Tips and Techniques for teaching basic dog obedience to your dog

The Value of a Well Disciplined Sit for your Dog.

The sit command is the easiest obedience command to teach a dog and yet most people don’t teach a well disciplined sit to their dog. Most people teach their dogs to sit as young puppies so dogs are already very familiar with the behavior and very comfortable doing it because everything positive has been associated with the sit command – food, treats, praise, etc. When I think of problem solving dog behavior you would be surprised how many dog behaviors you can stop with a well disciplined sit. Dogs jumping, dogs running out the front door, dog aggression and yes, even dog barking just to name a few can be solved with the basic obedience command of sit. Think about it for a moment, if your dog is sitting, he can’t jump. The two behaviors are mutually exclusive. The same goes with aggressing on another dog.

When people are obedience training a dog to sit, the ball is usually dropped in a couple of ways; weaning dogs off food treats and distraction training. To wean your dog off food treats, put y our dog on a variable treating schedule once you have taught your dog the obedience command you want.  As you progress make sure the dog is obeying the obedience commands without treats when you have the dog on a voice and hand signal. But here’s where the real work begins – distraction training. A well disciplined sit means your dog has been proofed to obey the obedience command you have given around all the distractions that are relevant to you and to which he will have been exposed.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Always obedience train your dog on a leash or line so you will be able to reinforce commands. As your dog becomes more reliable you can move to off leash.
  • Remember the 3D formula for distraction training: duration, distractions and distance. You build time first (5minute sit/stay) then add distractions before you add distance from the dog. And remember,

Because dogs don’t generalize well, you must always vary:

  • The level of distraction
  • The locations in which you obedience train
  • Your orientation to and distance from the dog
  • Command elements such as tone of voice and handlers (different family members as required)

While this all sounds like a lot of work, it probably is. But it’s all relative to your dog behavior problems and your willingness to live with the dog behavior problem(s) or fix them and dramatically improve your relationship with your dog. A simple sit can solve many problems but successful dog behavior modification will ultimately always begin and end with 100% owner compliance. We can help you all along the way.

The Fun of Obedience Training

CeCe Spain

She’s one tricky dog.

We are pleased to present CeCe Spain, a client of Jim Burwell.  She started her training with basic obedience and quickly moved on to tricks.  Remember pet owners, whether you want your dog to do tricks, or just be the Perfect
Pooch….. it all starts with basic training.

AND for those of you who want a wonderful, fun career in dog training remember – starting and ending your day with dogs—- well, it always ends on a good note!

Keeping your dog safe at Christmas

Most of us don’t think about keeping our dogs safe with the Christmas tree and everything else at Christmas until something happens and you say” I never would have thought that could happen!”

Many of you have dogs that are veterans of many a Christmas past, then there are those of you that may have concerns facing your first Christmas with a new puppy or adolescent dog and yet many others that haven’t given safety for your dog a single thought.

Here are some tips to consider during the Christmas season to keep your dogs AND cats safe:

The Christmas Tree:

Keep the water stand covered.  Pine sap mixed with water makes a poisonous drink for your dog or cat.

Sweep up pine needles.  Eating pine needles can cause vomiting and gastric irritation.

Tie the tree to the wall or ceiling to keep your dog or cat from pulling it over.

Tinsel is very dangerous for dogs.  Eating tinsel can cause serious intestinal obstruction that may require surgery if ingested.  Use ribbon up high on the tree instead of tinsel and garland.

The smell of a live tree may cause your dog or cat to urine mark.  It may help to bring the tree into an isolated indoor room for a day or so, so it smells more like the home.

Have pet treats ready to distract your pet from paying attention to the tree.

Start working on setting a boundary for your dog by doing ‘set ups” with your dog on leash as you take him to the tree.  It he begins to sniff out of idol curiosity, give him a GENTLE tug and say “Off” then redirect to a stuffed Kong toy or chew bone and praise him for taking the appropriate item.



Pick up any ornament hooks that fall.  If your dog eats an ornament hook, it can damage the intestines.

Better yet, replace ornament hooks with loops of string tied in a knot.

Glass ornaments should be placed on the upper half of the tree where dogs/cats can’t reach them.

Only use wooden or non-breakable ornaments down low, or better yet, only decorate the top 2/3 of your tree.


Don’t hang indoor lighting low, this will keep your dog or cat from becoming entangled in them.

Remember to unplug the lights when you’re not home to supervise your dog.

Some dogs might also be tempted to chew electric cords or other electric ornaments.

