Dogs bark for a plethora of reasons, whether it’s to alert of a looming threat or if they saw the shadow of a leaf fall one hundred feet away. Regardless of why your dog is picking up its pitch, it’s important to be able to get these barking outbursts under control. Excessive barking can become a bad habit quickly but can be squashed with proper training. And lots of patience.
To get your dog to stop barking, try to figure out why they are barking. Is it only at strangers? Any weird noise? Doorbells? Other dogs? Or, all of the above? Make note of when barking outbursts occur and what brought them on. This will help you determine the best course of action to take. Attention barking is treated very differently than territorial barking, so understanding your dog’s reactions will make the process much smoother.
Remember, yelling at your dog in an attempt to get them to stop barking will only rile them up more. Either ignore the loud behavior, remove the upsetting stimulus, or redirect their attention to something else, such as a toy or new environment, while in the beginning stages of training. Below, I will break down the most common types of barking outbursts as well as reliable solutions you can integrate to manage these behaviors.
Let’s start with one of the most annoying of the barking behaviors – attention barking. This looks like the moment you sit down for dinner, and your dog looks directly at you. Before you know it, they are barking their head off at you, hoping to catch some scraps. This demanding behavior is often inadvertently rewarded when dog owners give their dog any attention, even in the form of a verbal command such as “stop.”
The best way to handle attention barking is to absolutely ignore your dog when these outbursts occur. If possible, go into another room and shut the door. This sends a message to your dog that they will not get what they want from barking. Barking to be let outside, receive food, or be given physical attention are some of the most common instances where you will see demanding barking. Problem solve these individually by figuring out what your dog wants. Once the barking stops, wait a few minutes before letting them outside, giving them dinner, or giving them affection. The goal is to teach them that loud communication with you will not produce the reward that they are looking for.
For barking that occurs in the crate, it is highly important to never reward this behavior, either by verbal attention or being released from the crate. While crate training, there can be many situations where your dog thinks barking is likely to gain your attention or grant their release. Ignore the barking and when there is even the shortest amount of silence, reward them by letting them out, if applicable. Otherwise, toss a treat into their crate or verbally praise them.
Fear barking occurs when your dog is stressed, anxious, or fearful of a situation. They are using their voice to tell you or the stimulus that they are not interested. The best way to handle situations like these, especially in the early stages, is to remove your dog from the situation. Let them know that you are going to protect them and that you have their back by helping them get out of the situation that they no longer want to be in.
Moving forward, it’s important to work on counter conditioning with your dog to get them to the point where the upsetting stimulus is less threatening to them. This takes a significant amount of patience, practice, and persistence. Let’s say your dog is absolutely terrified of bicycles. Take them to a park that is known to have a lot of bike traffic and choose a place to sit far away from the bike lane or area. Reward your dog for even looking in the direction of the bike and not reacting. Slowly decrease your distance from the bikes as your dog becomes more comfortable with their presence. Depending on the aversion, this can take numerous training sessions to build up your dog’s confidence and desensitization to what they fear.
When working with barking of any sort but especially with fear barking, using high-value treats is key. You want to offer your dog something highly valuable so that their attention is directed solely on you. Placing the treat close to their nose in the initial stages will help move them from the distraction they are barking at. This is another great time to integrate “Look at me” during distraction training as you are getting your dogs to focus on you and not the stress-inducing stimuli.
For barking outbursts that occur while walking, you will need to exercise even more patience as your dog could be either afraid of something in the environment or being territorial of you. I’ve covered steps on working through impulse control and leash walking in the respectively linked articles as well.
Nothing can be more irritating than dealing with a barking dog when you are trying to answer the front door or bring a guest into your home. Granted, barking from knocking on the door can be both territorial or excitement driven but both can be circumvented through practice. The best solution I have found for barking at the door or when people are near the entrance of the home is to have a special “place” for them to go until they are released. When someone knocks on the door, Ember will go to her “place” and wait for me to tell her to “Go say hi” if someone is coming into our house. Her place is within eyesight of the door so she can be aware of who is entering and how I greet them.
For many people, it’s important to have a dog bark at strange noises or unknown people coming to the door. I have no problem with my dogs going ballistic over an unknown person banging on my door. The key is getting them to settle down and listen to me when I ask. A knock on the door is always going to sound the same, whether it’s someone I know or don’t know, so I have them all trained to either “place” if I’m opening the door or “Hush” if it’s not something I’m concerned about.
Beyond situational barking, a very useful tool to have in the obedience “toolbox,” as I like to call it, is the command “Hush” or “Quiet.” These words can be taught alongside “Speak,” so you can both reward your dog for using their voice on command and using controlled silence on command as well. I will warn that once you teach “Speak,” some dogs can become more vocal (Sheltie owner right here!!), so be mindful of your dog’s current barking behavior.
For me, I have found the most success with waiting for a barking outburst to end, then rewarding with treats as soon as the dog is quiet. Repeat this and add the word “Hush” when the dog is not barking. You can work towards this during barking by bringing the treat close to their nose as dogs can’t sniff very well while in the process of barking. The brief break in barking is the moment you are looking to reward.
For the most part, I have found that anti-barking methods are a great short-term solution but do not present long-term results. Dogs either outsmart these devices or become desensitized to them over time. The goal with training is to get your dog to understand what behaviors you want (silence in this case) and helping them realize that when they comply, they will be rewarded.
The only tool I continue to rely on is an old “penny can,” which is an old can full of coins. I don’t use it much for barking, but I will occasionally, just to get my dog’s attention and get a moment in where I can use the “Hush” command. I’ll shake the can very loudly for a moment during a barking outburst and interject the moment there is a break of silence. I’ll also use the penny can to interrupt play sessions that are getting too aggressive or discourage puppy biting on my older dog. She is learning to “Leave it,” but it’s still a work in progress.
