Category Archives: Living with Your Dog

Articles and Links… Living with Your Dog

Renee PremazaPhone: 609-280-9338Email:

Prevent Dogs From Getting Lost – Part 1

I get stressed out each time I see an announcement for LOST DOG on Pawboost Alert. I would love to know how and why so many of these dogs are running away and getting lost. I thought it might be a good idea to discuss how to PREVENT this from happening. Keep in mind though if you have recently adopted a shelter or rescue dog, many will try to escape in the early days of coming home. So closely supervise your newly rescued dog for several weeks! Do not allow that dog to be out in your yard unsupervised!

One reason dogs will run away is: it’s more exciting and fun to be outside hunting or scavenging, or playing with a neighbor’s dog rather than being stuck in the house with nothing to do! Dogs need exercise, both physical and mental. You must provide enrichment activities that will keep their brains working and give them something enjoyable to do, especially when they’re alone in the house. There is a blog on my website that has tons of ideas for providing enrichment activities . Click on this link to read it:  “Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation for Dogs.”

NEVER call a dog to you to do something unpleasant (e.g., to say “bad dog!” or to put him in his crate, or to take him to the vet’s or groomer). No matter when you call your dog, it should be with a happy, cheerful voice, even if you’re mad as hell. Dogs will not come to you if they think they’re going to be punished! Even if your dog comes home hours after you’ve been going crazy trying to find him, BE JOYFUL and praise him for coming home. Remember that punishment will teach him something bad will happen if he approaches you!

NEVER chase your dog! Doing that will teach him/her running away from you is more fun than coming to you.

Below is my handout of games for teaching dogs to COME WHEN CALLED first from inside the house to teach him that coming to you is a good thing. My next article will teach you how to get your dog to come in from outside the house:


Get your treats and begin the game with the dog sitting directly in front of you. Show him the first treat in your hand, and lure him to follow that treat as you take a step backward and he comes forward to you. Say, “COM’ERE” and give him that treat immediately when he reaches you! Keep taking one step back, and each time he comes to you, give him a treat right away using the word, “Com’ere.”

Only use a food lure for 3 repetitions! Once you get past this first part of the game, you should hide your treats behind your back and offer it only when he’s right in front of you. Encourage everyone in your family to play these games. 


Start out with the dog standing between 2 family members who are at a small distance from one another. One person calls the dog saying, “Com’ere” and rewards with a treat as soon as he arrives. Then the second person calls the dog and repeats this same process. As the dog gets better at coming to each person, begin slightly increasing the distances that you’re calling the dog back to you. Start calling your dog from different rooms to find both people who are playing the game when he’s doing well.


Toss a treat to the left of the dog and say “Go Find It.” Let him eat his treat. Then call him back to you saying “Com’ere.” When he is directly in front of you, give him a treat immediately. Then toss a treat way out to the right. Tell him “go find it!” Let him get his treat. Then call him back to you saying “Com’ere” and give him a treat immediately when he’s directly in front of you. Toss a treat out front of him and say “go find it.” Repeat this process over and over. Little by little, increase the distance you’re tossing those treats so he has to return back to you from further away to get his rewards! 


Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation for Dogs

As a dog trainer, I’m always reminding my clients about the importance of exercising their dogs. But physical exercise alone isn’t always quite enough, especially with breeds such as the Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, or  Jack Russell Terrier. Retrievers and Terrier breeds come with with their own batteries that are on the charger all day long! Most of our dogs were bred to work. We have herding dogs, hunting dogs, protection dogs, flock guardian dogs, sled dogs, etc. It’s alarming when people tell me they don’t have to take their dogs out for walks because they have a backyard to run and play. Relying on the backyard to provide exercise stops all socialization since there is zero interaction with the world at large. That means the dog never gets to see or play with other dogs, s/he never gets to greet the neighbors or see children of all ages, s/he never gets used to hearing traffic or seeing moms walking their babies in strollers. Isolating dogs causes boredom, fearfulness and sometimes aggression.

