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Volunteer Opportunities at Think Pawsitive

Sense of purpose. Self-confidence. Exciting challenges. Making a difference. Meeting new people. All are excellent reasons to volunteer with an organization of your choice. Why not make it Think Pawsitive Dog Training, LLC, Wisconsin’s largest indoor canine education, training, and sports complex? And they have even more “pawsome” reasons to donate your time and attention.

Located in Waukesha, Think Pawsitive offers over 65 dog and puppy training classes each week, not to mention numerous workshops, special events, trials, community outreach programs, and demos. Think Pawsitive also houses a 41′ x 21’ heated indoor swimming pool one highlight of their canine aquatics’ programs. So, there’s a great deal with which to get active. Just ask any of the current 149 volunteers.

Before we explain the easiest way to become a Think Pawsitive volunteer, let’s first mention several things. (1) You don’t have to own a dog in order to volunteer (as a matter of fact, there are quite a few volunteers who don’t. (2) Young people (12+) are always welcome. For instance, some from youth camps have volunteered, says Think Pawsitive Executive Assistant Adam Loose (pronounced Loosee), “They really seem to enjoy the facility and the activities they get to do.” He adds, “Parents are teaching them at a young age that it’s good to volunteer, it’s good to get involved.”

A visit to the Volunteer Opportunities page of (link for underlined text is shows all the upcoming events, such as agility and nose work, that need volunteers. Currently, Adam is prepping the list for the first half of 2023; the update is updated regularly on the website. You can let the page walk you through the volunteer sign-up process, but if you have any questions, you are welcome to call Adam at (262) 641-9540.

What so many volunteers appreciate are the incentives—vouchers and gift cards included—which they receive from Think Pawsitive. Specific amounts for both depend upon the number of hours that are donated. For instance, someone volunteering for a full day receives $35 in voucher bucks or a $30 gift card. The vouchers can be applied towards any service, class, rental, or special event at Think Pawsitive.

Regarding the incentives, Katie Oilschlager, Think Pawsitive Owner, says volunteers receive an education, build a community with one another, and get their dog participating, if they can, on a specific event. Here’s another incentive: Depending upon how much time you are volunteering and the time of day, lunch and/or snacks and beverages are provided.

Carol Levison has been volunteering for one year. “I enjoy it because it connects me with the Think Pawsitive community and it helps me afford having two dogs in the program,” she explains. Carol adds that it’s, “The best game in town. Best trainers in town and I have checked out the competition.”

Another volunteer, Julie Pfeiffer, says, “I like watching handlers and their dogs and seeing different approaches. It helps me with my dog [and] the program I am in saves me money in membership fees.”

Julie mentioned the Platinum Volunteer Training Membership which is new to Think Pawsitive. It’s four 1-hour monthly sessions which serve to thank the volunteers for their support and allow them and their dogs to continue learning and growing while having fun. To qualify, one needs to maintain a minimum of six 4-hour volunteer sessions per quarter.

It’s not necessary for anyone to be skilled ahead of time with what to do. For instance, someone might say, “I know nothing about agility, so I don’t want to go ahead and volunteer.” There’s no need for concern. Think Pawsitive routinely trains people to get them comfortable with the jobs they’ll be doing. Also, there’s always core staff scheduled for every event.

Some big events that volunteers enjoy working at are the Turkey Trot and Woofstock. The former just passed, but the latter is scheduled for Sunday, July 30, 2023. Yes, it has a sixties’ theme with live music, food trucks, canine games, and vendor booths. Such events are good for school and church groups to volunteer for, as well as a place at which to have a lot of fun.

To wrap this all up, meet like-minded people, make a difference, gain relevant work experience, hone new skills, expand your perspectives, grow your network, AND get vouchers and gift cards, all by volunteering at Think Pawsitive Dog Training. There is something for everyone to enjoy and benefit from while donating their time.

For instance, volunteer Meghan Ward says, “I volunteered at the champion level for a nose work trial and it was really cool. Those dogs walk into the room, and they know exactly where to go.”

Sign up here (link underlined text to Email questions to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from and working with you.

What Are The Best Foods to Feed Your Dog


Are you looking for healthy human food that you can feed your dog daily? Rice is what you seek! It is rich in carbohydrates and can alleviate an upset stomach. Since rice is loaded with starch, you can also serve it for weight management. This is because starch will leave your dog feeling fuller for longer, curbing their appetite and assisting them in maintaining a healthy weight! Rice also contains iron for richer blood as well as vitamin B3 and D. It is perfect for daily consumption since it doesn’t contain cholesterol or sodium. All you have to do is boil your rice until it is well-cooked. Don’t forget to give your furry friends enough water after rice meals.


Whether cold or at normal temperature, sugar-free (or any non-sweetened) yogurt is a perfect treat for you and your dog. Yogurt is rich in calcium and loaded with probiotics to fight off infections and enhances the digestion and assimilation of food. Calcium also promotes bone health which is a huge plus if you own a large breed dog, or any breed that is prone to arthritis or other hip and joint issues.


This fruit is one of the healthiest snacks for you and your dog. It is rich in vitamins A and C, which makes it a great source of antioxidants to protect overall health. Apples also have high fiber content to aid in your dog’s digestion, it’s also crunchy enough to clean teeth! Another added benefit of apples is that they can protect your dog’s skin and coat. You can also use skin and coat supplements for dogs to protect and maintain the health of your dog’s skin and coat. 

Green Peas

Green peas are highly nutritious and one of the healthiest human foods to feed your dog. This legume is gluten-free and high in fiber. These two benefits make green peas the perfect legume for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Fiber-rich foods offer a wide range of benefits from weight management to regulating your dog’s digestion.  Nutritional value is important, right? Green peas are packed with proteins and vitamins, which include A, B1, B6, C, and K. This legume is also high in carbohydrates to supply your dog with the energy to stay active all day long.

Peanuts and Peanut Butter

Your furry friend needs extra protein. This is where peanuts and peanut butter come in handy. Both are not only loaded with protein, but are also great sources of vitamin B and E. With raw, unsalted peanut butter, your dog can have access to healthy fats and niacin on top of other healthy nutrients. Feed your furry pal small to moderate portions of peanuts and peanut butter to manage their intake of fat.


Pumpkin is rich in vitamins, oils, minerals, and fiber.From seeds to fiber, skin, and flesh, each part of a pumpkin offers health benefits.The flesh contains a variety of vitamins and minerals and oils from pumpkin seeds and skin can protect your dog’s urinary tract. 

What Are The Most Important Dog Training Skills

House Training Your Dog

Potty training is all about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. Start with the basics:

  • Supervise your dog. When you’re just starting to house train her, limit her access to other parts of the house, whether that means closing off doors to bedrooms or crate-training so she has her own space.
  • Set a routine. Dogs are creatures of habit. By feeding your dog at the same time each day and offering regularly spaced walks and outside potty breaks, you can condition her to “go” at set times each day.
  • Never punish your dog for eliminating indoors. Accidents happen, and dogs don’t understand cause and effect the same way people do. Clean up the mess, remind yourself that it will get better the more consistent you are and move on.
  • Reward your dog for getting it right. Give her a treat as soon as she goes potty in the designated spot.

Training Your Dog to “Come”

Coming when called is a basic command you want your dog to have on lock because it can keep her safe in potentially dangerous situations. Also known as “recall training”, it makes everything, from outings to the dog park to scary moments like her rushing out the door safer and much more controllable. “Make it a party” every time your dog comes when called. No matter what they’re leaving behind, coming to you should be the best thing that happens to them all day!

To train your dog to come when called, start on leash in a quiet area. Back away from your dog while enthusiastically telling her to “come!” Only give the command once, but be enthusiastic, and keep your body language relaxed and open. You can show your dog a treat to encourage her to head your way. Once she starts towards you, say “yes!” (or click) and reward her with a treat. Over time, you can gradually increase the distance between you and your dog, and start practicing in a variety of situations. 

Training Your Dog to Stay

Teaching your dog to “stay” isn’t only about getting them to sit still. Like “come,” it’s a command that can keep her safe from harm.

Build on your dog’s “stay” skills with the Three D’s of training:

  • Distance
  • Duration
  • Distraction

Start up close to your dog, placing her in a sit or down position. Hold a hand out toward and say “stay.” After a moment, reward her. Repeat this until your dog gets the idea that she’ll get a treat if she holds her sit or down position. Over several training sessions, increase your distance from your dog and the duration before you release her, and introduce distractions to test her resolve. 

Train Your Dog to Leave It

The “leave it” command is another essential for keeping your dog safe, whether from something they might pick up and swallow or another dog growling at them from across the street. It’s also a skill that takes time and consistency to master, so be sure to take it in gradual steps, building on the three D’s mentioned above.

To teach “leave it,” start with a treat in hand and your dog in a sit or down position:

  • Show your dog the treat, say “leave it,” then place it under your shoe.
  • Wait. Your dog will try to get the treat—sniffing, licking, even pawing at your foot. Let her try. When she eventually gives up, immediately say “yes!” and give her a treat from your hand (not the one still under your shoe!)
  • Repeat. Your dog may go back to sniffing around your foot; as soon as she stops and looks away, mark the desired behavior with “yes” or a click, and reward.

Once your dog has mastered the art of ignoring a hidden treat, you can work up to a treat in plain view, and eventually “leaving” more compelling distractions. Then, put the training in motion by asking her to walk past and “leave” the other floor. 

Train Your Dog to Sit

Useful in so many situations, “sit” is often the first command dogs learn. In fact, most dogs “sit” on their own, so all you have to do is connect the command to the behavior.

First, while your dog is in a standing position, hold a treat in front of her nose and raise it slowly towards the back of her head. When her head follows the treat up, her butt will go down. Once her butt hits the floor, say “yes!” and give her the treat.

Once your dog is sitting reliably with the treat lure, you can transition to a hand signal and verbal command. View the above video from the AKC for a clear explanation of the whole process.

Tips To Keep Your Older Dog Active

  1. Exercise – every day!

Your dog will be more lively on weekend adventures if they’ve had a chance to keep their muscles limber with a 20-minute walk once or twice each day, instead of just stepping off the porch for a lazy pee. Regular walks will keep your dog jogging rather than slogging through their post-puppy years.

  1. Include time to sniff and explore.

When your dog was a pup, the house and garden were new and exciting. Your older dog is pretty familiar with them now, so let them spend some time sniffing and poking in the grass when adventuring on walks. A dog’s nose could be up to 100,000 times more sensitive than our own, and they “see” more with their sniffer than we can even imagine. Let them explore with their nose when you’re out and about.

  1. Give your dog something to think about.

Unfortunately, signs of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome  (CCD) is found in nearly 1 out of every 3 dogs over 11, and it gradually impacts almost every dog. As a dog’s brain ages, they may experience loss of interest, aimless wandering, loss of housetraining, and confusion.

Just as with humans, mental stimulation throughout life may slow down the progress of mental aging in dogs.

  • Hiding treats around the house not only exercises your dog’s nose, it keeps their curiosity in high gear.
  • Food puzzles will get the brain buzzing and the tail wagging.
  • Life-long training makes for years of satisfaction and excitement. Don’t stop training just because your dog has mastered sit, stay, and come. Continue to add tricks and new activities to your dog’s repertoire throughout their life.

The ASPCA has five tricks that are not only fun for your dog, they can be helpful to your relationship, too!

  1. Massage for bumps and lumps.

Pup-cuddling on the couch takes on an extra importance as dogs grow older. Petting your dog all over is the best way to catch anything odd on or under their skin.

Most senior-dog lumps are benign soft fatty tumors. They may only need to be removed if they cause your dog some discomfort. Other bumps could be a developing abscess, a painful cyst, or even a cancerous tumor that needs medical attention.

Any time you find something that just doesn’t feel right, note the location and size, and schedule a trip to the veterinarian. Addressing bumps right away means a more comfortable – and possibly longer – life for your dog.

  1. Upgrade the bed to keep older dogs active.

As a puppy, your dog was probably happy to flop on any surface. They may be a bit choosier about comfort now that they are up in years.

If they have abandoned their super-cushy bed to stretch out on the pile carpet, it may be difficult to struggle out of a deep, soft surface. A firmer foam bed may be just the ticket.

They may avoid bouncing up into their favorite chair due to stiff joints. A step-up is a big help.

If your older dog snarls when pounced on in bed by a younger canine buddy, consider having one dog or the other sleep on a bed in their crate so the senior can have an unbothered snooze now and then.

Watch for the choices your senior dog makes and take steps to remove barriers to their comfort.

  1. Snip those nail tips.

Toenails get less natural wear when a dog spends more time lounging and less time playing. A younger dog can get by a monthly trim, but older dogs may need to have their tips snipped on a weekly basis. Extra-long nails make it hard to walk on slick surfaces, will change the way your dog carries their weight, and can cause damage to the skeletal system over time. Older dogs already are at risk of arthritis, and long nails can compound their discomfort.

Set a calendar alarm to remind you to give those nails a weekly check so your dog can trot gladly along at your side.

  1. Watch that weight.

Fluctuations in weight are a good indicator that something is up, health-wise.

Weight loss might be a good thing if you and your dog have added an extra walk to your day, but it can also be a sign of dental pain, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, cancer, or other hidden problems.

Obesity is the most common disease in dogs in North America, and the most preventative. Obesity puts your dog at a great risk of heart disease, osteoarthritis, and joint degeneration. It can also indicate an underlying health issue like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s Disease.

If you don’t own an accurate scale or if your dog is too large to weigh at home, ask your veterinarian if you can swing by now and then to step on their lobby scale. Make these low-stress visits fun (treats and praise!) and your dog will learn to love rather than dread the vet.

By keeping a sharp eye on your senior dog’s weight and consulting your veterinarian if you notice unexpected changes, you’ll help your dog stay fit for a long and active life.

How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

Wouldn’t it be great if our dogs were born knowing how to walk nicely on leash? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Walking on leash without pulling is a skill that must be taught to your dog, and it can be a more time-consuming process than many people are prepared for. But don’t despair – this article will walk you through this training.

There are endless varieties of leash walking equipment, all promising to fix your dog’s pulling problem, but nothing substitutes proper training. So let’s talk about the most humane and effective equipment to teach your dog to walk on leash, and what the teaching method looks like in practice.


I suggest choosing something that takes the pressure off of your dog’s neck, and gives you a bit more management ability.


Once you’re ready to get started, it’s time to begin teaching your dog that good things happen when they walk at your side. This can be the left or right side – personal preference.

Try walking just one or two steps forward, and reward your dog from the hand that’s on the side your dog is on. If your dog is on the right side, the right hand rewards. This is very important! Your dog will return back to the location of the reinforcement. Continue this setup, rewarding less and less frequently as your dog becomes proficient.


So now you know what to do when your dog is getting it right. But what happens when your dog pulls ahead?

It’s as simple as this: pulling doesn’t get to work for them anymore.

Your dog pulls because in the past, it has worked to get him where he wants to go. So now, when that leash becomes tense, you have two choices. First, abruptly change direction and head another way. Your other option is to stop, back up until your dog is back at your side again, and then move forward.

This is not easy training, but it works, and it works permanently. 5-10 minute training sessions are all it takes to have a dog that walks beautifully on leash and will work for you happily.


So your dog walks well on a leash now, but if an exciting distraction appears, all bets are off. What now

I want you to think about the criteria you’re asking for. Are you going from 0 to 100 very quickly, expecting the same results from your dog?

You’ve got to start with the distraction at an intensity from which your dog can focus on you instead. That might mean it’s farther away, it’s quieter – this depends on the distraction you’re working with.

With practice, the appearance of that distraction can ultimately cue your dog to begin focusing on you and working with you. Then, and only then, can you begin to increase the intensity of the distraction.

How to Stop Your Dog From Jumping


Generally speaking, dogs jump because it works. It provides them with attention, physical connection to you, and can provide an outlet for frustration and excitement.

It’s worth noting that if a dog is fearful or uncomfortable around new people, jumping can serve as a way to gather information about the person, and may not be a friendly behavior. In these instances, please contact a qualified behavior professional in your area.

If you’re concerned that your dog could be jumping on you as a way to assert dominance, you can set those fears aside! It’s been well-documented in the latest scientific research that dogs do not seek a status hierarchy with humans; the article linked here was actually written by the scientist who originally coined the term “alpha” in regards to wolves and their social relationships.


Do they jump when they’re most excited to see you? How about when they’re looking for play, or your attention when they’re bored?

Thinking about these instances, what is your reaction when your dog jumps? Do you pet them or start to play with them (sometimes it happens without us even realizing!), do you yell and/or push them away, ignore them, or try to say “off” to no avail?

Any of these responses could serve to reinforce the behavior, as they all provide an opportunity for your dog to rehearse the behavior, and potentially receive some sort of attention for doing so.

Once you can pinpoint the scenarios that seem to elicit this behavior for your dog, and also recognize your own behaviors that may be influencing the behavior, we can begin to utilize management and training strategies to really get to the root of how to stop your dog from jumping.


The first step for how to stop your dog from jumping is to utilize management strategies that prevent your dog from repeatedly practicing the unwanted behavior.

This step is often overlooked in a training plan, but it’s critical to long-term success.

