Best of the Barking Butler

Posted on March 19, 2020May 7, 2021Categories Assistance Dog Skills, Great Tricks, Training Methods, Uncategorized, VideosTags , , , , , , , , ,

Have you ever wished your dog could pass your husband that wrench? Or that you could send your dog to the garden with a note for mother? One of the best tricks you can teach your barking butler is to deliver objects to targets. In this article, we will go through the 3 simple steps it takes to teach your dog to deliver an object to another person.

Roscoe learns to deliver an object between 2 people

Teach ‘take it to mom/dad’

Pre-requisite training: Retrieving is required, knowing names is helpful too.

Step 1: Stand 8 ft apart from your partner. The sender has the dog retrieve an easy item like a glove by handing it to them or tossing it on the ground. The sender cues ‘get it,’ but as the dog comes to deliver it, the sender points and says ‘take it to (name).’

Step 2: Now the sender must be quiet and let the receiver do the talking. Sender stands still and stares at the receiver while they ask the dog to ‘bring it here.’ The sender cannot offer any further encouragement, nor should they cue the dog again. This is key. If the sender keeps talking, the dog won’t stop looking at them and go off to the receiver.

Step 3: Fade the hint by waiting 2 full seconds after the sender says “take it to-” before helping. Your dog will already be on their way over most of the time, and will require less and less encouragement from the receiver.

Simple as 1-2-3! Now you can try new objects and locations. Increase distance until the dog can deliver to someone in another room without the receiver helping at all.


Near the end of the video I left some demonstrations of how to handle setbacks, such as the dog dropping the item either halfway there or just as they deliver it. At one point Roscoe simply trots off without ever getting the item.

The person who is to receive the delivery is the person who needs to encourage the retrieve. The sender must always remain silent after giving the ‘take it to’ cue.

If the dog drops the item, ask them to retrieve it again rather than picking it up yourself.

If the ‘get it’ is a complete fail to begin with (as in the case that they march off with nothing), then the sender will have to call the dog back to start over, but once the dog has the item, the sender must stay silent.

Enjoy your dog’s new skill!

Move over, Lassie, here comes my dog, and he’s got a message for you and my mom! (that he’s the bestest boy there is).

Accepting And Guiding Your Dog’s Choices

Posted on January 12, 2016Categories Animal Behavior, Common Mistakes Owners Make, Dogs, Training MethodsTags ,

stubborn bichon

Photo Credit to Gareth1953

People are always trying to make their dog be good.

They drag the leash this way and that, choke the dog, pick up the dog, physically force it to do what they want while insisting “sit sit sit sit SIT!”. But it keeps on trying to misbehave. Unless something changes, they will live in a constant state of war.

Don’t fight your dog. Don’t try to force your dog to do your bidding, because it will just make the dog wish he didn’t have to.

Isn’t it better to have your dog actively choose for herself that she wants to please and obey you? Isn’t it better for her to see food on the coffee table and choose not to steal it, or to see a cat and choose not to chase it?

Instead of trying to make your dog behave in a certain way, set up a world in which your dog will actively choose to do so.

Set up basic positive and negative consequences – if the dog sits, he gets dinner. If he doesn’t, then no dinner. If the dog walks close to you, she gets to continue her walk and gets the occasional treat. If she goes up ahead and drags, the walk stops. Too bad for her.

Then let the dog make his or her own choices.

At first those choices will be the wrong ones.

He misses a meal. She only gets to go three feet down the front path.

You don’t yell, you don’t nag, you don’t force. You simply accept the dog’s choice and enact the consequence that comes with it, good or bad.

Then the dog decides that he doesn’t like this. So he chooses. He chooses to sit. He chooses to walk nicely on leash.

You can’t make a living thing do anything. You have to respect that they are independant living, thinking, feeling beings who make their own choices for their own reasons. Your role is to guide them by giving them reasons to do what you would like them to do and let them choose to do it themselves.

And if they do the “wrong” thing, then that was their decision and we respect and honor it… as well as the consequences that come with it.

A dog’s life is too short to spend fighting. You and your dog should be a joyful team, not opposing armies in a battle of wills. So drop the war, take a look at how you would like your dog’s behaviour to change, and then set up your dog’s world so that it will be easy for her to choose to do so.

And if you need help… you know where to find us!

Dog Walk a Drag?

