Car and Door Manners

A lot of dogs get excited when a door is opened. This could be the front door to the house they live in or the door or tailgate of the car they are traveling in and they will rush headlong through it. This type of behaviour can lead to accidents and sometimes death. It can additionally be intimidating to anyone you may have coming to visit, especially if they are not comfortable with dogs.

The method I use for both car and house doors is identical to the way I have previously demonstrated with the dog crate.

In the following description I will share the method for a dog/puppy traveling in the boot of a car, however it’s the same method if it was traveling attached to a harness inside the car. The key is being able to give value to the inside of the car instead of the outside world.

Work in a similar manner as with the crate or the mat:

  1. Open the boot.
  2. Put the lead on your puppy and give a few pieces of food each time you open the boot.
  3. Play a game such as “Say Hello”, or “Sit” followed by “Say Hello”. Alternatively, you can also use a toy switching game or a short game of tug.
  4. By giving treats and playing games your puppy will learn not to associate the opening the boot of the car with jumping straight out of the car.
  5. Only allow the puppy to exit once it has been given its release word.

Another good practice is not stick to a routine, surprise your puppy. Open the boot, play and reward, close the boot again and drive a bit further without letting your puppy out of the car. Dogs and puppies can learn the routines very quickly, so not using the same routine helps stop the anticipation that opening the door is an invitation to jump out.

There are only two things that should have a fixed place in any routine, and these are always attaching the dogs lead at the start and always using of the release word when it’s OK to leave the car. Even if you are lifting your puppy out of the car, use the release command.

I teach a series of behaviours to my dogs before I release them such as “Sit” then “Say Hello”. As such they are anticipating sequence chained commands before being allowed out with their release command.

Always remember to be consistent with the release command. If the puppy jumps before you have given the release command, put the puppy back in the boot then play as you did before until your puppy settles. You need patience, but patience will pay in the long term.

The same points can be applied to the front door of you house so that your puppy does not learn to rush out as soon as the door is opened.


“Catch” encourages your puppy to focus on you as your puppy must really concentrate to catch the food. “Catch” also encourages your puppy to keep all 4 feet on the floor rather than jumping and helps to bring the proximity required for good heel work and loose lead walking practice.

You may think that “Catch” will encourage your puppy to jump but in fact the opposite is true in most cases. This is because you puppy concentrates on looking for the treat falling near to its mouth during the game.

I love this game for boisterous and excitable dogs and puppies that need to learn some self-control and focus.

As the name indicates, “Catch” involves your puppy catching a food treat that is being dropped. The important skill is in how the treat is dropped.  The treat should not be thrown at the puppy as this might encourage the puppy to jump. Instead, drop the treat just in front of your dog’s nose in a straight line.

 To play the “Catch” game:

  1. Try to have your hand roughly above your dog’s nose. Start quite low, too big a distance between your hand and your puppy’s nose may make the game difficult to start with.
  2. Drop the treat. This should fall right in front of your puppy’s nose.
  3. Your puppy should try to catch the treat.
  4. When your puppy is managing to catch the food, you can add the word “Catch” to the behaviour.

It is a difficult game for a young puppy to learn. Some puppies initially really struggle to catch the treats. If the puppy finds it too difficult and does not open its mouth use your clicker and click as soon as the puppy attempts to open his mouth to encourage the behaviour.

Safe emergency recalls with toys

Some puppies and dogs get over excited when you recall them with a tuggy. They lunge at the offered toy, grab it, and consequently end up swinging in the air. This is quite common in high drive dogs such a Border Collies or Malinois.

This is something I do not consider as safe behaviour either for you or for you puppy.

The trick to avoid this swing is to let the toy go as soon as you puppy grabs it. If you have a puppy that is enthusiastic for tugging it probably means that your puppy wants to tug with you anyway so your puppy will turn back to you to play with you. If this is not the case, you might want a longer rope at the end of the tuggy so that when you let the tuggy go you can grab the end of the rope on the floor, preventing your puppy from running away with the toy

Let’s Wait with Send Away

We are going to combine three of the games you taught to your puppy over the first four weeks of this course.

