The History of Dog Training

Dog training originated in the early 1900s to train dogs for war.  After WWII, it came out of war and into civilian homes. 

The methods used then are called Traditional Methods.  The main methods to teach dogs behaviors were negative reinforcement and punishment.  The main tools used were choke chains, prong or pinch collars and shock collars.  The tenets of Traditional training are that dogs learn through consequences or operant conditioning.  To teach a “sit”, a traditional trainer may pull up on a choke collar to encourage the dog to sit, and when the dog complies, the trainer releases the pressure.  The bad goes away.  It can be condensed to the saying, “do it, or else.”  Traditional training is still thriving today.

Since the 1940s, another kind of training has developed which is based on animal ethology or studies of the dog’s natural behavior and what it means.  This kind of training is often referred to as Pack Theory; Dominance based training, or dog whispering.  These trainers believe that dogs establish dominance in hierarchies in the pack and in order to have control over your dog, you must achieve the Alpha Status.  This gained popularity in the 1970’s and 80’s and continues to be very popular and very misunderstood.  The big names responsible for this type of training are The Monks of New Skete and Cesar Milan. This kind of training is based on popular belief and not on scientific studies.  A lot of this thinking claims to be based on studies on wolves, but recent information has found that dogs and wolves don’t really have all that much in common and the whole premise is shaky.   Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years and there are significant behavioral differences between dogs and wolves.

Positive Reinforcement Training also began in the 1940’s but didn’t gain popularity until about 20 years ago.

The first positive reinforcement trainers were students of the great psychologist, BF Skinner who coined the term, operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence.

The first positive trainers couldn’t compete with the very successful traditional trainers and ended up training for performances on TV.  Compared to the Traditional Methods, It wasn’t taken as a serious method of dog obedience. 

Ian Dunbar is the most recent pioneer of Positive Dog Training. He is the founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and created the first off-leash puppy training programs that made training fun, easy and safe.

More and more scientific studies have been done and the findings are very heavy on the side of being positive.  There seems to be an overwhelming amount of research suggesting that not only can dogs learn new behaviors effortlessly through positive reinforcement training, but major behavioral problems like fear biting and food aggression can be addressed very successfully.  What’s more is that it is fun and easy for dogs and people.  Now service dogs, police dogs, competitive and performing dogs are all being trained using positive reinforcement and all are very well trained.

So if traditional methods and positive reinforcement are both based on operant conditioning and both are successful, why have I chosen the Positive over the Traditional?

The most important reason is that I train family dogs, not competition or performing dogs, but dogs that live in houses with real people and often children. 

I don’t want to do anything that could make things worse or endanger the people in the household. The use of punishment in training has been studied a lot and the studies show that most dangerous situations involve dogs that are stressed.  Punishment further stresses a dog. 

Several studies have shown that dogs that were shocked after a bad behavior had cortisol levels up to 300 times the normal levels.  Punishing an already stressed out dog creates a ticking time bomb.  It would be irresponsible to recommend anything that could be potentially dangerous or possibly cause a bad behavior to worsen.

 I also believe that we are smarter than dogs and should be able to teach them in a way that isn’t harmful.  I have had great success with an array of dog behaviors without ever having to force or punish a dog to convince him to do what I want.

I’ll end with this thought….all the Orcas at Seaworld are trained with positive reinforcement methods because they couldn’t get those whales to perform using any other method.  I use Positive Reinforcement because it works.

When Can You Trust Your Dog Free in Your House?

There are two main reasons to put your dog in a crate; to assist in speedy housetraining and to avoid destructive chewing. For owners of multiple dogs, there are other reasons to keep using a crate, which this post will not address. Deciding to give your dog freedom in the house when you are not home can cause a lot of worry. Here are some pointers to help you succeed.

When should you let go of the crate? My preference is to allow your dog to sleep out of a crate around 4-5 months and to be free completely before a year. Your dog should be housetrained; which means you know how long your dog can hold his bladder and he knows how to ask to go outside to go. Your dog should know the difference between household/human items and things that he is allowed to chew. And lastly, your dog should be ok when left alone.

