Initializing the Clicker

Initializing the Clicker


This first step is essential - don't skip it!

With this method we are going to be ''shaping behaviors.'' You need a way to signal to the dog that he is performing whatever behavior it is that you were trying to get. Initially he will also get a treat for each correct response but since that takes a few seconds (at least) to happen, the clicker marks the exact moment of response, essentially ''bridging'' the time between response & reward. This is classical conditioning, like Pavlov & his drooling dogs. You are going to take a clicker & pair it with a food reward until the click itself gets the dog all happy.

So.. get yourself some clickers - little toy-like devices that make a fun click sound. If you prefer (or while you are waiting for your clicker to arrive), choose a ''bridge word'' instead. I suggest, ''Yes!!'' - it is short & happy! Say it briskly, in a rather high pitched, & very excited voice. I will be using the term C&T in the lessons, meaning to click & give a treat. If you are using a bridge word, just say it & give a treat whenever I have written C&T. I do recommend the clicker over just the word most of the time, however. It seems to be processed more quickly by the dog's brain and the consistency of the click sound is also good.

And don't worry - you won't be clicking forever... they are only used in the training phase of any new behavior!

Okay, go in a quiet room with your dog & have a bowl of really tasty treats. Food such as hot dogs, chicken, roast beef, etc. works really well, so do high quality (all natural) dog treats such as the Oinker Roll or Natural Balance. The treats should be cut up into very small pieces & be soft (crunchy ones take too long to eat). Or have a large chunk that you break small pieces off of.

Now, as long as your dog isn't doing anything naughty at the moment, click your clicker (or say your bridge word) and give him a treat. Then click it again & again give a treat. We are NOT asking for a behavior (such as sit) here at all... just making the connection needed for the clicker to be effective. (A few dogs are frightened by the click sound. If your dog is, then try muffling the sound by having the clicker behind your back or in a pocket, or by using a Snapple beverage top - pushing in the raised button in the center makes a softer click. The fear shouldn't last long! )

Repeat 5-10 times. You'll know when you can stop - you'll click & your dog will immediately look up at you, ''There is that sound, so where is my treat?''.

I'll give you a few minutes to go do this...

There! Wasn't that fun? Excellent job, trainers!

AN IMPORTANT NOTE! To really succeed with this method of training, it is essential that the bridge, whether it be a clicker or a word, ALWAYS be followed by a terrific reinforcement. It is usually referred to as ''click and treat'' for a reason. That is one danger of using the bridge word.... I found that I said ''Yes'' to my dog at times when I wasn't necessarily training & didn't follow through with a treat (or something equally rewarding for her).


Okay, folks! Now that you have your dog conditioned to the clicker (or bridge word) you are ready for the next step. (Miss that lesson? The Clicker)

Again, go to a room without a whole lot of distraction, one where your dog already finds you more than usually interesting (the kitchen is usually best!). Have your bowl of tasty treats ready.

Say your dog's name ONCE in an upbeat, happy voice. When he turns to look at you, C&T. Then let him get a bit distracted by something and do it again. And again! You are looking for: he hears his name, and turns to look at you (hold your hands behind your back to make it easier for him to look up at your face). Many dogs will also come closer to you which is fine but not required.

If when you first say his name he doesn't look, then reach forward & gently touch him on the side or something so he turns around. Even if he doesn't look right at you, C&T. He'll soon get the idea!

At first, hold the treats in your hand behind your back, but then progress to having them sitting on the counter. Looking at the bowl of treats gets him nowhere... he needs to turn to look at you! If he keeps looking at the bowl, be patient... he will eventually turn to look at you.

Here are the next few steps. Take it slowly - but when he is consistently doing a step correctly then you can move on to the next!

Once he is consistently responding to the sound of his name, you want to start shaping the behavior so he is actually giving you eye contact. For many dogs, this is accomplished by warming up by practicing as you have been, then saying his name again but NOT clicking if he looks anywhere except your eyes. If he has been looking at, say, your hands, he'll likely try that again (since it has worked so well so far!), but be patient and wait. You are hoping that he will get frustrated, give up, and look up at you as if you say, ''What??'' As soon as he does make eye contact, you C&T and praise! From now on, when practicing attention in a quiet area, your dog has to give actual eye contact to receive a C&T from you. In a distraction situation, however, still C&T any attention as soon as it is given - don't hold out for eye contact.

When your dog is quite reliably responding to you at this point (I hope you are remembering to say his name only ONCE in a bright, happy voice) then you need to start being variable with how often you C&T a response. By doing this you can shape your dog's responses to be even better as well as decrease the risk that he will become food dependent. There are two ways in which his response can improve - how quickly he looks up at you, and how long he holds the eye contact. Shape each one separately! Say you decide to go for a quick response first. From then on, only C&T if he turns right away when you say his name. If he takes too long, you can just ignore that or perhaps smile, but it earns no C&T. You might want to have better than usual treats for this, since he will need to work a little harder in order to figure out what exactly it is you want now. When you decide to work on length of eye contact, stop C&T'ing the instant he looks at you, instead holding out a bit. Increase the required time in little increments, say for a count of 2 at first. If he's still looking deeply into your eyes - C&T and give a jackpot! If he turns away too soon, ignore him for a moment. Then try again.

At this point your dog is ready to learn to respond even around distractions. To start this, have him sit in front of you. Say his name and C&T for a response. Then, while he is still focused on you, have another person approach from the side. Your dog will likely turn & look at her. She (your friend) should immediately turn away, ceasing to show any interest. You say his name and C&T a correct response. If he doesn't respond, then just wait a bit. It might take a minute or two but your dog will eventually lose interest in this now-boring visitor & look at you again. The instant he does, you C&T, giving a jackpot reward! Then your friend should approach again & repeat the above. You will find that very quickly your dog can hardly be bothered with the visitor. After all... YOU are far far more interesting! If your dog really has trouble with this, then he may not be ready for this step yet. Your friend can work to being able to pet your dog.

Notice that there are two ways in which you are making this exercise more difficult for your dog: length of eye contact required before you C&T AND responding in spite of a distraction. Initially, be sure to work on only ONE of those at a time. When working on length, do it without distractions. When introducing distractions, don't require any length of time, instead C&T'ing a quick look. In fact, when a dog responds at all in the face of a very strong distraction (such as another dog coming over to play), I would C&T as soon as he turned toward you, not even waiting for him to look up at your eyes. What a good boy for paying attention to you at all instead of playing! Work on all of the pieces separately like this, then you will be able to put them all together. This concept applies to every exercise you will teach your pet!.

Please keep all of these training sessions SHORT & FUN. Stop when your dog is still enjoying the training!

From that point you can use it whenever, wherever... You are outside & he sees another dog you'd rather he didn't? If you practiced this faithfully you should be able to say his name & have him instantly turn to look at you instead of the other dog!

Whenever you get a ''breakthrough'' or an exceptional performance like that, be sure to give a jackpot reward! That could be a really delicious treat or 5-6 bits of treats, given one at a time to lengthen the time spent getting it. After the initial teaching, the reward doesn't have to be food. It is far better to vary the reward: sometimes food, sometimes a ball tossed, sometimes a quick game of tug, sometimes a belly rub, sometimes the door opened so he can go outside. Discover what things you dog is the most excited by! Dogs certainly vary with that - my older dog Bear loves human attention & ear rubs, while my younger Rottie, Teddy, was never happy unless her reward was food. She was a natural born piggie! Use your imagination & be unpredictable!.


This one is really fun & easy! You are going to teach your dog to touch something with his nose on cue. Do this because: it's fun, it's a good way to teach your dog to ring a bell to go outside, finishes, it can be used to desensitize a dog to nail clipping time, to teach agility, musical freestyle, & obedience trials exercises as well as for teaching service dog type behaviors.

Here's what you do:

Stand in front of your dog (or kneel in front of a little one). Rub some of your treats on the palm of your hand, so your hand smells good )to your dog!). Have the actual treats in your other hand.

Quickly bring your smelly hand, empty, palm forward almost right up to his nose. I guarantee the first time he'll poke it, hoping it contains that treat he smells. Super! He touched you! C&T (Click & Treat), giving the treat from your other hand. Be sure you clicked just at the exact moment he touched your hand! If you aren't in time, don't click at all, just praise.

Do it again & again, gradually moving your hand a bit farther back so eventually he is reaching out or walking to touch it. But do it gradually - over several sessions. I knew my Rottie Teddy had the concept when she would reach out to touch my hand, but keep eye contact with me the entire time.

Now... at the seminar where I learned this from trainer Leslie Nelson, she said that many dogs will do this excitedly about 6 times, then lose interest & just look at you. Don't quit - just perhaps rub a bit more treat smell on your palm.

You can add the signal (or ''cue'') pretty quickly because the behavior is so easy. As soon as your dog is reliably touching your hand when you offer it, begin saying ''Touch!'' as you put your hand out.

Next steps are to have your dog touch your other hand instead and start to become variable with rewarding.

You can also then use the signal ''Touch'' to mean touch other things. In our classes we use it to teach dogs to go lie on their beds, and at home my daughter taught Sugar Bear to ring some bells hanging from a doorknob as a signal that she wanted to go out. Very useful behavior! Sugar Bear can also pick up something I drop, get me a tissue when I sneeze, and push an Easy Button - all taught with targeting.

Sit, Down & Stand

Be sure you have finished The Clicker lesson!

Teaching the sit, down & stand are very easy, but may require patience. Instead of physically putting the dog into position, saying the command & hoping he makes the connection, you will be helping him to discover them. Have a bunch of tiny soft treats ready. You are going to use one as a ''lure'' to help him to get into the position you want. The lure is only used at the beginning - I will show you how to quickly fade it. (Be careful to follow the instructions carefully for that as you want your dog to always respond to you, whether or not you have a treat!). Stand or kneel in front of your standing dog. Show him a treat in your hand, then move it slowly from his nose up & back a bit over his eyes but slightly out of reach. Most dogs will rather quickly sit so they can better reach it. You might need to be patient & wait for a moment. But when he does, immediately C&T and praise. Please remember that the click has to come at the exact moment his rear hits the ground so he learns that that is what got him the treat! At this point you want to give the treat right away, too. It's okay if your dog gets up after the click - the click actually ends the exercise each time. If he doesn't sit at all - maybe keeps backing up trying to get the treat, then just turn away & ignore him for a few moments. Of course... don't give him the treat! Then try again, from the start.

Notice that I never said when to say ''Sit.'' That's because it is best to wait until the behavior is being performed reliably before adding the verbal cue. That way he doesn't connect the word with the wrong behavior. Also, dogs learn the hand signals much more easily so tend to ignore the verbal commands that go along with them. It's best to teach them separately.

Once your dog is sitting, lure him into a stand by moving a treat from his nose straight out (stay parallel to the ground, if you lift up at all he will try to sit again!). Don't move the treat very far - you want him to just get off of his haunches and then stand still. As soon as he lifts into the standing position, C&T!

To continue practicing sitting & standing until that is easy. Be sure at this point you are reinforcing each correct response with a C&T.

The Down is very similar to the sit. Lure him into a sit & kneel in front of him. Use a treat to lure him into the down position. Start the treat at his nose, then slowly drop it straight down to the floor and out a bit towards his toes so he needs to lie down to get it. Be careful not to go out so far that he needs to walk forward to get it! Some dogs drop right away... but most will need a bit of ''shaping.'' For that, C&T if you see any progress (watch for elbows dropping). Eventually your pup will lie all the way down - then you can C&T and enthusiastically praise.

Most dogs do the down more easily at first from a sit, but for some dogs doing it from a standing position is easier. If you'd like to try that, then drop the treat from his nose to the ground as before, but as your are reaching the ground go backwards (between his legs) a little bit instead of forward. Hopefully, he will drop into the ''sphinx'' position.

Some dogs, especially little ones, can achieve success at first if you stretch out one of your legs, making a bridge for him to walk under. Lure him into a sit in front of your leg, then show him a treat in your hand coming from under your leg and lure him into crawling under your leg to get it. The EXACT instant he is actually lying down, C&T and praise excitedly. What a good dog! Do that a few times, then try again the original way.

To get him back into a sitting position, lure him up the same way (as when teaching the sit), until he sits up, then C&T.

Once your dog is down, you can then practice ''doggy push-ups''. You know... sit-down-sit-down, C&T'ing each one. But don't forget to also practice plenty of sits & downs from a standing position.

Troubleshooting - is your dog not interested enough in your treats to work for them? Then get better ones


Okay, so your dog is popping up & down like a little jackrabbit for that tasty lure, right! Practice a bit more with the lure like that, then proceed to the next step, which is to ''lose the lure.'' If this is not done properly, you will end up with a dog that will perform the behavior only if he sees a treat. Hardly what we want! Instead, by carefully phasing out the lure, you teach him that it is not the sight of a treat that gets him a reward, but response to your command.

Review a few times luring him up & down with a treat in your right hand, C&T'ing each response. When you lure up for the sit, have your hand palm up. When you lure for the down, have your hand palm down. Next step is to have a treat in your signal hand, as before - that treat will still act as the lure but will NOT be given to your dog. Have a bunch of little treats in your other hand. Lure him into a sit (or down) with your signal hand, click, but then give him a treat from your other hand. He doesn't get the treat from the signal hand at all! Don't forget to click as soon as he sits (or downs), just before giving the treat.

Practice quite a few sits & downs, as well as sits from a stand that way. Very soon he will perform the behavior, then quickly look toward your other hand. That's good! What a clever dog!

Remember... if you know you did plenty of reps of the previous step (at any point in the training of any exercise) and your dog just doesn't respond correctly, then look away for a moment, giving him time to think about it. It's funny when they start offering all sorts of behaviors, hoping for the reward! They lie down, offer a paw, bark... just smile & think about how clever your dog is to try all of those things... and wait for him to get it right! Then click & jackpot!

The next step will to be to go to using your signal hand to just give the signal (the same luring motion but without a lure). First, review a few times with the lure but giving the treat from your other hand as explained in the last step. The last time, go ahead & give him the lure treat, then right away do the exact same motion but with an empty signal hand. As long as your hand motion (the signal) remained the same, your dog will most likely be ''faked out'' and will respond as before. C&T & praise very enthusiastically! Remember, palm up for sit, palm down for down. Practice this until your dog responds reliably to each signal.

Now, if you are still kneeling or bending down to give the Down signal, it's time to start standing up. You will need to do this in small increments so your dog still understands the signal, getting a bit more upright each time until you are standing upright. Although at first your signal will need to be quite exaggerated you can slowly shape it to be much more subtle. The signal should eventually just be a slight downward motion with your palm down for Down, and a slight upward motion with your palm up for Sit. (Note to obedience competitors - that signal is also accepted in the ring. But if you prefer the arm straight in the air signal, you can just teach that, as well, later!)

The next steps are to vary where you are when you give the signals. Work on standing a bit farther away each time as well as standing at different angles (and beside your dog) before giving the signals. Remember to practice each of those more advanced things separately so each will be stronger.

Adding Verbal Signals

Once your dog is responding reliably to your hand signals, you can teach him the verbal signal for each behavior. Since dogs communicate primarily through body language, the hand signals were very easy - the verbal signals take a bit more effort. To make it easier, you are going to connect the new word (Sit, Down, or Up) to the already familiar hand signal for each behavior. To do this, say the word (i.e. ''Down'') and then immediately after, give the hand signal. Repeat, until your dog responds to the new word before you had a chance to follow through with the hand signal. Be careful to separate the verbal signal from the hand signal - if you say the word at the same time as giving the signal, your dog will focus on the familiar hand signal and won't likely notice the word. But if he repeatedly hears the word and learns that the hand signal will follow it, he will connect the behavior you want (in this example lying down), to the word.

Phasing Out the Clicker

So when do you stop using the clicker for these exercises? Whenever you feel that the dog has really learned the signals and is very reliable in responding to them. Does that mean at that point you never need to reinforce the behavior? Certainly not! Make an actual treat reward not as common. Instead, get the response, then praise enthusiastically, praise quietly, throw a ball, play tug 'o war, give his dinner, open the door to go outside - whatever. The best trainers are variable & unpredictable! The dog never knows what he's gonna get or when... that makes it all the more fun for him. If you don't believe me... take a stroll past the slot machines in Las Vegas!

If, after time, you start getting less of a response, just go back to positively reinforcing more often for a short time to refresh his memory. You never 100% stop using treats or rewards. A behavior that is never reinforced will go away. A behavior that is reinforced variably with stay strong. With compulsion (leash checking, etc.) methods, you would always go back to a few quick, sharp checks as reminders or as a warm up before going into the obedience ring. With purely positive methods, you simply ''review'' positively rather than negatively.

Sit & Down Stay

Many people are amazed at how quickly dogs pick this up! In our classes, we usually pick the most wriggly one to demonstrate this one. It's fun to show how well it works.

Stand in front of your sitting dog. Say “Stay!” If he holds his position for a second or two, C&T. If he gets up to get the treat, lure him back into position to get it. Work on this, doing it 5-6 times per session, gradually increasing the time by a couple of seconds a time. You should also practice taking small steps (1-2 at a time initially) back & forth in front of him. C&T immediately if he holds position while you are moving. If he lies down, then help him back up and try again. Since the click ended the exercise, he might get up after hearing it - if so, then lure him back to a sit before giving him the treat. The hand signal from the front is just a little wave with your palm facing him.

The cue “Stay” is only said in the beginning of each repetition - do NOT repeat it the entire time the dog is staying!

Remaining just 1-2’ in front of your dog, begin increasing the time he needs to remain in the Stay before you C&T by a few seconds each time. Practice this at least once every day, doing about 5 reps per session, until your dog can hold the sit stay for 1 solid minute before you C&T. What a good dog! At that point you want to start being variable with the time, getting longer & longer times but also occasionally C&T’ing after very short stays. This will make the behavior much stronger. For example, do a 60 sec Stay, then a 65 second one. Then 10 sec, 70, 67, 74, 15, 80, 3, 84, 76...

You will also start adding distance at this point (being variable about it by including some closer Stays as well), but remember that we only work on one part of a behavior at a time, so when you start going farther away you should reduce your time expectations drastically. When both long stays (up close) and distance stays (for short times) are both reliable, you can start putting them together.

Remember that unlike most of the other behaviors we teach dogs to do upon our request, the stay is not very natural. In the wild, a pup who stayed while the pack went away was not likely to survive for long! So, be patient and increase your time (and later distance) in small increments. The younger the pup the more of a factor this is going to be - especially the distance. Give the baby a break & save working on distance until he is a bit older so he doesn't become stressed.

Next steps involve having you move around more, having mild distractions, etc.. Each time that you increase the difficulty by doing something like that, remember to back off on the difficulty of the other aspects - distance & time. Success breeds success! When you are ready to phase out the clicker, then you will release your dog from the stay with “Okay!” Be careful to never give the stay cue unless you are going to be watching that he does, indeed, stay, and that you always release him when he is done. If you forget, then he will earn to just release himself after a while.

The Down Stay is taught the same way - just have your dog in a down position first!

Loose Leash Walking

When I ask my dog school students which behaviors they are having trouble with, pulling on the leash ties with jumping up. It's no wonder that it's such a problem, as most owners have been unwittingly teaching their dog to pull ever since they brought him home! Why? Because dogs do what works. Simple. For many dogs, they have always dragged their owners places. Why do they do this? First of all, because it WORKS. Don't they always get where they wanted to go by dragging? Also, dogs have a very strong urge to resist pressure. When they feel the pressure on their necks, they about can't help but pull against it. You need to stop making pulling work for him.

Old Fact: pulling gets me to the park New Fact: pulling doesn't get me to the park!

So, all of that time you were letting yourself be dragged along, you were actually teaching him to pull you! Please realize that to successfully re-train him not to pull, you can't train some of the time & let him pull the rest of the time. You HAVE to make the commitment to only train the behavior you prefer! At the bottom of the page I have some advice for how to get places while you are still working on this.

Ready to start? Get yourself ready - have a whole bunch of tiny treats (or one really big treat he can nibble) and a good leash. I recommend a short one (4 - 6') that is comfortable to hold. Put the Flexi-leashes away for now. Have the treats in the hand next to the dog. Hold the leash in your other hand, gathered up so that there is just a bit of slack. It is very important that it not be tight.

Okay, now start out with your dog sitting or standing at your side. Use a treat to lure him around to that position if needed. Let him see the treats you are holding in your hand. Say his name once to get his attention, then step off, praising happily. Take JUST 1-2 steps, then pause in mid stride to deliver a treat. (We no longer have people use the clicker for this in class - it was difficult for many people to coordinate everything, and we found that the dogs pick this up very easily without the clicker.)

Wait just long enough for him to gobble down the treat, then take 2 more steps and give another treat. Be sure that you are getting the treat to the dog quickly, so that he is still by your side when he gets it. If he runs out in front, then lure him back to your side before giving him the treat. CAUTION!! Don't go more than 2 steps for now! You must hold your dog's attention for this to work and that is so much easier for only 2 steps. Be sure to praise enthusiastically the entire time he at your side! If you need to turn around, then lure your dog around by holding a treat right in front of his nose, make the turn, pause to give the treat (get it to his mouth really fast - you want him to still be at your side when getting it), then move on. However - be careful to only use the luring on the about turns and when you have to go past any distractions your dog isn't ready for. Otherwise, when you are walking you must keep the treats away from the dog's nose. He should NOT be walking along, simply staring at a treat you are dangling. So, when you are moving forward, a few steps at a time, keep your treat hand up by your waist and out of his sight.

If at any point he runs ahead, then lure him back before stepping off again. If this is happening often, then you need to take fewer steps before delivering a treat. Also try to walk quickly and praise - both of those things will go a long way towards keeping your dog's focus on you.

If you have a very small dog or puppy, you might find it gets old bending down to deliver the treat. You can try using a long wooden spoon dipped in peanut butter or soft cheese. You just hold it up and out of the way while walking, then dip it down so your dog just has to reach up a bit for a quick lick before you continue on. Thanks to trainer Patty Ruzzo for sharing that tip - one of her own students thought of it!

