Training allows us to form a solid relationship between us and our dogs. Most problems can be solved by gaining a better understanding of the cause and opening the lines of communication with our dogs. Some of the most common training issues are addressed in detail below with training tips provided by Dogma Training & Pet Services Inc.
ARF does not condone or support the use of aversive training methods (punishment, dominance or pack leader theory) or any aversive training tools. Training tools that should be avoided because they have been proven to increase fear and anxiety include, but are not limited to, shock collars (electric collars, e-collars), choke chains (chokers, training collars) and prong collars (pinch collars). We do not recommend that dog owners follow the dominance ideology used on popular television shows. The use of these training methods is proven to result in miscommunication between dog and owner and an increase in anxiety, stress and fear. ARF does not support any use of force, intimidation or physical manipulation in training as we see these methods as unethical, inefficient and ineffective.
ARF believes that dog friendly, reward based training methods (positive, positive reinforcement or clicker training) are the most efficient and effective. We are committed to modern, scientifically-based dog training as it promotes teamwork, mutual respect and a harmonious relationship between dogs and humans. ARF advocates these training methods because they focus on rewarding desired behaviors and discouraging undesirable behaviors using clear and consistent instructions and avoiding psychological and physical intimidation. We highly recommend that if people are experiencing difficulties with their dog they should seek out professional help from a qualified, professional trainer (CPDT-KA, CPDT-KSA, Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assesed or Knowledge & Skills Assessed, respectively; CBCC-KA, Certified Behavior Consultant Canine – Knowledge Assessed; or KPA-CT, Karen Pryor Academy, Certified Trainer), behaviourist or veterinary behaviourist who will teach them how to modify the behaviours using positive methods. Visit our resources page for a list of recommended dog trainers.
Having a dog accustomed to a crate can be helpful in many situations. However some people feel it is unfair to the dog and are concerned about this type of confinement. Below are some reasons to crate train your dog:
- House Training: Provides a close confinement that inhibits the dog from urinating or defecating. If you have accidents in the crate, remove any bedding. Ensure the crate is only big enough for the dog to stand, lie and turn around in.
- Prevents Destructive Chewing: The dog is not given the opportunity to do this out of sight of the owner. You can give the dog appropriate chew toys in the crate.
- Settling: Through proper training, it teaches the dog to be lie and settle when alone.
- Prepare for Travel: Accustoms dog to close confinement. Prevents added stress when traveling or situations where kenneling is required.
- Safety: The dog will not be able to gain access to items that could be harmful or fatal.
You can create trauma for the dog if you don’t introduce the crate properly. The steps to accustom your dog to the crate are:
- Put the crate in a high traffic area and keep the door open (may even remove it to start).
- Occasionally toss treats into the back of the crate for your dog to find on their own.
- Feed the dog’s meals inside the crate.
- Tie a high value toy to the back of the kennel so that the dog must lie inside to chew on it.
- After a few days, begin introducing a cue. Say your cue (ex: ‘Into crate’), toss treat. Praise as dog eats treat and then cue him out with another cue of your choice (do not reward the dog for coming out of crate).
- Repeat step 5 numerous times until your dog enjoys going into the crate for the treat.
- Start to cue the dog and encourage them to go in on their own. Once they are in, reward with a treat. Ensure you cue them to come out.
- If they are hesitant to go in on their own, wait it out. Do not repeat the cue!
- If the dog still will not go on their own, end the session without saying anything to the dog.
- Try again at a later time. If the dog does go in, jackpot reward them!
- After dog will go into crate on cue, begin to shut the door when they go in. Treat repeatedly while they are in the closed crate to start. Only do small increments of time to start and then increase.
- Start to get up and walk around crate, around room, while remaining in sight. Ensure you are returning to dog and rewarding.
- Begin increasing duration by keeping yourself busy while dog is in crate. Go back and reward as needed when dog is being quiet. Ignore any crying or whining. Never let the dog out of the crate if they are crying. They need to learn they only come out when they are quiet.
- Next start going out of sight for short periods. Build this up the same as the above steps.
- As your dog begins to use the crate more, ensure you are not just using it when you leave the dog home alone. They may begin to pair the crate with isolation and create a negative association.
- Always teach your dog that the crate is a positive, safe place for them!
