Monthly Archives: December 2011

Positive and Reward-Based Dog Training Schools

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training

dog-obedience-schoolAccording to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, punishment should not be used as a primary approach to dog training.1 When an animal is punished, it indicates that the dog knew exactly what was expected of him and disobeyed on purpose. But in most cases, dogs are simply confused and have not been given the proper reinforcement to behave well in the first place.

A dog cannot be successfully trained when he is constantly afraid of making a mistake.

With that being said, choosing a dog training school that uses positive reinforcement can make a world of difference in successfully training your pet. When your dog is rewarded for good behavior, he will make a positive association with the actions he just performed. Once your dog understands that he will be given a treat or reward for good behavior, he will naturally want to repeat the action again and again because of the positive reinforcement.

When you are looking for a dog training school, it’s critical that you understand this concept. There are many dog training schools online and in your local area to choose from, but the style of training that a school uses will determine whether or not your dog can learn new, good behaviors in a short amount of time.

How to Find Positive Dog Training Schools

If you have already started looking online for dog training schools in your area, make sure that you are searching specifically for keywords like “positive”, “rewards”, and “reinforcements”. You can’t just assume that a dog training school will use positive reinforcement. You must actively seek out local dog training schools that use rewards-based training methods to ensure that your dog is in good hands.

Observe a Class

If you still have questions about the style of teaching that a dog training school uses, ask to observe one of their classes in progress. This will give you the chance to understand the process that a training school implements to reward good behavior and discourage negative behavior in a pet.

All methods used by dog training schools should be humane and positive.

It’s also important that class sizes in dog training schools are small enough to provide each dog with the individual attention that they need. If a class is large, it is essential that a dog trainer has multiple assistants to observe and facilitate training in the class.

Most importantly, look for dog training schools that have an attentive, respectful trainer leading the class. Any trainers that use physical force, like pushing, alpha rolling, choking with a collar, or hitting, should be avoided at all costs. Additionally, watch for trainers that talk down to pet owners whose dogs aren’t making progress. A trainer must be patient and willing to use positive techniques to give a dog the opportunity to learn new associations with good behavior.

Here are a few more questions that you can ask yourself when observing classes at dog training schools:

  • Are the dogs happy, or do they look stressed?
  • Are the pet owners talking to their dogs in positive, happy voices, or are they scolding and yelling?
  • Are the dogs’ tails wagging and upright or tucked between their legs?

These visual cues will help you better understand what type of environment a dog training school is creating. Even if a school claims to use positive reinforcement training, if a class environment feels negative, tense, or harsh, it should be avoided.

Finally, take a moment to talk with current students after class. This is your opportunity to get testimonials and receive personal recommendations. Ask students how they are enjoying the class and how they feel that their dogs have progressed so far.

If the pet owners and dogs appear happy and comfortable in a training class and give you their recommendation, then congratulations – the odds are that you have found a positive training class to teach your dog good behavior!

1.    “American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.” N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2011.

10 Crate Training Tips

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Tips

The ultimate goal of crate training should be to provide your dog with a safe, cozy, and content environment that they can go to throughout the day and to sleep in at night. Once you acclimate your dog through crate training, it will also make it easier to travel and transport your dog to the groomer or the vet.

If you’re new to crate training, here are 10 basic guidelines you can use to have a positive, productive training experience:

  1. Use the right size crate. The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in comfortably, but it shouldn’t be so big that they can run or jump inside. If the crate is too big, the dog will not see it as a bed and will be more likely to soil in one corner and sleep in the other.
  2. Don’t reward barking. When you first approach crate training, your dog will probably bark or whine to get out. Do not under any circumstance let your dog out of the crate if he is barking because this will reinforce bad behavior.
  3. Always leave a water bowl inside of the crate. The whole purpose of crate training is to provide your dog with a secure, comfortable environment. It’s also important to give your dog access to water when he is crated for several hours at a time.
  4. Don’t leave your dog in the crate for too long. This is where crate training can quickly turn from a positive to a negative experience. Do not leave your dog in the crate for more than four hours at a time. If you have a puppy, don’t leave it in the crate for more than three hours. If you work long hours, consider hiring a dog walker or checking your dog into doggie daycare so that he doesn’t remain confined in a crate all day long.
  5. Take your dog outside immediately. Crate training can be used for several purposes, but it should always go back to housetraining. Even as your dog gets older, he should be taken outside immediately after opening the crate to reinforce this behavior.
  6. Keep the crate in a quiet place. This will help to teach your dog that his crate is a place for comfort and rest. Loud noises and distractions will only be likely to agitate and upset your dog while he is in the crate.
  7. Choose a comfortable dog bed. Your dog will need something comfortable to sleep on in the crate; a soft, plush dog bed will make your dog more attracted to his crate as a place of rest.
  8. Don’t let children or other animals play in the crate. Your dog must see the crate as his sanctuary, and once he does, he will likely become territorial. Respect your dog’s private space by keeping children and other pets out of the crate at all times.
  9. Choose a simple command to encourage your dog to enter the crate. You may want to use clicker training to train your dog to enter the crate or a short command like “House”. Once your dog enters the crate, praise and reward him with a treat.
  10. Don’t rush it. Crate training is a process that will take time and will provide the best results when it isn’t rushed or forced. If your dog seems uncomfortable entering the crate at any time, back up in your crate training method to allow him to acclimate.

Start slowly by keeping the crate door open with treats inside. After several days of this, close the crate door with the dog inside, and then let him out. After several more days, leave the dog inside for longer and longer periods of time until he becomes comfortable in his new environment.

What is Clicker Training

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training

What is Clicker Training? Simply put, clicker training is an easy and effective animal training method that has become popular over the past ten years because of its gentle approach. Clicker training is also often referred to by its scientific name: operant conditioning.

At its most basic level, clicker training uses the way that a dog interacts with its environment. It encourages a dog to repeat behaviors that have positive consequences and refrain from behaviors with negative consequences.

However, in order for a dog to connect positive reinforcement with an action, it must be rewarded as good behavior occurs and not a moment afterward. Thus, a clicker becomes beneficial in training because it makes a distinct clicking sound that stands out to the ear of a dog. The clicking is quicker and more effective than praising a dog for good behavior. When a clicker is used with positive reinforcement, it becomes a powerful tool to train and improve the behavior of a dog.

How to Use Clicker Training

Clicker training is first taught by associating a clicking sound from a clicker with one treat. Your dog will quickly learn that one click equals one treat as a reward for good behavior. A dog will associate that whatever behavior they just did earned them one treat, reinforced by the clicking sound.

This proven training method can be used to train complete tricks and behaviors. Remember, in order for clicker training to be successful, you must click at the exact moment that a behavior occurs. When your dog sits, the clicker clicks.

Think of it this way: clicking is like taking a picture of the behavior you want your dog to repeat again and again. After you click to “take the picture”, you will give your dog a treat to train a behavior with positive reinforcement.

Within two or three clicks, a dog will quickly associate a click with a reward. If a dog wants another treat – which he will – he will be encouraged to repeat the good behavior again and again.

At what stage should you give up the rewards and only use the clicker for training? The answer is never! A clicker is not intended to replace a reward; it is used to emphasize that good behavior earns a treat. If you stop giving your dog rewards, the clicker will quickly lose its power as a training tool.

A strong reward after a click will yield the best training results for your dog.

Clicker Training: Put It to Practice

According to clicker training expert Karen Pryor, “101 Things to Do with a Box” is an excellent concept to use to enter into clicker training for the first time. This is a training tool taken from a dolphin research project in 1969, published in the Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior.1 The approach can be used as a crossover training tool for dogs of all ages and sizes.

  1. Use a plain cardboard box of any size. Trim the sides until they are three inches tall and place the box on the floor.
  2. Click your dog for anything they do related to the box. Example: if the dog sniffs the box, click and provide a treat.
  3. Do not help or encourage the dog to interact with the box. Allow him to play with the box naturally, and click and provide a treat for repeat behavior.

Use this same training method for several sessions until basic behaviors are reinforced. From there, take it to the next level. Click the dog for nudging the box, pawing the box, getting inside of the box, dragging the box, etc.

Click the moment the behavior happens and not a second after. As soon as your dog hears the click in this second level of training, he will stop to receive a treat. The dog will understand that the click is used to mark his behavior, and he will repeat that behavior again and again to get a treat.


  1. “101 Things to Do with a Box.” N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.

How to Deal with an Aggressive Dog

By Sally Gutteridge | Behavior , Posts

snarling_dogWhen you talk to another person in day-to-day life, you pick up on hundreds of body language cues without even realizing it. But did you know that your dog gives off the same cues regarding their temperament, mood, and behavior by using their body language?

When it comes to managing an aggressive dog, understanding body language is key. Assessing the body language of an aggressive dog can mean the difference between getting bitten and stopping a violent situation before it starts.

Here are several basic body language cues in an aggressive dog:

  • Ears – Back or forward, pulled close to the head.
  • Eyes – Narrow or staring.
  • Mouth – Open lips, snarling teeth.
  • Body – Tense, rigid, in a dominant position.
  • Tail – Fur sticking up, tail sticking straight out.
  • Behavior – Snarling, growling, barking.

Some of the behavioral cues listed above are obvious, like snarling or growling. Other behavioral cues from an aggressive dog are more subtle, like narrow eyes and a rigid body position.

Defensive Aggression versus Aggressive Attack

There’s a dramatic difference between defensive aggression and an aggressive attack. If a dog feels like they’re in danger, they will exhibit a fight-or-flight response, similar to humans. An example would be if a dog is on a leash and becomes frightened by another dog. His natural instinct will be to flee, but he may be forced to go on defensive attack if he is held captive on a leash.

Many people believe that a dog this situation is an aggressive dog, but this dog is actually fearful. This behavior is what is known as defensive aggression.

Here are several behavioral cues to make a distinction:

  • Ears – Back
  • Eyes – Pupils dilated
  • Mouth – Tense, teeth exposed
  • Body – Tense, fur raised
  • Tail – Down and between legs
  • Behavior – Snarling

Clearly, the body language between a defensive and an aggressive dog is quite different. A defensive dog is reacting out of his flight instinct; an aggressive dog is reacting out of his fight instinct.

How to Prevent a Dog Bite

Whether a dog is defensive or aggressive, he may be prone to bite if he feels threatened or attacked. Understanding both of the behavioral cues listed above will make it easier to manage a situation if a dog is snarling and showing signs that it may bite.

According to the Humane Society, the worst thing that you can do when faced with a defensive or aggressive dog is to turn your back and ran away.1

This again plays into the natural instinct of a dog to chase you, catch you, and bite you. Another fairly obvious tip to prevent a dog bite is to never disturb a dog when it is eating, sleeping, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies.

If a dog has shown aggressive behavioral cues, you can use the following tips to prevent an attack:

  • Do not scream or run away.
  • Keep your hands at your sides, stay still, and avoid eye contact.
  • Allow the dog to lose interest.
  • Slowly back away from the dog.
  • If the dog lunges to bite, throw a jacket, bag, bicycle, or another object in his path.
  • If you are knocked to the ground, curl into the fetal position, place your hands over your ears, and stay still. Try to react as little as possible.

If your dog is showing signs of aggression, the best thing that you can do to prevent him from biting or attacking is to socialize him. Find a trainer that works well with aggressive dogs in order to slowly condition your dog to accept new dogs and strangers.

Additionally, if your dog has not been spayed or neutered, this could greatly reduce aggression and make it easier to socialize your dog in new situations. A routine procedure like neutering will make your dog less likely to fight with other dogs and bite strangers.

Make no mistake – aggression is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Avoiding or ignoring the behavioral signs listed above will only make the problem worse and could endanger those around you.


  1. “How to Avoid a Dog Bite: The Humane Society of the United States.” The Humane Society of the United States: The Humane Society of the United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.

