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Training Help and Articles

Training Help
Peggy Swager has gathered below some of her Training Help information to help with common training issues and questions. Click on the title to view the Training and Help Information 

House Training Issues Aggression and Biting Issues
dog Leadership Techniques and Issues dog Shy and Nervous
dog Stubborn dog What is Upping the Steaks?



Help! My Dog Hates the Crate

Summary: Crates work great for transporting dogs to shows, especially if you have several dogs. Once at the show, the dog can safely be contained in this canine sanctuary...If your doesn’t like the crate, try using food to teach the dog to associate the crate with a...

A Nose for Trouble

Summary: several breeds are bred for a compact nose, including bulldog breeds, Pekinese, Pugs, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Boston Terriers, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This kind of a nose structure often creates a respiratory problem...
~2008 Finalist DWAA (Dog Writers Association of America)

More Info: Hope you enjoyed this article. This article uses what is known as "calming signals." In the book Training the Hard to Train Dog, you will find more information on calming signals, along with how to use massage to sooth a dog, in the chapter Nervous Nellies.

Building Confidence

Summary: ...judges look for a presence in the dog. That presence is communicated when the dog's head is up and the dog gaits boldly. However, a dog with a quieter, more reserved nature, can become overwhelmed in a show environment, preventing the dog from showing his better character. Likewise, in obedience, a dog that feels insecure may not be able to focus on commands, and in agility the dog may shut down all together.
More Info: Hope you enjoyed this article. In the book Training the Hard to Train Dog, you will find more information on working with dogs who need more confidence or who are insecure.

Dominant or Assertive Dog Part 1

Summary: One of the most confusing characteristics of the Jack Russell Terrier is the assertiveness of the dog. This is mistakenly tagged as canine dominance, even by experienced dog trainers. This error can create training disasters...
~2008 Finalist DWAA (Dog Writers Association of America)

More Info: More available in the book Training the Hard to Train Dog.

Dominant or Assertive Dog Part 2

Summary: of the best ways to understand the assertive nature of a dog is to look at how that nature is used by the dogs. Herding dogs are typically assertive. Take for example...
More Info: More information available in the book Training the Hard to Train Dog.

A Matter of Misunderstanding

Summary: Misunderstandings between dog and human cultures can create dog behavior problems. For example, submissive peeing is a miscommunication between dogs and owners. Dogs who submissively pee...
~2009 Nominee DWAA (Dog Writers Association of America)

More Info: More available in the book Training the Hard to Train Dog.

Prey Drive That Causes Biting Needs Special Training

Summary: Anytime a dog bites, especially if the dog breaks the skin, a dog owner has a good reason to be concerned. After this kind of an incident, a dog owner might ask him or herself several questions: Will this problem continue...
More Info: More information available in the book Training the Hard to Train Dog.

Shy or Abused?

Summary: The truth of the mater was that no man or woman ever beat the dog. Alexis' true problem was that she was extremely shy. Likewise, I'm willing to bet that the woman who adopted the dog she thought had been abused was also dealing with an extremely shy terrier.
~2009 Nominee DWAA (Dog Writers Association of America)

More Info: Hope you enjoyed this article. A lot of people have no idea what to do with shy, frightened, and dog who seem afraid of the world. In the book Training the Hard to Train Dog, the chapter on Nervous Nellies can help you with these kind of dogs.

The Overly Submissive Dog

Published by: AKC Gazette
Summary: This article was written about how to correct dogs who tend to submissively pee.  This task is extremely difficult since the dog views its submissive peeing as "don't hurt me".  This article shows how to correct it, and not to enforce the behavior.
~1st Place winner of DWAA (Dog Writers Association of America) Off Lead Special Award for Best Training Article, 2002.

More Info: Hope you enjoyed this article. It can be very frustrating when dogs have housetraining problems. In the book Training the Hard to Train Dog, you will find an entire chapter on housetraining issues including male marking, submissive peeing, housetraining regression, and greeting peeing.