Posted on February 3, 2015April 6, 2021Categories Dogs, Training MethodsTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

Follow this one rule:

Don’t follow your dog.

Loose leash walking really is that simple but if it was that easy, no one would have invented the choke chain–and your dog wouldn’t still be pulling. It is easier to teach a dog to fetch beer from the fridge than to remain at heel while a cat runs across the street but it is well worth the effort, and here’s why:

  • Collars can damage the trachea when a dog lunges and will damage the trachea over time spent pulling on leash.
  • A dog that pulls on leash won’t look back to their owner as much and will continue to move forward if the leash is dropped.
  • A dog who pulls on leash is much more likely to break or destroy their collar or leash and is much more likely to run away.

Not only is it not safe, it sucks:

  • Your dog doesn’t care for the crying about your shoulder injury. This was supposed to be a nice walk in the park.
  • Your dog doesn’t understand why you are pulling on their leash either. It is especially confusing when they are trying to relate to other dogs and people. A dog that greets with tension in the leash and a tense owner will grow tense, anxious, and ultimately reactive.
  • Yes, I just said that. Dogs that pull on leash are more likely to have other problem behaviours, including the dreaded ‘aggression,’ and the ever un-popular ‘OMG is that a (insert chicken bone, anti-freeze, condom, or otherwise disgusting thing) your dog pulled you off your feet to gulp down?’ -Yes, that too.
  • Your walks will be less frequent. It isn’t pleasant and your friends and family don’t want to walk them either. This lack of stimulation completes the cycle and here we are again, at the end of our rope.

Always follow the rule; never follow your dog. From now on, each step you take will be together.

“Let’s Go!”  Teach Walking On A Loose Leash

Step 1: Increase Exercise

This is step 1, no matter what behaviour problem you may have. Increase exercise in general, and also just prior to training sessions to ensure the dog isn’t climbing the walls when we want to work on a skill that requires self control. Balance physical exercise with mental stimulation. Teach something new, go somewhere new, make a treasure hunt; train them! Tricks aren’t just a great way to give your dog the one-on-one attention they deserve, it is time well spent; 10 minutes is equal to 30 minutes of physical exercise when your goal is to create a calm, biddable dog. Try playing fetch or working on a fun trick before trying the exercises below.

Step 2: Practice Walking

  • Walk around the house or yard and say “Yes!” when your dog happens to look at you, in the eye.
  • Pair “Yes!” with a treat, delivered right next to your leg
  • Name this command – “Let’s go!”

Practice giving the treat as you walk, with your fingers glued to your leg, at your dog’s shoulder height. Even if you dog jumps up or forges ahead between your perfectly timed ‘yes’ and when they came to that perfect heel position to eat the treat, you will still be rewarding the eye contact and 4 paws on the floor that occurred at the moment you said ‘yes,’ so make sure your timing is good and make sure your treat delivery is in the right place. If you dog is on your left side, you should use your left hand to deliver the treat.

Treat delivery options

If your dog is snapping at your fingers, simply place the treats right next to your heel as you walk. Continue to say ‘yes’ for eye contact, then place the treat on the ground next to your heel. You might need to point the treats out at first, but soon they will focus downward–making this “hansel and gretel method” helpful in distracting environments. If you have a particularly athletic or fast dog, you can bowl an extra treat even farther away and they can have fun racing back to the heel position. If your dog is slow or not paying very much attention to you–be more animated and interesting.

Step 3: Practice Stopping

  • Say “yes!” and reward your dog for stopping with you
  • Or say “whoops’” (to mark ‘no reward) as your dog passes you
  • Turn, and repeat
  • Don’t forget to release them when you’re done

Note: If you are training your dog for public access, you’ll want to practice the automatic sit instead of the stopping exercise above.

Introducing the leash

Getting the hang of it? Dog glued to your side as you walk around the house or yard? Let’s introduce the leash. I want you to use a 4-6ft leash, and a secure collar or harness. Wrap your leash around your thumb, and then hold the rest tightly in your grip, keeping your hand held at your right hip if your dog is on your left. There should be enough slack to create a J shape. Soon, you’ll have your other hand free to hold the leash and you’ll swing that arm naturally as you walk, but for now you need to hold treats and it will actually be helpful to hold the leash across your body. The length of the leash should remain relatively constant, resist the urge to gather up the leash or wrap it around your wrist. You’ll end up walking your dog like a marionette, with constant tension in the leash and zero leverage to fall back on should your dog lunge powerfully.