The key to effective house training is supervision, prevention and feeding schedules. As your puppy gets older, they will be better able to control their bladder and will be able to hold it for longer. Allow your puppy do this on their own time because if training is rushed, problems may develop. Most puppies are not reliably house trained until they are at least 6 months old.
The key points to success in housetraining are below:
- Prevention: Supervise your puppy! They should not be out of your sight during the housetraining process. Use umbilical cording (have the puppy attached to your leash around your waist) and monitor them.
- Confinement: Use your crate to assist with supervision. If you cannot supervise them, they should be in their crate (see Crate Training handout). If you take your dog outside and they do not go, put them back in their crate. Try again in 30 minutes. For longer periods, pen them in a larger area to avoid them soiling in their crate.
- Reward: Shower your puppy with praise and give them a food reward immediately after they go to the bathroom outside. You should be out with them to reward them right after they go.
- Interrupt: Say “Ah! Ah! Potty Time!” at the start of any mistakes then take him outside to finish. If he finishes outside, praise and reward. If not, put him in his kennel and try again shortly.
- Schedules: Feed your puppy on a schedule and take them out within 15 minutes after eating. Do this also after they’ve drunk water or had a play session. Take them out immediately after coming out of their crate.
- No punishment: If you catch your puppy eliminating, simply say ‘no’ and redirect your puppy to the appropriate area to eliminate. You MUST catch your puppy in the act of eliminating to do this. If you find an accident after the fact, you cannot redirect your puppy as they will not understand. Simply clean up the accident (with a cleaning product specifically for pet urine) and understand that you need to better supervise your puppy.
- Patience: Understand your new puppy will not reliably be housetrained immediately. Work with them to teach them where to go, supervise and be consistent.
Many dog owners face the challenge of training their dog not to jump on people. It can be frustrating and embarrassing and we often unintentionally reward this behaviour. Below are some ideas to help teach your dog appropriate ways to greet people.
- When your dog jumps up, you should turn away and ignore them – SAY NOTHING. Deny your dog your attention until it keeps all 4 paws on the floor. Most dogs are rewarded by us for jumping up because we still give them attention – even if it is negative.
- Wait for your dog to be standing on all 4 paws, and praise immediately while the dog is not jumping.
- If your dog gets too excited and jumps again, just turn away again, and wait for them to stop.
- If your dog decides to continue to jump at your back, leave the room. You only need to be out of the room for 30 seconds at a maximum, and there needs to be a door between you and your dog.
- Return to your dog.
- Continue repeating this exercise until your dog no longer jumps. You can set this exercise up by coming home (entering through the front door) often.
- Another option for this exercise is to enforce sit when you come home. Ask your dog to sit and reward with calm verbal praise and touch when they do. This way your dog is working for you and earning your attention.
- Practice this often! Have family and friends help you when they come inside your home.
For a dog that is still too excited during the above steps, another option is to enter your house and completely ignore the dog (no eye contact or anything). Initially this may take quite awhile, but as soon as your dog settles and lies down, you can then say hello. We are teaching the dog that they will only get attention when they are calm. Begin with people living in your home, then familiar, then new people coming to the house.
You could also have your dog away from the door (ex: in their kennel, behind a gate) during all of the initial excitement. Teach them to go to this place for big rewards when the doorbell rings. Only take them out when once they are calm and settled. This moves them away from the excitement, and teaches them that they need to be calm in order to be able to greet people. You could also bring them out on leash to greet the guests to further influence their behaviour.
We often make our hello’s and goodbye’s very exciting, so ensure everyone who greets your dog does so in an appropriate and calm manner. Remember this training takes patience but will be a worthwhile process once you have a well-mannered canine greeting your guests!
A well-exercised dog is a well-behaved dog.
Exercise is significant for your dog’s physical and mental well-being. It is an important part of your dog’s life, and a well-exercised dog can help solve many behaviour issues – they get bored with no exercise! Each dog has different exercise requirements, which depends on their age, size and breed. The main importance of exercise is that it greatly helps to reduce stress and physically tire out your dog.
The most common and effective form for exercising your dog is simply taking them for a walk. This also helps to socialize your dog as it experiences many new sights and sounds. Dogs also find sniffing to be calming and relaxing.
You can also find many ways to exercise your dogs indoors with games such as fetch, hide and go seek and find it. Try to include a mixture of different types of exercises, as well as taking your dog to different locations with new dogs and people.
