Training Today


Where's the- Ball?! Throw- the ball!!!
Purred: Mon Jul 5, '10 5:24am PST 
From the Whole Dog Journal, this article could help if your human doesn't like you giving those little love nips.laugh out loud If you have access to a copier, give your human a break and copy it out, easier on their eyes for sure!

Teaching Bite Inhibition

How to develop and maintain your dog’s “bite inhibition.”
My dog bites me. A lot. Scooter, the 10-pound Pomeranian we adopted from the shelter after he failed a behavior assessment (for serious resource-guarding), has bitten me more times than I can count. Most of the time I don’t even feel his teeth. He has never broken skin, and the few times I have felt any pressure, it’s been because I’ve persisted in what I was doing despite his clear request to stop. Scooter has excellent bite inhibition.

Two more reasons to ensure that your dog develops good bite inhibition as a puppy: If he's got it, he won't hurt anyone, even in the excitement of playing with a favorite toy, or if he gets stepped on by accident.

In the dog training world, bite inhibition is defined as a dog’s ability to control the pressure of his mouth when biting, to cause little or no damage to the subject of the bite. We know that all dogs have the potential to bite, given the wrong set of circumstances. Some dogs readily bite with little apparent provocation, but even the most saintly dog, in pain, or under great stress, can be induced to bite. When a bite happens, whether frequently or rarely, bite inhibition is what makes the difference between a moment of stunned silence and a trip to the nearest emergency room for the victim (and perhaps the euthanasia room for the dog).

A bite is at the far end of a long line of behaviors a dog uses to communicate displeasure or discomfort. To stop another dog, human, or other animal from doing what he perceives to be an inappropriate or threatening behavior, the dog often starts with body tension, hard eye contact, a freeze, pulling forward of the commissure (corners of the lips). These “please stop!” behaviors may escalate to include a growl, snarl (showing teeth), offensive barking, an air-snap (not making contact), and finally, an actual bite. The dog who does any or all of these things is saying, “Please don’t make me hurt you!”

Some foolish humans punish their dogs for these important canine communications. “Bad dog, how dare you growl at my child!” Punishing your dog for these warning signals can make him suppress them; he’ll learn it’s not safe to let you know he’s not comfortable with what you’re doing -and then bites can happen without warning. (See “The Gift of Growling,” Whole Dog Journal October 2005.)

Others ignore the signals and proceed with whatever was making the dog uncomfortable. This is also foolish, because it can prompt the dog to express his feelings more strongly, with a less inhibited bite that might break skin and do damage.

The wise dog owner recognizes the dog’s early signals, and takes steps to reduce or remove the stimulus that is causing the dog to be tense, to avoid having her dog escalate to a bite. She then manages the environment to prevent the dog from constant exposure to the stressful stimulus, and modifies her dog’s behavior to help him become comfortable with it. Sometimes, however, even the best efforts of the wisest dog owners can’t prevent a bite from happening. If and when it does, one hopes and prays that the dog has good bite inhibition.

Installing bite inhibition
In the best of all worlds, puppies initially learn bite inhibition while still with their mom and littermates, through negative punishment: the pup’s behavior makes a good thing go away. If a pup bites too hard while nursing, the milk bar is likely to get up and leave. Pups learn to use their teeth softly, if at all, if they want the good stuff to keep coming. As pups begin to play with each other, negative punishment also plays a role in bite inhibition. If you bite your playmate too hard, he’ll likely quit the game and leave.

For these reasons, orphan and singleton pups (as well as those who are removed from their litters too early) are more likely to have a “hard bite” (lack of bite inhibition) than pups who have appropriate interactions for at least seven to eight weeks with their mother and siblings. These dogs miss out on important opportunities to learn the consequences of biting too hard; they also fail to develop “tolerance for frustration,” since they don’t have to compete with littermates for resources. They may also be quicker to anger -and to bite without bite inhibition -if their desires are thwarted. Note: Being raised with their litter doesn’t guarantee good bite inhibition; some dogs have a genetic propensity to find hard biting (and its consequences) to be reinforcing; others may have had opportunity to practice and be reinforced for biting hard.

Your dog may never bite you in anger, but if he doesn’t have good bite inhibition you’re still likely to feel a hard bite when he takes treats from your fingers -and removes skin as well as the tasty tidbit.

If you find yourself with a puppy who, for whatever reason, tends to bite down harder than he should with those needle-sharp puppy teeth, you need to start convincing him that self-restraint is a desirable quality. You can’t start this lesson too early when it comes to putting canine teeth on human skin and clothes. Ideally, you want to teach your pup not to exert pressure when mouthing by the time he’s five months old, just as his adult canine teeth are coming in, and before he develops adult-dog jaw strength. Here are the four R’s of how to do it:

• Remove: When your puppy bites hard enough to cause you pain, say “Ouch!” in a calm voice, gently remove your body part from his mouth, and take your attention away from him for two to five seconds. You’re using negative punishment, just like the pup’s mom and littermates. If he continues to grab at you when you remove your attention, put yourself on the other side of a baby gate or exercise pen. When he is calm, re-engage with him.

• Repeat: Puppies (and adult dogs, and humans) learn through repetition. It will take time, and many repetitions of Step #1, for your pup to learn to voluntarily control the pressure of his bite. Puppies do have a very strong need to bite and chew, so at first you’ll “ouch and remove” only if he bites down hard enough to hurt you. Softer bites are acceptable -for now. If you try to stop all puppy biting at once, both of you will become frustrated. This is a “shaping” process (see “The Shape of Things to Come,” March 2006).

Pat Miller’s dog Scooter frequently bites while being groomed, but because he has excellent bite inhibition, it doesn’t hurt!

At first, look for just a small decrease in the pressure of his teeth. When he voluntarily inhibits his bite a little -enough that it’s not hurting you -start doing the “ouch and remove” procedure for slightly softer bites, until you eventually shape him not to bite at all. By the time he’s eight months old he should have learned not to put his mouth on humans at all, unless you decide to teach him to mouth gently on cue.

