Training Tips

Below are some useful training tips for your dog. If you have any questions about training, please get in touch through our contact page and we’ll be happy to help!

First day home!

This is an exciting day, but it can be pretty overwhelming for a new dog. There is so much to adjust to that it’s important to keep things quiet and low-key at first by not having friends (or their dogs) over for an enthusiastic welcome. First, take the dog outside and stay there until she poops or pees in the area you prefer. If you already have a dog, this introduction should also take place outdoors.

The next thing is to introduce your dog to the house while on leash. This is the time to give a simple command like “ah ah” or “no” in a quiet voice if there is too much interest in things like shoes, beds, or garbage cans. Later, some quiet time would be nice, along with lots of petting and a first walk around the block. Tomorrow the fun begins!

Make sure that no one opens an outside door without someone holding your leashed dog to prevent “door dashing” . The first few days, even weeks are the most common time for a dog to slip out and run away.

Teaching your dog "wait"

This is one of the most useful and often used commands in your dog tool box. It is used when your dog is ready to leave the house with you, when a visitor is arriving and on a walk when you need a full stop to avoid another dog, child or car.

Start with whatever door you use most often. With your dog on a leash, stop him a little behind you as you walk up to the door. Have your arm extended back with the leash upright to let him know he cannot come forward anymore, and say say the command “‘wait”. Say it just once. If by some crazy chance he stops at that moment pop a treat that you have in you hand into this mouth. 

Repeat a few times until he stops and looks up to you waiting for the treat. Now you can open the door- not quickly but without hesitation. If he is still not moving forward, praise and say “lets go” or whatever your phrase is and walk out with him behind or at your side. Now you can practice extending the time of the “wait”, Ideally, you will be able to step outside the threshold for a moment without him coming with your until you say “lets go”. Once you have this mastered it can be used at street corners, any other door or opening, to give space to other people or dogs on the sidewalk or when a visitor comes to the door.

Note: “wait” is not the same as “stay”. The latter is for when you have your dog in a sit or down and you mean for him to stay there until you say “OK” or “Come”, whatever you use.

On-leash reactivity

There are types and degrees of this problem. But, if your dog lunges, barks, or growls when they see or get near another dog while on leash, they’ve got some issues to deal with. It is best to have a dog savvy person do this with you at the beginning if possible, particularly if the problem pops up with almost every dog you pass. They will also be able to determine if your dog is just anxious, or wants to play, or is aggressive. (The following method is not suitable for aggressive dogs.)

 First- turn off your phone and no chatting as you will need to be more observant than your dog. Start in an area you don’t normally walk in as that could be a trigger for bad behavior. Have some exceptional treats with you but don’t use them yet. Keep your dog close to you, not out in front as fearful dogs become even more nervous away from you and try to keep a loose leash if possible.

When you first see a dog coming, move out of the way a good distance, stop, and ask for a “sit” if that is possible. Hold your treat close to the dogs’ nose and move it around to attract their attention. Speak in a slow, quiet, voice. You will have to eventually give your dog the treat or they will decide you aren’t going to produce, and that the approaching dog is more interesting. The idea is to keep attention away from the “threatening” dog until it is safely past and if your dog behaved well, give them some “happy talk” and another treat. Keep repeating this exercise until your dog starts to stay relaxed at the sight of another dog. Some dogs “get it” in 30 minutes, but others can take many sessions. Eventually, you will be able to keep walking and only use a quiet reassuring voice until you are in the clear and then produce a great treat and praise.

Training with treats - the hows and whens

Even something as simple as a dog treat can get pretty complicated. How many? How often? What kind? When to give one and when not to? 

Just keep it simple. Give a dog a treat immediately (within 1-2 seconds) after he or she does something you would like them to do. Therefore, you must have the treat handy and be watching for the behavior you want your dog to repeat. Take “sit” for example. Hold the treat close and just above your dog’s nose. Move it slowly upward and toward him and if he follows your hand and sits…give him the treat and say only one word, quietly – “Sit”. Do not say “Can you sit?” Just keep it simple. The treat should be presented right in front of your dog’s mouth, using your fingertips or in your palm if he is not gentle. Repeat the process until it becomes one motion. After some practice, you will no longer even need the treat. Just a hand motion and the word “sit” will be all you need. This example applies to almost all the commands you will be using at the beginning stages of training.

Treats can vary from kibbles to the most delicious things (for dogs) you can find. Keep in mind that feeding your dog table scraps can reduce your training treats’ effectiveness. The best and tastiest treats should be reserved for tough or important skills, like calling your dog back to you.

Some trainers go straight to yanking on a choke chain while others believe in a literal constant shower of treats, even when a dog is just sitting. But neither extreme is necessary. Overuse of treats is a common mistake and too much of any food can become common and maybe fattening. Just like with humans, finding the balance of moderation is important as certainly more than one treat at a time may be in order when you get a great response to your request! But remember to combine treats along with praise and touch – these are often overlooked rewards that are also very effective.

Dog gear tips

Recommended – A flat nylon leash about 4′ to 6′ in length is the most useful. They are also reasonably cheap which can be important if your dog is a leash chewer (as you may have to replace often). 
Not Recommended – “Extend A Leash” types devices. These types of leases make training difficult and can be dangerous in city environments. “Extend A Leashes” give you little control over your dog and stopping them from eating things off the sidewalk, running behind cars, jump on people or getting into a scuffle with another dog will be problematic. Plus, that thin cord can deeply cut your hand and is very dangerous if it gets tangled up with another dog. 
Recommended – By far the best is a martingale; there is almost no chance a dog can slip out of this type of collar and it’s easier on their throat than the traditional buckle collar.  
Recommended for experienced handlers only – A “training” or “choke” chain is sometimes a useful tool for training an unruly dog, but only in the hands of someone trained how to use it responsibly. A “gentle leader” or ” head halter” can be a useful tool as well. These styles fit over the dogs’ muzzle allowing the leash to attach under the dog’s mouth area. “Gentle leaders” or “head halters” can often be mistaken for a muzzle, but they can be very effective in helping to control a dog who is a strong puller and usually works best as a temporary tool for teaching your dog to walk calmly beside you. 
Not Recommended – The traditional buckle collar is often too loose which means your dog can back out if the collar rendering it useless and potentially putting your dog in a dangerous situation. The buckle collar can also be too tight and uncomfortable.
There are two basic ways a harness attaches to the leash.
Recommended – The “front clip” style harness has an attachment for the leash on the chest. The “front clip” will naturally turn your dog if he pulls; this minimizes a huge amount of the pull on the leash. Fitting this style harness is a little tricky at first, so read the directions for your harness carefully.
Not Recommended – The “top clip” style harness has an attachment for the leash on the back near the shoulder blades. The “top clip” is great for sled dogs but if your dog is a puller, this type of harness will allow him to generate a lot of forward momentum which has the potential to put him, you and others in danger.  


Barking is one of the hardest behaviors to correct. Whether it is barking at the mailman, other dogs, strangers or just noises outside, you will have to think like a dog to get some peace and quiet.
If your dog is doing “alarm barking” because of noise from neighborhood kids or the delivery man, he or she is doing their job as dogs have done for thousands of years. Our response is often to scream at them to “stop barking”. To the dog this means he has your attention and you’re joining in. Great! We’re working as a team! 
There are several methods in use to control barking, but this one seems to be the most effective.
Next time your dog barks at a sudden noise, stay calm, approach him at a normal pace and in a normal voice get his attention by asking for a “quiet” and then a “sit”. When there is no barking and a good sit, give him a great treat. Later, you can stay further away each time and at some point, it can happen from a good distance. He will come when he sees or hears you and eventually a bothersome noise will mean it’s time to find you for a treat. However, his is not as easy as I have made it sound. Dogs really vary in the “alarm barking” drive that they were born with. But it will happen (slowly). You can speed things up by getting someone to help you so that you can do repetitions of the cause of the barking and your response. For instance, a doorbell is one popular event that can start a barking party. Have someone stay out of sight and ring the doorbell so you can practice your response. Repeat every 5 to 15 minutes but vary the time. When there is quiet, open the door and have your helper give him a treat.
Many of the other triggers that cause barking can be handled in a similar manner. However, when fear or aggression are involved, they usually override even serious treats and your calm voice. This process can be hard to master so we strongly recommend getting some experienced help. You will have to be with your leashed dog and see an approaching problem like a skateboarder or large dog. You must get your dog’s attention and feed multiple treats to keep his attention off the approaching problem until it has passed. If all goes well reward with more treats and lots of praise.