Cut out Crossing in behind

When your dog moves to cross behind you, keep holding the leash at your hip and ensure your dog learns that crossing behind you is like walking on the wrong side of a pole–it doesn’t work–the leash gets in the way and they end up having to come back around. When needed, move your dog to your other side by having them cross in front of you, never behind you.

‘Better Hurry’ Teach the sniff cue

Stop to smell the roses–no, really stop–and stop often. Don’t expect your dog to walk too far before you stop dead and tell them to sniff here. There ought to be a very clear release to your ‘let’s go/heel’ cue. Make sure your dog knows when to stop and sniff and pee. Your dog might stare up at you at first, but soon they will learn that this is the pattern of the walk–we walk together–and then we stop to sniff. If they try to pull you off your spot, keep your leash at your waist and your weight back in your heels. Sit back and don’t let that dog pull you one measly step. Hopefully, if you aren’t in a hurry, you can let your dog sniff each spot for as long as they want. You’ll find yourself covering far less ground than you might expect, especially at first. It is important to keep walks short and to stop often for sniff breaks so that it is easy for you to keep your dog’s attention and for your dog’s energy to last you all the way home. Your dog must also come to realize that looking you in the eye leads them to all the places they were pulling you to before. Soon, your dog will come to realize that simply going and pulling to somewhere they want doesn’t work, but looking at you does, your dog will think that they are training you! You’ll get more attention, not less, when faced with distractions. It sound like a magical miracle but it is possible, it is just not easy at first, so take it easy on yourself, take it one tree at a time.

Go back and forth on your block until they get it, then move on toward the park but never, ever get lazy and let them pull you, not one measly step. If your dog won’t follow you, you need a hungrier dog, a happier voice, a boring environment, and a better treat. You’ll need to put in a lot of (sometimes embarrassing) effort to keep your dog interested in where YOU are going. Can you be more exciting than the grass and the hydrant? Can you be hotter than the scent of a female in heat? Than a cat running across the street!?

Practice turning suddenly and often. Make tight 360 turns, especially toward the dog–cutting them off as they think of forging ahead. Make your voice as animated as possible, changing tone and volume as often as you change speed and direction. Keep the conversation going the whole way between this tree and the fire hydrant 1/3 of the way down the block. Make it your goal to reward more, not less. Give as many treats as you can. At first you might just get a second of eye contact at a time before your dog looks at the environment again. Say ‘yes!’ and reward each and every glance up with real, stinky meat in that sweet spot at your side. Soon, your dog will hold your gaze for many seconds, then it will become easy to hold their attention the entire way to this spot and the next, and the sniff spot itself will have always been the real “treat” your dog was working for.

The reason your dog pulls is because they are getting rewards. It certainly isn’t because you’re back there jerking their chain, yelling ‘no pulling!’ every few steps. They want to sniff, to explore, to meet and greet, and to pee and play. They may have had many years of practice and received many wonderful rewards for pulling in the past, so this will not stop over night. So don’t be shocked when they ‘pull’ this stunt again and again and again. Your job is to always keep your cool and always follow the rule, not your dog.

If I can’t follow my dog, then what can I do?

You must answer this question for your dog: If pulling won’t work–what does?

Other than following your dog, you can do almost anything else:

Go the other way, just stand there, call them back, talk excitedly, and keep the rewards coming once you get them with you. Your dog needs to know that wonderful things are waiting for them right next to you, where the leash is loose. That is where the magic happens. You could say ‘no!’ every single time your dog pulled and that would be all well and good but wouldn’t teach your dog what they need to know. They need to know how to get rewards. Try giving a treat, a pet, whip out a toy and play tug, take a step toward their favourite pee spot, pick up a stick if they’re into it…whatever you think they might want! Every dog is unique, figure out what your dog wants and have it in hand.

What about the ‘anti-pull miracle’ contraptions at the pet store?

Always follow the rule; don’t follow your dog.

No matter what type of collar, martingale, harness, halter, leash, choke chain or Caesar Milan signature set up you may be using, no matter what the reason your dog is pulling, no matter what. I would rather you carry or drive them somewhere than allow them to take another step pulling you on a leash.

