Getting Help with Training Your Dog

getting helpTraining a dog can be quite a challenge!

And from time to time, you are going to need some help.

Common problems are

  • Disobedience
  • Destructive or noisy behaviour
  • Biting and aggression
  • Loss of control over the dog

Getting along with other pets is also a common problem and you can find more information on helping your dog to get along with your cat over on The Happy Cat Site

These and many other issues are dealt with on this website, and I’ll put some links to relevant articles at the bottom.

When reading is not enough

But sometimes, reading is not enough.   You actually need to talk over your dog problems with another human being.  And maybe even get ‘hands-on’ help

There are a number of different ways to get that contact and help.  And I’ll give you some links as we go.

Professional trainers and classes

Local dog training classes are usually quite popular.  Usually you need to sign up for a series of sessions lasting a few weeks.  It is difficult to achieve much in a shorter space of time.

Classes aren’t the be all and end all of dog training, and they aren’t for everyone, or for every dog.   A good class and trainer, is worth its weight in gold, a poor one can do a lot of harm.

So one of the things we’ll be looking at on this website, is how to find a good class or trainer.

Personalised training

Some people opt for private one to one lessons with a professional dog trainer and this can work very well.

People often ask me if I will teach them how to train their dog, or if I do telephone consultations.  I don’t I’m afraid, but I do run a very helpful support forum

The Forum

I’ve set up a forum, where you can go to ask questions on any aspect of training or caring for your dog.

It’s called ‘The Labrador Forum’  because I originally started it for Labrador owners like me.

But it has grown into something much more.  And is now a forum for dog owners of all shapes and kinds, from all over the world.

If you would like to join, you would be very welcome.

Fun, Friendly, Free

Our forum is somewhat unique in its style and approach.  It is quite strictly moderated by a very skilled team of experienced volunteers and you will find the atmosphere refreshingly supportive, friendly and non-judgemental.

So do drop in, say hello, and introduce us to your dog.

I pop in personally almost every day, and often answer members’ questions myself.

Hope to see you there!

Commenting

Don’t forget you can comment on any of the articles on this site.  I can’t promise to answer all the training questions in those comments, but I do try and read them all, and often write articles based on the topics raised here, or in the forum.

And don’t forget to join up to our mailing list to get all our latest articles and news.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue Callcutt May 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Please could you help me with calming my hyperactive black Labrador, (male, neutered) 2 years old.

He goes totally berserk when we go out in the car, presumably due to the sheer excitement of the fun ahead. I’ve tried just taking him for a drive but coming home without the walk, I’ve tried stopping every time he screams, whines, spins around, scrabbles the floor, and barks. Nothing seems to work. I am getting desperate.

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Pippa Mattinson May 21, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Hi Sue,
This is a very difficult one to fix, because as you have rightly observed, the car has become associated with the excitement of the walk ahead. There are a number of things you can try, and the most effective is driving to a quiet parking area, and remaining there until the ‘dog completely gives up scrabbling, panting and whining, and lies down quietly. At that point give a marker (‘Good’ or ‘Yes’) and immediately fetch the dog from the car and let him have some fun. As you can imagine the first few times you do this, you might wait a very long time, so if you decide to try it, take a flask of coffee and a newspaper! This won’t work if you still sometimes carry on rewarding him by stopping the car and getting him out whilst he is excited.
Another thing you can try is covering the car crate with a blanket so he cannot see where he is going. But the best long term solution is usually to train the dog that he doesnt get to leave the car until he is completely calm.
Best wishes
Pippa

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abiral August 5, 2013 at 7:17 am

my labrador is month and he does not bark to any kind of suspicious sound or stranger plz help me how to make it bark

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Pippa Mattinson August 19, 2013 at 8:21 am

Sorry Abiral, I have no experience of guard dog training, and would not wish to teach any Labrador to bark. None of mine do, and that is the way I like it 🙂

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abiral August 5, 2013 at 7:18 am

my labrador is 6 month and he does not bark to any kind of suspicious sound or stranger plz help me how to make it bark

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Sharon Ulldemolins August 27, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Our yellow lab Monty is 11 weeks old and loves chewing on the stones and pieces of slate chippings in the garden. We’re not sure whether he’s actually swallowing any. Is there anything we can do to discourage him other than fence off an area for him? Any suggestions would be really appreciated.

