Look and Listen


HOUSTON – A lot of people think their dog has selective hearing when it comes to basic obedience cues, especially coming when called.  No matter how many times they call their dog, it seems he’s just not listening.  Some folks even worry their dog may be ignoring them out of spite.  Fortunately, that last one probably isn’t true.  He just hasn’t been trained yet to tune into you when you call.

It turns out the key to really effective dog training isn’t so much about listening.  It’s about teaching your dog to look at you.  Dogs who are keeping their eyes on you are also keeping their ears attuned to what you are saying.  In fact, most precision obedience training is really about the dog’s visual attention, not his listening.  Dogs actually learn visual cues (hand signals) more easily than they learn verbal cues (words).

Start at the beginning.  The first thing I recommend people teach their dog is eye contact.  It’s important that dogs learn to focus their attention on our faces.  It sets them up to catch our verbal instructions on the first go around.  It also allows them to better read our facial expressions for feedback on how they’re doing (dogs are experts at reading human facial expression, even subtle change in our expressions).

Here’s how to do it.  Keep some of your dogs kibble in your pocket.  Every time you catch him glancing up at your face say “yes.”  Then, immediately follow up by giving him a piece of his food.   This is called capturing a behavior.  In a short time, your dog will be watching you all the time regardless of whether or not you have food on you.  Once you he’s doing that you can start calling his name (only say it once please).  When he responds to his name with a look up to your face, immediately say “yes” and treat him.  Repeat this often so that his name becomes like a magic word that draws your dog’s attention to you immediately every time.

Before long your dog will be glued to you, watching attentively for further instructions.  Your friends will all say, “Wow he really listens.”  Of course you’ll smile and agree, because you know he’s looking at you.


(from myfoxhouston.com)

Potty Signals

Michael Baugh CPDT-KA, CDBC  (from All Things Dog Blog)

Dear Trainer:

Skittles’ quirk is her very quiet way of telling us she needs to go outside. I hear her because she generally sticks to me like glue. When I leave the house, Skittles does not do a very noticeable job of getting the message across to other family members. Sometimes we have accidents when I am gone. She will leave her surprises as close to the door as she can get, sometimes right at the door crack as though she wanted to put it outside but could not. Since I cannot make my family hear her quiet whine I do not know what to do. If you have ideas on how to help increase her ability to get their attention I would appreciate  it.


When I read your very good question I couldn’t help but think of how we humans sometimes behave with each other.  I thought specifically of the time I yelled at a very good friend, “What’s the matter with you?  Do you think I can read your mind?”  He didn’t miss a beat.  “I didn’t even know you could read.” He said.  It was the rhetorical equivalent of lifting his leg on my sofa and laughing at me.

I’m not suggesting you or your family learn to read Skittles’ mind, not exactly anyway.  I do have to admit, however, I’m not a huge fan of teaching dogs to give loud signals when they want to go outside.  Certainly, you could teach Skittles to ring a bell on the doorknob with her nose signaling her desire.   Clicker training would probably be your fastest path to success.  She rings.  You click.  She goes outside for some treats, fun and potty (we hope).

Here’s the rub.  You’d be teaching Skittles to ring the bell when she wants to go outside, not necessarily when she has to go potty outside.  I dare not teach this to my dear Stella.  She’d be ringing our bell from now until the cows come home (actual cowbell optional).  It’s bad enough that she stares out the door now with her newly emptied bladder and bowels.  I digress.  Suffice it to say, the whole bell-to-go-outside thing is a bit of a slippery slope.  You may not necessarily be teaching what you want.

My guess is, you just want Skittles to stop doing two things in the house: number one and number two.  The idea, of course, is to teach her to hold it until she goes outside.  Go there, not here.  Teaching potty training is just a matter of setting Skittles up to win.  When she’s learning she should always be supervised or safely confined.  You should never ask yourself the question, “Where’s Skittles?”  (Just call me; I’ll tell you.  “She’s squatting in your dining room.”).  Supervising means you also go outside with Skittles.  Praise and treat her as soon as she’s done eliminating, right then, on the spot.


(Read more at All Things Dog Blog)

Backyard Dogs

Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC

HOUSTON – This time of year especially, dogs in Texas spend a lot of time outdoors. It’s part of our culture. It’s also true that a lot of our dogs do quite well on their own outdoors in safe secure yards. They lounge about, chew on appropriate items like bones, sun themselves, or play with a sibling our housemate. Some even have doggie doors so that they can freely move from inside to outside at their own discretion.

If you have one of these dogs, my hat is off to you. This article is not about your dog. It is about the problem behaviors many other dogs develop from being left unattended (sometimes for days) in backyards on their own. It’s a long list. I’ll keep this one short, however.

( Read More on MyFoxHouston.com )