The first step to fixing a bad barking behavior is to identify what is causing the behavior and the situational factors surrounding outbursts. Then, begin managing the behavior by shaping preferred “quiet” moments or instances where you can get your dog’s attention on you, even if for a brief moment. Work up to things such as a door knock equals place all the way across the room. Always know your dog’s threshold for distractions and what type of environments will be challenging enough but not overwhelming.
Tired of pulling, barking, and lack of control when walking your pup? Look no further. Our guide will help you through leash walking and all of the potential roadblocks you may encounter.
To teach your dog to walk with a loose leash, you must start by teaching them how to heel. Having this concept down will help you get them under control and stop leash pulling on your walks.
An important aspect of loose leash walking is remembering that our dogs need to have both structured and unstructured leash time. Going for walks is an exciting expedition for our dogs, and it’s unfair to prevent them from smelling and interacting with the environment. That’s not to say that we should let them pull us down the road either. The important distinction is having them walk calmly when asked and have a bit more freedom when on an unstructured walk.
When starting out with leash walking, you need to be sure that you have a well-fitting harness or collar as well as a leash that correlates to your dog’s strength. Safety on your walks is paramount, especially if you are still working on your emergency recall. Having a collar slip or a piece of walking equipment break can be scary, but if you have a solid recall, you can be confident that your dog will return to you, even without the leash.
The next step is gearing up for your training session. I would highly recommend some form of a treat pouch and a clip to keep your dogs leash attached to you. Having the pouch and leash on your person will keep your hands free and make it easier to deliver treats to your dog quickly. Mix up the variety of treats in your bag but make sure to start with something high-value to keep their attention on you.
Paw Lifestyles Treat Pouch: This pouch is by far my favorite as it has room for treats, poop pages, and a separate holder for your phone or keys. I cannot recommend one of these enough as it makes all forms of training so much easier when you can quickly reward your dog and not have to mess around with other things in your hand.
All In One Leash Combo: 6 feet in length with a traffic handle and clip, this leash is the perfect training tool. If you’re working with a larger dog, the additional handle is a great way to help position your dog where you want them while teaching heel and can also help you pull them back in a distracting situation.
For your dog, I would recommend sticking with a 6-foot leash attached to either a collar or harness. With the leash length, you can easily call your dog back to your side and keep them from wandering too far from you.
It’s always best to start inside your home or in an area that is free from distractions. You want your dog to be able to focus on you, which is best achieved when there aren’t other exciting things going on around you. When working in your home, you may be able to get away with low-value rewards or kibble as the environment will be less stimulating.
Start in your quiet space and attach your leash to either the dog’s collar or harness. Begin by placing a treat close to your dog’s nose, right by the inseam of your pants. Choose either the left or right side of your body and stick with it throughout the course of your training. Once your dog gets into position, immediately reward them for staying by your side. If they move forward or backward, remove the treat and place it back at your pants inseam after regaining their attention.
Once your dog understands the concept of where you want them to stand, begin by stepping forward just an inch. Keep the treat right by your leg and the dog’s nose. Reward them for moving with the motion of your leg, and refrain from rewarding them if they move out of position.
Heel training can move incredibly slow at first but will pay off tremendously over time. Having your dog come back to position, even when on an unstructured walk, is paramount to their safety.
In The Meantime
Working on heel can take months to perfect. And let’s face it, sometimes you need to take your dog on a walk for them to potty or just burn off some energy. So, when you aren’t on a structured heel walk, there are a couple of ways to manage pulling until you can get a full heel in place.
The concept of the standstill technique is exactly how it sounds. When you’re walking with your dog, and they begin to pull, stand still and firmly hold the leash. The moment your dog relaxes their shoulders or turns to you, reward them by walking forward. The second they pull again, stop until they release the tension on the leash. You will have to repeat this frequently until your dog gets the message. I recommend doing this several times per day when starting your walk.
Like the standstill, circles create the message that your dog pulling in a given direction isn’t going to give them what they want. The second they start pulling, quickly turn around and head the other direction. In my experience, this works rather quickly as compared to the standstill method as most dogs pull to get towards whatever is in their line of sight. Repeat this as much as necessary and incorporate it into your heel training as well.
Loose Leash With Distractions
Possibly the most difficult task of loose leash walking comes in when there is a significant distraction or environmental factor that you and your dog have to contend with. The best way to work on distraction training is to get a solid “Look at me” down before putting your dog in a new environment. Being able to break their attention away from whatever the stimuli are and focus back on you is critical. You can also use the Leave it/look at me combo and turn around to head in the other direction.
It is critical to practice with varying distractions while in a controlled environment. You can accomplish this by throwing toys around and having your dog leave them alone and continue to heel on leash. You can even play car sounds or garbage truck sounds on your TV.
Planning out your training sessions and focusing on specific distractions or factors will grant your the largest strides of success. Think about your walks in terms of time and not distance. Twenty minutes spent heeling and paying attention in your driveway while a dog walks by is more stimulating to your dog than walking a mile while pulling. Be patient and always set your dog up for success by training inside first, slowing increasing distractions, and making sure to try your hardest not to put your dog over threshold (putting them up against something they simply could not ignore or something you haven’t trained for).
Let’s Talk About Prong Collars
There is an enormous and often divisive stance regarding prong collars and their use in the dog training community. Personally, I am against prong collars as I believe that you can achieve loose leashing walking without having to rely on force for compliance. In the end, it is up to the owner and their trainer to make the choice that best suits your dog, but as with all behaviors, positive reinforcement will always net you the best response in the long run.
The key to having your dog walk calmly, with a loose leash, is patience and a lot of training. Asking your dog to ignore its often very exciting surroundings to walk right next to you is a task that requires diligence and time to master.
If you’re here, you’re probably already at your wit’s end, and your hands are scratched up into next year. Puppies instinctually play bite when playing with their littermates, which can quickly bleed over into how they play with their owners. With some patience and know-how, it is possible to stop puppy play biting and redirect their mouths onto something much less vulnerable.
To stop puppy play biting, you need to make a distracting sound such as loudly yelling “ouch!” or “uh-uh!” the moment they bite your hand. Let your hand go limp until they release, and then ignore your puppy for about twenty seconds. You may then resume playing with them by adding in a toy or other appropriate chew item.
Puppies inherently have the desire to mouth objects and any living thing they can find. It is important to know how to curb this behavior early on, especially while they are smaller. The larger and older a puppy gets, the worse the biting can be. Structuring playtime, having the right tools and understanding why puppies play bite will help you nip this problem behavior before it gets worse.
What To Do When Your Puppy Bites You
As someone who teaches their dogs a lot of mouth-related tricks such as “take” or “kisses,” I want to be comfortable with the pressure my dog uses with their mouth. Therefore, I believe it’s important to establish a distinction between a hard bite and general mouthing. With a puppy, it’s easy to teach them the difference between mouthing and biting. To do so, you must show them that play sessions continue with light mouthing but are abruptly stopped when they are biting too hard.
If you’re interacting with your puppy and they go straight for your hand, it may be more appropriate to redirect them to a nearby toy or chew. Mouthing or biting to get your attention should not be rewarded as this can lead to continued biting when they are much bigger and stronger. If you’re playing with them with your hands, this could lead to confusion as they may start to assume your hand is something to play with.
By saying “ouch!” when your puppy bites, you are giving your dog the signal that their behavior is hurtful. When puppies are with their littermates, they will yelp when one of them bites down too hard. Using a loud “ouch!” simulates this behavior and gets your point across to your dog in a way that they fundamentally understand. Using the “limp hand” technique also shows your pup that playtime ends when playing too rough.
My rule of thumb is if we’re playing and the biting continues after a few “ouch!” corrections, I will put the puppy either in their crate or playpen to give them a chance to calm down. It’s not uncommon for puppies to get overstimulated while playing, and sometimes allowing them to rest is the best option to take. When your dog is riled up and biting like crazy, this can give them the notion that this behavior is okay if they are not corrected or separated from the stimulating situation.
Using Toys & Teaching “Leave It”
When your puppy has its mouth around your hand, it can be difficult to think about anything other than how sharp those darn teeth are. Reaching for a toy to redirect their attention after saying “ouch!” is a great way to give them something appropriate to gnaw on instead. Especially during teething, puppies need something to chew on to relieve the pains associated with their teeth loss. This is a natural behavior, so redirecting with a toy will allow them to keep chewing and for you to keep your hand safe.
Play biting is another opportunity for you to practice “leave it” and “take it” with your dog. I’ll use a rope toy and have them grab on to pull a good game of tug. Then, have them leave the toy for a moment. You can do this by making the toy seem “dead” by keeping it still. The moment your dog leaves the toy, reward them by making it seem “alive” again and telling them “take it.” For a more in-depth guide on teaching leave it, check out my article that outlines how to teach leave it and how to use the command in everyday situations.
Puppy Ankle Biting
If you have a herding breed, chances are you are at your wits end with ankle biting. These guys just LOVE to go for anything that is moving. In my experience, redirecting is the number one way to solve this. How do you redirect while walking with your laundry hamper in your hands you ask? The solution is a long rope toy that you can stick in your back pocket.
These rope toys saved my sanity and my ankles when we had both of our Aussie pups. Even our Sheltie still plays with it today. The best part about these ropes is that they done flake apart like traditional rope toys and are four feet long. They are the perfect object for your pup to follow around and latch onto, leaving your feet free from harm. And, if they get dirty, you can toss them in the washer with no problems.
Play biting is an instinctive reaction from your puppy but can be detrimental to your hands, legs, clothing, and anything else they can sink their teeth into. Knowing how to give them the proper correction by saying “ouch!” redirecting their attention and giving them appropriate toys are all ways to circumvent troublesome puppy biting.
Teaching your dog a reliable “Leave It” is absolutely imperative to their future training success and well-being. Each of our dogs has a rock-solid understanding of leave it, which has saved us many a trip to the emergency vet throughout their lives. When learning how to teach your dog “Leave It,” there are several steps you must follow to be successful.
To teach “Leave It,” begin by holding a treat in your hand with your fist closed. The second your dog ignores your hand with the treat, reward them immediately with a “Yes!” and a treat from your other hand. Your dog will begin to understand that leaving your hand alone is the only way they will be rewarded.
When starting out, it can be a bit frustrating for both you and your dog as they try to figure out exactly what you are asking of them. Following the proper steps to introducing the command and continuing to practice over time will lead you to a dog that will leave anything alone when asked. A strong foundation is important as this skill will be continually built upon for years to come, but getting started is incredibly straightforward.
Introducing “Leave It”
The command “leave it” can be applied in just about any situation where you want your dog to ignore something completely. This can be a piece of food dropped on the kitchen floor, a dead squirrel on the side of the road, or even your cat who wants absolutely nothing to do with your dog. Getting to this level of generalization takes time and practice but is very easy to accomplish as long as you remain consistent.
To begin, place a treat in your hand and close your fist. Your dog will most likely nose or paw at your hand in an effort to get you to open it. Ignore this behavior and wait for the moment your dog moves their attention away, even slightly. Reward with a “Yes!” and give them a treat from your other hand to keep a barrier between the “left” treat and the reward treat. Once they get the hang of this, begin adding “leave it” when placing the treat in your hand. Reward the moment they leave your hand alone and repeat for several tries.
Once your dog has gotten the hang of leaving the treat alone with a closed fist, begin opening your hand, so the treat rests on your palm. If your dog leaves it alone with the command, reward with the treat from the other hand. If they dive for the treat, close your palm and start back from the beginning. After they have the open palm down, try placing the treat on the ground and covered it with your hand if your dog goes to eat it.
