General Training Tips

The following is a general guide to help your dog become a well-mannered member of your family. It is equally effective if your new companion animal is ten weeks or ten years old.

Dogs are highly social pack animals. As pack animals, they need to understand where they fit into the social structure of the pack that is your family. They also need the companionship of other pack members and the opportunity to interact with them in ways that are appropriate and enjoyable.

The following information will help you and your dog understand where he fits into your family pack, and at the same time, meet the needs of both dog and owner for social interaction and companionship. The family dog must understand the position of pack leader is not open to him and he must accept the leadership of his owner and all other family members. This can all be accomplished using positive reinforcement training techniques.

The following training methods were designed to reinforce the owner’s leadership and provide the structure and routine that all dogs need to feel secure. It should come as natural as breathing, and should provide the foundation for the relationship between you. It will also require owners to recognize that nearly every interaction with your canine family members has meaning within the context of pack leadership.


  • Allowing your dog to sleep in your bedroom will encourage a strong and immediate bond to form between you. (Please note that some behaviorists disagree with this concept). But, your dog should be kept off the bed. You are your dog’s leader and not his littermate. If your dog should try to jump on the bed, use a crate for him to sleep in. Getting on the bed should be by your invitation only.
  • Keep your dog off the furniture. Staying on the floor lowers his position in the pack. Only people have the status to sit on the furniture.
  • Never let your dog go through a doorway ahead of you. Make him sit and wait until you give the “OK”. Close the door quickly if he tries to go out first but be careful not to slam the door on his head.  Closing the door quickly will also prevent the dog from bolting out the front door to cruise the neighborhood and possibly be hit by a car. The pack leader leads the way into or out of the territory. By allowing the dog to barge through the door ahead of you relinquishes leadership. 

REMEMBER: Nearly every interaction with your dog has a meaning within the context of pack leadership and all the little things add up.

  • Make your dog move if he is blocking a doorway or hall you want to go through with the exception of medically compromised or arthritic senior dogs. Tell him to “MOVE” and enforce your command by the use of his black buckle collar.
  • Leave your dogs’ food bowl down for 15 minutes. Even if your dog does not eat, pick up his bowl anyway. Feed him again at the next scheduled time. Such as morning and evening. If you feed kibble (which is nutritionally preferable), soak the food with warm water for 10 minutes before feeding to avoid complications from bloat.
  • Occasionally approach the dog while he is eating and add a special tidbit to his bowl. Your dog will quickly learn to let you approach his bowl in excited anticipation.
  • Always feed your dog after the family has eaten; the pack leader always eats first.

Possessions & Games

  • Unless your dog is extremely submissive and needs to build his confidence, it is strongly discouraged that you don’t play games such as “tug of war” and wrestling. In most dogs it will only encourage aggressive behavior. ONLY if your dog is overly submissive, play tug of war and let him win in order to build his confidence. 
  • Always discourage play mouthing on your clothes or hands. Spray your hands and or clothes with Bitter Apple to discourage this habit. (Bitter Apple is the name of a solution used to deter the dog from chewing his skin, paws, etc.) A quick squirt in the mouth (be sure to avoid eye contact) with the command “WRONG” is also inspirational.
  • If your dog is home alone all day (whether in a crate or run of the house) develop a collection of alone time toys. Leave your dog three toys to play with while you are away from home. Change these toys every day. This will help alleviate the boredom that can result from your dog spending many hours alone every day. Pick up these toys and put them away when you get home. Be sure to have a Nylabone (Nylabone is a brand name of several products to safely satisfy your dogs need to chew) or a sterilized beef bone available at all times. The Buster Cube is a great toy. You fill it with small bits of food and your dog must figure out how to roll it in order for the treat to come out. It is a mental exercise that helps relieve stress.
  • When you play fetch with your dog, always require he return the toy to you and releases it to the command “GIVE”. To teach your dog “GIVE” have a tidbit of food your dog particularly enjoys available. Tell your dog “GIVE” and put the food in front of his nose. He will have to let go of the toy to take the food and then give the dog his treat. Tell him “GOOD GIVE”. This process should be repeated until the dog understands the command. The act of re-throwing the toy for him to fetch will eventually be his reward. When you’re done playing put the toy away.

Grooming and Physical Control

  • Groom your dog lightly every day. Move slowly and gently as you examine ears and feet. Reward every effort of cooperation on your dogs’ part with food. Follow up with gentle brushing or combing, taking great care not to hurt your dog. Clip on the leash before you begin in order to control the dog. Start with short sessions, perhaps a minute. If your dog becomes uncomfortable or frightened by grooming very gradually increase the time so he will become familiar with the chore. Many even come to enjoy it. 
  • Gently pat your dogs’ head, neck shoulders and tail area. Proceed slowly at first and use food rewards to help your dog understand that being touched in these areas is not threatening. 
  • Do not pet, praise of play with your dog without making him do a “SIT” or “DOWN” first. He must work for your attention and affection. This is basic good canine etiquette. When you want to stop, tell him “ENOUGH” and ignore him.
  • If your dog is very persistent about seeking attention, ignore him when he demands it. When he finally gives up and goes away, call him to you and have him “SIT” and then pet or play with him. He should get attention on your terms, not his.


  • If your dogs’ weight is adequate, do not put him on a high protein food (it should be under 23%). A high protein diet will only encourage hyper behavior and weight gain. Follow the guidelines and food suggestions of your veterinarian, especially for young, overweight or senior dogs.
  • Adequate exercise is a must. A TIRED DOG GETS INTO LESS TROUBLE. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Even senior arthritic dogs should follow an exercise regimen. If you have any concerns about over exercising your dog, consult your veterinarian. If your dog is out of shape, begin slowly and gradually build up time and endurance. (NO WEEKEND WARRIOR SYNDROME PLEASE) In addition to long walks, you should provide two fifteen minute sessions retrieving a ball. In general, continue to throw a ball until your dog lies down with it. If balls are not his inspiration there are soft toys, ropes, etc. available at your pet store. Hard Frisbees are discouraged because they can damage his teeth. Soft Frisbees are also discouraged because your dog can hurt his legs or back if he fails attempting to catch it. A well exercised dog is less stressed and less hyper; in short they need the benefits of exercise as much as we do.
  • Do not yell at your dog. Yelling is stressful for both of you. Instead, use a low, firm tone of voice.
  • Give thought to attending an obedience class with your dog. Observe several trainers before choosing one. Be sure that the instructor you choose bases his program on positive reinforcement. If, heaven forbid, you see an instructor hang a dog by his neck or forcefully flipping him over to show him “who’s in charge”, run, don’t walk to the nearest exit. Neither you nor your dog should be subjected to such violent reproaches.