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Pippa Mattinson August 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Hi Sharon, this is a difficult problem and thankfully one that most puppies outgrow. In the meantime I’m afraid its a question of supervising, providing lots of other safe things to chew, and if possible keeping him off stony ground.
Good luck
Pippa

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Claire September 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Hi, Pippa.
We are planning to adopt a 4 year old rescue lab in a few weeks. Provided our meeting goes well and we want to bring the dog home with us, what should we take with us to the meeting. I’ve noticed on the rescue website photos that they use spiked chain collars with their leads. I’m not familiar with how to use those and I’m not really comfortable with choke chains since dogs often pull on the leads until they choke themselves. I’ve been told the dog is calm & friendly but I don’t know much more than that. What type of collar and lead do you suggest? Is there any other special equipment we should have on hand before we bring him home? Thanks for your help.

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Pippa Mattinson September 17, 2013 at 9:58 am

Hi Claire, it sounds as though you are refering to ‘prong collars’ so I assume you are in the USA as they are not in general use here in the UK.
As you are probably aware, prong collars work by causing pain to the dog when he pulls, which is not a method I recommend. You can find a lot of information about training labradors not to pull in this section Meanwhile an ‘easy walk harness’ with a lead attachment ring on the chest, rather than the dog’s back, will give you some control. You might also find it very helpful to join the Labrador Forum for help and support from other Labrador owners. Good luck with your dog

Best wishes, Pippa

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Emily October 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Hi my question is regarding my 11 month old chocolate female Lab Nyla. Nyla is crated during the day while we are working & use to sleep in her crate at bedtime, but for a couple months now we stopped crating her at night & for weeks she’s slept or the sofa or floor through the night without any problems at all. Recently I was on vacation for 10 days & so she wasn’t crated at all during that time. The day before I went back to work it was time for bed & instead of laying down she starts pacing around the living room hunting for shadows & light. She’s starting to behave this way every evening now as soon as I turn the lights off & say it’s bedtime. So I’m having to crate her again so I can get some sleep. One night she paced so much she went pee on the floor from stimulating herself so much with the obsession she’s created. We live in a condo with no fenced in yard so while we do our best to exercise her on her 50ft rope & walks I’m wondering if it not enough. She may have ear infection which are are getting checked today, but not sure if that has anything to do with her bedtime issues…thoughts please…

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Pippa Mattinson October 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Hi there, it may be necessary to re-crate her at night for a few weeks to break the new habit, then try de-crating her again. Lack of free running exercise is not going to help her. Nor is an ear infection. Your vet should be able to advise you further. Best wishes, Pippa

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Jane October 10, 2013 at 11:27 am

Hi Pippa
We have a 3 month female chocolate lab… On the whole she is doing really well, but I feel that she is getting quite anxious generally. This shows itself by her lunging or “wombat” running or mouthing anything she can. I have stopped and waited and ignored her behaviour and rewarded when she is calm. I feel she needs the influence of mature ‘good’ dogs but this is not really possible. She is desperate to make friends with other dogs but goes from turning to run to jumping at their ears… All rather confusing, am I doing something intrinsically wrong??

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Pippa Mattinson October 11, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Hi Jane, your puppy is still very much a baby, and being desparate to make friends, and mouthing everything is pretty normal for a lab 🙂 I don’t think you are doing anything wrong, except that if she is anxious she probably needs some more socialisation. Some of these articles on the Labrador Site might also help you, and I suggest you join the forum there where you’ll get lots of support from other labrador owners that have ‘been there’ too.
Best wishes
Pippa

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Jane October 11, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Good advice, thank you…..

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Jan October 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I have a 2 year old Lab who is quite well behaved apart from stealing from other dog owners pockets. He doesn’t do it to me but with others he obviously get the reward of stolen food. How can i stop him?

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Becca August 26, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Hi,

I have a one and a half year old springer who has recently developed a new unwanted habit which is partly my fault. He starts whining until I bring him for a walk and unfortunately without realising it for a while I was reinforcing this habit by taking him out when he whined. I was wondering how would I go about breaking this habit? Thank you

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Liz September 3, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Hi Pippa,
i am about to collect a retriever pup of 9 weeks in a couple of weeks time. I have one immediate concern: the long car journey home of 5 hours. I have your book The Happy puppy and think it inspiring but I am unsure whether to crate him or have him in the footwell for such a long way and also he will be unvaccinated so I am loathe to let him out. I am thinking food, water needs for dog and human need for a stop and how this will work. I am expecting to take a helper with me.