Separation anxiety

One of the most common dog behavior problems is the barking and whining your dog can do when left alone in the house. 
Since you and your family are your dog’s pack, and the source of all good things including safety, your absence can be a huge anxiety event. This (shelter-in-place) is the golden age of dogs as you are currently at home ALL the time, but that will end, and your dog will be alone sometimes and needs to know that it is not a bad thing and you will return. We have always recommended leaving the house for a few minutes within the first hour of getting a new dog and repeating it  several times the first day. This creates a pattern your dog can rely on that you always return that eases the anxiety of your absence. 
If your dog currently has separation anxiety, it is not too late to fix things. If you are fostering it is really important to take some action now as an adopter may not be able to work on this issue and may return the dog.
To get ready to start the training you may have to change some things you are doing. When we leave the house all of us go through a routine that includes getting car keys, putting on a coat etc that are all signals to your dog that something is up. In addition if you give your dog a big hug, or a treat, or lots of words like “be good” etc. he or she knows “this is going to be bad”. So try to avoid any interaction with your dog: act as you normally would if you were going out to get the mail. 
When you leave the house, go to a close by spot where you can’t be seen and quietly wait there for around 10 seconds, and if there is no barking go back in the house with no fanfare at all- no petting, no praise or sympathy, and no treats- just go about your normal activities. If there is some barking wait outside until there is a brief bit of silence and then go back in. If the first try seemed to go well, wait a minute or two and go out again, but wait just a little longer to return. The goal is to extend the time, but return before any barking starts. 
Each dog’a reaction differs greatly to this training. One of our dogs took 25 attempts to maintain quiet for just 30 seconds, but most are much faster. If you have multiple people in your home, everyone must leave the house at the same time although you might try slowly adding to the number that leaves until you are all going out.
There are all kinds of other methods that are recommended, and some work for some dogs. This one has worked for us more often than not, but if you are having no success, try other methods that you can find online as you never know just what will work for your particular dog. As with all training you have to remain calm, don’t move quickly and never get mad or raise your voice as you are trying to overcome an ingrained canine response that has been around since dogs started living with us. It can be done and we have never had a failure.


Teaching your dog this simple yet important command is often a frustrating task. With practice and patience, however, it doesn’t need to be. As with any other command, it requires repetition, albeit in stages. Unlike “sit” or “stay,” location and distance enter into the equation. 

It is easiest to start in your home, as the surroundings are familiar to your dog. Of course, start with a pocket of great treats, and ensure that your dog is calm and at least 5 feet away. In a calm, serious voice, say the dog’s name, wait for a look, then quickly say the word “come.” A little lean forward and a hand outstretched with the treat should arouse enough curiosity for an approach. Pop that treat in his mouth while saying the single word or phrase that you’ve chosen to use when he does something right, like “good boy” or “yes.” Always show him how happy he just made you.

Once that 5-foot recall is reliable, move to 10 feet and then just out of sight for a second before the “come.” This work and the following should be done in intervals of 5 or 10 minutes with longer breaks, and each step should be worked on until you get a rock-solid response. If you have a yard or other outdoor space, you can move there and practice using a 10- or 20-foot rope as a leash. You won’t lose your dog, but if he is a little reluctant to come back to you, gently pull his head around to see you and the treat. 

Let’s be honest: the range of response and reliability you get will vary. You may be successful with each of these steps, but when there is a ball to play with or a great game of chase, the new dog may ignore you. In this case, slowly walk closer to your dog until you are a few feet away and try again, or toss a treat in front of him, get close, take him by the collar (no treat) and walk away together. Make sure to never yell, chase, or lose your patience. Once you achieve some success, don’t just use “come” to take him away from his dog friends, or take him home or give him a bath. If you practice using your recall when your dog is calm and at various distances and in different circumstances, it will soon become a natural communication between the two of you.