Review Some Of My Dog Training Tips Before Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I’m sure you’re busy planning a big family meal. Whether you are hosting or attending, it’s important to remember to keep all family members safe and happy. This of course means your dog as well. Let’s review how some of the dog behavior tips I have shared with you here can come in handy on Thanksgiving Day.


If you are already dealing with begging issues, Thanksgiving is going to seem like a table scrap Christmas to your dog. But Thanksgiving is a ‘people’ feast, and you should not indulge your dog. Not only will this severely undermine the good dog training you have been working so hard on all year, it can actually be very hazardous to your pet’s health. Be especially wary of turkey bones. Cooked bones can splinter and if swallowed, tear your dog’s intestines. If you can’t stand to deprive your dog, here is a list of ‘people’ foods from WebMD that are OK for dogs. Just remember: only in moderation and always, always make your dog earn it.


Even a well-socialized dog can become overwhelmed when a busload of friends and family stop by for the day.  In fact, you probably know just how he feels! But this can actually be an opportunity for your dog to show off all of the obedience skills you have been working on.  If you need a refresher, start with my tips on jumping on people and barking.


Seeing the youngest members of our family is a joyful thing. We see their playful, curious, talkative behavior as charming. But your dog sees a different picture: a loud and seemingly aggressive miniature human. Even well-behaved children and dogs can get into unexpected conflicts. This is because they are very much like each other. Most notably, both children and dogs need the guidance of adult humans to navigate situations. Be sure to supervise all dog-child interactions closely and  explain to children how to pet, play with and talk to your dog.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Your Dog Training Questions: My Puppy Bites Me

Your Question:


I have a new puppy. She is a 6-month-old Maltese. We are potty training her, socializing her with our friends and generally following all of your advice. Everything seems fine, except that when we are pet her and play with her she bites and sometimes her bites are way too hard. Will she grow out of this?

My Answer:
If you have ever observed puppies in a litter, you will see a lot of play fighting, including biting. This is how puppies teach each other something we call bite inhibition. If one puppy bites too hard during play, the other will yelp to let him know. Soon puppies learn how to control the strength of their bites, but sometimes they have to learn this from you.

The first thing is to never punish your puppy for biting. Don’t strike or yell at the puppy. First of all, it won’t work and second, you could compound the problem by creating fear in your puppy. Instead you want to supervise your puppy and eventually redirect the biting.

When your puppy bites, stop playing and redirect their behavior. If you have been teaching obedience teaching your dog commands like sit, down, etc., this is the time for them. Keep up the good work with training, walking and socializing your puppy and you should have no problem getting your puppy to stop biting you.

Jim’s  Nose to Tail Puppy Training is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your puppy understands what you expect of him because you know how to teach him.  You empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.  The result – one awesome puppy and one happy family.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Your Dog Training Questions: My Dog Has Food Aggression

dog aggressionDog aggression is a difficult behavior problem. It’s hard to say why a dog shows aggression. Common causes are poor puppy socialization, being taken from the litter too soon, fear and poor obedience training. Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us why they are behaving the way they do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t manage the behavior. Here’s a reader whose dog was showing unexpected aggression towards the family’s new dog.

Your Question:

After years of being a one-dog household, my husband and I decided to adopt an older rescue dog. Our first dog, a 6 year old mix, has always been a little nervous, but never gave us any major problems. That’s why we are stunned about the way she is reacting to our new dog, a 2-year-old mix. They seem to get along fine most times, but when it is time to feed, our older dog becomes very aggressive: growling, snapping, guarding. She is doing this not only to our new dog, but to my husband and I as well. We are feeing them in separate rooms for now, but is there another way to fix this problem?

– Louie

My Answer:

Food aggression can be a complex problem. In general, the solution is to get your dog desensitized to having other people and dogs around during meal time.

You’re doing the right thing to keep them separated — but it’s only a temporary solution. It’s a solution that is keeping all family members safe, but if you don’t address the root of the problem, it will eventually get worse.

Because you are experiencing a new problem with an old dog, I would guess that your dog is reacting to a perceived lack of structure in the family. One thing to start immediately is to make both dogs perform a sit for you in order to earn their meals. This reinforces that you are in charge and control the resources. This is actually very comforting to your dog, who instinctively looks for a leader.

