Dog Leash Training: On Leash Greetings

The big question: Should I let my dog greet other dogs while on leash?

Whether you want your dog to greet other dogs while on leash is your decision.  If you want to learn how to walk your dog without pulling, it may be good to avoid leash greetings. Similarly to human parenting, there are many ways to raise a dog and most decisions come down to personal preference. We choose not to allow our dogs to greet others on leash, ever. Our choice is strictly for training purposes but there are many reasons that a handler may not want on-leash greetings. If you like on-leash greetings, consider these reasons next time a handler brushes past you and your dog (don’t take it personally!). If you don’t allow on leash greetings, you can hopefully refer to these reasons when explaining why you prefer to keep your dog away from others on leash.

What is an “on-leash greeting”?

An on-leash greeting is when two dogs come up to each other to sniff and say hi while still attached to the leash. This will generally happen when the dogs are out for a walk. On the other hand, off-leash greetings are when dogs are running around off leash and say hi to each other. In off-leash environments, it’s *generally* expected that dogs will greet each other so the following reasons do not apply to off-leash situations.

Puppy Socialization: How can a dog socialize without on-leash greetings?

Socialization is very important for dogs, but greeting every dog on the street is not necessary for proper socializing and can actually backfire. See here for our  puppy socialization checklist. Socialization includes proper play etiquette and friendliness to other dogs but ALSO covers proper behavior in a various circumstances.  Ignoring dogs while on leash is part of proper socialization – this skill teaches dogs to remain calm when other pups walk by.  It teaches dogs that not every second of the day is for playtime. Dogs can socialize with others at the park, at the beach, at home, on hikes….the list goes on.  A well socialized dog remains calm around other dogs while on-leash.

How can you teach your dog to ignore other dogs while on leash? How can you prevent your dog from pulling? 

Solution 1: Never let your dog greet other dogs while on leash.
Solution 2: When you walk by another dog, say “leave it.” As soon as your dog looks back at you, praise them and treat them.  Continue saying “leave it” each time you walk by other dogs and treating as soon as your dog looks up to you.
Solution 3: Train your dog to only say hi to other dogs when they are given the “ok” to do so.

Dog Leash Training: Here are 7 reasons why someone may not want on-leash greetings….

1. Training: Dogs are bad at contextualizing. They won’t understand why they are allowed to say hi sometimes but not other times. Even when we are with friends, we don’t let the dogs play until they are off leash. If a dog is trained to never greet other dogs off leash, it will never want to greet other dogs. If the dog is allowed to sometimes greet dogs on leash, then it will need a constant reminder not to get distracted when walking by other dogs.  Dogs who are allowed to greet other dogs on leash will actually be conditioned to think that it is ok to pull towards random dogs. This is our primary reason for avoiding on-leash greetings.
2. Bad on leash experiences: Bad on-leash experiences are the secondary reason that we don’t let our dogs greet others while on leash – we have had too many close calls of our dogs being bit by other dogs on leash who turned out to not be so “friendly” after all. The dogs may be “friendly” sometimes, but if they have any chance of snapping while on leash they shouldn’t be greeting other dogs. There is no reason to trust someone you don’t know who tells you that their dog is friendly while on-leash. Keep your dogs safe!
3. Working dogs: This is self explanatory. Task trained service dogs need to entirely ignore other dogs and should not be distracted.
4. Gotta keep moving: Can you imagine how long it would take if your dog stopped to say hi to every dog on a busy city street?
5. Don’t want to talk: Some people don’t want to stop and talk, that’s totally fine and ought to be respected. Humans don’t stop to say hi to all the strangers they pass on the street – dogs don’t need to either.
6. Dog is leash aggressive: Some handlers avoid on leash greetings because they know that their dog is not good at on-leash greetings. These responsible handlers avoid on-leash greetings to keep their dog and other dogs safe.
7. Dog is unpredictable: Some handlers avoid on-leash greetings because their dog is unpredictable with new dogs. Chances are, their dog will be fine but they don’t want to risk their dog being triggered by the interaction. An unpredictable dog may bite out of fear or aggression. Avoiding an on-leash greeting is the only way for them to responsibly retain 100% control of the situation.

Dos and Donts of Dog Leash Greetings:

DO: Ignore a dog that is waiting patiently outside a store for its human.

DONT: Come up to a tied dog and rile him up with a leash greeting or kissy noises. If that dog snaps or breaks its stay, it’ll be your fault that the dog got in trouble.