I like dogs to be housetrained completely by 4 months -any longer and you are creating a problem. Dogs can be “chew toy trained” at the same time that you housetrain. Your dog is housetrained when he/she has not had an accident for at least 3 weeks and knows how to communicate to you that he/she needs to go outside. This is a rigorous schedule for some, but in the long run, a little more work in the beginning means a lot less work later. Puppies need a lot of attention and supervision or they make mistakes. Mistakes teach them the wrong information. Setting your puppy up to succeed is the key!

The two most important tenants of housetraining are very simple: 1) Get your puppy outside when it needs to go and reward it heavily when it does. 2) Prevent your puppy from going inside. How you do this is up to you -but that’s all you really need to know.

The fastest way to chew toy train your dog is to feed him all his food from toys and from your hand for good behavior. My favorite toys are: Kong, Kibble Nibble, Squirrel Dude, and a muffin tin with 24 holes and 24 tennis balls. I also use food tossed in the grass, along the toe-kicks in the kitchen to prevent counter surfing, and from my hand for lots and lots of reinforcement to tell the pup what I like and will pay him for doing. I also provide many other ways to chew: Bully Sticks, Tail Teaser, chasing any toy that I toss, raw real meat bones, cow hooves, Virbac chews and Whimzees. If you feed your dog his meals from toys 2-3 times a day, reward him throughout the day for good behavior and occupy him mentally and physically, you teach him what to do each day. You also prevent him from learning fun things on his own and from making mistakes.

All young dogs need at least 3 periods of exercise per day that is at least 20 minutes and structured -which means, he isn’t just put outside and not monitored, but you are with him, actually making sure he is exercising for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a day. This can be a walk, playing fetch, in a field off-leash, playing with another dog, using a Tail Teaser or Tether Tug, etc. Keep in mind, this is a minimum amount. Most dogs benefit greatly from a lot more exercise! Take your dog to trails on a long leash and let him sniff to his heart’s content on the weekends. Find an empty baseball field or tennis courts and play fetch until he can’t go anymore. Dogs need this! They need freedom and to drain their energy.

The last piece of feeling confident when leaving your dog alone in your house is knowing you’ve taught him how to feel secure when you are not around. This is easily accomplished by not spoiling your dog and giving into his every desire and demand. Ignore you dog when you need to and don’t feel bad about it! If he asks rudely for your attention by pawing at you or barking, do not reward this with talking and petting. Set rules and boundaries and enforce them. This makes a secure and confident dog. Make your comings and goings very nonchalant. Reward your dog for calm behaviors rather than getting all excited with him.

If you’ve missed my chosen times for training, you can still get there, but you’ll need help and a commitment to your dog. Dogs do what we teach them or what they are allowed to do.

I love you....

I met Bob in 2010 when I was first trying to start my own dog training business. I didn’t like him at first; I had respect for him, but I thought he was arrogant. I didn’t read him correctly because I never met anyone like Bob. He could come off as arrogant, curt, even rude; but he wasn’t any of those things. He was a man who knew who he was, what he was good at and that he had something valuable to offer others.

I was lucky that Bob saw something special in me. I didn’t know it at the time, but he changed my life and gave me a huge gift.

I was very lucky to be one of the few that he believed could learn from him. Bob was a rare breed – a person who knew he had something special, something valuable, yet was willing to give it away to another.

When I train dogs, I frequently ask myself what would Bob do? Bob’s way of teaching was simple -he expected me to pick up what he put down. After a training session, Bob would always ask me the same question: what did you learn? When I called him with questions about one of my cases, he would ask me, what do you think you should do? He taught me to think for myself, to trust my abilities and to know my worth. He inspired me. When I watched him with a dog is was like watching someone walk on water. I wanted to be like him – to do what he did. Bob believed in me and praised me. How many people can say they had a friend like that?

After years of training on my own, my relationship with Bob changed. In the beginning, I would always have a dog question, but as time went on I had more questions about people. Bob understood the limitations of humans and accepted them. He lived in peace that I wish I had. Our mentor/apprentice relationship turned into friendship and then I really saw him. His business was business, but his friendship to me was so much more. He could be a very soft person, very loving and sensitive. He genuinely cared for those he let into his life. The last thing he said to me was “I love you.”

Our relationship revolved around just 2 things -dogs and family. Here are some things that Bob taught me that apply to both:

Every moment is an opportunity to learn. Good experiences can inspire and motivate and bad experiences can cause one to shut down.

Proper motivation works wonders.

Praise the good and ignore the bad.

It’s not personal.

