Training and Behavior

Training and Behavior
In This Chapter
  • Taking your Boston to school
  • Mastering basic obedience commands
  • Using humane methods to correct problem behavior
  • Deciding when to call a behavior expert

Every year, pet owners relinquish millions of dogs to shelters because of their pets’ bad behavior. Well-meaning families purchase puppies with every intention of training them to be well-behaved adults. They take them to puppy kindergarten and practice their lessons at home with hopes that the adorable puppies will obey their commands and behave as good dogs should.

Unfortunately, many times those good intentions fall by the wayside. Puppy kindergarten, for example, may meet the same day as their child’s soccer team plays its matches. It becomes hard to find time to practice the Sit, Stay, and Leave It commands at home.
Before too long, the dog has asserted his dominance over the home, greeting houseguests with a bark, jumping up for attention, and digging dozens of holes in the perfectly manicured lawn. The owner throws up her hands in frustration and sequesters her beloved Boston to the basement or patio, then banishes him to the backyard, and eventually drops him off at the pound or humane society.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can raise a well-behaved Boston who obeys commands. Behavior training is about teaching your Boston what actions are allowed and which ones are forbidden. It also means that you, the owner, have to be decisive about what you permit and prohibit.

School Days

Puppy kindergarten and obedience classes teach you how to handle your dog, and they teach your dog how to listen to you. Often organized through humane societies, veterinary offices, and pet stores, these courses are led by trained instructors who have particular expertise in teaching dog owners how to handle their pets.

Although you can skip puppy kindergarten and train your Boston at home, you and your dog achieve much greater success when you’re taught by a dog trainer. In the structured environment, the trainer lays down fundamentals that you build upon throughout your Boston’s life. It may seem like a hassle to take your pup to these classes, but they pay off later on.

Why classes are a good idea

Unless you’re a dog trainer or an experienced dog owner, you probably don’t know too much about training a dog. A dog isn’t a little human; you can’t reason with him, you can’t talk him into behaving a certain way, and you can’t ground him for bad behavior. The only thing he understands is how to act like a dog, so as his owner, you need to communicate with him in a way that he understands. You can learn these communication skills in a puppy kindergarten or obedience class.
Here are some more reasons to enroll your dog in classes:

Safety: One of the most important reasons to train your Boston to obey your commands is to keep him safe. If you’re outside and he starts to chase a bird, a trained dog will stay and come at your command. The untrained Boston will keep running and can hurt himself, lose his way home, or worse.

Manners: You also want to train your Boston so you can take him on outings. A well-behaved Boston will sit and lay down at your side without barking, nipping, or trying to run away.

Harmony: A well-behaved dog will be a pleasure to be around. If he starts to act rambunctious, he’ll settle when told, or he’ll lie down in his bed when the family wants to enjoy a movie.


Though more and more people think of their dogs as their “children,” it’s important to remember that dogs are dogs, and they need to be treated as such. Treating your pet like a miniature human only confuses him. He wants to be part of the pack, not your daughter’s younger brother. 

Your Boston wants nothing more than to find his place in the pack. If you don’t assert yourself as leader, he’ll assume that role — which is not what you want. You are the pack leader, and your job is to communicate clearly and firmly what you want him to do through humane training techniques, such as positive reinforcement.
Obedience classes can help you master these training skills and show your dog that you are the leader of the household. The end result will be a happy dog and a happy owner.

The right ages to learn new lessons

Though the old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” may be true in some cases, dogs of any age can learn how to obey basic commands. Puppies pick up commands much more quickly than adult dogs, but both puppies and adults benefit from organized classes that instruct the dog and the owner.

Puppy kindergarten

The place to start with a puppy is puppy kindergarten. Intended to be an opportunity for your puppy to socialize with other dogs and humans, this course introduces you and your Boston to behavior basics, such as having the dog settle on command and look to you for guidance. It also teaches you how to be pack leader by asserting your dominance in a humane, loving way.
You can enroll your Boston in puppy kindergarten when he’s between 10 and 12 weeks old. In most cases, your Boston will have to complete at least two rounds of vaccinations to participate.

