What are YOUR most important foundational skills?

thinkOver the years, many people have asked me what I train first with a new puppy or dog.

First, I feel it is important to build a relationship and rapport with the new pup. To do this, I play games, such as COOKIE TOSS game and tug. Although I do some other behaviors, such as cookie sits, downs, spins, and twirls, my main focus is giving my puppy the desire to work. I call building this, the “I want to” behavior.

These games also teach my puppy “how to”. How to run out, how to return to me, etc. Furthermore, during these games, I can teach my puppy the speed in which I want to see these skills performed. The desire to want to be with me, do the games that I want, and at the speed I want is what I call “drive”. Although I do introduce other behaviors, those behaviors are used to break up our play sessions.

The pup learns Play=Work=Play. I am building the value of training/working in my puppy.

Building the desire (I want) to work/train is the first foundational skill that I teach. It builds value and purpose for working with me. With the drive (speed) and desire (I want) the puppy has the foundational skills to become a dog that enjoys and looks forward to working with me.

What is the first thing you focus on with your new puppy/dog?   Do you consider the speed, intensity or enthusiasm when playing and training?

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LET GO! OUT that toy!!!

Let GO of that TOY!

or OUT that toy  – Guest appearance with Riker showing a new way to get a dog to learn to “OUT” when he doesn’t want to let go.

Riker can be sticky with a toy. That is does not want to let go. Here is a new way to train it.

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Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ.

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Sit/Down ~ Must Have Emergency! Free Webinar

emer sit

Anyone that has a dog should have an emergency Sit and/or Down.

This skill can save your dog’s life in an dire situation! 

Join me for this FREE Live Webinar

Random SIT/DOWN are key parts of teaching and having useful tools that you can use to gain control in an emergency situation.   

Besides giving you a great emergency command, this skill teaches and gives you a solid foundation for:

  • a Drop On Recall
  • or turn for a go-out
  • or the Command Discrimination
  • or a fast sit/drop on a table
  • or a great way to stop your dog when needing to change direction,
  • improves both direct and indirect focus.
  • and so much more!

You never knew that this one skill could affect so many future skills in different venues AND give you a tool to save your dog’s life in an emergency situation.

This FREE webinar is coming soon.  Sign up below for a personal invite.

What you get with this Webinar:

*LIVE Zoom meeting. 

*Presentation with Q&A. 

*Get the best way to teach a reliable sit and down at a distance. 

*** and it’s FREE

Registration closed. Hope to see you in classes or future webinars.


packDogs are naturally pack animals.

In a family situation with people, a dominant/pushy dog may “test” his place in the pack by asserting himself.  This may be done in subtle ways such as nudging your hand for petting, stealing objects or going out doors before you do.  More extreme ways he may assert himself  can be actions such as guarding resources such as food, toys or even people.

You, as the leader, should establish your position in the household by providing structure and boundaries for all dogs living with you.  Have clear and definite rules for your dogs to live by.  Examples can include  things such as your dog not being allowed on furniture until he is invited and he has to get off when asked; working for all attention or food (tricks or obedience commands like sit or down work great) to teaching your dog not to go through doors until released.  Always keep in mind what motivates your dog’s behavior.  Make sure he is living by YOUR rules and you’ll have a willing follower in your pack!


Feel like you need a relationship makeover with your dog?  Many times, behavior problems are created by the relationship issues between the dog and his owner. All too often, the owner feels that giving the dog treats, affection or allowing the dog to do as they like, is the answer to building a strong relationship and acquiring their dog’s love.  WRONG!

Building rapport with your dog takes planning, setting definite boundaries, and reinforcing rules. What improves your relationship and rapport with your dog depends  on the current status of your relationship with your dog.  Read over the following and see if any ideas might help improve your relationship with your dog.

Mealtime. There are a lot of opportunities that can be associated with mealtimes. Your dog working for his food is a “biggy”. Take advantage of mealtimes to train a few skills or even modify a behavior. Plan feeding times with your dog before the bowl is filled. Once the meal is fixed, place the bowl on the counter and get to work. Pick new and exciting skills to test your dog’s knowledge and see how eager he becomes when working for his food!

