Pet Holiday Zen Tip #7



Plan ahead. There will likely be doors that are opened and closed more often than if it were just you and your family. You may be busy making sure the turkey doesn’t overcook or putting the egg in the nog. You need to plan ahead for the possibility that your dog may inadvertently pass through an open door. Management is key, and as a professional trainer, I will tell you (ahem), you need to work on bolting before the guests arrive!!! Please train this important skill. However, with little time before the big events of the season arrive, in-depth training may not be possible, so management is essential. (For additional training information, please see my previous blog on bolting and also in my book Come, Boy!.)

One possibility to ensure your dog will not “escape” is to keep him tethered to you (leash attached to something in the room you are in, or to you or a designated person) while you are going about your hosting responsibilities. Or, an x-pen works well in a specific room, or a kennel so your dog is still able to view the activities but is safely confined. Be sure to communicate to all guests your concerns for your dog’s safety if he should get outside through an open door, but remember it’s your responsibility to keep your dog safe.

Nonetheless, even if you have taken the precaution of advising everyone of your concerns, more than likely someone may forget, and I would rather have you err on the side of caution by using these management techniques. After all, once the bell is rung, you can’t unring it. If your dog escapes, he can easily become lost or worse.




Michelle Huntting




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12 Days of Christmas: Day 12


12 Silent Nights

For those of you pet guardians that have forgotten what it’s like to have a silent night and for others that have a dog that barks at people or other dogs passing by your house, this blog is for you.

When I work with dogs on barking I don’t teach a “no bark,” but I focus on getting dogs to stop when I ask. I feel that the word “thank you” is extremely appropriate since, after all, my dogs keep watch over my family.

Teach the Thank You Cue
The thank you cue will allow your dog to bark, but asks him to stop when cued. You are welcome to use any word that you’d like for this cue. Some of my clients have used that’ll do.

Outside of training sessions it’s important to have stimulus control. That is just the trainer’s fancy way of saying, “Keep the blinds pulled!” Barking at people works really well for your dogs. Think about it. Humans walk by your house, your dog barks, and the people (because they continued to walk past your house) left your yard. In your dog’s mind, barking worked. Your dog’s behavior served him, so he will continue to do it and the more he does it the more it’s reinforced.

So outside of training sessions, make sure the environment (like keeping the blinds pulled) will set him up for success so he won’t bark while you are gone or when you are not focused on training.

During your training sessions open the blinds. During this time you will be waiting for stimulus (like a dog/person walking by), so he will bark. When I train the thank you cue, I set aside a block of time and multitask like working on my computer while I wait for my dogs to bark.

Also, have a lot of pea sized treats ready to roll. I like using Charlee Bears.


As soon as your dog barks say, “Thank you!” and start delivering several treats one right after another.* Don’t be afraid to deliver several (5-10 pea sized) treats. Typically after a few treats your dog will sit in front of you. After he is focused on you,  go back to your work and repeat the process as the barking occurs.

Do one session five days a week for two weeks.

*If you have delivered several treats, gained his focus for a few seconds and he starts barking again, repeat the process. Re-cue “thank you” and deliver treats. If he continues to bark after you have gone through the process two times, redirect him with something to chew like a stuffed Kong or bully stick.

Outside of Formal Training Sessions
If your dog barks at a noise or something else outside of training sessions you can cue “thank you” and deliver the treats just as if you are in a formal training session. Be sure to have your treats ready to go.

During this week’s training sessions (week three), after your dog starts barking cue, “Thank you!” and wait for him to move toward you. As soon as he gets to you, start delivering treats. Deliver treats until your dog is sitting in front of you and focused.

Formal sessions are no longer needed for the next two weeks. As you are going about your day and your dog barks cue “thank you” and deliver treats. I recommend that you give treats after every thank you for the following month.

Fading the Treats
After this month, you can start giving random rewards (fading the treat). In other words, sometimes you say, “Good boy!” and other times you deliver treats. It’s important that you are still randomly reinforcing from here on out, but treats are not needed every time you cue thank you.

Happy Training! And cheers to future silent nights (and mostly silent days).




Michelle Huntting
Building the bridge of communication between dogs and pet guardians



Check out Michelle’s other 12 Days of Dog Training Tips or the Pet Holiday Zen Tips!
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12 Days of Christmas: Day 9


9 Hugs – Performed by Earl and Ethel from Earl’s World!

Teaching your multiple dogs to hug on command is an impressive, adorable and incredibly talented trick to teach. The final result will never seize to impress your friends and family, and will come in handy when you need a party trick to entertain your guests!

To teach this trick, you need to teach at least one of your dogs, preferably the larger one, to give their paw and/or teach them the paw target command.

Once this has been mastered, replace your hand with the presence of your other dog. Encourage your dog to place his paw on your other dog’s shoulder, by placing your hand there to begin with. Once your dog is confident doing this, slowly move your hand away, pointing to your other dog’s shoulder instead. Every time your hugging dog places his paw in the correct place, reward your dog with your dog’s favourite reward. Keep practicing, then replace your paw giving command with the ‘hug’ command, until your dog is happy to place his paw on the shoulder of your other dog with the simple command.

If your dog is anything like my older dog, he may start placing his paw on your other dog whenever the dogs are in each other’s presence, in anticipation of a reward! This causes a good deal of hilarity and laughs!

Enjoy training!




Blog written by Guest: Earl’s World!

Check out Michelle’s other 12 Days of Dog Training Tips or the Pet Holiday Zen Tips!

