Dave's Dog Hints Page

"Dogs are not just a one-time gift, they are gifts for life."

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These are things that I have read and/or learned that have worked for me. I hope you find them helpful.

Rule Number One: Dogs Belong On The Floor, Not On The Bed. I started allowing this and paid the price. Dirty paws on the bed make a mess. Muddy paws make an even bigger mess. Dogs can take up more than their share of space. Then they'll want to get IN the bed. Don't start. If you've already allowed this, resolve to do better with your next dog.

Comment from Patty Day Perkey: We have a yellow lab, Kellygreen's Mean Mr. Mustard, "Mustard." The most valuable piece of advice we ever received, and this included over 2 years of obedience training, came from Mustard's breeder, Sally Kelly, who told us to never let our puppy do anything we didn't want an 80 pound dog to do. She was so right. It was very difficult not to let our 12 pound puppy up on the couch, or jump up on us, and whatever cute 12 pound puppies do. However, we now have a very well behaved, wonderful 80 pound dog, that really adds pleasure to our lives. (Thank you, Patty!)

When the puppy is eating, play with your fingers in his bowl and in his mouth. This teaches him that it's okay for your fingers to be in his mouth in case he gets into something toxic and you have to remove it from his mouth. Otherwise, he will growl and maybe even bite you when he gets bigger and you start to "mess with" his food.

Remember to tell people not to put their face too close to the puppy's face. He may bite out of fear. (I don't often practice what I preach; I put my face in my dog's face from time to time. You have to know what you can get away with and what you can't.)

Don't let the puppy lick your face. Unless you really like it. When they get older the tongue gets bigger and sloppier and yecch! Plus, you don't know where that tongue has been. Or maybe you do.

I found it very helpful to get a kennel or crate, whatever you call it. You can put the puppy in the crate at night WHERE HE CAN SEE YOU, otherwise he'll cry all night long. I put him in the kennel before I go to bed and then take him out first thing in the morning. This process can go on for a long time, over a year, so he gets used to it and comfortable going into the kennel. In case you need to take him someplace in the car, or even worse, to the vet for emergency treatment, he'll be in a relatively comfortable place.

A dog's job is to please you. Give him something to do. Or several somethings to do. It could be as simple as offering his paw. If the dog knows what his job is, he's happy. You might even be able to teach him to drop drink cans right into the recycling bin or bring you the newspaper.

The dog is a pack animal and wants to be with you. But don't forget to teach the dog that it's okay to be outside sometimes. If at all possible, explore having a doggie door. (This way the dog can go outside in the middle of the night and you don't have to get up.) It's especially bad for the dog to be "in" only when you're home and "out" only when you're gone. This can lead to barking while you're gone, which causes terrible neighbor problems. Teach the dog that it's okay to be "out" when you're home.

(Almost) all commands should start with the dog's name. It gets their attention.

Many people use "shake" for the dog to "shake hands". I use "paw" for his right paw and "other" for his left paw. It looks impressive, if I do say so myself. And he's smart enough that I can say "other" BEFORE "paw" and he will usually give the correct one. But it takes practice.

When the dog does something you LIKE, name it. If the dog voluntarily sits, say "[dog's name], sit." If the dog lays down, say "[dog's name], down." It will learn much more easily if you do this than if you try to make a rambunctious dog lie down.

Try really hard to make each command UNIQUE. For example, if "down" means "lie down," don't say "down" when the dog is jumping on someone. Use "off" instead (for example).

Give commands once. Try really hard not to say, "Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit." If you do, the dog learns that the command to sit is "Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit." When you get to obedience class, they will teach you to simultaneously pull up on the leash and push down on the hind quarters and say "sit." After a while, when you stop walking and pull up slightly on the leash, the dog will sit. It will be a proud moment. (It could, however, be quite a while before this happens. Be patient.)

It may take your dog a long time (many months!) to learn to bark. I was worried that I couldn't teach him to bark on command if he never barked, but don't worry, he'll learn. When he does bark, say "speak" and reward him.

When the dog alerts you about someone coming to the door, or ringing the door bell, do not punish him for barking. If you wish to encourage protectiveness, reward him. I usually say, "good dog," and pet him while holding his collar. If the sales person or solicitor perceives this as you holding the dog back from attacking, so much the better.

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Created on August 26, 1996. Last updated at 16:45 PDT on June 21, 1998.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA