Why I’m Not A 100% E-Collar Trainer

There’s no doubt that the remote electronic training collar (commonly called an “e-collar” or “shock collar”) has been one of the greatest advancements in the dog training world over the past thirty years.  If you use an e-collar intelligently, it is a safe, humane and highly effective way to train a dog.

In fact, there are some dogs that you will need to use an e-collar on because nothing else will work reliably.  For example, certain types of aggression or whining in the crate, the e-collar provides such a marked advantage that I’m grateful that we’re living in a time when we have such technology. Older methods simply aren’t as effective.

Modern e-collars can be adjusted to perfectly match the temperament of the dog you’re working.  There’s something about the texture of the correction that cuts through the dog’s focus on other things and allows you to get and keep attention like no other training tool.  I’m not talking about a shock, either– as this can be observed with very low levels of stimulation.


The e-collar allows you to work a dog with precision at distances that simply aren’t achievable with a long line.  For example, directional send-aways, or flushing birds from bushes.  (Although such distance work may be of dubious value for the average pet owner).

“Another Dog Trainer Asked Me Why I’m Not A 100% E-collar Trainer…”

No doubt, the e-collar is a remarkable tool.  In the hands of a competent trainer, one can achieve competition-level obedience in days rather than months or years.

At a recent dog event, another trainer asked me why I’m not a 100% e-collar trainer?

Here are the following reasons why I’m not a 100% e-collar trainer, and under what circumstances I might consider being one:


  • I own an electric screwdriver, but I still use my trusty old-fashioned screwdriver, too.  Sometimes, being able to grab a screwdriver out of a drawer is much easier and faster than having to go find my electric screwdriver, make sure the battery is charged, replace the bit and then lug it through the house just to tighten one little screw.  The e-collar is the same way.  When your dog is in the house with you, you’d better make sure you have that e-collar transmitter nearby.  Even when you’re eating dinner.   Even while you’re watching television.  Even when you run out with the dog to get the mail.  Set it on the table next to you and when the dog runs out of the room, you’d better remember to not immediately chase after; If you do, you’ll have to… go back and grab the transmitter.  It’s a hassle.  Just like an old-fashioned screw driver, sometimes having your dog wear a prong collar and tab is just-so-much-easier.  You can go straight to the dog and immediately correct the behavior because he’s wearing the tool you use to correct him.  Did the dog you’re working with jump up and nip at you?  Just grab the tab and give a tug.  Done.  No fumbling for your e-collar.  No flipping it over, making sure it’s on and trying to figure out which button to press.  Did you forget to charge it?  Tough.  Yeah, yeah… I can hear my detractors already: “It’s not that hard, it’s just pressing a button.”  I agree.  So is using an electric screwdriver.  It’s just that sometimes it’s still easier to use a good old-fashioned screwdriver.  Call me a Luddite.


  •  Sometimes your dog needs to know that the correction is coming from you.  Training is about establishing a relationship with your dog.  Sure, there are many, many times when the inpersonal nature of an e-collar correction is incredibly beneficial to reaching your goal, especially with behavior modification.  However, to achieve a balanced relationship with your dog there are times when your dog needs to respect your authority… even if he’s not wearing an e-collar. It’s reasonable to expect that– sometime during your dog’s 15+ year lifespan– there will be a time or circumstance when he is not wearing an e-collar.  Your dog still needs to listen to you.  100% e-collar trainers will reply by taking the e-collar off their dog and showing that– yes– there dog still responds to commands.  That’s because he’s conditioned to respond to commands.  (And that’s a good thing!)  But put the dog in a new circumstance around new distractions and he may not respond.  This is not a criticism specific to the e-collar, either.  It’s true of all training devices.  This is why sometimes it’s important to physically make the dog do an exercise, so that he learns you will make him listen, regardless of the tool you’re using.  This way, the tool (the training collar) becomes an adjunct to your relationship with your dog, not a crutch.  “I’m going to make you do the behavior/stop doing the behavior, regardless… this tool just makes it easier for me.”


