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Dog Training Tip of the Month

New Dog Ownership
  • Naming Your New Dog or Puppy - September 2008

    Tips On Naming Your Dog

    Tips On Naming Your Dog

    As a responsible animal lover, when you choose to adopt a puppy or dog, you will probably choose a pooch in need from a shelter or rescue organization. Depending on the circumstances, the dog may come with a name from her previous owner, have been given a name by the shelter attendants, or have no name at all. You may desire to change her name, or you may need to provide her with her very first name. A dog’s name, especially her recognition of her name, is essential in dog training and obedience. Here are some suggestions for choosing a name for your new canine companion and for helping her become accustomed to her new name. If you have any trouble getting your new pup used to her name, always consult your dog trainer or animal trainer.

    Choosing a Name

    The following are a few guidelines for choosing a name for your new dog or puppy, recommended by Drs. Fosters and Smith at
    1. Dog training, including teaching your dog obedience cues, is essential in having a communicative and understanding relationship. Thus, you should avoid names that sound like obedience cues or commands that are commonly used to train dogs and that you will therefore use with your dog in everyday life. For example, “Tidbit” sounds similar to “sit,” “Kay” can be confused with “stay,” and “Bo” sounds too close to “no.” Dog training, especially when using vocal cues, relies strongly on the animal’s recognition of human sounds. Don’t confuse them!

    2. Steer clear of names that are the same as people in your household. Your dog will surely be perplexed if he thinks he’s being told to “take out the trash” or “drop off the car at the auto mechanic’s shop.” Also, when it comes time for you or your dog trainer to teach her the “come” cue, you do not want the dog becoming confused.

    3. Shorter names (one or two syllables) will be easier for your pup to recognize and respond to, particularly during dog training. A canine’s name should be simple and easily recognizable.

    4. Hard consonants (b, k, d, t) and vowels (y, a, e, i) are easier to hear and distinguish than soft consonants (f, s, m, n) and vowels (i, e, u). Thus, “Tito” or “Buddy” will be much easier for a dog to recognize than a name like “Fern”. Again, proper dog training requires the dog to recognize human sounds, so the dog’s name should be easily decipherable to her. If you are unsure of what cues will be taught to your dog during her training, consult a professional dog trainer.

    5. Choose a name that you won’t mind saying out loud in public. If you are working on dog training or playing ball in the park, you won’t want to have to call out an embarrassing name.

    Getting your Pup Accustomed to Her New Name

    If this is the first time your pup has had a name, you’ll have to help her get used to responding to a name in general. Your dog trainer can help you and give you tips for acclimatizing your pup to her new name, but since your dog trainer doesn’t live with you, you will be responsible. Begin by using her name regularly in her everyday life and encouraging her to focus on you using her new name only. To do this, say her name excitedly, but don’t repeat it excessively. If she focuses on you in response to hearing her name, reward her instantly with a food treat, verbal praise, a favorite toy, or petting (whichever she finds the most rewarding). Repeat this exercise often until she focuses on you consistently after hearing her name.

    Tips On Name Changing

    If your dog had a name given to her by her previous owner or by the kennel attendants that you’d like to change, it will be necessary to help her transition to her new name through dog training. Begin by saying her new name followed immediately by her old name. When she focuses on you, reward her (food, praise, toy, petting). Repeat this often in everyday life and during dog training until she focuses on you consistently. Then, drop the old name and begin using the new name exclusively. Every time she responds to her new name by focusing on you, reward her. She should soon respond to her new name dependably.
  • Choosing the Right Type of Dog for You and Your Family (Part 1) - December 2008
    Owning a dog is an incomparable joy that many people are fortunate to experience. According to the 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, 63 of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 71.1 million homes throughout the country. There are also approximately 5 million dogs in Canada. Thus, many people in North America are familiar with the benefits (and responsibilities) of dog ownership, and many dog owners responsibly seek dog training from a professional. If you are thinking about adopting or purchasing a puppy or dog as a cuddly confidant for you and/or your family, there are several things to consider.

    Before considering which breed, size, and age that your new canine companion should be, you should first determine if you can reasonably provide for a pet. If you’re on the fence, a professional animal trainer can help you make an informed decision. To begin, ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Can you afford the necessary maintenance for a dog, including plenty of food and treats, training sessions from a Certified Dog Trainer, supplies (collars, leashes, toys, bedding, crates, etc.), veterinary bills (for immunizations, spaying/neutering, routine check-ups, and potential emergencies), grooming (especially for dogs with fancy-trimmed coats), and anything else that may arise in the dog’s lifetime?

