Watch Me, Walk With Me: Loose Leash Dog Walking 101

InquisitiveCanine-Turbo-BEveryone knows you walk with your feet (or paws, depending on your species), but did you know that the secret to successful loose leash dog walking begins with a mutual connection that comes from the head and the heart?

With any DIY dog training, you have to start with an understanding of inquisitive canine behavior. Put your pup on a leash, and s/he’s not going to stop doing what s/he’s wired to do: sniff, explore and investigate. The pull to examine everything that catches your dog’s eye is powerful… literally.

This is why so often we see dogs walking their owners, and not the other way around.

As a certified dog trainer, I appreciate when inquisitive canines trust their humans enough to be able to look longingly into their eyes. I also love to see dogs and pet parents trotting along, side-by-side, enjoying a leisurely walk. These two activities are not mutually exclusive; in fact, building trust through a loving gaze is the first step to training your dog to walk on a leash.

Here are step-by-step instructions to get your pup prepped to be the perfect walking companion:

“Watch Me” ~ Establish Trust
AcademyDog-DalmatianThe first step is to get your dog to learn how to meet and hold your gaze. Eye contact is not “normal” doggy behavior so if your pup takes a while to warm up to this, don’t worry. The following instructions that start with the tiniest glances and increase from there is a process called “shaping.”

  • Have your treats and clicker ready. (To brush up on the magic of clickers and how to establish a Click-Treat [C/T] pattern, click here).
  • Your dog may be sitting, standing or lying down, with as few distractions around as possible.
  • Begin to C/T the moment your dog makes any eye contact with you at all.
  • If your dog doesn’t catch on right away, make kissy noises to prompt him or her or show a treat and then hold it up next to your eyes. As soon as your dog glances up, go ahead and C/T.
  • Shape their behavior by C/T — go from the baby steps of glancing near your face to looking into your eyes.
  • Gradually increase the time your dog looks at you before you C/T.
  • Remember: Once your dog makes eye contact with you, complete each step at least ten (10) times before making it more difficult, such as adding in distractions or asking for a longer time of eye contact.
  • It will be up to you if you want to use the cue word “Watch” or your dog’s name.
  • If your dog seems bored or distracted, lower the bar of what you want and raise the rate of C/T. You can also try using a different kind of treat.

Once you’ve built that trust and your dog is looking to you for more information, you’re ready to move from watching to walking!

“Let’s Go For a Walk!” ~ Loose Leash Walking (LLW)

Taking your dog for a walk should be fun and enjoyable for everyone. LLW means your dog is on leash and calmly proceeding near you, within the length of the leash without pulling, tugging or lunging.

As we all know, this can be challenging for many dogs, especially where there are lots of new places to go, people to meet and other dogs to sniff. It can be challenging for us if we have a dog that enjoys pulling (either to get somewhere or to prevent from leaving a specific location).

With time, patience and consistency, dogs can learn how to walk nicely on leash, making it more pleasant for both of you.

Prep Work

  • Begin by holding the leash with one hand at your belly button – like an ice cream cone – with your arms relaxed. This allows you to use your center of gravity as an anchor to help from being pulled over and to help prevent from pulling back on the leash accidentally.
  • Next, prompt your dog to come to your side. Use a food lure, a happy voice, a verbal and/or visual cue. Say yes, then give a treat.
  • Keep in mind that the leash is used as a safety line, not for controlling your dog. Try not to pull or tug at your dog. Also, it’s best not to wrap the leash around your hand or wrist (prevents injury if your dog does pull).
  • Be sure you’re using appropriate and safe walking equipment, including a front-clip harness.

Practice Walking with Minimal Distractions

  • You may want to do the first few runs indoors, where there are not as many distractions as outside.
  • Give a verbal walking cue, take two or three steps (using a food lure if necessary), stop, have your dog stop (or sit, which is optional), say yes and treat.
  • Continue to practice this step until your dog is offering on his or her own. Then begin to take additional steps, increasing the distance.
  • Add in the “Watch Me” phrase when you stop and also say it intermittently when walking. This teaches your dog to check in with you on a walk and helps remind him or her that you’re out together. This enhances the bond you share.
  • Once your dog understands the concept of LLW, increase the pace by walking briskly indoors with him or her on leash If s/he goes to the end of the leash, change direction and keep walking at a quick pace.
  • When s/he comes near you on the side you want her or him to walk, use a cheerful voice to praise. Whenever s/he gets into heel position or puts slack in the leash, say yes and treat. Also, reward for any eye contact.
  • If after a couple minutes you don’t find your dog spending more time at your side or with a slack leash, consider moving to a less distracting area.
  • You may also reward more frequently, delivering the treat in the position you want. The point in doing this is to help motivate your dog to stay interested, as opposed to wandering to the end of the leash, looking for something else to do.