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Pippa Mattinson September 4, 2014 at 10:33 am

The suggestion in the book to start out with the puppy in the footwell applies to any length of journey provided you have a helper, and provided you have a crate in the car in case you need to stop and crate the puppy. I would not let the puppy out of the car at any point unless he is carried securely in your arms and remains in your arms. It isn’t worth the risk. If you need to stop for a wee, then you and your helper can take turns to hold the puppy. Take a snack in the car, for you, the pup will be ok without food, just offer a little water. Good luck with your puppy 🙂

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Rachel September 22, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Hi Pippa 🙂

Our nearly one year old chocolate labrador, called Pippa (!) has been going to gundog training for about 4 weeks now… We don’t want to work her, but to have a well trained and disciplined pet dog. Pippa’s recall is poor, she pulls on the lead, and jumps up over guests! We used to train with treats, however our gundog trainer advised that we have been bribing her. Since then, she has regressed.

Our question is whether gundog training will transfer eventually in to the home? Will Pippa eventually listen to us when we want her to?? What’s the average time it takes to start seeing results? We are in two minds whether to continue or to return to positive rewards… Help! x

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Pippa Mattinson September 23, 2014 at 11:54 am

Hi Rachel,
There are very few gundog trainers that base their training entirely on positive reinforcement. If you want to train with food, you might find you get more benefit from your gundog trainer if you do a basic obedience course first – or you might find you are happier and more successful with a different gundog trainer.

How long it takes to get results depends far more on the time you put in at home, than what takes place in your lessons. The lessons should really be to answer your questions and help you solve any problems you have come across at home.
What part of the UK are you in? The GC now has a couple of clicker gundog trainers and is recruiting more.

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Liz Hodgson November 12, 2014 at 8:47 am

Hi Pippa,
I find most of your articles are good and have your Total Recall book. I train Good Citizens in our local club and we don’t use clickers because most people don’t use them correctly, (timing is wrong,) and it is not helpful in a class situation, as it would distract the other dogs. We want to teach retrieve well without using clickers. We do try and teach it , but not very successfully. So do you have other suggestions .

Many thanks.
Liz Hodgson

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Jola January 27, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Hi Pippa
I have recently discovered yor excellent web sites and books. So far they have proved very effective with many aspects of training my 1 year old cockapoo Spooky. I have started the pre recall whistle training for older puppies but have hit a stumbling block. Three days in and making good progress but unexpectedly we will need to be away from home for 4 days at the end of the week. Would you advise a break in the programme whilst we are away or should I continue with the first one or two excersises ?
I would appreciate your suggestions
Many thanks Jola

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Pippa Mattinson January 29, 2015 at 10:58 am

Hi Jola, it’s always a good idea after a break, to start off again at a slightly earlier/easier stage than where you left off. You’ll soon be back up to speed and it helps to avoid mistakes. 🙂

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Ann Cook April 16, 2015 at 2:17 pm

I thoroughly enjoy reading your newsletters and scouring your website. Many many helpful tips for when I first got my puppy at 7 weeks, who is now 5 months. My problem is walking. He doesn’t walk well, stopping to sit and watch whomever is around. The most aggravating is when he starts to bite my shoes and pant legs and it is a struggle just to get him to stop and walk home. Any suggestions?

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Emer April 24, 2015 at 2:28 am

Hi I have recently found your website and have found it very helpful. I have a question that nobody seems to be able to answer and was hoping you might have an idea. My 14 month old in tact Sheltie has become very snappy when taking treats in the past 2 weeks. The thing s he is only snappy when someone else gives him a treat and not when myself or my family do. It mainly happens when we are at either obedience or agility class and another dog owner is giving him a treat. First of all he starts to jump at people the minute we get there as he knows everyone has treats and then when someone is giving treats he will do what they say e.g. sit or down but once they move their hand to give the treat he snaps the treat from their fingers. I know the logical thing to do is just not let anyone give him treats but what if someone hands him one before I can tell them not to and they get hurt and label him as aggressive. We recently had an incident where a lady gave him a very high value treat but she dropped it before he could take it and he ended up latching on to her finger and holding on for a few seconds. I don’t want something like this to happen again 🙁 any suggestions?

