Don’t Take Your Dog For Granted

By Sally Bushwaller, CPDT-KSA, CSAT, CNWI

Most people pay more attention to their dogs when they are doing something wrong rather than when they are doing something right! That is a great way to get a dog who is what we perceive to be “naughty,” when in fact you have taught your dog that in order to get attention he/she must be “naughty”. Naughty is in quotes because your dog does not know he was naughty, only that whatever he did worked to get attention.

It is easy to become complacent about working with your dog, especially senior dogs who are not as demanding. But senior dogs need attention too and can become depressed when not receiving adequate attention.

My current dog, Nova, will not allow me to become complacent or I would not have an intact house anymore!

If your dog steals things in order to get your attention, don’t blame it on your dog! It’s probably your fault because you’ve become complacent.

Here is a tip:  each time your dog picks up a dog toy, spend one full minute paying attention to your dog. You will be amazed at how quickly stealing your personal items decreases.

Also, note the time of day when your dog steals or gets into trouble. You will probably find that your dog is needier in late afternoon or early evening. If that is the case, 15-30 minutes before that attention seeking normally starts, work through the ZOOMIE procedure:

1.    Do 3-5 minutes of training.

2.    Do 3-5 minutes of play.

3.     Do 3-5 minutes of MENTAL ENRICHMENT focusing on scent work. Something like Find It or Nose Work®.

4.    Give your dog an interactive food toy or chew toy

All dogs have different attention needs at different ages.

Winter can be especially challenging for dog owners.

Get your dog involved in K9 Nose Work®. Nose Work is great for dogs of any age and my dog plays this sport on an almost daily basis.

Here are a variety of ideas of ways to mentally and physically stimulate your dog.

With all these ideas, please monitor your dog initially to make sure your dog is not ingesting cardboard or plastic.

1.   Prepare a bunch of tiny (not crumbly) treats. Walk around and hide these treats all over the house, allowing your dog to use her nose to hunt for and find the treats. This gets an older dog moving and having fun. Adjust the difficulty of the hides to fit your dog’s skill level.

2.   Dogs like to shred paper and cardboard. Give your dog an outlet for this passion! Create some box puzzles for your dog. Save small empty boxes of all sizes, from empty frozen pizza boxes, egg cartons, regular boxes, empty Pringles containers, paper towel cores, etc.

Make it easy at first by putting a treat inside the box and giving to your dog. Lots of dogs are afraid of moving boxes, so don’t be surprised if your dog initially is reluctant to eat the treat out of the box. But your dog will quickly get over this reticence.  For paper towel cores, pinch the end shut, stuff ends with balled up paper, load with treats, stuff with more paper and pinch the other end shut.

When your dog can solve the problem of getting the treat out of one container, you can up the difficulty by putting a small treat filled box into another larger box and shutting the flaps.

3.   Put some holes in the lid of an old yogurt or margarine container. Put a couple stinky treats in it and hide in your back yard or around your house. Take your dog out and walk him around the yard. When he finds the container, make a big deal about it, praising him and telling him how smart he is, and open the container and let him have the treat inside.

In a different version of this exercise, put unique scents in the yogurt containers and let your dog hunt for and find the containers, praising and treating him when he finds them. Scent ideas include vanilla, mint, any kind of food extract you would use in baking/cooking, Liquid Smoke, orange peel, bird scent (available at a sporting goods store such as Cabela’s).

4.   Save some old peanut butter jar lids. Smear PB on the inside of the lid and place on the ground with inside facing down. Your dog has to figure out how to turn it over to get to the PB. Some dogs will be able to pick the lid up with their mouths. If that’s the case for your dog, try to find a larger lid that your dog can’t pick up in that manner.

5.   Does your dog like empty water bottles? Save a bunch of them. Put kibble or treats in a couple bottles and put all the bottles in a large, low box. Let your dog find the correct bottles and get the treats out.

6.   Throw your dog’s kibble into your yard and let your dog forage for his food.

7.   Purchase lots of interactive food toys. Here are links for some of my favorite toys:

Outward Hound Tail Teaser,

Pickle Pocket,

West Paw Qwizl,

Kong Wishbone (for puppies or mild chewers only!!!)

8.   Walking your dog in the same area all the time is boring. Let your dog explore a new environment. Once or twice a week take your dog to a different area to walk so he/she gets to sniff new things. I highly suggest the forest preserve.

