First Day of Training

Introducing the Clicker

In the first video below, we introduce BoBo to clicker training. All we do it Click and then give him a treat. For treats, we are using his regular food.  The training session is about 1 minute long and tells BoBo that when he hears a click, something good happens.

We use the click to mark when BoBo does something right. Over time, BoBo will learn to continue to do the things that get a click and stop doing the things that don’t get a click.

Eliminate treat hand distraction & start ‘Wait’

Next, since the treat hand is a distraction for BoBo, we spent 1-minute clicking only when he wasn’t going after the treat hand. The second he stopped interacting with the treat hand, we click. This teaches BoBo that he’s more likely to get a treat/reward when he is waiting for us to tell him to do something instead of going after it one his own.

Shaping Watch

To shape a behavior, you wait for the dog to offer a behavior that is a step to getting to the final behavior.  For example, in the video below, I want BoBo to look at me.  Therefore, I click when he starts to move his head towards me.  And then I click when he’s looking at me.

Many dogs look at your right away so you might end up capturing the action more than shaping it but you’re still clicking for him to look at you.  You can see he looks around a bit and then looks at me. Once he looks at me, I click and he get a treat.  The treat tells him, yes, I wanted you to look at me (not left or right) and you can see he starts offering looking at me more than looking left or right.

This is where we ended on Day 1 of training.  We introduced the clicker, captured Watch and added a verbal cue ‘Watch’. Couldn’t be happier with the progress.

Baseline – Jumping when leash is presented

In the following video, I am capturing our starting point. When i touch the leash and try to attach it to BoBo, you can see he starts to jump.  I realized later that this video is actually pretty calm compared to in the morning!  I try to tell him sit in the video but he’s too over stimuliated to really comprehend it.  While this is not a formal training session, I will still try to ignore the jumping and only attach the leash when all feet are on the floor.

There is no point to wait for a sit. We must start with no jumping with is all feet on the floor.  As we continue, we’ll slowly add all feet on the floor and hold it.  We’ll slowly work towards a sit and stay for attaching the leash.

September 2, 2017 – Day 1

He was in his crate when I picked him up. He growled as I approached the kennel.  I tossed 1 small piece of dog food in the crate, and he let me approach with no growling. The second piece he licked out of my hand. We let him out and he was apprehensive of me but didn’t growl anymore. I could tell he was really close to Carol. His body became much looser around her.  So I feed him several more small treats and within a few minutes, he was licking my face.

He is completely comfortable with me now.

I live by myself so it’s been a little easier I guess to get him to settle down. We went on two short walks. I got within about 6-10 feet of a guy and didn’t growl.  We walked by a few other people further away, with no growling.  Dog barking from back yards made him pull more on the leash but no growling.

BoBoIt might seem ‘backwards’ but when I first get a new dog, I try to give that dog as much alone time as possible.  I think it helps them figure out for themselves what to do.

I’m still working on this write-up before I share it publicly, but you can get an idea of how I bring a new dog into my house. It’s definitely harder to do when you have other animals. But I find it effective for an ‘only child’.

Formal Training:

We did a few of 1-2 minute training sessions. He loved it! He is very food motivated. For formal training, we are working on introducing the clicker and ‘Look’. Make eye contact when I say Look.  Since he wants the food, we have to work on him not being distracted by the food. i.e. he knows there is food in my hand.  He doesn’t get the food in my hand until he stops trying for it. This helps get his attention on me and not on the food.

Informal Training:

Mainly through management – we are working to get him to settle as I explain in the article attached.

We are also informally working on jumping. i.e. if he jumps, I don’t do anything. Once all feet are on the floor, we proceed.  For walks, he jumps when you touch the leash. I will wait until he’s not jumping to put the leash on.  There is still a bit a jumping because we just started but I’m looking for ‘less jumping’ to proceed and each time I’ll look for even less jumping until there is none.  Then we move to a sit, and then a sit & wait.

IMG_20170902_162803House Rules:

We are practicing – no couch or bed rules. It’s much easier for an adopting family to start allowing a dog on then to try to break it.  He understands no.  And has settled in his crate on his own several times. He doesn’t want me to lock him in the crate so I will start some crate training next. Reychelle, I know you said he was good so it will just be him getting used to it at my house and shouldn’t take much time for him to transition that skill.