DO: continue walking down the street with your dog as if the other dog isn’t there.

DONT: Do acrobatics to force your dog onto an incoming dog. This mainly happens with a Flexi leash – handlers will go out of their way to let their dogs walk across the entire sidewalk to say hi. This is a blatant disrespect of space – We just step over the leash and keep walking.

DONT: Stare down an approaching team as they walk towards you and your dog. We notice that a lot of dog handlers will stop in their tracks and stare us down as we walk towards them while their dog pulls towards our pups at the end of its leash.

DONT: Stop in your tracks waiting for the approaching dog to get closer and then let your dog rush it (see above).

DONT: Assume that just because you stop at the crosswalk at the same time as another dog that its ok for the dogs to greet.

DONT: Come up behind a dog you don’t know with your dog. What if the dog doesn’t like being taken by surprise? What if the human doesn’t want to talk? What if the dog is reactive? What if the dog doesn’t like having it’s butt sniffed while on leash?

DO: Respect people’s space while they are walking their dog. Understand that the dogs have other times to socialize when not on-leash.

DO: Allow dogs to meet off-leash in an appropriate setting.

DO: Teach your dog to stay calm while walking by other dogs.

DONT: Allow your dogs to invade another dog’s space uninvited while on leash.

DONT: Assume that a dog is leash-friendly just because it is a particular breed that is “generally” friendly.

DONT: Be afraid to tell another handler that you are uncomfortable with their actions. You can say something like “sorry, we are training” or “sorry, I do not let my dog greet others while on leash”

*If you must……*

DO: If you are stopped somewhere and a dog/handler walks up to you, politely ask if it ok for the dogs to greet (we don’t recommend this but if you really feel a need to, make sure to ask first).

Remember R-E-S-P-E-C-T,
-Your Pal Cal

Socializing your Puppy? New Puppy Exposure & Socialization Checklist

8 week old golden retriever puppy in a box. Puppy announcement photo

Download the puppy exposure checklist below to be ready for your new dog! Early Puppy Exposure and Socialization is important for a well adjusted dog. Bringing home a new puppy home is a big deal – you suddenly become entirely responsible for a ball of fur that relies entirely on you for guidance. Now what? Puppy Socialization is our number one priority. Whether you are buying a puppy or adopting from a shelter, enjoy this checklist of what to socialize your new puppy to during those first few months. Please note; the word exposure refers to things like sounds and sights while socialization refers to interactions with people and dogs – we may accidentally use the words interchangeably in the case of this post as both are very important but there is a difference in the dog training world. We aren’t professional trainers so please always remember to check with professionals if you have any issues.

Download our full list of sounds & sights your puppy should be exposed to in the crucial socialization window
DOWNLOAD: Puppy Exposure Checklist

Socialization & Exposure with your new Puppy: New Puppy Checklist

There are varying puppy socialization and exposure methods, but we always raise our puppies to maximize exposure and desensitization. A sheltered puppy is more likely to turn into a poorly adapted adult. The risk of a poorly socialized dog has led us to expose our puppies to the outdoors from day one. Here are the guidelines that we choose to follow by the guidance of our vet and trainers:

  • We always speak to our vet prior to exposing our undervaccinated dogs to the city streets to make sure there haven’t been any recent parvo or disease outbreaks.
  • We keep the walks to clean streets and carry the dog in a bag for the remainder of the time.
  • We introduce our puppies to hundreds of humans and friendly vaccinated dogs as soon as we bring them home. Vaccinated dogs are least likely to be carriers of the diseases that are most dangerous to puppies.
  • We send our puppy to puppy day school and attend puppy playgroups in our area to allow our puppy to play with other dogs.
  • We introduce our puppy to all types of sounds, sights & surfaces

download the puppy socialization checklist. 8 week old golden retriever puppy in a box. Puppy announcement photo. Puppy wearing a crown and looking at the camera.

Why Socialize Your Puppy?

Luckily, animal behaviorists have already done extensive research on the benefits of early socialization. It is undeniable that puppies benefit from early exposure & socialization but the extent of exposure depends on how comfortable the handler is with the risks of the outside world. It is up to the handler to determine whether the low risk of disease is worth the unlimited benefits of socialization. Puppies with extensive early socialization become better adapted adults – they are more comfortable around new and unexpected things, and have a better grasp of social cues.

During the first few months of life, our dogs are eager to experience new things. Their brains are taking in and learning from every new experience. Scientists have determined that this socialization window closes by the time they reach around 16 weeks of age. Until then, they are shaped into their future selves with every interaction. Not convinced? read more on the benefits of early socialization in the links below.

Where to socialize your puppy in San Francisco: Puppy Playgroups and Puppy Training Classes in San Francisco

San Francisco has a lot of great options for socializing young puppies. A quick Google search will allow you to determine if these options are available near you. Check out new puppy training classes as well! Here are our favorite San Francisco puppy socials:

SF Puppy Prep
Bravo! Pup
Here, Doggy

golden retriever puppy in basket with a pink throw blanket. english cream golden

Off Leash Dog Training: How we taught our dog to walk nicely in the city

labrador retriever is standing off leash in the middle of a pathway of trees
Training your dog not to pull at the leash is a basic requirement for a harmonious relationship with your dog.  Leash training is a great way to work on your dog’s manners and the results are so worth it.  Off leash dog training is the next steps to take your training to the next level. If your dog is walking nicely next to you, you will feel AMAZING.
Picture this: you’re walking down the city streets surrounded by chaos, honking horns, barking dogs, lots of people. You look down to your left, and your dog is right there – not one step in front or one step behind you. It’s as if there was an invisible string connecting you. You feel his presence and warmth. He’s stopping with you, starting with you – he is part of your every move. It feels like you are in a movie scene where all the focus is on you and the rest of the sounds just fade away. 

Succeeding at off leash K9 training

If this is one of your training goals, then read on for what worked for us and how we trained this with professionals. For our family, training was our top goal – we live a busy, sometimes hectic life in a big city so our dogs need to be disciplined to stay in sync with us. Additionally, our dogs have certain service dog tasks that require them to be off leash at times. Achieving “off leash freedom” has no impact on whether or not you are a worthy dog owner. We like to add this disclaimer because we do not want people to feel guilty for not teaching their dogs certain behaviors, that is not our intention.  Every dog fits into its family in a different way and we each have different priorities for the relationship we have with our dog. Some dogs are meant to pull forward with momentum to help their handler. Drug dogs are supposed to be constantly looking for a new sniff. Some breeds excel at agility and others love to work.  Hunting dogs need to be able to go after a bird to bring it back. The list of potential things our dogs may do goes on and on, so the most important thing is setting up your individual goals.
We did work with professionals and are NOT trainers so please consult with professionals first. Additionally, unless your dog has a specific job that requires it to be off leash please check with leash laws in your area.
dog standing off leash in front of red trees

Off leash dog training: What we mean by “off leash”

 Off leash in this post means something different than a dog running around in a grassy field without a leash on- It doesn’t mean allowing the dog to do its own thing on the sidewalk. A wandering off leash dog may be under control but it is not under the same level of control as a dog that is stuck to your heel.  In this post, “off leash” is more of a concept that means that the dog is so in tune with its handler that it’s not clear that there is nothing physically connecting the two. Calvin ALWAYS wears a 9-12 inch traffic handle on his collar that is at arm’s length in case it needs to be held. Even with a long leash he stays at the heel so we prefer the 9-12 inch handle so we don’t have extra leash dangling at our side. We hold it most of the time, but not to keep him controlled.

Setting yourself up for success with OFF leash training – first make sure your dog is trained to walk perfectly while ON leash

This post assumes that the dog is already well trained and walking perfectly while ON leash. See our posts about cracking the walk and training with the gentle leader before this. Hopefully you can find some useful resources on our site about training your puppy.
  • 100% consistency and commitment: This type of goal isn’t like going to the gym after New Years because the truth is that it cannot be achieved without 100% consistency. The dog can’t ‘sometimes’ ignore other dogs on the street or ‘sometimes’ not chase birds.
  • Boundaries: This type of training goal isn’t for dogs that do not have boundaries with their handlers. In other words, dogs who run their home won’t be able to do this since they have no real reason to listen to their handler if they run the house (totally cool if that is the nature of your relationship with your dog but it won’t work for achieving this particular goal).
  • There are no shortcuts: A dog who doesn’t already heel perfectly while connected to a leash on a flat collar, wait at doorways, stop at crosswalks won’t be any better when there is no leash connecting you….In fact, they’ll walk right into the street. There’s no going from 0 to 60 overnight.
  • Patience: We NEVER thought this day would come. It wasn’t even our goal until we realized how we had already been setting Calvin up for success for months. At the end of the summer 2018 we noticed that he spent his leash time with his eyes glued to us and that’s when we realized all the things that had led us to that point. Here’s how….

dog wearing a red striped polo in the fall time

How we taught our dog to walk nicely

Again, this is how we were able to succeed with the help of professionals, but every dog is different and has different needs.

  1. A rock solid “leave it” with your dog – Ultimate success comes down to a solid, no treat “leave it” where the dog immediately redirects with eye contact after one command. We realized that this had been proofed when Calvin  began immediately looking to us when he saw interesting items on the street.
  2. Getting the dog to listen without treats – We used treats for things like sidewalk boundaries but weaned off of them once taught. Treats won’t keep your dog from bolting if they see something more awesome – Treats won’t work as bribery when something better comes along.  The training school we worked with abided by the policy that “leave it” and “heel” were non-negotiable proper behaviors, and therefore no treats.  This is what worked for us even though we respect that many people do it differently.
  3. Removing prey drive from the dog – Labs are hunting dogs. They LOVE birds. Can your dog walk through a flock of pigeons and keep their eyes focused on you without treats? That’s what will need to happen for this goal. As a puppy, Calvin once chased a bird at the beach almost to the parking lot. That was when we realized we had to train him to ignore his potential prey. There are birds all over the city….mice, rats, and squirrels are also not uncommon. Calvin’s purpose is not as a hunting dog, so there was no need for him to care about chasing potential prey.
  4. No on leash dog greetings – EVER. Literally Never. I’d like to keep it at that but I’ll elaborate. There are many, many reasons why someone would want to avoid having their dog greet other dogs while on leash – Reactivity, working service dog, needing to get somewhere….ect. Calvin is great with on-leash greetings when they are unwillingly forced upon us so our decision has nothing to do with behavior.  If your dog gets enough socialization time when at the park or in a play environment, it doesn’t need to stop and sniff everyone on the street. Dogs are not great generalizers (Calvin definitely isn’t) – they won’t understand why they need to ignore some dogs but not others. We made it our rule very early on to never allow on leash greetings so that Calvin would learn to absolutely ignore other dogs outside of playtime. If you are someone who gets offended when dog owners walk right past you and ignore your cute pup, don’t be offended. There are many personal reasons that people do not allow on leash greetings and a great pet peeve of ours is when we see strangers going out of their way to force the dogs to meet. A plus side of having a dog that ignores others when outside is that you can have lots of great walks with other Service Dog and Guide Dog handlers since both dogs can walk side by side entirely ignoring each other! We’ve had a great time getting to know members of our neighborhood this way. Your dog can’t be off leash if it runs up and rushes to other dogs….there are more reasons than we can count for why this but the biggest is common sense and decency. Your dog can’t be successful off leash if it thinks that walk time is socialization time.
  5. Human Greetings need an “OK” – The other day we were walking on the street and someone called out to Calvin. He looked at me first and the woman said “thats so cute your dog is asking for permission.” I gave Calvin the “OK” and he got some head scratches. We love sharing Calvin with ALL humans and as part of his therapy dog training we worked on only allowing him to say hi if given permission. We always give him permission for this but first he must wait for the “OK”. There are a few reasons this rule is so important. First, some people don’t like dogs coming up to them and that must be respected. Second, if your dog is off leash, its focus is on you, not others.  Imagine walking down the street and having your dog run off to bother a passerby. Nope. Not ok for this training goal.
  6. Off leash training the dog means no stepping ahead – If your dog walks ahead of you or ever tugs at the leash you aren’t ready to work on “off-leash”. First, the dog needs to be able to walk as if off leash while attached to the leash. That’s all I’m going to say about this.
  7. Sidewalk Boundaries – This is a necessary part of all training for Guide Dogs for the Blind but something that can be taught to others dogs as well. The dog must know where the sidewalk ends so they do not ever overstep into the street.
  8. Immediate stay, stop, go – Abrupt stops are very common: Driveways, crosswalks, crowds. There isn’t time for delay with these commands. If the dog is in tune with how you are walking, you won’t even need to say anything.  If necessary, they need to be able to immediately stop on command without walking ahead of you.
  9. The dog becomes your shadow, literally – He’s glued to my heel to the point where I can almost feel his warmth and that’s right where I like him. We know that many people have different leash expectations but for our big city purposes, a perfect heel is necessary.
  10. Teach the dog to go to the bathroom on command – Potty training a puppy already seems hard enough but teaching potty on command is super useful. If your dog can stop for potty whenever they want, this will disrupt the harmony you have while walking off leash. We have designated sniff and potty time when we go on walks but the rest of the time is back to the heel.
Our commitment to our “off leash” goal has been one of the most rewarding parts of our relationship with our dogs. We move together, make constant eye contact, and feel the rest of the world fade away while we are out on our walks. We get stopped at crosswalks at least once a day by people who have been watching us walk down the street. They’ll ask “HOW?” Hopefully some of our “rules to live by” will help you achieve your goals.
I only listen to mom though. Cheers!
Your Pal Cal
dog holding a red leash while wearing an orange and red bandana
labrador sitting while off leash in a striped red and white polo at stanford university