When teaching “leave it,” using a clicker in the beginning stages is a game-changer. When your dog leaves the treat alone that you are asking them to forget about, you can click and attach “Yes!” to the behavior. Since “leave it” is one of the first things I teach to a dog, this is a great opportunity to build up a connection between the word “Yes!” and a reward.
Remember, these sessions may take several attempts to get your dog used to the command, especially with tempting treats. You can use kibble in your hand initially as this may be easy to get your dog to leave alone. Be patient, as this foundation will be the roadmap for your continued success and is the most important skill you can teach your dog in the long run.
Leveling Up “Leave It”
Once your dog has a good grasp of the concept of “leaving” treats in your hand or around them on the ground, it is time to ramp up the difficulty. A solid leave it looks like your dog seeing a piece of a juicy steak on the ground and looking at you instead of the steak. This may sound lofty, but with patience and training, this is entirely possible.
Once the foundation has been set, start tossing treats on the ground around your dog. Follow the same steps as before by rewarding them for not touching the food or treats. You can use lunch meat, chicken, bread, or anything non-toxic that may entice your dog. This is great for establishing proper behavior in situations where food may be dropped on the ground accidentally, especially from plates or counters.
The next step is adding distance to your training. Being able to have your dog listen to you out in the yard or when going up to something on a walk is an awesome skill to have. When introducing distance, keep your dog on a leash so that they cannot go after the item you are asking them to leave. I’ll practice this in my yard with my dogs when they begin to play too rough. If the puppy starts chewing on my older dog, I’ll give her the leave it command while she is still attached to me via the leash. This allows me to reinforce the command by pulling her back to me if she ignores my command. If she does ignore me, I know it’s time to take a step back and refresh the basics of this command.
As you go, you will find new situations where leave it can be both useful and lifesaving. Dropping medicine off the counter will no longer cause panic once you know your dog will leave it alone when you tell them to. Leveling up your distractions and distance are critical to getting your dog to leave something alone, no matter how tempting.
Using “Leave It” With Toys
Another great way to work on “leave it” is to use a toy instead of food. I like to use a long rope toy and make it exciting by dragging it around or wiggling it near the dog. Once they latch on, let them pull and tug for a moment. Then, make the toy “play dead.” The moment your dog releases their grip, say “Yes” and then start the game over again.
After your dog releases the toy a couple of times, begin saying “leave it” when they let go. You can also combine this method with teaching “take it” and “leave it.” This is great for future training and also gives your dog the idea that you are asking them to play and also asking them to release what is enticing to them.
Teaching “Leave It” is the most important command to teach your dog as it is imperative for their safety. Start slow with your training to create a solid foundation for this skill and gradually introduce challenges so that you can get your dog mastering leave it, no matter what situation they may find themselves in.
Whether your dog is young, old, a rescue, new puppy, injured, perfectly healthy, or anything in between, separation anxiety can develop at any time. This can be not only frustrating but heartbreaking as well. Of course we want our dogs to feel safe, even when we aren’t with them! In light of COVID-19, many owners found themselves working from home for extended periods of time, and our dogs become used to our constant presence.
Before reading any further, the number one reducer in separation anxiety you can work on right away is working on how you greet and leave your dog. If you make a huge commotion and get either excitable or anxious towards them when you are entering/leaving your house, they will associate this as reinforcement. The best thing to do is to completely ignore your dog when coming and going from your house. You can do a small “Hey there” or calm greeting, but until your dog has either calmed down, gone outside to potty, or has truly relaxed, don’t make a huge fuss over them. My routine when I leave is a simple “Bye pups, be good!” and then a “Hey, let’s go outside” when I get home.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can manifest in many different ways, all depending on how your dog handles stress. The most common indicators of separation anxiety are:
Excessive drooling or panting
Whining or pacing as you are preparing to leave
Trembling or shaking
Accidents in the house (if potty trained)
Destruction of objects
Chewing or digging around entryway points
Make sure never to scold or punish your dog if they had an accident or destroyed something while you were gone. Dogs do not have the ability to understand that you are upset about a behavior that occurred several hours ago, and punishing them will only increase their anxiety.
Knowing what to look for is half the battle when working with a dog with separation anxiety. To help you identify your dog’s triggers, see what happens when you prepare to leave your house or even the room. Do they start whining when you grab your car keys? Do they follow you around the house? Establishing behaviors that accompany separation anxiety will help you as we tackle a couple of angles to reduce your dog’s anxiety.
How To Handle Separation Anxiety With Your Dog
The number one rule of thumb when working through separation anxiety is to focus on crate training. Successful crate training looks like a dog that is excited or at least willing to go into its crate for an extended period of time, without whining or signs of stress.
To properly introduce your dog to their crate, you need to get them excited about their new “house.” Using a crate as punishment will make your dog resent the time spent in the crate and won’t view it as a safe place. If your dog is unfamiliar with their crate or doesn’t have a good association with it, take some time to go over the basics with them again, such as feeding them in their crate.
Once your dog is familiar with their crate, begin by putting them up for about 30 seconds, and then reward them by letting them out. Gradually increase the time intervals and add segments where you leave the room and then come quickly back. The goal is for your dog to learn that you will come back and that they don’t need to be stressed because they can’t be with you.
Another crate desensitizer is to give your dog something that they absolutely love, such as a stuffed Kong, only while they are in the crate. Give them the chew, close the crate door, and walk away for a couple of minutes. Come back and let them out of the crate, taking the valuable chew away. This teaches them that the crate is truly an awesome place to be.
If your dog absolutely hates the crate, has a history of abuse, or otherwise is too stressed to be confined, you can find some alternative options such as a small room or area of the house. Exercise pens are also a great option for confinement. Follow the same procedures as crate training but instead, close the door to the room. No matter which method you use, getting your dog comfortable with your absence over a slow period of time will condition them that you leaving isn’t the end of the world.