Pick up the toys. Those toys belong to you! Your dog needs to look to you to provide the fun things in life. When you want your dog to play, select a few toys and use the toys to interact with your dog. Use this time to teach your dog to tug,  retrieve and  play with you!


Walkies. Going for a structured walk with your dog is a great way to get exercise and spend some quality time with your dog. What is a structured walk? It is taking your dog on a “walk”. Setting a brisk pace with no stops and randomly throwing in some training along the way. Walks should be in a controlled position.  This means your dog walking next to you.  While it’s ok to stop for a potty break, it is not ok for your dog to sniff every blade of grass or pee on every tree. You set the pace and make the rules for the walk. What a great way to burn energy AND bond with your dog.

Crate time. Time apart is a GOOD thing!  Get the crate out of your bedroom, leave your dog home once in a while, and let them learn to stay without you. We don’t always have to be interacting and touching our dogs. Time apart will build your dog’s desire to be with you.  As a result, your dog will WORK harder when with you and give more effort to gain your attention.

Train! A busy dog is a happy dog. Providing mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. You would be surprised at how quickly a dog will become tired after a quick training session. Teach your dog to spin, crawl, sit or down or any other trick. Training of any kind will help mentally stimulate your dog.  Skills or tricks are great ways to get your dog’s mind working. A tired dog is a happy dog!

Structure and boundaries set foundations for a wonderful pet and companion.  Check the way you spend your time with your dog.  Are you adding to behavioral or training problems?  How is the rapport between you and your dog?

Anytime you have a problem with your dog, look at home life first!  


Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ. 

Visit my Youtube and watch training videos at https://www.youtube.com/@DebbyQuigley


Maintaining Focus

Attention and focus can make or break a performance.

It is hard for your dog to learn, perform a skill or exercise correctly, if you do not have his complete attention. When training, insist that your dog pay 100 percent attention to you, and be alert for any breaks in focus that may happen.

Once you begin a training session, be aware of any “down time” that may occur while you are working with your dog. Down time happens when you are getting more treats, setting up jumps, walking a course, etc. During this time, if your dog is allowed to wonder around, sniff or visit with others, he is rehearsing a behavior that you most certainly will frown upon later when competing.

Rehearse goDebby Quigley and Rip focusingod HABITS. Before ever getting your dog out of a crate, make a plan. With a plan in mind, you will be able to set out everything you need for your training session. Being prepared will enable you to move from one skill or exercise to the next without losing your dog’s focus. While you are working with your dog, insist that he give his undivided attention and stays engaged with you.

How do you do this? One way is to randomly reward your dog’s effort to pay attention to you by paying him with treats or a game of tug. WHAT? your dog won’t tug?  Play the “KrazyKookie” game with him.  This is a great game of having him chase the treat that stays in your hand until he catches the yummy.

Next, teach your dog it is in his best interest to watch you closely. While training, be unpredictable and spontaneous with your movements, or give unexpected commands to discourage him from taking even a single glance away from you. Your ability to praise and reward attention, and to discourage inattentiveness, will have a direct effect on your dog’s performance during training and also in a ring setting.

While training, maintain your dog’s focus in non-audible ways. Here are a few ideas:

Debby Quigley and her dogs

  • Push and run away, or push and play tug or KrazyKookie with your dog.
  • Drop a toy or treat pocket to your dog that is hidden underneath your arm.
  • When leaving on a sit or start-line, quickly turn and toss a reward to your dog.

Attention and focus can make or break a performance in any sport. Work to build and maintain your dog’s focus on you during all training sessions that will ensure your success when competing or showing.

Look for Debby’s “Games4Focus,”  class to learn more fun games, drills and techniques to getting and maintaining focus while training and competing.

Debby Quigley been showing and teaching for more than 30 years in many venues including obedience, rally, agility and nose work. She has earned multiple OTCHs, MACHs, PACHs and perfect scores of 200. Debby also owns Dogwood Dog Training in Houston, Texas; she teaches classes there and online at DebbyQuigley.com.

Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ. 

