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Animal Welfare Association of New Jersey

Dog Training Behavior Tips

AWA is committed to providing quality care for our shelter animals, which includes physical and mental wellness. To be successful in enriching the lives of the dogs we care for with an outcome in great adoptions and retention, AWA has a comprehensive dog training program for the shelter dogs. AWA’s behavior coordinator trains staff and volunteers with protocols and commands so that dogs can receive weekly training sessions. There are also pre-intake and post-adoption workshops and classes, and basic canine good manners for the public.

The Well-Mannered Dog is a training class that introduces dog owners to canine training methods, suggests tips to make training fun and easy, and covers the importance of why good manners matter. AWA’s knowledgeable and friendly instructors believe that every interaction you have with your dog teaches him something. All training is positive and reward-based. The Well-Mannered Dog class is a great way to bond with your dog and get a leg-up on helping your dog become a very polite pooch.

Here are a few tips for very common training issues:

Mouthy Play

Does your dog “play rough” or engage in “play biting”?It’s natural for dogs to play with each other this way but dogs don’t realize that humans have more delicate skin and what a dog can tolerate is actually painful for a human.

When you do play with your dog, always use a toy so he learns not to put his mouth on you but on the toy. If he does put teeth on your skin, yelp and stop the game. If your dog is getting too aroused, stop the game before he gets out of control, ask him to sit or lie down and wait till he calms down and then start again. If your dog doesn’t calm when you stop the game, try using a Gentle Leader head collar that will help you control his head while you work with him. When you are not working with Fido try to keep him engaged with a puzzle toy like a frozen stuffed kong or treat dispensing ball so he uses mental energy. This way he won’t have so much pent up energy that explodes into inappropriate play when you do training sessions. Be patient and consistent. Changing behavior may take time. Keep sessions short so you and your dog don’t get frustrated or overwhelmed. 15 minute sessions every day are more effective than an hour-long session once a week.

Sit-stay at Meal Time

Does Fido get over excited at meal time? Want to teach him to sit and wait calmly for his food?

Start by putting Fido into a sit. Tell him to stay. When you go to put down the food if he gets up mark the behavior with the no-reward marker “uh-uh” and take the food up and wait for him to sit again. Once he sits you can put the food down. You may have to do this several times before he learns to not get up. Once the food bowl is down and he is still waiting patiently release him with an “Okay!” and let him eat. It may take several sessions before Fido can wait calmly for several seconds until you release him. The first session you may accept him sitting for his food. The next session you may accept him waiting for one second after the food bowl is placed on the ground. After a few sessions he should be able to sit and wait once the food bowl is placed on the floor till you release him. It may be helpful to include a second family member to keep Fido on a leash the first couple of times you practice. Remember to be patient and stay positive.

Loose Leash Walking

Is Fido dragging you down the street on your walks? Want to teach him to walk nicely without pulling?

Start with a six foot leash (no retractable leashes please!) and a handful of tasty treats. If you start walking and Fido darts out ahead of you, change direction so Fido is now behind you. As he catches up and is at your side give him a treat (it should be tiny pieces of a soft high value treat that he doesn’t need to stop and chew up. Tiny pieces of hot dog work well for this). You may have to treat him a lot, right after another at first when he is at your side. Once he starts to get it you can lengthen the time between treats gradually. If he darts out ahead turn again right before you get to the end of the leash so he is behind you. Remember to talk to your dog to keep him engaged and focused on you. The goal needn’t be maintaining consistent eye contact walking right at your side. You want Fido to be able to have some freedom to enjoy his walks and do natural dog behaviors such as sniff and explore. The goal is to have him never pull (tension at the end of the leash) and to check in with your periodically. Remember to be consistent. Dogs learn through repetitions. Try to train for 15 minutes everyday. Until Fido really “gets” loose leash walking on a collar there are some management tools you can use when not training to help such as the Easy Walk Harness (the leash clips on the front by the chest) and the Gentle Leader headcollar. We recommend using these tools till Fido is a loose leash walking super star. Be patient and stay positive so Fido looks forward to training.

Polite Greeting

Does Fido get over excited when visitors come in the door and jump all over them? Want to learn how to help Fido learn to greet visitors politely?

Start with Fido on a leash. Ask him or lure him to sit. When the visitor comes in the door he may get excited and get up. Have the visitor take a step back and wait till Fido sits. If he doesn’t sit you may have to ask him but try waiting for the behavior. Once he sits the visitor can take a step forward and continue coming forward as long as he remains sitting. (if he lies down, that is okay too). If Fido gets up, the visitor backs up again and waits for a sit. This may have to happen a few times before Fido gets it. The visitor should start by being as calm as possible as first as to not get Fido any more excited than he already is. Once Fido remains sitting and the visitor has approached Fido, they can give him a tasty treat. You can then try it without the leash or leave the leash on but don’t hold it. Once Fido has mastered this with many different people, you can take it a step further and have the visitors be more animated and excited when they walk through the door so Fido learns to be calm when any person who walks through the door. Remember it may take many repetitions and consistency for the dog to learn the new behavior. Keep the sessions short (10-15 minutes) and practice everyday. Be patient and stay positive so Fido looks forward to training.