Does Your Puppy Growl When You Come Near It’s Food?

I recently started puppy lessons with a client who has a 3 month old female terrier. This is a great puppy except for one thing. This puppy is already, at 12 weeks of age, guarding her food bowl and resource guarding stuffed Kongs.

One of my client’s young sons was bitten on the hand as he innocently reached down to pet his puppy. Those razor sharp teeth can be pretty lethal.  The puppy thought the child was going to take her Kong and defended her “rightful” possession.

Historically dogs expended a lot of predatory energy finding food and so they have developed strong instincts to guard things of value – food, space, toys you (the love and affection you provide.)
While you don’t see this very often, it can occur and will usually occur in the more strong willed, leader type puppies. Being a terrier, along with the strong willed temperament, just raised the bar of concern a little higher.
This type of behavior should raise a very large red flag that this is a growing problem which needs addressing immediately.  So what do you do to get this under control?

In addition to putting this puppy on a learn-to-earn program – that is earning everything by doing sits and downs, there are specific exercises to do to work on “resource guarding.”  We put the pup on my 5 Step – 30 day Food Bowl Guarding Program – a progressive program beginning with hand feeding the puppy next to her empty food bowl and progressing from there.

The next exercise is designed to teach the puppy to release a high value article (chew bone or Kong Toy) on a command like “Drop it!”, “Release!” or “Give!”  This too is a progressive exercise program.

We first get the puppy to release her end of a shared, high value article and then progress to releasing the article on command –  once she takes 100% possession of the article. The puppy must not aggressively guard the article once dropped.

They have a long way to go with their puppy but with consistency and repetition, by as many family members that can participate in these supervised and controlled exercises, the benefits will provide the family with a lifetime of good memories with a great family dog.

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

Jim Burwell, Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

12 Week Old Puppy Hell

I was trying to a be a nice guy!  I took in a client’s 12 week old puppy to keep for a week (while she was away) and to do some training.  He’s male, HIGH energy and very very full of himself.  He bites, barks for attention and jumps on us and our dogs relentlessly – and that’s the short list!  Sound like a puppy you might know?

All of our dogs are older and well socialized so I decided to send the pup to “Sammy’s School of Socialization”  (Sammy is our 5 yr. old black lab we found abandoned under a truck at 7 wks of age).  The pup was to learn to respect the space of other dogs and to better read their body language that says “Bug off!  You’re a pain in the butt!”  He tested ALL the dogs – one at a time and got rejected by all, because his play was to too rough.

This new puppy is starting to learn his lessons from not only our black lab Sammy, who turns around and walks away from the rowdy puppy, but he’s learning from our other dogs as well.  Our youngest small dog (a 3yr old terrier mix) ran back into the house and refuses to play with the puppy because of his relentless biting, jumping and rough play.  This puppy desperately wants to engage our dogs in friendly play and is learning a valuable lesson.  Play too rough and nobody here will play with you.

Remember, dogs do what works.  The lesson here is actually being given to us by our dogs.  Don’t act right and what you want goes away!  So put some human ingenuity into this with your puppy and use Sammy’s School of Socialization tactics and tame your rowdy puppy.

We have lots of great tips on training your puppy.

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

Jim Burwell, Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

House Training Your Puppy

House training your new puppy doesn’t need to be complicated. I recently got an emergency call from an owner who was frantic about her new puppy peeing in the house “all the time”.

On my first visit I discovered that she was giving her new puppy free access to water and free access to unlimited play in the family room and kitchen, thinking she would just “watch her closely”.
As the morning  would progress, the owner would become increasingly busy with chores only to find out that the puppy was having accidents all over the family room. She couldn’t seem to catch her in the act.

Like I said, house training your new puppy doesn’t need to be complicated. This is what we did.  So as not to dehydrate the puppy, we allowed the puppy to have as much water during meal times, but limited (2-3 other times during the day) access to water coupled with frequent potty trips.  When in the house, the puppy was kept on a line or leash attached to the owner, which required the owner to pay close attention to her puppy. When she didn’t have time to watch her puppy, she simply crated her puppy after taking the puppy outside to go potty.