Anyone can change, if they want to.

We really only need a few things to be happy.

Be patient.

Trust my gut.

One can learn so much by just sitting and quietly observing.

If a task is too hard, break into pieces and master one piece at a time.

There is a fine line between punishment and retaliation.

Timing is everything.

Take time to rest.

Fairness has nothing to do with life.

There is nothing better than being in the company of those you love.

Bob was my mentor and my friend. I feel lost right now without him, but I know he has taught me everything I need to know to be as great as he was. I am so thankful to have known him.


Dogs and Suffering

I am only competitive in one area of my life. My business. I guess it’s a good thing -not 100% sure. I don’t care about materialistic things at all and don’t care to keep up with the Joneses, but when it comes to my business, I will do whatever it takes to be the best. It’s my baby. It’s me in business form. The business name is Maggie Marshall Dog Training. I am not concerned with how much money I make or how the public views me; only what my clients think. This is what keeps me going. I want each and every client to feel that he or she is the only one. This is incredibly hard to pull off. At one point, I have had 31 clients, and most of them are quite complicated and needy. I live with my husband, who also owns his business, my son whom I homeschool,  my almost two year old grand-daughter, my dog and I dog sit for 5 of my clients year-round. Time is a commodity that is precious in my family.

I give this background, not for empathy, but for understanding. I am juggling a lot and I am not a juggler. I’m not sure anyone truly understands the life of a business owner unless he is also a business owner. Personal life and business life happen at the same time, no matter how hard we try to keep them separate. It’ s impossible. I have taken a client’s call while on route to a funeral. I have stepped in my backyard while on the phone, so I could hear my client speak above the dogs and kids in my house. I took a call this morning in my bed that awoke me after an 11 hour work day the day before. I receive calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, twitter messages, Instagram messages, Linked in, Next Door, you name it…I get it. It’s not easy folks. There are no boundaries unless I set them.

This was a hard week. Two clients of mine put their young dogs dogs down this week after several sessions with me. How do I I feel? Much like the owners of the dogs I imagine….guilty, like a failure, sorry, responsible. You name it, I feel it. They called me for help, paid me and their dogs are gone. No nice way around that fact. Doesn’t feel good.

I did receive the most amazing and generous notes from each of the owners telling me how thankful they are to have had my help.  My help?? Your dog is gone. How did I help?

Dogs are animals that have behaviors. Behaviors are encouraged or discouraged by the environment. I am part of the dog’s environment for about 2 hours every other week. My influence is greater upon the owner than the dog. I can’t live in the house with the dog. I can’t take the dog to my house. I have to help in a way that makes sense. I coach the owner to live with the dog she has chosen. I get called in when the problem is too much to handle. I begin working at the worst possible time – I am working against the current the whole time. I’ m not a miracle worker -there are no miracles with dogs. It’s hard work. It’s schedules and protocols and work. Then there is reality. The soft, furry, cute puppy you have fallen in love with is growing up and you are afraid of it. You took at it at 6 weeks because you didn’ t know it was too early. You felt bad when you heard of its rough beginning and thought a good home would help it, you bought it from a “breeder,” so it must be a good pup. Good people make what seem like good decisions; only it doesn’t work out.

Getting a dog is complicated by all kinds of stuff -the knowledge and feelings you have about your previous dog(s), the way you think dogs should or should not behave, the relationship you had with your previous dog…these all dictate the way you think and behave with your new dog, only the new dog has NO idea about all that stuff.

I train about 100 dogs and families a year. I see things you can’t imagine. I am covered by bruises and bites on a regular basis. What you think about dog ownership, I do not. I think the worst. I think about the bites, the claws, the unexpected. I see it. You don’t. Then we meet. You have one to 6 dogs in your life. I have over 1000. We aren’t even on the same wavelength. Then, the worst happens. Your dog tries to bite you. This changes everything. Dogs are aggressive. People are too. It’s normal. We don’t want to see it, but it’s part of life with anything that is alive. Until we take it seriously, we will never learn. When you enter a relationship with a person, a dog, an employee, what have you; you risk being hurt. When you bring a dog into your home, no matter how you prepare, the outcome is in nature’s hands.

I hate a sad outcome, but it happens. We are not in control of much in this life. How we think about acquiring dogs and their roles in our lives needs to change. Dogs are dying. People are suffering. We put more effort into buying our cars and houses than we do the thing that share our lives and our beds and this needs to change. If we truly value what an animal brings to our life, then we must honor it by choosing our animal carefully to fit into our lives.



A Diamond in the Ruff

In that first meeting I felt instantly at ease. I didn’t feel judged because Nora was slightly out of control, and I didn’t feel embarrassed that Nora had little to no manners. All I felt was supported. Maggie calmly evaluated Nora for her temperament to see if being a therapy dog was possible, and helped lay the groundwork for her training.

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Polite Greetings

If your puppy jumps up and receives attention, whether it’s good or bad, it will learn that jumping works too. For good manners, your puppy should sit to earns treats, its food bowl, toys and access through doors.  Now we will add greeting people to that list. Your puppy should be offering lots of sits now to earn the good things in life.If your puppy jumps up and receives attention, whether it’s good or bad, it will learn that jumping works too. For good manners, your puppy should sit to earns treats, its food bowl, toys and access through doors.  Now we will add greeting people to that list. Your puppy should be offering lots of sits now to earn the good things in life.

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Dominance - What it is and What it Isn't

Lots of dominance displays arise when an owner brings home a new dog and neglects to demonstrate proper leadership.  When dogs are given privileges freely, they can get the wrong idea. They don’t view free treats and sleeping next to you in bed as love.  They view this as very weak leadership and an open invitation to demand things.  Spoiling a dog can lead to big behavior problems. 

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Interested in Having Your Dog Become a Therapy Dog?

The owner and therapy dog are a team and must work well together. The handler must want to be a part of the therapy too. Being part of a therapy team takes time and commitment. Things one should ask: Do I have time to train my dog for this job? Do I have time for visiting (there are time requirements)? In what kind of setting would I like to volunteer (hospitals and nursing homes can be a downer –kids in libraries could be fun)? Is my dog also suited for that environment (does my dog like people and attention)? Would my dog sincerely enjoy this kind of activity?

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Ways to Exercise Your Dog Without Walking on Leash

Walking your dog around the streets of your home is one of the best things you can do to keep him physically and mentally healthy and well socialized and well adapted to normal things like strangers, vehicles and other dogs. But sometimes, an owner can’t get out there for various reasons. Here are some alternative ways to exercise your dog’s body and mind.

1.    Hide toys, food stuffed toys or chewies in your house or yard and allow your dog to find it and enjoy it.  This can be done very simply while the dog is watching or can become a whole other level of challenge for the dog to sniff it out.

 2.    Hide yourself and call your dog to find you. This can easily become a great way to practice coming when called. Put your dog in a crate or on a leash in the hands of another person while you hide. When ready, call your dog to you! Reward with food or play when your dog finds you to reinforce the command.

 3.    Build your dog a digging pit. My dogs have one and all their dog friends love it too. We dug up a space that gets some shade, removed about a foot of grass and dirt, created an edge with spongy things that look like bricks and dumped in some fine sand to fill it up. We later added a palm tree for more shade and aesthetics. It keeps the dogs cool when they lay in it and digging provides exercise and enjoyment in a location that I don’t mind holes! You could even spice this pit up by burying bones and toys in it once in awhile to keep the dogs interested.

 4.    Try a Tether Tug if your dog loves tug-of-war. This toy entertains your dog without being present.

 5.    A Tail Teaser is a great toy for all ages and all types of dogs.

 6.    For about $10, a kiddie pool can be a great addition to your dog’s exercise and enrichment, especially here in Florida.

 7.    Find an enclosed space that is rarely used and let your dog run free while you sit and watch, walk alongside or use a chuck-it or tail teaser in the open space. Tennis courts, baseball fields, even playgrounds are often empty if it’s during school hours or drizzling.

 8.    Invite a friend with a friendly dog over to play.

 9.    Put your dog’s bowl away and feed him only from toys like a Kong, Kibble Nibble, Squirrel Dude or anything that food can be put in.

 10. Toss your dog’s food all over your backyard and let him go. Free, simple and your dog will take a long time to find each piece.

 11. Sit on a park bench or in your car and play a simple, but profoundly effective training game with your dog. Let you dog sniff the air, watch things pass by and generally ignore you for as long as he wants. When your dog looks at you, feed him a treat. Repeat each time he looks at you. This teaches the dog to focus his attention on you, that you are highly valuable, and gets the two of you out and about.

 Here are my favorite toys and chewies as well as some videos to help you further.

Get out there and exercise your dog! You will both be healthy and happy.

My opinion on Boarding

I am a dog owner before a trainer. I stress about leaving my dogs in the care of someone else. I have never boarded my dogs. I have invested many hours into their care and training and I simply don't trust anyone to care for them where they will be just one of many dogs. There are dogs that do well in boarding and there are others that come home with stress induced, bloody diarrhea. If you choose to board, here are some things to look for:

You should ask for a tour of the facility and be given one. It should smell clean, but not with an overwhelming odor of bleach. 

Dogs that are let out in yards should be in small groups that make sense. Small dogs with small dogs; large with large; old dogs and dogs with special needs should be separated from others. Groups should be supervised by a trained person. This person should be able to read dog body language, know how to prevent fights, how to properly intervene and how to play with the dogs to encourage good behavior. This person should not do anything to negatively affect your dog. No spraying your dog in the face, no air horns, no throwing things at your dog, no hitting or kicking and absolutely no use of a shock collar. You must ask about these things -they will not voluntarily tell you how they discipline your dog. The person supervising should have a slip lead attached to him -on his belt, around his neck or at least within reach. The yards and kennels should be kept clean and fresh water and shelter/shade should be available at all times.   Dogs should not be free to play for hours at a time. An ideal schedule is 30-60 minutes three times a day. Puppies and seniors should be let out for short period of times more frequently; 15 minutes every two hours.

If your dog gets hurt or sick, you should be notified immediately and be told what is going on. If you are unable to return, your dog should receive medical care with your permission. If your dog is injured, the staff should know how it happened.

Most kennels close at 6 and the staff goes home for the night. Ask how many hours your dog is unsupervised. Ask what the emergency plan is -what if there is a fire in the night? Ask if the staff knows the signs of heat stroke, kennel cough, stress.....there is so much to ask to be sure your dog is in good care.

When I find a facility in my area that meets this criteria -I will shout it out to all my clients, but the search continues.

A Sample Schedule for Your Puppy

This is a sample day that hopefully you can adjust to meet your schedule and your puppy's needs. You can change the time frames, but try to keep the daily stats the same as below for the best outcome. When puppies needs are met, they are be happy, thrive and grow and to turn into dogs that you love to be around. Each day includes the following: (1) Food -2 meals and hand-fed as rewards throughout the day. (2) Sleep. (3) House training. (4)Training, manners, learning to live in house with people. (5) Mental Exercise(6) Physical exercise. The following schedule will meet puppy's needs within a schedule for a working person with a 9-5 job Monday thru Friday. Evenings and weekends are time to step up puppy's socialization and training time. Take your puppy in the car at least twice a week. Find a training class or a safe place for puppy to meet other dogs (Invite friends with social dogs to your house, take your pup to friends with dogs' yards). Take your pup somewhere new -a park, another walking route, a store that welcomes dogs, etc.) I recommend having the following things on hand: an appropriately sized crate, an ex-pen or gated area; 2 Kongs, a Kibble Nibble or other treat dispensing toy (s); bully sticks, cow hooves, safe dental chews, plush toys that squeak, a tug-toy, something to chase -tennis balls, Jolly Ball, frisbee, Tail Teaser; a dog bed; a water bowl which is always accessible; a collar, harness and leash; poop bags; high-quality puppy food; and some various healthy treats -boiled chicken, freeze-dried liver, etc. 

Daily Schedule

6am - Wake up and take puppy outside to toilet. Deliver treat within one second of puppy eliminating. (3, 4)

6:10am - 7am  Feed puppy in a gated area from a Kibble Nibble filled with dry, loose kibble and a Kong stuffed and frozen (which you prepared the night before) while you shower and prepare for work. Don't forget to wait for puppy to sit before giving him his food. (1, 4, 5)

7am- Take puppy out to toilet again. Treat when he goes. (3)

7:10-8am -Puppy is loose in house under your supervision. Spend time tossing a toy for puppy while you have coffee. Ask your puppy to come, sit and down 10 times each and reward with a treat. Ignore puppy intermittently (while still watching him!) during this time and answer emails, check phone, do dishes, etc. (4, 5)

8-8:30 -Walk puppy. Treat within one second when he eliminates. (5, 6, 3)

