An Update: Now offering boarding and doggie daycare

I just wanted everyone to know that I have been working quite a bit on this blog, even if you can’t see it! I am moving it to a Wiki platform and I’ve been carefully copying and proofreading every article (I’m really quite ashamed of some of the mistakes I’ve found) and in some cases updating them. A wiki platform is pretty cool because it allows you to easily link and cross reference articles that relate to each other and gives me a very clear view of what’s missing so it gives the dog training information I’ve compiled the ability to really grow and become an amazing resource. But, unlike a blog, a wiki needs quite a few pages to be web-worthy so it’s taking awhile to get it where I want it. If you don’t know what a wiki is, the most famous one is at http://www.wikipedia.com.

Expect to see an announcement of the new site launch sometime in February.

In the meantime, I have opened up my Holly area home to boarding and doggie daycare. In partnership with my husband, we will be offering these plus dog walking and house sitting at what I believe to be very reasonable prices. We’re reasonably close to several major parks and Mount Holly and Alpine Valley ski areas and if you’re heading up North for the weekend, you’ll be going right past us. You can find out more at http://www.dogvacay.com/pro/robinz and if you book online and use the custom code ROBINZ10OFF, you will get $10 off your first reservation.

For personal service, by phone, chat or in person, visit to learn how to get in touch with me directly!

This URL will stop working soon

I have gotten several notices from Google that the domain name thegooddogjournal.com will not renew automatically as it has in the past and that I need to renew it manually, but the link they provide goes nowhere and can’t figure out how I’m supposed to do it. I am hoping I will be able to re-register the domain with another company after it expires. In the meantime, you will be able to access this blog through this URL – http://thegooddogjournal.blogspot.com

For personal service, by phone, chat or in person, visit to learn how to get in touch with me directly!

Why I Hate Fences

Some time ago I realized (somewhat indignantly) that I do not qualify to adopt a dog from my local private shelter because I do not have a fenced-in yard. This threw me something for a loop because I have always had dogs and I have never had a fenced-in yard. And, well, I like to think any dog that lived with me would have a pretty good life. But no, no fenced-in yard, no dog, no questions. But this policy annoys me on more than a personal level, it annoys me on a professional level. Because as a dog trainer, I hate fenced in-yards.

In my professional life I have met many people who have behavioral issues with their dogs whose heart lies in their reliance on their fenced-in yard to help them care for their dog. To me, this is akin to using your television to help care for your child. Yes, I believe fenced-in yards encourage lazy dog ownership.

Fenced-in Yards Can Foil Housebreaking Efforts

Many folks who have fenced in yards find themselves stymied at some point during housebreaking by a dog who will go outside quite readily and then come inside and pee on the floor. Of course, the owners don’t know if he actually peed or pooed outside, because while the dog was outside (chewing on sticks and rolling in raccoon poo) the owner was sitting in the comfort of his kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee in his fuzzy slippers.

Simply letting your dog outside does not give your dog any message at all about what to do outside. And small puppies being let outside alone are probably going to spend the majority of their outside time either exploring or trembling in terror and aren’t going to think about going potty until they are in the warm, safe, somewhat less interesting confines of the house. Older dogs may patrol around the yard and pee on things to mark territory  but chances are if there’s anything left, it’ll end up on the floor once he’s indoors and relaxed and remembers that his bowel and bladder are meant for things other than writing “Killer the Chihuahua was here” on the rosebushes.

If you want to housebreak your dog you have to physically go outside with your dog.  You have to catch him going potty where he is supposed to (not just where he’s not supposed to) and you can’t do that if he’s in the yard and you are in the house.

Fenced-in Yards do NOT Exercise Dogs by Themselves

If you think your dog is going to exercise himself if you let him out in his yard a few hours a day, think again. Unless his arch nemesis lives on the other side of the fence, impelling him to run up and down the fence line barking hysterically, he’s not likely to get much exercise at all. He’ll probably do a couple of circuits of the yard, make sure everything is in order, check to see if the gate’s ajar, find something gross to roll in, pee on a few things and then settle down to chew on some sticks or rocks. If he really needs exercise he will probably dig a hole or destroy something. Unless it’s very hot, then he’ll dig a hole to nap in. When he gets bored, he’ll probably start looking for things to bark at. But all in all, not much healthy exercise.

Dogs left to their own devices don’t tend to be very constructive from our point of view. If you want your dog to exercise, you are going to have to go out there with him. Throw a ball, chase him around, whatever. He’s not going to do it on his own. At least not in a way you’d approve of.

Fenced-in Yards Can Expose Your Dog to Dangers

When you wake up in the morning, groggy, bleary eyed, and let your dog out the back door into your fenced -in yard before you go off to make your coffee, have a shower, etc. what are you exposing your dog to? Do you know? A lot can happen overnight while you’re asleep in a yard, even a fenced-in one. A raccoon could have gotten into your garbage and spread dangerous deliciousness all over the yard, which your dog could be consuming even now and later, when he’s violently ill, you will have no idea what it was that caused it. That raccoon could have been rabid. That rabid raccoon could still be out there.

Or another dog could have gotten in, drawn by the scent of a bone you dog left out there yesterday. He could have dug a hold under the fence. He might not still be around. Your dog might not still be around.

Or it could have been really windy. There could have been a storm in the night. Maybe you heard it, maybe you didn’t. Maybe a branch fell on your fence. Maybe a power line came down and landed inside your yard.

You don’t know. You didn’t look. You just let your dog out. Because you have a fenced-in yard, you have that luxury. Not like the rest of us who have to get dressed before we take our dogs out, who would have had our dogs on a leash and would have seen these dangers before our dogs were exposed to them.

Fenced-in Yards Build Bad Habits

It’s really only natural to take the easy way and a fenced-in yard gives us that. Your dog’s getting on your nerves? Rather than correct him and train a more appropriate behavior, it’s much easier just to put him out in the yard. When you have a fenced-in yard it’s easy to blow off walks, it’s easy to blow off obedience practice and exercise time. The yard is there, always ready, always beckoning; there for you to take the easy way out with your dog.

And what do dogs learn all alone in a fenced-in yard? They learn to entertain themselves, of course. By chewing on sticks and rocks, digging holes (sometimes under or even through fences) and barking barking barking. Barking is a huge behavior issue with dogs who live behind fences.

A dog who has to wait for his owner to get dressed before going for a walk is going to have better manners and self-control than a dog who is simply let outside every morning. A dog who is walked will be more focused and obedient as well because the actual walking is very grounding for a dog, not just being outside. A dog who receives regular human-interactive playtime indoors or on a long line outdoors will be more obedient and happier than a dog let out to romp for several hours in the afternoon.

What Are Fenced in Yards Good For?

Every dog likes a good run. Fenced-in yards are great for running and playing fetch with your dog.
It’s important to practice obedience off leash and with increasing distractions so you know it’s there when you really need it. Fenced-in yards are great for this. But you can do all this on a tether as well.

Fenced-in yards are also handy to have in an emergency if there is no one to take your dog out just this once. If you must leave your dog in the yard, make sure you check it for safety first – every day (things do change) and leave him with some safe activities to engage in. Hide some biscuits around the yard, hide a Kong stuffed with canned dog food, etc. Make sure he has a shady spot to rest in if he gets too warm, a warm spot in case he’s chilly and a bowl of water.

Never, ever leave your dog outside when you are not home or when you go to bed at night.

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Keys to Human-Canine Communication

One of the greatest barriers to successful dog training is the communication barrier. Dogs communicate mostly through body language while humans communicate mostly through voice. Humans make a variety of sounds, while dogs only make a few basic sounds whose meanings are adjusted according to pitch and volume. All of this is undoubtedly as frustrating for our dogs as it is for us. Therefore, it is important to establish an appropriate system of communication with our dogs based on what’s natural for them before we even begin to look at training.

Body Language

Dogs are all about body language and humans do not always understand that they are sending their dogs important (and sometimes misleading) messages constantly through their facial expressions, body posture and hand movements.

Here are a few examples -


Posture and height – The higher you are off the ground, the more seriously your dog will take you. If you are sitting or lying on the ground, it’s play time. The only way to convince him otherwise is to become very still and quiet which sends him a white flag message. While this might be the only way to avoid being mauled by an aggressive dog who has knocked you down (and might decide to maul you anyway), it sends a very unhealthy message to your own dog.


Motion and Stillness – Repeating any gestures quickly, such as the above-mentioned hand waving, moving quickly back and forth or side to side, hopping up and down or repeatedly kicking and object is a call to action. It may trigger your dog’s prey drive and at the very least it’s likely to excite him and he may jump on you. Teach children to move calmly and deliberately around strange dogs and avoid hand waving, bouncing and any other repetitive gestures to avoid making an already tense situation explode. Stillness communicates seriousness and the need for quiet.