The Leaving Routine
Similar to crate training, you want your dog to associate your common “leaving” behaviors as a positive experience. If you grab your purse and keys before leaving, this may create a routine of stress for your dog. Try picking up your keys, walking outside for a moment, and coming right back in. Pick up your purse, give your dog a treat for being calm, and set your purse back down. You want to create a positive association between your leaving routine and your dog.
For my pups, the hardest was always the closing of the garage door. To them, this symbolized a long time that they would be without me. So, I would go outside, shut the garage door, then open it again a few minutes later. Using my Furbo camera, I was able to see when they calmed down so I wouldn’t reward any whining or barking by coming back inside while that behavior was going on.
As an overarching theme, you never want to reward stress behaviors such as barking or whining. When your dog barks to get out of the crate and you let them out, this reinforces that this behavior will get them what they want. Wait for even the briefest moment of quiet before letting them out. You can also work on teaching settle, even while they are in their crate.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation to Combat Separation Anxiety
Even heard the phrase, a tired dog is a happy dog? This is certainly true and can be a huge obstacle to overcome when working on separation anxiety. If your dog spends a lot of time in their crate or not receiving adequate exercise, this can increase their overall anxiety as well as separation anxiety. Make sure to give your dog the opportunity to run, play fetch, socialize with other dogs, and overall, just be a dog. A great time to work on desensitization and crate training is after a big play session or when your dog is coming up on a big nap.
Mental stimulation is often overlooked and is another great way to lower your dog’s anxiety levels. I use a variety of enrichment toys such as snuffle mats, snuffle balls, training exercises, flirt poles, and similar activities that wear my girls out. Snuffle mats are a great way to give your dog something to do on the opposite side of the room to work on increasing distance and feeling confident without being attached right to you.
Medications For Separation Anxiety
If you have tried all of the above recommendations and are still experience severe separation anxiety with your dog, it may be worth looking into medication or supplements to ease their anxieties. As always, consult with your veterinarian for the best route to take with your dog as they have a variety of treatments and know your dogs’ medical history best.
As someone who has two velcro Aussies, I promise that with steady training and patience, the separation anxiety will get better. Slow desensitization along with confidence building will go a long way to helping your dog feel at ease when you are not around.
How To Successfully and Effectively Potty Train Your Puppy
The first couple of weeks with your new puppy are bound to test your patience in ways you never thought possible. But, with patience and consistency, there will be hope for clean carpets and restful nights.
Basic Potty Training Steps
Bringing home a new dog, no matter what age, there will inevitably be an adjustment period for both the owner and the new pup. To both of you up for success, you need to follow a couple of simple steps and also give yourself grace for moments when true accidents do happen.
Depending on your dog’s age, there will be a finite limit for how long they can hold their bladder. As a general rule of thumb, a puppy can hold their bladder for one hour per month of age. So, a four-month-old puppy can roughly be expected to wait about four hours before needing to pee. However, this differs for each dog and can be negated by activities such as rough play or waking up from a nap.
Puppies should generally be let out:
Every 15-30 minutes during the first couple of weeks at home
Immediately after waking up or before going to bed
Shortly after eating or drinking
After a play session (sometimes during! Puppies can easily be distracted and have accidents when they are in the middle of play)
As they get older, your puppy will be able to go for longer periods of time before needing to pee or poop. However, if you find yourself asking, “Should I take them out now?” the answer is almost always yes! It’s better to have them outside more often as the more accidents that occur inside, the harder it is to establish that outside is where the business happens.
Now that you know how often to take your puppy out to use the bathroom, it’s important to know how to prevent as many accidents as you can. Keeping a watchful eye at all times can be exhausting, but it will enviably reduce the chance of accidents. I highly recommend keeping your puppy attached to you on either a short or long line with a clip-on leash during the first couple of weeks. They can’t get into trouble across the house if they are right next to you!
Keeping your dog within your line of sight at all times will also help you spot an accident before it happens or catch it mid-way. If your dog is sniffing the ground intently, this is often a tell-tale sign of an impending act of elimination. If you are too late in taking them outside before they begin to go, interrupt them by saying “Uh-uh” or “Outside!” and then take them out to finish doing their business.
By taking them outside after interrupting them, you establish that outside is where they need to do their business. You can also designate an area of the yard for potty training so that they associate this area with using the bathroom.
Always praise your puppy for using the bathroom outside. You can even use a clicker to mark this behavior and reward them for treats. Never, ever scold your puppy for having an accident, as this will only confuse them about bathroom behavior.
The last step to success is confinement when you are unable to supervise your dog. Crate training keeps your pup from roaming about and having accidents when you can’t keep them in your direct line of sight. Be mindful of your puppy’s age, as this can dictate how long they can be confined before needing to go to the bathroom. For the first week or so, you want to let your puppy out every four hours at night as they simply don’t have the bladder space to hold pee for extended periods of time.
If your puppy is having accidents in their crate or exercise pen, you may want to reduce the area they have access to. Dogs naturally do not like to eliminate where they sleep, and the goal is for your dog to see their crate as their den. I would suggest keeping blankets and towels out of their crate for the first couple of weeks as these can be tempting for your dog to use to go to the bathroom.
During the day, try to let your puppy out to pee more often, as they will likely take a lot of naps in their crate. If you’re unable to let them out during the day, you may want to consider having a dog walker come by to let them out in the middle of the day. Leaving your puppy to free roam in your house or apartment is bound to be a disaster, so make sure you spend some time to get them properly acclimated to their crate early on.
Now all of this sounds fine and good, but, as with most things, there will enviably be hiccups. You may go three days without an accident, and then in the blink of an eye, it will seem like you’re cleaning up pee left and right. Remember, potty training is a process and will not happen overnight. Teaching your puppy where to use the bathroom and to hold it until they have access to the outside is a lot to ask, especially in the beginning.
Pee pad training is a viable option to add to potty training if you live somewhere where it is difficult to get your puppy outside quickly or in the event of bad weather. Pee pads are disposable and easy to clean up, so it can be a good tool to train your puppy to use these in addition to traditional outside potty training.