• Reinforce: Your pup wants good stuff to stick around. When he discovers that biting hard makes you (good stuff) go away, he’ll decrease the pressure of his bite and eventually stop biting hard. This works especially well if you remember to reinforce him with your attention when he bites gently. It works even better if you use a reward marker when he uses appropriate mouth pressure. Given that your hands are probably full of puppy at that particular moment, use a verbal marker followed by praise to let him know he’s doing well. Say “Yes!” to mark the soft-mouth moment, followed by “Good puppy!” praise to let him know he’s wonderful.

• Redirect: You probably are well aware that there are times when your pup is calmer and softer, and times when he’s more aroused and more likely to bite hard.

It’s always a good idea to have soft toys handy to occupy your pup’s teeth when he’s in a persistent biting mood. If you know even before he makes contact with you that he’s in the mood for high-energy, hard biting, arm yourself with a few soft toys and offer them before he tries to maul your hands. If he’s already made contact, or you’re working on repetitions of Step #1, occasionally reinforce appropriate softer bites with a favorite squeaky toy play moment.

If there are children in the home with a mouthy puppy, it’s imperative that you arm them with soft toys and have toys easily available in every room of the house, so they can protect themselves by redirecting puppy teeth rather than running away and screaming -a game that most bitey pups find highly reinforcing.

It is possible to suppress a puppy’s hard biting by punishing him when he bites too hard. That might even seem like a quicker, easier way to get him to stop sinking his canine needles into your skin. However, by doing so, you haven’t taught him bite inhibition. If and when that moment comes where he really does feel compelled to bite someone, he’s likely to revert to his previous behavior and bite hard, rather than offering the inhibited bite you could have taught him.

Teaching bite inhibition to an adult dog
Teaching an adult dog to inhibit his bite is far more challenging than teaching a puppy. A dog easily reverts to a well-practiced, long-reinforced behavior in moments of high emotion, even if he’s learned to control his mouth pressure in calmer moments.

I know this all too well. Our Cardigan Corgi, now six years old, came to us at the age of six months with a wicked hard mouth. Hand-feeding her treats was a painful experience, and I implemented a variation of the “Ouch” procedure. Because she was biting hard for the treat rather than puppy-biting my flesh, I simply said “Ouch,” closed my hand tightly around the treat, and waited for her mouth to soften, then fed her the treat. Hard mouth made the treat disappear (negative punishment); soft mouth made the treat happen (positive reinforcement). She actually got the concept pretty quickly, and within a couple of weeks could thoughtfully and gently take even high value treats without eliciting an “Ouch.”

She still can take treats gently to this day, except when she’s stressed or excited; then she reverts to her previous hard-bite behavior. When that happens, I close the treat in my fist until she remembers to soften her mouth, at which time I open my hand and feed her the treat. So, while our bite inhibition work was useful for routine training and random daily treat delivery, if Lucy ever bites in a moment of stress, arousal, fear and/or anger, I have no illusions that she’s going to remember to inhibit her bite. Of course, I do my best to make sure that moment doesn’t happen.

Because I have more leeway with Scooter and his excellent bite inhibition, it’s tempting to be a little complacent with him. I try not to. One of Scooter’s “likely to bite” moments is grooming time. The poor guy has a horrible undercoat that mats, literally, in minutes. This is a highly undesirable Pomeranian coat characteristic. I could groom my first Pomeranian, Dusty, once a week without worrying about mats. I have to groom Scooter every night.

Of course he hates it; brushing always causes him some discomfort as I work to ease the tangles out without pulling too hard on his skin. We’ve made progress in the year we’ve had him; I can comb the top half of his body without encountering much resistance, but I can feel him tense up as I approach the more sensitive lower regions. Rather than relying on his good bite inhibition to get us through, I continue to use counter-conditioning and desensitization. I feed him treats (or have my husband Paul feed him) as I groom, or let him lick my hands (an activity he enjoys mightily -and one I can tolerate in place of his biting) while I comb out the tangles.

Whether you’ve taken the time to teach your puppy good bite inhibition or had the good fortune to inherit a dog who has it, don’t take it for granted. Continue to reinforce soft-mouth behavior for the rest of his life, and don’t be tempted to push the envelope of his tolerance just because you can. Even saints have limits.

Pat Miller, CPDT, is Whole Dog Journal’s Training Editor. Miller lives in Fairplay, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center.

Edited by author Mon Jul 5, '10 5:34am PST


Where's the- Ball?! Throw- the ball!!!
Purred: Sun Jul 18, '10 4:47pm PST 
From the January 2007 issue of The Whole Dog Journal

Utilizing Target Training for Better Leash Walking
by Pat Miller

Use target training to teach your dog to walk without pulling,open and close doors, go to his bed, and much more.
Does your dog know how to target? If not, the two of you may be missing out on one of the most versatile behaviors to come along since the rise in popularity of the positive dog training philosophy.

Targeting simply means teaching your dog to touch a designated body part to a designated spot the end of a commercially produced target stick, your hand, an object, a location, or anything at all. While much targeting is done with the dog’s nose as the designated body part, you can actually teach your dog to touch with a front or hind foot, his hip, shoulder, ear, or any other moveable piece of his anatomy.

Cooper is 11 years old and he picked up nose-targeting in about a minute and a half. Wefre going to build his skill at targeting to keep his attention on us as we pass fences that contain barking dogs, which usually makes him anxious and reactive.

We teach nose targeting in my Basic Adult and Puppy classes. Whenever I introduce the exercise to a new group I get puzzled stares from most of the humans in the class. I can just see them thinking, “Why on earth would I want to teach my dog to do that?!” proof that the concept of targeting still has miles to go before gaining familiarity and acceptance in the mainstream pet dog community.

The list of reasons why you want to teach your dog to touch is as long as your arm, and then some. From the serious to the sublime, targeting is useful and fun for canines and humans alike. You can use targeting to teach good manners and dog behaviors such as “Go to your place” and to help your dog learn polite leash walking. “Touch the target” can be used as an emergency recall, or your dog’s cue to ask to go outside.

