to the local park.  Aim to take your dog one new place each week, even if it's just in the car to go through a car wash or drive thru.

Another thing you can do to help in the war against boredom is to invest in several different activity toys. Activity toys are one of the most overlooked aspects of dog supplies. Everyone gets the dog bed, bowls, nail clippers, squeaky toys, and food. But, don’t forget the activity toys! Activity toys are the books, magazines, and television programs of your dog’s world. There are many different ones out on the market, but some of the simplest and best ones are hollow rubber toys that you can stuff with your dog’s meal or other goodies. Many dog trainers feed their dogs exclusively out of these toys. It takes a few extra minutes, but the mental stimulation your dog gets out of it is well worth it.  If your dog doesn't go for the toy initially, don't worry about it!  Many dogs have to learn to play with these toys.  Initally, play with him with the toy until he figures out how to make the food fall out.

I hope you have fun teaching your dog to play with these awesome new toys!  Happy training!