Category Archives: Training Your Dog


Tricks are simple patterns that you may teach your dog for fun. They have no therapeutic leadership value. You may want to wait until your dog is late in his adolescent stage before beginning trick training. Teaching some of these tricks involves using the basic obedience commands. Continue to practice these commands and enforce their therapeutic meanings. Mentally, the obedience commands are more important than the tricks. Make sure they remain meaningful. Play Dead The favorite trick of the old west: when you “shoot” your dog with your finger (command BANG), your dog will lay down and roll onto one side. 1. Start with the DOWN command. Command your dog into a DOWN. Kneel by your dog’s side and command SIDE as you lightly place your dog on his side (either side will do, just be consistent). Repeat the DOWN and SIDE until your dog will lie on his side at the command SIDE. 2. Next, link a theatrical beginning with the action. Face your dog and make a “gun” with your hand. Point your finger at your dog and say BANG. Command DOWN and then SIDE. Praise. With proper repetition, your dog will begin to link the BANG with the DOWN and SIDE. Gradually wean off the commands DOWN and SIDE until your dog will quickly lie down Read more […]


Agility training is a fun and athletic sport for both you and your dog. Together, you enjoy a sport that involves exercise, teamwork, and mental tests for your dog. Through your direction, your dog can navigate jumps, tunnels, platforms, a-frames, and catwalks. Agility can be a terrific way to boost your dog’s confidence level. High-excitement fun along with your praise for all of these accomplished tasks will make her feel like she can conquer the world. It is extremely helpful for shy dogs if worked on slowly, patiently, and with successes rather than mishaps. Some agility clubs practice strictly to have fun, while others do the sport for competition. Either is fine as long as you pick the path your pet will enjoy most. Do not put the pressure of competition on a dog that simply needs a fun release in her life.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dog certification is a very high honor for a dog and handler to achieve. It requires tight direction from the owner, great obedience skills from the dog, and wonderful teamwork between the two. Good therapy dogs are sociable, calm, happy, tolerant, patient, and friendly. A dog that has been well socialized to many different types, shapes, colors, sizes, and ages of people is desirable as well. Your dog must pass two tests to qualify for certification. Though not obedience tests per se, these tests do require your dog to be able to SIT, DOWN, STAY, COME, and have good self-control around dogs, people, and the temptations of food and play. Dogs must be at least one year of age to be tested. However, we recommend a dog two years old or older for this activity. Two years old and older means that you’ve had more time training together and that your dog is further along in maturity. Therapy dogs can visit nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and special functions. During these visits, your dog must be wearing his identification, tags, and usually a special harness. The most important rule of thumb when doing pet therapy visits with your dog is that she must enjoy her visits and her “job” as much as the people whom Read more […]


Swimming Swimming is a great way for dogs to get their exercise. It is a low-impact form of exercise that doesn’t tax any joints, but builds muscles. Dogs that are prone to gaining weight can swim to remain in shape and cut pounds from their frames. Good health can be maintained while the dog is having fun. Swimming is also a great way to safely exercise your dog in the summer heat. She can exercise and keep her body temperature down at the same time. Equipment for swimming can be minimal, yet there are certain things to have with you to provide a safe swimming experience for you and your pet. A long leash helps your dog learn to return to your side and gives you some control over where she’s swimming. Wear water shoes of some sort. You should be prepared to go in the water to teach your dog to swim, and you should always be prepared to jump in — even with a seasoned swimmer, just in case something happens. Having a toy to retrieve is helpful once the dog has learned to swim. Not all dogs (even sporting breeds) know how to swim right away, so do not throw your dog into the water in the hopes of his learning quickly. This will only scare him and perhaps cause panic and an accident. Do not make this new learning Read more […]


The Find It Game This is a simple yet fun “thinking” activity. It requires concentration on the dog’s part as he learns to hunt and search for his toy. Depending upon breed, it may also employ some natural hunting instincts. This game tests the owner’s skills as a teacher as well, since teaching a “thinking game” means the owner has to evaluate the dog’s progress and learning curve. You may want to try this game on a rainy day when outside weather limits physical activity. Along with obedience training, your “brain games” can entertain while they stimulate when outdoor time is limited. Any ball or object of which the dog is most fond can be used. Try to pick a toy that isn’t too small to find. The smaller the toy, the harder it is to find, which may lead to frustration with the game. Pick a toy that will allow the dog to “win” often in the beginning. This will help him enjoy the game right from the start. Begin by hiding the object in an easy location. Give the command to FIND IT and guide the dog to the object. Once the dog finds the object, give him tremendous praise for a job well done! Perform many times, always praising for the find. As your dog gets better at finding it, make the object harder to find and Read more […]

Stage-Appropriate Toys

Nylabone Durables. This type of toy is appropriate after your dog’s adult teeth have begun to come in. These will help keep adult teeth clean and provide jaw resistance to relieve stress. Nylabone Flexibles. These toys are used for puppies when puppy teeth are still in and while cutting adult teeth through the gums. The soft nature of these toys eases teething discomfort and massages gums. Dogs at different stages of life enjoy different toys. A plush squeaky toy that would have been destroyed in thirty seconds by a pre-adolescent or adult dog may provide hours and hours of stimulation and joy for a dog in his geriatric years. Noise Makers and Squeaky Toys Squeaky toys stimulate excitement in dogs. If you’re trying to excite your dog to play in a very energetic way, these toys will be appropriate. However, if you’re trying to calm your dog down or teach more relaxed behaviors, refrain from the use of noisy toys. You may want to limit noisy toys to outdoor activities. This is the same concept as the “indoor voice” versus “outdoor voice” concept for children. Teach your dog to play quietly indoors and kick up his heels (within reason!) outdoors.

Unhealthy or Non-Therapeutic Toys

Physically Unhealthy Toys Some retrieving toys can be excellent for retrieval, yet physically unhealthy for chewing. Watch for things that can easily be destroyed and ingested. Most toys that are easily or quickly destroyed are made of material that is indigestible to your dog. Squeaky toys, rope toys, rawhides, and other toys can cause problems in the digestive tracts of your dogs if swallowed. Rawhides can splinter and lodge in your dog’s throat, stomach, or intestines. Some edible toys, if ingested too quickly by an over-zealous chewer, can also cause blockages if swallowed in large pieces. Natural bones can cause damage to the enamel on your dog’s teeth. Although dog-toy manufacturers do have disclaimers recommending supervision, it only takes a few seconds of looking the wrong way for something to happen. Getting sidetracked by a phone call, doorbell, or late-night snack can change supervision in a heartbeat. Remain alert! Be smart when selecting toys for your dogs. Don’t just buy something that looks cute. Remember that you’re supplying an animal with a toy that is to be played with by mouth. If in doubt about the toy’s safety, don’t buy it! Mentally Unhealthy Toys Baby-sitter toys. These are the toys that Read more […]


Healthy or Therapeutic Toys There are physically healthy toys and mentally healthy toys. Some toys appear to be entertaining your dog, but his health could be compromised as well as his mental well-being by playing with them. Picking the right toys will ensure meeting your dog’s needs while remaining safe. Different toys may appeal to certain instincts. The more the toy appeals to an instinct, the more exciting the toy will be to your dog. However, following instincts isn’t always appropriate for her. Being a responsible owner sometimes means making tough choices for her, even if it seems to be contrary to what she really likes or wants! Don’t have one special toy that is your dog’s constant baby-sitter. Keep toys healthy by using them as diversions. Keep chew toys in all rooms and available at all times. This will allow your dog (through your direction) to make good choices about chewing when toys are consistently available. It will also make it easier for you to have your dog with you more often when toys are readily available to hand to him. Rotate your toys. Keep a large amount of toys on hand, but every now and then, remove some of them (keeping an adequate arsenal out and available) and place them on the refrigerator Read more […]

Off-Leash Training

The secret ingredients for off-leash success lie in the foundation you set during fundamental obedience training. Those ingredients are consistency in reinforcing patterns and commands, distraction-training distance commands, and simple respect for your relationship. Maturity on the dog’s part, coupled with these other ingredients, is the final piece of the puzzle. Remember that you can’t rush maturity. For most of your basic obedience command teaching and reinforcing, you are physically close to your dog (typically from immediately adjacent to six feet around). Beginning the off-leash process involves increasing the distance from which your dog will respond to your commands. Practice your distance commands (front SITS and DOWNS), and perfect them on a six-foot leash at that distance. Your dog should be able to do this discipline-building command set at all angles around her, with leash in your hand, with no corrections, and with distractions. Gradually work farther away from the dog, reinforcing commands the first time using the same verbal pattern NO and re-command if necessary. Increase the distance in two-foot increments. If your dog begins to fail repeatedly, decrease the distance two or four feet and work on Read more […]

Obedience Training: Training Diversity

The primary goal of obedience workouts is to make your dog think. Diversity is the active practice of watching out for patterns and deliberately breaking them up. Make sure you use all skills equally. Change practice environments three times per week. When you get bored with them, find some new environments. Examples of Diversity Turn your back to your dog and give commands (use a mirror to determine if praise or correction is necessary); give commands while seated in a chair; use hand signals only; give commands on the opposite side of a glass door. This is an opportunity for you to be creative with your workout. Change body position (kneel down or bend over); change pace speed as you move around your dog; briefly drop the leash and pick it up during position-holding exercises. Always include fundamental and advanced exercises in your obedience practice workout. Keep a complete list of all exercises, like four-step heels and pace changes as well as the application exercises and desensitization exercises. Practice them all while paying special attention to fundamental position-holding and distraction-training exercises.