Dog Training Tip of the Month

Canine Communication
  • Puppy Socialization - February 2012

    Puppy Socialization - It's Important

    Puppy Socialization

    Socialization is an unending process and must start very early in a puppy’s life. The puppy must have ongoing exposure to all of life’s experiences. The goal of socialization is to help the dog learn to act appropriately around people, other animals, and in the many public and private social situations of human life. A properly socialized puppy is well adjusted and makes a good life long companion.

    The 3 Critical Periods of Puppy Development

    There are 3 well defined critical periods in the development of a dog from puppy to adult that need special attention in the work of socialization.

    Stage 1 of Puppy Development

    The first of these periods is from the age of 7 to 12 weeks. This time frame is generally viewed as the most critical for puppy socialization. A dog’s inappropriate or unacceptable behaviors and attitudes resulting from experiences during this period are often the most difficult to correct.

    Stage 2 & 3 of Development

    The other two periods range from around 8 to 10 months and finally the last is around 18 months of age. In recognizing that these periods are when experiences will have a significant impact on the dog, owners and trainers must plan and set up activities and exposures to ensure positive results.

    Distraction Exposure

    As with any type of dog training, the factors of distance, duration, degree of difficulty and distraction level must be integrated into the learning experience. We would not want to expose a puppy to heavy traffic with loud noises the first time we took the puppy outside. Initially, we would take the puppy out, in a quiet area for a limited amount of time and then work up to integrating more “distracters”.

    Introduce Puppy To The World - Slowly

    The owner needs to expose a new puppy to as many sounds, sights, smells, people, animals and locations as possible, beginning as soon as the puppy arrives in his new home. This includes taking the dog to the vet, to the pet store, to the school yard (when children are playing), in the car, in an elevator, on a busy street, outside when the garbage truck and buses go by, near bicycles and skateboards, and around people of all ages, sex and ethnic backgrounds. The more new and positive things a puppy sees and experiences in these critical weeks, the better.

    Make sure that each of the following events is pleasant and non-threatening. If your puppy's first experience with something is painful and frightening, you will be defeating your purpose. In fact, you will be creating a phobia that may often last a lifetime. It's better to go too slow and assure your puppy is not frightened or injured than to rush and force your pup to meet new things and people too soon.

    Consider Puppy Kindergarten

    Puppy kindergarten is a great tool to include in your socialization process. This class will help your puppy with its puppy to puppy social skills. It also introduces the puppy to a great variety of people and sounds. You want to make sure that these classes are well supervised by a qualified dog trainer in a safe environment.
  • Canine Communication - Ever Wonder What They’re Shouting About? - April 2011

    Understanding "Dog Talk"

    Do you ever wonder what is going on with your dog when you hear him bark, howl, growl, or whine? Here are some tips that help recognize what your dog is really trying to say.

    Dogs Have Their Own Language

    Many dog owners misread their dog’s communication and label it as a nuisance, but what many owners don’t know is that dogs have developed this language to get along in their human or canine pack. Dogs will generally try to avoid conflict, so, they use their vocalizations as part of what allows other dogs to tune into their emotions, whether they are in an aggressive or playful mood.

    Why They Bark

    When a dog barks, it can mean a variety of things. It can mean a dog or stranger is approaching, they want to play, they’re trying to say hello, they want attention, or it can be a warning caused by distress. Due to these communication issues, many dogs end up at the shelter.

    Minimizing Barking

    Dog trainers will suggest to owners that teaching a cue such as “quiet” can turn this behavior into a positive before it gets them in trouble with the entire neighborhood. You can also reward your dog when he is not barking, by providing him with his favorite treat or toy, which can also help curtail the barking. When a dog is demanding attention, you never want to give in to him or it can turn him into a bossy canine that will run your life. If you need help locating a professional Dog trainer try the ABC Find a Dog Trainer page.

    What's With The Howling?

