Tips and Tricks
During the spring of 2020, we made a series of videos and blog posts about a variety of training topics. Learn tips to train your dog at home, get ideas on curbing unwanted behaviors and watch videos on fun “party tricks” you and your dog can use to impress all your friends! Read the blog posts and watch the videos on this page or visit our YouTube Channel for more.
TIP – Train Outdoors with Everyday Objects
Take a stroll, a hike or play ball in the backyard. This time of year is a great time to add in your training games. Take treats on your walks and ask for intermittent sits, targets or check-ins as you go for rewards. This will encourage your dog to check-in with you more often and add more enrichment to your walks. Just make sure to let them have plenty of time to just sniff and explore too.
Another fun activity you can add to your walks is some easy dog parkour! What is dog parkour? It’s natural agility that can be done on a walk, on a hike or on an urban adventure. Dog parkour is modeled after human parkour, a type of training regimen that involves quickly scaling, jumping and running over, around and past natural obstacles, such as benches, rocks, fences, etc.
Make sure to keep it safe for you and your dog! While human parkour can be extreme and not for the faint of heart, dog parkour can be scaled down and enjoyed by dogs (and people) of all ages, breeds and abilities. Always check with your vet if you have questions about your dog’s physical ability to do activities.
On your hike, when you come across a large boulder, take a moment to practice paws up.
Adventuring to an urban area, find a playground (without any children). See if your dog will crawl beneath the swings, climb the equipment or even try the slide!
You can also try parkour at a park bench – see if your dog will jump up and stay.
Again, make sure to bring treats with you on your walk and look for some everyday objects to use. Be creative and practice parkour safety. Avoid trespassing and have fun!
TRICK – Fun with a Yoga Mat
This is a really fun one! The yoga mat trick puts your dog’s nose to work. It is a great way to introduce dogs of all ages to a novel object that will help them gain confidence and build problem solving skills.
What you will need:
A yoga mat and lots of small little treats (probably none that are too sticky or smooshy!)
Step 1: Find a spacious place that can fit an unrolled yoga mat.
Step 2: Place treats in a line centered on the unrolled mat for about half the length to begin with.
Step 3: Roll up the mat, leaving a piece of treat for your dog to see at the beginning.
Step 4: Guide your dog’s nose to the first treat and praise as he gets closer.
Step 5: Help your dog to find the other treats by unrolling the mat little by little for him to see each one. With practice your dog will start to unroll the mat all on their own with their nose!
Step 6: Start to use less and less treats in the yoga mat, the better your dog gets.
TRICK – Find It!
“Find it” is a great alternate behavior to teach jumpers, reactive dogs, nippers or to use just for fun! It directs your dog’s attention down towards the ground where they are immediately rewarded with a tasty treat. “Find it” is easy to teach because it uses a dog’s natural inclination to sniff.
What you need:
Lots of small, tasty treats in hand.
Step 1: Start teaching “Find it” in a quiet, familiar place. Toss a treat to the ground, not far from you and say “Find it.” Make sure your dog sees you tossing the treat and allow him to go eat it. Repeat this several more times.
Step 2: Start tossing new treats while your dog is still looking for the previous one. Stand still and ask your dog to “find it.” If he has a hard time, direct your gaze towards the treat while tapping your foot next to it and wait for your dog to see it.
Step 3: Slowly start practicing the game in different environments, such as outside. Practice with different distractions, such as when you reach for a his leash before a walk. Once your dog masters this skill, it can be used to redirect him from jumping, nipping, barking and more!
Training Tip 1:
Let your dog know when the game is over with your release cue such as “All done!”
Training Tip 2:
Increase the value of the treats for more distracting situations. Pieces of meatballs or chicken may work better than kibble when your dog is really excited and has a hard time concentrating.
Training Tip 3:
Toss your treats AWAY from a distraction your dog is focusing on. If there is a neighbor’s dog walking on a leash down the road in front of you, toss the treats in the opposite direction behind you to redirect your dog.
TIP – The 3 Ds of Dog Training
The following text is from AKC.org, by Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT, (May 03, 2018). The Three Ds of Dog Training: Duration, Distance, and Distraction.
Have you ever been surprised when your dog failed to do something that you were sure you had trained him to do? Perhaps he stays beautifully when you stand beside him in a quiet kitchen. But when you ask him to “stay” at the dog park from 20 feet away? Not so much. You may have trained him well in the kitchen, but you forgot to consider the three Ds of dog training.
The three Ds are duration, distance, and distraction, and they affect almost any behavior. Dogs don’t generalize well, meaning if they learn to sit in front of you, they don’t automatically know that “sit” means the same thing when you’re on the other side of the room. As each D increases, it becomes more difficult for your dog to understand how to perform a behavior successfully. And if all three come into play without your dog having trained for each one individually, the chance of him doing what you ask is slim.
Duration is the length of time your dog maintains a behavior. Some behaviors don’t have a duration factor, such as spinning in a circle or jumping over a bar, but for those behaviors that require your dog to hold a position, like “sit” or “down,” the longer he has to hold it, the harder the task becomes.
Whenever you train a new behavior, be sure to start with a very short duration, like one second. Then build the duration one second at a time. Whenever your dog gets it wrong, go back to a shorter interval that you know he can handle and start building one second at a time all over again.
Be aware of when you give your rewards. For example, many dogs pop out of a “down” as soon as their belly has touched the ground because they get their treat when they stand up. Treat your dog while he is in the position you want to reinforce rather than waiting until he’s moved. You can also treat throughout the duration; if you’re training your dog to sit for 60 seconds, pop a tiny treat in his mouth at 20-second intervals, as well as when he’s finished. He will quickly decide that sitting is his favorite position.
Distance is how far away you are from your dog when he does a behavior. The farther away you get, the less reliable your dog will become. When you’re training distance, start small and build slowly. Make sure your dog can handle a relatively large distance with you in front of him before you start moving to his side or behind him. Save leaving the room for last. Dogs know when we can’t see them, so turning your back or walking out of sight is particularly challenging.
When training, always return to your dog before you release him or give him his final reward. Doing so will prevent him from anticipating his treat and following you as you walk away. Remember, the farther you go, the lower your dog’s rate of reinforcement will be. After all, you can’t slip him treats while he holds a position, as you did with duration, if you aren’t beside him. For a behavior like lying on his bed, you can reinforce the distance by tossing treats onto his bed as you walk away. Or consider using the Treat and Train Remote Reward Dog Trainer, a remote-controlled reward system which allows you to provide treats from a distance.
Distraction involves whatever else is going on around your dog when he does a behavior, from a squirrel running across the yard to the sound of the doorbell. If your dog finds it exciting or disrupting, it’s a distraction. Even extra-special treats can be distracting for some dogs. Be sure your dog can handle duration and distance before you start adding distractions. That means training new behaviors in familiar, quiet environments where you are the most interesting thing in the room.
Just as with duration and distance, start with small distractions and build slowly. For example, teach your dog to wait at doorways in a quiet room in the house before moving to the back door, then the front door, then outside. As you increase the difficulty, consider increasing the value of your dog’s rewards.
Don’t forget the power of the “leave it” cue. It will help you communicate to your dog that he can’t have the thing he wants right now. And for those distractions that are too tempting for your dog to resist, like that squirrel, start with the distraction as far away as possible.
Putting It All Together
When you’re training your dog, only work on one D at a time, leaving distraction for last. Only combine the Ds once your dog has mastered each one on its own. So when you’re working on distance, lower your duration back to one second and keep the distractions to a minimum. Set your dog up for success and don’t rush.
Any time you notice your dog struggling to perform a behavior you thought he knew, look at the three Ds. Chances are there is something too tricky for him to handle. Incorporate duration, distance, and distraction into your training to ensure your dog understands what you’re asking no matter what. You’ll soon have a dog you can take anywhere — without any surprises.