Come, Sit, Stay: Train Your Dog to “Stay”

dog doing the stay command while wearing a blue plaid dog bandana

Teach a Dog to Stay: Training Your Dog to Stay

Training your dog to stay reliably is a great way to enhance their training. You can start teaching a puppy to “stay” as soon as it comes home. Once your dog masters the “stay” command, it will be able to stay through distractions and for as long as you want. The “stay” command isn’t too glamorous but is one of our most frequently used commands. Today, we’re going to look into the “Stay” command and how we proofed it to teach our dogs to stay with distractions.  This post assumes that the dog already knows a basic sit, stay, come. We found that the hardest part about teaching stay is using it in the real world and extending it to long periods of time. We can practice “stay” at home but out in the real world it is important to proof the command around distractions and not have to be concerned that the dog may get up once we’ve told them to stay.

When To Use Stay

Stay is a versatile command – when mastered, it is useful everywhere and the dog knows not to move until released. Stay can be taught to mean different things, so we will only be sharing how we use it. We use stay to indicate to Calvin that we don’t want him to move until he has an “ok.”  Stay is generally taught with the handler walking away from the dog – but in reality, we only use that example when we fly at the airport. Our most common use for stay is for Calvin to plant himself wherever we ask, even if we are remaining next to him.
Here are some of the ways that we use “stay”: At pet friendly stores, Calvin will “stay” at my feet as I sift through racks of clothing without sniffing around or exploring. At the office, Calvin will “stay” under the desk until released.  At home or restaurants, Calvin will “stay” on his bed during human meals. At crosswalks, Calvin will “stay” in place until it’s time to move. Of course, we can’t forget that Calvin holds a “stay” for every photo we take. We weren’t as concerned with Calvin doing a “Down Stay” vs. a “Sit Stay” – we don’t really care if he’s sitting or lying down as long as he isn’t moving. The actual position is up to him, and we are ok with that. Everyone’s needs are different, so for some people this distinction is important.
photo of san francisco from the top of bernal heights off leash dog park
dog running with human down the hill

Teaching your dog to stay for a long time

Once you can walk away from your pup while they are holding a stay, it’s time to take the command to the next level.  The next level means your pup will only need to be told one time and you will be able to go about your activities (including leaving the room) without them moving.

What you need

  1. Understanding of the basic stay command with a release word
  2. A Mat or towel
  3. High value treats
  4. A leash

Get Started & Practice

You will start small but eventually build up endurance so that your pup can hold an indefinite stay.
Find a way to fit practice into your daily activities and use a mat or towel to indicate where your pup needs to stay. Some good times to practice are when you are getting ready in the morning, preparing food, or during human meals. Weave the practice into your daily life – If you have a consistent practice schedule, your pup will soon master the command.


When your dog breaks a stay, bring them back to their mat and repeat the command “stay.” Do not reward them if they have broken the stay. If you find that you need too many corrections, go back to holding the stay for a short period of time (1 minute). Another option is to use a leash to restrict the dog to a certain area so they cannot break the stay.
dog using the command stay in front of a city landscape

Build up training your dog to stay for a longer

You won’t be able to go from a basic stay to 30 minutes overnight. Practice in increments until the command is mastered. Start with holding a stay for 1 minute….then 5……10…..15 ect.

