Y2K Compliant Dog Ownership

Be Aware: The big ONE is just about upon us. That means GUN SHOTS and FIREWORKS and LOUD PARTY POPPERS and all kinds of other things that can cause your dog to go absolutely bonkers.

Here’s my advice: Keep your dog confined inside the house. And preferably inside his crate, if he’s crate trained. This will give him a sense of confidence and well-being.

In the same room as his crate, leave your stereo on– fairly loud! Put some soft music on the CD player… like Yanni, or John Tesh, or.. G-d-Forbid… ABBA!

The music should drown out any sounds outside the house that may cause your dog to panic. And your neighbors shouldn’t mind the music, since it’s New Year’s Eve… unless they hate John Tesh as much as I do!


How A Dog Owner With Arthritis Will Get 100% Reliability From Her Golden Retriever Puppy

Ann– a visitor to our web site– writes me to ask, “I have been reading this column and researching other parts of the web, but I have not been able to answer a few questions:

I have a Golden Retriever puppy that is almost 4 months old. He is already over 30 pounds and is most likely going to weigh near 100#. (I wanted one that was large.) We live on a 5-acre country lot. The dog gets lots of exercise and I want him to be able to go for country walks with me and go down to the lake with me for swimming (the dog will swim, not me).

I am not having any real problems with him, but I am anticipating some snags because of his size. I am a small woman with severe arthritis and I am not physically capable of doing a proper leash correction. My husband is, but will this be sufficient to carry over to the times when I am walking him alone? I have my doubts.

I am home alone with him for most of the day. The dog is to be my companion and intruder alarm. The two most important things I want him to do outside are to: Come when he is off leash when I call him… and to not pull on the lead. He must come when I call him, no alternatives there. It could be life or death for him.

So far, he does come when we call him, but his “teen” months are soon ahead of us. He is already too strong for me to be able to correct when he pulls on the lead. At the moment, he does not pull very often, but when he sees people, especially children, he pulls very hard in order to get to them. His temperament is fairly submissive, but he is just really strong.

I would like suggestions as to what the proper age to begin using a pinch collar would be. I think a regular choke collar would not work for me because of my lack of physical strength. Regarding the electronic remote collar (e-collar)… my dog seems to have a very high pain threshold. I have accidentally stepped on him many times and he has run head-long into walls, etc. He doesn’t seem to even notice. Will the little tiny stimulation from an e-collar even be noticeable to him?

When I did the research and found out how little the “shock” actually is, I began wondering if it will work on him. Would the e-collar also be helpful in teaching him not to jump on people?

I cannot move fast enough, because of the arthritis, to do a decent knee to the chest. I have stood on his back paws when he is up on me, but he doesn’t even notice – he just continues to try to lick my face. My husband does pull him down when he jumps, and he is learning “off” fairly well. When he does jump on me, he hardly puts his weight on me at all, so even at this young age he is gentle. He is not so gentle with other people.

I do tell him to sit whenever he comes close to me, and he does about 50% of the time. Visitors, however, are reluctant to tell him to sit to be petted because he is “just a cute puppy”. Of course, at almost 4 months, his stay is just a few seconds – on good days. I am also open to opinions as to which type of collar would probably work the best for us. Or, should we use both? What are opinions on the different brands of e-collars?

The Tri-tronics one that has the two buttons that enables you to use 3 levels of stimulation is what I’ve been considering. However, it is around $350, so I want to get the correct one for us the first time. Oh yes… a side note… I was wondering if getting him a gentle leader would work for the next month or so just to get him into the habit of not pulling. Then, begin the pinch or e-collar when he is older.) ”

ADAM’S RESPONSE: “First, nix the Gentle Leader idea. It’s a restraint, and not a form of training. (A Gentle Leader, for those of you who don’t already know, is a head harness contraption that you hook to a leash, which directs the dog’s head in the direction that you pull).

I don’t know why people advocate this training device. Yes, it’s true… you can use the device to assist in teaching competition heeling. However, to truly get the dog to not pull on the leash when he’s not wearing the head halter (Gentle Leader) will take MONTHS!!! Even if you’re already an experienced trainer, you’re still looking at WEEKS to train this behavior. BUT… if you’re using the right technique, teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash SHOULD TAKE LESS THAN 10 minutes!!! [In fact, I explain exactly how to do this on one of the audio tape lectures that comes as a FREE bonus when you purchase this book!]

As far as the pinch collar is concerned, yes … it’s a good idea. Your husband’s leash corrections will only make the dog work for him… but not for you! The pinch collar will allow you to give a motivational correction with much less physical effort. In general, if you’re using the right technique, you shouldn’t be using much physical strength anyway.

By using a pinch collar, the process of administering a correction becomes more like driving a car with power steering. The main issue you need to be concerned with is, “What do I have to use to make sure that my commands are motivational?” And if you feel you can achieve this goal with a pinch collar… great! I think it’s a good choice.

But in addition, due to your physical condition, you’re probably looking at using an e-collar, too. Especially if you want to get the dog 100% off-leash trained in a hurry. I would recommend the Innotek remoter training collar for this type of work. Which model? Any of the models that allows you 7 levels of stimulation. And that’s the really cool thing about these collars… you GET TO USE a level of stimulation that will match your dog’s temperament. Even the toughest dogs have a setting that is appropriate.

I would just start teaching basic response to commands at this age with the pinch collar and long line (for off-leash work) and the tab– a one foot leash for inside the house– for correcting the jumping up. Then, when he’s between 7 to 9 months, you can start with the e-collar work.

ANN REPLIES: Adam, thank you so much for such a quick and informative response. I have never used a pinch collar – just a choke chain. (I didn’t have arthritis back then.) What is a tab? You had suggested using it for jumping up. One more question about the pinch collar:

There have been a few times when I was walking my puppy and a few large, aggressive dogs came out and threatened my baby. Of course, I did what I could and protected him… but he pulled hard on the lead. If we are walking and another situation comes up such as that, is it possible for him to pull so hard that he hurts himself?

I know that a choke chain can cause trachea damage – can a pinch collar actually cut in?

I’ll be studying the correct techniques for the pinch collar for a week or two before I actually use one.

ADAM RESPONDS: A tab is a one foot leash that the dog wears around the house, while you’re with him. As for the pinch collar… no. The dog’s neck is so incredibly strong that it’d be hard to puncture his neck… even if you were to sharpen the tips and really TRY TO do damage.

I suppose that if you walked the dog every day with the pinch collar and let him pull, then eventually it would start to dig into the dog’s neck. But you won’t have a problem if you’re anything this side of an idiot and have at least a dash of common sense. 😉

As for the choke chain… I know there’s a lot of fluff that is flying around the internet about the choke chain damaging the dog’s trachea. But the truth of the matter is that I’ve never seen ONE single case of a dog having any type of negative reaction to training with a choke chain.

Now, I generally use the pinch collar myself… because it’s much easier. But there is nothing wrong with the choke chain. I’ve personally witnessed LITERALLY THOUSANDS of dogs that have been trained with the choke chain, without one case of a negative result. Are there morons who use the choke chain incorrectly? Yes. I have seen problems from owners letting the dog pull and strain at the end of the leash.

However, this is not a problem that is inherent to the training tool but rather the poor technique of the handler. THIS IS NOT HOW THE COLLAR WAS DESIGNED TO BE USED.


Dog Owner Needs Motivation To Train Her Dog The Right Way

“Dear Adam: I’ve been going back and forth, trying to decide what dog obedience training method to go with to train my 5 month old Boxer.

I have been taking her to a positive Motivation class. I agree with a lot that she says but I also question a lot of her methods. She says it will take 2 years to train her and you need to constantly be feeding it dog snacks.

My dog is becoming obsessed with getting goodies. Plus, I work full time and have a 10 year old and 2 year old. I don’t have the time it takes to train this method.

Here’s my problem. I’m just scared of this prong collar. I don’t want it to hurt my puppy. I know all the intellectual answers, that if I use it correctly it will be OK, but then my maternal instincts kick in and this collar scares me. Can you give me some encouragement. I have not yet opened the material. [An earlier edition of this book.] Thanks for any help you can give me. – Kathy.”

Dear Kathy: Just imagine how much fun you’ll have when– in a few weeks– you can take your dog with you anywhere you go… and know that she’ll listen to you! And imagine how envious your friends in the ‘cookie-training’ class will be when you tell them about how free your dog is, and how all of your family and ‘non-dog’ friends love her so much, because she’s, “So well behaved.” And just think about how much MORE your dog will LOVE YOU because you will now be providing the type of leadership and decision making qualities that will allow her to RELAX and know that you are taking care of her!

Imagine a point in the future… say, six months from now… looking back on today… the day you decided to properly use the pinch collar and the rest of my techniques… and saw it as the beginning of such a wonderful relationship you will now have with your dog! And realizing that it all came from the techniques you learned from my dog training package!


Living With A Dog That Kills Cats

“Dear Adam: I have a German Shepherd female, age 2yr, 7 mo who attacked my Sheltie and nearly killed her. This concerned a bone. Then one month later, she repeated the dog aggression.

We also have a yellow Lab who interacts with the Shepherd with no problems. They play together every day. After the attack on the Sheltie, the Shepherd killed a stray cat and has grabbed and bitten another cat.

We live on a 16 acre farm and have 10 cats, all well cared for, current on shots and all fixed. They keep the rodent population down and are also pets, but stay outside with access to the barn. We have 3 acres around the house fenced for the dogs. The cats also interact in this area.

Is it possible to train the Shepherd to leave the cats alone so that she can access the fenced area? I do not want any more animals hurt or killed.

The Sheltie is the house dog and will never be in the same area again with the Shepherd, but I cannot control the cats. I do not want the cats killed, one by one. If specific training will work, please advise. I am seriously considering finding the Shepherd another home, but she is a well bred dog (Ch sire and dam) and OFA certified. The Shepherd is fine with people. No signs of aggression at all. She has basic obedience training – Beginning and intermediate. All of the problems have surfaced since she turned two year old. Sincerely, Joyce S.”

Dear Joyce: Thanks for the e-mail. Well… you’ve got a tough situation. Here are your options, ranked in various levels of how much effort you’ll need to put in and what is reasonable to expect:

1.) The dog will likely never be able to be unsupervised in the same area as the cats.

2.) You can get the dog to ignore the cats while you’re in his presence… but when you’re not, all bets are off. He may ignore them, but he may not.

3.) Since it’s a life and death matter (for the cats, anyway)… your goal should be to create ABSOLUTE AVOIDANCE to the cats. I’d start by first teaching the dog basic behaviors, as outlined in this book. Next, using the ‘down-stay’ exercise, I’d incorporate the electronic collar, and place the dog on a ‘down’… also using the 6 foot leash. Don’t use the electronic collar to make the dog go into the down position. Just use the leash. Now, let the cat walk by… perhaps 10 feet from the dog. As the dog lunges for the cat, say, “No!” and stimulate the dog with the electronic collar on the high setting. Then, reissue the ‘down’ command.

4.) Repeat this exercise several times, over a period of several days.

5.) When you feel you’re making progress, and you see that the dog is turning his head AWAY from the cat when it walks by, then you are likely ready to progress to the next step.

6.) Let the dog wander in the area while wearing the long line and the e-collar. The dog will almost always fixate on the cat before taking action. At this point… when he locks on… you need to say, “No!” and stimulate him with the collar on a medium setting. Be aware to have the long line in your hand, so that he doesn’t have enough slack to lunge forward and grab the cat. If your timing is off, you will screw everything up. If you’re complacent, and the dog gets his mouth around the cat AND THEN you stimulate him, the result will be that he thinks that the CAT is causing him the negative sensation, rather than you… and you will end up making the aggression worse.

7.) If you do it right, he will cease the aggression in your presence because: – He respects you. and – You demonstrate that your corrections are super motivational, and you’re not messing around.

8.) The truth of the matter: It’s going to be easier to find the dog a new home where the new owner will not have so many “cat” issues. But don’t get me wrong… it’s just a matter of being honest with yourself about how much time you want to invest in dealing with the problem.

9.) With the proper time and work, the behavior will become manageable… but likely never to the point where you can become complacent.


Training The Release Command and Why You Must Use It For Perimeter Training

Dog owner Jenny P. wrote to me this week and asks: “A little background before the question. We live on one acre bordered by a field, woods and the street (a caul-de-sac) which has no sidewalks.

I purchased an electronic collar and intend to train my Lab mix to stay within a defined border, several feet from the natural border I have described. ( I plan to set up flags as if there was an invisible fence – only I will be the one administering the correction)

My question!!! How do I communicate to my dog that it is OK to cross the border when I want to take her into the street for the mail or a walk–or to cross the border to enter the adjoining field to romp? I planned to remove her with a leash to signal the permission–but is the OK command sufficient? How do I go about the entire training situation? Thank you, Jenny.”

Dear Jenny: Here are a few pointers you need to keep in mind:

1.) Make sure that whatever boundaries you teach are easily identifiable to the dog. Natural boundaries are best.

2.) Initially, when you stimulate the dog, be sure to have a long line on the dog, so that you can guide her back into the “safe” zone, if she misunderstands how to shut off the stimulation.

