10 Things to Pay your Dog for

Rewarding your dogs random good behavior is a jumpstart to dog training.

Put your wallets away! We are not actually paying our dog with money, that would be silly. Unless, of course, you’re a Hollywood producer that is paying your animal actor, in that case pay up!

So many people say they prefer dogs over people. I’ve got a theory. Maybe it’s because when you hand a dog a piece of your chicken they become your best friend. However, with humans even when you’ve established you are best friends your best friend might question that friendship if you have tagged another friend in a “best friend” meme. That might have been hard to follow; my point is, dogs are simple. You don’t have to pay them with money, bonuses, or special “team-building” paintball trips. Food will do just fine. So, what do you pay your dog for? Doing your taxes? Um… no. Don’t be weird. Here are 10 things you can pay your dog for.





Letting you know things.

Now unfortunately this doesn’t mean your dog can secretly give you intel on what happened in the home when you were away. He’s not going to greet you at the door and let you know that your spouse ordered $17 worth of gourmet soaps on Amazon with your credit card. What your dog can let you know is if they have to go outside to eliminate, or that their water bowl needs refilling. When your dog gives you subtle hints instead of barking or throwing the entire water bowl halfway across the room, give them a cookie.


Chewing their bone.

Seems redundant to feed your dog for chewing a bone. It is. Good news your dog doesn’t know what redundant means and will probably just look at it as an awesome bonus from their awesome mom or dad! If they’re chewing their bone, they aren’t chewing your couch. Reward it. Your welcome.



Sittings cool. When our dogs sit it makes them look polite and sophisticated. Nobody ever paints a gentleman dog wearing a monocle while standing up, do they? Point proven. Pay up!


Laying down.

I know, I know. I wish I could get paid for laying down too. I used to think this one was ridiculous, until I saw my friends Pug walk across the table like it was nothing. Eh, I think I’d prefer it if that Pug was laying down, on the floor, instead of knocking coca-colas off the table for them to lay on the floor, and spill out.


Eliminating outside.

House-training can be a pain. Luckily, if we remember to pay up every once in a while, our dogs will happily do their business outside for years to come.


Playing with their toy.

YES, I KNOW I WANT TO GET PAID TO PLAY TOO!! We are all slowly figuring out where the term “lucky dog” comes from. Look at it this way, if your dog is playing with their toys, they aren’t playing with your shoes. Treats are $2. Converse are $60. Seems ridiculous to reward this but your bank account will thank me.


Resting on their bed.

Some people don’t want their pets on their furniture, some pets think you are the furniture. So, to avoid getting hair on that brand-new couch, or getting crushed by your 70-pound lap dog, you can pay your dog for resting on their own bed.


Looking at you.

Good thing about dogs is they don’t care if you’re wearing you $35 MAC foundation or that $14 Sephora blush. Dogs probably think we are funny looking all the time and so won’t judge you for the bed head and eye bags. When your dog looks at you it gives you the opportunity to give them directions. The more you pay up for this behavior the easier it will be to get your dog to do the things you want them to do in distracting environments.


Coming when called.

We all want our dogs to come when called. To make this behavior even stronger make sure you pay up. Your dog could be out sniffing out some good neighborhood gossip when you call them. Make sure you are more important by rewarding them when they come your way.


Having four paws on the floor.

This seems silly. Don’t they always have 4 paws on the floor? Why is the writer criticizing her own work? Calm down. Think of when our dogs don’t have four paws on the floor. When they jump up on us and furniture or when they are slowing being hijacked by aliens through a bright light that has cascaded down into your living room. So to stop the jumping and prevent an alien invasion reward your dog for having 4 paws on the ground. The state of human-kind as we know it depends on you!



When we pay our dogs for doing these things, we are avoiding unwanted behavior. If you pay your dog for doing things you want them to do, and ignoring things you don’t, you will see more good behavior in your home. A good way to start is to implement our 50-cookie-challenge into your home. So, stop all this reading mumbo-jumbo and start paying up!



Samantha Brown, Victoria Stilwell Graduate

Sam graduated with Distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Dog Training Academy.  While completing her studies she mentored under Tara. She is a Fear Free Certified Professional and is continuing to seek other ways to expand her knowledge base. Her background as a professional comedian compliments her skills as a trainer.  She volunteers at the local shelter and specializes in day training, kitty kindergarten, and class creation.

