Back to Basics: Dog Training

by Nancy E. Hassel,

Back to basics.  Dog training.

I have this wonderful, smart, funny, goofy, super friendly and very vocal dog Cody.  He is about 2.5 years old or so, former shelter dog who was in the shelter for 6 months, who I adopted in April 2015.   He learns very quickly, it usually takes him about three times to get a new trick, command – which has amazed me since I adopted him.

Nearly every where we go, people absolutely love him, can’t get enough of him and make a big fuss over him.  I am not kidding, it’s almost ridiculous!  Almost.   A friend said to me once while we were on a walk, “It’s like we are walking with a celebrity,” because we were literally getting stopped by everyone we passed so they could say hello, or comment they had one just like him at home.

I love the fact that Cody is super friendly and loves everyone, all animals, is ‘bomb proof’ i.e. nothing phases him, he has no fear issues and takes everything in stride.

However, one of Cody’s most charming qualities, is also one of the most frustrating, which is how vocal and over the top excited he gets when I bring him places.  Like bringing him to a pet store or at a dog event – he cannot contain his excitement.


And while his charming vocal self landed him on‘s video (yay!):

Cody Dogster

It can be difficult while out and about or just trying to shop for a new dog toy or go to a pet event.

Now, I know a thing or two about dog training, and Cody has been incredible to train.  The problem is that because he gets so excited and when people hear the crazy noises he makes, they either egg him on to do more or just make such a fuss that he doesn’t stop.  He gets himself so over stimulated that his whole body turns red and his eyes bug out, tail is wagging non-stop and he jumps up to say hello.  And inevitably everyone takes out their phones to record his silliness.

But for me, it is exhausting and frustrating.  I tell him ‘off’ when he is jumping up and the majority of people say, “it’s ok, I don’t mind, my dog does the same thing.”   I tell them nicely that I am training him not to do that, you know not everyone wants an over excited 60lb dog jumping on them to say hi.

I got to the point of frustration, where I would just give up as the crowd around Cody’s noises and antics grew.  Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE that so many people love him and like to meet him, after all he is a Bluenose Pitbull Terrier (gasp!).  A breed ambassador, but really a dog ambassador – even some non-dog people who have met him fall for him.  So, I do love that.

Being that I am in the pet industry and like to take Cody to pet events as often as possible, but the over zealous excitement after almost two years has really become old.   If I can’t get him to calm down and just enjoy being out and about without being super overstimulated – it is not fun for either of us.

I want Cody to possibly be a dog model, (he has done one gig so far for Rubies Pet Costume shop), and get his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and maybe one day qualify as a therapy dog.  But right now he would not pass either test just because he gets so excited.

So what to do?  Go back to the basics of dog training.

What does that mean?  Well I met up with Frank Bonomo of Best Friends Dog Training, because he has known me for a long time now and I wanted him to tell me what I was doing wrong.  Not so much Cody.  The first thing Frank said, was “show me what you done with Cody, in respect to training, and what he can do.”  So I showed him that Cody could heel, sit/stay, and so forth.

So Frank observed me with Cody for a few rounds in the parking lot in front of a pet store.   He said, “Nancy you have to go back to basics, you obviously did a good job training him, but he needs those
basic structures again when you first started training him.”

He was right.  I needed to know what I was doing wrong, learn to get Cody focused on me, instead of all the exciting things around him like in a pet store (or people making a fuss).

Back to the basics, back to a proper leash, I have always prefered a 6-foot leather leash and I had Cody on a clothe lead for the last 8 months where I didn’t have as much control.

Back to a training collar, Cody has been on a martingale for the past 10 months – and while doing great on it – not the solution while re-training him on the basics especially in places he get over excited.   Frank said, “I have no doubt Cody will be back to a martingale or flat collar in no-time.”   And that my friends in dog training is always the goal to get your dog back to a flat collar or martingale, in my opinoin.  (Frank asked me if I did clicker training, I laughed, “nope just verbal praise, I would mess him up if I used a clicker, I would never get the timing right!”)

We took Cody into a pet store and I felt a little foolish, because really I was just letting him get away with being crazed before, letting my frustration get the better of me.  Cody did excellent with simple basic training, tons of positive reward for doing a good job, looking at me, heeling, paying attention to where we were walking and most of all not flipping out with excitement in the store.

This was all because Frank gave me pointers and also told me to stop talking to him as much.

As if,  me stop talking?  LOL, he was right!

I wasn’t giving Cody a chance to focus in on me by giving him so many verbal commands, and this I didn’t even realize I was doing until Frank pointed it out.

Maybe I was the one who was over zealous and vocal?  haha

Cody did great and was exhausted afterwards, you know all that mental stimulation of paying attention, listening and praise. Good boy!

Dog training, as I have said hundreds of times in the Responsible Dog Ownership Classes I used to teach, is lifelong.  We can easily get complacent and not put in the work, just like anything else in life.   And then wonder why our dogs are not being as good as they used to be or what has changed.  More often than not it is the pet parent, and not the dog.  I know this, have also said this a thousands of times, but I needed the reminder.

So in the last few days, Cody has been to Lowes, (yes the big hardware store, they are pet friendly), with me for training.  It did take me about 7 or 8 minutes of walking him around in front of the store to calm him down (new place, new smells), and get him to focus on me.  Once he did a sit/stay/look at me at the front entrance and walked in a very loose leash in a heel, we went on to the rest of the store.  Aisle by aisle, new smells (he particularly like the wood section the most!), new people, strange items – this was not a pet store!

He did excellent, and I was patient.  He said hello to about 10 different people and did NOT jump up at all. That alone was a huge accomplishment!

I have taken him to two different pet stores, again he did very good.  I also have a pocket full of treats, and he is very food motivated and while treats always help with him, I didn’t over treat him for every single thing either.  Verbal praise and petting is also a ‘treat’ reward, sometimes you don’t have treats with you!


He has also been on his regular walks in the park almost daily, but there is not as over the top excited, happy but not crazed.

This is all in less than a week.  Dog training, takes work, patience and sometimes something as simple as going back to the basics, will make all the difference in the world – for you and your dog.

I am excited to see Cody’s progress as the weeks go on.  For updates, you can follow Cody on his adventures on his Facebook or Instagram pages.  A big thanks to Frank for making me focus!

My advice if you think your dog is acting out or not behaving as good as he used, sometimes it’s you, but either way, contact and interview a few dog trainers to see who can help you and your dog.


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