8:30am -12:30pm -In crate for nap and confinement when you are at work. Leave puppy with a safe chewy toy (Kong with a liver treat stuck deep inside, a bully stick, a nylabone). (2)

12:30-12-50pm -You are on lunch break or have arranged for someone to tend to your puppy. Puppy is taken outside for a 20 minute walk. Treat within one second when he eliminates. (5, 6, 3)

12:50-1:15pm: Play with puppy free in the house. Tug-of-war, Tail Teaser, toss a ball, and/or play and train with treats when puppy responds correctly. Eat your lunch while puppy if free. Take pup out one more time to toilet before you head back to work. Treat him if he goes. (6, 4, 3, 5)

1:15pm-5:15pm: In crate with a safe chew toy. (2)

5:15pm -5:30pm: Take puppy out to toilet and reward him when he goes. (3)

5:30 -6pm: In gated area with a food stuffed Kong and a Kibble Nibble. Good time for you to wind down, check in with family, and cook dinner. (1, 5)

6pm-6:30pm-free in house -play, train or love your puppy. Watch puppy for signs of needed to go out! Eat dinner. (4, 5)

6:30-7:15 - Evening exercise time: Play in the backyard, walk pup around neighborhood, take him to a local park, find empty tennis courts and let him run free, walk on the beach, etc. (3, 5, 6)

7:15 -9:30 -free in house with supervision. Watch pup for sign of needing to go out. Respond to any cues you see. Good time for a chewy like a bully stick or other safe chew. Spend 5-10 minutes training whatever pup needs -come, sit, down, on and off couch, etc. (4, 3, 5)

9:30-9:45 -short walk outside or time in yard to toilet before bed. Treat if he goes. (3, 5. 6)

9:45-10pm: Snuggle your puppy. Measure tomorrow's daily food portion and use it to load Kibble Nibble, 2 Kongs and leave the rest in a Tupperware on the counter for toileting treats and training. There should be no food remaining from the day after 9:30 pm. Prepare Kongs and pop them in the freezer for the next day.

10-6pm -In crate for the night. No chewy, no big fuss. Only attend to pup in the night if he cries out to toilet. (2)

Daily stats:

8 scheduled opportunities to toilet outside as well as appropriate supervision and confinement to assist house training.

16 hours to sleep in crate

2 scheduled feeding times and treats throughout the day for toileting and training. The feedings are completely from toys to encourage acceptable chewing, to decrease mouthiness and to provide mental stimulation and keep pup busy for longer than eating from a bowl.

Training and manners is happening all day with several specific opportunities to practice in 5-10 minute periods. Walking, sitting for toys and food, rewarding proper toileting and proper supervision and confinement all teach pup how to behave.

6 opportunities for mental exercise -eating from toys, playing with you and training time. There are also other chances to chew with also count as mental stimulation.

Three scheduled walks totally 95 minutes as well as anything else you add during pup's free time in the house with you.

8 hours a day pup is free in house, semi-confined in a gated area or is outside.

5 specific opportunities to chew appropriate items.

This is a vigorous schedule, but you have a puppy! This won't last forever. The more you rotate toys and exercise your pup physically and mentally, the easier it will be. Some of your personal goals may have to be put on hold while you raise your puppy. You may need to hire a neighbor or a dog sitter/walker to help you. Make friends with dogs and trade off sitting time. Hire a trainer for more help with anything that isn't working for you...sooner than later!

Between 4 and 6 months your pup should be able to sleep freely in your house, which will eliminate 8 hours in his crate! Between 8 months and 14 months he can be transitioned out of his crate and into the house without supervision, eliminating another 8 hours in a crate. By the time your puppy is a year, he will only need one or two good walks a day to maintain him physically. Mental exercise and training should continue throughout your dog's lifetime.









The Proper Use of a Crate


A crate can be very useful if you own a dog.  It is very helpful for house-training, home alone training, to prevent destructiveness and may serve as a dog’s safe area. It’s good to train a dog to be comfortable while confined in a crate to help it at the vet, groomer, during travel and if the dog needs to be confined for any other reason.  A crate should not be where the dog spends most of its time.

