Tips and Techniques for teaching basic dog obedience to your dog

Dog Training for Your Family Pet: Like Parenting Children

Good dog training for your family pet –  like good parenting for children.

Kids and dogs both  need to get the best tools they can to successfully  navigate the potentially rough waters  life will throw at them.

This would Include the ability to make the right decisions when presented with options.  Have you given your dog the understanding how to do that?

The only resource they have is you.  Kids can ask, but  dogs face the handicap of not being able to ask questions.

Kids need to know, or actually develop, keen instincts that allow them to choose good friends to hang with and make other good life choices.

Dogs also need good tools to be able to make the right choices as well:  Tools like:  don’t jump, don’t bark excessively or don’t chew up things that are not yours to chew – and this list goes on.

You May Know This – But Are You Doing The Training With Your Dog?

The sooner you give your dog the right tools to navigate life’s rough waters, the better, happier, safer pet you will have.

There are many dog owners who doesn’t properly train their dog to prepare it for life with us humans and our rules.

These dog owners “assume” the dog either should know it”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Affording your dog the opportunity of an education will create LESS stress in your life and your dog’s life as well.

Everyone appreciates a well mannered, well trained dog – just as they do well mannered kids.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember,  “Opportunity Barks!”    [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]

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Spring Is Here So Make Sure You Walk Your Dog, Not The Other Way Around

Taking your dog out for a walk can be a very enjoyable experience. At least it should be. Walks are a critical element in having a well balanced dog. Dogs need not only the exercise, but also the intellectual and olfactory stimulation of walks.

But if you have trouble with your dog pulling on his leash, you need to stop this bad dog behavior. You want to go in one direction, your dog wants to go in the other direction. Sound familiar? Especially if your dog is still young, you want to stop the leash pulling now, because he may outweigh you when he is fully grown. You don’t want to look like a tail on a kite when you walk your dog.

Try my 5 steps to better dog walks. While you can use training collars and retractable leashes, it is best to try other options first. Retractable leashes are largely a waste of time on big dogs, and really aren’t effective for smaller dogs either.

For this method all you really need are: a 6′ leash and a nylon buckle collar.

  1. While you are out for a walk with your dog and he begins pulling on his leash, simply stop. Become immovable until he stops pulling and allows some slack in the leash.
  2. The minute there is slack in the leash, praise your dog and begin walking again.
  3. Continue your walk until the dog starts pulling again, stop dead in your tracks once again. Remain neutral. Wait for slack, praise.
  4. Sometimes, if you simply stop, change your direction and start walking, your dog will have to stop pulling and try to catch up with you going in the other direction. This strategy will also teach your dog to pay attention to you when you walk.
  5. Do not let your dog go sniff and investigate whatever he wants. You must control the walk.

Granted, this can be time consuming. But, walks are so important to your dog, he will soon learn that when he doesn’t pull he gets what he wants. Dogs do what works! Dogs are smarter than you think. Do your part consistently and you will soon find that you can enjoy your walks and your dog will love them as well.

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

(C) Jim Burwell 2011

Your Dog Training Questions: How Do I Crate Train My Dog?

I just adopted a new dog and I am lost. I would like to crate train, but I am not sure how to do it. How long do you recommend keeping a dog in the crate a day?
— Sarah, via email


My Answer:

Crate training is not about confining your dog in a crate. Do not leave your puppy in a crate for hours on end. That is confinement, not crate training. A puppy should never be confined in a crate all day long while you are at work. If that is your circumstance, then hire a pet sitter to come over at least twice a day to take the puppy out and play with it a little. A puppy in a crate for 8-10 hours a day is not going to make for a well balanced, happy puppy.

That said, the idea behind crate training your puppy or dog is to set him up to be successful in house training, instead of setting them up to fail.

How does this work? Well, dogs and puppies don’t like to soil the areas where they sleep or eat, so crating them for a time helps inhibit their tendency to urinate or defecate in their crate, thereby helping them learn to hold their business. It helps teach them to wait until they have an opportunity to do the business outside.

Here’s how to start. When you are at home, take your dog or puppy out of the crate and take them outside to potty. Generally speaking for every month a puppy is old, that is the number of hours they can hold their business. So if you have an 8 week old puppy, that puppy can hold it for approximately 2 hours (especially when awake). When you take your puppy out and they don’t potty, take the puppy back in, put it back in the crate and try again in about 15 minutes. When the potty potties, they get a standing ovation which helps them understand that what they did was a good thing.

To recap, crate training is not the same thing as confinement. The crate is used to aid in potty training, giving the puppy somewhere to go to be quiet and to sleep in at night so the puppy does not wander the house.

Crate training is used to illicit good behavior from your puppy and to aid your puppy in being successful instead of setting your puppy up to fail. Good luck and remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2011

Avoid These 4 Common Mistakes When Training A Dog

I spend a lot of time showing dog owners how to train their dog the right way.  Part of doing something right is avoiding the pitfalls. Today I want to focus on how NOT to train your dog. There are 4 common mistakes to avoid when training your dog. These dog training mistakes are especially important to avoid when training a puppy.

Getting Emotional
To truly have your dog listen to you, there should be NO emotional energy in your voice at all. Dogs do not understand, nor do they know what to do with a lot of emotional energy. Don’t shout, don’t plead, don’t scream. A lot of emotional energy in your voice can also cause high anxiety and stress for your dog, who will not understand what you are saying. Use the pitch of your voice instead.  To indicate to your dog that he has done something you approve of, use a higher pitch in your voice to say, “Good BOY.”

Being Harsh
Harsh, aggressive treatment causes not only frustration for you and your dog, it can stop and even make your dog regress in its training. Never be heavy handed with your dog because hitting a dog accomplishes nothing positive. What it does accomplish is that you will be left with either a fearful dog that is afraid of you or a one that sooner or later will return the favor and bite you. Either way, because of your mistake, the dog loses. Worse case scenario is that your dog will tire of the abusive treatment and snap at you or even bite you. There is a lot of truth to the saying, aggression begets aggression.

Waiting Too Long
When correcting your dog for something he is DOING wrong simply say, “No, off.” Notice I didn’t say to correct for something your dog DID. If your dog has already made a mistake and you find it, forget about it because correcting at that time is useless. Dogs have a 1.0 to 1.5 second window of opportunity to understand correction or praise to a deed. Anything past that is irrelevant, your dog will just be confused.

Expecting Too Much
You will not turn a badly behaved dog into your perfect pooch in a day. Sometimes, frustrated owners decide they are going to train their dog for hours on end until they get the results they want. They may decide to devote a whole weekend to training the dog, expecting the problem will be gone by Monday morning. The problem with this is that dogs can’t “cram.” Remember the short attention span? The way to get results from your dog is to train in short, relaxed sessions every single day. I’m talking 5-10 minutes max per session.

The Key

Be consistent with your training and remember to make training fun for you and fun for your dog. Dog owners generally get the kind of pet they create. Be good to your dog, have patience when training and have a wonderful member of your family. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2011

Your Dog Training Questions: Do I Have To Use Dog Treats Forever?

How long do I have to use treats for training? I’ve been using treats since I started training my dog, but now I’m worried about my dog gaining weight.
– James, via e-mail

My Answer:

I have good news for you. You do not need to train with treats forever. here’s my take on using treats in dog training.

Many dog trainers say that using food treats (also known as inducement dog training) is not good because you always have to carry around food treats to get your dog to perform.  But what they don’t tell you is what they don’t know!

The truth is, treat dog training is a process of teaching with food at first, then weaning the dog off food treats so that he is performing for you without the treats!

The the “weaning off” part of treat training is what many owners overlook and they get stuck with a dog that will only work for food. Don’t let this happen to you. Start your dog on variable treating now. Here’s how.

Once your dog is successfully performing a sit, start treating only every other time, then every third time and begin to get 4 and 5 sits in a row and only treat after the second, third, fourth of fifth time – then off food treats completely.  This is called variable treating.

The key is to not have food treats in your hand.  Dogs burn an image or picture in their mind that the activity of “sits” or “downs” is something they do with you when you have a food treat in your hand.  Believe me, dogs can also learn the same concept with you without a food treat in your hand. Help them with this by leaving the treats in your treat bag, zip lock bag or on the counter until you are ready to treat.

Watch this video of me practicing “go to your place” with a dog. Notice that I am using variable treating and the dog still performs.

In summary:

  1. Reward with treats each time you shape a new behavior.
  2. Once you can anticipate the behavior, introduce a verbal command and hand signal and
  3. Begin variable treating with no food treats in your hand.

Keep up and the good work and good luck! Remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2011

Your Dog Training Questions: Can My Dogs Sit On The Couch?


My daughter visited over the winter break and she was stunned that we let our two dogs to sit on the couch with us. Can you settle this for us?

– Mary

My Answer:

Believe it or not, I think it’s just fine to allow your dogs on the furniture if you like. This often comes as a surprise to my clients. But the important thing is not if you let your dog on the couch, but how and when. Let me explain.

Like everything your dog does, it must be earned. The rules for sitting on the couch:

  • Dogs should earn the privilege of getting on your furniture by at least, doing a sit. This should be followed by a command to get them on the sofa, like the command Up. After your dogs perform a sit, simply pat the couch and say Up.  They can only get on your couch on YOUR terms.
  • You should teach your dogs a relocation cue (another place to go other than the sofa) and train this command frequently. Examples would be, “go to your bed,” or once off the couch just place your dog in a down by your feet in front of the couch. This teaches him that you can let him up, BUT, you can also tell him to get off and go somewhere else. If your dog has a tendency or potential to guard the sofa, doing this exercise frequently would help to minimize any resource guarding that could develop.
  • Dogs with strong leader-type personalities may have a greater tendency to guard “their” space. The stronger this tendency, the more I would tend to limit time on the furniture.

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

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

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

6 Secrets To Training Your Dog

When you have a dog that is well mannered and obeys your commands, life is much easier and happier for everyone. You don’t worry about him jumping on friends and visitors. Your dog understand what the expectations are and HOW to meet them, he views you as his leader and you in turn have a well mannered, well balanced, happy, happy dog. Everyone wins!

If your dog still needs training, what are you waiting for? There’s still time to edit your list of New Year’s resolutions to include “train the dog.”  But if you have a new puppy, haven’t tried to train your dog before or don’t know where to start, it can seem impossible to get your dog to understand and do what you want. So if you are just starting out, here are some easy to follow suggestions to help you get started training your dog:

  1. Be consistent. Training your dog to perform a specific behavior one day, then the next day allowing him to do as he pleases is being inconsistent and confuses your dog. Train for 5-10 minutes each day, the same way you trained the day before, using the same hand signals and the same words.
  2. Give praise and an occasional treat. When you ask your dog to perform a behavior such as a sit, the minute his butt hits the ground you say in a happy voice Good Boy. If you want you may then give a treat. If you wait more than 1.0 to 1.5 seconds after his butt hits the ground to praise, your dog is clueless as to what the praise is associated with.
  3. Always use the exact same words to request a command. If you are teaching your dog to come to you and you use the word come then always use the word come, and all family members must use the same word. If you use come and another family member uses here—you are again being inconsistent.
  4. Be patient. You will have times when your dog has learned a command, the next day you ask for the behavior and he looks at you as if you are speaking a foreign language. Try a couple more times, if again, he doesn’t do it, stop for the day and pick back up tomorrow. Dogs will sometimes do that. There is a saying that goes, your dog has not truly learned a command until he has learned the command, forgotten it, then learned it again.
  5. Don’t try to teach too many commands at once. Get one mastered before venturing on to the next one.
  6. Very important – dogs learn in context. This simply means if you teach your dog to sit in your den, that’s where you dog will sit—not in the kitchen. He hasn’t learned sit in the kitchen. Point being, you have to teach your dog the command in different areas.

    Good luck and remember, be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as the you are with the teacher of your children. “Opportunity Barks!”

    (C) Jim Burwell 2010

    House Training The Dog – Again

    Have you ever had a house training problem —  with a 3-year-old dog?

    As you know, a 3-year-old dog is old enough to be house trained – in fact you probably went through house training earlier as a puppy (i.e., 3 months of age). Well now that puppy is a 3-year-old dog, and you find yourself dealing with house soiling all over again. Maybe your dog is house soiling when the you are gone from the house or even when you are home but are preoccupied — like in the shower or somehow not giving the dog your full attention. The first thing you should ask yourself is, “What’s changed?”

    This can happen with dogs — not all dogs but some dogs — that don’t have structure in their lives or have lost that structure. They lack or have lost a clear leader to which they can turn for guidance. And some dogs are more fragile than others, which means that in a very unstructured environment, arbitrary changes that come about in their life can often times have adverse affects on them resulting in house soiling issues. It may be something imperceptible to you.

    Here’s just a few of the things that can cause problems in house soiling:

    • new puppy or dog
    • new baby
    • moving
    • divorce
    • new house mate
    • company that comes and stays for an extended period of time (i.e., a week or more)

    The one thing that all of these changes have in common is that it challenges the dog’s “pack status” or routine because in most every instance, the owner is forced to divert their attention to other matters. This causes the already unstable house dog to “worry” about its place in the pack. House soiling often follows.

    A once-trained dog just needs reassurance of your leadership and their place. Sometimes it can be an easy fix by simply revisiting some basic house training rules. You can use temporary crating or gating when you can’t watch your dog.

    But it goes without saying that dogs place extreme high value on solid leadership and a strong foundation of routines on which they can count. The more fragile the dog, the more they are affected by change.

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

    (C) Jim Burwell 2011

    My Dog Ignores Me

    Your Dog Training Questions: My Dog Ignores Me

    One reader e-mailed me this question about getting her dog to listen to commands. This may sound familiar to some of you, it’s one of the most common dog problems. Luckily, there’s an easy fix and it’s dog training. Here are my dog training tips.

    Your Question:


    I have a year-old Chihuahua who is very sweet but not very well-behaved – especially in one major way. She never listens to me or my husband. My dog ignores me every time we call her name, tell her “no,” tell her to “sit,” everything. We try using treats to inspire her, but even that doesn’t always work. We have never worked with a dog trainer, so we could really use some of your dog training tips. How can we get her to obey us?

    – Annie

    My Answer:


    This is a pretty common dog training complaint with dog owners, but it is also a complaint that is pretty easy to solve with dog training. There are two things to keep in mind when you are training your dog: relevancy and consistency. Here’s what that means.

    First of all, you have to understand that dogs learn in context. For example, if you always train in the living room, the dog will probably only give you that good dog behavior in the living room. So if you are using treats sometimes, but not all the time, your dog will be confused about when and where to listen to you.

    The second aspect of training is probably the most important: consistency. Many dog problems are caused by inconsistent human behavior. Taking the right action each and every time is what will instill obedience in your dog. If you choose to train your dog by asking something different every time and only sometimes offering a reward, it won’t work.

    I recommend finding out what is important to your dog. Is it food, toys, affection? Figure that out and consistently offer that reward when you give a command. You should work on training your dog for a few minutes everyday. Master one simple dog training command in many settings, then move on to a new one. It will take time and patience, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a dog who can listen to you every time.

    (C) Jim Burwell 2010

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

    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 .