9.   Do trick training with your dog. Get tons of ideas at:

10.   Here is a great video from trainer Donna Hill showing a variety of activities to do with a dog that is “bed ridden”:

As you can see, most of these exercises are done with you sitting next to your dog.

I’ve given you many great enrichment ideas for both the healthy and recovering dog. Please plan on teaching your dog something fun and DIFFERENT each day. Don’t get into the habit of doing the same old thing all the time. Challenge them and yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and teach your dog a new skill.

Teach Your Dog to File Her Own Nails

This article was originally written in 2015 when my Weim girls were still alive. I have also taught my current dog, Nova, a German Shorthaired Pointer to file her nails. During the current COVID-19 era, when veterinarians and groomers are not working or only seeing dogs with true medical issues, having a dog who can file her own nails is a valuable skill!

Many of us have struggled over the years with trimming our dogs nails. While it’s completely possible to train dogs to like having their nails done, most of us don’t have the time and energy required to get our dogs to that point. So I clicker trained my girls to do their own nails which has greatly reduced the anxiety they have about the process. They scratch a sandpaper covered board which files down their nails.

To teach this, you’ll need a couple supplies. I started with an old piece of counter-top that I was going to throw out. Any board about 2′ x 3′ will work. When I make boards for my Nailed It class, I use 3/8″ plywood. Purchase the highest quality medium grit sandpaper you can find, 100 grit to start. The sandpaper lasts several months. The next time you have to replace the sandpaper, you can try the next coarser grit. If you started at 100, go down to 80 grit. I wouldn’t go lower than 80 grit.

Flat scratchboard

Put spray adhesive on the back of the sandpaper (4 full pieces) and adhere to the board in a square so the pieces butt up against each other. You must use spray adhesive, which you can get at any hardware store, not glue which gets lumpy. I use 3M Super 77. Put extra spray on the corners and edges of each piece of sandpaper because those are the areas your dog is most likely to rip up when scratching. You can add a rope handle if you like, but it’s not necessary if you are not carrying it around. Sand the edges of the board to eliminate any potential splinters.

At a Pat Miller seminar, I learned the following tip: afix a couple sheets of sandpaper to a cardboard construction tube. These tubes are available at home improvement stores and are used to pour concrete footings for decks. Cut the tube both lengthwise and again horizontally so you end up with 4 curved pieces of equal size. Keep one and share the others with your dog friends! Using a curved surface as the scratch board base gets all the nails filed down more evenly. I used an 8″ tube, but would try a 6″ tube if I need to replace my 8″ tubes at some point.

Cardboard concrete footing form
Completed scratch tube

You will have to rough up the surface of the tube with sandpaper to get the sandpaper to adhere to the tube well.

There are several steps to teaching your dog the process, but overall, it’s quite easy. I tried to show the steps in my video, but my girls are experts at this now, and they weren’t cooperating when it came to trying to get them to go backwards to show the early steps. They just love to do this and shoulder each other out of the way to get a turn at the board. Even my scaredy girl Hope loves it, although it took a little longer to teach her.

1. Get an old plastic lid (a throwaway lid from a deli container works well) and lots of tiny, yummy treats. Put a treat under the lid and put it on the floor. Hold the lid in place on the floor so the dog can’t move it much. Your dog will probably try different ways to get the treat out from under the lid. At some point they will touch their paw to the lid. The second that happens, click and treat. Repeat several times.

2. Add a cue to this for the paw touch, something like “TAP” or “SCRATCH” would work. Say the cue just before you are 100% sure the dog is going to do the behavior on his own. Repeat many times.

3. Now, lay the lid, again with a treat under it, on top of your sandpaper covered board. Cue the behavior, always clicking and treating each time the dog touches the target. You will notice that your dog is beginning to hit not just the target, but is getting some minor scratches in on the sandpaper too.

4. Cut your target in half, continue with the process described above. By making the target smaller your dog will be hitting more and more of the sandpaper when he/she paws at the target. When your dog is doing well at this step, cut the current target in half, so now it is 1/4 of the size of the original target. At this stage you can eliminate putting the treat under the lid. Just place the smaller target on the board. Cue TAP and click and treat from your hand when the dog paws the target.

5. Elevate the board on one end by propping it up on something secure. Don’t elevate it too high at first, about 6-8 inches is good to start.

6. Place your target on the elevated board and do a couple trials. Then try eliminating the target all together. Point to the board or touch the board with your finger and cue the SCRATCH behavior. Click and treat for any contact with the board. Repeat until the dog is scratching the board regularly.

