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.






Puppies, Dogs, and Chewing

Chewing. Gnawing. Nipping. Biting. Welcome to the world of puppy! Their razor sharp teeth are hard to ignore. 

Puppies NEED to chew. Their teeth don’t settle into the gums until they are 18 months of age, so it’s important as their guardian to cater to their need to chew.

In order to meet their need, a lot of redirection is needed. Many times the guardian gets mistaken for the chew toy. When this happens simply redirect them with the appropriate option. Other times, beautiful things in the home can fall victim to puppy’s teeth and in this situation you will redirect with an appropriate item. I rescued a pure bloodhound puppy many years ago and she was chewing on my rug and I calmly replaced the rug with a stuffed Kong and she was just as happy. It can be that simple. 

Here are many good options for puppies:
Tug Toys
Bully Stick
Kong Puppy Teething Stick

A Kong is a “go-to” for me and I often tell owners to stuff several ahead of time for when you are in a time of need. A Kong not only can be a great tool for chewing, but is also a fabulous thing to use for environmental enrichment.

Here is a simple way to use a Kong

Gather your dog or puppy’s favorite food choices. My dogs really enjoy peanut butter. Today I also grabbed small treats that are made in the USA. You can even use your dog’s kibble, if you’d like.

Now you can start layering all the yumminess. First treats, peanut butter, treats, peanut butter and always top it with the peanut butter to hold it all in. For older dogs you can freeze it.


I think Boy looks happy 🙂 Don’t you?

This is just one of many great options for your puppy to chew. Remember. Be patient. Redirect. Happy puppy training!

The Kong Company has a list of great recipes. Let us know how you use the Kong in comments below. What type of goodies do you dogs enjoy?



Michelle Huntting
Building a bridge of communication between dog and pet guardian. 





Have nipping problems? Check out this great blog. 

Give Him a Break; Puppy Training

Training puppies is not the same as older dogs because of attention span. It works the same for kids. Younger kids have a short attention span, right?

objectplayWhen working with your puppy keep training sessions around 15 minutes or less. Within that session you will train 1-3 minutes and then provide a 1-3 minute play break.

When you are ready to start a play break use a release word like, “Okay, go play.”

What are “play breaks?” A play break is a small break from training 1-3 minutes which can be playing tug, chase, fetch, etc with your puppy. You can also pet and talk sweet to your puppy during this time.

After your play break, return to your training session. justfunandplay

Puppies are a ton of fun to train, but it’s important to meet them where they are at developmentally and just like children, they have a shorter attention span with a stronger need to play.

What’s your puppy’s favorite game? Have you used that game in training? Share in comments below.





Michelle Huntting
Building the bridge of communication between dog and pet guardian 


Check out more of Michelle’s PUPPY TRAINING TIPS HERE

The Wolf, Alpha, and Owning a Dog

wolf2When pet owners, friends, strangers, and even doctors find out that I am a dog trainer, they begin sharing with me about their dogs. Nine times out of ten I hear these people say that they are not the pack leader even though they’ve tried, or they proudly share what they are doing to maintain the alpha position in their pack.

When I first started working with dogs as a hobby, I had the same thoughts myself about being alpha because of the information that my trainer and other popular TV shows discussed. In order to maintain the alpha position I was encouraged to “alpha role” my dogs (role them on their backs and hold them down), use the prong collar, and never allow them to walk through the door first or walk in front of me when leashed.

This training concept comes from the idea that wolves have a strict dominance structure where the wolves compete for the dominance and then are held in check with the alpha male or female. People have assumed that because dogs evolved from wolves, that their hierarchy structure is the same.

When I started getting into the science of dog training I was relieved to find out that the term “alpha,” coined by Dr. L. David Mech was misunderstood by the public.

In his book, The Wolf, Dr Mech specifically states in reference to the term “alpha,”

Hopefully it will take fewer than 20 years for the media and the public to fully adopt the correct terminology and thus to once and for all end the outmoded view of the wolf pack as an aggressive assortment of wolves consistently competing with each other to take over the pack.

We have discovered from research that dogs and wolves do not have the same hierarchy structure.

The problem from a scientific perspective with the “dog in wolf’s clothing” approach is that it assumes that the social system of dogs is the same as wolves’. However, domestication has changed the social system of dogs. A comparison of feral dogs and wolves reveals a number of important differences in their social structure…Leaders in a feral dog packs are not the most physically dominant individual. Instead, dogs with the strongest affiliative bonds or friendships in the group are the most likely to be the leaders.[Hare and Woods, The Genius of Dogs, 236-237]

Holding the concept of being alpha was stressful for me as a pet owner. Am I doing this right? My dogs aren’t even paying attention to me; do they understand I’m alpha? So I was very relieved to find out that I didn’t have to worry about my pack position any more. However, I knew that just letting my dogs run amok wasn’t going to serve me either. In the past 10 years I have discovered that I still needed to be a leader. The leadership style that has worked well for me and my clients hasn’t involve alpha roles or dominating the dogs, but mutual respect and consistency.

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head-
that’s assault, not leadership.”
Dwight D Eisenhower

So what does leadership look like?
Being a leader with your dog doesn’t involve domination, any more than it would with raising children. If you’ve ever worked with children, you will find out quickly that dominating them isn’t a route that will bring about the results you desire and more than likely will have a negative affect.

I have found with my own dogs, fosters, and rescues that a mutual respect has to be developed. This would not be allowed with domination, but only with trust, time, and consistency.

Yes, rules are needed. If we don’t have rules there is chaos. Your dog will be spoiled and not only will you not enjoy being around him, neither will anyone else. We’ve all been around children where the parents never say “no.” Please don’t spoil your dog! It surprises me what little thought has gone into the rules of the household for dogs. For instance, are my dogs allowed on the couch? If so, is there an invitation required? How are my dogs to behave before I leash them for a walk? Are they allowed in all areas of the house?

Following through
One of the sports that I played as a child was softball. We all know that to be a good hitter, it’s important to make contact with the ball and follow through with the swing of the bat. If you don’t follow through you are cheating yourself out of a good hit. When you’ve created a rule with your dog like not getting up on the couch, it’s important for you to follow through consistently with this rule.


A good example of following through is if you tell your dog to “get down” off the couch and he looks at you. Rather than repeating yourself, you walk over to your dog and encourage him to get down by using the movement of your body (like patting the side of your leg).

When you create a rule everyone in the house must be consistent.

Let’s say, for example, your rule is “dogs aren’t allowed on the bed.” The first night your partner allows him to sleep on the bed, then the next night you say, “no,” and a week later you notice your dog napping on the bed, but you ignore the behavior. Being inconsistent will lead to confusion and will not work towards the results that you hope to achieve.

It’s important to consistently follow through with your rule. So in this particular example, you will tell your dog to get down every time he gets on the bed, prepare the environment in a way that will set him up for success, and ensure that everyone in the household understands the rule.

 “Leadership is the art of getting someone
else to do something you want done
because he wants to do it.”
Dwight D Eisenhower

Being the Leader
We can finally stop stressing over whether we are “alpha” in our pack and just enjoy our dog’s friendship through mutual respect and communication. Being a leader with our dog is much different than taking a dominant alpha approach. Growing mutual respect through rules, following through, and being consistent will allow for the great relationship with your dog that you’ve always wanted.

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