“Good Dog” Training Time

Question: What’s the best training method for you and your dog?

Answer: The one that works!

I’ve lost track of the number of training books, videos, and how-to seminars I studied while writing the Waterside Kennels mystery series and this blog. In addition to ensuring authentic details are added to the plots, I found many of those resources personally helpful when Sasha joined our household after having been rescued from a bad situation. I relied on those resources to find a “just right” training program that would build her confidence and help overcome her fear of men and extreme aversion to noise.

It didn’t take long to realize that typical training methods were not always the best choice for her. While Sasha quickly mastered the commands taught in beginner and intermediate obedience classes, the clicker training method was an ordeal for her. Since our local training facility uses clickers as the foundation for all their classes, I chose not to pursue additional training there. Instead, I adopted a DIY approach that focuses on improving everyday behavior through positive reinforcement and situational awareness. Along the way, I discovered a few simple commands that work for us: “take it,” “leave it,” “drop it,” and “watch me.”

Those commands make an appearance in Dangerous Deeds (currently in the editing pipeline) where my protagonist Maggie Porter includes them as part of her “Good Dog” training sessions. They’re also used elsewhere in the book–including one memorable scene where Maggie’s dog Sweet Pea finds an injured kitten beneath the dock.  Unlike training classes with a structured curriculum, Maggie’s “Good Dog” sessions are customized to address specific behaviors. (As both a writer and a dog owner, I personally like the flexibility this sort of training format offers.)

If you’d like to learn more about these commands to use with your own dog, here’s a list of helpful articles to get you started:

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/learning-the-leave-it-command/ (includes “take it” command too)

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/teaching-your-dog-to-drop-it/  (great for trick training as well)

And my personal favorite I use whenever Sasha and I are walking and she’s triggered by other dogs approaching: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/watch-me-command-grab-dogs-attention/

Prefer watching videos? Drop by YouTube and search for any or all of these commands. And remember: learning new commands can be hard work for both you and your dog. Be patient, and include some fun activities along the way. The results will be worth it!

Play time!

My beloved spaniel Alix loved to play. She was a natural at hide-and-seek, enjoyed a rousing game of tug-of-war, and had a couple of chew toys she’d carry about. Her favorite daily game, though, involved our Silver Tabby Amy and Katie the Calico Cat. We lived in a house with a long hallway and every day Alix would chase those two cats down the hall and into one of the bedrooms at the far end. A minute later we’d hear them galloping back–this time with the cats chasing the dog!

Now that the household once again includes a dog and a cat, I’m hoping they’ll come to enjoy playtime together, too. Although it’s been just three weeks since Sasha came to us, I’m seeing tentative overtures from both of them. Buddy isn’t interested in sharing his ball time (that cat has an impressive collection of both balls and strings, but that’s a story for another day), and Sasha clearly wasn’t accustomed to playtime.

We bought a few toys that we thought she might enjoy: a tug toy with a rope at one end and a tennis ball at the other; a couple of soft squeaky toys; and a small rubber Frisbee. We hid treats at the bottom of the (shallow) toy basket and encouraged her to find them. That was the easy part, but once the treats were gone, so apparently was her interest. Until one morning when I hid one of the squeaky toys behind my back and ran around the house, squeaking the toy as I went. Well, that got her attention! Here’s the result:


In addition to our daily obedience training time (in the house, in the backyard, along our quiet street), I’ve added daily play time to our schedule. It might be dancing around to music (she’s a fan of Willie Nelson) or she might grab a toy or nose a ball. We’ve celebrated the few times Sasha and Buddy have run around the backyard together! Really, though, it doesn’t matter what sort of playtime we have, as long as she’s enjoying herself and knows we’re happy to have her in our home.

If you have a dog like Sasha who’s slow to warm up to toys, drop by the Chasing Dog Tales website and read Elaine Bryant’s 10 tips for helping your dog learn how to play. You’ll be glad you did!