Buster – “Come!” 101.

So it occurred to me that I jumped the gun a little bit talking about Buster’s recall training at the beach.

Buster – Learning recall at the Lake – Notice that Buster is on his 30′ line while practicing recall in a distracting environment.

So here is a “painting by numbers” guide to having your dog come when he is called.

What not to do – Mistakes other people make!

If you want to amuse yourself go to the dog park without your dog and see how many dogs come when they are called the first time when their owners are leaving.

Not that many!


1. Consequences.

If you only work on come when you are leaving the dog park or crating the dog because you are leaving the house, you are punishing the dog for coming. Punishment is defined as anything you do that effects and reduces the frequency of a behavior.

What can you do instead?

Practice the come command several times and, bearing in mind that playing at the park is probably more rewarding than you are, tell him to go back to play again as a reward for coming!

2. Voice Tone.

If you shout his name, growl at the dog, if you bark at the dog, or if your voice sounds remotely grumpy, you are punishing the dog for coming.

What can you do instead?

Use a playful, fun and sing-song voice tone when you say his name so that he looks up at you straight away and his tail starts wagging!

Whenever you say his name the goal is that he looks at you directly and starts to wag his tail. So never use even a vaguely grumpy voice when you use his name. Always use a higher pitch tone that is a kind of yip that is playful and attractive. When he approaches you, be happy! If he likes petting then pet him gently and praise him with your voice. If he is shy and petting is not rewarding for him, please don’t do it! If your voice is not rewarding to your dog, shut up! Rewards are what your dog tells you are rewards, not necessarily what you might think should be rewarding. I have lost count of the number of photographs I have seen of the owner hugging their dog. The owner looking so happy, and the dog looking startled, fearful and intimidated, absolutely hating it!

3. Body Language.

If you unintentionally face the dog, lean towards the dog, lean forward from the waist, stare at the dog, reach towards the dog, extend your head or neck towards the dog or any combination of these, you are punishing the dog for coming.

You are behaving in a predatorial manner, from the dogs perspective, and reducing the chances that he will come towards you reliably, at all, ever.

What can you do instead?

Turn sideways, don’t look at the dog, drop down onto your knees with your butt on your heels like a dog in a sit. Non-threatening. Invitation to approach. He will come in to you even if you don’t say his name or call him.

4. Bribes

If you imagine that your dog will run towards you with unbridled enthusiasm because you hold out a treat. You will probably find that the dog will come eventually, when all the other dogs have left and there is nothing left to do. Because the treat will always be there when he does come.

Introducing food at a park when there are other dogs off leash whose manners you are unfamiliar with is a recipe for setting up a dog fight, might be you or your dog who ends up in the firing line.

What can you do instead?

You can use food as a reward for a correctly executed recall, marking and timing is important here, but do it at home or in a controlled environment (check out the elements of a wonderful recall in the blog “Buster goes to the beach” ). Build a great recall then fade the food. All of this before you ask for performance in an open environment.

5. Timing of the recall

Shouting “Come” when the dog is in mid-flight running away from them towards something very interesting. Shouting “Come” when the dog is in mid-wrestle with another dog or playing “Catch me if you can” with a group of dogs.

What can you do instead?

Watch the rhythm and energy in the play environment. Even with a dog who is easily distracted there are moments (albeit very short ones with some dogs) where the energy drops for a second and the dog looks around wondering what mischief to get into next, that is your opportunity to call his name and get excited, drop to the ground and start clapping your hands and having fun! Be the most interesting and fun thing in his field of vision! Have him come join you in the fun, do not reach towards him and try to grab him!

6. Repetition.

Calling “Come” repetitively when your dog is ignoring you deliberately. If he doesn’t come on the first call, do not continue to call him.

What can you do instead?

Either the distraction level is too high for his level of training, or the distance is too far from you for his level of training, so reduce the distraction, wait for the distraction intensity to drop off or shorten the distance between you and the dog, by approaching the dog. Use judgement, normally if you do not get a positive response from the dog, reduce the distance by half before you try a second recall. Do not call the recall as you are walking towards the dog. You will train the dog to ignore you or avoid you. A recall should be “I stand still and you come to me”, not vice versa!

