Puppy Nipping Ouch!


I recently have been training a lot of puppies in the nipping stage. First of all, my arms hurt. Second of all, you are now hearing from a trainer with recent experience that is driven by empathy with this blog!

With that being said, I can give you bits and pieces of advise today, but let me assure you that this is not a cure all. Many puppies out there will have not read this blog or other training manuals. If you are still experiencing problems, please consult an educated professional. You are more than welcome to contact me as well!

Here are a few tips for you: 

Use Toys to Redirect (Larger Toys Are Better Than Smaller Toys)
As a puppy, Morgan my Golden retriever mix needed something to chew almost constantly.  I always had something for her to chew on, no matter where we went. Every time she would try to chew on me, I would immediately redirect her to the Nylabone or her bully stick.

Avoid Getting your Puppy Overly Excited
Puppies on the developmental scale have the urge to put everything in their mouth and also don’t understand how delicate human’s skin is. Also, they don’t have the ability to calm themselves down like an older dog might. Be sure to prevent any over excitement and if he does get excited you are more than welcome to place him in a small enclosed area like a bathroom or his kennel with a fun chew toy or bone to help him calm down.

Keep Play Time Manageable
For example, you know at seven minutes of play he’ll be too excited, so only play for four minutes. I use a lot of “time out” times where puppy is in kennel 2-5 minutes with something fun to chew to help him calm himself back down again.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
One of my favorite games with puppies is the Flirt Pole (You can check out the details here), fetch and also an outdoor walk.

What to Do When Puppy Nips:
If your puppy starts to nip, quickly fold your arms in front of you and ignore him. After two seconds of no nipping, calmly start interacting again with the puppy. If the puppy starts to nip, repeat the process. If you’ve done this twice and the puppy is still nipping, get up and leave the room for a few seconds (sometimes I shut the door behind me which seems to get my point across).

What’s been your experience with puppy nipping? Enter comments below.






Solve The Jumping Dog Dilemma


A jumping dog. It’s so annoying. I expect to be greeted with a few jumps when I am called to a training job, but when I go to a friend’s house all dressed up for our evening out, I really am not happy to be mauled by an exuberant pup. I don’t want to go into work mode and pull out my training persona; I just want to enjoy my evening off. Nothing like walking out of the house with a few holes and slobber marks on my shirt and a few scratches on my arm before we leave for the movies.

I am sure I am not alone in feeling this way. After all, if even the dog trainer gets annoyed by this unwanted behavior, we have a problem. I believe the term in Texas is, “Houston, we have a problem!”

Why do dogs jump? Following are a few of the many reasons:

In the dog world, jumping is polite. Believe it or not, this is a normal dog behavior even though it’s an annoying one for humans. Nonetheless, even though it’s normal, it’s not desirable to most humans.

pawIt’s out of excitement. If you spend a day with my kids, Titus and Anthony, you littlegirljumpingwill see when they get excited about something, they jump up and down. Yes, even sometimes on me. Just as children get excited and jump, so do dogs. They are, quite simply, happy to see and be with you!

pawThis state of excitement can cross over into lack of impulse control. A dog can sometimes get so elevated that he can’t bring himself back down to a state of relaxation. This elevated state is what trainers refer to as “arousal.” At this point, he’s not able to think through his excitability, and this is when the untrained owner continues to cue, “sit sit sit,” but the dog is more like “jump jump jump.”

pawIt works. Dogs, just like humans, are opportunists. This means if you leave a pizza on the counter when you are gone, he may very well help himself to it. (My kids would too). If he jumps on you and gets any reaction, he got what he wanted–attention. If your mother-in-law is screaming, “Ah! He’s jumping on me!” your dog is having a blast because he has hit the jackpot with her and got a huge dose of attention—and likely unwanted attention at that.

How you and your guest react makes a difference.

