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Check out this blog for recent dog training tips, behavior articles, dog training videos, and photos!  We'll show you real training that we're doing in and around DC.  Plus, our tips on working with you dog in an urban environment.  

Have a question that you want answered by Michelle?  Email your question to [email protected] and your answer may appear here!

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#7: 10 Tips from a Professional Dog Trainer

Posted by gooddogdc on October 7, 2013 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (44)

#7. I think toys are one of the most under used supplies out there. If you buy a bunch of toys and leave them around the house for your dog to play with whenever he feels like it, sometimes he might play, but often those toys become pretty boring to him. Instead try putting all of your toys up. For young pups leave down chew toys only (medium to hard in texture toys meant for chewing).

Start with one very special toy and start building up your dog’s desire for it. Often a plushy, squeaky toy is an easy place to start. I really like those long skinny ones with no stuffing because you can use them for light tugging and they seem to peak a dog’s interest better than some. I also try to make sure that the toy I am using is small enough to easily fit in a pocket so that I can use it later for training.

Many dogs do not like playing with toys, but enjoy playing with you. For those dogs: several times a day, when your dog seems a bit active, surprise your dog by whipping the toy out of your back pocket. Proceed to act like a total goofball, running around, do high-pitched baby talk, all the while playing with your toy. If at any point your dog plays with the toy at all, praise him heavily and act even goofier. After 20 seconds of madness, put the toy away and sit down ignoring your dog. Pretend like nothing ever happened. Keep this up until your dog is actively engaging with the toy.

Once your dog realizes that this one toy is the key to getting his owner to be FUN, he will slowly start to become obsessed with the one toy. At that point, you can start making your dog work for it. “Sit” to play with the toy, “down” to play with the toy, etc. Once your dog is obsessed and working for one toy, you can slowly start to add others into the mix.

Toy training is lots of fun! The best part is that it makes your dog interested in you. It is definitely a relationship builder and playing with your dog will give you great focus from your dog and a killer recall. Happy training!

#8: 10 Tips from a Professional Dog Trainer

Posted by gooddogdc on October 2, 2013 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (5)

#8.  Number eight is all about food!!!  Giving food to your dog is the equivalent of giving cash to a person.  They almost always really want it – unless they have a ton, then it becomes less valuable (yet another incentive to watch your dog’s waistline!).  Quality also matters.  A kibble is like giving your dog 50 cents.  Giving your dog bits of chicken is like forking over $20 bills.

Food is also one of the key ways to change your dog's underlying emotional state.  When used correctly, food can help to make an aggressive dog friendly and a fearful dog confident.  It is one of the most powerful training tools out there.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see with food is when food becomes a bribe and not a reward for correctly performed behavior.  I'm not talking about using food as a distraction for your dog, that is a great use.  I'm talking about using food in such a way that your dog won't perform unless he can see the food or knows that you have it.  If your dog will only sit if he sees you holding a treat, that is a problem. 

On the same token, I've seen dogs who become unintentionally spoiled by well-meaning owners who get frustrated and even aggressive if they don't get food when they want it.  I particularly see this type of behavior in dogs who are rewarded for every correct response.  If the owner does not reward, the dog doesn't know how to deal with it appropriately.

Avoid falling victim to the misuses of food by "losing the lure" early in your dog training.  Avoid showing your dog a cookie to get him to perform.  Instead work on surprising your dog with a treat for correct behavior!  Also, remember to think of your training in levels.  Something that your dog has already done hundreds of times may not always need a food reward after.  Save your best treats, such a roasted chicken, for really amazing, impressive things or for when you are trying to teach your dog something new!  Happy training!


#9: 10 Tips from a Professional Dog Trainer

Posted by gooddogdc on September 30, 2013 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (21)

#9. Your dog is who he is. And, in learning to live successfully with your dog, compromise is the name of the game! You can modify his behavior. For example, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that you don’t want your dog to growl, bark, lunge, or run away from things. However, the core of your dog is a different story.