  • There are some people who will never, ever use an e-collar but they ** will ** use a mechanical training collar.  I don’t typically cater to people who come to me for advice… and then tell me what tools I can or cannot use.  If you want my help, then you’re going to use my tools.  And there’s a good reason for that: I know what works.  But if a client prefers to use a prong collar instead of an e-collar… and I know that e-collar will work just as fast… I’ll do it.  For example: When a dog owner wants to teach their dog to walk on a loose leash… I can teach the dog to walk without pulling by using a prong collar just as fast as I can with an e-collar.  Sometimes faster, actually.  Is it worth losing a potential client because, “when all you’ve got is a hammer…” You know the rest.


  • For some dog owners, there’s no point in buying a $200 training collar if a $15 training collar will work just as well.  I sell Do-It-Yourself dog training information products on the internet.  Sometimes, a dog owner is looking for a way to fix one simple behavior.  Like jumping up.  Why do they need to buy a $200 tool (an e-collar) when a $15 tool (a prong collar) will work just as well?  It doesn’t make any sense to spend the $200 when the dog owner is happy with everything else about their dog.


So, with that being said: Under what circumstances would I become a 100% e-collar trainer?

  • If/When I open another brick and mortar dog training company.  When I have the luxury of working with a dog owner face-to-face, I will promote a 100% e-collar training system.  Why?  Because when you have a local business, each and every client is a salesperson for your business.  I want to know that if they’ve gone through my in-kennel program and they’re walking around town with a t-shirt advertising my company name on their back… that there dog will be better behaved than any other dog training school in town.  And if a dog owner is looking for a one-shot fix? I’ll still recommend they get one of my dog training books.  But if they want to work with me in person then their dog will be a representative of my school and must be able to sit/down/heel/come/stay in any off-leash setting.  Sure, you can do all of this with a traditional training collar too– but the e-collar makes it much faster and easier.  And when time is money and I’m there to show them how it works… the e-collar usually makes more sense.


  • If I Was Training Dogs Exclusively For Competition Or For Working Dog Applications.
    It’s much easier and faster to get the type of high level consistency and flash when using the e-collar than with any other tool. When training high drive, hard temperament working dogs, the e-collar is par excellence.


  •  When I Train My Next Demo Dog.  Same reasons as above:  Just like I did with my current dog, the e-collar is too powerful a tool not to use.  The trick is to not use it to the exclusion of other tools.


  • If I Was Training Dogs Exclusively For The Handicapped.  The e-collar is especially useful for those with physical handicaps.  It’s much easier to simply press a button than to manipulate a leash.


Do I recommend that you get an e-collar? It’s not necessary.  Neither are electric screwdrivers in most cases.  But they sure do make life easier.

Daily Training Rituals With Your Dog

A member of our dog training forum wrote to ask me, “I was wondering if you would give us an example of a typical day with your dog. For example what games do you play with your dog throughout the day? What is involved in training sessions? How long do you leave your dog alone during the day? How often do you give your dog a time out or rest period? Anything else that you can think of to add. Thanks in advance.”

Adam replies: 

Good question!

The answer– like so many things in life– is: It depends.

My rituals for pet/companion dogs is different than if I’m training a high drive sport or working dog.  In addition, the age of the dog will factor in, as well.  The one commonality you’ll find is that dogs crave a consistent schedule, so I try to keep things as regular as possible: Feeding times, exercise time, play time, training, etc…  Yet, we also keep in mind that the dogs are here to please us, and not the other way around.  So, if something important comes up, I don’t let the dogs’ schedules interfere with mine (within reason).

Dog #1: Here are some sample daily rituals for an older dog who is already trained and has low exercise requirements:

6:30: Wake up, let the dog out to urinate.

7:00: Have breakfast and watch the news on TV.  The dog is required to stay on his “place board”, which is next to the sofa.

