Staying Put in 3Ds

When we are learning a new skill, it can be helpful to break the pieces down into parts. The same is true when we are teaching a new skill. That's what I will try to do here, for teaching your dog to "stay." Every dog knows how to stay. Don't believe me? Even the most off-the-wall crazy puppies and young dogs sleep sometimes, and, when they do, they stay in one place, at least for a little while. What gets them up? People moving around, having slept enough, food, or a noise outside are all possibilities. Basically, anything that makes staying in one place seem like less of a good idea than moving around. These tempting alternatives are the same that we face when teaching a stay. They fall into categories often broadly described as the "Three Ds": Distance, Duration, and Distraction. Distance refers to the distance between the person asking for the stay and the dog. Really, this is not so surprising. We...
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Day 30: Safe Spaces

It is important that your dog have a safe place in your house to go when necessary. This could be a crate, dog-safe room, or other location. For Sirius, he goes in his crate when we leave the house, because it is the safest place for him to avoid dangers such as stairs while unsupervised. Safe spaces may also be used when contractors are in your house, when your dog needs a quiet area, or for other reasons. Your dog's safe space should be just that—a safe space and not a punishment. Ideally, your dog would know how to go to his or her safe space on a cue. ...
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Day 29: Use Outside Cues

We make heavy use of visual and verbal cues in dog training, but we often see the other cues in the environment as an impediment rather than a help. We complain that our dog won't sit in an unfamiliar location or come in the face of a competing distraction. These are issues that we have to train to overcome, but we can also build situations that allow us to use outside cues in our favor. One of my personal favorites of this type is the use of a special bed or blanket for relaxation exercises. When consistently used for this purpose, the bed or blanket becomes an independent relaxation cue, reinforcing the cue you are giving. ...
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Day 27: Have a Release Cue

If you are asking your dog to stay in one place for a given length of time and she is listening, that's great! Now here is the next step: letting your dog know that she can move around again. Many people instinctively want to use "OK!", but I would caution against doing so. "OK" is such a common phrase and is used so widely in our culture that it becomes very easy to accidentally release your dog with potentially problematic—or event dangerous—results. Instead, choose a word that isn't part of your regular lexicon or used for another training activity. Personally, I use "Let's go!" ...
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Day 24: Practice Something Fun

Sometimes it's important to remember that dog training is also about fun. It's best experienced as an enjoyable way of bonding with your pet. To remember that, make sure to practice things you both enjoy. I love Sirius's turn and he loves it too—as he has been known to express by trying out the turn when I have asked him for something else, although that wasn't the case tonight. ...
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Day 19: Puppy Pushup

Now that you have brushed up on a lot of different skills, how about combining them? A sit-down-sit combination is fairly simple, but it can be a fun trick to show off if branded as a "puppy pushup." Trying this will also give you an idea of how well your dog has learned sit and down. Many dogs have trouble returning to the sit from the down position if they have primarily learned it from a standing position. ...
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Day 17: Indoor Recall

Recall is of life and death importance outside when your dog is running towards potential danger. It's also important inside the house. You need your dog to move to you inside when required. If you only call your dog inside for baths or nail trims, your dog isn't going to be motivated to come when you call inside—unless he knows a walk or ball of food is coming. ...
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Day 15: Surfaces

Your dog is probably used to walking on carpet and sidewalks. Maybe you also have tile and hardwood floors in your home. And likely your dog also spends time on grass. But how comfortable is your dog on grates or drains? What about docks and piers? Dogs don't instinctively understand these different surfaces. You can help your dog by introducing him or her to different surfaces early and taking as much time as needed to adjust. You won't cover every surface your dog may encounter in life, but you can help increase his or her overall comfort with new surfaces....
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Day 12: Life Rewards

Yesterday, I mentioned storing food treats around the house. This is a great tool, especially for food motivated dogs. There are other types of rewards as well. These include non-food items (toys, chews) and activities (walks, bell rubs). Often called "life rewards," it is important that these rewards actually be rewarding for your dog. Is a bath rewarding? Probably not for most dogs, but possibly for some. Is a walk rewarding? Probably for most dogs, but possibly not for some. Your knowledge of your dog will be the best way for you to judge what is a good life reward. However, it is important to think about what is rewarding for your dogs rather than what you think "should" be rewarding. This may differ from one dog to another and from one circumstance to another. For example, for one dog, a belly rub may be rewarding in the living room, but not on a walk. For another dog, it may not be rewarding...
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