Training Tips

Coming when called, Nipping and Jumping

Q. My dog doesn't listen to me when I call her to Come, especially if I bring out the leash. I don't understand this because she loves to go out for walks but runs away when I bring out the leash, leaving me no alternative except to chase her. I don't understand why she's acting opposite from the way I know she feels.

A. First of all, never call a dog for anything she will find unpleasant. Help her associate being called with things she loves so she won't resist and she will respond by coming. Most dogs love to go for their walks but they don't like to be leashed, so instead of chasing your dog, do this: when you are ready to go for a walk, don't call your dog, instead either go to her and simply put on the leash or alternatively, wait until she is next to you then just slip it on. Do not chase your dog as she will see this as a game and run away, sort of like playing tag.

Additionally, begin making positive associations with the leash. For instance, when you bring out the leash, give your dog a treat and then put the leash down for a moment or two. Each time the dog comes toward the leash, give her something she enjoys  -  a toy, a belly rub and/or a treat. After a while, your dog will begin to look forward to having you put the leash on.

Q. My new puppy always nips at my ankles and pants when I walk around. I tell her a firm, "No," but he only gets more excited and goes after my legs more aggressively. What can I do about this?

A. First of all, stop using the word "No." By itself "No" is overused and it's not very effective. What's much more useful is to teach your dog specific words for each task. For example, you might teach your dog to Drop or Let Go. Teach these easily by trading one object for another. The trade should always be for something of greater value. For instance, your dog loves to play tug with his rope toy but his blue squeaky toy is his favorite. Start the lesson by playing tug with the rope toy and when he has a good grip on it and is really excited, let go and pick up the squeaky toy. Make sure to make the squeaky toy much more fun. Say, "Drop" and when he drops the rope toy, immediately reward by giving the squeaky toy. After a while when he grabs your pant leg, you can say Drop and trade for something of higher value.

If a toy doesn't work with the pant leg try using higher valued treats - like fresh chicken, turkey, or cheese... If you are prepared by having these things close at hand you will be able to seize the moment your dog misbehaves.

Q. When new people come to our door, my dog goes crazy and jumps on everyone as they enter. What can we do to get him stop behaving like this? We want him to happily meet and greet people, but to do it without jumping on them!

A. Practice meeting and greeting by the door, both on leash and off leash. To start, make sure that no one comes in unless your dog stays seated. Literally, don't let people enter your home until you dog cooperates and responds to your commands to Sit and Stay. Whenever he does sit without jumping up, reward with treats and praise. If you absolutely cannot contain the dog at the door, try putting him in another room until the guests come in and are seated. Then bring the dog out, on leash if necessary, and ask him to sit and stay. Instruct your guests not pet your dog until the dog stays seated as asked.

As long as all four paws remain on the ground, reward by allowing your friends to pet and treat. Do this systematically, practicing often and always when people come to your door. Never encourage your dog to jump on anyone.