Change Your Dog’s Behaviour With This One Simple Step

Posted on September 26, 2016Categories Animal Behavior, DogsTags , , , ,

If I was ever held at gunpoint and ordered to give one piece of dog training advice to fix an unknown dog’s unknown behaviour problem, I know exactly what I would say.

No matter why I have been called in to see a dog, I always end up giving this piece of advice, because it solves such a wide variety of behaviour problems. Want to know what it is?

Reward Eye Contact


Just give your dog treats, praise, pats, and play time every time your dog glances up at you.

Sound silly? Try it for a day and you’ll see what an amazing difference it makes.

For one day, carry your dog’s favourite treats, or better yet your dog’s entire day’s worth of meals, in your pocket. EVERY time your dog happens to glance at you, say “yes! Good!” and offer food, and then give him or her lots of love.

Every time.

At first you may need to encourage your dog to look at you. Most dogs are in the habit of looking at other things – trees, the food bowl, cats, fire hydrants. You might need to make kissy noises or jump around to get your dog to glance in your direction. But as soon as they do, no matter how quick of a glance it is, throw a party.

By the end of the day, your dog will be following you around, staring constantly into your face.

What does that mean?

Well, it means that your dog is not trying to chew your shoes or break into the garbage or urinate behind the sofa. It means that your dog is not pulling your arm off on walks. In fact, your dog is now walking in a beautiful heel position at your side.

That’s right – just rewarding your dog for looking at you will make them fall into a lovely heel position as you walk.

It makes sense if you think about it. When you go for a walk with a friend, do you walk one behind the other? Of course not. You can’t see each other’s faces, which is a huge part of normal human conversation. So if you and your dog are talking and walking and looking each other in the face, your dog is going to want to walk next to you.

Suddenly, your dog is walking WITH you instead of being walked BY you. Suddenly, your dog realizes that you are a friend who wants to talk. Suddenly, you become the most interesting thing around.

Eye contact doesn’t fix everything. It doesn’t fix separation anxiety, or a fear of nail trims, for example.

But if your dog is looking at you, your dog won’t notice the scary men with hats or the other dogs that normally cause havoc on walks.

If your dog is looking at you and eating from your hand, resource guarding the food bowl becomes a non-issue.

If your dog is looking at you and waiting for food, then your dog is ready to work, and ready to learn. And that is the first step for virtually every behaviour problem there is.

So reward your dog for looking at you, and keep it up. Because it’s the first step to a better, happier relationship

Hoop Jump

Posted on June 22, 2016Categories Dogs, Great Tricks, Please Share, VideosTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Teach your dog to jump through a hula hoop! You probably have one lying around, and if not, they aren’t hard to come by, which makes this trick an easy bet for summer fun!

What you’ll need: A hula hoop large enough for your dog to jump through, treats, and an adult dog. You can find hula hoops at toy stores and dollar stores. Make sure that the hoop isn’t designed to make noise,  drain any noisemaking beads if necessary so that your dog isn’t startled by the hoop. Jumping over and over isn’t for puppies, wait until your dog is at least 1.5 years old, 2 for giant breeds.

Step 1: Hold the hoop on the ground and lure your dog through with a treat. Say ‘yes!’ and feed them as they go through the hoop.

Step 2: Hold the treat on the other side of the hoop and ask you dog to make the first move. Say ‘yes!’ and feed them once they have made it through the hoop.

Step 3: Hold the hoop an inch or two off the ground, and repeat step 2 a few times, gradually raising the hoop.

Step 4: Once your dog is jumping through with ease, add your cue to ‘hup’ or ‘jump’ or ‘hoop’ to name their new trick!

Step 5: Have your dog ‘sit’ or ‘wait’ and step a few feet away, hold out your hoop give your cue to ‘hup!’ Stare at the hoop, not your dog, and show them the treat on the other side if they struggle.

Bonus Step 6: The double hoop jump trick! Add another hoop, and teach your dog to follow your eye by looking toward the hoop you’d like them to jump through. They will learn to jump around you in a continuous loop!

Bonus Hula Hoop tricks: You can also use your new hoop jump trick to teach your dog to jump over your back, your leg, through your arms, and much more!

Ring of fire: Cover your hula hoop in tissue paper and cut a hole big enough that your dog will still jump through it. Repeat the process with increasingly smaller openings until you have a dog that will jump through the covered hoop, with just a small hole at the centre! Draw some cool flames on it, or maybe your dog’s name, and let him jump through it to begin your show, even if it’s just for grandma and her friends at the nursing home. Your dog will delight and amaze!

We think you and your dog will love this trick!








Teach Your Dog To Dress Themselves

Posted on May 27, 2016November 23, 2020Categories Assistance Dog Skills, Dogs, Great Tricks, VideosTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your dog might not ever be ready to move out and go to college, but teaching this easy trick will make your life a little smoother, on a daily basis, which adds up. Most importantly, giving your dog this responsibility will make their life more pleasant.

Teach The ‘Dress’ Cue

Ensure your dog’s collar, bandana, harness, or backpack is oriented so that large or dangly parts hang down, rather than looming over your dog’s head, hitting them in the face as they dress.

Step 1)

Reach your hand through the neck hole, place a treat on your dog’s nose, and lure them through. Say ‘Yes!’ and allow them to eat as they ‘dress.’

Step 2)

Hold a treat on the other side of the hole and ask your dog to make the first move, this is sometimes a tricky step because you can’t hold it open wide with one hand as easily, enlist the help of a friend if you are struggling. If your dog is struggling, try holding the treat right in the center of the hole, and luring from there, saying “Yes!” once their entire head is through.

Step 3)

Hold the opening wide with both hands and say ‘dress.’ Mark with “yes!” and reward once they are fully dressed. If they hesitate to go through, show them the treat on the other side again to remind them.

Enjoy your dog’s new trick!

If your dog’s harness is the kind that it would help if they would just stand still on top of it, begin by teaching the ‘stand‘ cue on a pedestal.


This Is Why Your Dog Is Hooked On Treats

Posted on March 7, 2016June 7, 2019Categories Common Mistakes Owners Make, DogsTags , , ,


We use a lot of treats when teaching dogs a new skill, for several reasons: Treats are highly motivating, quick to deliver, and easy to carry.

But once your dog has learned that skill, treats should be phased out. And yet we meet so many people whose dogs obey them “only when I have a treat in my hand”.

There are three main reasons why dogs get hooked on treats.

Reason 1: Your Dog Only Gets Treats If You Are Holding A Treat

Dogs aren’t stupid. Well, they aren’t the most intelligent creatures on the planet, but they do have brains. If you hold out a treat and say “sit” and your dog sits, and then gets a treat, your dog learns that a treat in the hand = a treat in the mouth. Then, you tell your dog to sit when you don’t have a treat on you. Ever hopeful, he sits anyway. No treat appears, because you don’t have a treat.

So what has your dog learned from this? Unless your dog is an utter moron, he has learned that there is no point in sitting if he doesn’t see a treat. Dogs quickly develop a “show me the money” attitude about obedience. They want proof of payment before they will do the work.

The Cure:

Always carry treats on you, but don’t always give them out. Show your dog a treat, tell her to sit, and then pat her on the head and carry on without handing down the treat. Then tell her to sit with the treat hidden away, and when she sits, give her the treat.

Your dog will quickly learn that the presence or absence of a treat has nothing to do with whether she will actually be paid for her work. So she starts thinking, “hmm… maybe it is the QUALITY of my work that matters…” and she will offer you faster, better, more eager obedience in the hopes that this time she will earn a treat.

Reason 2: You Give Out Food For Free

I see it all the time – I ask a client to get their dog to sit, and they pull out the Pupperoni to motivate their dog. Meanwhile, there is a bowl of half-eaten kibble lying on the floor.

