Dog Training Tip of the Month

Obedience Cues & Maintenance
  • Capture the Behavior – The “Down” Cue - July 2008

    How To Teach A Dog To Lay DownDog Laying Down - Arthritis

    Start With A Lure

    Most dog owners will agree that a calm, obedient dog lying quietly next to them as they watch TV, read a book, or have dinner with the family is far preferable to an in-your-face dog who just won’t relax. Getting your dog to lie down is usually a simple dog training/obedience cue to master; ABC’s method of teaching a dog the “down” cue is to food-lure the dog into position using yummy, potent-smelling treats and praising her when she gets in position accurately and in a timely manner. However, what if your dog will not allow you to lure her into the down position? What if she just does not seem to be catching on? Many dog owners would consult a dog trainer in this instance, though it’s relatively simple to train dogs (especially your own) on your own or with simple guidance from a professional animal trainer.

    Capture The Behavior

    The best way to go about mending this dog training issue is to capture the dog’s behavior on a regular basis, whenever you “catch” her lying down quietly. ABC deems this the “opportunistic” or “natural” down. Capturing the behavior involves praising and treating the dog whenever you observe her lying in the down position. Since your dog trainer doesn’t live with you 24-7, it’s your responsibility to reinforce dog training cues such as the down behavior. Some owners will find that treats, toys, or praise – whatever the dog finds most rewarding – are sufficient for capturing the behavior. Some owners may choose to also use a clicker to capture the natural down.

    To capture the down behavior, place a handful of food treats between your dog’s front paws whenever she is calmly resting in the down position. If she does not find food treats rewarding, try giving her a favorite chew toy or verbal praise (“Good!”). Remember to do this every time you find her in the down position. She will soon learn that lying in the down position is beneficial to her and will offer the behavior more often. After repeated captures and rewards for her good down behavior, you will be able to associate a cue, i.e. the word “down,” with the behavior. Your dog will soon become much easier to coax into the down position.

    Get A Dog Trainer's Help If You Need It

    If you have any questions or problems, always contact your animal trainer or dog trainer for advice and tips. Frequent brush-up dog training sessions can be helpful to your dog’s level of obedience. If you do not have a dog trainer to provide advanced assistance with your pooch’s dog training, contact an ABC Certified Dog Trainer in your area by visiting ABC’s Online Dog Trainer Directory. See ABC’s homepage for more information.
  • Maintaining your Dog’s Obedience Cues - August 2008
    Dog Training Cues

    Practice Training Cues Daily

    If you’ve taken your pooch to dog training obedience classes (which every owner of a friendly dog should) or have sought out private dog training lessons, he has probably mastered (or at least learned) his sit, sit-stay, down, down-stay, come, and heel cues. However, even after you’ve proudly watched him graduate from his dog training class, there is still much to be done when it comes to maintaining these dog training cues. It doesn’t always take a dog trainer to test and enhance your dog’s knowledge. However, in order to keep your dog’s compliance to obedience cues sharp and reliable, it’s imperative for you (the owner) to practice dog training in his everyday life. Here are some tips on practicing obedience cues in real-life situations.
    • Have your canine perform sit-stays before you give him his meals. Do not allow him to dig into his dinner until you release him.

    • Ask your dog to perform a sit-stay or down-stay before you let him inside the house from the backyard and vice versa.

    • Cue your dog to lie down and stay while you put on his leash before taking him out for a walk. He should stay in the down position until his leash is secured and you have opened the door and released him from the down-stay.

    • Bring treats with you on your walk. Stop and practice dog training, working different obedience cues intermittently throughout your walk. Don’t forget to treat and/or praise him for compliance.

    • During your walk, practice the heel cue. However, remember to take breaks from training and allow your dog to walk leisurely (loosely, meaning without pulling on the leash).

    • Practice the come cue as a family – have each family member pick a room in the house and stay in there. Each person should take turns calling the dog’s name and saying “come” right before he reaches them. Not only will this reinforce the come cue and his overall level of dog training, but it will also help the dog learn to obey every member of the household.