If your dog has serious aggression around her food bowl, it may be time for you to consider a good trainer or behaviorist to begin working on a more rigorous behavior modification program to directly address the underlying issues around food aggression.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Dog Behavior Problems and Your Personal Space Part 2: Practice Makes Perfect

Yesterday, I covered the “Law of the Dog.” This law states dogs recognize leaders who control resources like food, toys, fun and personal space. This applies to their human housemates as well. In short, if your dog is able to come into your personal space at will and take something of value like food or affection, your dog thinks he is running the show.

This would be bad enough, but the consequence of this is that your dog won’t listen to your commands in any other situation. So, let’s talk about how to fix this common dog behavior problem.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. A toddler is in the family room eating a cookie when the cookie breaks in half and falls to the floor in the dog’s space.

You may get very tense at what your dog might do to your toddler because to the dog if it’s in his space, it’s his – but your toddler doesn’t know this.

My guess is that you hope your dog will step back and take a relaxed sit, wagging his tail. Wouldn’t that be a great out come? It takes a little work to achieve this but here’s how you would do it.

Stand in the middle of a room with something of high value like a stuffed Kong toy.

Drop it on the floor behind you and block your dog from getting it.

When he finally relaxes and sits, click and treat him.

Expand the exercise to other high value items your dog likes – yes, even use cookies if that is relevant to your (and your dogs) situation.

Now here’s the key: Don’t use any command words at all. Just stand there and wait until your dog sits patiently.

By not using words or having any emotions in the process of this exercise, your dog begins to react to your body language. Of course your dog must be able to sit.

Gotta teach the basics!

Now practice with other family members as well using many different things of high value to your dog. And remember, practice makes perfect!

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Dog Behavior Problems and Your Personal Space

What do dog behavior problems and your personal space have in common? They have a lot more in common than you could ever imagine.

Dogs, just like us humans, are very sensitive about their “personal space.” Don’t think you’re sensitive to your personal space? Try standing too close to someone in an elevator when the two of you are the only ones on the elevator. That’s a great test to prove space sensitivity.

Take for example the phrases: “He lets her walk all over him” or “He’s a pushy guy.” These phrases and many more suggest that the power of space in our world is not that different from our dogs.

In the dog world there are two positions: Leaders and Followers.

Leaders occupy the space in front and followers, follow behind in their space. Dogs that hold firm on their space have more authority than the dog that gives up their space when another dog encroaches.

How your dog evaluates your ability to control your resources and space can often times, especially in leader type dog personalities, determine whether or not he will listen to you at critical times- or not – when you need control of your dog.

Consider the following understood “Law of the Dog”, as he evaluates you:

If your dog can infringe into your personal space and take something of value like a dog toy you are holding, get on your lap or put his face in your pizza on the coffee table, then your dog’s interpretation is that you cannot control your resources (dog toy, your pizza, your lap space and your love and affection.)

The resulting complication of this perception of you, is that any other work, like trying to fix a barking problem or lunging at the door problem, you may try to fix with your dog could now be infinitely more difficult.”

“Law of Dog” is simple. If a resource (your toy, your pizza, your lap) is controlled by you, it is owned by you. And this “Law of Dog” is very important in your dog’s world regarding the foundation of how he determines his relationship with you.

If you are consistently firm with the message of who is the leader – especially with everything your dog places value on; food, space, toys, love and affection, walks and much more, you can gain his respect and his attention.

So, how do you put this into good practical use at home? I’ll answer that question tomorrow. Until then, remember “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Your Dog Training Questions: How Can I Let My Puppy Know When Behavior Is Bad?

I’ve said time and time again that you need to be a leader to your puppy for him to understand what kind of behavior you expect. But how do you communicate this to a puppy? After all, you can’t reason with your puppy. But don’t worry, because it’s not as hard as you think.

Your Question:

You’ve said before that you can’t scold a puppy. So, if I can’t scold the puppy, what do I do?

– Jennifer

My Answer:

To potty train your puppy correctly, you must be proactive and not reactive. What this means is you must take the time to do what needs to be done so your puppy has NO accidents. It won’t be enough for you to react negatively to every accident for your puppy to understand what you want.