7:30-8:00AM: Get dog (and myself) ready for our power walk.  Dog must hold a sit-stay while I put his collar on, and a down-stay while I put on my shoes and jacket.  Take the dog for a 1/2 hour walk.  Dog must walk on a loose leash the entire time and wait at certain curbs.  Upon return, I let the dog out to defecate.

8:15: Feed dog.  Let dog out to potty, again.

9:00: Start work.  Dog is allowed to lie around the house where ever he desires.


11:00-11:15: Dog will come outside with me to check on the chickens and watch me fill up his water bowl.  He’ll usually chew on some grass then go lie down and sleep in the sun.

12:00 noon: Break for lunch, dog must stay on his place board.

12:30 – 3:00: Office work.  Dog is sleeping.

3:00 – 3:30: Sit-stay while I get car ready.  Dog then rides in back of SUV while I run errands, if weather is cool or if I’m going somewhere I can bring the dog.  For example: Home Depot, where he’ll hop out of the truck and walk alongside me on a loose leash.  We’ll also practice sits and downs while putting stuff in the shopping cart or waiting at the checkout.  The dog usually gets a lot of attention so I make him hold a sit-stay while people pet him.

3:45 — Pick up the mail: Dog must sit while I get the mail from the mail box, then it’s his job to carry the mail back to the house.

4:00-5:00 PM: Wait in the entryway for the UPS man to visit.

5:00 – 6:00 PM: Hang out with Carla in the kitchen while she prepares dinner.  Occasionally get a piece of cheese in exchange for doing a trick.

6:00 – 7:00 PM: Hold a down-stay while he watches us eat, or stay on the place-board.

7:00 PM: Dog gets to eat.

7:10 PM: Outside with the dog to let the chickens free range.  During this time, I’ll work the dog through a training regimen, just to keep him sharp.  That lasts about 15-20 minutes.  Then I’ll play fetch with him for half an hour.

9:00 PM: Carla will give him a half a tortilla to eat, then spend 20-30 minutes cuddling with him.

10 PM: Lights out.  The dog sleeps in our home office, across from the master bedroom.  He doesn’t move all night.


Dog #2: A younger dog who is not yet trained:

Pretty much the same as above, but I will add at least two additional training sessions of 10-20 minutes a piece.  One in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Since younger dogs typically have more energy, I will also add a 20 minute treadmill session in the late morning, usually around 11:00 AM.  While the dog is on the treadmill, I’ll be sitting next to him with my laptop, tablet or phone so that I can work while the dog is burning off excess energy.

When I have two or more dogs at the same time, I will use the presence of the additional dogs as a distraction for the dog I am training.  This is a big help as my system is built around using as many different distractions as possible during the proofing phase.  For example: When we have three dogs staying with us, two of the dogs will hold a down-stay while I throw a ball for the third dog.  Then I switch and let the second dog chase the ball, then the first.

The other thing I do differently with a young dog or a new dog who is in training is that he does not get the free time around the house to choose where he can lie around: Either he will be on a place board in my office or else in the crate.

For dogs that are high drive or excessive chewers, I will typically give the dog a chew toy to play with while in the crate or on the place board.  If I’m going to be out of the house for most of the day, I’ll do something similar to what Larry describes, here.

On weekends, we’ll take the dogs out for an activity, like a long walk around the marina and then lunch at a restaurant with an outdoor patio.  We like to use several of the games in my report: Games To Play With Your Dog, when we have the time.

I should note that when I’m working with a new dog, I will write down my training goals on a piece of paper.  During the formal training session, I will teach the exercise.  Then, throughout my day, I will practice randomly to reinforce the behavior while I’m puttering around the house.  For example: If I need to get a book from the book case and the dog I’ve been teaching the sit-stay to is with me, I’ll make him sit while I get the book, then give him the release command when I’m ready to return to my office.

There Are No Dumb Dogs, Only Dumb Owners. Really?

“There are no dumb dogs… only dumb owners,” they’ll tell you.
That was the response we got when we first started using the headline in this ad.

The idea that there are no dumb dogs is bunk. Nonsense.  Total fantasy.  There are dumb dogs just like there are dumb humans.

dumb dog

“There are dumb dogs just like there are dumb humans”

Of course, nobody gets upset when Dog Fancy Magazine publishes it’s annual list of the “Top 10 Smartest Breeds”.  But mention that there might be some real dumber-than-a-box-of-hammers dogs and everybody calls you a heretic.

How can there be smart dogs and not dumb dogs, too?

The problem is that you need experience training at least a couple hundred dogs before you have the insight to know if a dog is actually dumb or just stubborn.

Sometimes owners mistake disobedience for dumb.  (They’re not the same!)

You Can’t Fix Stupid…
But You Can Train It

There’s an old redneck saying, “You can’t fix stupid.”   But you can train it.

Even the dumbest dog can be trained.  He just won’t learn exercises as fast as a smart dog will.

But really… what are we talking about?  Days instead of hours? Months instead of weeks?  No, not even that much.

A smart dog might pick up a new exercise after the second or third attempt.  An average dog, after seven or eight repetitions.  And a dumb dog? Nine to twelve times.

Of course, you’ll need to be an expert to know if your dog is “just a little slow” or if it’s another issue.  Perhaps your dog had a prior association with the exercise you’re trying to teach?  Or maybe his breed attributes are not conducive to the exercise. (Ever try to teach a bulldog to swim?)

But if you’ve trained a few hundred dogs and the dog you’re working with takes consistently longer than most dogs to “figure it out,” well… you might have a dumb dog.

So what if your dog isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed?  It doesn’t make a difference. We love them all the same, and just because your dog might be a little slower than the rest is no excuse to ignore training.  Because even the dumbest dog can be trained to high levels of companion dog obedience.

So, whether your dog is a canine Einstein or a canine “Snookie” — you can get your dog to listen to you, anywhere you go once you learn the right techniques.




Does Your Dog Have Anxiety While Traveling?

“We rescued an 8 year-old springer/cocker spaniel from a puppy mill about 8 months ago. She is a loving dog and is a joy to have around the house. She is very friendly and gets along well with other dogs. We had her spayed in May and had some tumors removed. Our only concern is going on trips to visit our children. She barks and whines constantly as soon as we start our trip and does this for 3 to four hours- which is how long it takes to get to our destination. Our vet gave us some pills that puts her to sleep, but she is so doped up that we worry about her. We would prefer not to have to medicate her. Is there a chapter in your book on how to combat this problem. Thanks in advance.  Thanks, Daphne.”

Adam replies:

Is she currently sleeping in a crate at home? When you travel with her, is she in the crate? Let me know and we’ll go from there.

Daphne replies:

Yes she has a crate- and used it everyday as her comfort zone. We take it with us on our trips, and she gets into it – no problem- but the whining and barking starts up as soon as we start driving- and until the meds kick in. hope this helps/.

Adam replies:

I recommend that you start feeding her meals in the car. Do it with the engine off for the first week, and for the second week, do it with the engine on (idling).

Another thing that works frequently is to start taking her for short car rides… but only to play. So, if you have a park a block away from your house, drive her to the park and if she has something that she loves doing (like chasing the ball) let her chase the ball.

If you don’t live near a park, then just drive her to a cul-de-sack near your home and do the same. It’s just anxiety. Soon she will begin to associate a “positive” with riding in the car.