Visit my Youtube and watch training videos at https://www.youtube.com/@DebbyQuigley

Getting frustrated when training???

Some people grind their teeth or hold their breath while training while others clench their fists or rattle off a string of swearwords. When the frustration of training your dog comes to a boil, there are a countless number of ways to respond.

Keep in mind that our dogs can get very frustrated, too! Especially when we fail to give clear directions, are inconsistent with our criteria or when we put them in a stressful no win situation.

Dog training comes with many opportunities for us to become frustrated. You started training your dog to develop rapport, maybe show and to have a well-mannered companion. Who knew that there was so much involved in teaching and training a dog.

Training a dog, regardless of the method, is bound to bring you lots of joy as well as frustration. Addressing problems when training your dog can take time and patience.

The problem with frustration is that it often leads to an emotional outburst. Ever lash out with harsh words directed at your dog during a particularly challenging training session? We are only human. It happens! In dog training, these emotional outbursts often manifest in strong verbal reprimands or other unfair corrections.

Interacting with your dog in an angry way carries the risk of damaging your relationship with your dog. It can also create an anxious dog, or one who “shuts down” when uncertain of what to do or how to be correct.

So how do we get past being frustrated ? It’s much easier to teach a dog what you want as opposed to what you don’t want. That’s why positive reinforcement training is effective. Positive reinforcement is built on a solid foundation of recognizing and rewarding correct behavior.

It’s proactive, not reactive.

I admit to having moments of frustration while training. Despite the years of effort I have put into building strong, positive relationships with my dogs, I still sometimes find myself beating my head on a wall when sessions aren’t going as I’d expected. The trick lies in learning to manage the frustration in ways that are productive and that can even enhance your training sessions.

Try some of the following strategies:

Relax and remember to breathe. Sounds easy enough, but frustration and stress can inhibit your breathing, which affects your body language. Dogs by nature are very aware of our emotions. By concentrating on slow, deep breathing, you take in more oxygen, and your shoulders, neck, and upper chest muscles become more relaxed. Count slowly to 4 as you exhale and 4 as you inhale. It works miracles and a great tip for show nerves too!

Pay attention to your dog’s behavior. Dogs may respond to stress in a number of ways. These signs can include yawning, licking lips, sniffing the ground, etc. If you notice your dog engaging in any of these behaviors during training, stop and analyze what is happening in your session. These signs may be an indicator that your dog is attempting to de-stress the situation and you!

Just stop, no worries!!! It’s okay to stop training when things aren’t going well. Sometimes the best thing to do is call it quits for the day. Go have a drink or call a friend and think about what went wrong and possible ways of fixing the problem. When you’ve separated yourself from the “training gone wrong” situation, look at what you were doing and see what changes and improvements might be made. People often feel the need to end on a good note but sometimes you are much better off just stopping then digging a deeper hole. Always remember “the problem will still be there when you pick back up in your training.”

Take notes. Learn to recognize and appreciate the small improvements along the way to complete problem solving can be a valuable tool to reduce your frustration. Organized trainers keep training logs that document results of each training session. Analyzing sessions offer information about your dog’s rate of progress, and helps you fine-tune and improve your training plan.

There are many types of record-keeping. Some examples include apps on Smart phones, pre-printed training logs or just a small spiral notebook. Here are some ideas of what kind of notes to take.

1) Keep track of how many times you repeat or practice a skill

2) How often was your dog correct or incorrect?

3) How much or what type of reinforcement did you use or did you do something special to fix a problem.

In addition, make notes of any ideas you want to try during your next training session. The more notes you take the better. Sometimes writing down a problem gives you the correct direction to take to fix it!

Don’t take it personally. It is sometimes hard to not obsess over your dog’s issues and training problems. Factor in your personality type and it can be a real test in emotional self-control. Above all try to keep from feeling that your dog is purposely showing you “the paw” when things aren’t going as you planned.