6. Deliberate Intimidation

If you really think that your dog should run towards you because he fears your wrath then you are hallucinating and probably not reading this blog. If you feel angry or frustrated and you get increasingly frustrated and assertive when your dog doesn’t come he will avoid you.

You are punishing the dog for thinking about coming.

(Not you of course, but you might see this at the dog park.)

So please, set your dog up for success.

You can develop a great recall!

If he doesn’t have an awesome recall it is not a dog problem!

You may be sabotaging your own success.

Check back through these notes and ask someone to observe you who knows this information!

Go for it!

Buster – Manners around Food

Politeness around food, not taking it just because the opportunity arises, is an acquired skill for many dogs.

Learning that “Take it!”  and “Leave it!” are pre-requisites before accepting food from anyone is an acquired skill.

Learning that we are not in the land of “the quick and the hungry”.

This can be an understandable challenge for a rescue dog who has been a stray having to live off scraps and horse poop. When they arrive in our homes food may have been a high-value resource, literally a matter of life and death.

In many instances we might even assume that is the case. The truth is food sensitivity and reactivity is very common and may just be a carry over from a mis-spent childhood with no appropriate education!

Buster is very food motivated and also a bit pushy as is normal for most young dogs of almost any breed.

Buster learns and practices a settled down stay at an outdoor cafe. with food, people and dogs as distractions.

He will try to steal food off the counters, the table, or the plate. Also apple pie from the spoon on the way to your mouth, treats from the training pouch, steal from your hand when you are training or even grab a rinsed can from the recycling container on the way out the back door!

Really, from anywhere he can find it.

He has sharp little teeth and was not very cautious about how much he used them. He “warned” off other dogs from approaching when we were working with food.

As an opportunist and a puppy this is perfectly normal.

A good example of how “normal” behavior is completely unacceptable behavior in an adult and how valuable a good education can be.

To start off with we worked with stuffed toys and some adult dog education in the yard. He tried to steal the toys a couple of times, then over a period of an hour or so acquired some manners with toys.

Wendy is parenting Buster, his manners are improving dramatically and he restrains himself here as Wendy deliberately looks away.

Then I incorporated something a little higher value. In this instance a reindeer antler chew toy. This has some challenges for Buster and he was told off. Then the light came on and he was a little more devious, he tried chewing a stick right by Toto to tempt him to leave the antler but that did not work. However what he learnt in a single afternoon was that he was not the lord of all he surveyed.

Buster was interested in stealing the Antler but learned that Toto was not going to let that happen. Dogs learn so much from interactions with other dogs but the criterion is that you have to know how the other dogs will react when confronted by another dogs lack of skill. Stay clear of the dog park!

This can be a huge issue in a family home with young children and their friends and something that he needs to learn some manners. A nipped finger, a lost ice-cream and the lightly exaggerated stories making their way around the neighborhood can create an environment where other kids stop coming around the house.

For more serious bites, here in California, that is any nip that breaks the skin, even only one layer on the surface, becomes a liability issue threatening lawsuits, loss of insurance coverage and the “dangerous dog” label.

Just a dog being a dog? Well this is a great opportunity to build the long term relationship that we discuss at some length. We want to be the fountain of all good things, however it will depend on the appropriate behavior from Buster.

Here are some video clips from Buster’s training. Notice that the behavior we are marking is “Leave It!”. At first this is the result of a serious growl and slight lean forward from me. He does not know the command yet, although at first glance you might think so. My body language and posture is very predatorial and easily understood by Buster. A survival cue. I can praise and reward his behavior so that he clearly understands what is being rewarded. On appropriate performance and very quickly I can normally soften the voice tone so that it is the spoken word that cues the behavior not the intimidation in the body language. This is important in order to transfer the behavior to the family environment. Setting Buster up for success.

