What is Canine Hoopers?

Hoopers is a fun dog sport that’s ideal for dogs and owners of all ages and fitness levels.

Dogs navigate a course of hoops, barrels and tunnels with the same pace and excitement as agility.

But the courses are flowing and don’t involve tight turns – making it accessible for everyone!

Hoopers is focused on the ability of dog and owner to work together as a smooth-flowing team so it’s a great bonding activity too.

How do dogs take part in Canine Hoopers?

The best place to begin is by finding a qualified instructor.

I recommend Canine Hoopers World instructors as they have undergone thorough training with a Hoopers expert.

Usually they’re group classes but some instructors like myself run 1-1 sessions too.

What is the benefit of Canine Hoopers?

Where to begin? Ok, let’s start with the benefits for the dogs themselves.

In Hoopers dogs are working away from us so it helps create confidence and independence.

It’s also good for dogs that tend to bulldoze around because although they’re moving at speed, they have to be very conscious of what’s around them.

So it’s good for proprioception – it helps dogs to be aware of where they’re putting their feet and bodies.

There are also lots of benefits for us owners.

In Hoopers dogs are focusing on targets so we can easily turn that focus back on us, giving us greater control from a distance.

Oh yes, and it’s a lot of fun!

What kind of dogs is it ideal for?

I honestly believe that most dogs could benefit from Hoopers.

It creates confidence so it’s beneficial for nervous dogs.

It’s perfect for high-energy dogs too as it channels their focus – and of course it’s a great energy burner too.

Older dogs can join the fun as it puts less strain on their joints than agility and for that same reason dogs as young as eight months can take part.

That’s because unlike agility, Hoopers has no jumps. Instead, dogs navigate a ground-level course of hoops, barrels and tunnels.

The equipment ensures dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds can participate without having to take sharp turns or bend down for tunnels or hoops.

Hoopers is brilliant because it doesn’t exclude any dog or person!

fun dog

The Smarter Dog

We have been training our dogs in the wrong methods or ways for the last few decades.

We need to engage them on a more mental basis to change their behavior for the better.

I have now developed a new force free method of training your dog in a fun loving way.

Let you dogs nose work for you and have fun while training your best friend.

When you stimulate your dogs mind by using scent games or puzzles, major changes happen.

We have just run our Scent Seekers course over 6 weeks and have seen an amazing change in the dogs. Not one dog made a peep during our training sessions and we all had amazing fun finding the mice or the cheese.

I have trained dogs for over 30 years and have changed my methods of training to a new force free method using scent  as a game changer.

The changers we have seen are:

  • Problem behaviors  fade away.
  • Your dog more obedient and better behaved.
  • Your dogs IQ improves.
  • Your dogs mental and physical health improves.
  • Your bonding with your dog shots to the moon and you start having fun again.

Contact me Grant Smith for more information about our training programs. 

Ps. Panda says if you PM her she  will send you a free games book for your fur friend.’

kid and bull terrier

Kids and Pets : How To Develop That relationship

Kids and pets go together like peanut butter and jelly. I should know. Our Pugs were my daughter Reagan’s best friends from the time she was born. Her canine “brothers” were there to greet her when we brought her home from the hospital, and it was no surprise that Reagan’s first word was a bark!

Pets are good for kids in so many ways. They encourage physical activity through play and walks and they help kids learn empathy and practice interaction with others.

But that natural and loving relationship doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s important to guide and supervise how they interact with each to ensure no one gets hurt or misbehaves. Here’s how to bring a pet into the family in a safe way for everyone. (Even if you don’t have children of your own, you can use all these techniques when other children such as neighborhood kids, nieces or nephews, or grandchildren are visiting. It’s the best way to ensure that every child you and your pets encounter treats your dog or cat safely and respectfully.)

Pet-Proofing 101

Before you bring home a new dog or cat, make sure your home doesn’t have any safety hazards lying around. That includes kids’ toys. Enlist kids to put away their toys and explain how they could get hurt by chewing up and swallowing objects.

Safe Trip Home

When you pick up your new pet from the shelter or breeder, have a crate or carrier for him to ride in. That’s an easy way to prevent kids from arguing over who gets to hold him on the ride home. Sitting in their laps or being passed around is an unsafe way for him to travel.

Keep Things Calm

Your kids will want to play with their new pet but give him time to get settled first. Let the dog go potty in the yard before you bring him into the house. Have a safe space ready where he’ll sleep, rest, and eat unless an adult is supervising him elsewhere in the house.