7. Gradually increase the height of the elevation until the board is close to vertical, continuing to click and treat for TAP each time you raise the elevation. I prop my board along a sofa, sit right next to it and use my foot to anchor it in place. You could also prop it between your legs, using both legs to anchor it in place, leaving your hands free to click and treat.

8. You will find that most dogs tend to paw at a slight angle which results in the nails not getting filed evenly. You will have to experiment with putting the board at different angles so the entire nail can get filed.

9. This is the only tricky part. Start waiting for your dog to TAP on her own without the TAP cue, click and treat when she does. Repeat several times. Then stop clicking and treating each TAP and wait for your dog to paw it two times, click and treat. Wait for the dog to paw multiple times, up to 3-4 times before clicking and treating.

Do this about twice a week to keep your dog’s nails short. If you keep up with this once or twice a week with a 2-3 minute scratching session, you will be able to keep the nails very short. If you slack off and your dog’s nails get longer, your dog can do this every other day until the nails are at the proper length again. Your dog will love to do this, guaranteed!

Occasionally, I have to do a little touch up with the Dremel tool grinder, but not normally.

This technique is only for the front nails. I haven’t taught them to do their back nails, but those seem to get worn down more easily on their own. So have fun teaching this and watch the video of Cassie and Hope manicuring their nails!

Sally Bushwaller, CPDT-KSA, CNWI, © May, 2020

Mental and Physical Winter Exercise for Your Weim

This article was written for Gray Ghost Stories, the newsletter of the Weimaraner Club of Northern Illinois. But the information applies to all dogs. Have fun playing with your dog!

Winter is tough on our Weims. Not because they don’t want to be outside, but because we don’t much of the time! So you have to get creative about how you are going to stimulate them mentally and physically so they don’t go stir crazy.

For those doing TRACKING, take time to strengthen your dog’s article indication and let your dog have fun in the process.  Put a smear of food scent on the articles, I mostly focus on the metal and plastic articles, and hide them around your house. Send your dog to find the articles and have a party when they do.

If your dog is having trouble finding articles, you can put a tiny piece of treat on top or underneath the article when you hide it.

I made my article hides easy at first, then gradually harder.

TRICK TRAINING is another wonderful way to keep your dog busy. I love trick training, because owners have fun with it instead of getting all serious like they do with obedience training. Below are a couple trick training books that I like which are available from

By Anders Hallgren


Check out Emily Larlham’s Kikopup You Tube channel for hundreds of ideas of tricks and obedience behaviors:

K9 NOSE WORK is becoming quite popular amongst dog enthusiasts. Nose Work basically teaches your dog to become a police drug dog but without the drugs. Instead you start by having your dog search for food and eventually for three different scents, birch, clove and anise.

As a certified K9 Nose Work instructor, I have found that dogs benefit greatly from Nose Work. It gives your dog a job–let’s them use their nose for good instead of evil, builds confidence, teaches creative problem solving, helps your dog conquer their fears if they are afraid of moving things and helps build a great relationship between you and your dog. A 10 minute training session is said to be as good as a 20 minute walk!

If you are the competitive sort, you can work towards titles in Nose Work through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. There are four levels of titles. Go to their website,,  to find out where to go for classes near you.

Until you can get to some Nose Work classes, start doing FIND IT.

◆     Scatter a few treats on the ground and say FIND IT. Point to the treats if necessary. Repeat several times.
◆     Once your dog understands FIND IT means there will be a treat on the ground, toss one treat on the ground, say FIND IT, and while he is looking for the first treat toss a second treat behind the dog.
◆     Start hiding the treats in plain sight, right next to the leg of a chair or table and send dog to FIND IT.
◆     Make it more difficult by putting the dog on sit or down stay. Let the dog see where you are putting the first FIND ITS. Then gradually make it harder and harder. The dog must stay while you are hiding treats all over the house. You can also stuff and then hide food puzzle toys to make the game last longer.
◆     Begin saving taller plastic or metal lids from products you use. Hide treats under these lids and let the dogs figure out how to get the treats out. The lids can be challenging to pick up for most dogs. They will have to use their brains to figure out how to get the treat out.
•    Initially, play the shell game with two or three lids.
•    Next begin hiding these lids all over the house and let your dogs find them and work to get the treats out.

Aerobic exercise can be a challenge for your dog in the winter. One of my favorite things is to play DOG STAIRMASTER with dogs.

To play Stairmaster, I recommend that you only play on carpeted stairs and with a dog with no joint issues. Get some yummy treats and start at the bottom of the stairs. Toss a treat to the top of the stairs and let your dog run up the stairs for the treat. Call her to come back down the stairs. Don’t give your dog the treat when she comes down, just toss another treat up the stairs again. If your dog won’t come down the stairs, just walk away and stop playing. She will quickly learn that if she wants you to toss another treat, she must come down the stairs. Repeat as often as you and your dog like. It takes the edge off a wound-up dog. You can also play by tossing toys if your dog is toy motivated, although I probably wouldn’t use a ball because it would bounce around too much and I wouldn’t want my dog leaping for a ball on the stairs.

TUG is another great physical activity to play with your dog. It is a great way to burn off stress and excess energy. When played with rules, tug can be a valuable tool for teaching your dog self control.

The desire to tug is best instilled as a puppy, by awakening your dog’s prey drive. Do this by teasing her with a toy and letting her chase it. Let her win much of the time. Gradually begin to add little tugs on the toy, very gently for young dogs, keeping the tug parallel to the ground. DO NOT move the tug upwards for your puppy as you don’t want to risk hurting her neck. Basically you are just moving the dog back and forth and not tugging hard. Do NOT play tug with your pup while she is teething. You want tug to be a good experience, and not a painful one, which can occur during teething. My tug rules are:

◆     You always control the tug toy by deciding when the game starts and stops. You store it away from the dog, and bring it out when you decide to play.
◆     Let the dog win a lot to prevent her from wanting to run away and “possess” the tug.
◆     Keep sessions short, 2-4 minutes or shorter (maybe even 10 seconds for some dogs), to keep arousal low.
◆     If one tooth even accidentally touches your hand the game is over.
◆     Get her excited and tugging for 10 seconds. If she becomes overly aroused more quickly, stop sooner, even after a couple seconds.
◆     You can get the toy back in one of three ways.
1.    Ask for a DROP IT. A treat trade may be necessary initially.
2.    Freeze the tug against your body so there is no play in the tug. Don’t tug back, just hold it. It will not be fun for the dog because you are no longer playing, and she will let go. The second your dog lets go, you can immediately re-engage her in tug. This teaches your dog not to guard or play keep-away with the tug toy because she knows she will get it back right away most of the time.
3.    With one hand, gently and slowly take your dog’s collar underneath and raise her head up. Then wait until the dog opens her mouth and calmly and slowly remove the tug. If you move quickly, your dog will rebite the tug before you are ready.
◆     Wait for dog to sit spontaneously. Immediately mark the sit, pause, then praise quietly when the dog continues sitting calmly for several more seconds, then tell your dog GET IT (or something like that) and engage her in another short game of tug. Restarting the game is the reinforcement, no treats necessary.
◆     Repeat as often as you like, but if your dog’s arousal becomes too high, end the game. A little growling is OK, but not crazy over-the-top growling. That means your dog is overly aroused. If your dog growls too much, stop the game, wait for a sit, then reinforce by starting the game again. Your dog will learn that if she gets too carried away, you stop the game.
◆     Always store the tug toy out of sight.

The FLIRT POLE is another game similar to tug. It can be used to teach very good self control, give you an ON/OFF switch for your dog and give your dog a good aerobic workout in a relatively small space and in a short amount of time. Be sure to play with this on a safe surface, no slippery floors.

Here is a link to an inexpensive flirt pole which I really like:

Start by teasing the dog with the toy on the ground and getting him to chase it. When she is about to catch it, make it fly away into the air, like a bird. Repeat this several times. Eventually, your dog will stop and stand still. When she does, MR and immediately let her get the toy.

Once your dog has the toy, you have to get it back after a few seconds. Use the same techniques described in TUG to get your dog to drop the toy.

You can also play the TWO TOY GAME incorporating it with Tug.
◆    Start this game with two toys of identical or equal value. Get your dog excited about the first toy and throw it. Let her run and pick it up. When she is clearly on the way back and close to you, begin to tease her them with the second toy. Tease her with the second toy until she drops the first toy. When she drops it, immediately throw the second toy. Be careful that you don’t tease her too early or she will drop the toy too far away.
◆     As she gets good at this game, you can make it harder for  her. After she drops the first toy, wait for a spontaneous sit with eye contact before throwing the second toy.
◆     The PhD level of this game is to wait for a spontaneous sit with eye contact and then require that she waits while you throw the second toy. This is tough but doable.
◆     This game teaches your dog to give up toys voluntarily to you, because she will immediately get another toy–there’s no down side for her.

