CATCH Canine Trainers Academy Blog

Get Training Results in Every Setting

Do You Have the Priority Motivators?

In this video, CATCH School Director, David Muriello, shows you the key to getting training results in difficult settings. It’s a common mistake to bring a dog into a distracting situation and then “fight the competing motivators” to try and get the dog’s attention. At best, this is a very inefficient way to train. At worst, you’re completely wasting time and frustrating yourself and the dog! (These interactions are bad for the relationship; which means bad for training results.)

Learn about what we call a priority motivator and how to ensure you are the one in control of it. The key is to set the dog up for success. Winning (earning rewards) can become addicting to the dog, and by smartly choosing the right environment you can move step-by-step to the point where you become the dog’s focus – even in a distracting setting. Watch to learn more!

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Teaching Puppies Not to Bite

Patient Pups Become Great Dogs!

One thing we all know is that young pups are naturally very mouthy. This is because they are teething, but also because they use their mouths like young children use their hands – to explore and manipulate the objects in their world.

It’s all a part of the learning and growing process for puppies, but if you don’t teach them to use their mouth in a controlled and gentle way, they will grow into bad habits, not out of them. Many trainers will get phone calls from dog owners who realize this when their pup becomes an adolescent around 6-9 months. It’s common to see those dogs mouthing too hard during play, taking treats with too much force, or snatching things right out of your hands before being invited to do so.

In our latest video, join School Director, David Muriello, and 10-week old puppy, Piston, as they demonstrate a great way to teach puppies that waiting and taking things gently is much more rewarding than grabbing and biting. If you practice these exercises with a young pup, they will go a long way towards helping you raise a polite and gentle dog.

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Recall Games to Start Up Your Pups – Come When Called!

Puppy Connection – Make it Fun – Spark the Recall!

Recall games are a really smart way to teach impressionable puppies that following you and checking in with you are rewarding.  If you build these behavior patterns in young dogs, they can last a lifetime with benefits of connection, freedom, and safety.

In our latest Trainer’s Tips Video, join School Director, David Muriello, and 10-week old puppy, Piston, as they demonstrate how some of the simplest techniques can be the most effective.  This is Piston’s first time meeting David, and he is a shy pup, so this is also a very important socialization exercise.  Learning to trust and enjoy the company of a “new guy” in his life will have big social benefits as Piston continues to gain exposure to the busy human world.  Notice how Piston is a little cautious at the beginning of the exercise, but by the end he is cuddling right into David.  Thumbs up, tail wags!

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Save the Dog’s Neck! Make an Instant Harness

Use a Slip Lead Safely and Effectively with Dogs That Pull

In this Trainer’s Take, check out expert tips from CATCH School Director, David Muriello, on quickly converting a slip lead into a harness for dogs that pull.

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Don’t Forget to Prep Your Pup for Grooming

Grooming Tips From a Trainer’s Perspective

by Hillary Alpert

There are 3 professionals many dogs encounter in their lives: their veterinarian, their dog trainer and… their groomer!
Most veterinarians say the groomer is the most important person in the dog’s life-after the family, of course. The groomer has their hands all over the dog and sees them regularly so they often notice health ailments easier than most. So, it’s really helpful for your dog, groomer, and you to all be comfortable with the experience of getting trimmed and cleaned. Even if your dog doesn’t go to a groomer for a “haircut”, everything you read here can be applied to a bather, or other care professionals that may handle your dog “up close and personal”.

Let’s look at it from a behavioral perspective to start: why are dogs often so afraid of the groomer?

Going to the groomer can be an overwhelming experience. There are loud noises, sharp objects, barking from all of the dogs that may be in the salon, and the hustle and bustle of dogs going in and out. Add on top of that, owners often exude anxiety that increases the dog’s unease. The best thing we can do is introduce our puppies and dogs to the experience slowly and make it a positive outcome. This training can start at home.

First, meet your groomers! Before bringing Fido in for a trim, go say hello and make friends. As we discuss in our program (beginning in the very first phase of study), socialization is key to a growing pup’s life. Go on in to your groom shop (whether private or corporate) and say hello. Shake hands and let your dog meet the groomer (make sure to bring lots of tasty treats to make it even better and more memorable experience).

Now it’s time to go home and get your dog prepped for the experience. Start when it’s quiet and your dog is relaxed. Touch him everywhere. Give him treats. Don’t be afraid to pick up his feet, touch his nails, ears, face, and tail. If he fusses or struggles, don’t increase your pressure or force it, but don’t stop completely – take it light and slow and let him know this is great! (Remember to share those treats!) Start with short sessions and practice every day, multiple times if you can. Hold up his ears or hold on gently to the chin hair. Hold his feet and tail. Hold up his belly and reward him greatly!