For those who have carpet or rugs, be mindful of accidents and cleaning them up. Puppies will gravitate towards areas that smell like prior elimination, so they will likely frequent the same area. The same can be said for phasing out pee pads, as your pup might return to the original spot where the pads were out of habit.
No matter what stage of training you are in, it’s important to establish what foods or dog treats your dog likes and how they will respond to them. Creating a tiered list by treat value will help you know which treats to use in different situations, depending on the value the treat holds to your dog. For instance, asking them to leave a squirrel alone and only giving them a piece of kibble in return is unlikely to motivate your dog to come back to you in the future.
High-Value Dog Treats
These “high-value” treats are at the very top of the treat tier. You will want to save these for introducing new concepts, recall training, or in any situation that may be particularly distracting to your dog. Ideally, you will only use these foods or treats in training situations so that your dog associates them with learning, and most importantly, listening.
Best High Value Treats
Freeze-Dried Meats: My dogs go absolutely nuts over Vital Essentials freeze-dried beef tripe and turkey. I can use these as a top-tier reward, and they also travel a bit better than the cooked meats I’ll use at home.
Chicken: Although it takes a bit of preparation, cooked chicken keeps well in the fridge and can be broken up into tiny strips for easy distribution. I usually cook a couple of chicken breasts in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20/25 minutes.
Peanut Butter: This can be a bit hard to distribute but can be used for nail trims, baths or can be incorporated into a lick mat. You can put some peanut butter on a spoon to lick as a reward for any behavior you are looking to reinforce. Just make sure it is free of xylitol!
Stella & Chewy’s Treats: Freeze-dried beef hearts may sound icky to you, but they will make your dog quite the happy camper. These treats don’t smell funky like some other brands I’ve tried in the past, so these are a great option to bring your dog running straight back to you.
Medium-Value Dog Treats
Having medium-value treats in your arsenal is beneficial as these can supplement your high-value training. After introducing a new concept, you can begin to go down to medium value treats as a reward once your dog shows some level of comfort with the requested behavior.
Best Medium Value Treats
Chippin: For a high-quality, nutritious, and environmentally friendly option, look no farther than Chippin’s dog treats. These are a new favorite in my house as they have a number of flavors and added health benefits that make them enticing to my dogs.
Zukes: Easy to break up, lots of flavors to chose from, and large quantities make Zuke’s a staple reward for all of my dogs.
Merrick: Similar to Zuke’s, these treats can also be broken up into tiny pieces while remaining tasty enough to reinforce good behavior.
Dehydrated Sweet Potatoes: Another healthy, homemade option that is still delicious to your dog is freeze-dried sweet potatoes. You can make these into slices or tiny bits, depending on if you want to use them as a treat or a longer-use chew.
Low-Value Dog Treats
Low-value treats are generally saved for instances where you ask for a solidified trick, are in a low distraction environment, or are phasing out treats altogether. I’ll use lower value treats interspersed into my treat bag as well to keep my dog guessing while we are working on an already introduced concept that just needs some routine reinforcement, such as heel.
Best Low Value Treats
Pet Botanics Training Rewards: To get the most bang for your buck, these treats come in packs of 500 and are awesome to stock up on. I try to break these up into a couple of smaller pieces and use them for interval training, such as reinforcing place or heel.
Kibble: Depending on your dog, you may be able to get away with giving them their kibble as a reward for certain behaviors. I will use kibble to reward basic commands, such as place or sit, especially before feeding a meal.
Any treats that they get frequently or have gotten used to having often
Time For A Taste Test
If you are unsure which treats will make your dog go crazy, take some time to conduct a taste test with them by placing different types of food in your hands. Let your dog sniff your hands and reward them with the one they show the most interest in. You can also do this when practicing basic commands that they already know. Most dogs will show a difference in how fast they lay down when they know they are getting a piece of meat versus a normal biscuit treat.
When establishing the values of the treats, it is also important to think about treat calories and ease of delivery. If working on loose-leash training, make sure to have tiny pieces of whatever you are using so that way you can get it to your dog’s mouth quickly. Nothing can be more annoying than having your dog hyper-focus on the treat you accidentally dropped while trying to walk and treat at the same time.
Attaching the appropriate treat value to the behavior you are teaching will ensure success and also keep you from spending a ton of money on premium treats. Make sure to keep in mind the caloric values of treats as well and adjust your regular meal feedings as well.
Train Your Dog To Come To You Regardless Of Distractions
Getting your dog to understand that coming to you is better than whatever distraction they may encounter is an exercise in patience and practice. However, teaching a reliable recall is one of the most important and live-saving commands you can teach your dog. You can use this recall to get them out of harm’s way as they will learn that returning to you will net them the most delectable reward they can imagine.
To teach your dog a reliable recall, you must select a specific phrase or word to attach to your recall. Then, you can begin to link a high-value reward to that word for your dog to begin associating a treat with that command. From there, you can say your selected word from a very short distance and immediately reward your dog for coming to you.
There are a couple of rules of thumb to adhere to while teaching a recall that will ultimately get you a dog that will come right back to you, no matter what. You must learn what motivates your dog above all else, what is especially distracting to them, and remember only to practice this recall when you can reward them with their high-value currency. I will discuss all of these steps below and cover how this command differs from a traditional “come” you may have already taught.
Setting Up Your Recall
The key to establishing a foolproof recall with your dog is first to understand the “currency” that motivates them the most. Each dog is different and therefore have their own ideas for what is the tastiest or rewarding food. I use cooked or rotisserie chicken that I can throw in the fridge for a couple of days for my pups. You can also use freeze-dried treats as these travel a bit better than fresh chicken. No matter which food or reward you end up with, try only to use this food when working on a recall as it will maintain its “high-value” status. Remember, your goal here is for your dog to associate coming to as being the best thing in the entire world.