It also has widespread application for a number of service dog behaviors, can be used to teach agility dogs to hit the contact zones, and give search dogs a tool to communicate that they’ve located sign of the missing person (or pet). Finally, targeting can come into play with an endless variety of entertaining tricks and games. There’s something for everyone.

Getting Ready
It’s almost imperative that you use a reward marker the click! of a clicker or some other quick, sharp sound or word for fast and effective target training. The “touch” behavior happens so quickly that it’s difficult for the dog to understand what he’s being reinforced for absent a conditioned sound that marks the instant of rewardable behavior. If you have not already done so, start by “charging” your clicker teaching your dog that “click!” (or whatever sound you choose to use) means he just earned a reward. Note: If you want to use a verbal marker instead of a clicker, I suggest not using the word “Good.” We frequently tell our dogs they’re good dogs just because we love them. Your reward marker needs to have a very specific meaning: “That behavior just earned a treat!” You don’t want to have to feed your dog a treat every time you tell him he’s a good dog! I suggest using the word “Yes!” or even the word “Click!” as verbal markers.

Charging the clicker is one of the easiest things you’ll ever teach your dog. It’s classic Pavlov (classical conditioning) simply giving the dog a strong positive association between the click or other marker and yummy food. So, assuming you use a clicker, just “click!” it a half-dozen to a dozen times, following each click with a tasty treat, and you will soon be good to go. To test if the clicker is “charged,” wait for your dog to look away and click the clicker once. His head should swivel back to you in anticipation of the treat. If it doesn’t, supply yourself with treats that are more irresistible, and click and treat a few more times.

This Cane Corso pup tries to take the ball on the end of the target stick into her mouth. After being clicked and rewarded for just touching the ball, not mouthing it, she catches on.

A small percentage of dogs are afraid of the sound of the clicker. When you first introduce it, click it inside a pocket to muffle the sound a bit. If at any time you notice an adverse reaction to the clicker from your dog, charge and use a verbal marker instead.

Basic nose targeting
The easiest body part to start with is the nose or a front paw, since dogs use those two body parts almost exclusively to explore their world. My preference is nose targeting the one we teach in our beginner classes because it’s easy to elicit the behavior, and doesn’t reinforce dogs who might already be a little too free with the use of their paws. Foot is my second choice for an easy and useful targeting behavior.

At six months of age, the pup is big and strong and getting bigger and stronger all the time. But with the target stick, teaching her to heel off-leash is a snap!

You can capture targeting to your hand, which means getting the complete “touch” behavior, clicking and treating when he does or you can shape it which means clicking and treating for “successive approximations” of moving his nose closer and closer to your hand. (See “The Shape of Things to Come,” Whole Dog Journal March 2006, for more information about shaping.)

Dogs tend to naturally sniff an offered hand, so to “capture” a touch, offer your open palm to your dog at nose level with your fingers pointing toward the ground. If your dog thinks this is an invitation to “Shake,” offer your closed fist instead.

When he sniffs your offered hand, mark the desired behavior with the click! of a clicker (or verbal marker, such as “Yes!”) and give the dog a treat. Repeat until you see him deliberately bump his nose into your hand because he’s figured out he can make you click and treat by touching you. Then add your verbal cue (for example, “Touch!”) just before his nose touches. In short order you’ll be able to prompt him to target to your hand.

Dogs with longer noses may be better candidates for nose-targeting! This Pug presses what she can of her nose her lips, actually to a target on a door, while keeping her eyes on the treat shefs about to get.

Of course, it’s not always quite that easy. Your dog may sniff the hand a few times and then stop, either because your hand is no longer interesting to him, or because he’s just focusing on the source of the treats. If he needs a jump start, rub something tasty on your hand and offer it for a sniff or a lick. You’re on your way!

Once you’ve established the targeting behavior to your hand, you can transfer it to another object. Hold the target object in your hand, cue the behavior, and give him a click and treat when he touches the target. Fade the presence of your hand by moving it away from the target object until he’ll touch it by itself.

Practice targeting to enough different objects, and your dog will happily touch any object you indicate, the first time you ask. You can even name several objects and teach him to touch different ones on cue, a behavior called target discrimination.

Any time you want to add a new cue for a behavior, use the new cue, followed by the old one. When you name an object, you’re really just giving that specific object a new cue.

For example, if you set a gallon water jug on the floor and say “Touch!” your dog touches it. Now say “Jug, touch!” After enough repetitions (“enough” will vary, depending on the dog and how touch-savvy he is), you can drop the “Touch” cue and just say “Jug!” to get your dog to touch the water bottle.

As the criterion for a click! and treat was increased to gmove the door by pushing it,h the Pug got stuck. A tiny push on the door from a helper was needed before she understood that she had to push harder and maintain contact as the door moved to earn the click and reward.

Applied Targeting
Ready to start making use of your dog’s new behavior? Try these: ¡ Polite leash walking. This is one of the most useful applications of targeting. When your dog starts to lag or move too far ahead of you, position your target hand or the end of the target stick where you’d like the dog to be (traditionally at your left side) and ask him to “Touch!” Click and treat when he’s in position.

To keep him there, give your “Touch” cue more frequently, and reinforce randomly very frequently at first, then less so as he gets better at polite walking. If you have a small dog and don’t want to bend over for him to touch your hand, teach him to touch a target stick and offer that as you walk, instead.

¡ Close a door/drawer. Teach your dog to target to a plastic disk (like a cottage cheese container lid) in your hand. Then stick the lid to a cupboard door or drawer with rubber glue or double-sided tape at your dog’s nose level, and ask him to touch it there.

You may need to have your hand near the lid at first, and fade the presence of your hand or not, if your dog is really adept at targeting. When he’ll consistently touch the lid on cue, shape for harder touches by only clicking the ones that move the door, at least a little. Eventually he’ll close the door all the way.

If you don’t want a plastic lid on your cupboard forever, fade its presence by cutting it into increasingly smaller circles, until there’s no lid left and your dog has transferred the “touch” to the door itself. ¡ Turn on/off a lamp. Gotta love those touch on/touch off lamps; they’re perfect for target training! Show your dog the lamp and ask him to “Touch!” If your dog still needs some assistance, put your hand behind the lamp to help him touch it and gradually fade the presence of your hand.

