Dr Smith Holistic Petcare

Home » ABCs of Learning » training

Category Archives: training

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Dog Trainer : How to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking and Lunging on Leash: Quick and Dirty Tips ™

Some folks like listening instead of watching or reading here is a short podcast that I like on: “how to stop bad behavior on walks” & why these methods work in the long run better than just yelling and jerking on the leash.

Source: The Dog Trainer : How to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking and Lunging on Leash : Quick and Dirty Tips ™

23 Best games for a New Puppy | Dog Star Daily

Great video for all dog owners, not just for puppies!!

23 Best games for a New Puppy | Dog Star Daily.

Dr Dunbar and his team discuss the idea of teaching our puppies by turning training into a game. They also refer to several games that have online instructions listed by the trainer’s name or the name of the task.

One behavior that dogs and humans have in common is the desire to play throughout our adult lives. Most other animals stop playing as they reach adulthood. So here I will write about the benefit of play in dog learning.

We often want dogs to do skills/behaviors that make no sense to them. So of course we use food as a reward to motivate puppies. When we turn the training lessons into games, the dog experiences training as fun puzzle games, that they get to do with family. The more fun the training, the more your dog will love training and the more they remember

For example, my dog Leo loves training sessions, especially when he is learning new skills that are challenging for him. I can tell when he is really into it because he takes the treats and spits them on the ground quickly to be ready for the next thing.


Let me go through benefits of games on learning using the example game I call “GO-FIND-IT.”

The most immediate benefit for puppy owners is that mental exercise is more fatiguing than physical exercise. On days when the weather is bad, I often teach Leo new skills in place of outdoor exercise. As just a 3 year old adolescent dog, he becomes more tired after 20 minutes of learning puzzle games compared to a full hour of physical running. When he was a puppy it was more like 5 – 10  minutes of puzzle time. This is a very good way to help a puppy sleep through the night.

Instructions for”Go- find-it.”  (Be sure to run the words together to make the cue into one long word). Begin by hiding a favorite Toy in plain site, allow the dog to watch you place the Toy under a chair or other easy to get to place. Most puppies will go pick it up or follow you while you hide it. Exchange the Toy for a food treat after the dog has it solidly in their mouth. Reward with food for each find. Repeat hiding the Toy in the same room and in easy places about 10-15 times before moving on to more difficult hiding places, like under a pillow. Once the dog catches on to the game you can replace the food reward with a short “Tug on Toy” play. Puppy will be ready to go pick it up after a quick bit of play. It will be easier for the pup to give up the Toy each time if the dog already knows “Leave it”. Next level of difficulty is to have puppy in sit-stay, while you quickly hide the Toy just out of sight. Increase the variety & difficulty of hiding places as pup learns to find it more quickly.

Leo loved this game and would race to find the Toy. He would come back prancing, tossing the toy up & catching it in the air as he returned to me.

The game uses a combination of actions to increase learning.

1. Action: The wait at a sit until I said the cue words; “go-find-it”.

Learning:  Sit-Stay and practicing impulse control, longer sounds are cues.

2. Action: search for his Toy.

Learning: Frustration tolerance, Search behaviors & Pay attention to the environment.

This basic skill can be used to teach: “GO-find-Dad” & Go-find-Kitty”, Go-find-Billy.

3. Action: Object  pick  up, hold in mouth, and return with the Toy and give up the Toy.

Learning: all skills for solid retrieve in sporting dogs & service dogs. Dogs don’t understand the idea of pick up, hold, bringing  back  objects at our request. Especially, the part of the game where they give their toy away. Game reinforces the whole sequence of skills for a good retrieve which is harder than we think. Many dogs who are not trained to retrieve, will run off with the object or pick it up and drop it until you retrieve it.

4. Action: repeating the game at increasing difficulty.

Learning: Reliability & speed

Leo quickly realized that he had to bring the Toy all the way to me. Plus, the quicker he brought the Toy back, the quicker he got to play the game again. All without any food rewards. Playing and having fun becomes a natural reward.

5. Action: Increased difficulty leads to longer and more area searched by the dog. If he came back quickly without the Toy I sent him out a second time, the third search I go with him and show him the location.

Learning: Problem solving, frustration tolerance, memory.

As the dog figures out the simple hiding places, increase the difficulty so the dog has to search more areas for the Toy. This teaches basic problem solving and frustration tolerance and important cognitive skills for dogs throughout life. One fun fact revealed by brain research into memory:  The greater effort expended while learning, the better your memory becomes of the information learned.

All this from 10 to 20 minutes of fun for the two of us.




How to create a Happy Dog

I see allot of behavior problems in dogs because their busy families don’t make time for daily social time with the dog. In our modern, commercial world, we believe we have a right to have it all. More  and more pets are aquired like hobbies, chosen based on appearance and hair color, rather than personality, social and physical needs. Matching a family situation that is  a good situation for the pet is not considered until after the first placement has failed. Children, younger than age  12 often beg for a a puppy and get to them including choosing the breed or individual pup. children younger than 12 will within 1 -2  months move on to another interest. The family dog is stuck in yard or house alone all day, treated  like the motorcycle or sports car, stored away until the weekend when the weather is good, ready and waiting in good working order for the road trip. But, dogs are like people, highly social creatures. They need allot of social time from their families every day of their lives. And like children they require a prolonged puppyhood and adolescent period of social education for brain development and to acquire all the information and behaviors needed to make it in the complex human world like ours. Watch the Video for 4 tips that will help your dog have a happy life.

How to create a happy dog

Dog body Language Part 2

If you liked part 1, you’ll find even more interesting information in this video.

Understanding Dog Body Language – Part 2

Dog Body Language Video Part 1

This is simply a great video to start understand your dog.

Understanding canine body language part 1

How to Train your Dog to NOT PULL on a Leash! EXTREME LEASH PULLING, BARKING, LUNGING and JUMPING! – YouTube

The important points to remember from this video below are

  1. be patient.
  2. Help the dog learn to focus on you before the trigger gets him out of control.
  3. The handler learns the dogs distance from the triggers that set him off. In this dogs case many things in the environment trigger the dog into excitement mode, especially trees. So the handler has to work with the dog very close to the beginning of the walk, so be it. watch as the dog get calmer with repeated attempts.
  4. This is the type of training is when allot of food is effective. The tree containing squirrels are really, really exciting for a dog. So you have to become more exciting than a squirrel and the next better thing is usually food. Really yummy food. like chicken, lunchmeat or cheese. This method is called “counter conditioning”. The “conditioning” happened automatically when the dog learned to lung and bark at trees because some really fun stuff happened. To make staying with you on a polite walk a new habit, you have to make you more appealing then the fun of his learned doggie game of lunging/barking at trees. The process of doing it is called “counter-conditioning”. It takes a long time usually months of practice for a dog to give up an old habit and replace it with the new behavior you want


How Dogs Learn- Video by Dr Yin

How dogs learn

Great Video! A must see for all who love dogs.

If you are a client of Dr Smith’s – watch this video.If your dog has bad habits – watch this video. . If you want a better relationship with your dog – watch this video!

Add neurons, subtract anxiety

Wonderful news from science on the treatment of anxiety in both animals and humans. Fluoxetine, (a medicine for the treatment of anxiety) has been shown to stimulate the growth of new nerve cells. Specifically, cells in the memory storage and sorting area of the brain. As new cells grew, individuals were able to calm down more quickly. They were able to tell the difference between old (anxiety) memories and new (positive) memories. Several studies were done where positive memories were created in  people and animals. The circumstances that trigger an anxiety memory were copied, but with a slight change (like room color or smell) . Plus, and most important was that the events in the new circumstance ended with something  positive for the individual. (This type behavior therapy is called desensitization/counter-conditioning).  Individuals who grew more new cells, more quickly reduced their anxiety or fear.

How did new cells result in less anxiety? There is increase of new cells available to remember new events. Then, new, but similar events are paired with a positive outcome.  Sequences of events are stored in the brain as “memory patterns” The individual remembers, both the old and new memory patterns. With practice or repetition of patterns with the positive outcomes, the individual will learn the difference between old, fearful, v.s. new, more positive, memory patterns. The new memory patterns compete with the old pattern and the best outcome wins.  The result is less and less fear. This works, as long as the outcomes of similar events remain positive.The new cells, that were stimulated to grow by an anti-depressants, more quickly create new memory patterns. The final observation was that the new, positive, memory patterns are then stored long term in the brain and remain after the medication is stopped.