A dog trying to get you to play with him, is likely to bounce up and down and back and forth to elicit excitement. A dog who wants you to take him very seriously is going to become still and quiet and rise to his full height. A dog who is trying to avoid conflict will crouch or lay down, become very still and avoid eye contact.

To use this information in training_

  • Always stand tall and keep your words and actions calm and deliberate.
  • Always use hand signals in combination with your spoken commands. Dogs really do “get it” better this way.
  • Do not repeat commands. Remember that repetition is stimulating and can cause him to become distracted. If he doesn’t do it the first time you tell him to, go make him do it. 
  • Watch your dog’s posture and the way he moves so you can start to predict aggression and hyperactivity before it begins and redirect your pet to a more appropriate activity.

Tone and Pitch
Dogs only have a couple of words in their spoken language (Arf, woof, grrr). The meanings they convey are differentiated largely by the tone and pitch with which they are delivered. For example:
A play growl sounds gentler that a true growl, which sounds harsher.
A higher pitch hearkens back to baby days. Depending on context it could indicate playfulness or fearfulness. Playful barks are usually short and staccato (yip! yip! yip!) accompanied by a bouncing gait and perhaps a play bow while fearful barks are repetitive calls to action (WooWooWoo! or RaRarRar! usually with a whine at the end), like a doggie siren accompanied by crouching, tail tucking and attempts to hide or retreat.
A low pitch bark or growl is a warning, a demand for respect.

To use this in training…

  • Use a high pitched voice to encourage activity and to communicate praise, but remember to moderate your pitch. Too high a pitch communicates excitement and this can ruin a perfectly good heel or stay. Use a caressing tone in this case. However, when praising your dog for running toward you after you call him to “come” a very high, excited pitch is perfectly appropriate.
  • Use a low pitched voice for corrections. A single quiet “No” in a low, serious tone is much more then all the yelling and ranting in the world.

Volume
Volume also sends a message about activity and mood. A high volume is aggressive and active while a low volume is gentle and calm. If your dog is barking, he is sending out an aggressive, active message to the world. If you yell in response to the barking you are doing exactly what he perceives himself to be doing and so he is encouraged to continue. Now everyone is barking together, what fun! Dogs use loud noise to get each other’s attention – “Hey you, look at me, I have something important to say.” Once the desired attention has been achieved, body language is is the preferred mode of communication, though barking may continue as a sort of exclamation point.

Remember that dogs have very sensitive hearing. Unless their hearing has been damaged – which is very easy to do – your dog can probably hear you just fine and raising your voice isn’t going to help anything. Besides, he’s looking for body language, so be sure to use those hand signals.

To use this in training…

  • Train your dog in a conversational tone of voice.
  • A sudden loud sound can be used to get your dog’s attention. A hand clap, finger snap, whistle, kissy noise or “Hey” but repeated loud noises will just get him worked up. A very loud noise (such as a car horn or air horn) can sometimes be used to break up fights.
  • Use a very soft tone of voice if you are trying to get your dog to calm down.

Important Words
When you begin training your dog there are some very important messages you must be able to communicate to him. You must be able to tell him when he has done something right, when he has done something incorrectly, when he has misbehaved (quite different from merely making a mistake) and when he is done working and can do what he wants for a bit.

The reward marker tells your dog that he has done what you asked him to do and has earned a reward for it. You may use a training clicker for this or you may use a word or another sound. You might click with your tongue or use the word “Yes” delivered in a neutral tone and volume. You will use this marker to mark the very second your dog did what you wanted him to do and then you can pet him, throw the ball or reach for that treat. While you are delivering the reward marker, put a smile on your face and nod in an exaggerated way.

The no reward marker tells your dog that he has made a mistake. He’s not a bad dog, but he didn’t do what you asked and so he gets no reward. If you use something other than a clicker for the reward marker, you can use a clicker for the no reward marker, or you can use another sound or a word. I say “uh uh” again delivered in a neutral tone and volume. Shake your head with a disappointed air as you do this.