Problem solved.  See not complicaed at all.  Just always remember to set your puppy up to be successful at house training and don’t set them up to fail.

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

Jim Burwell, Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Puppy Training

Puppy Biting – What NOT To Do

I recently read a blog posted by dog trainer,G.D. Williams, on how to correct puppy biting.  I must say that I was absolutely appalled at the suggestion that an owner should “come down hard on the puppy” and give the puppy, among other things, a “strong blow to the nose!”  This sounds like something out of the dark ages.

The example given was based on a daughter who decided to share some fat scraps from her dinner plate with the puppy and the puppy bit her.  Behavioral science teaches us positive methods to train, correct and redirect our puppies allowing us to leave behind forever the old “school of hard knocks”.

Puppy Training

Nothing was mentioned about setting the puppy up to succeed – not fail by simply crating the puppy during mealtimes so that you can work with the puppy in a positive way during a controlled training session, thereby avoiding physical punishment.

While Williams did mention that kids,  like dogs need behavioral counseling as well, there was no mention made of teaching the children in the household how best to interact with the puppy, i.e. “no table scraps are to be hand fed to the puppy thus avoiding the need to physically punish altogether.”  There is also the added concern that if this physical punishment happens during a puppy’s critical fear imprint period, the owner could seriously compound problems that could have long term negative affects on the puppy.

Normal puppies should play-bite as they interact socially with their litter mates.  But since we remove them from their litter mates too early, and bring them home, they become isolated from opportunities to continue to fine-tune their bite inhibition.  We, as dog owners can allow our puppies to continue to work on bite inhibition during their very very early age (7-12 weeks) by allowing puppies to bite us ADULTS under controlled circumstances as they interact with us.  Allowing puppies to bite gives them some idea of their bite strength.  You use positive methods to redirect the biting.  This critical information gives them a point of reference from which to work to soften their bite and then finally only lick human skin.

There is a process to go through with your puppy to accomplish this.  Most trainers familiar with positive reinforcement training can take you through this process so that the learning is positive for both the owners and the puppy.  Puppies should always be supervised on leash around children.

Here’s another interesting thing I’ve learned over the years from dog behaviorists.  I don’t know if I can quote verbatim so I’ll try and paraphrase as best I can.  It goes something like this.

“Kids get along well with dogs when parents provide gentle and enlightened guidance to both.  When emotional and/or physical parental excesses take place, children and dogs both tend to react according to the Be-Like Act-Like (allelomimetic) principle.  If a dog owner gets angry and punishes a child quite often, the dog may start getting edgy when the youngster is around him.  If an owner does the same to the dog, the child may take on the role of punisher and get into trouble when the dog defends himself.”

Based on this theory, if the daughter in the example, sees the parent physically punish the puppy, then she, at some point takes on the role of punisher, there is a high likelihood that the dog (being forced into defense drive)may bite the child.  There are simply better positive ways to approach correcting a puppy.

Until next time, be as concerned about the trainer of your puppy, as you are about the teacher of your children.  And remember, Opportunity Barks!

Jim Buwell, founder Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Marley & Me – 23 different dogs used – how’s that for dog training

I’m thinking about seeing Marley & Me when it comes out this Christmas.

I’m also thinking it might be a good movie for people to see if they are considering getting a new puppy or dog.  It’s a great reminder of the huge responsibility and time commitment that comes with getting a new puppy or dog, as well as what can happen if you don’t make the commitment to raise/train your dog or puppy correctly.