    Dogs are known to howl to connect with other dogs or even when they are in a happy mood. Many dogs will howl from the sounds of sirens or will catch on from another dog that started it. They are sent out to keep strangers away or to call out members of the pack for hunting. Dogs also howl as a response to annoying sounds like music, noise, singing, and nature sounds. They inherit this characteristic from their wolf ancestors. Each howl is different. If dogs howl in the morning it can signal separation anxiety. Puppies howl when they are seeking attention or possibly when they are sick. If he is howling due to separation anxiety, you can give him interactive toys to keep him occupied while you are away. Exercise is also another great way to help with that. Another method that you can use to cease howling is to introduce things that set your dog’s howling off such as sounds and loud noises. Understanding why they are howling will help you decide how to fix the problem.

    Grrrr...Growling

    When a dog growls, it can mean a clear warning, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, it doesn’t always mean a bad thing. In fact, it can be used in a play situation, such as tug-of-war. A dog may also growl when a kid pulls his tail or ears, to indicate to them that it hurts. Similar to humans, dogs are also known to growl when they don’t get what they want. Dogs may become assertive when they feel the need to control a situation. This must be handled the correct way by a professional dog trainer. Ignoring this behavior and allowing it to continue can lead to a very unsafe environment. You can locate an ABC Certified dog trainer by visiting the Animal Behavior College Find a Trainer page.

    Observe Whining Closely

    Whining usually comes from when a puppy needed his mother’s milk and also for comfort. They often seem to whine when they are hungry or want to be let outside. They may also whine out of pain, abandonment or fear. Some dogs will whine when they are by themselves outside. Many dog owners will give in to the whimpering, and if they do so, many dogs will use this to their advantage. You never want to punish a dog for whining, as it is better to use confidence building exercises. Finding out exactly why they are whining could possibly save their life.

    Seek Help If You Need It

    Vocalization problems with your dog can be stressful for everyone around you. Knowing exactly why your dog is acting the way he is will help you be able to work out a treatment plan to fix the problem. For help with dealing with these issues, you can contact your local ABC Certified dog trainer. All of the graduates on the Animal Behavior College Find a Dog Trainer Page are certified professionals that can help you and your canine communicate together.
  • Rewarding Alternative Behaviors - May 2006
    If you’re attempting through dog training to eliminate an undesirable behavior, remember to reward your dog with treats, praise, petting, etc. for engaging in any other behavior that is appropriate. For example, if you’re attempting to eliminate jumping up on your guests, reward your dog for sitting around guests, which is both incompatible with jumping and is a more desirable greeting. Other examples of alternative behaviors to reward are chewing on a bone rather than the table leg or being quiet rather than barking.

    Your animal trainer will tell you that this concept is extremely important for all dogs, but that it is especially crucial for puppies under five months of age, which is when their personalities and habits are being formed. Using positive reinforcement to teach new behaviors, as well as stop undesirable habits, works best when owners use it consistently.
  • Fidos Daily To-Do List - June 2006

    Daily Dog Training Lessons

    Any professional dog trainer would advise that incorporating basic training exercises such as sit, stay, down, and come into a dog’s and dog owner’s everyday routine will help establish and maintain the proper relationship between the dog and dog owner. Neglecting these day-to-day opportunities is even considered to be a missed animal training lesson. Here are some examples of how owners can incorporate training into their everyday routine.

    1. Have your dog sit and stay while you place his/her food bowl down. Once you say "okay," your dog can eat the food.

    2. Have your dog lie down and stay at the doorway before saying "okay" to invite the dog inside.

    3. Instead of going up to your dog and petting him/her, call him to you when he least expects it and then reward him with praise and/or a treat.

    Every day is a chance to improve your teaching skills and your dog’s level of obedience! As every trainer knows, practice makes perfect. The relationship between the trainer and animal makes a world of difference, as do daily habits. Owners that incorporate routines with their dogs feel they make a noticeable difference. You don’t have to be a dog trainer to create a positive relationship of understanding between you and your canine companion.
  • How to Properly Socialize your Puppy - January 2011

    Having A Happy Puppy


    Like any animal trainer will tell you, an obedient dog is a happy and confident dog. Obedience training is a vital aspect of raising a new puppy, as puppies develop most of their knowledge and perceptions of the world around them in the early months of life. However, many dog trainers will argue that proper socialization is even more important than taking your dog through basic training.

