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Teaching Your Dog Manners

In This Chapter

An old dog-training adage still applies today: Every handler gets the dog he deserves.

In other words, the most important factor in training is not your dog, but you. You’re the leader — or you should be — and you need to know enough about canine language so you can teach your dog your language. You need to show your dog what you want her to do and give her a reason for doing it — and an understanding that not doing the very reasonable things you ask of her is unacceptable.
Your dog gets trained whether you do anything or not. If you don’t guide her toward good behaviors and praise her when she accomplishes them, she will fill her life with behaviors you don’t like. If you don’t lead, she will. And that’s bad news for a dog. Shelters, rescue groups, and newspaper classifieds have plenty of dogs like that: dogs with problems. Their chances of finding happiness — or even staying alive — aren’t very good at all.
That’s not the way things have to be.


Resolve that you must train your dog, and that training is not a one-shot deal, but an intrinsic and ongoing part of the promise you make to your dog when you bring her into your life.

Then think of the rewards of dog training. The obvious reward is good manners, but the bigger payoff is that as you train your own dog, the bond between you and your dog grows stronger, the love deeper. In Chapter Housetraining 101, you found out about housetraining. In the next chapter, Chapter Basic Training and Beyond, you get into basic training, including step-by-step commands. This chapter focuses on getting a handle on your dog’s behavior and discovering how you can play your proper role in training your pup. The special relationship between an owner and a well-mannered dog is the Total Dog Experience — don’t miss it.

A Few Words about Aggression

If you have ever, even for a moment, been afraid of your dog or what he may do, read the rest of this section carefully and then put the book down, for now. The rest of this chapter and the next are not for you. Not yet, anyway. You need serious one-on-one help, whether you realize it or not.
Aggression in dogs has both genetic factors and learned ones. Some dogs are born with the potential to be aggressive, and that potential can be fully realized in a home that either encourages aggressive behavior or is ill equipped to cope with it. Other perfectly nice dogs can become unreliable because of abusive treatment.
Is your dog potentially dangerous? Answer these questions, and be brutally honest:

– Has your dog ever stared you down? Not with a loving gaze, but with a hard, fixed, glassy-eyed stare that may be accompanied by erect body posture — stiff legs, ears forward, hackles raised.

– Do you avoid doing certain things with your dog because doing them elicits growling or a show of teeth? For example, are you unable to approach your dog while he’s eating or ask him to get off the couch?

– Do you make excuses for his aggressive behavior or figure he’ll grow out of it? Or do you think a growling puppy is cute?

– Do you consider your dog safe — except around a particular group of people, such as children? When he growls at the veterinarian, do you tell yourself that the behavior is reasonable and that a veterinarian should be able to cope with it, after all?

– Has your dog ever bitten anyone, even only once, because it was an accident, because he was scared (even though he’s usually so good), or because of some other equally inexcusable rationalization? People often make excuses for the behavior of little dogs, but growling and snapping is no more acceptable from a Pomeranian than from a Pit Bull.


If, after answering these questions, you suspect that you have a problem, get help from a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist. Now. You should no more attempt to cure aggression yourself than you should try to treat cancer. The reason is the same: You don’t have the training and the expertise to do so. If you suddenly try to eliminate your dog’s self-appointed role of leader of your pack, you’ll find trouble. If you even attempt to make eye contact with such a dog, you may get bitten. So don’t.

Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a trainer or behaviorist with experience handling aggressive dogs. And realize from the start that, just like cancer, aggression is a disease that is sometimes not curable. Have your dog neutered — most dogs involved in attacks are young, unneutered males — and follow the expert’s advice. But if, in the end, you have a dog who still cannot be trusted, have him euthanized. It’s upsetting, but this course is the only responsible one to take. If your dog is aggressive, he’ll probably end up euthanized eventually. The difference is that if you wait, someone will get hurt first.


Finding an aggressive dog a new home — one with no children, perhaps — is not the answer. Children are everywhere, and you may be responsible for one of them being hurt if you pass a problem dog on to someone else — especially if you do so without admitting the real reason you’re finding him a new home, knowing that no one wants to adopt a biter. You do the dog no kindness, and you put the new family at risk.

Maybe you prefer to live in a state of denial, hoping nothing awful involving your dog will ever happen. More than 4.5 million American dog owners are jolted into reality every year — 4.5 million being the number of bites estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children are the most frequent victims.
Need more reasons to act? You could lose your homeowners insurance — or more. U.S. insurance companies shell out more than $1 billion a year to settle dog-bite liability claims. The companies say claims are rising in both number and value. Even one “minor” bite claim could cost you your homeowners insurance — and a vicious attack could cost you a lot more than that.

Aggressive behavior never improves on its own. It only gets worse. So get help — now.

Developing the Right Attitude toward Training

If you don’t have an aggressive dog, consider yourself lucky. Chances are, though, you probably have a dog who’s a little out of control: one who drives you just a little bit crazy, and a canine adolescent, more often than not. You’ve given up waiting for her to outgrow her bad behavior — they never do! — and figure it’s finally time to . . . (big sigh) . . . train her. You’re thinking that you can’t avoid training; it just has to be done, like cleaning leaves out of the rain gutters.
Now consider the following: If you have a bad attitude toward training, so will your dog. If you think training is a joyless chore, she’ll hate every minute of it. If you walk around jerking on her collar and swearing, she’ll wonder what she’s done to deserve your anger, and she’ll be too busy worrying about that to learn anything.


Expect success from her and be willing to work for it. Praise her not only for succeeding, but also for trying. Learning is hard for her — and stressful. Think of your dog as a person who has just moved to your house from a country where the language and customs are different — a trans-species exchange student. After all, she was born a dog, and you’re asking her to live as a member of a human family. You’re asking her to learn the language and follow the rules. The fact that this feat is ever accomplished is nothing less than a miracle. So celebrate it with her.

Consider dog training not as a mechanical thing — if you do X, your dog does Y — but rather as something organic, alive, interconnected, and ever changing. A well-mannered dog becomes that way from the inside out. “Sit” and “Stay” are the least of it, really, and are only the visible manifestations of what that dog is on the inside: a confident, comfortable, and secure member of a loving human pack. That dog is, quite simply, a joy to live with.