Basic training courses

After your Boston graduates from kindergarten, you can take his training a step further by participating in basic and intermediate obedience training. You can also enroll your adult dog in basic and intermediate obedience training.
Your Boston will learn more specific commands, like Sit, Stay, Leave It, Take It, Come, and Heel. You’ll get advice on how to handle problem behaviors, such as digging, barking, and chewing. These courses are for dogs who are 4 months of age or older.
You can also hire a private trainer to come to your home. Normally reserved for dogs with severe behavior problems, private training is done one on one to fit you and your Boston’s needs.

Advanced obedience challenges

For Bostons and their owners who excel at obedience training, kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club (AKC) offer obedience competitions that require your Boston to perform specific exercises that illustrate how well he obeys his handler’s commands. You can also enroll him in the Canine Good Citizen program, which awards certification for passing a ten-step test. Turn to Chapter Taking Training to the Next Level for more information about these advanced courses.

Finding the right trainer

Taking your Boston to a puppy kindergarten or dog obedience class should be a fun and educational experience for both of you. It gives your pet a chance to socialize with other dogs and learn how to behave. You can usually find trainers who run these classes through your veterinarian’s office, through your local pet supply store, online, or in the phone book.
Before you settle on one trainer, however, you’ll want to visit her class to observe her in action and make sure you’re comfortable with the training methods. Here are some things you should look for when you’re choosing a trainer and class for your Boston:

An interesting, enjoyable atmosphere: The participants should be enjoying themselves and having a successful learning experience. The instructor should be approachable and encouraging, showing courtesy to the humans and the dogs.

Informative lessons: A skilled instructor should explain the day’s lesson and provide clear instructions through written handouts or demonstrations, give the students plenty of class time to practice the day’s lesson, and assist the students individually with proper techniques.

Proper training methods: You should be comfortable with the instructor’s training tools and methods. They should always be humane and not harmful to your dog or you. Hitting, kicking, electronic devices, or any other training device that causes harm should not be used.

Ongoing education: The trainer should be well-informed about new innovations in dog training and behavior tools and techniques. Ask if the trainer is a member of any educational organizations or associations.

Vaccination requirements: Vaccinations should be required before any puppy or dog attends the trainer’s class. It protects you and your dog’s health.

Positive references: Chat with some current clients, if possible, after the class. Find out if they’re learning from the instructor and how their dogs are progressing.

Satisfaction guarantee: Ask the trainer if she offers some kind of client satisfaction guarantee with the services. Because of variables in dog breeding and temperament, and owner commitment and experience, a trainer cannot and should not guarantee the results of her training, but she should ensure some type of client satisfaction.

Establishing a Commanding Presence

Many different training theories and practices exist today. Trainers use different approaches to teach dogs how to behave. Some use a balanced method that incorporates positive reinforcement and correction. Others use a behavior-driven approach. Successful and humane methods have positive reinforcement in common.


Positive reinforcement rewards good behavior with treats, praise, and lots of love. Timing is critical when using this approach. For example, if you’re teaching your dog the basic Sit command, you reward him immediately with a treat when he sits correctly. If he doesn’t sit correctly, you don’t say, “Bad dog,” and smack him with a newspaper. Instead, you correct the behavior, gently showing him how to sit correctly, and then ask him to sit again. When he does sit, you reward him with a treat and lots of praise.

You can start boning up on behavior training before your Boston comes home. Educate yourself by reading books dedicated to positive training and dog behavior (check out Dog Training For Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Jack and Wendy Volhard [Wiley]). Or if you’re a more visual learner, you can choose from all sorts of DVDs and videos to help you with step-by-step training.
When you have your dog at home, you can prepare for puppy kindergarten by familiarizing yourself and your Boston with the elementary commands discussed in this section.

Getting started

Before you begin your training session, gather some treats, such as small chunks of dehydrated meat or cheese. Attach your Boston’s collar or harness to a 4-foot leash and lead him to an area where you’ll have plenty of room to work. Plan to dedicate about 20 minutes a day to these training sessions, but practice the commands constantly in your day-to-day activities, and encourage your family members to do the same.
Begin by teaching your Boston to respond to his name.