    Social Skills Can Only Be Learned Through Socializing

    So, why is socialization more important than dog training? The characteristics of a well-behaved puppy are more than skin deep. If your dog is impeccably trained in obedience, but has never met another dog in his life, there is a chance that he could react with fear or aggression when he comes in contact with a fellow canine no matter how much training he has.

    Expose Your Puppy To New Things

    The way to avoid a bad situation is by taking preventative measures. When you first welcome your puppy into your home, not only should you potty train him, but also get him accustomed to new situations.Invite guests over to your home and have them interact with the puppy. If he is reacting with shyness or fear, exercise patience. Encourage him to come to you with plenty of praise and treats, have your guests speak softly to him, and don’t make any sudden movements that might frighten him. With plenty of positive reinforcement, your dog will soon come to regard having company at the house as an enjoyable experience.

    Show Him The World

    Once your puppy becomes accustomed to seeing new people within his home, start taking him out for daily strolls so that he is aware of the outside world. It is healthy for him to hear the sounds, smell the smells, and see the sights of everything beyond your home. Confining him to the house will only create issues in his social development, so it is important that he gets used to taking walks. Not only will it allow him to have a new experience, but he will also be getting exercise in the process. Plus, he will enjoy being outdoors engaging in a fun physical activity with his favorite person: you!

    Meeting Other Dogs

    Last but not least, the dog park. The dog park is an excellent place in which your dog can become acquainted with other dogs. However, it is strongly advised that your dog gets his shots before going to public places and interacting with other pets. Another important thing to remember about socializing in the dog park is to never assume that a dog is friendly. Before you approach a dog, always ask her owner if she gets along with other dogs first. There is always a chance that a bad situation could erupt due to a simple misjudgment on your part.

    With all of those methods, you can easily teach your pooch to become the social butterfly that everyone will love and adore.

    CLICK HERE to Read About The Critical Periods Of Puppy Development
  • Behavior Tip - What Motivates your Dog? - October 2006

    What's Driving Your Dog's Behavior?

    Understanding Behavior Drives

    In dog training, behavior drives can be defined as the instincts that contribute to making a dog act and react the way that he does. Almost everything a dog does (e.g. digging or chasing) can be attributed to a specific behavior drive. Drives are usually genetic and are consistent within a breed or breed group. Most purebred dogs are bred to enhance certain drives which will make them more compliant during animal training or better at their job. For more information about different canine breeds, check out our “breed spotlight” articles on some of the most popular dog breeds. Educated owners who are aware of (or can identify) specific behavior drives can potentially use them to make training sessions more effective and rewarding.

    How Behavior Drives Can Be Useful In Training

    One example of a behavior drive is prey drive. Examples of prey drive can be a dog’s willingness to chase and catch an object or to play tug-of-war. A dog that enjoys chasing a ball or toy will be excited if presented with one of these objects as a reward for a job well done during training or otherwise. If you have a dog that has a high prey drive, try to reward him by throwing his tennis ball as a reward during training sessions, like after he has done a great sit-stay. Throwing the ball during dog training instead of giving the dog a treat is more valuable to him and helps reinforce the desired behavior. Be aware that some dogs have a higher prey drive than others. When attempting to use a dog’s prey drive for training, it may be necessary to limit exposure to his favorite ball or toy to animal training sessions only. Remember, a dog with little or no prey drive (i.e. doesn’t like to play fetch or tug-of-war) will not consider this a reward. Without prey drive, using a toy as a reward may be an exercise in futility.

