Tuesday, December 9, 2008


WHY TRICKS?  A question I get asked a lot!

1- Dogs need not only physical exercise but mental exercise as well, a tired dog is a good dog!
2- It builds communication skills. The dog is learning how to learn. Great if you want to do obedience.
3- You are building your relationship with your animal. So your dog actually WANTS to do what you ask them to do.
4-It actually makes your dog smarter!
5- It is a fun way to interact with your dog, besides sitting on the couch together. If your dog isn't a fan of the rain, you could do a trick training session inside instead of a walk.

Monday, December 1, 2008

House Training a Puppy

House training consists of essentially 2 things: prevention and teaching the dog where to go.

Starting today there must be ZERO mistakes, as every time there is a mistake the dog is learning that the best toilet area is actually indoors. It’s easy to understand, if a person had an outhouse in the garden and a bathroom indoors, the person would pick the indoors toilet (it’s more reinforcing).

Depending on how the puppy was raised, some will prove harder to house train than others. Puppies that had a separate toilet to their whelping box will find the concept easier than puppies whose toilet area was in the same room (very often the case with toy dog breeder setups). Small dogs are notorious for being hard to house train! There are many people in the same boat.

The key is management! If you are not there to see the mistake, then the dog is reinforced for peeing in the house because relieving the bladder feels good so it’s as though they received a treat for going indoors. It’s a big pain, but if you can’t watch them 100% of the time, put them in a safe area.

If your dog is peeing in the house, they are not trying to teach you a lesson, get back at you for leaving them all day or drive you up the wall; they just are not 100% house trained. A dog that pees in the house cannot be left alone for 1 second because a mistake can be an enormous setback. So instead have the dog tied to you on leash, leave them in a pen, leave them in a crate, hold them on your lap, or have your eyes GLUED to them the whole time. Just because they went to the bathroom 1 minute ago does not mean they won’t go again at any second.

Leave no evidence- Clean the spots that have been soiled with an enzymatic cleaner like Natures Miracle or XO, other cleaners will still leave the smell of urine which is an invitation to pee on again.

Hang out in areas that were peed on, train and play with them on that spot, put a bed over it, or a food or water bowl telling them this is not a toilet! It’s the den!

Home Alone- One option is leaving a puppy in a exercise pen with a bed, toys and water, as well as a toilet area- a square of grass in a shallow tub. The problem with newspaper or pee pads is that they teach the dog to pee on substrates that are similar (like the bed! Or white t-shirts etc). Another option is to have the puppy in a crate, with a dog walker to come by to let the puppy out to exercise and use the bathroom. I prefer the exercise pen or safe area, over a crate, because the puppy has choices throughout the day of what to do and will essentially be less energetic when the owner returns from work.


Bring the puppy to the location you wish to be the bathroom, let them sniff around, if they don’t go to the bathroom, put them back in their puppy safe area, have them attached to you by leash, or watch them like a hawk. If they DO go, click and treat with tons of praise.

Keep in mind that many dogs prefer to pee and poop in different locations.

Putting the behavior on cue- This is very helpful if you travel, or if you are late for work and need your dog to go immediately!

Go to the location you prefer with the puppy on leash. BEFORE the dog starts to pee as they are just about to squat, say your cue whatever it may be “Hurry up!” if you wish. When the dog is peeing you can praise your dog and click then feed the dog an amazing treat afterwards. You are essentially conditioning the dogs neurons to tell it “THIS IS THE BEST PLACE TO PEE!”

THE PROBLEM WITH PUNISHMENT- Punishing the dog for going to the toilet in the house can be confusing if there is at least one time when the dog goes in the house when you are not there- they learn it is bad to pee in the house if a person is around, but when a person is not around it is perfectly ok. Secondly there is the issue of the dog learning never to pee in front of human beings ever. It is very hard to house train a dog that won’t pee in front of you.

What to do if the dog does pee- If you see your dog starting to pee, say “outside!” or any cue you want, and rush them outside by their collar or carrying them, this is punishment enough. Better to catch them when they start to sniff rush them outside and reward them profusely.

A trick that I love is- When the puppy has a FULL bladder, have them on leash in the area that they are prone to go in the house say “outside” and quickly escort them on the route to the RIGHT location. Some dogs just don’t seem to get that when they are upstairs they should go all the way down the stairs and out the door. By showing them the way, they will be more likely to think of it on their own.

Two timers- Some dogs need to pee twice in a row. So if you are blessed with a puppy like this, you must praise and reward the dog for peeing and then wait another minute. Some people find that bringing the dog in and then going directly out again can speed up the process.

Teach the dog to ring a bell- If your dog doesn’t figure out a way of letting you know they need to go out, you can teach them to ring a bell on the door.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What to do when someone tells their dog "Easy!"

Firstly, hello! I am Emily Larlham a clicker trainer from San Diego.  This blog is going to be full of helpful tips and cutting edge training ideas for the average dog owner to the professional clicker trainer.  

After just returning from a stroll around our neighborhood, I can't help but share my worry about owners and trainers using the word "gentle" and "easy".  I believe these are the main cues that owners say, WITHOUT training the dog what behavior they want the dog to do when they say them!  Instead the owners say it EVERY time the dog is NOT being gentle, or THINKING about not being gentle. So they are in fact pairing the word 'EASY!' and "GENTLE!" with the behavior of being overly aroused, mouthy,reactive, or aggressive.  

So I stroll by this park, and there is a Shepherd off leash lying in the grass.  My dog had met the Shepherd once before.   I myself am shy so didn't say "screw off!" to the owner with her dog as they came happily to meet us. I could see that both owner and dog were relaxed and calm, and the meeting would go well.  HOWEVER, as the Shepherd and my Border Collie were interacting, the owner suddenly burst into a repetitive chatter of " EASY! EASY! EASY!"  I could see the dogs body which was relaxed and calm stiffen at the sound of her 'command' and then he suddenly did an aroused chomp on my dogs neck.  Luckily his cue 'EASY!' means 'time to play in an over-aroused state' and not something like 'time to eat the other dog'.   Splash my BC,  has acquired great dog to dog skills, so did some calming signals back to the Shepherd.  At that point, I backed away removing my dog, and yet the woman wanted them to interact more.  Finally I had to excuse myself, and my dog.  

So the moral of this tale- What to do when someone says "EASY!" is- quickly and politely excuse yourself from the situation! "Oh my gosh! Look at the time!" Better safe than sorry! Don't feel pressured for your dog to  be the experiment dog of someone's mad science project of 'perhaps THIS time the dog will actually understand English!'...

Another pairing that owners do is - "It's ok! It's ok! It's ok!" which dogs learn very quickly to mean, 'It is definitely NOT ok! Time to panic!'  Instead owners can have a cue like 'Go check it out!' or 'Go say hi!' that they have paired with good things, and they can reward the dog for being confident and relaxed while doing.