The correction word tells your dog that he’s done something that is against the rules. He’s jumped on someone, taken an object that doesn’t belong to him, etc. This correction can only be given while the dog is actively performing the forbidden action and may or may not be accompanied by a leash correction. If it is accompanied by a leash correction, always use the verbal correction first and give your dog two seconds to respond to the verbal correction and cease the undesired behavior before following up with the leash correction. Most folks use the word “No” for a verbal correction, but you can use something else like “Bad” or “Fie” or “Hey” since “No” is such an overused word. (But pick one, don’t mix it up.) The important thing is to deliver the word in the proper tone of voice. Low volume, low, serious tone. No yelling. Frown and shake your head.

Finally, the release command lets your dog know that he is done doing what you asked him to do. He may now break his stay or heel or come out of his control area. You really can’t teach stay without a release command. When choosing a word for your release command, use something that isn’t used often in conversation. If you say “Okay” alot, that can’t be your release command. Consider “At ease” “Free” “You’re Through” or “All done” delivered in a cheerful tone of voice. Toss up your hands and step backward to as you deliver the command.

You will find these communication tools are priceless when you are working with your dog and if you have been struggling up to this point you might find that this is the magic wand you’ve been looking for.

Good luck!

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Keeping Cool in the Summer Heat

If you’re suffering in the heat this summer, chances are your dog is suffering too. Take care to supervise your dog’s outdoor playtime and bring him into the air conditioning if he starts to look run down and make sure he’s got plenty of water. Also, try these fun ideas for keeping cool.

Have a Pool Party
Many dogs love water and if you have a pool in your yard your dog might like to join you for a refreshing dip. If you don’t have a pool, or your dog isn’t a swimmer, you might want to get a small wading pool for your pet to enjoy. Smaller dogs who are intimidated by a large pool and older dogs who would prefer to relax may enjoy wallowing in the wading pool instead while younger, more energetic dogs will love jumping in and out and splashing water all over. Encourage your dog’s interest in the wading pool by tossing in some favorite toys or some small bits of carrot.

Make a Frosty Treat
Mix up a frosty treat for your dog to enjoy outside (they’re really too messy for inside)

Doggie Ice Cream
Combine 1 cup plain yogurt or kefir with 1 tablespoon natural, unsalted peanut butter at room temperature, blend well and pour the mixture into ice cube trays. Freeze and serve!

Frozen Fun Time
Mix this snack in an empty plastic yogurt, sour cream or cottage cheese container. Select the size based on your dog’s size.

Put some of your dog’s kibble, some biscuits, leftover or raw veggies, pieces of meat, rice, etc. Cover this with water and freeze until solid. Then, dip it in some warm water so you can slide the mess out and toss it out on the back patio and watch your pup go to town!

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Five Simple Steps to Establishing Yourself as Pack Leader

I have come to realize that some of the stuff I’ve written about pack leadership is a little complicated, so here’s a short and sweet article to drill it down to the basics of how. For more detail about the whys, be sure to take a look at Who’s the Boss? Establishing Pack Leadership and without further ado, here are your five simple steps. The goal of these steps is to give your dog the impression that you control every aspect of his life. Because you do. And if your dog is aggressive or otherwise trouble, you absolutely must because it could be your dog’s life if you don’t. 

Step 1 Control Your Dog’s Movements
At first, your dog should be on a leash all the time. You should keep him close to you in the house and he should be at rest when you’re at rest. When you are standing, but not moving, he should be sitting at your side and when you are sitting, he should be laying at your feet. You should take the time to obedience train your dog and practice daily. You can and should practice and walks and during playtime. When you are doing something that makes it difficult or impossible to supervise your dog, he should be secured in a crate. You make all the decisions about where you go and when and you go first.

Step 2 Control Your Dog’s Schedule
Feed your dog at the same time every day (1-3 times based on age and size) and give him 15 minutes to eat. After 15 minutes pick up the bowl and put the food away till the next meal time. Never feed your dog because he’s begging. If you want to give him table scraps, save them for the next meal and put him in his bowl. Very small treats can be given as training rewards. Take your dog outside to go potty at the same time every day (4-10 times a day depending on age). Take your dog to the potty spot and give him a command to potty. Take your dog for a walk (1-2 times a day) at the same time every day. When you get up in the morning, ignore your dog while you brush your teeth, make your coffee and put on your clothes and shoes, only then call him over and put him on his leash for his morning walk. When you come home, hang up your coat, put away your purse, get yourself a refreshing beverage before you even look at your dog. Then, when you’re ready, call him over and put on his leash for his afternoon walk.

Do not respond to requests by your dog to alter the schedule.