    2. Realistically, do you have sufficient time to devote to your new dog, including animal training, attention, exercise (going for walks, playing ball, trips to the park), and general care?

    3. Do you have sufficient energy to do all of the above?

    4. Do you live in a place where you’re allowed and able to have a dog? (Note that some apartments, condos and rented houses have a “no pets allowed” policy.)

    5. Do you have a yard? Is your yard secure enough where your new canine will not be able to escape? Do you have a pool, and is it gated?

    6. If you must leave the dog at home for several hours during the day, is there a safe place where he or she can be kept or is there anybody (such as your animal trainer or pet sitter) who could check on or spend time with him or her? Also, if you take frequent vacations or have to travel for work and are gone for extended periods of time, do you have somebody to watch after the dog while you are away?

    7. If your dog has or develops a behavioral issue, will you have the persistence to fix it (with assistance from a professional dog trainer)? Note: the most common reason why dogs are relinquished to shelters is due to unresolved behavioral issues. Dog training is essential and crucial for every dog and owner.

    If you answered “yes” to all of the above questions, then you are a good candidate for dog ownership.
  • Choosing the Right Type of Dog for You and Your Family (Part 2) - January 2009
    Now that you’ve determined that you have the time, money, and necessary resources for dog ownership and, of course, dog training, it’s time to choose what type of dog is right for you. Before you peruse shelters and adoption websites in search of the perfect pooch or purchase a dog that is of your “favorite” breed, keep in mind that the breed, size, age, coat type, and energy/activity level of a dog may contribute to his or her ability to fit into your lifestyle. When in doubt, it’s recommended that you consult a Certified Dog Trainer for assistance in choosing the right dog for you. Here are some guidelines.

    • Size – It may seem like a realistic deduction that the size of the dog should be relative to the size of your home. However, depending on the breed and temperament of the dog, larger dogs can be much calmer than smaller dogs and can thus have better manners in a small apartment or condo. In comparison, small dogs are typically energetic, needing more space to run in the house. This means that potential owners of small dogs must be prepared to provide tons of exercise options to their small pooches while keeping them primarily indoors, such as bi-weekly training sessions with a Certified Animal Trainer. Large dogs need exercise options, too, so a person living in an apartment must be prepared to take his/her dog for daily walks, to the park to play ball, or to focused training. An owner who is unfamiliar with how to train dogs should consult a professional for helpful suggestions on methods of exercising his/her dog. Another thing to consider is that larger dogs cost more in regards to supplies such as bedding and toys (they will need to be larger), surgery and medications (they’ll need to consume larger dosages than smaller dogs), and especially food. Larger dogs also normally live shorter lives than smaller dogs.

    • Breed – If your heart is set on a purebred dog, do your research. Learn all about the personality traits of the breed you’re hoping for, and seek animal training for your new pup as soon as he or she is of age. Also, consider mixed-breed dogs. They often experience fewer health problems, such as hip dysplasia, which is all too common in purebred pups, and breathing problems that are frequent in dogs of brachycephalic breeds (those with short snouts such as Pugs and English Bulldogs). Your veterinarian or a seasoned dog trainer can help you to decide on a dog whose breed does not carry too many medical hindrances. However, keep in mind that mixed-breed dogs can be just as enjoyable as purebreds, and even have the advantage of a unique appearance.

    • Age – One of the biggest pleasures of dog ownership is watching your new puppy play and grow gradually into an adult canine. Puppies are so cute, playful, and delightfully irresistible that most people looking to get a dog are searching for a puppy. It must be kept in mind, however, that puppies carry many more responsibilities than adult dogs do. Puppies are practically a blank slate; besides any traits that may be ingrained in their breeding, they do not have any training or manners. They must receive intensive, focused instruction – potty training, obedience training, and socialization – and they must be taught that they cannot chew up anything and everything. If you do not know how to train dogs yourself, a certified professional may need to be consulted, especially for new dog owners. New puppies will need to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Also, the disadvantage of adopting a puppy over an adult dog is that you do not know how their temperament will develop, whereas adult dogs already show their true personality. The assistance and guidance of a Certified Animal Trainer is strongly recommended for new puppy owners as temperament flaws can be ingrained for life and must be corrected early on. For a new dog owner without the proper time to devote to a puppy’s immense needs, a young adult dog may be a better choice. Usually, adult dogs have already undergone dog obedience training (which commonly includes housetraining) and may have even had some obedience training by a professional trainer or shelter volunteer. This will save new dog owners a lot of time and anxiety when bringing the new pooch into their home.