    Bond With Your Dog

    Remember to make dog training motivational and rewarding for your canine. He should always be praised, treated, and/or petted whenever he does the right thing. With consistency, effort, and an understanding relationship between you and your canine, he will be an obedient and enjoyable member of the family.
  • “No Begging!” How to keep your pooch from pawing at your plate - April 2010
    It is difficult to peacefully enjoy your meal when there is a constant, nudging paw tapping on your knees, or a sad-faced puppy with his chin in your lap, hungrily eyeing every bite of food that you spoon into your mouth. Begging is an annoying behavior that is easily manifested, and difficult to get rid of. The story is always the same. You feel guilty eating your comparatively divine cuisine whilst your doe-eyed dog watches sadly from the background, and eventually, relent into feeding him a few scraps off of your plate. You figure that it was just a tiny piece of chicken, and tossing him the leftover pieces that you did not plan on eating anyways will not be harmful.

    However, once your dog gets used to the idea that he can weasel some food off of your plate with one, doleful look, this behavior can become obsessive and highly irritating. House guests, family members, nobody will be safe from your dog’s begging ways, and allowing the bad behavior to get past a certain point could cause him to become aggressive around food.

    The best way to ensure that your dog does not become a beggar is to prevent the issues from occurring early on. If you can train dogs not to beg from the beginning, it will be highly beneficial to them, as well as yourself. If your pooch has already developed these habits, it is difficult, but not impossible to repair the damage with a few simple steps. The following tips will assist you in keeping your dog from skulking around the dinner table, and will also prove to be a great lesson in dog obedience.

    First and foremost, it was likely that you were the one to teach your dog that it was acceptable to beg at the table. So, you must be the one to end it. Whilst you are eating your dinner, if your dog is in the room, he has probably already taken up his usual post at your feet, waiting expectantly for you to hand him a morsel. In this instance, it is best to ignore your dog’s advances, until he learns that his attempts are futile, and gives up.

    Another vital factor in this dog training exercise is to let the other occupants of your home in on the plan, and make sure that they all follow the ground rules that you are setting. Having everyone agree to cease feeding the dog human food will aid your efforts to end the behavior. For instance, if you are refusing to give the dog a bite of your hamburger, but your kids are handing him green beans under the table, your attempts will prove to be counter productive. With teamwork, your pal will find nobody to turn to when he tries to continue begging.

    Unfortunately, your pooch has already become attuned to the idea that with enough hard work, he can get whatever he wants from you, and will begin to add whining, barking, and howling to the typical routine. The important thing to do here is to stay strong, and continue to pay him no heed.

    If your pooch is still standing, it is likely that he will move on to plan B, and begin trying to steal food from your plate, as well as your counter top when you are not paying attention. A useful tactic to employ at this point is keeping your dog in a separate room while your family has dinner, and making sure that he cannot see you. The best way to teach him that you are the alpha in the pack is by feeding him after you finish your own meal. Although it may seem like a better idea for him to be distracted by his own food, your dog needs to learn that you are the boss, and that humans come first.

    The most important part of teaching your dog to stop begging is to stick to the plan with dedication and determination. By employing these tips, you will be on the path to having a healthier, more well-behaved puppy that your friends and family won’t mind having around.
  • How to Successfully Photograph Your Pets - October 2010
    As many dog owners will agree, dressing up your pooch on Halloween is one of the best parts of the spooky holiday. Whether it’s a pug in a taco costume, or a lab in a witch hat, a costume has the miraculous ability to make your pal at least ten times cuter than normal. So cute in fact that you would love nothing more than to snap a photo of him all dressed up; but as soon as you get the camera out, your hound heads for the hills!

    When you put a foreign object between you and your dog, it is confusing and alien to him, and the natural reaction is to become wary of whatever it is. Of course, you do not want your camera to be your dog’s best friend either; or that expensive rubber lens could become his new chew toy. The goal is to come to a happy medium, where is not afraid, or overly affectionate to the camera.

