Dog Training & Wellness Services

DogRelations™ NYC dog training is really about positive reinforcement training in an enjoyable and life enriching way. This means giving your dog a clear understanding of behaviors you want to encourage while having fun and developing a close relationship. Dogs thrive on honest, direct and consistent communication, just like friends who completely trust and rely on one another.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

How To Teach Your Dog To Greet Humans

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Happy dog waiting to greet visitors

Jumping and barking are both highly self-reinforcing behaviors. In plain English that means that the activity is something a dog really enjoys, it feels good and hence the dog will be happy to bark and jump again and again. Correcting such a behavior is very difficult, mostly because it so easily turns into a game. From the dog’s point of view:

  1. I see someone approach or the doorbell rings!
  2. I bark and leap to get access.
  3. My human says: “NO JUMPING!” “QUIET!” “BE GOOD!”
  4. The leash gets tight or I get yanked and held by the collar.
  5. I finally sit…maybe
  6. Human says: “Good boy”…or something along those lines or even gives me a treat.
  7. Next time we do the same thing

If you don’t want your dog to jump and/or bark for greetings, prevent it by being proactive:

  1. Don’t allow the dog to dash ahead of you to get access; drop treats on the ground or feed at nose level so that all four paws stay on the ground.
  2. Once the dog is calm, allow an approach while continuing to reward calm behaviors.
  3. Ensure that you, the handler of the dog, is the feeder so you can guide the dog’s behavior effectively.
  4. If your dog cannot be calm move further away from the action.
  5. Keep all greetings calm, including your own comings and goings and discourage excited behaviors.

This subject is likely top of mind for many people as the festive season approaches and we have more guests coming and going than usual. Practicing these steps with your dog will not only ensure polite holiday greetings but also a calm canine throughout the year!

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Friday, 27 October 2017

Dog Training Tips: Timing Your Rewards and the Pitfalls of Bribing

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Happy dog waiting for cookie


In my mind, the definition of a reward would be a pleasant consequence for a behavior that one would like to teach or reinforce. Ok, so rewarded behaviors increase in frequency, I get it, I get it, there is no need to think any further. I hold a cookie for the dog and tell the dog to sit. The dog sits, I feed the cookie…end of story.

Well, not so fast! There are quite a few things that deserve consideration here.

The most common misunderstanding is the lure vs bribe scenario. Let me give you an example: When first teaching a puppy a basic behavior such as “sit” you might hold a cookie or a toy over his nose. As the puppy looks up to see what’s there he will most likely end up with his butt on the ground which is the behavior you wanted to elicit. You then feed the cookie or play with the toy. Perfect.

However, if in the process you don’t fade the cookie out once the dog begins to understand your hand motion and ping pong your rate of feeding, then the dog will ONLY sit if you have a cookie in your hand. You and the dog become dependent on the cookie and the cookie is a bribe. Your dog will expect the cookie or mistake the cookie as a signal to sit and will only sit when the cookie is present.

The second scenario and the more subtle but worse scenario is: You wave your cookie and call the dog. The dog runs to you and you lock the dog into the kitchen or end some other fun game he was just engaged in. Or you wave the cookie, the dog comes and you start clipping his nails. All of a sudden the cookie turns into a predictor of “something bad is about to happen” and devalues the “wow” effect the cookie had before.

It is therefore important to consider the consequences as well as the value of the reward. If you want to habituate a puppy to something the puppy is scared of or feels uncomfortable about, consider very carefully the order in which the reward appears. Be sure to present the “scary thing” (the harness, collar, the brush, the stairs, the injection needle) first and then give the reward for tolerating the object of discomfort for a fleeting moment or at a closer distance without recoiling. Only then can the dog be classically conditioned to understand injection needle = YAY roast beef!!!

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Changing Your Frame of Mind When Training Your Puppy

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Training Your Puppy

In your mind you paint a picture of your dog’s desired behaviors. The things you’d like to do with your dog, the way your dog is going to interact with you and the wonderful relationship you will enjoy.

When you paint a mental picture you don’t really think about all the other behaviors.

But culturally we seem to be tempted to only react when the behaviors go “outside the lines”. We concentrate on reigning in behaviors that go “over the line” instead of cultivating the many offered behaviors already present within our framework.

When people talk about their pup’s active behaviors they report the jumping, the nipping the chewing, the peeing in the house. Never do they elaborate on the playfulness, how the puppy likes the crate, loves his toys and likes to rest gently touching the humans’ feet.

If you were painting an image, would you constantly concentrate on the times your paintbrush slipped outside the frame? No! Well, only if you are neurotically counting mistakes!

When creating a painting you would want to concentrate on making the colors stronger, adding more and more layers of paint, making the image inside the frame more expressive, adding more details and variety. You would practically ignore the brush strokes going “outside the lines” because you will eventually use a frame and or a mat to frame the entire picture and those missteps will be hidden.

That is in my mind an exact parallel to shaping a behavior canvas for your dog. Strengthening behaviors you would like your dog to practice more and with more frequency and enthusiasm, as opposed to constantly correcting the dog. Unlike a pencil line that can be erased, behaviors are more like oil paint. Once the behavior has happened there is a permanent mark on the canvas. A practiced repetition represents a reinforcement embedded in the memory.

So please notice and reward your puppy highly when he offers calm behavior or plays nicely with one of his toys.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Treating Obesity: Diet & Your Dog’s Overall Health

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Healthy eating to reduce obesity

More than half of pet dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the most recent annual survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. A comparison of that data with previous surveys suggests that obesity in dogs, as in people, is getting worse.

“We do believe dogs have become heavier over the last decade, and that it’s an epidemic,” says Johnny Li, a computational biologist at Nestle Purina, in St. Louis, Missouri, who led the new study. Li says he launched the study because only a handful of previous studies have explored the gut microbiome of canines, and the effect of diet on gut microbes hasn’t been well documented.

(source: How a dog’s diet shapes its gut microbiomes)

When convenience foods became popular for humans the pet food industry picked up on that trend and started producing instant and so-called “complete extruded and processed” foods for animals because they saw a huge business opportunity. Then we heard the myth propagated that “human food” is not good for our dogs. While I agree that feeding a dog McDonald’s is a very bad idea I do believe that living beings should be fed real food. Also the idea that every meal needs to contain every nutritional requirement is absurd. The need for that happens over time. I am sure that even if you are on a very healthy diet yourself you are not getting every amino acid, every vitamin and exact amount of minerals in each and every meal.

Why are processed foods inferior?

Even though some companies have attempted to improve the quality of ingredients and managed processing procedures to leave more of the important nutrients intact, the result is still a food product as opposed to a fresh meal such as muscle meat, organ meat, bones or bone meal, cartilage and some seeds, fruits and/or vegetables.

Just like in humans, starchy carbohydrates (corn, rice and soy) produce gas and sugar imbalances that affect not only dogs’ weight but also their behavior.

In the last couple of years we have heard a lot about the “gut” brain and the “microbiome” – the universe of bacteria that we are all made of. There is a strong argument that the increase of disease and inflammation as well as well balanced behavior is greatly influenced by how we nourish ourselves and makes me think of the old adage: You are what you eat.

This is true for our canine companions as well.

If your dog seems less than vibrant, is having behavior issues, or is getting a bit chubby please look at what you are feeding your dog. Read the labels. You will be surprised how cleverly some foods insert cheap filler ingredients just to be able to put the buzzword “grain free” on the label. Your dog does not need to eat food colorings, preservatives, chickpea or pea meal, glycerin or maltodextrin to name a few.

Getting results

If you need help with portion control, help upgrading the diet and implementing a healthier exercise routine please do not hesitate to contact DogRelations NYC for a brief health improvement consultation.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training, rehabilitation & wellness services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

House training tips for your dog

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | House trained pug relieves himself outside

Learning is much more efficient if you can avoid mistakes.