Slowly, start to introduce the brush and comb to your arsenal of touches. First, let your dog investigate and sniff (not chew!) and slowly start to run the brush/comb over the dog. If he gets huffy and goes after it, distract him with something else like a treat or toy. Keep these sessions quick and slowly add on more time.

Work on holding paws up and touching the nails. At first, it is great to use a metal spoon and run it over the dog – especially on the feet and around the face (these are sensitive are

as but are also the most common places that will get scissored during a grooming session). Again, don’t get frustrated if the dog gets upset. Use distractions and rewards to keep him engaged in the game aspect of this. For example, pick one body part then touch and treat, touch and treat, touch and treat. You will find that if you are gentle and quick enough, soon the dog may be offering to lift that paw for you, or move closer for you to lift her ear up!

Visit your groomer and show in your body language and attitude that you’re comfortable with dropping him off. Your dog will feed off of you, so don’t over-coddle, but be reassuring by being yourself. Many pet owners believe their dog won’t be okay without you: take it from a groomer, they usually are. Don’t be afraid to leave treats with your groomer and then go! . Some groomers will tell an owner it can take several hours, and that’s normal. They want to get the process done safely and if your dog needs breaks, good groomers will give them.

Once the dog is all set, you can pick up your pooch and get a great report card! If a dog is on a schedule to be groomed regularly, it becomes a part of life as opposed to an overwhelming event. Some dogs even love coming by and visiting their groomer. Especially those that were prepped using the approach given here. The younger you start with these techniques, the better.

As a dog trainer, you can prep clients for a pleasant grooming experience. Using these steps will help dogs become ready for “the big show” at the salon, where they can have an easy going, low stress experience.

Shelter Dog Safety, Can You Get the Dog Out?

Kennel Safety | Tips for Handling Dogs Like a Pro

Check out the latest CATCH Training Tips video with CATCH School Director, David Muriello, as he demonstrates a safe and effective way to remove a dog from its kennel.

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Should I Play Tug With My Dog?

Play = Bonding!  What Else Can it Do for Your Dog’s Behavior?

Check out the latest CATCH Training Tips video with CATCH School Director, David Muriello, as he explores the benefits and guidelines for using tug as a valuable interaction with your dog.

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Tips for Teaching a Great Stay

CATCH Students Showcasing Strong Technique with Shelter Dogs – and Getting Results

by David Muriello

Check out the quick video below for some great examples of training technique by CATCH student Ed with shelter dog, Manny. Manny is doing a down-stay outdoors with distraction (there is another dog passing by in the distance off camera behind Ed). The added challenge is that Ed is doing a “walk-around”. To perform the Stay, Manny should not get up until Ed has completely circled around behind him and then given him the”OK” cue to release.

Here are the elements of technique that we really like:

  • Ed teaching Manny a “walk-around” Stay with distractions.

    Ed has Manny’s attention and focus, even though they are outdoors.

    • They have practiced this indoors with consistent success, so Ed has chosen an appropriate level of difficulty at the appropriate time.
    • Ed is using a high value reward that he knows Manny likes (in this case a “trail mix” of cheese/hot dogs/kibble).
  • Ed’s body language is clear and consistent. He shows no extra movements with his hands that would be confusing to the dog. He always keeps his “treat hand” at his side or behind his back. His speed in going around Manny stays consistent.
  • Ed breaks the behavior down into small steps that Manny can succeed with: going part way around the circle, then half, then full) and he rewards each step along the way.
  • Ed uses the “yes” marker when he reaches peak distance from Manny and then goes right back to front to deliver the reward between the paws. Manny is always rewarded while he is still in the Down position where he started, so the Stay behavior is strongly reinforced.
  • After Ed makes a complete circle, he gives Manny a clear cue to release from the Stay. The response is then rewarded with loving praise that Manny adores (and then an opportunity to “go sniff”).

With this solid foundation, Ed could continue to add the 3 D’s: distance, duration, and distraction. In just a few more training sessions, there is no doubt that Manny will be performing an impressive outdoor Stay from long distances. Great job by both Ed and Manny!

Follow CATCH on Instagram for more training tips, behavior insights, and your dogs’ adventures.

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

What Makes an Imperfect Dog Perfect

Life with a Challenging Dog Can Make You a Skilled Trainer

by Marcela Koehler

Even though it’s been ages since Lassie became famous on TV, dog owners and trainers today still face the challenge that many people have “Lassie-esque” expectations of dog behavior. When pets like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin were heroes of family television, they made it look like dogs would understand everything we say. The idea of dogs being born to serve our every whim seems far too robotic to many of us these days, but the dog who perfectly “obeys his master” is still an image that is embedded in our culture.

