Dog Training at the Holidays

Dogs and Puppies: Holiday Training That Works

A client asked me, “What’s the best thing to do with our dog when we have holiday visitors over for drinks or dinner? Do we board him or crate him at home?”  I thought to myself, “Now that’s a great question but read on, the answer is even better!”

I would keep your dog at home. 

He will be a lot less stressed staying in a familiar place like home. There are a couple of options for you to consider at home:

Crate your dog or puppy for the evening while entertaining OR train, then crate your dog for the evening. 

Let’s take a look at these two home-options.

If you are by yourself and simply cannot deal with your dog or puppy under foot just before and during your entertaining evening, then simply crate or gate your dog – or puppy.   

Before you secure your dog, there are some things to do that will make your dog’s crate time more manageable. Let’s take a look at some practical tips: 

  • Plan time for a long walk with your dog.  He needs lots of sights sounds and experiences on the walk to process during his down time.  Remember, a tired dog is a good dog. 2-5 minutes of obedience training prior to crating will create mental fatigue as well.
  • Make sure he gets fed as close to the same time you always feed him. Remember, he predicts getting fed at the same time each and every day – consistently.
  • Make sure he has plenty of chewies and a stuffed Kong to occupy his time in the crate.

Now I’ll put on my trainer hat as we look at the other option

Dog Training at the Holidays

If any of you out there have had me in your home to help train your dog, for this very typical dog problem of good manners around house guests, the biggest problem yo  have said to me is:  “Jim, we have a hard time finding enough people to come over, knock on our door and assist with set ups to help work on our dog problem.” 

Here’s YOUR golden opportunity to use holiday visitors to train your dog.  I know what you’re thinking, -Managing your dog or puppy while entertaining house guests will be too stressful! 

But it doesn’t have to be. 

With forethought and planning you could work in a little “meet-and-greet” dog training once everyone has arrived and before you serve their drinks and snacks. Save the meet-and-greet training around food for another day. Unless your dog is very well trained, he might just go into sensory overload!                                                                            

There are right and wrong ways to working your dog around house guests so here’s my easy to follow practical tips: 

  • Potty your dog before beginning this training exercise – especially if you have a young dog or puppy
  • I’d have your dog on a leash attached to another family member or have your dog in his crate
  • Have a bowl of his favorite treats for your house guests – for them to give to your dog of course!
  • Tell your guests what you are going to do, which is to have him greet each guest without jumping.
  • Tell everyone to be very calm as too much excitement can cause him to want to jump even more
  • Take him to the first person on leash – careful not to allow him to jump (putting your foot on the leash will help here) – and have the person take a food treat from the bowl, hold it over his head as he says, “Sit!” then praise and treat your dog and pass the bowl to the next person until everyone has greeted your dog in this manner.
  • Return your dog to his secure area, go back and enjoy the party. Make sure you take him to potty before you secure him. 

If you have an extra family member on hand, have them keep your dog settled down on the floor next to their feet by stepping on the leash.  This will give your dog a little more time getting desensitized to these “people distractions” while you enjoy your guests.  If he seems a little restless, provide him with a chewie or a stuffed Kong while he is settled down.  

When you finish your training (10 – 15 minutes), crate him as previously mentioned. If you have a puppy, make sure you don’t subject your puppy to the noise and frolic all night long. You can get a lot of mileage out of just 10-15 minutes of dog or puppy training. 

When your dog is in his crate 

Now, training is over and it’s time to crate your dog or puppy. How well he manages his time alone will depend on how much crate training you’ve done with him.  If you have a puppy that spends most of his time with you out of the crate because “you feel guilty,” you might want to consider revisiting crate training. 

When a puppy (or dog) thinks being out all the time is “normal,” he may not be okay in the crate when you are home with visitors. For more information on crate training read my article, “Crate Training: Love It or Hate It”

Will Your Dog Only Listen for Food?

Will Your Dog Only Listen for Food?

Will Your Dog Only Listen With Food

Do you find yourself thinking, “My dog only listens if I have a treat”? I’ll bet your dog won’t come to you without a treat right?

Do you wonder just how you can get him to listen better?

You’ve done a good job at training so far, but at some point you know you need to learn how to train your dog without treats.

Here’s a great example of a dog listening without food treats:

I was at the park watching this dog owner working dog obedience with his dog; he put the dog, Buck,  in a sit stay and walked what seemed to be 50
yards away – the dog watching every move his owner made. The dog did NOT move!

Finally, the owner turned around and gave Buck a “Down!” command hand signal. He dropped immediately. Then the owner called Buck
to come to him.