We all get cranky sometimes. If you’ve had a horrid day at work, you’ve had a fight with your spouse, or the mechanic just told you the cost to fix your car is $2,700, you’re probably better off skipping any efforts at teaching your dog something new. Instead, use your dog to ease out of your funk: Play fetch or just hang out with her. Pet her while you watch TV — it’s good for your blood pressure.

Likewise, if you start a training session fine and feel yourself getting frustrated and angry, don’t push things. End on a positive note. Ask your dog for something you know she knows well and, when she does it, praise her. Then call it a day. If you can’t manage even that, just stop before you both get even more frustrated.
In either case, remember: Tomorrow is another day.

Dog fight!

Anyone who has ever walked a dog has experienced that terrifying moment when a vicious, unleashed dog is intent on doing harm to your dog. It’s a dangerous situation, even for owners of big dogs; for small dogs, it could be a fatal encounter.
If you have a male dog, getting him neutered may help keep him out of fights. Even if your dog is a cupcake, one dominant unneutered male may take your dog’s very presence as an insult to his dominance. If your dog is neutered, this particular fight trigger is usually not an issue.
Always try to avoid dogs who appear aggressive — dogs with erect body stances instead of the relaxed, ears-back attitude of a dog coming over to play — but sometimes you can’t escape a dominant dog.
If the other dog’s owner is nearby, demand that he put his canine terrorist on leash. If he’s clueless enough to say “Mine’s friendly,” yell back “Mine’s not,” and make your demand again.
If a fight starts, stay out of it. You may be badly hurt. If you’re willing to risk a bite and another person can help, pull the dogs apart by their tails — not their collars! If you’re alone and there’s a hose nearby, hitting them in the chops with a high-volume water spray usually stops the action.
If your own dogs are constantly fighting, call a trainer or behaviorist to help you develop strategies to make it clear that you require your dogs to get along. Realize, however, that peace may never be possible, and you may have to find a new home for one of the dogs.

Keys to Success

Ask a person who has never owned or trained a dog to teach one to sit, and he can probably come up with a successful plan without any prompting. Hold the front end up and push the back end down while saying, “Sit.” The mechanics of training aren’t that hard to understand. But to get your dog to mind you consistently and happily, you need to know a little more.
Dog training is not getting through eight Thursday-night group classes for the training to be over, forever. The training is never over. You teach, and then you practice, in ever-more-challenging circumstances. You correct or ignore the behavior you don’t want. And you integrate your dog’s lessons into everyday life so that he never loses the lessons. Remember the French or Spanish you learned in high school? How good are you at it now? If you don’t use it, you lose it. The same is true of the skills you teach your dog.
After he knows the language, keep asking him to use it. Following are some tips that will help both of you.

Be on the same team

Don’t think of training your dog as a you-versus-your-dog endeavor. Instead, think about the two of you being on the same team, albeit in different positions. Consider yourself the quarterback, if you like: You call the plays. Maybe you’ve noticed that quarterbacks don’t get very far without folks to follow those plays. Winning is a team effort.
Of course, your dog has to learn the plays first, and you’re the one to teach her. But this relationship is still not an adversarial one. You show your dog what she needs to learn, and you do so with love and respect, which your dog will return in kind.
To bring your dog onto your team and show her the plays you’ll be calling, you need to spend time with her. Bring her into your life. Let her sleep in your bedroom and practice her “Sits” in the kitchen. The more opportunities for interaction and practice you have, the faster and more reliably your dog will perform.

Be positive

This tip goes back to having the right attitude, of course, but it’s more than that. Rewards — treats and praise — that are well timed and appropriate are essential to your dog’s learning process. If all you ever do is tell your dog “no,” your relationship isn’t going to be a very good one. How would you like to work with a boss like that?
In particular, praise is cheap — free, in fact! — so use it a lot. Use praise when your dog tries to get it right. Use it more when your dog succeeds. Use it when your dog just pays attention to you, because as you’ll find out in a moment, that’s the first step in the training. You don’t have to be some gushing goof, but you do need to let your dog know when you’re proud of him.

Be fair with corrections

Make sure that your dog understands what you want before you correct her for not doing it. And let the punishment fit the crime.
A correction should not be a release of anger or a way to clear pent-up feelings by unloading them on your dog. Instead, a correction is another way to communicate with your dog, to foster in her a clear understanding of her place in your human pack. As such, a proper correction is another way to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
A correction can be the absence of praise, the denial of attention, or a sharp rebuke. Always ask yourself if you’re being fair before you give in to a desire to respond negatively toward your dog. A correction is one of many tools in the trainer’s kit; it’s not about anger or revenge. Use negative reinforcement selectively and always fairly — and never punish a dog for something she didn’t know was wrong.

Be consistent

How would you do in your job if your boss kept changing the names of your tasks or asked you to do two things at once? Or had different rules for different places and times? It would drive you nuts, wouldn’t it? Yet that’s exactly what people do to their dogs. Consider these points:

Training consistency: When your dog knows a command and demonstrates that knowledge consistently, use that command the same way each time; never change its meaning. The most common example of inconsistency is probably saying “Sit down” to a dog when you really mean “Sit.” Now, you know that when someone says “Sit down” to you, it’s the same as saying “Sit.” But if you teach your dog “Sit” and “Down” as two separate commands, you can understand why it’s confusing. Which do you want? The same applies for saying “Down” when you really mean “Off” (more on this in a bit).

Situational consistency: Some dogs start to recognize situations in which ordinary rules don’t apply. They learn, for example, that when you’re in a hurry, you’ll shrug off disobedience: You’re in a rush to feed your dog, for example, and when you say “Sit,” he doesn’t. You throw the food down anyway.

If “Sit” doesn’t always mean “Sit,” eventually it will never mean “Sit.” Teach your dog that “Sit” means “Sit,” no matter where or when you request the behavior. 

Another kind of inconsistency is when you never expect your dog to mind until you’ve repeated the command a few times. After a dog knows a command, follow through in having him perform the behavior. Then praise him.

Build on your successes

Dog training succeeds by degrees and creativity. You continue to expand the length of time and the number of situations in which your dog will execute a command, and you look for new ways to use what she knows so you can continue to develop and strengthen the bond between you.
Build a little at a time, celebrating every step along the way. Living is learning, and learning is good.

Tools for Teaching

Dog training isn’t expensive, or it needn’t be. You need a leash, some treats, and a properly fitted collar, but your other tools are free for the asking. The trick is knowing what they are, how they work, and when to use them.
A 6-foot lead you can handle easily — leather or nylon, neither too wide nor too thin — is a must, as is a collar that is properly fitted and put on. Chapter All the Right Stuff introduces leashes and collars, if you need a refresher.
Some trainers recommend a slip-chain collar for training; others prefer a flat collar, a head halter, or even a prong collar. All these pieces of equipment are right for some dogs and some people in some training situations. Start with what’s easiest on you and the dog — a head halter or a flat collar — and focus on teaching, not forcing. Slip collars are often put on incorrectly — choking the dog, rather than correcting him — because the collars are difficult for most novice dog trainers to use properly. If you use a slip collar, you must attach the leash to the live ring and keep the chain loose except for the split second when it tightens and releases to correct your dog.

Getting your dog’s attention

You’re not going to be able to teach your dog anything if you can’t get her attention. One of the best ways to do so is to teach her to give you eye contact at your request. Eye contact is one of the most important areas of communication for dogs, and mastering eye contact, dog style, immediately strengthens your relationship.


Catch your dog’s eye by swooping your hand under her chin, bringing your fingers back up near your eyes while you make a clucking noise, and saying her name, followed by “Look” or “Watch.” The motion upward and the sound orient your dog’s eyes up so that she’s looking right into your own. When they lock in, hold for a split second, smile, and praise. This command may take time to learn, because dogs avoid eye contact to show respect. Build up your time until your dog gives and holds eye contact until you release her. Practice this command several times a day, and always be loving and encouraging.

As your dog learns to respect and trust you more, you’ll find that she looks at you more. She wants to see what you’re doing, because you’re where the action is.
Some dogs get a little bit carried away with this devotion thing, to the point that it becomes a way of controlling you. If your dog is becoming an attention addict, give her something to do to earn your praise — ideally, a half-hour “Down-Stay” on the other side of the room (see Chapter Basic Training and Beyond). Think of this activity as tough love, if you will, but it’s better than spending the rest of your life unable to read your newspaper because your love-junkie dog is sticking her nose through it.
Your dog should know her name not as a command to go to you or as a swear word, but as a request for her attention. Praise her for looking at you when you use her name, and then build on that to help get her attention before giving a command. If you’re doing your eye-contact exercises, she’ll start looking at you at the sound of her name, before she even hears “Look.” Praise her! Eventually, you won’t even have to give the “Look” command. The sequence will be, “Luka (not yelled, but clear and encouraging) . . .” and then a slight pause, and then the command. Finish with praise, always.

On the cutting edge: Clicker training

One of the most exciting developments in dog training in recent years has been the widespread use of a little piece of plastic and metal known as a clicker (or sometimes a cricket). The clicker brings classic operant conditioning to dog training, and it first became known for training dolphins and whales for those popular shows at marine parks.
Consider the dolphin, if you will. You can’t put a leash on him, and he’s really too big — and too slippery — to force him into doing what you want to do. (Trying to wrestle in the water with an orca would be even harder — and dangerous, too!) So trainers had to come up with a way to communicate, to shape behavior in a nonphysical way. Enter the clicker.
Trainers — dog and dolphin alike — begin by associating the sound of the clicker with the reward: Fish, in the case of dolphins, and a dog treat for a canine pupil. Soon the animal understands that the clicker — which is easier to time properly than verbal praise — means that he did right and that he’s earned a reward. This technique is especially good for shaping complex behaviors — in the obedience ring, for example, where high-scoring dogs must not only sit, but sit square on their haunches and in proper position relative to their handlers to get a high score.
This level of precision is attained by shaping the behavior. The dog gets a click and treat for sitting, and when that’s mastered, the trainer waits to click/treat until the dog offers a behavior that’s just a tiny bit closer to the goal, and then a tiny bit more, and so on. Soon the dog is being clicked/treated for the perfect position only.
If you have a click trainer in your area, take a class — you’ll enjoy it! If not, you can find the best selection of books on clicker training at the Dogwise Web site,
You’ll definitely be hearing more about clicker training for dogs in the future, and more trainers will be switching to this novel way to train.

Giving praise

All praise is good, but praise specially tailored to connect with the dog’s way of reacting is ten times as effective. Consider these tips:

Use the right tone of voice: Dogs communicate with one another through sounds easily duplicated by humans. If you’re angry with your dog, for example, dropping your voice to a low rumble closely approximates the growling of a dog. For praise, use a sweet, high-pitched crooning voice: “Goooooooood, doooogggg. Aaaren’t youuuu a gooood doooog?”

Tailor your petting style to your dog: Some dogs go crazy when petted; others hardly notice. Use a little chest pat or scratch for dogs who tend to be overly enthusiastic, and be a little more boisterous for the ones who really warm to being jollied. Don’t let the dog use petting as an excuse to go crazy — lighten up on the pats, but don’t correct him — and let your voice do most of the praising.

Smile: Dogs understand many of our facial expressions because they use similar ones to communicate with each other. A smiling face is understood in both species, but if you really want to get through, make the smile as wide open as you can. You’re trying to approximate that big, panting grin a happy dog has. Panting is optional (but kind of fun).

