Back to School for Dogs Too – Basic Dog Training Session 2

Basic Dog Training for Your Inquisitive Canine

Hey there inquisitive dog lover! Welcome to session 2 of our Back to School for Dogs Too basic dog training series. If you’re just joining us, check out session 1 for tips and lessons on getting started. If you’re continuing on, we say “Yay!” click-treat, and thank you for participating.

For this specific installment of basic dog training techniques, we will be focusing on “Sit” and “Down.” As a certified trainer, I have come to lump these, along with eye-contact, as the main trifecta of dog behaviors. If your inquisitive canine can master these, then you will not only set yourselves up for success, but will also create a solid foundation for many other behaviors and situations.

Here are basic dog training techniques you can learn from home. Here we go!


  • Wait for your dog to sit. As soon as his or her rump hits the floor/ground, “click and treat” (C/T) or use your marker word, as explained and outlined in Session 1 of our Back-to-School program.
  • If your dog doesn’t sit automatically, hold a treat at the tip of his or her nose and move it up and over his or her head, back towards his or her rear end. Your dogs head should look up while shifting his or her weight back, ending up in a “sit.
  • Once your dog starts sitting reliably every time, you can add in the cue word “sit.” Practice doing this 5-10 times: saying the word “sit,” pause to see if he or she does, if not use the food lure then C/T.
  • Repeat this until you no longer need the food lure.


basic dog training tips for moves like sit and down
Kona practicing his “Down”
  • Begin with a treat in one hand, placing it on the tip of your dogs nose, slowly move it downward towards the ground, guiding him or her into a “down” position. As soon as your dog lies down C/T.
  • Repeat this “lure and reward” technique until your dog does the motion reliably, without pausing. When he or she does the motion reliably, you can begin to add the cue word “down,” before luring.
  • Say the word “down,” pause to see if your dog lies down, if he or she does then C/T, if not, then use the lure-reward technique to move him or her into the position, then C/T.

Repeat the following sequence for both Sit & Down:

  • Say it:        “Sit” or  “Down”
  • Show it:      Lure
  • Pay it:         Click-Treat

As your dog begins offering the behavior reliably, you can begin to fade out the food lure, using only your hand signal as a prompt. Still C/T after your dog lies down, and reward!

Tips & Troubleshooting:

  • Repeat this sequence until your dog is following reliably, then begin to fade out the food lure, using only your hand signal.
  • Practice “Sit” & “Down” in a variety of locations. Even 2-3 times a day for 2-3 minutes can be very helpful.If your dog jumps up to get the treat, lure him or her back into the down position before giving it to him. (You don’t need to “click” again.)
  • If your dog is having trouble lying down, try starting him or her from the sitting position. An alternative is to C/T for smaller, baby-steps towards the final down position – head focused downward, elbows bent, chest on ground, etc.
  • Remember to use the cue only once!
  • Wanna advance your skills? Use only the verbal or visual cue in different locations with different distractions. To “test” if your dog understands, ask a stranger to give the cue!

For a fun way to practice both “Sit” & “Down” at the same time, try”Puppy Push-Ups”! 

Remember to check back for upcoming Back to School and basic dog training posts (or subscribe to our blog), to keep up with behavior momentum and fluency!

* * *

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Creating a dog-friendly Fourth of July celebration

Paw-triotic pooches Cooper & MacKenzie enjoying play, while being kept safe by mom and dad!
Paw-triotic pooches Cooper & MacKenzie enjoying play, while being kept safe by mom and dad!

Happy July and here’s to wonderful Fourth of July! It’s a fun and festive time for our country and local communities. While humans are reveling in picnic games, barbecue menus, and colorful theatrics in the sky, the holiday can be a totally un-celebratory experience for our inquisitive canine family and friends.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I know how terrifying a thunderous fireworks display can be for pets or how a quick sniff of meat in hot coals can turn into a painful burn on a cold nose. With some preparation and environmental management, the Fourth of July can be a star spangled holiday for all family members.

Here are a couple of previous patriotic posts that readers have found helpful in making the day a special one for their inquisitive canines.

