My Dog Didn't Know Sit

Tips From a Dog Trainer and Her Dog


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Five Valuable Lessons Your Puppy Must Know Before Adulthood

There are several things your puppy should know before adulthood, including how to sit, stay, and come on command, how to have a routine for potty breaks throughout the day, how to practice proper doggy etiquette when at a dog park, how not to chew on things that aren’t its own toys, etc., but did you ever think about the even more “no-brainer” things you puppy must know? Although they’re no-brainers, it doesn’t mean they’re not some of the most valuable lessons your puppy should know before it’s an adult!! Here are the top five lessons your puppy should definitely know before it reaches adulthood!

5. How to be crated/kenneled: Whether you plan to have a crate in your home or not, being able to be caged is an extremely important lesson for every puppy to learn. When your dog is at the vet, at the groomers, or at a dog boarding facility, your dog will be kenneled at some point. It may be for only half an hour after getting bathed, or for days while you’re on vacation. Either way, you dog needs to be able to stay in that kennel without howling, barking, pawing at the walls and door, or throwing itself upon the ground and having a tantrum. No one likes an unhappy dog, so do your puppy a favor and be prepared!
13905581116_9c21b7c5ef_zWhile crated, your dog may be left alone, or kept nearby. If your dog is going nuts and having a panic attack because it’s been placed in a crate and sees it as a scary place, it’s still going to have to stay in there until you come and get it. It’s best for your puppy to learn that the crate is not a punishment device, nor is it confinement; it’s a safe and quiet place to be kept safe in. Even if you don’t groom your dog or keep it in boarding while you’re away, a normal dog will be crated at some point while at the vet’s office. Your dog may even have to be kenneled at least once a year, in fact!
Once an adult, your dog will need to have its teeth cleaned at least once a year by a veterinarian. This is pretty much a requirement because even if your dog chews teeth-cleaning toys and you brush your dog’s teeth, he still needs to have his teeth and gums checked for disease, infection, plaque, or any other common oral issues almost all dogs have.
Your dog will be put under and then have plaque scraped off its teeth and mouth and gums checked for any signs of complications that would otherwise be impossible to check while your wiggly dog’s awake and trying to lick the vet tech’s face rather than stay still with its mouth open. Because this procedure is a yearly thing, teaching your dog to be crated will make the teeth cleaning process much smoother when your dog wakes up in a strange place, half drugged, and in a big metal crate without you around to tell him to chill the heck out. Until the medication wears off and he’s completely awake, he’s going to have to stay in there, and if he spends those hours screaming and howling and peeing all over the place, then so be it. It’s torture for those in the office, your dog, and every client there, so save yourself the embarrassment when you have to pick him up and crate train your puppy early!!

puppy74. How to walk on leash: Similarly to being crated, at some point in your dog’s life, it will have to walk on-leash even if you let your dog out in the yard to exercise or go to the bathroom, and you never bring your dog anything but at the vet. It’s fine if you choose to have a puller when you walk him to the vet, but if your dog ever needs to get his shots or some other reason, he’ll need to be taken to the back room by the vet tech, and this will have to be done with the vet’s own leash. They use a simple “slip lead”, which is essentially a rope that easily loops around a dog’s neck and tightens when pulled so that its a snug fit. If your dog lacks the all leash manners that it should have learned when it was a puppy and not close to as heavy, strong, or stubborn as it is now, your dog can end up strangling itself if it pulls too hard. Your dog can also hurt the vet tech taking it to the back room. No one wants that, right?
A dog who can’t walk on-leash is also a very difficult client when brought to day care or boarding when the employee must walk your dog to potty or go home from its suite as well. When I worked as a Daycare Associate a few years back, I dreaded bringing some dogs to its owners; they’d pull so hard and literally run through the halls like maniacs, dragging me behind them thanks to the slippery linoleum floor lacking any friction one wished they had to slow the dog down. With one dog, a very large and powerful Great Dane, I was yanked through the halls with him as he burst through the doors into the waiting room, and I was almost slammed into a pillar nearby, but luckily dodged it by just a few inches. This was right in front of the owner, who informed me that she actually has been slammed into trees by her titan of a dog during walks, so she just doesn’t walk him anymore except to and from the car when going to daycare. Unsurprisingly, she was wearing a wrist band, a waist back to keep from pulling her back, and very high-traction shoes, specifically for walking her dog to the car. He never learned how to properly walk on leash and has almost sent multiple who associate with him to the hospital because of this…

3. How to ignore strangers: Like the previous two suggestions, this will keep you, your dog, and everyone around you safe! Yes, it’s nice to see your dog interacting nicely with neighbors, other dogs, children, and everyone in the world outside your home, but not everyone wants to be greeted by your dog, even if they loved to be just 6 months ago. As a puppy, he will learn that everyone wants to say hi to his adorable self, but as an adult, people aren’t as eager to pet and hug a big excited full grown dog as much as a tiny fluffy puppy. As your puppy becomes an adult, he may not realize that he’s grown several times in size and strength in just a few months!
cat-ignores-dogWhy can’t he suddenly can’t run up and say hi to the neighbor’s 3 year old and jump up and lick her face anymore? Rather than get a doggy dictionary to explain it to him, it’s best to start right away not to make your dog magnetized toward every other living being you pass by. It’ll save yourself the trouble and your dog the heartbreak.
I’m not saying that you should avoid people who are interested in meeting your puppy, but try hard to not show him off and approach others; have them approach you so that your dog learns that playing with others only happens when they come to you, and you don’t go to them. When someone comes to meet your puppy, be sure to teach him restraint and have him sit and wait before being petted, and prepare beforehand by standing on your dog’s leash so that he won’t be tempted to jump up on people. A puppy jumping up isn’t a big deal unless he’s a giant adult! Wait, is that even possible?! Anyway, all meetings should be calm and casual and not a big deal; that way your dog won’t become obsessed with saying hello to everyone he passes by because it’s a rare occasion that most likely won’t happen during every walk.

2. How to play alone: It’s nice to play with your dog, but when you’re busy writing a extremely lengthy essay on what to teach your puppy before adulthood, it’s even nicer when you don’t need to! Teaching your puppy that he doesn’t have to have a playmate to enjoy his toys is extremely important, especially when you’re away at work or are in the middle of doing something else in general.
Giving your puppy safe chew toys that he can occupy himself with when you’re not nylabone2available to play is the easiest way to teach your puppy independence and patience. When your puppy begs for attention to play while you’re busy, simply provide him with an alternative: A durable, safe, and fun one-player toy! Kong toys with frozen peanut butter smudged inside, Nylabones of the proper size and strength, Mighty Dog toys, and StarMarks chew toys are good suggestions of things you can bring out before you leave your puppy alone. Be sure that all toys you leave out for your puppy is safe and strong enough to play with without you needing to keep a sharp eye on him. Don’t leave soft stuffed toys, rope toys, or any other toys out you know you’ll have to supervise him with unless you’re in the same room and want to promote two-player play with them.
Patience is important to teach, so if he has something to play with but still demands your attention, you’re sadly going to have to ignore him, no matter how adorable he is. Be sure that when you ignore him, it’s 100%! Don’t even glance down at him because acknowledgement is often considered a reward, especially when your puppy begs. When he gives up trying to force you to join in his game and goes to play with his toy himself, THEN you can reward him with praise and sometimes even a treat that you stick inside the toy (is possible). Playing with toys alone should still be fun!

1. How to do… Nothing! Teaching your puppy how to do nothing is, in my opinion, the most important thing you can teach him. Many adult dogs don’t, and probably never will, know how to do nothing — mostly because owners don’t realize that this can be taught!
You’re walking your dog and reach a stop light, or need to fix your shoe, or need to step aside and let someone pass by on the sidewalk; what do you want your dog to do? You want him to stop, stay beside you, and do nothing. You don’t want him to lunge into the street, whine and tug at the leash, or leap up and say hi to the passerby.
You’ve brought your dog with you while you plan to have brunch outside a restaurant; the weather is great, your dog is leashed beside you, other people are enjoying their meals nearby. You want your dog to stay beside you, attached to the table, and enjoy being outside in the fresh air and do nothing; you don’t want him crying and barking, begging for food, zig-zagging through the chairs, jumping up onto tables, or getting under tables and licking peoples’ feet. You want him to stay still, without telling him to sit and stay and wait and wait and wait and wait and… You get my point.
As a puppy, he will learn that every few hours, he’s gonna need to go out for a walk, and then play, and then be fed, and then play, and then be trained, and then be cuddled with, and then everything else a busy puppy does all day. A puppy’s routine is full of attention and excitement and tasks. It’s very different from how it will become when it’s a mature (hah, yeah right!) adult who has time to smell the roses and, well, do nothing. But! This dog needs to learn that it’s possible to do nothing rather than smell the roses and lick the owner’s hand and bark at the neighbor dog and go nuts. You need to teach your puppy how to relax. You need to teach your puppy how to stop and stay still during walks. You need to teach your puppy that even though we’re outside and there are distractions on every corner, you don’t have to do anything; you can do nothing.
XG8IF00ZEvery day, for about 10 mins, sit down with your puppy in an empty area– no toys– and listen to music (or it can be silent if you don’t mind it). Don’t cuddle with him, don’t pet him, don’t give him treats, don’t do anything. Just sit down and relax. He can lie beside you and cuddle, but don’t touch him. Maybe read a book, or play with your phone, or whatever — Just ignore him, unless he starts going nuts, then you can give him a chew toy to occupy him. After the 10 mins go by, reward him and continue on with your busy day. You can teach him “Relax” before you two have your session of nothing if you like. As he gets older, you can do this for longer if you feel the need to.
When walking, teach your dog to relax for a few seconds. Stop walking, stand there, and chill out. As your puppy becomes more advanced in doing nothing, practice relaxing while waiting at the cross walk, or while at a park with your dog tied to your chair/bench at a shopping center. You can put a jacket of some sort on your puppy/dog to indicate that you’re in training mode so that people don’t interrupt. Be sure to keep your dog social and expose him to many different things so that the environment isn’t so alarming or so amazing that it’s impossible to chill out. That’s kind of a given though, right?
By teaching your dog how to relax and do nothing, you’ve given him an extremely important and useful lesson in restraint, patience, discipline, and will-power that doesn’t require force or motivation. It should be a natural and beneficial trait your dog will know, which is nothing! Hm. That didn’t come out right…

Well, I hope these Words of Wisdom were valuable to you, and that you can mold your puppy into a mature adult with these simple, but very important, tasks! As for those who have adult dogs, how many of these important things has he accomplished? Even as an adult, your dog can still learn these important lessons. Although they may seem like things that are unimportant in your lifestyle right now, eventually your dog will be challenged and things that seemed as petty as walking on-leash will be something you will be glad you taught him when he was young!

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Why Won’t My Dog Listen?

Dog-Training-SchoolsEver attend a training class and all the dogs around you are quietly listening to the trainer and doing what their owners are telling them, and meanwhile your dog is throwing a tantrum and ignoring every word you say? You sigh in frustration and think to yourself, “My dog is so stupid!” and smile embarrassingly to the trainer as she responds with a pitied look from across the room. The puppy next to you knows sit; why can’t your dog?!
Well, there are many reasons why dogs have trouble learning sit, or any command. Most of these things aren’t as obvious to the typical owner as they are to professionals who are able to read what a dog is trying to tell us though. Sometimes it has to do with the environment, but sometimes it’s because of the owner himself! Here’s a list of reasons why your smart dog could be having trouble acting smart:

Unaware of Your Intentions: Dogs don’t automatically pay attention to you just because you’re standing infront of them. Sometimes you need to teach your dog on how to be trained. This is called Voluntary Attention and is actually quite easy to train, but is best if your dog is hungry. To do this, simply stand onfront of your dog and say his name or “hey” to get him to look at you. The moment your eyes meet, reward him with “yes” or “good boy!” and give him a treat or a kibble of his food. Keep doing this every time your eyes meet. Eventually, he’ll hold his gaze to you even after given a treat. Take advantage of this and wait a few seconds longer every few times until he can hold attention for what seems like forever. This is the best trick you can teach your dog. By teaching him to look to you for rewards and direction, you can get him to do just about anything. I taught Ringo Voluntary Attention right away when I fed him the first time. Now, whenever he looks at something new, he’ll look up at me for direction on how to act. Anytime I do anything, he pays attention to it and waits for any indication that I want him to do something. It’s great and can solve a lot of unruly behavior when your dog learns that you’re the leader he’s looking for.

squirrelDistractions: This one’s pretty obvious; your dog is too occupied with everything around it to listen to you. Depending on the dog’s breed, it can be too difficult to concentrate on the person standing infront of it screaming, “SIT!” when there are so many smells and sounds drowning the person out.

Herding dogs may prioritize a doggy classmate or anything running by, be it squirrel or child, over whatever treats you have to offer due to its herding instinct. A hound may be distracted by that amazing smell ten feet away if the treat you have in your hand isn’t as smelly.

One way to catch your dog’s attention during training is to flash the treat infront of your dog’s nose, then lure your dog’s gaze back up to you. Usually, this should snap your dog out of it and he’ll pay attention to the treat and what he has to do to get it. You can also stand in your dog’s line of sight if he’s staring at something as well, or if he’s freaking out due to sensory overload, try to move further from the source of the distraction if possible.

DorWUToo Much Energy: When your dog is lacking in exercise and everything is exciting, it’s impossible to pay attention. Yelling, trying to distract him with treats, yanking him around, or anything like that probably won’t help when he has enough energy to power the sun. If possible, tire him out first with a game of fetch or a walk around the neighborhood before you start trying to teach him something. Once he’s tuckered out and has been given some water, food might sound like the next exciting thing to pay attention to and training will be easy!

Too Nervous: If your dog is busy whimpering and trembling and won’t take treats, there’s no way he’s going to be able to learn anything or listen to anyone. Whatever’s going on around him has made your dog way too nervous to function, and tugging his leash, pushing his butt to the ground, yelling at him, or saying “No!” over and over isn’t going to help him learn how to sit down. It’s best to work on getting him relaxed and associate the place you’re in as a good place, and not the place where everyone’s screaming and the floor’s covered in mysterious puddles of pee.

You can do this by acting calm and not correcting his whimpers and trembling. This is your dog’s way of telling you, “I don’t like this place! I’m scared!” and yanking him or yelling is just going to tell him, “Oh god! This is place is horrible indeed!” Instead, squat down to his level and be calm and talk gently to him, but don’t pet or baby him because it’ll promote the way he’s acting. Offer some treats if he’ll accept them by hand or by dropping or placing them on the floor. The treats can be a good distraction and if they’re high value treats, teach him that the good treats are given only when in this scary place. You can also, if possible, offer a toy to help him relax. If all else fails, it’s best to ignore your dog until he eventually calms down on his own. If you’re not in a classroom or vet, maybe it’d be a good idea to leave and come back another day.

Some signs of a nervous dog are obvious: whimpering, trembling, barking, panting with tongue hanging out, pacing back and forth, jumping on owner, sniffling and licking things, tensing up, and chewing on the paws. There are less obvious signs too though: panting when it’s not hot in general, yawning over and over, not reacting to anything, and not taking treats. You’ll also notice when a dog is nervous when it flicks its tongue over and over, or licks it lips dramatically. A nervous dog will also turn away from people trying to interact with it, look at people with wide eyes where you can see the whites (whale eyes). They may blink slowly and obviously, or have wrinkles on the sides of its lips while panting or on top of the head between the ears. When a dog pants while nervous, the tongue is sometimes curled up and the panting is very rapid. If your dog seems nervous, don’t push him too hard, or at least back off alittle bit until he’s calm again.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 5.29.36 PMCommand Has Negative Results: When you call your dog to you, what does he expect? Pets, praise, treats, toys, fun things, of course! But what happens when you call your dog and when he comes to you, you pick him up and drop him in the bathtub? He won’t want to come to you anymore.

Whenever you say your dog’s name, you want to get his attention. Whenever I say “Ringo”, he comes running to me because I only say his name when I have something nice to offer or want him to do something fun, like start a game or get ready for a walk. When he does something naughty, I never say his name because you don’t want your dog’s name to be a punishing word. Use something you don’t say often like, “Oh no you di’nt!” instead if you want to scold your dog. Remember though, it only works when you catch your dog in the act of doing something naughty, not after he’s stopped doing it! The same is for when your dog has run off and you call him back: when he comes back, don’t scold him for running off; you’ll just be teaching him not to come back because dogs associate cause and effect one action at a time.

Command Loses Value: Dogs also can’t understand human speech, obviously, so what about when a dog knows a command and doesn’t seem to follow it anymore? It makes one wonder what the heck happened, right? Well, when you give a command, do it once. If “sit!” becomes “Sit! Hey, sit. Sit. SIT!” you have a problem that will be tough to solve. Say the command once, and if the dog doesn’t understand or messes up, let him know it was wrong with a simple, “Oops” or “Nope” and turn away for a moment then come back. This resets the command and lets your dog understand that you’re retrying to command, not adding to it.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 5.43.06 PMThere are also times when you give your dog a command he knows and he literally looks at you and then turns away. He knows the command, and knows that you know that he knows the command, but because nothing happens when he chooses not to follow it, he feels that he’s free to ignore it if he’s not interested in treats. Always follow up when you give your dog a command like “Come”, “Leave it”, “Stay”, “Off”, or whatever other commands that keep your dog out of trouble. You don’t want your dog to dive for a bar of dark chocolate and ignore you when you tell him to Leave It all because the word has no value.

If you teach your dog Leave It and he goes for the item anyway, don’t sit there and go, “Aw man! He ate my cupcake!”; you want to follow up! Block the food, and the moment he hesitates, that’s when you reward him with something better, like a treat or extra praise. You want your dog to hesitate when you tell him to Leave It, and if you’re far away, you can call your dog to you to get him away from the object. If needed, you can open your dog’s mouth and pull the food out before he swallows it. Be sure to give the command before or as you do this, and let him know that this is what happens when he tries to eat it anyway. Don’t hit him or anything like that though because then the command will mean, “I’m about to smack you!” instead of, “Don’t eat that!” and that’s not the point you’re trying to get across.

Wha’chu Talkin’ Bout?: Your dog doesn’t understand what you’re trying to tell it. Dogs aren’t born knowing their name or any commands, so telling every dog you meet to sit or shake hands isn’t only embarrassing, but it’s pointless. Like how dogs communicate, using body language with words/sounds is much easier to understand than just words in a foreign language. Until your dog has learned the command with body language and can do the command about 90% correctly whenever cued, your dog may not be able to follow just by speech. Saying a command over and over, but louder and slower, won’t help. It doesn’t help someone who can’t speak your language understand what you’re saying just like how it doesn’t help your dog understand what you’re saying.

Although training your dog in different places with different distractions is a good challenge for him, be sure to only challenge your dog when and where you know he can successfully accomplish it. Being patient and setting your dog up for success by training him in a place with no distractions, when he’s in a good state of mind, and with nothing that’ll make your commands negative or worthless will help your “stupid” dog show you that he’s actually quite intelligent. Remember these different reasons, and training sessions will make it much easier since you’ll be more aware of why your dog’s not paying attention to you. Other than these reasons, can anyone think of any others? Feel free to share your knowledge!


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Meet Ringo Star

This is Ringo. He was adopted on February 2nd, 2013 at the age of 8 months from Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Washington, DC by 25 year old me. Ringo’s a very lucky dog, not because he was adopted as a Lucky Dog from LDAR, but because he was rescued from a shelter in South Carolina after being sent there with the reason in his paperwork, “Daughter moved out”.

Despite the bad luck, Ringo’s now living in Virginia and getting all the attention he deserves from a daughter who won’t move out and leave him behind with mom to take care of (or not take care of). He’s no longer a skinny puppy who pees when pet and screams for hours on end when left alone while his owner leaves to go to the bathroom without him.

He’s now a happy playful puppy with confidence and who loves everyone – people, rats, cats, and dogs alike – and spends his days napping, playing, being spoiled with treats that will never run out (yay for buying treats in bulk!), and pretending he has the best mustache in the world even though it’s considered peach fuzz compared to a real mustaches.

Despite arriving not knowing a single trick or even his name (formally Jake), Ringo is now a know-it-all (almost)! Before, Ringo didn’t know sit, but now he has mastered:

Sit
Down
Stay (don’t move from a sit or down until I return and touch him on the head)
Wait (don’t eat a treat or follow me from a few feet away until released with “OK”)
Leave It (move away from an object he is about to eat/pick up)
Go Get It (grab the item he is looking at and bring it to me)
Drop It (drop the item he is carrying)
Off (get off of a couch/person/etc)
Spin (spin around in a circle)
I’ll Be Back (keep calm when I leave for a moment)
Don’t Do It! (stop attempting to drink/eat/smell an object or food)

Ringo knows a lot, but there’s also a lot he doesn’t know. What else do you think Ringo can master? Does your dog know something you can challenge Ringo to? Feel free to share what your dog knows and how he learned it!
Ringo Dolls