A crate should be purchased to fit your dog when it is fully grown.  It should be big enough for the dog to stand upright, turn around and sleep in comfortably.  If the crate is housing a puppy, a portion can be blocked off to suit the size of the puppy and more space can be given as it grows.  Some crates come with a divider, or a cardboard box can fill up the space nicely for dogs that don’t chew.  If a puppy or dog eliminates in a crate, it has most likely been left in the crate longer than it could hold its bladder.  The crate only encourages puppies to hold “it.” It’s not a magic teacher. Many dog owners make the mistake of leaving the puppy too long in the crate when no one is home, causing the puppy to have a negative experience in the crate.

A puppy should only be left in a crate for as many hours as its age in months plus one. If you have a three month old puppy, it shouldn’t be confined to a crate longer than four hours without being given the freedom to eliminate and get some mental and physical exercise.  The crate is a tool and its use should be adjusted with the age and progress of the puppy.  It’s proper to use the crate to teach a puppy to hold it bladder while indoors.  As the puppy learns this, it should be in the crate less and less over time.  By six months, most puppies should have earned their freedom in the house and going in the crate should be a choice, not a necessity. 

When puppies are crated for too many hours and for too many months they, as well as their owners, become reliant on the crate to control the puppy’s behavior. This is very detrimental.  Dogs are not meant to be caged.  Crating a dog for a workday of 8-10 hours often results in an under exercised, mentally and physically under stimulated dog.  This can lead to hyperactivity, destructiveness, mouthing, barking and jumping as a means to get the attention and stimulation dogs crave. It becomes a vicious cycle. Owners crate the dog to prevent such things, but crating the dog also causes these behaviors to develop.  As soon as a puppy is crate trained, there needs to be a plan to give the puppy more freedom and teach it how to behave in the house. 

If you are interested in more information on crate training or need more information on raising a puppy, you may call me or read Before and After Getting Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar or Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Dr. Sophia Yin.

For dogs that do not like to go in the crate, here is a video of me helping one dog re-learn to like his crate.


Commonly Misunderstood Behaviors and Terms

Petting: Most dogs do not enjoy being pet on the head. When you reach to pet the head, you often block the dog’s vision. The dog will move away from your hand. This is a signal to pet in another way or to leave the dog alone. Dogs prefer a lowered hand and a slow approach to be pet under the chin or on the chest, then you may move around to the top of the dog’s head and shoulders. Always ask a dog to pet him by approaching slowly, offering the back of your hand and reading his body language. Pet for a few seconds, then stop. If the dog moves away or shakes, he disliked the petting. If the dog moves in with a soft, wagging body, he would like more.

Tail: A wagging tail rarely means the dog is “happy.”  The tail communicates many things.  The most important things to pay attention to are the position and the amount of stiffness.  A tucked tail conveys fear or stress. A tail that is somewhat low is relaxed. A tail that is raised above the spine is alert, aroused, and interested. A tail that is straight up is saying “watch out.” Knowing each dog’s normal tail carriage is important. A Husky has an upright tail to begin with, so its straight up will be even higher and his relaxed tail will still be over his back. In addition to where the tail is, it is important to pay attention to its stiffness versus softness. Soft is relaxed, stiff is not.  

Licking: Licking can mean many things. If you touch a dog in a way he dislikes, he may lick you as a way to say stop.  This kind of licking is often followed by mouthing or biting if ignored. Licking the mouth area of a human or a dog is a friendly greeting behavior and may also indicate respect, affection or groveling. Dogs lick surfaces to relieve stress. Constant licking may indicate a compulsive disorder.

Labels: It is important to refrain from labeling a dog.  Labels are misleading and don’t convey useful information. Behaviors come and go and are the dog’s way of communicating.  No dog is “aggressive.” He may use aggression at times. No dog is “submissive.” He may behave submissively in certain situations. These behaviors are not seen when the dog is alone. Dogs communicate with aggressive or submissive behaviors. An aggressive display is not the same as aggression. Aggression using one’s body is meant to inflict harm. An aggressive display is used to prevent conflict. Submissive behaviors are also used to prevent being harmed. Submissive behaviors are often seen as the dog “knowing” he was wrong or as “guilt.” Neither is true. Guilt, remorse, revenge, spite and the like are human emotions that dogs do not feel. Dogs use postures and behaviors to convey messages to avoid being harmed. Humans live in a moral world of right and wrong. Dogs live in the animal world of safe or dangerous. Keeping themselves safe from harm is their primary concern