Tips and Techniques for teaching basic dog obedience to your dog

Your Dog Training Questions: Running After Other Dogs While On Walks

Walks are extremely important for both your dog’s good health and good behavior. Daily walks let your dog expend energy in a positive, healthy way. But sometimes dogs act up while they are on the leash. Here’s a question from a reader about her dog’s habit of chasing other dogs.

Your Question:


We are working on the problem of pulling on the leash with our 9 month old rottie pup. He is not aggressive, but he wants to play with other dogs while we are out walking.

This is what I’ve been doing so far: I put him in a “down,” which he usually holds until they pass. But after the other dogs pass, I have to be careful because he often bolts after them. What is the best way to teach him to remain in the sit or down position until I release him?

We are in obedience classes now. But, I worry that we will frighten other pet owners who might not know he really is friendly.

You’ve said before not to set him up to fail, so am I wrong placing him in the down while we are out on walks? Should I change directions to avoid the other dogs until he has mastered the “down” command? Right now, I am working diligently on having him focus on me rather than the distraction of other dogs. Can you give me any more advice?

My Answer:

You first must get him to do a “proofed” down inside with no distractions. By “proofed” I mean a down that he will maintain until released. Be prepared, because this will take lots of practice. Once he has it, you can gradually add one more distraction to the training. Ask a friend to help. Once he can do that, add another distraction, or change the environment. It will take patience, but it will pay off.

Also, it is generally easier for a dog to hold a “down” rather than a “sit” in a highly charged distraction setting. Go at your dog’s pace. You are on the right track if you are setting him up to succeed, not fail.

Use the “down” like this: put him in a “down” at a distance far enough away from the other dog that he will not become reactive. Praise that behavior so he understands that there is a desireable alternative to running after other dogs. Keep up the good work!

(C) Jim Burwell 2010
What’s YOUR dog training question?
Use the comments below to ask me.

Your Dog Training Questions: How Can I Make My Dog Come Back On Command?

Today I’m answering a question from my Facebook page from Shawn Hiter about calling your dog back to you in any environment, at any time. A good recall (the “come” command) can keep your dog safe and maybe even save your dog’s life.

Shawn’s Question:


I took my dog to the beach for the first time. I let her off leash and she did really well, chased a few birds but came right back to my quick whistle.

We did this for 10-15 minutes and then suddenly, for no reason, she dashed off and would not respond to the whistle.

Nothing scared her, she just didn’t want to come. I chased her down, thank God, no accident or anyting, but it took 50 years off my life.

Should I do repeat exercises using longer leash? Any other suggestions for ensuring she returns on command?

My Answer:

You definitely want to work her on a long line and IN that environment. Someone once asked me, “How do I know my dog has learned the come command?” Here’s my reply: “If you can take your dog to 5 different locations and do 5 recalls (come command) successfully on line, then your dog has a good understanding of the come command on line.”

The same thing would apply to an off-leash recall or come command. I use lighter lines (a parachute cord) to build up to off-leash discipline before actually taking my dog off the leash to prevent exactly what happened to you.

Remember, dogs don’t generalize too well. Practicing in your neighborhood and/or parks is NOT the same at the beach. Leadership plays an important role. Whether or not you’ve associated something negative with the come command may also play a role in your dog’s hesitation or failure to come. Example: Your dog may think: “If coming to you means the end of having fun, I’ll have to think about it!”

Good luck on your training.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010
What’s YOUR dog training question?
Use the comments below to ask me.