I recently trained for a co-worker. She was having a lot of difficulties with her dog named Bentley jumping on guests. I asked her to video before clip so we could show a clip after I worked with him. She said if you can change my dog she would be impressed. I sarcastically thanked her for the confidence she had in me. I walked in to her house and Bentley hardly jumped on me. She said, “He never does this.” I knew that would happen because I understand dogs and how they communicate.

handsOur Hands

I once heard someone say that dog’s view our hands as paws. I don’t know for a matter of fact if this is true, but it sure seems to be somewhat true in that if we use our hands to push a dog down, it has the opposite effect. The result is he jumps more and now perceives this as a fun, new game.

Instead of using my hands, I will cross my arms and use my elbows and my whole body to back a dog up from jumping on me.

voiceOur Voice.
The high pitch voice that we ladies tend to give when we see something cute like a puppy or baby is not helpful in promoting a calm response from any dog; it only creates excitement. I promise you. When you are walking into the home, you should either not communicate at all with the dog, or, if you do, you should do so in a low-toned voice.

Our Body.

To discourage jumping, stand straight up with your head slightly to the side of where the dog is located. Do not give him eye contact. When I first started training, I would give a dog my back, but not as much anymore. I have realized that simply not making eye contact is enough to discourage unwanted behavior. I don’t acknowledge him until he settles and shows me a behavior that I like such as sitting. Then I give him attention.

Manage. What strategies should you use?


If you are a parent, you know that you must toddler-proof your house. Baby gates, outlet covers, latches on cabinets that contain dangerous materials are all a very important part of keeping your child safe. However, it seems that this common sense doesn’t cross over to our pets. What?? We can manage?? What? Make my life a little easier? Yes, honey, we can make your life easier.

When guests come over, leash your dog. Step on the leash so there is only enough length for him to either stand or sit. Reward the “sit” behavior that you like with treats or praise.

X-pen or kennel.

Being around the guests should happen in small increments of time for dogs that have little impulse control. If your dog is one that settles after the guests initially enter, then leashing as a way of management will work just fine. If your dog tends to stay worked up, short visits to an x-pen or kennel throughout the guest’s visit will be helpful. Please be sure to work on kennel skills before your guests arrive. You want him to be relaxed. I often give my dogs a bully stick or a frozen stuffed Kong when they are spending time in kennel.

Training Exercise: Seems simple, but this will help.

“Sit” is your friend. We tell our dog “no,” “get down,” and “stop,” but do we teach him EXACTLY what we want him to do? It’s about time we do. Let’s be fair and let’s be clear. It’s important for a solid two weeks that you really reinforce the behavior of sit. Think of treats as money going into the bank account of behavior right now.

Formal sessions: Take a handful of treats. Stand and wait for a sit, and as soon as your dog sits, treat (throw treat to floor). I want the dog looking at the floor for treats, not your hands.

I am not cueing my dog to “sit” during these training sessions. In other words, I am not telling him anything. I don’t want to constantly have to tell my dog to put his bottom on the floor with my words. I want to establish this as a common behavior for him to offer when he sees people. Dogs’ train of thought (as if we could know, but go along with the dog trainer’s analogy here), ”Oh look! Human! I need to sit.” I think sometimes we over-cue our dogs by constantly telling them what to do when sometimes they are able to have the expectation of what to do without being told. This should be the case with not jumping.

Everyday life: Reinforce your dog for a sit (or down) with praise or food as you are going about everyday life. Bottom line, when you turn around and see your dog in a sit or down, smile and acknowledge, “Wow! I really like it when you sit.” Remember use your lower-toned “good voice.”

Other Tips:

Dogs Don’t Generalize Easily.

What’s this mean? It means, work in the location that is most problematic because what you teach is location specific. For the first two weeks of training, I would suggest working in the doorway where guests enter your home, and after the initial two weeks, start training in different places in the home. In addition to locations, be sure to work on this skill from different positions, like with you standing, sitting in chair, or sitting on floor.

warningsignBeware: You do not want to create a pattern of bad behavior. For example, if he jumps up and then sits, ignore him for 30 seconds and then restart training. We do not want to create and reward a pattern of jump/sit.