Let’s take a look at some preventative measures.  I know you’ve all heard them before but nonetheless, it might be good to reflect on these to see if you are covering all your bases:

  1. Always crate train new puppies and dogs
  2. Interrupt inappropriate behavior with an “ah, ah”, then redirect to appropriate behavior and praise them for that behavior.  As an example, when your puppy or dog picks up any inappropriate article, such as maybe your cell phone, you say “ah, ah”, give him an appropriate article to chew on and say, “Good boy!”
  3. Give your new dog or puppy plenty of exercise –  that’s walking with you – NOT just playng in the back yard.  Use equipment that is easy on, or good to the dog like the Gentle Leader or Easy Walk Harnesses.
  4. Incorporate training into your life with your dog.  An easy way is to require your puppy or dog to earn everything by at least doing a sit.
  5. Be observant of any potential behavior that might be surfacing and nip it in the bud with behavior modification training.  If necessary, get with a competent, positive reinforcement trainer for some tips.

If you decide to Marley & Me, take notice of Marley’s inappropriate behavior and mentally walk through what you would do differently to prevent the bad behavior in the first place or fix it. Most of all, enjoy the movie.

And, hey, if you’re alive out there—-leave me a comment 🙂

Jim Burwell, Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Dog Training – Some Puppies can be scaredy cats!

I'm scared of everything

I’m scared of everything

We all want a puppy that is outgoing, confident and not afraid to approach anyone, one that grows up to be a good “ol’ dawg”.   Occasionally we come across puppies that are very timid and almost fearful.  You do what you can initially thinking they will grow out of it, but as age 4,5 and 6 months come and go, they’re still fearful.

Irrespective of what you think, these fearful puppies need help –sooner than later.  You should embark on a major campaign to get the puppy used to and comfortable with whatever specific things seem to spook your pup.  Your goal is to have a puppy who will willingly and confidently go up to all of these things of which he was once fearful.  How do you do that?

It is critical that the puppy be able to approach those things of which he is fearful on his own time and speed.  If the puppy wants to stay away, that should be okay.  This, above all rules, must be respected and not forced on the puppy.  Some call it passive socialization.

If the puppy is afraid of someone and you force that “someone” on the puppy, you’ve just confirmed that person to be dangerous.  Let the puppy approach in his own way and time.  If the puppy trusts you, click and treat for approaches and, if you’ ve been working on sits and downs, begin to work on redirecting his focus on training at a comfortable distance from the someone or something that is spooky and begin to slowly and methodically get your puppy closer.  But remember, it should always be the puppy’s choice to approach.  If he backs off, that’s okay too.

Bottom line:  This takes time and patience.  Do not, I repeat, Do Not switch gears and pressure the puppy.  You’ll be glad you had the patience to take the time to make things work out.

Jim Burwell

Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Puppy Training

I Want A Puppy For Christmas

With Christmas around the corner – and I do mean literaly “just around the corner”, I am always reminded of the thousands of Christmas puppies (probably even more) that are snuggled up in Santa’s bag waiting to go to a new home this coming Christmas Eve.  More importantly, their wish is that they get a home where they will be taken care of and not forgotten stuck out in the backyard!

Puppy Training


While Christmas comes but once a year, puppies are here for a lifetime.  It is important to plan your lifetime with your new puppy.  This should include:

  • If buying a purebred puppy, make sure you buy from a reputable breeder who will, in writing, guarantee eyes, hips and heart and will have already begun desensitizing all the puppies to noise, human handling and all things that go “bump in the night”.
  • Don’t accept puppies too young.  Ideally, puppies should stay with their litter mates until the 8th week of age or their 49th day.  This gives them time enough to learn their social graces like bite inhibition and how to play.
  • When getting your new puppy from a shelter, you may not have the luxury of knowing the puppy’s past.  Remember that the window of socialization closes between the ages of 3 1/2 to 5 months of age.  This means that, to the extent you can, desensitize and socialize your pup to as many new distractions (his world as he will come to know it) as you can, to assure that he will be okay with people, noises, children, things. etc
  • Your new puppy will need rules, routines, know what is expected of him and boundaries – all set on day one and designed to make him feel very secure in his sense of place, or where he fits in the family.  Plan on devoting the time necessary for potty training, puppy training and of course dog obedience training as he gets older.  Remember puppy training has changed, we have much better, kinder ways to train puppies.
  • You can keep it very simple by consistently providing your puppy with an “earn-to-learn” program that will keep his expectations in the correct perspective.  Everything he gets from you requires a sit and down.  This will help to balance his work for the love and affection you wil be giving him now and in the years to come.