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Pippa Mattinson April 24, 2015 at 11:24 am

Have a look at this Emer – I think you’ll find it helpful – you’ll need some volunteers to help you generalise this process to different people

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Jessica curwen May 19, 2015 at 10:17 am

Hi I have followed both your books when training my black lab Baxter who is now just over 4 months he is doing well and has good recall to the whistle with some distractions. However we are having a problem in the house with him getting on the chairs I do not want him up their as I have three children and don’t want him to jump up when they are sat own which he has started to do I have been using the word ‘off’ and treating him when he gets off but most of the time he does not get off I go over to get him of and he tries to grab my arm he oesnt bite just mouths my arm I think he thinks it is a game please could you give me some advice so this doesn’t get out of hand thanks

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Pippa Mattinson May 19, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Hi Jessica, short term solution: pop a houseline on your dog (short trailing lead) so you can lead him off without touching him. Long term solution: teach him to lie in a basket or on a mat when he is in your sitting room and prevent him accessing that room using a baby gate, until he has learned what he is supposed to do when he is in there. 🙂

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Sue Pepper June 9, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Hi Pippa,

I have been reading Total Recall, and about to start the programme with my rescued 3 year old bitch, who we have had for 4 months. Despite trying all kinds of methods, we haven’t begun to sort out getting her back when she’s off the lead, so this feels like a last ditch attempt! My question is: how best to work through the exercises with two dogs? We also have another rescue, who has been with us longer and has good basic recall, although he could definitely do with a refresher.

Should I start from the beginning with both of them? I guess I will need to take them out separately, but shall I do the home exercises with both dogs together? I’d really appreciate any guidance you can offer. Many thanks!

Sue

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Pippa Mattinson June 9, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Hi Sue, its really important that you do the exercises separately with each dog. Even at home. Otherwise one dog is acting as a distraction to the other and you won’t be able to establish a good foundation with either. You can either pick one dog and work through the whole programme with him, then do the same with the other, or try to train in parallel. I’d probably pick one dog. Good luck whatever you decide.

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annette everson June 15, 2015 at 8:00 pm

hi, I recently got a dog from a rescue centre, the vet says she is about 6yrs old. She is good towards people
and dogs, but whoever had her before has not trained her. The problem is when I take this little miniature
Jack russell out, she does her business, but when we get back she will still do it on the porch tiled floor beside the
front door. She also does it when I’m out even for 5 mins;, She has access to the whole house, also have a cat. I had a lab for 18yrs and have no idea how to help her overcome this problem, help

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Belinda June 22, 2015 at 9:17 pm

Hi Pippa, I’ve got a 9mth old rescue lab x, wen I take her 4 walks, she is very frightened, wen Eva someone walks past, she jus sits down and doesn’t move, but she does against a wall, or wen there is a truck, she gets very scared. Wen she is @ home, behind the gate, she is a big mouth, but wen the gate is open and someone comes close, she runs away. Why is this happening?

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Pippa Mattinson June 24, 2015 at 9:37 pm

Hi Belinda, it is not unusual for rescue dogs to be nervous, as they have often had difficult lives and may not have been socialised properly. The good news is that your dog is still young and you should be able to get her over her fears with care and patience. You might find it helpful to arrange a consultation with a qualified behaviourist who will assess your dog and give you a programme of counter conditioning to help her. You might also find it helpful to read Grisha Stewart’s book BAT

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Helen June 24, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Help.
I have a 8 month old GSP. Just reading your Total Recall book.
However prior to this I was one of those owners who thought I had great recall this is until my dog discovered rabbits and unfortunately now has bitten a sheep.

What should I do?

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Pippa Mattinson June 27, 2015 at 7:19 am

GSPs are a wonderful breed, but have strong hunting instincts. 🙂 You’ll need to get yourself a harness and training line to start with and learn how to proof your recall in stages. Proofing against sheep is a very specialised process and would need to be done with the help of a professional trainer. I’ll alsofind you a link to a book on predatory chase behaviour

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Helen July 1, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Thanks Pippa. Did you manage to find that link?
I’ve just started to train to the whistle in and around the house.
Ill let you know how we get on.

Thanks
Helen

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ALISON July 2, 2015 at 12:18 pm

help please ! even my dog trainer doesn’t have an answer for this .. i have 4 dogs: 2 male 2 female – 1 old female (14) and one old male (12) and the young ones (male 3) and Kimba (1) who is a cross canis africanis (hunting dog)- she has been to good training – obeys commands at home, at training, is good in car, and off leash in the park etc but at home : as soon as you open the door to the back garden – she insists on being first out door then she stands in the doorway and doesn’t let the others out and nips at them – the young male barks and heads out but the older male stands still and waits but then Kimba goes for him or the older female – i’ve tried to down her, put her on her leash, lock her in another room – to no avail and its getting worse – at the moment all i do is unlock the door and leave it ajar and walk away so they open the door themselves … i am clueless how to resolve this ? thank you !!

