Dog Training & Behavior

Make sure he's on his best behavior

Creating Good Canine Citizens

We offer a wide range of services to help resolve pet behavior issues. If you have a finicky feline or a problem pooch, help is available online, over the phone, and in person. Here are a few of the more common issues we hear about most often — that you can fix!

Introducing Dogs

Where should the introduction take place?

The initial introduction between your current dogs and your new one should be done during the adoption process at the shelter. This allows them to get familiar with each other before your new dog comes home.

What should I do during the first meeting?

Remember to stay calm and relaxed during the introductions. Any tension on your part will be transmitted to the animals and may increase the risk of an negative response. Keep your leash loose, but keep a firm grasp on it in case you need to pull your dog back for any reason.

What should I do when we arrive home?

  • When you arrive home with your new dog, keep him outside on a leash. Have a calm family member or friend bring your current dog outside on a leash for the greeting. Next, take them for a walk together before entering the house. This allows them to get acquainted without triggering a territorial response from your current dog. Walking them together sends the message that they are now part of the same pack.
  • Upon entering the home, drop the leash of the more submissive dog. Do not remove the leashes from either dog at this point.

What behaviors should I watch for?

Your new dog may ignore the current resident and want to explore your home. Be alert for very stiff body language, teeth display or growling. Both dogs may have a little anxiety, so it is important that you stay relaxed. Keeping the leashes on will afford you more control over the situation. You may simply step on the leash to stop either of the dogs.

Can I leave my dogs alone together?

Always separate your dogs when you can not supervise them, such as when you are leaving your home. If you are not there to provide a leadership role, your dogs may be having negative interactions without you knowing it, which can lead to increased tension between them.

Crate Training

Crate training is a great way to keep your pet (and your furniture!) safe when you are not home. Crating is also very useful housetraining tool. The crate itself should be large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably. However, the crate should not be so large that the dog has room to use the restroom at one end and relax in the other.

  • 01.

    Select a Location

    Designate a place for the crate in your home. Do not place it close enough to furniture or drapery that the dog may be able to reach.

  • 02.

    Place the Crate

    Put the crate in its designated area and leave the door open. This gives the dog a chance to investigate the new object and lessens the potential for fear. Ignore the crate for a few hours. Do not attempt to put the dog inside at this point.

  • 03.

    Entice Your Dog

    Place her favorite toy into the crate and leave it there for her to retrieve. Do not speak to the dog. Stay relaxed and observe only. If she will not go inside to get her toy, place a small amount of her food inside and observe only. If the dog is still too afraid to venture in after the object, place her favorite food treat inside. Stay relaxed and observe only.

  • 04.

    Entering the Crate

    Once she has gone inside, do not shut the door or overly praise her. Either action will startle her. It is important that she not feel pressured to go into the crate. She needs to feel safe in and around the cage as this will become her personal area.

  • 05.

    Exiting the Crate

    After she steps out, repeat step 3 until she is completely comfortable venturing into the crate.

  • 06.

    Shut the Door

    The next step is shutting the door with her inside. This should be done quietly and calmly so she does not feel trapped. Do not latch the gate. Shut it and immediately open it again, allowing her to step out.

  • 07.

    Let Her Out

    Take her outside to use the restroom. When you bring her back in, repeat step 6, leaving the door shut just a little longer than the first time and latching the gate. If she becomes stressed, stop the exercise for the day.

  • 08.

    Increase Crate Time

    Gradually increase the amount of time she is in the crate until you are able to leave her in it for 1 1/2 hours at a time without her becoming upset. After she is comfortable being in the crate for that period of time, you are safe to leave the house. Crate training may take time, but your peace of mind is worth it!

Fearful Dogs

Dogs adopted from shelters may be stressed out from living in a kennel environment. They may also have had bad experiences in the past that have made certain situations uncomfortable for them. For this reason, they may act out when they become over-stimulated or fearful. This is a normal behavior that takes time and patience to overcome.

Dogs are naturally social animals that truly want to be a part of your family. In some cases, they need a little extra help from you to get to that point. The end result of teaching your new dog that they are safe and can trust you is one of the most rewarding experiences of adopting a dog from a rescue.

Understanding Fear Response

What are fearful behaviors?

Your new dog may be fearful of new experiences because they have not yet learned that they are safe. Wide eyes, ears pulled back, a tucked tail, and a tense body stance are good indicators of fear.

How should I react to fearful behavior(s)?

  • Because they are so afraid, you must stay calm and confident. This is extremely important. Any anxiety on your part will be transmitted to the dog, making their fear worse. It is up to us to be leaders for our dogs.
  • Never attempt to pet or corner a frightened dog. They are not capable of understanding that your actions are meant to help them. Reaching toward or cornering a frightened dog may be interpreted as aggression on your part and the dog may respond by snapping at you. Keep the dog’s environment as calm and quiet as possible.
  • Do not encourage fearful behavior. Petting your dog and telling them, “It’s ok!” is letting your dog know that they will be rewarded for fearful behavior. Instead, generously praise and reward your dog for being calm and collected. Never scold your dog for displaying fearful behavior, as doing so will only increase their fear toward the situation.
  • Move slowly when dealing with your new dog. Going in for a hug or a kiss may seem like an appropriate way to show affection, but most dogs are actually nervous about being hugged or having someone in their face. The best way to bond with a dog is to be affectionate while respecting their personal space.

What activities can calm a fearful dog?

  • Keep the dog on a leash with you throughout the house. Allowing him to cower in his crate or under a bed will not help him overcome his fear. Forcing him to face unfamiliar experiences will also have a negative effect. Simply take him with you using the leash as you go about your day in your home. Use as few words as possible. “Let’s go” said in a calm voice works well.
  • Take your dog for a walk. There’s nothing like a nice long walk to help drain excess nervous energy. Avoid busy parks or other loud, stressful areas.

What if my dog snaps at me?

If your dog snaps at you, stay calm. Stand, fold your arms across your chest and hold still. Turn very slightly to the side, until you are at a slight angle from the dog. Do not stand over or stare down your dog, however you should not back away. This tells the dog that although you are not afraid of him, you are not going to challenge him either. Backing away from him at this point would be seen as submissive behavior. Move away only after he is calm and looks or moves away from you.

How can I best handle mealtime and playtime?

Decisions involving mealtimes and playtimes must be made by you, not the dog. At mealtimes, have the dog sit or move away from where you will feed him. Place the bowl of food on the ground, and give him 15 minutes to eat. If he has not eaten, pick up the bowl and put it away until the next mealtime. This may seem harsh, but is normal canine behavior from the dog’s point of view.

The same procedure should be followed for playtime. These actions signal to your dog that you are the leader. A dog with a calm, confident leader will develop into a calm, confident dog. If you do not fill this role of leadership, he will attempt to. This can result in increased anxiety for the dog and may lead to unwanted behaviors.

Many dogs suffer from anxiety or fear due to a wide variety of reasons. Past abuse, life as a stray or even the chaos of a kennel environment can turn a normally stable dog into a very fearful one. Time, patience and an understanding of how the dog interprets the world around him will make a huge difference in his behavior. There is nothing quite like watching a dog change from a cowering, fearful dog into one full of love, trust and playfulness. It may take some time, but the results are worth it!

House Training

Your new pet needs time to adjust to living in your home, so be patient. Dogs that may have been house trained previously will still need a refresher course upon arrival.

How do I eliminate indoor eliminations?

Consistency is vital.

As with all training, consistency is vital. Feeding time should be as close to the same time every day as possible, even on weekends.

Keep the dog with you.

Keep the dog with you; instead of allowing it free run of the house until housetraining is completed. It is recommended to keep your dog attached to you on a leash until they are housetrained.

Place the dog in her crate.

When you are unable to supervise him, place the dog in its crate.

Take the dog out.

Take the dog outside on a leash to the specific area you would like him to use. Walk him around the area, saying the word you will associate with the behavior: “Go potty.” Use this word every time you take him out.

It may take several minutes for him to complete the task, so don’t give up or get frustrated.

Dogs should be taken out after every meal, playtime and upon waking up in the morning and from naps.
If the dog begins sniffing the ground, moving away from you and the activity he was just participating in, he likely needs to go out.

Praise him.

After he has used the restroom, praise him using treats and the key word (i.e. “Potty”).

Don’t punish him.

If he assumes the position before you can reach him, calmly tell him no and take him outside to finish. Dogs do not learn through punishment, and doing so may lead to stress and distrust on him part.

If you fail to supervise your dog, and he has an accident in the house, do not punish him. He simply hasn’t yet learned correct behavior and may not know how to alert you.

A properly supervised dog should not have an accident in the house. Techniques such as physical punishment, or rubbing his nose in it will only lead to distrust of you and will make house-training more difficult.

When to leave your dog.

No dog should be left unsupervised until they have reliably alerted you to their need to go out for several weeks in a row.
Every dog has different time limits on how long they are able to go between breaks; make sure to allow for this.

Clean up messes thoroughly.

Cleaning up messes quickly will help your dog not continue to eliminate in the same place.


How to address a mouthy puppy or adult dog

  • 01.

    "I just want to play!"

    Mouthing is a behavior that all dogs exhibit as puppies. Their mouth is what they use to explore the world. It is an integral tool during playtime with other dogs, and their primary tool when interacting with objects.

    Many puppies will learn not to mouth their owners when they are young, as puppies are very sensitive to correction. Adult dogs who mouth people probably never learned not to do so during puppyhood. It’s likely that their human parents didn’t teach them how to be gentle or to chew toys instead.

    Most mouthing is normal dog behavior, and can be easily corrected through training. This is true even for adult dogs.

  • 02.

    Teaching Bite Inhibition

    Bite inhibition refers to a dog’s ability to control the force of his mouthing. A puppy or dog who hasn’t learned bite inhibition with people doesn’t recognize the sensitivity of human skin, so he bites too hard, even in play.

    When you play with your dog, let him mouth on your hands. Continue play until he bites especially hard. When he does, immediately give a high-pitched yelp, as if you’re hurt, and let your hand go limp. This should startle your dog and cause him to stop mouthing you, at least momentarily. (If yelping seems to have no effect, you can say “All done!” in a stern voice instead.) Praise your dog for stopping or for licking you. Then resume play. If your dog mouths you hard again, yelp again. Repeat these steps no more than three times within a 15-minute period.

  • 03.

    Teach Your Dog: No Teeth on Skin

    • Substitute a toy or chew bone when your dog tries to gnaw on fingers or toes.
    • Dogs often mouth on people’s hands when stroked, patted and scratched.
    • If your dog gets all riled up when you pet him, distract him by feeding him small treats from your other hand.
    • Encourage non-contact forms of play, such as fetch and tug-of-war, rather than wrestling and rough play with your hands. ]
    • Teach your dog impulse control with specific exercises such as sit, wait and leave it.
    • Provide plenty of interesting and new toys and things to chew.
    • Provide plenty of opportunities for your dog to play with other friendly, vaccinated dogs.
    • If all else fails, consider using a taste deterrent. Spray the deterrent on areas of your body and clothing that your dog likes to mouth before you start interacting with him. Do not spray taste deterrent at your dog or in their mouth.

  • 04.

    Be Consistent

    Remember, training a dog requires patience and consistency. If you’re working on decreasing your dog’s mouthiness, don’t allow friends or children to come over and “wind up” your pet or encourage play biting.

    Be sure everyone in your network understands and follows the rules.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety in dogs is not bad behavior that should be punished. It is a true panic attack experienced by an insecure dog that is overly attached to its owner and does not feel safe or secure when separated from that person. Separation anxiety is a common issue that can be resolved with time and patience.

Separation Anxiety Tips

Encouraged Activities

  • Walk your dog daily. Exercise is essential to reduce energy and anxiety levels. Dogs need to be exercised on a daily basis to help drain excess energy. Take the dog for a vigorous walk, get them out of the yard where they can smell and see new things. If the dog is still bouncing around when the walk is finished, play ball or go for another walk.
  • Consider doggie daycares or having a friend stay with your dog when you are gone, and continue behavior training.
  • Have a special toy that you only give the dog when you leave, and put away upon return. Kongs seem to work best as they are very durable, and yummy food items can be placed inside for them to work out. Peanut butter is a great Kong filling! This gives the dog something to focus on instead of the fact that you are gone, and stimulates their brain to keep them from being bored.
  • Use consistent language. If the dog is fine when you leave him inside while you go check the mail, what do you say to let the dog know you are coming right back? Use that word or phrase when working on desensitizing. The dog associates that phrase with your return and feels secure until you come back in.
  • Have a consistent schedule for feeding, pottying, going on walks, and playtime. Consistency breeds security, and having a schedule helps your dog know what to expect.
  • Talk with your vet. If the separation anxiety is severe, talk with your vet about anti-anxiety medication. This option is not a cure, but may help in conjunction with behavior training.

Discouraged Activities

  • Do not make a big production upon leaving or returning home. Ideally, you should ignore the dog for a period of time before leaving (15-20 min.). Upon return, do not greet the dog until it has settled down and all signs of excitement are gone. When the dog is calm, call him over and then quietly greet them.
  • Don’t let your dog dictate when he receives your attention. All interactions from petting to playtime need to be on your terms. This is also true of mealtimes. Dogs need a leader to feel secure. If the dog doesn’t feel that you are the leader, he will fill that role. Dogs, like children, feel safer when someone is in charge and there are boundaries and rules.
  • Do not rely on crate training tot fix separation anxiety. In certain cases it can make the problem worse. If your dog has severe separation anxiety, they could get injured while trying to get out of the crate. Dogs that are already crate trained may do well in it, as they already consider that area their “den”.
  • Do not get  another dog or companion animal and expect it to reduce separation anxiety, it can increase it. The dog’s insecurity is linked to its dependence on you.
  • Don’t turn on the radio or TV unless your TV or radio is typically on when you are home, turning it on when you leave will not comfort him.

Love & Let Live

Every animal deserves a second chance at love — and life. We invite you to be part of the solution and give back to the animals who give us so much.