    Learn Your Dog's Behavior Drives

    Preventing potential problems due to certain behavior drives is a good reason to understand your dog’s breed’s tendencies. For instance, knowing that your dog’s breed has a high pack drive and what problems may typically occur from this type of behavior drive can help to better prepare you in preventing possible separation anxiety issues. In general, doing a little study on your dog’s breed is always a good idea. While other factors (like environment and past history) will also influence your dog’s behavior, the more you understand about your dog the better off you will be as a dog owner in providing for his needs.
  • Oops... Try Again!  - July 2006
    During initial sessions with your dog trainer , it is important to let your dog know when he has done the right thing or the wrong thing when first teaching a new behavior. This is the basis of obedience training. Offering the dog a favorite treat or toy when he does the right thing will teach him to repeat the desired behavior when asked. It is equally as important to let him know when he has done the wrong thing. This can be accomplished by saying the word "No" and then guiding him into the proper behavior each time. By consistently guiding the dog into the desired behavior after each “No” instead of physically correcting the dog, the dog will soon start to offer the correct behavior when he hears the word "No." This type of dog obedience training technique is common among today’s positive-motivational trainers.
  • Time for a Walk: Time for Socialization - December 2006

    Exposure To The World

    Socializing your dog is a crucial aspect of dog training and ownership, perhaps even more so than teaching basic obedience cues. By socializing your dog properly, you are teaching her that the people (such as her dog trainer, groomer, and veterinarian), animals, and objects she encounters on a daily basis do not pose a threat; in fact, these things can even be fun.

    Although dog parks and training classes are great places to meet other canine friends, placing a dog into such a pressuring situation can be overwhelming. What other options are there?

    Socialization During Dog Walks

    A great time for socialization is during your daily walks. Before leaving your home, grab several dog training treats and store them away in a treat pouch or pocket. When a stranger approaches, show off your training skills by having your dog sit next to you. Then, hand your neighbor some treats. Ask him to slowly approach your dog and give her a few treats from his open hand at the dog’s level. Praise her lavishly for taking the treats. Continue your walk and repeat the above dog training scenario for each person you come across, making sure the dog sits before receiving the treat. Giving your canine treats around strangers will help build a positive association to approaching humans. The dog will soon learn that new friends are fun (and rewarding!).

    Watch Kids Closely

    Work on socializing your dog to different people of various ages, genders, races, and who are wearing unfamiliar clothing accessories. Don’t allow anybody to act threatening towards her. Be cautious around anyone who might try to approach the dog too quickly. Remain aware around young children who, if comfortable around animals due to having pets in the home, might jump or scream with enthusiasm when they see a dog. If she shows signs of fear or aggression or has in the past, do not attempt the exercise without an experienced animal trainer present. These behavioral issues require the help of a seasoned professional.

    By incorporating obedience cues with proper socialization, your dog will grow up to be a well-mannered member of the family, with friends all throughout your neighborhood.

    Just got a new puppy? CLICK HERE to Read About The Critical Periods Of Puppy Development and more tips on Puppy Socialization.
  • Timing is Everything - November 2006
    When working on dog training with your pooch, timing is extremely important. This means that every time you ask your dog to do something, you only have an instant to let the dog know he has done the right or the wrong thing. If you miss this window of opportunity, it may be too late for your dog to connect his actions to your reward or punishment. If your dog succeeds during training, immediately reward him by giving him something he likes, like a treat or a belly rub. Also, if your dog does the wrong thing, let him know by either ignoring him or refusing to give him the treat he is yearning for. Professionals refer to this as “negative punishment.”

    Providing instant feedback to your dog about his performance during exercises will establish clear lines of communication. This will result in effective and happy animal training lessons.
  • Leadership Exercises - July 2007

    YOU Need To Lead

    Dog Training - Lead the Pack
    Any professional dog trainer will tell you that it is severely stressful for most dogs to be without a leader or role model. Because of this, it is your job as a responsible dog owner to become a kind and benevolent leader for your dog. Most dogs will develop a more relaxed and confident demeanor with a strong desire to please their new role model once the leadership role has been assumed. Just think of the saying, “Follow the leader.”

    Establish The Rules

    Leadership can be established through patient and persistent dog training, not only by a professional, but also by the dog owner (because the dog owner is the person who will ultimately be in the leadership role). It is very important for the dog owner, with the help of an animal trainer, to establish house rules and to enforce them firmly but fairly. Here are some simple exercises that will allow you to show your dog that his humans are good leaders and that he has a responsibility to the family to serve and obey the leaders of the pack.