Here are some ideas to get your dogs to be more active, and also to help them use their brains:

  • Sports Activities (Agility, Flyball, Canine Musical Freestyle, Tracking, Dock Diving, Lure Coursing, Sheep or Duck Herding, Hiking).
  • Group Training Classes (AKC Canine Good Citizen, Pet Therapy, Tricks, Rally-Obedience, Nosework).
  • Best Toy for Super High-Energy and Herding Dogs (Flirt Pole) See video below.

If you live around South Jersey, check out some of these sports activities and group classes at Wonderdogs in West Berlin, NJ:

See for yourself how much fun you and your dogs can have. Fetch games are okay, but dogs actually become stressed when they play fetch for too long! Yes, Really! Look at some of these terrific ideas how to physically and mentally exercise your dog:

  1. Here is a video showing dogs having the time of their lives doing Flyball:
  2. Watch how these dogs are being taught to do Nosework:
  3. This is a beginner doing Rally Obedience:
  4. Watch how beautiful Canine Freestyle is:
  5. If you have a Sight Hound, try doing Lure Coursing:
  6. Here is a video showing how to use the Flirt Pole:
  7. Have you heard about the Kong Wobbler? Watch this video of Louis, The Dog Toy Critic:
  8. Have you heard about the Snuffle Mat? Watch this video of Louis, The Dog Toy Critic:
  9. One of my favorite games to recommend is called The Muffin Tin Game. Watch this video:
  10. Make your dog’s meal a hunting expedition. Take his bowl of food out on your lawn (grass should be cut short. Ask your dog to sit and stay. Take out a few kibbles from the bowl and toss them on the lawn. Tell him to “Go Find It!” Make it easy for him to find them at first. Call him back to you and place her back in a sit/stay. This time take a slightly larger amount of kibble out of the bowl and toss them over a  larger area, but it should still be easy for him to find his food. Once he knows the name of this game, It shouldn’t take too long before your dog learns how to hunt for his food. I promise she’ll love it!

This is just a small sampling of how to provide very fun and stimulating activities for your dog. I hope you like them!




Learn to Understand Your Dog!

Avoid “humanizing” your dog (known as “anthropomorphism,” which means giving human qualities to animals)! Your dog is not a human child wearing a furry suit. He’s a dog, and behaves like a dog. He doesn’t do things out of spite, he doesn’t get jealous, and he doesn’t choose not to listen to you. Dogs do only behaviors that for them. If he’s learned that a particular behavior (i.e.,jumping up on people, nipping and biting) gets him reinforced in some way, he’ll continue to do that behavior until he’s taught that a more appropriate, alternative behavior will become more rewarding than the one he’s been doing all along.

Here are some facts for you to consider:

  1. Physical punishment is inhumane, and it doesn’t work anyway!
    Yes, he might stop doing whatever you punished him for in order to stop the punishment; but he won’t trust you when you show aggression toward him. Punishment can suppress a behavior, but all too often, it can come back in some other form (biting!).
  2. Your dog never feels guilty about anything!
    When your dog stands in front of you with that look of “guilt,” he is merely responding to your negative, angry demeanor and is trying to calm you down so you’ll go back to being the “you” he feels safe with. You say things like, “what did you do?” and he looks away, he lowers his head and his tail goes between his legs. Sometimes he runs away and hides in order to avoid punishment. Dogs view things as either safe or dangerous. When you’re screaming at him, all he wants to do is get things back to normal as quickly as possible. If your dog continues to “misbehave” over and over again, surely he’s not intentionally trying to bring your wrath down on him. He just needs to be taught a more appropriate behavior.
  3. Teach your children to behave properly with your dog.
    Never allow children to pull tails or ears, or to sit on your dog. Many puppies and adult dogs do not like when children get in their face. Dogs can nip or bite children who continually hug them or try to kiss them. Always supervise children and dogs when they’re together, and never leave them alone together without an adult to supervise! woman-walking-dog
  4. Always praise and reward your dog when he’s behaving well.
    We tend to punish dogs for doing what we don’t want them to do, but we neglect to acknowledge and reward them for doing something that is good. Give your dog that feedback whenever he’s doing something that you like. Otherwise, his good behavior will fade.
  5. Avoid using choke chain collars and shock collars.
    Choke collars can cause injuries to a dog’s trachea. They can also cause ocular hemorrhages. Shock collars do cause pain and using pain to train a dog is always inappropriate!
  6. Never chain a dog outside and leave him unsupervised!
    Chained or tied up dogs become frustrated and angry because they are prevented from being where the activity is. Dogs are pack animals and enjoy being a part of what’s going on. Each time your dog runs toward the end of his chain, he gets a major leash correction. This creates anger and barrier frustration. If you don’t have a fence, bring your dog inside the house, or put him in an outside kennel where he has room to walk around. Also provide him with a doghouse or other shelter so he can escape from the elements.
  7. Avoid free-feeding your dog.
    Do not leave food in his bowl all day. He will become a fussy eater, and you won’t be able to establish a routine of good housetraining, because his digestive system will not become regulated. Your dog will not value his food, and will just nibble at it like a cat. Dogs in the wild have to hunt for their meals. They are not grazers!
  8. Provide plenty of opportunity for your dog to receive daily exercise. Most of all behavior problems can be elminated or improved when a dog is able to release pent-up energies. A tired dog is a good dog!

©2009 Renee Premaza

Your Aggressive Dog

All dogs are capable of biting. Aggression is normal canine behavior. What provokes a dog to bite depends on his genetic makeup and what he’s learned will work for him. Aggression is not curable. However, with behavior modification training, and sometimes with medication, we may be able to raise the dog’s bite threshold so that he can handle more stress in his life without getting to the point of exploding.

You can think of your aggressive dog the way you would view an alcoholic. An alcoholic is always said to be in recovery. Once you begin to work with your dog, you should consider him also to be “in recovery” for the rest of his life.

If you decide to embark on helping your dog become a safer, happier companion pet, you must recognize that this will take time, patience and consistency. You must also recognize that if medication is indicated, this could be costly. Anytime we interact with an aggressive dog there are risks involved. If you have young children in your home, are you willing to put those children at risk? What would happen if one of your children’s friends came to visit and your dog bit that child? You could be sued. Will you be able to teach your children how to properly interact with your dog so as not to provoke a biting incident? These are all things to consider if you want to make the commitment to rehabilitate your dog.

In many instances, while you work on modifying your dog’s behavior, everyone who lives with your dog will also have to modify their behavior in order to prevent your dog from becoming reactive toward them, or to other people your dog will encounter in his life. While it may be heartbreaking to make this decision, you may have to consider euthanasia as a viable alternative. If you attempt treatment and it proves unsuccessful, euthanasia may be your only choice.

In order to teach your dog more appropriate behaviors to use in place of aggressive behaviors, you must prevent him from ever showing aggression again. Each time a dog practices aggression, he learns this is a very powerful strategy to use to avoid something negative or to get something he wants. To help your dog avoid showing aggression, you must avoid putting your dog into any situation that would trigger that response. Since stress is a huge factor in creating aggressive behavior, recognize situations that may cause your dog to feel stressed. Author and trainer Turid Rugaas has written a book called, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals, published by Legacy By Mail, Inc, 1997. The following is a list of situations that stress dogs (Rugaas, p. 25):

  • Being threatened directly by us or other dogs
  • Being exposed to violence, anger or aggression
  • Jerking his leash, forcing him down, yanking on his collar to move him
  • Making unrealistic demands on him in training and in life Over-exercising young dogs
  • Not enough exercise and activity
  • Hunger and thirst
  • Not having access to outside potty area when necessary Temperature extremes
  • Pain and illness
  • Noise
  • Being alone and feeling isolated
  • Sudden and frightening situations
  • Overstimulation from playing with balls or other dogs
  • Always being disturbed and not getting enough down time
  • Any sudden changes in his routine or his life