If you have a human TREADMILL you can always train your dog to trot on that. You can view an old video of Maverick (R.I.P.) on the treadmill at If you’d like to train your dog to walk on a treadmill, contact me and I’ll tell you how to get started.

When training dogs for treadmill work, be careful not to do it too often. Using the treadmill artificially shortens their stride and they can develop muscle imbalances if you do it too much. But occasional use of treadmills is fine.

Following are several different ideas:

◆    Dogs love to shred paper and cardboard. If your dog will not actually eat the cardboard, save toilet paper or paper towel cores. Put treats inside, stuff with paper and pinch the ends shut and hide around your house. Allow dog to find and destroy!

◆    Observe your dog. Watch for a cute thing that your dog offers naturally, say YEA as the behavior occurs and then treat. This is called “capturing” behavior — catching your dog in the act of doing a behavior on her own. One of my old dogs used to do a head tilt with her ears up and perked. I loved that and put it on cue. It was great for photos. Hope, my current dog rests her head on my lap or offers her paw, both of which I like and so I say YEA and treat.

◆    Play hide-and-seek with your dog. Put your dog on a down or sit stay, or have someone else hold your dog while you go hide. Then call him and let him find you.

◆    Instead of giving your dog his food in a bowl, put all his food into interactive toys and let him work to get it out. You could also hide your dog’s food toys so he has to search for them before getting to work on emptying the toys.

◆    Divide your dog’s food into 4-5 small bowls. While your dog is eating the food in one bowl, hide the others around the house so he has to hunt for and find the bowls in order to eat them. Change the hiding places each time.

You don’t have an excuse now to not be working with your Weim this winter. Try a few of my ideas and get busy having some fun with your dog!

A State of Mind

By Sally Bushwaller, CPDT-KSA, CSAT, CNWI

Separation anxiety has many “roots”. One of those roots is that when your dog is overly stressed because of your absence, they stop thinking clearly and may make irrational decisions.

All separation anxiety dogs I work with are started on what I call the SPONTANEOUS BEHAVIOR PROTOCOL. This concept evolved as I worked with 100s of dogs over the years. Along the way I absorbed info from brilliant trainers, seminars and from books and videos I watched. It really started to formulate in my brain after watching video of zoo trainers doing clicker training with dangerous animals at the first The Art and Science of Animal Training Seminar hosted by ORCA at the University of North Texas – empower the animal to learn to make decisions on his own, without compulsion or commands.

The coalescence of these ideas rolling around in my head became the SPONTANEOUS BEHAVIOR PROTOCOL (wish I had decided to call it something shorter and catchier!). I then discovered that there were many other trainers around the country doing versions of this same thing. Continue reading

Good Behavior Spontaneously!

Wouldn’t it be great if your dog naturally offered you good behaviors all the time? Just think about life with a dog that you didn’t have to nag to get them to sit, down or watch you. Is that an elusive dream? NO! It’s all possible and quite easy to achieve.

To start this process, you can do a couple of things. The first way is to capture the behavior when it occurs. This basically means catch your dog in the act of doing something good. Mark that behavior by saying “yea” or clicking a clicker, so your dog knows he did it right, and giving him a treat (or another reinforcement). I prefer to use this technique whenever possible. An example – wait for your dog to sit on his own, say YEA as his butt hits the ground, then give him a treat.

The second way is to lure the behavior. With this technique, one would use a food lure to get the dog to do the behavior, say YEA, then reinforce him.

Once the dog understands how to do the behavior, you can begin to teach him to offer the behavior on his own.

For sits, begin by asking for or luring a couple of sits to “prime the pump” and then reinforcing. Now move so the dog will get up and just stand there and smile at your dog. You can talk to him, but don’t cue the sit in any way. The second he sits, say YEA then give him a treat. Repeat every time he offers the sit. The more you reinforce the spontaneously offered sit, the more ingrained it will become, until your dog begins to offer it as a default behavior any time he wants something or doesn’t know what else to do.

For eye contact, carry some non-perishable treats around with you or stash them around your house. If your dog spontaneously gives you eye contact, say YEA and give him a treat. Repeat often.

For downs, repeat the same process you used for the sit. Lure a couple downs, then just wait for your dog to offer it on his own. Be sure to reinforce it when he does it. If he doesn’t offer the down on his own, help him out by shaping the behavior. If your dog glances at the floor, say YEA and give him a treat. Repeat, gradually waiting for longer or lower glances before reinforcing. Your dog will be laying on the floor in no time.

Now that your dog is offering a SPONTANEOUS SIT WITH EYE CONTACT (or DOWN WITH EYE CONTACT), you can begin to wait for him to offer that behavior before you do anything for your dog. Examples are waiting for him to sit before feeding him, putting on his leash, access to furniture, going out the door, coming out of a crate, to start play, to get petting and going down stairs, etc. Basically, anything your dog wants can be earned. Be as strict as you need to be depending on your dog’s behavior. If your dog is always jumping on you, is pushy and getting into trouble frequently, then you would be strict about waiting for a sit. If your dog has stopped being pushy, you can relax your standards about having him sit for everything.

By working through this process, you have enabled your dog to grow new neural pathways in his brain and learn to make better or good decisions on his own without your constant input.

Don’t forget, reinforcement doesn’t always have to come in the form of a treat, although using a treat at first will speed things up. It can be a toy, a kind word, a smile, petting, a walk, chasing a squirrel, etc. Be sure to ALWAYS REINFORCE good behavior ALL THE TIME in some way.

A word about petting your dog. 99% of dogs do not like to be petted on top of their heads initially. They usually don’t mind if you come back to their heads, but most do not like the sight of your hand coming down towards their head, it’s intimidating to them. You can tell whether your dog likes it or not by how he reacts as you reach your hand towards his head. Does he look away, back up, lick his lips, yawn, duck his head or run away? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your dog does not want you to pet him on top of his head.

Additionally, in the winter, when it’s dry and there’s a lot of static electricity, if you pet the top of his head and shock him, you’ve not only NOT reinforced him, but you’ve punished him too! REMEMBER…reinforcement must be reinforcing for your dog, not YOU! If your dog doesn’t like it, it’s not reinforcing!

It is not necessary to tell your dog to do everything. Just get into the habit of observing your dog and then reinforcing him for doing good behaviors. When you are in the habit of reinforcing his good behavior, he will no longer feel compelled to do bad things to get your attention, because doing good stuff will always pay off for him! Train yourself to be more in-tune with your dog and you and your dog will be well on your way to a loving, well-mannered and respectful relationship.

Reprinted from Gray Ghost Stories, the newsletter of the Weimaraner Club of Northern Illinois
© 2018 Sally Bushwaller, CPDT-KSA, CNWI

Puppy Biting, Nipping, Mouthing & Chewing

Biting, nipping, mouthing or chewing is your pup’s way of telling you her needs are not being met. Try to figure out why your dog is mouthing or nipping. She may need more attention, be bored or using the behavior to try to keep you from touching her. Whatever the reason, try to be proactive. Don’t wait until your dog is acting up and then try to fix it. Instead, be sure your dog has plenty of interactive food dispensing toys that she must earn with a spontaneous sit with eye contact and give to your dog on a regular basis, and make a point of playing (and chasing) your dog when she has something she is allowed to have, so she doesn’t feel the need to steal personal items to get you to play chase with her. There are many ways to deal with nipping and mouthing. Below are many different suggestions.

Continue reading

Love Your Crate – Crate Training

All dogs should be crate trained. Some people seem to think crate training is cruel. I think it is cruel to not crate train your dog. There will be times in your life when you may have to hospitalize your dog or kennel your dog while you go on vacation. If your dog has never been crate trained, this will be a very stressful experience for your dog. Yes, crate use can certainly be abused, but training your dog to like being in a crate a couple hours a day, and to find it a safe and secure place, is not abusive. Continue reading


Your dog must already understand that the Spontaneous Sit with Eye Contact is the way he can earn resources in order for this exercise to work.


  • It is unsafe for dogs to dash out doors. Instead, we want them to choose to wait, until they are given permission to go through the door. This is not about you being the leader and going through the door first, as there is no scientific evidence to prove that has any meaning for dogs. Instead, it is about your dog learning to have the self-control to remain sitting voluntarily until verbally freed to pass through the door. It’s all about safety.

Here is my dog Nova working the DOOR exercise. Doors are very challenging for her and it took a few weeks for her to get good at this.