    • Coat Type –The type of coat of the dog you choose can be a blessing or a curse, especially if you are opposed to dog hair on your furniture. Ask any dog trainer– she will tell you that her clothing is constantly blanketed in fur, especially after a long day of dog training. Long-haired dogs as a rule shed more, need more coat care, and can also become very dirty when exposed to grass, weeds, brush, and dirt. Keep in mind that dogs with specialty coats will require frequent trips to the groomers, which will cost even more money in addition to food, veterinary bills, supplies, and animal training. If the dog is going to spend time in the backyard on somewhat cold days, however, you may need to sacrifice the time and money of upkeep to choose a dog with a thicker coat for warmth. Dog owners with allergies would be benefited by a dog of a breed with very short hair.

    • Energy Level – Sure, that Jack Russell Terrier is adorable, but his energy level is so high that he will require walks more than once a day, games of ball, and specialized dog training to keep his four feet on the floor. For a jogger, this spunky pup may be a perfect companion. For elderly persons whose level of activity barely stretches beyond brief trips to the supermarket, this breed would drive them crazy. The laziness of a Bassett Hound could be a benefit to these individuals, who are most likely looking for a dog to lie by their armchair while they watch TV. When researching a breed, make sure to choose a dog whose energy level fits your lifestyle. If you do not have the time to take a 30-minute walk twice a day, avoid breeds that have excessively high energy levels. Even with animal behavior training, a dog’s energy level isn’t going to diminish. Again, if you have questions regarding your breed choice or need assistance, your local dog trainer can assist you in making an informed decision.

    Choosing what type of dog to bring into your life is a big decision. The most important factor to consider is what type of dog you will be able to best accommodate, and what type of dog will fit into your lifestyle most appropriately. Make sure you have enough time for your new four-legged family member and that you complete all routine veterinary examinations as well as professional dog obedience training with a professional. Also, before purchasing a pricey purebred, browse shelters and rescues (most of them have websites with pictures and descriptions of the dogs they have available) as many could have purebred dogs waiting for homes. You may even opt to bring your animal trainer with you to help you make this crucial choice. Remember that mixed-breed dogs are just as joyful companions as purebreds; keep your mind and heart open to them. With careful consideration and the help of a Certified Dog Trainer, you can and will find the canine companion of your dreams. May you have a happy and healthy life together!
  • Howliday Puppy Picks - December 2011
    Now that the holiday season is upon us, many people are thinking of gifts and how nice it would be to have a fluffy puppy under the tree. On the other hand, there may not be much thought as to what it takes to have a puppy, let alone finding a place to purchase one. Often times, people choose a dog based solely on its looks alone, neglecting to consider what breed would be best suited for their family’s life style.

    Many dog trainers have common, reoccurring experiences with new dog owners after the holidays who are unsure what to do with their precious new pup and how they will take care of all its needs once the reality of responsibility sets in. So, if you are serious about buying a puppy for the holidays, here are some tips to help you make the right choice for your family.

    The first thing you should consider is, identifying what “type” of family you are. Do you enjoy the outdoors? Are you athletic, or are you a homebody who prefers to stay at home and watch football? Are you a working family where everyone is gone all day, or are you a stay-at-home mom or retired and would like some company? If you are athletic and enjoy the outdoors, it would be wise to get a dog that has a lot of energy, like a retriever, a herding dog or a working dog; such breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Austrian Sheep Dogs, Alaskan Malamutes, and Huskies.

    However, if you are a family that isn’t as active, you may want a calmer, less energetic breed, such as Basset hounds, French bulldogs, or English bulldogs,; all of which would make good apartment dogs. Some people think smaller dogs are less active and would make good apartment pets; however, some dog trainers would agree that this is a common misconception.

    Next, one should consider each individual in the family. For instance, do you have young children, an elderly person or someone with allergies? These types of questions will also help to narrow down the vast range of dog breeds out there. If you have young children or an elderly person living with you, most dog trainers would tell you a small, fast, hyper dog would not be the best choice; nor would you want a very large dog like a Great Dane, St. Bernard or Bullmastiff. Instead, a better alternative would be a medium size dog that is less active, such as a Cockapoo, Standard Poodle, or a Golden retriever. For the person in your family with allergies, there are hypoallergenic dogs that don’t shed as much as others; these breeds include Poodles, Labradoodles, Portuguese water dogs, and Maltipoos.

