Friday, June 24, 2011

How to Teach your Puppy not to Bite - Part 5

By Joan Orr M.Sc.

This is the fifth in our series about how to stop your puppy from biting. Please read the previous installments, since we won't be repeating information and you will want to know why it is important to teach your puppy how to bite softly and then not at all. All the strategies we offer are important and you should use them all. Click here to see all the parts in this series. Some of this article is excerpted from an article published at Click here to view the entire article if you want more details and more advanced steps once your puppy has the basic idea.

Teach the Puppy to Leave It

An important strategy in helping the puppy to learn what he can and cannot bite and whether he is biting too hard is to teach a cue that tells the puppy to leave it. Some people use the cue "leave it" or "out" or "off". In our example we will use the word "off". You can use whatever you want, just be sure that this word is unique for the purpose. For example, you would not use this to tell the puppy to get off the couch or to take his paws off you. Choose a word that is going to be easy for you to remember to use in a consistent context.

Command vs Cue

Many people train "off" as a command with its associated threat: "Leave it or else." The trouble is, once the dog has swallowed the light bulb (I am not making this up), or Granny's $3000 hearing aid, the ensuing "or else" does not do much to remedy the situation. It is not as if you can dock the dog's allowance or extract an IOU to pay for the costs of his transgression. Experienced clicker trainers, especially those whose training goals require an exceptional degree of reliability (those who work with guide dogs, service dogs, bomb detection dogs, etc.), know that training cues rather than commands produces a dog that can be counted on even in very difficult situations. Be sure to watch the video clips at the end of this article to see the results of training with cues using clicker training.

It is important to understand the difference between a cue and a command. A command implies a threat: "Do it or I will make you." A command is given before the behavior is learned, and it can be enforced if the dog does not comply. For example, a trainer may teach "sit" by pushing down on the dog's rump while saying sit, repeating the word and action over and over until the dog figures out that the word sit goes with the action of sitting, and that sitting fast enough will prevent the rump pushing. In the early stages of this kind of training, the dog associates the command "sit" with all kinds of stimuli and with actions that have nothing to do with the dog sitting on its own. Eventually after much frustration he figures it out.

"Off" is commonly trained as a command by placing a temptation near the dog and holding him back, or tugging on his leash and saying "off" in a stern tone of voice. If the dog does manage to grab the prohibited item, the command is repeated while the item is forcibly removed from the dog's mouth. This method is stressful for the dog, and he may not learn much. In many cases, the command approach may place the trainer at risk of being bitten, too.

A cue is completely different from a command. There is no threat implied with a cue. A cue is like a green light that tells the dog that now is the time to execute a behavior for the chance of reinforcement.

A cue is attached to a specific behavior only after the dog is offering the behavior on his own. The "sit" cue, for example, is only given once the dog has learned to sit, and, therefore, the cue is not associated with anything other than the act of sitting. If the dog does not respond to a cue, a trainer knows that further training is required. The trainer does not assume that the dog is intentionally misbehaving and must be forced or helped to do the behavior.

Getting the Behavior 

A common and very reasonable question about teaching cues is, "How do you get the dog to sit or demonstrate the goal behavior in the first place, so that you can click/treat and eventually add a cue?"

An easy way to get the puppy to take his mouth off your hand so that you can then click (or say yes) and reinforce was described by Carolyn Clark (click here for the original article) and summarized here.

A popular method is to hold a treat in your closed fist and allow the dog to sniff, lick, paw it—whatever he wants to do to try to get the treat. Keep your fist closed until he backs off for just a fraction of a second, then click and open your hand to give him the treat. Alternatively, you can click when he backs off, and give him a better treat from your other hand. Avoid the temptation to say anything—no scolding or otherwise telling him not to pester your hand. The dog learns best if he figures it out for himself without fear of reprisal.

If the dog is too frantic to get at the treat, use something less tantalizing to start. If the dog loses interest and does not try to get the treat, use something more tantalizing.

Raise criteria gradually so that the click/treat comes only when the dog is deliberately moving his head back several inches from your hand. Raise criteria again so that the click/treat comes only when the dog makes eye contact with you after moving away from your hand. Gradually require longer periods of eye contact, until the dog backs off from your hand and maintains eye contact for three seconds. Now is the time to add the cue "off."

Show the dog your fist containing the treat. When he looks away from it and toward you, say "off," click, offer the treat, and say "take it." Teaching opposite cues in pairs like this is a really effective approach. From now on, always say "take it" when you give a treat after the dog responds to the "off" cue.

Video Demonstration

Here is a video demonstrating the method by super trainer Emily Larlham. Emily uses the cue "leave it". Notice the tone of voice; there is no threat. Note the extreme reliability of the behavior. Emily puts a plate of food down, asks the dogs to leave it and leaves the room. We recommend that you watch all of Emily's training videos!

Here is another video that demonstrates the extraordinary power of this type of training. See a dog retreiving a hot dog and another willingly relinquishing a raw steak.

More details in an article by Joan Orr

More details in an article by Carolyn Clark

Read the rest of the articles in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Friday, June 17, 2011

Make Extra Money and Educate at the Same Time

Check out these terrific downloadable products that teach  how to read dog body language and be safe around dogs. These are available from the Doggone Safe store and are previewed below.

If you have a blog or website you can make some extra money while educating people about dog body language and safety around dogs. The following downloadable products are now available through Clickbank so that anyone can sell them online. All you need to do is set up a free Clickbank account and follow simple instructions.

Dog Detective eBook
This ebook by award winning authors Teresa Lewin and Joan Orr shows photos of dogs that illustrate various emotional states. A list of clues are given at the beginning so that children know what to look for in the photos that follow. Under each photo is a caption that explains what the dog is thinking (I am happy, I am afraid, Back off! etc). The information is suitable for young children and their parents, but would serve as a good primer for anyone who wants to know the basics of dog body language. Click here to view a demo as a Flash slideshow.

Flashcards Kit
This kit comes as a download only. It contains the following:

  • 24 8x10 Flashcards (48 files for front and back) that you can print. Click here to see an example of 2 cards.
  •   12 different dogs showing contrasting emotional states
  • PowerPoint presentation showing these same images that you can use as is or in other presentations (click here to view a demo as a Flash slideshow)
  • PowerPoint show that you can view even if you do not have PowerPoint
The photos in this kit are the same as those in the Flashcards eBook show below, but the 8x10 photos in this kit are suitable for individual printing.

Flashcards eBook
 This ebook by award winning authors Teresa Lewin and Joan Orr shows photos of dogs that illustrate various emotional states. A list of clues are given at the beginning so that children know what to look for in the photos that follow. There are contrasting photos of 12 different dogs showing both "safe" and "dangerous" emotional states. Each photo is repeated with the clues marked by arrows in a "flashcard" type format so that readers can guess whether the dog is safe or dangerous and then turn the page for the answer. The information is suitable for children and their parents, but would serve as a good primer for anyone who wants to know the basics of dog body language. Click here to view a demo as a Flash slideshow.

The photos in this kit are the same as those in the Flashcards kit shown above, but are presented in eBook format suitable for electronic viewing or printing in a small size.

If you are a Doggone Safe member, you can purchase the Flashcards eBook in a bundle with the Basic Dog Body Language online course for the discounted price of $25 (regular $42). Click here if you are a Doggone Safe member to see online course discounts.  

Clicker Puppy Training Video

The award-winning Clicker Puppy video shows children clicker training these puppies. There are no leashes in Clicker Puppy. All clicker training is hands-off with positive reinforcement to encourage the desired behavior. Puppies are allowed to play if they want. Food, toys and fun are used as reinforcers. There is no punishment or even physical prompting. The puppies are all having a lot of fun and learning at an astonishing rate. The kids are having fun as well. Find out how easy it is to take natural puppy behavior and clicker train your way to an obedient dog. The techniques used in this training video stress safety for children. Available for download in whole or in parts.

Click here for more information, testimonials and clips.

Sell These Products

Click here for more information about how to sell these products.

Buy These Products

If you want to purchase these products for yourself, they are available in the Doggone Safe store.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Doggone Safe Nominated for Classy Award

Doggone Safe has been nominated for a CLASSY Award in recognition of its efforts in the running the International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge. The CLASSY Awards recognize the top philanthropic achievements by charities, businesses, fundraisers and volunteers from across the country. The winners receive national exposure and more than $150,000 in cash & prizes for their cause.

Please visit this link to read our story and click the Like button. We need 100 likes by June 29 in order to advance into the next stage of the competition.

Monday, June 6, 2011

International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge Results

International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge Educates 16,000 Kids

Kids Being Trees in Bermuda
Campbellville ON June 6, 2011 – Presenters around the world from non-profit Doggone Safe educated more than 16,000 children about safety around during Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 15-21, 2011). Events took place in eight countries, seven Canadian provinces and twenty six US states.

Half of all children are bitten by a dog and most of the time the biter is the family dog or another dog known to the child. Dog bites can be emotionally and physically scarring for a child and can cost the dog his life. “Dog bites are preventable and we are very proud of the efforts of all our presenters as they work hard during Dog Bite Prevention Week and all year doing community education to help reduce the risk of dog bites to children”, said Joan Orr, president and cofounder of Doggone Safe.

The “Be a Tree” program is a dog bite prevention presentation for school children. Children learn that a happy dog pants and wags his tail loosely, while an anxious dog may show a half moon of white in his eye, yawn, lick his lips or turn away. A dog that does not want to meet them has his mouth closed and may hold his tail and body stiff, or wag his tail slowly. They learn how to let a dog approach them and how to pet it safely, after asking permission. They learn to avoid dangerous situations with dogs and how to Be a Tree if a strange dog approaches them or any dog is bothering them. To Be a Tree they stop, fold their branches (hands clasped in front), watch their roots grow (look at their feet) and count their breaths in their head until help comes or the dog goes away. The Be a Tree program is fun and interactive with a goal to empower and not to frighten children.

Diane Kamitakahara, principal of Earl Grey School in Calgary Alberta said, “Thanks so much for the presentations. They were great and very well received. One of our teacher’s daughters who is in grade 1 here had an encounter with an excited pit bull at the dog park the weekend after your presentation. She did exactly like you instructed and the dog backed off and went away. Her mom was amazed.”

For more information about Doggone Safe, to become a sponsor, to book a presentation for your school or to become a presenter please visit the Doggone Safe website at

About Doggone Safe
Doggone Safe is a non-profit corporation registered in Canada and Ontario, and in the US is a 501(c)(3) registered charity. Doggone Safe is dedicated to dog bite prevention through education and dog bite victim support. Doggone Safe has members from around the world. Educational programs offered by Doggone Safe are Be a Tree™ (for school-aged children), and online courses about dog body language and occupational dog bite prevention.

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