Then the rule “use it or lose it”, comes into play. Anxiety can return if old memory patterns are practiced more than the new memory patterns.  This leads to a regression or return to fearful behaviors and emotions. A little regression is normal, whenever life is stressful, but long term stress or just lack of practicing the skills, that once work, lead to more serious regression.

This is the first evidence that shows a rapid change in fear/anxiety is directly proportion to new cell growth and that medications increase growth of new cells.

In summary: Anxiety emotional states change more quickly when two things happen together.

1. Beneficial change in the environment, so that situations that creates fear/anxiety are changed and have positive outcome. (or at least block/prevent a negative outcome).

2. Anti-depressant Fluoxetine  at therapeutic dose.

This study explains, what has been observed, in behavior medicine for a long time. First, that medications alone are not enough to change anxiety. Second, the combination of  medication and behavior modification (or therapy) are the quickest treatment for anxiety. Finally, that the improvement is permanent.

Here is a link to the study:

Add neurons, subtract anxiety.

Training dogs to walk on a loose leash (with a clicker)

I like the detailed explanations that have been added to this video.


There are many ways to train a dog to ‘walk on a loose leash”. Here is another method that is alittle different.She slows it down enough to understand the technique.. Whenever training a dog, or any animal, the details of how the technique is done moment to moment are very important until you get the hang of it.


A word about ‘bloopers” and attention span.  Training the dog to do incorrect, unintended behaviors I call “Bloopers”.  It is easy to accidently train in extra steps in any method. For example a common one …  you say “sit” dog does nothing. Next you repeat sit, sit, siittt, SIT!… then the dog sits”. You have just poluted the verbal command of sit with, a sentence with a loud vocal punch.

This happens when the trainer attention lags alittle and we fall into bad habits. For the dog and the trainer, keep time of the repetitions short. The dog can maintain focused attention on learning for 3-7 minutes. For us however, when adding a new complex skill, are attention maybe 1 to 2 minutes. So stop for 2 minutes, pet your dog and breath. Then go back to training.

Dogs study us to figure out the thing we do immediately before they execute a behavior that results in the click/treat. If you scratch your nose a few times, that becomes part of the cue.  Hand or body movements are more meaningful to the dog so they remember what we do more than any verbal command. Keep your body still except any discrete handsignals. When training a word as the cue, speak a single word, then a short pause, then the handsignal (that the dog already knows). It still takes alot of repetition over 30 to 90 days for the dog to really learn a word and be able respond  in any situation. Just like humans, toddlers take months to really learn and understand all the useage of a word.

So ….  don’t yell, unless there is allot of background noise. Your dog is not deaf, he actually can hear 5 times better than you. Or you may accidently train the dog to only respond to Yelled commands.


If you want to know more about how dogs learn  look at my post on the ABCs of learning.



How to train your dog to come. “Recall training”.

Almost no one can get their dog to come! Bold statement I know, but I witness this daily. In our minds, we remember the times the dog did come to us, forgetting all the many times that “come” went unanswered.  Dogs eventually come to their family because, first they like us & second, we feed them so eventually they will come. This is not the same as a dog who comes immediately on cue .

Come or recall is a more complex behavior than most of us realize.  What we humans really what from the dog is:  “stop whatever you are doing (sniffing other dogs, chasing, playing, barking…) and come immediately.” BE QUICK ABOUT IT! “Recall, every time” is one of the hardest skill for a dog to learn.  For the dog to learn this  skill takes a series of steps with progressively more difficult situations in which the dog stop what he/she is doing, redirects to you and comes. Accepting what is really going on is the first step toward changing it. The article below reveals several steps in training  a reliable recall. 

Why is training recall so difficult for dog owners? | Dog Star Daily.

A few basics  about training a reliable response.

1. Practice, practice,  practice.

Reliability is all about practice. Just like sports, flying airplanes, surgery, military operations, excellent musical performance or any high skill endeavor. We humans tend to hold our dogs to a higher, almost magical, standard of performance. We expect our Dogs to stop whatever they are doing and come when we call, without specific training and allot practice,  How many of your employees, kids, or spouses  immediately come when called!

