How to use food correctly in training your dog.

Food is extremely useful when training a dog …
Food is simply unmatched for classical conditioning and is incredibly useful as both lures and rewards when teaching basic manners.

… Unless it becomes a bribe
If you’re not careful, however, food can become a bribe and the food’s ability to influence your dog’s behavior for the better will gradually deteriorate as your dog progressively ignores you and your food lures more and more. Resorting to smellier, tastier treats will only help temporarily. Instead, you need to phase out the use of food lures and make use of much more effective reinforcement schedules and life rewards.

Food is irreplaceable for classical conditioning
Food allows you to help your dog bond with you quickly and form positive associations with all sorts of things: other people (especially children and men), dogs, other animals, noises, objects and different environments. You can, and should, continue to use food everyday for classical conditioning throughout your dog’s entire life.

People are using much too much food in obedience training
Many people misuse food during obedience training. People use food as a lure for much too long and they give food as a reward too often. As dogs grow older and less eager to immediately respond to our every request, it becomes important to avoid using food as both a lure and a reward simultaneously, or else the food will become a bribe.

Bribing an otherwise unwilling dog to respond by luring it and rewarding it with food will quickly train your dog to only listen to you when you are holding food. This is easy to avoid by promptly phasing out food as lures, gradually phasing out the necessity of food as rewards, and eliminating the connection between the two.

Using food as a lure
The first step is to learn how to use food effectively as a lure. To do so, hold the food between your finger and thumb in front of your dog’s nose. When the dog sniffs the food, move your hand and as the dog’s nose follows, you may lure the dog into different body positions, such as sit, down and stand.

From lure to hand signal to verbal command
Practice these three positions in a random order and your dog will start trying to anticipate the next position by watching your hand, making it easy and natural to move from luring the pup’s nose, to giving simplified hand signals. Then the hand signals can be used to teach the meaning of spoken command words by first giving the verbal request and then using the hand signal.

Luring with an empty hand
Once you’ve taught your dog how to respond reliably to luring, you must quickly stop using the food as a lure. Simply put the food in your other hand, put that hand behind your back and lure with your empty hand. Pretend you’re still holding a piece of food. If your empty hand smells of food, and looks like it’s holding food, it’s still a very effective lure — a hand lure (well on the way to becoming a hand signal).

Ask for more
Reduce the frequency with which you reward your dog with food. Start asking for more and more recalls and position changes for a single treat. When you do decide to give a piece of food, hold onto it for longer. The longer you hold onto the food, the longer the dog will stay and focus on you.

Don’t reward every time
Stop rewarding your dog for every successful response. Why would you want to reward (and encourage) below-average responses? Only reward above-average responses. Progressively refine your criteria for what constitutes a response worthy of a food reward. Look for speed and style and consider the level of distraction, distance, etc. Especially reward when your dog responds promptly following a single request.

Resort to a food lure? Then don’t give it as a reward
If you had to repeat a request, or you had to go up to your dog to get attention, or if you had to go all the way back to Square 1 and use a piece of food to get attention, your dog certainly hasn’t earned a food reward. Instead, now that you have attention, put the food lure in your pocket, step back and ask and signal your dog to come and sit. Your dog is likely to respond quickly following a single request and if so, you may reward with food from your pocket.

Put the food in your pocket
Now that you’re rewarding less frequently, you can keep the food in your pocket. You’ll only need a few pieces of easily accessible food for a good training session. Additionally, put food in out-of-reach hiding places in the areas where you train. If you reward your dog when you don’t appear to have any food with you, your dog will learn that you have the ability to give food rewards at any time, and are always worth listening to, even when you’re empty-handed.

Food as a distraction
Give the food rewards to a helper. Now the food is acting as a distraction and you’ll have to be animated to get your dog’s attention away from the other person. Once your dog comes and sits, say “Good Dog” as a cue for your helper to give a food reward to your dog. Your dog will quickly learn that it doesn’t matter where the food is, the only way to get it is by listening to you.

Better responses deserve better rewards. The best deserve a jackpot!
On those occasions when your dog responds sufficiently well to earn a food reward, vary the number of food rewards for each response. For meeting minimal criteria, say “Thank You” and offer a single food reward. For better responses, praise enthusiastically and offer a couple of food rewards. And for the very best of best responses, let your dog know it hit the Jackpot!!! — verbally congratulate, smile and maybe dance a jig while offering 10 food rewards one after another, or a game of Fetch or Tug, or a walk, or cuddles on the couch.

Healthy treats
Put some regular kibble in a ziploc bag and sprinkle some freeze-dried liver powder into the bag and shake it all up. Now you have regular healthy kibble that smells extra delicious. This “enhanced” kibble is especially useful for children, men and strangers to give to your dog and as rewards for housetraining and teaching new exercises. Most commercial treats are “junk food” and best to avoid.

Super-charge your kibble
Your dog’s regular kibble is an excellent lure and an effective reward. However, you can make kibble even more valuable by super-charging it as a secondary reinforcer. Pavlov’s bell was a secondary reinforcer, with the power to cause positive emotions in his dogs because the bell always preceded and hence, predicted, food delivery. Similarly, kibble can become a secondary reinforcer, charged with the positive associations of whatever comes immediately afterwards. Make a habit of giving your dog a piece of kibble just before all enjoyable activities, such as, couch-time, playing games, attention and affection, sniffing, exploring, greeting other dogs and people, etc., and the kibble will become loaded with extra reward power.

All of your dog’s favorite activities are invaluable rewards to use in training. For many dogs, life-rewards are much more valued than any food you can offer. It is essential to use your dog’s favorite activities as rewards for training, otherwise they will become distractions that work against training.

Turn distractions into rewards, or even lures
If something is distracting your dog while you’re trying to train, you can usually use it as a reward, or a lure. If your dog ignores your commands while sniffing a patch of grass or playing with other dogs, once you’ve finally gotten their attention and the dog comes and sits, instruct your dog to resume sniffing the grass or playing with the other dogs as a reward. Repeat this process over and over. If your dog is playing with a stick or a leaf or a wood chip at the park, pick it up and use it as a lure. If they respond well, maybe offer it as a reward for excellence.

A tug toy is the best lure and reward
Food is an excellent lure and reward, but it’s not the best. Toys are better, and the best toy of all is a tug toy. A properly used tug toy is unbeatable because it’s so powerful and it’s specific to your dog. Tennis balls and food are also excellent lures and rewards but they are likely to excite and lure other nearby dogs, which isn’t always a good idea. Also, a tug toy is only fun when it’s with you and so your dog happily comes and stays close and focused.

Teach your dog to love tug
If your dog doesn’t naturally love tug, teach them to love it by empowering the Tug Toy as a super-mega-secondary reinforcer. First you need to learn how to make tug fun and safe and then, play a short game of tug before all of your dog’s favorite activities.

potty train dog


This article was authored by Marty Becker, DVM, and Mikkel Becker, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, CDBC, CTC

When a new puppy joins your family, you have a great opportunity to ensure she’ll grow up to be a confident, healthy dog. Central to that goal is helping her understand where she can and can’t go to the bathroom. Here are our tried and true tips for raising a perfectly housetrained dog.

First, learn to read your puppy’s body language. Pawing at you, standing at the top of the stairs or in front of the door, barking, sniffling, pacing, circling, and whining are all the canine equivalent of crossing your legs and desperately asking Siri where the next rest area is.

Those signals are your cue to scoop her up (or clip on her leash) and get her to her designated potty area fast!

Second, let’s talk about crates. Many people think a crate is a punishment, and certainly we don’t recommend leaving your puppy in it for long periods of time. But if a crate is your puppy’s sleeping area, she’ll instinctively want to keep it clean. And when she’s safely confined in it, you don’t have to worry that she’ll have an accident in the house, which will make it more likely she’ll potty in the house in the future. What’s more, a reasonable amount of time in a crate will help your puppy develop bowel and bladder control.

Which brings us to the third tip: Stick to a schedule. Puppies need to potty every two to four hours, so it’s crucial you plan accordingly. Events that can trigger a puppy’s need to urinate or defecate include waking up in the morning or from a nap, and immediately after eating and drinking.

Excitement and stress can also lead to potty accidents, so letting your puppy play indoors can result in housetraining accidents. You’ll also want to take her out just before bedtime. She should be sleeping through the night by the age of three or four months, but for younger puppies you’re going to be in for a few weeks of sleep deprivation while you take her out once or twice during the night.

Allow for plentiful potty opportunities around potty-stimulating activities. Provide bathroom breaks within 15 minutes of waking, eating, drinking, or higher excitement activity, including play.

Not all pups will make it through the night, however, as their ability to hold their bladder isn’t fully developed until about four to five months of age. The general rule of thumb for puppies is that most pups can hold it for the number of months old they are in age, plus one. So a two-month-old pup can hold it for up to about 3 hours (though this may be stretched a little during sleeping hours). Depending upon your pup, you may need to set an alarm or cue into puppy noises to take your pup out accordingly and prevent overnight accidents in their sleeping area.

If your pup seems unable to hold it for reasonable lengths of time for her age, consult with your pet’s veterinarian as this may be a sign of an underlying medical issue that requires treatment.

Even if all you want to do is sleep, go outside with your puppy every time she has to potty. That’s because you should take every opportunity to praise and reward your puppy with a tiny-sized treat every time she potties in the right place.

Play is another great reward when your pup potties outdoors. Let her have a few minutes of play after doing her duty, and you’ll find she won’t hold back on urinating or defecating because she thinks pottying will trigger going back inside or into the crate.

Letting your puppy run loose in your house is not going to end well. She will potty where you can’t see her, which will set up a cycle that can be hard to break.

Consider attaching her to you with a leash or use other containment options in puppy-proofed spaces, including closed doors, gates, and inside fencing options. Doing so limits her space and helps her to gradually become accustomed to the home, using her natural instinct to keep her own spaces clean to encourage potty in appropriate spaces only. Such containment options also allow you to always know where she is and what she’s doing, which is important for attending to even subtle cues when she’s feeling the urge to go. Over time, the pup’s space can be opened up little by little to offer increasing freedom as she proves able to go accident-free.