Teaching Your Dog Who is Boss

Summary: ...a lot of people set out to show their dog who is boss. Some people refer to that process as taking on an alpha role, while others talk about becoming their dog's leader.

Dog Owner Questions and Author's Replies


Q:  Simba is about two years old. She loves people and has never bitten anyone. My problem is with other dogs. She is fine around my mother’s dogs, but she doesn’t seem to know how to play with other dogs. When I take Simba to the dog park, she cowers. She doesn’t bite, she is just scared of them.


A:  The ideal time to socialize a dog is when the dog is young. Once that dog is four months old, trying to introduce dogs or people to the dog, when the dog isn’t used to a diversity of both, becomes very tedious. Although Simba learned at an early age to feel comfortable with people, she missed her opportunity with other dogs.

When working to socialize a more timid and less secure dog, you need to structure the dog's contact with other dogs. Some dogs can bull over timid dogs. Those  aren't good ones to introduce your dog to right now, so don’t try and do this at the dog park. Instead, find people with dogs who have more mannerly play. Some dogs are good enough at play to gauge another dog's attitude. Seek out these kinds of dogs (and people knowledgeable about their dogs) to do your socialization.  Once your dog becomes comfortable with one new dog, and begins to play, then work to introduce another. Since this dog missed her socialization early on, you need to take things slowly at this time in your dog’s life to obtain success.


Help, now my dog is scared!

I have a 13 week old Pitbull. I was working on teaching him to lay down using a hot dog, and had some success. But shortly after a training session, the dog goes over a short distance and pees in the house. Since he is housetrained, I went over, grabbed his face, yelled “no” and pushed his nose in the stuff. After all, he needs to learn this is wrong. Now, when I tell him to lay down, he gets scared. Sometimes when I walk towards him, he gets scared. Now what do I do?


At the root of your problem is that you have a highly sensitive dog. What that means is that you need to throw out your old ideas on punitive training and adopt new ones. You need to drive all your training from the perspective of teaching the dog what you want in a positive mode, rather than reprimanding what you don’t want.

Some people will jump into an argument at this point that you were treat training, and isn’t that positive, and isn’t that enough? True, when you want something you are treat training, but when you don’t want something you try and use punishment to change unwanted behavior. With your dog, since the dog is sensitive, this doesn’t work at all. In fact, trying to use punishment or harsh reprimands will get you other unwanted behaviors, such as the one you are already seeing. In addition, you may have unintentionally done something that caused the dog to pee during your training.  If the dog was feeling a little stressed during your training session (did you raise your voice or get a bit short tempered, sensitive dogs sometimes react to emotions like that) then the dog may have felt stressed and peed afterwards as a result. Other things that can add stress in some training sessions is to do it too long. When the dog does it right once, reward and quit. Some breeds with too much repetition will think they did something wrong because you keep asking for a response over and over. Build up correct repetitions slowly, especially at this age.

As it is now, since you have used what the dog sees as too hard of a reprimand, the dog is deeming you a brute and someone to be avoided. Ironically, if you continue to reprimand the dog, he will get into other unwanted behaviors such as submissive peeing. As to how to handle the peeing issue you saw, first off you need to realize that 13 weeks is too young for a dog to be reliable with housetraining. You may want to look over some of the information on this website on housetraining recommendations. You will also find an article on submissive peeing, and a follow up article called “A Matter of Misunderstanding” which can help you understand the situation better. Both won award in the DWAA contest.



Pit bull question.
Hypothetical...and I AM NOT familiar with bully type breeds so....

If you have a GREAT APBT breeder or a breeder of any other bully breed that is supposed to have some animal aggression....would they be against selling to a household that already has dogs?

I know that in reality, people can lie...and they can get other dogs after they buy the bully....

but hypothetically, should it be a one pet household?