Be careful with this one! I had a friend whose husband accused her of not leaving the light on when she went to bed before he did until they realized their Sheltie was turning off the light after her mistress fell asleep. ¡ Go to your place. Get out another cottage cheese lid (since you cut up the last one) and stick it where you want your dog’s “place” to be. Ask him to target to the lid from increasing distances, until you can send him to his spot from across the room, and eventually even from another room.

When he’s targeting to his spot easily, start asking him to lie down when he gets there. Then change his cue for the behavior to “Place!” –or whatever cue you prefer by using the new cue first, followed by the old cue, or “Place Touch!” Eventually you can drop the “touch” and he’ll go to his spot and lie down when you say “Place!”

You can teach him that one particular place is his spot, or you can generalize the behavior and teach him that anywhere you stick a cottage cheese lid is his spot. ¡ Play ball. Teach your dog to push a large ball with his nose one he can’t pick up in his mouth. The hard plastic Jolly Ball is perfect for this, and comes in a variety of sizes from small to very large. When he’s learned this one you can sit on the floor across from him and the two of you can roll the ball back and forth a great game to play when your dog needs exercise and it’s too cold or stormy to go outside. This behavior can also turn your dog into a great babysitter as long as you remember that dogs and small children must always be under direct adult supervision. ¡ Be brave. This is another application of classical conditioning helping your dog develop an association between two different things. Most dogs love targeting once they’ve learned it. What’s not to love? You’re like a treat vending machine your dog pushes the button (your hand), he gets a treat. He pushes the button, he gets a treat. As a result, he has a very positive association a “Yay!!” feeling when you ask him to touch.

Now, say you’re walking down the street with your dog on leash and you have to a garbage collection truck. As you approach, the worker drops a metal garbage can, sending it clattering across the sidewalk 25 feet in front of you. Your dog happens to be a little fearful of loud noises and is now afraid to walk past the can, even though the garbage truck is long gone.

You offer your hand and ask your dog to touch. His brain goes “Yay! Targeting!” and he takes a step forward to touch your hand. You target him past the garbage can, and since he can’t be happy about targeting and afraid of the can at the same time, and because his association with targeting is so positive, not only do you get him past the can, but the positive association has rubbed off and now he thinks garbage cans are pretty cool, too.

Paw Targeting
Some behaviors work better as paw targets than nose targets, especially things that require a little more “oomph” behind the touch turning appliances on and off, for example. Others work equally well either way, and if you teach you dog both, you can choose which one to ask for.

For dogs who are naturally “pawsy,” paw targeting is a breeze. Put something on the floor, and when your dog paws at it, click and treat. When he’s pawing at it reliably, add a verbal cue. Be sure to use a different cue from the one you use for his nose! I use “Foot!” to ask my dogs to target with a paw, “Touch!” for the nose.

If your dog’s not a paw-natural, you can “shape” a foot touch. Start by clicking any movement of one paw while your dog stands or sits in front of you. Pick just one paw or you could end up shaping a tap dance! At first you might just get tiny paw movements, but when your dog figures out what you’re clicking for, his paw movements will become more deliberate and more expansive.

Tricks such as high-five, pattycake, and shake hands can all be taught easily with paw targeting.

When he’s doing significant paw movement, add your “Foot” cue, then place an object on the floor. At first click if his paw lands anywhere near the object, then eventually only if it actually touches the object. Finally, add a new cue for the specific object you’re asking him to touch with his paw. Some paw-touch applications include: ¡ Playing soccer. You already taught him to push a ball with his nose. Now use a different cue for paw-soccer, and you’ve got another good energy-eating game. ¡ Playing a keyboard. This is a great crowd-pleaser for my Scottie, Dubhy; he sits up on a chair and plays an electronic keyboard with his paws. He actually started with a nose-touch on a plastic kiddie piano and graduated to the keyboard. ¡ Five more minutes. Pushing the snooze button on the alarm an obvious application, but don’t let him make you late for work! ¡ Go to your place. Instead of a lid on the wall, teach him to target with his paws to a rug or mat on the floor. ¡ Turning off the TV remote. For an additional challenge, teach him to do this only after you fall asleep watching TV!

Some of my favorite targeting applications are just for fun. At shaping camp we teach our dogs to turn on a smiley-face push light because it’s cute. One of my clients went one better, however. Matt Conaty discovered a great target object at a chain office supply store a push-button gadget. Now when his Jack Russell Terrier, Bally, pushes the button, a recorded voice says “That was easy!” Indeed it was. And fun, too!

Pat Miller, CPDT, is Whole Dog Journal’s Training Editor.Miller lives in Hagerstown, Maryland, siteof her Peaceable Paws training center.


Where's the- Ball?! Throw- the ball!!!
Purred: Wed Feb 2, '11 8:11am PST 
From November 2010 issue of 'The Whole Dog Journal'

"Help for Dogs With a Healthy Phobia of Stairs
Five things to do when your dog won’t go up or down stairs.
By Pat Miller, CPDT-KA, CDBC

Occasionally I’ll get a call from a client who is having trouble getting their dog to go up or down stairs – a frustrating dilemma when you want your canine companion to be able to accompany you wherever you go. First, be sure your stairs are covered with a traction-providing surface, so he doesn’t slip and scare himself if he tries to use them. Next, here are some tips for overcoming this challenge:

There are more solutions for stair-impaired dogs like Scooter the Pomeranian than for large dogs.

1. Get a veterinary/chiropractic check-up. If your dog is hurting or otherwise physically challenged, it may be too painful or difficult for him to negotiate stairs. A chiropractic adjustment and/or pain-relief medications may have him scampering up and down in no time. If the condition cannot be alleviated enough to make him able to do stairs, you’ll know it’s time to stop trying, and find another alternative.

2. Carry him. Some small dogs (like our Pomeranian, Scooter) just aren’t big enough to handle a full flight of stairs. Scooter can manage the two steps at the back door into the house, but not the full flight of stairs up to our bedroom, so I carry him up at night, and back down in the morning. If you have a small dog who doesn’t like to be carried, you can teach him to go into a carrier, and tote the carrier up and down the stairs. You can also carry or use a carrier for a medium-sized dog who, for whatever reason, doesn’t like stairs, but it’s not a good option for a dog who is too large for easy lifting!

3. Provide an alternative. When we added a sunroom and new deck to the back of our house, my husband had the foresight to ask the contractor to build a ramp in addition to stairs, in anticipation of aging canines who might have difficulty with stairs. A few months later we adopted Scooter, who delights in using the ramp to the deck rather than the stairs. If your geriatric guy is having trouble and a ramp isn’t an option, you can use a towel as a sling under his abdomen to assist his back end up the stairs. This one’s a stretch, but if you happen to live in a home that has a stair-elevator chair for a disabled person, teach him to use that!

4. Shape it. Your dog may simply be afraid to go up and down stairs, and the more you pressure him to do it, the scarier it feels to him. Shaping allows the dog to make his own decisions and reinforces him for tiny pieces of “stair behavior” so he gains confidence. Just start at one end of the stairway – top or bottom, wherever he’s more comfortable – and click (or use a verbal marker) and give him a treat for any small movement toward the stairs. No coaxing, no luring, just let him make all the decisions and all the moves. In time – faster for some dogs, slower for others, your dog will take one step up (or down) then another, then another, and finally be happily willing to do the entire flight. If you’ve done other shaping games with your dog this may go faster; if you and your canine pal are new to shaping this can take longer. (See “The Shape of Things to Come,” WDJ March 2006.)

5. Back chain it. This is another solution for tiny to medium dogs – not practical for large dogs, but it can work like a charm with smaller ones.

Instead of starting at the bottom step and working your way up (or vice-versa), carry your dog up the stairs and set him down one step from the top. He sees safety just one step up and makes the attempt – one step is manageable for him, even if he’s afraid of stairs – and goes for the top. Phew! He made it! Feed him yummy treats too, as added reinforcement for his superb effort.

Repeat that process just one step from safety until he does that happily and easily, then set him two steps from the top. Emboldened by his repeated success with one step, he’s able to make the effort for two steps, then three, then four, until he can easily go up and down the entire flight without concern. Happy stair climbing!

Pat Miller, CPDT-KA, CDBC, is WDJ’s Training Editor. Miller lives in Fairplay, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center. Pat is also author of several books on positive training, including her latest: Do Over Dogs: Give Your Dog a Second Chance for a First Class Life."


Where's the- Ball?! Throw- the ball!!!
Purred: Tue May 31, '11 2:56pm PST 
Here is a really good no-nonsense check list, from the AKC, for new puppy/dog owners. Especially good is the suggestion of a list of all cues to be used so that ALL household members use the same cues/words to teach the dog.


“31 Days to a Better Dog” Start 2011 right with a training makeover for your dog.
By Mychelle Blake
Mychelle Blake, MSW, CDBC a certified dog-behavior consultant.

PetPartners, Inc the provider of the AKC Pet Healthcare Plan thought the readers of the Barking Bulletin would find the article as interesting as we did. Mychelle Blake the author, graciously agreed to let us reprint the original article in our current edition. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

To subscribe to Family Dog please go to:

As a dog trainer, I often hear owners saying they were surprised to find out how a dog would change their lives. Alisa, from Greenville, South Carolina, tells of her experience with her new puppy, Moka, a Flat-Coated Retriever: "The one thing I forgot about having a puppy is how much time they take initially. She is a puppy, so I knew we would have to train her, and I knew we would have to watch her, but I forgot that I have to watch her closely until she learns what is allowed and what is not allowed. It's like having another baby!"

Sometimes new owners find that the dog they've taken on is a mismatch for their lifestyle. Jeannie Loeb, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, says excess energy posed a problem. "I found myself having to wake before dawn every morning to walk the dog (not at a leisurely pace!) for about an hour. Then my husband and four children would take the dog for a walk during the evenings. And yet, this was not enough exercise for her and so she was getting into all sorts of mischief at home."
But don't despair. With preparation, consistency, and a plan, you can mold a well-mannered pup and brush up on the etiquette of older dogs. Start now! Every interaction with your dog is a training opportunity.

Getting Started

When beginning training, it's a good idea to sit down and write out a plan. Tracking daily interactions with your dog can help you to see how you are progressing with basic manners. If you live in a multiperson household, it can assist with one of the key issues to watch out for in training-consistency!

Take your written plan and post it in a common area of your household where everyone can see it-on your refrigerator, on the family computer, or even above your dog's bed or crate. Make sure all family members enter their data in the chart. It's also important to take the time each day to discuss progress, such as at the dinner table, or while you walk the dog together as a family at night.

Invest in a good set of baby gates and use them to keep your puppy from getting into trouble in your house.

Get a variety of toys for your puppy, but only leave four to five down at any time. Rotate them regularly so your puppy doesn't get bored and try to play with inappropriate objects-like your shoes!

Begin crate training. Aside from helping with house training, having a dog who is comfortable in a crate can be a real asset. Crate-trained dogs are less stressed when they need to be confined due to an illness or during transport.

Start looking for training classes now, especially those leading to the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy® or AKC's Canine Good Citizen® program awards. You may find a listing of CGC evaluators and S.T.A.R. Puppy trainers at Also, check the APDT website's trainer-search feature at

For multiperson households, create a "cue chart," listing all of the behaviors you are trying to teach and the corresponding cue words. That way everyone stays on the same page and your puppy will learn faster!

Use your dog's bed or crate as part of his training regimen-you can train him to do a "go to bed" or "crate" cue by bringing him to his bed or crate and rewarding him for staying. This is a useful behavior to have when visitors come over, or when you want to eat a meal at the dinner table without your puppy underfoot.

Have you "puppy proofed" your home? If you have, it's time for a recheck! Review your puppy's access to your household furniture and goods often, as things may change when the puppy gets bigger and more active.

Socialization Tip: Visit your veterinary clinic often with your puppy to help him learn that it's a great place to be. Bring a handful of treats or a favorite toy with you, and have the puppy meet the staff.