How to Train a Puppy During Your First 30 Days

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Puppies

Bringing a puppy home for the first time is a fun and exciting occasion. That is, until reality sets in, and you realize that you have quite a bit of work on your hands when it comes to house training and stopping a brand-new puppy from chewing and barking.

The first 30 days are the most critical when it comes to how to train a puppy after introducing it to your home. These 30 days will make or break the relationship you have with your pet for the rest of its life. The good news is that you can use helpful training tips to greatly reduce a number of common behavioral issues in new puppies, like:

  • Biting
  • Chewing
  • Barking
  • Housetraining accidents

But where to begin? You must start training your puppy from day one. To train a puppy, you need to communicate in a way that it can understand – which is always in the moment. A puppy can only learn by what you reinforce with a reward or when you punish it for doing something wrong.

Chewing: If your puppy is playful and spends time playing with its new toys, you can use that opportunity to reinforce. Give a treat and lots of praise and petting to show your puppy that its good behavior has been rewarded.

On the other hand, if your puppy starts to chew on your sofa, punishment is important to stop the behavior in its tracks. Punish by saying an “AHH!” word to startle it and redirect attention to a chew toy. Once the puppy starts chewing on the toy, reward it immediately.


Housetraining: The only way to stop a puppy from soiling in the house is to catch it in the act. This is then the opportunity to punish by startling the puppy in the same way with an “AHH!” word and then take it outside. Once the puppy successfully uses the toilet outside, it should be rewarded with a treat, praise, and petting each time.

Crate training can be used to effectively establish a housetraining routine for your puppy. Puppies naturally won’t want to soil their sleeping area, so keeping your puppy temporarily crated will make it easier to place it on a toilet schedule. When your puppy doesn’t soil the crate and instead uses the toilet outdoors, praise and reward to reinforce this action.

Biting and Barking: In order to avoid aggressive behavior toward humans and dogs, your puppy must be socialized as soon as possible. Then it can learn how to interact with other dogs and humans of all sizes. This can be best done by taking puppy training classes and even spending time in front of a public place like the supermarket so that your puppy can learn to meet strangers.

Once again, reward all good behavioral interactions immediately; punish the puppy by startling and redirecting attention when you catch it in the act of biting or barking at a stranger.

It’s important not to punish your puppy with hitting or harsh words. Instead, focus most on rewarding good behavior and use the startling technique to redirect and punish bad behavior.

 How to Train a Puppy: 3 Important Rules

Timing: As you learn how to train a puppy, keep in mind that timing is of the utmost importance. Make sure to tackle the task of training within at least the first 30 days after bringing your puppy home. If you put it off, your puppy is going to dominate your house and further solidify any bad behaviors it has learned.

Even though you may want to cuddle with and pamper your puppy, training from day one in your home is critical. When it comes to timing to train a puppy, make sure you steer clear of training if your puppy is overly excited, tired, or exploring. If you don’t have the complete attention of your puppy, you will be wasting your time in your training sessions.

  • Balanced Diet: What does a balanced diet have to do with how to train a puppy? Everything!  If you’re giving your puppy table scraps regularly, not only will this affect its health, but it will cause it to have serious problems with household accidents.

Feed your puppy high quality, nutritious dog food three times a day; reduce feedings to twice a day as the puppy grows older. This regular feeding will make a puppy’s bathroom use more predictable so that you can schedule times to take it outside to prevent accidents.

  • Short and Sweet: When it comes to how to train a puppy to sit, heel, or go outside to use the bathroom, you can liken your puppy to a small child. Puppies have a short attention span of only 5 to 10 minutes. Use these short blocks of time to train a puppy two to three times per day for the best results.

So … What’s next?

Here at the Dog Trick Academy we’re a bunch of dog lovers who enjoy helping new dog owners like you, learn how to train their dog. And we don’t limit ourselves to the basics, oh no, we train all sorts of cool tricks and behaviors that would make your friends amazed.

For more information on how you can start training your dog today, visit our Dog Forum!