Lastly, if your pup tends to potty when saying “hello,” note that she may be displaying an appeasement gesture or feel a little apprehensive about the greeting. Avoid bending or leaning over the dog or reaching over her head. Instead, turn your body slightly to the side, get down more on her level, and pet her in an area she’s more comfortable being touched, like her chest.

Alternatively, you can also channel her energy away from the greeting scenario and into another task, such as turning the “hello” into an opportunity to get her toy or to do a couple of tricks, like asking her to sit and down, for treat rewards.

What about adult dogs?

House training an adult dog is essentially the same as with a puppy. The advantage is he’ll have better bladder and bowel control and won’t need such frequent potty opportunities.

When a previously house-trained adult dog starts having accidents in the home, however, it’s time to head to the veterinarian. Barring major changes in the home, this is usually caused by a medical problem rather than a behavioral one. The cause could be as simple as a urinary tract infection (which is very painful and needs to be treated immediately) or the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction (which can be treated medically).

Punishment has no place in housetraining, whatever the age of your dog. You want him to learn that going inside the house is wrong, but he’ll actually learn that people are unsafe and unpredictable.

He may become afraid to go potty in front of you, which can lead to increased indoor house soiling. Rubbing your dog’s nose in the mess he made or any other form of punishment won’t work and can make the problem worse. Instead, address the behavior by managing his environment and training better behavior.

Another cause for house soiling in previously house-trained dogs is anxiety. For example, dogs with separation anxiety or noise phobias may start having accidents within the home. In those cases, your veterinarian can work with you to control the problem or refer you to a veterinary behaviorist or certified applied animal behaviorist.

Another source of anxiety may be a trigger the dog encounters outside. The sound of distant thunder, fireworks, gun fire, or even traffic can be terrifying to the noise-averse dog. If he’s afraid to leave the house, he will be prone to potty inside where he feels safe.

This post is brought to you by our sponsor, Elanco.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.
Elanco, and the diagonal bar logo are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates. © 2019 Elanco

dog muzzle

Dog Meets Muzzle

Just like people, dogs want to feel safe and happy.

The emotionally protective practices employed through Fear Free help to keep animals calm and comfortable throughout care and prevent them from feeling a need to escalate to a bite. But as much as we plan and try to protect our precious pooches, the truth is that dogs are unpredictable and may respond defensively if they feel afraid, threatened, or in pain. A muzzle can help with that, but only if the dog is already used to and comfortable in one.

Teaching a dog to willingly wear a muzzle is comparable to purchasing car insurance. While we hope it’s never needed, in the event that an incident occurs, it’s a lifeline that minimizes damage and protects all parties involved—two-legged and four-legged. And feel-good food rewards while wearing the muzzle promote pleasant associations with care. The following tips and tricks help to build comfort and calm in dogs as they become accustomed to being fitted for and wearing a muzzle.

Choosing a Muzzle

The right type of muzzle allows the dog to still enjoy tasty treat rewards as he’s being cared for. Look for a hard-sided basket muzzle with holes and slats on the front and sides. This allows you to easily offer the dog treats such as lickable cheese or meat paste through the basket muzzle openings. Pairing these positives with care makes wearing a muzzle a win-win-win for your dog, yourself, and caregivers. A basket muzzle also allows dogs to pant which helps them dissipate heat and stress.

Getting Started

Give dogs the choice to approach and investigate the muzzle at their own pace. Allowing them to initiate the approach and choose the pace of the interaction builds confidence with the item, especially when you reward them for it.

Hold the muzzle in your hand or between your knees. This allows the dog to approach while the muzzle is kept still.

Smear a soft treat such as squeeze cheese or peanut butter on the outer edge of the muzzle leading to the front, inner portion of the muzzle where the dog’s nose and mouth will eventually go. Once the dog’s nose is inside, deliver small, soft treats that are easy to swallow with minimal chewing, pretzel sticks with more of the soft spread can be advanced toward the dog’s mouth through the slats or holes of the muzzle.

Over time, build the duration that your dog keeps her nose inside the muzzle. You can do this by continuing to reward your dog intermittently while the nose remains inside the muzzle. Leave the muzzle unstrapped so the dog can move away if she chooses.

Increase your dog’s eagerness to push and keep the nose inside by removing the muzzle just as the dog finishes the treat spread. Aim to reward the dog frequently but stop before he loses interest or becomes uncomfortable and chooses to move his nose out.

KISS: Keep It Short, Simple

Keep sessions short and treat frequency high to further hold your dog’s interest and keep her eagerly invested in the training process. When your dog shows happy anticipation and eager interest in placing the nose into the muzzle for longer periods, you can start to secure the muzzle. Do this by having the muzzle pre-strapped or buckled, but loose. Allow the dog to slip her own head into the muzzle as the strap is held up and then gently slipped over the top of the head.

Alternatively, work on buckling or strapping the muzzle while a helper feeds the dog. If you don’t have an assistant, secure food treats to the wall with a product such as a Slow Treater or hold a stuffed Kong between your knees. Secure muzzle straps as the dog eats.

Once the muzzle is in place, support the underside with your hand as you feed treats. This accustoms the dog gradually to the weight and feel of the muzzle when worn. Remove the muzzle after several seconds, before the point that the dog becomes concerned.