    Naturally, having your dog react with fear every time you want to take a picture can be extremely frustrating. The most important thing is to stay calm; getting angry with your pooch will not improve the situation. Camera shyness is extremely common in canines, but with some simple dog training techniques, you will be able to snap photos of your pet easily.

    Building a bond of trust with your pooch is the first step towards making picture-taking easy. Make sure that he knows you are his best friend, and as a loving pet owner, that you have no intention of harming him will be greatly beneficial when it comes to taking photos. Even if you have not been to dog training school, this step has probably already been taken care of.

    Dog trainers often agree that a basic foundation in dog obedience is a necessity, no matter what you plan to achieve with your dog. So, a standard sit-stay command is extremely helpful when it comes to photographing him. If he stays still during the picture, make sure to reward him with a lot of treats and attention afterwards, so that he acknowledges that staying still for the picture is a good thing.

    If you happen to have your pal in a costume, and find him uncooperative in front of the camera, it may be the costume itself that is causing the problem. Start out by photographing him bare, and then move on to taking pictures of him with different pieces of the costume on. Some dogs just don’t like to be dressed up, but most of them get used to it after a while, and won’t mind having pictures taken of them, even if it is a little embarrassing!

    Most importantly, be patient. With practice, patience, and plenty of love, your dog will soon come to understand and even enjoy a photo shoot every now and then.
  • The Greeting Spot - March 2011
    As many dog trainers will tell you, having a dog of your own makes you an amateur dog trainer to a certain degree. It is up to the owner to introduce what they would consider appropriate behaviors. The subject to be covered now is how to teach your dog the appropriate behaviors of using a “greeting spot”.

    A “greeting spot” is the area that you prefer your dog to be within when any doors in the house are opened. This behavior is most useful when guests come over. Whether the door is opening for the owner and their family or for guests, we would choose to have the dog calm and not showing actions that could be considered disruptive.

    Creating a “greeting spot” for your dog will help with many different aspects of dog training. It can be used to help teach new obedience cues such as sit, down, and stay. It can also help to curb what many would consider problem behaviors like jumping or running out an open door.

    Before beginning the introduction of the “greeting spot”, there are a few pre-requisites to consider. You’ll need to make the area comfortable for the dog. If the dog is not comfortable in his “greeting spot”, there is a less likely chance this training will be successful when the door opens. Good items to place in the “greeting spot” would be your pup’s favorite dog bed or blanket.

    The idea is to make the “greeting spot” more rewarding for the dog than running to the door would be. It will be the dog’s determination of what he finds the most rewarding, so always keep in mind the things your dog is most interested in. In most cases the best reward to a dog will be a certain type of edible treat.

    The next thing to consider would be what area of your home would make the best permanent “greeting spot”. Make sure that it is far enough from any door to ensure your dog can focus better on you and the idea of the reward more than what will be happening at the door. Keep in mind, when choosing the “greeting spot”; it should be close enough to something that you can tether your dog to. This ensures your dog will be kept in place when first introduced to it. Good examples would be a door knob or a heavy table leg. This way, the dog will not have the option to leave the area.

    After you are able to find a high value reward for your pooch, you can begin introducing the sit, down, and stay behaviors. These cues will be needed while introducing him to the “greeting spot”.

    Now it’s time to set up a training scenario to introduce the required behavior. With the dog tethered to its area, in the down position, have a family member or friend ring the doorbell. In the beginning it would be normal for the dog to still stand and bark in the direction of the door. While first introducing the ringing doorbell it’s not necessary to have anyone enter the door.

    Have the handler lure the dog into the sit and then into the down position. Remember to reward and praise the dog as soon as he assumes the appropriate position. Once the dog can remain positioned in his area and respond to the handler’s cues at least 90 of the requested time you can begin having the person enter the home after ringing the doorbell. The visitor can also approach the dog and ask for the sit / stay behavior. Make sure that they are able to properly reward the dog when he falls into position. Continue to do the exercise over multiple times until the dog can again perform the behavior at least 90 of the time.

