Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Test Your Skills: Challenge #3

Happy Belated Thanksgiving, all!

We apologize for the delay in our writing our next blog. We have been very busy the last couple months!

Without further ado, here is your next challenge. Again, we hope that the first challenges have been successful! Please post comments, questions, issues, and more!

For this challenge, we are starting to work on "distance control" for skills. Here are the details:

1. When your dog is ~5 feet away from you (but facing you), ask him/her for a SIT. If successful, reinforce handsomely with some treats or a playtime! When your dog is doing this readily, move to ~10 feet, then ~15, and so on.

2. Repeat Step 1, but use a DOWN instead.

3. Repeat Step 1, but try a SIT-DOWN-SIT (Puppy Pushup).

4. Now, walk with your dog on one of your sides. Ask for a STAND and WAIT. Go about 5 feet away, and then ask for the SIT. Again, repeat this with the DOWN, too.

Please post how this challenge goes! If you'd like extra assistance, join our Doggy High School class! This course focuses on adding more challenging aspects to foundation skills, such as Sit and Down.

Happy Training!
Teacher's Pet

Friday, October 7, 2011

Test Your Skills - CHALLENGE #2

Hello again!

We hope the first challenge went well for everyone. If it didn’t, post feedback here, and we can offer suggestions!

Challenge #2 is focused on Recall/Come. This is your dog moving towards you, and possibly away from something s/he shouldn’t be doing! :)

When your dog is a bit distracted (inside the house), call his/her name and, once attention is on you, call “Come” in an exciting voice and race in the opposite direction. When your dog gets to you, throw a big “party” with treats and praise! Continue this chase game until your dog doesn’t hesitate at all when hearing that recall word (“come”).

The second part of this challenge is to complete it outside on leash! Use the same process as above, but this time, your dog will remain on leash.

Good luck, and we look forward to hearing your feedback!

Happy training,
Teacher’s Pet Training Academy

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Test Your Skills - CHALLENGE #1

Hello friends!

Over the next weeks, we will be posting different challenges for you and your dog to complete. Please post questions, successes, etc!

Your first challenge will sound simple. :) We want you to ask your dog to “SIT” while in various locations (out on a walk, dog park, pet store, each room of the house, etc), as well as asking for a sit while YOU change your position. Examples are: have your back facing your dog, you sit on the ground, you lay on the ground – really use your creativity and test your dog’s skill!

If you have any trouble, consider dropping into one our beginning classes – our “How Do I Get My Dog To Do That?” class goes over SIT. OR, jump into our Doggy High School course – this course goes over asking for cues in various settings.

We look forward to hearing your feedback on how this challenge went for you!

Happy training,

Teacher’s Pet Training Academy
(608) 467-2643

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thoughts on Invisible Fences

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

The “invisible” fence has become a very popular tool for dog owners, and I’m often asked what I think of them in classes. I do understand the appeal of them - having just put up some privacy fencing in my yard, I know how expensive a real fence can be. And many neighborhoods have restrictions on true fences (although I will never get on board with that policy). However, despite the appeal, “invisible” fences can lead to some major problems.

First and foremost, I’m putting “invisible” in quotation marks. While that is the common term for them, they are, in reality, shock systems. “Invisible” makes it sound harmless, but it does deliver an electric shock to your dog. Many people claim it’s such a low level that it doesn’t hurt the dog, but it has to be unpleasant. If it wasn’t unpleasant for the dog, he wouldn’t bother to avoid it, and thus, it wouldn’t work. Shock training (even at low levels) can lead to fear and anxiety. Some people end up with dogs afraid to go in the yard at all, afraid to walk out of the yard to go for walk, etc. Other times, there is a stimulus so exciting (“Oh my gosh! A squirrel! A squirrel!”) that the dog bolts through the line, but then doesn’t want to brave the shock to get back into the yard. And as a vet tech, I have seen multiple dogs develop sores and skin infections at the site of the shock collar prongs.