Dog Training: Keep Training Short, Simple and Successful

There is no doubt that successful dog training, even if it’s a simple come command, takes time and in our busy lives, time is one commodity we are finding very little of these days. Positive training with food treats is not only extremely good for you and your dog, if done correctly and consistently it can have an incredible “relationship-building” quality and doesn’t require nearly the amount of time you might expect. As you look at structuring your dog training, keep these simple tips in mind:

  • Keep your training sessions short. If you get in quality repetitions, 2 minutes, 3 times daily will get the job done. Being consistent is the key. Who doesn’t have 6 minutes a day for their pup?
  • Practice in low distraction environments at first. Then gradually add distractions that will be relevant to your situation; i.e. visitors at the front door or staying off the furniture. Work consistently each day.
  • Always train your puppy or dog on a leash or long line depending on what you are working. Being consistent with leash and line work keeps the message the same – you are in control.
  • Always use high value training treats. Never allow your dog to predict what you are going to use on any given day as a treat. Consistently keep him guessing by using more interesting and high value choices in treats.
  • Be consistent in presenting yourself as a strong leader. How do I do this? Provide structure and expectations he can live up to for you by keeping him on an earn-to-learn program. He must do at least a sit for everything he wants.

So what’s the common thread? Consistency! Not time.

You will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Keep your training simple by listing your dog’s inappropriate behaviors, what causes them and then what you would prefer your dog do instead.

Simply put in your 3, 2 minute daily training sessions (6 minutes total) on your list of bad behaviors and before you know it you will have a Perfect Pooch! By the way, have fun training the positive way! And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Dog Training: The Ten Commandments To Doing It Right

There are certain things that every dog owner should know if they expect their dog to grow up to be a well behaved, well adjusted dog. These tips I call the ten commandments, are some basic ideas you should keep in mind so that your dog training can go smoothly and be fun for you and your dog.

  1. Socialize your dog early. Puppies need to experience new places, noises and people early. Just keep in mind where your puppy is on vaccinations and do not take them to public areas like dog parks or big box dog stores. Do activities that get him used to other animals and his environment. Socializing is training and you don’t want a dog that is frightened of everything and doesn’t play well with other dogs.
  2. Say your command one time. Repeating your commands conveys to your dog that you didn’t mean what you said the first time and he learns he doesn’t have to do the command immediately.
  3. Be patient. Your tone of voice, volume and body language should never convey to your dog that you are beginning to get frustrated or angry. Hold you patience – it will pay off in spades.
  4. Be Consistent. Consistency is key. Use the same commands when you expect your dog to obey. Changing your command words will be confusing and will sabotage your training.
  5. Set Boundaries. Every action you allow your dog to get away with may gradually undo what you are trying to teach him. Don’t set your dog up to fail. When he does something wrong, immediately say no, wrong or no off and re-direct to the proper action.
  6. Stay in control of your dog. This means sniffing, jumping, pulling on his leash is not ok when you are walking him. Structure your walk where 2/3 of the walk the dog is beside you and 1/3 of the walk the dog gets to sniff, hike his leg, etc (still on leash) but it’s his 1/3 of the walk.
  7. Reward your dog for good behavior. This can be anything from treats to an enthusiastic Good Boy! this helps them differentiate between doing something you like (your happy tone of voice) to something you don’t like with your (no off) said in a deeper voice.
  8. Learn how dogs think. They are not human. If you understand how dogs think, which is not complicated, very black and white, and in the moment, you can help your dog be a better dog.
  9. Do not be hard on your dog. When correcting an inappropriate behavior a simple No Off and redirecting to the appropriate behavior is enough. Do not hit, alpha roll, yell, kick, or yank and jerk the leash. All you will accomplish by doing those things, is to teach your dog YOU are not safe.
  10. Have fun! Remain calm, enthusiastic and keep training on a positive note. Also keep your training sessions short. No more than 10 minutes per session.

These are just a few things to keep in mind if you want a dog that is happy, obedient and well adjusted. Teach your dog in a positive way that you control things, be consistent with your training and praise for a job well done. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!

Dog Training: Potty Training a Puppy Or Dog – You Are the Key!