Success Story: How An Abused, Terrified Dog Became Their County’s First Search And Rescue Dog

Leslie wrote to me with a question about her dog chasing the postman.  But beyond a few dog problems, her story is interesting because of her success with her dog– and how it attracted the attention of a local Search and Rescue dog trainer:

“Joey, who looks like your dog Forbes, is a new dog to our household.  In the two months since I have looked to you for help, he has gone from walking around hunched over–tail between legs– to a confident, head and tail up stride.  He is very athletic and his attitude and eagerness to learn is amazing. He will down, come, heel, whoa, back up, sit, wait, crawl, find [people and things], bring, over and under obstacles, run the poles, and climb. As an aside, I raise beef cattle.  When I ride out {on horseback} he goes,too.  After about three weeks, he started doing what my horse and I do… with no prompting! So now he helps with the cows. He is learning to socialize, with reserved but very good manners with people. He is great with my four cats and older female dog.

All of this is because of you and the DogProblems staff.

I have read, watched, and listened to EVERYTHING in your download library, over and over.

Creative commons license: flickr-Bob-Haarmans
Search and Rescue Dog: Creative commons license: flickr-Bob-Haarmans

All that said, there’s always room to do better.

  1. Sometimes he is slow to ‘down’..starts to turn toward wherever I am, and then goes down {I’m talking like 2 seconds]. Not good??
  2. He does what I want him to do before I give a command. Reading body language?? If he’s near me and starts to do something I don’t want, I don’t need to say ‘no’, just raise an eyebrow. Acceptable??
  3. Bigger problem… The mailman has to drive 1/4 mile down dirt road to my box. All of a sudden Joey has started chasing him. What is the e-collar [I have the Garmin Delta with tone, vib, nick, and constant, which I use to help my handicapped self with recall] procedure to break this habit. He does not chase anyone else.

Adam replies:

Hi, LeslieLu:

Thanks for the feedback. That makes my day!!

1. Give the command and immediately make him go down. Since you’re using the e-collar, you should have it on low-stim and press the button every time you say the command.

2. It’s your dog, so that’s really up to you as to whether it’s acceptable or not. There will always be some anticipation as the dog learns your routines, and that’s okay. The only thing I would practice is giving the commands when your back is turned, and then making sure he does the behavior. That way, he’s really learning and responding to commands rather than simply responding to unconscious “cues” that may not be present when you really need them (like in an emergency!)

3. This is an easy one: Use your, “No!” command. Anticipate the mailman and as you see the dog begin to even start THINKING about giving chase, that’s when you want to tell the dog, “No!” If your, “No!” command is motivational, then he will give up the behavior. If not, then you’re going to want to:
A. Make sure your foundation work is tight and the dog really understands what, “No!” means in all scenarios. He should, since this is one of the most basic of commands that used all the time.
B. Since you’re using the e-collar: Turn it up. As the motivation for the distraction increases, so must the motivation of your correction.

Leslie responds:

Re the 4 problems:

  1. E-collar and simultaneous command cured problem of hesitation.
  2. Turning my back while giving a command also works
  3. My horses will also anticipate commands, in the show ring, this is a no-no. So I decided that when Joey did it I tell him ‘no’ and give a different command, also making sure our training routine is random. It works.
  4. It took two days to stop the mail truck chasing with the e-collar but, while he could see me he ignored truck, if I was not in sight he chased.  So, I hid in the barn and the house with the window open and the second he set out after the truck, I zapped him. Worked very well indeed.

People are so impressed with my smart dog they have asked me to help with theirs. I tell them, that if I know anything, its because of Mr. Katz and Dogproblems and give them your website info.

We don’t have an SAR (Search and Rescue) in Macon County, but the next county over has a big one tied into the Fire dept and Sheriff Department. As a note, everyone in the south knows everything about everybody else. I was visited by two sheriffs, one fire chief and the SAR director.

I know I brag about Joey, but he really is exceptional. The SAR fellow was so amazed by Joey and what you have taught me to teach him, that he begged me to sell him my dog. No. Compromise, he is going to come here once a week and teach me.  I’ll teach Joey, and Macon County will have an SAR dog.

ALL of this, from a terribly abused, terrified dog, because of you guys. You really do what you say.

