HOME page


Holly’s Den *

Copyright 2007

San Antonio, TX Dog Training Blog


    Fri Jan 13 - Transfer of Value



    Thurs. Dec 22 - Be wary of E collar training ads on You Tube

    Tues June 21, 2011 - Pet Psychics and Help for Pulling on Leash



    Fri. Oct 8, 2010 - "It's Me or the Dog" on Animal Planet featuring Victoria Stillwell

    Sun. Jan 3, 2010 - The Politics of Animal Protection



    Thurs. Aug 27 2009 - Teach Your Dog to Retrieve



    Sun. Jan. 20, 2008 - Houston, TX- Training Stay Using the Premack Principle

    Thurs. Jan. 24, 2008 -  Houston, TX - Why Not Cesar Millan's Way?

    Mon. Jan.28, 2008 - Houston, TX - Puppy and Dog Training Videos

    Fri. Feb. 1 2008- Houston, TX -



    Sat, Jan 27, 07 - Transporting Dogs in Pick-Up Trucks; Rainy Day Games for Dogs

    Sat, Feb 3, 2007 - Doggy Odor

    Wed, Feb 14, 07 - Eye Contact Attention Exercise

    Mon, March 26, 07 - City of Houston Shelter

    Mon, April 16, 07 - Home Alone Dogs and Toy Suggestions

    May 07- Inside or Outside - Where Should Your Dog Live

    May 07- How to Convert An Outside Dog to an Inside Dog

    May 18, 07- Follow the Leader Training

    May 29, 07  - RAISING TRIP (how I am raising my own puppy)

    Fri. June 22, 07 - Playing with Puppies; Settle & Gentle Restraint

Tues. June 27, 07 - Confessions of a Dog Trainer: Lessons in Humility From My Puppy

Wed. July 11, 07 - Animal Behavior Associates free email newsletter

Tues. Aug. 7, 07 - New book, "Control Unleashed;" New technique to reduce fear/reactivity/aggression.

Tues. Aug 25, 07- Teaching Wait at Door; Anniversary of Holly's passing & dream about Holly & Monty.

Fri. Sept 7, 07 - New Puppy Book & Feeding Puppies & Dogs

Sat Sept 22, 07 - Beginning Fronts & Finishes

Sat Sept 29, 07 - Recall (Come) Work

Mon. Oct 15, 07 - Training Attention in the Face of Distractions

Sun. Oct 21, 2007 - Shaping The Retrieve


Nov 6, 2013 - System for Keeping the Yard Picked Up

After trying out various approaches, here is what I have found works best for me - it makes for easier less messy pick up/disposal and also less smelly garbage - and saves using up so many plastic bags:

I keep a pooper scooper in a handy but out of the way spot in the back yard -- the kind that includes a rake works by far the best for picking up poop from the grass.

Instead of putting the stuff in a bag or container every time,  I carry and dump it in one spot in the yard. 

Once a week before garbage pick up day I use the pooper scooper to shovel the pile of stuff into a bucket lined with a plastic bag.  Then I tie up the bag and put it in the garbage can.


Dec 13, 2012

Hard to believe so much time has passed since I last made an entry here.  In May I lost my dear Trip very suddenly when in spite of being on medication he started having seizures the vets at the emergency clinic were not able to stop.  After that I really didn't have the heart to write.

In the months since Trip's passing I've gone through the deep grief stage and then for the first time in 30 years I've experienced what it is like to lead a pet free life - free of the responsibility of taking care of another creature.  My husband used to say that "Life is a series of package deals."  There are certainly advantages in not having to care for any needs but your own.  I have taken to staying up late at night and being a slug- a -bed in the mornings.  Travel is certainly easier and even on a daily basis when making plans I only have my own convenience to consult.  But all in all,  I would rather take on the extra work and responsibility involved in owning a dog in return for the joy that living with a dog can bring.

Friday Jan 13 - Transfer of Value

"Transfer of value" is a phrase used by world famous agility trainer Susan Garrett to describe a training technique in which the high value that a dog places on one thing can be transferred to another thing in order to help build a behavior.  Here is how I used that concept this morning in a training session with my Border collie Trip.

The object Trip values most in the world is his red rubber Kong ball, and the activity he values most is being able to chase and retrieve it. I wanted to take some of his drive and enthusiasm for this and use it to to increase his drive to fetch his dumbbell, which is one the exercises in competition obedience. Now, Trip already has a pretty nice dumbbell retrieve - I just wanted to make the behavior stronger and more reliable.

So what I did was take him out to a park where I had him retrieve both his dumbbell and his red rubber ball.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, basically it was.  But here's the key to why it worked:  His reinforcement for a good dumbbell retrieve was immediately getting to fetch his beloved red rubber ball.  It didn't take him long to figure this out - the way to get me to throw his ball was to hurry back with his dumbbell.  In no time at all he was rushing out to grab that dumbbell and running back with it as fast as he could.  Fetching the dumbbell became a predictor of getting to fetch his ball.  As this was repeated, fetching the dumbbell became part of the process and therefore part of the joy he felt in fetching his beloved ball.  One of the secrets to good training is knowing what is really important to your dog and then figuring out how to use that to build and reward behaviors.


Thurs Dec 22, 2011 - Shock Collar Training Ads now being superimposed on Other Dog Trainers' You Tube Videos -

I recently discovered  to my dismay that I can no longer send my clients links to various You Tube training videos they may find helpful or enjoyable, without also having them see the superimposed links to some slick ads for shock collar trainers. One of these ads for a local San Antonio trainer shows some dogs performing various obedience and trick behaviors, but does not give any indication about HOW the dogs were trained - I had to call and carefully question the trainer to find out.

What you should know:  There are basically two philosophical camps about how to train basic obedience and manners.  Trainers in one camp rely on shock collars and other methods which cause fear, discomfort and pain.  Trainers in the other camp use mostly positive reinforcement training, along with good management techniques.  Because I believe that all dogs can be trained using gentle positive reinforcement methods, I will not refer anyone to shock collar trainers.  Please know that I am semi-retired now and have no fears or negative feelings regarding professional competition. I regularly have lunch with a group of fellow trainers and regularly refer people to other trainers that I trust.  I do not trust shock collar trainers to do what is best for dogs. The appeal of training with these collars is the appeal of the "magic bullet" solution - we all long for solutions to our problems that promise to be quick and easy.  If you are tempted to fall for this pitch, for  your dog's sake, please take the time to read the information available elsewhere on my web site:   Say No To Shock Collars


Tues. June 21, 2011-


Pet Psychics- for some good info about how they do their thing:



Help for pulling on leash- for those of you who have dogs that pull on leash, I recommend  using one of the following harnesses below that make it easier to control your dog and to train him to walk on a loose leash.  One difference between them is that the Freedom Harness comes with a double leash that attaches in two places making it impossible for the dog to slip out of it.

Easy Walk Harness http://www.petexpertise.com/dog-collars-dog-harnesses/no-pull-dog-harnesses/easy-walk-no-pull-harness.html (scroll to bottom of page) and click on this video:


Freedom Harness:



Fri Oct 8, 2010 - Finally there is a popular TV show about dog training and how to solve behavior problems that I can recommend without reservation!  In addition to being plain fun to watch, "It's Me or the Dog" with trainer Victoria Stillwell provides reliable information you can really trust. Just don't expect your real life trainer to be able to provide the same kind of time (spending the day at your home) and free resources (crates, fences, baby gates, agility equipment, etc.) that Victoria's TV clients are given.


