• Halifax Humane Society

Ask the Animal Trainer

My dog seems to listen okay when we’re at home- he’ll come running right to me if I call him from another room or if I call

him for dinner time. It seems that when we’re at the park, he completely forgets how to listen to me; I can call him a million

times and he’ll totally ignore me, it can get really frustrating and even embarrassing having to yell for him at the dog

park. What can I do to get him to listen when we’re out of the


-Yelling in Eustis

Dear Yelling,

Establishing a strong recall can be hard in a vey distracting setting (like the dog park!), and your observation of how your

dog listens in the home vs. outside at the park is actually quite common among dog owners. A few things to consider when working on your dog’s recall should include your tone of voice

when calling your dog; do you sound happy and excited to see your dog? Or are you sounding frustrated and upset when calling for your pup to come to you? Your dog will likely not want to come easily if you are yelling angrily... would you happily come to someone angrily yelling at you? Also, do you have anything to offer your dog in return for coming when called? The park is a very exciting and enriching environment, and as dogs owners we

must work to make ourselves more exciting than said environment. Try to get into the habit of rewarding your dog with something high-value each time he comes to you, this way he learns

that coming when called is truly exciting as it always means you have something good for him. Eventually you can work to phase out treats, but you should still find ways to keep this behavior very rewarding in some other way that your dog enjoys. When working on your dog’s recall response, consider starting in a calmer environment such as your own yard before moving on to a more distracting setting like the park.

I just adopted a dog from my local shelter, and his paperwork said he can be destructive inside when left alone. I would like to crate train my new pup to keep him safe while I’m away;

I’ve got the crate all set up but my dog refuses to go in without me picking him up and putting him inside. He doesn’t seem to mind being in the crate once I get him in there, but I don’t

want to feel like I’m forcing him into what should be his safe space. How can I help my dog feel comfortable going into the crate by himself?

-Kenneling in Key West

Dear Kenneling,

I commend you for choosing crate training to keep your newly adopted dog safe while you’re out of the house! I’m also glad to hear that your pup doesn’t seem to mind being in the crate

once you get him in. When done correctly, crate training can provide a great sense of security to both the dog and the owner when direct supervision is not an option. It can, however, be

incredibly stressful for everyone involved to have to physically force any behavior from our pets- such as going into a crate or other confined space. Instead, try luring your dog into his crate by placing a few treats just outside of the crate’s opening. Allow your dog to eat the treats at his own pace, building his confidence in approaching the crate. Gradually move the treats further into the crate, while still allowing your dog to take them at his own pace. Once your dog can comfortably enter the crate on his own to retrieve the treats you’ve tossed in, you can pair a cue word to the exercise; try tossing the treats in and saying something

like “Kennel”, or “Load Up”. Repeat this process until your dog is comfortable walking all the way into the crate on his own, before closing the door to the crate. By giving your dog the

option to go into his crate, you’re teaching him that his kennel is a rewarding, safe place for him to be, which will help encourage him to enter the crate more willingly in the future when you leave the house.

I recently got my very first dog, who has been great for the most part with no major behavior issues so far. I would still really like to give her some basic training, and have been learning

about positive-reinforcement training which is definitely the right option for us... the only problem is that she does not care about treats at all. She’ll sometimes take chicken or string

cheese, but not very reliably. I really want to make positive-reinforcement work for us, but it seems almost impossible to find a treat my dog cares about. What can I do to motivate my pup?

-Disinterested in Destin

Dear Disinterested,

While it may make things a bit easier when a dog in training is very food motivated, it is not a requirement to make positive reinforcement training work! Reward-based training does not

always have to equal treat-based training. A reward in training can be just about anything your dog enjoys- this can include, but is not limited to, physical affection, verbal praise, or play time.

An exercise that may be helpful is to make a “Top 10 List” of things your dog enjoys... some examples may include “Having her ball thrown”, “Being told Good Girl!”, “Being invited onto

the couch for a cuddle”, or “Sniffing the flower patch next to our house”. All of the things listed here could be used as a reward during training! Each dog’s “Top 10 List” is different, so take the time to consider what your dog may have on hers, and then use her favorite things in lieu of treats during training!

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