APBT aggression issues depend on several factors. The first is the dog's basic disposition. A good breeder works to breed dogs with a good disposition, leaving the dog with a genetic tendency to be less problematic around other dogs and other animals. Poor breeding practices by some have left us with Pits who have human aggression issues that even with a lot of training leaves the dog needing constantly monitored. The original breed was not people aggressive per say, but was keen about guarding the family which can also leave a door open for the dogs to act aggressive against humans unless adequately socialized.

The key to a well behaved pit bull is two fold. The first is to extensively socialize the dog, beginning when the dog is a puppy. You may need tune ups all throughout the dog’s life, depending on the individual, which means you take the dog around other animals and remind the dog how to behave. The second is to do structured training with the dog. A lot of dog owners do what can be called reactive training. That is where the dog does something you don’t like, you then yell at the dog and try and use punishment to convince the dog not to do that. What works well with Pits is to use positive, reward-based training. No yanking on a choke collar because many Pits are both highly sensitive and very relationship oriented. You need to train the dog in basic obedience, then teach the dog impulse control. You also need to teach the dog to respect you as the leader. That concept is discussed on the website under “Leadership Techniques and Issues.” So to answer the question can Pit Bulls or APBT get along with other dogs and other pets, yes. But only if you do the right kind of training starting when the animal is young, and show good leadership with the dog.


I have a 7 month boxer puppy, who when around other dogs, acts up. Jasper goes from seeming okay at first, but after a few seconds of sniffing, he starts to jump around and paw them. I think he’s just being playful, but other dogs don't like it. I can’t make him stop or behave around other dogs. As a background, Jasper socialized early. We even took him to a puppy class. Granted when he was young he did this to, but now that he is bigger, he is too hard to control. He also has taken up the habit of jumping about when guests come over and now he is beginning to grab at clothes. We take him to a bad room to leave him so he can calm down, but when he comes out, he goes right back at things.


Puppies are cute, cuddly, and most people and other dogs tolerate a lot of behaviors from young dogs. A puppy can run up to most people and be greeted with happy voices even if the puppy is bouncing all over the place. Ironically, just as people tolerate a lot of behaviors in puppies, so do mature dogs. Mature dogs give puppies what is called a puppy license. An older dog will let a puppy take away a bone. But around four to five months things change. The puppy is now an adolescent. Adolescents is a transition period to an adult. Adult dogs will not let an adolescent take away a bone. Likewise, people who enjoyed a puppy jumping all over them don’t like an older dog clobbering them.

Although taking a dog to a puppy class is a great way to socialize a dog and to begin training, it is only a start. Just as you don’t end you education after elementary school, your dog needs more training after puppy class. A good follow up class in one that focuses on teaching your dog good manners.  Make sure you locate a class that understand all the correct training for an adolescent dog. That training needs to include the correct way to act around other dogs and around people now that the dog is no longer a puppy. Some of those manners include:
* The dog must learn to sit and wait for permission before going to greet another dog.
* The dog must learn to sit and wait for permission before going to greet people.
* The dog must sit for petting, rather than jump on people.
* The dog must learn to focus on you rather than ignoring you and doing his own thing.
By teaching the dog these basics, you give the dog the structure the dog needs. Structure helps teach the dog what is and isn’t allows. With the right kind of training, you will see most of your problems disappear. As it is now, the biggest problem your dog has is that he doesn’t respect you as a leader, or for that matter, the dog has no respect for you at all. Feel free to read the information about leadership on this website to help you better understand what dogs want from their owners when it comes to leadership.


I have a German Shepherd female. Very good temperament but occasionally is randomly aggressive...

My dog is really a sweet dog, but I confused as to what is going on because twice now, she’s shown unexpected aggression toward people. The first time I had noticed Rosy’s aggression was after a boy played with my son. My son came inside but didn’t latch the door. Rosy pushed out, ran up to my son’s friend and began barking and growling. Then, Rosy grabbed the kid’s pants leg and dragged him around. Rosy didn’t want to let go. The second incident was with a man walking down the street. Rosy goes up to him as if every thing is fine. Then as the guy walks by, Rosy begins to bark at him. When he stops to see what is up, Rosy grabbed at his arm. We took Rosy to puppy class, so I know she is socialized. Sometimes she seems fine and other times she isn’t. Rosy knows good and well that I am the alpha. So why do we have these problems?