-Leslie Faircloth



[Guest Post] Continuing Education For Your Dog

Just like exercising your mind and body will help you live longer and healthier, the same is true for dogs. Dogs need mental stimulation on a daily basis just like they need physical exercise every day. Studies have shown that dogs who play and interact with people on a regular basis are healthier, smarter and live longer than those who do not. So, how can you keep your dog in top shape? Here are some of the things I prescribe for my clients.

continuing education for your dogThe first rule of thumb is something you’ve undoubtedly heard before: “make your dog work for everything,” or “Nothing in life is free.”  A more positive spin that I like to put on this is to: “Use every opportunity to train and interact with your dog.”  This means that if your dog wants affection, teach him to sit politely next you – not to jump up, paw at you, or bark and whine. Those behaviors should be ignored so that they diminish. Reinforce the good behaviors instead. [Adam adds: Some behavior will never stop by ignoring them… just like in life.  To eliminate unwanted behaviors, I recommend learning how to give a motivational correction with the leash and collar.]  When your dog is playing well by himself, go join in! Reward him for being a good dog and grab the toy and start a game of fetch – or make him sit or lie down to get it back. Believe it or not, your dog will love this. Dogs used to work for a living, so we need to give them jobs to keep them satisfied and to keep them out of trouble. So, create work for them!

Some assignments I give my clients are:

  • Ask your dog to sit and stay for every meal. By waiting a minimum of 5 seconds to a maximum of at least one minute, your dog gets to practice “stay” twice a day for the rest of his life.
  • Ask your dog to sit and stay before opening the door to go outside. Once the door is wide open, wait up to one minute before releasing him to walk behind you out of the door. Training him to do this means that he’s more calm starting out on the walk, he learns to never run through an open door and, lastly, he learns to ignore distractions, such as people or dogs or cats running by out front.
  • Teach your dog to ask permission to come up on the couch, bed or enter other special areas. He must sit politely and wait to be asked to jump up or enter the room. This also avoids problems like a glass of red wine being thrown from a guest’s hand when your dog decides to jump up and visit.
  • Any time you want to give the dog a treat, bone, pet, put on a leash, or any other desired activity, make him sit or down or even shake or rollover first. Making it a fun game to get a toy or treat will enhance its value to your dog even further… he worked for it, so now he really wants it!!
  • Be consistent with your rules so that there is no question in your dog’s mind what you want and expect from him.


Another way to look at this is that English is a foreign language to a dog. And, just as with any new language, practice makes perfect. Plus, if you do not practice, you will get rusty very quickly. So, keep your dog’s vocabulary growing and keep talking to him throughout his life.

Lastly, it’s also important that we keep our dogs in shape with respect to safe handling. Most people learn that you should touch a puppy everywhere – especially paws, tail and mouth – so that she will be comfortable being poked and prodded by veterinarians, groomers and children. You also might have heard that it’s good to pet a puppy while he’s eating or chewing a bone… and even take away the food or bone to ensure that she does not snarl, bite or otherwise try to protect it. This is commonly known as “resource guarding.”  The problem is that most people stop after ensuring the puppy or new dog is OK with these actions. Then, a few months or years go by, someone goes to pet your dog while she’s next to her bone and… SNAP! The reason? The people didn’t keep practicing. My guidelines are to mess with your dog’s food at least once a week for her whole life, and take every chewy (rawhide, bully stick, Greenie) away from her at least once during her chew. This ensures you can safely take away items that are dangerous as well as enables your pet to be around people in all circumstances with no fear of her snapping at anyone due to trying to protect her property. They key is to teach her that nothing is her property to begin with, so there are never any misunderstandings. A great way to work on this is to teach your dog to “drop it”. You can learn how to do this by watching a simple video on my website.