Master the “Stay” Command

Check off all these scenarios to proof your prolonged stay:
  1. Hold a stay in a pet friendly store around distractions, loud noises, and passersby
  2. Hold a stay for 45 minutes at home while the humans go about with their daily life
  3. Hold a stay at a restaurant (pet friendly patio)
  4. Hold a stay during human meals at home
  5. Hold a stay outside a coffee shop (make sure you can always keep an eye on your pet)
  6. Hold a stay for 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour
  7. Throw a toy or food around your dog while they are holding their stay
  8. Hold a stay on the street while other dogs walk by

Enjoy your stay
-Your Pal Cal

training a dog to stay with a city landscape behind him

FAQ: Gentle Leader Dog Training

the gentler leader and dog leash connected under the chin

Training Your Dog to Use the Gentle Leader Head Collar

The gentle leader head collar (GL) can be best described as a training collar used to reinforce proper leash walking and distraction training. The dog is able to fully open their mouth and therefore the gentle leader does not stop biting or barking. Even though it can be used for dogs with mild behavioral issues that is not its main purpose and will not help for major behavior issues. The gentle leader can be purchased on Amazon or any Pet Store (our dogs wear a size Medium). We have tried the gentle leader vs. the easy walk harness and decided we prefer the gentle leader for our dogs. Here are the most frequently asked questions about the Gentle Leader for dogs…

Does the gentle leader work for barking? Does he bite?
Nope! and Nope! The GL will not control an aggressive dog or a dog with major behavior issues.

How do you put a gentle leader on a dog?
The GL strap attach behind the ears. The loop goes over the snout. The leash attaches at the loop under the snout. Pulling on the leash tightens the snout strap and deters unwanted behavior.

Is the gentle leader a good tool for my dog? 
Dogs will respond differently to training tools so there’s no right answer to this question. The GL worked for us but we know that some people prefer other tools for training.

Why did you choose the gentle leader?
A few Reasons….but we would first like to preface that not all training methods work for every dog and that we respect different training choices.

Skin Irritation: the skin under Calvin’s armpits is the most sensitive part of his body. He has very little hair there and it is constantly getting infected even without his harness on. We have tried countless harnesses….hundreds of dollars later, only the GL keeps his skin from getting irritated.
Best Results: for US the GL had the best results out of all training tools we have tried. We were introduced to it by a professional trainer and have found that in San Francisco it is often the tool of choice because it does not hurt the dog but can be extremely effective. Within 4 weeks Calvin was able to pass the CGC test WITHOUT the GL.
Reinforce Boundaries: The GL allows us as handlers to reinforce boundaries. It is a reminder that he needs to look to us for guidance and cannot focus on the distractions around him.
Pressure off the Neck: We wanted to minimize any pressure on the neck and potential trachea issues. When a lab gets stubborn…they don’t care how much pressure is applied.

Which gentle leader do you use?
We use the PetSafe quick release in size Medium and the Comfort Trainer in size 3 . You can also search for a “Halti” or “Head Collar” these use loops instead of a plastic clips and are more heavy duty.

What are the top use cases for the gentle leader?
When used correctly, the gentle leader is great for teaching proper leash etiquette and perfecting the leave it command. As a result, the dog is more focused while waiting for its handlers next directions.

How do you train with the gentle leader?
Like all training tools, the gentle leader does not automatically fix behavior. Rather, it is a tool that should be used to enforce proper behavior. The gentle leader is used with a leash correction – when the dog walks ahead or is fixated on a distraction, quickly pop the leash towards you with your correction word. The leash pop in your direction refocuses the dog’s attention towards you (the handler). This reinforces that the dog does not have the autonomy to pull at the leash or stay focused on a distraction – rather they should always be checking in with their handler. Focusing on thei handler is now a non-negotiable behavior!
Our walking etiquette command is “heel” + leash pop as soon as Calvin takes more than 2 steps ahead of us. Our distraction command is “leave it” + leash pop. Give the dog a chance to correct themselves before popping the leash. With time you will find that you no longer need the correction, just the command. Without using a correction and word, the dog will be confused as to why they are being corrected.

How long do you need to use it for good results?
We saw significant results after one month, and then continue to see better behavior everytime we use it. Now, we use the GL for 50% of outings, at the airport, and the office. During evaluations, like the Canine Good Citizen Test, dogs are not allowed to use any training tools.  After one month, Calvin was able to pass without using the GL.