Which management strategies are right for you will depend greatly on the setup of your home, the root of your dog’s behavior, and the level of severity of the jumping.


  • First, ensure your dog’s needs are being met. Determine if your dog is receiving appropriate amounts of food, water, and rest, and consider increasing their aerobic exercise a well as the mental stimulation they receive. Hanging out in the backyard just isn’t enough for most dogs!
  • If your dog jumps on guests, set up a barrier between your dog and your guest when they initially enter. This could be a baby gate, a harness and leash, a playpen, or a crate.
  • When you do allow your dog to meet your guest, have them on a chest-clipped harness (we like the 2 Hounds Freedom Harness or the Blue-9 Balance Harness) and
  • Ask your guests not to pet your dog if they do jump, and you’ll be able to remove them from accessing your guest using the leash.
  • If you’re having a guest over that you feel won’t be able to follow your instructions (a young child, for example) put your dog away until they’ve calmed down, and then bring them out on a leash if needed.
  • Heavily focus on rewarding your dog for getting it right! Any time those feet are on the ground, that’s an opportunity to reward with petting, attention, and food! It’s critically important that your dog has behaviors they can offer.

How to Know How Much to Feed Your Dog

Dog Feeding Chart: How Much & How Often to Feed 

Good nutrition is essential to your dog’s health. However, different dogs have different nutritional needs.   

Understanding the steps involved in feeding a dog properly is the key to making the right decisions. Pet food can vary from bag to bag, and if you’re not sure exactly how much to feed, using a dog feeding guide can help you determine how much you should be feeding.  

What Should Be in Your Dog’s Bowl? 

To maintain an ideal body condition, your dog needs quality food that is complete and balanced and formulated to meet the needs associated with his size, age, and lifestyle. 

For example, active sporting dogs may benefit from a formula with higher calories and protein levels, while less active dogs may require a food that is lower in calories.  

How Much Food Does Your Dog Need? 

To answer this question, start by checking the dog feeding chart on your dog food package. These charts are a required part of every dog food package, and they can help you determine the daily amount you should be feeding.  

The information will be similar to the dog feeding chart below. These are initial recommendations and amounts may need to be adjusted based on your dog’s lifestyle. If you have questions specific to your dog’s nutritional needs, talk with your veterinarian.  

Adult Dog Size (lbs.) Dry Food Feeding Amount (Cups)

3 to 12 1/3 to 1 

13 to 20 1 to 1-1/3 

21 to 35 1-1/3 to 2 

26 to 50 2 to 2-2/3 

51 to 75 2-2/3 to 3-1/3 

76 to 100 3-1/3 to 4-1/4 

100+ 4-1/4 plus 1/4 cup for every 10 lbs. of body weight over 100 lbs. 

Note: Dog feeding amounts vary from product to product based on calorie content and formula. Consult the feeding chart on the back of your dog’s food packaging. Individual needs can vary, so consult your veterinarian regarding special dietary needs. 

How to Groom Your Dog Properly

Do start with nails 

One of the key steps for keeping your dog groomed at home is giving them regular nail trims every few weeks, even if it’s not a task that either of you particularly enjoy, says Minaker. While some dogs’ nails will naturally reduce themselves when they walk on hard surfaces like concrete or pavement, others do require frequent trimming. 

“Most pet stores sell nail clippers in different sizes to accommodate the size of the dog,” says Minaker. “Once every four to six weeks is a good time to trim them.” Don’t forget to cut the dewclaw, a nail that some dogs have on the side of their foot; and, if you accidently nick the “quick” (nerves and blood vessels inside the nail), a dab of cornstarch or styptic powder will stop the bleeding. 

Do keep certain key areas trimmed

If you want to extend the life of an existing cut, or maybe aren’t quite ready to take on a full groom yourself, Minaker recommends just dry-trimming the most necessary areas to start. “The face, ears, and hygienic areas should be maintained,” says Minaker. Keeping the hair short and clean in these areas can help with odors and prevent infection, and you don’t need to use proper grooming scissors for this type of trim. “You can use good craft scissors as long as they’re relatively sharp and you haven’t used them on other things,” says Minaker. 

Do order a grooming kit

For a full-body dog groom, you’ll want to buy a pet clipper or packaged grooming kit with different blades. It may take a bit of time and practice for you to get used to the equipment; be sure to read the instructions to know what kind of blade you’re using, and how short it’s going to cut your dog’s hair, says Minaker. And, unless you’re planning on continuing to do this regularly, don’t worry about getting a very expensive clipper.

Don’t cut a dirty or matted coat

“Step one is to make sure the dog is well brushed — a lot of people don’t realize a dog should be brushed before it’s bathed,” says Minaker. “If there’s any matting and [the coat] not brushed out, it is going to become twice as much of a nightmare.” You can use various brushes or combs depending on your dog’s hair; a wide-tooth comb is recommended for tangles. “Put your finger between the mats and the dog’s skin so that when you’re trying to brush it out bit by bit, you’re not yanking on the furs and pulling on the skin,” says Minaker, adding that a dab of human-hair conditioner or pet conditioner might make brushing the clumps out easier. 

Do give Fluffy a bath

After your dog is well brushed, it’s time to give them a bath. While baby shampoo is ok in a pinch, Minaker recommends that you use one formulated specifically for dogs, specifically, “…an oatmeal and aloe shampoo because that conditions the hair and actually helps with the scalp as well.” There are also shampoos that address specific conditions like flaky skin or hair shedding. Once bathed, towel dry your dog (or blow dry them if you can) and then give them another brush when the coat is fully dried. Now your dog is ready for a trim!

Do mind your dog’s temperament and condition

Try to give your pet a good workout before you do any grooming. “If he’s all hyper and you try to shave him, you’re not going to have much success,” says Minaker. “Take him for a good walk or get him tired from playing, so that he’ll be calmer when you’re doing it.” While you’re doing the actual grooming, be as firm as you can, talk in a calm voice, and have treats at the ready.

Best Tools To Use While Training Your Dog


A clicker is a small, rectangular box that makes a “click” sound when you press it with your thumb. You use it to mark when your dog does something correctly. After you click, give your dog a treat. The click sound is precise and more powerful than using your voice because it’s a unique sound your dog will only hear during training. It means one thing—he did something right and a treat is coming.

To start training with this tool, click it once, then immediately give your dog a treat. As long as your dog does not seem startled by the clicker sound, focus on marking a simple behavior (such as your dog turning and looking at you) and follow it with a treat.

Training Targets

Targets are handy tools you can use to train a variety of behaviors, including tricks. The goal is to teach your dog to touch his nose or his paw to the target. You can use a training target like the ones shown here, a drink coaster, or even a sticky note.

To teach a nose target, hold the item close to your dog’s nose. She will likely reach out to investigate. When she touches it with her nose, click and treat. Repeat until your dog constantly touches the target. Then, as she reaches to touch it, start moving it a little away from her so she has to follow the target. Let her touch it, then click and treat. Build up the number of steps she needs to move before reaching the target.

Once your dog understands the target concept, you can use it to build behaviors. For example, put a target in her crate to teach her to go into her crate.


You can use just about any type of treat for a reward when training. Just make sure it’s something your dog really loves so she’s incentivized to perform the task at hand. And make sure it smells good so she knows there’s something yummy coming.

You don’t need anything more than a tiny, pea-size morsel you can hide in your hand. Soft treats work best because they’re easily gobbled up and you can move on to practicing the next cue quickly.

Long Line Lead & Stake

If you’re practicing cues like “come” with your pup, you need a safe way to extend the distance between you for practice. That’s where a long lead line comes in. Made from wire cable or cloth (like a standard leash), lead lines can give your dog the freedom to run without being totally untethered. Paired with a stake or wrapped around a pole or tree, a lead allows your dog to roam a bit. If you have a big dog, make sure you look for a lead that’s rated for her weight and can handle the resistance she can put on the line.

Dog Collar or Harness

Every dog needs a collar or harness. Aside from holding identification in case a dog is lost, collars play an important role in dog training. There are several different types of collars and harnesses, and the one you choose may depend on the type of training you do. A flat collar or martingale collar is perfect for positive reinforcement dog training. For dogs who are tough to handle on a walk, a head halter or harness can be the perfect solution because it makes pulling feel unnatural to the dog.

Are You Making These 6 Training Mistakes?

  1. You don’t train your dog often enough

Most of us do teach basic behaviors and routines to our new dogs. But once the relationship stabilizes, we often allow our dogs to go on “auto-pilot.” Consequently, response times for important behaviors can worsen; often a dog won’t even respond. This degradation is simply a function of a lack of practice; if you play golf only once a year, you’re going to stink at it, right?

Instead of “training then forgetting,” keep your dog’s established behaviors sharp by working them randomly and regularly, several times each day. “Sit” for dinner, “wait” at doors, “down” at the dog park; be spontaneous and unpredictable. Then, each month, teach a new behavior—a trick will do—to keep your dog’s mind and motivation up. The larger your pet’s repertoire of behaviors, the smarter he or she gets, and the more important you become.

  1. You repeat commands

I see this often, especially among newbie owners with challenging dogs. The owner has taught a behavior such as “sit,” but, due to distractions, bad technique, or confusion on the dog’s part, the pet fails to respond. The owner asks repeatedly until, after the sixth or seventh attempt, the dog halfheartedly sits. This stalling becomes a learned behavior, one that’s hard to break.

This often occurs with behaviors that haven’t been fully proofed, or with one the dog doesn’t particularly like to perform. Headstrong dogs, for instance, hate to lie down, as it is an admission of deference. Timid dogs also resist lying down, a position they might deem too unsafe.

When I teach “sit,” I do so as if it’s a fun trick; I treat reward at first, praise, then work it in other locations, reducing reward rewards along the way while increasing praise. I make sitting, lying down, or coming when called the greatest things to do.

Once you are sure a dog knows a behavior, ask only once! If you are ignored, it’s either because you haven’t taught it properly, or the dog is distracted or simply rebellious (yes, they can be!). Take Fido to a quiet spot and ask again; if he still doesn’t respond, go back to basics and re-teach, avoiding the mistake of asking multiple times, or of making the behavior seem dreary or unbeneficial. If you suspect your dog is simply blowing you off, don’t be afraid to show your disappointment by saying in a convincing tone: “No; sit.”

One other tip; after asking once without response, wait a moment, while looking your dog square in the eye and moving in a bit closer. Often this will be enough to get the dog to comply. Then praise!

  1. Your training sessions run too long or too short

Teaching new behaviors to a dog is a process of evolution, not revolution. The key is in knowing that it’s usually going to take numerous sessions to perfect a new behavior.

Time spent on a training session should reflect some positive result; as soon as you attain some obvious level of success, reward, then quit. Don’t carry on and on, as you’ll likely bore the dog, and actually condition it to become disinterested in the new behavior. Likewise, don’t end a session until some evidence of success is shown, even if it’s a moment of focus or an attempt by the dog to try to perform. Remember that ten one-minute sessions in a day trump one ten-minute session every time.

  1. Your dog’s obedience behaviors are not generalized to varying conditions

If you teach Fluffy to “sit” in the quiet of your family room, that’s the only place she will reliably sit. It’s a mistake that many owners make; failing to generalize the new behavior in different areas with varying conditions and levels of distraction will ensure spotty obedience at best.

To generalize a behavior, first teach it at home with no distractions. Then, gradually increase distractions: turn the television on or have another person sit nearby. Once that’s perfected, move out into the yard. Then add another person or dog. Gradually move on to busier environments until Fluffy will perform consistently, even on the corner of a busy city street. Only then will the behavior be “proofed.” This generalization is especially vital when teaching the recall command, a behavior that might one day save your dog’s life.

  1. You rely too much on treats and not enough on praise, esteem, and celebrity

Treats are a great way to initiate a behavior or to reinforce that behavior intermittently later on. But liberal use of treats can often work against you. There can develop in the dog’s mind such a fixation on food that the desired behavior itself becomes compromised and focus on the owner diffused. Think of it: you’ll rarely see hunting, agility, Frisbee, or law enforcement dogs being offered food rewards during training or job performance. Why? Because it would break focus and interfere with actual performance. Instead, other muses are found, including praise and, perhaps, brief play with a favorite toy. Most of all, reward for these dogs comes from the joy of the job itself.

By all means, initiate new behaviors with treats. But once Fido learns the behavior, replace treats with praise, play, toy interludes, or whatever else he likes. Remember that unpredictable treat rewards work to sharpen a behavior, while frequent, expected rewards slow performance and focus. Also, understand that you are a reward as well; you responding happily to something your dog has done will work better than a treat, and have the added effect of upping your “celebrity quotient.”

  1. You use too much emotion

Excessive emotion can put the brakes on Fluffy’s ability to learn. Train with force, anger, or irritation and you’ll intimidate her and turn training sessions into inquisitions. Likewise, train with hyperbolic energy, piercing squeals of delight, and over-the-top displays of forced elation, and you will stoke her energy levels far beyond what is needed to focus and learn.