10 Ways to Properly Spoil the Dog

Did the dog trainer just give you permission to spoil your dog? YES, I did!  Clients often sheepishly tell me things they do as if I’m going to wag my finger at them and tell them they shouldn’t do certain things.  This is one thing that I really think sets Force Free trainers apart is that we don’t wag that finger at you or your dog.  We understand each of us “loves” our dog in different ways.  Some ways do help promote good behavior and others accidentally promote behavior we don’t want.  But, just like the reward is determined by the learner, the behavior we don’t want is determined by the dog’s family. By implementing a few changes, we can help them feel like royalty without creating a lot of that behavior we don’t want.  Here’s 10 ways you can properly spoil your dog.

Give Cookies When They Make You Laugh

Every day dogs do things that make us laugh.  Whether it’s chasing a leaf that is fluttering thru the air or laying like a dying cockroach, I get at least one good belly laugh from my dog’s behavior every single day. If your dog isn’t doing things that make you laugh, then you probably aren’t guilty of spoiling him. But if he does, give him a cookie when you get a good belly laugh from his behavior.  He’ll do more of it just to earn those cookies and less of those things that he is being judged for!

Give Really Good Cookies When They Come When You Call Them

Speaking of giving your dog cookies, treats, rewards, or whatever you want to call them… if you call your dog, don’t get stingy on this one.  Now is the time to lather on the spoiling.  Yummies, petting (if they enjoy it), and lots of happy words!  You can take this advice and use it for anything you really love for your dog to do like sitting instead of jumping, being quiet when they might otherwise bark, laying in their bed instead of chasing the playing kids, etc.

Really Get To Know Them

The best way to spoil someone is to take time to listen to them.  The same is true of our dogs.  Learning to really understand what they are saying to you and then showing them you understand will totally ROCK THEIR WORLD.  Not sure how to learn what your dog is saying you can always contact us or start with this amazing website.

Give Them Daily Walks and Let Them Sniff

Your yard might be big and they may have a bunch of toys out there, but getting a chance to check their facebook is not something dogs can do without you. So get them out of the house, down the block, and into areas they don’t normally go.  They will be able to find out what Fido is up to, what Chopper ate last night, and whether or not Rocky finally caught that squirrel.  Walks are great for exercise, but if you really want to spoil your dog let him sniff until his heart is content.

Buy Them Toys That Have Places For Food

Feeding toys, aka enrichment toys, are the best way to spoil your dog.  You will never be able to buy them all.  Some are expensive and very high tech and even require your dog to have his own tablet, while others are inexpensive and just require your dog to use his “smarts” and a little muscle to get to the food.  Don’t have a lot of leftover money, no worries.  We have you covered in our Two Broke Dogs series or empty food containers (egg cartons, cereal boxes, etc.) with a little kibble inside of them serve the same function.

Have a Family Game Night

Family game night with Fido? Yes, the whole family can be involved.  There are board games specifically designed for you to play with your dog and as an added bonus it helps them learn a few new skills.  Our favorites include: Funagle, Woof, and My Dog Can Do That.

Take Car Rides to Nowhere or Somewhere

Not all dogs like them, but some absolutely adore car rides.  For dogs that love car rides, a car ride to Starbuck’s for a Puppacino or Dunkin’ for a Doggie Donut is a real treat.  You don’t necessarily even have to take them anywhere, a car ride with the windows down enough for their little noses to pick up all those great scents in the world will make any dog feel extra special.  Those extra smells, sights, and sounds for dogs that enjoy these kinds of things can wear them out.  Added bonus, visit a park and go for a stroll. If your dog doesn’t enjoy car rides, we can help make them more enjoyable which will help you when you have no choice but to take them somewhere they need to go.

Take Them To New Places Often

Just like with car rides, new places are great options for spoiling your dog.  Don’t you love when you get to go to the new fancy restaurant that just opened in downtown? Good news, your dog doesn’t need the fancy restaurant. A simple change in the walking route or different hiking trail can be the cat’s meow, or in this case, the dog’s bark.  As a bonus you can pack a picnic, and sneak a little something in the basket for him.

Give Them A Special Place to Lay in Every Room (including the Kitchen)

In our classes and private training we teach a “go to mat” behavior which is for many people, go to your bed.  What better way to keep your pup out of trouble than teaching him that there is a special place for him to be no matter where you are in the house.  Buy him a comfy bed for every room and teach him this is his spot when you are busy in that room.  If you want to put some icing on the cake, you can add a yummy stuffed Kong when you need him to stay on the bed.  Give me a great snack and a comfy bed to rest and I’ll be your best friend!

