Category Archives: dog training

How to Teach Your Dog to Clean Up His Toys

By Langley Cornwell

There are days when I take a break from my home office, walk into the den and shake my head at the mess. And it’s not a human mess. You see, we have a chest full of dog toys in the den and on cold, wet mornings or insufferably hot days when the dogs don’t want to play outside, one of our pooches inevitably empties the entire contents of the chest onto the floor. The result? Our den is turned into a Doggie Toyland!

I had to find a way to remedy the situation. A local dog trainer suggested I teach my dogs to pull their own weight around the house. Here are the basics for teaching your dog to clean up his toys:

Toy Container

• Consolidate your dog’s toys in a container with a wide mouth; an open plastic tub, cardboard box or giant basket will work. Make sure the toy container’s sides are low enough that your dog can simply drop a toy into it.

• Place the container in a location that is easy to access. Put some thought into this step because you need to keep the chest in that location so your dog will always know where to find the toy chest. Moving it around will confuse him.

Training Basics

• Begin this exercise when all the toys are scattered on the floor.

• Get a fistful of your dog’s favorite treats. Right now we’re using CANIDAE Bakery Snacks with Turkey, Quinoa and Butternut Squash. Slyly drop a few of the treats into the empty toy chest.

• Locate your dog’s favorite toy on the floor and call him to you. Coax him to take the toy in his mouth and walk with you to the empty toy chest.

• Point at the treat inside the chest and encourage the dog to take the treat. As he is reaching for the treat his mouth will open. If he successfully (accidently) drops the toy into the container, say your command simultaneously. We use the words “clean up.” If you clicker train your dog, click as you say the command. Then praise your dog for a job well done.

• Repeat this portion of the exercise (in short spurts, over several days or weeks) until your dog understands that “clean up” means getting a toy, carrying it to the basket and finding a hidden treat inside.

• Once he’s solid on that, stop hiding treats inside the basket. Start handing the dog his treat after he puts away each toy. Then slowly draw that out, offering a treat only after he puts away two toys, etc. Your goal is to get him to put away all of his toys and then get his reward.

Alternative Training Methods

If your dog is already solid on fetch and retrieve, you can build from there.

• Reinforce the basic fetch-and-retrieve exercises.

• Strengthen the “drop it” command when your dog brings the toy/ball to you. Work on linking fetch, retrieve and drop it. Our dogs know they have to drop the toy at our feet for the playtime to continue so they do it automatically.

• Once your dog is clear on the fetch- retrieve-drop exercise, stand behind the chest and toss a toy for your dog to retrieve. When he brings the toy back he should theoretically “drop it” into the chest. Practice this exercise until the dog understands that the toy in the chest equals praise and a treat. While giving praise and treats, say “good clean up” to reinforce your command words.

• When your dog clearly understands he gets a treat when he drops the toy in the chest, move further away from the chest and issue the command. Continue to move away from the toy chest and offer enthusiastic praise when the dog drops a toy into the chest.

You may want to practice variations of this, including pointing to toys and instructing your dog to “clean up.” Your dog should eventually be able to put his toys away with a few simple commands.

Does your dog do his share of the housework? We’re still working on all of this, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Next, I’m going to teach our pups how to mop.

Top photo by lindyi
Middle photo by star5112
Bottom photo by Alden Chadwick

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What’s the Best Motivator for Dogs?

By Linda Cole

Before you can begin to train your dog, you need the right kind of motivation. Some dogs love food more than anything else, some enjoy being stroked/petted, and some will learn a command to play a game of fetch or tug of war. All dogs love to receive praise for doing a good job. But is one reward better than the others when it comes to the best way to motivate your dog?

Over the last several years, I’ve had opportunities to talk with many people who work extensively with dogs. Among them: an officer from the Denver Police Department who works with canines trained to detect explosives; a dock diving dog owner who uses the sport to raise awareness for K9 cancer; and another dog owner who trains his dogs for Schutzhund competitions. Each person emphasized the importance of knowing your dog as an individual to find out what motivates him to learn. Most dogs need more motivation than just praise, and some dogs look forward to playing as a reward after training sessions.

There is a debate among dog trainers concerning the use of treats versus praising as a reward. Some believe giving treats is a form of bribery, and once you start rewarding with food it means if you don’t have a treat the dog will stop obeying commands. On the other end of the debate are trainers who say just petting and praising a dog isn’t as effective of a reward for the majority of dogs.
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Understanding Your Dog’s Growl

By Langley Cornwell

When we first introduced our most recent dog into the family (consisting of two humans, one resident dog and one cat), we noticed that he growled a good bit. At the time, he was trying to get his bearings and learning how to assimilate into our routines so we weren’t necessarily worried about the growling. Even so, it was disconcerting. Because I wanted to reach a state of harmony as quickly as possible, my first instinct was to correct his behavior. That would have been the wrong thing to do. It’s important to understand why your dog is growling rather than immediately try to hush him.