TRICK – Learning to Target
What is target?
A cue to get your dog to touch his nose to your hand.
Why teach it?
Because it is a useful foundation for many more advanced behaviors and gives you a way to capture your dog’s attention and direct his movements. For example, coming toward you to touch your hand is a great start on recall and touching someone’s hand is a nice alternative to jumping on them.
How to teach it.
Step 1. Cut up a large number of small treats.
Step 2. Present your hand a couple of inches away from your dog’s face. Praise and treat for any interest he shows, whether an actual touch of his nose to your hand or just looking at your hand. After the first few times, reward only for a full nose touch.
Step 3. Repeat this until your dog reliably touches your hand.
Step 4. Now add the verbal cue. Before presenting your hand, say, “Target” and then put your hand down. (Be sure to pause for a second between the cue and reaching down.)
Step 5. When your dog responds reliably to the verbal cue, begin to increase the distance of your dog’s head from your hand by a few inches.
Step 6. Keep increasing the distance little by little. Also move your hand to different positions, higher, lower, toward the side of your dog’s head—and try the exercise in different rooms of the house.
If your dog makes several mistakes in a row, go back a step and make the exercise easier. Even if he is doing great, throw in an easy version every now and again for motivation.
TRICK – Fun with Puzzles
Challenge your dog’s problem solving skills and give his nose a workout with puzzle toys. These games encourage your dog to use their sense of smell to find a delicious reward. Puzzles provide mental stimulation and enrichment that can help tire out dogs of all ages. These toys range from something simple like a muffin tin, to something more complicated where your dog has to flip covers, pull out a sliding door or tip something over. You can make your own or purchase one online or at a pet store. With practice, your dogs can progress to more and more difficult puzzles over time.
TIP – Clicker Training, Part 1
What is clicker training?
Clicker training means using a sound (a click) to communicate with your dog.
How does it work?
It is fabulously simple. First we teach the dog that the click means he has won a treat. Then we use the click to tell the dog when he has done something we like.
Essentially: When your dog does what you want him to do—like a sit or a down—you click and give him a treat. This gives your dog instant, specific feedback.
You can tell a child you will take him out for ice cream tomorrow because he earned good grades today. A dog, on the other hand, needs immediate pointers to help him understand what behavior he is being rewarded for. A clicker is the perfect tool for this.
Charging the clicker (teaching that “click” means treat)
Step 1: Grab a handful of really yummy treats cut into small pieces.
Step 2: Every time you click, give your dog a treat (be careful not to click and treat at the same time; the treat must follow the click, not precede or coincide with it).
Step 3: Do this standing up, sitting down, while moving about, indoors, outdoors. Basically, make sure your dog understands that the click means treat in all situations.
Step 4: Do the exercise a few times a day for a few minutes at a time until, when you click, you notice that your dog is eagerly anticipating the treat.
• Click only once.
• If you click you must treat. Even if it was a mistake!
• The clicker is not a remote control. Don’t use it to call your dog to you.
• Don’t give away that a treat is coming except with the click. For example, be careful not to reach for a treat, point the clicker toward the dog, or reach toward him with the treat before you click. Train yourself to insert a count or a word before you hand over the treat: Click. One one thousand. Treat.
• Some dogs are startled by the sound of the clicker. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort (shies away, leaves the room) wrap the clicker in a towel or a sock to muffle the noise. Try again, and when your dog clearly shows he enjoys the exercise, unwrap the clicker a little at a time.
TRICK – Paws up
What is “paws up” and why teach it?
Paws up is when your dog moves towards an elevated surface on cue and places both front paws on it.
• Helps dogs of all ages with brain body awareness and coordination.
• Socializes puppies and dogs to novel objects and builds confidence through fun training.
• Adds a new “trick” to your tool box to use in many scenarios.
What you need before you start:
• A stable platform or object no taller than your dog’s knees. Suggested objects to start with include: a short step stool, hardcover book, or large upside down food bowl.
• Lots of treats for luring and rewarding.
Step 1: Place several treats on top of the platform and let your dog investigate and eat the treats.
Step 2: Once your dog is comfortable approaching and being next to the platform, hold a treat to their nose and slowly move it over the top of the surface. Keep moving the treat slowly in the same direction until your dog stretches their neck to reach for it or they put one or two feet on the platform. Reward with a treat!
Step 3: Keep repeating and rewarding for step 2 until your dog confidently and consistently starts putting both front paws on the platform.
Step 4: Now add the verbal cue “paws up” before luring your dog onto the platform. You can also add duration to this trick by waiting for longer and longer periods of time before rewarding your dog. Start with just a few seconds and build up 5 seconds at a time.
• Keep the hand that is holding the treat at face level of your dog. Holding it above their
head may cause them to sit or jump up.
• Don’t stick to just one object. Make it interesting for you and your dog and try with
TIP – Stay
Using the “stay” cue is telling your dog to wait for a brief period of time in one position. Use this cue if you need your dog to stay in one place for less than five minutes. Building this up in small steps will give a reliable behavior that you can use anytime!
Step 1: Grab a handful of tiny treats and bring your dog to a quiet area. Ask your dog to “sit” or “down”, put your hand up in a stop sign and tell them to “stay.”
Step 2: Give your dog five tiny treats in a row, one at a time. Release your dog with praise and a little petting or play!
Step 3: Let’s make this tougher! Repeat step 1, and this time take a small step away from your dog, then back in and give a treat. Do this four more times. Once you finish all five repetitions, release your dog with praise and a little petting or play!
Step 4: Repeat step 4, and gradually increase the number of steps you can take away from your dog. Once you can get about six steps away from your dog between each treat you can move on to step 5.
Step 5: Add some distractions. See if you can turn your back while you walk away, squeak a toy, or bend down to tie your shoe.
• If your dog will not stay between each treat, try to make sure that you’re bringing the treat right to your dog’s mouth so they do not feel the need to get up. You can use sets of three repetitions instead of five.
• Always release your dog before they get up. If they get up before you release them, you’ve made it too challenging and you need to move back to an easier step.
• Always walk right back to your dog before treating and releasing. We want them to understand the treat was for staying put, not coming to you.
TIP – The Name Game
Few things are more irritating than shouting your dog’s name over and over to no effect. Don’t assume your dog is ignoring you on purpose, though—especially if you have a puppy or recently adopted dog. Unlike people, dogs don’t automatically learn their names after hearing it just once or twice. The “Name Game” helps create a positive association for your dog with their name.
Start to play in your house when there are no distractions. Often the kitchen is a good place to start.
1) Say your dog’s name or nickname, one time only, in a clear, happy tone. The first few times work best when your dog wants to look at you anyway
2) Immediately, as they turn to look at you, praise them and reward with small pieces of treat, a favorite toy or something else your pup really likes.
If you say your dog’s name and they don’t look, do not immediately repeat it. We want your dog to focus attention on you when their name is called and not tune you out. If your dog is tuning you out, you can make it into a more enticing game:
• Say your dog’s name in a cheerful tone, then run away! Use your dog’s drive to chase you to increase their attention. Reward when your dog gets to you.
• Make a fun vocal noise (raspberries, chirping, anything!) When your dog turns to look for the silly sound, say their name and offer a reward for the attention.
• Play tag! Lightly touch your dog on the shoulder, say their name when they look at you, then run and hide. Treat your dog when they find you!
• Do the name exercise periodically throughout the day. Take particular care to say her name anytime you were going to give her something anyway.
• Remember that your dog’s name is not a cue. It’s just an attention-getter. So if you want her to actually do something other than look over at you, tell her what that something is. For example, “Bailey, come!” or “Bailey, sit!” Don’t just say “Bailey” and expect your dog to guess what you want. Dogs are smart, but they don’t read minds any better than we do.
TIP – Playing Tug
TRICK – Roll Over