Getaway spaces and time apart can help both your child and your pet reset when necessary. Teach your pet that this “home base” — a crate, bed or perch — is where he can go when he’s feeling overwhelmed or in need of a break. Make sure your child understands that when the pet is in his getaway space, he is not to be approached, interacted with, or petted.

Active play is for outside, with an adult keeping an eye on things. Remind kids not to screech or squeal, as those high-pitched sounds can scare a pet or cause him to act aggressively.

Handling Habits

Have kids sit on the floor to pet the puppy or kitten. Establish a rule that only adults can pick the animal up. It can be painful for pets to be carried by kids who don’t know how to pick them up or hold them. Be actively involved in any interactions between children and pets, and teach children how to properly and gently touch and handle animals.

Body Language Basics

Watching how pets react to children is an essential part of making sure everyone remains safe and happy. Pets use their whole body—ears, face, and tail—to express how they’re feeling. Ears laid back, lowered tail, and showing the whites of the eyes are signs that your pup isn’t happy; for cats, flattened ears and a swishing tail are signs of anger or anxiety.

Always intervene instead of letting them work it out on their own. Gently guide kids and animals to keep interactions safe and positive, putting a stop to whatever activities are causing the pet to feel uncomfortable or anxious. Early intervention is the best way to avoid a bite or scratch.

Behavior Skills

Puppies and children need to learn how to behave around each other. For instance, don’t allow puppies to chase and nip at kids’ heels. If a dog steals a child’s toys, teach “leave it” or “drop it” cues and redirect him to his own toys. Remind kids not pet cats on the belly or carry them around like a football.

Be sure you are the one supervising the pet. If your children see the pet doing something he’s not supposed to, like jumping on the kitchen counter or getting into the trash, they should let you know, not try to discipline the pet themselves. Model how to intervene by using force-free, reward-based techniques to bring a puppy or kitten back to appropriate behavior.

When you have a structure in place for greetings, petting, and play, everyone gets along better and makes good choices. Don’t forget to reward children for acting kindly and appropriately toward the new family member. Praise them for making good choices, like leaving pets alone who are sleeping or eating, calmly inviting a pet to approach at their own pace, or touching pets gently. Rewards reinforce good behavior in your pet and your child and can help to ensure that the two of them will form a lasting bond.

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

tracking dog

Tracking Searching for fun.

Does your dog like to sniff? And does she like playing games with you and learning new things? Then tracking is a sport for you!

Tracking helps to build confidence in shy or anxious dogs because it is a natural behavior and one of the few sports where your dog calls the shots. Humans have a pretty pathetic sense of smell, so it is up to your dog to show you where the track goes.

Tracking is also great low-impact exercise for both you and your dog. It gets both of you out walking, and processing smells will wear your dog out faster than walking alone.

And it’s just plain fun! Tracking is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your dog over an activity that she naturally enjoys and is good at.

What You’ll Need

  • Harness that doesn’t restrict your dog’s shoulder motion. Tracking is one of the few times when pulling is encouraged, and you want your dog to be able to move freely.
  • Leash or long line. Start out with a 6-foot leash, but you can graduate to a longer line as your dog gains confidence and skill.
  • A flag to mark the start of your track (and maybe some to mark turns as you progress)
  • Items for your dog to find, such as socks, gloves, or dog toys (in tracking terms, these items are known as “articles”)
  • Treats
  • A field or large yard to work in

Getting Started

All dogs already know how to track. You just need to teach your dog to focus on and stick to the scent you indicate.

  1. Place your start flag and walk about 20 feet, dropping a small piece of food for each step. Place your article at the end with a jackpot of treats. Then loop back around to get your dog.
  2. Put the harness and leash on your dog and lead her up to the start flag.
  3. Point to the ground to show her the first treat, and tell her, “Go find!”
  4. Follow along as she follows the trail of treats, encouraging her as needed. If she goes off track, just wait until she works her way back.
  5. Celebrate when she “finds” the article! Pet her, play with article, and let her eat the treats.
  6. Repeat a couple more times.

As your dog figures out the game, you can space out the treats you drop more and more. Many dogs will even start going past treats because tracking is rewarding in and of itself. Always reward and celebrate at the article to keep her psyched about finding her prize!

Gradually increase the length of your track, and introduce turns. Place treats before and after your turns at first to guide her through, then phase those out like you did in the beginning. Your dog probably won’t do textbook turns every time – she will go past the turn, circle around sniffing, and then commit to the track. This is fine! Stand still and let her search, then walk along behind her when she figures it out.

As she gets more experienced, you can start “aging” your track by walking the path and then letting it sit before you come back and run it with your dog. You can also ask a friend to lay a track for you!