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Pippa Mattinson July 4, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Hi Alison, this is quite common. My youngest dog would do this to my others if I let her. It’s a game to her but it isn’t fun for the other dogs so you need to stop her doing it. The simplest thing is to teach the dogs to sit as a group, before any door is opened and then to allow them through by name in order. It is usually young dogs who do this so let the older dogs through first. If you have the dogs sat back from the door to begin with and just open it a crack, you can close it again if the wrong dog moves forwards. If you can’t manage all four at once do the training in pairs and have the dog that rushes through on a leash until she has learned that the door does not open wide enough for her to go through, until she waits to hear her name called.

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Judith Limprecht July 30, 2015 at 9:39 pm

I am hoping someone can guide me in the right direction. I have a 1 year white/yellow lab that has begun scratching at the drywall in our house. We have 2 other labs that are his parents and they do not do it. In the beginning we weren’t sure who was doing it but have confirmed it is the puppy. We crate train him and now have him in the crate every time he begins to scratch the walls. He started to get better so we began to let him out and unfortunately one night he chewed a hole in the wall. Now it seems no matter how long he is out he will scratch at the wall. I don’t want to continue to keep him in the crate, I want to find a solution and fix the problem. I read it could be separation anxiety and unfortunately I am only there on the weekends while my husband is there everyday. I’m afraid that me coming and going might be a cause of this but I can’t prevent this. Any ideas on what we can do? Any direction on this issue is truly appreciated. Thank you.

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Pippa Mattinson July 31, 2015 at 11:55 am

Hi Judith, there could be a number of reasons, but whatever they are, you will probably need to physically prevent the problem in order to break what is now a habit. That means either crating or supervision, or leaving the dog in some kind of pen when he is alone, so that he cannot access the wall. A behaviourist who can assess the dog and go into the issue in more detail with you, may be able to help. Best wishes, Pippa

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Tay August 6, 2015 at 10:55 pm

I have a six-week-old puppy who is Chihuahua Yorkie pitbull mix she does not listen she bites everything and she also has high energy I have a 3 year old Chihuahua female and the puppy who is a female is very aggressive towards her to the point where my 3 year old won’t even come around when she’s around can you please give me some help.

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Becky August 12, 2015 at 1:18 am

I have a almost 3 year old chocolate lab. She is very aggressive. She does not like other people or other dogs. There are very few people she tolerates. Taking her to the vet is absolutely unbearable. The vet has even made comments to me about putting her down as the last option. The training I have looked into is so expensive. I am not sure what to do. She is my baby girl and I do not want to have to do that. Any suggestions I could try with her.

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Pippa Mattinson August 12, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Hi Becky, your best option would be a behavioural consultation with a qualified and experienced behaviourist. They will be able to assess your dog and tell you if and what can be done to help her. Best wishes, Pippa

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melanie August 13, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Good afternoonI have a huge problem and cant seem to solve it.I have 3 Scottie, they listen to me most of the time but when they see other dogs the go crazy, how can I get them to calm down and not freak out so much ( they bark and cry and run after other dogs and my girl will snap/bit at them). I really need them to accept other dogs as this makes me extremely on edge as I can never let them run free as I am scared of other dogs attacking them or they attacking other dogs.Then I adopted a mix yorkie wirehead terrier, he is 8 months old and just wants to play all the time, he also listen to me but only when I say fetch the ball. He wont come to me when I call him – example,  when I take them for walks on the he rugby field he just bolts and if I do raise my voice a little to come back he just goes and lay down where he is like I am going to hit him or something,  and I never ever hit my dogs. I want to take them to the beach month end, but so scared he will run after another animal or something and I wount get him back, or worse I wont get to him in time if another dog attacks him or tries to.Please can you give me some tips what to do ? I have nightmares about them getting killed by other dogs.Kind regardsMelanie

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Pippa Mattinson August 18, 2015 at 8:46 am

Hi Melanie, I think you would find Grisha Stewart’s book BAT helpful, even better would be a consultation with a behaviourist who will assess your dogs and give you a treatment plan.

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sanju September 4, 2015 at 4:12 am

Hi Pippa
I have been following your site for quite some time. Its indeed educative for dog lovers in India. I have a 18 months old lab Royal. I have been training him myself though I donnot have not undergone any formal training course. now issue is he obeys me everytime. But as I give hime the command from sit to down position he appears to do it willingly. I can make out with his expressions. He has already one obedience class C-1 and I am preparing him for C-3 and C-6. Please help me. Thanks

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sanju September 4, 2015 at 4:13 am

he appears not to do willingly*****

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Noel Toner October 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

I have a black lab He was one year old when I got him But I can,t get him to stop he jumping up on people when they come to the house He is house trained I would appreciated you help I Now have him for 9 months If he was not train when he was year old Is there still a chance I can get him settle down

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