The First objective is to test that your puppy has understood some of the previous games whilst working in the “Wait” command. This time you will be “Sending Away” your puppy to the mat and asking your puppy to wait there. This contrasts with you moving away from your puppy.

This is also often a missing link in many training plans to teach a puppy to “Wait”. Puppies are often not comfortable to be separated from us, yet we ask them to wait. This game is helping your puppy to be more confident when it is a little distance away from you as it is the puppy’s decision to move away.

For this game, you need to have achieved the following first:

  • Your puppy should be able to sit on command.
  • You puppy should be able to go to its mat on command from a small distance (even just half a meter) – remember start small, make it a success.
  • You have started to work on “Wait”.

Now you are going to send your puppy to his mat, to ask it to “Sit” then to “Wait” and then you are going to return to your puppy:

  1. Locate yourself at a distance from the mat. This distance should only be as far as you know your puppy will be comfortable to go to the mat or raised bed.
  2. Ask your puppy to go to its mat.
  3. Once your puppy is on its mat, ask your puppy to sit. Do not use its name as you have been working on teaching your puppy to come to you when called.
  4. Ask your puppy to “Wait”.
  5. Slowly go back to your puppy.
  6. Click and Reward.
  7. Give the release command to stop the game.

You are now doing what we call “chaining behaviours”.  You are adding a chain of three behaviours that your puppy has learnt independently before rewarding your puppy.  It is magic, you are now starting to ask your puppy for more complex tasks, and it is still all part of a game. Well-done!

If you puppy is good at this game, you can

  • slowly increase the distance between you and the mat
  • slowly increase how long you make you puppy wait before going back to your puppy

Lead Walking – the inside turn

When you are walking your puppy on the lead against your left leg in the “Close” position, it is easy to turn clockwise as you are the centre of rotation and your puppy is turning around you. It’s much more difficult if you were to turn anticlockwise as you puppy ends up becoming the centre of the rotation.

To teach the anticlockwise turn when your puppy is the centre of the rotation:

  1. Start by doing some loose lead walking
  2. Ask your puppy to sit by your side
  3. As soon as your puppy is sitting, present a treat in front your puppy’s nose whilst turning around it toward the next direction you want to take.
  4. As soon as you are in position just invite your puppy to walk “Close”.

The overall manoeuvre should be slick; you should not be spending too much time with your puppy sitting.

I love my Crate – Angles

Just as for “Middle” if your puppy is enthusiastic to go to his crate, it is time to have fun and make your puppy become a problem solver by making the entries of the crate more difficult to find.

  1. Start to make the entry of the crate more difficult for your puppy to find by rotating the crate by 45 degrees so that the entry of the crate is not directly facing your puppy anymore
  2. When your puppy has no issue with 45 degrees, increase this to 90 degrees.
  3. With time you will be able to rotate the cage by 180 degrees

This is a great game that also teaches your puppy to think about the position of the entry to the crate.

Middle from an angle

If your puppy enjoys coming to you and is comfortable in the “Middle” position, it’s time to start to make the entry more difficult to challenge your puppy a little bit.

Make the entries to the “Middle” position a little bit more challenging every time by increasing the angle of where you are throwing the reward treat.

  1. Be patient; do not increase the angle too much too quickly. Start by throwing the luring food at 5 and 7 o’clock positions relative to where you are standing.
  2. Gradually increase the angles towards the 10 and 2 o’clock positions.
  3. Soon you will be able to face your puppy and your puppy will understand it has to go behind you to be able to get into the Middle position.
  4. Do not forget to give your release word when you want your puppy to leave the position.

Push and Reward anywhere

With time when your puppy has a strong value for the pot that you have been using for “Push”, you will find that you no longer need to reinforce the behaviour in the pot. You will be able to reward anywhere. Be careful to make the transition to rewarding anywhere slowly. Occasionally still reward in the pot so your puppy still finds value in doing the behaviour, but now start rewarding anywhere around the pot.

  1. Ask your puppy to push the pot.
  2. Throw the reward in any direction but not too far from the pot. Your puppy will go and take the treat.
  3. Ask your puppy to push the pot again. It should now return and push the bottom of the pot with its nose.
  4. Occasionally reward in the pot or your puppy will not see the value of pushing the pot anymore.
  5. Be patient. With time you will no longer need to reward in the pot.