Remember we’re only human. Do I still get frustrated? Yes of course. I’m far from perfect, but when I find myself getting frustrated, first I stop and think of ways to fix the problem. If my dog does something totally unexpected, I mark the behavior with a non-reward marker like “you’re fired” or “really” to let the dog know he is wrong. We then try the skill again. If he repeatedly makes the same mistakes, I step back and analyze if my dog truly understands the skill I am asking him to perform.

Logical we know that disobedience isn’t personal, but this can be tough to remember in heat of the moment. One of the greatest gifts I’ve learned in training dogs is the ability to accept my training errors, recover, and move on. It’s easy to blame the dog. It’s harder to look at how our own actions likely contributed to the dog’s inability to perform to your expectations or hopes.

When all else fails always remember that our dogs are never with us nearly long enough. Enjoy the time you have with your dog and always build the relationship that you will be able to look back with fond memories of all your dogs.

Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ. 

Visit my Youtube and watch training videos at https://www.youtube.com/@DebbyQuigley

STOP Shut Down :<(

(Or learned helplessness)!
How many times have you heard a trainer comment, “he just shuts down” or “he doesn’t like to work under this condition”?

What happens when a dog “shuts down”?

Shutting down is when a dog has stopped trying to do what is being asked because he has learned he is never right and cannot win in the situation. Imagine if every time you raised your hand and tried to answer a question in class your teacher screams at you “NO YOU ARE WRONG.” No matter how many ways or times you tried to answer the question, you were told that you were wrong and never told what the correct answer was. How many times would this happen before you would no longer attempt to try to answer even a simple question?

The most telling characteristics of “shut down” in a dog are:
* A dog that is unresponsive to motivators and rewards. In other words, the dog will not play or interact with the trainer and rarely will eat treats.
* The dog’s posture is guarded and they may react slowly or not at all to commands and/or signals.
* The dog has checked out mentally i.e. “nothing at home” or “deer in the headlights” look.
* The dog might display stress signs such as lip licking or avoiding eye contact.
* Shut down is sometimes confused with “submission.”

It is important to note that a dog in a shutdown state is not necessarily exhibiting what is referred to as learned helplessness. However, for the purpose of this article, we are referring to learned helplessness.

What is Learned Helplessness in Dogs?
Learned helplessness is a psychological state that occurs when an animal has been repeatedly hurt either mentally or physically and has no way to escape or win. The dog shuts down, and in some cases is almost paralyzed or unresponsive. The “hurt” might be unintentionally caused by the trainer through progressing too rapidly in training, lack of communication of the concepts, or inappropriate proofing.

Why am I talking about shut down and learned helplessness?
This is a huge training problem that, for the most part, can be avoided. Every time you unfairly punish, correct, or nag your dog, you risk creating this behavior.

Some dogs that have learned to shut down are permanently handicapped when learning new behaviors that require thought. The dog would rather not attempt to learn the new skill because of the fear of being incorrect. They view learning a new behavior is a bad thing, so they only offer what they consider is the “safe behavior” that is not trying or giving effort.

Here are the top errors that trainers make that teach their dog to give up or shut down!

Mistake #1: “Positive = permissive”
Today’s dog trainers are using more positive methods to teach skills and modify behaviors. While this is great, many trainers feel that all interactions with their dogs need to be purely positive. In other words, there is little to no consequence for the lack of effort or bad behavior. It is important for a dog to understand the difference between right and wrong. Equally important is that the dog has boundaries. Training starts with setting clear boundaries and controlling the resources in the dog’s life, which includes affection and play.

Mistake #2: Dependency on luring
As straightforward as luring can be, it can also cause problems. In the beginning stages, some dogs become too focused on the lure to think about what they’re doing. Another potential problem with luring is that some dogs become dependent on the lure, i.e. they become the “show me the money” dogs. These dogs will not perform until they know there is something in it for them. This is easier to prevent than it is to fix, but it’s certainly not going to ruin a dog if it happens. Preventing lure-dependency is as simple as not letting the lure become a pattern. Use your lure to help the dog get into position 3-5 times and then get it out of your hand. You’ve now switched from luring the dog (showing him what he could have ahead of time) to rewarding him (surprising him with something special after he does what you want.)

Mistake #3: Poor timing
Timing is essential in dog training! Poor timing means you could be marking behaviors, right or wrong, inappropriately, or rewarding the wrong behavior. Incorrect timing sends the wrong message and prolongs your dog’s ability to properly learn the skill. The old saying “timing is everything” was written for dog trainers!

Mistake #4: improper use of proofing
Proofing or testing your dog’s understanding of a skill under all circumstances, is extremely important if you want to have success when showing in any venue. Unfortunately, many trainers believe in an all or nothing approach to proofing. It is important for a dog’s confidence that he understands understand how to “win” in a proofing scenario. If you are in a new location, attempting a new distraction or practicing a sequence of skills, make sure to explain how your dog can win if he has problems sorting out what to do.

Mistake #5: lack of consistency
The key to all training is consistency. If you’re not consistent, you are not going to get a good result. In addition, your dog will not know what to expect which will diminish his confidence. A leader needs the trust and respect of the dog. You want to make it as simple as possible for your dog to learn. The only way that will happen, is being a consistent trainer. Sit means sit the first time you say it. The criteria need to be the same each and every time. Inconsistency will only confuse your dog.

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” ― Anthony Robbins

Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ. 

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Do you want to be successful when showing?

When starting to establish goals, one of the first items on your agenda will be to set goals for both you and your dog.

The old adage, “there are only so many hours in a day” holds true when you are making both short and long term goals.  You will have to decide exactly how much time and effort you are willing to devote to training.  The results of your efforts and time spent will be reflected in your dog’s ability to learn and execute skills consistently.

Goal-setting is a powerful method for achievement as it provides a way to view objectives and changes. Goals can be set for daily, weekly, monthly or yearly target dates. Setting goals focuses attention to the important aspects of the mission. The key to setting effective goals is to create objective goals that can be measured and give direction.

The following will help you set YOUR goals:

  • Ask yourself what you want to work toward and achieve. Goals need to be in your control, challenging yet realistic and positive. Positive goals direct what to do rather than what not to do!
  • Effective goals are very specific.  The clearer the objective the easier to imagine and obtain.
  • Use short-term goals to help reach long-term goals. Short-term goals can provide more motivation since they are more readily achievable and make great stepping stones.
  • Effective goals are limited in number and important to you. Setting a limited number of goals requires that you decide what is the most useful for your continued development. Establishing a few, carefully selected goals also allow you to keep accurate records without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Set specific Time Lines. Target dates have a tendency to remove lighthearted ideas and clarify what goals are realistic and which are not.
  • Create action steps. These steps are going to help you achieve your goal and will define the actions you need to take to reach your goals. The number of action steps depends on the goals you set.
  • Write down your goals and post them in places where they will be seen throughout the day. Place a sticky note on the fridge or your bathroom mirror or an index card in your training bag or car. Visual cues will increase the likelihood you will achieve your goal.
  • Track your progress. Use a notebook, calendar, or anything you can log information so you can monitor your progress. Writing down and reviewing your progress will help you stay motivated and repeatedly remind you of where you were and how far you have come.
  • When asked to set goals, many people typically focus on the learning of new skills or performances in competitions. Goals can cover many aspects of your training, showing or life. Some goal examples might include, improve fitness, increase mental toughness, or establish better timing and consistency.

When carefully thought out and written, goals give direction and tell us what we need in order to accomplish our dreams.  Establishing goals also helps obtain information and ways for how to achieve the goals.


Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ. 

Visit my Youtube and watch training videos at https://www.youtube.com/@DebbyQuigley


pottyI love getting a new puppy.

However, it is no fun having to clean up mistakes on the floor. In order to teach a puppy to go potty outside, keep him in his crate if you are unable to watch him during the day and at night.   As soon as your puppy wakes up, finishes eating or playing, or you come home, take your puppy outside on leash. Yes on leash!

The leash should be a regular leash and not a retractable one.  A retractable leash teaches a puppy to pull on the leash.  In addition, puppies are harder to control when they are on a retractable leash.  I prefer a 4-6 foot leash made of rope or something similar.