Some argue that the dog only has to experience the shock a few times before the warning signal is effective. However, if you think about how classical conditioning works, the warning signal comes to evoke the same physiological events as the shock itself. Think Pavlov’s dogs – after being paired with the food, the bell itself could evoke salivation. By being paired with the shock, the warning tone itself can evoke the same internal response that the shock does.

Shock fences can also increase reactivity in some dogs. For a dog who is already a bit nervous about strangers, other dogs, kids, or whatever might be walking by the yard, if he approaches them and gets shocked, he can pair that shock with that thing going by and it can increase his anxiety, lead to crazy barking displays, etc. And while your dog may not get out of the yard, the shock fence does not keep other things from coming into your yard. The dog walking by that your dog charges at barking can come right into your yard and cause trouble.

The bottom line is that an actual fence is the safer way to go. If that is not an option, but you want to give your dog more freedom outside, try a long, 20-foot leash line, or take your dog to the dog park or other fenced area for off leash play.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Watching for Unintentional Cues for Behaviors

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

When we start working on sit and down in classes, we usually talk a bit about how dogs tend to rely most heavily on visual cues from us. They do of course learn lots of words too, but visual cues from us are the dog’s go-to signals. Check this out if you want a detailed summary of some of the research in this area -

In class, we teach hand signals for sit, down, stand, heel, and more, but hand signals are really only one type of visual cue. Recently, I stumbled upon a new cue while working with my ever-energetic Aussie, Payton. I was working on establishing a “default” down. A default behavior is a position (often a sit or a down) that your dog should choose when unsure of what else to do. If you’re just standing there, not asking your dog to do anything specific, the default behavior is what they should choose. You train a default behavior by capturing it – just waiting for it to happen, then rewarding it. Apparently while waiting for these downs to happen, I was taking deep breaths, and Payton got my deep breath tied in with his downs. So now, based on my body language, he has a new cue for down. If I take a deep breath, he lies down.

While I didn’t start out to intentionally teach this, I love it! Payton can be a bit of a crazy man in certain situations. He sometimes gets over-aroused when he sees other dogs on walks, or if there are lots of children running around. Now if we find ourselves in an overly-stimulating situation, I can take a deep breath to calm myself down, and it also tells Payton to do a down (and if he’s doing a down, he’s not barking at the end of his leash!).

To summarize, your dog can easily pick up any sort of cue, so watch how your dog is interpreting your body language – who knows, you might discover a great cue like I did!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Click! The Art of Clicker Training: Part 2

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

Let’s try some clicker training! First, your dog needs to understand what the clicker means. The click is going to mark the instant your dog performs the behavior you like, and it tells your dog reinforcement is on the way. You teach your dog what the clicker means by simply clicking, then feeding a treat, clicking, then feeding a treat, etc. Your dog doesn’t need to be doing anything particular at this point – you’re just charging the clicker up. Do 3-4 repetitions, then take a break and repeat later. After a few times, you should see that your dog seems excited to hear the click (ears perk up, tail wags). Now you’re ready to start using the clicker to help you teach a behavior.

There are a couple different strategies to teach a new behavior. You can lure your dog by putting a treat right on his nose and moving it around – move it up and back and he sits, drop it to ground and he lies down, move it in a circle and he spins. And you click as soon as your dog achieves the behavior you want, and give the lure as a reward. While this is a great way to get things like sit or down trained quickly, you’re not engaging your dog’s brain very much. It’s easy for your dog to follow the food without really thinking too much about what it is that you want. Where the clicker becomes a really helpful tool is in capturing and shaping behavior.