12 Days of Christmas: Day 7


Guest Blogger: Melissa Clinton with Barking from the Bayou

On the 7th day of Christmas my dog gave to me 7 sweet spins! 

Teaching your dog to turn around is one of the easiest tricks for them to learn. Even my 8 year Basset Hound was quick to pick it up. He still turns in slow motion but he does turn!

You begin this trick by having your dog face you. Hold a high value treat just above their nose and make a circle. The dog will usually follow the treat. Be sure to say, “Turn around” while they are rotating. When they have made a complete circle, be sure to give them the treat and a lot of praise. Continue this routine with the treat until they are certain of the “turn around” command.

You will soon be able to use you voice and a circular motion in front of the dog and they will turn around on their own. It is a fun trick and looks very impressive.

A funny thing happened when I was teaching my Basset, Bentley how to spin. Our Westie, Pierre already had this trick mastered and would watch while Bentley was learning. Each time I told Bentley to turn, Pierre would quickly spin around!

The main thing about any training is to make it fun.

Merry Christmas!

Check out the Michelle’s other 12 Days of Dog Training Tips or the Pet Holiday Zen Tips!
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Pet Holiday Zen Tip #5



Recently, my niece and I were talking about athletics. She is a distance runner and can go many miles. I told her that I am not a long-distance runner, that I sprint and do interval training. As she was unfamiliar with the concept of interval training, I explained that, for my workout, I run as fast as I can for a specific distance, and then I walk for a specific distance and then repeat that pattern. My training is an example of how you need to manage your dog’s time with family—in intervals. He spends time with you and the family, and then he goes into the room of his own. Spending time in his room is equivalent to my recovery walk time when I am doing my regimen. This slowdown gives me a second to collect myself before I go at it again. Providing intervals of exposure for your dog is important because it will help set him up for success so that he does not become overwhelmed in an effort to “run the distance.” It gives him a chance to regain his Zen.

Written by: Michelle Huntting

Check out Michelle’s other 12 Days of Dog Training Tips or the Pet Holiday Zen Tips!

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12 Days of Christmas: Day 6


6 Impressive “Leave Its!”

“Leave it.” This cue is up there in the “all important, to-know” cues. If you think about it, not only can it save your dog’s life, but it will make your life sane and it will also promote impulse control for your dog.

If you are new to the “leave it” gig, please refer back to the basics blog I posted about how impressive your “leave its” can truly be. For the rest of you powerhouse dog handlers, here are six “leave it” challenges. Let me know how it goes, and please, brags are on! Share how your dog does below in comments!

Remember, set him up for success as you work though the challenges; work at your dog’s pace.  Always be ready to cover the treats with your hand in case he goes for them. As best as you can, prevent him from getting the leave it item after you cue “leave it.” Good luck!

Challenge One. Place treats on your dog’s paw (and leg). You can work toward several treats like my super rock star, Boy, pictured below. Look at those eyes!

Challenge 2. Drop treats from several inches from the ground.  Start with one and then work up toward a handful. (Tip: I cue “leave it” before  I drop the treats.)

Challenge 3. Place a treat on a couch or chair that is eye level to your dog.  

Challenge 4. Throw a treat toward your dog (obviously without hitting him) and also throw treats beside your dog. Work up to several lave it treats.

Challenge 5. Hold a treat in your hand. This is such an important “leave it” to teach because you never know when someone will try and offer your dog something tempting, but not safe, like a chicken bone.

Challenge 6. Drop treats while standing and work up toward several treats.



Thank you to Dr. Harvey’s for the yummy Coconut Smile treats. Miss Belle and Boy enjoy these very much.






Blog written by Michelle Huntting
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Check out Michelle’s other 12 Days of Dog Training Tips or the Pet Holiday Zen Tips!
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12 Days of Dog Training; Day Three


A stay can keep your dog safe, prevent bolting, promote over-all Zen in your house, build impulse control, and let’s face it begging material for this holiday season.

This isn’t a skill that will come over-night, but with some focused dedication you both will be well on your way. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to give more advanced exercises, so if you are new to the stay gig here is a quick run down.

Give the cue “stay” (treats are delivered during this time) —> Calm Release word (like “okay” or “release”) —> and make Release boring (no treats and make sure you encourage your dog to move out of the stay)

You will start with small movements and gradually increase distance.

Here are some examples:

  • Cue your dog to “stay.” Pivot your body back and forward toward your dog. Reward when you pivot back in close to him. Release. Next time pivot twice, reward release. Continue a varied pattern.
  • Cue your dog to “stay.” Take a full step back and return to dog. Reward when you are close to him. Release. Continue a varied pattern adding more steps.
  • Cue your dog to “stay.” Take a step to the side of your and return facing him. Reward when you are in front of him. Release. Continue a varied pattern working up to walking all he way around him.

It’s important to release your dog before he breaks. If you release him as he breaks your stay cue will become weak and I don’t want that for you.

Here are 6 challenges for a more advanced stay as you work up to three minutes

  1. Toss a tennis ball up and down

Thanks to my son Anthony for filming 😉

2. Throw a ball (or toy) to the side of your dog, past your dog, and behind you.

3. Talk to your dog in a high pitch voice (Because anyone with a cute dog deals with people approaching our dogs in a similar way)

4. Squeak a toy

5. Turn your back

6. Run back and forth in front of your dog

Go ahead now. Get your “stay” on and let me know how it goes!




Michelle Huntting
Building the bridge of communication between dogs and pet guardians 



Check out Michelle’s other 12 Days of Dog Training Tips or the Pet Holiday Zen Tips!
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