PLAY! Pt 2

How to Teach your dog how to play.
Here are a few simple guidelines to help
you on your way to a tugging fend!

Bending over your dog can intimidate and even squash his desire to play. For a small dog or puppy beginning by sitting on the floor. If needed, tie a string or light rope to the toy so you don’t have to bend over. Stay at your dog’s level when trying to get him to engage in play.

Resist the urge to push the toy at your dog. Having to chase and work to get the toy is MUCH more exciting than offering and hoping your dog will take the toy. After all, how many times have you seen a squirrel run across the yard and jump into your dog’s mouth?

When playing, make the toy act like it was a live. Enough motion to tease your dog yet not so much the dog can’t successfully grab it. Once tugging, move the toy back and forth to engage the dog instead of up and down. This is more natural for your dog and less stress on their necks.

Be light hearten and have fun, enjoy the journey. Be persistent, don’t give up too early in the early stages, it can take quite some time to get some dogs to engage. Always keep sessions very short and remain patient.

Keep your tug work and your training separate from each other initially. The dog must see the VALUE in playing BEFORE it will become a reward. Do not integrate tugging into your training too early.

With some time, patience, and persistence you CAN have a TUGGING fend.


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PLAY! Pt 1

So your dog won’t tug and you want to teach him?

Having a dog that loves to play with toys is a huge benefit when training your dog.  The tug game is a great way to reward behaviors, is an interactive experience with your dog that burns energy and builds rapport, and while tugging your dog’s main focus is on you!

Teaching your dog how to play ~

*MAKE YOURSELF THE BEST GAME IN TOWN: Limit your dog’s access to reinforcement and fun, pick up all toys at home. Limit your dog’s playing with other dogs and keep the fun only playing with you.

*PLAY WHEN YOUR DOG IS FRISKY: Watch for the times of the day when your dog is the most the excited and engaged. Use these times to work on playing. Get your dog engaged, awake, and excited before you start a play session.

*YOU CAN’T HAVE IT: Hide a toy around the house like on top of the counter or refrigerator and tease the dog with it every time you pass by the toy. Play with the toy by yourself, get the dog crazy over it but don’t let him have it. Put your dog in a crate, tie your dog to a fence and let your dog watch as you play tug with another dog or even by yourself. Until your dog is CRAZY your dog does not get to play the game. Tease your dog and make him crazy for the toy.

*A TOY CAN BE ANYTHING YOUR DOG WANTS TO PUT IN HIS MOUTH: Experiment with different types of toys. Take some time and really study your dog. What does he like to put into his mouth? (Size, shape, texture, flavor, paper, plastic, round, leather, etc.) Does he like squeaky toys or crunchy toys like water bottles? Put a pile in the middle of the floor and let him check out and pick a few toys. Let your dog show you the best way to get him interested in play.

Stay tuned – Part 2 coming soon!


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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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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!  


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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

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Balance in YOUR Training


To establish balance in training, one should understand the difference between “regimented training” and “motivational training.”

Regimented training often has precise steps with a beginning and an end. Many times “regimented training” is applied to all dogs regardless of the dog’s maturity, ability and without consideration of the dog’s natural drive or willingness to please.

On the other hand, a well thought out “motivational training” method, consists of a never ending cycle of planning, teaching, building drive (I want to work), and evaluating.


The planning phase of motivational training provides a direction for all your training session. It is needed to stay on task. Take the time to set goals, define behaviors and break down desired skills into as many pieces possible.

Regular evaluation enables you to assess results and analyze techniques. Is it working?

Constant consideration of the dog’s attitude is needed during and after all training sessions. As a result, modify your training plan accordingly to increase or decrease your dog’s attitude. I.E. should you add more play and motivation or add more self-control and precision.

Training methods should be flexible to best accommodate your dog.

The right BALANCE in training will produce a precise dog that remains energized and eager to work.  A true pleasure to watch and train!

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Online obedience and agility classes.  

Decide WHAT you want to Accomplish BEFORE you Grab your DOG!

Before you begin to train,
consider exactly what you want to train.
What do you want to accomplish during your training session?

For example if you are training or reviewing a sit with your dog, consider the following questions:

  • How will you cue the command?  Will you give your dog a verbal or physical cue or both?
  • How long should your dog sit?  Should he just sit and then stand up, or should he remain in the sit until given a release word?
  • What does the command “sit” mean to you?  Does it mean a rock or tuck sit?  Should your dog remain in the position until told differently?
  • Do you want the dog to sit in front of you?  Sit next to you?  Or should your dog just sit where he is, no matter where you are, or what you are doing?
  • What will you do if your dog sits slowly or not at all?  Will you mark and correct?  Or will you give another command?
  • Will you be sequencing the sit with other skills?  Which ones if so?
  • How will you reward the sit if done well?  Go to your dog and give a reward?  Toss a toy or treat to your dog?  Will you break into a game to reward?
  • Are you going to start proofing the sit with your dog?  If so, what will you do?  Will you add distractions to the training environment?  Will you go to a new location?  How distracting do you want the session?

All these questions are important, because you need to be able to be pro-active in your training with consequences as well as rewards.
Being able to respond quickly and be prepared for what might happen, will give you the upper hand with your training and help you become consistent with your cues and criteria.


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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;
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.

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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!

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