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Therapy Dogs Give Smart Training Tips

When our lovable furry friends are being naughty and mischievous our instant reaction is to shout “No!” or “Bad Dog!” but this rarely works. So below are 10 great training secrets from the Vancouver ecoVillage therapy dogs that will make it easier for you to get results.

1. Offer High-Value Rewards

There’s nothing wrong with a tummy rub, but they’re just not as rewarding as those coveted pepperoni bits or freeze-dried liver treats. You just need to find out what treat your dog loves when performing new or preferred behaviours. Just make certain that these treats are included in your dog’s daily food allotment, or you might end up with an overweight pooch on your hands.

2. Train in a Boring Environment

If you have ever tried to teach your dog something new at the park or while interacting with people, you probably found that it didn’t go as expected. This is simply because there is too much distraction. Therefore, when teaching your dog new behaviour, you’ll want to begin in a boring, non-distracting environ-ment – maybe a room inside your house with no toys, and with your dog on a leash.

3. Stop Yanking on the Leash

Are you walking your dog or is your dog walking you? If it’s the latter, forget about yanking on the leash as it won’t work. The reason for this is that dogs have an opposition reflex – you pull back, they’ll pull forward. In other words, if a dog pulls and gets to where it wants to go, the dog has been rewarded and will continue adopting this behaviour. So, what’s the solution? Head back inside for some walking on the leash time. After your dog has walked successfully next to you many times, advance to the backyard, then the front yard, then a few houses down, and so on.

4. Paws on the Floor

Everyone is a sucker for cute small dogs, and they’re just as happy to jump on us so that they can receive the attention we want to give them. It might seem rude, but it’s important to tell everyone that your dog comes into contact with that it is in training and they should only pay attention to it when it has settled down and has all four paws on the floor.

5. Stop Digging

Digging is a natural and fun activity for dogs – we just don’t enjoy it when they do so in our yards. The solution for dogs that love digging is to give them a place to do it. You can set up a sandbox or designated area where you encourage and reward your dog for digging. This will also keep them out of your flower patch or vegetable garden.

6. Teach Them Where to Poop

You’re a good dog owner and always have poop bags handy, but it’s still embarrassing when your dog leaves a parcel on your neighbour’s front lawn while they’re sitting on the front porch. Luckily, there’s a simple solution to this problem – just teach them where to poop. Guide your dog to an area where you want them to poop, wait a couple of minutes, and don’t play or speak with them. Allow them to sniff and carry out their business, and reward them heavily for eliminating by immediately giving them a treat.

7. Pet, Don’t Pat

Believe it or not, but dogs generally don’t like being patted on the head. Being patted on the head is a punishment for most dogs and the majority of them merely tolerate being patted on the head. You should try rubbing the side of your dog or behind their ears instead.

8. The Reward Must Equal the Joy

What type of reward is it if the command “Come!” is followed by going inside and being told to lie down? The reward simply has to equal the joy of the activity that your dog is leaving behind. For example, chasing cars is fun, especially for herding breeds, but since they’re not exactly herding sheep in a field, it’s not safe. Instead, pair your “come” command with a squeaky ball or toy and have your dog chase you. When they reach you, play tug for a minute and then let him have the ball.

9. Put an End to Begging

Teach your canine companion to go to their spot during mealtimes to prevent obnoxious barking or begging during dinner. Once your dog is in their place, you can give them some scratches and a treat. If your dog comes over to the table during dinner, just politely lure them back to their spot. Be consistent and you’ll get the results you require.

10. How to Play Nice with Others

Socialization skills are best taught during puppyhood, but regardless of their age, the experience has to be fun and not forced. Attaching positive associations is the best way to make new friends. If your dog loves tennis balls, reward social interaction with a quick game of fetch.

Photos (in order from top) - Vancouver ecoVillage Therapy Dogs:

Prince (Boxer Cross) - Nina Wood

Furgel (Terrier Cross) - John Tronco

Spock (Boston Terrier) - Sonali Nathwani

Stella (Sheepadoodle) - Syv Ritch

Did you find any of these smart training tips useful? What did you think about these stories? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your comments below and let us know!

Interested in Therapy Dog Training? Learn more


Our PET EVENTS focusing on Mental Health Wellness have proven that interacting with affectionate dogs can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, lower blood-pressure and even decrease the perception of pain. These petting sessions offer students and staff who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, the opportunity to increase socialization through interaction with dogs and people in a relaxing setting.


Do you have a gentle well-behaved dog who loves people and is nice to other dogs? You may want to find out about joining our Therapy Dog Program. Check our Requirements to see if you are a right match and contact us. Let's see whether your dog would be suitable to work as a Therapy Dog providing love and comfort to people in need in your community!


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