Success is defined for Buster, and rewarded, when he switches off his fixation with the food. The attitude will change, so he needs to withdraw his forward lean, turn his head and look away from the food (to start with just away will suffice) as he advances in his training I want him looking directly at me, getting strong eye contact and waiting for permission. The “Take It!” command.  We are using training treats here at first, we will change the bait around so that he is able to generalize the behavior and does not assume this only applies to kibble. Think about the fresh roast Turkey on the counter for Thanksgiving.

Buster goes to the Beach – Training Recall

If your dog doesn’t come 

when he is called,

you don’t have a dog!

Safety First!

The goal of all our training is to end with a dog who doesn’t need a leash. However most people don’t do the work necessary to get a reliable dog. They just let the dog off leash and then apologize as he jumps up, scares a child, jumps into the middle of a family picnic and steals the chicken legs!

Their idea of a recall is better described as “Come and Pray”.

They shout “Come”, swear and then pray.

The other mistake some people make, well actually a lot of people make, is to let the dog off leash at the park and let the dog just run around.

If the dog is in a high distraction environment and running in the opposite direction, away from you chasing a squirrel, heading for a trash can full of Big Mac wrappers at the school field or as he is herding and circling, scaring the Asian lady with a Maltese who is holding her dog to her breast and screaming and jumping up and down for some unearthly reason, please, please, please don’t shout “COME!”

Don’t shout “COME!” when the dog is running at 25 miles an hour in the opposite direction.

You did not do the work yet.

The dog has no idea why you are barking at him.

You DO know you are barking, right?

You are also labeling the opposite behavior to the one you think you are training!

Don’t teach your dog that “Come!” means “Chase a squirrel and run away from me!”

It is very frustrating and the next thing you might do is blame the dog for being stupid or stubborn or deliberately disobedient! Which is totally unfair to the dog!

You are the adult in this relationship, teach the dog what you want.


To train off leash behavior you need a leash!

Buster does 0-60 miles an hour in about a second and a half.

I don’t!

He can bob and weave and duck and stop and turn all at the same time while turning in circles!

I can’t!

So I need a plan B.

Plan B

First of all I leash him to an 80 lb dog to slow him down.

Teddy the Yellow Lab is my working dog, he loves to work. He is getting old now and can’t do a lot of the work he used to do. This he can do. Then I add a 30′ long line. I like the climbing rope long line because it is made so strongly, follows the dog smoothly, hardly ever snags and has a nice hand feel to grip if I do need to use it for restraint. (I very rarely do because my goal is to use it as little as possible.)

Excitement, fun and playfulness are also a given!

“Restraint Recall” I use Teddy my 16 year old Yellow Lab to help train an enthusiastic recall. You can use a willing friend to achieve the same result!


Also to be trained to a whistle tone.

What does “COME” mean to the dog?

Does it mean what YOU think it means?

What do YOU think it means?

To the dog “COME!” will mean, when correctly trained, all of the following nine components put together in the correct order in a continuous movement :

(As an aside would one of you maths wizards work out how many options there are for my five month old puppy getting these wrong! What do you think? Post a comment!)

1. Stop

Stop whatever you are doing, stop whatever you are thinking of doing next.

2. Turn

Turn immediately.

If you are running full speed in another direction, playing with your best friend, fighting with an enemy or have your head down a ground squirrel’s hole, stop now and turn.

3. Leave

Leave what you are doing.

4. Accelerate

Accelerate smartly! Like an Olympian in a 100 metre dash leaving the starting blocks.

5. Run directly

Run directly towards me as fast as your legs can carry you with passion, enthusiasm and vigor. Come straight to me.

6. Heel

Come in to a working position at my left heel.

7. Sit

Sit close enough and in a stable position so that I can hold your collar for safety, if I deem it necessary or desirable. I am not training a “fly-by”.

8. Stay

Stay until I release you, whether I am holding your collar or not.

Then you can go and play again.

9. Good Dog!

So it is actually a lot, a complex behavior that we frequently underestimate, for Buster a 5 month old puppy, to get his head round as a meaning for a one word cue.

If I am not requiring a complete recall, including all nine components, I will not use the word “Come!”.

For example if the dog is off-leash and I just want the dog to turn and accompany me in the direction I am traveling then I will use the command “This way!”