Now that you have your high-value currency, it is time to establish what word or phrase you would like to use for your recall. Stay away from words that you frequently use, such as “Come,” “Here,” “Treat,” etc. You want this word to stand out to your dog and be very specific to the task you are asking. We use “Cookie” since that is a word we hardly ever use in our house. Pick whatever word or phrase works best for you; just be sure only to use it with your dog during their recall exercises.
The absolute most important aspect of recall training is to have your dog always have a successful return to you. To achieve this, be careful with your distance and distractions early on in training. Every “failure” your dog has will decrease the weight that is placed on the recall. This frequently happens with the “Come” command, which is why having an emergency recall is highly valuable. Always have your high-value treat of choice will training to instill that coming back to you is the most awesome, important task your dog could ever accomplish.
Teaching Your Recall
To begin working on a recall, give your dog a piece of the treat or food you are using. Say the word you will use as your recall word while you give them the treat. Then, step a pace or two back and say the word again. When they come towards you, praise them and reward them with the treat. Move back a step farther and repeat this process a couple of times. Your goal is to have your dog whip around and come to you the moment they hear that selected word.
When working on increasing your distance, make sure to encourage your dog the entire way when they are running to you. The moment they turn their head away from whatever is distracting them is the moment you are looking to enforce. Use a lot of “Yes!” and “Good girl/boy!” as they are approaching you. Once they reach you, give them the treat or reward immediately.
Another aspect you can add to this recall is a collar or harness grab. During the recall training, I always have my dog come to me, grab their collar for a brief moment, and then reward them with the treat. This gets them used to not running away the moment they receive the treat and can negate some negative association with having their collar touched. For most dogs, being leashed can be the end of freedom from whatever environment they are in, as they are now tethered to you. Adding the collar grab to the recall ensures your dog is comfortable with being put back under your control in a situation where they may be in danger.
Recall Practice Games
To instill a strong recall, you need to practice this in numerous practice sessions, situations, and environments. So, to make it more fun, add a bit of a game aspect to it. Stand on one side of your yard and have someone else from your household stands opposite of you. Take turns calling your dog with your recall phrase and increase the distance between you. I’ll even practice this when I’m by myself doing yard work. I’ll move around to different areas and call my dog when they are sniffing around, watching a squirrel, or just laying down to enjoy the sun.
Another way to practice your recall is to throw a low-value treat or kibble across the room from you. When your dog goes to get it, use your recall word to bring their attention back to you. Reward them with praise while they are walking back to you and give them the high-value treat. This teaches your dog that you are still the most rewarding thing to pay attention to, even with an edible distraction.
Keep in mind the key points of fool-proof recall training: choosing a good command word, finding the right high-value reward, and practicing this recall in various situations. Always gauge your dogs’ progress, and don’t hesitate to take a couple of steps back before you advance to more difficult challenges. I start recall training by being just a few feet away before advancing on to being across the house/yard/etc. Keep at it, and before you know it, you will have a dog that will come right to you, no matter what distractions they may face.
Why Understanding And Teaching Your Dog Impulse Control Is Important
The term “impulse control” may seem foreign in context to dog training, but it is the backbone of successful training. A lack of learned impulse control displays itself in many unwanted behaviors such as jumping, barking, lunging on the leash, and biting. Teaching your dog to be more aware of their bodies and actions will nip a lot of these problems before they start or get them under control if they have already begun.
Teaching your dog impulse control will not only help you reduce unwanted behaviors, but it will also give you a calmer dog as a result of this training. Over time, your dog will begin to associate that being in a relaxed state is rewarding. You can teach your dog impulse control in big training sessions or bite-sized moments throughout your normal day, all depending on what you chose to work on. No matter how you slice it, you will be able to have your dog pay more attention to what you want, rather than having to correct inappropriate behavior.
Why Teach Impulse Control
Ever try to ask your dog to stop jumping on a visitor or even you when you’re walking in the door? This is a perfect example of an instance where impulse control can be utilized to curb an annoying behavior. Sure, your dog wants to greet you immediately. But you know what would be nice? Getting lots of pets with four paws on the floor. I love seeing my dogs as much as the next guy, but I also don’t want my groceries knocked out of my hands either.
Giving your dog opportunities to build up their ability to control their behavior is critical to work on as early as possible. With our puppy, we asked for a “wait” during our initial crate training from the day we brought her home. Now, she has learned that just because the crate door is open, she cannot exit the crate until I release her with an “Okay” signal. This helped get her excitable peeing under control as she has been growing up. We also use “wait” for leaving the house, going on walks, or being let out into the backyard.
These small opportunities will teach your dog that it is better to approach situations in a calm, relaxed manner rather than running full speed ahead. Granted, this may sound like an impossible task with a puppy or very high-energy dog. Small steps will win the race with this and it’s helpful to work on training impulse control when your dog is tired and therefore more likely to relax. Or, you can even incorporate impulse control into your fetch games, training sessions, or tug-o-war, all of which I’ll cover below.
How To Practice Impulse Control
The easiest way to integrate impulse control in your everyday routine with your dog is to teach them to wait for their food when it is feeding time. As you go to place your dog’s food bowl on the ground or in their crate, ask them for a “wait”. If they go to lunge for the bowl, pull back and wait for them to be calm. With a highly excitable dog, you may want to start slow and reward them for simply sitting still for a moment. Increase the difficulty of this exercise each time you feed them, eventually working up to having the bowl on the ground.
Another example of using food is to teach your dog “leave it,” which teaches them to leave something alone when asked. This is critical if your dog lunges for something they shouldn’t have, such as a piece of trash on a walk or a chunk of chocolate that fell onto the ground. By teaching “leave it,” you are telling your dog that they need to ignore whatever the item is and focus their attention back onto you. This is great at instilling the concept that there are things they should and shouldn’t interact with and look to you for guidance.