While grass is the easiest surface to start on because it holds scent really well, you can also track over dirt and pavement. Help your dog the first couple times working on a new surface.

Praise when she is on the track, especially if she pulls to tell you to follow. She will quickly learn that pulling is allowed when she’s wearing her tracking harness, and not when she isn’t.

The simplest description of tracking is recreational search work. You can teach your dog to follow your scent trail and find things that you leave behind, rewarding for a job well done. If you really get into it, you can train for and earn tracking titles through ourselves, The Smart Dog k9 Training Centre (all breeds and mixes welcome!). Tracking is a great activity for dogs of all ages and sizes, because it is low-impact, on leash, and capitalizes on your dog’s amazing sense of smell. Tracking can be done anywhere, but if you’re short on good spaces to practice where your dog won’t be disturbed by the presence of other dogs or humans.

Happy tracking!

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

Kate Eldredge Basedow LVT is a graduate of Cornell University and SUNY Delhi’s veterinary technology program. She has won several awards from the Dog Writers’ Association of America and Cat Writers’ Association for her work about dogs and cats. Kate is a licensed veterinary technician in the state of New York
medical dogs

Can you train your dog online or not?

I’ve heard this a few times, most recently just a few weeks ago. And it got me thinking about how I learned about dog training. The vast majority of my learning experience has been reading, listening and watching.

Dog training is a physical and practical activity. You have to work with dogs, and with people if you wish to teach others. No argument there. But I also spent a lot of time attending conferences, courses and workshops where I listened to speakers as they shared their experience and knowledge, sometimes supported by video clips, sometimes demonstrating with real dogs. In those early days when I was young and eager, I’m sure my springer rolled his eyes when he saw me return from a weekend away. He was about to be my guinea pig as I put what I’d learned into practice. These days I don’t attend quite as many events but when I do I come home and consider what I’ve learned, weighing up how useful it is for my dogs and for clients’ dogs rather than automatically trying it out. I know my dogs are grateful for that period of reflection.

These days we also have social media and the internet to help us learn without having to travel. We have webinars and live Q&As on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. And I have learned lots from YouTube, it’s a wonderful resource with some really great trainers sharing their skills. Where I might have learned by watching videos in the 1980s & 90s, now I can go online and find what I need – sometimes. Just as you have to choose events carefully, you have to choose your online resources carefully. Critical evaluation are the key words here. Question everything, see how it fits in with your views and ethics, does it challenge you to think differently, to add to your understanding or does it jar with your personal belief system? For example, I will discard anything that causes a dog distress. While I have studied pain and fear inducing methods and have sadly seen many of them in practice, they are not something that I include in my training toolbox. Just because someone who you might admire or follow suggests a technique, it does not mean that you have to replicate it or even agree with it. You must make your own informed evaluations however you choose to learn.

Books and reading are still my go to method of learning, whether for dog training, baking or photography. If I want to know more and I can’t directly access an expert, I seek out a book in the topic. Again, online resources are wonderful. I can read many more research studies than ever before thanks to so many researchers publishing through open source portals. I’ve had my fair share of disappointments when picking up a much anticipated book only to discover that it’s full of punishment and misunderstandings of how dogs learn and what they need to have full, enriched lives. But it’s all information and it all helps me understand more about why I train as I do, and why and how I make the choices.

I would describe myself as an experience led trainer. I worked things out with my dogs, I learned from them and then went off to study why what I was doing was working, or not. Learning without a dog in front of me has supported everything I do when working with a dog. So can you learn dog training online? Hell yes! But do you then have to apply what you’ve learned, to practise the skills and try out the techniques, also hell yes! I’ve been using online courses to learn all sorts of skills for around 7 or 8 years. What I hadn’t found were good dog training online courses. Back in the day I tutored Think Dog, John Fisher’s distance learning course. I know many trainers who have done the course and so know the value of learning at home in your own time. And so I developed my own online training course. So if you’ve been under the impression that you can’t learn dog training online, I hope you will think again and maybe even give it a go.


Pilates for dogs – how canine pilates can keep your pet healthy

Pilates is a healthy way to improve our strength and flexibility but did you know it can help dogs too?

I was fascinated to discover this and was absolutely thrilled when Lindsey Fidler, a canine fitness instructor from Rotherham invited me along to one of her classes.

Lindsey studied Equine Psychology at Nottingham Trent University and after graduating in 2008 she worked on a horse racing yard.

Then she moved to a small animal practice to train to become a registered vet nurse in 2012 and decided to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy.

Many of the animals she treated were recovering from surgery, illness or injury and her physiotherapy sessions helped with their rehabilitation.

Their owners wanted to help as much as they could and Lindsey realised both could benefit from exercising together.

So she sought out a canine fitness qualification and became an instructor

Now she puts on pooch pilates classes – or Paw-lates as Lindsey calls it!

Lindsey said: “Owners would come to see me and I’d show them the exercises they needed to do with their dogs to help with conditions or to recover from illness or surgery.

“It struck me that by working together, a canine fitness programme would help dogs and their owners, so I did a canine fitness qualification with the Canine Conditioning Academy and started putting on classes.”

Lindsey still works with horses and her business helps animals with a range of conditions.

Her Pawlates sessions work on the same principles as Pilates for humans and aim to build core strength, flexibility, balance and posture.

Lindsey explains: “By improving core strength we develop the deep muscles which stabilise the spine and pelvis.

“When correctly used, these muscles allow our dogs to develop correct posture and movement.

“Just as with our own bodies, this helps prevent injury or fatigue to other muscles which may try to perform the role of the core muscles if they are not functioning correctly.”

Dogs and their owners can enrol on a six week programme for £80 or have one to one sessions at £30 an hour

This is more suited to dogs who need a personalised plan.

Her clients range from pups who do agility, obedience classes, and fly ball to regular pet owners who want to try something different for their dog.

“It’s enriching and very mentally stimulating,” says Lindsey, who lives in Rotherham with her rescue Lurcher Evie.

“If you have a high energy dog they can run for hours and don’t get tired, but get them interested in this and because they have to concentrate and focus it can tire them out.”

She works with every kind of breed from Great Danes to teeny Chihuahuas and to take part, dogs need to be at least six months, fit and well, and have basic obedience.

I love trying new things and last month Patch and I joined Border Collies Zuka and Logo and their owners

First, Lindsey explained the exercises in the class.

Then each dog walked around for a warm up to get the blood flowing and throughout the session, dogs switch between each exercise as Lindsey monitors their form.

The collies learned how to Side Step to strengthen the abductor and adductor muscles in the legs which in turn builds strength in the glutes or bum muscles, groin and chest. We missed this out as Patch and I were newbies.

Then they tried Raised Front Paws where the dogs stood on a step with their front paws – just like a doggy version of step aerobics.

The aim is for them to stand square with their front feet on the step and back feet on the floor and hold that position for 15 seconds at a time.

This increases the strength and muscle in the hind legs and helps with balance.

Lindsey explained: “A lot of dogs are front end heavy because they pull on their harness or lead and this is about reversing it and equalling out the muscle mass throughout the body.

“It works by extending the hips and stretches the abdominal muscles, the glutes, hips, hamstrings and thighs so it’s a lovely stretch for them. You can do it on benches and walls while on walks.”

Next we used some cones which can help if you’d like to try agility
We tried Weaving between cones slowly bending Patch through by tempting him with a treat.

The weaving action encourages the spine to flex in both directions. Some dogs are more mobile on one side but by asking them to keep changing over increases flexibility and improves co-ordination.

All the training is reward based so the dogs throughly enjoy it. “They go home with very full bellies,” says Lindsey. “It’s interesting for the owners too.

“It’s a fun way to learn more about how exercise affects your dog’s anatomy and learn new exercises to mentally stimulate them and build confidence.

“I recommend 15 to 20 minutes of work like this to my clients three times a week and the dog will be shattered. You can do it at home or out and about.”

So how did Patch get on?

Well I was pleasantly surprised as he’d only been with us for six weeks and we have quite a bit of work to do on his training.

But he really enjoyed the weaving exercises and Lindsey said as he was able to walk around the cones quite tightly his movement and balance was excellent.

As a bright two-year-old, he was keen to please and enjoyed going in and out of the obstacles, eating biscuits and treats along the way!

On the step, he stood nicely and we practiced encouraging him to stand square but not for too long as it’s important they don’t get bored!

I was really proud of him for his first attempt

Listening to Lindsey and learning how each exercise helps our dogs was so interesting and really makes you understand how important their health and mobility is.

It’s something that’s easy to take for granted.

Dogs love running around but if we want them to live long, healthy and happy lives and avoid injury and conditions like arthritis, ensuring their posture and flexibility is as best it can be can really help.

I absolutely loved Lindsey’s session and came away brimming with excitement and enthusiasm with what I’d learned.

We’ve continued the exercises at home. Tommy’s girls have loved the cone work and I know Patch enjoys it too.

Most of all, the classes are a lovely way to spend time just focusing on you and your dog, and if you like anything that helps you understand your pet and that brings you closer together you will love it.

I would definitely recommend Pawlates – I just wish Lindsey would open up a class near where I live!


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.