When your dog is consistently walking nicely for 2 steps, then begin requiring more. 4 steps, then 6 steps, etc. before you pause to treat. Keep it fun - make a lot of turns and circles.

It is essential that you use good enough treats, work in a distraction-free area at first, and that you praise the WHOLE time you are pleased with your dog's behavior. You cannot praise enough! Usually a happy, high pitched voice works well. Try to sound a little silly! If you become quiet, you are likely to lose your dog's attention. You are competing against the entire environment for his attention so you had better be pretty darn interesting! It is far, far easier to capture his attention before you start out & keep it than to try to capture it back again & again.

Troubleshooting - is your dog basically staying at your side but jumping up as he walks? Just ignore that at first - consider it sloppy walking that is good enough for now. As you get your coordination down you will be able to start walking at a much brisker pace which usually eliminates the jumping. If it doesn't, however, once the dog is consistently walking at your side (albeit jumping while doing it), you can begin shaping his behavior by no longer stopping to treat when he is doing the jumping thing. To get a treat, he will need to take at least a couple of steps without jumping.

When you are up to 10 steps or so, it is time to start being variable! From now on, don't just go more & more steps before treating or your dog is likely to lose interest. Instead, work on greater distances variably, throwing in some really short walks now & then (e.g. Go 10 steps, treat, then 12, then 8, then 15, then perhaps just 3. Then 13, 18, 20, 24, 19, 4, 23, 25, etc. Of course, you are still praising the entire time you are moving & then pausing to treat.)

Eventually you will be ready to work around distractions, although don't rush this! You want your dog to be successful - keep it easy for him. When you are ready, start out with very mild distractions (other people across the street or watching, etc.) and work slowly up to better ones (other dogs around, first far away then closer). Whenever you work in a new place or with a new distraction, be prepared to use really high potency treats and to go back to just a couple of steps at a time as a warm up.

The Automatic Sit - would you like your dog to sit nicely, in heel position, whenever you stop without even being asked? That is the Automatic Sit. To teach this (I would wait until you are up to at least 8 steps or so) simply take a a couple slower, smaller steps before you stop, and as you take the last steps use a treat in your hand to lure him up into a sit. Give a treat. No verbal command is needed. When he is starting to sit promptly for his treat, then test it - slow down into a stop and wait.... If he does sit (he may need to think about it for a few moments - be patient!!) then treat, giving a jackpot! If he doesn't sit, then continue walking for a few steps and try again. If that happens several times in a row perhaps you need to continue luring him on the sit a few more times to help him know what is expected. Don't worry if the sits aren't perfectly straight at first - you can shape them into being more precise later if you like. When you do stop, be sure to stand up straight & bring both feet together. This will help your dog to distinguish a true ''halt'' (when he should sit) from a pause for a treat (when you are in mid stride and likely leaning over a little bit). Be careful not to rely on the lure very long for the sit (or anything else, for that matter) or you will be stuck with it. You also want to be sure to continue to treat actual walking as well as when you stop & he sits.

Need a way to walk your dog during the time it takes to teach Loose Leash Walking? I recommend a special harness called Easy Walk by the Premier Company (ask for it at pet supply stores) or order from JB Pet Supplies from the image link below. This harness is an instant cure (but it only works when on).What is different about this harness is that the leash clips in front of the harness. When the dog starts to pull, the harness actually starts to turn him towards you, very effectively ending the pulling. If the harnes is not enough, or if you dog is showing any aggression while out walking, then buy a head halter instead. This are by far the most effective training tools (far more ffective then prong collars), but you will likely need to take some time to acclimate your dog to the feel of the halter on his head. They do not cause any pain at all, but do feel funny at first. So when you put it on him the first few times, be ready to distract him with tasty treats and keep moving so he stops thinking about it. You must keep a light touch on the leash when using a head halter - do not hang onto it! My favorite brands are the Comfort Halter and the Gentle Leader.

Even with a dog who normally walks very nicely next to me, there are times when I really need to be sure, such as in my vet's waiting room. On those occasions, I will usually have a juicy treat & just lure my dog into the office. That keeps her focused on me instead of on the other waiting pets.

Lastly, what about that Flexi-leads? Hang onto it for when your dog is older and has the whole walking nicely thing down pat. They can be a lot of fun at the park, in areas where there aren't other dogs around to get tangled in it.

The Recall

The Recall is one of the most important behaviors; yet, it is the one that is often the most unreliable. Many puppy owners notice happily that their puppy always (or almost always) seems to come when called, so they think they have that one covered & train no further for it. However, just about every young puppy naturally hangs about the leader and comes easily - it's a survival thing. But when they hit adolescence? Suddenly, the rest of the world is a whole lot more interesting than you are!

You might be surprised to learn that you have already begun training for the recall when you did all of that attention work. Now, the second step is the most fun of all. You simply play recall games with your dog! We call the first one ''Puppy in the Middle.'' You'll need another person for this, a buckle collar (which means a regular one, not a prong or choke of any kind) on the dog, and a bag of treats for each person.