Anti-pull harnesses and head halters can be useful tools if you are struggling with your pulling dog. I recommend a front-clip harness if your dog can pull you off balance, and in extreme cases of mismatch between dog and handler strength, you may require a head-halter. Ruffwear sells a great front-clip harness that tends to fit snuggly, if the harness does not fit properly it will not work to turn the dog back toward you and prevent their full body weight from lunging forward and pulling you off balance. Get help from a trainer and make sure that no matter what equipment you use, you never follow your dog, especially if you choose to use special equipment. To apply punishment when the rules are confusing is cruel. In addition, your dog is associating your punishments with you and/or the dogs/people that they pull towards. I would never recommend a prong or choke style collar. Even the front-clip harnesses and head-halters have greater risks and absolutely require that you follow the training protocols lined out here. Simply slapping any of these on and allowing the dog to still forge ahead at the end of a tight leash looking for something to lunge for will undoubtedly lead to pain at the end of the leash and possibly injury.

Follow the rule. The only thing your dog has ever needed to understand was for the message to be clear. Even if your dog looks like they will finally take a poo if you just let them pull you just one foot to the left. Nope. They can try at the next spot, on a loose leash. It will happen. You can do this. I believe in you! Remember that walking along next to you is a very high level skill for most dogs, this will take months to master.

Do not give up. You and your dog deserve to have that nice long walk on the beach together.

Why Training A Stubborn Dog Is Easy

Posted on April 15, 2013December 28, 2020Categories Animal Behavior, Dogs, Training Methods

I love to meet a stubborn dog.

Photo Credit to Gareth1953

Photo Credit to “Gareth1953”

Too many people think that “stubborn” is a negative trait in a dog, and it certainly can be, especially if you employ traditional training methods that pit you and your dog into a battle of wills against each other.

If you tell your Shiba Inu, “get in here, or else!” you can guarantee the dog will be asking “or else… what?”

However, when harnessed correctly, stubbornness is a fantastic trait, because it makes it really easy to train a dog to REFUSE to be bad.

What Is Stubbornness?

Stubbornness can be defined as “fixed in purpose or opinion – resolute.”

Does that sound so bad?

Stubbornness is only bad when the dog is refusing to do what the owner wants him to do, and even then, that is assuming that the owner wants him to be good.

…What if the owner was trying to get him to be bad?

The real secret to training stubborn dogs is to constantly try to get them to misbehave, and reward them for resisting your bad example.

It’s Called Proofing

“Proofing” is the act of trying to get the dog to mess up so you can catch them in the act and correct the behaviour.

For example, say you are teaching your dog to hold a down-stay.

Once your dog understands the basic concept (hold the down position until the release command is given), you need to start making it harder for the dog:

You start walking further away, to see if that will make her break the stay.

When your dog does break, your dog doesn’t get a reward. Instead, the dog has to start all over again. Dogs learn fast. They start to hold the stay, and you have to make it harder.

So, you try running away. You try walking in circles around the dog. You try hopping over the dog. You try bouncing balls past her nose. You end up doing a flamenco dance while juggling hot dogs, just trying to get your dog to break the stay.

Now, a non-stubborn dog will break a LOT during this process.

“Soft” dogs are so focused on trying to please you that they fall for the bait every time – when you lean over as if you’re about to call them, when you hold a treat out invitingly, when you bounce a ball, when you say their name…

Stubborn dogs don’t tend to make as many mistakes.

Photo Credit to "Twodolla"

Photo Credit to “Twodolla”

A stubborn dog will think,

“Oh HELL no, you aren’t cheating me out of that cookie! I’m staying put, no matter what kind of trick you try and pull!”

Stubborn dogs are also great in situations that require the dog to think for herself.

Take street safety.

If you want to train a dog to stop automatically at curbs, hope your dog has a stubborn streak.

In order to be properly street trained, a dog needs to stop at curbs without the owner giving a command, and without the owner giving any sign that a curb is approaching.

The whole point is for the dog to recognize a curb and stop despite anything else that may be happening – even if a ball has run right into the road, or a squirrel, the dog needs to stop.

Now, if you take a soft, eager-to-please dog and put him at the edge of a curb, and then try to encourage him off the edge so you can order him back, that poor dog is going to hop off the curb again and again before he finally develops the courage to resist your temptation and refuse to cross.

A stubborn dog doesn’t have that crisis of faith. A stubborn dog learns quickly that resisting your tugs on the leash gets him treats.