1. Standing in front of him, say his name in a fun, upbeat voice.

2. When he looks at you, reward him with lots of praise, toys, and a small piece of cheese or meat.
If he becomes distracted by a butterfly or a child, repeat his name and use a gentle nudge with your hand to remind him to look at you. His eyes should be on you whenever you say his name.
Practice the name game with your Boston for a few days before you begin training, and before long, when your Boston hears his name, he’ll look at you and wait for something to happen.


The Settle command (see Figure 11-1) shows your Boston that you are the alpha dog. It teaches him that when you say, “Pete, settle,” he should calm down and submit to you.
Figure 11-1: Commanding your Boston to settle lets him know that you are the alpha dog in the pack.
Here’s an easy way to teach your Boston to settle:
1. Sit in a chair or on the floor, and flip your dog over in your lap so his belly is up, putting him in a submissive position.
2. Calmly say, “Pete, settle.”

3. When he relaxes in your arms, say, “Good boy to settle,” and give him a treat.

If your dog refuses to settle, use a more direct voice while gently touching his throat area, similar to the behavior a mama dog would do to a misbehaving puppy. Because the throat is a dog’s most vulnerable area, he’ll instinctively respond.


This command is very useful when your Boston decides to tear around the house or uncontrollably misbehave. Simply pick up your dog and issue the command. When he calms down, reward him with praise and set him free again.


The Sit command (see Figure 11-2) teaches your dog to hold still in a sitting position. A very important lesson in self-control, this command is likely the first one your Boston will learn, and it’s the cornerstone of many to come.
Figure 11-2: The Sit command requires your dog to hold in a seated position. Most other commands begin with your Boston in the sit posture.
The easiest way to teach this command is to use a treat as a lure — especially because Bostons are motivated by food! Follow these steps:
1. Stand in front of your dog. Bend down and hold a treat over his nose.
2. Say in a firm voice, “Pete, sit.” As you say those words, move the treat up over his head toward his tail.
The dog will follow the treat with his eyes and head, which will cause his rear to lower to a seated position.
If he doesn’t sit, show him what you want by gently pushing his rump down and saying, “Pete, sit.”
3. Praise him when he does as he’s asked (whether on his own or with a little help from you), saying “Good dog,” and reward him immediately with a treat.
Do this repeatedly until your Boston understands that obeying brings a reward — your praise!


The Down command teaches your Boston to lie down and remain in place. You can use this command when you want your Boston to lie down on his bed and play with a toy or to stay away from the table when you and your family are eating.
1. Begin by telling your dog to sit.
2. Holding a treat in front of his nose, say, “Pete, down,” and move the treat down to the floor in front of his paws.
As his nose follows the treat, he will lie down.
3. Praise him and give him the treat.
Repeat this process until he’s got Down down.


The Stay command (see Figure 11-3), used with both the Sit and the Down commands, trains your Boston to stay in place until you release him. The Sit-Stay command is for shorter periods of time; the Down-Stay command is for longer periods. Here’s how to teach your Boston the Stay command:
Figure 11-3: The Stay command trains your Boston to remain in place until you release him.
1. Start by facing your dog and telling him to sit.
2. Hold an open palm facing his nose, and say, “Pete, stay.”
3. Slowly take one step backward, and stay there.
4. If your Boston stays in place, go back to him after a few seconds and reward him with treats and praise.


If your Boston fidgets and comes toward you, enlist the help of a friend or relative. Have her hold your Boston’s leash gently but firmly after you give the command. Repeat the process until your Boston is trained and stays in place for longer periods of time. Be sure to heap plenty of praise on him through these lessons. 

5. Gradually increase the time your Boston must stay put and your distance from him as your Boston gets the hang of this command.


Teach the Come command after the Stay command — it’s one of the most important commands to master. Your Boston should learn to come to you immediately the first time you call him. Learning to obey this command will keep your dog out of danger.
Luckily, this command is easy to teach. Here’s how:
1. Start with your Boston on a fairly short leash. Ask him to sit and stay.
2. Using a treat as a lure, say, “Pete, come,” and walk backward.
This will cause your dog to follow you.
3. Reward and praise him when he reaches you.
Continue doing this with a longer and longer leash, even one up to 20 feet long. Before long, your dog will run right to you every time you call him to come, which is exactly what you want.