Let Them Sleep With You

Everyone has their limits when it comes to dogs in their beds so I’m not saying you need to do that, but let them sleep in the same room with you.  It’s very comforting to know your loved ones are nearby.  If you aren’t opposed to a cuddle session, make it happen.  They won’t think they are in control if you let them have that space near you.  Just be sure you can politely ask them to “off” if you need them to.  After all, some nights you just need to stretch out, right?

Now that you know how to spoil your dog, GET TO IT, and tell those naysayers that the trainer said to!

Tara Houser, KPA-CTP, PMCT-2, CSAT, CDW

Tara is a certified trainer and behavior counselor.  She specializes in separation anxiety, thunderstorm and noise phobias, and aggression.  She has attended numerous workshops and professional animal training courses, and participated in obedience, agility, flyball, and nose work with her own dogs.  She has been training professionally since 2010.



Why am I holding a clicker?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a dog training class that used clicker training.

Ok that was silly. If your hand is up, put it down, this is just letters on a page and I can’t see you.

If you have ever been a part of a clicker training class you understand the first class can be confusing. Anywhere from 4-8 people and their dogs of different breeds and colors separated in a room. Every single person staring at the instructor and their demo dog, which may or may not be stuffed depending on the exercise. In each person’s hand is a clicker. If your dog sits when you ask, you “click” and then follow with a food treat. The instructor asks everyone to practice while they walk around to assist each student, and suddenly, clicks are heard all throughout the class. You hear reminders to keep hands out of treat bags, hold completely still, and depending on each dog’s noise tolerance where clickers should be held. Without a right rock star instructor like yours truly (yea, I’m vane), it can seem very militant if done correctly or if you’ve watched way too many horror movies like me it might seem like the beginnings of a cult.

Don’t worry it’s not that way at all. Most instructors who teach clicker training class are very good at making it totally fun. Think of this as learning sign language, facial expressions and body language are all integrated with the way your hands move. The clickers we use aren’t just training tools, they are a gateway into a new form of communication with your dog. A way for a human and dog to properly communicate. Consider it the Pilot of human-dog relations. The clicker is how we tell your dog what they are doing is exactly what we want them to do.

Why not use “good boy” or “yes”?

You definitely can. Some dogs prefer it over the sound of the clicker. However, these are words we might use in everyday life, and they can lose their effect. Also, using a verbal marker (the “good boy” or the “yes”) is typically delivered slower than a click decreasing the chances your dog is going to understand.

Is my dog going to automatically understand what the clicker means?

Just like a person from 1865 wouldn’t understand what a phone ring meant if they were suddenly surged into 2018, your dog won’t understand right away. Side note: I watch way too many movies. Good news, just like that 1865-time traveler we can easily teach your dog what the clicker means. We teach our dog that the clicker means a reward (yummy treat). The easiest way to do this is by clicking randomly throughout the day and then tossing treats in your dog’s direction. Do this at least 10 times a day for a week, the more the merrier. After the week is up your dog should be looking at you for treats when they hear the click. When you see them look to you, congratulations, you can now use the clicker as a training tool. This is a fun exercise to pair with our 50-cookie-challenge. The improvements you will see in your first week of clicker training and cookie challenging should make you hook on a treat pouch and head to class for the good ‘ole dog training cult class.

Samantha Brown, Victoria Stillwell Graduate

Sam graduated with Distinction from the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.  While completing her studies she mentored under Tara. She is a Fear Free Certified Professional and is continuing to seek other ways to expand her knowledge base. Her background as a professional comedian compliments her skills as a trainer.  She volunteers at the local shelter and specializes in day training, kitty kindergarten, and class creation.

How to Party with Your Dog

I had a few friends over to my house not long ago. Drinks were passed around, we sat on the couch discussing the recent Walking Dead, how my roommate met his girlfriend, and how I came to have 5 cats in my apartment. With each discussion, we pushed our stereo to the max. It wasn’t until I went to the kitchen to get refills that I realized maybe this wasn’t the best environment for my dog. I turned the radio down and went back into the living room to see my dog being roughly petted and posing for snapchat. When she was in her younger days Maddie, my dog, had been a party animal, going from person to person for affection and leftover snacks. She could find the sucker in the bunch and follow them around like a puppy dog (Ha! Get it? Because she is a dog! Oh, I’m clever).