If your dog is a sweet, slightly shy guy, then no matter how much work you do, trying to train him to be a guard dog is not going to go well. If the core of your dog is an intense, quick to aggress, high-energy, anxious dog then trying to make him into a mellow therapy dog may not work. Instead, work on accepting the dog that you have and working on things with your dog that compliment him and help him to be a better dog but that don’t try to change the core of him or you both may end up frustrated.  

I hope this tip helps in your quest for the best relationship possible with your dog!  Happy training!

#10: 10 Tips From a Professional Dog Trainer

Posted by gooddogdc on September 27, 2013 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (4)

And the countdown begins today with #10!

#10. Your dog’s life can be pretty boring, especially if they are young or energetic. Help your dog out by taking a different route on your daily walk, or even switching to the opposite side of the street.  You could also add 15 minutes to your daily walks, which makes a big difference for many dogs.  Also, dogs usually appreciate weekend excursions to a friend’s house or to the local park.  Aim to take your dog one new place each week, even if it's just in the car to go through a car wash or drive thru.

Another thing you can do to help in the war against boredom is to invest in several different activity toys. Activity toys are one of the most overlooked aspects of dog supplies. Everyone gets the dog bed, bowls, nail clippers, squeaky toys, and food. But, don’t forget the activity toys! Activity toys are the books, magazines, and television programs of your dog’s world. There are many different ones out on the market, but some of the simplest and best ones are hollow rubber toys that you can stuff with your dog’s meal or other goodies. Many dog trainers feed their dogs exclusively out of these toys. It takes a few extra minutes, but the mental stimulation your dog gets out of it is well worth it.  If your dog doesn't go for the toy initially, don't worry about it!  Many dogs have to learn to play with these toys.  Initally, play with him with the toy until he figures out how to make the food fall out.

I hope you have fun teaching your dog to play with these awesome new toys!  Happy training!

Meet our newest client!

Posted by gooddogdc on September 25, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

She's absolutely adorable, tiny and a bunny!!!  Meet Jellybean.  Jellybean's mom works with her daily on clicker training.  Jellybean knows how to put her paws up, follow a target, play with a ball, and much more!

In our session Jellybean was a bit shy, so we mostly focused on clicking and treating her for being brave enough to come out and eat a bit of parsley or basil from me, the stranger.  I have to say, this is the first rabbit I have ever had the pleasure of training and it was fun!  She especially liked investigating the agility equipment that I brought over.  

So, for those of you with non-dog animals at home, you can clicker train just about anything.  Cats seem especially gifted in clicker training.  I've also seen YouTube videos of gerbils, rats, birds, fish, and giant cockroaches all clicker trained!  I hope you feel inspired, I know I was!  Happy training :)!

Hiking with Your Dog

Posted by gooddogdc on September 18, 2013 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (21)

Hiking is one of my all time favorite activities to do with my dogs! It is one of those huge “bang for your buck” activities. It gives your dog amazing exercise since he gets to run up and down hills and move at his own pace. It also combines with that amazing mental stimulation since there are so many new smells, sights, and areas to explore. Plus, you’ll be training on your hike, so he’ll get that mental stimulation too! For those of you who are my clients, you know that I consider physical plus mental stimulation the essence of my training philosophy.

If you’ve never hiked with your dog before, don’t worry! It’s easy to get started! As you should when visiting any new location, even if your dog is reliable off-leash, make sure to start on a long line. This will give your dog freedom while still maintaining his safety. Bring some high value treats such as chicken or beef and start hiking! Practice some surprise recalls throughout your hike. Also, practice some of your foundation skills such as sit and down. You can also throw in some 15-second stays just to challenge your dog! That way, when a real distraction comes up, such as another dog or squirrel, your dog will be ready to respond to you!

Another important tip is to keep your first hike short. Even if you are having fun, it is good to gradually build up your dog’s endurance. Many dogs will run 2 to 4 times as far as you will go on a hike! And a lot of dogs, including my own, don’t seem to know to stop when they are tired! Keeping your first few hikes short and gradually building your dog up to longer and longer hikes is a great way to keep your dog in shape while preventing injury from over exercise. However, once your dog is used to it, feel free to hike away! My dogs and I frequently enjoy 3 hour plus hikes!

Happy hiking ☺!!!