Capturing means you just sit there as an observer of your dog, wait for him to do what you want, then click and treat. When you have something your dog wants (like a toy or a handful of treats), he’s likely to try to figure out what he can do to get that good stuff. Bark at you? Jump up? Lie down? Click! Yes – down is the behavior you wanted! The click tells your dog that down earned a reward, and he should want to repeat that behavior again. Here’s an example of a captured trick: Payton’s itchy

Capturing is a great way to teach a new skill. But for more complicated skills, you may also need to use shaping. Shaping refers to marking (clicking) an approximation of the desired behavior. As an example, take teaching your dog to go sit on a mat or bed. If your dog is not in the mood for a nap, he might not spontaneously go walk over and sit on the mat. But, he might turn his head toward that side of the room – click & treat! And once he figures out that side of the room is important, he might take a step over that way – click & treat! Then two steps – click & treat! One paw on the mat – click & treat! Four paws on the mat – click & treat! Sit on the mat – click & treat! By reinforcing steps in the right direction, you can keep the dog interested in figuring out what it is that you want. Essentially, your dog is working to make you click. Here’s an example of shaping: Joan’s mat

The more you can encourage your dog (or other pet!) to think about what you want, the better your dog will get at offering behaviors that please you, and the clicker is a great tool to help you and your dog reach that goal!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Click! The Art of Clicker Training: Part 1

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

I recently did a session with a family for their new husky puppy. They wanted to be sure they got off on the right foot as far as housetraining, puppy biting, etc (Yeah!). When we started talking about training, the young daughter asked about a clicker. I was surprised (but excited) that she had heard about clicker training.

Clicker training is a great way to work on your pet’s behavior, but there is some confusion on how to use a clicker. A common misconception is that the trainer uses the clicker to make the animal do something. When used appropriately, the clicker is just information to your pet – it tells him that the behavior he was doing when he heard the click is going to be rewarded. It doesn’t make him do the behavior in the first place, but it tells him that the behavior was a good choice.

In scientific terms, the clicker (or a verbal marker word like “good boy” or “yes”) is a conditioned reinforcer (where conditioned refers to learned). What that means is that the click has been paired with an unconditioned reinforcer (which is something that is needed for survival, like food). We’ve probably all seen our pet’s face light up at the prospect of a delicious bit of food. By pairing the click with the food, the click comes to elicit that excited feeling in your pet. He will want to work to earn that click!

Why bother with a clicker though, if a verbal marker word can be used in the same way? There are a few advantages to using a clicker. It’s a much more uniform, consistent sound to our pet’s brain. When we speak, we naturally vary our tone, so when we’re excited, our verbal marker comes out “GOOG BOY!!!!”. When we got the behavior we wanted, but were frustrated with how long it took, our verbal marker might come out “*sigh* good boy.” To our pet, those are different sounds, while the click is the same every time. And the clicker is often better information from your pet’s perspective. We talk so much to our pets, that they can get pretty good at tuning us out. How many of us use “good boy” as a marker word, yet also randomly throughout the day say “Oh, what a good boy you are!” or “Hey buddy, you’re a good boy, aren’t you?” We tend to dilute our marker words by saying them randomly in casually talking to our pet. A properly charged clicker should always resonate with your pet.

There are disadvantages to using a clicker too. The biggest one is that you have to have the clicker with you to use it. While it’s pretty difficult to leave our voice behind when we go out to walk the dog, it’s easy to forget to bring the clicker. The clicker also ties up one of your hands, and it can sometimes be difficult to manage a clicker, and a leash and treats. But with practice, it becomes easier, and some of the results you can get in your pet’s behavior are well worth it. Next time we’ll look at how to charge the clicker and use it to train behaviors by capturing and shaping.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's All Fun & Games: Jumping the Hurdles

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

Jumping over hurdles can be excellent for exercising our dogs, especially on those rainy, stormy, or snowy (at least, here in Wisconsin) days. You do not have to jump over the jumps with your dog, but you can create jumps from broomsticks, scraps of wood, boxes, and other household items. You could also buy materials and build simple simple jumps if you are handy, or buy an Agility or Flyball set (Miller, 2008). If you'd rather not build anything, you could enroll in our Backyard Agility class - lots of fun at a non-competitive level!