  • This Doggie Blog post offers a variety of gentle reminders and suggestions to create a stress free holiday for all involved.
  • I offer some management and training tips to help make the Fourth an enjoyable day on this Noozhawk post.
  • This post on Edhat, Pooch Patriotism Means Celebrate Smart, is written from the canine point of view.
  • For those of you who prefer an infographic, check this out on

Here’s to wishing all of us a safe and enjoyable holiday. Let freedom ring – bark, or howl!

* * *

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share patriotic pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Understanding Dog Displacement Behavior

Nail biting, hair twirling, and pacing are examples of nervous behavior in humans. In the world of canines, behaviors dogs use to cope, relieve stress, or stave off trouble (rather than deal with it directly) is called displacement behavior.  Called so because the behavior is out of place, or displaced. The behaviors themselves are normal but happen out of context – such as a dog shaking off as wet when dry. 

Displacement behaviorAs a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I know how subtle these behaviors can be, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of  trying to understand what your dog’s body language is communicating. That’s why regular interaction between dog and human is so crucial, so you can tell if a behavior is out of context. When you notice something’s out of the norm, you may be able to prevent unwanted behavior between your dog and other beings.

I’ve seen my fair share of displacement behaviors, which happen because of frustration or conflicting impulses to behave in a manner that is impeded. The displacement behavior also manifests when a dog has conflicting emotions and does not know what to do. Here’s an example: a dog is “caught” sleeping on the couch when its humans come home. She’s happy to see them but fears being punished so she “looks guilty” and kind of slinks to greet them.

Please note that displacement behavior is a personal issue the dog is having. It’s about an individual dog and not about canine social hierarchy, pack mentality, or deference.

The following behaviors can signal an internal conflict in an inquisitive canine:

  • Nose licking, the tongue spitting out snake-like
  • Rapid eye blinking
  • Chattering teeth when not cold
  • Scratching
  • Shaking off as if wet, but the dog is dry
  • Being clingy with owner or other humans
  • Drooling (when not related to food)
  • Moist or sweaty paws
  • Whining
  • Panting when not overheated or not after exercise
  • Lowered body or slinking
  • Over the top licking, chewing, or “grooming” that can cause bodily harm
  • Stretching to relax

Displacement behavior often serves as a warning  – “Careful, I’m feeling real uncomfortable right now and I just might start lunging.” Should you notice your inquisitive canine exhibiting displacement behavior, change the environment to make your dog feel safe and comfortable.

* * *

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.


#Train4Rewards Blog Party … Reward, Reward, Reward

Woofs and wags to Companion Animal Psychology and its #Train4Rewards Blog Party. You think I’d miss this party? Read on!

As a is certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I’m all about reward, reward, reward. Plus, it’s an extra-special party for me as it’s Poncho’s birthday. So here’s what I’m bringing to the paw-ty: A case study on reward training from Poncho’s column A Pooch’s Perspective.” 

A woman asked Poncho why her inquisitive canine, a 13-year-old lab, would sometimes discreetly pee in her parents house, though the girl dog never had an “accident” at home. Poncho breaks down his answer into four points.Dickens

Know Your Animal – Dogs eliminate when they feel the need, unless they have been taught otherwise. A couple of triggers dogs commonly react to are: texture and scent. For texture, think dirt, grass, tile, cement, and carpet. Oh, about wet grass … do you like a wet toilet seat? For scent, a dog’s world is one big perfume counter. Observing another dog going potty, updating status by “marking” territory, and previous learning are a few triggers that give dogs the urge. Additionally, dogs understand “safe and dangerous” as opposed to “right and wrong.” Maybe the lab had a previous accident and got into trouble, so the lesson she learned was to “go” when no one was around. Please note: 13 years is on the senior side of a canine’s life, so a visit to the vet may be in order to rule out any medical issues.

Communicate Clearly – Humans need to determine what they want from their dogs. Go potty in a specific spot? Or just not indoors? Take the time to teach the wanted behavior and manage environments to help your inquisitive canine to make better choices.

Reward, Reward, Reward – It’s all about the reward. In the lab’s case, upon arrival at the parents’ house, the human should put the lab on a leash, take her to where she should go potty and wait. And wait and wait. If necessary, wait some more until potty victory. Then, celebrate! Give her a big whoo-hoo! Some chin chucks and scratching followed by an edible treat … and the big reward: being allowed inside. Once inside, be sure to keep an eye on her so she can be brought outside immediately should you observe signs she is likely to go.