The following is a list of indicators your dog might give when he is feeling stressed (Rugaas, p. 26):

  • Restlessness
  • Over-reacting to something happening; i.e., doorbell, an approaching dog, etc.
  • Scratching himself; Biting himself
  • Chewing on inedible items, such as furniture, shoes, etc. Barking, howling or whining
  • Bouts of Diarrhea
  • Dog smells bad, both mouth and bod
  • Tenseness of muscles
  • Sudden onset of dandruff and shedding
  • Shaking
  • Change of eye color
  • Dog licks himself
  • Tail chasing
  • Raised hackles (piloerection)
  • Constant panting
  • Lack of concentration
  • Shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent urination/defecation
  • Allergic reactions
  • Fixating on certain stimuli; i.e lights, flies, crackling firewood
  • Appearing to be nervous
  • Use of displacement behaviors

You will benefit by being able to identify those calming signals dogs give when they are experiencing stress (Rugaas, pp. 5-14):

  • Turning of the head: Dog swiftly turns his head to the side and back or the head can be held to one side for awhile.
  • Eyes shift from side to side while the dog’s head remains still. Turning away: dog turns to the side or back
  • Nose licking
  • Freezing in place
  • Walking slowly and using very slow movements
  • Quick sits
  • Quick downs: dog lies down with his belly to the ground Yawning
  • Sniffing: quick movement with head down to the ground Splitting up: dog goes between people or other dogs
  • Wagging tail

Finally, you will recognize the following signs of aggression as preludes to a possible biting incident (The Canine Aggression Workbook, by James O’Heare, published by Gentle Solutions, 2001, p. 13):

  • Growling
  • Snapping
  • Lunging
  • Snarling (lips raised and teeth bared)
  • Barking furiously
  • Staring Piloerection (raised hackles)
  • Stiff, high tail wag
  • Dilated pupils
  • Freezing in place
  • Dog closes his mouth prior to biting



                                       Tired Gino 600 x 450

This picture is of “Gino” DeCarlo. He is a very tired & happy 6 month-old Boxer who just had lots of mental stimulation. He wants you to know that A TIRED DOG IS A GOOD DOG!

Does your dog spend much of his day running around your house stealing your underwear and chewing your shoes? Do you go out in your yard and discover that he’s tried his hardest to dig to China and beyond?  Have you gone practically bald pulling your hair out trying to figure out why your furry friend is doing these things?  Well, I’m here to tell you, he’s more than likely bored out of his little mind. So what’s a pet parent to do?

It’s really important for all of us who live with dogs to provide both physical exercise and mentally stimulating activities for dogs. We need to be challenging our dog’s mind by directing his attention to interesting stimuli rather than his having to create ways of exercising and entertaining himself inappropriately.  Afterall, dogs were originally bred to do a job of some kind, whether it’s herding sheep, hunting birds and other prey animals, performing in the show ring, protecting property and even sitting pretty on the laps of royalty.

Your dog should be walked regularly to facilitate continued socialization with people, places, other dogs and his world at large. So many people think a dog shouldn’t be permitted to sniff the ground, but that’s not true. Let your dog sniff during your walks. Mind you, he doesn’t have to smell every blade of grass, but give him opportunities to use his nose to figure out who has been at that very same spot and to discover if it was a male or female dog, or a cat or some other critter that may have visited the neighborhood. Teach your dog to sit politely when someone approaches to greet him while you’re out walking together. Do some obedience training during your walks, like teaching him to look up at you when you say his name, or training him to touch the palm of your hand, which can help keep him walking right by your side on a loose leash. I like to train dogs to stop and wait at curbs until I give a cue to move forward. The more you pay attention to your dog, the more he’ll pay attention to you.

