How To Introduce The Leash To Your Puppy For The First Time

How To Introduce The Leash To Your Puppy For The First Time

¨… So suddenly I hear a very weird noise, like a tornado galloping on four legs in my living room. I walk in and ¨Simba¨ is going crazy. She is running like a maniac and possessed like a poltergeist. What’s going on?! At first I thought my puppy was going crazy and I didn´t know what to do. She was going to destroy my house and probably injured herself. As soon as I could I put the leash on her to manage her behavior … but then she started bitting and chewing the leash and even jumping and going after me!. Gabriel I need help!¨

This is a story that I get quite often. And no, don´t worry your puppy is not crazy or possessed . It´s just pent up energy that your pup needs to release. By the way, cats do it too! Just in case you have a kitty and you´re wondering.

In any case, there are different ways to deal with this behavior. One of them is using a leash, but not if you haven’t introduced the leash to your puppy first. This blog is about how to do this.

If you wait to put a leash on your pup until he or she misbehaves or goes crazy, good chances are that you are either going to dial Pawmos 911 for help or start singing the Hakuna Matata while your pup is driving you nuts. Btw, Hakuna Matata works, I sing it all the time, and it´s cheaper than Pawmos 911;)

Anyways, your new puppy has no idea what a leash is. So how you handle the introduction might save you some time and headaches.

There are two ways I recommend on how to introduce the leash to your puppy.

The first is very easy and extremely simple. Wait until your puppy is tired or even half a sleep and put the leash on. While your puppy is still calm take it off. This is a very effective way to tell your little cutie that the leash means absolutely nothing. Do this several times during the day for several days. It’ll take you no more than 1 minute each time.

The second is to put the leash on your puppy when you are going to train him or her. For example: Go and get a treat or a toy. Put the leash on and tell your pup to come to you while holding the leash. Don’t pull the leash or drag him or her around. Just hold the leash ,show the treat and start moving away from him or her. Let your puppy follow you or even chase you a little bit while holding the leash. Give a treat here and there when she or he comes to you.

When you do this kind of training be gentle and don’t put to much excitement. Excitement and Leash are like oil and water.  It´s a bad mix!  Remember this for the rest of your doggy life:

Take a moment to think about it. It really doesn’t make sense to get your puppy all excited and then restrain him or her with a 3 foot leash. This is like telling a 6 year old kid that he or she  is going to Disney World before going to sleep. It´s just bad timing.

This is why you want your pup to associate the leash with calmness and not with excitement right from the beginning.

As your puppy grows bigger and cuter you will want to start learning how to communicate with the leash. To learn more about this click on this link: Leash communication 

But for now just make sure you start with the right foot instead of singing the Hakuna Matata later.

© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT,  March 5th, 2018

How To Teach Your Dog a Command

How To Teach Your Dog a Command

There are different ways to teach your dog commands. My preferred method is positive reinforcement or reward based techniques. Usually using food or toys.

This technique is under what I refer as conditioning and training. As I explained in previous blogs this is different from communicating and bonding. Conditioning and training is very effective at teaching your dog commands, but not so effective  at teaching your dog not to do things or changing behaviors, such as excesive barking, aggression, anxiety, fear etc. For more information on this please check out my previous blog : The Secret

Anyways, this is a simple but very effective formula of teaching your dog from simple commands like  come, sit, down to more complex ones such as go and grab me a drink from the refrigerator.

Reward Based Training or Positive Reinforcement  is divided into five steps: the craving, the command, he cue, the marker and the reward. This is the CCC Mr. formula (Craving, Command, Cue, Marker, Reward ) or the triple ¨C ¨Mr. formula

Let’s talk about each of these steps:

The craving: this is basically finding out what motivates your dog or what does your dog want. Most dogs want food or treats, some dogs want a ball, a toy, a moving object or a tug of war. Whatever it is, you’re going to use that craving to get your pups attention and teach him/her certain commands such as sit down, high five etc. If your dog does what you want he or she gets the reward. With repetition it becomes automatic.