When you start on your dog training journey, you may picture that your dog is always supposed to be right by your side, perfectly in tune with your thoughts and movements.  Don’t worry if that seems a bit daunting, the reality for many dog trainers is very different – even for expert professionals. Our dogs listen of course, but we let them be their fun-loving selves, too!  Being in tune with our every whim like Lassie is not feasible for the vast majority of pet dogs, and not every trainer expects all their dogs to “report for duty” with military precision all the time. In fact, many of our dogs are wonderfully imperfect, just like their guardians.

Our own dogs become our teammates and teach us so much! This is Kota, the beloved husky of a one-time featured student and now CATCH graduate, Darlene.

As a Program Director at CATCH, it is a concern that I hear time and again from new students: “Can I be a successful dog trainer if my own dog has behavioral issues?” My answer is always the same, “Absolutely!” You are likely to become an even better trainer from the skills that you’ll gain living with a challenging dog. You learn firsthand how to manage and modify the problem behaviors happening in your home. The rare combination of necessity, inspiration, and experience that comes with this situation has propelled many owners of difficult dogs to go from do-it-yourself-behavior-problem-solvers to studied dog trainers!

Often when dog owners finally get to the point where they reach out to a dog trainer for help, they are embarrassed and feel a loss of control in their lives. You can put them at ease by sharing your own experiences, and talk to them about the progress you have made with your own difficult dog. This is a great example of one of the most important skills for a dog trainer – empathizing with the client and letting them know they are in good company, that you understand where they are coming from, and that you have the skills to help.

Most first-time dog owners take on a puppy without all of the knowledge to raise and socialize them effectively to help create the most well-adjusted dog possible. Sometimes owners get lucky and end up with a very well-behaved dog, but more likely, many of us end up with some behavior challenges that we soon realize we will always have to “work around” or continually work to improve.  Opening your home to a “behaviorally challenged” dog is nothing to be ashamed of; it can be something to be proud of, and it will certainly be a learning experience.

Puppies present us with the precious opportunity to bond and train during the critical socialization period.

Puppies present us with the precious opportunity to bond and train during the critical socialization period. But, not everyone knows how to take proper advantage of that short time window the first time around.

Many students start our program after having had their dogs for years, and we hear the same concern: “If only I had a time machine and could have started this program before getting the dog!”  That is because they are learning so much about the importance of socialization and how crucial those first couple of months are for developing a dog that can be both comfortable and focused in many different situations. It’s true that you can’t rewind the clock and start over with early socialization. But as a trainer, you can learn from everything you missed out on doing with dogs you’ve raised in the past and apply those lessons to the dogs you raise in the future. That includes dogs you may be raising and helping your clients with theirs! (Side note: we have a great article on the keys to raising a very well-behaved puppy here.)

Give yourself credit for the hard work that you have done and will continue to do with the difficult dogs in your life. As you gain experience with challenging dogs, you continually hone your approach for raising and training future dogs.  Many trainers work their way up to finding and training the “dream dog” that they can bring to their classes and show off in demonstrations. If you are determined to learn through experience and study, we’re willing to bet that that “dream dog” is in your future!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

What REALLY Makes Puppies Special – Part 2

The 7 Most Important Things to Teach a Young Puppy

I’m ready to learn!

In last month’s article, we covered 4 out of the 7 most important things to work on with a young puppy: socialization, separation, handling, and comfort with sharing. Today, let’s jump into the last 3: mouthing, housetraining, and bonding. These are all critical to setting a pup up for success.

No Biting & Soft Mouth

Pups must learn to control both:

  • the placement of their teeth, and
  • the force of their bite pressure

…or they can get themselves into a lot of trouble when they become bigger, stronger and more confident. For starters, you should have lots of toys with different textures around and encourage a pup with praise or play when she chooses to put her mouth on dog toys, rather than on your clothing or body parts. Keep toys in baskets or specific spots so your pup can easily learn which items are “for them” and which are off limits (human stuff). If remote controls and socks are placed around as randomly as dog toys – that is too confusing for a naïve pup.

This pup had just come into the shelter and definitely benefited from training and socialization time with Tracy and our group of student trainers.

End interactions abruptly when a pup directs their mouth to your skin or clothing. Never make that into a fun game where she gets continued attention. Use a displeased voice, cessation of games, and time outs if needed. If you give pups feedback in this way, you should see their bite pressure get softer and softer as they become more careful. But, it’s important to provide more outlets than reprimands. Most pups are going to try and chew on you, at least as an experiment! Give yours plenty of exercise and opportunities to chew on dog toys so she has an outlet for that active mouth. If you follow all these guidelines, mouthing will get better every week until the pup grows out of it. For more details on this, check out this article: Are You Rewarding Biting (by accident)?