Work 5 minutes a day doing these simple training exercises, and you will start seeing a difference in your dog’s greeting manners. Soon, at least your guests will enter and leave your home with fewer holes in their clothing, less slobber on them, and fewer scratches on their arms. Happy Training!


Blog written by Michelle Huntting.

Puppy Socialization


What is socialization?

When someone talks about socializing a dog or puppy, most people start thinking about take a pup to the dog local park.  While many dogs may enjoy trips to the park, there is actually much more involved in properly socializing a puppy than just turning them loose with other dogs.  A properly socialized puppy will have been exposed not only to other dogs, but a wide variety of people, other animals, sounds, obstacles, and environments.

Why is socialization at an early age so important?

Puppies learn most of their social skills during the first twelve weeks of their lives.  This is also the time during which a bad experience may cause a life-long fear.  A lack of proper socialization during this time period can lead to fearful, nervous, or even aggressive tendencies that are very difficult to modify later in the dog’s life.  While it is important to continue socializing your puppy even after the twelve week mark, the experiences your puppy has before turning twelve weeks old are crucial to their development.

So, how do you make sure your dog gains this experience?

It may sound like a huge undertaking, but socializing your pup can be worked into your everyday life fairly easily.  Here are some ideas on how to expose your puppy to a variety of things:

  • Take your puppy out and about with you!  As simple as it may sound, a daily walk through your neighborhood can expose your puppy to a variety of things.  Cars going by, other pedestrians out walking, the odd sounds of the city garbage truck making its rounds, just to name a few.  Visiting downtown areas or around schools can also expose them to larger crowds of people and children.

Please note that If your puppy has not yet received their vaccinations, it is best to carry them when you are out and about.  This will limit their exposure to potential diseases, but still allow them to take in all the activity going on around them.  Check with your vet to make sure your puppy is receiving the vaccines he or she needs, and at the appropriate times.

  • Find a local trainer.  Most trainers will offer classes specifically for puppies of this age, giving your puppy a great chance to be around other puppies and people.  When looking for a trainer, always make sure you find someone who uses positive reinforcement ONLY!
  • Enlist the help of your friends and family.  Ask friends or family who have friendly, vaccinated dogs (or even cats!) to come visit your house.  It’s also a good idea to visit them so your puppy can meet them in different environments.  Even if some of your friends don’t have pets, they can still help!  It’s important for your puppy to meet lots of people, including men, women, and children. 
  • Practice grooming.  Even if your puppy isn’t a breed that requires a lot of maintenance, it’s still important to teach them that basic things such as brushing, bathing, and having their paws and ears touched are no big deal.  Aside from being able to groom your pet, these things will come in handy when your dog has to be handled for other things, such as a veterinary exam.  If you aren’t comfortable doing these things yourself, seek the help of a qualified groomer. 
  • Introduce your dog to various sounds.  The vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, or a dropped pot or pan in the kitchen are all noises that you can expose your dog to.  Sudden sounds that are particularly loud or obnoxious should be introduced from a distance initially, then gradually bring them closer.

All of these are great ways to get your puppy’s socialization headed in the right direction, as long you take the time to do them safely and positively!  Here are a few things to remember when working with your pup.

1)  Avoid letting your puppy interact with dogs you are not familiar with.  At this young age, your pup is more prone to illness and disease.  Only let them interact with dogs you know are friendly, healthy, and properly vaccinated.

2) Take things at your puppy’s pace!  Don’t force them to confront too much at one time, especially if they seem nervous.  For example, if your puppy is nervous about approaching an object, take them back to the distance at which they are comfortable, and gradually work from there.

3) Keep in mind that dogs, especially young puppies, typically learn more from multiple short training sessions each day rather than one very long one.  All dogs are different, but a good starting point is about ten minutes at a time.  If you notice your dog acting distracted or frustrated, your session may be too long.

Remember to always keep a positive attitude when working with your dog!  Training and socializing should be fun for both of you, and create the foundation for a strong relationship.

Written by Kristen McCartney
Find out more at, www.missbelles.com