To train a great recall

I have found in my experience it is best to train recall by breaking the behavior into the separate components.

Train each component separately at first, the training can be on different days. For example here is Buster training Sit-Stay in a different environment on a previous day.

A great spot to be teaching Sit-Stay, he has an acceptable and understandable physical boundary. Setting him up to succeed! Mark Praise and Reward!

When you have all the components trained and practiced so that he can do them reliably and consistently then you stitch them together.

Back chaining is when you start at the end, the finish, and back chain the components one at a time.

  1. Good dog!
  2. Stay! Good Dog!
  3. Sit! Stay! Good Dog!
  4. Heel! Sit! Stay! Good Dog!
  5. Run! Heel! Sit! Stay! Good Dog!
  6. Accelerate! Run! Heel! Sit! Stay! Good Dog!
  7. Leave! Accelerate! Run! Heel! Sit! Stay! Good Dog!
  8. Turn! Leave! Accelerate! Run! Heel! Sit! Stay! Good Dog!
  9. Stop! Turn! Leave! Accelerate! Run! Heel! Sit! Stay! Good Dog!

We could use all these commands, but it does get a bit cumbersome and long-winded!

Now you have the behavior correctly trained, you can start incorporating the cue, “Come” and/or the whistle.

Then work the behavior, proof it, in training, in different environments reaching a gradually higher standard of performance in the 3 D’s of Dog Training. Duration, Distraction and Distance. Then when you do need it and it really matters, you can ask for the performance with confidence.

Setting a dog up for success

(and his owners!)

People often want me to train Come as a first behavior, that does not make much sense if you look at the whole behavior, you will find the learning way faster and with far fewer errors if you do each component as a separate behavior first, to identify mark and reward. It is way more fun for both you and the dog. The learning is also fast, fast, fast this way! So to be effective at pulling this together your dog should have a strong working knowledge of Sit, Stay and the Heel working position, Stop, Leave it, and “run towards me enthusiastically” in order to build a strong “Come” command. Even if he runs enthusiastically towards you it is not a safe and complete command without the finish.

If you shout “Come” and you did not do the work and your dog ignores you, it is not a dog problem. Be wise.

If you blow the whistle without training the recall you just become a whistle-blower!

The Magic Whistle

A couple of months ago someone observed me working a dog at the soccer field.

He was doing great recalls on the whistle. Ten perfect repetitions. I felt so pleased for him, I praised him and cuddled him and told him what a good boy he was and how proud I felt that he had learned this.

Next week I saw the same person there with their Husky, blowing a whistle again and again. Dog was completely ignoring them, as he has his whole life. They turned to me and said “the whistle doesn’t work with Huskies!”

True Story.

Back Chaining

This way the new bit of the behavior is worked on and the dog moves immediately into behaviors that it is familiar with and comfortable with. Like playing the piano or guitar there is intrinsic reward in repeating the parts that sound good! ( We also get to praise and reward the behavior).

Restrained Recall

The next part of this training is encouraging an enthusiastic energetic recall and for this I use a natural dog performance that I have alluded to in a previous post about loose leash training. The opposition reflex. The automatic pulling when restrained. So here I use it to our advantage, watch what happens with Buster and Teddy clipped together on the leash when I encourage Buster into a recall. He accelerates and pulls Teddy. Instead of the restraint slowing Buster down he treats the restraint as a challenge and increases his efforts. While he is in that mode, totally engaged in drive and acceleration towards me I can label a perfect recall. “Buster, COME!”

Magic Formula!

If your dog, pure bred, mixed breed or pound dog, shelter dog or stray does not come when he is called it has nothing to do with him being a rescued dog other than his education has been missing!

Your turn to do it right!

Buster – Don’t Eat the Vet!

Biting, nipping, mouthing, growling, snapping.

You little alligator you!

What on earth is going on?

All of these behaviors are really just a dog being a dog. It is one of a dog’s ways of communicating with other dogs. Most of the time it means the dog is anxious, nervous and feeling that it is threatened.

Buster has found this works to give him the safe space he feels he needs.