The command: This is the word you want to use to teach a command. For example: ¨sit¨ or ¨sienta¨ if you want to do it in Spanish. The word or command should go before the cue, but only once you’re good with the cue and you are getting the behavior you’re trying to teach. This way your pup will associate the word with the behavior. Say the command no more than once or maybe twice.

The cue: this is the action or movement that you are going to do in order to get the behavior that you are trying to teach your dog. In this part you need to get creative in order to get the behavior you want. Here is an example: if you want your dog to sit down, move your hand with a treat  a little bit over his or her head and wait until he or she sits down. Usually that makes the trick. The cue in this case is moving your hand with the treat over your pups head.

For different behaviors you’ll have to learn different cues. This is the part where you can either use the help of a professional trainer or learn by trial and error to see what works for your pup. In this step you’re still silent, you don’t have to say the word or command again, you just have to make it happen.

The marker: as soon as your pup does what you want him or her to do you say ¨yes¨. You can also use a clicker instead if you are into clicker training.  The marker is telling your pup that he or she did what you wanted and the reward is coming. Which is different from the reward is here. What I mean by this is that when you say yes or you click the clicker wait one second and then give the treat. Don’t give it immediately. The marker is not the reward. The marker always comes before the reward. This is important.

The reward: Once your dog has done the behavior and you’ve used a marker by saying yes or clicked your clicker simply give him or her the reward. You can also say ¨good boy¨ or ¨good girl¨.

Now, be careful using  good boy or good girl. The reason why is because in my experience we use ¨good boy¨ or ¨good girl for¨ everything and it becomes completely meaningless to your dog.

As a matter of fact good boy or good girl most of the times means excitement. I see more often than not the following sequence: the owner asks for a command. The dog does a beautiful performance. The owner after the dog did the command gets  all excited and says GOOD GIRL! And the dog immediately misbehaves by jumping. Why? Because excitement creates excitement and excitement creates jumping. So be mindful with how you reward.

With this simple five step formula you can teach your pup pretty much anything.

Go and have fun with it!

© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT,  Feb 28th 2018

Is Leadership Important With Dogs?

Is Leadership Important With Dogs?

I will first start defining what I mean by leadership.

Leadership  means practicing awareness, self control, decision making and accountability when you have to. By that order!

I see leadership as a responsability, a service and a privilege, not an entitlement.

This is always true with dogs, although in appearance is not always true with humans. And I say in appearance because we humans sometimes get lost in the intricate game of power by manipulating or imposing our way, although this is simply because of lack of awareness. Our egos take over and we make a big mess. Dogs don’t have Egos.

Anyways, dogs don’t play that game. Dogs don’t listen to a leader, they listen to the energy behind the leader. This is a very important concept. It has to do with awareness. Being a leader is not a title that once you earn it you expect your dog to listen to you and respect you. If you are not up to the task, the privilege will be removed. Kind of like your drivers liscense. In a way, your dog will tell you if you’re connected to nature or to your phone! I’m guilty to 😉

Dogs live in the moment, so if at the moment you are not in control of yourself or aware of the environment around you, your pup will probably not listen to you. He or she will not trust nor respect you, no matter how much training and conditioning you ´ve worked on manipulating his or her behavior. But don’t worry, your dog will still love you though 🙂 They are truly amazing souls.

Anyways, when your dog is at high alert, tense or fixated, all the training and conditioning you’ve worked on goes down the drain if you don’t have the right relationship. And it´s precisely in these moments when you really want to make sure that your dog is going to listen to you. Think about this for a moment: If danger is coming and you need to make a decision, would you listen to your 7 year old son? Would you turn to look at him for direction? Of course not, because you are in charge. But guess what, if you are not in charge your son will not look up to you either. That’s just simply how it works. You don’t look up to someone who you don’t trust, respect or who is not in control.

I see this happening with dogs all the time. If you have it together, is at those moments when your pup will listen to you, because it´s at those moments when he or she really needs you and will look up to you for guidance.

In many ways we all need some kind of leadership or higher power to look up to when everything falls apart. I consider myself lucky that I always had my parents when I was in trouble. It´s funny that it was at those troubled moments when I was really paying attention and listening to them. And I’m not talking about listening to their words. My parents where not big in giving me advice and telling me what to do. I’m talking about listening to the trust, respect and love that they always delivered unconditionally. This is the kind of assets good leaders create. And this is the kind of leadership I’m talking about. It´s an unspoken language.