Stubborn dogs eat that up.

Pretty soon you can be hauling on your dog’s neck for all you’re worth and he’ll be sitting impassively at the edge of the curb, refusing to cross until he hears the magic word which tells him that he has earned his reward.

If You Have A Stubborn Dog

Change your way of thinking a little.

Instead of constantly trying to convince your dog to be good, try to trick him into being naughty. When he resists you and insists on being good despite your shenanigans, reward him heavily. 

Consider elaborate sting operations. Those are good for a laugh, and great for training.

Eventually, your stubborn dog will come downstairs on Christmas Day, and see an entire turkey dinner laid out on the table with no one around to guard it…

…and she will think,

“Ha! I’m not falling for THAT one! They want me to eat that food so they can get me into trouble. I’ll show them! I’m going to curl up right here on my bed and not touch that delicious food at all!”

I love a stubborn dog. 

-Carol Millman has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a diploma in Animal Health Technology. You can read her bio here.

How to get your stubborn dog to pay attention to you: Reward eye contact. Our best tip for training stubborn dogs is to make them think they are training you. Don’t waste your time begging for your dog’s attention.

You Don’t Need Treats Forever: How To Give Your Dog A Gambling Problem

Posted on March 13, 2013Categories Animal Behavior, Common Mistakes Owners Make, Dogs, Training MethodsTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Hooked On Treats?

photo credit to Elf

When we come to your home and say that we want to teach your dog to sit, lie down, stay, and heel (as well as play dead, close your cupboard doors, ring a bell to go outside, spin in a circle, fetch your keys, jump over your leg and so on…), the first thing we will do is ask you to bring out the high value treats.

Many owners are reluctant to give their dogs treats.

They know too many people (maybe including themselves!) who have dogs who will ONLY obey if they have a treat in their hand.

No one wants to bribe their dog into being obedient.

Nor should you.

What you do want is a dog who obeys you eagerly each and every time you give a command.

How do you do that?

By giving your dog a gambling problem.

Let us take you through the process one step at a time:

Continue reading “You Don’t Need Treats Forever: How To Give Your Dog A Gambling Problem”

Why Everyone Should Own A Long Line

Posted on February 12, 2013Categories Dogs, Training MethodsTags , , , , , , ,

If you own a dog, you should own a long line.

image via

This is true especially if your dog is a young puppy just learning how to walk off leash and come when called. Short leashes tempt people to drag their dogs around. Not only does this teach the dog that a tight leash is normal, but the dog doesn’t learn anything.

Even worse, a tight leash can cause behavior problems, especially when encountering other dogs.

And why use a short leash when you could use a long leash?

We believe in respecting leash laws, but thankfully leash laws don’t specify how long your leash has to be! Since at Wag The Dog, we train dogs to be street-wise, why not end the fight with the four foot line and enjoy a pleasant walk down the street which at least feels like it is off-leash?

Continue reading “Why Everyone Should Own A Long Line”

Deconstructing Dominance: The Science Behind Wag The Dog

Posted on September 29, 2012April 25, 2021Categories 100 Reasons To Love Wag The Dog, Animal Behavior, Common Mistakes Owners Make, Dogs, Training MethodsTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is Your Dog Fighting For Dominance?

Perhaps one of the most commonly touted tenets of dog training is “be the leader”.

Whether the family dog is jumping up, growling, biting, or tugging at the leash, owners are advised by professionals and dog hobbyists alike to “lead the pack”.

It sounds good, and it’s an easy line for lay people to take – “Oh, your dog is misbehaving? You need to be the pack leader and be more dominant.”

Advice for how to do to do this usually involves things like going through doors first, eating first,  or turning your dog upside down, all of which are supposed to mimic the behaviour of wolves in the wild.

People think that they shouldn’t sleep with their dog, shouldn’t let him on the furniture, and shouldn’t share their table scraps.

When we meet a new client, we often listen to embarrassed confessions of doing all these things… and then we surprise them by telling them the truth: If you don’t mind your dog on the bed, it’s not a problem. You won’t create a struggle for power if your dog cuddles with you on the sofa in the evenings.

Yes, if you want your dog listen to you and respond to you, you certainly need to be the leader in the relationship. But that doesn’t mean you need to dominate your dog.

The Science Behind Dominance

Continue reading “Deconstructing Dominance: The Science Behind Wag The Dog”