I believe more than 50 percent of dog behavior problems are caused by extreme boredom.  There are lots of sports activities that you could actively participate in with your dog, such as agility, flyball, canine freestyle (dancing with dogs), hiking, herding and hunting.  If your time is limited to consider the above, there are activities you can do right at home.

If you have a dog who loves to dig, you can purchase a child’s sandbox and bury all sorts of goodies in the sand for him to dig up and enjoy. Bury some biscuits and inexpensive stuffed squeaky toys so he’ll be so excited to dig in that sandbox and won’t even bother with digging up your prized vegetable garden.  Keep things interesting for him by rotating the toys you bury in that sandbox each day so he’ll always be interested to see what treasures he might uncover when he’s digging.  Make use of your dog’s innate instincts to want to dig and explore.

If you have a herding dog or a super energetic dog, there’s a fantastic interactive dog toy on the market just waiting for you to bring home to that energizer bunny you live with.  It’s called a Flirt Pole or Push ‘n’ Pull.  It looks like a fishing rod and it has a fleece lure at the end of it. You can entice your dog to chase after that fleece toy as you keep moving it in all different directions, as well as raising it up high and then lowering it.  Be kind and let him grab the toy once in awhile to keep him very interested. Trust me that you won’t have to break a sweat while playing with your dog and the Flirt Pole:;ie=UTF8&qid=1384561833&sr=1-3&keywords=flirt+pole+for+dogs

Have you used your muffin tin lately? Maybe it’s buried underneath your tupperwear containers and all those lids that don’t seem fit any of them 😉  Take that muffin tin and put an especially tasty treat at the bottom of each opening. Then get some of your dog’s favorite toys to sit on top of each of those treats. Call your dog over and encourage him to sniff around the muffin tin. Get all excited and clap your hands when he picks out one of those toys and uncovers a treat. Then get him to do the same thing with all of the toys sitting on top of the muffin tin.  You’ll never guess what this activity is called; “The Muffin Tin Game.” Check out this video to see how busy and happy your dog will be when he’s playing this really fun game:;feature=related

One of the dogs I’ve recently worked with is a very smart and energetic Boxer who has separation anxiety. One of the owner’s complaints about her dog was that he would destroy anything made out of cardboard she might have around the house. I smiled and I looked over at the dog who seemed to be smiling back at me. I told my client to go to the supermarket and get some cardboard boxes to leave with him in his room when she had to leave him alone. All he had to do to earn getting the boxes everyday was to sit, and then do a handshake with his mom. She’d then toss a box or two into his room and told him to “go find it.” I had her tape him for a few days after she implemented this protocol and she said he seemed very pleased with himself after he got to rip them all to pieces. Yay!

Do you have a dog who likes to tip his bowl over and then his kibble goes all over the place? Have you noticed your dog takes pieces of kibble out of his bowl and then brings them to a different area to eat? I have a very unscientific theory that these dogs are actually “pretending” to hunt for their food. Hey, nobody says a dog has to eat his food out of a bowl. The only reason we feed them out of bowls is because we humans eat out of dishes! There are several different types of food-release toys on the market that would enable your dog to hunt for his meals. Why not use one or two of these when it’s time to offer Fido his breakfast or dinner.  Click on these links to see what food-release toys and games your own dog would enjoy:;ie=UTF8&qid=1295991064&sr=1-5;ie=UTF8&qid=1314199559&sr=1-24;ie=UTF8&qid=1297989832&sr=1-1;qid=1417195034&sr=8-5&keywords=deer+antlers+for+dogs

I hope I’ve given you some good ideas for keeping your canine companion happy and busy.  Always remember how important it is to keep your dog mentally stimulated and physically exercised.  If you do, I strongly doubt you’ll ever need to call me or any other behavior consultant because your dog is destroying things in your home or because you’re convinced he’s become out of control.  Trainers have a favorite expression; “A tired dog is a good dog!”

Renee Premaza
Copyright: 2012