He also has a good sit which should help expedite training.

He looks so much like my friends’ dog, James, it’s hard for me to not call him James!  He is smaller, but the face is the same!

Introducing a New Dog to Your Home

You just got a new dog or a foster dog and you’re super excited.  Maybe the dog has had a tough life so far, maybe you’re not sure.  Either way, you’re super excited to have a new family member and you can’t wait to show him/her all of the affection you have.

STOP!  All that affection could create separation anxiety or cause your dog to get protective.

If no other animals in the house:

The first thing I do when I bring a dog into a house without other animals is give him/her freedom to explore. If there are other people in the house, we do a quick introduction of the people. The dog gets to smell everyone, maybe get a treat or two from each person.

At first, I’ll walk around the house with the dog (not really talking to the dog) just to make sure there are no potty accidents and they don’t start eating something they shouldn’t.  I usually just do a once over.

Then everyone leaves the dog alone.

I sit on the couch and do something unrelated to the dog. I don’t talk to the dog, pet the dog, or interact in any way (unless there is a behavioral or medical thing that needs to be addressed).  Essentially, I’m giving the dog freedom to continue to explore on his/her own and the opportunity to settle down on their own.

The first time your dog settles (lays down and looks relaxed), you can say “Good boy/girl”.  By speaking, your dog will likely get up. That’s okay.  Continue what you were doing and wait for them to settle again. Usually, if you get up, the dog will follow you, so I try to be sure I take in a new dog when I have the time to stay settled myself.

Settling is really important. Dogs can be nervous in a new environment.  They don’t really know what’s going on.  I think the most important thing to do with a new dog, is let them calm down and relax.  If your dog is panting, it could be a sign your dog is nervous.

When a dog is nervous, they may exhibit behaviors that they may not normally exhibit.  If you add people putting their hands in the dogs face, or trying to force the dog to play, it can be very overwhelming for the dog.

If other dogs in the house:

It’s extremely important to do proper introductions in a controlled environment. Introduce each dog slowly and individually. Don’t let all dogs out at once.  If possible, have the other dogs go out for a walk or to a dog park when you bring the new dog home. Let the new dog sniff the house without other animals.

Then, you can introduce the new dog to the other dogs one at a time.  If possible, I try to do introductions in an outside location that doesn’t have too many other distractions. This helps the dogs to focus on each other and not “this is my house.”

With both dogs on a leash, slowly walk towards each other.  Try to keep a loose leash.  But if the dog is pulling, try to control how quickly the dogs approach. Try to keep them from jumping on each other right away.  If you know a dog is a jumper, I usually have the jumper sit, I hold on to the collar and stay close to the ground with them.  Then I have the other dog slowly approach.

After they sniff each other a little, if they seem good, you can go for a short walk together, then go inside.

Since you don’t know how they will react to toys, bones and food around each other, pick up everything before the dogs are both in the house. Slowly introduce 1 item at a time to see if there is any resource guarding.

Why did I start doing this?

I took in a black lab years ago.  She was a 100% outside dog before I got her and she didn’t get much attention.  So when she got to my house, I kept her inside and loved on her all weekend.  We were both happy.When Monday came, I put her out back and went to work.  When I got home from work, I could hear her barking.  My neighbor was outside and worked from home so I asked if she was doing that all day.  He said, without a smile, “Yes.”

When Monday came, I put her out back and went to work.  When I got home from work, I could hear her barking from the driveway.  My neighbor was outside and worked from home so I asked if she was doing that all day.  He said, without a smile, “Yes.”

Now I felt worse. I created a separation anxiety situation because I didn’t let her out of my sight for the first 2 days I had her, then to her… I suddenly left.

That was 10 years ago and the first time I had to work on correcting separation anxiety.  Luckily, we figured it out within a week and she was good to go.

Resource Guarding People:

In my opinion, another reason to give your new dog space, in the beginning, is to try to prevent resource guarding. Some dogs get really protective of their people.  I find if the dog has more “doggy alone time” they don’t tend to become as much of a resource guarder towards people.

Don’t worry.

Just because you’re giving your dog “doggy alone time” doesn’t mean you won’t build a bond with your dog. You will still build a bond, perhaps even stronger, and definitely more appropriate bond.

