Tricks of the training trade or how I learned to speak DOG!

I get complaints about a dog who may get too excited when someone comes into the house, when the post person arrives, etc. Well, the answer is quite simple, it's the handler's, guardian's fault....always.

Dogs are very intelligent, after all they understand us albeit a limited vocabulary but they comprehend us better than we do them. My dogs know about 30 words and that is without actually teaching them. They learn in part by their elder's actions when I say, "let's go outside" and point. The hand signal is key because animals read body language, as we do as well , but most humans never think of reading another human or we are so "technical", we have lost that natural touch. I walk into restaurants with parties of 4 or more people and everyone is staring at the phone!!! Why go out at all? I would sooner stay home and drink wine whilst "chatting" with someone on the computer. Very dull.

One of the most common mistakes is to pet a dog while he is doing something you do not want like getting home and the dog jumps on you and goes into an ecstatic phase. If you pet him/her while the dog is doing this crazy behaviour, you are actually rewarding him/her for doing exactly what you don't want. So when you leave/arrive home, be nonchalant. Don't look, speak or acknowledge the dog until he has calmed down and then you can pet him.

Thunder and fireworks are terrifying for most animals and I find them a nuisance as well. However, if you are afraid of these events, your dog will feel what you feel. None of my dogs get in the least upset with thunder or fireworks because I am always calm and in control. We had neighbours shooting off very loud fireworks quite near us and some of my dogs would look at me as to assess what they should do. I continued watching telly (yes, I have no social life) so they went back to napping. Do not hug and pet your dog while he is shaking in fear because the dog is not a child, he is a dog and you are only , again, rewarding him for being terrified. The best thing is to have a safe spot, a cage that is covered so it's cozy or put a bed in a closet with the door slightly open, that way they feel they are in a den and will feel cozy and not as frightened. Put soothing classical music, Debussy, Mozart and a favourite blanket, toy and a chewie. People smoke and eat because of anxiety, dogs sometimes chew for the same reason.

Do not, ever, feed your dog while you are sitting at table. If you have some pieces of meat that you'd like to give him as a treat, such as a bit of turkey during the holidays, as dogs are family and if you celebrate eating animals then your dogs should get a treat, but WHEN THEY ARE FED. Do not feed them at inappropriate times. Nothing more annoying that a dog nudging you or jumping on you because he wants your dinner! My partner is guilty of this even though I ask him not to feed the dogs while he is sittig at table.

Hand gestures work better than words when training. You can make up your own or email me and I will send you the most common hand gestures and you need to decide what words, the whole family will use; like sit, or down, don't use sit down because that is confusing. Consistency is crucial. Stop, stay, come, out, drop, etc are key words dogs should know and it's easier to teach them with hand gestures and you reward them by petting them. I am a firm believer in not using food as a reward. It has been shown in studies that dogs prefer a hug, a pat, loving words in a high pitched voice, than food.

Mouthing is a no no. Puppies do this because their gums annoy them. Get antlers or a safe chew toy and when they begin mouthing your hand, switch to the chew toy. Please, do not get rawhide nor toys that have threads, as these two items can cause a blockage and the thread can get twisted in the intestines, a $3000 surgery in SE Florida. Bolognese are tiny dogs and all my articles are, generally, geared to dogs of all sizes. Having a German Shepherd puppy chomping on your hand, albeit he is a baby, will create trouble when he is a 100 lb dog. Do not allow it but don't be unkind, just say "no" and give him a suitable chewing toy. I do use Orajel on dogs who I know are hurting badly from the teething. This is only in extreme situations. My grandmothers used to rub cognac on my gums but I don't recommend that for dogs though I believe I was a very happy baby!!!

Eating poop. We all find this behaviour dreadful and if you have cats, then, because your felines are true carnivores, their poop is like the best treat of all for dogs!!! It's disgusting for us but normal among animals. Mothers clean their den by eating the poop. Dogs who have been caged/crated for long periods of time also eat the poop to clean their area as they don't like it being filthy. I do not crate/cage my dogs ever. I use X pens, those expandable plastic pens that are actually for toddlers. You can get them used for little money and there are various sizes so if you leave your dog alone for long periods of time, first I recommend you get a second dog as dogs are highly social animals and suffer from loneliness and boredom. In an X pend you can put a bed, water, pee pads and toys of different types. There are toys that u stuff with treats and it's a puzzle so it makes their lonely time a little more tolerable but cut down on the food as otherwise you will have an obese dog and that is as unhealthy as an obese human. Two small dogs are, frankly, easier than one. They both respond to your commands and they keep each other company. I have always, even when I worked a full time job, part time job, went to school and took care of 3 kids and a house, had 2-5 dogs. In fact, when I was born, my mother had 3 Great Danes and my father had a gigantic, black, majestic Standard Poodle, Togo, who was incredible. These dogs would lay on the floor and I would crawl into the circular space they made and nap there. They would tolerate my grabbing their ears or hair, trying to lift myself to walk. My dogs taught me to walk, taught me compassion and love which I received from no one else except my grandmothers but they weren't always there. Back to the poop eating, you need to keep your cat's litter box somewhere where the dog cannot get to it or buy Modkat, a fabulous vertical litter box, unfortunately my cat is 16 lbs and no way would he fit in there but it's clean and dogs /children can't get into it. Some dogs who eat poop are nutritionally deficient so feeding him high quality, organic, non grain food, with probiotics , is essential. Beneful, Pedigree, Purina, Ol Roy and most pet foods sold in grocery or pet stores, are garbage; you may as well give your dog cardboard. The better the food, the fewer visits to the vet. Find a local pet boutique where the owner is usually an expert and talk to him about foods. Or go online and check out Chewy;s, not a brand but an online store. I am going to begin selling Life's Abundance, an excellent food that the American Maltese Association recommend as do I. A portion of the purchase goes to rescue groups. Life's Abundance is sold only through distributors and we have chosen it because it has proven to provide all the nutrients essential to the health of your Bolognese, or any breed. My dams are fed this while pregnant, as well as my puppies and I have noticed an increased beauty in their eyes, hair and vitality.

To summarize, you reward behaviour you find acceptable and discourage behaviour you don't like. Never hit a dog and only punish them in the act of doing something you don't wish by yelling "NO" , say if he is peeing in an inappropriate area, so put him outside in the yard and praise when he pees there. When you come home to a disaster, yelling at the dog does nothing except alienate him from you because they hear "Wha Wha Wha". They may have eaten your couch and are proudly standing in the mess but if you yell at him, because it happened minutes or hours ago, he has no clue why you are angry.Their memory is very, very , very short. Timing is everything. Hitting is abuse and doesn't help. You need to prevent by thinking ahead. Only if you see your dog dog doing whatever you don't like, pretend you are a military person and yell a resounding "NO". Dogs want to please you above all else, they are the most loyal, devoted and loving beings and deserve patience, understanding, love and devotion.

Any questions, comments, critiques, please email me at


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