Note: your puppy should not hesitate to go and push the pot.

Transfer the value and reward for the “Say Hello” to you

In everyday life every person you come across walking in the street or at the beach will not have clicker and treats in their hands to reward your puppy. What you realistically want is for your puppy to say hello to someone it may meet and then come back to and focus on you.

The foundation for this next stage is that your puppy must have developed a strong value for “Say Hello”. If you do not have the basic foundation, your puppy will start to take some shortcuts from the desired behaviour. As an example, your puppy may not touch the hand it was asked to but instead goes straight away to the treat, this is actually quite common.

If your puppy does not have a strong value for “Say Hello” please keep on reinforcing the “Say Hello” game as explained in the week 1 before moving to this stage.

If your puppy does have a strong value for “Say Hello”, the reward now does not need to be located in the “Say Hello” hand anymore: we are going to train your puppy to focus back on you.

  1. Ask your puppy to “Say Hello” to a friend of yours
  2. Click when your puppy does the behaviour
  3. Reward from your own hand: Your puppy will learn to turn its head back towards you and focus on you again.

If in the first few attempts your puppy is not looking back to you, gently tap your puppy on its shoulders and/or walk backward luring your puppy with a treat. In doing this your puppy will get attracted by your motion.

Not so good behaviours

Let us face it, it would be great to live in a world where all the dogs always behave perfectly, or should I say behave in the way we imagine as being perfect.

Dogs and puppies do not know what we think is a good behaviour. They will tend towards developing and reinforcing the behaviours that feel good to them. Unfortunately, what we may perceive as a not so good behaviour may be perceived by your puppy as a great one.

When we see our puppy exhibiting a not so good behaviour, we are conditioned as humans to use the word “No”, it has become instinctive for us to do this. Nearly everyone will say “No” to their puppy at some point.

In saying “No” to your puppy, you believe you are giving your puppy a clear indication to stop the behaviour, but you are omitting to communicate which behaviour you would like your puppy to offer instead. Essentially the puppy is being left to guess for itself what you want, instead of taking the chance to teach your puppy the behaviour you would like.

If you use “No” too often, your puppy may associate this sound with gaining your attention and that your puppy can use the not so good behaviour to get your attention. For some dogs and puppies, the word simply becomes meaningless altogether and is ignored.

For this exercise I would like you to think differently and start to become a problem solver. This is one of the most important skills that I hope you will take with you from this course.

The task that I would like to you do for this week is to consider the following:

  1. Think of a behaviour you perceive as not so good and the situation/environment that stimulates your puppy to exhibit this behaviour.
  2. Decide on the behaviour you would like your puppy to develop instead.
  3. Define a strategy of how you are going to teach this alternative behaviour to your puppy.
  4. Post your goal and your strategy on the Facebook group page. The strategy needs to be a complete end to end description of the steps to be taken. Please see the examples below.

An example of a poor strategy:

  • Not so good behaviour: My puppy barks at the postman.
  • What I want instead: I want my puppy not to bark at the postman.

This does not describe the strategy of achieving the goal; it just describes a negation of the previous behaviour.

An example of a good strategy:

  • Not so good behaviour: My puppy barks when the postman comes.
  • Want I want instead: I want my puppy to be lying calmly down on its raised bed when it hears the postman coming.
  • This is how I going to teach that to my puppy:
  • I am going to teach the “on you mat game” with a raised bed until my puppy really likes its mat.
  • I am going to move the raised bed as far away as possible from the door so my puppy does not hear the postman and I will give a filled Kong for entertainment when the postman is due to arrive (or I will give my puppy its breakfast), usually around 09:00 and 09:30.
  • I will start moving the mat to the location I would like my puppy to be usually between 09:00 and 09:30 and will continue giving the Kong.
  • I will start to give the Kong just as I see the postman arriving near to my door.
  • I will give the Kong when my puppy hears the letter box opening.
  • I will change from rewarding with the Kong to some small bits of food.
  • I will give a treat to my puppy when he goes on his own to the bed when he hears the letter box.