Training Tip Tuesday ~ Introducing the “Scary” Vacuum

For many puppies and adult dogs a like, the vacuum can be a very scary thing. It’s weirdly shaped, vary loud, and moves in frantic forward and backward motions. Since we vacuum regularly on the weekends in my household, I knew that I had to start introducing the “scary” vacuum to the new foster puppies ASAP. If you take the time from the very beginning and slowly introduce the vacuum to your new dog, it’ll be less stressful for the dog when the time comes to actually flip the switch and get the job done.

Step 1: Introducing the vacuum. When you first introduce the vacuum to your dog, you want to do it while it’s stationary and turned OFF. Maybe practice some basic behaviors in the same room as the vacuum and let the dog investigate it while positively rewarding the dog with yummy treats.

Investigating the big weird yellow thing

Investigating the big weird yellow thing (First introduction with the vacuum OFF)

Step 2: Moving the vacuum. Once the dogs seem to be comfortable around the vacuum. You’ll want to start to move it (again still keeping it turned OFF). What I did with my current foster dogs (pictured above) was walk around my house with the vacuum turned OFF while tossing them treats at the same time. In no time the pups thought it was an awesome game. When the vacuum moves we get treats!!

Step 3: Turning ON the vacuum. Going back to having the vacuum stationary. You want to flip the vacuum ON for a second or two while simultaneously give treats (very generously). Once you switch the vacuum OFF, treats stop. So it’s Vacuum ON: Treat, treat, treat. Vacuum OFF: No treats. You want to repeat this step several times until your dog is happily waiting for treats when the vacuum is switched on. You also want to vary the time you have the vacuum switched into the ON position. At first 2 or 3 seconds, then 10 seconds, then 5 seconds, then 20 seconds, then 7 seconds then 30 seconds…. and so on. *Note: Another option could be giving your dog a stuffed Kong or a very high value treat (like a bully stick) to chew on when the vacuum is switched ON.*

What is that noise? Gypsy investigates further as Bandit eats some treats.

What is that? Gypsy investigates further as Bandit eats some treats.

Step 4: Moving the vacuum while turned ON. Once your dog seems comfortable and happy with the vacuum being switched ON and stationary, you then want to begin to move the vacuum around the house while in the ON position. Again, every time the vacuum is in the ON position you are tossing treats like there is no tomorrow. Like in step 3, you want to take baby steps in the amount of time the vacuum is ON and moving. You want to slowly build up your time vacuuming. Start out with a few seconds, then few minutes (or maybe one small room of the house) at a time and then gradually increase as your dog becomes more and more comfortable. *Note: This whole process may take a few days/weeks so be patient and go at your dogs pace. You want to make sure this is a positive and fun experience for you pup. Start out by vacuuming small portions of your house each day. Depending on your dog in a few days/weeks you can be back to vacuuming your entire house in the same day.*

Luckily, our young foster puppies took  to this vacuum thing fairly quickly. It only took them a little more than a week to get used to the vacuum and by the end of the second week I was able to vacuum the entire house while the pups lay quietly on a dog bed enjoying a delicious stuffed Kong.

What ways do you help your dog feel more comfortable around new “scary” things?

Gypsy and Bandit (both pictured here) are available for adoption through Mutts Matter Rescue.  If you are interested in adopting one (or both) of these cuties please visit the Mutts Matter Rescue page and fill out an adoption application.

Photo Friday ~ Meal Time

Clicker Savvy Canines Brewer and Bailey know the easiest and fastest way to get their dinner on time is to wait patiently outside of the kitchen. They know that their 4 paws must be on the carpet and that they must either be sitting or laying down waiting for their release cue “go eat” before they can enter the kitchen.

Is dinner ready yet mom?

When foster dogs come into our home, there is no exception. Of course the first day or two can be a little tough or frustrating and there is a lot of trial and error involved, but by day 3, 4 and 5 they know the drill! Here you can see our most recent foster pup Harley sitting patiently waiting with his foster brothers outside of the kitchen for his food to be prepared. Such good boys! Go eat!

Training Tip Tuesday ~ Grooming Part 1: Brushing

Recently I had the pleasure of having a long-haired Clicker Savvy Foster (Sabrina) in the house. It reminded me that not many people know the importance of early preparations for puppies/dogs who will need to be groomed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. With that being said, if you have a dog that will need to be brushed nightly to help avoid hair matting, start early!  If you get the dog as a puppy, begin to pair the brush with positive reinforcement such as treats, chews, toys or attention and praise. Fortunately for me, while she was here, Sabrina wanted nothing more than to be loved on by people.  Her favorite type of reward was attention. As long as we were giving her attention she couldn’t care less as to what else was happening.  With that being said, every night I would spend a couple minutes just giving her all the love and praise in the world with one hand while I would gently brush her with the other. **Note: For puppies, it might be wise to do this when they are good and tired.**

Sabrina was what I would consider an easy case.  At just 3 and half months she was a very calm puppy. Other dogs will need a little more distraction or a higher valued reward to accept brushing or combing. That’s OK. Here’s an example: If you have a dog who likes peanut butter, take a spoon with peanut butter on one end and hold it out for the dog to lick while you brush the dog with the other hand. When the peanut butter is gone then the session is over. You want to take baby steps and continue pairing good things with brush time. The benefit is that you are teaching the dog that while being brushed good things happen and yummy treats keep coming. Eventually your dog will make the connection and hopefully begin to enjoy brush time.

In the next couple of weeks, we will talk more about other aspects of grooming such as bathing, ear cleaning and nail clipping… stay tuned.

3rd Times The Charm ~ Meet Sabrina!

Meet Sabrina!

Our 3rd official foster pup is Sabrina, a 3 and 1/2 month old mix breed puppy who is up for adoption through Mutts Matter Rescue. We’re not exactly sure what she’s mixed with but some people think she might be a Collie mix, or maybe even Saint Bernard mix. What we do know is that at 3 and 1/2 months and already 20+ lbs, she’s gonna be a big girl. No worries though, she is as sweet and gentle as can be.

I am always on the move!

Sabrina might have had a delayed start on puppy socialization but she is super lucky her foster mom is an OPERATION SOCIALIZATION Certified Trainer and knows just how to get this girl on the right track! Since day 1 Sabrina has been in training, learning a variety of things that are important to a puppy her age. She’s gotten the opportunity to meet several well mannered dogs & puppies as well as over a dozen or so new people of all ages, genders and races. She is also being introduced to new sounds and situations daily.

"I'm gonna be an Operation Socialization Certified Puppy!"

Along with good puppy socialization Sabrina is also doing very well with a couple other important puppy behaviors, potty training and crate training. In fact, Sabrina is so comfortable in her crate that you will often see her slip off into it on her own for a nap after a good round of play with her foster brothers.

Goofing around in the yard... Sabrina runs the show.

Nap time.

Sabrina is becoming a very Clicker Savvy pup. She has learned several great foundation behaviors so far such as “sit” and a nose target behavior “touch” and is in the process of learning “down.” One of foster mom’s main goals is to teach her to sit automatically while someone say’s “hi” (being greeted). Sabrina is going to be a big girl so it is very important that she learns early that jumping is not a good idea. She is doing GREAT! Sabrina almost automatically sits when she comes up for attention. If 4 paws are on the floor we are also rewarding for this and usually she sits the moment you reach down to pet her. Such a smart girl!

Foster mom say's I have a very lovely "sit"

Today we’ll be taking a mini trip for lunch to one of the nearby Operation Socialization Destinations to get some more real world experiences into her repertoire. Whoever is lucky enough to adopt this sweetheart won’t be disappointed, I promise!

If you are interested in adopting Sabrina or others like her,  just visit Mutts Matter Rescue and fill out an adoption application.

Here are some more pictures cause we all know you can’t get enough of puppy pictures!

Always on the move!

Hi there.

Don't you want to love me forever?

Training Tip Tuesday ~ Emergency Recall

Recall, it’s one of the most important behaviors to have one cue and reliable. Having a number of recalls in your training arsenal is a good thing. You want to make sure though, that you have one cue that no matter what, will stop that dogs in its tracks and return him (or her) to you. Many trainers will refer to this cue as an Emergency Recall. A cue that if your dog hears, it’s been paired with something he loves so many times he thinks, “really I get that right now” and turns and comes running back to you for it.

Callie practicing a basic recall

When training something as important as an Emergency Recall, you want to make sure that you pick something the dog absolutely goes bonkers for! For some dogs that might be steak, or roasted chicken, or a favorite lunch meat/cheese found in your refrigerator. Whatever it is, you want to make sure it’s something that your dog doesn’t get on a regular basis. You want this to be a special treat for him. Once you’ve got that figured out, you want to pick a cue or word to pair with that super special treat. A word that is not used in your daily conversations and is not repeated often. Sometimes this is the hardest part of teaching the behavior, picking a good word to use. I’ve had people use weird food names, brand names, or even a word in a different language that would never otherwise be spoken. It’s up to you!

Once you have chosen the cue & the super special treat to give your dog, all you have to do is begin to pair the two over the next couple of weeks. Here’s how:

Week 1: Start out by getting your dog’s attention, saying your cue (in this case I will use “Jiffy”) and then immediately following your cue give the dog the special treat. Repeat this about 5 times and then end the session (Get dogs attention, Cue Jiffy= treat, Jiffy= treat, Jiffy= treat, Jiffy= treat, Jiffy= treat, end session). Over the next week you want to do this at least once per day at different times of the day and in different rooms of the house.

Week 2: Begin testing your dog randomly by saying the cue out-loud when the dog isn’t expecting it or is in a different room of the house. Most dogs will come running as fast as the wind. When they do, give them the special treat. Over the next week continue to practice. You want to do this at least once a day at different times of the day and in different rooms of the house trying to cue when your dog isn’t expecting it. (Note: if your dog doesn’t come running when you say the cue, A: try to go back to week 1 for a couple more days and then try again or B: change the treat. Perhaps the treat you’ve chosen isn’t special enough, try something new and think smelly! Dogs love stinky stuff like feta cheese or sardines)

Week 3-4: Once your dog is consistently responding to your cue, begin to switch things up or make them even more random. Begin spacing out the times/days you cue the behavior. If you have a fenced in yard, you can practice outside. Remember that anytime you use this cue you must pair it with a special treat. This is a behavior that you want to be as consistent as possible with your rewards.

Rest of the dogs life: Considering this is an Emergency Recall, it shouldn’t be used very frequently. With that being said, if you haven’t used it in a while, don’t forget to practice it every now and then to keep it fresh in the dogs mind and highly rewarded!

Well, that’s all I have for today’s tip! How many of you have an Emergency Recall in place for your dog? What other ways have you found to successfully get your dog to come running back to you? We’d love to hear your stories!

Photo Friday ~ ClickerExpo Manners

Last week we had the pleasure of attending the ever so awesome ClickerExpo to help expand our knowledge on animal behavior and of course clicker training! This weeks Photo Friday shares a couple pictures we took of some of the many well mannered pups we were lucky to of met while soaking up tons of information in presentations or training labs.

A great example of how "settle" on a mat can be useful in public.

Service-dog Julia in a relaxing down while her owner takes notes during a presentation.

Crate training is not just for the home environment. This dog is relaxed and comfortable in her pop up travel crate while another dog is demoing for a lab.


Training Tip Tuesday ~ To Train or Not to Train?

Sometimes as a trainer we get called to a client’s home for some of the darnest things. When it comes to problem solving or fixing a dogs bad habit I always ask myself “is this something that would be easier to train or to prevent?” Seems like a silly question to ask when you’re a trainer, but sometimes the answer might be different than we expected. So the question is…“to train or not to train?” Let me try to explain…

For example, one of the hardest things to “train” is a dog NOT to jump on the counter. Countersurfing is one of those things that can easily and accidentally be rewarded by one tiny mistake of leaving even a single crumb on the counter. Humans aren’t perfect and well sometimes we forget to clean up after ourselves or we make a sandwich and the doorbell rings and the next thing you know the dog has just gotten reinforced for jumping on the counter eaten your delicious lunch. It only takes one time for a dog to jump up, get something yummy and then continue to check the counter for the rest of his natural life. With odds like that, training a dog not to jump on the counter is more difficult and time consuming. It takes more discipline for us humans to remember everything we aren’t supposed to do than for us just to prevent future issues.

So we ask: “To train or not to train?” In this situation, I would explain that one of the easiest ways to help solve the problem could be to baby gate the kitchen and prevent the dog from having access to the counter. I usually picture a light bulb over my clients head as they smile at me and say… “I never thought about that!” 🙂

Long story short, when you have a dog who has a problem, think about what would be the most practical option… “to train or not to train?”

Training Tip Tuesday ~ Don’t Repeat the Cue

Ever find that sometimes you sound like a broken record when cuing your dog to do a specific behavior?

You ask: “Fido, Sit…”

Dog: {looking at you inquisitively}

and before he gets a chance to

You continue: “Sit…Sit…Sit”

Dog: {Sits}


This is a common issue among many owners. We are people of habit, and habits are hard to break. But guess what? Dogs are smart and they are quick to pick up on those habits and small patterns that form when we are asking behaviors from them. Dog’s will learn that they don’t have to “Sit” the first time you ask because you will ask exactly 3 more times “Sit…Sit…Sit” before the dog has time to perform the behavior. Before you know it, yes you’ve taught your dog to “Sit” but only after you repeat the cue 4 times.


How you can fix it: This is more of a problem that we the owners have to fix for ourselves. The next time you cue your dog “Sit” give the dog time to process what you’ve asked and perform the behavior. If he does, GREAT! Reward with treats or lots of praise for doing it correctly. If he doesn’t, reset the dog (walk him nicely over to a different area) and try the cue again. You will find that this will be harder for you to remember not to repeat the cue, than it is for the dog to learn to perform the cue the first time you ask.

Training Tip Tuesday ~ It’s what you DO want

When it comes to addressing your dogs behavior problems most people tend to think of it like this: “My dog jumps on me all the time, I don’t want my dog to jump on me anymore.” We automatically think about what we don’t want our dog to do and this makes the solution to the problem seem much more difficult than it needs to be. Of course you don’t want your dog to jump on you, but what do you want your dog to do?

The first step in fixing a problem that you don’t want your dog to do (jumping, barking, chewing, pulling on the leash, etc.) is to think what you do want your dog to do instead. I know, you’re thinking “can it really be that simple?” Yes, it can be! For the dog who jumps on you when you come home, what do you want your dog to do instead? Let’s say you want a dog that comes up to you and sits to say “hi” and get your attention. Perfect! Now you know what you need to train in order to fix the problem. You need to teach your dog that sitting for attention works better than jumping up for your attention.

If you approach each problem behavior with the same mind set, “what do I want my dog to do instead of (insert annoying behavior here)?” Then the solution will be much clearer and easier to work on.

Old man Brewer knows all about what to DO!