Food-stuffed toys are a great way to keep your puppy occupied while you are busy. Fill the toys with kibble and other treats, or even regularly feed him his breakfast and dinner through these toys.

Reinforce the four-on-the-floor rule! While it's cute now for a little puppy to jump up on people, this will quickly get annoying as he gets bigger, especially with medium and large breeds.

Get your puppy used to being handled right away! Gently play with his paws, ears, tail, head, and body while rewarding him with treats or getting to play with a favorite toy. A dog who is comfortable being handled will find veterinary and grooming visits much less stressful.

If you have children in the house, make sure they understand how to play properly with the puppy; don't allow any "roughhousing," which can increase mouthy and nippy behavior.

Socialization Tip: Visit dog-friendly stores with your puppy. Some businesses that typically allow dogs include home improvement stores, garden nurseries, and of course, pet-supply stores.

Teach your dog the "name game"-call your dog's name in a happy, excited tone of voice and reward him when he looks at you. Wait until he is no longer paying attention, and repeat. This game teaches your dog to pay attention to his name.

Vary the rewards. Every dog is different, so have the family make a list of what your dog enjoys-try to use a mix of food and non-food rewards, such as toys, praise, brushing, or getting to go outside. Every dog's list of "favorites" will be unique.

Socialization Tip: Many coffee shops and restaurants with outdoor areas allow you to sit out with your dog. So enjoy an outing and latte with your pup.

Use feeding times to train the sit and wait commands. Ask your puppy to sit before you place his food bowl down, and ask him to wait before you allow him to walk over to the bowl to begin eating.

Choose a marker signal. A marker can be a sound, like the one a clicker makes, or a word such as Yes! Pair this signal with a treat, toy, or other reward. Eventually when you phase out the reward item, the dog will understand that the marker signal means he did something right.

Start teaching your puppy to walk on leash right away-without the leash! Practice in your backyard off-leash by keeping some treats in your hand by your leg, and rewarding your puppy for walking close to you. Gradually work up to hiding the treats and rewarding your puppy for voluntarily following you closely.

Get your children involved with tricks training. Tricks are fun and low stress since they are not among the critical skills a dog needs to know.

Socialization Tip: Visit local parks where you know children will be. Even if you have children, the more children your puppy is exposed to, the better. Find parks with a variety of people, sights, and sounds for your puppy to get used to.

Make sure everyone is aware of attention-seeking behaviors, such as whining, jumping up, barking, pawing, licking, nudging, pushing, and even stealing. Your whole family, particularly children, should be aware of these behaviors and know to ignore them.

Are there toddlers in the home? Teach your puppy to do a down-stay whenever your toddler is in a high chair. You can even teach your toddler to give the hand signal for down or sit and toss the puppy a treat.

Teach your puppy to target your hand and teach this to your children as well-this way the dog learns that when he greets people, he is positioning his head by their hands, rather than by their heads.

Socialization Tip: Choose puppy classes over dog parks. You don't have control over the kinds of dogs at a dog park, and young puppies might find the activity overwhelming. Another alternative is to find friends who have dogs with good temperaments and arrange play dates.

Encourage your puppy to learn to settle. If there is nap time in your household for the children, it should be nap time for the dog as well. Offer the puppy a food-stuffed toy or a chew in the crate or on a dog bed. This reinforces calm, quiet behavior.

Housetraining troubles? Make sure you are monitoring your puppy's intake of food and water, and exercise schedule. Most puppies eliminate right after they eat, play, and wake up.

Is your puppy getting enough exercise? Every puppy has different needs so research the energy levels of your dog's breed or breed mix. In addition to walking, exercise may include throwing a toy in the backyard and teaching fetch.

Cement the "recall" or come command through games. Play "round-robin recalls" by having different members of the family call your puppy and as the puppy comes to them and is rewarded, have the next person call, and so on. You can also play "hide and seek" in your house or yard and reward your dog for finding you.

Once your dog is doing well with practicing behaviors like sit, stay, and down, take him outside in areas with more distractions to practice these skills. This will help to "proof" these behaviors.

Good job! Treat yourself and your puppy by having fun time to build your relationship-go on a hike, play fetch in a park, or visit the pet store to get a new toy and a social visit.

For more training tips,check out the public education section of the AKC website and the AKC's Canine Good Citizen® program website,"


Where's the- Ball?! Throw- the ball!!!
Purred: Mon Dec 3, '12 5:22am PST 
laugh out loudapplauseHere's a special article for guys that are really small!way to go

From the Whole Dog Journal Magazine, printed off their handy online web site. smile

December 2012

"By Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CDBC

Training Tiny Dogs

Small dogs learn in the same way that big dogs do, though some techniques might have to be carried out a little differently.

A long time ago, I was a “big dog person.” For the first three decades of my life, I looked disdainfully down on yappy little foo-foo dogs and the people who owned them. Then I fell in love with and adopted Dusty, an 8-pound Pomeranian, and my whole perspective shifted, as did some of my long-held paradigms on small dog behavior, training, and management. I came to appreciate the behavior of owners who snatched their tiny toy breeds off the floor at the approach of a bigger dog. I was constantly worried for my little dog’s safety. I was certain one of our bigger dogs would play with him too roughly and crush him. Or worse – some unknown dog could kill him with a grab-and-shake move. And it was so easy to pick him up and carry him that I did it frequently. The concept of having an “arm-dog” began to make perfect sense to me.

Don’t let their size fool you into thinking they are any less able or intelligent than larger dogs. Small dogs can become exquisitely well-trained and athletic, fast-performing dogs.

Today, I’m keenly aware that some little dogs – and their owners – play right into the small dog stereotype. Many small dogs I see in public are ill-mannered with humans, reactive toward other dogs, and yappy. Lots of little dogs strain on their leashes, don’t come when called, and think “sit” is something their owners do so the human can bend over and pet them.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Every little dog is as capable of learning basic and advanced training behaviors as big dogs – and it’s just as important for their long-term well being and safety. Dusty had his AKC Companion Dog degree, and was well on his way to Companion Dog Excellent before bad hips curtailed his jumping and cut his show career short.