Leave It and Take It

The Leave It and Take It commands (see Figure 11-4) teach your Boston that you’re the boss. You tell him what to play with and what to leave alone. This exercise is particularly useful if he decides to chew your favorite shoes. To teach this command:
Figure 11-4: Leave It (a) and Take It (b) are commands that show your Boston that you’re in charge.

1. Tell your dog to sit and stay.

2. Put a treat in your hand and show it to him, saying, “Pete, leave it.” Make him wait for a few seconds.
3. Say, “OK, take it,” letting your dog have the treat.


When he has mastered Leave It and Take It with you holding the treats, try the same exercise, but this time place the treat on the ground. Challenge him even more by using a toy instead of a treat.


Teaching your dog to heel (walk nicely by your side; see Figure 11-5) will make walking on a leash a fun and enjoyable experience for both of you.
Figure 11-5: A Boston who can heel is a pleasure to walk with.
Here’s how to teach your dog the Heel command:
1. Connect the leash to your Boston’s collar or harness. Put your right hand through the loop and hold the leash with your left hand.
2. Bend down and show the dog the treats with your right hand.
3. Move the treat slowly in front of him as if you’re leading him by the nose, backing up.
4. Continue walking backward, all the while holding the treat where your dog can see it. As he follows you, praise and reward him.
5. When your dog follows you nicely, turn so that you and your dog are walking side by side, with your dog on your left side.
Dogs walk on the left side in shows and other competitions.

Correcting Behavior Gone Bad

Part of being a well-mannered and obedient dog includes following the rules of the household, set down by you. You are your dog’s pack leader, so it’s up to you to teach your Boston the correct way to act in the house and with other people. Occasionally, though, problems can occur.


Some of the behaviors that we perceive as “problems” are natural to dogs. For example, Bostons are terriers, and terriers love to dig. Dogs communicate by barking. When their baby teeth fall out, they want to chew to relieve the discomfort. These are all normal dog behaviors. But when temporary behaviors become habits, or when they’re done inappropriately, the action needs to be corrected. 

In the previous section, you discovered how to use positive reinforcement to teach your Boston basic commands, such as Sit and Stay. In correction training, you use positive reinforcement, but you also correct your dog when he does something he shouldn’t. You’ll need to correct the bad behavior and reinforce the good behavior. You can do this in several ways, depending on the particular action that you’re trying to correct.


Correction should never include physical punishment. Harming your Boston in any way is inhumane, and it can create an animal that fears people. Correction, instead, involves getting your Boston’s attention and stopping the behavior at that moment.

One tool that you’ll use is your voice. The tone of your voice communicates emotion or feeling to your dog. An upbeat higher-pitched tone communicates happiness or excitement. A lower-pitched guttural tone communicates anger or sternness. Your Boston will respond to these sounds as he would to his mother or pack leader. When you’re praising your dog for obeying the Sit command, for example, you use an upbeat happy tone. Conversely, when you’re correcting your dog for barking inappropriately, you use the guttural warning tone. You’re not speaking more loudly to the dog, you’re using different tones. This means even a soft-spoken person can correct his dog.
Another tool you’ll need to master is consistency. When everyone who comes into contact with your Boston requires the same behavior from him, he won’t get confused.


Before you begin corrective training, however, check with your veterinarian. Some bad behavior, such as chronic house-soiling or chewing, can be caused by medical conditions. Other troublesome behaviors can be exacerbated by your Boston’s diet or lack of exercise. Get a clean bill of health, and then begin training. 


Dogs bark to communicate. From protecting their homes from strangers to trying to get your attention, barking is a natural dog behavior. Guarding the home can be a positive reason to bark, and it’s likely that your Boston will vocalize only when he needs to.
Before you begin corrective training, you’ll want to determine why your dog is barking:

Do you pick him up every time he barks? Then your Boston has trained you! If he barks, he’ll get your attention.

Does he bark when someone comes to the door? If so, he’s protecting his territory.

Does he bark when nobody’s home? He may be suffering from separation anxiety.

After you’ve narrowed down some reasons why your dog barks, you can start correcting his behavior.


When your dog barks, don’t yell at him. To your Boston, yelling sounds like barking, and he’ll think that you’re telling him something! Instead, ignore the barking. This may sound difficult, but if your dog realizes that he won’t get any attention when he barks, he’s more likely to stop the behavior. Reward him for not barking by saying, “Pete, good dog for being quiet.” 

Enlist a friend to come to your door and ring the doorbell. Wait until your Boston stops barking, say, “Good quiet,” and reinforce the quiet behavior by praising and treating your dog. Your Boston will soon learn that staying quiet will earn him praise.
You also want to practice this nonbarking behavior in public. Grab a bag of treats and put your Boston on his leash. Walk to the park or someplace where he barks at people or other dogs. Use the “Pete, quiet” command, and if he obeys, lavish him with praise and treats.


Many horrifying dog attacks have been reported in the media. Although these reports tend to revolve around bigger dogs, even a small dog needs be trained to never bear his teeth, touch teeth to skin or clothing, or bite. This is one of the most important lessons you can teach your Boston.
Mouthing is normal behavior in puppies. Between 4 to 12 weeks old, your dog learns bite inhibition from his mother and littermates. He learns the amount of mouth pressure he can use without causing pain or harm by playing with his brothers and sisters, skirmishing, and testing how hard he can bite without causing a squeal. If he is removed from his littermates before learning this inhibition, it is up to you to teach him. Start your “no bite” training as soon as possible to ensure your dog doesn’t develop his mouthing habit into something dangerous. Your Boston should know not to bite by the time he is 18 weeks old.


When your puppy nips or bites you, or even just mouths you, say, “Pete, no bite.” Stop playing with him and walk away. Do not allow your dog to nip at your heels or chase your feet. This will teach him that biting and nipping result in withdrawal of your attention.

If your Boston continues to use his mouth and bite, even after your consistent training, discuss the situation with your veterinarian. He may be able to recommend a professional trainer or animal behaviorist to help you deal with the problem.


Chewing, like digging or barking, is something dogs do. When they’re between 3 and 6 months old, puppies begin teething, and with teething comes chewing. They will chew everything and anything. As their baby teeth fall out and their adult teeth erupt, chewing relieves the discomfort. Puppies go through a second chewing phase when they’re between 7 and 9 months old as a part of exploring their territory.
Unfortunately, puppies develop a fondness for chewing during these phases. They find out how much fun chewing can be! It relieves tension and anxiety, and it makes their sore gums feel better. For adult dogs, chewing massages their gums, removes plaque (clear buildup on the teeth), and occupies their time.
Chewing the wrong things, however, can be destructive and dangerous. Your Boston can swallow something poisonous, or something small can get lodged in his throat.


Because chewing is just part of being a dog, your Boston should have his own things to chew from the very beginning. Instead of giving your dog old slippers or waiting until the improper behavior starts, give him his own size-appropriate chew toys, such as hard rubber balls stuffed with treats, nylon bones, or a rope tug toy. Limit his toys to a few; you don’t want your Boston to think everything is for his chewing pleasure! 

To help him resist temptation, put away items you don’t want chewed, especially ones that can be harmful to your Boston. Those include children’s toys with small removable pieces that can be ingested, household cleaners and personal hygiene items, insect and rodent traps, electrical cords, and hobby supplies.
Praise your Boston often when he chews the right objects. If your dog finds something else to gnaw on, take the object away and give the dog one of his toys, saying, “Pete, good toy.”


Bostons are terriers, and terriers dig. They’re bred to hunt vermin, and often those vermin live in holes in the ground. Some dogs dig to create a cool and cozy place to relax, and some dig to get out of a confined area. Instead of trying to teach your Boston not to dig, give him a specific place to dig. It will appease those digging tendencies and burn off some excess energy.


Choose a section of your yard and designate it his digging area. Loosen the dirt, making sure it has no pesticides, pieces of glass, or other dangers hidden within. Introduce your Boston to the digging area by bringing him over and placing a toy or a treat on the dirt. You can even bury a biscuit or two after he gets used to the area.

When you see your Boston digging in the right area, praise him, saying, “Pete, good dog for digging here.” If he digs in other places and you catch him in the act, move him to the right area and praise him when he digs there. Bury the other holes and, if you have to, lay some wire mesh over them to discourage further digging.

Jumping up

In Boston language, jumping up means, “I’m a happy dog,” and “Pay attention to me!” Jumping up means your dog wants to be picked up and made the center of attention. Thankfully, Bostons aren’t giant beasts who can knock houseguests over, but this behavior should still be prohibited.


It’s imperative not to acknowledge your dog when he jumps up. Do not pet him or pick him up, as tempting as it may be! Instead, tell your Boston to sit. Only after he obeys should you pet him. Eventually he’ll learn that to receive the attention he wants, he’ll have to sit, not jump up.

Your Boston also needs to learn to sit for other people. Use the leash if you must, and when your guests come to the door and your Boston jumps up, say, “Pete, no jumping,” followed by, “Pete, sit.” When the dog sits for a period of time, allow your guests to praise him and give him the attention he wants.
This correction must be done consistently by your family and friends. Your Boston must learn that the only way he’ll get attention is if he sits first. Praise the dog lavishly every time he does it correctly. Soon, your pup will sit before every greeting.


You’ve been taking your Boston puppy to his bathroom area regularly and letting him relieve himself after every meal, playtime, and nap. Your dog is becoming housetrained (see Chapter Housetraining for Bostons). But then he makes a mistake. What do you do?
The act of going to the bathroom isn’t the mistake; going in the wrong place is the problem. So if you catch your pup in the act, say in a corrective tone, “Pete, no,” and immediately take him to his bathroom area and let him finish his business there. Then praise your Boston and celebrate that he is going outside.


Clean the soiled area with white vinegar or an over-the-counter pet stain cleaner. Dogs tend to continue soiling in areas that smell like feces or urine, so removing all traces of the accident will prevent your dog from using that area again.


Don’t correct the dog after he makes a mistake — he can’t understand the connection between the correction and the mistake. Also, don’t rub your dog’s face in the mess. It’s a needless punishment, and your dog will think that you’re mad because he eliminated, not because he relieved himself somewhere he shouldn’t. Instead, encourage and praise your Boston even more when he goes where he’s supposed to.

You’ll also want to keep a close eye on your Boston. If you know where your dog is, he can’t make a mistake. A circling and sniffing dog means he’s searching for a bathroom, so ask him in an upbeat happy voice, “Pete, do you have to go potty?” When he runs to the door, take him out and praise him after he goes.
You can also use your dog’s kennel to teach him to hold his bladder. Because dogs won’t soil the area where they sleep, keep your pup in his kennel (no more than two hours at a time) and let him out to use the bathroom. Flip to Chapter Housetraining for Bostons for crate-training tips.

Calling in the Professional

Sometimes your Boston’s bad habits are just too much for you to handle. You’ve tried positive reinforcement. You’ve tried corrective approaches. But your Boston still won’t stop barking or jumping up on your houseguests.
When is it time to seek professional help?
  • If your dog is exhibiting aggressive behavior, such as biting or showing teeth
  • If his destructive chewing is out of control
  • If the dog cannot be housetrained
  • If he will not obey basic commands, even after puppy kindergarten and obedience training
  • If, for any reason, you feel like you can’t control your Boston, and his safety or the safety of others is at risk
The most effective way to get your misbehaving Boston back on track is to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer.

Professional dog trainers can be found through referrals from your veterinarian, breeder, or Boston Terrier club. You can also find them through organizations, such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers ( or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (, that allow you to search for trainers by area.

To ensure that you and your dog will get the best possible training, select a trainer who has been certified by the CCPDT. To earn the certification, trainers must demonstrate their dog-training knowledge and experience, and they must continue to educate themselves about the latest in training techniques and equipment.
Here’s how a trainer can help:

House calls: A trainer can come to your home and evaluate your dog, watch your interactions, and develop a strategy to correct problem behavior. She can meet with you regularly and offer guidance and assistance when needed.

Training facility: You can also take your dog to the trainer’s facility. Your Boston may respond better to training when he’s away from his territory.

Group dynamics: A trainer will also encourage you to participate in group training exercises, which allows you and your pup to interact with other dogs and their owners.

Skilled experience: Because a trainer has seen such a range of problem behaviors, she knows how to correct your dog’s bad habits. She also knows when to enlist the help of a veterinarian or veterinary specialist who can prescribe helpful drugs.

by Wendy Bedwell-Wilson