Review: My hero- Jim Burwell

We called Jim Burwell for several reasons. One is that, having owned several beloved dogs who had been assets to our family (even members of our family), I had never properly trained a dog. The dog was always the leader in our household. In fact–although it’s embarrassing for  me to admit–when we’d have company for dinner, we’d have to board our dog to keep our dog from demanding attention and ruining our guests’ evening. I vowed if I got another dog, I’d be a more responsible dog owner in ensuring I had a well-behaved pet who could remain well-behaved no matter who came to visit.

A few days after we recently adopted our 6 month old hound mix who we thought was so mellow and calm, Mimosa began showing signs of who she really is: a puppy. She started jumping; she barked and growled at any visitor at our front door, and began using our living room and bedroom as a lawn. I initially consulted a trainer whose name I got from our vet. But after one session, I realized his method was one I wasn’t comfortable with. He told me my voice wasn’t mean enough and he insisted on a choke collar all day long, telling me my dog was going to be a nut case soon if I couldn’t get her under control. This only served to make Mimosa, my family, and me nervous, and it didn’t help remedy any issue. After one intense and exasperating session in which we all felt like failures, I recalled another trainer who had been recommended to me some years previously.

Enter Jim Burwell, who is now my dog-training hero. In three sessions, Mimosa has completely stopped having accidents in the house, her barking and jumping has improved significantly, and she has mastered basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “lie down.”  She seems to love responding to commands and succeeding, very eager to please. Rather than labeling Mimosa as a nut case, Jim helped us positively reinforce Mimosa with treats and/or praise on accomplishment; results were almost instantaneous. Because Jim’s method is so easy to use and produces quick results with repetition, it is fun to “work the program” with Mimosa several times a day. I can’t wait to continue Mimosa’s “education” and socialization with Jim’s puppy classes soon.

There are people who are so good at, and passionate about, what they do, that in their presence, one can’t help thinking that they have found their true calling and are doing exactly what they should be doing on this earth. Jim is one of these rare people. His quiet and understated manner, his effective technique for training dogs (and their families) is something which I feel fortunate to have witnessed and in which to have been an active participant.

Jane Wagner

House Breaking A Puppy – The 3 Things You Don’t Know

One reason people find it difficult to train and house break a puppy is that the puppy has absolutely no idea what the owner is trying to teach. And, many times, the owner’s expectation of the puppy is beyond what the puppy is capable of at that certain age. This communication gap is never more painfully obvious than in house breaking a puppy. It can be a very frustrating process. It doesn’t have to be, but sometimes there are those puppies that are difficult to house break. Many people will say, “I’m doing all the right things” or, “I’ve read a whole stack of books” and the bottom line we keep getting back to with some puppies is, “House breaking this puppy” is difficult – or at least so it seems – but in reality, they’re generally overlooking some very simple “tricks of the trade” to house break a puppy. There are many factors that impact house breaking a puppy. None of them can be viewed separately as they all work together. One component most puppy owners do not consider is the impact that nutrition has on house breaking a puppy. What kind of food, how much and how it’s prepared can heavily impact how quickly you can house break a puppy.

1. Step one is to feed a high premium, nutritionally balanced diet to your new puppy.

Tip: Inexpensive dog food is chocked full of artificial preservatives, dyes, bad fat and low grade carbohydrates used as fillers. You can not purchase high quality dog or puppy food in a grocery store or a big box store. They don’t carry high quality foods. Tip: Keep your new puppy on the breeder’s food for at least 4 days once home. Any change in diet should be done gradually to prevent digestive problems and any related house training issues. Tip: When you are ready to begin switching to your high quality food, begin using this formula: day one – 3/4 old food, 1/4 new food; day 2 – 1/2 old food, 1/2 new food; day three – 1/4 old food, 3/4 new food and finally on day four – all new high quality food. If at any point your puppy develops a soft stool, simply go back to the previous day’s formula until you get a firm stool.

2. How much you feed is important. Many people over feed their puppies and in fact, leave the food bowl down all the time so that the puppy can free feed.

Tip: The quantity they tell you to feed on the bag of food is not set in stone. Be flexible and adjust to your puppy’s appetite and weight. Too much food and you will have a puppy with loose stools. Tip: Puppies have a very difficult time or simply can not control loose stools resulting in accidents for which they should not be blamed.

3. Developing a regular and consistent feeding schedule is important.

Tip: Keeping your puppy’s feeding schedule consistent on weekends as you do on week days is critical. Once you have the diet correct, there are other components you will need to put into your house breaking routine. These include:

  • How to be proactive in teaching your puppy to be house broken instead of being reactive.
  • Understanding the importance of the crate in house breaking your puppy.
  • Teaching your new puppy where not to go is the final part that completes the process.
  • Remember that throughout this process avoid any and all punishment of your new puppy

Again, always set your dog up to be successful. Give your dog what he needs and he will give you back years of wonderful companionship and love.