Within a couple of hours of getting my new foster dog, he is already settling, in his crate of all places, on his own.  And so starts the beginning of crate training!

Once your dog has settled down.

After I notice the new dog has settled down for a bit, maybe 10 – 20 mins. I’ll take the dog for a walk.  Don’t worry to much about jumping or pulling on the leash at this point. Each area will be addressed.  If the dog is pulling excessively, keep the walk on the shorter side.

When you are back from the walk, grab a toy and try to play with the dog. Play for as long as you or the dog wants. Once you’re done playing, repeat the steps above to have the dog settle.

Try to get a long settle in. Maybe an hour or so. Enough for the dog to take a nap. Again, you’ll likely have to be settled to so you don’t disturb the dog.

When you’re ready, before you get up and disturb the dog, call the dog to you.  This can start your next interaction with him/her.  You can play, walk, pet… interact in any way you want.

Continue to alternate through periods of interacting with your dog and having your dog settle.  Once the dog seems comfortable in the home and can relax, we’ll start training in other areas.

How to Pick a Dog Professional

Any one can call themselves a dog trainer.  There is no National Certification to be a dog sitter or dog trainer. Anyone can (and will) call themselves a dog trainer even if they have never taken 1 class on dog training. I know because I did it!

When I first started dog sitting, I also said I was a dog trainer because I would, in fact, teach your dog basic behaviors such as walking nicely on a leash or how to sit. I was even teaching a foster dog to open the fridge!

There are plenty of videos and books out there to self-teach yourself, but how you are you supposed to tell the difference when everyone qualifies themselves as “Dog Trainer”?

It wasn’t until I went through an actual program for dog training, that I realize how much more there is to dog training.

If you read the previous blog post about Why I Became a Dog Trainer, you’ll know I made mistakes picking a Dog Trainer for the first time.

Don’t make the same mistakes I made.  Below are some questions that you can ask potential dog professionals so you don’t leave your dog in the wrong hands:

  1. How long have you been working with dogs?
  2. Where did you learn how to train dogs?
  3. Describe the experience you have with my specific breed.  Or what are some specifics related to my breed?
  4. What tactics do you use to train?  And why did you choose these tactics over another?
  5. What do you do if my dog doesn’t respond to what you’re asking?
  6. How long will you train my dog per day?
  7. How can you tell if my dog is making progress?
  8. How long will it take my dog to learn XYX?

Most Importantlymeet the specific people who will interact with your dog.  Trust your instincts.

Great, you have the questions. Now what?

Read how I answer these questions and some watch-outs to look for in others responses:

How long have you been working with dogs?

I grew up with dogs but it wasn’t until I started fostering dogs in 2004 that I started to learn how to formally train them.  I fostered many different breeds and work with a local rescue to help other foster parents train their dogs. In addition, I started dog sitting in 2012, which I have since expanded to Professional Dog Training.

Where did you learn how to train dogs?

I started to learn how to dog train by taking classes with a local rescue organization and I paid for agility lessons for my dog. In the beginning, I watched a lot of videos and read about it. When I decided to take my training to the next level, I became a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP).

Watch-out – There is nothing wrong with self-taught. But self-taught people should still be able to refer you to a book, video or technique they use. Trial and error with the dogs is not enough in my opinion. 

Describe the experience you have with my specific breed.  Or what are some specifics related to my breed?

Obviously, this answer will vary.  You’ll want to look up some basic information about your dog’s breed so you can tell if the professional you are speaking with is familiar.  Research your breed here.

What tactics do you use to train?  And why did you choose these tactics over another?

Positive Reinforcement, Click Training.  After extensive research, I determined this training method was the best. Many scientific studies have been conducted to prove that dogs who are clicker trained using Positive Reinforcement, learn faster and remember longer.  The science is a continuation of B.F. Skinner and Pavlov’s work.

The click is exactly the same every time, eliminating confusion that can be caused when you use your voice alone.

Watch-out – Regardless of the methods a person uses, you want to see they have done research into other ways to train. If the professional is not open to at least knowing what’s out there, your dog might get trained but it might not be the most effective or rewarding way to do it.

What do you do if my dog doesn’t respond to what you’re asking?

The first time, nothing.  Positive Reinforcement only rewards correct responses and ignores incorrect responses.  If your dog continues to not respond, that is a sign that I need to relook at my training. Likely, I need to break the training down into a smaller, easier step for your dog to understand.  I will also look at the environment where your dog is not responding.  If possible, I move your dog into a more distracting free area so your dog has a better chance to succeed at training.

Watch-out – Pushing on the dog to ‘show’ your dog what to do or tugging on a leash can cause your dog to dislike training, therefore, making the behavior less reliable. 

How long will you train my dog per day?

It depends on your dog. We will break training into 2-5 minute sessions and conduct several throughout the day.  It’s best to end training on a positive note, so if your dog is getting tired, we don’t keep going just to fill 30 minutes. It’s better to mix breaks into the training and it’s most important to watch to see what your dog needs.

Watch-out – Long training sessions are exhausting for dogs new to training and they don’t get as much out of it.  The length of training can be extended for dogs who are more experienced.  Also, certain breeds can handle longer training better. Watch out for any answers that aren’t “I watch your dog and stop when your dog needs to stop.”

How can you tell if my dog is making progress?

We measure the rate of reinforcement.  Meaning we count the number of correct responses in a given 2-minute training session. Your dog is making progress if the rate of reinforcement is going up for a particular behavior.  Keep in mind, as you add distractions or make the behavior more difficult, you’ll see a temporary drop in the rate of reinforcement, but it should begin to increase again.

How long will it take my dog to learn XYX?

It depends. Every dog learns at a different pace and has a different history of reinforcement (positive or negative).  It’s best to meet the dogs in person before any estimates can be made.

Watch-out – Be leery of trainers who guarantee they can get any dog to the same final outcome in a set period of time. 

Why I became a Dog Trainer

I was out of options. My regular dog sitter was not available and I didn’t have a back-up.  I had a pit bull at the time so I couldn’t leave her with just anyone even though she was extremely friendly.

I decided to take her to a local board and train. I thought I might as well do a little training if she’s going to be in a boarding place.

It wasn’t very long after I got home that realized I made a mistake.

My dog just wasn’t happy.  She would just glare at me. A glare I had never seen from her before.  And it got worse anytime I did something the trainer had told me to do.

Within a few hours, I quickly threw out all of the advice the trainer gave me and showered my dog with just love and fun.  I needed my happy go lucky dog back!

Things started to get better at home and I was able to go back to how I was training her before the board and train.  But something was still off. Out in public, she started barking at golden retrievers. It took a couple of times before I realized it golden retriever specific.  She had never had a problem with dogs before. She loved playing with everyone!

It got to point where one time she went as far as pulling me off my feet because a golden was near her. I was able to hold on to her and got her out of that situation very quickly.

Then I frantically went to work looking for information about what happened and how I could fix it.

I was about to give up.  There was so much contradicting information out there that I just couldn’t figure out who was right or what I should do.

Then, I found a book called, “Click to Calm” by Emma Parsons.  The introduction talked about her struggles with her dog Ben, oddly enough, a Golden Retriever.  I related to every word she wrote.  And when I read she had a solution, I couldn’t help but look into it further.

Then I learned about Clicker Training.  Specifically taught by Karen Pryor Academy.  Once I found Emma, it seemed like everything I read afterward keep leading me back to Karen Pryor Academy.

I couldn’t trust anyone else to train my dog after what happened the first time, so I decided to train her myself.

And so, I enrolled in the Karen Pryor Professional Dog Trainer program.

I’m happy to report that my dog, Bella, successfully completed the course with me and since starting clicker training, has not reacted to golden retrievers.  Even so, I ensure she is only put in situations she can handle and proper dog introductions are made when she meets a new dog.

She walks nicely on a leash, doesn’t jump on company, gives me her attention when I ask, and even licks her lips when I say yummy!  

Even more importantly, Bella actually enjoys training now!

The angry glare has been replaced with a tail wagging full of excitement.  That makes for a happy dog and a happy you!


Ana’s Extended Weekend Outing

Ana is a bundle of love. She loves to give kisses and receive lots of pets!  At 65lbs, she’ll be a lap dog if you let her.  She just loves her people so much!!   She might play a little with another dog but she would prefer to live by herself or with another dog who is okay if Ana doesn’t interact with them.  Any interaction would just be a little bonus!


Ana listens extremely well and seems to know a lot.  In any new home, it will be important for the people to give designated places to lay in each room as soon as possible. This will help her have a go to spot which may reduce anxiety.

You can tell her “Lay down” and use your finger to point.  After just a couple of times, she will know that is her place and she will ‘settle’ there.  If you call her name, she comes.  If you tell her to go potty, she goes.  With just a finger, you can get her to go pretty much anywhere you want her to go…even in the crate.

I think she might have been trained in the past with some aversive methods such as shaking a can of pennies. She was super scared when I moved a bottle of Tylenol.  The ‘rattle’ of the pills scared her.  She tries to ‘escape’ around loud noises or voices so would do better in a quiet home with ‘predictable’ noise.


Ana is scared of my roommate. He is tall and skinny. The first time they met, she went up to him just fine. But if he walks in a room too quickly (and he moves pretty slowly) or she doesn’t expect him, she growls for a second. He is able to put his hand out and call her and she will go up for some loving.  He can pet her just fine after that.  So she might have had a bad experience with males which makes her a little skeptical.


Ana will go in the crate just fine.  She spend the night in the crate and just whined a little.  The first time left alone, she chewed the dog bed in there and bent the front door a little.  The last time I put her in, I took out the bed and gave her a bone.  Within 5 minutes, she was barking uncontrollably, scratched up her nose and broke her toe nail.   :(  Once I let her out of the crate, she didn’t seem to feel any pain but her anxiety level was up.  Bella was not at the house, so I gave her the bone.  She really enjoyed the bone, but it didn’t bring down the anxiety. She took a couple of breaks to pant.  This panting seemed to be a displacement behavior given the circumstances.  Normally, eating relaxes dogs.  I did try to take the bone at one point because I thought she was too aroused.  She picked it up and turned away from me so I let her have it. After a while, I traded some good treats and pets for the bone.

The best way to calm her down is for her person to tell her to lay down and the for the person sit quietly near her.  At my house, she sits on the foot of the couch and I sit on the couch, not within touching distance. Then Ana will relax and take a nap. Still, noises will wake her but I have found it’s the best way to calm her.

Anxiety & Relaxation:

It is hard for Ana to relax. All noises peak her curiosity. If her people are moving, she is following.  If her people sit, she will settle. Loud noises will still make her head pop up.  Usually you can tell her it’s okay, and she’ll resettle.  Ana has thrown up a few times, usually after high anxiety situations.  The car ride was the first but I drove a jeep wrangler so it was also bumpy.  My roommate came home about 45 minutes after the crate incident. Ana threw up a few minutes after he go home so there is a change being around a male made her more anxiety.  She also threw up after her let her out of the crate the first time.

We might want to consult a vet about some anti-anxiety medication.

With Other Dogs:

Ana wants to receive all of the attention from people. She likes to curve her body and lean into your legs for pets when she is really excited. Bella does this too. Anytime I pet Bella, Ana would move in to try to get all of the pets.  She wasn’t aggressive in this situation at all; just happily pushed her way in so she could lean in and get pets.


There was no outright resource guarding.  Bella and Ana were able to play will some toys together, tugging and running together.  On occasion, Ana would want the toy to herself so her hair would go up a little. Bella isn’t a resource guarder, however, Bella doesn’t back down to resource guarders.  I removed the toy if there was any slight sign of resource guarding from either one.

I was able to play fetch with Ana.  She has a decent ‘drop’ so you can get the toy and throw it again.  If she doesn’t come back right away, you can call her name and she comes right back!


Ana does guard her bones a little.  She doesn’t want people or dogs to interact with her while she’s eating a bone.  With a good treat or if a person get gets excited and calls her, she will leave the bone.  I would not let her eat bone around another dog, or try to take it from her.


Because Ana loves attention from people, it’s best to feed dogs separately.  If you are putting food down for another dog, Ana might try to get your attention or eat the food. If the other dog has any food aggression, this situation can escalate quickly.

Dog Escalations:

Ana is like Bella in that half the time she will be submissive in an escalation and half the time she will not stand down. If a person raises their voice and claps, she likely will stand down.  Her anxiety will be at it’s peak if this happens.  She should be removed from situation.  Speak an a soft voice afterwards, with treats, and try to get her to lay down and relax.