Leadership is not a skill, it´s a state of mind which you have to know how to turn it on and off. Good leaders are good followers too. Some times you lead sometimes you follow. Both are equally valuable and knowing when to do what makes a big difference.

You don’t have to prove leadership or stablish leadership. You provide leadership. Because if you have to prove it, this means you don’t have it. Its a calm and collected way of being, even when things go paired. Even when the worst fears show up. It´s a state of mind that allows you to be connected with your environment in a way that you are listening, observing and getting ready for the cakewalk. By the way, being calm doe not mean being slow. Calmness has nothing to do with speed.

Your presence and your guidance should be more powerful than the sources of stress . When you achieve that kind of leadership you can bring back your dog to calmness no matter how crazy or out of control the situation is around you. The key to achieve this is to remain calm and in control no matter how bad things get. It’s impossible to control a dog if you are not in control of yourself. You can restrain them with strength or tools, but that will only take care of liability which is a human problem  not of harmony and peace which is natures will.

It´s not about you, it´s about harmony.

© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT,  Feb 21st 2018

What is your dog thinking?

What is your dog thinking?

As a professional dog trainer and behaviorist I get a lot of very interesting stories from dog parents. For example:  ¨my dog knows what’s right,  but decides not to do it.¨ Or ¨My Dog is annoying me on purpose because I left him or her alone all morning in the crate. Kind of like a revenge.¨ Another common one is: ¨Since I had my human baby, my dog resents me and he/she had not been able to forgive me since, so he/she acts out all the time in revenge. I feel so guilty! ¨  Once I had a client stating that her dog had ghost phobia and was reacting to some kind of spirit. 

Now, I want to make clear that  I´m NOT here to say they are wrong. In fact, quite the opposite. My job is not to judge people, but to help them. I don´t go into people´s houses and tell them off or tell them what to do, I just tell them how.

In any case, these are just some examples. But the truth is that most of my clients create their own stories about what their dogs are thinking. It’s funny how this stories always work against them.  That’s why they call me! They create their own story and they truly believe them. So they become real.

One thing I know for myself is that I don’t  know what dogs think.  I’m not a psychic that reads dog’s mind. But my clients claim they do. And of course and funny enough they are right, but not in the way they think they are right. What this proves is that our mind creates our own reality and this has a powerful effect on the physical world around us. How do I know this? Because when I come and I change the story,  in most cases in less than 5 minutes the unwanted behavior is gone.

Let’s get clear that your dog doesn’t read your mind either, but they are experts at reading your state of mind. For example: if you are worried, there must be a problem. Your dog doesn’t know why you are worried or what the problem is but he or she will react accordingly. So if you want your dog to calm down and relax, but you are worried, guess what? It´s not gonna happen. 

I know, feeling worried is being compassionate and shows empathy. But your pup doesn’t know that those are the reasons why you are worried. He or she just knows that you are worried. Your pup also leaves in a human world with human rules which he or she doesn’t understand. If you are worried something really bad must be happening. And that’s exactly what your pup is reacting to. This is true with any state of mind you share with your dog: frustration, anger, guilt, insecurity, confusion, fear you name it. 

When we examine the nature of reality the startling new discoveries on science tells us how our mind creates our own reality. This realty becomes real and affects the world around us. You can call this however you want: energy, though vibrations, mind power, faith or obsession if you want. 

This kind of energy or mind power is always working, but it can work in your favor or against you. And this is especially accurate with dogs.

Usually the main problem here is to let go of the story you’re holding on to. This story is usually the outcome or consequence of guilt, anger, frustration, pride, confusion  or whatever it is that your are holding on to. Awareness and letting go are the first steps to change that story.  And believe me no one is going to be more honest than your dog. Dogs are egoless and they live in the present. What you see is what you get.  What you give is what you get back in return. 