Person 'A' kneels & holds the dog gently by the collar and pets him. Person 'B' kneels down about 6' away and calls the dog. He should say his name first & then the command (use whatever you have been using at this point, perhaps ''C'mon''.) If the dog comes, then Person B takes hold of his collar & makes a big fuss over him - praise & treats & pats. If the pup is too interested in Person A to respond to Person B, then Person B gets up, walks over to pup, shows him the terrific treat he had, and essentially lures him over to where he called him from. After the pup is with Person B, Person A calls him. Then Person B calls him. Back & forth, back & forth. This is a game - so keep it fun!! Be sure to hold onto his collar until the other person calls but it's okay (in fact, desired) if he is straining to go! Keep the game sessions short & fun but play it frequently! Several times a day if possible. When the pup has the concept, begin moving farther apart. Stay in his sight for quite awhile, but eventually this game turns into Hide & Seek. At that point you should also add all other family members, each with a bag of treats (just work out something so 2 people don't call the pup at once!). A really good idea is to give your dog his dinner this way. Simply divide his food amongst yourselves & play the game until it is gone.

Troubleshooting - don't have anyone else to help out with the games? You can play them by yourself - just drop a few small treats on the floor and when your dog is busy gobbling them up walk 6' away then call him. Then put more treats on the floor & walk away again, etc.

As well as playing this game, start calling your dog lots in the house (or anywhere where he isn't faced with much distraction. You don't want to overstrain that new muscle & damage it, do you?) Always call when you are sure he will respond - like at dinnertime! Call him for no reason other than to give him a treat and then let him go. You want to instill in him the belief that Coming When Called is always a WONDERFUL THING!! Many people make the mistake of, without thinking about it, turning the Come command into a negative thing for the dog. If you use it mostly to bring him inside when he was playing, or when you are ready to leave the park & go home, then that word, to the dog, means The End of Fun. You want them to think it is the best possible word he could possibly hear in his day. So... never never never call your dog over for anything unpleasant (like bath time) or to end anything really fun (like playtime in the park.) Eventually you will be able to use the command in the park, as needed, (because by then he will think that coming over to you IS a pleasant thing) but don't ever go back to calling him for a negative thing. Go get him for bath time!

Play the Puppy in the Middle games for a week or two before beginning the next steps. However, you need to continue playing those games for quite a while - in a variety of places - as the game is what is really doing the training.

So far, you have been playing the games using your ''Informal'' recall signal. Now your dog is going to learn a ''Formal'' signal. The difference? The informal one (let's say.... ''C'mon'') is used when the response doesn't have to be immediate. Maybe the dog is on the backyard & it's dinnertime. It's okay with you if he takes another sniff or piddle on his way in. That's when you use the informal signal. You may also repeat this one since it is no big deal. But now, you will need to choose a formal signal. I like COME (''Sugar Bear - Come!'') but if that is already your informal one then you'll need to choose another. COME NOW is good, or TO ME, or FRONT... whatever you like! I highly recommend also teaching a whistle signal as well - this is more likely to work in an extremely distracting situation.

Practice the Recall with your formal command at this point ONLY when you are totally sure of the correct response. Good opportunities are at dinnertime & when playing the games (start out with the informal command to warm him up, then switch to the formal one once he's really going). Bad times would be anytime when there are distracting things around such as in the backyard or in the park. You really need to wait until the behavior is strong enough for those. Otherwise, every time you call him & do not get the correct response, you are actually diminishing the strength of the command.

Also important is prolonging your dog's pleasure in having responded to you. So don't just toss him & treat & walk away. Sit down with him & break that treat into many little pieces & give them one by one. And save something absolutely wonderful for this exercise - leftover steak, perhaps? Or have his favorite toy instead (perhaps a ball or rope toy or a Frisbee) and spend several minutes (at least) playing with him.

While working at home, it's important to start being very variable with the treats/reinforcements, but still keeping them amazing. And although you initially let the dog know that you had a treat before calling him, you need to phase that out. Call him often in the house, then RUN to get a treat (or toy) from another location! This will prevent him looking to see if you have a treat before responding. You want the response to be instant!

In higher-level classes we really up the distraction level to include another person kneeling on the ground about halfway between the dog & the owner. As the dog races by, this person distracts (either by just being there, by calling ''puppy, puppy'', or by holding out a treat - all depends on what each dog is ready for). Then we include the rest of the class as everyone lines up about 10' across from each other (dogs included) and one person & her dog practice the recall running down the middle, first with just the distraction of the other dogs & people, then with the people calling, ''Puppy, puppy!'', then with the people offering treats & calling as the dog races by. Of course, if the dog were ever to try to take a treat from one of the distracters, she must be sure to not ever let him have one!

You can also really strengthen your dog's Recall by practicing it at the park, even around the rest of the dog pack that he might be playing with. First, be prepared with incredible treats and/or toys. Then when he is playing, walk right up to him, stick your treat/toy right under his nose & call him ''Max, COME!'' while you move backwards 6' or so, luring him along while praising the whole time, then giving him the treat. Do this frequently! Eventually you will be able to start farther & farther away from him. But do be sure to practice it often so he associates the word ''COME!'' with terrific things, even at the dog park. Many dogs will start to ''check in'' on their own which should of course be encouraged with a treat! When you are finally ready to go home, he won't be sorry to hear that word since he won't think it means leaving his friends.

Now, a bit more detail about the two different signals. The formal signal; is used when the dog must come straight to you right away! Eventually it is also helpful to have him sit upon reaching you but only after the recall is 100%. You may NOT repeat this signal! Therefore, don't ever use it until you are sure of it. Practice it inside or on a long leash outside. Use the formal signal when playing the games from now one if he is reliable with them. Use it at dinnertime! Any other time, use the informal signal. It's freezing rain outside and you are not inclined to go get him if he doesn't respond? Then don't use the formal signal. Of course, over time & with practice the formal signal should become very solid. THIS is the signal you will then use in an emergency... dog takes off after a squirrel and is heading for the street... ''Max, COME!''. And if you spent enough time strengthening his response with the distraction training, Max will indeed spin around & come to you! Be sure to practice plenty of fun recalls - both formal & informal.