  Potty training or house training your dog can be somewhat difficult if your dog or puppy is left inside all day while everyone is gone. It can be done however, if you are consistent with your dog training. If you are having a hard time potty training or house training take a step back, take a deep breath and do these simple things to set your dog or puppy up to be successful at potty training. Not only is pottying inside the house unsanitary, but it can also cause many other problems such as damaged furniture and rugs and it makes your house smell like a kennel! You can stop the behavior, but you must work on stopping the behavior every day, not sporadically. While not every dog responds the same to training, there are some simple ideas you can try.

What you really desire is for your dog to let you know when he needs to go potty. Dogs don’t like to soil the area where they eat and sleep. You have to help them learn what actions to take that are appropriate. As with children, train and teach your dog or puppy good behavior. Your dog wants to potty outdoors, but he doesn’t know how to tell you. You need to train your dog to tell you when he needs to go potty. Some dogs communicate well, others don’t. If your pet is pacing back and forth or barks at the door, he is telling you he wants to go outside. One method many people use to train their dog or puppy to tell them they need to go outside, is the bell method. It’s petty simple and usually very effective.

If your dog isn’t able to communicate with you that he needs to go out, consider using this method. Take a long piece of string and tie a small bell to one end. Tie the other end of the string around the doorknob or handle of the door that you use to let the dog or puppy go outside. Now, take your pet’s paw and swipe the bell so that it jingles. When it jingles, immediately open the door and let the dog outside. Praise your dog or puppy in a happy approving tone by saying “good boy”. A standing ovation would be nice also. It may take a few practice rounds, but soon your dog will ring the bell when he needs to go outside to potty. Each and every time he rings the bell, praise him and open the door to let him out. It won’t be any time at all before your pet will be trained and will stop pottying indoors. When you’re away from home you may need to crate your puppy or dog until you know that they are old enough and “proven” enough to wait until you get home to go outside. Most older dogs if let outside before you leave can easily hold it for most of the day. Let them out the minute you get home.

Now, here’s one exception. Some dogs potty in the house, not because they don’t know better, but because they are marking territory. Marking of territory is usually caused by these things: lack of leadership on the part of the owner, lack of structure and insecurities of the dog. You need to take a step back and look at how your behavior is contributing to your dog’s behavior. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

Dog Terrified of Water Swims The Atlantic

Well, ok, it’s not EXACTLY the Atlantic Ocean 🙂  This is Sammy Burwell our black lab who really does NOT like water–no he HATES water.

We took him to Rummy’s Beach Club in Spring, TX to use their warm water swimming.  You see Sammy had surgery on his hips for dysplasia and excess bone growth in his elbows.  Long story short he now has terrible arthritis, especially in his elbows.

My point here is that Sammy really hates water, BUT because he’s been well trained and we’ve never been hard on or hurt Sammy he trusts us – implicitly.  Enjoy this fun video of Sammy getting wonderful non-pounding exercise for his arthritic elbows and hips.

Your Dog Training Questions: My Dog Only Listens If I Have A Treat

People have different ideas when it comes to training their dogs to do commands. While many prefer a hands on approach (called compulsion), others give treats as a reward for the dog’s appropriate actions (inducement). So, is one better than the other? What is the correct things to do? The answer is both. What I will show you is how you can train your dog with treats without spoiling them and having them hold you hostage with treat training.

You have likely known people who gave their dog a treat every single time the dog performed a certain action such as a “sit” or a “stay”. Is this necessary for your pet to to perform the action you desire? Not at all.

Many dog trainers will even tell you that using inducement methods(treat training) is not good because your pet will not perform without the food treats. They will say the only good way to train your dog, is by using some force in getting your dog to do a command, such as pressing firmly on the butt for a sit, or yanking the leash on the collar for a down. The reason they say this is because the trainer does not know the full training process of teaching with food.

Dogs are much smarter than many people think and they can be weaned off food treats while still performing the commands you want them to do. Also remember, you are the owner and leader, they are the pet. You train your dog, not vice versa.