Merry Christmas to all!  Jim Burwell

Dog Training Tip – Socialize Your Dog—It’s Important!

In the last 2 weeks I have had two clients call me with dog behavior issues in their relatively young puppies.  After speaking with both of them, the common denominator in both of their dog’s behavior, was lack of socialization of these puppies at an early age and no dog training.

What was even more interesting was the reason they had not taken their dogs outside of their home or backyard to meet the world- FLEAS!  

Now I realize fleas are a bother and nobody wants their dogs to have fleas.  However, in the scheme of things, keeping your new puppy from meeting the world, seeing new sights, smelling new smells, meeting children, other people and other dogs has much more potential for creating problems than a flea does.  A flea comb used on your dog after a walk works wonders!

Remember, the window of socialization for a puppy starts closing between 4 months and 4.5 months of age.  So what does this mean exactly?  It simply means that after that time, puppies tend to become more fearful of places, smells, sights and people they have not become accustomed to which can then lead to dog behavior that you do not want – such as anxiety, fearfulness, snapping, barking.

Remember – You must always be aware, that until your puppy is fully vaccinated, there are certain places you don’t want to take them to such as dog parks or  the large retail dog stores which are frequented by all types of dogs – many unvaccinated.  Back when we found Sammy, our black lab, (under a truck at 7 weeks of age) one of the first things we did after his initial vet visit was to begin to socialize him, keeping in mind where he was with all of his vaccinations.   We took him over to our local grocery store and stood outside the door where people exit.  As people came out, including kids, we simply said, “Hi, we’re working on getting our puppy used to lots of people and lots of noises, would you mind petting Sammy?”  Now who could resist an absolutely adorable 8 week old lab puppy??  So Sammy got lots of pets from women, kids, men etc. and he was a happy puppy!  Also be sure to have people come to your home to visit when your puppy is little so the puppy understands that it is ok for strangers to come into the house.

When you socialize your puppy early and begin dog obedience training at about 5 months of age, it really sets your dog up to be  more well balanced and a better behaved dog.  Here’s a link to one of my articles on getting a new puppy or dog.  Enjoy.

Jim Burwell

Puppy Potty Training

I’ve had a couple of lessons with a very nice client who has, to say the least, more than a handful of small puppies in her house.  You literally can’t count them all on one hand.  Her biggest complaint was house soiling.  Prior to my helping her, there had been no training and no structure for the puppies.  They were allowed to roam anywhere they wanted, and they were also allowed to free feed – food was left down for them to eat whenever they wanted.  So what she had was lots of peeing and pooping accidents everywhere.  The puppies would sneak off to a quiet area and “do their business” where it was safe.

First thing we did was to end the free feeding.  They were fed 3 times a day, the food was left down for 10 minutes and then picked up.  She could then determine the exact amount of food eaten so she would know when it was potty time.

We also started adding structure.  We set a 3 minute egg timer so we could begin short training sessions one dog at a time.  We used their dog kibble for training treats BUT, we used a training treat with a much higher value to the dog for really good sits and downs.  I reminded her, as I always do, that it is important to wean off food treats, as I explained in an earlier post.

The next thing we did was to confine the puppies to an “x’ pen when they absolutely could not be watched.

So what did all of this accomplish?  Well, in 2 weeks her “puppy house soiling accidents” have decreased by 50%.  We are headed for 100%.

The other thing we instituted is that now that the puppies knew “sit”, each puppy is required to give my client a sit before they get love and affection from her.  It’s a dog way of saying “please”.  Earning the love and affection helps the puppy understand who is in control and that love and affection and other rewards are not something they demand, but instead learn correct behavior to earn.

Everyone is a lot happier and a lot less stressed.  So it was a good day!