Once you’re comfortable with LLW and eye contact, make it more challenging by adding in one distraction at a time.

Before you know it, you’ll be watching your dog walking outside on a loose leash – and best of all, you trained him or her yourself!

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Puppy Parent Tip Sheet

Georgie-with-ball-grassThere is no peak season for puppies, but my experience as a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant has shown summer to be one of the busier training times for young inquisitive canines. Any time is a good time for puppy training. Summer, though, has the added benefit of kids typically being out of school, which allows extra time for bonding and training with their pups. Kind of puts a brand new meaning to “dog days of summer,” doesn’t it?

Training is fun for inquisitive canines and their humans. Dogs are social animals. They want to interact with humans. Keeping things pawsitive sets the stage for quick learning on both ends of the leash. Following are pointers to make the most out of your training sessions. You may want to keep it handy on your phone or print it out to post on your refrigerator. 

Inquisitive Canine’s 9 Top Tips for Puppy Parents

Have realistic goals and expectations. Start small and work up to more challenging exercises. This may sound “uh, duh,” but it’s easy to forget in the all cuteness and excitement of puppyhood. Successful eye contact is a HUGE step for a puppy.

Keep training sessions short and sweet. Five minutes at a time! Take a cue from show business and leave ’em wanting more. Your inquisitive canine has a short attention span. Little by little, it will lengthen. There’s no need to try and cover more than a puppy can take in. (Oh, if only some other things in life were kept to five-minute intervals.)

It is best to train when your puppy is hungry – not stuffed after a meal nor famished. If puppy’s motivation is higher, the steeper the learning curve. Waiting until your dog is ravenous is unhealthy and unproductive, who can learn when they can’t think straight because they’re so hungry.

Use a variety of deliciously smelly treats. Mix it up. It will keep your inquisitive canine attentive and curious. *Make sure all foods are puppy appropriate and vet-approved. 

Take frequent “fun” breaks from training with a quick game of “fetch,” “follow me,” or “hide and seek.” Break time is part of a new behavior’s gestation. It allows the brain to refresh and clear itself.

Remember to think about your feedback and your timing. (The clicker really helps with this!) Feedback must be immediate. Period. Humans are capable of understanding delayed gratification, but this concept is often lost on pups. 

You must be present and alert if you expect your pup to be. That’s only fair, right? Clear your decks, turn off the phone, and give all your attention to your puppy.

Speak from your heart. Keep your tone of voice in mind. Positive and upbeat is the training tone. Dogs may not have large vocabularies, but they sure can understand tonal language.

Make training a part of your everyday routine, not a chore. Dogs flourish with learning and enriching their mind. Incorporating their training into your daily routine will yield great pawsitive results.

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Puppies as presents … well, you asked my opinion

As a  certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, during the Pawliday Season I hear this every day:  “I’m going to get the kids a puppy for Christmas. What do you think?”

Hmm … where to begin … I’m thinking SO many things. Instead of bursting anyone’s “Hallmark moment” bubble, I just smile, giggle, and agree that having a puppy – or adult dog, or cat, or …– is magical. There really isn’t anything like the love and joy of a furry friend … trust me!

But when it comes to buying a puppy for someone else, even if it’s within the same household, I encourage people to really think hard about this type of “purchase,” from both the giver and the recipient(s) point of view.

puppy biting
Puppy love! Before even thinking about giving a puppy as a gift, have open and direct communication with the intended recipient (or parents of recipient). Photo by Elizabeth Tuz.

The following are questions posted by a journalist through a friend of mine:

  • Is a new pet a good gift to a child or loved one for the holidays? This is a “yes” and “no” question. If the person on the receiving end is an adult who is expecting one, then I would say it would be a great gift. If it’s been discussed and planned out then yes. If it’s for a child in the family, then I would want the entire family to agree to welcoming the new pet, and realize that everyone will be involved, one way or another.
  • Should the giver ruin the surprise by asking if the recipient wants that pet and breed before giving it? Resoundingly yes! Because the recipient not wanting such a “gift” could be a bigger surprise! An alternative would be to give someone items related to the pet they intend to give: books, pictures,  or toys  along with a “gift certificate” good for “shopping” together. This way if the person really wants this pet, it can be a shared experience, which can be more meaningful.
  • What are the dangers/risks/drawbacks of giving an animal as a present? The biggest one is the person doesn’t want it, and the innocent animal has to be returned. It can be very traumatic for all involved. The person may want it, but then doesn’t realize the responsibility that’s involved with owning an animal. It’s the pet that ends up suffering the most if it ends up in a neglectful home, even if unintentional. It can also damage the relationship between the giver and recipient if one feels imposed upon or slighted, and neither feels comfortable talking about it.
  • What is a more appropriate vs. a less appropriate pet gift to give a child? It really depends upon the child, how involved they intend to be, and how responsible they are. It also depends upon what the parents expect of the child. Parents should investigate different types of animals that can be kept as pets, and the needs of that particular animal. Then match it to what the child can do to participate in its care. There are also many toys and virtual games that help build responsibility in pet care.
  • Are there any special things the gift giver should do or consider before giving the pet as a present? For example,  should they ensure that the pet has all its vaccinations and is microchipped? Assuming that it is a welcomed gift, taking care of the initial health care needs and requirements is always nice. The gift giver may also want to include: a carrier, crate, bedding, proper collars, leashes, car seat-belt, walking harness, food, treats, elimination box if necessary, elimination bags, ID tags, licensing fees, a gift certificate for a veterinarian wellness visit, training class if it’s a dog, a few toys, books or other information about the specific pet.
  • Where should a gift-giver try to get an appropriate pet, i.e. a reputable breeder or shelter? What sources should the giver avoid? When it comes to adopting a pet or buying a pet, it’s really up to the individual. There are reputable Web sites that can help the decision making process. With millions of shelter animals being killed every year because of an unwritten gold standard for breeding, less than ideal  ownership, and a host of other “reasons,” shelters are certainly a good choice. However there are responsible breeders as well, and should be considered if that is the person’s desire. The American Kennel Club has information on helping people choose a breeder.
  • Is it a good idea to research and suggest a reputable veterinarian/animal hospital in the recipient’s area at the time you give the pet gift? Yes. This would be a nice gesture for the new pet owners. I would investigate, then provide a list of a few names, allowing the recipient to make the final choice. A “gift certificate” for a wellness exam would be nice, too.
  • Any special tips in terms of how to actually present the gift? Any creative ideas that won’t threaten the animal’s safety? A client of mine gave their son a puppy last Christmas. She placed the puppy in a large stocking for the presentation. Very cute. Attaching a fabric bow to the collar is sweet, and shouldn’t endanger the animal. A large basket on the floor with the animal nestled in can be cute, but it may jump out, so you need to be careful. You can also gift-wrap all of the accompanying goodies.
  • What are some good alternative gifts to giving a pet animal, things like membership to the zoo, donation to an animal-friendly cause or shelter, a virtual reality pet game, etc.? All of these ideas are good. If possible, the person can get involved with the local shelters. They always need volunteers. This way they can get the “pet fix” without the extra added responsibilities.
  • Any other thoughts or recommendations on this topic? Pets are an absolute joy to have as part of any family. Unfortunately, they are still considered property. With that, folks sometimes treat them like inanimate objects, and not like the living, breathing, individual beings that they are. If they don’t want it, they can’t just stick it in the back closet and ignore it. A puppy or adult dog is also very difficult to return. Giving someone a pet as a gift is similar to giving someone a baby. It needs constant care and attention, and not just for a year or two. Adopting a puppy means having a dog for around ten years or more – plus, they don’t move out. Parents buying a puppy for their pre-teen kids means the parents will still be taking care of the dog once their child heads off to college…unless the child continues to live at home. There is also a financial responsibility. I’d say before buying someone a pet as a gift, make sure the recipient really wants it, and knows the responsibilities that go with it.

So, is a pet a good gift? Yes, but only if the recipient not only wants it, but is responsible enough to take care of it, for the lifetime of the pet.

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Coming When Called and Making Sure Your Dog Does

Selective listening is often the reason for dogs not coming when called. A little bit of training, and we mean fun and enjoyable training, can fix that.
Selective listening is often the reason for dogs not coming when called. A little bit of training, and we mean fun and enjoyable training, can fix that.

My dog loves to play off-leash in our neighborhood park. I’m becoming more and more reluctant to let him go leash-less as he’ll ignore my calls and sometimes it takes forever for him to come. Who knows how long I’ll have to spend calling and waiting. I get annoyed. He doesn’t understand. We’re both frustrated.

The main thing is his safety. My happy off-leash dog wanders far and wide, out of my sight most times. I’m afraid he’ll run into the street and get hit by a car. Or someone might dognap him.

Please help.

Owner of a Wandering Woofer

Dear Wandering,

Sounds like your inquisitive canine has a bad case of “selective hearing.” My mom, a certified professional dog trainer, says this is very common among those in the human species, too. She really understands how frustrated you must get. Fortunately, we can help!

By following a few “coming when called” guidelines, performing some pre-event practice session, and supplying a side order of environmental management, you’re sure to make future outings a “walk in the park.”

Set a Course for Action and Adventure

Let’s look at it from your inquisitive canine’s point of view. When you call him, especially in stimulating outdoor environment filled with all sorts of smells and possible new friendships, you’re asking him to stop what he’s doing and leave the amusement park, i.e. fun time is finished. He’s looking at it like a punishment. You need to entice him to you by offering a much more attractive alternative to what he’s doing. Then, he’ll want to come to you no matter what.

The following guidelines provide dog training tips sure to encourage your dog to “take your call”:

  • How you present yourself: You call more dogs with honey than with vinegar. Make your body language and tone of voice joyful and enthusiastic. Be the life of the party. Send the message that he’s the most wonderful puppy in the whole world and that you’re his number one cheerleader! (Even if you want to scream and cry!) I see it all the time – the underlying anger and frustration displayed in the human’s body language, and when, and if, the dog finally comes, he gets in trouble. Stick with the cute little nicknames and happy voice so your dog loves coming to you.
  • Timing of the request: Are you only calling him when it’s time to leave? If so, he’s probably figured out it means playtime is over, so he has decided he’ll come when he’s good and ready. You’ve got a very clever inquisitive canine, by not coming when called, he avoids getting in trouble AND extends his playtime by running in the opposite direction. Practice calling him to you periodically while out and about, as opposed to waiting until you need to leave.
  • Don’t waste your breath: Call him once and only once. Calling him when you know that he’s not going to listen is a waste of breath and a recipe for frustration. Calling repeatedly teaches him that it’s okay to ignore you. If you need to leave, and you know you’ll be ignored when you call for him, then the best thing to do is to go get him. If this results in the ever-popular game of chase, then motivate him to do what you want by following the steps below.
  • Make it into a game: Playing chase is often fun for dogs, and for humans, too. Whether your dog likes to chaser or the “chase-ee,” it can work to your advantage. Similar activities included in our dog training game, these exercises help expend his energy while enhancing the bond you share. With a chase game, you can direct him toward the area you need to go, such as the park exit, or the car.
  • Be the better motivator: Don’t forget, you’re competing against a “Doggy Disneyland.” To make yourself more appealing than the “happiest place on earth” you’ll need to offer rewards that are more enticing than the smells, things to dig up, chew on, and/or eat that your dog is finding on his own. Food rewards, petting, praise, and playing games that he finds entertaining can all help motivate him to stop what he’s doing and return to you. Food is also a powerful motivator. Carry some extra special yummy morsels that he gets only when he’s at the park. And remember that novelty is key, so vary what you offer to help keep him interested.
  • Trial sessions: We can’t emphasize enough the importance of practicing this behavior over and over (and over) to the point where your dog responds without thinking. You want him to hear the cue and respond immediately. This conditioning won’t happen without lots of dress rehearsals. First, practice inside your home, then in your yard, and then when taking him for a leashed walk. While he’s on-leash, back-up while calling him to you, then reward him. When he’s responding to your requests, try a trip to the park, but first try taking him to a smaller enclosed area, if one is available. If not, practice with a long-line leash. However, if you choose that option, take care, as they can tangle, trip people up, and get snagged on shrubs and trees. It’s best to use long-line leashes in open spaces where there are no other people or dogs.
  • Lay of the land: Explore the area initially, to determine places your dog’s allowed to play in. You can even take him with you, while he’s on leash. This will help you discover places he really loves, and those that don’t appeal to him. You can then check the area for holes in fences or other hazards you want him to avoid. Being of the canine species, he most likely doesn’t understand that he shouldn’t run into the  street. It’ll be your responsibility to keep him safe by preventing him from getting to those areas. Set him up for success, not failure–or danger.

Paws and Reflect
Exploring and scavenging are normal behaviors for dogs; some more than others. Since it sounds as though yours is the adventuresome type, it’s of the utmost importance that he learns the special skills you want him to have in order to make the outings more fun for both of you. With time and patience you can both get what you want: him, a chance to answer the call of the wild, and you, the ability to stay on schedule.


Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about human and canine behavior. Their column is known for its simple, user-friendly approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.

Joan is also the founder of the Inquisitive Canine and developer of the Out of the Box Dog Training Game, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. 

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Building Trust with Your New Bashful Bow-wow

Dear Inquisitive Canine, 

Shy Puppy in Class

Our new Shih Tzu puppy hides from us, only coming out when no one is around. She also lowers her head when we pet her. I know it takes time, but I’ve heard some dogs will start interacting with their new environment after 1-3 days, and tomorrow will be her third day here. I just want her to be

a happy puppy. What should I do and how should I do it?

Renee T.

Dear Renee,

Poncho here! My certified dog trainer mom thought it best if I take this one. First off, allow me to say “atta girl!” for being inquisitive, aware of your situation and taking the time to ask questions about your new puppy. I’d also like to commend you for being such a keen observer of her body language and your ability to listen to what she’s “saying.”

Once a young pup myself, I can speak firsthand as to how learning to trust new people, places and situations takes time and practice. I’m happy to pass along a few simple dog training tips you can use to help your wallflower fido become the more confident canine you’d like her to be.

Treats, Love and Understanding

Let’s start with a few knowledge nuggets regarding the topic of fear. I’m talking about fear as it relates to her feelings, her emotional state and her ability to make her own decisions.

The primary stage of your dog’s life when she’s most open to new people and situations is 0-3 months — a very narrow window in which sociability wins out over being afraid. If your pup wasn’t introduced to a variety of people and situations during this time, then chances are it’ll be tougher for her to adapt, since the fear response starts to win the race as she ages. However, not all hope is lost. You can certainly teach her anything she is physically and mentally capable of doing, including trusting and enjoying her new life with you and all that’s in it!

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Keep It Simple. During this crucial teaching time, you’ll want to keep things simple and fun. All you have to do is pair something your bashful bow-wow might be uncertain about with something she already loves! For instance, since we animals must eat, you and others can provide extra-yummy goodies for her, such as pieces of grilled chicken or steak (I love when my mom does that!), allowing her to approach you. If she’s still hesitant, try tossing pieces toward her, building the trail of trust till she is confident enough to approach.
  • Adjust Expectations, Little by Little. Believe me, you’ll want to take baby-steps when working with her. As long as she continues to advance toward you, accepting your kindness and that of strangers, you can keep forging ahead at a slow-and-steady pace. If and when she decides to back off, respect her wishes and allow her to make that choice.
  • The Triple-P of Giving Treats. Once she begins to show signs of confidence, coming toward you and being close to you, begin hand-feeding her. Others in your home can do this as well. As she gets more comfortable, you can begin the Triple-P Treat Training Plan: Pet, praise, then present the treat. Petting should begin with light touches under her chin, working your way around as she gets more comfortable. And — this is really important — all petting should be followed with a yummy nibble of treat goodness. I recommend making the top of her head the last location, since hands reaching over will cause her to pull back.

As for additional situations and locations, repeat the same steps in places you want her to enjoy hanging out. Over time, she should learn to believe that her new world is a fantastic place and her confidence should build, making it easier for her to accept and believe that novelty is the spice of life!

Paws and Reflect

Fearfulness is a normal reaction across many different species. Your pup is responding in a way that is innate — avoiding in order to survive. It can be difficult to not take it personally, but keep in mind that developing a relationship with strangers, especially those of a different species, is more about building trust and not about liking. With a caring dog-mom like you being patient, allowing her to set the pace, giving her control over her environment and being able to make her own decisions, your bashful bow-wow will begin to enjoy her life with you in time and blossom into that self-assured pup you want!


Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho the dog. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and dog behavior coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple, commonsense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.

Joan is also the founder of the Inquisitive Canine and developer of the Out of the Box Dog Training Game, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, please email them directly.

Puppy Thinks Sibling Cat is a Squeaky Toy

Dear Poncho,

My name is Greta. I’m a 7-month-old German Shepherd who is absolutely fascinated by my kitty siblings. I can’t seem to leave them alone.

Puppy and kitty playingI’ve been told they are beloved family members, but part of me thinks they would make really interesting windup squeaky toys. I keep attempting to figure out how to get them to squeak, which totally freaks out my humans. Since I’d like to remain part of the family, do you have any suggestions on how I can control this behavior?

Greta

Dear Miss. Greta,

Congratulations! Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward gaining control. I commend you for being able to get this far, especially when the behavior you speak of is one that is deeply ingrained and very difficult for most animals to control. Allow me to provide my pooch’s perspective.

Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model: Continue Reading “Puppy Thinks Sibling Cat is a Squeaky Toy”

Training Tips for Teaching Your Dog Not to Speak

Dear Poncho,

My dog barks enthusiastically, very loudly, over and over. He does it at many different times, including the morning when I’m taking him outside, when I come home from being away, or when we arrive home together from a car ride. He barks in the car, out of the car, and everywhere between!

I don’t know how to stop him. I tell him “No,” but then he usually barks at least two to four more times!

Do you have any suggestions?
Tj’s owner

Dear inquisitive canine parent of TJ,

Your dog barks, you give him attention by saying “no”, he barks again. Hmm, sounds to me you’ve done a great job at teaching him to “speak” – nice work! I have a feeling that wasn’t your intention though.

TJ sounds like one happy enthusiastic pal. But I totally understand about it being annoying when another living being can’t seem to appreciate the sound of silence. Believe it or not, you’re barking up the right tree. I myself am one inquisitive canine who enjoys his own voice now and again, and I’d be happy to share some of the training tips my own mom uses with me.

Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:

Know Your Animal!
Guess what? TJ is a dog! And guess what else? Dogs bark. Yep, that’s what we do. Well, at least most of us. Some more than others of course. And similar to humans talking for a variety of reasons, dogs will bark for a variety of reasons. For instance I’ll bark when:

  • Someones knocks at the front door
  • I’m excited
  • Patrolling the yard
  • I’m wanting attention
  • Annoying diesel trucks drive by (I’m a hybrid fan myself)

And the list goes on….Please remember that barking is a main form of communication for us canines. If you didn’t want to live with an animal that barks…well, then you might want to find a roommate of another species. But you’d probably end up with having to deal with other irritating habits and noises. Plus, I’m sure the love you have for TJ outweighs the annoying barking so we won’t discuss that option.

Whaddya Want?
It’s time to hunker down and figure out exactly what it is you want from TJ. Do you want him to bark only at certain times, such as when someone is at your front door? Do you want TJ to be quiet when he’s in the car, when you come home, and when you take him outside?

Once you have your list compiled, you’ll need to take the time to teach him when and where you want him to be silent. Start small and work your way up. Having realistic expectations will make the process easier on you both.

Reward. Reward. Reward.
Now it’s time to begin acknowledging TJ when he makes the choices you want him to make. For you this means any time he is quiet – especially during the more exciting times. Suppressing enthusiasm can be very difficult for us pooches, so using a reward that is more motivating than the reasons he wants to bark is key.

A few ideas that might work for you specifically are:

  • Practice coming and going in and out of the house and car, with TJ in tow, as well as on your own, rewarding with chin scratches, yummy treats and a “good boy” at those moments when he is quiet. Even if it’s just a brief second while he’s coming up for air is better than nothing. Take what you can get when you can get it.
  • Hang out with TJ in your car while it’s parked at your home. Read a book – or the latest Edhat edition. Then while TJ is just chillaxing, reward him for being quiet. This way he learns that being quiet in the car gets him the attention he wants. If he barks, send him inside and take off in the car on your own.
  • If and when TJ barks for attention – that doesn’t involve having to go outside to potty or a stranger is on the property – ignore it! Walk away if you have to.

Know Yourself:
If you’re having one of those days where you don’t feel like dealing with TJ and his being a chatty-Kathy in the car, then leave him at home. If you’re at your wits end and you don’t feel like training him, then redirect his energy to a different outlet. A scavenger hunt in the yard, play-date with another doggy friend, an outing at the local doggy daycare or date with a dog walker can help give him the attention he wants while expending energy, leaving him relaxed and wanting to rest.

Paws and Reflect
Keep in mind that any type of attention is still attention – even if it’s negative attention. So if you’ve been interacting with TJ whenever he barks, even saying something like “no” will increase the risk of his barking more often.

So instead of focusing in on the negative, concentrate on the behaviors that you want, teach TJ in a way he understands, and reward him heavily for making the better choice.

*****

Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and canine behavior. He and his mom work together running the family business that services other inquisitive canines. For additional dog training and behavior tips, subscribe to their blog. You can also follow Poncho on Twitter and head over to his Inquisitive Canine Facebook page, “like us” and upload pics of your own inquisitive canine. You can also ask us about dog behavior, just email us directly.

Original Inquisitive Canine Joins Santa Barbara Edhat Community

It’s official folks! This inquisitive canine has teamed up with our local online news site Edhat-Santa Barbara with my very own dog behavior and training advice column. Similar to the one me and my mom co-write, Dear Inquisitive Canine, I’ll be doling out my own pooch’s perspective. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I’m calling it.

A Pooch’s Perspective is exclusive to the Edhat community. It will include dog behavior Q&A, dog behavior and training tips, along with a side-order of canine quips – because well, that’s just who I am.

I encourage you to check out, read through, ask questions and leave comments. Edhat is built on community involvement, and I agree with and am honored they have welcomed this Pooch’s Perspective to their family.

Have your own question you’d like me to address? Send me an email directly – I’d be happy to give you my pooch’s perspective.

Painless DogTraining Tips to Help With Puppy Biting and Nipping

"Legal" Alternative for Chewing

I’ve been hearing a lot of this lately: “Ouch! My puppy’s teeth are like needles!” Yep – that’s what puppies do. Bite, chew, nip, shred and chomp some more. Their mouth is the perfect tool to explore the world and all that’s in it.

So what are new puppy owners supposed to do to help the situation? The following are a few simple steps those who may be experiencing this painful situation, in a pretty painless way.

  • Know your animal: Remember, dogs use their mouths to explore the world! This means, if it appears interesting, and it’s within reach, it will be investigated. Dogs also use their mouths (and teeth) to play with things, destroy things, and just for lots of fun! (Especially when he or she is teething).
  • Be aware of what you might be training: Attention, whether positive or negative, can cause a behavior to happen more often, so be careful of what you’re paying attention to – you may just be inadvertently rewarding a behavior you don’t want.
  • Provide “legal” outlets for your puppy or adult dog: Providing outlets for your dog to chew and play with will help redirect that energy to a more appropriate place. This way, he or she can get all of his or her energy out, while making the humans happy. Chew bones, playing tug with an actual tug toy, soft squeaky toys, and interactive food toys are just a few options for your pooch to get the attention he or she wants, in a way he or she wants, doing what he or she loves to do.
  • Provide play opportunities with other dogs: Most dogs enjoy playing with other dogs, but dog-play is a skill that needs to be practiced. Yes, dogs are born with instinctual play skills, but he or she still needs to practice. Set up doggy play-dates with age and play appropriate dogs so your dog can learn how to control his or her mouth with living objects, and not just toys and bones. For additional tips, check out this blog post on dog-play.
  • Make it clear your dog is making the better choice: To really help drive the message home, reward your dog with an extra special little treat whenever he or she makes the better choice of playing with these legitimate items, as well as for leaving forbidden items alone. This way, he or she figure out what works to his or her own advantage, while making you happy and proud.
  • Management Recommendations: Management means you’re arranging your puppy’s environment that prevents him or her from practicing behaviors you don’t want. If you haven’t taught your dog what you want, or if you don’t have the time or energy to monitor your dogs behavior, then you’ll want to keep him or her from making choices you don’t want them to make. This means, sequester your dog to an area with enrichment to keep his or her mind (and mouth) occupied. However, avoid giving a “Time Out!” by just sending him or her to a crate, yard or another room without anything to do. That would be too punishing. A bully stick or food enrichment toy in another area is certainly a fine option.

Remember, when developing your training and management plan for puppy nipping and chewing,  determine what you want from your dog, teach him or her what you want, provide appropriate outlets and reward heavily for making the better choice. This will make everyone happy, including your dog and everyone else in the household.