Training, teaching your dog tricks and a variety of interactive toys will help to work your dog’s brain and provide the mental stimulation they require. Ensure you are addressing their mental stimulation requirements to prevent boredom. Some great toys are Kong products, any treat dispensing toy and the I-Qube puzzle.
This is a common problem, as it is normal behaviour for dogs. Chewing may satisfy the dog’s natural urge to chew, they may do it because they receive attention (even if it’s negative), they may be playing, scavenging for food or it may be due to anxiety or boredom.
You must first determine why the dog is chewing. Are they chewing because they are raiding the garbage, teething, bored, or feeling stress/anxiety? For the dog that is bored or teething, you will need to direct them to more appealing alternatives, and ensure that they are receiving sufficient exercise. When you see your dog chewing on something inappropriate, simply interrupt them (‘No’, ‘Enough’) and redirect them to an appropriate chew toy. It is also important to praise our dogs when we see them chewing on their toys.
If your dog is chewing when it is trying to escape confinement, you must teach them to feel comfortable and secure wherever they are confined, or a new confinement area may have to be chosen. We need them to see this area as a positive place, and should be providing them with some safe toys to play with while we are gone – toys stuffed with treats (ex: Kong) are an excellent alternative for this. If your dog is suffering separation anxiety, please discuss this further with a trainer.
You must supply your dog with appropriate toys as outlets to satisfy their chewing needs. There are many toys available that make the dogs work for a reward. Examples are kongs and treat balls. Things such as smoked bones and beef chews work well too.
If your dog is chewing on certain pieces of furniture or household items, you can make it aversive for the dog when it chews on them. You can either use a commercial taste deterrent such as ‘Bitter Apple’. Or household items such as cayenne pepper mixed with water or oil of citronella can be used. For this to be most effective, the dog will need to be familiar with the deterrent by just putting a small squirt in their mouth so they have a strong initial introduction to it. This prevents the dog from continuing to chew on an item because the deterrent is not strong enough – instead, they will remember the initial introduction.
You can also booby trap the object, by having double-sided tape around the edge, or have cans that will crash to the ground when the dog comes around (i.e.: on the countertop). The easiest way to control chewing problems is to confine your dog while you are not around to supervise. This helps prevent damage to your household items, as well as injury to your dog.
Mouthing is a normal behaviour for puppies. They investigate by using their mouths. Babies will put the toy in their mouth to figure out what it is. Dogs are the same way. Their mouths are like our hands. We need to teach them bite inhibition (control the strength of their jaws) and how to play appropriately.
It is relatively easy to teach your puppy not to do this. Most will grow out of this behaviour altogether. Chewing feels good when they are young as they are teething. Below is a list of some ways to train them to stop mouthing:
- Never reinforce mouthing: Remove your attention anytime the puppy puts their teeth on you. Even eye contact is attention. Stand up, with your arms crossed and look away from the puppy. If they persist, walk out of the room. Close the door (ensure your belongings are safe/out of reach) for a brief timeout (up to 30 s). Continue this until the puppy calms down. Reward for appropriate behaviour.
- Yelp: Begin playing with your puppy and when your puppy nips let out a sharp yelp, turn around and ignore your puppy for a few seconds. The puppy needs to learn that mouthing stops play.
- Allow playtime with other dogs: Allow your puppy to play with other puppies and friendly older dogs as often as possible. Other dogs can better teach a puppy that their biting/playing is too rough.
- Redirect: Offer your puppy a toy to play with while you are interacting with them. This will teach them what’s appropriate to chew on, while still allowing them to use their mouth.
- Teach mouth manners: Hold a piece of food in your fingers. Offer it to your puppy and only allow them to have it when they are gentle (i.e.: licking) rather than biting at your hand.
- Accustom them to handling: Puppies tend to mouth hands whenever stroked and patted. When you pet the puppy, distract him by feeding tiny pieces of treat from your other hand.
- Provide appropriate outlets: Ensure you are giving a variety of toys to help address their chewing needs appropriately.
- Play appropriate games: Encourage non-contact forms of play, such as fetch and tug-of-war, rather than wrestling and rough play. Don’t entice the puppy by using your hands as play objects or waving them around your puppy.
- Do not use physical punishment: Even negative attention can be rewarding for some puppies. You may see an increase in the behaviour by reacting to it and by getting physical. You also risk making the puppy afraid of you.
Remember to be patient and understanding. This is a normal behaviour and most puppies just need time to learn how to be appropriate with their mouths.