Mark = say YEA or CLICK
Reinforce = give a treat
MR = mark and reinforce
SS = spontaneous sit(s)
EC = eye contact

  • With your dog on lead approach the door. You should be between the dog and the door. Position your dog so that you can open the door while the dog remains in a sit (or down). Wait for the SS and MR.
    • Touch knob, MR
    • Jiggle knob, MR
    • Turn knob, MR
    • Crack open door, MR
    • Open door farther, MR
    • Open door all the way, MR
    • Move one of your feet (only 1 not both) and take one step towards the door, mark, return your foot and then treat.
    • Move both feet one step towards the door, mark, return to the front of your dog and then treat. Gradually move closer to the threshold, one foot at a time, and always returning to the dog to treat. Do not stretch to treat or you will pull the dog out of the sit.
    • Step onto threshold, mark, return to the front of your dog, then treat.
    • Open door all the way and talk to an imaginary person, MR. You may only be able to say one word at first – “Hi”.
    • Step out the door and talk to the invisible person.
    • Have a helper go outside. Knock softly once, MR. Gradually increase the loudness and number of knocks.
    • Let your dog see the helper outside the door.
    • Open the door and allow the guest to enter but stay by the door.
    • OR
    • Step out the door, MR and invite dog out door.
  •  If the dog gets up at any point, simply close the door and wait for the SS again.
  • As the dog becomes more experienced with this, you can taper off the treats. This can happen fairly quickly as going out the door is the true reinforcement in this case (assuming your dog likes walks and going out!).

Food Bowl

Your dog must already understand that the Spontaneous Sit with Eye Contact is the way she can earn resources in order for this exercise to work.

 FOOD BOWL EXERCISE: Dog’s butt stays on the ground, food bowl moves towards or stays on the ground. Dog’s butt comes off the ground, food bowl is raised off the ground.

Purpose: To teach your dog to be calm and relaxed around a valuable resource like food.

◆    Before starting this exercise, the SIT W/EYE CONTACT should already be a default behavior for your dog. If it is not, practice the SIT W/EYE CONTACT for a day or two before starting this exercise.

◆    This exercise makes it black and white to your dog that only calm, polite behavior earns her dinner. It really helps your dog to understand the concept behind the SPONTANEOUS BEHAVIOR PROTOCOL and teaches her very good self control. The only thing your dog will be hearing is the MARKER and light praise, followed by a release signal (e.g. “free!”) to go eat her food. Resist the temptation to use a No Reward Marker or reprimand (e.g. No, Uh Uh, nope, oops, phooey, etc.) of any kind, as that is you telling your dog she did it wrong, rather than her figuring out for herself she did it wrong.

Some dogs may choose to lay down during this exercise, which is completely fine. Old dogs with arthritis or younger dogs with any kind of joint problems may find it difficult to sit. If that is the case, this exercise can be done from a stand as well, the same rules apply no matter what position your dog is in.

◆    For this exercise, use your verbal MARKER (YEA or YEP are my favorites). I don’t recommend using the clicker here because you will have your hands full with the bowl in one hand and a treat in the other.

◆    Keep practice sessions short. Dogs learn best in short training sessions. About 3 minutes is perfect. Get as far as you can in 3 minutes and release your dog to eat her food. At each meal, and during training sessions between meals, work towards completing the whole exercise.

◆    This exercise will be easiest for your dog if she has a rug or mat to wait on. It gives her a place holder or boundary which makes it easier for her to grasp the concept of voluntarily sitting and waiting in one spot to get her food. Also, it’s hard for some dogs to maintain a sit on a slippery floor; sitting on a rug or mat fixes that problem.

◆    Wait for the sit, MARK (YEA or YEP) and REINFORCE. Stand sideways, so you are not leaning and looming toward or over the dog. Hold the bowl in the hand farthest away from the dog.

Lower the bowl 6″. If the dog remains in a sit, MARK and REINFORCE. The key here is to lower the bowl first, wait for the dog to have only one second of self-control. If she can do that, MARK and REINFORCE. Do NOT keep food in your hand. The treats/food should be taken out of the bowl after the dog has shown self-control. If you have food in your hand, the dog knows that and the treat in your hand sort of “glues” the dog in place, making it easier for her to maintain the sit. I want her self-control to hold her in place, not the treat in your hand. Keep lowering the bowl 6″ at a time, reinforcing with a piece of kibble or a treat each time you lower the bowl as long as your dog maintains the sit.

If at any point the dog gets up or even leans forward like she’s thinking about getting up, simply remove the bowl and stand up. Don’t say anything. Try again, making your steps easier. If the dog gets up, you made it too hard.

After the dog has made a mistake and gotten up. Simply stand there and wait for her to sit again. Don’t tell her to do anything, although you can talk sweetly to your dog to keep her attention. When she does sit, MARK but use only praise as her reinforcement, no treats!!! Once she re-sits herself, begin the process again.

Once the bowl is on the ground, immediately MARK and REINFORCE. Before you stand up, remove a few pieces of food/treats from the bowl and hold in the hand farthest away from the dog. Stand up 1/4 of the way, MARK and REINFORCE. Stand up half way, MARK and REINFORCE. Stand up 3/4 of the way, MARK and REINFORCE. Stand up all the way. At this point your dog will probably be sitting but looking at the food. Give the dog very light and quiet praise. The praise will cause the dog to look up. When she gives you eye contact, MARK and release your dog with a RELEASE CUE to eat the food.

The dog may initially get “stuck” there in the sit. This is common. Just walk away after you release the dog and encourage her with your body language to get up. She will then know it’s OK to eat the food.

◆    Here is a video of my dog Cassie (R.I.P.) demonstrating the exercise:

◆    Each time you do this exercise it should require 1-2 fewer pieces of food until no extra food is needed. Your dog will be getting a whole bowl of food as her reinforcement at the end of the exercise.

All static exercises should have a beginning and an end. You get to decide when that is. Choose a word, FREE, FREE DOG, BREAK, AT EASE, etc. and begin to use it each time you want to release your dog from a sit stay, down stay, stand stay, or even sustained eye contact. I recommend you stay away from OK which is too commonly used. You can accidentally release your dog from a position without meaning to.

Say your word, we’ll assume it is FREE. Wait one second. If your dog does not release, use your body language and pat your leg to encourage her to come. Initially praise, pet or treat your dog for getting up.

We want your dog to learn that only the release word frees her from the exercise you were working on.

◆    If your dog gets up during the exercise, pick up the bowl and use the bowl to lure your dog back to her original spot (on her mat, or a couple feet away from the bowl if you’re not using a mat).

◆     Make this exercise harder by working towards having your dog do a SPONTANEOUS SIT or DOWN for the entire meal preparation process. If she gets up at any point, simply stop all food prep, walk over to the spot where you would like her to sit, and then wait for a SPONTANEOUS SIT again before continuing food prep. The following video is of my girls doing the advanced version of this exercise:

Go Around

Mark = say YEA or CLICK
Reinforce = give a treat
MR = mark and reinforce
SS = spontaneous sit(s)
EC = eye contact

Your dog must already understand that the Spontaneous Sit with Eye Contact is the way she can earn resources in order for this exercise to work.

GO AROUND: Untangling from obstacles, from around you and from around themselves.

Some dogs constantly get their leashes tangled in a variety of ways. If you constantly fix the leash when it tangles, your dog will continue to get tangled. Help your dog learn to fix tangled leashes by herself.

  • Try this very simple exercise when you are out walking. Go up to a tree or pole. Let your dog choose to go on one side of the pole. You automatically go to the other side of the pole, stop and stand still. Set your dog up for success by not letting her get past the tree/pole. Stop your dog next to the pole by removing all the slack from the leash–but don’t pull her. Just stand, wait and ignore your dog. Eventually, your dog will figure out that if she wants to continue on the walk she has to come around to your side of the pole. When she figures this out, praise her and tell her how clever she is and continue your walk. If you choose to, you can MR with a treat, but it’s not necessary as the walk is the reinforcement.
  • After you’ve done this several times, and your dog is getting the idea, you can attach a cue to it. As your dog is in the process of coming around say GO AROUND. Eventually you can use the cue to elicit the behavior.
  • You can use this same concept if the dog gets tangled around you. Stand still and wait for her to untangle herself, praise her, tell her how clever she is, and off you go on your walk. You may have to help her a bit initially by turning your head and looking to the side where she will have to go to get herself untangled. I don’t reinforce with a treat for this as the reinforcement is continuing the walk.
  • If the dog tangles herself in the leash, lower the leash to the ground and lean into the dog so she steps back out of the tangle, praise her, tell her how clever she is and continue your walk. No need to reinforce with a treat for this as the reinforcement is continuing the walk.