Training with treats

What about using treats to train your dog? They’re a wonderful way to get through to your dog quickly, and probably the easiest way for beginning dog owners to train. Dog trainers have come a long way in developing training techniques by using food. Unfortunately, many people take away the wrong lesson: They come to believe in the treat not as a way to shape behavior, step by step — for which treats can work very well — but rather as the wages for obedience. Dog sits, dog gets a treat. Dog sits, dog gets a treat. And guess what happens? You end up with a dog who won’t pay attention to you if you aren’t in a position to pay the edible going rate.
And what about the relationship that’s supposed to be developing from the inside out, that special bond? It doesn’t. To your dog, you become a vending machine, not a leader. Food helps to form the bond with your dog — dogs quickly become attached to the person who feeds them, after all — but there’s more to developing a solid relationship.


Treats are great for training — they’re especially useful for trick training, or for teaching any behavior that requires your dog to be in precise positions, such as behaviors demanded of top-level competitors in obedience trials. But they’re for training, not for life. You should not be carrying around a pocketful of treats to bribe your dog into doing what you want. Your dog needs to learn his proper place in your pack by using the commands without food after he learns them, or you’re not really teaching him much of anything. Vary his rewards — always praise, but don’t always treat after he’s learned the lesson. When you teach a dog to figure out that a particular behavior gets him what he wants (food and praise), and then put a word on it (the command word), you are truly teaching, and he is truly learning.

Maintaining control and giving correction

During training, you maintain control and offer correction, using both a collar and leash and your body to help guide your pet into correct position and to keep her from getting into wrong ones — such as a full-out gallop, heading away from you.
You also correct your dog with your voice, and you need to be sure that you’re using both your voice and your vocabulary properly. Maybe you don’t use the word “no” much because it’s so overused. Instead, you say “bad dog,” often preceded by a very loud and dramatic intake of air, like the shocked gasp you make involuntarily when you find that your dog has chewed your favorite shoes. Use a sharp, guttural, and dramatic word or sound. Throw the sound at your dog, like a rock.


Put the emphasis on the correction word, not on your dog’s name, to which there should never be any negative connotations.

Using a release word

You need a word to let your dog know he is done with the command you gave him. Probably the most common in use is “Okay.” “Release” is another fine one, as is the one the sheepdog people use at trials: “That’ll do.” It sounds very gracious. Whatever you use, be sure that you’re consistent in its use.
Your release word can mean more than the end of an exercise, such as allowing your dog to move about at the end of a “Stay” command. The release word is also a sort of an all-purpose “at ease” word. For example, if your dog is heeling along at your side, staying out of trouble on a crowded sidewalk, you can use your release word to let him know that doing a little sniffing is fine, and maybe a little leg-lifting, too.

Using a Crate: A Playpen for Your Puppy


To speed the process of training, we strongly recommend that you use a crate or similar means of confinement from the time your dog is a puppy.

Initially, you may recoil from this concept as cruel and inhumane. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You’ll discover that your puppy likes her crate and that you can enjoy your peace of mind. Think of a crate as a dog’s playpen.
The proof is in the pudding: Dogs like crates. A crate reminds them of a den — a place of comfort, safety, security, and warmth (see Figure 2-1.) Puppies, and many adult dogs, sleep most of the day, and many prefer the comfort of their den. For your mental health, as well as that of your puppy, get a crate.
Figure 2-1: In addition to helping with housetraining, a crate is a comfy den for your dog.
Crate-training your dog offers many advantages. Consider just a few:

– A crate is a babysitter — when you’re busy and can’t keep an eye on your dog, but you want to make sure that she doesn’t get into trouble, put her in her crate. You can relax, and so can she.

– Using a crate is ideal for getting her on a schedule for housetraining.

– Few dogs are fortunate enough to go through life without ever having to be hospitalized. Your dog’s private room at the veterinary hospital will consist of a crate. Her first experience with a crate shouldn’t come at a time when she’s sick — the added stress from being crated for the first time can retard her recovery.

– A crate is especially helpful when you have to keep your dog quiet, such as after being altered or after an injury.

– Driving any distance, even around the block, with your dog loose in the car is tempting fate. Stop suddenly, and who knows what could happen? Having the dog in a crate protects you and your dog.

– When you go on vacation, you may take your dog. Her crate is her home away from home, and you can leave her in a hotel room knowing she won’t be unhappy or stressed, and she won’t tear up the room. (See the section “Traveling with Your Dog” later in this chapter for more on dogs and travel.)

– A crate is a place where she can get away from the hustle and bustle of family life and hide out when humans become too much for her.


A crate provides a dog with her own special place. It’s cozy, secure, and her place to get away from it all. Make sure that your dog’s crate is available to her when she wants to nap or take some time out. She’ll use it on her own, so make sure that she always has access to it. Depending on where it is, your dog will spend much of her sleeping time in her crate.

Finding the right crate

Select a crate that’s large enough for your dog to turn around, stand up, or lie down comfortably. If he’s a puppy, get a crate for the adult-size dog so that he can grow into it.
Some crates are better than others in strength and ease of assembly. You can get crates in wire mesh–type material, cloth mesh, or plastic (called airline crates). Most are designed for portability and are easy to assemble. Wire-mesh crates are easy to collapse, although they’re heavier than crates made of cloth mesh or plastic.


If you frequently take your dog with you in the car, consider getting two crates, one for the house and one for the car. Doing so saves you from having to lug one back and forth.

Coaxing your dog into the crate


To coax your dog into the crate, use these helpful hints:

1. Set up the crate and let your dog investigate it.

Put a crate pad, doggie bed, or blanket in the crate.

2. Say a command, such as “Crate” or “Go to bed.”

If your puppy isn’t lured in, physically place her in the crate, using the command you’ve chosen.

3. Close the door, tell her what a great puppy she is, give her a bite-sized treat, and then let her out.

There’s no rule against gentle persuasion to get your pup enthused about her crate.

4. Use a treat to coax her into the crate.

If she doesn’t follow the treat, physically place her in the crate and then give her the treat.

5. Again, close the door, tell her what a great puppy she is, and give her a bite-sized treat.
6. Let her out.

The treat doesn’t have to be a dog biscuit, as long as it’s an object the dog will actively work for.

7. Continue using the command and giving your dog a treat when she’s in the crate until she goes into the crate with almost no help from you.


For the puppy who’s afraid of the crate, use her meals to overcome her fear. First, let her eat her meal in front of the crate; then place the next meal just inside the crate. Put each successive meal a little farther into the crate until she’s completely inside and no longer reluctant to enter.

Helping your dog get used to the crate

Tell your dog to go into the crate, give him a treat, close the door, tell him what a good puppy he is, and then let him out again. Each time you do this, leave him in the crate a little longer with the door closed, still giving him a treat and telling him how great he is.
Finally, put him in his crate, give him a treat, and then leave the room — first for 1 minute; then 5 minutes; then 10 minutes; then 15 minutes, and so on. Each time you return to let him out, tell him how good he was before you open the door.
How long can you ultimately leave your dog in his crate unattended? That depends on your dog and your schedule, but for an adult dog, don’t let it be more than eight hours.


Never use your dog’s crate as a form of punishment. If you do, he’ll begin to dislike the crate and it will lose its usefulness to you. You don’t want him to develop negative feelings about his crate. You want him to like his private den.

Great Things They Don’t Teach in Obedience Class

The lessons you can teach your dog have no end. This section gives you a taste of a few off-the-beaten-path lessons you can teach your dog.


Don’t let your mind stop because a trainer’s — or author’s — suggestions do. After reading this chapter and the next, you’ll know how to train a dog, so build on your own success. If you have something you want to teach your dog, give the behavior a name and do it!


This command is different from Stay because the dog is not required to hold a position — she just can’t cross an imaginary line until the time of your choosing. To teach this command, position your dog in a doorway, call her name, say “Wait,” and draw your hand, palm out, from frame to frame in front of her eyes. Walk back into the room and allow her to move around, and then step back out. If she follows across the imaginary line, give a voice correction and repeat the command and hand signal. Praise her and give her a treat for staying on the other side of the line; then release her to more praise and treats.
This command has many uses, such as when you open the car door and you don’t want your dog to jump out into traffic, and before you and your dog enter people’s homes or leave your own.

Go to Your Bed

The command Go to Your Bed means “Go there and plant it, pal” and is a great command for getting your dog out from underfoot. Call your dog’s name, tell him “Go to your bed,” lead him there, and tell him “Down.” With practice — and consistency — the Down part becomes automatic.


“Off” is what people often mean when they say “Down”: “I want all four of your paws on the floor, now.” Off is not a punishment: It’s a command. If your dog’s on the couch or the bed without an invitation, take her by the collar, say “Off,” and then lead her down and praise. The same applies with the jumping dog, although then the command is best taught with a leash and slip collar. Say “Off,” then use the leash in a downward motion until those feet hit the ground, say “Sit,” and offer praise. (See Chapter Basic Training and Beyond for details.)

Don’t Touch or Leave It

Teach this command with a physical correction from the get-go. With your dog in a Sit-Stay and your hand in a fist, flat surface up, offer your dog a biscuit with the other. As he reaches for the biscuit, say “Don’t touch,” and bop him gently under the chin, enough to close his jaw but not lift him off his feet. Offer the biscuit again, repeating “Don’t touch,” and if he hesitates or turns away, praise him. Few dogs need this command demonstrated more than twice.


This command is another one with many useful applications. A dog leads with his nose, after all, and a dog who knows Don’t Touch isn’t going to head in a direction you don’t want him to go in. Use this command when you’re walking and he dives for some dreadful leftovers in a fast-food bag. Use it to keep him from lifting his leg where you don’t want him to on walks — because the sniff is the prelude to the leg-lift, this command works well. If you drop your sandwich in front of him, saying “Don’t touch” ensures that you get to finish it — assuming you still want to, of course.


For many dogs, retrieving is the easiest command to teach. They’re retrievers: They were born with the desire to retrieve. You throw something, they bring it back. That’s the way they’re wired. For other dogs, such as Rhodesian Ridgebacks, who were bred to hunt lions, which are hard to fetch, you throw something and they look at you as if to say, “Well, you obviously didn’t want it, because you threw it away. Surely you don’t expect me to do something about it. Fetch? You must be kidding!”
It’s worth trying to teach your dog to retrieve, if only because it’s the world’s best way to get your dog the exercise she needs without you having to exert all that much time or energy. You don’t have to jog — you can just throw.


If your dog isn’t a natural-born retriever, realize that you must be very patient, and be content with small advances. The dog who first makes even the tiniest move forward to take an object on command has made a huge achievement. Recognize it, and build on your successes. Don’t lose patience.


Before you start, go to pet supply store and get a dumbbell — a wooden or plastic retrieving tool that’s a dowel with wide pieces on both ends to help keep it from slipping out of your dog’s mouth. Dumbbells come in various sizes and weights; pick one wide enough for your dog to get her mouth on the dowel part comfortably, without being squeezed by the side pieces.

Several different methods exist for teaching fetch, including ones that involve force. For most people, a positive, patient approach works fine. Remember, think short, upbeat sessions in small increments, and offer lots of praise and treats. Work at your dog’s own pace, and don’t rush to the next level.
Start by teaching the dog to open her mouth. Say “Take it” and offer a treat. After your dog is opening her mouth in expectation when she hears you say “Take it,” slip the dumbbell inside for a second. Praise her and offer her a treat. Try this sequence a few more times, and then end the lesson.
After your dog is accepting the dumbbell, put it in her mouth and say “Hold it” while you gently hold her mouth around the dumbbell for three or four seconds. Then tell her “Give” and let her spit out the dumbbell. Treat and praise.
The next step is to hold the dumbbell just in front of the dog’s mouth and say “Take it.” If you need to pull her head toward the dumbbell with the collar, that’s fine. If she moves forward on her own, even better. Treat and praise.
From that point, it’s a matter of building the distance slowly, lesson by lesson. One foot, 2 feet; then picking it up from the floor; then picking it up from the floor 3 feet away, and so on. You should be working separately on practicing the Hold It and Give commands, as well as the Come command described earlier in this chapter and detailed in the next chapter.


Fetching isn’t just one skill: It’s a combination of skills. Taking the object is one part of it. Holding the object is another, and so is bringing it to you. Releasing the object on your Give It command is the final part. Each piece must be taught, and then merged into a seamless behavior. Some dogs put it all together quickly and naturally; other dogs don’t. But if you work slowly and patiently, your dog will learn.

Traveling with Your Dog

It’s one thing if your dog behaves at home under your supervision. It’s quite another out in the wide world. Although dogs aren’t as complicated to travel with as, say, babies, you do have to pick up and work out a few things in advance of any trip.

The well-equipped travel dog

You can really go crazy packing things to ensure your dog’s safety and comfort. What should you bring? First, some basics.

– Your dog should be wearing a sturdy collar with a license and an up-to-date ID tag with at least one number, area code included, that’s not yours — someone who’ll be there to answer the phone if you lose your dog miles from home.

If your dog is more comfortable in a harness, put the tag on that, but remember, a harness isn’t a good option for a dog who doesn’t behave well on leash, because you have less control with a harness.

Ideally, your pet should also be “chipped” — see Chapter Canine First Aid for details.

– Bring along a 6-foot leash. A longer leash is handy, too, especially a reel-type leash such as the Flexi, which is great for giving your dog a little room to stretch his legs in areas such as rest stops. Think about bringing an extra leash, as well as a nylon, one-piece slip lead like the ones veterinary hospitals and kennel operators use. Keep it in your glove box.

– Pack two bowls: one for food, one for water.

Water bowls that either collapse for easy storage or don’t spill are perfect for travel. Keep a collapsible bowl in your car trunk, along with a bottle of water.

– If your dog eats a widely available brand of food, pack enough to get you started and pick up the rest on the road, if you’re going to an area with a market or pet supply store. If your dog eats prescription food or anything out of the ordinary, bring enough for the trip. If your pet eats canned food, you need a spoon or fork and a can opener, unless your pup’s brand comes in pop-tops.

– Don’t forget some treats!

– A comb, brush, and tweezers or ready-made device for pulling ticks come in handy, especially on back-country trips. 

– Some basic first-aid supplies — scissors, gauze, tape, and Pepto-Bismol, for diarrhea — are handy to have around. Your veterinarian can prescribe some motion-sickness medication, if need be, and you certainly want to pack that.

– Don’t forget to pack any regular medication your pet takes.

– Bring cloth towels, for drying off wet, dirty dogs, and paper towels for cleaning up more things than you can imagine. You may want to pack an old sheet and blanket, for covering bedspreads, furniture, and carpets in hotel rooms, and perhaps a multipurpose cleaner in a spray bottle.

– Plastic bags are a must-bring, too, for poop pick-ups.

– Bring dog shampoo. Trying to find shampoo at 10 p.m. in a resort town after your dog has rolled in something vile will convince you of this necessity.

For owners of little dogs only: A shoulder bag for carrying your pet. With this tote — or any oversized bag — you can slip your dog into areas the big dogs can only dream of, and most of the people around you will never notice.

– Don’t forget your pet’s health records, including microchip number, and especially proof of rabies vaccination. The latter is absolutely imperative if the unthinkable happens and your dog bites someone or tangles with a rabid creature in the wild.

– Last, but certainly not least, from your dog’s point of view: a couple of his favorite toys.

The standard travel advice has been to bring water from home, but that’s just unfeasible for a trip of any decent length. Your dog will be fine drinking the same water you do in unfamiliar places. That said, bring a couple gallons of bottled water, from either the tap or the store, because you may stop to water and walk your dogs in areas where a source of safe drinking water isn’t readily available.

The well-prepared dog lover

As with anything else, the key for traveling with a dog is to prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Carry some ready-made LOST DOG! flyers with your dog’s picture on them and a place to write a phone number with a big marker (which you should also pack). (More on preparing these flyers is in Chapter Canine First Aid.)
Find a directory of pet-friendly lodgings. Some travel guides, such as AAA, mention whether pets are accepted, but calling ahead is always a good idea: Policies and ownership can change, after all.

A good dog travel book is Maria Goodavage’s The California Dog Lover’s Companion (Avalon Travel Publishing). If you live in or are planning to visit California, this book is a must-buy. Others in the series are just as wonderful.
As with so many other things, the Internet has changed travel, and that’s just as true of travel with dogs. Search the Web for “pet-friendly travel” or “pet-friendly lodging” and be prepared for an onslaught of options.

Travel by car

Given the worries most pet lovers have about air travel, it’s no wonder that most doggie vacations are conducted in the family car. When they understand that car rides end up in exciting places like the beach, most dogs greet the prospect of a car ride with unabashed enthusiasm — a little too much, for some drivers.

Making car rides safer


As with all other training, ending up with a good car rider starts with molding correct behavior when your dog is a puppy. No matter how cute or how small, do not allow your pup to ride in your lap, and don’t make a fuss over her while you’re driving. On short neighborhood trips, ask your pup to sit quietly, and praise her for proper behavior.

Traveling with your dog in a crate is often easier and definitely safer. Depending on the size of your dog and the size and shape of your car, a crate may not be feasible. Do consider using a crate, though, especially if your dog is active enough to distract the driver. Collapsible crates are available for easy storage in the trunk when not in use.
Another safety tool is a doggy seat belt, which fits into a standard seat-belt buckle and then attaches to a harness on the dog. If you have a station wagon or similar vehicle, widely available metal barriers fit between the passenger and cargo areas, to keep your pet in her place. You can find these devices in pet stores.

Uneasy riders

If your dog’s only exposure to riding in a car is an occasional trip to the veterinarian, don’t be surprised if he’s not the happiest of riders. Try to build up his enthusiasm by increasing his time in the car and praising him for his good behavior. The first short trips should be to pleasant locations, such as parks.