2. Reward after the desired behavior-Use what the  dog wants. This is the Consequence for dogs actions/behaviors.

3. Timing – dogs focus on what happened right before, 1/2 sec, the treat arrives. The closer the treat is to the behavior the more effective the training.

4. The order of things is the magic formula for learning – the ABC’s

a. Antecedent-something that happens before the behavior. We often use a cue: like a hand gesture, or a word “come”, whistle sequences or sound of meal prep in the kitchen. Even lightening is an antecedent to thunder for dogs afraid of storms. But the lightening does not cause the thunder, the storm clouds cause both, but light travels faster than sound so it precedes the noise.

b. Behavior -the dog does something.

C. Consequence– what happens immediately after the behavior. If  this something positive the dog will repeat the behavior. If something negative the dog will not repeat the behavior.

The error for many is believing that the the Antecedent or A . causes the B. Behavior to happen again. It is the C=consequence that will motivate the dog to do the same Behavior in the future. The Antecedent alerts the dog to the possibility that treats maybe available to be earned. I often use a pre-antecedent to set my dog in the mindset of training by saying “are you ready”, he then knows that a cue for a behavior is coming. He becomes alert, focuses on me waiting for signal word.


A Positive Consequence is more effective if:

*It immediately rewards the behavior – < 1 second after the behavior (unless a bridge is used-clicker training is using a bridge).

*Is it better than other available options. That is why trainers us favorite food or fun.

*Predictable- a little like a paycheck. If you work but don’t get your paycheck you would not want to continue to work for that employer. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t work harder for the same paycheck if you enjoy your job. Enjoying your work is another reward for a job well done. For dogs after allot of practice they seem to enjoy the task itself.

 Make it worth it for the dog. Mostly we use food, toys or play.  However as puppies, almost all dogs come to their substitute families. This recall is preprogramed into the young canine brain; stay with the family group, check in often. Don’t mistake this natural tendency for your dog understanding “come”. Instead, use the tendency in early puppyhood to teach English, repeat “come” whenever the pup naturally runs toward you. Make returning to you, a great experience for the dog. Even when you have been chasing the dog for 30 minutes, gave up and turned to go home. Which is when the dog will come to you. You’re irritated and can’t imagine giving the dog a reward for running you around. Fight the urge to punish and reward the arrival of your dog at your side.

Why does the dog get a reward for 30 minutes of run-away time. First, dogs love the chase game, so he/she would have thought  you were playing. Second and more important– dogs will repeat behaviors in the future, that get them something good. The more accurately this one fundamental  is practiced the stronger your dog will listen to you.

Let me repeat myself. Dogs will repeat a behavior in the future because last time it resulted in something good. Behavior followed by a good consequence.


Break it down. Rex comes to Tom. Tom gives him a dog treat. Rex follows Tom around, coming close enough to be touched and gets a treat each time.

Has Rex learned to come to Tom? No, he is playing the odds that the treats will keep coming, so he stays close by.

Next day, Rex comes to Tom, Tom does not give Rex a treat, Rex waits for his treat and eventually wanders off. Rex tries “come” few more times but, when no treat arrives he ignores Tom for more interesting things. Rex does not come to Tom when called. He comes when he wants to come because he likes Tom.


How do I get my dog to come when I don’t  have treats. Practice in many different situations.

 After Rex comes 90% of the time when called for 7 days in a row, then it is time to move to fewer treats for more work. ( 1 treat for 2 comes, then 3 comes and so on). Or treat after 2 behaviors.   Rex comes, Tom says sit, Rex sits, Tom steps back, Rex “comes a second time”, Tom gives Rex a treat. Now Rex has done a come-sit-wait-come, for 1 treat. Repeat this sequence, rapidly stepping back will entice the dog to follow because this is a mini-version of the chase. So keep the pace fast, as the dog does well, make 2 step backs or mix up how many sit-comes Rex must do to get a treat. But gradually make these changes.

When the dog stops paying attention you have pushed for more difficult to learn behaviors too fast or he is at the end of his attention span. Give him a break and repeat after a 10-15 minutes. Ideal time for each mini training session is 2-5 minutes.


%d bloggers like this: