Losing the battle before the war starts –

Is the procedure of taking your dog out becoming more of a burden than an enjoyment? Are you finding that you dread taking a dog outside but it’s not the outside part that bothers you? Many people contact me in Poughkeepsie, NY and they state that they have issues such as leash reaction, fear aggression, aggression, etc. but will probably never address that first comes having a battle with the dog while trying to put their collar on them.

So you have to take your dog out to go to the bathroom or you want to go on a trip with them or maybe even hike with them. You call your dog with the collar in your hands and he doesn’t come to you or he does come to you. But when he can see it, he’s jumping he’s moving not staying still, sort of like trying to catch a jumping bean, making yourself tired before you even go outside. You try to wrestle with your dog and then after going through all of that fight you are still struggling outside. Your dog jumps, pulls, and barks at other dogs. You are asking yourself why this is happening, what can you do to stop this behavior. Essentially you are losing the battle before the war starts.

Everyone wants the perfect dog but a lot of times they miss the small pieces. By small pieces I mean calling your dog and having them come to you, then putting a collar on your dog while they are calm. If you start out on the right path you will continue on the same path. If you start out bad then things will only get worse and worse. So if you can’t put a collar on your dog, there is no way you going to build to have control over your dog outside.

Make an event a good experience, not a bad one –

Have you ever drove with a friend and they drive in such a way that it makes you car sick? Afterward, you don’t want to do that again, well dogs are the same way. If you make something a bad experience, then that’s what it will always be for them. But if you make something fun and enjoyable things will be a lot easier.

The following three steps will help to make a good experience before you even walk out of the door.

  1. Call your dog to you – One of the biggest mistakes is owners will go to the dog to put the collar on. Step one: call your dog and have them come to you.
  2. Reward before – Put each end of the collar in your hands and when your dog is next to you, reward your dog by rubbing them with both hands, make sure your dog is calm and staying still for you.
  3. Reward after – Clip whichever collar you decide to use (flat collar, E-collar, prong collar, fur saver, etc.) and then repeat step two: with both hands reward your dog by rubbing them. Now you will be ready to go outside and have some fun.
Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

The following two steps will help to make a good experience after you come back home from your outdoor activity.

  1. Reward before – Before you take the collar off after coming back home. Reward your dog by rubbing them with both hands. Once again make sure they are calm when you give them this reward.
  2. Reward after – Unclip whichever collar you had on your dog. Then repeat step one: with both hands reward your dog by rubbing them and still holding on to the collar with both hands. At that time you may release them with whatever command you normally use.

After doing this for many weeks and many months that experience they were having before, or should I say the battle you were having before, will cease to exist and pleasure will emerge for both you and your dog. This is what I like to call the magic trick, between the two reward rubbings. You are sliding in putting on/off the collar with tons of goodness, just as a magician does sleight-of-hand.

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Why use food?

Dogs are like any other animals on this planet, they have certain needs and desires. When we train dogs we need to know what motivates them. Depending on the situation such as that the dog has insecure issues or more interests in toys, the majority of the time you begin to use food as a tool for training new obedience of behavior. If the dog responds to this reward, it is commonly known as “food drive.” Food drive is defined as the dog’s willingness to do behaviors for food. Some dogs have very strong food drive, to the point that you have fed them a few hours prior and they will still go crazy when they see more food. Then there are dogs who need a little bit of buildup in their food drive.

How do we build up food drive?

The way you to build up food drive is very simple. You cut back on the amount of food that you give your dog daily. This will build up the interest in the food more than before. If you feed your dog 3 cups a day, then you will go down to two and half cups or even 2 cups a day. It is very common for people to over feed their dog and many times it is not their fault. Owners will go by the back of the bag of dog food and comply with the instructions written there. The instructions on the back will state to feed a certain amount and many times that is way too much.

There are no free meals?

One of the best ways to grade the behavior that you want is to have the dog work for food as stated earlier. So keep the mindset that the dog will only get fed when you work them. If the dog does not want to work for food, then they will not eat. Please keep in mind this is not all a cruel method, it is up to the dog.

What are the types of treats that we can use for training?