If you doubt a little dog’s ability to learn, just watch any canine competition. You’ll be amazed by the number of diminutive canines who compete successfully in obedience, agility, rally, flyball, canine freestyle, nose work and more. (In fact, every flyball competitor wants a little dog on her team, because the jump heights for the whole team are set at the proper height for the smallest dog in the group!)

Positive training techniques are equally effective for all sizes of dogs; all dogs learn in a similar fashion. That said, some minor modifications to training and management can make the relationship-building and training process more successful for little dogs. Whether your goal is a well-mannered family companion, competition titles, or both, if you keep the following concepts and tips in mind you and your little dog can be more successful and have more fun playing the training game together.

But before I describe these tips, let’s define some terms.

Small Problem?
Let’s arbitrarily define “little dog” as one that weighs 25 pounds or less. This encompasses a wide range of breeds, from the tiny, truly fragile 2-pound teacup Yorkie to the short and sturdy 20- to 25-pound Scottish Terrier. It includes dogs with such varied personalities as the independent and pugnacious Jack Russell Terrier, the more dignified and amiable Pug, the independent and aloof Basenji, the energetic and responsive Toy Poodle, and the relatively phlegmatic French Bulldog, to name just a few. That doesn’t even take into consideration the infinite combinations of small mixed-breed dogs or the wide range of individual personalities within a given breed.

Let’s arbitrarily define “little dog” as one that weighs 25 pounds or less. This encompasses a wide range of breeds, from the tiny, truly fragile 2-pound teacup Yorkie to the short and sturdy 20- to 25-pound Scottish Terrier. It includes dogs with such varied personalities as the independent and pugnacious Jack Russell Terrier, the more dignified and amiable Pug, the independent and aloof Basenji, the energetic and responsive Toy Poodle, and the relatively phlegmatic French Bulldog, to name just a few. That doesn’t even take into consideration the infinite combinations of small mixed-breed dogs or the wide range of individual personalities within a given breed.

A Pomeranian once seemed quite small to me, but recent decades have seen a proliferation of smaller and smaller dogs – the so-called “teacup” breeds. At a local humane society “Bark In The Park” fund-raising event recently, a couple walked past my booth with a pair of tiny Yorkies in their arms. The male, the “larger” of the two, was three pounds at full maturity. The female was a mere two pounds. They made Scooter, my current Pomeranian, who tips the scales at a whopping 12 pounds, look quite massive by comparison!

Next, let’s define “training.” Owners of larger dogs are likely to understand training as encompassing everything including polite “good manners” behaviors in the house, coming when called, walking nicely on leash, and calmly greeting new people and other dogs. But owners of small dogs might have no behavior expectations of their little companions beyond potty training – and maybe not even that! After all, jumping up is much easier to accept from a 5-pound dog than 50-pound one, so lots of little dog owners don’t bother to teach a polite greeting.

Trainer Cindy Rich reinforces polite sitting in a “small dog daycare” group; it doesn’t take any of the little guys long to realize that only dogs who sit calmly get treats. Cindy’s back would probably appreciate it if she kneeled instead of bending over to reach the dogs, however.

In my opinion, all dogs, even tiny ones, should be trained to exhibit all the same good manners behaviors as larger dogs, such as sitting politely to greet visitors, or asking permission for sofa privileges. For optimum quality of life and his relationship with you, it’s every bit as important for the little dog to be trained as the large one.

Eight Tips for Training Little Dogs
Fortunately, training is not any more difficult to accomplish with a small dog than with a big one, with the following adjustments:

1. Minimize Your Inner Primate. Primate body language (such as a direct approach, looming over the dog, eye contact, assertive gestures and voice) is intimidating to any dog who has not learned to read and interpret “human.” It’s even more so to the little dog. The smaller the canine, the more threatening our natural human body language can be. When you are training your little dog, at least until he learns to read and trust you, conscientiously use soft eye contact; make your gestures and voice small and soft rather than large and effusive; turn slightly sideways to him; and squat instead of looming over your dog to interact with him.

2. Use Tiny Treats. I constantly remind dog owners to use small (pea-sized) pieces of food treats and perhaps incorporate some of his regular food into his portion of treats. When you use training treats with your little dog the treats must be very tiny – perhaps the size of a quarter of a pea! Also, you may need to reduce or even eliminate some of his meals, based on how many treats you feed him during training. Otherwise you’re likely to fill him up far too quickly, and pack on the pounds, as well.

3. Make Yourself Smaller. If you always train your little dog standing up, you are guaranteed to end up with a sore back. Exercises like luring the down and practicing puppy push-ups (sit-down, sit-down, sit-down) can be especially backbreaking. In the beginning, sit on the floor with your dog to save your back, and to make yourself less intimidating to him. You can also work with your little dog while you sit on a stool or chair, or you can put him on a raised surface where he is comfortable, such as a table, sofa, or bed.

4. Use Reach-Extending Tools. You also need to train standing up – at least some of the time. Your dog needs to learn to walk politely with you; even a little dog can damage his throat if he constantly strains at the leash. The better his leash manners are, the more fun it will be to take him places, and the less likely he’ll become an arm-dog. Teach him to target and then use your target stick to help him learn to walk with you, without having to bend over. Simply put the target stick where you want him to be. You can also smash a soft treat onto the end of the stick for delivery to your little dog without having to bend over, or just drop treats on the floor. Another trip to your chiropractor averted!

5. Take Advantage of little dog Training Tools. Little dogs need lightweight collars and leashes. It’s easy to underestimate the impact of a standard-weight leather leash if it accidentally bumps into your dog’s face, or, worse, if you drop your end and it falls on him. His training tools and toys should be scaled appropriately to his size. Fortunately, pet suppliers have gotten wonderfully creative with little dog products like toy-dog-size tennis balls and squeaky toys, and narrow, lightweight nylon leashes.

Many small dogs reflexively resist being picked up, or brace their bodies when someone reaches for them. Who can blame them? The smallest among them get picked up a lot! Do your small dog a favor and give him a “pick up warning” cue before gently lifting him.