Sun Jan 3, 2010 - The Politics of Animal Protection Laws - The owner of a local dog agility email list here in Texas has been using that list to urge people to actively oppose legislation aimed at regulating the horrific puppy mills in the state of Missouri- that currently operate there with impunity.  She offers the standard rationale for this position. ie. that animal protection legislation threatens the rights of breeders and pet owners to do whatever they please in regard to their animals.  An organization named "Responsible Pet Owners Alliance" attracts many like minded people - the long record of RPOA opposing animal protection laws makes it clear that their efforts are geared to protect the concept of animals as property without any inherent "rights," even to humane treatment. 

Please do not accept the proposition that regulating puppy mills with all the suffering they cause, is a blow against responsible pet owners and dog breeders. 

For more information, read what trainer Victoria Stillwell (featured on Animal Planet, "It's Me or the Dog") has to say about this in a piece satirically titled "Hooray for Puppy Mills." :http://positively.com/2010/07/07/hooray-for-puppy-mills/


Thurs. Aug. 27, 2009 - If you're reading this you may notice there is a gap of about a year and 7 months since the last entry.  My husband's sudden death in Feb was a life changing event and I have not been involved in training dogs since that time.  However, eventually I started to work with my own dog Trip again and now I have something I would like to share about that.

Teach your dog to retrieve -WHY?  What I would like to address today is the problem of how to meet our dogs' need for exercise when our own life circumstances or external circumstances such as the weather make that difficult.  One solution is teaching puppies and dogs to retrieve.

If your dog likes to retrieve you can exercise him or her almost any time, anywhere!


Fri. Feb. 1 2008- Houston, TX - Get a Better Response to "COME."

If you have done your foundation work training Come (making sure something good always happens when your dog comes when called), and yet your adolescent dog is starting to act like he would rather test what will happen if he DOESN'T come when you call him, use something that is very high value to him and hide it on your person.  For Trip, that is his red Kong ball--it is his favorite toy and even a pork chop can't compete with it.   For your dog though, it might be a bite of pork chop. Now call your dog and if he doesn't come, let him see what you had for him and then let him see you put it away.  Wait a few minutes, and when he isn't watching you, get the ball or food again, hide it, then give him another chance-call him and if he comes produce the surprise - throw his ball or give him his extraordinary treat.  Let him learn that when you call him, he just might be rewarded with his very favorite thing!  Another way to reward your dog for Coming is by playing a game of Tug.


Mon. Jan.28, 2008 - Houston, TX - Puppy and Dog Training Videos- Although watching a video is not a substitute for group classes or private lessons, it can offer reliable guidance about raising your puppy or dog and reinforce what you will learn in training classes.  Here are a couple of good ones:

 "New Puppy! Now What?"  http://www.amazon.com/New-Puppy-Now-What/dp/B000GFMBI8

And for your adult dog: 

 Train Your Dog - The Positive Gentle Method  



Thurs. Jan. 24, 2008 -  Houston, TX - Cesar Millan's Way vs. Training with Positive Reinforcement-  My clients sometimes ask me what I think of Cesar Milan.  On the personal side, I think that Mr. Milan is charming, well intentioned, genuinely cares about dogs, has enough experience interacting with dogs to feel very comfortable around them, and uses a training approach that makes for good television. However, the following links explain why many professional dog trainers take issue with some of the training methods portrayed by the popular Dog Whisperer TV series: http://4pawsuniversity.com/dogpsychology.htm

To read about a position statement by The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB)  on punishment-based training: http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/aahatknt/issues/2008-01-23.html#0



Sun Oct 21, 07 - Houston, TX -Practicing the Retrieve-In this case, it was how to use a technique called "Shaping by Approximation" to solve a retrieve training problem.  The problem is that puppy Trip's herding instincts often interfere with learning the retrieving skills I want to teach and train. He runs after a ball or toy, brings it part of the way back and drops it, then runs several feet away and assumes a stalking position.  HE had been training ME to go pick up the item and throw it for him again!  Finally I remembered shaping basics and I began to ignore any balls or toys that were not returned to my lap or hand.  Now he is much improved about returning the thrown balls and toys to my hand.  In addition, I will be practicing a technique (as more foundation work for the retrieve) that I got reminded about last night which is to start with him on leash, toss a pouch with treats in it for him to fetch, then run back and encourage him to Come, take the pouch from his mouth and reward him with a treat from the pouch.


Mon Oct 15,07 -  Houston, TX  

Training for Distractions

I have run into a very interesting training challenge with Trip that is a rather more intense version of what most dog owners encounter when they take their dogs out and about and the dogs become too excited or distracted to pay attention to obedience cues/commands. 

This is a key issue for dogs that are going to be doing competition obedience because the biggest challenge isn’t usually teaching a new exercise, even advanced ones such as retrieving over jumps, etc., but rather preparing the dog to perform and do the things he knows how to do in highly distracting and sometimes stressful environments.

Let me start this story by murdering a metaphor and saying that a Border collie is a bit of "a horse of different color" from most other dogs, in that the Border collie tends to be mesmerized by motion.

So, yesterday I had taken Trip out for a walk and when we passed by our neighborhood club's playing fields, there was quite a crowd of spectators there watching kids playing little league baseball in one area and soccer in an adjacent area;  lots of kids were running around the periphery and some of those were also tossing footballs to each other.  As we approached the playing fields I ceased to exist for Trip.  He began to pull on leash, didn't respond to his name, nor did he respond when I told him to Sit.  At one point he did drop into a Down without being told - but far from being relaxed, he had assumed his "stalking" down position.   All of my attempts to regain his attention using food and gentle leash tugs, goosing him, playing tug, changing pace and direction, making noises and trying to get him to chase me, etc. failed.  Even using his squeaky toy and bringing out his ball didn't work their usual magic. 

After realizing that regaining his attention under the circumstances was a lost cause, I followed the usual prescribed solution of backing up and away, putting more distance between the dog and the distraction.  However, even in the farthest reaches of the parking lot with the kids and crowds barely in sight, he just wasn't interested in anything I had to offer, especially my food.  I felt like the proverbial chopped liver and this dog wasn't having any.

There was nothing left to do but withdraw from the field in defeat, and go home to ponder what to do next.  With my Shepherds, part of my plan would have been to just stay there long enough, or to keep going back to similar situations time after time, to let them habituate to the new exciting environment until it was old hat.  With Trip, I could tell that rather than habituating to that environment, letting him continue to ignore me while watching the fast moving kids and balls in his stalking mode would only fuel his obsession.  I think he could have stayed there for hours and nothing would have changed and if we went back the next day it would only be more of the same.

I also know that some trainers believe the only solution for this kind of problem is to put a prong collar on the dog and give him some hard corrections.  The way I see it, gaining his attention in that way would not be in keeping with kind of relationship I am trying to build with Trip- one in which I motivate him to WANT to work with me, which is a very different mind set from "Do it or else I'll hurt you!"

So that brings me to what happened today.  I took Trip out intending to exercise him on a nearby tennis court by throwing his ball for him to chase, but when we got there the courts were locked up.  However, on the nearby lawn, there were about 7 kids, approximately 11-12 years old, playing football.  So, seeing a similar but somewhat dialed down situation from the one of the day before, I decided to try once again to put Trip through his paces.  This time, although he was still obviously fascinated by watching the kids, he was able to respond to his name, to cues to Sit and hand target and to walk on a loose leash, etc.  Here are the things that I did differently that accounts for his different response:

  1. I began by working with him at a distance far removed from the kids.

  2. Next - and this is key- as we moved closer to the kids, I got his attention on me by using a ball in motion - I tossed the ball from hand to hand and in the air, then caught it.  When he began to watch me and the ball, I involved him in play, tossing or rolling the ball to him as well.

  3. I got the idea to adapt a technique I use for reactive dogs to the problem at hand with Trip,  which was to use the car to create somewhat of a mental barrier between Trip and the kids.  I placed Trip in the front seat next to me, and parked at a closer distance to the kids.  Then I began playing with the ball in motion again, sometimes clicking and treating Trip for watching me, sometimes letting play itself be his reward. 

  4. I also messed around with his feet and paws in an "I'm Gonna Get You!" game to get and keep his attention. 

After a short while, to my delight, Trip was totally focused on interacting and playing with me and was ignoring the kids.  At that point, I got him out of the car and was able to play with him and keep him engaged with me only a short distance from the kids.  Now I just have to practice more of this with him about a hundred million times and we should be all set -- I'll have a dog that can work with me even in the presence of exciting distractions!


Sat Sept. 29, 07 - Houston, TX

Jan 2012 - I want to add a postscript to what I wrote below with the benefit some additional years of training experience under my belt.  What changed puppy Trip's response to my Come command wasn't the stick, it was the carrot.  If I had this to do over again, I would forget about the "corrections" and focus on giving my puppy great reinforcement for correct responses.  The key to winning compliance and developing a first class obedience dog is knowing how to use positive reinforcement and making the dog WANT to do what you want him to do.  Today Trip has a strong recall because I keep reinforcing it.  When he comes when called, he never knows if he will get a great cookie, permission to jump up on me (which he finds mildly rewarding) or a chance to tug or chase/retrieve his ball.  The latter is by far his top choice for a reward.

Recall work-Earlier this week I took Trip out to an enclosed ball field and practiced calling him to Come off leash.  My husband and I had done this the previous week but we had balls and toys with us and Trip is so ball obsessed that he hung pretty close, preferring to interact with us than to go off exploring on his own.  I wanted to see if he would still want to stick close and interact with me even if I didn't have toys to tempt him.  I was very pleased to see that although he did go off to explore the edges of the field, he came running back to me every time I called him. 

But earlier today, right in the backyard, he decided that he didn't want to come inside when Joel called him - and he also didn't come when I called him- he was still having too much fun playing outside.  At 6 1/2 months old he is beginning to show signs of adolescent independence.  The first thing I did was walk him down, then I took him by the collar and the scruff as I looked him dead in the eye and repeated in a stern tone, "COME."  I walked backward, still holding on and giving him little tugs, until I got to where I had called him from.  Then I released him to Go Play again and I gave him another chance to obey by calling him again.  And again, no dice, the little dickens decided he would rather NOT come at that particular moment.  This time, rather than walking him down (which could lead to him running from me and avoiding me), I decided to go inside and get the long line.  I went back out, told him to Sit which he did, and attached it.  Then I gave him permission to go play, before calling him to Come once again. When he didn't choose to come, I took the end of the long line, and gave some gentle tugs as I repeated COME.  It took one more repetition of this before he did decide to Come the first time I called him, at which point I whipped out a hidden jar of jar of baby chicken and gave him some licks.  The next time he came when I called I gave him a bite of cooked hot dog. The next time he came when I called, I whipped out a hidden toy and played tug with him.  Then I repeated this a couple of times with him once again off leash.  I am glad I am getting a chance to initially work this out in the safety of our own backyard with my stick and carrot approach.  Of course when the distracting temptations are greater (for example the chance to chase after a squirrel, etc.) I will have to once again be ready to show him that Coming when called is always the better choice!


Sat. Sept 22, 07 Competition Obedience Fronts & Finishes - Houston, TX

I'm now beginning training for Fronts and Finishes - some foundation stuff for Competition Obedience, namely straight sits/lining up in side/heel position, and the swing/military finish (dog goes from front position to side/heel position). 

1) Had success beginning to teach him to use chutes to walk in for straight fronts and sits, using a contraption made from PVC pipe (picture a squared off letter U - the handler stands facing and with toes almost touching the bottom of a letter U shape, with another  UPSIDE down letter U shape on his/her left side).   Anyway, the dog is guided by the chutes to walk/run into the open letter U facing the handler and is in perfect front position, then does a military/swing finish and ends up in perfect side/heel position. To help Trip begin to notice the chute guidelines, I started placing some pieces of food in a center line down the middle of his chute pathway- that got his head down so he would notice the chutes and he began coming in perfectly straight.  Then as he got more practice coming in straight I was able to eliminate the food on the floor - he already is trained to Sit and look up at my face. After he learns to  come in from a straight angle and do a straight sit, I will begin to to have him come in from side angled approaches and also add the side finish which will help him learn to sit straight in heel position.


Fri. Sept. 7, 07 - Houston, TX

I just finished reading an excellent new book - Puppy’s First Steps, Faculty of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Edited by Nicholas Dodman, BVMS with Lawrence Lindner, MA (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007, $24.95).  Since dog owners are exposed to a wide range of opinions from peers and the internet, which are frequently based on misinformation, this book’s strong point is that the information it provides is firmly rooted in scientific research and clinical studies. One area where this scientific approach is particularly helpful is sifting through advice about how to best feed dogs. 

The Tufts’ vets advice is to use the large breed food for puppies that will mature to weigh 50 lbs. or more.  And here is a quote about what the difference is:

“Large breed puppy foods have the same high concentration of nutrients as other puppy foods, but they are different in two important ways.

  1. They have lower calorie density.

  2.  They have carefully controlled calcium levels.

Fewer calories means the (large size) puppy will reach adult size more gradually, which is desirable…”

The text goes on to explain that it is being fed too much calcium rather than too little that most often causes problems for large size dogs.


Tues. Aug. 25, 2007Houston, TX

So what I am working on with Trip today is "waiting at the door" instead of bolting outside as described on the Pup/Basic 1 page on this web site. Now that he is 5 1/2 months old his brain suddenly seems mature enough for him to be learning new obedience behaviors very quickly.  (Two days ago he suddenly caught on to ringing his "poochie bells" to let us know when he has to go outside). I also started working on having him stay in a certain designated place a few feet from the front door when the door bell rings. Trip will need more practice than he gets just by waiting for the occasional visitor so we will have to do "set ups" and  Other things we worked on today were fast sits and drops, sits and drops with a hand signal, making turns to the right in place and in heel position, and "take it, hold and out" for the retrieve.

The first year anniversary of my Holly girl's passing is fast approaching and I am not yet fully over grieving for her or for my dear Monty whom we put to sleep only 12 weeks and a day ago.  Two nights ago I had a magical dream about my two beloved German Shepherds.  I saw a large number of geese flying overhead and had the feeling that Holly and Monty were among them and that if I called out loud enough and they heard me they would come.  I began calling them both by name as loud as I could, and as I was calling, sure enough two of the geese dropped away from the others and began circling overhead.  I kept calling and they flew down to me and as they walked toward me, the first one shook off the goose feathers and it was Holly and right behind Monty came and shook off his goose covering too.  I was so happy to see them my heart just swelled with love, and then I woke up, and felt a mixture of happiness and sadness. The only clue I have about where this dream came from is that I had been thinking what a long way I have to go in training a reliable recall with puppy Trip, to get him to the same level of bonding and trust I had after so many years with Holly and Monty.


Tues. August 7,07-Houston TX

Control Unleashed-Great book:  I am currently reading a wonderful new book  named “Control Unleashed” by Leslie McDevitt.  Here what a quote about it from Dogwise : Learn how to turn stress to confidence and distraction to focus using methods that are 110% positive. Leslie McDevitt's versatile Control Unleashed program is designed to help "dogs with issues" learn how to relax, focus, and work off-leash reliably in either stimulating or stressful situations.  Although the author is a behavior consultant who does a lot of work with dogs who are involved in agility, this book is not just for training dogs with issues-it is very helpful for any trainer who wants to improve their dog’s attention, focus, confidence, and self-control. Yesterday I used techniques described in the book to work on two issues with Trip-the way he pulls on leash whenever he is close to people he wants to greet, and the way (since being frightened by the nearby thunderclap a few days ago) he has started to bark reactively at unfamiliar shapes and people passing in the distance-in one short afternoon I started to see very positive results!  I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

Summing up:


Click & Treat for calmly looking at strangers or other dogs.


C&T for looking at you.


C&T for self-calming behaviors such as looking or turning away from his triggers.


C&T for any appropriate desirable responses.


Wed. July 11, 07-Houston, TX

Animal Behavior Associates: Husband and wife team Dr. Dan Estep and Dr. Suzanne Hetts have a wonderful web site where you can sign up for their free monthly newsletter which I highly recommend.  The topics for July are: Dog Piece-Crating Correctly; Cat Piece-Carl's Water Fetish; Their Piece-Taking the Emotions Out of Behavior. 


Tues. June 27, 07-Houston, TX

Confessions of a Dog Trainer-How Having a Puppy is Keeping Me Humble-Let Me Count the Ways!

1. What I tell my clients: "Do not let your puppy/dog escape out the door; until you have trained your dog not to bolt out the door, as a safety precaution always bring him to the door on leash."

What I actually did: I went to answer the doorbell to take a delivery and my puppy bolted out the door!  At least I knew not to chase him-instead I called to him merrily, "Puppy-Puppy" as I banged my hand against the box that had just been delivered and turned around to let him see me run inside the house, which as I hoped made him come chasing after me.

2. What I tell my clients: "Be sure to puppy-proof your house; until your dog has house manners, he should either be confined or under your watchful eye at all times.

What I actually did: I was drinking coffee and reading the morning paper when I suddenly noticed a silence signifying my puppy had finished his own breakfast and was probably up to no good-sure enough I caught him chewing on a houseplant in the dining room.  I promptly returned him to his crate where he threw up all his breakfast and then I spent the better part of the day worrying about him, finding out if the houseplant was poisonous (it wasn't but it still upset his stomach), cleaning up the mess, talking to the vet, making a special trip to the vet, etc.  The houseplant is now outside where it should have been in the first place.

3. What I tell my clients: Part of establishing the right relationship depends on learning to be a benevolent leader-part of being a leader depends on controlling the resources-part of controlling the resources means not allowing the dog free access to all the toys all the time.

What I actually do: My puppy's toys are at this moment scattered all over the house.  However, I do pick up a couple of  his favorites that only come out when he and I play together.


Well, I could go on but this is obviously enough to show that the I am a member in good standing of the "Do as I say and not as I do" school of thought!


Fri. June 22, 07-Houston, TX

Puppy Play-When you have a new puppy, one of the best things you can do to build the right relationship is to play the right games in the right way.  When I got my Border collie puppy Trip, my two initial priorities were to socialize him to the max and to play with him.  There is a wonderful description of how to play with puppies in a book I reviewed for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers called "Building Blocks for Performance" by Bobbi Anderson.  Although the book is geared toward people who plan to participate in performance sports such as agility, competitive obedience or herding trials, the play tips apply to anyone who wants to build a great relationship with his/her puppy. I have been able to see how playing with Trip paid off when I took him out this week for some socialization to a couple of training facilities; in spite of being in a new exciting environment with other dogs around, Trip was still able to pay attention to me, play with me, and follow my cues to give eye contact, to Sit, Down, and to walk nicely on a loose leash.   If I had not been playing with him in ways that fostered a strong relationship, he probably would have been more likely, in the presence of other new and exciting dogs, to find me very dull and blow me off.

Here are some of my tips for how to get the most out of playing with your puppy:

Puppy play tends to fall into chase games, tug games, retrieve games, and roughhousing.  None of these activities are inherently good or bad-it all depends on how you play them!

Chase games: Instead of chasing after your puppy, encourage him to chase and come to you by running away from him.  When he catches you, reward him with a tasty treat or a game of Tug. Caveat- don't allow your dog to nip at you - redirect him or freeze to stop any nipping.

Tug Games: Many people fear playing Tug believing that it increases aggression.  If your dog is not aggressive, you don't have to worry about playing Tug as long as you play by the rules.  The main rules are that you start and stop the game and any time puppy/dog teeth touch human skin the game stops.  You also need to teach your dog to release the tug object on your verbal cue when you say "Out" or "Give." Initially teach this with object exchanges, offering a treat right under his nose as you say, "Out."  Later when he has learned to Out in exchange for a treat, try suddenly releasing your pull pressure as you point the finger of your opposite hand at his nose and say "Out."  Tug is a great way to give a dog some exercise.  One caveat though, this is generally not a good game for children to play with dogs because they don't have the necessity maturity to teach and play by the above rules.

Retrieve games: This is another way to give your dog some exercise, even in the house.  If your dog will chase after an object but not come back with it, try getting him to chase you, or use two objects, such as two balls or two squeaky toys.  When he picks up the first, call "Puppy Puppy" in a happy voice as your bounce or squeak the second toy.  If he returns with his prize, don't grab it away.  Instead pet and praise him and do an object exchange or tease him a bit with a second toy and throw that toy when he drops the first.

Roughhousing Think of this in terms of getting your dog used to being handled.  In spite of the name, it is very important to keep it GENTLE!  Roll on the floor with your puppy and tumble around; encourage her to jump into your lap (this is OK when you give permission with a cue such as "Paws Up"), gently grab her paws and her tail and stroke her sides.  Play with her ears and look inside her mouth and then give her a treat. Roll her over on her back and from side to side and give her a tummy rub.

Restraint and Teach Settle by "Cradling": The Houston Chronicle comes through again with a column by Dr. Michael Fox with an excellent description of how to use restraint to teach a dog to settle down.  I used this technique on my puppy Trip to train him to accept being brushed and combed and having his nails clipped: Hold the puppy and gently restrain him in a cradling position in your arms as you talk to him in a soothing tone.  As he struggles, hold him securely but don't squeeze or crush him too hard.  As he begins to relax and stop struggling, loosen your hold. When he is quiet, praise and release him.


Tues. May 29, 07-Houston-RAISING TRIP

On Monday May 21, 2007 about 6:30 we picked up our new puppy Trip at Houston Intercontinental Airport and another life adventure began!


Journal Notes: First Night Together-I was amazed that the Tripster (formerly known at his  breeder's as the “Screaming Demon”) didn’t cry even once!  This was all the more remarkable because as often happens, I had to be up with Monty in the middle of the night.  Monty is an old man who can no longer completely control his sphincters. But even with some lights on and being able to hear our movements, etc. Trip was quiet!!!

I promised that I wouldn’t spoil him, but Joel is another story.  This morning Trip stood on  his little hind legs in his pen and looked longingly at Joel and Joel caved.  While he was cuddling him, I told him he gets a couple of free passes like that, but then he has to get with the program and not pick up Trip if he is either crying or jumping up!


My biggest single concern about bringing a new puppy into our home is how I would handle the keeping the puppy safe from Monty (our 12 year old senior German Shepherd Dog now very weak from spinal arthritis) and keeping Monty from being bothered and stressed by the puppy.

Steps to Introducing Trip & Monty and Helping Them Get Along


To Prevent fights and aggressive displays.

For Monty and Trip to feel relaxed and safe (not anxous and worried) around one another.

For Monty and Trip to tolerate and eventually like each other.


Initial intro was done down the street rather than in our home.  Like most German Shepherd Dogs,  Monty has instincts to protect his home territory and I did not want his first reaction to Trip to be regarding him as an intruder on his turf.  Trip was in his crate and Monty, who was on leash, got clicks and treats for peacefully sniffing at him in the crate.  Once home, we held Trip, face away from Monty, and let Monty sniff him, giving more clicks and treats. 


Separation and Supervision

It would not be safe to give Monty and Trip full access to one another. In addition to safety issues , even if Monty were a younger and more mellow dog, giving Trip unlimited access to his company before he had a chance to firmly bond with us would result in our puppy forming his primary bond with the other dog. 

Management system: 

When Monty is loose inside the house, the puppy is either:


With one of us on leash


In his Ex Pen or in his crate

When the puppy is loose in the house (after he has done his potty duties) then Monty is:


In our bedroom behind a closed door or baby gate (Monty is too weak and stiff to get in and out of a crate anymore.)


Outside in the back yard

Note: This separation is especially important during meal time, if the dogs are chewing their bones, and when the puppy is playing with toys.

HabituationThe gradual process of habituation can work to promote peaceful mutual acceptance between a new dog and an older one if you keep interactions calm, relaxed and positive.

Positive Reinforcement for desirable behavior Whenever Monty is close by the puppy, for example when we walk the puppy by Monty or when he is lying down close to the puppy’s ex pen, we give Monty positive attention, praise, petting, clicks & treats for being calm.  The puppy gets the same positive treatment for his calm, deferential but non fearful behavior around Monty.

Promoting Pack Relationship:  The dogs have been walked side by side up and down the driveway on leash, with praise, clicks & treats for good behavior. (Monty can only walk a short way and the puppy still has to be protected from contact/exposure to strange dogs and so is not yet going on longer walks).

Outcome to date: Because his age has affected his temperament and tolerance and because of their size difference, I would never trust Monty to be unsupervised around the puppy.  However, it was very gratifying that when we accidentally allowed the puppy to get closer to Monty than we had intended on a walk, and the puppy stumbled into him, Monty was startled but did not snap or show any aggression whatsoever!  Although he is too old to enjoy playing with a puppy he seems to find the Tripster very interesting to watch.   For his part, Trip is being a model of deportment around Monty.


Potty Training: To learn more about click here: HouseTraining

Trip’s breeder started potty training him by using crate training, the ex pen, and a litter box.  I saw videos of him and the other puppies using the litter box when they were indoors at the breeder’s. This can come in very handy at night since a young puppy can use the litter box in his ex pen instead of having to be taken outside.  Trip’s litter box at our house is a plastic under the bed storage box I bought at Target and filled, per the breeder’s instructions, with newspaper shredded lengthwise.  However, since he has been with us, I have never seen him use it.  Instead he waits until we can take him outside to do his doggy business so I may be eliminating the litter box any day now.

So far potty training has been a breeze.  He spent the first night in his ex pen with his litter box inside the pen, and he may have used it.  However, from then on he has slept in his crate.  Before he goes to bed we take him out back for one last time, then he goes into his crate for the night.  Since he was 9 weeks old when we got him, apparently he was old enough to make it through the night.  In the morning he gives us a wake up call by yelping once or twice.  He then gets quiet because he has learned he only comes out of his crate when he is quiet.  I go pick him up and he wiggles all over and gives me kisses.  I have been carrying him outside and then putting him down and telling him to “Hurry Up” since that is the verbal cue his breeder used.  I don’t play with him until he takes care of business.  Inside again we play for awhile, then he goes back in his crate for breakfast. About half an hour after breakfast I take him outside again and he does what a good dog should.  Then he can be free to play in whatever area we are in—either the kitchen while we eat or the bedroom as we get ready for the day.

Journal notes: First Morning-This morning I got up early and brought Monty outside first.  Trip woke up and sat in his pen but didn’t cry.  Then I put Monty up and got Trip (and his potty box) and let him play in our big bathroom while I washed my face and brushed my teeth and Joel shaved.  Next I put him in our big crate with some water and his breakfast which he didn’t eat.  Made our coffee and breakfast, then got him out and hand fed him and he ate all of his breakfast.  I kept him on a long leash with me in the kitchen while we read the paper and drank coffee.  I kept him on a leash so that he wouldn’t go up to Monty who was lying down close by.  Meanwhile he played with us and his chew toys.  When I want to let Trip loose to explore, I confine Monty in our bedroom. Last night he peed out in the yard but other than that, I haven’t seen him pee or use his box—but no signs of accidents either so I am guessing that he did.  I brought him out for quite awhile again but didn’t see him squat.  It's raining here this morning but if it lets up we will spend some time letting him explore the yard later.

What comes next?  Right now if he is in his ex pen or crate, Trip alerts us that he needs to go out by giving one or two short yelps.  However, he now needs to learn how to alert us when he is loose in the house that he needs to go outside.  In order to teach him to alert us by going to the back door, I am going to stop carrying him outside.  Instead I will lead him as he walks by himself to the backdoor and when we get there I will say, “Wanna go out--Outside” and open the door for him.  With enough repetitions he should learn to go to the back door when he needs to go outside.


Socialization: To learn more about the process of socialization click here: Socialization

May 22: First day in new home.  Met a man with a beard in our home who came to fix Joel’s computer. Surfaces: Walked on tile floors, carpet, cement, grass, pea gravel decking and large pebbles in flower beds. 

May 23: Took a ride to nearby shopping center and in front of Babies R Us met one mom and little boy about 4 yrs. old, mom and dad and another little boy about 3 years old, and a group of 3 children of various ages.

May 24: In front yard watched yard crew working across the street.  That evening went to visit my son, his wife, our soon to be 3 year old grandson and their 1 year old black Lab Lucy.

May 25: Had first vet visit, met vet, receptionist and male vet tech. I got a diet coke at a McDonald’s drive-through window so he experienced that happening and hopefully won’t bark every time I stop for fast food the way Monty does.

Sat May 26: Went to a plant nursery-exposed him to street traffic, carts, and he met various strangers.

Sun May 27: Today we drove to an area where people have acreage and keep horses and we happened across a place where there were some very small donkeys (not much bigger than miniature horses) and two regular size horses.   It was interesting to watch Trip’s reaction. He didn’t bark or try to approach them too closely (I had him on leash on the other side of a fence).  He looked a bit subdued, but he didn't try to run away or tremble or anything. I feed  him some of his lunch right there in the grass while the horses snorted and even ran around a bit.  Then we drove on a little way until we came across a small Farmers’ Market.  He got to meet several people who all cooed over him and gave him lots of positive attention, including some men in baseball caps.

*Next week's main goal will be to have some play dates with other vaccinated friendly pups and dogs.


Introduction to Bath Tub:  I first scattered some tiny pieces of freeze dried liver and turkey hot dogs around the empty tub.  Then I  took off my shoes and sat on the edge of the tub with my legs and feet inside and called Trip.  He came running and stood up on his hind legs to peer into the tub.  I lifted him up and put him inside.  He eagerly sniffed around and ate his treats. Then I lifted him out again.  He has already been exposed to the sound of low/gently running water in the tub while he is playing in the bedroom and in the bathroom.  However, the first time I put him into some water, I will run the water before putting him in and it will be just a puddle and I will continue to feed  him a few treats.   By the time I am ready to bathe him in the tub he should think of it as a fun place and not be fearful at all.



The key again is management and supervision.  Generally Trip only gets the run of the entire house if we are interacting and playing together.  Otherwise if he is out of his pen he is in a closed room with one of us.  If I am folding laundry in the bedroom, he can be loose in the bedroom where I can keep an eye on him.  When he has grabbed a slipper or a towel I can quickly give him an instructive reprimand-NO-followed by redirecting his attention and offering him a toy as I say “here, chew your toy."  When he started to nibble at the fringe of the carpet, I quickly sprayed the carpet with Bitter Apple which is sold in most pet stores.

In addition you can be proactive about teaching a puppy what is OK to chew--here is way to do that using a clicker game:


Put out a toy and a shoe. Have the two items several feet apart.


When your pup goes to the toy, click and treat the pup above the toy. When you are training an animal, where you deliver the treat at does make an impression on it. They gravitate to where you feed!


If the pup goes to the shoe, don't click or treat, simply walk over to the toy and stand until the pup goes near the toy again.


If your pup tries to pick up the shoe, place your foot onto the shoe and hold it in place, taking away some of the fun of the taboo item. 


Face away from the shoe and towards the toy. Removing the shoe strings before you start will help it not become a tug toy. Do not speak to or correct the puppy in any way. Remember, this is a clicker training game.


You can add another toy that the pup is allowed to play with to the training area, but don't add another shoe or other "taboo" item until the pup has zero interest in the shoe.


Make sure you have the BEST treats available for this game! You will be competing with a stinky ole shoe!  Every pup’s favorite thing!


You will want to use a shoe that isn't one you are going to stress over if the pup mouths it some.

Favorite Toys and Chew Bones

Kong Balls

Octopus Tug Toy from Clean Run

AKC Large Mallard Duck with squeaker

Petstages toys-especially the cool teethers that can by frozen

Smoked Ham Bone

Flexible Gummybones from Nylabone

Ruffian rubber squeaker toys

Tues May 29-Journal notes

Was up about 4 a.m. with Monty and this time Trip did wake up so I brought him out to potty after Monty.  Monty could barely stand or walk and I wanted to get some Rimadyl into his system which meant he needed some food in his stomach.  I moistened his kibble, sprinkled it with freeze dried liver dust and hand fed him.  Then both dogs went back to sleep until they both needed out to potty again around 7.  Monty then joined Joel in the bedroom and slept late.

Here is how Trip's morning went:  When he finished his potty duties I preceded him into the house and called him to Come saying "Puppy-Puppy"--when he came I whipped out a braided sheepskin toy I had hidden behind my back and played tug with him.  The point was to reward him for coming but not to teach him to depend on seeing a toy to come running.  Then I hand fed him his breakfast, having him either make eye contact (Look) or Sit for each bite of food.  When he began offering me a Wave, I added that to the behavior mix.  After breakfast we played a few minutes, went outside again where he promptly took care of business.  I then gave him his hambone and a couple of other chew toys to play with while I made coffee and had breakfast.  When he looked sleepy he went back in his crate for his morning nap.

Building the Relationship

It is important to understand that training is always going on anytime we are with our puppies. However, most people don't have the luxury of working at home as my husband and I do.  In addition our children are grown so we no longer have the demands on our time of caring for them.  If someone doesn't have time for a morning routine such as what I described above, the puppy can always be fed his breakfast in his crate.  Still, whenever possible, it is always a good idea to hand-feed at least one of your puppy's daily meals by hand during the first two weeks he is with you. 

Hand-feeding promotes bonding and teaches the puppy in a very concrete way who "butters his bread."  It can also be used to practice some of the behaviors  that I want to teach anyway.  Or another way to look at this is that I will be feeding my puppy his meal during a 10 minute training session-instead of using treat rewards I will be rewarding his behaviors with his dinner--eliminating the problem of too many calories or treats spoiling his appetite. 

Goal-Prevent Food Bowl Guarding by starting with some hand-feeding and by sometimes holding the bowl in my lap as my puppy eats.  Other times if he is eating from his bowl, I will walk by and drop in a special yummy treat so he will learn to welcome having me approach his bowl.  I will try to have other  family members do the same.

Cuddling and Handling-This comes naturally--I love to pick Trip up and cuddle him and let him give me puppy kisses!  I also make a point of handling his ears, tail, and especially his paws, touching his nails. He is so flexible and trusting that is is easy for me to roll him over.  I scratch his chest and give him belly rubs.  What is not as natural is making sure that some other people get a chance to do this too but doing that before he is 12 weeks old is the best insurance against having him develop undue sensitivity to being touched and handled.

Corrections-Goal is to teach Trip what is acceptable behavior and what is not, without diminishing his confidence or his trust in me.  I want him to respect me but also to always feel safe in my presence. Anger is totally inappropriate with a dog or puppy--because their behavior is almost totally a product of genetics and training that is beyond their control.  However, the only way Trip can learn what I want is by my giving him feedback on his behavior either while it is occurring or within one to two seconds afterward--timing is crucial for clear communication with a dog. And so is tone of voice.  Trip can't speak English although eventually he will build up quite a vocabulary of words/verbal cues that he can understand.  I need to communicate by my tone of voice whether I am pleased or displeased with an action of his.  Because I am never actually angry at him, it is easy for me to switch from a firm disapproving tone when he starts to grab my slipper to one rapturous with delight when he drops it and accepts the chewy bone I offer in its stead.

Teaching Respect--Trip is already learning that he has to earn his privileges.  He has to Sit before he can come out of his crate.  I plan to start asking for eye contact before beginning to play Tug.  Soon I will require him to Sit before opening the door to go out.   

Controlling Toys--Part of teaching Trip to respect me is by using my power to control the resources he values such as toys.  Rather than letting him have free access to all of his favorite toys, by picking them up and using them for interactive play sessions with me--he is learning to look to me for fun and special good times.  Playing with me becomes fun and special.  Of course he does get free access to some chewy bones and toys at all times.


Problem Prevention-Encouraging Independence:

One area of early training that I believe is both very important and very overlooked is teaching a dog to tolerate situations involving being alone and being confined in different environments. 

Although I expect Trip to grow up to be a very social mellow dog there are times when it may be necessary or convenient to confine him, for example if he should have a temporary bout of vomiting or diarrhea.  Therefore I am beginning to train him now to be comfortable in his crate, no matter which room it is in.  Later I will also start training him to stay alone loose in the yard for short periods of time, initially keeping a close watch on him from a hidden place inside.   I will do the same about training him to spend occasional nights sleeping on his bed in our bathroom (where there are easy to clean tile floors) and to be alone for short periods of time in different rooms in the house with the door closed.


Obedience Training-Trip will learn the basic exercises and skills described on this web site--see Puppy and Basic 1 Lessons. Eventually he will also learn the more advanced Open and Utility exercises.

Retrieving Tip: Throw a toy into what I call a box canyon situation such as a large crate or small bathroom, etc.  When the puppy goes after the toy and turns to run with it--there is only way out--straight to you.  Play retrieve games with a variety of objects. Encourage a good hold by playing Tug.  Later teach the pup to drop/out the object by using the method described in the Puppy-Basic 1 lessons.

What About Tug?  Many people believe that playing Tug can cause a dog to become aggressive.  It's true that Tug is not a good game to play with aggressive dogs, neither is it a good game for children to play with puppies and dogs.  However, every competition obedience and agility trainer I know plays Tug with their sports/performance dogs!  Tug can not only help release pent up energy, give your dog some exercise, be a way for the two of you to enjoy some interactive play, and be used to reward your dog for good behavior, it can also even help your dog learn self-control IF you play by the rules (read about Tug rules on the Pup-Basic 1 page).


Fri. May 18, 2007-Houston, TX

How to Play Follow the Leader With Your Dog

Most problem behaviors including those of pushy puppies and dogs who have not learned their manners have little to do with having an inherently "dominant" temperament and even less to do with true dominance aggression.  Contrary to what you may have heard, if your puppy or dog starts to race out the door ahead of you, that doesn't mean he is laying the groundwork for taking over the household or challenging you for alpha status--sometimes  a cigar is just a cigar and it is far more likely he is just doing what comes naturally to an untrained dog, namely releasing some of his pent up energy and rushing to get where he wants to be in the fastest possible way.  However, if he body slams you as he rushes with single minded exuberance out the door or knocks your visiting great aunt off her feet,  he is not behaving in what we humans consider a polite and respectful manner.  It is your job as his owner and teacher to help your dog develop the self-control and good manners that will make him or her a welcome addition to the family.  As the one who is responsible for your dog's safety and welfare, it is important that you take a leadership position in your relationship.  However, by far the best way to accomplish this is not through physical bullying but by incorporating a gentle training approach/regimen I will be using with my own puppy that some trainers call "Nothing In Life Is Free" or the "No Free Lunch Program" and that I call "Follow the Leader."

Meanwhile, heed some advice from the May 9, 07 Animal Behavior Associates May 9, 2007 newsletter, published by Dr. Suzanne Hetts and Dr. Dan Estep--here is some of what they have to say about dominance myths and the resulting force based training methods they have fostered:

"Intimidation techniques that are often part of the "dominance" mythology can also work - temporarily at least - with some dogs to suppress behavior. That doesn't mean intimidation is appropriate or the best way to solve a problem. It just means that the dog is more afraid of the person doing the intimidating than he is motivated to perform the unwanted behavior. And intimidation comes at a cost, which includes the risk of being bitten, when the dog attempts to defend himself or decides he's had enough of someone grabbing him and throwing him to the ground in a so- called "alpha roll". It's quite easy for dogs that have been man- handled in this way to decide that anyone reaching toward them quickly is going to do the same thing so they bite to prevent it. Then they get labeled as "dominant dogs" when in reality they are reacting defensively. Intimidation can CAUSE aggression problems."

Monday, April 16, 2007 - Houston, TX

If all goes well, I will be getting a new puppy of my own about mid May.  Between now and then I will be writing about what I will doing to prepare for the puppy and then later about raising the puppy to be a healthy self-confident adult dog.  Some care and training tips will apply to dogs of any age.  Let's start with Home Alone Training.

Your Home-Alone Dog

When you are home, you can speed along you dog’s housetraining by keeping her with you on her leash--attach it to your belt or loop it around your wrist. But whether on or off leash, when you are home, she should be under your watchful eye at all times and not allowed to roam free out of sight until the day comes when you know she is trained enough to be trustworthy.  When she is right under your eye, if she starts to make a mistake,  you are right there to give her an instructive reprimand; if she starts to jump on the furniture, you can say "Off, go to your mat," and lead her to her mat.  If she starts to grab a shirt to chew, you can say "No--drop it, here chew your toy" as you hand her a chewy toy, and if she starts to go potty, you can say--No--outside" as you take her to the door and outside. Even more important, you can reinforce her with praise and sometimes a treat for doing the right thing!

Home Alone Training--Using Crates and Ex Pens

Every dog should be crate trained (see Crate Training).  Soon you will be able to leave your dog in her crate for up to three hours if necessary.  That means you can take trips to the grocery store, movies, etc. knowing that your dog and your home are both safe.
However, to avoid over-crating your dog if you have to leave her alone for long hours while you work, you should also train her to be alone in the house, again starting in a safe space, such as one of the bathrooms before giving her the run of the entire house. Another way to create a safe space is by using an Exercise Pen (Ex Pen) that you can order via the internet.  Ex pens come in various heights and the taller ones are available with a door.  Begin by putting your dog in her safe space when you are home to supervise.  Provide a mat for her and use a puppy or baby gate to contain her. Begin by leaving her there only a short while. Give her a chewy toy or stuffed Kong to occupy herself, then come back and take it away from her before releasing her from the room.  What you want is for her to wish you would stay away longer, so so as to have more time with her chew toy. Repeat this a few times.  The next step is to begin to go in and out while she is occupied with her Kong, and gradually lengthen the time you are gone. 

The Backyard

Many people complain that while they are at work, their dogs are getting into trouble when left alone in the backyard. This is what usually happens if you just put the dog in the yard and leave him, hoping for the best.

Start with management-Whether training a puppy or trying to change already established habits, you are going to need a good management plan.  Your first goal should be to never let your dog practice the behaviors you are trying to change.  To train the young pup or to turn around a dog that is already being destructive, initially you will have to bite the bullet and stop letting the dog spend time outside alone and unsupervised—because every time your dog successfully digs or chews something when you aren’t around, he gets immediate positive reinforcement that will keep that behavior strong.  And forget about punishment after the fact—almost everyone tries that and it doesn't work.   Likewise, if you depend on some kind of booby trap to punish the dog in your absence, but don't take steps to relieve the anxiety, boredom and pent up energy that are driving the destructive behavior—it will soon resurface, probably worse than before.

Be proactive-What works best is a proactive positive approach—go out with your dog so that you can praise her for good behavior and so that you will be on the spot to interrupt her with an instructive reprimand when she starts to make a mistake.  The first part of the instructive reprimand should be an interrupter—“Hey--Stop that!” followed immediately by telling and showing her in an upbeat cheerful way what you want her to do instead: “Here, chew your toy”—or “Come dig in your pit.”

Digging Pits-Pit?  Doesn’t your home-alone dog have her own digging pit where it is OK for her to satisfy her natural instinct to dig?  If not, no wonder she is excavating your yard!  Get busy as soon as the weather allows and make one for her.  Teach her to use it by burying a couple of toys and chewy bones  in the sand (try smoked or stuffed sterile bones), then call her over and start digging with her.  Praise her for digging in her pit.  Now, Keep training her to be alone in the yard in baby steps.  Stay with her and putter around or read a book while she chews her stuffed Kong or plays with her Buster Cube.  Now she is learning to occupy herself while your attention seems to be elsewhere.  Praise her for her good behavior.  The first time you step in the house and leave her outside alone, make sure she has an interesting interactive toy to keep her occupied, then return before she can get bored, praise her, and bring her back inside.

After your dog is able to stay alone in the house or yard without being destructive, you should continue to provide him with a variety of interactive toys to keep his mind occupied.  If he is going to stay outside when the weather is hot, don’t forget to put out a plastic kiddy pool where he can play and cool off.  

When you get home, remember the dog trainer’s maxim “tired dogs are good dogs” and be sure to give him some attention, play and exercise. Then let him spend the evening and night inside as part of the family because dogs are social pack animals and after a day alone, the last thing your dog needs is any more isolation.  


Home Alone Toys (if you don't know what any of these are,just google them).

Kongs, Kong balls and hard rubber balls.

Nylabones & Gummybones

Buster Cubes (interactive treat toy)

Busy Buddies (interactive treat toys)

Ruffian type rubber Squeaker toys

Hol-ee Roller Balls-I put one of those little small ruffian dinosaurs inside to make it even more interesting.


May 07-Inside or Outside—Where Should Your Dog Live?

Dogs develop their personalities more fully and bond more deeply with their owners when they are allowed to be part of your family and your every day life.  While most dogs enjoy some time outdoors, or may stay outside while you work, they become lonely and unhappy if they live a 24/7 life of isolation in the backyard.  Many people, especially those with big dogs, sometimes take for granted that dogs should live outside because that is the way that their own families always lived with dogs.  However, if there is one thing that professional pet dog trainers currently agree about, it is that dogs should live indoors: Living exclusively as an outside dog almost guarantees behavior problems such as excessive barking, digging and chewing that are directly related to loneliness and boredom.  In contrast, dogs that live inside the house stay relatively clean and don't ruin the backyard.   They won't ruin your home either with proper management and training.  It’s not size, but training and manners that make the difference in whether a dog can live unobtrusively in the house.


May 07- How to Convert the Outside Dog to an Inside Dog

Since you got your dog for his companionship, do your best to structure your life together so that he can be the companion he was meant to be!   If you have been keeping your dog as an outside dog, try giving him a bath, and bringing him back in the house.  Here’s how:

1.     Begin by crate training the dog.  The crate is a handy management tool for house-training and time outs, and it can also double as a bed or a den for the dog where he can retreat when he needs some quiet time to himself. (See Crate Training Handout). 

2.     Bring the dog inside on leash and walk him around for a bit every day. Then use this tip: “Wait for him to calm down, give a treat, then bring him out again. Repeat this several times in a row or as long as necessary until the dog begins to act calmer when you bring him inside.  When he comes in and acts calm, let him stay for awhile as a real life reward. “  Ian Dunbar-P. 81, Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks.

3.     Begin bringing him inside to sleep in his crate on evenings and weekends when you are home to supervise.  First give the dog some exercise to release pent up energy (remember that “A tired dog is a good dog”), then bring him inside on leash and take him to his crate and remove his leash.  Have a stuffed Kong and a sterilized bone in the crate to occupy him. In the morning, attach his leash again to bring him outside.

4.     One more management tool that you may want to consider is a tether.  The tether is a short leash or steel cable (about 3 -4 ft) with a hook at either end  so you can attach one end to the dog's collar and the other to a hook in a baseboard.  Another way to make a temporary tether is to just use a short leash and put the loop end under the leg of a heavy piece of furniture.   The tether can be used to teach the dog to settle down while keeping her out of trouble.  This is a good tool to use when training an outside dog to be an inside dog.  The dog can be tethered in the kitchen/den while you eat and wash dishes and watch TV, etc.  However, the tether can only be safely used in your presence--you should never leave a dog out of your sight on a tether. 

5.     Gradually extend the time the dog is allowed inside; have him remain on leash next to family members while they do homework or watch TV.

6.     Allow the dog off leash but do not give him free run of the house yet; continue to keep him contained in one room where family members can keep an eye on him.

Note: For those of you who will not allow your dog to live in the house under any circumstances, at least consider allowing your dog to sleep in the house, in a crate or bed near your bed.  Spending these 8 hours in your bedroom can help alleviate some of your dog's loneliness.  

Make a plan to meet your dog’s real needs for exercise, companionship and mental stimulationEnrich the back yard environment with a kiddy pool and a digging pit.  Provide your dog with interactive toys such as Buster cubes and stuffed kongs.  Hide biscuits and chewy bones around the yard so that he can forage for them.  Schedule regular walks and outings to places like PetsMart to change his routine.  Schedule regular training sessions to give his brain a work out and to meet his emotional needs for companionship.


Monday, March 26, 2007 - Houston, TX

Houston takes special pride in being a "can do" kind of place but there is no reason to take pride in the state of our city animal shelter which is under-funded and understaffed.  The physical structure is also in dire need of replacement.  Hell hole is not too strong a word to describe the place, although a new director seems to be trying to improve things now and an organization called Friends of BARC (Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control) is also working to promote better treatment and an adoption program.  The Houston Chronicle should also be commended for bringing the situation at BARC to public attention. 


Wed. Feb 14, 2007 Happy Valentine's Day -- Houston, TX

Love at a Glance

In her newest book, "FOR THE LOVE OF A DOG," author and certified applied animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., recounts that after noticing that lovers tend to gaze into each other's eyes, a researcher set up a study to see if this could work in reverse.  Consenting study subjects were asked to make prolonged eye-contact for two minutes, and sure enough they reported developing feelings of attachment to each other.  But what does this have to do with training dogs? 

It so happens that as a dog trainer, one of the first training exercises I teach my client dogs is to make eye contact with their owner on cue, and to maintain it until given a release signal.   So here's an intriguing question: In addition to its usefulness as an attention exercise, could this special eye contact training also act to deepen the bond between owner and dog?

If you want to test this out for yourself, click on the Watch me/Look exercise in Lesson 1 on the Pup/Basic 1 page of this web site, and try it with your own dog.  One caveat - don't try staring at either a human stranger or a strange dog as both are likely to interpret any unsolicited staring as a threat!


Sat. Feb 3, 2007 - Houston, TX

Dogs that Smell Bad Are Telling You Something - For Your Dog's Sake, Pay Attention

The most common causes of bad odor in dogs are skin problems, teeth and gum problems, and ear infections. If your dog smells bad even after a bath, have your vet check it out.


Sat. Jan 27, 2007-Houston, TX

Transporting Dogs in Pick-Up Trucks

Today in a syndicated column carried by the Houston Chronicle (  http://www.chron.com/ ) Dr. Michael Fox known as "the animal doctor" wrote the following about transporting dogs in the bed of pick up trucks, a subject important not only to dog owners but also to all of us who value road safety:

"Those on the road with dogs unsecured in the backs of their trucks put other drivers at risk, as well as their dogs...Every state should pass vehicular and road-safety laws to make it a moving violation to have an unsecured dog in the back of a pickup. And there should be severe penalties for having a secured dog in the back of a truck in the pelting rain and in subzero temperatures, as I have witnessed from Maine to Minnesota."

Most experts agree that the safest way to transport a dog in the back of a pick-up truck is in a carefully tied down crate.


Rainy Day Games for Dogs

Below are some good games you can play with your dog when the weather keeps you indoors that are also great for older dogs with limited physical abilities.  You can also buy a book (online from Dogwise.com) about how to teach tricks - teaching your dog some tricks can give him much needed mental stimulation and make him a better pet too.


Game 1: Run and hide-Run and hide around a corner, behind the bed or a chair or the back of a door, etc. then call the dog in a high happy voice--Puppy Puppy Puppy—when dog finds you, act excited, play and give a great treat.

Game 2: Roll the Ball - Clicker trained dogs catch on to this pretty fast. First teach your dog to touch a rubber ball with his nose by rubbing a tiny bit of squeeze cheese on it; when your dog touches the ball with his nose, click and treat (you can use some of the squeeze cheese from the bottle for the treat).  Now place your dog on a Down with his front paws spread apart.  Sit a couple of feet from him and roll the ball between his paws.  If he touches the ball with his nose, click and treat.  Soon your dog should be pushing the ball back to you with his nose.


Game 3: Go Find-Place your dog on a Stay while you hide dog treats around the house, then tell him "Go Find."  This allows the dog to use his foraging instincts.  Start teaching this game by making it easy and hiding the treats in sight, then gradually progress to out of sight hiding spots.


Game 5: Cookie Toss - This is a good game to encourage your dog to Come when called.  Take your dog gently by the collar and make sure he sees you as you toss a treat several feet in front of him.  Release his collar as tell him to "Get It!"  As soon as he gets his treat, call him to "Come" and when he returns to you, feed him another treat. 


Game 6: Tug - Some people fear that playing Tug will make dogs aggressive.  If your dog does not have aggression problems and if you make sure you play with the right rules, (see Lesson 3 - Take It & Tug in  Pup & Basic 1 Lessons ) Tug can give your dog much needed exercise and actually increase the dog's self control, while giving you another way to reward him for complying with your cues/commands.


Game 7:  Indoor retrieves with a soft toy such as a Hol-ee Ball.

Click on Holly to follow her Home.

Holly's Den
Dog and Puppy Training
San Antonio, TX
contact via email

Association of Pet Dog Trainers.
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
APDT member #6125
© Copyright 2007 – Beverly A. Hebert. All rights reserved