When applied to house training your puppy or even an older dog, drawing very clear distinctions is important. We know that peeing and pooping are necessary vital functions and to reprimand a dog for doing that is simply inhumane. The old fashioned ways are simply unacceptable. In addition to being unnecessarily cruel they also can produce fallout behaviors. The dog or puppy might learn not to pee when you are close by. Then people wonder why they find “secret” pee spots behind the couch or poop behind the potted plant. Clearly the reprimanded dog realizes that when you are not there he can pee and poop in peace and nothing bad happens. When the human finds the dried up poop days later and leads the dog to it and screams “NO!” I am not really sure what the dog is supposed to learn other than that the owner has temper tantrums.

So the question really is: how do I show the dog where to eliminate?

The key to housetraining is to teach the dog where to go and reward the dog for performing there! In order to accomplish this it is important to manipulate the environment in such a way that the dog practically only has the opportunity to eliminate where it is appropriate.

That means: Do not let your puppy roam the entire house but keep him close, possibly tethered to you as you walk around the house. If that is impractical: keep the dog in a small containment area like a crate. Dogs naturally do not like to pee or poop where they sleep, so if the area is small enough they will keep that small area clean. I am purposely not using the word crate too much because so many people find crates aversive and prefer not to use them. Granted there are many reasons why acclimating a dog to a crate is practical or necessary for certain dogs, but not all dogs need to be crated. There are other options such as gating and tethering, for example.

The other important idea is to take the puppy outside to the same spot often but not to stay out there for hours. I cannot tell you how often I hear: “I was out there for 2 hours…nothing! But as soon as we came home he peed on the floor.” Make the trip to pee/poop short: 10-15 minutes tops. If the pup does not perform within that timeframe, go back inside and contain him/supervise/tether him and try again.

At some point the puppy will decide to pee or poop in the destination spot because it is quite obvious that he does not have any other opportunity. When that happens is when you celebrate him like crazy! Wait until he is done and then shower him with a bunch of treats, lots of praise and maybe a short game with a special toy. That way it will become very obvious to the puppy where you’d like him to “go”.

If the dog has peed and pooped then you can take him for a walk, stroll or romp. This will pay off greatly in bad weather conditions because your dog will learn that the first thing to think about when going outside is “bathroom” and he will perform quickly so you can go inside again to seek shelter from the inclement weather.

Also do make sure you don’t give your puppy access to water all the time! Many puppies will run and play, then drink and then pee out of excitement. Be mindful that your pup’s bladder control is not yet fully developed. If he has an accident, ignore and clean it up. Or better: think ahead! When you see your puppy lapping up water get ready to take him out.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Friday, 9 June 2017

Rethinking Reward Based Training

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Reward Based Training

When I walk around the city I see all these dogs trained with different approaches. Putting aside the sad fact that there are way too many pinch collars and choke chains around there is an encouraging number of dogs who are taught with reward based training… or let’s say: a version of reward based training.

Here is where I still see that there is a missing link of understanding at least in the way I see reward based training really working.

The easiest to explain this is by using the famous example of “sit”.

When I ask a dog owner if it is okay to give their dog a treat after a polite encounter with Zeldi so I can reward both dogs, the answer often is: Sure! But “HE HAS TO SIT FIRST. MAKE HIM SIT!”

That tells me that this human feels that the dog “must” earn the treat. Which is what they were told. Fair enough.

What they do not see is that if a dog has truly learned that sitting will get him the treat they will offer that behavior voluntarily and automatically as soon as they realize a reward is in play.

The dog understands that he can control his life with the “sit” behavior. So rather than understanding it as a compulsory exercise from the dog’s point of view it would be so much clearer if both human and dog could experience it as yet another opportunity to get access to something fun, rewarding and satisfying.

Instead of barking or pawing or jumping your dog will offer the behaviors that he knows will pay off. That works both ways: From the human point of view: a polite dog. From the dog’s point of view: knowing how to earn the things he craves!

It’s really that simple.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Protected: Forced Socialization and Bite Inhibition

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