To help you remember to do all of these things, just think of requesting actions from your dog as being like teaching a child some basic responsibilities and politeness. Even a spoiled dog (mine certainly is!) can be polite and well-mannered. For instance, there is no reason why a dog should believe that everything that falls on the floor or is sitting on a table is hers for the taking. In fact, that is dangerous. What if you drop Tylenol or chocolate? Her grabbing it could mean a visit to the emergency room… or worse. So teach your to dog to be patient and give her consistent boundaries to live within and she will be happier and healthier for your efforts. Learning, growing and improving should be an ongoing pursuit for both you and your dog!

Reprinted with explicit permission: Beverly Ulbrich, “The Pooch Coach” is an expert dog behaviorist and trainer in the SF Bay Area.  Visit her site for more info:  http://www.poochcoach.com

Does Your Dog Have Drive?

“One of my dogs does not have any drive other than chasing birds and digging. Can you suggest any way to make the training fun for him?”

Adam replies:

Some dogs just don’t have a lot of drive. For these dogs, you’ll just focus on the basic obedience/companion dog exercises. Even so, it’s up to you to learn what your dog likes. Maybe it’s physical touch? Maybe it’s motion? (IE, Taking a few steps forward).

Does he like to eat?

As a last resort, you can try not feeding him for a day, and then only feed during training sessions, one kibble at a time, when he does an exercise correctly (as a reward, not a bribe!) or to get him to “target” where you want him to position himself.  It may take a few days before he starts to really get motivated for the food.

Usually, the more a dog does an exercise the more he’ll start to “loosen up” and have fun with it. So, it might be that, too.

does your dog have drive

Lynn Stockwell adds:  

I have a low-drive dog. It’s a CHALLENGE.

She’ll work for food, OHHHHH she’ll work for food.

I spent months just teaching her how to play with a regular ball–one that can’t be chewed up, doesn’t squeak or have fuzz all over it. She’ll play with it, but try to use it as a reward in a working capacity and she’ll decide that she Just Doesn’t Wanna Play.

Tug? Good luck with that. She won’t touch a jute tug or a traditional rope tug. It HAS to be her Kong Wubba toy, or else it just isn’t worth tugging.

I went with food drive with my dog. Sure, it’s fun for all, and the absolute WORST part is when you teach them that they HAVE to listen without it. I say a lot of things in training, and the phrase “It hurts me more than it hurts you” is definitely one that I’ve been saying a lot. It hurts me to to see her not enjoy the reward for doing something, but when it comes to real-world obedience…I can’t have her blowing me off because I don’t have what she finds invigorating and rewarding. She needs to listen because I say so.

With that said, the more she learns to listen, the less I need to use food and the more I was using praise and petting as a reward. Which actually worked out a lot, since then I could use food treats as a really special reward for something really good.

In short, this dog is the reason why I’ll probably start with a puppy next time… it’s a crapshoot when you adopt an adult dog!


Adam replies: 

I disagree. I think a puppy is way more of a crap shoot. With an adult dog, you can spend 15 minutes and figure out if the dog has drive, what it’s tail carriage is like, if it’s got good nerves (or find that out, at least in the first day or two).

Whereas with a puppy, you never know how it’s going to turn out. I’ve been burned on puppies enough times now that it will be a very strong exception the next time I get one instead of an adult dog.

Dog Growls At Husband Sometimes

“I have a husband who thinks he knows it all when it comes to dogs. However, one of my dogs will still growl at him to this day. The other day I gave her a bone that she took to her crate and was fine until my husband started walking around. Then she started growling.

Dog Growls At Husband

I went over to her crate to correct her but by that time she stopped growling, so I called my husband over and the growling started again. I then gave her a couple of corrections because the growling didn’t stop with the first one. Once she stopped growling I allowed her to go back to her bone. On a side note, friends can come in and walk around when she has a bone and my other dog can be in the same room with his bone and there is no growling. It’s only when my husband moves around that the growling starts. She will also growl at him if I am in my bedroom and he walks in that direction. I’ve repeatedly told my husband that he needs to get the dogs respect and become the alpha, but he acts as though I don’t know what I’m talking about. So my question is, is there a way that I can stop this behavior on my own?”

