Category Archives: Living with Your Dog

Articles and Links… Living with Your Dog

Renee PremazaPhone: 609-280-9338Email: renee@JerseyDogTrainer.com

Advice to ALL Dog Owners

  1. Make sure your expectations of your dog are reasonable. Don’t expect your dog to acquire good behaviors until you train him to do what you want.
  2. When you begin extinguishing attention-seeking behaviors (e.g., jumping, barking in your face, pawing at you, stealing, etc.) expect these behaviors to get worse before they get better (known as an extinction burst). Be consistent in your training, and be patient!
  3. When saying English words to your dog (e.g., his name, commands like sit or down, etc.), do not repeat these words more than ONCE. When we nag our dogs by repeating and repeating, they learn to stop listening to us.
  4. If your dog ignores you, it is not because he’s being stubborn! It can be because whatever you’re saying might be confusing to him, or you might be using words that have become meaningless to him because you’ve repeated them over and over again.
  5. When asking your dog to sit, or when asking him to do anything, please stand up straight. Avoid leaning over your dog to address him as he may back away from you.
  6. WOMEN – avoid sing-songing commands to your dog. When you tell your dog to sit, say the word in a firm, but neutral voice. You’re not asking the dog to sit — you’re telling him to sit.
  7. Remember that when you reward your dog for a behavior, that behavior will tend to increase. This is known as positive reinforcement.
  8. If your dog is hyper, reward him for sitting, lying down or doing ANY calm behavior he voluntarily offers by giving him treats . You’ll notice that your dog will begin sitting and lying down more and more on his own.
    If your dog starts to show inappropriate behaviors, and those behaviors get worse and worse, you will have to figure out who or what is reinforcing those behaviors. Remember that what can be rewarding to a dog is not necessarily rewarding to humans.
  9. Consider the breed of your dog when fretting over his behaviors. If you have a herding dog, this dog will tend to nip at children’s ankles, he’ll be more likely to chase children, cars, bikes, rabbits and squirrels and anything that moves quickly. If you have a dog known for protecting, your dog will bark at strangers. If you have a dog that has been bred to hunt rodents underground, this dog will enjoy digging.
  10. Never physically punish your dog for anything! Your dog will not trust you if you slap him. He will think you’re a bully and he will not respect you. He might learn to be afraid of you, but he won’t respect you! Also, someday he may choose to defend himself against your aggressive behavior toward him. His behavior toward other people may also be affected by your aggression toward him. Physical punishment creates a lot of fallout.
    MEN – when speaking to your dog it is not necessary to yell. More often than not, a word spoken in a non-threatening way will get more of his attention than hollering.
  11. Your dog needs to know that you’re a good leader. When dogs do not have confidence in their humans to make good decisions, dogs instinctively feel that they need to “take over” and make decisions on their own. Your dog wants to know that you will never place him in harm’s way. Your dog wants to feel confident that his survival is your responsibility. If your dog feels the need to make decisions on his own, he will always resort to doggy-behavior. Dogs that think they have to rule the roost become hyper and nervous. Many times they develop very bad habits, like biting people, growling and snarling when they don’t get their own way. Help your dog to feel more relaxed by controlling all of his resources (e.g., food, toys, shelter, and all good things). He will become much calmer when he knows it’s not his responsibility to make important decisions. Follow the Nothing in Life is Free Program.
  12. Do not leave your dog’s food in his bowl all day long. “Free-feeding” causes dogs to lose their appetite. Dogs that have food out all day do not feel that their food is valuable. They think food grows in the bowl just for them. By offering two distinct meals per day, your dog will learn to eat when his bowl is placed on the floor. He will also see YOU as the giver of his food. If you have a puppy, feeding at definite times will help his digestive system become more regulated and you will be able to housetrain your pup much more easily.
  13. If you have young children in your home, and you have a computer, please go to the following website for extremely important information about how to keep children safe with dogs, and how to keep dogs safe with children: www.doggonesafe.com
    1. Never allow small children to play on the floor with any puppy or adult dog. When dogs get overly excited they tend to nip children on the face! Avoid making this mistake. Young children should either stand up or sit on furniture when playing with their dogs.
    2. Never leave young children with puppies or adults dogs without an adult to supervise — do not leave them alone even for one second!!
    3. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 12 year old boys are more apt to be bitten by their own dogs. Never allow your children (or your husband) to rough-house with your puppies or adult dogs.
    4. Teach your children to behave appropriately with your puppy or dog. Never allow children to pull tails or ears or to lay on top of your dog! Teach children that when puppy or dog wants to go into his crate for a rest, they should respect his need to do so.
    5. Learn to recognize stress signals that your dog tries to communicate. When your dog becomes stressed around your children, allow him to escape to either his crate or another room where he can chill. Teach your children never to bother your dog when he’s in this “safe space.” **To learn how dogs communicate that they are stressed, purchase the book, “ON TALKING TERMS WITH DOGS,” by Turid Rugaas. Also purchase the companion video with the same name. You can purchase these items at: www.Dogwise.com
  14. When purchasing puppies, do not take them from their littermates until 8 weeks of age. If you purchase a pup younger than 8 weeks, it will be difficult to teach him to have a soft mouth. Puppies removed from their litter too early tend to be nippy and play bite with hard-mouths. A pup needs to learn bite inhibition from his littermates before he’s brought into the home. You then must teach him to use his mouth softly (see my Puppy Packet for more information).
    Begin training puppies as early as 9 weeks of age. The earlier you begin training, the less likely your puppy will be to develop inappropriate behavioral habits as he goes through his adolescence and enters adulthood.
  15. If you adopt an adolescent dog or adult dog from a shelter or rescue organization, be sure to start obedience training ASAP. The majority of dogs that wind up in shelters or rescue have not even been trained to sit.  
    1. When adopting a dog from a shelter or from rescue, expect a “honeymoon period.” This period can last anywhere from 1 week to 4-6 months. This might all depend on how long it takes for your adopted dog to feel comfortable and secure in his new home. Once this honeymoon period comes to an end, your dog might begin showing some inappropriate behaviors that he had developed in his previous life. Be patient with your dog and teach him more appropriate behaviors by rewarding him heavily for doing what you want him to do.
    2. Start training your adopted dog in obedience after only a few days of arriving at your home. Let him know from the very beginning that you’re going to be a firm, but benevolent leader!
  16. When you train your dog, teach him the word you want him to learn AS HE’S DOING THE BEHAVIOR. For example, if you want your dog to understand the word, SIT, say the word “SIT” as he goes to put his butt on the floor. After about 5 times, test him to see if he understands the word by saying it first. If he sits then you’ll know he now understands what that spoken word means. Dogs will always respond quicker to hand-signals, as they communicate with each other using body language.
    When using reward-based training, give your dog his reward within 1/2 second of his doing that good behavior. If your timing in incorrect, you might be rewarding him for the wrong behavior. For example, many people will take their dog outside to potty, but will then give the dog a treat after he comes back inside the house. The dog has only learned that he’s been rewarded for coming back in the house — not that he’s done a good thing by going potty outside!
  17. If during the life of your dog you notice any sudden change in his behavior, take him to the veterinarian for a complete physical examination. There are many serious illnesses that might cause a dog to change his behavior.
    I wish you good luck with your dog, and I hope this article will help you understand your canine companions.

© 2009 Renee Premaza

Canine Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic – the practice of using one’s hands to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases. Chiropractic spinal manipulations have been done on both people and animals in this country since 1895. History indicates that spinal manipulation was used on animals as far back as ancient China.

Misalignments of the vertebrae are called subluxations. When a chiropractor manually performs a spinal manipulation on an animal, he is attempting to correct subluxations in the spine in order to restore the proper functioning of that animal’s nervous system.

Spinal subluxations in dogs may be caused by any physical injury, stress, faults in conformation, excessive crate confinement, leaping from or running down stairs or other high places, using leash corrections with choke chains, chaining your dog out on any collar, poor diet, insufficient exercise, sporting activities, such as agility, herding, lure coursing and playing rough with other dogs.

If a dog has a subluxation, he may or may not experience some form of pain, ranging from moderate to severe. Symptoms that you may observe in your own dog might include any of the following:

  • Shows any signs of lameness
  • Refuses to have his collar or harness put on
  • Does not want to be touched on specific areas
  • May no longer desire to jump up on the bed or sofa when previously happy to do so
  • Shows sudden change in behavior, such as aggressiveness or depression
  • Becomes stiff anywhere on his body
  • Appears weak or unable to walk or move about
  • Excessively licks his paws causing sores to develop
  • Drags his hind leg behind as he walks, or becomes paralyzed
  • Favors sitting on one side
  • Becomes incontinent (urinary and/or fecal)
  • Develops problems with digestion
  • Shows poor performance in sports activities or a decreased interest in playing
  • Dogs who suffer from hip dysplasia, IV disc disease and Wobblers Disease are excellent candidates for chiropractic care.

Ray E. Derman, D.C., C.V.C.P. Equine & Canine Chiropractic 401 W. Somerdale Rd., Hi-Nella, N J 08083 Office: (856) 309-1991 Cell: (856) 889-7729 drray@peoplepc.com

Game for Teaching Self-Control

“Go Wild & Freeze”

This is a game that is all about having a great time, but teaching your dog that he MUST remain in control of himself. You will also enjoy this game because you can now act like a total idiot with your dog and this dog trainer won’t even raise an eyebrow about it 🙂

Take your dog outside or down the basement to play where there is plenty of room to run around. Remember to have your dog’s leash or a long-line attached to his harness or collar before you begin playing.

Before you play this game:

  1. Hold onto the leash
  2. Ask your dog to sit
  3. Once he’s seated, ask him, “wanna go wild?” in a real excited and happy voice
  4. Start running around, but only for a very short distance (maybe a foot)
  5. Immediately stop running and tell the dog to sit!
  6. Give him a treat if he sits instantly!
  7. Repeat all 5 steps for a good 3-4 times before lengthening your run.

As you and your dog really get into the game, as long as he is sitting for you as soon as you ask him to, you can begin lengthening the distance and time that you’re both running around. Run around in a straight line at first. Then begin running around in circles. You can now discontinue the food treat for sitting, as the reward for sitting will be playing the game.

If you notice that your dog is getting too revved up, go back to the last level where he was able to control himself. Once he’s doing well at that level again, slowly raise the bar by allowing longer wild playtimes before you again ask him to sit for you.


I have had owners successfully play this game with very jumpy dogs. Require that your dog use good self-control, and his reward will be getting to play for longer periods of time.

Important Advice for All Parents of Young Children

  • A dog is a dog, not a human child.
  • A dog has no morals and doesn’t recognize right from wrong.
  • A dog sees a young child as a “littermate” not a leader.
  • Both dog and child need constant supervision when they’re together!
  • Do not expect your dog to tolerate childish behaviors that cause pain and/or discomfort to your dog!
  • Your 5-year-old will not understand why he is not to pester your dog when he’s sleeping! A 5-year-old child does not understand that his dog could wake up startled by his sudden approach and bite him. A 5-year-old child does not think that his dog could bite him if he pulls on his tail or ears or sits on him. A young child needs constant and close supervision when he’s with his dog. You can tell him not to do something until you’re blue in the face. He may not listen to you.
  • Physically remove your child from the dog if the child is behaving inappropriately. If you do not do this, your child could get bitten.
  • Teach your child to behave appropriately with your dog and make sure to reinforce your rules!
  • Never allow your child to be on the floor at face-level. Young children should be sitting on furniture or standing when interacting with any dog.
  • Dogs play-bite! When they are with their doggy littermates, that is how they play with one another. When children get on the floor with a dog, the dog automatically behaves toward the child the way he would a littermate. Avoid facial injuries by keeping children on furniture when the dog is in the same room.
  • Never allow children (or husband) to roughhouse with your dog. This will cause your dog to play-bite and he will learn to play rough with everyone! Rough play will produce biting behaviors and you will find it difficult to undo this habit later on.
  • Every time you or your children interact with your dog, you are training him!
  • If you have a puppy, whatever you allow your puppy to do when he’s young will follow through when he becomes an adolescent/adult.
  • If you think a particular behavior is amusing when your dog is a puppy, do not think he will “grow out of it” when he matures! By laughing at him or allowing him to practice a behavior, he will learn this behavior gets him positive attention, and he will choose that behavior all the time.
  • Think more than twice before allowing your dog to sleep in the bed with your children. Dogs belong in their own beds on the floor!
  • Avoid spoiling your dog, as well as your children. Both species will become demanding and obnoxious!
  • You send your children to school to learn how to become well-behaved and knowledgeable adults. Take your dog to school for those same reasons. A well-behaved and mannerly dog is a pleasure to live with!
  • Involve your children in your dog’s training and supervise them during their lessons together.
  • The more your children work with your dog to educate him, the more your dog will see them as valuable leaders in the home.
  • Do not place inappropriate responsibilities onto the shoulders of your children. Give a child 1 or 2 easy and fun things to do with/for the dog and supervise to make sure things go smoothly. Avoid making those responsibilities drudgery for the child. Be sure to positively reinforce your child if he is doing a good job!
  • If either the dog or the child are behaving inappropriately with each other, your responsibility is to prevent those behaviors from ever happening. Bad habits develop easily. Bad habits are hard to break!
  • Never, never, never physically punish your dog! Your dog will learn you cannot be trusted and he may develop defensive behaviors.
  • Never, never, never punish your dog in front of your child. He will associate punishment with the child and develop negative emotions toward him or toward other children of similar appearance, sizes/ages.
  • Never, never, never scold or punish your dog for growling. Growling is a warning to tell you or your children (or another dog) that he is feeling uncomfortable about something so please stop what you are doing!
  • A dog that is punished or corrected for growling will learn to bite without giving any warning signals!
  • Allow your dog to have a “child-free” safety zone. This could be his crate or a specific corner of a room. Instruct your children that they are never to disturb their dog when he chooses to escape to that safety zone.
  • If your children love to run around the house screaming and flailing their arms, do not be surprised if your dog chases after them and nips their feet or clothing. Childish behaviors like this may cause a dog to go into prey-mode. Squealing kids who run around erratically can evoke hunting behaviors in many breeds. Do not lose sight of the fact that dogs are hunters. Terriers are bred to hunt and kill prey.
  • If you have a young child or children and are contemplating getting a dog, choose your breed carefully. Learn what job that breed was originally bred to do and you will know what behaviors will be typical for that dog. If your life is already hectic and a bit crazy because you are busy with your family, please think carefully about whether having a puppy or dog in your home is a good idea.
  • If you have a hectic schedule and do not have time to sufficiently exercise your dog, you will have a dog that will develop behavioral problems. Exercise is critically important to dogs. Most dogs are born with high energy levels.
  • If you are experiencing any serious problems with your dog, especially around your children, please contact a professional as soon as possible.

