How to Approach Unknown Dogs!

Ok so you are walking down the street with your best, four-legged friend beside you and you have been concentrating on being a great leader for him/her and so far everything is going great. Then down the path approaches another proud owner with their best, four-legged friend and as the space between the both of you gets smaller you make a choice on what to do next…

Do you –

a) Take a punt that everything will be alright, your dog has never hurt another dog so you let them sniff and say hello.

b) Call out to the owner “Is your dog ok with dogs? Can they say hello?” Then precede in the good faith that the other owner has full control of their dog.

c) Decide that “My dog is fine with large dogs” I’ll let them sniff and say hello.

d) Freak out”My dog hates large dogs” and get away from the oncoming threat as fast as possible.

e) Put yourself between you and the oncoming dog, moving over for maximum space and thus a safe passage through, being ready to physically intervene if there is any hiccup along the way.

f) Phone a friend?

All of the above responses are valid however they are really based on guess work and opinions of how well behaved we think our own dog is and how much control the other owner has over their dog. This post is designed to take the gamble and stress out of your daily dog walks.

It is really important that we in the dog owning community become more attuned to what it is dogs are communicating to us and each other AND what we are communicating to them! Not all dogs have the exact same physical attributes however there are some general tips that are very useful.

We do not advise you to approach a dog if it is demonstrating a stiff body, tail very high (wagging or not) eyes locked intensely on your dog, forehead is wrinkled forward, ears moved forward and breathing stopped. This dog in a super alert state it is ready to strike if need be. If your dog makes a move that it doesn’t like it could very well get triggered and lunge in attack. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the other dog is aggressive and a danger to society however we recommend in this instance to give yourself and your dog some space so that you are confident that you are safe. You may want to communicate with the owner that you are just getting some space to allow them to pass.

If the other dog is pulling forward at the end of the lead and is bounding as fast as it can at your dog in excitement, we also don’t recommend you have them say hello immediately. The first reason being that there is a lack of owner leadership present as the dog is determining where it goes and at it’s chosen speed. Essentially the dog in that pack is the leader and the owner is the follower. If there is a lack of leadership in the pack there is often instability and an unbalanced dog leading the pack can be very unpredictable. In this instance you may request from the other owner to stop and wait until both dogs calm down before allowing them to say hello. You could also just pass calmly at a safe distance.

When we do allow our dogs to sniff each other and say hello it is generally a reward for our dog and remember that whenever we reward our dog we nurture the state of mind that our dog is in, in that given moment. Whenever we reward our dog we are basically saying I like and accept your state so keep doing it!

We reward our dogs when they are demonstrating a calm submissive state and this includes when they are around other dogs. Before we allow our dogs to say hello they must have a loose and relaxed body, it is great if they are engaging their nose and showing interest in the other dog, their breathing is calm and regular and they are waiting calmly for us to command or bring them more closely to the other dog.

If your dog naturally gets excited at the site of other dogs the best thing to do is calmly wait and chat with the other owner until both dogs relax and are demonstrating the desired, calm state. In most cases this can be just a minute or two before both dogs have relaxed.

When having your dog approach another take it slowly and confidently, be present to the state that your dog is in at all times. If the dogs are getting over excited or are stiffening up, slow it down, correct and/or take a step back again to get some space. If you tend to get a little nervous at times remember you are the one that calls the shots, take a deep breath and take your time. Communicate clearly to your dog that you will only reward the calm, submissive state.

When allowing your dog to approach we highly recommend that you guide your dog to sniff the rear of the other and vice versa. When dogs sniff each other front on it is a more conflicting and confronting position and the energy can shift quickly from friendly to a challenge and some dogs stiffen up immediately when approached this way. The sniffing of the rear is a more natural and balanced way for dogs to approach, however don’t then allow one dog to dominate in this position, abruptly push their nose in for an up close inspection or mount the other as this is poor manners and can change things also.

To recap we only want to reward calm, peaceful behaviour, so it works to only have your dog get the reward of sniffing another when it is demonstrating this state. Take things slowly, read the dogs’ body language at all times and check that you are relaxed and confident. Make sure both dogs are demonstrating ‘good manners’ not allowing one to dominate the other or approach too abruptly and intensely.

We humans don’t go up to complete strangers abruptly and give them a big hug and sloppy kiss at the first chance, generally we use our manners and etiquette and that has us feeling more safe and confident. When we lead our dogs confidently, we provide for our dogs’ needs and that has them feeling safe and secure.

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The Walk – Why Our Leadership Is So Important

What is the walk to you? Is it an opportunity for your dog to have fun, get out & release it’s energy, say hello to other dogs, sniff and do what dogs love doing most? Is it a time when finally your dog gets to see you and the world after being locked up and alone all day?

Many of us carry a lot of guilt around being good owners/companions for our dogs, we have busy lives and sometimes we don’t get to spend as much time with them as we would like.

When feeling such ‘guilt’ however we forget to think & communicate like our dogs do. We forget that in our dog’s eyes we are part of a pack. A pack has a hierarchy and no dogs are ever equal within this structure. Through touch, sound, body posture and energy dogs communicate very clearly to each other the order of which they fit within the pack. Being the pack leader is not a part time job. They are consistent with communicating their dominance, as well as rules and boundaries with all pack members.

If we truly want to share a relationship with a happy and balanced dog, we must always be the leader (or ‘alpha’) of our dogs (i.e. we must at all times take on the pack leader role). When our communication with our dogs is inconsistent and unclear, there is a lack of leadership and issues such as reactiveness, over excitement and anxiety can show up in our dogs. The ‘daily’ walk really is a fantastic opportunity for us to consistently assert our ‘pack leadership’ position over our dog.

When people walk their dog straight to the park, allowing it to sniff, mark and pull in high excitement the whole way, then letting it loose as soon as they get to the park, they are handing their ‘pack leadership’ over to their dog. The dog calls the shots the whole way and they are following their dog’s commands beautifully. The owners are also rewarding their dogs (without having them earn it) for calling the shots the whole way to the park by letting them off leash to do what they want, when they want. After this the owners are then often surprised when they call their dogs to leave the park and they choose not to come to them?

Another example of the above is when the owners drive straight to a park and let their dogs out of the car and off leash as soon as they arrive.

A lack of consistent leadership from you can be highly stressful for your dog. Particularly if your dog lacks the confidence to face all the situations that living in a domesticated society poses on them, and/or especially if your dog has a tendency to display fear, anxiety, reactiveness and/or aggression. It is a bit like giving the keys to someone to drive a car for the first time and going to sleep in the back and expecting them to be capable, calm and sensible about driving you through peak hour traffic. Some people would handle that quite well but a majority of them would freak out and/or have an accident.

Tip: If your dog is displaying fear, overexcitement or reactiveness while out on the walk we recommend you slow everything right down. Start by making sure that your dog is calm before you leave for the walk. We recommend as little talk (to your dog) before leaving as possible and clipping the lead on only when your dog is calm. For more guidance on how to leave the house calmly check out our post

Once out there in the world we recommend you clearly set up a structure of habits that your dog will start to understand:

Have your dog walking beside you on a loose lead. This can take some practice especially if your dog is used to pulling you everywhere and dominating you. It takes correcting your dog when it is in front of you and having the lead loose and relaxed when your dog is positioned right beside you. Be consistent, imagine a line that runs perpendicular to your toes and don’t let your dog past it. Not even when you are standing still!

Give your dog opportunities to toilet (on your command) during the walk. Allow it to go very early into the walk so that it is relaxed and then a couple times periodically throughout the walk. Make sure it is all on your call, don’t allow your dog to tell you where and when it wants to go (unless it is absolutely busting and can not help it).

Allow your dog to ‘say hello’ to other dogs when it is demonstrating calm energy, never when it is over excited or pulling you towards the dog (our next post will be on meeting new dogs).

Once your dog has demonstrated, calm submissive behaviour for the entire walk on lead (we recommend between 45mins – 1.5hours depending on how high energy and/or dominant your dog is) and it has earned a reward, you can let it off to play in the park. If everyone did this we are sure there would be a lot less negative dog encounters and/or fights in public parks! Time off lead doesn’t have to happen everyday, it can be saved as a very special treat a couple times a week. We highly recommend (for many reasons) you release your dog in the park only if it is FULLY trained in coming or recalling to you!

Clear, consistent communication is the key to leadership with your dog. If you keep this up, over time your dog should become more confident and calm and generally happier than it previously was. You may even find that your dog will start to listen to your commands more and the first time you give them!

Most Saturdays we run training classes and walks with a large focus on how to lead your dog confidently on a walk, if you would like more information about this please contact us or check out our home page.

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Separation Anxiety

Does your dog follow you around the house whenever you’re home? Does it never want to leave your side? Does it spend it’s time looking up at you, pawing or nudging you for your attention?

It can be quite comforting to come home to a dog that constantly wants to be by our side and show it’s endearing love for us. This behaviour however, if constant is not balanced or healthy for your dog. If it is left unchecked it can develop into various problems, one of the main ones being separation anxiety.

If your dog doesn’t know how to be independent of you when you are home it is highly likely it will have trouble being independent when you leave. Often there will be destruction to furniture or objects where it is being contained, scratching at the back door, your dog might become an escape artist or it might constantly bark causing disturbance to your neighbours.

Tip: If your dog is developing these issues we highly recommend you start to build your dog’s ability to be independent of you. One way to do this is to give it a peaceful place in the house where your dog can relax such as it’s bed, crate or kennel. Set up the bed so it becomes the place where great things happen. Have it be the place where is gets the majority of your affection including praise, pats and snacks.

When you are first training your dog to go and lie on it’s bed, stack things in your favour and do it after your dog has been on a big walk, eaten and been to the toilet. By draining your dog’s energy and taking care of it’s needs first, your dog is more likely to be ready to relax and rest.

Start slowly, expecting your dog to stay on it’s bed for a short time and gradually build it up. Spend time practising this while you are around so that if your dog gets off it’s bed before you want it to you can gently place it back. Some dogs may need to be physically contained (tied to or placed in a crate) on their bed when first being trained until they get they are to stay there until released. For some dogs this process can happen very easily and quickly, others that are more prone to anxiety will require you to be very consistent and strong in your communication. It is highly important that you communicate clearly to your dog! Ignore or correct any unwanted behaviours such as whining or barking and reward your dog when it is demonstrating behaviours you like such as calmly lying on its bed.

Generally we find when a dog is highly anxious and symptoms of separation anxiety are high there is also a lack of consistent leadership inside and outside the home.

Eventually if your dog is conditioned well and you have been consistent with having them stay in their resting place in the house, you will find your dog will take itself there and the following around the house will diminish. Over time you may also find the destruction that your dog was once causing has also reduced.
This issue is not always a simple one, if you have any questions about this post please comment below as your questions are very likely to help someone else.
You could also call Michelle on 0403000122 to discuss it further with her.

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Before You Go For A Walk

What behaviour does your dog demonstrate when you grab it’s lead or your keys or anything else you do as part of the ritual before you go for a walk? Does it get highly excited, run around in circles, jump up at you, bark or whine? If you begin your walk with your dog in this manner it can be even harder to lead your dog on the walk in a peaceful and calm way.

Tip: If you have this issue give yourself more time before leaving for the walk, wait until your dog is calm and peaceful before attaching the lead. Getting your dog to sit can be helpful but if your dog is not responding to your command don’t persist just stand there ignoring your dog until it stops. Do not talk to your dog, make eye-contact or touch it just stand calmly. If your dog is highly escalated a touch correction may be required to snap the dog out of the state.

Another useful thing to do is to grab the lead or that object that usually triggers your dog several times a day at times your not going to walk your dog, practise waiting for your dog to calm down. Eventually your four legged friend will know it needs to be calm before you take it out for a walk.

We as humans associate excitement with happiness and therefore think that when our dog is excited it is happy however this is not the case in the dog world. Excitement often represents an unbalance and can lead to other negative traits such as aggression or anxiety.IMG_0735

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Training your puppy to come to you when it is called, starting inside the home.

Training your dog to come to you every time is all about consistency and repetition. It is very important that you create ‘good’ habits with your dog when training it to come to you. It is a great idea when first training your dog or puppy to start off in your home where distractions are limited and the environment is controlled. Once your dog comes to you consistently within the home environment then you can gradually build up the challenge of more distractions such as noises, toys, other dogs and the outside world.

Here are a few basic steps to follow when starting out with your dog or puppy.

Step 1) Put a long lead on your dog. (This allows you to get your dog’s attention and guide your dog to you ensuring that you can show your dog exactly what you want it to do).

Step 2) Call your dog’s name to get it’s attention on you. (If your dog doesn’t look at you, jiggle the lead to get it’s attention. Do not repeat your dog’s name!)

Step 3) Once your dog is looking at you, give it a command to get it to come to you, such as ‘come’. (If your dog doesn’t come to you within a few seconds, then gently tug on your dogs lead and bring it into you. Do not repeat the command. Only say it once.)

Step 4) Once your dog has moved towards you. Use a treat to guide your dog into a sit position.

Step 5) It is very important that you don’t give the treat to your dog until you give it a ‘release’ command. That way your dog learns to sit until you have given it permission to move. Only give the treat to your dog if it is sitting calmly. Never reward the dog if it is jumping up on you.

**PLEASE NOTE** Over using words not only confuses your dog, it can break down a command all together. Next time you are in a park observe the dogs that come to their owners first time and the ones that ignore their name. There is a good chance that a dog that completely ignores its owner does so because the owner simply uses the dog’s name too much and the dog has little association with the command that the owner is giving.




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Toilet Training Your Puppy Made Simple

Toilet Training your puppy can be simple if you are consistent and follow these basic steps…

Step 1 – At first you will need to take your puppy out regularly (about every 2 hours)
Step 2 – When your dog relieves itself say your command like ‘Go toilet’
Step 3 – Praise your dog after it goes.
Step 4 – Once you have repeated this process, your dog will begin to associate the command with going to the toilet. Then you can start commanding the puppy to go (before it is actually doing the act). Praising and rewarding your dog after following your command reaffirms its association with the command. (Like in this video)
As your puppy grows and matures it will learn to hold on longer before going to the toilet.


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What Behaviour Are You Rewarding in Your Dog?

It is highly important that we reward our dog at appropriate times. Rewards are a great tool to encourage or nurture certain behaviours from our dog. Put simply, we reward our dog when it is doing something that we like or when it is demonstrating a calm and relaxed state. Rewards can be given in many different ways.  Basically a reward is anything that we know our dog will like.

Examples of Rewards:

  1. Patting your dog
  2. Giving your dog food (or something else it is driven or excited about such as a ball)
  3. Picking up your dog or letting it on the couch
  4. Letting your dog in through a doorway
  5. Throwing the ball for your dog
  6. Letting your dog say hello to other dogs
  7. Walking your dog, moving forward with your dog
  8. Letting your dog sniff in the park or go to the toilet
  9. Putting the walking leash on your dog (or anything that is part of the ritual and preparation of walking your dog)
  10. Giving your dog ‘free time’ in the park and letting it off the leash
  11. Giving your dog a toy to play with
  12. Inviting your dog into the car

Unless your dog has any negative associations with any of these actions they generally all mean good things to your dog.

Remember we only reward wanted behaviour and we NEVER reward a dog when they ask for it, that would mean they would be telling us what to do!

For example WE NEVER:

  1. Give a treat when our dog jumps up on us
  2. Let our dog jump up on the couch or bed without us inviting them
  3. Let our dog run through a doorway or gate in front of us
  4. Throw the ball when our dog is jumping up at us, trying to snatch the ball or barking at us to throw the ball.
  5. Pat or give our dog attention when it approaches us for it (instead wait until your dog is calm and quiet and then call it over to you for a pat)
  6. Open a door when our dog scratches on it or cries for us to open it (instead wait a moment until the dog is quiet and still before opening)

It is useful to set up structures and routines with your dog to assist it in understanding your communication. For example it is a great idea not to make a big fuss over your dog when you first get up in the morning. Quietly and calmly take your dog out for a walk and then reward it later with a meal and cuddles on its bed afterwards. This will reinforce your leadership while you are out on the walk and also tell your dog that its bed is a great place for it to settle as this is a place where it receives love and affection.

If you follow these guidelines consistently your dog will soon work out what sort of behaviour they are to demonstrate to get what they want.

Remember that a dog is not a good dog or a bad dog, it just demonstrates different behaviours and states. We need to be aware of which states we are encouraging from our dogs. Don’t confuse the dog’s current state with the way you see the dog. For example a dog that is in a crazy state doesn’t mean that the dog is crazy, we are just allowing it to behave in this way.

One last tip – A tired dog is usually more relaxed and calm. So daily exercise is of the highest priority for your dog’s well being.


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Games to encourage your dog to come to you


Single Person Recall with Long Line

Have your dog connected to you on a long leash or rope.

Allow your dog to become distracted by its surrounds.  Then call its name in order to grab its attention (dog needs to look at you).

If your dog does not look at you within 2-3 seconds after calling its name, use the long leash or rope to gently tug or jiggle at its collar or check chain.  Once you have your dog’s attention (i.e. it is looking your way) recall it to you by saying in a fun and playful tone “COME”.  Should your dog not move towards your direction within 2-3 seconds use the long leash or rope to gently guide it towards you and at the same time slowly move backwards away from your dog to encourage them to you.

Once your dog has come to you, use a treat to guide the dog’s nose to bring them close to you. When they are in the required position (close & in front of you), bring the treat up over the dog’s head to make them sit directly in front of you, reward the dog with a treat and say “free” to release the dog.  It is also important to give your dog a treat following the free command.

Once your dog reliably comes to you every time it is called, the treat is to be given at random times, rather than every time.  The treat can also be used to increase the time that the dog is asked to sit in front of you before it is given the “free” command (which releases it from the come command).

Only play for 5 – 10 minutes at a time to ensure the dog remains motivated and interested.  Can be played many times throughout the day with good breaks in-between each training session.

Ping Pong

The purpose of Ping Pong is to give your dog a positive association with their name and to get them to come to you when they are called.

It is to be played with 2 or more people (and your dog), and only once your dog has an understanding of the come command following the playing of the “Single Person Recall with Long Line” game.

One of you call your dog’s name (make sure only one person at any one time does this), only when you have the dogs attention you say, “come” with a calm but firm tone.

When the dog comes to you, you use a treat to guide the dog’s nose and bring them close to you. When they are in the required position, bring the treat up over the dog’s head to make them sit, reward the dog with a treat and say “free” to release the dog.  It is also important to give your dog a treat following the free command. Once your dog reliably comes to you every time it is called, the treat is to be given at random times, rather than every time. The treat can also be used to increase the time that the dog is asked to sit in front of you before it is given the “free” command (which releases it from the come command).

Repeat with various people taking turns with the dog. Only play for 5 – 10 minutes at a time to ensure the dog remains motivated and interested.  Can be played many times throughout the day with good breaks in-between each training session.


This game can be a great reward for your dog as the drive to chase a ball down is strong in many dogs. It is great exercise for your dog and an excellent way to practice rewarding a calm submissive state.

Show your dog the ball (or other retrieving object that is of highest interest to your dog) and get your dog to sit. When the dog is calm, sitting and focused on you, reward it by releasing it with the “free” command, followed by throwing the retrievable object.

When the dog brings the item back to you, praise & reward your dog.  A treat can be used to encourage your dog to release the item at your feet should it not do this on its own.

Repeat the above once your dog returns the retrievable object to your feet.

Should the dog not bring the item back to you, cease playing the game immediately and do more work on your dogs recall command using the above two games.


It is important that you have mastered recalling your dog before you play this game.

Play this game until you or your dog is tired!

* If you have any questions about this game please contact The Art of Dog Training for assistance.



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