The Biscayne Times

Jul 08th
Five Steps to a Friendlier Fido PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lisa Hartman - BT Contributor   
November 2010

You don’t need a degree in psychology or fancy equipment - just willpower


If there’s a shortcut, we’ll take it. If there’s a guarantee, we’ll demand it. If a remedy exists, we want the cure. And we want it now. Such is human nature, whether we’re dealing with people or pets. Time and again I’m asked for advice on how to solve a problem -- quickly. Often those insistent requests are accompanied by another question: What do I do with my own dogs? How do I train them, live with them, play with them?

Well, I practice what I preach. There are no quick fixes, but there are certainly some easy things you can do that will help you attain the dog of your dreams. Or at the very least, a dog you can live with. Here are five tips excerpted from my new book Dial a Dynamite Dog.

Play with your dog daily. Never underestimate the power of play. Playing with your dog burns a lot of excess energy, which will be channeled elsewhere if not used. Play is a great stress-reliever, not to mention downright fun!

Everyone needs a break from their routines, some time off from work to have some fun. Most important, play builds the bond between you and your best friend. Instead of just sending your pet to the doggie park, play with him yourself. Games like hide and seek, fetch, tug, teaching tricks and dance routines (“doggy freestyle“) are just some of the ways you can play and connect with your dog. Play also helps to establish you as the kind and benevolent leader, and the bearer of all things fun. The more your dog plays with you, the less trouble he is likely to get into.

Give your dog tons of attention when he is being good. By far this probably the most commonly forgotten and underutilized methods for training a well-behaved dog. The squeaky wheel gets the grease; the good wheel goes unnoticed. And so it goes for dogs. Remembering to praise or reward your dog when he is good is extremely important.

You must give your dog positive feedback when he is being good: Good sit! Good boy! Generally this means rewarding him for all the possible stuff he is not doing . For example, when your dog is sitting quietly on his bed, give him a belly rub (assuming he likes belly rubs). When you greet friends and he is not jumping on them, praise him and give him a favorite food reward.

When he passes someone on a bicycle and for whatever reason does not lunge for them, clap your hands, smile warmly, and tell him how good he is. “Oh, you are such a good boy! Yes you are! Yes you are! Mommy is so proud of you!” (Treat, treat, treat.)

If your dog potties outside and you like that, praise him! Even older, housebroken dogs like to be acknowledged occasionally for eliminating in the right place. Acknowledge the positive things your dog does (or doesn’t do), and you will get more of that behavior.

Ignore behavior you don’t like. Negative attention is still attention, so punishment is its own reward. If you find that your dog is always in trouble, then you are not setting her up for success. Manage her better so she is not always in trouble. For example, if your small dog has accidents on the living room carpet, then do not let her in the living room unsupervised. Furthermore, take her to the appropriate potty spot often and reward generously when she eliminates in the right area.

Think in terms of opposites. For every action your dog is taking that you don’t like, there is probably an opposite action that you would like. If your dog is jumpy, teach him to sit, and then reward sitting. If your dog likes to run away, develop a rock-solid recall and call him back to you. Then praise and reward like mad when he comes back.

If your dog likes to “counter surf,” how about filling treat balls with peanut butter cookies or hiding carrots around the house? Pretty soon he will focus more on what you provide for him that is acceptable and less on the kitchen counter. There is always something better your dog could be doing, and as the leader it is your job to provide an alternative outlet, or instruct him to conduct himself a more suitable manner.

Remember that jumping up, chasing moving objects, scavenging for food, digging, and so on -- all of it is natural doggy behavior. If you don’t like it, channel it into another activity or behavior that is more to your liking. Then give him positive feedback for it.

Make your dog a super sitter. It seems so elementary but it is so true. Dogs who sit more are better behaved. A sitting dog is not knocking people down. A sitting dog is patiently waiting for his supper. Dogs generally bark less when sitting. Sit is the most underused of all commands.

Too many people ask their dog to sit only rarely: In the kitchen by the cookie jar, waiting for a treat. Or sitting and waiting as their supper is prepared. But how about asking him to sit as you put on his leash for a walk? How about asking that his rear end be patiently planted on the ground before entering a dog park?

A “Super Sitter” is especially appreciated when greeting people. Ask all of your friends and passersby not to greet your dog until he is sitting. If your dog thinks that sitting is his key to the kingdom of happy life, he will start sitting all the time, or “throwing sits,” as we say. That is a very good thing! Your job is to acknowledge him and let him know how much you like that.

Of course there are many other tips and tricks for a well-behaved dog, and none of them requires you to have an advanced degree in animal psychology or to purchase and use painful equipment. You simply need to train your dog a few of the basics, and train yourself to think like a modern dog trainer. With a little consistency, you too can have a dynamite dog.


Lisa Hartman is a dog-friendly trainer and behavior specialist in Miami and the Hamptons, New York. She is the author of Dial a Dynamite Dog. You can reach her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit


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