Should her motivation be marking her territory, then follow basic house-training: keep an eagle eye on her and reward, reward, reward for eliminating outside, along with ignoring areas she likes to claim as her own. Take her to places she’s allowed to mark to provide an outlet to fulfill her doggy needs and wishes, while having fun and bonding together.

Set the Stage for Success – Extra time is needed when bringing the lab to her “grandparents,” who need to be in on the game plan. (They may need a little training themselves.) If the grandparents are distracted easily, they may want to keep their grand-dog on a leash or in a roomy, comfy crate. If allowed to wander at will, something may trigger the lab’s urge to go. Setting her up for success, not failure is key.


Paws and reflect – It’s best to use house-training basics: teach, reward-reward-reward, and manage the situation. Inquisitive canines don’t know the right thing to do by instinct no more than humans do. For example, if someone were to visit your house, you would show them where the bathroom is. If you didn’t they may choose a bathroom on their own and it may not be the one you’d like guests to use. You’d have no one to blame but yourself if they went in the wrong place.

* * *

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Dog Training: Why hitting or using pain are not the ideal choices

Dogs are my world. What can I say, I love canines! It’s no wonder my chosen profession is certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant. Oftentimes at social events, when someone learns I specialize in dogs, I’m asked about my training philosophy or solicited for advice.
Recently, a journalist asked for my thoughts on “why hitting or using pain doesn’t work” for an article she was writing. Further, she wanted to know what resulting behavior(s) dog owners can expect when using this type of training and what should a dog owner do when they feel frustrated, angry, and are tempted to hit.IMG_0038
I have lots and lots to say on this subject, however, I decided to whittle my thoughts to some key points, which are not in any particular order.
The Inquisitive Canine 9: 
Why Hitting Dogs or Using Pain in Training Doesn’t Work
  1. Using coercion and force-based methods can cause physical harm! Plus, permanent bodily damage can result – to the dog and/or the human.
  2. A dog learns to associate pain, being uncomfortable, or “in trouble” with anything else in their environment, such as other people, animals, situations, and the like. This type of conditioning can lead to fear based reactions such as “I better do what they say otherwise I’ll get in trouble,” “Uh oh every time [insert name] is around I get in trouble or hurt. I don’t like [insert name]. How do I make them go away!” The dog learns to anticipate and begins to panic, as displayed by its body language, behavior, etc. The dog also can become fearful and upset, leading to an increase of undesired behaviors – barking, lunging, growling, and even biting with hopes of making the scary thing go away.
  3. The dog shuts down altogether. This is called “learned helplessness.” Essentially, the dog learns the best way to behave is to not do anything in order to not get in trouble.
  4. In a particularly frustrating and heartbreaking scenario, the dog ends being reinforced for the undesired behavior. Meaning that the behavior increases, which causes the owner to escalate their behavior, increasing the force of the punishment.
  5. Coercion and force-based methods don’t let the dog know what the right behavior is. The owner is focusing solely on the undesired behavior, therefore the dog doesn’t know what to do.
  6. The likelihood of reinforcing or punishing an unintended behavior is high unless the timing is precise, which is fairly difficult.
  7. There is an increased risk of the dog becoming aggressive and retaliating. Some dogs could care less, some freak out and back down (learned helplessness), and others say, “I’m not putting up with this!” and that could lead into snarling, growling, and biting the owner.
  8. A vicious cycle is perpetuated if the intensity of the punishment needs to be so strong to stop the behavior that the owner needs to continue to escalate the intensity, which leads to more harm to the dog and increased frustration of the owner. And so on.
  9. It harms, or breaks, the special bond between dogs and their owners. Dogs who are hit or physically harmed might find it difficult to trust the person(s) who treats them with a heavy hand and virulent heart. Also, a dog will spend so much energy on being afraid, it won’t be able to become the complete wonderful creature it is intended to be.

As mentioned earlier, I have lots and lots to say on this subject. I believe the above reasons are enough to illustrate that using coercion, force-based methods for modifying a dogs behavior is ineffective, unproductive, and downright cruel. They’re also unnecessary, considering all the wonderful alternative choices available!

* * *

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

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.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Training Your Dog Not to Dig Digging

Ever spend an afternoon adding some color to your yard with bedding plants? And, then have your inquisitive canine dig them up before you could finish putting away the gardening tools? It, or something similar, probably has happened to all us canine loving folks. Maybe that fact doesn’t make you any less annoyed with your dog, but maybe the following tips will prevent any further dust ups in your garden. 

Hunting Cesar Chavez - Version 2
Not digging what your dog does to your garden? A few diversionary tactics may help.
  • Reward your inquisitive canine with a treat, praise, petting and/or a round of a favorite non-digging game whenever she/he is in the yard and leaving the dirt alone!
  • Provide enrichment! especially when your dog is left alone, to help prevent boredom related behaviors. Using interactive food toys, scavenger hunts and even creating a special digging pit can help direct energy to specific allowable areas – your dog will be too busy digging through through its own treasure chest or playing with its own games to care about digging in other areas.
  • Review your dog’s exercise routine. If you have an active dog with lots of energy, you’ll want to up the amount of exercise to ensure she/he is more relaxed (and wants to nap) when left alone. This includes other physical and mental activities besides walkies. Similar to humans tiring out after being at a computer all day, dogs can get pooped out after participating in a dog training class or other activity. 
  • Consider other options to being left outside: doggy daycare, pet sitters, dog walkers, getting together with a friend for doggy playdates, or trading dog-sitting duties with other dog guardians.
  • Re-evaluate your home environment: If your dog is more comfortable when indoors, consider creating a safe area of confinement inside your home. You can still use interactive toys for entertainment.
  • Use digging as a reward! Take your dog to an admissible area for digging, then use a phrase like “Go dig!” right before he does. If you put it on cue, you can then use the behavior of digging as a reward in areas your dog likes and that you won’t mind if it’s dug up. It also might come in handy if and when you need help preparing the soil in the garden.

The Inquisitive Canine Doggie Blog is written by Joan Mayer, a certified professional dog trainer based in Santa Barbara, California. Joan is also a human-canine relationship coach and frequently consults with Poncho, her 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about human and canine behavior.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Basic Dog Training – Step #1

Chances are good you are reading this because you have a new family member – an inquisitive canine. Congratulations and welcome to your new family member! 

As a certified professional dog trainer and  behavior consultant, I take a pawsitive approach to dog training as an easy, simple, and fun way to enhance the everyday relationship between dogs and their guardians.

Libby is an excellent eye gazer.
Libby is an excellent eye gazer.

Dog Training Step #1 is a super-simple activity. (Maybe you are already doing it.)

Gaze into Each Other’s Eyes 

Have fun teaching your dog to look you in the eyes. Reward your dog with high-value yummy treats, petting and praise whenever s/he looks into your eyes.

  • Start out with a quick glance and then increase the duration to a few seconds.
  • Prompt your dog to look into your eyes with a happy voice.
  • Practice this in different locations, including while out on a walk.
  • Reward, reward, reward – Every time you gaze into each other’s eyes.

That’s it! I told you it was super easy.

But don’t underestimate its importance. This is the foundation to a long and rewarding relationship with your dog.

Poncho playing the Out of the Box Dog Training game.
Poncho playing the Out of the Box Dog Training game.

Dog Training Step #1 is taken from the Out of the Box Dog Training Game I created. The Out of the Box Dog Training Game enables benefiting from the time you and your dog already spend together by motivating your dog to develop good manners, while limiting and preventing inappropriate habits. You also will discover fun activities that can strengthen your bond and new ways to multi-task in your daily routine so that you can spend more quality time with your dog. The game is perfect for one-on-one with your dog or with your family and friends. Perfect for any number of human and canine players, these training activities are fun for everyone involved. Anyone can play; no prerequisite required. Each activity can be customized for specific needs and adapted to different learner levels to continue advancing your dog’s skills.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Yellow Vest: Service Dog or Canine Fashion Statement?

No matter your politics, I think you’ll join me in saluting the United States Department of Justice for its clarification on service animals – FAQs on Service Animals. As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I see SO much inconsistent information on the subject. “I have heard stories  from well-intentioned dog lovers  — and even witnessed — what I would consider law-stretching and boundary-crossing. Some of these actions risk endangering the public, and putting dogs at risk too. Plus, they could create situations where laws would be changed that negatively impacted those that really need services dogs.”  We encourage you to read through all of the FAQs on Service Animals.

This guide dog is considered a service animal because it is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.
This guide dog is considered a service animal because it is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.

Written in clear, concise language, the FAQs on Service Animals starts with the basic questions “What is a service animal?” and moves into the more complex, such as “What does under control mean? Do service animals have to be on a leash? Do they have to be quiet and not bark?” (Yes, that is one question. Question #27, to be exact.)

You’ll find surprising information, too. Check out  Question #17. “Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?” The answer is: “No.” Well shoot, I got this one wrong! “Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.” And you may be surprised to learn that service animals don’t need to wear a yellow vest or an ID tag, special harness, or any color vest, for that matter.

See if you know the answers to these questions. Check your answers here: FAQs on Service Animals.

  • #31 – Are stores required to allow service animals to be placed in a shopping cart?
  • #32 – Are restaurants, bars, and other places that serve food or drink required to allow service animals to be seated on chairs or allow the animal to be fed at the table?
  • #33 – Are gyms, fitness centers, hotels, or municipalities that have swimming pools required to allow a service animal in the pool with its handler?

The DOJ clearly spells out the difference between service dogs and therapy dogs. Therapy dogs, sometimes called comfort or companion animals, provide comfort by being with a person and have not been trained to perform a specific job or task. But we think they should be able to pass one of the various 10-step evaluations such as the one provided by Love on a Leash to ensure they have the skills to be comfortable and polite in public. And, by the way, misrepresenting a dog as a service dog is pretty serious business. Don’t do it.

The Love on a Leash nonprofit is a wonderful resource for learning more about therapy dogs. And how your dog can become one. As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I am eligible to administer the Love on a Leash. If you would like more information on the process, or would like your inquisitive canine to be tested, we invite you to contact us.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Training Your Dog Not to Jump the Fence

Dogs are beautifully athletic animals and a joy to watch. But, when their prowess compels them to jump the backyard fence, it can be quite nerve wracking and frightening for their humans. Where did my inquisitive canine go? We live on a busy street, will she return safely? Will she return at all? 

small-pic-03As a certified professional dog trainer, I have worked with many dog guardians to find solutions for keeping their globetrotting inquisitive canines safe and secure. The first step to stop fence hopping is to create an inviting environment to motivate your dog to stay home. Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  • While a dog is learning to stay in the yard, it should always be supervised when left outside. Leaving such decisions to its own devices might result in a round of fence jumping. Setting your dog up for success is the best way to avoid disappointment and is key to successful dog training.
  • An enriching environment can include scavenger hunts, interactive food toys, chewies, bones and even a digging pit in your yard. Also make sure your dog is experiencing fun times with family members at home and not just on walks or other isolated times. If you’re so inclined, you might want to arrange doggy playdates at home so your dog doesn’t feel it necessary to jump the fence to set up its own rendezvous.
  • See if it’s possible to build a higher fence or plant a hedge where you live. This is a management step that may help prevent your dog from independently taking a tour of the neighborhood.

Now that your dog’s environment is secure, here are some dog training tips for coaching it to stay in the yard:

  • Teach your dog what the correct choice is and reward it for remaining on your property. Using high-value yummy food treats — ask your vet about pieces of human foods such as lean chicken, steak, fish, pork — or whatever motivation works best to positively reinforce desired behaviors from your dog. While a professional dog trainer can help you analyze the rewards you’re using, there are also some simple things you can do to discover what motivates your dog.
  • Reward this wanted behavior frequently. Once your dog is conditioned to stay in the yard, then reward it intermittently to ensure you’ve acknowledged it is making good choices. Remember, we can never be thanked enough for doing something someone else wants — especially when it’s as difficult as not going out to spend time playing with friends and neighbors.
  • Train necessary behaviors: “Coming when called” and “Leave it!” might be two behaviors that would come in handy should your dog take flight. Using the first one if it takes off, and if it doesn’t come back then use your backup cue “Leave it!” This is the cue I use for when I want a dog to stop what he or she is doing and come to me. If you’ve ever taught your dog to “touch target,” you could use that as well — keeping a target in your hand (or targeting your hand itself) while she or he comes and touches it with its paw or nose.

I’m guessing most inquisitive canines live in homes and neighborhoods that are quite appealing. It’s now wonder dogs want to get out and explore. With a little planning, training, and forethought, you should be able to motivate your dog to stay and play at home.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.