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer - Happy Howie's

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer – Happy Howie’s

No matter what food you use for training please keep in mind that the size is very important. For example, it is better to feed a treat that is very small so that they could eat it and go back to training. If you give them a treat that is too big then it will take a minute or so to eat. This will delay the training and shorten the amount of reps done. In training, reps are a vital component in creating a new behavior or command.

The size of the treat should be no bigger than a dime. This will be small enough that you can hide it in your hand for luring and quick enough that they could eat it fast. Even the treats that you slice up should be that size.

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer - Zukes

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer – Zukes

The following are treats that you can use or food that you can use.

  1. Kibble or dry food that you are already feed your dog.
  2. Zukes
  3. Dog cookies that are broken up in smaller pieces
  4. Rolled up treats such as “Happy Howie” cut up into small pieces

Using food will help you in the success of creating better behaviors and obedience, particularly after combining that with reps. Working today will create a better dog tomorrow.

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Doing a Job Without Being Paid

Do you struggle with your dog? Does your dog brush you off with every command that you ask them to do? Are you having trouble when you ask them to come to you or to stay? Well, you’re not alone, this is a very common issue. People always ask why doesn’t my dog listen to me? No matter what I do my dog does something else.  All of these dog owners have no clue what is going on. But the answer is very simple, you are not paying your dog.

Paying my dog? What do you mean by that? It is very simple – after your dog does a command or a task, they need to know that they did something good or something that they will work for.  Obviously money does not mean anything to dogs. So what is money in dog terms? There are three basic reward systems that you can use to build a better relationship with your dog.

For us to understand this the best way to think of it is this example. We all go to work and we get paid afterwards, whether it is every week or every two weeks. We are doing a job and a reward as humans is money. Now to extend this example, when we do a really good job we get bonuses. A bonus is extra money given at the end of the year for doing excellent work, or if we do the job really well we get promoted, which is another form of receiving an award.

We do all these of things to reward employees but when it comes to dogs we forget that they need rewards too. What can happen if they are not rewarded is the opposite reaction. So if you have a dog and you don’t reward them for the good behavior they will show more bad behavior and get attention for that behavior. So in other words, they are getting rewarded for that behavior more than for good behavior.

The following are rewards that you can use to promote good behavior or teach your behavior/command:

  1. FOOD

hudson valley dog trainer food treats

hudson valley dog trainer food treats

Food is one of the top rewards that you can use on any dog. It is very useful in teaching puppies new behavior, but it can teach any dog good behavior if they have what is called the food drive. Food drive is a term that means that the dog is willing to do a task or behavior for that piece of food. Every dog is different. Some dogs will have more food drive than others or sometimes you have to develop a food drive. A simple way of doing that is only feeding your dog when you are working them, in other words when you are teaching them a new obedience command or behavior. You will start with using food all of the time to teach that new command or behavior and then fade away the food. After the dog has been trained you can still use the food to make them work and that will strengthen your leadership with your dog. Lastly, food does not work on every dog, especially dogs that are insecure. If the dog is insecure, in some situations that dog will not take any food. In that case, the best strategy is to go to is praise.

  1. TOY

Toy is the second best reward because all dogs like to play. As mentioned before every dog is different

hudson valley dog trainer dog toy

hudson valley dog trainer dog toy

and some dogs will have more toy drive than food drive. The definition of toy drive is the willingness to learn or do a command/behavior for the chance to play with the toy. Then there are also dogs that are willing to do both: work for food and toy. Many sports dogs and working dogs are trained on both.

Safety tip on toys: I highly recommend a ball with a rope than without. Many dogs have choked on balls that get stuck in the throat.



The praise reward can be used anytime and anywhere. So if you don’t have food and you don’t have toys with you, you can give them a “GOOD BOY!” or pet them. Many dogs love the rubdown, so if the dog does what you asked them to do, make them feel good by rubbing them down. This reward can be done after food and toy. This is an especially good reward for dogs that are insecure and will not take food or play with toys.

Please keep in mind if you don’t give them any good rewards and you yell at them every time they do something bad, they will do more bad stuff to get the attention that they are looking for.


All of the rewards up to this point are physical items (except for the verbal). But sometimes you can use an item or a willingness to do something as a reward. For example, when I am training a new dog not to run out the door when it opens, their desire reward is to go outside. They do not get that reward until they wait for the door to open and I release them to go out. So to review that example again, going outside is the reward.

Unconventional items can also be used as a reward. I have seen a trainer use a balloon as a reward. It all comes down to what the dog desires to do as a behavior.

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The Fight Begins

One of the most common issues that dog owners have is an issue they don’t realize. Many owners will go through this struggle from the moment that they get their dog and they don’t do anything about it. This very common issue is putting a collar and leash on your dog. There are two steps that you can do to stop the struggle between you and your dog. By following these steps, you will end the fight that many times you will have with you dog and gain more control over your dog.

New Dog Owner The Fight Begins

One of my recent dog owners had rescued a new dog and even though he was very loving dog, he had very little control. Every day she would go to work and come home and want take the dog out to use the bathroom or even to travel to Dutchess County to visit friends. Every single time she had an issue putting the leash on her new dog. The moment she grabbed the leash to the moment she walked out with her dog it was a battle. She was not in the position to wrestle with a young dog. Wrestling with a young dog that weighs 60 pounds can be very tough for anyone. When she told me about the issue, I gave her the advice below which stopped the fight before it began.

Now before discussing any of the steps please keep in mind that you can do this with any leash and collar, whether it is a flat collar, prong collar, first saver, etc. The techniques and steps are the same no matter what you use. – Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer


Many times owners will walk to the dog and as a leader that is a failure. Leaders do not go to others; others go to leaders. So if you want to gain more control over your dog you call them over to you and not the reverse. With this one step alone you are doing a couple of things. First, you are breaking the dog’s focus on something else. Second, you are having the dog focus on you which results in more control of the dog. When people have a fight with a dog is because the dog is excited or focused on something else. So to break this you asked them to do the same, in this case come to you.




Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

Different collars use by owners – Dutchess County NY Dog Trainer

One of the main components is the leader’s preparation and that is done before the dog comes to you. This is very simple: hook the leash on to the collar before you even call the dog. By doing this you are converting two steps to one step. For example, instead of putting the collar on the dog and then trying to find the ring on the collar and hook the leash on to the collar you simply have it all done already and the leash is connected to the collar. So when your dog comes to you, you will simply put the collar on.


As with anything else, this will take some practice. You will also work on obedience and behavior. How is that? Well, the obedience part is the dog coming to your when call. Behavior comes in when the dog is next to you and not start wiggling around. Last is the practice of you doing all of the steps over and over without having to think about it.


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Teach Your Dog Crate Manners

Does your dog come out of the crate and almost run you over before you take them out and then you start slamming on the crate and over time that crate is now bent?  Taking your dog out has become a caution more than pleasure.  No matter what you do, no matter what you say every time you touch that crate door to let them out, it is like a bull coming out of its cage.  What if I tell you that there are easier ways to teach a dog how to come out with manners?  Not only is this method teaching your dog’s manners when coming out of the crate, it will also train them to focus on you. The following 2 steps will start to teach your dog these proper manners.  In the video below you will see a young puppy named Molly.  Molly was with me to learn manners and obedience.  Molly’s owners had just acquired her from a rescue in Dutchess County, NY, at the age of five months old.  They knew that she needed to learn all the basics right away from Dutchess County Dog Trainer.


1. Clicker Training

Before we get to work on the crate manners we need to teach one important thing first.  We first need to introduce clicker training to the dog and teach the dog what the clicker signifies.  If we would just to push the clicker then there is no meaning behind that.  Therefore, we teach what is commonly known as charging the clicker and that means that when the click sound goes off, you give a reward.  This is a very simple process.  First, get your dog’s food and of course hold the clicker in your hand.  With the puppy away from you, you click the clicker and then give them food.  You should do this 20 to 30 times and the dog will start to understand that when the click goes off at that moment time they will get rewarded. This is commonly known as positive reinforcement or clicker training.

2. Reinforce Good Behavior

Now that the dog understands the clicker, we can now teach the dog what we want them to learn.  One of the most common bad behaviors or bad manners is the dog hitting the crate when you are about to let them out.  In order to correct this, approach them with your food and your clicker. Begin by standing by the crate and if your dog does not hit the crate you will then click and reward for that behavior, which is not to do anything.  Anything is defined as barking, jumping, hitting the crate, etc.  You have rewarded them for good behavior and if they did not behave correctly, they did not receive food.  For this piece of writing I am addressing mainly puppies even though you can use this method on older dogs. There are many other methods that you can use on older dogs, but I will address that in the later piece of writing.


So for quick review, you stand near your dog’s crate and if they do not do any bad behaviors then you reward them.  The next step is to touch the crate, depending on the type of crate that you have, you can pretend that you are opening the crate move the latches open and then click. It is very important to mention that every time that you click you must reward, never cheat your dog.  If they do their part, you should do yours too by rewarding them with food.


After touching the latches and clicking a few times, the next step would be opening the door.  If your dog does not rush you, click for that behavior.  At this phase you will start to add a physical correction.  You are probably wondering what physical correction you should be doing you’re your puppy.  Before we go into that, let us go back for a second.  In the beginning, if your dog was doing a bad behavior, the correction was that the dog did not receive any food.  So bad behavior equals no click which in other words is no food and that is a form of negative reinforcement.  But now we will try to open the crate door and if the dog behaves properly we will click.  So we open the door a little bit and if the dog does not do a bad behavior we will click and reward.  This process will take a number of repetitions, just as the beginning process of touching the crate, the latch, etc.  With each rep as the dog is successful, the door will open more and more.  For example, we open the door and inch, we then click and reward, then the dog goes into a closed position.  Next we open the door a little bit more and repeat the click process, the door closes.  With each successful rep, the door will open and open more.  Keep in mind that this is the goal or ultimate reward for the dog.  The puppy wants to come out and play, so keep in mind that the dog coming out is a reward on its own.  What if the dog does not succeed with each rep?  Here comes the physical correction.  This physical correction is simple.  If the dog tries to one out for any other bad manners such as hitting the crate, the door will now shut on the dog and no reward will be given.  Please keep in mind that when I state shut the door on the dog, I do not mean hit them and hurt them. In this action I mean closing the door stops the ability of the dog coming out.

Dutchess County NY Dog Trainer

Dutchess County NY Dog Trainer


After doing many reps of this with many repetitions of award your dog will start to understand through the learning process of reinforcement.  In the video you will see that I established this in one training session and the focus increases.  Many people will say that they do not care if their dog comes out nicely and not, but we have to understand this is just a piece of the bigger picture.  If we could teach a dog to have manners coming out of the crate, we can do other things that we want our dog to do.


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Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer


Train your dog to walk on the treadmill.

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

For someone who never heard of such a thing, maybe you the reader is properly saying to yourself “are you kidding?” My answer to you is “no I am not.” In fact, this reminds me of something that happened years ago.

Years before I became a Poughkeepsie dog trainer I had my German Shepherd Blade and was a new dog owner, but I knew my boy needed more exercise. I was plaining on buying a dog treadmill, a treadmill designed for dog use only, which I will explain in more detail later on. A friend of mine said “Really? I have never heard of such a thing.” Even his daughter who was a veterinary technician had never heard of such a thing and she thought that I was crazy. Despite her opinion, at the time I knew that I was on the right track. My friend’s idea was for me to tie a line from my house to the tree and have my dog run back and forth.

Having the line and having your dog run back and forth is not beneficial at all. If anything, it could cause bad mental behaviors. I will address this in a future blog along with other things to avoid.

Training your dog can be very super beneficial for all dogs and I highly recommend it for dogs with behavior issues.

There are two types of treadmills you can use for your dog. A treadmill designed for a dog, whether it runs by the dog’s movement or by an electric motor. Then there is the human treadmill such as the ones at the local gym or purchased at the sports store. Either case, the following are reasons why you should treadmill train your dog.



     1. Confidence

Depending on the dog there are two points of confidence building. Throughout my years of being a Poughkeepsie dog trainer I have come across both of these. The first point: some dogs will not step up onto the treadmill. The second point is that having dog stay on the treadmill while it moves and have them not panic. These two can be such a benefit for them after they overcome their fear.

      2. Mental Exercise

Once they start to walk on the treadmill the mental aspect is great for them. When a dog walks outside they can focus on different smells and what is going on around them (such as people, cars, etc.) In other words, they are not working their minds at all. But when they are on the treadmill at that point they are working. They have to focus on the work at hand which is staying on the treadmill. I don’t have them go any faster than 2.0 mph on the human treadmill.

Making them work mentally can help their behavior issues that they may have. Even if they don’t have any issues, it will help them be more calm throughout the day.

     3. Physical Exercise

Whether you use a human or dog treadmill, their age and their physical abilities will determine how hard they work. But even a walk at 2.0 mph for 20-30 minutes once a day will be a great physical exercise for your dog. Physical exercise is great for your dog’s health even if they are a small dog like a pug or a big dog like a mastiff.

     4. Control/Leadership

After getting your dog used to training on the treadmill, the highest level to get your dog to is off leash, having your dog go on the treadmill on command and they start walking on it without the leash. When you can achieve this level of training as an owner, you now have this control and leadership. Having better control and leadership of your dog will help behavior issues or bad manners.

     5. Convenience

You might want to exercise your dog but it is winter and too cold to be outside for long; maybe there is a ton of snow or ice or it has been raining all day or you have some injury in which you can’t take your dog for a long walk or maybe you even had a long day of work and you are tired but you want to exercise your dog. The treadmill is the best idea to achieve this goal for your dog.

     6. Fun

Once you are done training for a number of sessions and your dog gets use to it, they will start to enjoy it and actually have fun doing it. It can be an activity you both can look forward to doing.

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Crate Train Your Dog?

Being a new dog owner can be very overwhelming. One of the things that happens is the flood of questions going through your head, such as “what do I need?” “what is the best food?” and a very common one is “should I crate my dog?

There are people that feel that it is very cruel and horrible to put a dog in a crate. They feel like they are putting the animal in a prison for no reason. There is real value is in crating your dog, the benefits are there if you think about it.

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

There are four reasons for crate training your dog.

1. House Breaking

The most common reason we crate train our dogs when they are puppies is to use the crate to train them not to eliminate in the home. Crate training is the easiest and best way to teach your puppy to wait until they go out to go to the bathroom. But even though it is a very well known objective of using the crate, people don’t know about it or still don’t want to use it.

What is great about crate training for house breaking, is if you can use this method with an older dog. In fact, no matter the age of the dog, you can house break them using the crate. There are many dogs that are in shelters or rescues in which the dog being adopted has never been house broken. This method is not only best but also keeps your house cleaner from accidents.

2. Separation Anxiety

The public is learning more about dogs every day. Years ago, if you mentioned to the average person that a dog had separation anxiety, they would look at you weird, but now more people are getting educated and understand that dogs do have these issues. The down side is that people are becoming more educated because this behavior has become more common and a bigger issue for families.

One way a dog shows separation anxiety is that the dog starts to follow their owner throughout the house. They are always in sight of their owner, if you go to the bathroom, if you go to the bedroom they are right behind you. Now don’t get me wrong, just because your dog follows you doesn’t mean that they have separation anxiety. For dogs that start showing symptoms of anxiety, using the crate to help gain separation is a great way.

One of the symptoms of separation anxiety is that the dog does not know how to relax. This is a huge problem and this problem can be the beginning of anxiety, which will lend down the path of anxiety. In the crate the dog will learn how to relax. If the dog doesn’t learn how to relax on their own there are additional exercises that need to be added to the training routine. With the dog being in a crate, they will learn how to relax a great deal. When my German Shepherd was young, he would follow me and not want to be alone. After training and many times of being in the crate, he doesn’t care either way. This makes him a very balanced dog; he loves me but it doesn’t bother him when I leave.   At the time I wasn’t a Poughkeepsie dog trainer but I knew he needed to be on his own in the house.

3. Control

Control means I say and you do. If you ask your dog to “come” or “stay” these commands are training your dog to listen to you. Whenever you ask your dog to do something, the more different things, the better and stronger the control. So in telling your dog to “go in the crate” you are just increasing your control over your dog.

4. Safety

One element that is over looked when you think of a crate is the safety benefits. When you bring a new puppy or even when you adopt an older dog, this new family member does not know the rules of the house. We have to ensure their safety from chewing things such as the furniture. Dogs die every year from eating furniture that contains poison. You also want to avoid incidents such as having a new puppy chewing on the lamp wire.

Leaving your dog in the crate will ensure that they don’t get into deadly trouble. As a new owner you should always supervise your new family member and if you can’t because at moments such as when you go to work, the crate is the best solution for this.

If you have a dog that suffers from separation anxiety, these dogs will destroy the house. They will even risk their own life as a result of their anxiety. Dogs have jumped out of a second story window so they would not be apart from their owner.


In conclusion, we should crate train our dogs. One important aspect we must keep in mind is that the crate is always a good thing. Never use it as a punishment, they must think of it as a fun object. The best way to accomplish this result would be to give a treat reward when they go into the crate – a bone or a kong toy with a treat inside is also great.


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5 Reasons Why Your Dog Shows Aggression – Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

Why Does My Dog Show Aggression?

There are a number of reasons families search for a dog trainer, whether they want their dog to listen more or learn commands such as sit or come. The real and not uncommon purpose is that their dog has become aggressive or they adopted a dog that is aggressive. Many times families say they had their dog for years and out of now where their beloved pet no longer likes people outside of the family circle.

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

There are five possible reasons for that aggression.

Firstly, what is the definition of dog aggression?   Aggression is defined as the threat of harm to another individual involving snarling, growling, snapping, biting, barking, and/or lunging. Understanding the contributing factors in aggression can often help in the treatment of aggression.

1. Illness

There are a number of illnesses that can occur to your dog. Families that have possessed their furry friends for many years ask why their dog out of nowhere is acting differently. Suddenly a dog that has never shown any signs of aggression begins growling, snapping, or biting. It may be caused by a disease or illness. Diseases such as thyroid disease or cancers such as brain tumors and rabies can be the cause. The best course of action is to take your pet to the veterinarian to determine if illness is the cause root to the aggression.

2. Establishing Dominance

Dogs are pack animals and dominance is a key factor in that world. When an owner does not show leadership and establishes themselves as a pack leader, new bad habits can form. It only takes two to create a pack – the dog and the owner. The dog will establish dominance through growling, snapping, or biting when they feel that their dominance is being challenged. This course of action would require you to seek a professional dog trainer.

3. Fear

Another cause that is making your dog growl or snap is fear aggression. In this type of behavior, the dog has two actions: flight or fight. The dog will run away and hide from whatever is causing the fear, but when they have no other choice, they will bite. This will happen when the dog is trapped in a corner or if the dog is in so much in fear it feels like they are being cornerned. Moving too close or being in the way of the dog during the flight mode could cause a fear bite. This course of action would require you to seek a professional dog trainer.

4. Possession Aggression

This next aggression occurs when a dog gets possessive of food, a toy, a bed, your yard, or some other object. The most common signs of this behavior are if a human or another dog gets too close to one of the mentioned objects they will growl or even snap towards whoever is approaching. The behavior can be shown towards a stranger or a family member who does not live in the house. The dog determines possession of the house and warns the person coming in not to. The level of possession aggression can vary on the object. For example, someone can sit next to the dog with a rubber bone in their mouth, but an aggressive sign would follow if it were food. This course of action would require you to seek a professional dog trainer.

5. Frustration

The last type of aggression is frustration and this comes from a dog that is tied up all day to a post or tree. After being in this position and wanting to get something such as a running squirrel or any animal that might be about, the dog will take it out on the owner because they need to release it and the owner is the closest to them. A lot of the times they are also behind a chained fence or even in the house and some breeds need to release their energy, so they will show aggression when they are not allowed to do so. Structured exercises such as daily walks can do wonders for the physical and mental health of the dog.

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6 Tips On How To Get More Focus From Your Dog – Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

Why Won’t My Dog Focus on Me?

One of the most common things owners ask is: How do I get more focus from my dog? I ask my dog to do something or even call his name and they just walk away.

Well, like anything in life we have to work for it because dogs are not born knowing, just as human babies are not born knowing things. How can we ask the same thing from puppies or even older dogs?

If we need to train a dog how to be house broken or walk on a leash, then we must do the same with focus. The following are the beginning steps in gaining that focus and improving your relationship altogether:

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer

6 Ways to Get Focus

  1. Begin by having your dog not run away when you are working them. A simple but not always used practice is put a collar and leash on your dog. Only skip this step if your dog is food driven and you are in a safe environment in which where if the dog walks away there will be no danger to your dog. For example, you should have him on leash if you are in a public area such as a park or a trail. You do not want your dog to get lost or get hit by a car.
  2. Now once you dog is around you on leash or off leash, off leash in a safe environment, stand there and when your dog looks at you reward them with a treat/food reward. If you have charged the clicker or key word then you use that first and then reward with the treat. If you are not familiar with charging the clicker or key word please review my blog on “Charging the Reward.”
  3. The next level is to walk around a little and once again every time your dog looks are you, reward them. The next level above that is to take them to a distracted area such as outside, maybe a public area where things going on. Every time your dog looks at another dog or person and then looks at you reward them.
  4. When you are walking them down the street and they look at you, it is reward time. You are telling them that is what you want. With the food they will be more eager to look at you and you will gain that focus.
  5. It is feeding time and your dog wants that food more than anything. They might be jumping, running around or even barking to get that food. What you do is simple: hold the food up in the air where he cannot get to it. Once he starts to give you eye contact then you lower it, but if he drops that eye contact the food goes back up. If you are able to drop the food down to the ground and he goes for it, take the food up out of his reach once again and start all over. He cannot go and start eating the food until you give him the “ok” command. That command can be anything you want for example “eat”, “get it” or even “ok,” as long as you give him permission to eat the food.
  6. What is the next thing dogs love to do besides eating? That is going outside most of the time because they have to go to the bathroom or they want to play. Either case it is something they want so it an opportunity to work focus from them. You can stand at the door and wait for eye contact and then you open the door for them to go out. If they break the contact just like with the food bowl, you just start from the beginning, in this case you close the door. In the beginning the dog will not understand but with a little work they will be giving you their attention to go out.


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IMAG0070Sometimes dog behavior is easy to understand: they stand by the door when they need to go out, or they bark at other dogs as a sign of greeting, or the way they always know that its time to be fed. Other times it is much harder to understand what it is that they are trying to tell you when they are panting and pacing or barking for what seems like not reason or especially when they show signs of aggression when that is not their normal behavior.

There are quite a few reasons that dogs show aggression, even unwarranted aggression, and understanding why your dog is acting aggressively even towards you, his owner, can help further your relationship and help you solve the problem.

Your dog might be sick

Like a child who is incapable of telling you what they need until they develop the capacity to communicate, your dog might be confused as to why they are not feeling well and since they are incapable of telling you why, they often respond with aggression. Sickness and illness are also signs of weakness in nature and combative behavior is a natural reaction and form of protection for a dog. They aren’t mad at you, and they haven’t forgotten who you are; they are simply acting on their natural impulses to protect themselves.

Leash aggression and protecting their owners

Some breeds of dog are extremely loyal and when you have them on a leash on a walk they can be in the mindset that they are protecting you. Instead of you taking them for a walk, they are walking with you as your companion and because of this they are on alert for anything that might threaten you and them. Some smaller dogs are especially protective, and that inspires them to be very aggressive towards large breeds of dog, for instance when they are caught off guard.


People can also react with aggression when they are afraid, and, again, this is a natural reaction for a dog. When they feel threatened, or your dog is presented with a situation that they have never found themselves in before, they can think that they are being threatened and react aggressively.


Dogs can be territorial, especially if they are not used to other dogs or animals. Socializing a dog is important if you want them to not react aggressively towards other dogs, humans, or animals. Once a dog has established a territory, it can be extremely hard to stop them from acting aggressively towards anything that threatens their territory.

Toys and possessions

If you have given your dog a toy, treat, bed, blanket, or anything that they can think of as their own, they can become aggressive when those things are threatened. Like territory, once a dog establishes something as its own, it can be hard to stop it from becoming aggressive when it sees anything else try to take or impinge on what the dog thinks of as its possession.


Dogs are pack animals and as such there are established hierarchies within a pack, but domesticated dogs do not always travel in packs and why your dog that is not in a pack is acting aggressively towards other dogs can be attributed to this. Like the breeds that tend to be very loyal, there are also dogs within breeds that can be alpha or dominant. This can depend on birth order, upbringing, or if you have adopted a stray, how they established themselves when they were on the street. They may snap, growl, or bite when they establish dominance.