Teaching Your Dog to Wait

The Wait command tells your dog that he must not move past a spot. It is particularly useful for dogs that barge through doors, gates, crate doors, etc.

I will explain how to teach a puppy not to barge out of his crate - once you understand this it should be easy to adapt the behavior to whatever situation you like. This is one behavior where I actually don't use the clicker as it is easy enough for the dog to understand.

Okay, say you are going to get your pup out of his crate (please don't try to teach this when she is desperate to go out & relieve herself!) You start to open the crate door & she starts to push through, so you instantly SHUT THE CRATE DOOR. Let her stand there a moment and be confused, When she relaxes (or isn't trying to get out), then start to open the door again. She barges, again quickly shut it. After a while she should start to give up on trying to rush out, and sit there while you open the door. At first, don't expect much -if she holds it for a moment, quickly open the door, saying ''Okay!'' and let her out. Eventually, however, you want her to show more & more self-control. You should be able to get the door all the way open and have her wait in there, until you release her to come out.

Practicing this with front doors, gates, and car doors could save your dog's life someday!

Nail Clipping

Below you will find my old lesson on acclimating your dog to nail clippers. You are welcome to use it. Personally, I am now a huge fan of nail grinders! You are far less likely to hurt your dog when using one of those. Some dogs are afraid of the noisy sound at first - if that's the case with your dog, follow the directions below for acclimating your dog to the clippers, only using the grinder instead. Start with it turned off, then on but set to low (so it's quieter), etc. Be prepared to have this take some time. Our Borzoi pup Déjà Vu was terrified of the sound at first. We took our time with her, including let her see all of the wonderful hot dogs Sugar Bear got during a nail grinding session. Now, when she hears it turned on, she rushes into the room and lies down in front of me!

Using Clippers

This lesson is for anyone who has a dog that puts up a fight to have his nails clipped. You are going to condition him to actually be happy (or, at least tolerant) when those clippers come out, because you are going to desensitize him to them, and use classical conditioning to make him start to drool when he sees them. Yes, it will take a little time to do, but if you count up all the minutes spent fighting with a dog over nail clipping, in the long run you will save hours & hours.

I'm going to use, as an example, a dog who is upset upon even seeing the clippers. Those of you with less of a problem may be able to skip the first few steps. But they wouldn't hurt!

First, just bring out the clippers and lay them down. Do nothing with them, just let them lie there. Have them in a spot where the dog can't help but notice. Leave them out for a few days so the mere sight of them is no longer so upsetting.

Next step is to get him to touch them! Bring the clippers over, lay them down near your dog, and lay several pieces of the best imaginable treat down near them. Please forget even using any commercial treat - save some of your roast beef for this. It also helps if your dog hasn't had dinner yet, so the treats are all the more tempting. Relax and let him think about it - most dogs will go get the treats. If yours won't, then move them farther away until he will. Repeat this, getting closer & closer each time until you are placing the treats directly on the clippers.

Now, sit down near the clippers & have your dog sit near you, too. Point at the clippers and say ''touch.'' (This will be easier if you have taught the Targeting lesson). You might have to hold a treat on the clippers to get an accidental touch at first. But when he touches it (accidentally or not), C&T, giving a jackpot & praise enthusiastically. Repeat again & again, until he is readily reaching out to touch the clippers for you.

The next step is to get him to accept having his nails touched by the clippers. Notice I said touch - not clip. That comes later. Sit down and have your dog lie down next to you. Have really good treats in your hand or a handy bowl (an assistant to give the treats is very helpful here). Slowly bring the clippers over to one of his front paws and gently touch one nail with them. If he yanks his paw out of the way, tell him ''Too bad'' and look away for a few moments. Let him be bummed out for a minute about the lost opportunity for an extraordinary treat. Then try again. When he finally holds still for one nail to be touched, C&T! Do again & again until he understands what his job is (to hold steady). If he really has a hard time not pulling his paw away, don't reward for that. Instead, C&T if you can get, say, within a couple of inches. And slowly get closer & closer until you are actually touching the nail. Practice with this for a few sessions. One nail touch - C&T. Another nail touch - C&T. When that is no longer a big deal, then do two nail touches - C&T. Then 3 nail touches - C&T. Whenever he has mastered a step, you ''up the ante'' by requiring more from him in order to earn his treat.

When you can touch all the nails in his paw before giving a treat, he is ready for actual clipping. However, be sure that he is accepting the touching on all four of his paws! Keep sessions short, especially for a young puppy. Do one foot, give the treat then go play. Later do another, etc. You progress with actual nail clipping as you did with the touching. Snip a teeny bit of one nail - C&T (if he holds steady). And slowly up the ante until you can clip an entire pawful of nails before giving a treat. My friend Susan was having to sit on her puppy to clip his nails. A few days of this (several sessions per day), and now he offers his paw to her when he sees the clippers! My thanks to her for coming up with this step-by-step way of doing the desensitization.

It is usually best to trim your dog's nails just a little bit about once a week to keep them short. If you allow them to grow long, the quick (the tender part inside) actually grows longer & you will be stuck with long nails that are noisy & can cause physical problems for the dog if they are extreme. If you are really unsure which part of the nail to clip, please ask your vet to show you (preferably on a dog that is relaxed!).

Remember to take it slowly - let your dog tell you by his acceptance when to progress to the next step.

Other tricks to try include having a helper rub his belly (if he likes that, of course) while you are clipping. I am also having great luck using a nail grinder which you can get from

Leave It!