    It is important to always stay consistent with following through on positioning the dog when guests arrive outside of the training scenarios. If you can continuously have the dog in its greeting area and make it more rewarding than barking at the door it offers a great chance of success that the dog will automatically go to its area as soon as it hears the door bell or door open in the future.

    Important Things to Remember:

    Reward the dog for any correct action in the right direction. If you’re able to make the correct behavior more rewarding than acting out it is more likely to be repeated in the future.

    Have a comfortable area close to an object that the dog can be tethered to. If the dog is uncomfortable it may choose to stand without lying down. It is important to set the dog up to succeed.

    Don’t work beyond the dog’s capabilities. It is better to introduce things slowly and work on it until the dog is successful a majority of the time. If the dog continues to bark when someone enters, go back to only having someone knock or ring the door bell. Once the dog can show success you can begin to introduce the entering person again.
  • Bad Dog! Why Scolding is a Harmful Punishment - February 2011

    Correcting Unwanted Dog Behavior

    We’ve all done it – you come home from a long, hard day at work to find that your dog or puppy has chewed up a brand new pair of shoes, and in your mind, the most satisfying way to handle the problem at the moment is by yelling at your dog.

    Scolding Is Not The Answer

    It is easy to lose your temper with your pooch when they perform a bad behavior, and at first, it seems as though that is the best way to deal with the situation. However, shouting at your pal when he does something bad is not an effective way to correct him. Whether it is destructive chewing, going potty on the carpet, or jumping, there is a solution that any dog trainer can help you with, and the solution is not scolding.

    Dogs Don't Reason Like We Do

    So why is scolding so bad? Scolding is something that humans have become accustomed to by experiencing it with other people. Although it does not make us feel good, we are able to learn from the mistake that we made if it is pointed out to us. However, dogs do not have the ability to reason, which is something that people have a tendency to forget, so scolding will not have the same effect on them.

    You Might Be Sending The Wrong Message

    For example, if your pooch goes potty on the carpet, and you shout at him, the only thing that he will take from the experience is to fear eliminating in front of you. In this scenario, he will continue to go potty inside, but hide it from you so that you don’t catch him in the act of doing it.

    Just Trying To Make You Happy

    You need to keep in mind that your dog does not perform bad behaviors to spite you or show defiance. He simply needs to be taught to act in a way that pleases you, because making you happy is what makes him happy. Even if you have not attended a school for dog trainers you can still correct his bad behavior in a way that will help him learn.

    Positive Reinforcement

    If you want to learn the best way to teach your pal not to perform unwanted behaviors the right way, consider reading up on positive dog training or hiring a dog trainer.

    The best way to get results is to re-direct your pooch to an acceptable or wanted behavior. For example, if your precious pal is obnoxiously jumping on you when you walk in the door, simply turn your back to him. Ask him for a sit stay and reward him for this calm behavior. After repeating this action for a few weeks, your pooch should start offering you an acceptable sit and stay rather than the old unwanted behavior of jumping.
  • The “Leave It’ Cue - June 2011
    The “Leave It” cue can be taught for several different purposes. This is an important cue to teach your dog. An ABC Certified dog trainer can tell you that the “Leave It” cue may even prevent your pet from harm.

    When teaching the “Leave It’ command you will want to use several different objects. Additionally you will need to gradually increase the amount of time your dog actually leaves the object. This will teach the dog to become functional in real world situations.

    First thing’s first, you will need to start out in an area with very little distraction.

    Next place a low value treat like a piece of kibble in your hand. Offer the dog your treated hand palm up with the treat displayed. If your dog takes the treat mark the behavior by saying “Take It” and praise him. Repeat this action until the behavior and cue are known.

    Once your dog knows “Take It” cue you can begin to introduce “Leave It” cue.

    Start out by again placing a small low value reward in your hand. Close your hand firmly. Wait for the dog to STOP sniffing your hand and back away or look to you for instruction.

