March 28, 2020

Good Day on this the second day of South Africa’s Lockdown.  Your challenges for today are:

Down:  When dogs get the hang of this skill it becomes one of their favourite tricks.  Getting your dog to lie down using a food lure is pretty straightforward although the problems arise when you do away with the food lure.  Obviously, you won’t always have food in your hand to lure your dog into a down so you want to get rid of the food lure as soon as possible.  I’ll post a video of my pup Bo lying down with a food lure and then just using a hand signal on my YouTube channel and send you the link in my next post.  In the meantime this is a very good video to watch.

I’m using a clicker to mark the moment Bo’s elbows touch the ground.  You can use a marker word as well such as “Good” or “Yes”.  The problem with using food lures is that the food in the hand becomes part of the cue.  The beauty of using a food lure is that there is always a hand signal built-in.  And once the dog learns the hand signal adding the verbal cue is easy.  The progressions look like this.

Down Progressions

“But, my dog already lies down on cue…”  you may say.

If your dog’s down is already on cue (under stimulus control) then you will need to proof it.  You’ll do this by asking your dog to lie down in every room in your home first of all, and in the garden as well.

How did this go?  Can your dog respond to the verbal cue “Down” in the kitchen, the living room, the front porch/verandah, the bedroom?  If so, then well done!  And, if this went well, you can try another of my challenges – and that is a Speed Trial.  How many times can your dog lie down in response to the word “Down” in 30 seconds?  Get a family member to help with the timing and the counting.  Big applause from all if you got 7 or more repetitions.

Summary of challenges – dependent on level for Day Two:

Beginner Level:  Down with a hand signal only.  The reward is given after the dog is lying down.

Intermediate Level:  Down with a verbal cue.

Advanced Level:  Seven or more cued “Downs” in 30 seconds.




March 27, 2020

Here in South Africa to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus our population is in lockdown for 21 days.  The bad news for pet owners is that there is to be no walking of dogs outside your property, no classes to attend and no gathering of like-minded doggy people.  The good news is that this is an opportunity to brush up on some basic skills and to learn new ones – all in the comfort of your home and garden.

To make it easier for you to stick to the programme I will be issuing a couple of training challenges every day of lockdown.  There will be some really basic ones to get the ball rolling with progressively more difficult and complex challenges as we move along.  You will progress at your own rate and I will be providing some training notes and tips along the way, together with videos.

If you are keen to join me in this initiative (which is free) please put your name in the Comment section together with your country of residence.  I will be launching a Facebook page (Louise’s Lockdown Dog Training Challenges) for any members to post videos of their successes and get help with any problems they come across with the challenges.  You can also add any of your own challenges.  My wish is for you and your dog, as well as members of your family, to have fun with this as well as provide mental stimulation for all of you in the days and weeks ahead.

Above all stay safe!

Training a Gundog Using Food Rewards

March 3, 2020

Louise's Dog Blog

Some Observations

Ruby and Fern (Sue Brundrett) Ruby and Fern (Sue Brundrett)

Many gundog trainers resist using food rewards when training their gundogs. Until your retriever has realised the value of expressing her innate desire to retrieve and you, as a trainer, have taught her self control around the things that she wants, food is the most desirable and the most convenient reinforcer available in the early days. But simply using food to reward desired responses is only a small part of the picture…

Using food, toys and praise is all about building a bond association with a puppy. As the training progresses the dog works with you, not against you. You become a team working together, using motivation not force. This relationship makes training easy in terms of the dog understanding what you want and trying hard to offer you behaviour you like. Positive training is about the big picture, relationship, motivation and association…

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February 21, 2020

When puppies play with each other, they use their mouths.  Any feedback they get teaches them to inhibit their bite pressure.  (Acquired Bite Inhibition). This puppy play behaviour translates to your hands and often puppies like to mouth hands during play or when being petted.  Giving your pup an alternative behaviour is more successful than trying to suppress it as puppies are highly motivated to exhibit this biting behaviour.  So, whenever your pup tries to gnaw on your arm or hand redirect the biting to something like an acceptable chew toy.


Sometimes puppies are uncomfortable with being petted and will object by biting your hand.  Redirect your puppy’s chewing onto acceptable objects by offering her a chew toy whenever you pet her.  This will also desensitize her to being handled and petted.  This will not only help your puppy learn that people and petting are wonderful but will also keep her mouth busy while she’s being petted.  Try and keep the petting and handling sessions brief as sustained petting and handling might get her too excited and this is when she will try and nip and bite.

If after all this she still prefers chewing at your hands, then you can teach her that this behaviour results in all interaction with her stopping.  Interrupt the biting by yelling a word like “Ouch” and then stop interacting with her and even leave the room.  You’ll be teaching her that the consequence of nipping and biting is that you leave her.  Wait a few seconds and resume playing with her or petting her.

These methods will only work if you are consistent and that every time she bites with unacceptable pressure there is ALWAYS a consequence.


I’ve heard some people say that tapping the pup on the nose or holding her mouth closed will stop the biting, but this type of reaction from you will result in some fallout, which is always the case with punishment.  Punishment might result in the following consequences which will not make your bonding and relationship with your pup any easier:

  • The pup might stop wanting to interact with you altogether
  • The pup might start shying away from hands
  • She might even become more aroused and start biting harder

More effective than punishment is always interruption and redirection.


Life with Your New Puppy – the First 24 hours

February 7, 2020

Margaret & Inca 2

Getting a new puppy is not something that happens every month or even every year.  You may have brought a new puppy into your home before, but that may have been years ago, and it is difficult to remember exactly what happened in the first few days and weeks of your pup’s new life with you.  This article is to remind you of some of the most important things that need to happen.

Before Your Pup Arrives.

These are a few things that can be attended to before your pup arrives so that you’re not rushing around organising things at the last minute.

Item Check
Harness and Lead (2 metres)  
Poo bags  
Pee pads  
Baby gates or barriers, if necessary  
ID tag  
Chew toys  
Chase toys  
Tiny Training treats  
Enzyme spray and carpet cleaner  
Check that your home is puppy safe  
Check that your vet’s number is on speed dial  
Book your pup into a puppy class  
Puppy proof your home and create a “safe puppy zone”.  

The First 24 hours

Make sure that there is always someone with the pup during this first period.  Start now to create a bond by keeping the pup close during this time.

Start toilet training right away.  When you arrive home from fetching your pup and before you go inside allow pup some time out of doors to eliminate. Praise and make a fuss when she does.  Check out this link to help with toilet training over the next weeks.  Set up a toilet schedule.

Allow her to explore in her own time, with supervision, her new home.  Place barriers at the top or bottom of stairs and in areas that you want to keep her out of.  If she is at all nervous or anxious about anything let her habituate in her own time.

Encourage a voluntary approach

Keep her first experience of her new home as calm as possible.  This means that you will have to delay having friends around to admire your new pup for a day or two – but puppies habituate to new environments very quickly so by Day 2 you should be able to start introducing her to people outside your family.  All these experiences should be positive so watch her reaction to anything new very carefully to ensure that they are.

On puppy’s first night, they will probably wake you up a few times. Like human babies, puppies wake up throughout the night. While the first night may be challenging, a routine should help your puppy understand what’s expected when the household goes to sleep.  You might want to put the puppy’s crate in your bedroom or prefer for the puppy to be in its own room from the beginning. The important thing is to establish a specific sleeping place to help your puppy get the routine. You can make it a warm, inviting place with a nice bed and fluffy toy or even a stuffed Kong.

Pups sleep an awful lot (they need between 18 and 20 hours a day) so don’t be surprised if she falls asleep mid-play or just finds a comfortable place and nods off.  This is an excellent article about puppies’ sleeping. so check it out.

But, at the end of the day you would want to enjoy your pup so have some fun with your new furry bundle.  Bringing a new pup into your home is one of the most rewarding things you can do.




February 5, 2020


Puppy play is a very important part of the puppy’s socialization and when supervised properly has many benefits, the most important of which are:

  1. teaching the pup about bite inhibition
  2. teaching the pup about reading canine body language
  3. teaching the pup about polite behaviour around his peers.

But…  play unsupervised can be disastrous for the shy puppy who wants nothing more than to be left alone but is constantly being bullied by one of the other pups in the class.

So, to avoid a puppy play session from becoming your pup’s worst nightmare, the following rules must be adhered to.