To begin teaching your dog to JUMP, follow these steps:

1. Set up one low jump. We have a video on our Youtube page ( on setting up a sample jump. If your dog is cautious, lay the bar on the floor and encourage your dog to step over it by luring with a treat. As he gets more comfortable, toss treats on one side of the low jump, then the other, until he is jumping easily. Use lots of verbal praise as well, to keep it cheerful and exciting (Miller, 2008).

2. When he is jumping smoothly, add a verbal cue such as "Jump!" or "Over!" Start using the cue just before you toss the treat.

3. To fade the treat, make a motion with your hand as if you were tossing the treat, then give the verbal cue. After your dog jumps, then toss the treat. Eventually move to randomly rewarding with a treat (ie, random reinforcement), so he does not receive a treat EVERY time he successfully jumps. Remember to use verbal praise! Your excitement will keep your dog enthusiastic about jumping!

4. Gradually raise the jump to a height that is suitable for your dog. Vary the location and type of jumps, so your dog is jump-versatile. You can hang towels or jackets over jump bars to change the look, put flower pots or children's toys under them -- be creative!

Hopping over small obstacles and fences can be applied to hiking and walking - if there is something in your dog's path, you can ask him to JUMP. Puppies, however, should not jump too much or too high -- it can damage their soft baby bones and joints. Even adult dogs should jump primarily on giving surfaces (grass, not cement) with good traction to avoid injury and arthritis, and should not be asked to jump higher than is comfortable and safe. If you are unsure, check with your veterinarian (Miller, 2008).

As you can see, jumping can expend quite a bit of energy, and it is so easy to set up inside or outside! Try it out, and see how much fun you have - and when you are ready, sign up to join our Backyard Agility class to share that enthusiasm and talent with others!

Happy training!

Work Cited:
-Miller, Pat (CPDT-KA, CDBC). Positive Perspectives 2: Know Your Dog, Train Your Dog. A Dogwise Training Manual, 2008.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's All Fun and Games: Find It

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

We are on a roll with all the game playing! Games are a great outlet for getting out some energy, especially on rainy days, or days you are super busy. In our last post, we discussed "Hide and Seek," and this week, we'd like to introduce another delightful game!

"Find It" is going to be a game of searching for a hidden toy, treat, etc on cue. To train "Find It," get your dog's attention, then start training the game by hiding a small high-value treat under a piece of paper or a toy. Let him see you hide it, and even leave it partially in view the first time. Then say "find it!" in an excited voice. Encourage your dog until he or she finds the treat and gobbles it down.

If your dog doesn't get the idea, lift up the paper or toy, show him the treat, partially cover it again, and repeat "find it!" He or she should get the idea quickly. Be sure to keep your voice excited and your tone light and happy. It's important not to get frustrated, since this should be a fun game for both you and your dog. If he or she still doesn't the idea, try a higher value treat. Hide a second treat and repeat the process. Be sure to cheer and act very excited every time he or she finds a treat.

Once he or she gets the idea, start making finding the hidden treat harder and harder. Start hiding treats under different objects, from different pieces of newspaper to other toys. Also begin to work on distance. Start placing the hidden treats two or three feet away from your dog, then four or five. After that, try having another family member distract your dog while you hide a treat. Continue increasing the difficulty level until you can hide treats for your dog to find in another room.

This can also help dogs with separation distress by keeping them busy, as well as making time apart from you positive (with food/treats). In essence, you can hide a bunch of treats and/or stuffed toys (like Kongs) before you leave, tell your dog to “Find It!” and leave. Your dog will get some much needed mental stimulation from all that searching! You can play this little game any time you would like to distract your dog, have fun with your dog, and/or get your dog's energy out in a healthy fashion!

Happy training!

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's All Fun and Games: Hide and Seek

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

Do you remember playing hide and go seek as a child? Or, even now, do you play with your own children? How about with your dog?

Hide and seek is a fabulous game to play with your canine family member - it can begin to establish with your dog that he should keep his eyes on you! Not only that, but it lays the foundation for recall (aka, "come").

How do you begin? First, take your dog somewhere new and fenced in (ie, "safe"). Play with your dog for awhile, then wait around until he gets bored and starts exploring the area on his own. Sneak away and hide behind something. Hide somewhere that allows you to peek out and keep an eye on your dog, without letting him see you.

When he looks up and around, and realizes he lost you, he'll look a little worried. Make some little noise, from your hiding spot, until his head gets directed generally toward you. Then try being quiet again. Let him worry a little and let him do the work finding you. Make another little noise if he gets way off track.

When he does find you, squeal with delight and go running off, letting him chase you around, or drop onto the ground for some belly rubs and lots of praise! Then, go running off and hide again! This time call him as you run off, then dart behind something. It doesn't matter if you're not completely hidden, he'll still have fun finding you. Once your pup figures out this is a fun game, he will try to watch you more closely, so he can win.

Also try it at home, indoors. It can be a good way to exercise him on rainy, icky days! Make it easy at first, and slowly increase the difficulty of finding you. Remember to try it in unfamiliar places away from home, too. That will have the biggest impact on helping him realize that he can't afford to lose track of where you are.

Happy training!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Getting a "Light Bulb" Moment

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

I don’t know what it is – maybe her lack of early training experience, maybe her part Husky-ness, or maybe she’s just not Lassie when it comes to the smarts department – but Finley can sometimes be quite difficult to train.

She knows basics like sit, down and stay, and she also knows quite a few tricks, like spin and twirl, wave, weave through my legs, etc. But most of the things she knows have been lured. Luring is when you take a treat (or something your dog is focused on) and move it around to get her to do something. For sit, you move the lure up and back over the dog’s head, and usually the butt goes down as the head goes up, and you have a sit. Finley (who even after having been a stray for at least 3 months was a little overweight when I adopted her) likes her food a lot, and she can be lured to do quite a bit, but when I ask her to think about things more, she often gives up and lies down with her head on the floor looking pathetic.

My most current example of this is working on teaching Fin to pick up a toy and put it in the basket (a trick my Aussie Payton learned in about 10 minutes). This behavior is a shaping process (rewarding approximations of the goal behavior). I had done several sessions with her that ended in frustration for me. She could take and drop the toy if I held it right over the basket, but that was about it – not a very impressive trick.

So I decided, rather than get irritated that she’s not as fast a learner as Mr. Smarty-Pants Aussie Payton, I asked myself how I could make it easier for her. I thought it might help to just get her to understand the concept that she has to carry the toy to a specific spot, rather than drop it (or fling it –that’s the Husky in her) anywhere she wants. So I took a piece of paper and put it on the floor and did a few repetitions of holding the toy over the paper, and asking her to take and drop, with the toy falling onto the paper. Then I took the leap and set the toy right next to the paper. Now she has to pick it up herself and drop it on the paper. This she also did fairly easily (but it could be done easily because the toy was very close to the paper). Then I moved on to placing the toy farther away from the paper. Here she was stumped a bit, as it involved a longer distance to carry the toy.

She made a few attempts, picking up and dropping the toy several times, and occasionally getting lucky and hitting the paper (click & treat!). Then, on one of these trials, she looked at me, then looked at the paper, then looked at the toy, and picked it up and carried it to the paper (click & Jackpot!). It very much seemed like a “light bulb moment”, when the dog finally understands something. Since these moments are very rewarding for me as a trainer, I just got reinforced for setting my dog up for success! I might have to repeat that behavior.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Take Time to Go On "Ear Watch"

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

Being able to read your dog’s body language can be a very useful skill. It can clue you in to when your dog might be feeling anxious or fearful, excited, happy or relaxed. And sometimes being able to recognize body language early can help you keep your dog happy and calm.