Housetraining

Teaching a pup to potty outside is something every new dog owner should devote themselves to right away. The more accidents you allow, the harder it becomes to teach the desired behavior patterns, especially if mistakes happen regularly for several weeks or more. Housetraining is always the responsibility of the pup’s caretaker and never the dog being irresponsible or malicious. It is 100% up to us to set them up for success. The MOST important keys to housetraining are:

  • Take a puppy to their potty spot as often as they need to go (or even more frequently to play it safe).
  • Pay attention to the water and food intake and keep the puppy’s tank empty by letting her relieve it in the right place as often as you can.
  • Make sure a puppy is always supervised by you and when they are not, they are confined in a safe place where they can hold it in for a little while (ex., a crate that you’ve taught them how to enjoy like their special den).

The hard part about housetraining is being consistent and dedicated with getting the puppy outside A LOT (yes, even in the middle of the night if needed at first).  The easy part is that if you get the pup in the right place over and over, that is where she will prefer to go! She will want to potty where she has felt the relief before. In turn, she will also develop a natural desire to keep the house clean. Then, as she grows up she will start to hold it in herself (usually within 1-3 months depending on age) and she’ll make it clear when she wants to potty outside (by doing things like standing by the door).

For more on housetraining, a great little booklet for yourself or any client is called Way to Go by Karen B. London and Patricia McConnell.

Bonding and Trust

We all dream of having a dog that can run freely off leash and will come back when called. And most everyone wants a dog that loves to be around them and play with them, but who also listens to us and respects us like a true friend.  To unlock the full potential of that dream relationship (which so many dogs are so ready to have with us), build your bond and a deep trust during early puppyhood. Here are some proven ways to do that:

  • Dave tugging with Dougie in the open field. There is a long line, but you can be bet Dougie would come back on his own for more of this play!

    Play with your puppy! Fetch is a wonderful game where you become the center of attention. Get the pup excited about the toy by moving it around on the ground and then throw it just a short distance at first. Praise him for chasing and grabbing it and then entice him back to you. When he arrives with the toy, give him belly rubs and praise! Then throw it a short distance away again. Repeat and gradually increase the distance you can throw it and still get a retrieve. This game not only teaches a puppy that you are a ball-throwing deity, but that coming back to you is highly rewarding – a great concept that will help with off-leash attention and recall.

  • Tug is also a great game as long as you teach it with rules. Remember what we talked about above: it is critical to teach a puppy that biting you or your clothing always ends the fun. As soon as you get mouthed, end the game for a few seconds until the pup calms. Same thing if the pup is jumping all over you to snatch the toy from your hands. End the fun for a few seconds until you see the pup sit or stand back, not jumping on you or barking at you, and then start the game again – rewarding the instant of politeness. Play is the perfect opportunity to establish the rules of your friendship:  mutual respect (more on trust and respect below).
  • If you’ve been working on trading/sharing objects from part 1 of this article, you can easily teach the pup to release a tug toy and the reward can be more tugging, or that you throw the toy for a retrieve (fetch). I often do this with two equal value toys like two tennis balls. The pup learns that if you drop one, you get to tug or fetch the other!  In summary, play is great for bonding, but also in teaching respect for your space and the right place to direct the mouth: to toys.
  • Another important way to keep your bond strong is not to confuse your pup with unclear communication. This means you do not give after the fact corrections. For example, never scold a puppy for a housetraining accident that you didn’t see happen. Never scold a puppy for a chewed-up table leg or remote control if you weren’t there to witness the chewing.  Dogs don’t understand past tense language. If you scold pups after the fact, you will confuse them or scare them, or both, and you’ll make them want to tune you out. If you scold harshly, you risk instilling fear which can lead to all kinds of issues from NOT coming when called to defensive aggression in the adult dog.
  • A fantastic way to build a strong bond is reward-based training. There are huge benefits of teaching a pup obedience and manners using the proven techniques of rewarding the behaviors you like with food and play.  When dogs love the rewards, they love the training process and they love the person who teaches them that way.  You can get great responses from a pup when they perform the behaviors you teach (ex. Sit, Stay, Come), but you also get enhanced attention and communication overall. That’s setting you up for a lifetime of enjoying each other’s company!

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If I were raising a new puppy, these 7 items would be my top priority. If you’re interested in learning more about any of the 7 topics, there are many great books covering each one in more detail, and so does the CATCH curriculum. Most importantly, remember that investing a lot of time in a young puppy can save you tons of time and trouble down the road. Puppies are sponges ready to soak up every lesson and interaction. Have fun teaching them and get the most out of those precious early months!


CATCH Canine Trainers Academy Office Headquarters
24 Newark Pompton Turnpike Suite 206, Little Falls, NJ.
Phone: 877-752-2824