Part of the reason for this is that dogs have very short attention spans. Puppies and dogs only have a 1 to 1.5 second window of opportunity after they take an action for you to be able to praise or correct them effectively. After that short window, they will simply be unable to understand what you are trying to tell them. They will literally be clueless to what they did a few seconds before and therefore won’t understand why they are being praised or told “no.” Knowing this, you can understand how confusing this must be for a dog.

It’s important to understand this about dogs: even if you can catch them in the act, scolding just won’t work. The only way for your puppy to succeed is to set them up for success. A regular schedule of feeding, exercise and trips outside is how you accomplish this.

Jim’s  Nose to Tail Puppy Training is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your puppy understands what you expect of him because you know how to teach him.  You empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.  The result – one awesome puppy and one happy family.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

What’s YOUR dog training question?
Use the comments below to ask .

Your Dog Training Questions: My Dog Chases Cars During Walks

For some dogs, walks are tough. After all there are lots of distractions: people, other dogs, roaming cats, strange smells and loud cars. A reactive dog hardly has a chance against so many potential distractions. That’s why it’s so important to set your dog up to succeed on walks — remember, skipping walks is not the solution. This reader has a dog with a dangerous habit — chasing cars.

Your Question:

I have a 4.5 year old sheltie. She is generally very well-behaved and smart. She has earned her canine good citizen medal. However, she has one very bad habit — chasing cars. It is impossible to take this dog for a walk because she will try to chase and attack every car that passes by. She has no aggression to people or other dogs, nor bycicles, just cars. I think the noise frightens her.

We have tried for months to take her out each night for about 1-2 miles; putting her in a sit-stay whenever a car approaches and using high-value treats to reward her for remaining calm as the car passes. It works as long as we have the treats handy, but if we don’t catch her at a certain point once she sees the car, she goes into attack mode despite the treats being offered. And there is a certain point near the end of our walk where no matter what the treat, she will not pay attention and jumps, pulls, barks, twirls and strangles herself at the end of the leash.

I do not use a retractable leash and I do use a harness with a martingale (or is it dale) ring to protect her neck. Is there anything else we can do? Thank you!

– Duke Nurse

My Answer:

You are more than likely starting off by getting her way too close to the cars in your attempt to desensitize her. If she is that reactive, then you need to move way back up the driveway or even the yard. It’s a slow process.

I recently answered a reader’s question about chasing after other dogs while on walks. I recommended she try a proofed down, which is a “down” command that a dog has proven she can hold until released. Practice this inside, with no distractions, until your dog acn do it successfully every time. Then add one distraction, like another family member  or loud noises  before moving to the yard, then closer to the street, etc. Be patient and work on this every day, but for only a few minutes a day. Good luck!

What’s YOUR dog training question?
Use the comments below to ask .


Puppy Training Secrets: Food Matters. A lot.

Don’t you wish your new puppy came with a manual that told you exactly how to train a puppy? A puppy’s natural activities of running, chasing, biting, chewing, peeing, pooping, jumping, digging and barking can take you to the edge of your sanity if you are not prepared to deal with them. The truth is your new puppy doesn’t know anything about living with you or any other human.

Remember, your puppy came straight to you from living with its littermates. The litter was probably kept outside or in the garage and allowed to pee and poop everywhere! Or, you puppy came to you from a shelter because the original owner either was too lazy and stuck the puppy out in the back yard, or didn’t really know the correct way to make a puppy successful at living in a home. Now it’s up to you. You must teach them how to co-exist with humans — peacefully — so that all family members can enjoy your new family member.

Training a puppy not to pee or poop in your home is perhaps one of, if not, the highest priority concerns of most new puppy owners. Not just stopping accidents, but preventing them in the first place! Can you imagine never having a single potty accident because you’ve learned how to housebreak your puppy – and with no potty accidents? This is very possible. It comes down to understand the few simple things you can do to be proactive in your puppy training instead of being reactive. Just think how less stressful that will be on your puppy and you!

I’d like to share a secret with you that few trainers teach. Food can play a huge role in expediting your house breaking process. What’s so important about food? Every aspect of food is critical, everything from what kind of food, the ingredients (the order of ingredients) as well as the ingredients themselves. All of this information actually gives clues as to the value of the food you’ve just purchased. Also, how much food and believe it or not – how you prepare it. If you know what ingredients make up a high quality dog food, it will expedite your puppy’s housebreaking process, your puppy’s rowdy behavior. Yes, the food you feed your puppy has a major impact on his behavior. The food you feel also affects your puppy’s quality of life, thus preventing you from being faced with months of frustration.

Having trained 20,000 dogs and counting, we have found that puppy owners who start off on the right foot with their puppy have few to no behavior problems as their puppy becomes a dog and are happy with the relationship they have with their dog.

Let us help you take your first step to a well-trained puppy so that you too can begin experiencing all the joy, fun, laughter and love that your puppy was meant to bring into your life and home! You would love that – wouldn’t you? Remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

Jim’s  Nose to Tail Puppy Training is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your puppy understands what you expect of him because you know how to teach him.  You empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.  The result – one awesome puppy and one happy family. 

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Dog Behavior: Dogs Fighting Again?

Dog fights amongst canine housemates continue to be a serious concern to peaceable owners. Today I just returned from a lesson with two cute female pit/mix pups – both just under 12 months of age. The initial call was that they had gotten into a fight causing a trip to the vet with punctures. This was the first of a couple of serious fights. Unfortunately the owner did not see it start and is not certain who started the fight and over what they were fighting.

Last week I completed another lesson with two somewhat recently adopted, older, more mature female dogs who had not previously lived together. When the larger of the dogs attacked the smaller one, I got a call from the new owners to sort things out and help them to understand root causes and how to proceed to fix the problem.

Here’s the commonality with the two households:

  1. No structure, therefore no leadership
  2. No consistent training, therefore no commands to which to redirect
  3. No consistent walking for exercise and leadership – constructive management of energy while also reinforcing leadership
  4. Constant dog-initiated petting and doting – all unearned
  5. Both dogs in each household were females
  6. A detailed evaluation of relationships between the dogs starting the fights and their respective owners revealed more attention to the larger dog than the smaller dog who received the brunt of the fight.
  7. A recommended test done in both homes mentioned above, indicated that when the “doting owner” in both households was not at home and the dogs were allowed to be free in the homes while the other owner was present, no fighting occurred. In fact, all got along peaceably.
  8. When the doting owners returned to their respective homes, the competition and the games began again. Fights reoccurred.

So, what’s the message here? Many fights between canine housemates happen in the presence of the owner – and sometimes guarding the owner as a resource. What’s the answer? Put structure back into your relationship with your dogs – you probably both need it and can benefit immeasurably from it. If you are not sure how to go about doing this, give me a call. Keep your dogs separated until you can put a program into effect – and during the program as well.

Remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

What’s your dog training problem?
Ask me a question in the comments below!

Puppy Training: 5 Big Mistakes People Make When House Training

Everyone loves puppies and especially that wonderful puppy breath. But did you know that most new owners do almost everything wrong when beginning to house train their puppy?

People tend to think that a new puppy will think like a mature dog but they do not – they are simply puppies. Puppies have certain needs – not only be obedience trained, but also needs related to their food which must be high quality and needs related to their ability to understand where to go potty.

Up until the time you get your new puppy, their entire world pretty much consisted of their litter mates and the area where they were kept by the breeder.

The first thing an owner needs to do of course is to potty train their puppy. As easy as this can be, people tend to over complicate things and make it difficult on them and their new puppy.

There seems to be a common thought process amongst new puppy owners about the problems of potty training that complicates an otherwise easy process, because this thought pattern confuses the new puppy.

Here’s what new owners think about their new puppy as it relates to house training:

  1. Having accidents every day in their home is part of the potty training process – it’s just what they do.
  2. Leaving the puppy in the back yard to potty is good potty training and easy for the owner.
  3. The new puppy should be able to give them a sign or a signal when it needs to go potty.
  4. Hitting a puppy with a rolled up newspaper or magazine for potty accidents is how best to correct your new puppy.
  5. Leaving the puppy’s food and water down all day for it to eat and drink is easier for them.

These thoughts can not be further from the truth. Whether you are at your wit’s end with your new puppy, or just beginning your puppy training efforts, you must understand immediately what you need to do to help your puppy be successful now and in the future.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

Jim’s  Nose to Tail Puppy Training is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your puppy understands what you expect of him because you know how to teach him.  You empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.  The result – one awesome puppy and one happy family.