3.) When you take her off your property, always take her through the same exit way.

4.) Before you start with the e-collar stimulation, start just on one spot, with a manual leash correction. At the same time, teach her the release command, as outlined in my book.

Your release command, however, should not be the word, “Okay.” This is a common mistake, even by many ‘pseudo’ professional dog trainers. Why? Because using the word, ‘Okay,’ is SO common in are normal vernacular, that it’s too easy for the dog to cue off your voice when your husband says, “Oh, by the way Jenny… remember to pick up Adam’s dog training book on the way home,” and you reply, “OKAY!” … at which point your dog bolts into the street!!!

My advice is to choose a word or phrase that is not commonly used in everyday conversation. For dogs that are trained in English, I use the phrase, “Take a Break.” For dogs that are trained in German, we use the word, “Free!” But any word or phrase will do, as long as it’s not easily confused.

By the way… removing the leash is NOT a smart way to indicate to the dog that she can run through the boundary. The reasons for this should be obvious, when you think about it. Always use your release command (Take a Break) and be careful that you don’t unhook the leash and say the release command at the same time, otherwise the two actions (the word, and the action of unhooking the leash) will become synonymous. And there will be times in the future when simply removing the leash DOES NOT mean that the dog is free to go play.


More Details On The Dog “Jumping Up” Problem

[ROSE REPLIES:] Thanks. That was so much more visually descriptive. Save that email and incorporate it into your e-zine. Lately, the dog has been getting so excited when we begin our walk that he keeps juming up on me as we walk. Do I pop the leash down toward the ground and make him drop to stop this, i.e., the correction is just the opposite?

[ADAM RESPONDS:] It doesn’t matter really, for the jumping up. As long as it’s a negative, and it happens RIGHT when the dog does it, and it’s motivational… the dog will drop the behavior. I went out on a date with a woman last week who was a client of another dog trainer I know. But this other dog trainer uses inferior techniques for companion dog training, as far as I’m concerned.

She’d been working on fixing the jumping up behavior for more than a month, by giving the dog food when she didn’t jump. Well, needless to say, the dog was still jumping up on me. I hate that. So, I ran to my truck and grabbed a pinch collar from my box of dog training tricks. In less than 2 minutes, I’d fitted the collar on the dog and had to only correct her twice. For the rest of the evening, she wouldn’t jump up on either of us. 😉 It’s all about making sure your corrections have meaning.

[ROSE:] Ok, I’ll try it. The embarrassing part are the zillion dog owners in the neighborhood who will probably think I’m abusive. We just bought a house on the bluff overlooking the blah, blah, blah… and there are approximately 33 acres of undeveloped land where everyone plays with their dogs and watches everyone else… oh well, hopefully they’ll only see it happen a couple of times 🙂

[ADAM:] Disregard what they think. If you know you’re doing the right thing (which, if you follow the instructions in my book, I can guarantee you are) then you have nothing to worry about. Plus, it’s none of their business. Thirty years ago, everyone thought it was “horrid” to sit at the same lunch counter with African-Americans. They “thought” it was wrong. My point is: Don’t live your life worrying about what other people think is right or wrong. Instead, DO what IS right, and eventually, they’ll come around when they see that your dog is so well-behaved. Especially when their dog is still jumping up on people.


How to Prevent a “Fly By” On The Dog Training Recall Exercise

Beth J. asks, “I am in the process of training my 13 month old Pit/Lab to “recall” and “random recall”.

My problem (or his problem, I should say) is that instead of running TO me – he runs right PAST me! Any suggestions? Thanks! ”

Dear Beth J.: It’s a very common behavior for dogs that are first learning the exercise.

What you need to do is: Leave the long line on the dog. As the dog shoots by you, call it’s name once more and immediately step forward on the line.

This will make the dog correct himself. Then turn to face the dog and take a few steps backwards, to stimulate the dog’s “chase” drive… to come into you. When he gets to you, praise him.

If the correction is motivational enough, the fly-bys should stop after two or three times. Your next step would be to use a ball or toy or food to get the dog to target into a correct position, right in front of you… if you want to get REAL precise.


How To Teach Your Dog Boundary Training In The House

NATALIE asks, “I have a silk rug from Turkey that I wish to train my dogs (black lab and welsh corgi) to not lay on. They are both smart dogs but I am not communicating what I want them to do effectively. I appreciate any guidance. Thank you, – Natalie”

Dear Natalie, It’s a good question. And the technique for training this behavior is really cool.