I have to ask – why is that food there? A half-eaten bowl of food tells me several things:

  1. The dog doesn’t love the food.
  2. The dog is being given more food than the dog needs.
  3. The dog doesn’t respect the food because it is freely available.

The Cure:

Don’t free feed your dog. Give your dog a small meal that can be finished in a short period of time. If your dog doesn’t eat it, pick it up and put it away until next meal time. Better yet, make your dog actually earn meals. In an ideal world, your dog would work for every mouthful of food she gets. Breakfast can be doled out bite by bite in return for good behaviour on a walk. Dinner can be served kibble by kibble during a long down stay while you eat your own meal.

But some foods are easier than others. If your dog is on raw, it’s hard to serve piece by piece, unless you break it into frozen chunks and make your dog earn each chunk during a short walk.

Even so, your dog’s meal should be served after your dog has been required to work, and if your dog isn’t interested, pick it up. A few hours of hunger won’t hurt your dog and will certainly motivate him to work for the next meal.

Reason 3: Treats Are The Only Reward You Use

Treats only work when your dog loves them and feels hungry.

What if your dog is full, the treats you are holding are not particularly appetizing, and your dog would much rather play with another dog than come get that dry, tasteless treat that he isn’t even really hungry for? You guessed it: your dog will simply keep playing with his friend.

The Cure:

Too many owners rely  on treats to motivate their dog, and ignore a whole world of other motivations in their dog’s environment.

The best reward for your dog is whatever your dog wants most at the current moment. If your dog really wants to go play with his friend, he is going to pay approximately zero attention to your treats. Even if you do manage to get him to obey you and then reward with the not-so-motivating treat, you have just wasted your money in feeding a treat that your dog didn’t even really care about, when you had a much better reward at your finger tips. The real reward that your dog wanted was to go play with the other dog!


If you watch your dog for a day, you will see that there are lots of things that your dog wants in life. She wants to go outside, she wants to sniff that post where all the other dogs pee, she wants you to cuddle her, she wants to chase a squirrel, she wants to sleep on your bed, and she wants to play with her ball.

What is the point of chasing after her with treats when you have all of these other great rewards available?

Every time you let your dog go outside, or sniff a post, or chase a ball without asking her to work for it, you waste a reward. You might as well just walk around throwing chunks of steak on the ground for your dog to eat  – either way you are giving out free “treats” that your dog didn’t have to earn.

When your dog wants something, ask your dog to do some obedience, or a trick, to get it. Then, instead of fishing a treat out of your pocket, give your dog the thing that he wants!

This way, instead of requiring treats in order to work, your dog will work for you because he knows that it is the best way to get what he wants – EVERYTHING!800px-Mother_and_son_with_dog_playing public domain.jpg

Group Classes at The Bark Lounge

Posted on February 8, 2016Categories 100 Reasons To Love Wag The Dog, Dogs, News And UpdatesTags , , , , , , ,

BarkloungelogoHave you heard of The Bark Lounge? It’s a 24 hour dog daycare/indoor dog park located on Barnett Highway in Coquitlam, next to Trail Appliances and across from Bosley’s, and we think it’s great.

They have several rooms for the dogs to play in, and they take the dogs out for active urban agility hikes. They are a great option for folks who work night shifts because they have staff there overnight.

You should check it out, especially if you or someone you know has a new puppy, because trainer Carol Millman will be running a Puppy Play School group class there, starting February 27th!

Check out our new Group Classes (Tri Cities) page to learn more about this fun, family friendly group class, and please do look up The Bark Lounge!

And check back often, because once Carol is off of her maternity leave she will be offering Leadership Classes for adolescent and adult dogs, Trick Dog Title classes and more!


Ask The Trainer: “My Sister In Law Hates My Dog!”

Posted on August 11, 2015Categories Ask The Trainer, DogsTags , , , , ,

“My sister-in-law hates dogs. I could shut my dog in the basement whenever she comes over, but I don’t really want to. What is the etiquette here?”