Maddie’s cousin: TicTac

It’s been a good 5 years since her party days and I could see she was distressed. I only had 4 friends over, I didn’t think she’d be so bothered, but I could see it then. Before I got the chance to say anything and say my dog is not comfortable my phenomenal roommate stepped up. Most people wouldn’t describe their roommate as phenomenal. I could type for days about why he is, but for starters, every day I come home from work I debrief him on what happened during my day. How dog trainers train. Why shock collars are outdated. How I use Skinner and Pavlov’s methods to enhance my training. How dogs talk more with their bodies than with their mouths. The way dogs say “I’m distressed” with their bodies (whale eye, lip licks, tight mouth). Turns out he had been listening the entire time. I know… pretty phenomenal, right?
The best part, instead of telling our friends that they were torturing the dog without knowing it for a good snapchat story, he grabbed a handful of treats and threw one on the ground letting Maddie chase that instead of being on the couch with the crazy humans. He then looked at them and said watch this. He gave her the sit cue, she sat, he treated. He gave her the down cue, she laid down, he treated. He gave her the spin cue, she spun, he treated. They were in awe. One of them even snapchatted Maddie doing her spin. This gave me time to grab her a frozen treat and put her in her crate for a puppy break.
Forty-Five minutes later Maddie was out of the cage doing sits and downs and spins on her own accord to get treats. I pulled out her mat and showed them how I reinforce her for staying on it and continued our conversation about The Walking Dead, my roommate’s relationships and my 5 cats. The music was back down and my pup was happy.

Sometimes we forget to be responsible dog owners, by sharing my knowledge with my roommate my dog didn’t have to suffer my shortcomings that night. I would have never thought that showing off my dogs sit would be the highlight of the night but dang it if people aren’t impressed. I train all day, and when I get home sometimes it’s tough to muster up the strength to train a little more. That’s where roommates come in. We tend to think that if you bring home a puppy it’s 110% your responsibility. However, just like babies, shouldn’t it take a village?


The great thing about positive reinforcement training is you are not going to permanently damage your dog if you don’t know what you’re doing, although you might accidentally reinforce an unwanted behavior. My roommates treat delivery is awfully slow, and his marker words (yes, good girl, yeah) are a little disorganized but Maddie gets the gist and loves him to pieces. So, if you have people in the home, show them everything and get them involved. Use the village.

I now have my girlfriend working on the 50-cookie-challenge (with Maddie, the dog), while my roommate works on targeting (with Kylo, the kitten) and I don’t even have to share my paycheck with them.

What Kind of Teenager Were You? The Truth About Punishment.

What Kind of Teenager Were You?

In my family, there are three kids and we were each very different.  I was the Saint.  I always chose to behave to avoid getting into trouble.  My sister was Sneaky.  She would do things, but cover them up to avoid trouble.  My brother was the challenger.  He honestly didn’t care about mom’s wrath (not that she was all that bad).  We each had our own way of responding to potential punishment. Parents don’t mean for their children to learn to be sneaky, spiteful, and they surely don’t want to have a child be good for fear that they might get in trouble.  They want their children to behave because they taught them well.  They want them to behave to gain great privileges in life. And here’s the big one, they want them to behave because it makes them feel loved and respected (what many adult children eventually realize and hope to deliver).

What does this have to do with dogs?

Dogs are smart.  They figure things out quickly and it’s why punishment often times has unintended consequences. Now, I’m not going to tell you that your dog is sneaky, challenging you for the role of pack leader, or being a saint because of the use of punishment.  I’m just wanting you to understand that punishment has unintended consequences no matter the learner.  Yes, punishment often leads to a dog sneaking off to go potty somewhere else in the house, because they learned it upsets you when they potty inside.  Yes, punishment can lead a dog to appear to be challenging you when in reality they are just scared to death and defending themselves (which I’d like to state can spill into many unrelated areas).  Yes, punishment can stop behavior all together or ensure compliance to avoid punishment making your dog appear to be a saint.

The Good News

[su_pullquote]“The way to a dog’s heart is thru his senses.”[/su_pullquote] Just like our parents, or those of us with human children, we pet parents want our pets to behave because they love and respect us.  Too much of the time we expect them to come pre-programmed this way.  But just like human children and uh-um husbands, we have to teach them what we would like them to do and guide them lovingly away from the things we don’t want them to do.  You’ve heard the expression, the way to a man’s heart is thru his stomach.  Well, the way to a dog’s heart is thru his senses.  When we teach what we want with positive reinforcement and take time to explore the world with our dog doing things he enjoys, we ultimately gain a dog that behaves because he wants to “please us.”