It’s the same approach we use to teach dogs to stay out of the street, or off the furniture. First, the dogs should be wearing pinch collars and tabs (1 foot leashes) any time you’re with them. And when you’re not with them, the dogs should be confined to an area where they cannot walk on the rug without getting corrected.

To start with, confine one dog, and with the other, put a 6′ leash on him. Now, throw something (like a toy) on the rug, that will tempt him to walk on it. As soon as he puts his first paw on the rug, say, “No!” and pop the leash (loose-tight-loose) in the direction that is away from the carpet.

Here’s the concept: You want the dog to think of the whole exercise as a safe zone/hot zone area. The safe zone is anywhere in the room EXCEPT the rug. The hot zone is the rug. The dog should come to understand that walking on the rug is similar to walking on a hot stove. It feels UNCOMFORTABLE, and he wants to get back into the safe zone as soon as possible.

Now, if the dog puts more than one foot on the rug, and actually walks to the center of the rug… it’s okay to drag (quickly) him back to the safe zone. This is one of the few instances where you’re actually pulling on the leash, instead of giving a quick “pop” on the leash.

What you’re doing is creating a constant negative motivation until the last of his four feet are off the hot zone. (When you rest your hand on a hot stove, it doesn’t just burn for a second… it keeps feeling uncomfortable until you take your hand off.)


Next, you can put the tab on him and start doing the exercise with a variety of different distractions. If you’re half way across the room and he walks on the rug, you should say, “No!” as soon as his foot touches the carpet, and then “NO, no, no!” as you walk to him and immediately correct him back into the safe zone.

Your success with this exercise will depend on how motivational your corrections are, how precise your timing is (never correct the dog if he’s now in the safe zone) and your attention to making sure that you’re consistent in your enforcement until the dogs drop the behavior. Once you’ve done the one dog, put him away and repeat the exercise with the other dog.


The Problem With Using ONLY Positive Dog Training Techniques

BETHANY asks: “I would like any advice you could give me regarding the use of positive training techniques. By this I mean training w/out choke chains, pinch collars or shock collars and without physical corrections of any kind.

I am not against these methods per se but I am not comfortable using them and do not think they would work well on my very sensitive rescue dog. Thanks for any advice! – Beth ”

Dear Bethany: The concept of Motivation is such that, once you understand it, it will work on any dog.

Motivation, as it applies to training, just means that– whatever you do– positive or negative– has to HAVE meaning. Now… to your question… When people talk about “Positive training techniques,” they’re usually talking about… as your question states… not using any corrections.

And the problem with that is:… Imagine somebody trying to teach you to drive from Los Angeles to St. Louis … but they ONLY tell you when you’re going in the right direction, and they NEVER tell you when you’re going in the wrong direction.

Either you’re going to get completely lost, or it’s going to take you a VERY, VERY LONG TIME to get to St. Louis. Of course… you might have a lot of fun taking a long, long time… but if you’re trying to get home on time for Christmas dinner… forgettaboutit!~ Plus, when you train exclusively with positive training techniques… you will never end up with a dog that is 100% reliable in a “street smart/around town” environment.

If you’re REALLY, REALLY good… the best you can hope for is 90%.

So why train with a handicap? Why take 2 years to train a dog something that you can do in 3 weeks? If the end result is a happy, working, reliable dog… ??? Just doesn’t make sense to me.

So what do I suggest?

I recommend using BOTH positive and negative motivation. The wise trainer will always adapt to the dog and respond with more or less positive or negative motivation in response to what the dog is giving him.


Are Two Puppies Better Than One

The following issue about puppy training came up on our discussion forum. The major issue to recognize is that: Most people get two puppies because they’re worried about one dog being lonely. So they buy two puppies so that they’ll keep each other company.

And while this logic sounds good from a human perspective, it is often fraught with problems.

What happens is that the two pups end up spending the vast majority of their time bonding to each other… rather than to humans. And this ends up making dogs that are more difficult to train and dogs that tend to have separation anxiety when separated from each other.

If you’re going to get two dogs, the best way is to get separate kennel runs and to make sure that for the first year of the dog’s life, the primary interaction that each dog has is with you, rather than with the other dog.

After the first year, the major imprinting will be done.

As for the best time to adopt: 8 weeks. The critical stage (when a small amount of exposure will have a lasting affect on the dog’s life) for bonding with humans is from 8 to 10 weeks. But adopting the dog at 7 1/2 weeks won’t be a big problem. During the 8 to 10 week period, the dog should have no contact with other dogs and only be handled by humans.