You can also use impulse control during rounds of fetch or tug-o-war. Begin the game by asking your dog to sit before either throwing the ball or engaging in tug with them. Have them sit for a moment and then reward them by beginning the round of play. You can ask for a sit when they bring the ball back and wait to throw it again until they have relaxed some. Work your way up to lie down or even add a “wait” in there as well. Your goal is to get your dog to associate patience with reward.
With all of these exercises, it is important to pay close attention to your dog’s body language and positioning. You want to reward them before they break and not after. Look for that golden opportunity where they have settled into the behavior but don’t push them too much, as you want to reward as many successes as possible. With the waiting for food example, don’t ask them to wait for thirty seconds if you haven’t asked them to hold the wait for more than a moment or two before.
No matter what situation you find yourself in with your dog, there is always room for improvement and room for new successes. Teaching your dog to look to you for guidance and assuming a more relaxed state will always be better than a lunging or jumping dog. With patience and intermittent training, you will be on your way to having a relaxed, four-on-the-floor companion.
Getting a new puppy is a lot like sitting down to paint a new canvas. You have a pretty good idea about what you want your art to look like, but have a hard time figuring out where to start. The same can be said for dog training. You want to teach them all sorts of things like sit, stay, off, down, and maybe even something flashy like “sit pretty.” However, you’re going to have a tough time if you can’t get your dog’s attention or focus on you.
When training your dog, the first thing you should teach them is “Look at me”. This command is a solid foundation for training and will give you an opportunity to really communicate with your dog.
“Look at me” might sound a bit strange as you’re probably thinking commands like “come” or “sit” should be the first to be taught. However, once taught, “Look at me” can be combined with a variety of situations in which having your dog’s attention could be highly beneficial. Teaching “Look at me” to your dog as the first step of their training journey is an easy and fool-proof way to get your dog used to listening to you and following the commands they are given in the future.
How To Teach “Look At Me”
Getting your dog’s attention during training or in your day-to-day life is one of the most essential and beneficial skills you can have, as this allows you to establish a strong line of communication with your dog. In the beginning, it can be frustrating to ask your dog to do something and have them either look the other way or be confused by what you are asking. Teaching the “Look at me” command as the first part of your training regimen will give you the ability to get your dog’s attention focused back on you in even the most distracting or unsure situations.
To begin, hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose. Bring the treat to your face and hold it right between your eyes. The moment your dog makes eye contact with you, say “Look at me” followed by “Yes!” and give them the treat. Repeat this several times so that your dog begins to correlate that looking at you equals a yummy treat.
After several successes, remove the lure from their nose to your eyes and simply ask your dog for the “Look at me” command. You may have to wait a moment as they will search for the treat in your hand or nearby. The moment they make eye contact, reward them with a “Yes!” and a treat.
A great way to solidify this command in the early stages is to combine a Clicker with the verbal cue “Yes!”. Using the clicker, simply press down at the same time to create a dependable click noise at the same time as your verbal praise. At times, our voice inflection can change and can be confusing for our dogs to understand. Having a solid click sound coupled with our “Yes!” is an easy way to let your dog know that they will be receiving a treat when they hear a click, “Yes!”, or a combination of both.
“Leave It & Look At Me” Combo
Now that you can get your dog’s attention on command, you can integrate this into “leave it” training as well. Think about it like this: your dog is engaging in a behavior such as barking at people walking by. You both want your dog to stop that behavior and focus on you instead of the distraction. So, you can generalize teaching “leave it” things other than food or objects.
To teach “leave it”, check out my full article with steps and distractions here. Once you’ve got that covered, you can ask for “leave it” followed by “look at me.” This is great because you are rewarding your dog for their attention. Leaving something is great, but getting their eyes on you solidifies that they are no longer interested in the distraction because youare more important.
In practice, this would look like walking down the road. Your dog stops to sniff a piece of trash. You say “leave it”, and once your dog stops paying attention to the trash, say “look at me.” As you go, you can say this all in one phrase but it’s important for your dog to know what each command means separately. You can use this with barking at people while walking, chasing cats, smelling gross things on the ground, dropped food in the kitchen, etc. Directly your dog back to you is your goal.
Starting training can be a daunting task, especially when it comes time to establish a true line of communication between you and your dog. The “Look at me” command is a great way to set up that relationship as, no matter the circumstances, your dog will know to check back in with you through eye contact. When your dog is looking at you, you have their full attention, which can be essential in a safety situation or training opportunity.
Hey there, thanks for visiting my blog. My name is Taylor, and I’ve wanted to start this journey for some time now. As a certified dog trainer and prior vet tech, I have thousands of hours of experience training dogs, solving behavior problems, and spending way too much money spoiling my own pups.
To all of my current and aspiring dog owners – you have come to the right place.
Puppyhood is hard. It’s fun and fluffy and also full of accidents, mistakes, sleepless nights, and a whole slew of things you simply wouldn’t have thought of before. When I brought home my most recent addition, an eight-week-old Australian shepherd, I was convinced there was not a single toy or training aide I hadn’t thought of. Until she had no interest in anything except my pant legs. If only there would have been some preparation checklist somewhere I could have referenced! Well, now there will be.
Having trained dogs as a hobby and, more recently, professionally, I’ve felt the growing pains of bringing a new dog into your home or having to solve new issues that arise, seemingly out of nowhere. My goal is to use both my knowledge and experience to create digestible and straightforward content that will help you on your training journey. I have thousands of ideas, tips, and tricks of the trade that can solve even the most complicated behavioral issues or simple training hiccups.
Some topics I’ll cover on this blog include:
Types of Chews, Toys, & Treats
I want to create a space for learning, expression, and growth for both us and our pets that we share our lives with.
As we go, please feel free to email me any comments or questions that pop into your head, as I love making new connections with both humans and animals. If you have any ideas for content you would like to see, product recommendations, or partnership questions, I’d be happy to go over any of those with you as well.
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