So next time you are wondering what´s your dog thinking, maybe ask yourself the same question. Listen to your own answer. You might learn something new. I always do 😉 

© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT,  Feb 9th 2018

How To Calm Your Dog Down

How To Calm Your Dog Down

This is a big one!!

There are many different ways to calm your dog down. In my sessions I show different techniques and ways to calm dogs down, but no technique will work if you either overuse it or you are not in control of the energy behind it. On this blog I´ll focus on the concept behind it.

One of the most important and gentle ways to calm your dog down is to use boundaries and limits with things your pup gets really excited or have fixations with. This could be food, a ball, a specific toy, a person, another dog or animal, a bone, the tv, a rock, a moving light or simply a shadow. Dogs can get really creative here and sometimes the things which they get excited or fixated with can make no sense to you. This is because they are not humans, they´re dogs. So don’t worry, your dog is not crazy. 😉

I´ll start by being very clear on something: ¨when you establish a boundary you are taking control of situation so your pup can relax.¨

A boundary is not about imposing your way and taking it personal because you want to let your dog know who’s boss. A boundary is about putting your dog at ease. It´s a change of state of mind where your dog becomes your sate of mind instead of you becoming your dog´s state of mind or ignoring it because you can’t cope with it. Which is usually the case when I get 911


This is a very powerful tool/skill and it works like magic, but it´s not magic, there is knowledge behind it. Doing this will teach your dog self control, calm state of mind plus he or she will listen to you not to the food, treat or toy.

Below is an example of what this can look like so you can have a better understanding. And please bare with me here because this is the opposite of what most dog trainers do. Also very important, DO NOT do this if you don’t know what you are doing or without a professional. I use this blog to explain my concepts not for you to try my techniques. This would be like trying to learn to play tennis by reading a manual.

So here: Get some food or a tasty treat. Put it on the floor or a chair where your pup has access to it. Block your pup if she tries to get it and say the sound sht! or aah! aahh!  in a calm but confident manner. Make sure she doesn´t get the treat or food on the table. Keep blocking her until she relaxes and gives it up. Only remove the treat when she is calm and when she is OK with giving it up. The sound sht! will soon mean: look at me and calm down. You are establishing a boundary where you take control of situation and you put your dog at ease.

I know what you are going to ask now: ¨But when do I give my dog the treat????¨ Well, take a couple of breaths, relax, keep calm and keep going. The answer is: you don’t. Yes, I know that this doesn’t fulfill your needs, but this is not about your needs, it´s about your dog´s needs. It´s also not about conditioning and training your pup to do commands or tricks. I will write about how to do that too, I promise. I love doing that too and it´s a lot of fun, but people usually don’t call me because they want their dogs to do things, quite the opposite. They call me because they need their dogs not to do things.

So please go back to the part where you take a couple of breaths, you relax, you keep calm and keep going.

There are many other situations where you can reward your dog with a treat. What you need to understand here is that the boundary is the reward. There is no bigger reward than putting your dog at ease and teaching him or her self control. This has to do with ¨letting go¨ which I talked about in my previous Blog.

When you put boundaries and you really  follow through, your pup will gravitate towards you. It might seem anti intuitive to you, but that’s how it works.

When you do this the more physical you get, the harder your pup will fight back. So don’t restrain or get physical. Dogs don’t listen to you because you are stronger. They listen to you because you are in control, so they can trust you. No dog will trust someone that is out of control, frustrated, angry, hesitant or with lack of confidence. Think about it, would you?

I´ll finish reinforcing that the purpose of a boundary is not to impose your way with force but to calm your pup  down and following through with determination and confidence. It´s never a fight. It´s a calming exercise and process. Kind of like YOGA 😉


© Gabriel Riesco, Brooklyn, NY Jan 2018

The Secret: What’s the Difference Between A Well Trained Dog And Well Behaved Dog?

The Secret: What’s the Difference Between A Well Trained Dog And Well Behaved Dog?

“Difference between Training/Conditioning and Behavior”

Your dog can know 100 “cues”, “commands” and tricks and yet still have a lot of behavioral issues. This is an example of how all my clients emails start: “My dog is very sweet and smart, but ….”)

There is a big difference between Training/Conditioning and behavior. These two concepts are usually misunderstood or completely unknown even among some professional dog trainers.

Let’s start defining them:

1.-   Training / conditioning  means teaching your dog human language and cues to condition your dog to do certain commands like sit, stay, down etc – usually  with treats and positive reinforcement or sometimes with harsh punishment, which I do not recommend or support.
This is based on Classical Conditioning (Ivan Pavlov) and Operant Conditioning (B.F Skinner)

Classical conditioning is a type of learning that happens unconsciously. When you learn through classical conditioning, an automatic conditioned response (salivating) is paired with a specific stimulus (a “bell ring” followed by a tasty treat”)

Operant Conditioning is a method of learning that employs rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence (whether negative or positive) for that behavior.“If you do this : “sit”, you get this: “reward” or if you do this : ¨unwanted behavior¨ you get this: ¨punishment¨.

2.- Behavior Modification means to fade out or change unwanted behaviors. This is based on changing the state of mind of your dog. Using body language, energy and techniques that change the emotional response of your dog. What you accomplish here is basically three things:
1.A relationship with your dog. Who is the driver? Who is the parent?
2.The way you communicate with your dog: Body language and energy. Different from hand signals and treats.
3.The ability to change your pups state of mind or emotional response to triggers or environments.

I a nut shell Training/conditioning is great to teach your dog to DO things and behavior modification is best to teach your dog NOT to do things. The first is based on motivation and rewards the second is based on boundaries, self control and sound state of mind.

Any given human can have very sharpened skills or even be a genius at maths, law, or computer programming but still struggle with social behavior, boundaries, manners or simply adapting to an environment because they are not in a sound state of mind.
Acquiring a specific and sharpened skill doing something doesn´t mean you are social adaptable to an environment, in a healthy state of mind or emotionally sound.

A simpler way of seeing this is thinking of Behavior as social skills (Being in a controlled state of mind and emotionally sound) and thinking of training/conditioning as going to Harvard or MIT , where you can learn very specific skills.

You don´t need to be a genius to be successful with social behavior and you don´t need to be successful with social behavior to be a genius. You can have one, the other, both or none.

The one that will put you or your pup in trouble is the lack of social / behavioral skills. This has to do with Self Control, Respect and Boundaries.

In other words you are not going to go to jail because didn´t go to Yale, but you will go to jail if you destroy Yale.

Most of my clients have a done a lot of dog training/conditioning. They took their pups to obedience class or taught them a good amount of commands and skills like sit, stay, leave it, off, lay down, bring me etc  you name it. Yet they’re dogs are still aggressive, anxious, overexcited, compulsive, fearful etc which tra

The fact is that even after being successful at training all those commands, the pup is still having behavioral issues. Why? Because the lack of Self Control, the lack of clear boundaries and being in an out of controlled state of mind

There are several reasons for this:

1.Your Relationship with your dog. If your pup doesn’t view you as someone they can trust or as a decision maker then he/she will expect you to listen to him or her. An example of this is when I hear the dog owner saying:  ¨My dog only listens to me when he or she wants to¨ or ¨My dog only listens to me when I have a treat on my hand¨.

2. The fact that your dog learns the meaning of a certain human word  (ex: sit)  doesn’t mean that your pup is actually going to obey when you say so. The same way you can know the meaning of a Speed Limit Sign and yet you decide to drive faster 😉

3. Your pup learns to listen to your reward (treats, toys etc) not to you.

4. If your pup is in the wrong state of mind, no matter how much training and conditioning you´ve worked on, your pup wont´t listen. Any animal on fight/flight state of mind will not listen to anyone unless you force them. And forcing does not create acceptance it creates resistance.

Knowing when and how to use and integrate this two different approaches (Training/conditioning and Relationship / Bonding and Commnicating) is key in order to create and to maintain a harmonious relationship.

Usually when you want to add or teach a new behavior you use positive reinforcement (Conditioning and training) and when you want to remove a behavior you focus on changing the state of mind or emotional response of your dog with boundaries, limits and rules (Relationship, Bonding and Communicating).

© Gabriel Riesco, CT, re-edit November 2022