Why do dog’s growl?

Dogs are expressive animals, which is one of the things we love about them. They communicate when they are happy or sad; they communicate when they are nervous, fearful or angry. We mostly understand what a dog is communicating by observing his face, ears and body posture. When a dog growls, however, the reason can be ambiguous to us. Why is he growling? Is he going to attack someone or something?

A dog growls in order to communicate, and as responsible pet owners it’s important for us to try and understand what prompted the growling. Generally, a growl indicates that your dog is unhappy, uncomfortable or afraid. He may be reacting to a perceived threat, or he may simply be playing. In fact, growling is divided into three escalating categories: play-based growls, fear-based growls and growls of warning before aggressive or defensive action is taken.

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How Dog Owners Unknowingly Stress Out Their Pets

By Linda Cole

Dogs are as imperfect as we are, and there will be times when your pet engages in behavior you don’t like. Our canine friends do their best to understand what we want, but sometimes they fall short of our expectations. However, it’s not your dog’s fault if he doesn’t understand what you want and appears confused by your reaction to his behavior. Because we are dealing with a non-human species, it’s easy to make mistakes which can stress out our dogs.

Forgetting that your dog is a dog

It’s not uncommon for a possum, raccoon or cat to get inside my dog pen, especially at night. My dogs scour the perimeter of the pen searching for the critter that left the scent trail. Every now and then the trespassing critter is still in the pen. I usually check it before I let the dogs out, but recently a possum slipped in unnoticed. Thankfully it played dead, confusing the dogs, and I was able to get them back inside. After the possum left, it took forever for the dogs to settle down and do their business. The only thing they wanted to do was search for that critter. That was normal behavior as far as they were concerned.

Dogs chase things, dig, bark, mark and chew. One common way that humans stress out a dog is to punish him for following a natural instinct. Instead, make sure he has proper chew toys; designate a spot in your yard where he can dig; help your dog learn to control excessive barking by teaching him to be quiet on command. Keep your pet on leash to control his prey drive, and if he picks up an interesting scent, be patient while he investigates.

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How to Get the Most from Your Dog Training Sessions

By Langley Cornwell

If there was a grading scale, one through five, of how I rank as a pet parent, I’d modestly give myself a four or five in almost every area. Sure, there are a few things I could do better but generally speaking I’d place myself above average on this imaginary scale.

There is one area, however, where I have to admit my deficiencies. Without fail, every time a new dog comes into my life, I say “this time, I’ll do better,” but I don’t. I’ll start out all strong and committed and then my enthusiasm wanes and we’re right back to square one.

I’m talking about regular, standardized dog training. I sign up for it, make silent promises about how this time it’s going to be different. This time, we’ll practice between sessions and keep up with the other pups. If there was a Mr. or Ms. Congeniality award given at dog-training graduation, my dogs would win it. In fact, Frosty was crowned “class clown” at puppy kindergarten. Of course I was proud, but that wasn’t what I was going for. I even had dreams of training Big Al to be a therapy dog. He’s such a big, lovable mush, but we never got that far.

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How to Teach a Deaf Dog Commands

By Linda Cole

Training a dog with perfect hearing can be challenging for some, but trying to communicate with one that’s deaf is even more difficult. It’s not impossible to teach a dog with a hearing loss, though. Even a deaf dog can learn, as long as you’re willing to think outside the box to develop creative ways to get your pet’s attention. One of my dogs, Mickey, was blind and deaf, and was able to live a quality life despite his disabilities.

Hearing loss can be the result of aging, untreated ear mites, infection of the middle or internal ear, a ruptured ear drum, wax and dirt buildup in the ear canal, canine distemper, or other medical conditions. Some breeds are predisposed to congenital deafness which means a dog has a higher chance of being born deaf.

The first step you should take if you notice your dog isn’t paying attention when you talk to him is to take him to your vet for a checkup. Depending on the cause of his hearing loss, some medical issues can be dealt with and his hearing impairment can be reversed. If it turns out to be permanent, he can still understand and follow commands by learning sign language.

Mickey lost his hearing when he was about 13. After finding out from my vet that it was a permanent loss, the next step was to teach him how to understand hand signals. The easiest way to get your dog’s attention is to go to him since he won’t be able to hear you call. When I wanted to get Mickey’s attention, my cue was to touch him on the top of his head. He knew I wanted him to watch me to see what I wanted. You can use a laser light pointed on the floor or wall, but be careful not to shine it in your dog’s eyes. A flashlight can also work, as long as you teach him what the light means. If you have other dogs, a deaf dog can also learn to take his cues from them.

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