How to Teach Your Dog Self-Control Around Food: VIDEO February 23, 2015 Comments Off

In my last blog post about self-control versus imposed control for dogs, I explained that I do not teach “leave it” to my dogs. Instead, I train my dogs to wait for permission to take food, objects, or anything else they want.

Here is a quick video demonstration of how I train dogs to have self-control around food.


Keys to Training

Siberian Husky Self-Control Around Food

One of our students demonstrating self-control around food. Great job, Willow! (Photo: Smiling Wolf Photography)

Note that I do not say “leave it,” “no,” or otherwise nag Strata to not take the food. Actions speak louder than words. If he tries to steal the treat, I just close my hand and make it inaccessible to him. If he waits politely, I keep my hand open and ultimately reward him using my other hand.

Rewarding with the “free” hand speeds up the learning process for the dog. If you reward with the hand that has all of the treats in it – the very thing you’re training him not to touch! – it will confuse your dog.

Start this training with treats that are of a low value to your dog, like Cheerios, bits of carrot, or his usual dog kibble. Only keep 3-6 treats in your hand at a time. It’s especially important to not start this training with food that is oily or juicy, like hot dogs or cheese, because your dog will be able to lick that off of your skin and therefore get rewarded for “mugging” your treat hand.

It is imperative that you play this game in a variety of places, with a variety of treats. Otherwise, your dog will learn that this is a game you play with liver treats, but anything else that hits the ground is fair game. My goal is to play this game in every room of my house (including the bathroom, and especially the kitchen) with at least 20 different types of treats.

Next Steps

As your dog gets good at this game, start playing it on different elevated surfaces, such as chairs, stools, tables, and countertops. If your dog counter-surfs, this is a great way to teach them that food on counters is off-limits.

At 1:25 in the video I demonstrate dropping the treat on to the ground. This is very important to build upon if you don’t want your dog diving for everything that falls on the kitchen floor. Drop treats on the ground while you are sitting, kneeling, bending over, and standing. Flick them off the countertop and on to the floor. If your dog goes for them, use your foot (instead of your hand) to block access.

This skill has saved my dogs’ life several times, when my parents have dropped open bottles of medication on to the ground. Rather than diving for the pills, my dogs have watched them fall and waited patiently, hoping to “earn” one instead!

Leave It! – Or Don’t? Self Control vs. Imposed Control for Dogs February 9, 2015 1 Comment

"Leave it!" Do you need to teach this to your dog?

[Photo Credit: Andrew Hyde]

“No!” “Leave it!” “Off!” These are three cues that are more familiar to most dogs than “sit”, “come”, and “good dog.” Surprisingly, they often work against dog owners and serve to reinforce the very behaviors the owners are trying to punish.

A scenario: At the pet store, a bag of dog kibble has torn open and spilled all over the floor. A man is walking his dog down the aisle. His dog notices the kibble and lunges forward to eat some. “Leave it! No, leave it!” He commands his dog to stop, but it falls on deaf ears, and he sees no other choice but to drag his dog away from the food. The dog has been rewarded (by the kibble) for ignoring the “leave it” cue.

Here’s an idea: What if you didn’t have to constantly tell your dog how to behave?

When my dogs see food on the floor, or a toy on the bottom shelf at the pet store, or gum on the sidewalk, they look at it and then look to me for direction. They do not lunge toward it or grab it. They know that the only way they will get access to that thing they desire is through a verbal cue from me.

My dogs do not know what “leave it” means. What does “leave it” mean to your dog? “Don’t touch that”? What exactly are they supposed to do instead?

Clarity in Dog Training – No “Leave It” Necessary

If I invited you into my house and said “don’t sit on the blue chair”, what would your response be? Two things: you would look at the blue chair (I drew your attention to it by mentioning it, didn’t I?) and you would not know where you should sit. There are lots of other seating options in my house – couches, a rocking chair, dining room chairs, a loveseat, even the floor!

What if instead, I invited you into my house and said “please sit next to me on the couch.” You won’t even consider the other seating options. I told you exactly where to sit. There is no confusion.

To bring this back to dog training, I call my dogs with their name or the cue “come” if they are showing excessive interest in something that is not available to them, say, a chicken bone on the street. They know to turn away from that thing and come to me to earn a reward instead. I do not say “no” or “leave it”, because it is incomplete information – those cues tell them they can’t have the chicken bone. Now what?

My mantra in dog training is “teach self control, not imposed control.” I teach my dogs, and my clients’ dogs, to default to asking politely for something (via eye contact, or offering to sit without being told to do so) rather than grabbing for it themselves. The training process is deceptively simple. The hardest part is for owners to embrace the concept of letting the dog make a choice, rather than preventing him from making a decision on his own by commanding him to not do something.

In my next post, I’ll present a video clip demonstrating how I teach self-control around food. In the mean time, I have some food for thought for you: if you have taught your dog a very strong “come” cue, why not use that rather than “leave it”? Are two cues better than one? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Dog Treat Review: Primal Buffalo Liver Chunks October 17, 2014 Comments Off

Primal Buffalo Liver Chunks ReviewThis month’s dog treat review (courtesy of is of Primal Buffalo Liver Chunks. These are dry roasted buffalo liver treats for dogs. They come in a 5oz resealable bag, which is a great size if your dog has never tried this type of treat before!

Primal is a great company, and I have been buying their raw dog food and other treats for awhile. (The chicken nibs are the perfect size for training treats!) All of the meat used in their products is sourced from the USA and New Zealand. The buffalo in these treats is American.

On to the facts. These treats are crispy, hard, and very slightly oily. The odor is minimal. I could use my hands to break up these treats, but occasionally the pieces were sharp, so you’re better off using a knife to get uniform pieces.

The boys gave these treats two paws up! Finch particularly enjoyed them, since he prefers treats with a bit of a crunch. Logo

The product reviewed in this blog post was provided by

Our New Dog Training Academy in Providence August 13, 2014 Comments Off

Spring Forth Dog Academy - Dog Training in ProvidenceIt has been a whirlwind month for us here at Spring Forth Dog Services! Starting on September 2nd, Dan and I will be training dogs full time at our new location, Spring Forth Dog Academy, in Providence, RI.

How did this all get started? A few months ago we began teaching group classes at Roam Dog Club, a dog daycare and boarding facility on Westminster Street in Providence. Roam has a second floor that isn’t seeing much action. We decided to team up with them to offer some new programs that we’re really excited about.

New Dog Training Programs in Providence

The newest addition is Puppy Day School! This combines the best of daycare and puppy kindergarten for puppies ages eight weeks to eight months old. It’s a full-day program that provides pups with socialization, playtime, housebreaking, and basic obedience. It’s designed for owners who might feel guilty about leaving their new puppy home alone, or who just don’t have time to attend a puppy training class.

By teaming up with Roam, we’re able to offer board & train and daycare & train packages, too. (We call ‘em Stay and Train.) Whether you just want an obedience refresher lesson as a “tune up” for a dog that has already worked with us, or an intensive multi-week training package to address a behavior problem, we’ll be able to help! These are all services that we haven’t been able to offer before. We’re so excited about the possibilities.

We’ll also be teaching private dog training lessons at our spot in Providence a couple nights per week, as well as group classes on Wednesday nights.

Spring Forth Dog Academy - Group Dog Training Classes in Providence

A satisfied student of our group training classes at Roam!


But What About Massachusetts?

Never fear! Spring Forth isn’t leaving its home. Charles will continue to see in-home training clients and visit his dog walking route. And we just hired one of our training students, Anne, to take over Dan’s dog walking routes. (Seriously, check out her bio – we’re confident we’re putting our friends in capable hands.)

Dog Walking in Milton, MA – Meet Charles! May 29, 2014 Comments Off

Dog Walking in Milton MA - Charles Wohr

Charles Wohr, professional dog walker & dog trainer at Spring Forth Dog Services.

Dog Walking in Milton, Randolph, & Dorchester

If you are looking for a reliable dog walker, look no further than Charles here at Spring Forth Dog Services. He has a couple of openings on his dog walking route in Milton, Randolph, and Dorchester.

Charles is also a valued member of our training staff, so if you have a “difficult” dog that other walkers won’t work with, or a new puppy that you want to make sure is getting the best care, he’s your guy.


What His Clients Say

Here’s a testimonial by one of Charles’ dog walking clients in Milton:

We called Spring Forth Dog Services as we just adopted a 3.5-month old puppy and were merely looking for a dog walker in Milton MA that could come mid-day to ensure her housebreaking stays on track.  I was VERY pleasantly surprised to learn that we not only got a dog walker, but a professional dog walker/trainer (Charles) that immediately gave us excellent advice concerning crate training, housebreaking, harnessing, and socialization.  Spring Forth are TRUE PROFESSIONALS that care greatly about your dog and your family and are extremely communicative and helpful.  With their guidance and help our now 4-month-old puppy is nearly completely housebroken, crate trained, and advancing leaps and bounds in socialization and training, in a mere 2 weeks!  I can’t recommend Spring Forth enough for anyone seeking caring and professional services for their dog!  Thank you Spring Forth!!

(You can read the original review on Yelp.)

Ready to Get Started?

Walks are available Monday through Friday. If you’re ready to get started, contact us to set up an initial consultation so you and your dog can meet Charles today!

Now Hiring! Come Join Our Dog Walking Team March 13, 2014 Comments Off

Do you love dogs? Are you looking for a part-time dog walking job with a regular schedule and great pay? Do you live within 15 minutes of one of the following towns: Norwood, Canton, Walpole, Westwood, or Dedham? If so, you might be our next team member!

Now Hiring for Dog Walking Services

Dog Walking with a Shetland SheepdogSpring Forth Dog Services is seeking a qualified individual for dog walking services on the “Route 1 belt” – possible towns include Norwood, Walpole, Westwood, Canton, and Dedham.

This individual will start out with 3-5 walks per day from Dan’s existing route, which will grow to 7-12 walks per day. There is also an opportunity for the right person to offer pet sitting services on evenings and weekends.

The ideal person for this job adores dogs, is serious about working for us for a year or longer, and has a consistent work history. Animal-related employment experience is preferred, but not required. Applicants will need a clean driving record and pass a background check. Compensation is based on the number of walks performed per day, but starts at a minimum of $12.50/hour plus bonuses for finding new clients.

Click here to see the full job description and apply online. We look forward to hearing from you! Be sure to pass this along to anyone you know who might be interested in dog walking with us.

Puppy Nipping: A Plan to Stop It March 6, 2014 Comments Off

Dachshund Puppy Nipping

If this is a familiar sight, it’s time for a new training plan! (Photo Credit: Renata Lima, Flickr)

Puppy nipping is one of the most frustrating behaviors that new owners report. It hurts! But you’ll see a big reduction in puppy nipping in a short period just by getting some human cooperation.

Let’s start by examining why your puppy is putting his mouth on things. I don’t like to spend a ton of time pondering why a dog is doing what he’s doing, but this is such a frustrating behavior for owners that I find it helps to consider the puppy’s point of view.

Beginning at a young age, puppies bite each other during play. This behavior starts before you bring your puppy home from the breeder or rescue organization. The puppies are play-fighting and learning their own strength. If they bite a littermate too hard, the other puppy will respond with a high-pitched yelp. This tells the biter to tone it down next time.

This is why a common nugget of advice is “If your puppy bites you, shriek in a high-pitched voice.” This sometimes causes the puppy to stop. But sometimes the puppy thinks your noises are fascinating and bites harder next time; it gets him excited and worked up!

It just depends on your puppy… and your ability to make a high-pitched puppy yelp, something most men can’t do. I prefer to use methods that work more reliably. Here is my plan.

Step One

Institute a new house rule: everyone interacting with the puppy is “armed” with a soft, biteable toy. It should be long enough to keep your fingers away from the puppy’s mouth when playing. This is always within the puppy’s reach when you’re petting her, playing with her, or snuggling together. Praise the puppy for interacting with the toy.

Set yourself up for success by keeping a soft toy in your back pocket, another in a basket on top of the puppy’s crate, and another in the room where you tend to hang out with your pup the most. I recommend braided fleece toys and “unstuffed” plush toys (the kind that resemble roadkill).

Puppy Chewing Shoelaces

Tuck in shoelaces, sweatshirt drawstrings, and other dangly bits of clothing and jewelry to set your puppy up for success. (Photo by Nicki Varkevisser, Flickr)

Step Two

Don’t tempt your puppy! For at least the first few weeks, avoid wearing nice clothing or anything loose-fitting or dangling around her. Change out of your nice work clothes before interacting with your puppy. Tuck in shoelaces and sweatshirt drawstrings, and remove large earrings and necklaces, too.

This eliminates the puppy’s opportunity to grab on to these things and elicit an exciting reaction from you. We don’t want the puppy to learn things we wish she wouldn’t, such as “grabbing my mother’s earrings makes her squeak and push me around. That’s fun!” Not a good lesson.

You can also use bitter-tasting spray on things that you’re not likely to touch often, such as your shoelaces. The bitter taste can transfer to your fingers, so if you use this method, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling food or touching your face.

Step Three

When your puppy mouths your hands, pull them away from her and keep them out of her reach for several seconds. I recommend sticking your hands in your armpits – your puppy can’t nip them there! Ignore your puppy for about 5 seconds. If she continues to try to nip during this time, it may be necessary to stand up or even leave the room.

After this little time-out, calmly present your toy to your pup and resume interacting with her. Praise and play with the puppy for engaging the toy, licking your hands, or just being polite. Repeat this step when the pup bites. Be consistent!

Remember that screaming or shouting at the puppy, pushing her away, or physically punishing the puppy by pinching her lips or clamping her mouth closed will either intensify the biting or scare the puppy, potentially leading to fearful and aggressive behaviors in the future.

If your pup bites on your clothing, gently remove the clothing from her mouth and prevent her access to that article of clothing. If she’s chewing on your shirt sleeve, stand up and roll up your sleeves. If she’s chewing on your pant leg, leave the room or step to the other side of a baby gate or puppy pen so she cannot reach you. Ignore her for a few seconds, then offer her the toy to play with.

Closing Thoughts

The purpose of these training steps is to teach the puppy that when she has the urge to put something in her mouth, she should pick an appropriate toy rather than your hands or clothing. Puppies need to bite, mouth, and chew as they grow, so rather than fight that instinct, channel it into appropriate items.

If you need to give your puppy a “time out” more than two or three times in a 10-minute period, she is either very wound up and needs a bit of exercise, or is overtired and needs to be put in her crate for a nap. Remember that the time out does not teach the puppy anything. It just provides an opportunity for your puppy to calm down enough to try other ways of interacting with you, which you must then reward.

Dog Treat Review: Canidae Lamb-Licious TidNips February 21, 2014 Comments Off

Canidae TidNips Lamb-Licious Lamb & Rice Dog Treats

Canidae TidNips Lamb-Licious Lamb & Rice Dog Treats

This month, my friends at sent us a bag of Canidae TidNips treats to test out. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Canidae had expanded into the “soft treat” market. Last I heard, they were only making kibble and biscuits. When the treats arrived, we quickly started testing them!

First, the hard data. TidNips are a soft jerky treat that come in approximately 1″ flat squares, reminiscent of Wellness’ WellBites treats. They come in a 6oz resealable bag. These treats are made in the USA and have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, too!

After last month’s stinky review, I was pleased to find that these treats have minimal odor. It was also very easy for me to use my fingers to rip the treats into tiny pieces for training.

The boys gave these treats two paws up! All three of them eagerly took the TidNips bits from me and they maintained their interest through a short training session. I doubt they are high-enough value to keep Spark or Finch’s focus in a distracting environment, like on a walk or on an outing to the pet store, but they are a great treat for learning new tricks inside. (Strata says he’ll happily eat them anywhere, any time!)

Tessie was asleep while I was handing out these treats, and you know what they say about sleeping dogs. She’ll be 15 years old (!) at the end of next month so that’s how she spends the majority of her time these days. At this point, I don’t think she’ll be participating in too many product reviews – she’s earned her retirement!

My Opinion

These are good treats, and I’ll definitely finish the bag. I don’t think there’s anything overwhelmingly special about them and while my dogs enjoyed eating them, they weren’t following me around praying I’d drop a few crumbs, either. They’re a pretty run-of-the-mill training treat.

I appreciate that they have only one protein source (lamb) which was one of my complaints with WellBars when they first came out. If you’ve got a dog on a limited diet, these may be a good choice for you, but do note that they aren’t grain-free. Logo

The product reviewed in this blog post was provided by

Canine Good Citizen Dog Training Class – Advanced Training in Holbrook, MA February 19, 2014 Comments Off

American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen

The AKC CGC logo.

We just added a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Preparation dog training class to our schedule in Holbrook, MA! If you want to improve your dog’s manners and obedience beyond what they learned in puppy class or Basic Dog Manners, this is the right class for you!

The Canine Good Citizen test is a 10-part examination created by the American Kennel Club to evaluate a dog’s ability to behave appropriately in a variety of real-life situations.

Skills tested include calmly greeting a friendly stranger, walking on a loose leash through a crowd of people, and waiting patiently for their owner to return during a three-minute supervised separation.

In our CGC Preparation class, we take the skills your dog has already developed – loose leash walking, stay, coming when called, focusing on you around distractions – and kick ‘em up a notch.

We introduce a variety of distractions and begin to reduce the dog’s reinforcement schedule, which means your dog will learn to work for longer periods of time before receiving a reward. This is necessary to succeed during the examination, where no treats, toys, or clickers are allowed!

If you’re ready to get started, enroll today! This 6-week class is on Saturdays and begins in March.

Puppy Kindergarten Training Class in Holbrook, MA: Now at a New Time! January 15, 2014 Comments Off

Puppy Kindergarten Class in Holbrook, MA

Puppy playtime is one of the fun activities in our Puppy Kindergarten group training class!

By popular request, we have changed the time of our Puppy Kindergarten group training class in Holbrook to 11AM on Saturdays! If you have a puppy between the ages of eight weeks and five months of age that needs training, come join us.

Our Puppy Kindergarten class combines basic manners and obedience training (sit, down, come when called, loose leash walking) with socialization opportunities (puppy playtime, novel objects, and body handling) to help your pup develop into a companion you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Join our Puppy Kindergarten Class!

Like all of our group training classes, Puppy Kindergarten is open enrollment which means you can start immediately as long as there is a spot open in class. We limit our classes to just four students each, to make sure everyone gets plenty of one-on-one instruction. This is not one of those big-box-store free-for-alls – you will get the attention you deserve!

Ready to join us? Enroll online today! All of our classes take place at A Dog’s Day Away, 440 Weymouth Street, Holbrook MA.