When the dog appears calmly relaxed when wearing the muzzle with straps placed, fit the muzzle to the dog’s face so it can be worn comfortably without slipping, sliding, or falling off. Keep the dog occupied with a treat toy or give treats quickly as you adjust the muzzle. You can also remove the muzzle to adjust it before again placing it on the dog.

Once the muzzle is properly fitted and your dog voluntarily places his nose inside as straps are secured, start introducing brief muzzle-wearing sessions. Focus your dog’s attention on activities they enjoy, such as performing a favorite trick, following you for hand-fed treats, or going on a walk.

Keep the muzzle’s value high by continuing to pair it with happy consequences. If the muzzle is used only during times of concern, such as handling or procedures, the dog may become wary of it. Instead, pair the muzzle with a variety of situations with happy outcomes such as an outing to a favorite place or a fun visit to a Fear Free veterinarian or groomer.

When properly trained to enjoy wearing a muzzle, a dog can arrive at places of care, such as the veterinarian or groomer, with the muzzle already in place. Doing so reduces the potential stress of the dog being placed in an unfamiliar muzzle by someone he doesn’t know.

For extra help, check out the muzzle training how-to video link here.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Mikkel Becker is the lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. She is a certified behavior consultant and trainer who specializes in reward-based training that’s partnered closely with the pet’s veterinary team. Mikkel is the co-author of six books, including From Fearful to Fear Free.


medical dogs

Medical Detection Dogs How they save Lives.

There are around 83.3 million owned dogs in the United States alone, and in recent years, organisations the world over have begun training dogs to detect medical conditions in humans.

UK charity Medical Detection Dogs conducted research in 2013 detailing how dogs have the ability to alert their diabetic owners when their blood sugar levels are too low (hypoglycaemic).

Other research has also shown that dogs are able to detect clostridium difficile bacteria in faecal samples and hospital air. This bacteria can cause many hospital acquired infections.

But how exactly are dogs able to detect human disease?


All in the scent


A human has around 5 million scent glands. In comparison, a dog has between 125 to 300 million scent glands, making a dog’s sense of smell between 1,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than a human’s.

Dogs4Diabetics is a US organization that researches, trains and places medical assistance diabetic alert dogs with insulin-dependent diabetics.

“We believe all diseases have scent associated with the diseases, due to the changes occurring within the body, with different organs expressing different chemical compounds. These scents are evident in breath and sweat,” explained Ralph Hendrix, executive director of Dogs4Diabetics.

“Dogs have highly sensitive senses and can learn to recognize symptoms from many types of disorders. In our work, they are not taught to react to symptoms, but to scent.”

Of course, dogs do not automatically detect the scents – it requires a lot of training to ensure the dogs are able to carry out their job.

Train to gain

Hendrix explains that the dogs must meet certain criteria in order to become medical detection dogs.

“The criterion ranges from their behaviour characteristics, their relationships with humans (ability to bond and willingness to please), their environment soundness, to their work ethic, motivations, response to reward, etc.”

Dogs4Diabetics generally uses Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers, or a mix of the two breeds.

“Other breeds may work, but these breeds are well accepted for service work because of the temperament and disposition to work with their human companions,” he explained.

Hendrix also went on to explain how dogs are trained on a scent collected from a diabetic’s breath or sweat when they are experiencing hypoglycaemia.

“That dog is trained to identify the hypoglycaemic scent and then is taught to discriminate the hypoglycaemic scent from other attractive, but distracting, scents through a series of games and training exercises. The dogs receive positive rewards for identifying the correct scent and for their work.”

He also added that it can take a long time to train the dog to transition from “scent discrimination training” to detecting actual hypoglycaemia.

“All diabetics will have residual scent around from previous hypoglycaemic episodes. This ‘dead’ scent lingers in their home, their clothes, their bed. The dogs have to learn to differentiate the ‘dead,’ lingering scent from the ‘live’ scent, and transition their alert to only the live scent for which they are rewarded.”

When elaborating that the dogs also need to be trained to identify and alert in different environments, such as work, school, or in the car, Hendrix said:

“To the dog, it is simply a game with positive rewards that is played everywhere.”

Dogs4Diabetics’ clients also receive training, including how to respond to the dog once it alerts them to the problem. The owner must ensure that the dog is accurate by testing their own blood sugar levels.


Potential for cancer detection

Research is ongoing into the use of dogs to detect various types of cancer. These dogs are known as “bio-detection dogs”.

Research has explained that the dogs are able to detect volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or odorants, that are altered in the early stages of ovarian cancer. These VOCs may also be biomarkers of bladder cancer.

A 2011 study found that by using four trained sniffer dogs to analyse urine samples from bladder cancer patients, the dog’s specificity in detecting the cancer ranged from 56% to 92%.

Bottom of Form

Rob Harris, bio-detection manager at Medical Detection Dogs, explains how the dogs are trained:

“We condition the dog to the volatile pattern of a cancer sample with the use of an audible sound, such as a clicker. The clicker is associated to something the dog enjoys. For example, a treat or toy.

The clicker signals to the dog that the last behaviour carried out before the click was correct and he will receive his reward. Over time, the dog learns that the click only appears as he sniffs at a cancer sample.”

From this research, investigators have begun creating devices that may detect cancer by mimicking a dog’s nose.

The Na-Nose – created by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Alpha Szenszor, a carbon nanotube manufacturer in Boston, MA – is a device that can analyse more that 1,000 different gases in the breath in order to detect lung cancer. In clinical trials, the device has been found to have up to 95% accuracy.


‘Dog fakers’ putting people’s health at risk


Despite the evidence, some still have reservations with regards to the dog’s accuracy in identifying diseases.

Hendrix explained that a dog’s detecting ability is dependent on the training it has received, and whether they have been trained to the required standards.

“I see no problem in using trained dogs with a proven ability to assist in the detection of the possible presence of a disease. If the dog can identify the risk of its presence in the fashion that it has been trained with the known level of reliability, then I believe that the possibility exists that there is a problem, even if current technology does not immediately confirm the risk. The person should be followed more intently for the prospect of its appearance.”

However, Hendrix did note that some dog training companies exist that are not providing the necessary training to ensure their dogs are fully qualified medical detection dogs.

“We are particularly concerned over cases where people are selling puppies and rescued dogs with purported hypoglycaemic alerting skills to be used with diabetics and for public access,” he said.

“It is impossible to imprint a puppy with a scent and then expect it to be a reliable and consistent alerter over its lifetime. But people are paying $20,000 or more in a desperate attempt to obtain a ‘trained’ dog.”

There are also cases where pet dog trainers attempt to train service dogs or medical assistance dogs, but do not have the relevant training or background themselves.

“We are appalled when we hear of trainers or diabetics who are willing to put the life of their child or a loved one in the safety of a dog that has not been properly trained, certified, or without sustained training and ongoing support from experts,” Hendrix added.


The future for medical detection dogs

The first diabetic hypoglycaemia alert dog in Britain is a Labrador called Zeta. One of Zeta’s owners, Angela, says she looked to Medical Detection Dogs for a hypo-alert dog that could help with the management of her husband’s diabetes.

“The first time Zeta alerted, I became very emotional and cried because I did not really believe that alerting was possible. At first we thought she was making errors, then I realized that she was catching highs and also rapid drops in his blood sugar levels,” says Angela, speaking to Medical Detection Dogs.

“We really don’t know what we would do without her: she is worth her weight in gold!”

Emphasizing the benefits of these animals, Rob Harris, from Medical Detection Dogs, added:

“The real value of the dog comes with his ability to detect changes so early giving the client the opportunity to treat themselves, preventing paramedic callout and hospital admission. The assistance dog can accompany his partner everywhere, increasing confidence, independence and improving wellbeing.”

According to Hendrix, the challenge is to provide “consistent, provable and reliable” training in order to make use of the dog’s astounding senses so they can provide support to their human companions.

“Dogs are dogs, they cannot tell us what they scent, and trainers and handlers have to devise ways to both train the dogs and then validate the accuracy of their response to that training. They have to reinforce that training over the working life of the dog to sustain the skill. It can be done and there are protocols and processes that validate these skills.”

So what does the future hold for bio-detection and medical detection dogs?

Dogs4Diabetics founder Mark Ruefenacht says he believes we have only “scratched the surface” in what a dogs are capable of when it comes to helping to detect and manage human illness.

“The oft-heard, ‘human-animal bond’ has so much potential in the way we move forward in our working relationships with dogs,” he adds.

dog enrichment

Enrichment of your animals area

Definition of Environmental Enrichment

Enrichment is a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals behavioral biology and natural history. Environmental changes are made with the goal of increasing the animal’s behavioral choices and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors, thus enhancing animal welfare.
—1999 AZA Behavior Scientific Advisory Group

Individuals or Populations?

When considering animal welfare and environmental enrichment, it is critical to remember that both are individual-based. While animal caretakers and managers are often concerned with populations, enrichment and welfare are not – what is beneficial to one individual may not be for another.

Environmental Enrichment Plans

At The Smart Dog , we feel there are some principles that are critical to achieving successful and efficient enrichment plans. 

Enrichment plans should be holistic. 

To ensure that we consider all aspects of the environment, we recognize 5 categories of enrichmentThese categories are not mutually exclusive. Each category should be represented appropriately in an animal’s enrichment plan.

  • Social
  • Cognitive
  • Physical
  • Sensory
  • Food

Enrichment plans should be goal-driven. Behavioral goals should be determined to direct the enrichment strategies and schedules for an animal. The goals may be general (e.g. increase exploration) or specific (e.g. encourage olfactory investigation). There may be multiple goals for a given animal, and there may be multiple enrichment strategies offered. 

Enrichment plans should be assessed 

both initially and periodically throughout the year. The method of assessment may vary but the intent is to determine if a new enrichment strategy is meeting your behavioral goal, and if it continues to do so over time. If a new enrichment strategy is not meeting the goal (or if it has ceased to do so over time), modifications should be explored. 

Enrichment Framework. 

To ensure that enrichment plans are goal-oriented, tested, and assessed, we encourage the us

Should wish to have a copy of the enrichment diagram just whatsapp us or drop us an email and we will send it to you.

Also look on our Pinterest account for a few ideas for the dogs.


What must i look out for in buying a new puppy

One of the saddest things in private practice is witnessing the joy and delight of a new puppy turn to sorrow when, a few days after its purchase; it succumbs to a horrible disease like parvo virus or distemper. What makes it especially sad is that these diseases are preventable with correct vaccination. A growing trend appears to be for breeders to vaccinate their puppies before selling them – presumably to save on veterinary fees. This “saving” may be very short-sighted. Breeders are not adequately trained in the proper handling and administration of vaccines, nor are they trained to diagnose disease in its early stages. Vaccinating a puppy that is not completely healthy renders the vaccine ineffective and may actually exacerbate illness. There is also the dilemma that the veterinarian faces with the rest of the vaccination programme for the puppy viz. to ignore the first vaccine done by the breeder and start again, or to trust and hope that the first vaccine was done properly. Over vaccinating can also be harmful. Furthermore any person performing a veterinary act for financial gain (e.g. vaccinating puppies and charging for it) and who is not registered with the South African Veterinary Council is in contravention of the Veterinary and Para-veterinary Act No 19 of 1982 and as such is liable for prosecution. A puppy that has been vaccinated by a veterinarian will have a legitimate vaccine book or certificate showing proof of vaccination. This book or certificate will be a printed document with the veterinary practice details on the front cover and the veterinarian’s signature and practice stamp in the appropriate place inside. It will NOT be a photocopied or type written document on cheap paper or card. Puppies from pet stores are especially prone to developing disease a few days after being purchased. These puppies have often been sourced from all over the country and transported under great stress to the pet store. Here they are grouped together increasing their exposure to infectious diseases. Legitimate pet stores will offer to cover the costs of any illness which may develop within the first two weeks of purchase. In summary the following points may be helpful when purchasing a new puppy:
  1. If the first vaccinations have already been done, ensure that they were done by a veterinarian. Make sure there is a legitimate vaccine book with the veterinary practice details on it. Do not fall for any excuses like the vaccine books are still coming. The books are issued immediately with the first vaccine.
  2. If you are paying for a pedigreed puppy make sure you receive the papers with the puppy. Do not fall for any excuses like the papers are still coming. Also ask to see the pedigree papers of the parents.
  3. Legitimate breeders work closely with their veterinarian – ask for the veterinarian’s details in case your puppy has problems and your veterinarian needs to contact the breeder’s vet.
dog training

Hints of what to do with your pets during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation. Your pets will suddenly see that you are now spending more time at home , more than usual and this causes serious pet issues. Remember their routine has changed.. Here are some tips to help.

Stick to your routine

Feed them at normal time , Dogs, cats, and other pets like routine. Do your normal things , take them for their walks at the same time they like to see their friends and give a wave. They also have a social life believe it or not.

Safe Areas for your pets

They will be happy that yu are home but they will get stressed that you are in their space more now. They will all of a sudden have the TV on 24/7 , kids running around shouting making a noise. Make sure your  dog / cat or pet have a place of their own , (safe room)  has a safe space where they can go to relax if they want some alone time. For dogs, this could be a pet bed where you will never disturb them, or a crate with some nice cozy bedding in it. For cats, hiding spaces should be just the right size for an individual cat, as even in a multi-cat home, cats like to have space on their own. For cats, providing a safe space is one of the five pillars of a healthy feline environment (and problems with the environment can cause behaviour issues, which is the main welfare issue facing pet cats).

Supervise your pets and young children closely

Young children are at greater risk from pets, and in particular they are at much greater risk of dog bites. To reduce the risk of a bite, don’t let young children approach a dog that is sitting or lying down but instead teach them to call the dog to them (with your help).Use pet gates and barriers to keep them separated while you can’t supervise closely, and if you are supervising, take a cautious approach. Research shows that many people mistakenly think that dogs are relaxed around young children when they aren’t – and dog owners are worse than those without dogs at this. 

Make more time for play

Play is important for our pets. It’s an outlet for normal behaviour and helps strengthen their relationship with you. So now is a great time to fit in more play time, whether it’s a game of tug with your dog or playing with a wand toy with your cat. Did you know that cats who get more play time with their owner are less likely to have behaviour problems?

Use a harness for walking the dog

If you’re practicing social distancing*, it’s still okay to take your dog for a walk, but you (and your dog) need to stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from everyone else. This means your dog must be on a leash. If you don’t normally walk them on leash and it turns out they pull pretty hard, get a front-clip harness. I love the  Freedom harness (especially good for escape artists because you can use the back and front clip), the sense-ation harness, and the balance harness. Most dogs are happy to be walked on a harness, but as always when introducing something new, give lots of treats to create a positive association.

You should also train your dog to walk nicely on leash using treats as frequent rewards. And remember to give your dog plenty of sniffing time!

Do some tricks training

If you want to tire your dog out without taking them on a walk, tricks training is the perfect thing. Use great dog training treats and break the behaviours down into little steps so as not to go too fast. There are plenty of trick training videos on Youtube. You can also try tricks training with your cat, or maybe use the spare time at home to teach them to use their cat crate. Dont limit this only to them include the birds, goldfish as well.

Feed them with food puzzle toys

Another way to provide enrichment for your pet is to use food puzzle toys to feed their meals. Food puzzle toys mean that your cat or dog has to work to get their food.  In cats, food puzzle toys can help reduce behaviour issues. For both dogs and cats, start with easy toys and use treats to get them interested, and then start to feed their meals via the toys. 