 

Copyright: Renee Premaza 2009

Introducing Shy/Fearful Dogs to People

 This article addresses shy/fearful dogs, but not dogs that will automatically go into attack mode at the sight of a stranger! If you live with a dog who displays this behavior, we will use other methods to re-socialize him, including using a muzzle. 

We humans often exacerbate our dogs’ behavior problems. One thing that most of us do is allow our fearful dogs to run wildly to the front door when the doorbell rings. By the time we arrive at the door to answer it, our dogs are already in such lather that they can’t think straight! Then we compound the problem by opening the door and holding the dog back by grabbing his collar to avoid having the dog either jump on or lunge at whoever is standing on the other side. What do we do then? We scold the dog for misbehaving. 

The truth is, no dog should have the job of being the main greeter at the door, particularly shy and fearful dogs. We need to set our dogs up for success rather than cause them to fail time and time again. Their behavior should not be construed as misbehavior; they are having panic attacks when they hear the doorbell ring or when someone knocks and enters!

Here is how to prepare to introduce your frightened dog to strangers and other visitors that enter your home:

  1. Whenever possible, allow your visitor to enter without ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door.
  2. Have your visitor sit down and get comfortable and ask if they’d be willing to help you re-socialize your dog. I find the best place to seat myself is right at the kitchen table.
  3. Get lots of delicious food treats ready and place them in a bowl on the table.
  4. Bring your dog into the room wearing his leash,
  5. Keep him with you until he is totally calm and relaxed.
  6. Never force your dog to socialize with anyone!
  7. Always leave it up to your dog to decide if he wants to investigate your visitor.
  8. If he is not able to relax in this situation, remove him to a room where he feels safe and comfortable. 

Here are the instructions you need to give to everyone who wants to meet your shy/fearful dog:

  1. Do not make eye contact with the dog.
  2. Do not speak to the dog.
  3. Do not reach a hand toward the dog or lean over him.
  4. Do not try to pet the dog!
  5. Do not get up and move around unless they tell you they’re getting up! Then remove the dog from the room FIRST!
  6. Basically IGNORE THE DOG!!
  7. Allow your dog to approach someone new only when he’s ready.
  8. If your dog seems interested in investigating the visitor, have them toss treats on the floor but at a distance away from your visitor. If the dog accepts those treats, that’s a very good sign that he’s not terribly stressed.
  9. If YOU believe your dog is accepting this person, they can offer a treat to the dog directly from their hand which should be flat against their side, not reaching toward the dog!
  10. Nobody should pet your dog during this first meeting!

You will have to be firm in giving these instructions! You will hear people say, “Oh don’t worry! I love dogs and they love me.” This will be a challenge because you will have to set these rules in stone, even when you’re giving them to your close family members and friends. We tend not to want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so we allow people to lean over the dog, reach out to pet the dog, etc. When dogs are frightened and undersocialized, if someone pushes them past their comfort zone, we can cause these dogs to bite defensively!  If you do not trust your visitors to observe these protocols, keep your dog in his safe-room and give him a tasty chewy to keep him occupied and happy until your visitors leave.

© 2009 Renee Premaza