Hot dog

Just about everyone understands that dogs shouldn’t be left inside a car on a hot day, but fewer realize that the danger is just as great on a warm one. It’s a horrible way to die. A car functions similarly to a greenhouse, and heat can build up to lethal levels in minutes, even on a pleasant day in the 70s or low 80s. Even with the windows rolled down, a dog can show signs of heat stress — heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, dizziness or vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue — in the time it takes you to get a six-pack through the Ten Items or Less line. Brain damage and death can follow within
An overheated dog needs prompt veterinary attention to have a chance of survival. Don’t delay! Better yet, don’t risk your dog’s life by leaving him in the car. Another danger to the unattended dog is theft, which, when combined with heat dangers, means a few minutes looking through that cute little shop really isn’t worth the risk posed to your pet.


Dramamine prevents car sickness in dogs as well as people, but other remedies are available — talk to your veterinarian. A dog-handler’s trick: Your dog should travel on little or no food, and the dog should get a jelly bean — or any other piece of sugar candy, except chocolate — before hitting the road.

Because most of the problems stem from fear, not motion sickness, building up your pet’s tolerance for riding in a car is a better long-term cure than anything you can give him. Although fresh air is wonderful, don’t let your pet hang his head out of the window. Small debris kicked up by other cars can strike him in the eye or nose and injure him. Roll down the window enough for a sniff, if you like — but no more.
On the road, remember to stop at regular intervals — about as often as you need to for yourself — for your dog to relieve himself and get a drink of fresh water. Remember to always keep your dog on a leash, for his safety.


When you’re on the road, if you want to spend a few hours kicking around an area where dogs are not welcome, a local veterinary clinic is a safe place to leave your dog. You can usually manage to find one amenable to a short-term boarder within a couple calls, and you’ll know your dog is in safe and secure surroundings while you’re not with him. The price for this service is negotiable — a half-day’s boarding is a good starting point.


Although leaving a dog loose in a hotel room is not a good idea — most places forbid doing so, in fact — you can leave a crated dog alone, provided he’s not a barker. Just another reason why a crate is one of the most versatile pieces of canine equipment your dog can have.

Travel by air

If you don’t take your dog by car in the United States, air is your only other option. The major bus lines and Amtrak don’t allow any animals except dogs serving the disabled. Other countries are far more liberal on this point — dogs are welcome in restaurants, too, in some places — but it’s still hit and miss.
Although horror stories make the news, the truth is that airline travel is relatively safe for most dogs, and it will be for yours if you play by the rules, plan carefully, and are prepared to be a little pushy on your pet’s behalf.
Animals move through the airline system in two ways: as cargo or as accompanied baggage. Most animals travel in a pressurized cargo hold beneath the passenger compartment. Although the accommodations aren’t any nicer, it’s better for your pet if she is traveling as your “baggage” so you can ask about her in person.
Some airlines allow small dogs in the cabin, if their carriers can fit in the space beneath the seat. This is by far the best way your dog can fly, because she never leaves your care during the course of the trip. Not all airlines allow dogs to travel in the cabin, however, and others put a limit on the number of dogs in the cabin, so making your arrangements far in advance pays.
The only larger dogs allowed in the cabin are service dogs traveling with a disabled person.
The Air Transport Association estimates that more than a half a million dogs and cats are transported on commercial airlines in the United States each year, and the industry group insists 99 percent reach their destination without incident.

To make sure that your dog is one of them, talk to the airline. Some carriers — especially the no-frills companies — don’t take animals at all. Even the carriers that do have limits to the number of animals on a flight because a set amount of air is available in the sealed cargo holds. You also need to know where and when your dog has to be presented, and what papers — health certificate and so on — you need to bring.

Also consider these tips when flying with your dog:

– Be sure that your dog is in good health and isn’t one of the pug-nosed breeds. These dogs find breathing a little difficult under the best of circumstances, and the stress of airline travel may be more than they can handle.

– Make sure that your dog is traveling in a proper carrier (crate) that has contact phone numbers at both ends of the journey. (Your home number won’t help if you’re not home.) The crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in. Be sure that all the bolts securing the halves of the carriers are in place and tightened.

– Although your dog shouldn’t wear a collar in her crate — it’s not safe, because it can get caught on other objects — put an ID tag on a piece of elastic around her neck; in addition, you may want to consider having her microchipped before travel.

– Don’t ship your pet when the weather is bad or when air traffic is heaviest. Avoid peak travel days such as around the Christmas holidays, and choose flights that are on the ground when the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, not only at the departure airport, but also at the connecting and arriving airports. In summer, a night flight is likely better, whereas the reverse is true in the winter. Many airlines have their own temperature restrictions.

– Fly with your dog whenever possible. Keeping on top of things is easier when you’re on the same flight.

– Choose a direct flight; if that’s not possible, try for a route with a short layover. Most canine fatalities occur on the ground, when dogs are left in their crates on the hot tarmac or in stifling cargo holds. Direct flights liminate layovers, and short layovers reduce the time on the ground.

– Remember, your dog’s life relies on the attentiveness of airline personnel. Most of these employees are excellent and caring, but mistakes do happen. Be prepared to pester airline personnel to confirm that your dog has been loaded and has made the same connections you have. If your pet is flying unaccompanied, talk to freight-handling personnel at every airport your dog will visit. Be polite but persistent; don’t take “I’m sure she’s fine — have some delicious honey-roasted peanuts” as an answer from a flight attendant. Make the staff check and report back.

A piece of doggie heaven

It used to be that dog lovers were happy just to find lodgings that accepted dogs. How things have changed — some vacation options today are designed with dogs first in mind. These doggie vacations take two forms: Dog resorts with planned activities, and dog resorts without.
Places with planned activities are known as dog camps. The organizers rent a campground, school campus, or similar location for part of the year and bring in trainers, lecturers, and other experts to teach campers and their human companions about various dog sports. Dog camps leave plenty of time for hiking, fetch, silly games, and just plain hanging out with other dogs.
Camp Gone To The Dogs is the prototype and still a place many dogs and dog lovers dream of visiting someday. Honey Loring puts the camp together every year, offering everything possible to keep human and canine guests deliriously happy. For information, check out the Web site at
The other kind of dog resort is typified by the strangely named Sheep Dung Estates in Northern California. Sheep Dung’s cabin’s are dog friendly to the maximum extent possible, with tile floors and easy-to-clean furnishings. And each cabin is set in a private setting away from the others, so staying at Sheep Dung is like having your own ranch — your dog can be off leash the entire stay. For more information, visit
While Camp Gone to The Dogs and Sheep Dung Estates are definitely pioneers, their trailblazing efforts have not gone unnoticed by others in the travel industry. Similar businesses have followed the great example set by these dog-friendly operations — and the trend is sure to grow.