“Anonymous” writes,

“My sister-in-law hates dogs. I could shut my dog in the basement whenever she comes over, but I don’t really want to. What is the etiquette here?”

It’s always difficult when a guest doesn’t love animals the way that you do. We want our guests to feel welcome and comfortable in our homes, but on the other hand, we shouldn’t have to shut members of our family away just to make our guests more comfortable.

After all, if your sister-in-law hated children and you had kids, would you shut them away? So it is okay to resent being asked to do the same with your beloved pet.

Some people simply aren’t able to shut their dog in a room when guests come over – Dogs with separation problems may bark disruptively or cause damage in the room. Even well adjusted dogs may simply assume that you’ve made a mistake by locking them in the bedroom and will yap to let you know that they want out.

On the other hand, refusing to lock your dog away could be seen as inconsiderate, which would cause family drama, and no one wants to deal with that, either. Furthermore, you don’t want your sister in law to feel like you are choosing a dog over her – which would seem insulting to someone who doesn’t understand the important role that dogs can play in our lives.

In general, I have a “love me, love my dog” policy.

However, I would be willing to bend that policy on occasion in the following situations:

  • If there is an allergy involved.
    • (…And if there is, then honestly locking the dog up isn’t going to make much difference – there’s dander all over your house.)
  • If my policy is going to cause family distress
    • (If your sister in law is your husband’s sister for example, does he support you or does he want his sister accommodated?)
  • If my dog is not well behaved.

This last point is also the most vital – it is reasonable to ask non-allergic guests to tolerate a polite, well behaved dog. It is not reasonable to ask any guest to tolerate a jumpy, barking, drooly, mooching dog with no sense of personal boundaries.

So, with that in mind, here is the most vital obedience command to teach your dog:

On Your Spot/Place


Choose an out-of-the-way location with clear boundaries, such as under the coffee table, or on a mat or dog bed. Teach your dog to lie down in that place on command, and then continue to chuck treats at periodic intervals as a reward for staying there. Start with asking your dog to stay there for a minute or two at a time, and slowly work your way up to longer periods of time.

Meal times are a great time to practice this. It teaches the dog to stop sniffing around your feet, which no one likes, and works the training into your daily routine.

Then try doing it when dog-friendly guests are over. Tell them that they can pat your dog AFTER he has done his time on his spot.

Soon you will be able to order your dog onto his spot when your sister in law comes over, and keep him there, with the occasional “thank you” from you in the form of a high value treat.

That way your dog gets to stay in the room, gets a few treats, and doesn’t pester your sister in law. Win/win!

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?

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Common Mistakes Dog Owners Make: Not Watching The Puppy!

Posted on January 16, 2013Categories Common Mistakes Owners Make, DogsTags , , , , ,

In this series we discuss some of the most common errors we see owners make, and how to address them.

Letting The Puppy Discover How Good It Is To Be Bad

Puppies are constantly learning about the good and bad the world, and unlike you and me, their definitions of “good” and “bad” don’t involve morality.

courtesy of

courtesy of

Dogs don’t understand right and wrong.

If a dog gets to eat food, and it tastes good, then that is good. If they try to get food and they can’t, that’s bad. How you feel about it doesn’t really enter into the equation.

If your puppy discovers that food in the garbage is easy to reach AND delicious, then your puppy will grow into a dog who is obsessed with getting into the garbage.

If your puppy discovers that shoes are fun to chew, then your shoes will be in constant danger thereafter.

If your puppy finds out that he can poop behind the couch and no one gets mad at him, then you will be constantly finding little presents hidden back there.

The same goes for destroying furniture, eating rugs, shredding kleenex, surfing counters in the kitchen and all of those other fun occupations that your house contains in abundance.

Once your puppy has discovered the joy of raiding your counters or eating your table leg, there are things you can do – but it will be very difficult to fix the problem.

There is one thing that will prevent all of these problems arising in the first place:

Continue reading “Common Mistakes Dog Owners Make: Not Watching The Puppy!”

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”