Potty Training

Get your puppy use to potting on the leash AND teach him the appropriate place in your yard to potty. Yes take your puppy to the same area every day to potty. Over time he will learn to potty in that area. The habits you build now will enhance your success later.

When taking your puppy out to potty, choose a keyword or phrase such as “Outside!” or “Go Potty!” and use it every time you take your puppy outside to potty. Being consistent with commands and criteria will increase the chances that that your puppy or dog will learn to potty outside.

Keep in mind that young puppies have limited bladder control and that you cannot expect them to refrain from peeing or pooping for long periods. It is important to get your puppy out as often as possible such as when waking up, after eating or playing and before bedtime.

Here is a good example; https://amzn.to/47Kb1vf
The crate you choose should be sized so your puppy can move around easily.  You do not want the crate to be so large that your puppy can potty on one end and sleep in the other. I prefer a closed or plastic kennel (crate) opposed to an open wire one.  Accidents do happen and the plastic ones are easier to clean.  Something like this is a good size.

Crates are relatively inexpensive so I usually give my puppy crate to the local pet shelter when my puppy grows too big for the crate.

You will discover, if used properly, a puppy crate and a leash are both useful training tools and keep your house a happy place for your new puppy or dog.

Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ. 

Visit my Youtube and watch training videos at https://www.youtube.com/@DebbyQuigley

Amazon links above are affiliate links.

Bringing a New Puppy Home

puppyWhat is the best way to bring a new puppy or dog into your household?

Rapport and Control
As soon as you bring home your new dog or puppy, immediately start building a relationship with him/her.  Spend time and take him/her to many different places.

Encourage him/her to see you as a significant part of his life.  Engage your new puppy/dog in activities such as playing tug or taking on walks.  Teach your puppy/dog to enjoy your company even when you go to new, interesting and busy places!  Encourage him to check out the environment and introduce him to friendly dogs and people.  Use this time to also start training.  People do not need to give your puppy/dog treats.  Leave that “fun” for you to offer.

When meeting new people, randomly have your puppy/dog come back to you and reward him for doing so with play and/or treats.  Build his confidence and teach him to have the desire to be with you because you are more fun and interesting than anything else out there!

Earning Privileges

There is training to be done before your new dog or puppy is given the privilege of routine interactions with your other dogs.  Develop good verbal control of your new dog’s/puppy’s behavior.  This means, in the majority of situations, you are able to consistently manage his behavior by calmly speaking to him.

Each dog, including your new dog, should wait at entrances and exits, come to you when called and sit when told.  It is important to have verbal control over each dog individually and all the dogs as a group before your new dog is permitted to routinely interact with the other dogs in your household.  Make sure each of your dog’s understand and respond to your requests. It is important that each of your dogs recognizes you as an important presence even when they are playing and running about. You should be able to routinely intervene, stop any commotions, and maintain order in your household. When your dogs are playing, randomly call them to you. Make it a competition, the first to you gets the treats!

Structure and Boundaries

It is necessary that you provide immediate and constant structure and boundaries for your new dog/puppy. He should be challenged with mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis. He needs to be loved on and crate trained in order to become a great pet and companion. Until he is older, he should not have the same privileges that your other dogs have earned. Your new dog has to earn access to space and free time in the house or yard. Your other dogs have already earned those privileges and they should receive those perks! Since your other dogs will receive the same attention, training and exercise they have always had, they will have no reason to resent the newcomer.


Leadership and Responsibility
Since you have decided to add another dog to your household; you must assume all the responsibility for this new charge. You should provide him with consistent leadership and encourage him to live within the boundaries you have set. This will help him to adjust to his new environment and help him become confident and well behaved. Be sure to devote plenty of time to provide for his mental and physical needs.

Enjoy training, socializing, and providing mental and physical stimulation for your new dog/puppy.  This requires a great deal of time during the first few months, but will pay-off in a big way.  Provide your new dog/puppy with all he needs and he will grow into the loyal companion and wonderful family member that you would like to have in the years to come!

Please leave comments or email me with future article ideas at Ask DebbyQ. 

Visit my Youtube and watch training videos at https://www.youtube.com/@DebbyQuigley