Step 3 Control Your Dog’s Stuff
Actually, your dog has no stuff. Everything in your house is yours, not your dog’s. All the dog toys in the house belong to you. You simply allow your dog to play with your toys when the mood strikes you and you end the game likewise when you decide the game is over. All the furniture is yours. Your dog is not allowed on it unless you invite him. If he ever shows any possession over the furniture, such as spreading himself out over the couch so there’s no room for you, leaning on and pushing people off the furniture, or growling at people when he is moved off the furniture, he can not go on the furniture. At all. Ever. The crate is yours, you tell him when to go in it and when to come out of it (and graciously allow him to retreat to it for comfort and security). The yard is yours; you decide when he goes out in it and what part of it he’s allowed to use as a bathroom. Etc.

Step 4 Make Your Dog Earn Everything
Your dog must sit and stay while you are getting his dinner ready and putting the bowl down (If he breaks his stay, put the food away and walk away, come back a few minutes later and try again). He must sit and stay while you are getting his leash, putting the leash on and opening the door and must not get up until you invite him to do so. He must not have free access to toys. You decide when to play with the toys, you start the game and end it. He must sit to earn a ball throw, etc. If your dog wants to be petted, he must sit calmly first or do some other trick at your whim.

Step 5 Exercise Your Dog
Engage your dog 15 to 30 minutes a day in obedience training practice. Practice sit/stay, down/stay, leave it, drop it, come, place, kennel up and more. You can and should combine your obedience practice with games and walks. See Games Good Dogs Play: Three Ways to Stay. Once you’ve got your basic obedience down, you can add more tricks to his repertoire. Check out The Everything Dog Training and Tricks Book.
Your dog needs 30 minutes to an hour of brisk walking every day and 15 to 30 minutes of play. For that matter, so do you.

Training your dog and leading him in walks and play enforces your standing as pack leader. However, if your dog becomes aggressive or overly hyper during play, end the game immediately, put the toys away and try again in a few days. If you are at all frightened during play, then don’t do it at all. No big deal.

If your dog is already extremely bossy, you may need to do a reboot. Spend a three days to a week ignoring your dog. Let him out to go potty, put down his food, put him in his crate and go about your business. Once the time you’ve determined on has passed, re-establish your relationship using these five rules. Note that very bossy dogs may become extremely sassy during this time, butt-biting is not unheard of. If this occurs, do what you need to do to protect your bottom and continue to ignore her until she gets well past that (Although I usually use him/her randomly when I write, using her here is very appropriate). Very sensitive dogs may become withdrawn and depressed. If you see any sign of this, abort the reboot and go straight to the rules.

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Keeping Your Aggressive Dog

When your best friend attacks a friend, neighbor or family member, you may be advised to re-home or euthanize your pet immediately. However, not everyone is willing to give up on their pet so easily and you may be wondering if you can keep your dog without anyone else getting hurt. The answer to that question is maybe.

Aggression is like cancer. A doctor will never tell you your cancer is cured, but will say instead that it is in remission. You can never really say that a dog’s aggression is cured until he has lived out his natural life without ever biting anyone again. Some dogs never see biting a human as an option but for those who do see it as an option, it will always be there under the surface; the willingness to bite. Your dog may never bite someone again, but the fact that he already has bitten someone tells you he can and will if properly provoked. Your job then, if you choose to keep him, is to make sure that never happens.

So, it’s important to take this decision very seriously and spend some time thinking about it and discussing it with your household.

Know the Risks and How to Mitigate Them
Keeping an aggressive dog is obviously risky. Someone could be bitten, you could be sued or face police action if you slip up. It is important that you take steps to minimize the chances of any of these things happening.

1. Make sure you have homeowners insurance and your family has health insurance. That way if something happens you are prepared to handle any costs associated with it. It may be helpful to also have legal coverage.

2. Train your dog. If you are going to keep your potentially dangerous dog, it is important that you have complete control over him at all times. Hire a trainer who is experienced with aggressive dogs and practice, practice, practice! Your dog should be able to sit and stay, down and stay, come, leave it and drop it at a word and/or hand signal with no backtalk. Also, your dog must be crate trained so that she has a safe place to stay when there are guests or there is a high level of energy in your house. She should go to the crate on command, again with no backtalk. Depending on the level of aggression, you may also need to muzzle train your dog.

3. Maintain a healthy pack structure in your home. See http://www.thegooddogjournal.com/2009/02/whos-boss-establishing-pack-leadership.html

4. Exercise your dog. Give your dog a good walk (at least 30 minutes) twice a day. Nervous energy can lead to aggression.

5. Learn your dog’s triggers and body language so that you can intervene before things get ugly. You can ask your trainer for help with this and you may also find this guide helpful: http://www.pawsacrossamerica.com/interpret.html

6. Manage your dog’s environment to keep things calm and remove her from any environment that you can’t manage. 


7. Keep up with your dog’s veterinary checkups. There are several health conditions that can exacerbate aggression so make sure you have your dog checked out regularly and let your vet know his history. Also, if there is a biting incident, someone may want to see your dog’s shot records, so keep them where you can find them.

8. Have an exit strategy. Discuss this with your family so that everyone knows what the final straw will be. One more bite? One more snap? One more lunge? Discuss this with your veterinarian ahead of time so you know what your options are on that front. You will be very lucky to find a new home for a dog with a history of aggression (though it is not impossible). If things turn out badly at his new home or a shelter, chances are the end will be very unpleasant for him. It may be kinder for you to have him euthanized surrounded by the people who love him than to send him off into the unknown on the off chance it’ll work out and risk a lonely, frightened end.


Keeping a dog is a huge responsibility but keeping a dog with a history of aggression is an even bigger responsibility. However, it’s not hopeless. Some types of aggression seem to disappear completely with a little pack leadership, but it’s important to always remember what your dog is capable of and maintain whatever measures you have in place.





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Playbiting is No Fun!

All babies mouth things when their little as part of their sensory exploration and as they get to know other individuals, they mouth those individuals playfully, affectionately and curiously. Human babies can chew and suck on mom & dad’s hands with impunity for about 6 or 7 months or so before that first tooth comes in, but puppies are born with needle sharp teeth and it is no fun having those on your skin!

Those teeth, however, serve a valuable purpose; They help teach a pup that biting is not acceptable acceptable before his jaws become powerful enough to do too much damage. How is that? They hurt! Very little pressure is needed to inflict pain with teeth as sharp as a puppy’s milk teeth and the reaction of a pup’s playmate to the least bit of pressure will help your pup learn how to keep his mouth “soft” when playing. Of course, if the reaction is very exciting or amusing, it can have the opposite effect. If your puppy learns that he can use his teeth to get his playmate to make really interesting noises and flail around in funny ways, he is going to do it again and again, simply for entertainment value.

Problems arise when a pup bites a human and that human shrieks, squeals, yells (sounds like barking Yay!), jumps up, waves their arms around, etc. All of this looks like great fun for a pup and encourages him to bite again. Pushing him away just makes the game more challenging. Running away makes the game really exciting. The more energy the human puts into getting the pup off of him, the more energy the pup puts into getting his teeth on that human again so that when he finally does, he does it with even more force than last time and that hurts even worse! So the cycle continues until someone, usually a small child, gets hurt.

Dogs, on the other hand, are much more effective about getting their point across when they want playbiting to stop. The let the pup know vocally and then withdraw and end the game. The message is loud and clear, “I am not happy with what you are doing and I’m not playing with you anymore.” The pup looks confused and disappointed for a moment and then runs off to pester someone else. He’ll soon learn that playtime lasts longer if he’s gentle with his teeth and ends when he gets too bitey. This is the message that humans need to try to cultivate as well.

The good news about playbiting is that your puppy will outgrow it if you don’t allow it to become a habit. However, if you allow playbiting and  even encourage it as in the scenario above, your dog could be a handmouther for life (or until you train it out of him). The good news there is that his adult teeth won’t be nearly as sharp as those puppy teeth are.

How to Break the Playbiting Habit

1. Allow your puppy to spend time playing with other puppies and older dogs from an early age. The dogs will teach your puppy using dog language, which is much easier for your pup to understand. Supervise these play groups carefully though. If your pup is bullying another pup or gnawing like crazy on some old dame that doesn’t seem to mind, you’ll need to intervene. Remove him from the playgroup and put him in a quiet place for time out for 5-10 minutes and then try again.

2. Communicate your displeasure with his playbiting in a way your dog can understand. Use a low, disapproving voice. (Don’t yell and don’t “yelp”. Loud voices and high pitched noises are just too exciting to be seen as a correction.) Use only a few short words like “No biting” and freeze for three seconds. If your pup eases off, praise him and continue your game. If he doesn’t ease off, remove him or yourself from the room and give him a 5-10 minute time out. Do this calmly and gently, excessive emotion on your part will just get him more excited.