Contrary to popular belief, it’s generally better not to tranquilize your dog before flying. The combination of high altitude and limited oxygen is a challenge that your pet’s body is better prepared to meet if she’s not sedated. Still, your pet may be an exception. In the end, you and your veterinarian should decide on this issue.

Dog-friendly vacations

Just as vacations with children are different from adults-only trips, traveling with your dog works out better if you plan the journey with an eye to finding places where dogs not only are welcome but are also able to enjoy the surroundings.

Ruffing it

Some people spend their vacation not in some fancy resort, but in the great outdoors — and they want to take their dogs with them. Fortunately, sturdy, well-designed packs are on the market, designed to let your dog carry his share of the load and even some of yours. An adult dog in top condition can carry up to a quarter of his weight, evenly distributed in a properly fitting pack. Get your dog used to the feel of the pack on short walks and trips, and gradually build up the weight and distance.
Dogs aren’t welcome everywhere, and the biggest danger to the future of canine backpacking is other hikers more than wild beasts. Don’t give the dog haters any ammunition: Keep your dog under control, and that means on-leash in areas with other people or animals. Take either tools to bury waste or supplies to pack it back out.
You don’t need to take much into the back country — food and water are the basics — but you do need a few extra things. Grooming tools — a brush or comb, and tweezers or a tick remover — keep your pet healthy and comfortable. Also include basic first-aid supplies for human and canine packers, and bring a light rope for tethering your dog when necessary.
Charlene G. LaBelle’s A Guide to Backpacking With Your Dog (Alpine) is an outstanding book that offers invaluable tips on how to train and equip your dog, and where to take him.
In general, you’ll want to emphasize the outdoors. But as you’ll soon find in traveling with your dog, not all parks and beaches are the same. In some cities and towns, dogs aren’t even allowed in municipal facilities; in other open areas, too many humans may make things tough for dogs.
Even camping can be a disappointment. The U.S.’s national parks aren’t much fun for dogs, but national forests are. The difference: The crowded national parks — such as Yosemite — have strict leash laws and require dogs to stay off most trails. National forests, on the other hand, have wide open spaces with few people and fewer leashing requirements — although that doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility for your dog’s poor behavior. Requirements in other parks vary, so check them out in advance.
You may prefer to stay in lodgings where dogs aren’t just tolerated — they’re welcomed. The owners of dog-friendly inns and hotels are often dog lovers, and they’re happy to give you clues on the best activities in the area. A less-popular resort area is almost always more laid back and tolerant where dogs are concerned.
Whatever you do, call ahead! Even the most dog-friendly places may have only a couple rooms available for dog lovers, and if these accommodations are in popular resorts areas, they can be booked months in advance for prime vacation weekends. Better still, plan for an off-season vacation (and still call ahead).

Getting past “no dogs allowed” — it’s possible

If you travel with your dog a lot, a time will come when you’ll be stranded somewhere you weren’t counting on — because of a car problem, perhaps — and you’ll be trying to find a place to stay. You may be able to convince some hotels to let the rules slide. Consider some tips:

– Offer a deposit. If you’re confident that your dog won’t cause any damage — and if you aren’t, you shouldn’t be traveling with him — put your money where your mouth is and offer to guarantee your pet’s good behavior.

– Show off your dog’s good manners and well-groomed appearance. Obviously, this plan is not a good one for someone with a muddy, out-of-control, 125-pound shedding machine. But if your dog is clean and well behaved, show him off.

– Show the manager your crate. A dog who will sleep in a crate and not be left to his own devices is a much better risk for the manager to take.

If you’re going to sneak a dog into a hotel room — and who would ever suggest such a thing? — it probably works best if your room is far from the office and you’re prepared to sleep in your car, just in case. If you’re planning to have your dog sleep in your car, you’d better be with him: Leaving your pet unattended is never a good idea.

Keeping the world safe for canine travelers

Even though more people than ever are traveling with their dogs, plenty of people out there still don’t like sharing their space with the four-legged tourist.
You can see how the decisions to ban dogs get made. Liability concerns arise over dog bites and sanitation worries emerge over dog mess. But our job as caring, responsible dog lovers is to make sure people realize that more good dogs are around than bad ones. Remember a few pointers while on the road:

Keep ’em clean. Your dog needs to be well groomed and clean smelling. Always dry off wet dogs and wipe off muddy feet — using your towels, not the hotel’s — before allowing your dog inside. Cover furniture, carpets, and bedspreads with your old sheets and towels, and if you need to bathe your dog, be sure, again, to use your towels and to clean up all the fur.

Keep ’em under control. Your dog should be obedient, friendly but not annoying, and never aggressive — to people, pets, or wildlife. Do not allow your dog to bark uncontrolled in a car, camper, or hotel room. Use your best judgment on when to let a dog off-leash — even in areas where doing so is allowed — and be sure that your dog isn’t annoying other people or dogs.

Pick up after ’em. Isn’t it astonishing that well-mannered people who would never consider tossing a soft-drink cup on the ground will look the other way when their dog deposits something 5,000 times more vile? That “it’s biodegradable” excuse doesn’t wash, either. Pick up after your dog. Dog mess is the single biggest complaint dog haters have against our being in public areas, so don’t give them any ammunition. When you check into a hotel, stress that you intend to pick up after your dog, and inquire if they have a place where they prefer you take her to relieve herself. Don’t let a male dog lift his leg on the shrubs while you’re walking there, either.

by Eve Adamson, Richard G. Beauchamp, Margaret H. Bonham, Stanley Coren, Miriam Fields-Babineau, Sarah Hodgson, Connie Isbell, Susan McCullough, Gina Spadafori, Jack and Wendy Volhard, Chris Walkowicz, M. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD 

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