This is not a competition exercise - this is for when you are going for a walk, and realize that your dog is making a beeline for something truly disgusting. You tell him ''Leave it!'' and he does so. Also works for telling your dog to get away from something else such as a plate of food on the table, or for when you drop something on the ground you really don't want him to have. I even know a a dog that will respond to ''Leave it'' when his owner wants him to move away from another dog! This is an essential behavior for any dogs who will be doing therapy work.

Okay - get yourself ready. Have a bunch of little treats - some really tasty ones & some so-so ones (I'll use hot dog slices & Cheerios as an example).

Have a couple of Cheerios in one hand, which will be the ''Leave it'' hand (to begin with, anyway) and a hot dog slice in your other hand (your ''Get it'' hand). Hold out your first hand, open to show the Cheerios. Your dog will, of course, start to reach for them. Say ''Leave it!'' and close your hand. However, keep the hand down at his level - don't yank it away, just close it into a soft fist. He will probably lick & nibble at your hand, trying to get the Cheerios. When he gives up & pulls his head back you need to immediately C&T, giving the much tastier hot dog from your other hand.

Keep doing this until he is no longer trying for the treat from your Leave it hand. Then... switch hands! Expect to him to about start over at first, but then quickly figure out what is going on. (Ahhh... it's not which hand it's in, it's what she's saying first! Eureka!'')

Now, see if he's really getting it. Show the hand with the treat, and this time leave the hand open as you present it and say ''Leave It.'' The odds are quite high that he will try for the treat, so be prepared to shut your hand quickly! Then just wait for him to pull back as before. Eventually you will be able to leave your hand open and your dog won't even try for it. Smart puppy!

At this point, you want to start requiring that your dog not only ''leave it,'' but look up at you before you say ''Yes!'' and ''Get it.'' To do that, just do what you have been, but after your dog moves away from the leave it hand, just wait.... until he looks up at you, then immediately say ''Yes!'' and ''Get it.'' If he takes too long to look up, then say his name to get his attention, and reward that.

Next progression would be to set a treat onto the floor and say ''Leave it.'' Reward with a jackpot if he does! Be prepared to step on it (use a dry treat here so it doesn't get smooshed!) to cover it if he doesn't. In that case, just try again. When that is going well, actually drop a treat on the ground, at first just from a few inches off of the ground, then gradually higher.

Note - Try to usually have much better treat in your ''get it'' hand than what you are making him ''leave it.'' However, make sure to practice this with some pretty high level treats as the Leave it treats as well! When the time comes when you are out in the park & he discovers a rotten frog carcass & starts drooling, you want him to respond to your ''Leave it'' command. He'll be amazed, thinking you actually have a treat better than rotten frog! Of course you won't (I hope!), but by then it'll be too late for your dog - you'll be past where the frog was. He'll be disappointed, but will survive. And certainly, you would lavish affection on him at that point, and give up any treats you might have on you.

Advanced Training

Okay, so your pup is doing pretty darn well around the house, but how responsive is he when company is over or when you are outside? Having a dog that responds to you in those situations will require advanced training. He knows the basics, but can only perform in easy (i.e. non-distracting) situations. I like to use a weight-lifting analogy here: say you have been lifting weights, and do really well with 10 lbs. Then someone comes along and hands you 100 lbs. Can you lift it? Probably not. Does that make you stubborn, stupid, or disobedient? Of course not! It just means you haven't TRAINED for that kind of weight. So, please think of each behavior you have taught your dog in those terms... if you want him to respond in all situations, you must TRAIN in all situations. And, just as in weight training, that means adding on the weights (or distractions) a little at a time.

I am going to give some general advice, then, about distraction training. You will need to adapt all of this to your own dog and situation, but I have found these to be pretty good ''rules of thumb.''

• Begin practicing in different, yet quiet locations. You may be surprised at what a difference that will make! Dogs really do see the location as part of the signal at first, so you may find that you may have to back up a few steps and practice simple behaviors at first. Eventually practice everywhere that you expect to have your dog. My personal challenge was bringing Sugar Bear to my kids' soccer and flag football games. It was extremely difficult for her at first. I found that it was better to leave her at home for the games, because I wanted to relax and watch my kids. But I would bring her to practices, have a pocketful of hot dog slices, and move as far away as I needed to go. It was hard work but it paid off - now I can bring her along and she is very relaxed and well-behaved. No more lunging for the ball as it rolls by!

• Begin adding mild distractions. You can control this in several ways - by controlling the intensity of the distractions (i.e. someone walking by, versus someone running by) and control how close you are to the distraction.

• Have way better than usual treats.

• Expect less from your dog at first! Especially in situations where you really can’t control the intensity or distance of the distraction, you might go all the way back to luring to get a behavior that your dog performs flawlessly for a simple signal at home. That's okay! Practice that for a bit, then fade the lure as you did before, working until he is a good as he is at home.

• And remember, you are training your dog every minute that you are with him (and sometimes even when you are not!) Be sure to consistently reinforce behaviors you like, and don't allow annoying (or dangerous) behaviors to continue. Figure out HOW those behaviors are reinforcing to the dog. Is he getting lots of attention (even if it's negative, it counts as attention) for them? Is he getting internal reinforcement for them - such as the sheer joy of barking or chasing or picking a delicious tidbit out of the trashcan? Work to manage your household to prevent what you can (i.e. trashcan in the closet, dog on a leash) and train behaviors that you would prefer to take the place of ones you don't like. Just always keep in mind that your dog's behavior is 100% your responsibility, since you chose to bring him home. There's an old saying: A well-trained dog is a happy dog... and you will be a happier owner :)

ERBEKEES-KEESHONDEN 433 Gunter Hollow RD Fayetteville, TN. 37334 931-557-8884 or 814-691-4902