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Life Saving Dog Training

Posted by gooddogdc on September 3, 2013 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the most important things that you can teach your dog is to have a reliable recall. It is fairly simple to teach, and is truly “life saving training” since it can save your dog from running out into a busy street.

To teach, start with a pocketful of small, high value treats. I really like the freeze-dried meat treats for this or the chicken jerky strips cut up into 1.5 inch pieces. Have around 10 to 15 high value treats in your pocket. Throughout the day, when you are right next to your dog, say your dog’s name followed by a clear “come!” command. Your dog should not be running to you at this point, you are just conditioning the word “come!”. Do this 3 to 5 times for the first week.

Week 2, when you are within 5 feet of your dog, say your dog’s name and “come!”, then run backward away from your dog until he gets to you. When he does give him lavish praise and a treat. Repeat this 10 to 15 times a day, 3 to 5 days that week.

Continue on with this manner of training gradually building distance away from your dog over the course of several weeks. You may even start to hide in the other room when you call your dog to see if he can find you. This is a fun game for your dog, and it teaches all important lifesaving skills at the same time.

Once your dog is savvy to the “come!” command, you can practice only intermittently, maybe once every couple of weeks or so to maintain the command for life. Remember to keep a leash on your dog for safety anytime your are not in a securely enclosed area until you are 100% sure that your dog will come when called.

I hope this helps to create a happier, safer dog for you. Happy training!

My favorite KONG recipe

Posted by gooddogdc on August 30, 2013 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (22)

My favorite KONG recipe:

  • High value treat in the bottom (such as freeze dried liver or string cheese)
  • Plunk about a teaspoon of cream cheese or peanut butter over the high value treat 
  • Then, alternate layers of kibble and wet dog food 
  • Seal the top with more wet dog food and jam a biscuit in the large opening 
  • Fill the smaller opening at the bottom with a little spray cheese or KONG stuff'n FREEZE 
  • On serving, smear something fresh and extra enticing on the top, like a little cream cheese or spray cheese to get your pup started 

Serve to your pup of 20 to 30 minutes of delicious entertainment! Yum!

Nuisance Behaviors

Posted by gooddogdc on August 29, 2013 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (20)

As dog owners dealing with nuisance behaviors, the temptation is to be reactive instead of proactive. Instead of trying to train your dog in the moment, when you are much more likely to be angry or frustrated (not a good time to train), count to three in your head and breathe. If you need a minute to cool down, as calmly as possible, send your dog to his crate or kennel or you go in the other room.

Think about why the behavior occurred. From what I've seen, 90% of nuisance behaviors occur from sheer boredom. If this is the case, addressing the actual problem, such as boredom, instead of the symptom, such as swiping something off of the coffee table, will ensure a much more permanent fix to your situation. To address boredom, increase and vary the dog's daily exercise, most dogs need around 30 minutes to 1 hour a day of exercise to stay happy and healthy, they also get bored of the same old stroll around the block so mix it up with hiking, swimming, fetch in the park, or jogging if possible. Also, remember to provide a minimum of 30 minutes a day of directed mental stimulation, such as a stuffed KONG toy or a training session where your dog can learn something new! If this doesn’t work, you may want to consult with a trainer.

If it is a behavior that you cannot ignore because it is dangerous to the dog or someone else, hire a professional dog trainer as soon as possible. The trainer will be able to set you up on a custom training plan that will help you to modify the behavior. Until then, management is key, make sure to keep the dog away from situations which previously triggered the dangerous behavior. For example, if your dog has bit a child, make sure to keep your dog away from children at all costs until you can met with a professional trainer.

Have a dog who won't come in from the backyard?

Posted by gooddogdc on August 22, 2013 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (22)

Would you go to work if your boss didn't give you a paycheck?

Try giving your dog a generous "paycheck" for his "work".  Keep a stash of high value treats such as freeze dried liver or chicken jerky strips right by the door on the way out.  Call your dog to come in.  "Pay" your dog as soon as he comes in with 30 seconds of praise (time yourself, it's longer than you think!) and a large treat.  In no time at all, you should have a dog who enthusiastically runs inside when you call for him!  Happy training!