Some of the most expressive dog body parts are the ears. Different breeds obviously have very differently shaped ears, but the basics of ear positioning can still help you read your dog. Watch your dog at a time when he is obviously relaxed and notice the lack of tension in the ears. Compare this to how your dog’s ears look when you pick up his favorite toy – they probably come up and forward a bit, indicating some level of excitement or arousal. Contrast that to when you first come home to greet your dog – many dogs when greeting have “appeasing ears”, which means they are in a lower, softer position than normal. And if you have ever seen your dog very afraid, you may have seen the ears pointed back and plastered to his head.

These ear positions can be great indicators of your dog’s emotional state, and if you notice them, you can intervene when necessary. For example, my Australian Shepherd tends to get over-excited easily and can be reactive when he sees other dogs on walks. When we go for a walk, I watch his ears carefully, because they will often alert me to when he has spotted a dog that I might not have seen yet. If I see his ears go up and forward (aroused/excited), then I know to scan the environment, call him back to my side and reinforce for noticing the other dog without barking like a mad man. If I fail to notice the ears, he may get more and more aroused, and that might spill over into a reactive display.

He also gets very aroused when people he doesn’t know well come into his house. If I left it to him, an appropriate greeting would be to charge at them barking and jumping on them, crazily excited. Since most guests don’t appreciate that, I put him on leash and watch the ears. I reward him for looking at the guest with appeasing ears (the slightly back and lowered ears). When he is doing that, then he can greet the guest (with a toy in his mouth for those who don’t appreciate being licked).

While taking the whole of your dog’s body language into account is important, try going on ear watch for awhile and listen to what they’re telling you.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Understanding the "Settle" Cue

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

One of the reasons I love my dogs is their general excitement and enthusiasm for everything. However, there are times, and I don’t think I’m alone on this, where I would like for them to just calm down and relax. Even better, it would be awesome for them to do this when I ask!

Impossible, you say? Well, in our classes, we show people how painless this process is. You can also try it at home, and here is how:

1. After having a brief play session, let your dog calm a bit.

2. Then, sit down with your dog, and pet him/her with long, full-body strokes. The full-body strokes are more calming to our dogs than patting.

3. When your dog offers a calmer behavior, such as lying down, say your marker word (in a quiet, soothing voice).

4. In a few repetitions, you can include “settle” as you sit down with your dog. Continue to look for and reward calm/quiet behaviors – relaxed ears/mouth, very little body movement, etc.

5. Eventually, you will have a dog who understands that “settle” means to relax, and you can ask him/her to offer it!

Once your dog is picking it up at home, try it at the vet, pet store, etc! Remember, reward your dog for quiet and calm behaviors, and in no time, your dog will offer those behaviors more often! To practice this in a classroom setting, check out our schedule – we would love to see you soon!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Keeping Things FUN As Your Dog Ages

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

Training classes aren’t just for puppies and new dogs! When we first get a new dog, whether it’s a new puppy, or a newly adopted dog, we spend quite a bit of time training all the necessary behaviors for our dog to be a great companion. Leash manners, housetraining, sit, stay, etc. – we want our dog to know all these skills to be able to be a well-mannered part of our family. However, once we’ve successfully trained these manners, sometimes it’s easy to think we’re done with training, especially if we have an older dog who has started to slow down, and is content to just chill on the couch all day.

While older dogs may not be able to handle as much physical exercise as they used to, mental exercise is still very important. Giving your older dog’s brain a workout with a new mental challenge can help her preserve cognitive abilities.

One great way to challenge a dog mentally is teaching a new trick. If you do have an older dog, keep physical limitations in mind (maybe don’t try to teach her to jump rope), but you can teach simple tasks like the names for new toys, targeting, shake your head yes or no, and many other physically simple, but mental stimulating tricks.

Another easy way to provide more enrichment is by simply taking a different walking route. Even if your walk isn’t long, if it has new smells, sights and sounds, it will provide more mental stimulation than the same old trip around the block.

Food dispensing toys are another great option for older dogs. Dogs don’t mind working for their food. There are numerous food dispensing toys on the market, or you can simply hide treats around the house (under a chair, on a low shelf, in a corner, etc.). Just be sure to exercise your dog’s brain!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Am I Bribing My Dog?

(By Ana Grimh, CDPT-KA)

As trainers who focus on positive reinforcement, we encourage our clients to use food rewards throughout training, especially during the early stages of learning. However, we understand that some folks feel uncomfortable using so many treats, and worry that they are only bribing their dog and/or they will always need a treat for their dog to perform a skill. These are valid concerns!

As long as you reward correctly, you are not bribing your dog! In the early stages of learning, we will use treats as lures to get your dog to perform different skills (such as sit, down, etc). To reinforce your dog for performing, he/she also receives a food reward. Think of it as motivation to initially learn the skills. Eventually, you will be able to “fade” out the lure, as well as use food rewards more sparingly.

What you will want to do, though, as you continue with training, is to stop rewarding with food on a continuous schedule of reinforcement. This is a fancy phrase that means, “rewarding with a treat after every skill.” With continuous reinforcement, your dog will expect a food reward, and this would be a challenge for you in the future!

In class, we introduce random reinforcement or intermittent schedule of reinforcement. Again, both are just fancy terms to mean, “be unpredictable with your food rewards!” Quick question: Why do people play the slot machines at a casino? Because you never know if the next quarter will produce a huge payoff! By keeping in randomized, you can motivate your dog in a similar fashion. With that said, pick any 5 skills – now, reward your dog with treats for only 2 of the skills, while you reward with a playtime or only praise for the other 3. Next time, switch it up and reward 3 of the skills with food rewards. You will have a hard-working pup in no time!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Doggy Sports Galore!

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

What is an excellent way to get doggy energy out? By learning a new doggy sport! There are many sports to choose from, so here is a brief list of some of our favorites:

1. Canine Freestyle – This sport is all about DANCE! Dancing with your dog is fun and flexible, and when taking a class, you also strengthen attention skills. Freestyle can be a great option for an older dog that cannot jump as much, or for a younger dog that is a “go, go, go” type! Song choice and musical style depends on you and your dog’s energy – and you can be very creative! Check out for more information on freestylin’.

2. Agility – Agility is a dog and handler negotiating an obstacle course. Obstacles may include jumps, weave poles, A-frame, teeters, tunnels, and more! It is a timed event, and dogs and handlers must complete the course as assigned. It showcases teamwork, concentration, and conditioning. If you are not interested in competition, there are options for a more casual class – Teacher’s Pet offers a “Backyard Agility” course! This class will give you ideas on building your own agility equipment (for a low cost!), as well as getting you and your dog moving and having fun! Check out for more.

3. Rally-Obedience – This sport is also known as ‘Rally-O’ or ‘Rally.’ Participants navigate a course, but they complete 10-20 exercises such as recall/send over jumps, sit-down-sit (puppy pushups), etc. The course is completed at a quick pace, and without the direction of a judge. Check out for more details on this growing doggy sport!

4. Flyball – Flyball is a team doggy sport. It is a relay race with 4 dogs on a team. The course has four hurdles and a box. Each dog jumps the hurdles, steps on a box that shoots a tennis ball, catches the ball, and jumps the hurdles to return to the finish line. The next dog leaves when one returns, and the team with fewest errors wins the heat. This is a very fast-paced, exhilarating sport, so if you have a quick, energetic dog, this might be a fabulous sport to try! Check out for history, details, etc.

This is a very short list of the options available to you and your dog in the sports world. All of these have competition and recreational tracks, too, so if you want to just have a good time, find a local training company that offers a class! Doggy sports are a marvelous outlet for our dogs, and it is fun for you, too! Sign up to enjoy and strengthen your bond with your dog!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Train "Touch" or "Targeting"?

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

Does your dog do anything you'd like to change? Barking frequently? Pulling on leash? Jumping up on people? Etc, etc. If you answered with an enthusiastic (or exasperated) "YES," then there is a cue you must teach your dog!

The cue is "touch," and in our classes, we demonstrate this as your dog pressing his/her nose to our palm. To start teaching your dog touch, simply hold your hand out. Most dogs are interested in sniffing it, so use your marker word as soon as the nose touches your hand. As your dog gets good at this, start to move your hand around more (high, low, left, right, etc). You can also add a verbal cue (e.g. “touch”) by saying it right before you present your hand.

This simple, enjoyable cue has many applications. Some examples are:

1. Walking Nice – Much like using a treat or toy to lure your dog, where his head goes, his body will follow. Once your dog knows touch, you can hold your hand at your side to get your dog in heel position.

2. Jumping Up – For dogs who are persistent jumpers, you can teach them a jumping touch. This gives them a “legal” outlet for their jumping energy, put keeps their paws off of you.

3. Recall/Come – Some dogs get so enthusiastic about touch that it can serve as a recall. It can also be helpful for dogs who come, but stay out of reach of putting the leash on. Call your dog, and then ask him to touch so he gets closer to you.

4. Timid Dogs – Touch is also a good confidence builder. For dogs who are a little nervous with hands reaching for them, it builds a good association with hands.

5. Excitable Dogs – Touch is an “inexpensive” behavior. A dog can do it quickly, without expending a lot of energy. Dogs can learn to focus better by being asked for behaviors they can do easily, and touch is a great one for these frenetic dogs.

This is not an exhaustive list of uses for touch! There are so many reasons why this is an excellent skill to have in your training "toolbox" that I cannot list them all here. If you are interested in learning more about this cue, check out an upcoming training class with us - we teach and expand on this cue in our Beginner Doggy School!

Happy training!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Train Your Dog?

(by Ana Grimh, CDPT-KA; adapted from an APDT article, 'The Benefits of Training')

As we reach the end of the APDT's National Train Your Dog Month, Teacher's Pet would like to reflect on some of the fabulous reasons why one should attend training classes.

1. Puppy classes provide the opportunity for getting your new family member started off right (especially with regard to socialization).

2. Training classes provide owners with the tools to deal with common, normal doggy behaviors, such as housetraining, polite greetings, etc.

3. No matter what age you start training your dog, foundation training provides the basis for any
activity, behavior or job you want your dog to do.

4. Training provides dogs with basic manners that humans love - ie., politely greeting other humans, coming when called, walking nicely on leash.

5. A trained dog can participate in all family activities. Good manners are generally welcomed by other people!

6. Training enables you to choose from among a broad range of activities and dog sports to participate in and enjoy with your dog, such as agility, canine freestyle, therapy work, etc.

7. Training has been shown to be the single most important thing that keeps a dog
in his or her “forever” home.

8. Training builds your mutual bond, enhances the partnership and enriches the
relationship you share with your dog.

We are sure you can think of many more reasons why training class is important for you and your dog! Check out our website: for class schedules!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter Walking Tips!

(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)

Walking the dog is a great way for you both to get some exercise. However, walking in Wisconsin in winter is not exactly the easiest or most enjoyable excursion. But there are some helpful products that can make those winter walks better.

1. Yaktrax ( – While icy sidewalks don’t seem to faze the dogs, they can be very dangerous for people. Yaktrax attach to the bottom of your shoes or boots and help you stay vertical on your walks. I find them very effective, especially when the only free time I have is in the evening when it’s too dark to see all the icy patches.

2. Waist Leash (many brands available, such as Blue Dog Waist Leash ( – While the waist leash has many advantages in walking and training, it’s wonderful in winter because you can keep your hands in your pockets! And if you do happen to slip and fall on some ice, you don’t risk dropping the leash and having your dog running free.

3. Paw Plunger ( – Winter can be very messy, when snow and ice start to melt and turn into slush and mud. With this device, you can come home, slip your dogs paws into it, and clean them easily. It does work quite well for cleaning the paws, although sometimes I wish there was a “full body” version.

Keep yourself and your dogs safe and warm, but you can still get out there and walk!