Don’t use punishment

If you’re at home more than normal, you might find that some of your pet’s behaviours are more irritating than normal because you’re there and so they happen more often. Don’t make the mistake of using punishment – such as shock collars, prong collars, leash corrections, yelling, or using spray bottles – because punishment is associated with risks to animal welfare including fear, anxiety, stress, as well as an increased risk of aggression and of a worse relationship with the owner
Instead, decide what behaviour you would like to see instead and use positive reinforcement to teach your pet to do it. Use food to reward behaviours you like, and if you’re teaching a new behaviour, remember to break it down into easy steps. Sometimes you can prevent the behaviour you don’t like from happening in the first place e.g. don’t leave food on the counter if you don’t want your pet eating it and keep the garbage locked up.

To assist you we are offering are now offering online classes and consults so you can still meet with them, just not in person..

Get your learning on

This recharge time or down time is a good time to start training your pets and yourself.


DO one of our one line courses dog training Dr Ian Dunbar is an amazing speaker and vet , or even First Aid for Dogs.

My challenge to you is ,How many words does your dog know? Tell us.

How many tricks can your dog do? 

Enter to get our Trick Certificate and a prize.

Finally, remember to look out for more vulnerable people in your community who might need a bit of help, even if you have to do that help from a distance, whether it’s dropping off groceries and pet food on the doorstep or just chatting over the phone to help them make sense of what’s going on.

Woman in protective surgical mask holds dog in face mask. Chinese Coronavirus 2019-nCoV dangerous for pets.

How to look after look after your pets when you have Coronavirus

The Novel Coronavirus (covid 19) is a highly virulent virus. It was originally identified in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China in January 2020. The virus is highly contagious and has been swift to spread across much of the World. To avoid the spread of this disease, the NICD has given the following guidlines.

Anyone who tests positive will be put in isolation at one of the hospitals designated to respond to the outbreak. You’ll remain there until tests show you no longer have the virus.

The NICD will then trace people who have been in close contact with the confirmed case. Anyone who could have come in contact with the patient in the week before they began to feel sick will be self-quarantined at home for 14 days. This group includes everyone from family to  health workers who may have seen them. The NICD will closely monitor them for any of the symptoms of Covid-19.

Self-isolation is a necessary measure that raises many questions as to how to behave. Such as how to look after our pets during this period. Can you have contact with them? snuggle them? Take them out for a walk? Read on to find answers to these questions and many others!

You may find the following articles useful too. What to do if you think you have coronavirus and How to Care for Someone Who Might Have Coronavirus Covid 19.

Limit contact with pets & animals. You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with Coronavirus COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals contracting COVID-19, it is still recommended that people suffering from Coronavirus COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.

When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are ill with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet. Contact includes petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. You might have to care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick. In that case, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets. Always wear a facemask.

If you have Coronavirus, remember to wear a mask when close to your pet

If you are self-isolating because you have COVID-19 symptoms, you must not take your dog out for a walk. Even if you were to plan to stay close to your residence and go out early in the morning or late in the evening, this is not advised.

Ask friends, relatives or arrange for a dog walker to take your dog out. Furthermore, remember that you need to have as little contact as possible with whoever is caring for your pet. Ensure anyone visiting knows you have Coronavirus. Ensure they stay well away from you and wash their hands thoroughly after looking after your pet.
If your pet becomes unwell. do not take them to the vet. Counter to this, always call the practise for instructions. Moreover, scrupulously follow the vet’s instruction. You may need to arrange someone else to take your pet for treatment.

If you think you might have contracted the virus, you should call the NICD helpline on 0800 029 999. They will advise you where the closest public or private facility is for you to go for a test and how to access the facility. 

The Smart Dog provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for veterinary advice. The author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any mistreatment or misdiagnosis of any person or animal, however caused. We strongly recommend that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course or take our online course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

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dog training

Great News Free Seminar !!!!

We have some exciting news!

We are making our ultimate dog behavior and training seminar available for you to watch for FREE, in its entirety, for a limited time, starting RIGHT NOW!

If you have ever seen Dr. Ian Dunbar lecture about dog behavior and training then you already know how educational AND entertaining the experience can be. If you haven’t, then you’re in for a treat. Actually, either way, you’re in for a treat!

This seminar was filmed over the course of three days, and each “day” consists of 6 hours of lecture. That’s 18 hours of dog training lecture! We’re making ALL OF IT available to watch, for FREE, on our website, over the course of the next nine days. For the first three days, you can watch Day 1 of the seminar. For the next three days, you can watch Day 2, and for the final three days, you can watch Day 3.

Only one day will be visible at any given time during this promotion. All start/stop times will be at noon Pacific Standard Time:
Tuesday, March 3 – Friday, March 6 – Day 1: Preventing and Resolving Behavior Problems (We are Wasting Puppyhood!!!)
Friday, March 6 – Monday, March 9 –  Day 2:  Learning Theory Redux (Reward, Punishment and Rekindling the Relationship)
Monday, March 9 – Thursday, March 12 – 8 – Day 3: Off-Leash Lure Reward Training (How to Build Reliability and Control)

For more details, visit our website.