In order to deal with this I am including him in some group work with different dogs from my pack. Unfortunately sometimes when we remove a dog from its siblings early in life we also remove a chunk of their education. So dogs coming through rescue who may have been somewhat isolated or purebred dogs who are removed from the litter at 7 or 8 weeks do not have some of the skills they need.

This is the first lesson of a progressive systematic desensitization program to help Buster cope calmly with touch, hugs, restraint, paw holding, nail clipping, grooming and more.

Here is a lesson by Professor Marcus the Pit Bull.

Buster – The Leash, Friend or Foe?

Learning his ABC’s

Q. Why do dogs pull on the leash? 

a) Because they don’t like feeling restrained?

b) Because they think they know where they are going?

c) Because they think that if they pull you they will get there faster?

d) Because they have learned that when they pull your arm is like elastic?

e) Because when they pull they get closer to where the interesting smells are?

f) So they get to where they want to be?

All of the above!

Leash, Friend or Foe?

Jaz the German Shepherd, proudly leash walking in a great “heel” position with her owner.

The leash is your friend.

It should feel like an umbilical cord hanging in the breeze connecting you and your loved one. You can communicate through the leash in ways that will amaze you.

Most people communicate through the leash as if they are dancing in the dark. They are doing the waltz and their dog is doing the mosh-pit special! Someone is going to get their toes trodden on. They have no idea. Train the dog so both he and you are dancing the same dance, it feels awesome!

Your goal.

The goal is to train your dog so that the leash is superfluous. The law says that you should leash your dog so that is nearly always a good idea. If you are using the leash for restraint, guidance or worst of all physical punishment then you failed to do the training necessary for success. Using the leash can be the cue for your dog to understand that calm, serene and attentive behavior is now expected.

Q. Why do dogs pull on the leash? 

A. Because they don’t like feeling restrained?

With most animals there is something called an opposition reflex, when you push them they push back, when you pull them back they brace and restrain and if they can they will pull forward.

How to train a dog to pull on a leash

That is how you teach a dog to pull on leash, put them in a harness and restrain them gently, you can observe the balance change, leaning forward slightly as their muscles tension. Gradually at first you will feel them pulling forwards, restrain them a little harder and they will pull a little harder. If you repeat this the dog will brace into a pulling posture and over a short period you can see that he will become stronger. Almost like the world strong man competitions where they are pulling trucks. When my Yellow Labrador, Teddy, (also known as Boss Dog) was younger he was a very powerful dog and could pull a Range Rover when he was in harness.

Leash Aggression

The other challenge, a not insignificant point, is that when the dog tensions into the leash or harness, that to another dog even hundreds of feet away, the posture they assume feels, on a primal level, predatorial and aggressive.

They are not seen to be calm and stable but have their weight forward of their balance point. Even subtle movements, fractions of an inch, are very apparent to dogs who are experts at reading body language and predicting what is going to happen next.

This is a survival mechanism honed over thousands of years, sometimes you are the predator, sometimes the prey. This sets up tension between the two dogs which escalates into postures and voice reactions and leads to “leash aggression” descriptions by the owners.

Owners frequently report that the dog is charming in an off leash scenario with almost all dogs and yet when he is on leash he turns into the Tasmanian Devil. What if the factor is not the leash, it is the owners tension in restraining the dog and causing this reactivity? Maybe?

Walking on a slack leash

Curiously, Restraining their dog on a leash is the way most people try to train their dog to walk on a slack leash. Interspersed with jerks on the leash, barking at the dog “Heel, HEEl, BUSTER HEEEL!” and copious amounts of swearing. Then in frustration spending hundreds of dollars in the pet store buying anything and sometimes everything that promises “no pull”!

Doomed to failure?

Ya think?

Here is a clip of Buster on his first loose leash walking training session, the goal is for him to be able to do this in places of high distraction, reliably.

At the moment I set him up for success as much as I can so that I can find the correct behavior, add a verbal label when he is actually doing the correct behavior and reward him. You will hear a click at the end as he managed to do several strides consecutively, positioned well and attending to me on a slack leash. This click is to mark the correct behavior and is attached to a reward that will arrive shortly.

You will notice I am wearing a waist-leash, in fact I have one leash that fits exactly around my waist and his normal leash attached to that. Look for the action, it is a game, Buster loves games, I am the center of his attention for a lot of the time here. This is very early in his training but you can see he has potential to extend the duration of this behavior without once using the leash or collar for anything other than stopping him running off into the road or after a squirrel. (He is only five months old!)

Buster – Equipment choices and the role of exercise in effective dog training

Buster is safe, relaxed, content and in the shade. He is protected from people who want to invade his personal space and pet him. Almost like being in a crate or den. He can be easily restrained but is not being restrained. (Note the slack leash) Down stay works in a cafe, restaurant or at a friend’s house. In the house or on the patio. Safe, not invading people’s personal space by jumping up or begging for food. Good Boy, Buster!

So now I have Buster in a safe environment (see Buster – setting up for success)

What equipment do I need to take him through kindergarten?

Buy the store – not!

I have decided not to give you a list of stuff to go out and buy, over the next few weeks I will introduce equipment that will help and support our goal of having Buster be the best dog he can be and explain as I am going along what, why and how to use each one. You can then choose whether you focus on that particular behavior and think the equipment will help you achieve your goal. Bear in mind that I am an acknowledged equipment junkie and have, over a period of many years, literally bought every new piece of equipment with every promise of making life easier, the dog smarter, and taking away my clients pain in the most effective way possible. I have come to the conclusion after spending thousands of dollars that if you learn the basic principles of how dogs learn and you apply them diligently you will get the results you deserve. All you really need is a leash, a collar and a piece of rope (and even those are not absolutely essential if you are stuck shipwrecked on a desert island with a dog). All the rest is profit for the pet stores.

Profit is not a dirty word. It makes the world go around. When I spend money in a pet store and they make a profit they stay in business, provide better service, they add stock, something that I might really need will be on the shelf instead of having to order it. They are happy, I like being around happy people. They employ people, employment is good, it gives people a sense of purpose and then they have money to spend as well. This is why I like to spend in the local stores, the currency stays in the neighborhood and we all profit from that in the end. It is healthy for the community.

If you really think that the right way to teach your dog not to pull on the leash is to tie his elbows together with some kind of harness for the rest of his life then I don’t think you will be reading this blog trying to learn something new.

Regardless of what the all night channel tells you!

Those six-pack abs for guys, those overnight wrinkle reducing creams for ladies, or vice versa, are hallucinations!

There are no short cuts, magic leashes, magic collars or magic sprays or lotions.

Here is a clue, train the dog to walk on a slack leash! Then you don’t even need a leash!

Learning is faster and easier for everyone, human and dog, when you reduce anxiety.

The first few days I am going to take Buster out in public and evaluate his performance, his behaviors and his personality. I am not going to correct him at all. I don’t want to be part of the problem. It would be totally unfair to be trying to correct him for doing something that comes naturally, or that he has already learned, when I have not taught him what it is I do want him to do. I watch him very closely all the time, looking for subtle clues and not so subtle clues that will give me accurate information about his wants and needs. This evaluation gives me the structure and detail for his training program to address his sensitivities. Each dog is different. The basic training of tricks is simple but unless I address his individual emotional stressors he will never be all he can be. The anxiety would also make the training harder, slower and certainly more stressful than necessary. This would cause frustration and tension for both of us, but more importantly it would rely on my presence ( my authority, skill and experience) for him to perform the behaviors and would not transfer easily to his family. That is not learning what we want him to learn. I hate it when that happens, learning is faster and easier for everyone, human and dog, when you reduce anxiety. I truly would like to (metaphorically) tattoo that on your forehead so you see it every morning in the mirror. (Did I say that out loud? 🙂 )

Before I take Buster out for training in public I let him play and wrestle and “get his kinks out” so that he is not wound up like a top when we leave the house.

Here is a short clip of Buster and Jumping Jack Flash having a little work out. Jack is teaching Buster that he is not as important as he used to think, demoting him by gently controlling the play. Humphrey and Ted are parenting, they are the playground supervisors, there to see fair play.

Buster – Setting up for success in the home

Buster is at an age where he thinks he is pretty important, and the next few months he is going to push boundaries.

Wait there quietly, I just need to pop in to the bakery.

It is NOT personal!

It is just what dogs do.

Up to now everyone adores him and caters to his every whim. When he jumps up or nips “he is just being a puppy”. The adult dog ( 12 years old and with epilepsy) in the home as well as the family forgive him for almost anything. However at about five and a half months this stops being cute and starts being a royal pain in the a***. People often become increasingly frustrated as the dog gets bigger and “he’s not just a puppy, he’s a big dog now”.

A lot of dogs don’t make it to their first birthday before they end up in the shelter.

So if you have a dog from a shelter who is, shall we say, between nine months old and eighteen months old then there is a good chance the owners gave up on him for one or more of the behaviors I mentioned in my last post (Buster goes to school).

Just being a dog.

First Things First

The first thing I will do when he arrives in my home is restrict his access to things that might get him into trouble.

So whatever the problem:

Management prevents accidents

“Use management to prevent repetition of the unwanted behavior”

This does not mean that you have to restrict him for life! It means that in order to prevent the behavior becoming a lifetime habit, he has to stop practicing! Then you find a way of training an alternative.

So here is an example:

A pug that I know loves to go into the bathroom whenever the door is inadvertently left ajar and take the tissues out of the waste basket. I will call them tissues because this is a family show, but use your imagination. The owners wanted to know if I would just train him not to do that. Sure, we can do that. But, here’s a thought, why not pop down to Target and get a waste bin with a closing lid on it? Alternatively how about putting self closing hinges on the bathroom door so it always closes automatically. Or a door frame gate? That is management. Set him up for success. That way instead of being rewarded by your attention when he pulls out the tissues and shreds them around the house and you chase after him barking (you know you sound as if you are barking right?) you get to praise and reward him for lazing on his dog bed chewing on an appropriate chew toy.

Safety First

So before Buster arrived I installed a couple of Dog Gates across the doorways into the kitchen, separating the home into smaller manageable areas where he can be closely supervised. For smaller puppies it is really worth setting up a large wire crate and a den style crate inside, because it has a tray style floor and keeps the puppies safe and the mess somewhat contained.

Magic and Grk in the kitchen. A large pen with a roof keeps them safe if I want to go to the grocery store. The smaller crate inside gives them a snuggly space where they feel protected if they are anxious or feeling overwhelmed by the family and the family room or just want to sleep. Their hidey-hole. The door on the small crate is open during the day. The door on the large pen is open while I am present and supervising. They have free run of the kitchen while I am present so that I can praise and reward appropriate behavior and alert them to inappropriate behavior. (Counter-surfing or chewing the linoleum, for example)

The position of the crates in the photograph is deliberate, the dogs feel more content in a corner of a room in preference to an open space or the center of the room.

The goal is total freedom, the fastest and most effective way to get there is carefully structured supervision, education and attention.

Do not give the new dog the run of the house. It is a recipe for disaster!

It is impossible to supervise the dog when you can’t see him so you will spend your time “finding evidence” which is very frustrating and impossible to go back and correct or educate.

Slow is Fast

Introduce him slowly, when he is successful in the first area, gradually expand his area of freedom and his responsibility. The key word is gradually!  The goal is to set him up for success so that you can catch him doing right and praise and reward the behavior.

The purpose is not isolation or separation, that would be punishment. The purpose is for me to spend significant periods of time around Buster, but he is not the center of my attention 100% of the time. For example when I am writing this blog I want him present in the room so that he does not get into trouble out of my sight. He also learns that he can be calm as I am calm. He has structured time when he can play and have fun at my instigation and it is a good idea to do that before I ask for a calm “downtime”.

Dog Gates

There are a number Dog Gates available from pet stores but the most effective, strongest and least ugly I have found are at http://www.orvis.com. They have a wooden one which is wonderful:

Wood Door Frame Gate

My favorite doorway gate!


However if you have rabid chewers they also have a wrought iron one:

Wrought Iron Door Frame Gate

Alternative door frame gate