    Basics To Establishing Your Leadership Role

    In addition to guided dog training from a professional, there are simple things you can do throughout the course of the day to demonstrate who the leader is to your dog.

    Keep Off The Bed

    1. Never allow your dog to sleep on beds and furniture.

    You Eat First

    2. Prepare the dogs’ meal and set it aside while you eat your meal. It is not absolutely necessary that an entire meal be eaten before feeding the dog. For the sake of his instruction, take approximately five minutes to eat a few crackers and drink a glass of water before giving him his dinner. This will send him the message that the leader eats first. Make sure to ignore the dog while you are eating and only give him his meal if he is not whining or demanding to be fed. Also, do not feed him table scraps!

    Lead The Way

    3. When walking through doorways, always walk out the door ahead of your dog. This lets your dog know you are the leader. A dog with proper animal training who knows his place in the family would never push you out of the way to get through the doorway first or come inside without being invited. To ensure that the dog learns to wait for you before going through doorways, have your dog trainer assist you. Every time you pass through a door together, ask the dog to “sit” and “stay” at the doorway. Go through the door first, and as long as the dog stays sitting in his place, say “okay,” releasing him to come through the door. Do this dog training exercise every time you go through a doorway with the dog, and practice several repetitions a day. Something as seemingly insignificant as who goes through the door first can communicate who the leader in the house is to the dog.
  • Introduction of Multiple Pets into the Same Household: Dog Vs. Dog - November 2011

    Introducing A New Dog

    Introducing a New Dog

    Many people tend to get more than one pet and whether it’s a dog, cat, bird, etc, it is quite common to see a multi-species household. The trend to have a multi-pet household is sometimes linked to the pet owner(s) who feel like their pet needs a companion. In reality, a lot of pets do enjoy the company of other animals and owners love to see them play together, scheme together, sleep together, etc. Some people focus on having a younger pet to enrich the life of an older pet, as well as to reduce the dread of loss. When introducing multiple dogs into the same household, how can we focus on making an acceptable atmosphere for each individual pet? The main focus would be basic obedience training. You can go through a dog training school which will give you the specific tools needed to help with this situation.

    Dogs Have a Social Structure

    Like most animals who live in groups, dogs tend to establish their own social structures, which is viewed as a dominance hierarchy that serves to maintain order, reduce conflict and promote cooperation among pack members. They also do tend to establish territories which they will defend against intruders. This will greatly affect their behavior when you want to introduce a new dog into your household.

    Where To Introduce A New Dog

    You should choose a neutral location when dealing with the first introduction. Each dog should be handled by a separate person with both dogs on leashes in order to have the best control over them. Make sure that the area is not familiar to either dog, and that they both have been well exercised before the meeting. A tired dog is a good dog according to Dog Obedience Training. Make sure to be calm yourself, as dogs can pick up on nervous energy coming from an owner. Avoid tensing up the leash and make sure to positively reinforce all the calm and non-threatening behavior demonstrated by both dogs. Let the two dogs sniff each other, but not for to long as it could lead to an aggressive response.

    Observe Behavior Closely

    In dog training, you go through a list of different body postures, how each one plays into the other and what they each mean. Make sure to keep an eye out for stress indicators, such as defensive or aggressive body language. We do not want to force the dog into a situation they are not comfortable with as well as reinforce the unwanted behavior by coaxing them. If you observe an undesirable reaction by one or both of the dogs during the initial introduction, simply walk away with the dog and then slowly reintroduce them again, positively reinforcing all the correct behavior. If you have more than one dog at home and plan on introducing a new dog into your resident pack, be sure to introduce them one by one to the new canine. If a group of dogs is already living together and have already established their “pack” hierarchy, they could have a tendency of ganging up on a new comer.

    Who Is The Alpha Dog?

    The important thing to keep in mind when having more than one dog in the household is that there is a hierarchy. Whether you want to accept that fact or not, you must make sure that in any and all situations you place yourself as Alpha leader by sticking to all your leadership exercises. This behavior will transcend to your dogs as well, as each one will have a defined role in the family. If you coax the less dominant one of the group, and punish the Alpha, it will lead to dog vs. dog aggression. Always make sure the Alpha dog is allowed to get their way first.

    Puppies Are Still Learning

    One of the main things to consider about introducing a puppy to an adult dog is that puppies before the age of four months may not recognize subtle body postures from an adult. This will lead a puppy to pester an adult dog unmercifully until the adult literally has had enough. Well socialized adult dogs who have great temperaments may warn by growling or snarling. These behaviors should be allowed and shouldn’t ever be punished. However, adults who might not be well socialized or have a background of aggression might actually bite a puppy to set limits which can severely hurt the puppy. Make sure you allow the adult dog some time for R&R away from the puppy and some well deserved attention from you as well.

    Get Help If You Need It

    Always contact a professional animal behaviorist if the introductions don’t go smoothly. The longer the problem continues the harder it is to resolve. If you wish to know more about introductions of multiple pets into the same household, stay tuned for next entry in this series: Dog vs. Cat.
  • Aggression In Dogs - Avoiding Dog Bites - September 2013

    Knowing When a Dog Might Act Aggressively

    Dogs will often communicate signs before biting
    At ABC we receive numerous requests for information on how to address aggression in dogs. We typically avoid this issue because of the risks involved. That being said, we think some information on this is important for all dog owners. Please note: You should not approach and attempt to work with an aggressive dog unless you are working with a skilled dog trainer or behavioral specialist.

    Understanding Aggressive Dog Behavior

    An estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year; and of these, nearly 800,000 dog bites require medical care, according to the American Humane Association. Dogs become aggressive for many reasons, including fear, dominance, territoriality, learned behavior, pain, genetics and hunger. Fortunately, dogs are also social creatures and very good communicators. For most dogs, biting is a behavior of last resort; they usually go out of their way to communicate their intentions and feelings long before they attempt to bite.

    How Dogs Communicate

    Of course, dogs don’t speak English, so those wishing to avoid being bitten need to learn some rudimentary canine language. Dogs primarily communicate through body language. For example: a dog is making direct eye contact; her ears are standing up (if possible), her chest is out and stance rigid. The tail may be stiffly wagging or simply held high and away from her body. The dog might or might not be making any sounds. Vocalization is typically a low growl but loud assertive barking can also accompany this posture.

    This dog is telling you to not challenge her. Doing so could escalate the behavior and result in her biting you. Avoid eye contact but keep the dog in sight. Slowly back away; do not run. Do not scream at or challenge her. Sometimes a dog will follow you as you retreat. Remain calm and keep backing away. In most cases, the dog will lose interest and let you go.

    Common Misconceptions About Wagging Tails

    “The dog’s tail was wagging so I thought she was friendly.”While tail-wagging can be a sign of friendliness, the type of tail-wagging is the key. Dogs communicate a great deal by the way they hold their tails. Friendly nonthreatening tail-wagging is usually indicated by a tail that is floppy. This is also accompanied by other friendly body postures, such as relaxed ears (not held up rigidly or pulled back); open or slightly squinty eyes ( not directly staring at you)’ and a more relaxed body (less stiff).

    Friendly vocalizations include a high-pitched “puppy” bark. Some dogs just bark excitedly. Play bowing is also a sign of a friendly dog. Many people mistake a dog who is running around, swishing his tail and play bowing while barking excessively as being aggressive.

    Misreading The Warnings

    Misreading or not understanding when a dog is communicating fear can also lead to aggressive incidents. Say you’re walking down the street and you see a dog leashed next to fence. As a dog lover, you’re concerned about his welfare so you approach. The dog has his tail tucked under his body. His eyes are squinted and he avoids looking at you directly. His body is held low to the ground. As you get closer, he tries to escape but can’t because he is leashed. Instead, he starts to bark and growl at you. Your response is to speak in a calm tone, make direct eye contact in an attempt to get his attention to let him know everything is OK. You reach out to him in what you mean as a peaceful, friendly gesture and he bites you. Why? Because you didn’t heed the warnings he was giving and he had no way to escape.

    If you need help working with an aggressive dog, click here to find a certified dog trainer in your area.

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