It was amazing to see this dog bolt out of a down/stay on a fast run to its owner. Halfway there the owner gave another “Down!” command hand
signal and Buck dropped in its tracks – perfectly obedient.

I was really impressed.!  In fact, the other folks watching were impressed as well.

The owner did a final call to Buck to finish the exercise. His dog immediately ran to him and sat right in front, tail wagging and a huge smile on his face. For doing that, Buck got to fetch a tennis ball. No Treats! How cool is that!

That, my friend, is the kind of stuff great dogs and great dog relationships and dog obedience training  are made of.

This dog owner got his dog to come to him without treats but instead used lots of patience and lots of good, fun obedience training.

But your question at this point should be:  How do I stop using treats to train my dog?

You’re stuck at:  Why will my dog only listen when I have a food treat?

There may be times you can’t use food treats or simply don’t have any treats with you. So what do you use as a substitute for food treats?

The answer may be easier than you think. Its time to “get crackin'” with a new, fresh approach to dog training.

Food Treats to Life Rewards in Dog Training

The first of the 3 non-food rewards are what we call life rewards. “What’s this?” you ask.

A life reward is any thing your dog enjoys doing in his daily life with you.

This can include:

  • a game of fetch with your pet
  • a dog walk or a jog with you in the park.

That’s his reward!

This is when we can make use of a training principle involving low and high value behaviors.

Now don’t get all upset and roll your eyes! I know it sounds complicated but it’s really not.

In fact, my guess is your parents used it on you as a child when they said to you, “You can’t watch TV (high value behavior.) until you do
your homework (low value behavior).” Am I right?

It could also be disguised as some other chore like, “You can’t go to the movies until you clean your room.” If it worked on you, it will work on your dog- trust me.

Require your dog to perform a series of sits and downs then play a good game of fetch.
You see, by this time you have already worked your dog on the obedience commands multiple times BUT you have using food treats and now you’ve just changed the reward from food to something he really likes – and possibly even more. AND, now the reward is interactive and that is a big PLUS in your dog’s eyes!

Another benefit of using life rewards in training your dog, is that this very same principle in which your dog figures out, “If I sit and down, then I get to play fetch…” shapes the very foundation on which your entire relationship with your dog is based.

You will see your dog begin to change in front of your eyes as he anticipates with excitement what the next reward will be. Dogs that have
been stressed or anxious in a relationship become calm because of this new structure.

Play as a Reward in Dog Training

Do you like to play with your dog and have you used play as a reward in training your dog? If not, you are missing the boat!

Using playtime as a reward – and I’m talking tug toys and other games you can play with your dog – can not only keep your dog’s interest
high when it comes to obedience training exercises, it is a fabulous way to build a strong positive relationship with your dog.

Previously we discussed life rewards in dog training, I first began to explore with you the idea of  using non-food treats because that begins to not only wean your dog off of food treats but help you develop a closer relationship – one of respect – with your dog.

Here we begin to expand your options to keep your four-legged companion’s interest in you high with excitement – always wondering “What’s
next?” and minimizing behavior problems.

In game playing, you are only limited to your imagination. Think about “hide and seek” or “find it” games which can be played around the
house – or even outside in the back yard.

Here’s an example of just one of the games I play with our black lab Sammy.

Each evening when I return from a day of training, Sammy greets me at the front door with a red Kong toy in his mouth, waiting to play his “find it” game. It’s a ritual he has begun to expect and enjoy immensely.

Here’s how it goes:

  • I take the Kong toy from Sammy, take it to the kitchen and place it on the counter.
  • I then send Sammy to his place (dog bed) as I locate his rope tug toy.I shut the door to the family room so Sammy can’t see me and I begin to go room-to-room to hide his rope toy which we affectionately call his “trade.”
  • I return and send Sammy from his bed to find his trade (the rope toy) which gives me time to stuff the Kong in the kitchen. By that time Sammy is back in the kitchen with his “Trade.”
  • I trade him the stuffed Kong for his “Trade” (rope toy.) Of course once he arrives in the kitchen, he has to sit and down to earn his Kongas well.

He dearly loves this game. He getting so good at the game, I’m going to have to sharpen my skills at hiding his “Trade.”

Offering a “Soft Touch and Soft Speak” as a Reward in Dog Training

Take the time to discover how receptive your dog is to soft words and touch or massage instead of offering a food treat.

While food treats are great to teach new behaviors, discovering another appropriate non-food reward as I just mentioned can prove to be a
great substitute for food treats.

You may already know if your dog is the “cuddly type” or stand offish.  It’s definitely not for every dog, but if your dog is a praise seeker he could be very receptive to a soft touch massage while at the same time you speak to him softly as you create a calm emotional state.

When you begin to consider transitioning over to massage and warm words, remember that this is following on the coat tails of weaning your
dog off of food treats as you put your dog through  their obedience training paces.

Just think, if after every training session, your dog comes to expect warm words with a massage, what a powerful way to not only build a stronger command response but a stronger relationship with your dog!

Another important thing to remember is that you should reserve using this dog training reward for when you can take the time to connect with
your dog on this level. In other words don’t try to use this kind of reward just before going out on a walk when he is least receptive to the calm and quiet of the
moment. Before walks just give a quick belly rub or a scratch on the chest after a few sits and downs just before you walk out the door.
You’ll know if it is right for your dog. If it is, practice this daily. You will be amazed with the results.

In fact, randomly use all the non- food rewards as you interact with your dog each day.

So, I’ve given you 3 alternatives to how to train your dog besides using food treats.
I firmly believe if you put one or all 3 of these choices into training your dog, you won’t be saying “My Dog Won’t Listen to me” anymore.

If you liked this article, show you care by sharing this great dog info – hit the LIKE button

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”  Come on over and let’s have fun on Facebook!

Jim Burwell is a “thanks for making the impossible, possible” professional dog trainer having trained 20,000+ dogs and counting and serving more than 7,000 clients.  Jim’s easy to follow, common sense, and positive methods have made him the “dog trainer of choice” for 30 years.  One of his clients says it best:

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

Stop Your Dog’s Behavior Problem Today

Dog Behavior BlueprintsMy dog is out of control!

This is what I hear from most people who call me for help with their dog’s behavior problem. They have a dog like Marley, you know,  the yellow lab in the movie.

I saw this movie before but it was on television again the other night and it got me to thinking about my formula for fixing most dog behavior problems like the ones Marley exhibited:   jumping, chewing, stealing things from his owners and digging.

My formula consists of four steps over four weeks. Here are my steps to your success:

  • Control your dog
  • Determine the cause
  • Train the behavior you prefer your dog to do
  • Be consistent over time—this is the 4 week part

To give you a better understanding, here is a simple example  on how to work with a jumpy young dog, like Marley.

Control your dog.
For the next four weeks, your dog is either on a leash in the house (while you are there), or in his crate. I’ve found over the years that dogs are much, much more
compliant and responsible on leash than they are disconnected from you.

If you are sitting on the couch watching TV, simply put your dog on a leash and put your foot on the leash. You might want to give him a chewy or stuffed Kong toy.
If you can’t supervise your dog, crate your dog. This allows you to control him when you don’t have time to supervise his activities. Remember, this is not forever – just 4 weeks. We
have to break the cycle of bad dog behavior.

Another part of controlling your dog is controlling his energy. Exercise your dog two ways. Two good walks a day will help manage his physical energy and working on sits and
downs for two minutes 3 times daily in a structured exercise will help to create mental fatigue.

Determine the cause of his behavior problem.
There can be a number of reasons your dog is jumping on you and other family members. He might want your attention (love and affection), he might want you to take him for a walk ——–or it might be that he just hasn’t been taught what it is you want him to do instead of jump.

This leads us to the third step.

Train the behavior you prefer.
If he’s jumping on you while you are on the couch, teach him to settle down on the floor next to your feet. Later, after he learns to stop jumping in this scenario, you can let him
on the couch
(if you prefer).  But make him sit first and then pat the couch and say, “Up!”

If he is jumping at you while you are eating at the table, teach him to go to his place (dog bed) or lay down and stay.

It’s always best to do training “set ups” when it’s convenient for you (scheduled practice sessions) rather than get frustrated when you’re trying to correct him at the
“real dinner time.”

Be consistent over time.
Consistency and repetition breed habit in a dog. But more than that, it takes at least 4 weeks of daily training to create a permanent behavior in a dog. He will learn fast, no
doubt but it’s your job to continue the training for four weeks for the behavior to get in to his long term memory as a permanent behavior.

Remember, 4 steps for 4 weeks. Practice every day. You’ll be proud of the results. 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

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

5 Steps To Getting Your Dog To Stop Chewing Your Stuff

Chewing is a natural dog behavior. Anyone who has owned a puppy knows they have a drive to chew on anything. But if your adult dog is chewing your stuff, you can have a very expensive dog behavior problem.

The key to getting your dog to stop chewing your stuff is to teach him to chew on his stuff.  So, to deal with a dog that chews, teach an alternative behavior. If you own a puppy, start teaching early to avoid chewing problems in your adult dog.

  1. Start by teaching your dog the difference between his stuff and your stuff. When he grabs something of yours and begins to chew, give a simple, non-emotional “No. Off.” Do not yell. Remove the object and replace your object with something that is OK for him to chew. “But I’ve done that,” you may be saying. “And it doesn’t work.” The secret is to not make a big fuss over the puppy or dog chewing the wrong thing, but make a big fuss over the puppy or dog chewing the RIGHT thing. Never, never hit a dog for chewing an inappropriate item. The more emotion and interest you put on the wrong item, the more interesting it is to the puppy or dog.
  2. Set your dog or puppy up to succeed, not fail. Puppy- and dog-proof your house until they learn not to chew your stuff. If you leave shoes, tv remotes, kid’s toys all over the place before the puppy or dog understands not to touch, then you are continually setting the dog up to fail and you are consistently promoting learned behavior you do not want.
  3. Chewing is a way for dogs to burn off energy. Take a good look at how you are managing your dog’s energy. If you don’t walk your dog and the only way the dog gets rid of it’s energy is by playing in the back yard or being rowdy in the house then you can expect out of control behavior. If your dog uses up his energy outside with no one to supervise behavior, the dog does not know that the outside behavior is not OK inside. Walking is important to dogs, because it is a great way to constructively manage the dog’s energy AND if you do your walk correctly, a great way to practice your leadership role with your dog.
  4. Leadership role is crucial in having a well balanced dog. Lack of leadership can cause anxiety in your dog and anxiety is handled by your dog in chewing, barking etc. Chewing takes their mind off their anxiety. Being a leader to your dog also means he will obey when you tell him to let go of an object he is not allowed to chew on.
  5. Finally, make sure what you allow your dog to chew on is interesting. Dry bones will only be fun for so long.  Try a rubber toy that you can stuff with treats or keep a variety of toys and bones for your dog to choose from.

    Dogs are very much like children, they have to learn to behave appropriately. Good leadership, patience and setting your dog or puppy up to be successful takes work, but in the long run a lot less work and aggravation than not teaching your dog.

    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: 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.

    Your Dog Training Questions: My Dog Jumps On Everyone


    My dog has a terrible habit, she jumps on everyone. She jumps on me and my company when we come through the door. She is always so excited when I come home from work and it’s almost impossible to get her to settle down. How can I get her to stop?  It is starting to get very embarrassing.

    Alex, via e-mail

    My Answer:

    With this type of dog behavior problem, the think to keep in mind is that dogs react to us as a direct result of the way we react to them.

    Our dogs are very social and they get excited very easily, so when we come home, they jump up on us to greet us.

    Next time this happens make sure you are aware of the way you interact with your jumping dog. Learn what reinforces the behavior of jumping. Whether you are petting or yelling at your dog when they jump on you, you ARE giving that behavior attention, which reinforces the behavior.

    If you continue to pet or yell or whatever at your dog, the behavior will continue because you are reinforcing it. Think about it like a child having a temper tantrum. Do this instead:

    • Do NOT give the behavior any attention. When you come home, simply come in the door, walk past your dog, put your things down and the dog gets absolutely no attention till the jumping stops. Then and only then can you pet the dog, BUT you still must not make a big production of it as your excitement will then have the dog jumping again. If that happens, again no attention. Practice, Practice, Practice.
    • When your dog jumps up, immediately turn your back on the dog and pay no attention to the dog. Practice, Practice, Practice
    • Attach a leash to your dog and have your dog in front of you with YOUR foot on the leash high enough on the leash so that when he attempts to jump he can barely get his front paws off the ground. Talk excitedly to your dog (do NOT call his name), get him excited so he will jump. When he tries to jump, your foot on the leash prevents him from jumping and the dog self corrects.
    • Train your dog to sit, request a sit when guests come over. If you can get a good reliable sit stay, your dog can not jump when in a sit stay.

    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.

    Your Dog Training Questions: My Dog Growls At Me

    Today, I’m answering a short, sweet question sent to me on Twitter, you can find me here: @PetiquetteDog.

    Your Question:

    Jim, my dog growls at me sometimes… why? It’s annoying and scary. – @okokgoodok

    My Answer:

    When a dog growls, he might be telling you “This is my space, back off!” There are other, non-threatening reasons why a dog may growl, though. A dog may growl to communicate something to you, like “I’m hungry” or “Take me outside.”

    But if your dog is displaying an aggressive growl, protecting his food, toys or space, that is a problem. What your dog is saying is “This is mine and I’m the boss, so back off!” This type of behavior can escalate into aggression, so don’t ignore it.