The hands on approach (inducement) to training does work, but it isn’t the only method that is effective. In fact you can get quick results by implementing both hands on shaping and dog treats to train your dog. You can train your dog to sit, stay, roll over or whatever you want him to do in a relatively short time if you use the methods in a consistent way.

So just how do you wean your dog from food treats while still getting the action you want from him? It’s very easy. Follow these steps and your dog will be performing without food incentives in no time. This is called variable treating and here is how it works:

  • Once your dog is successfully performing the behavior you want, start limiting the dogs treats to every other time. Then you reward every third time, fourth time, etc until your dog is performing without treats.
  • One mistake many people make with dog training is having the food treat in their hand. This actually causes the dog to equate performing the behavior with the fact that you have a food treat in your hand. You can train your dog to respond to the action of your hand (i.e. hand signal for the sit or down command) and not the food by leaving the treats in a plastic bag or somewhere else other than in your hand(treat bag on your belt or waist).
  • Reward your dog with treats each time you shape a new behavior. Then once you can anticipate the behavior will happen, begin using verbal commands and hand signals. The most important step is to remember to use variable treating, lessening the frequency of treats when your pet performs as expected. Say good boy, or good dog in place of the food treat. Be sure to use a higher pitched happy voice to praise.

Dogs are very intelligent creatures and can be taught to perform and behave easily, When it comes to training with or without food treats, opinions are divided. In my opinion, do it the correct way and you will get the results you want.

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


Dog Training: There Is One Key Element That Can’t Be Ignored

Often dog owners believe that it takes too much time to train their dog. In today’s world where time is at a premium, you need quick easy methods for everything. The same is true for training your dog, you don’t have hours or even thirty minutes to try to make your dog behave the way you want. Is there an answer? You bet and it revolves around one word – consistency.

The easiest way to train your dog is to use treats (to begin to shape behavior- yes, you DO wean off food treats) and you need a positive attitude. When done correctly. you won’t believe how effective this way of training is, not only for getting your dog to behave, but for you building a relationship with your dog.

Does this require a lot of time – absolutely not. You can teach your dog just about any command or behavior in as little as 6 minutes a day – yes 6 minutes a day, done over several days.

Here’s how to do it: keep your training sessions short so the dog doesn’t get bored and neither do you. The key is quality repetitions of asking for and achieving the correct behavior–it’s called CONSISTENCY!

When you first begin dog training, practice in an area that is quiet and without too many distractions. As your dog begins to learn different commands you can add distraction that are related to the situation. For example, if you are teaching your dog to sit, first begin in a quiet area, then gradually take your dog outside and repeat the commands with the distractions of all that is going on in your backyard. Remember, add distractions slowly don’t overwhelm your dog.

Consistently practice the same command, the same way until your dog understands the command. It’s truly that simple.

Another trick to dog training is to keep your dog on a leash or line while you are training. This keeps him in the classroom and keeps you in control.

If you consistently train, using the same hand signals, the same words and your dog understands that you are the leader you can achieve amazing results in dog training.

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


Tips for Obedience Training Your Dog

The Amazing Benefits of Obedience Training Your Dog

Owning a well behaved, happy, well balanced dog takes work. So before you run out and get a new dog or puppy, give it some serious thought. Make sure you are ready for the commitment and care it takes to add a new dog or puppy to your family.

Unfortunately many dog owners do not take the time to teach their dogs to obey commands. Lots of new dog owners are amazed that their untrained dog will not come to them when called or their untrained dogs pull them on a leash so badly they look like a tail on a kite. Lots of dog owners simply let the dog or puppy have the run of the house and allow them to jump on the furniture, tear things up and have their own way. Not only is this detrimental to your home, it doesn’t teach your dog to respect you. It certainly doesn’t help him view you as his leader. Next stop – the local shelter. No fault of the dog!

Here are some easy to follow suggestions to help you get started obedience training your dog:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Don’t try to teach too many commands at once. Get one mastered before venturing on to the next one.
  • 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.

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!