6. Teach Your little dog A “Pick-Up Warning” Cue. Of course you’re going to pick him up sometimes – it’s what we little dog owners do. You can minimize pick-up stress for your dog by using a “pick-up warning” cue. Choose your cue (I use “Okay!” for Scooter) and use it every time you pick him up. Place your hands around him as if you’re going to pick him up, give your cue, and then put a little pressure under him but don’t pick him up yet. This gives him time to realize you are picking him up, so he isn’t startled. When you can see he’s aware of the pending lift, go ahead and pick him up. Eventually the cue itself will be enough to prepare him. When I put my hands on Scooter and say “Okay!” he actually boosts himself off the ground a little, into my hands.

7. Respect His Needs and Preferences. Owners of little dogs often complain that they can’t train their dogs to lie down. Think of it from the dog’s perspective: he’s already tiny and vulnerable; well, he’s even more so when he’s lying down. Plus, lots of small dogs are sensitive to cold, and to hard or rough surfaces. Try teaching him to lie down on a soft, raised surface, where he’ll be more comfortable and feel less threatened. The raised surface gives you the added advantage of being able to move your lure below “ground level” to maximize the “down” potential.

8. Allow Him to Say “No.” One of the reasons “arm-dogs” have a reputation for being snappy is that they are often forced to greet people while restrained in their human’s arms. If they are at all fearful or feel threatened in any way, they cannot escape – whereas a dog on the ground, on or off leash, can move away or duck behind his owner to escape unwanted attentions. Ask your potential greeters to kneel down, make themselves small, and let your little dog approach them. If he chooses not to greet, don’t force him.

Companion dog basics
Keep in mind that managing your small dog (like every dog) is just as important as training him. If his potty-training isn’t rock-solid, keep him out of situations when he’s likely to “make a mistake.” Prevent him from being rewarded by the behaviors you don’t want, and consistently and generously reward the behaviors you do want, with treats, attention, toys, or a nap on the sofa.

Pay attention to signs that your dog is not comfortable with greeting unfamiliar people, such as yawning, licking his lips, panting (when it’s not hot), or averting his gaze. Give him a little more space – and plan to work on making introductions more rewarding for him.

This means turning your back on the jumper and petting him (and/or giving a treat) only when he sits – and making sure guests do the same. He will soon learn to sit for attention. Be sure to pay attention to him when he does!

It also means body-blocking your dog when you see the “sofa gleam” in his eye – by moving into the open sofa space and/or not making your lap available – until he sits, and then inviting him up (assuming he is allowed up). Be sure to notice when he sits (as small as he is, it’s easy to overlook him when he’s sitting politely), and invite him up as his reward.

Every little dog also needs to be well-socialized. Treat him like a dog! From early puppyhood, make sure that he has lots of positive experiences with other dogs, to help dispel the aggressive “arm-dog” image of the angry Pomeranian nestled in the ample and befurred bosom of the wealthy dowager.

Your little dog needs to have his feet on the ground a good part of the time so he can learn to go up and down stairs, get into cars, and walk on grass, dirt, gravel, carpeting, wood, and tile floors. Take him hiking. Dusty could easily hold his own on an all-day wilderness hike with the rest of our pack.

Have him meet lots of friendly people – all ages, shapes, sizes, and races – armed with lots of tasty treats in lots of controlled circumstances. A good rule of thumb for socialization is to expose your pup to at least 100 different kinds of settings and types of people in his first four months of life. At the same time, of course, protect him from dangerous situations, such as encounters with larger dogs who truly could hurt him. (See “Super-Socialized,” WDJ June 2009.)

Play It Safe and Smart
One of the reasons little dogs sometimes have attitudes about big dogs is that owners tend to panic when they see a big dog approaching. The owner’s stress transmits to the little dog, who then becomes anxious himself. If you grab your dog every time another dog approaches, it can be even more stressful for him and increase the potential for a confrontation.

Allowing big dogs to greet your little guy on-leash puts your dog at risk – not recommended. This little dog’s handler is turned away and not attentive – risky.

Little dogs sometimes do get savaged by big dogs because their owners forget to think or to anticipate and avoid hazards to their little companions. “Be smart” means don’t take your little dog places that you know are frequented by large, uncontrolled dogs. Use your local dog park only if there is a separate fenced area for little dogs.

If you’re walking your dog on the street and you see someone approaching with a large dog, take evasive action – calmly cross the street while you practice good heeling so you can pass at a safe distance. Be on guard even at canine competition events, where you might think your dog is safe. He’s not. There are multiple stories of little dogs being attacked, injured, or even killed, by larger dogs at canine competitions.

If you see a loose dog approaching, look for an escape route – a place of business or fenced yard you can step into for safety. Toss a handful of tasty treats away from you to slow down the approaching dog and give you and your little guy time to escape. Carry an aversive spray, a pop-open umbrella, or marine air horn that can thwart a persistent canine visitor. (Be sure to give your own dog a positive classical association with the aversive first, so you don’t scare the stuffing out of him if you have to use it.)

Only as a last resort should you pick your dog up; doing so also puts you at risk for injury if the approaching dog is intent on mayhem. Not that the risk of injury would stop any of us “little dog people” from protecting our beloved little ones. Our own safety is often the last thing we think about when our canine family members are threatened. Their diminutive size only heightens the protective instinct that motivates us to risk life and limb for them.

During his 14 years with us, Dusty convinced me that he was much sturdier than I imagined, and that he was every bit a Real Dog in his little dog body. Go ahead, big dog people, scoff at us if you want. It’s only a matter of time before you meet the little dog who steals your heart the way Dusty stole mine.

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CDBC, is WDJ’s Training Editor. She lives in Fairplay, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center, where she offers dog training classes and courses for trainers. Pat is also author of many books on positive training."


You may- approach.
Purred: Mon Dec 3, '12 5:28am PST 
meditateWell, I'm not tiny, but my obedience teacher showed Mom how to walk using shorter, more rapid steps when walking with me on heel.
That is how the show people do it.
Of course, Mom doesn't do this in real life.wink