There are several reasons dogs will be aggressive. The most common reasons are fear aggression and dominance aggression. From what you have said, I suspect neither of these are in play. What it sounds like you are dealing with is a dog with a higher guarding drive (some people call this a defense drive). People raising German Shepherds to train the for police work or Schutzhund competitions look for and cherish this kind of a drive, because not all dogs will have this drive. But, the people who appreciate this drive also realize they need to do specific training so the dog uses this drive only when they want the dog to. Other people who have breeds that can have a guarding drive, such as German Shepherds and Rottweilers, will find this drive very problematic unless they adequately train the dog. To put it bluntly, your dog sees certain situations differently than other dogs. Without the correct training, the dog will act on her inborn urge to take action (her guarding drive), which is exactly what Rosy has been doing. Once the dog begins to take actions without "checking" with you first, the dog begins to make more and more decisions about when to act in a guarding manner.

To gain control of a dog with a higher guarding drive, you need to train the dog to "look to you" for guidance before the dog takes guarding action such as biting. The best time to intervene is when the dog begins to focus on someone or some situation. Often German Shepherds will stare before acting, as if they are sizing up the situation. Teaching a dog to focus on you is called the "watch" command. How to teach this is talked about more extensively in the book "Training the Hard to Train Dog." In addition, you need to teach the dog some impulse control (also covered in the book), so the dog learns to listen to you before she impulsively decides to take actions. Once you are armed with these tools, you can better work to help intervene with unwanted behaviors in your dog. With some dogs, intervening when the dog takes interest in the unwanted behavior will solve the problem. But, you need to intervene before the dog

commits to the aggressive action. With other dogs, you will need to expose the dog to a situation where the dog reacts, then redirect the dog to you doing multiple practices before the dog changes his or her habits. If you find you are not having success on your own, don’t hesitate to contact a dog trainer or behaviorist who understand the mechanics of working with guarding drive in dogs.

This kind of intense stare is often followed by the dog
taking guarding action.

The dog owner has redirected the dog's attention.
 Notice the dog is more relaxed.


I just adopted a Jack Russell (also known as Parson Russell) from the pound. They estimate the dog is three years old. My problem is that although I think this dog is trained, she won’t chase a ball. When I throw the ball, she goes back into her crate and won’t come out. Maybe she was abused--I’m not sure. I am willing to give her all the love she needs, but is there any way to get her to interact more with me?




Dear Jason:

You mentioned she won't chase a ball. Many dogs won't play until they get more comfortable with you. Also, many Jack Russells are behaviorally called soft dogs. That kind of dog has low tolerance for pressure and can't take scolding. I did an article for Dog World (Feb 2011 issue) on hard and soft dogs that explains more about soft dogs. They also have an online quiz to help better educate people about these dogs.

As for some of the training you need to do, you’ll find doing some leadership training will help build confidence in the dog, both in herself and in you. That confidence will help the dog feel comfortable. Since this is possibly a “soft” dog, be sure not to use any harsh reprimands. With soft dogs you need to work both your training and any reform of unwanted behaviors entirely from a positive position. There are several ways on how to to that in my book "Training the Hard to Train Dog." You can also learn how to deal with insecure dogs by reading the chapter called Nervous Nellies. That chapter has a lot of information you will need to better help this dog feel safe and secure with you and the rest of the world.

If you enjoyed reading these articles on dog training, then you should keep coming back because new dog training books, videos, articles and etc. are under way by Peggy Swager. You can also follow Peggy Swager's notes and experiences as she works with dog troubles in her dog training and dog topic blog Peggy Swager's blog or on her Facebook page

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