Adam replies: 

Your corrections need to be more motivational. However: The dog will likely keep doing it when you’re not around, so if he’s not willing to correct the dog, then the dog should be crated where she will not be around your husband.

Sounds to me like you need our sister site: HusbandProblems.com.  [Editor’s note: Not really our sister site.]

How To Calm Down An Excessively Excited Dog

Dianne asked, “Is there a way to calm down an excessively excited dog? My Belgian Malinois sometimes gets overly excited when people come over (and this can happen right after an hour-long walk) or even when she is just coming into the house. I make her sit until I give her the release command before allowing her to come in, but as soon as I give the release command she goes bounding up the stairs. I don’t know how to explain it except that sometimes it’s just too much.”

How To Calm Down An Excessively Excited Dog
Copyright Creative Commons: d williams intrepid malinois

Adam replies:

I recommend using the down command instead of the sit command. And to make it even better, teach your dog a “place” command by using either a place board (rug, board, or pillow). The difference in elevation gives the dog something additional to focus on.

This is partially a breed attribute.  She will start to calm down with more training and repeated exposure to the same type of situation. The more people you have come over and you get her used to staying on the place board, the more she’ll begin to understand what’s expected of her. Age will help, too.

Remember: The way to combat an unfocused mind is with structure, structure, structure.  You create structure for your dog by creating routines.  Soon, she’ll start to immediately go to her “place” when she comes into the house– and you will keep her there until she calms herself down.

Do You Let Your Dog Sniff The Ground While Walking?

A forum contributor asked, “Do you let your dog sniff around while walking them?”

Adam replied: “No. If I want to stop and let him sniff, I tell him, “Free!” (or ‘take a break’). But otherwise, I only give him a chance to pee every 1/2 hour or so, during a walk.”

Original poster: “Thanks Adam. By the way… I couldn’t believe how fast the loose leash dog walking technique worked. In less than 3 minutes both of my dogs were walking on a loose leash and I was teaching both of them at the same time. This is after months of constantly telling my one dog to heel and pulling up on the leash to get him back to my side.

dog sniffing ground

DogProblems.com Trainer 4: “I don’t mind if the nose is airscenting while walking, but I do not like the head down on the ground or out at the side. Even on regular walks, we book it. I don’t mind a quick sniff or two, but nothing interrupts a good aerobic workout like coming to a screeching halt because the dog has to investigate something or is slowed down smelling the trail of something interesting. We’re out on a walk. This is OUR time together. There are other times and places to investigate Fun Smells, and this ain’t it.  Make sense?

Original poster:  Hi DPTrainer4, what are those other times and places to investigate Fun Smells? Because if I’m walking somewhere with the dogs then I’m walking and so are they.

Adam replied: She means that those times and places are left up to your discretion. Not the dog’s.

DogProblems.com Trainer 4:  Exactly.  When we are walking around 120 acres, a loose leash is not first priority–in fact, a leash is more of a hindrance and gets in the way. What IS important is a solid recall and leave-it. An occasional, rock-solid down helps too–squirrel season, out walking with the dog and we heard something in the copse of oaks. Downed the dog off in the distance and waited to see if anything would show; nothing ended up happening, so we just got her back up and walked on. (She is NOT a hunting dog by any stretch of the imagination, either!)

It’s a good reason to put reliable, real-world obedience on a dog so that it can enjoy a good off-leash walk and YOU can rest assured that it will listen to you the first time when things go haywire.

At the park near my parent’s house, dogs are allowed off-leash during certain times of the evening. This is a good mix of work and play. She can go off-leash and explore, but we’re still heeling and working when other dogs come around. (I keep her close because I do not want other dogs approaching us–“He’s friendly” be damned, mine might not be and plus, it’s just plain rude to allow your dog to molest and bully other dogs under the guise of “play.”)

Depends on your circumstances, location and opportunities where you can use your discretion.