    First of all, you want to take back the leadership role from your dog. For whatever reason, your dog has decided he’s the boss in the relationship. A dog’s instinct is to follow the leader or be the leader. If you haven’t taken on the leadership role, he will think he needs to “step up.” One of the keys to being a leader in the dog world is controlling resources. When you dog growls at you, he is asserting his ownership over resources. This is obviously backwards, he lives in your house, not the other way around. So how can you change this bad dog behavior?

    I have a few simple training exercises you should start immediately. They all start with learning a simple sit, something your dog will enjoy. Once mastered, use the sit to show your dog you are the boss in the following ways:

    1. Never let the dog onto a couch or other furniture unless it’s on your terms. Have your dog perform a sit in order to earn the right to sit on your couch.

    2. At meal times, have your dog perform a sit before filling his bowl. The message your dog gets: You own the food and you control who eats and when.

    3. During play time, have him perform the sit to earn his favorite toy. Again, the message is that you control the resources.

    These simple exercises should alleviate the problem. If you believe your dog has a more serious aggression problem, it is best to talk to an experienced dog trainer. Look for one that uses positive, not negative, reinforcement. Negative reinforcement will likely compound any dog aggression problems. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as with the teacher of your children and remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

    (C) Jim Burwell 2010

    How Dog Training Can Keep Your Dog Safe And Happy During Christmas

    It’s easy to forget about keeping our dogs safe during the holidays with the Christmas tree and everything else that can distract us. If something unfortunate happens, you don’t want to find yourself saying, “I never would have thought that could happen!”

    Now, many of you have dogs that are veterans of many Christmases past, but some of you have concerns about facing your first Christmas with a new puppy or adolescent dog. Then there are those of you who haven’t given safety for your dog a single thought. This post is for all of you!  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.
    • Your best bet is to use your dog’s obedience skills to redirect any attention he is paying to the tree. Here’s how. Star by having pet treats ready to distract your pet from paying attention to the tree. Then begin working on setting a boundary for your dog by doing “set ups” with your dog on leash as you take him to the tree.  When he sniffs the tree, 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. Soon your dog will see that ignoring the tree earns him praise and toys.


    • 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 and 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. Again, it’s best to use training to let your dog know that this is unacceptable.


    • Dogs are very inquisitive and the 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 surprise present.  A puppy who grows into a dog is a major, lifetime 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. However, if you are considering getting a puppy for the holidays, see my post on the right way to add a new puppy or dog to the family. Don’t forget my CD, Puppy Training Sins Every New Puppy Owner Needs To Avoid, it’s like having me in your home!
    • The perfect present to give the dog lover in your life is the gift of dog training. You can buy gift certificates for group or individual training session with me. You can contact me through my website, e-mail me at [email protected] or call me at (713) 728-0610 to order today.

    Dog Activity:

    • Repeat after me: A tired dog is a good dog.  Do not forget to take your dog for his daily walk, 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 feels safe so he can escape all the activity.

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

    (C) Jim Burwell 2010

    Your Dog Training Questions: My Dog Whines All Day And Night

    Your Question:

    Jim — My dog, Dolce, whines. He whines for attention, he whines for food and sometimes for no reason. We try to ignore it, but that never seems to work. The only other problem we have ever had with him is barking at guests, which we can usually get under control. So it’s really just the whining, day and night. How can we train him to stop?

    – Julia

    My Answer:

    I don’t have to tell you, Julia, but whining has to be one of the most annoying bad dog behaviors. Luckily, we can narrow down the reasons for it to some common causes:

    • Pain – Dogs don’t have any way direct way to tell us if they are sick or suffering. Whining is the only way they have to express that they may be in pain. Take your dog for a check-up to rule out any illness, like arthritis, that may be causing your dog to whine for what seems like no reason.
    • Fear – A dog that is insecure will whine. But if your dog is whining out of fear, petting them can actually reinforce the whining.
    • Boredom – Dogs are intelligent creatures. Without a job to do, they will quickly become bored. Boredom causes all sorts of bad behaviors, like chewing, digging, barking and even whining. Give your dog something to do: walks and daily obedience training will do the trick.
    • Attention – Maybe your dog just wants some attention. If this is the case, I recommend ignoring the whining at first and when he stops whining, immediately praise him. This lets him know that quiet is what gets your attention and love.

    One way to deal with whining is ignoring, and it can be very effective. But since you are still having trouble, try this. Keep a small squirt bottle handy and when your dog whines give him a short, gentle squirt in the face. Do not squirt his eyes, though. This merely annoys him, letting him know that you are annoyed. As soon as the whining stops, give him lots of praise.

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

    (C) Jim Burwell 2010