So what is this seminar, and why is it so fantastic?

This seminar is called Science-Based Dog Training (with Feeling) and it’s a distillation of Ian’s entire life’s work. He’s been studying dogs and dog behavior his whole life, as a farm boy, a veterinarian, an academic researcher, a professional dog trainer, and a trainer of dog trainers, and all of those different roles have provided him with a truly unique and unparalleled perspective on the science of dog training AND the easiest ways to get your dog to do what you want them to do.

Day 1 of Science-Based Dog Training (which you can watch for free March 3rd-6th) is called Preventing and Resolving Behavior Problems (We are Wasting Puppyhood!!!) and explains how to resolve all of the most common dog behavior problems. Of course, there’s one thing better (and easier!) than solving a problem, and that’s preventing it in the first place, so Ian also explains how easy it is to prevent all of the common (and very predictable!) dog behavior problems.

Day 2 (which you can watch for free March 6th-9th) is called Learning Theory Redux (Reward, Punishment, and Rekindling the Relationship) and it explains the science behind dog training. How do dogs learn and how can we teach them and modify their behavior? Dr. Dunbar explains the history of scientific research in this field and how it has shaped the way we train dogs today, and the many ways it has actually undermined effective pet dog training by encouraging people to train like robots and ignore the most valuable training tool of all, the human voice.

Day 3 (which you can watch for free March 9th-12th) is called Off-Leash Lure Reward Training (How to Build Reliability and Control) and it explains how to use lure-reward training to teach your dog to perform specific behaviors on cue. Of course, that’s the easy part. Most training consists of motivating your dog to WANT to perform those behaviors on cue, immediately and reliably, even when they are distracted and at a distance, and without the need for any sort of food treats or other training tools. Dr. Dunbar can show you how to achieve maximum reliability with minimum effort by maximizing FUN! 

If any of that sounds interesting, you can watch it all for free over the next few days on our website. If you don’t like feeling rushed, you can also purchase this entire seminar for a one-time fee of just $50. That’s 50% off the regular price. This offer will be available for the duration of this campaign, so you have until March 12th at noon PST to take advantage of it.

And Science-Based Dog Training (with Feeling) is just one of the many seminars that are included in the Top Dog Academy. Join the Top Dog Academy today and you’ll get access to Science-Based Dog Training (with Feeling) plus 100s of hours of other dog training seminars, workshops and videos, plus podcasts, ebooks, worksheets and more. Try the Top Dog Academy for free for one month. After that, it’s just $20/month and you can cancel at any time. If you join today, you can participate in a LIVE Q+A Webinar with Dr. Dunbar this Thursday, March 5th at 2 pm, where he’ll answer your questions about dog training and behavior.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Wags & Woofs
Jamie & Ian 


Stress and Anxiety in Dogs

What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

It’s unclear why some dogs are more prone to separation anxiety. There’s some anecdotal evidence to suggest it’s more common in shelter dogs, who may have been abandoned or suffered the loss of an important person in the past. Some breeds may also be more prone to it, especially the more-people oriented breeds. Life changes can also cause separation anxiety, including a sudden change in the schedule, a move to a new house or the sudden absence of a family member, whether it’s a divorce, a death in the family or even a child going off to college.

How Do I Help My Dog?

Neither you nor your dog wants this constant cycle to continue. It’s difficult seeing a beloved pet under so much stress and just as difficult to come home to mayhem and destruction. While there’s no magic bullet, there are some things you can try.

Conditioning: In some cases, you can try to relieve his anxiety by teaching him that separation has its rewards. Right now, he’s conditioned to go into stress mode when he knows you’re leaving him. Try countering that reaction by leaving him a special treat, like a bone or toy stuffed with peanut butter or something else he loves. You can even leave small treats around the house for him to discover. Make sure his toys, bed, blanket and anything else he likes are near at hand.

If he’s a puppy, start conditioning him early by leaving him for short periods of time and gradually lengthening the amount of time you’re gone. Some dogs feel safer and more comfortable in their crate when left alone. Watch his behavior in the crate to see if he settles right down or if the anxiety symptoms ramp up.

Exercise: Make sure he gets plenty of exercise, both physical and mental. A tired, contented dog, who’s had a brisk walk and playtime with you is more likely to settle down when you leave.

Medication: Sometimes, no amount of training and conditioning will help, especially with older dogs. Some vets recommend medication like amitriptyline, which is used to treat depression, or alprazolam, which is prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders.

Herbal & homeopathic treatments: Another option is natural supplements and homeopathic treatment. Natural supplements that help ease anxiety in dogs include the amino acid L-theanine, chamomile, passionflower, St. John’s Wort and valerian. These basically function to alter neurotransmitters in the brain (such as serotonin, GABA, or dopamine) to induce a sense of peace and calm.

In moderate to severe cases of separation anxiety, you might have to try a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. It can be a complicated process, so consider working with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or a veterinary behaviorist.

Separation anxiety isn’t always preventable, despite your best efforts. But with patience and care, you may be able to reduce your dog’s suffering and the destructive behaviors it causes.

Feel free to contact us for advise and guidance Grant 081 270 4672