    If your dog does not offer one of these behaviors and continues to sniff your hand, you can swiftly pull your hand away and out of reach. Then give a no reward marker. A no reward marker is something you use to inform the dog he has offered the incorrect behavior and to try again. Some trainers use a noise like, “Eh Eh” others use a word like “No.” Once you have given the dog the no reward marker follow up with the “Leave It” command.

    Once your dog has stopped sniffing the baited hand, mark the behavior with “Leave It.” Then, give your dog a known conditioned reinforcer like “Good” and the release cue. Remember to repeat this action until your dog has a clear association with the new cue.

    Once your dog has an understanding of the “Leave It” cue you can begin to increase the amount of time in between the “Good” and the release cue.

    You can start by increasing the increments of time by 10 seconds each training session. If your dog cannot perform the “Leave It” cue at a longer increment of time, start the exercise over. Make sure to use a shorter increment of time between the “Good” and the release cue until he can perform correctly 9 out of 10 times.

    Once your dog can perform the “Leave It” cue for about a minute you can start using higher value rewards like toys and treats to practice. It may become more difficult for the dog to perform the “Leave It” cue once the reward value is increased. If this happens just go back to using the low value reward until he performs the correct behavior 9 times out of 10.

    When your dog can perform the “Leave It’ cue at a 90 compliance rate during each dog training session using different higher valued rewards you can then increase the amount of time you make him “Leave It.” Remember if your dog cannot perform this command 9 out of 10 times do not increase the duration of the “Leave It.”

    For every correct performance of the “Leave It” behavior, give your dog the “Take It” cue at least three times to increase the dog’s desire in performing the “Leave it” cue.

    As mentioned above, this cue comes in handy in several different scenarios. Most cases will be in routine training exercises. However this can also save your dogs life in the event of a harmful substance or another animal. Please remember to consult a local Animal Behavior College Certified dog trainer if you need help teaching your dog this cue.
  • Get Your Dog To Respond To Cues - October 2013

    Tips On How To Get Your Dog To Respond to Cues



    Does your dog sit instantly when asked from a foot away, but when you’re across the room she cocks her head or walks away? This training tip will help you teach your dog to respond to cues when they’re needed most.

    Dogs Respond Better With Hand Signals

    The first step is to incorporate hand signals with your verbal cues. Dogs respond better to visual cues, especially at a distance. Your hand signals should be clear and distinct. For “Sit,” a closed fist moving upward works well. To communicate “Down,” try an open hand moving downward. Use both arms with open hands moving toward your chest to instruct your dog to “Come.” If you are unsure of which hand signals to use with other verbal cues, contact your local dog trainer. Make sure your dog successfully performs the requested cues nine out of 10 times when you’re standing directly in front of her.

    What's Your Body Telling Your Dog?

    Dogs always watch their owner’s body language, whether you’re conscious of it or not. Usually, people give their dogs commands when standing directly in front of them. Once your dog has mastered cues this way, try standing next to your dog, facing the same direction as her and give her commands. The best cue to master first in this position is “focus.” Progress to standing in front of your dog sideways, and then eventually have your back to your dog while you give her commands. Make sure your verbal cues are clear since your visual cues won’t be useful with your back facing her. A note about verbal cues: Avoid repeating a cue more than once. If your dog doesn't respond, say “No” or “Eh-Eh,” and make the exercise easier for your dog to succeed.

    Increase your Distance from the dog

    Once your dog is doing great responding to your cues without you directly facing her, it is time to add some distance. Start at a short distance, eventually building on it while remembering to give clear verbal cues and hand signals. Have a friend help you by being the treat dispenser. If you’re standing 20-feet away and your dog is successful, you should treat her right away. This is especially helpful when you practice “Leave-it.” Instruct your dog to “Leave-it” and then toss a treat or toy near her. Your friend will need to block your dog if she tries to go for it.

    By practicing and being consistent with these training exercises, your dog will understand and respond to cues in more situations. This is beneficial for safety reasons and also helps to strengthen the bond with your dog. Remember to be patient and loving with your dog, especially when teaching her new things. If you make the training positive and fun, your dog is much more likely to succeed. Happy training!

    —Cara Lederman, ABCDT, APDT

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