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Ask the Trainer: 10 Common Dog Training Questions Answered

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Whether you need help with puppy training or just aren’t sure of the next steps to take in your dog’s obedience training, you need guidance. And while some people may advise you to “just Google it,” we urge you to use caution when choosing your resources!

The truth is that, oftentimes, turning to the internet can make matters even murkier! For starters, everyone tells you to use positive reinforcement dog training. But how are you supposed to use reward-based training when your dog is doing something naughty?

Well today, our resident dog training expert, Devene Godau, is here to answer your questions! She has been helping owners train their dogs for over 20 years, and there is nothing she loves more than helping families bond with their dogs.  

Let’s get started!

Question #1 - How Do You Say No To a Dog?

Everyone knows that dogs don’t speak English. So, how do you say no in a way they understand?

“No” is a favorite word for humans. And it takes on so many different meanings.  Don’t touch that. Don’t go on the couch, don’t jump on the guests! The list can go on and on.

Dogs are keen discriminators, but this means it is challenging for them to assign various meanings to one word, such as no. So, while saying no (or yelling if we’re frustrated) might interrupt a behavior, it won’t change the behavior long-term.

Ask the Trainer, How to Say "No"

A better way to attack this training problem is by teaching your dog what you want them to do.

Here are a few examples:

  • If you want your dog not to touch something, teach them how to “leave it.”
  • If you don’t want them on the couch, make the dog bed more appealing.
  • If you don’t want them to jump on guests, teach them how you want them to greet (I suggest four on the floor as seen in this video).

Of course these answers are simple, but training each of these takes the right training program and lots of positive reinforcement. Comment below to let us know what training plans you want me to expand on.

Question #2 - What Should I Teach My Dog To Have Good Manners? What ARE Good Manners For a Dog?

This is a great question. I often tell my clients that it is their house, their rules. They have to decide what good manners look like.

But I will fully admit there are things I believe all dogs should be taught, such as an alternative to jumping up to say hi. Not that I will judge a dog if they jump up on me. It is a perfectly normal dog behavior. It is their person that needs to teach them our human rules.

Because I live in a neighborhood, the manners I focus on are:

  • Not barking while outside or on walks
  • Not lunging or scaring people on walks
  • Not bothering guests

Many of these behaviors depend not so much on teaching specific behaviors (although that does help) but on helping your dog be calm. If your dog isn’t calm, they are less likely to respond to your cues. A great exercise to start with is Capturing Calmness.

Question #3 - My Puppy is Peeing Inside! How Do You Stop a Dog From Peeing in the House?

We have good news if your puppy won’t stop going potty inside! Our Guide To Potty Training For Dog Training Newbies. But that’s not all. We have a Potty Training Q&A too!

The short version is that the only way to stop your dog from peeing in the house is to prevent accidents. You can prevent accidents by keeping the dog in sight or using a dog-proofed area, such as a crate.

We also have a Beginner’s Guide to Crate Training for dog families searching for house training solutions.

Dog peeing outside the house

But you also want to ensure that any accidents get cleaned up with a cleaner formulated to neutralize the scents left behind that can encourage a puppy to pee there again.  So, what is the best carpet cleaner for old pet urine? I like OdoBan Pet Solutions Oxy Stain Remover.

Question #4 - My Dog Eats Everything! How Do I Stop My Dog From Chewing?

Dogs need to chew. Chewing helps exercise their jaws and helps to keep their teeth clean. But it also helps burn energy and alleviates anxiety.

But if your dog eats everything, that information is little comfort to you! So you need to train your dog on what is appropriate to chew by:

  • Preventing access to anything you don’t want your puppy to chew.
  • Providing a good variety of appropriate chew toys.

Make sure the chew treats and toys you choose for your dog are safe. For instance, dogs love pig ears. But they can be high in fat, so you want to check with your vet or try this Pigs Ear BarkBone, a nylon dog bone that looks like a pig ear!