Presents:Dogs are very inquisitive.  Decorations on presents can be very tempting.  Take ribbons and string from packages.  Consider storing presents in a safe area until right before opening.

Don’t place edible presents under the tree—take it from someone who knows 🙂  dogs can smell them a mile away and they will rip them open and eat the contents.  (Jalapeno beef jerky was the culprit and a fast call to the vet!)

Don’t forget to give your dog or cat a present.  A stuffed Kong will keep them occupied when guests are over.

Don’t EVER give a puppy as a present.  A puppy who grows into a dog is a major commitment and owners must be prepared to make the commitment of time and energy it takes to successfully integrate a puppy/dog into a home.

Dog Activity:A tired dog is a good dog.  Do not forget to take your dog for his daily walk, preferably walks, especially before company arrives.

Give your dog a safe place to go – another room, a crate removed from the activity, somewhere your dog is used to and and feels safe so he can escape all the activity.

Have a safe, wonderful, blessed Christmas and hug those pups for me.

Jim Burwell

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Dog Training Makes For Smart Dog and Smarter Owners


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, but 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. YES – TRAIN WITH TREATS! —BUT read my blog on weaning off food treats to do it the right way! 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 dog?  You can hard boil an egg in 6 minutes!
  • 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 stay 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 on.  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 you 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 the issues you want to control and before you know it, you will have a perfect pooch.  By the way, have fun training the positive way, and remember “Opportunity Barks!” Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children. Jim Burwell, Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Mick Jagger says time time time is on his side – so is dog training

One of my clients has a 7-8 month old male Borzoi that is turning out to be a really fine dog.  We have taught his dog to sit, down, stand, stay, go to bed, wait when told, respect boundaries in the home and he won’t go into the street without a certain leash attached.  Pretty darn good huh!

After complimenting the owner and the dog, on a job well done I asked to what he contributed his success in his dog’s training.  The answer was exactly what I expected.  He replied, “a lot of hard work, consistency and repetition doing the training exercises you taught me Jim.”  “It’s a lot like raising a child.”

He also acknowledged that he didn’t know how people with full time jobs found the time (he’s semi-retired) to train their dogs.  This brings up a good point.

Prioritize your goals with your dog and  just work on them one at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed with doing everything at once.  Not only will you get frustrated, but your dog will become frustrated and he/she will begin to dislike training because you get impatient with them—again, like kids.

I am with clients for a short time out of the entire life of their dog.  My clients and you as dog owners have “the life of your dog” to work on training goals.  Take it slow but be consistent – and work on something every day.

Just like Mick Jagger says, “time, time, time is on my side yes it is”

The payoff will well be worth it—I promise.

Jim Burwell

Dog Training – Being a Foster Parent

I’m doing a seminar for foster parents of dogs with HPPL (Homeless Pet Placement League) and HOPE on how best to structure life with a foster dog to insure that adoption goes smoothly.

Folks who foster dogs have a special place in my heart.  They are kind, generous, giving and truly have a love and passion for dogs.  It’s not always easy to have a foster dog or foster DOGS in your home.  They are usually up for adoption because of some behavioral issues and it takes a lot of care and knowledge to help these dogs overcome those issues so they can be adopted.

So, if you’re someone who has a spot in your home and in your heart, I encourage you to get with a rescue group or shelter and foster a dog.  Give a dog a chance to find their forever home.  It will put a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.

Dog Training – To Treat Or Not To Treat – That is the Question

There are really only two paths to take in dog training:  compulsion training (hands on shaping the dog’s body to sit or down) or inducement training.  I train using both methods.  It all depends on the dog and if some dogs will not work for food.  I say, if the end result is the same, who cares?

Feeding Your Dog

Feeding Your Dog

Without getting into extended sits, downs, stays or “proofing” your dog around distractions, here’s my take on treat training:

Many trainers say that using food treats (inducement) is not good because you always have to carry around food treats to get your dog to perform.  What they don’t tell you is what they don’t know!  That is simply, treat 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 trick which most people are not taught is the “weaning off” part of treat training.  They get stuck with a dog that will only work for food.  Once your dog is successfully performing a sit, start treating 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.  This is called variable treating.

The other 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.  Dogs can also learn the same concept with you without a food treat in your hand. 

Help them with this concept by leaving the treats in your treat bag, zip lock bag or on the counter.

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.  THIS IS THE KEY:  start variable treating with no food treats in your hand.

Simple really.   Nikki going to place  Here’s a video of me training alternating treats