Need help now???  Check out our puppy training course.  You’ll think I’ve moved in with you 🙂

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

Dealing With Dog Aggression When Walking on a Leash

Over the years many clients have initially come to me because of dog aggression when walking on a leash. Interestingly, many of these dogs were not, in fact, aggressive – their behavior was simply a result of the dog perceiving the owner’s anxiety. The first step in curbing any negative behavior in dogs is dog training, and lots of it. I cannot overemphasize the critical nature of training in order to establish yourself as the pack leader, and subsequently teach your dog to respond to basic obedience commands. Only after you have mastered these two phases, can you expect your dog to respond to you (and trust you) in potentially fearful or unknown situations. After basic training, aggression when walking on a leash can be evaluated properly by the owner and effectively addressed.

Assuming your dog has successfully completed basic obedience training, the first step is to have confidence in your handling skills, leave your anxiety at the door and understand that as long as your dog is on a leash the situation is controllable. IF your dog is well-trained, some ideas to curb dog aggression when walking on a leash include:

  • Ask the other dog owner if their dog is friendly and if so, let them interact. A good way to do this is to allow your dog to approach the other dog from behind for a little backside, get-to-know-you sniff. This is the best non-aggressive hello in dog-language.
  • Alternatively, keep on walking and pass the dog by, or put your dog in an obedience command of sit and stay (at a safe distance) while the other dog passes. Both of these communicate to your dog that you are in control of the situation, and they need not worry. This also helps with familiarity, so that passing another dog on a leash becomes a regular occurrence.
  • Take the opportunity to train your dog with other dogs around (when the environment is safe), and begin to reward your dog for neutral or positive behavior around other dogs. Anything short of good behavior requires a stern OFF, then call your dog to you, get a sit, and then send your dog to interact once more.

With the above suggestions, repetition is key, especially around other dogs/distractions. If you are not having success in consistency, and/or if your pet continues to struggle with aggression while walking on a leash, I recommend that you see a positive reinforcement trainer in your area, being sure to work on distraction training.
Again, always set your dog up to be successful. Give your dog what he needs and he will give you back years of wonderful companionship and love.

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


My Dog Whines – Why and How Do I Stop It

Does your dog whine? Irritating isn’t it. But before you loose your patience, you need to make an evaluation of why your dog is whining. Is there something wrong? Does he need something like– to go out to the bathroom? Or, is he demanding something, like your attention?

Since our dogs can’t talk, their only forms of communication are barking and whining. When a dog consistently whines, the very first thing to check for are any medical issues. If your dog is in some type of pain, his way to deal with it is to whine. Especially if you have an older dog, arthritis can be very painful and the dog’s only way of telling you it’s in pain is to whine.

Fear can be another reason dog’s whine. If they are in a situation that is causing them to be afraid, again the way they can communicate that is to whine. If you placate those feelings by saying something such as: it’s ok, and pet, pet, pet you are actually reinforcing the dog’s belief that he should be afraid. Instead, use your leadership role, using your calm energy to signal the dog that you have everything under control and he has no need to be afraid. Distract with a jolly routine.

Boredom is another reason dog’s whine. Dog’s are intelligent creatures and their intellect must be properly stimulated with exercise and training. Dogs need a job to do. Their job can be anything from working on basic obedience a few times a day, to tracking, to walking with you appropriately on a leash for a nice walk.

Demanding attention and being bossy are also reasons dogs will whine. If this is the cause of your dog’s whining, you again, must use your good dog parenting skills and leadership to let the dog know that whining does not get him what he wants. You can choose to ignore the dog and see if the whining stops. Once the whining stops you must IMMEDIATELY tell the dog he’s done a good thing by saying something as simple as Good Quiet!

If ignoring the dog doesn’t work, you may have to resort to the handy squirt bottle that has water in it. When the dog whines, say something like –ack ack, no –and squirt immediately in the face (short squirt) do not squirt in the eyes. The second the dog stops whining, be sure to praise excitedly.

Again, if training begins the moment your bring your dog or puppy home and good leadership is put into place, the dog will be less inclined to be bossy and try to run the show. Obedience training, coupled with understanding what your dog needs to be balanced, is so much easier to incorporate than to wait until you have learned behavior from your dog that you dislike.

Remember, train, be consistent and train again.

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


Training Your Dog to Sit

You can train your dog to sit relatively easily. The sit command is one of the best commands to master with your dog as it can be used to solve a lot of minor behavior issues with your dog. If your dog is trained to give you a sit, when he is sitting he is then unable to do inappropriate behaviors such as jumping.

Training your dog to sit is also the easiest command to teach as you progress on your path to a well trained dog. Always remember, that training should be fun, relaxed and rewarding for both you and your dog.

Here’s what you need to do to train your dog to sit:

  • You will need your dog to be on a collar and a leash
  • You will need some high value soft food treats such as cut up hot dogs or bits of cheese.
  • You might want to take your dog for a walk prior to training so he has had time to release any pent up energy and will be in a better state of mind to listen to you.
  • Choose an area to train your dog that does not have a lot of distractions. Your den or living room is good to begin with. You would not want to try to train your dog to sit in the middle of the dog park.
  • Have your dog in a standing position by your side, left or right side of you is not important. Whatever side you walk your dog on is the side you should use to train.
  • Have the collar turned so that the leash is coming up from the top of the dog’s neck.
  • Have the high value food treat in the hand not holding the leash.
  • Say your dog’s name and take your hand with the food treat in it, let him see it and he will smell it if you’ve used a really good treat.
  • Take the treat in your hand and hold your hand over your dog’s head so that his nose goes up as he watches the treat go back towards the middle/back of his head.
  • Watch as his butt will hit the ground as his head goes up.
  • The exact second his butt hits the ground, praise him with “good boy!” This is called marking the behavior, You have told him that the behavior he gave you is what you’re looking for. It is critical that your “good boy” is said the minute he completes the sit and the butt hits the ground. You only have 1.0 seconds to 1.5 seconds for the dog to understand the praise with the action he has performed.
  • NOW you may reward him with the treat.

If your dog backs up with the treat over his head instead of sitting, simply say “wrong”, reposition yourself and the dog and begin again.

Patience is the key as is repetition. Keep your training sessions brief, maximum 10 minutes. If your dog continue to display lack of interest, call it a day and start again later that day or the next day.

Here’s an important point for you. As you are practicing this, and giving your dog the yummy reward, extend the time between saying “good boy” and giving the treat. For example, at first, pretty quickly after you say “good boy” you will give the treat. As the sit becomes more dependable, don’t give the treat so quickly. Then start giving the treat only every other time, then every third time until the simple statement “good boy” is all you need to do. You do not want to be held hostage by food treats as you train your dog.

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

Need more help with your dog’s behavior. Visit our behavior page and sign up for current solutions that work, based on my 25 years of positive dog training.


Dogs on Furniture – Yes Or No?


You come into your family room, only to find your dog happily snoozing in your spot on your couch! Now, for some folks this is not a problem–for others it is. When it comes to the touchy subject of dogs on the furniture, my vote is to YES, have dogs on the furniture. Yup, you heard that right, on the furniture. I would however, present the following clarifications:

  • There should be rules. 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 dog performs a sit, simply pat the couch and say Up. So his getting on your couch is on YOUR terms, not his.
  • You should teach your dog 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 or temperaments would have a greater tendency to resource guard space. The stronger this tendency, the more I would tend to limit time (IF ANY AT ALL) on the furniture.

You can circumvent a lot of these issues by deciding early on if you want your dog on the furniture or not and begin training the behavior as a puppy. If you decide somewhere along the line to change the rules, be patient, your dog can’t read your mind. You will have to patiently and consistently train him to stay off the couch. Also, if your dog came to you from another family, they might have allowed him to be on the furniture. You will have to teach him new commands to stay off the furniture. Again, yelling and punishment doesn’t get you much, so be patient and consistent and remember set your dog up to succeed so you are able to accentuate the positive and downplay the negative.


Separation Anxiety in Dogs – Causes and Cures

There are multiple reasons dogs can develop separation anxiety. Two of the most common are:

1) A dog is not allowed to learn “alone time.” This is usually the result of a member of the family constantly being with the dog or taking the dog with them whenever they leave. Dogs need to learn how to be alone. This alone time training should begin immediately when you get your dog or puppy. Most people get a new dog or puppy and plan to spend an entire weekend or a week’s vacation consumed with making the dog feel “part of the family”. This is all well and good, but you must allow the dog to be alone. Start out by crating the dog and leaving the room for 5 minutes. Do not return unless the dog/puppy is quiet. If you return when the dog or puppy is barking, whining or crying you have just told the dog that behavior works – it gets you back in its sight. The dog is now controlling your goings and comings.

Begin extending his alone time, incorporating actually leaving the house for extended periods of time. Do NOT make a big fuss when you either exit the house or return home. Departures and arrivals needs to be low key so you dog does not attach any “special” meaning to them.

2) Another factor in dogs having separation anxiety is lack of structure in the home. Dogs are very much like children, they do very well when they know what is expected of them, the rules never change and they need to say “please” for the things they want that have high value. Basic obedience such as simple sits and downs can work wonders in adding structure and leadership role into your relationship with your dog.