Blog/Articles

My blog posts and articles

These are a selection of articles and blog posts I have written in the past decade or so, some of which link to pieces I contributed to magazines. These posts highlight my philosophy, beliefs and methods regarding dog behavior and training.   Jeff Stallings

Random food reinforcement improves command proficiency more quickly

When teaching new behaviors, random food rewards—as if you’re a slot machine to your dog—improves compliance faster than rewarding all iterations. Understanding this psychology can help training proceed more quickly.

It’s never too early to begin training your puppy

By far the most important early training for any puppy is socialization to other puppies and dogs, to people and to everything else they will ever encounter in their lives. This is also the ideal period for a puppy to "learn to learn" and that command compliance might earn a reward.

The Yes After No:  Building and Using a Positive Interrupter

A positive interrupter is a way of redirecting your dog’s attention from an unwanted activity back to you so that you can then cue an activity that you’d rather he be doing, such coming to you, sitting, laying down or staying.

Treats are your dog’s paycheck, not a bribe

Reward-based training is the scientifically proven method for teaching dogs desirable behaviors. Treats are your dog's paycheck, not a bribe, and having her "work" sets you both up for years of fun, exciting interspecies communication.

Dogs—and only dogs—can truly bond to multiple species

The domestic puppy’s unique and unusual capacity for socialization to multiple species allows us to insert ourselves into their social milieu and to substitute ourselves into a role that would otherwise be served by their parents.

Helping your fearful puppy become a more confident dog

Fear is a natural response that serves a useful purpose: Avoiding rather than engaging an unfamiliar stimulus might save your life. Desensitization and counter-condition is a way to help your puppy to become more comfortable with strangers, garbage trucks or whatever frightens them.

Locally sourced: Get to know your puppy or dog before adopting

The Internet allows us to buy all sorts of things sight unseen, and this makes sense for shoes, computers, furniture and books. But when searching for your puppy or dog, look closer to home, meet them first and make sure it’s a fit for all.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: Why your dog must feel SAFE

Feeling unsafe is often causes our dogs to not respond in we think they should. Uppermost in their minds is the need to feel safe. When we push dogs into feeling unsafe, we push them out of balance.

Realistic expectations: The semantics of “fixing” your dog

Your dog is not broken and does not need to be “fixed”. Inventive management solutions can produce immediate results—for instance, removing window access for a dog who goes ballistic at passersby—but behavior modification takes time, persistence and patience.

Train your wee, little dog as if he were Cujo!

Small dogs can learn commands and follow cues just as expertly as larger dogs. Regardless of size, all dogs should at least know the basics: how to sit, lay down, stay and come when called. A few party tricks can make the training even more fun for all concerned!

The importance of puppy socials before full vaccination

Indoor puppy socials are a crucial component of a well thought out socialization plan, forming the cornerstone of all future social abilities. They also have the advantage of being available before all vaccinations are complete, as early as nine weeks of age. I recommend at least ten socials by 18 weeks of age.

Head collars for loose leash walking

Dogs pull on-leash because they are faster than us and because of the opposition reflex, an innate pushing or pulling against physical pressure. Properly introduced and used, head collars can help tremendously with leash pulling and in some cases, leash reactivity.

Dog Training Guarantees

With a targeted, science-based plan, canine behavior issues can be addressed, managed or mitigated and, frequently, entirely solved. The not-so-good news about dog behavior modification is that there are no guarantees, just as there are none for human behavior problems.

Littermate syndrome is a risk when raising sibling puppies

Some sibling puppies raised in the same household develop behavioral problems because their deep bond impedes comprehension of human and canine social cues, interfering with social development and communication skills.

Nature vs. Nurture: Dog breeds, temperament and training

A University of Denmark study of over 15,000 dogs from 164 breeds shows that it is impossible to generalize about canine temperament based on breed alone. The researchers demonstrated conclusively that there is a very high degree of behavior variation within each dog breed.

Treat/Retreat: a strategy for introducing your reactive dog to houseguests

Treat/retreat is a guest-in-home protocol that relies on clearly communicating to a stressed, potentially reactive dog that he is free to not move closer. It is often helpful to meet the guest outside for a leashed walk and to enter the home together.

Marker training: How clickers speed up dog training

Pioneered in the 1960’s, marker training solved the problem of how to clearly communicate desired behaviors instantly and from a distance. Today, most professional animal trainers use marker training because it teaches new behaviors about fifty percent faster than older methods.

Potty training basics: Set your puppy up for success

Potty training requires a confinement zone, frequent trips to your puppy’s outdoor “spot”, and food or toy rewards for eliminating your designated place. Be consistent, persistent and fair: punishment of any sort should never be used when teaching your pup where to do their business.

Don’t leave me this way: A primer on canine separation anxiety

Addressing separation issues requires desensitization exercises, such as breaking your departure routine into tiny pieces and getting your dog comfortable with each; incrementally increasing the amount of time you’re gone; and management to ensure your dog is not alone and over threshold as you work on desensitization.

Otis gets her bona fides: The Canine Good Citizen test

The AKC Canine Good Citizen program, established in 1989, rewards any dog, mutt or purebred, who has good manners at home and in the community. Dogs who pass the test may use the title “CGC” after their names; many cities and states offer discounted dog licenses and off-leash access to certain parks.

The poop: Why dogs roll around in dung, carrion and other stinky stuff

The explanation for our dogs rolling in stinky stuff that makes the most evolutionary and adaptive sense is that this ritual is an attempt to disguise the dog’s own scent, a leftover behavior from when our domestic dogs were still wild and hunted for a living.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement in Dog Training

It's easy to understand why “positive reinforcement”, a food reward for something you want your dog to learn and repeat, is the best starting point for training. But the terminology and techniques for the other combinations of positive/negative and reinforcement/punishment can be confusing.

Your dog’s nose knows: That amazing canine computer

Your dog's nose is thousands of times more sensitive than yours and as important to understanding the world as vision is to you.

Make training your dog an exciting daily activity

Training your dog is an on-going process, and brief daily training sessions are more effective than longer ones. Make sure training is fun for both of you!

Canine DNA tests are accurate and fascinating

DNA testing for your dog doesn’t change how you train or manage, but the results can be enlightening nonetheless.

Good dogs are made, not born

by Jeff Stallings I realized recently that I find myself more often citing instances of poor dog behavior than good, although I suppose this is natural since my work is largely about training inappropriate behaviors away. So let me take this opportunity to recognize and commend all the really great dogs out there:  …

Why you should celebrate your dog’s butt sniffing

Dogs sniff each other’s anal glands to collect important information, including gender and health status. This ritual is nothing to feel ashamed of but rather encouraged!