  • Pups in play must be watched all the time for any inappropriate and overly rough behaviour. Puppy play can be extremely rough at times, but there is a difference between rough and boisterous “give and take” and rough bully-boy tactics.  Be aware of the difference, and immediately you see any pup behaving this way gently remove the offending puppy, take him away from the other pups and wait for him to calm down before putting him in amongst the other puppies again.
  • Avoid letting the pups indulge in a free-for-all for more than 10 minutes. After a brief period of play, call your pups to you and practise your attention/focus game until your pup has calmed down.  Then let him loose to play again.  This “off-switch” game is extremely important as it teaches the pups to calm down after an exciting interlude.  What you are looking for is a period of boisterous play, followed by a period of calm sniffing and noodling initiated by the pups themselves.
  • If the pup ignores you when you call him to you out of a play situation, gently get hold of his collar, calling him to you and removing him by luring him with really yummy treats. Reward him profusely when he is with you and away from the other pups.  When you have his attention back on you then allow him to resume play.  This recall out of play is a very important part of your pup’s training so it is a good idea to start practising it as soon as you can.

puppy play with older dog

Play with their peers is an extremely good learning experience for your pups but so is interaction with older, trustworthy dogs.  Older dogs will continue teaching your pup the manners it started off learning from its mother when still under her care.


Crate or “Den” Training your Pup or Dog

February 4, 2020

There are several reasons why crate training is beneficial for both you and your dog.

  • When you get a new puppy it’s a great way to help with potty training.
  • For an older dog, it provides a haven in potentially stressful situations.
  • It makes travelling in a car safer and more secure for your dog
  • Useful for keeping your dog confined when you are not able to supervise him.
  • A crate provides a way of taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely.

puppy in crate

Types of Crates

There are several different crates to choose from, including a wire cage, a plastic pet carrier, and a soft-sided canvas or nylon crate. The wire crate is the most used. It allows your dog to see what is going on around him.  This type of crate is collapsible and easy to transport.  Whichever type of crate you choose to use, size is important. The crate should not be too large. Your dog should have enough room to lie down comfortably and turn around.


Step 1:  Introducing Your Dog to the Crate:

Crate training should be kept very positive and upbeat.  Take it in very small steps – it may take a few minutes or even several days, but don’t rush it.  Put something soft in the bottom of the crate and place it where the family spends a lot of time.  Make sure the crate door is securely fastened open, so it won’t hit against your dog and frighten him.

Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping small food treats near it, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate.  Do not force him to enter.  Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If he isn’t interested in treats, try tossing a favourite toy in the crate.   Until he seems comfortable with his crate, keep the door open and let your dog wander in and out as he wishes.

This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days.

Step 2: Feeding Your Dog His Meals in the Crate

After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding him his regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, put the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If your dog is still reluctant to enter the crate, put the dish only as far inside as he will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed him you can place the dish a little further back in the crate.

Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat his meal, you can close the door while he’s eating. At first, open the door as soon as he finishes his meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer until he’s staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If he begins to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time try leaving him in the crate for a shorter time.

Step 3:  Crating Your Dog at Night

Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you’ll want to be able to hear your puppy when he whines to be let out. Older dogs, too, should initially be kept nearby so that crating doesn’t become associated with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer. Healthy puppies can have their water taken from them a few hours before bedtime to help decrease the frequency of potty trips they need to make during the night.

crate in bedroom

The “Don’ts” of Crate Training

There are a few simple rules to keep in mind to make crate training successful. First, never use your dog’s crate to punish him. Your dog should consider his crate a happy, comfortable, and safe place. If you use his crate to punish your dog, chances are he will be fearful and anxious when left in it.

It is also important that you never let your dog out of the crate while he is whining or barking. He should be completely calm before you release him. Opening the crate while he is barking or whining simply teaches him that if he makes enough noise, he will be let out. Making this mistake can lead to many sleepless nights as you wait for your puppy to settle down.

Finally, never leave your dog crated for longer than he is physically able to hold his bladder or bowels. You cannot expect the impossible. Puppies can usually hold it for no more than 3-4 hours. An adult dog who has never been house trained should also not be left for longer than 3-4 hours. Older dogs may be able to hold it a little longer. Dogs should not be left crated for more than this length of time without being taken out for exercise, playtime, and time to cuddle with you.

Is Crate Training Cruel?

Many people are concerned about whether it’s cruel to leave their dog in a cage for any amount of time. Most dog trainers agree that it is no crueller to leave your dog in a crate than it is to leave a baby in a playpen or crib. Crates allow dog owners the peace of mind of knowing their dog is safe when they are not there to supervise.

Also, dogs are known to be den animals. They like having a safe and secure place to call their own. If crate training is done correctly, crates can provide this haven. Dog owners often report that their dogs continue to seek out their crates long after house training has been accomplished. For others, once the dog can be left alone for several hours without having an accident or becoming destructive, they stop using the crate and allow their dogs free run of their homes while they are out.

Crate training your dog may take some time and effort but can be useful in a variety of situations when needed. If your dog is to be in the crate for a limited period, it is not necessary to place food or water in the crate.

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