We have much more information about chewing and mouthing (when your puppy won’t stop biting you) in our article Mouthy Dog: How To Manage Biting and Chewing.

Question #5 - How To Get a Stubborn Dog to Walk on a Leash?

Dogs are not intentionally stubborn (I can already hear people exclaiming, “But you haven’t met my dog!”). Some dogs are more challenging to motivate than others.

If your dog isn’t walking on a leash, he likely refuses to move. Which, I’ll admit, does look like stubborn behavior to the human eye. But what is really happening?

Dog pulling on leash

Is he a young puppy that has never been on a leash? If this is the case, your puppy has likely never had to wear a collar, let alone a leash. So he needs to get used to these things.  Check out this video for a more in-depth look at puppies and leashes.

Depending on the dog, he could be afraid to walk in a particular environment. This is what I see most often when people report this behavior.

Sometimes, the dog may be freezing ( a typical fear response) because of something humans can’t even see or hear. It may be a dog that is overwhelmed by all the distractions outside or one that had a bad experience that he is pairing with the environment.

Alternatively, I have worked with dogs that love walks so much that they put on the breaks once they have determined that you are heading home. They are more motivated to refuse to move than go home.

And lastly, sometimes they are just tired.  If they are too tired to walk, they might just lay down. 

So, to fix the problem, you must figure out what is happening here. With so many variables, working with a positive reinforcement-based dog trainer is best to send you down the right path.

There are two things I can recommend that you do now to prevent the issue from getting worse:

  1. Avoid situations where you have to force your dog to walk. That will increase the problem.
  2. Practice good walking behavior in your house and yard before you tackle walks with your dog trainer. This video has some great foundation exercises you can start with.

Question #6 - Are There Any Hand Commands for Dog Training

Yes! You can condition a hand signal for any behavior you want on cue.

Many hand cues used in dog training evolve from luring the behavior. For instance, to teach a sit, you might put a treat in your hand and lift the hand over your dog’s head.

Eventually, you should be able to lift your hand over your dog’s head and get a sit. This is a hand cue.

Conditioning a dog with a hand signal

Dogs are creatures of body language, meaning hand signals can be easier for a dog to focus on (compared to verbal cues).

Hand cues can look like anything you want them to! But if you want to get some ideas, this video gets you started with some commonly used hand signals.

Question #7 - How Do I Stop My Puppy From Whining In The Crate?

If your puppy is crying in their crate, you need to do some more crate training. 

How do you stop a puppy from whining in the crate? This is the catch-22 in puppy crate training! 

Your dog may be telling you they have to potty. But the behavior works if you let them out when they are whining! Behavior that works will be repeated. You may want to yell at them, but that also gives the dog the attention they seek.

So the question is, should you leave your puppy whining in the crate at night? You wait until they are quiet, even for a second, and make sure they don’t have to go outside. Then you want to check two things:

  1. Where is the best place to put the puppy crate at night? They should be close to people. If they feel alone, they are more likely to vocalize.
  2. Spend more time making positive associations with the crate during the day when it is easier to make good training choices. We have a Beginners Guide To Crate Training here.

Question #8 - How to Stop Dog Barking

How do you get a puppy to stop barking? The way you will work with this depends on why they are barking.

Dogs bark for MANY reasons. Humans tend to focus on the end result: we want the barking to stop. But the barking is a symptom of an emotion. And that is what we have to address.

So here are some common scenarios:

How Do I Stop My Dog From Barking at Visitors?

The most important thing to figure out is if they are barking out of excitement. Or is your barking dog concerned?

If they are concerned, crate them in a separate room with a chew treat when people come over. And then seek help from a qualified dog trainer.

If they are just excited, let people know that when they come over, they must ignore the dog completely when barking. When they stop barking, they get attention.

Dog barking

How To Stop a Dog From Barking When We Leave

Dogs are social animals. When the family leaves, they will sometimes call out to you to come back. 

A dog that gets worked up when we leave may start getting anxious when you leave. The goal is to pair a good association with people leaving.