    Once you decide on the best breed and fit for you and your family, you will want to ask your local veterinarian, dog trainer or someone in the pet business to help you find a reputable breeder, or shelter. The shelters are always filled with an abundance of dogs of various breeds, all hoping for a good home and a loving family to adopt them. By saving a shelter dog, you would not only be giving the gift of joy and excitement to your family, but would also be providing a great pet with a loving home. Have a local dog trainer go with you to assist you in finding the right dog for you and your family.
  • What Kind of Dog Should I Get My Child? - May 2012
    Often the biggest question for pet loving parents is, “What is the best dog for my child?” Here are some tips that may help to decide the best dog for a happy and healthy family unit.

    Dog Breed and Life History – Start Here If Possible

    When first choosing a dog you always want to look at the breed’s genetic makeup. How was the dog raised? Where was the dog born? You should research the breed’s genetics and behavior traits to make sure there is no risk to your child. If puppies go through a lot of negative experiences early in life (such as a bad shelter experience, mishandling, or mistreatment), these negative experiences could cause a new pet owner to be wary when bringing this puppy home around a small child. This doesn’t mean you should exclude getting a dog from a shelter, but you may want to possibly consider a more adult dog from a shelter. By getting an adult shelter dog you will be able to get a better idea as to what breed the dog is and this will help you better determine his natural behaviors.

    Another factor is activity level. You can not determine the dog’s activity level at the shelter. He may be stressed, and / or depressed, which makes him look less active. It is hard to assess the temperament level of a dog until he has been out of the shelter environment for at least several weeks to several months.

    Dog Temperament & Age Considerations

    A great idea is to get an even tempered adult dog for your young child. Children can stress dogs out by the way they treat them (pulling on fur, ears, tail, paws, etc). Parents need to supervise their children with their dogs, and recognize that the child’s behavior can affect the dog’s temperament and future behaviors. Even if the dog does not react immediately to something a child does, the dog may be masking his feelings / behavior.

    Adult Dogs - Sometimes A Better Choice

    Many families automatically want to adopt as young of a puppy as they can find. However, you can prevent many problems from happening by adopting an adult dog with a stable temperament that is known for being excellent around children. It also helps if the dog is of a size to where the child could not hurt him by playing rough. If you can, you want to meet the previous family the dog came from and find out their history. If you find that the dog is good with children, the dog may have been given away for other reasons (i.e. a lack of training), in which a dog trainer can come in handy.

    If you do decide to get a young puppy, parents need to know that a puppy is very high-maintenance. They require a lot time, care, training and patience. Puppy classes are great to take puppies to for socializing, basic obedience, and temperament testing. This will give the dog the best chance of growing into a child-safe adult dog.

    Is Your Child Ready For A Dog?

    You need to make sure your child is old enough to be able to handle a dog. An older child has a better understanding of how to treat a dog. Usually the best age is school age, but in the meantime, younger children can be around great dogs with a wonderful temperament, to get them prepared for one of their own.

    Choosing to add a new canine member to the family is a huge decision. Getting a dog at the right time can be a great asset to your family. Wonderful memories are acquired from children and dogs, and together they build an everlasting friendship!
  • Wheelchairs and Dogs - August 2012
    Wheelchairs and dogs

    Dogs Can Help Owners in Wheelchairs

    As a professional dog trainer, I have had clients in wheelchairs and have also had people ask me questions about getting a dog for someone in a wheelchair. We all know that dogs are wonderful companions, and they can be especially beneficial for a person in a wheelchair. However, it is extremely important that you pick the breed that will thrive in the kind of lifestyle you live. If you do not, chances are that you will be contacting your local dog trainer or animal school for help.

    Things To Consider When Selecting A Dog

    When selecting a type of dog breed that will fit your lifestyle, consider the following: Is the climate you live in generally hot or cold? Are you regularly an active person, or a homebody? Are there kids in the household or other dogs? Your lifestyle should be the determining factor in deciding which dog to adopt! While this may be a hard topic to delineate, it is more important than how cute the dog is!

    Breeds to Consider

    If you are in a wheelchair, you most likely need a dog that is not very active and is as low-maintenance as possible. The Mastiff is a great choice as it is very calm and easy going, unless you are not looking for a dog that massive. If you want a dog of smaller statue, consider a Basset Hound. The Basset Hound is of good-nature and generally gets along with other dogs, pets, and children. Other low-maintenance breeds to consider are the friendly Great Dane, the protective Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and the loyal Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

    Walking Your Dog

    If you are in a wheelchair and able to take your dog on a walk, you’ll need to make sure your dog understands to stay on one side of you the entire time. You may want to consider hiring a professional dog trainer to help teach your dog how to properly walk next to you. Playing fetch with your dog is a great alternative to going for a walk. You’ll want to teach your dog to drop the ball in your hand or on your lap rather than the floor. We suggest at least 20-30 minutes of interactive exercise with your dog daily no matter what the breed. It will help you bond with your dog, as well as improve your dogs health. As the old adage goes, a tired dog is a good dog!

    Take The Lead

    Something else to keep in mind is leadership exercises. You need to make sure that your dog understands you are the leader of the pack, this will help to ensure that he will listen to you. You do not want your dog to chase after a squirrel on a walk and not come when called. To incorporate a few leadership exercises, start by feeding your dog after you eat and make sure your dog only receives things he likes (food, petting, praise) when he is obedient. Asking for a simple sit before you pet him is enough. Also, do not allow your dog to get up on the furniture.

    Due Diligence Is A Must

    Dogs are amazing companions for people of every lifestyle and disability. Remember to research the breed you want to make sure that the dog you select will adapt easily to your lifestyle. Spend time teaching your dog simple obedience cues and leadership exercises to ensure a long and happy life for the both of you.
  • Double Trouble or Double the Pleasure? - January 2013
    “Should I get a puppy?” “There are only two left in the shelter and I do not want to split them up.” "Should I get two so they can be company for each other while I am away during the day?” “If I got two, both my son and my daughter could each have one.” “How could two puppies be more trouble to take care of than just one?”

    The above frequently asked questions lead to the ultimate question: Are two puppies double the pleasure or double trouble?

    While you might have the best intentions, you’ll soon discover that two puppies actually create about eight times the mess as one. It’s as if they feed off each other’s energy. The problem is not the constant chaos involved with trying to keep up with two pups, but the realization that since the dogs have each other, they really do not need you. They are much more interested in roughhousing and running together than the ball games and walks you planned on enjoying with them.

    Expert breeders are careful about placing two puppies together in one home because they know how much work it is to raise both of them properly. An improperly raised puppy can wind up homeless when the little and cute stage wears off and the defense urge begins to mature. Even dogs that don’t become aggressive can become too rowdy for a family if they weren’t given the right training early on.

    Puppy Bonding

    The underlying problem is bonding. Since the pups are always together, even when you are not home, their primary bond is with each other—not with you. Puppies are individuals and each needs a good upbringing. This includes plenty of good experiences with people, places and things. It also includes plenty of training and conditioning to being touched and handled by humans. Much of this work must be done with a puppy one-on-one—away from any other dogs in the household.

    Tips for Successfully Raising Two Puppies

    1. The pups should sleep separately. Within two weeks of coming home, they should be trained to sleep in separate crates. However, don’t combine the stress of a new home with that of being separated immediately. Start out by placing the crates side by side. Gradually move the crates apart so that eventually the puppies are comfortable sleeping in different rooms or on either side of the bed. (This also prevents the development of separation anxiety problems should they suddenly have to be apart due to an accident or illness.)

    2. Each pup needs plenty of outings with humans and without the other pup around. This is an essential part of a puppy developing an individual identity and the ability to function without the other. It also gives a pup the desperately needed opportunity to bond with humans. From the very start, take them outside separately as well as together for short excursions around the neighborhood, car rides and socialization visits. This process is best continued at least until a year of age; longer for some dogs.

    3. Your best hope of controlling your dogs when they are together is to have an excellent training foundation for each individually. Each puppy needs to go to training class weekly without the other—or at least kept separate within the class. (Note: Some dog trainers will not let family members train two dogs from the same family in the same class.) Make sure to practice the class homework daily away from the other dog. As they become well-trained, you’ll also want to practice working them together so they learn to obey with the pack

    4. The puppies will learn their names faster if you use their names each time you interact with them. In the beginning, names should always be said in a happy tone of voice in a rewarding context, such as when praising, giving meals or teaching commands that are rewarded with praise, petting or a treat.

    5. Make sure to be a good leader to your pups. Don’t let one become excessively dominant over the other. Allow them to establish their relationship, but intervene if one puppy becomes overly domineering. Give each puppy equal time and attention and do not favor one over the other. Also, make sure to include all of the family members in this training and caring for the pups so they respond equally to all.

    Raising two pups is considerably more work than just one. However, if done correctly, you can certainly double your puppy pleasure.

    By Beth Harrison, ABCDT

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