3. Instruct children to stop playing with the dog if he starts to get to rough and bitey, but don’t trust them to obey this directive. Always supervise children when they are playing with the dog. If you see him start mouthing on them say “No biting” in a low, calm, disapproving voice, and put him in time out for 5-10 minutes.

4. Pay close attention to your pup’s activities and take note of what triggers play biting incidents and try to avoid those triggers. Some pups will begin play biting only after play has reached a certain energetic pitch and some will start gnawing when they are overtired.

5. Make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise and has safe, appropriate chew toys.

You will notice that after a few corrections your bite-free play sessions with your pup will get gradually longer until you can play with him bite free. It will be quicker and easier to teach a puppy to refrain from playbiting than it will an adult dog who has developed the habit. It is always more difficult to break a habit than to simply teach proper behavior in the first place. So start early and be consistent.

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People Food

A lot of my clients have gotten strict advice from vets or other trainers never to feed their dogs “people food” and I don’t always tend to agree with this advice. In fact, I feel that in some cases, feeding your dog “people food” is better than feeding your dog the stuff you get at the pet store. If you take a look at the ingredients on some of your dog treats, you might notice some nasty stuff in there; like corn syrup and sugar. Dogs like sweet, but they don’t need sugar. A chunk of apple, a carrot, a slice of banana or a blueberry is plenty sweet for them and they’ll perform for these just as happily as a sugar-laden dog treat. If you are going to feed your dog “people food”, there are some rules you should follow.

1. Whole foods only. Do not feed your dogs cookies, candy, cake, bread, chips, or other “junk” foods. If you are going to feed your dog real food, feed him real food. Lean meat, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.

2. Know what’s safe. There are some things that are edible by and even very healthy for humans that are toxic to dogs. Don’t give your dogs any of these: chocolate, onions, grapes or raisins, avocado, macadamia nuts and anything containing alcohol or caffeine. The artificial sweetener xylitol is also poisonous to dogs. Many dogs are lactose intolerant so it’s a good idea to stay away from dairy products. Those that have been cultured, like yogurt and cheese, are usually better tolerated. Also, too much liver can harm your dog, though he loves it. Reserve liver for very special treats only.

3. Don’t feed your dog anything you wouldn’t eat. Fat and bones, spoiled food, all of these things you wouldn’t or couldn’t eat. Don’t feed them to your dog. He is just as likely to get sick from it as you are. Raw eggs, fish and meat (particularly pork) carry risks of bacteria and parasites that can make both of you very sick as well, but cooked fish and eggs are wonderfully nutritious for both you and your dog.

4. Prepare it well. Remove any seeds, stems, bones, skin and fat. Cook meat, fish and eggs to a safe temperature. Cook grains till they are soft. Potatoes should also be thoroughly cooked. Do not add sugar or salt.

5. Portion Control. Remember that all the food you give you dog should be earned as a reward or placed in his bowl at feeding time. Remember too that all the food you give him counts toward his daily calories so whenever you give him something special, you have to reduce his other food by a similar amount.

6 . Insist on Manners. Never feed your dog from the table, or from your plate. This encourages bad habits. If you would like to give your dog some leftovers, set aside a portion to go into his bowl at his next scheduled feeding time. Or, after  you have finished eating and dinner is all put away, you can let him earn some tasty tidbits by doing some tricks for you.

The all beings said, here are some great “people food” treats for your dog:

Diced pieces of grilled, baked or steamed chicken.
Small pieces of yogurt cheese.
Peeled, sliced apple bits.
A whole raw carrot – this is a great chew toy, but messy!
Blueberries – cut them in half and feed them to him one by one.
Steamed green beans (this is great to add to your dog’s kibble when you’re trying to cut calories.)

Remember that these suggestions are for treats, not for a homemade diet for your dog. If you are interested in a homemade diet for your dog, you will need to do a lot of research and preparation to ensure that you are meeting his nutritional needs. The following books might be useful for you.

Feed Your Best Friend Better: Easy, Nutritious Meals and Treats for Dogs

The Healthy Dog Cookbook: 50 Nutritious & Delicious Recipes Your Dog Will Love

For personal service, by phone, chat or in person, visit to learn how to get in touch with me directly!