A stuffed Kong Toy (or another dog-safe option) keeps them chewing (which reduces stress) while you leave.

Plus, they will be too busy to notice the stressor (their family leaving).

 

How Do I Stop My Dog From Barking in the Crate

I have the same advice as in the above questions about dogs that whine in the crate. Make sure you are not reinforcing the barking by giving them attention or letting them out when they are barking. Otherwise, the behavior paid off!

But if your dog is barking in the crate often, you should take a few steps back in the training process. Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Crate Training.

Is There Such A Thing As A Humane Bark Collar?

There are collars marketed as humane. Those usually indicate they don’t use a shock. They often spray citronella at your dog when they bark.

But are they humane? I hear people say that bark collars give the dog a “reminder” not to bark. But it gives them a consequence that is aversive enough that they are afraid to bark because they don’t want to experience that feeling again.

The problem is that we can’t control what the dog associates the aversive with. While humans want them to associate it with barking, if they bark every time they see the mail carrier and get corrected, that mail carrier becomes much more scary.

So, there is a lot of room for fallout with these tools. And, as dog trainer Zak George once said, “True teaching does not happen from the outside inward…true teaching happens from the inside out.” That says training results are better when we address the issues causing the barking, not just the barking.

If you have a dog barking excessively, you can see that there is not just one quick fix here. Zak has a great video to help.

Question #9 - What Is The Best Age To Train A Dog

You can train your dog at any age! But it is easier to train a puppy. This is because they have yet to develop any bad habits. Older dogs’ behavior can be affected by past experiences, good or bad. So, it makes it more challenging to modify behaviors they have been practicing!

Question #10 - My Dog Growls When Playing - Should I Correct Him?

Dog play is mock fighting. They use play to develop skills they might need in the future.

However, some dogs can get carried away and get very loud. My biggest concern when monitoring play is that this type of behavior will end up winding up the other dogs or even scaring them, causing them to get defensive.

So, I prevent this by making the dogs take a breather before they are released to play again.

 

But How Do I Calm An Overly Excited Dog?

If your dog gets too rowdy or growly in play, you want to give him time to calm down. But that seems easier said than done!

When a puppy gets wound up in play, their adrenaline spikes. Asking them to stay still would be incredibly frustrating! 

Calming an overly-exciting dog with distractions

 So, we look toward activities that give them something to focus on while lowering their heart rate:

  1. Sniffing: Get your dog sniffing by throwing pieces of kibble on the floor so he has to sniff around the room to find them all. If your dog finds the food too quickly, throw the treats outside in the grass or use a snuffle mat.
  2. Chewing: And I don’t just mean a biscuit. Add some peanut butter or canned dog food to a Kong. If your dog gets this out too quickly, freeze them.

While the dogs are sniffing and chewing, ensure no one is getting them wound up with excited voices or quick movements. 

In Conclusion

These are some of dog owners’ most common questions about their furry friends. While some issues require more digging into your situation, I hope this gives you a starting point for a successful training plan.


Contact us if you have questions that weren’t in this Trainer Q&A. We would love to hear it, and you might see it answered in an upcoming post.

Authors

  • Devene Godau, CPDT-KA

    Devene obtained a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University and spent several years working in marketing. However, when she adopted her first greyhound (who came with some behavior challenges), she began researching ways to modify her problem behavior and found help with a local dog trainer. She became a volunteer assistant to learn more, and eventually started teaching classes and conducting private lessons. She currently trains puppies full-time to become scent detection dogs. Devene lives in Michigan with her husband and kids, as well as 4 dogs, 2 cats and a tortoise.

  • Morgan Messick

    Morgan Messick is a content creator for Dog Training Newbie, a website that is all about dog training tips, techniques, news, and more. Morgan has two dogs, three cats, and a lovely wife who support her passion for writing. Morgan loves reading murder mystery novels and listening to true crime podcasts in her spare time. She is also passionate about supporting small businesses by creating dynamic content that customers want to see.

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