Category Archives: dog training

How to Train Your Dog to be Gentle with Toys

By Langley Cornwell

Our dog Frosty acts like every stuffed toy that comes into our home is on a dark mission from the underworld, and only she has the knowledge and the skills to protect us from its evil plan. Since we know how she acts towards plush dog toys, we don’t buy them anymore. But if a well-meaning friend brings her one as a gift, she gets a serious, determined look on her face and takes the stuffed toy to a quiet corner where she commences tearing it into tiny shreds.

It doesn’t matter if the toy has a squeaker or not, whether it’s big or small, whether it’s filled with pellets or foam; that thing is coming apart instantly. Imagine picking out a toy for a friend’s dog, as a holiday or birthday gift perhaps, and taking it over to their house. You proudly present the toy to their dog and it’s turned into a pile of rubble within seconds. How would you feel? Yeah, not good.

We wanted to teach her how to be gentle with toys. I’d like for both Frosty and our other dog Al to have a few stuffed items they could snuggle with if we’re not home. Furthermore, I don’t like the thought of her being so destructive. Even though she’s usually a gentle, sweet pup, I don’t like seeing that side of her. So we set out to train our dogs to be gentle with toys. Here is an outline of our basic game plan:

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Five Reasons to Use a Dog Harness

By Laurie Darroch

Your dog may need more than just a simple collar and leash to wear for a walk or an outing. They may need to use a harness as well. A harness helps with control and safety issues. Take these five reasons into consideration when you are deciding whether or not to purchase a harness for your dog.

Size of the Dog

Large or muscular dogs can be very strong. A harness can give you more control with your dog when you are out and about, even if your dog is not fully trained in good leash behavior.

Some smaller dog breeds may be more delicate and prone to injury. Wearing a harness disperses the pressure from one smaller area on the neck, to the back and the body. It spreads the stress over a larger surface area.

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What Makes a Polite Dog?

Langley's polite dogs

Langley’s polite dogs

By Langley Cornwell

With all the talk about breed specific legislation and blanket statements about which dog breeds have a propensity for being dangerous, it’s especially important for people to train their dogs to be polite. My personal opinion is that a dog’s ability to get along with other dogs and other people rests largely in the hands of the human. Sure, certain dog breeds were bred for specific traits so it’s still in their DNA, but I believe with a solid training plan and loads of patience, discipline and high-quality treats like CANIDAE Pure Heaven biscuits, a dog can be taught to get along well in society. As such, it’s important for the responsible pet owner to teach their dogs to make good decisions and behave in a socially acceptable manner. Here are a few of the basics, to get you started.

Be Firm and Consistent

Start out with plenty of rules, because it’s easier to ease up than it is to tighten up. In other words, it takes much more effort to teach a dog to “un-learn” a behavior that’s already ingrained. As an example, if you’re not sure whether you’re going to let your pet onto the sofa, then start out teaching him that the sofa is off-limits. If you eventually decide that you want to snuggle while you’re watching television, then you may choose to allow your pooch onto the furniture – but only when he’s invited. See, if you would have started out by letting him sit on the sofa, then you would be stuck because it would be difficult to train him to stay off once he’s gotten used to getting on the furniture anytime he wants to.

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Tips for Keeping your Senior Dog Mentally Sharp

By Langley Cornwell

It’s hard to believe that we have what is considered a senior dog now. I remember when she was just a scruffy, malnourished little runt, shaking on my lap as we drove her away from deplorable conditions. Now, eight years later, she’s fat and happy, gracefully entering her golden years. According to the ASPCA, most dogs are considered senior by the time they reach seven years of age. Larger breed dogs age faster than smaller breeds, but between seven to ten years is a good average.

If you have ever shared your life with a senior dog, you are likely aware of the physical decline associated with the aging process. Dogs, like humans, also experience mental decline as they grow older. As a responsible pet owner, you want to do your part to keep your senior dog mentally sharp. Simple things like changing your typical walking routine or taking an alternate route will offer a renewed perspective for an older pet, but it’s good to do more. The best thing you can do is construct ways to keep your dog’s mind active with brain games that require problem solving skills.

Start Where You Are

Teaching your senior dog new tricks is a fun way to engage her mind. You can start with the basics like shake, roll-over and play dead, and get creative from there. If you don’t know how to get started, the article Training an Older Dog will provide an overview.
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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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