How do you get your dog comfortable with the gentle  leader? Does he like it?
The answer is no….your dog won’t like the GL. He may become indifferent to it but if asked to choose, no dog would choose the GL! The truth is, dogs don’t like giving up control and that is precisely what the GL does. It took a few weeks for Calvin to stop pawing at his face but he eventually did. Sometimes, he will still rub his snout on things. People who use the GL will agree that it’s not always about what the dog wants, but what is best for structure, training and good behavior. A dog that is allowed to do whatever it wants and pull at the leash is still a great dog but it’s a dog who runs its household.

How do you size the gentle leader?
Like a harness, the GL is fully adjustable. Our dogs wear a Gentle Leader size Medium. Ideally, you should be able to fit two fingers behind the head strap and the snout loop should be lose enough to slide to the tip of the nose without being able to fully slide off.

Can he still open his mouth?
If your GL is sized correctly, the dog should be able to entirely open their mouth, hold balls, and pant.

Do you get weird looks outside?
Everyday…but the GL has been getting more popular. We like to joke that you can tell how dog friendly a town is by how many people are familiar with the gentle leader. Lucky for you, it’s no one’s business what training tool you use or how much you choose to train your dog. As our social media account has grown, we get a lot of comments about how we should do things. Dog raising, kid raising, and life in general is no one’s business so just do whatever works best for you. We choose the GL and dog training is important to our lifestyle but entirely understand that some people do not prioritize the same things. You do you!

Do people stop you less on the street?
Yep! Calvin socializes with humans and other dogs all day long. He meets up with friends at the park and beach – on the street, we actually prefer being able to go about with our life without constant stoping. We do not let Calvin have on leash greetings, and he has learned to ignore when strangers call out to him if we tell him to leave it. All of these learned behaviors are thanks to the GL! The added benefit is that that GL does make people less likely to approach your dog, so it becomes easier to teach the dog how to ignore crowds and other dogs!

How do you explain the gentle leader to strangers?
We tell strangers that GL is a training tool best used for leash etiquette and pulling. It does not have to do with barking or biting and he is as friendly as they come.

How do you educate people when they ask “Does he bite”?
“Nope, never….but he could if he wanted!” Is our go to joke and then we will show them how Calvin’s mouth can open all the way with the GL on. If the stranger is being particularly rude, we do not entertain them with our time and just say “no” and walk away. Don’t put up with rudeness about how you choose to train your dog!
the gentle leader is great for dog training. the gentle leader is different from the easy walk harness.
Good Luck with the GL
-Your Pal Cal

Impulse Control Dog Training: Teach your dog to “Wait” and “Leave it”

Impulse Control Dog Training

Leave it and wait dog training is very important for a well trained dog with impulse control. Impulse dog training is important for safety and harmony. Teaching impulse control to a puppy is challenging!

One of Calvin’s most reliable commands is “Wait” – wait at doors, wait before entering the elevator, wait before eating, wait before taking a treat.  Building up the wait command takes a very long time.  It wasn’t until about a year that Calvin could reliably hold 10 slices of bacon on his face without moving a muscle.  We can now leave his food bowl in front of him, leave the room for 5 minutes and he will still be waiting patiently (ok…impatiently) when we get back.  This command is great for impulse control, and one of our most used commands.

Training your dog to Leave It vs Wait

Teaching a dog to leave it similar to teaching a dog to wait, but not exactly the same. There is a small but important distinction between the way we taught the “wait” and “leave it” commands. “Wait” means don’t touch it or move until told.  “Leave it” means don’t touch it or look at it. Ever. With “leave it” the dog learns that the command is final and they should just forget about whatever it is they are focused on.  With “wait” they will eventually be released and given an ok.  This is an important distinction to make because if your pup thinks that “leave it” means they will eventually be allowed to grab….a chicken bone off the ground….they will remain fixated on it and will be more likely to grab it when you turn around.

Start Small

We started teaching wait the day we brought Calvin home – he has always been expected to wait before eating his food.  This is a very common command, but needs to be generalized if you want your pup to be able to hold treats on their nose.  You’ll have to start with one second..and then build up to more time.  With the food bowl, we covered the bowl with our hands until he moved away from it.  If we released our hand and he would go for the food, we would cover the bowl again and say “wait”. It is common for the dog to paw your hands here and we had many scratches to prove it. We repeated this until he could wait a few seconds before digging in.

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Build Up

After a few weeks of waiting to dig into food, we started introducing “wait” with treats and waiting longer before starting to eat meals (Calvin was about 3 months old).  We started with just one treat on the ground in front of him (not on his paws yet!). We covered the treat with our hands and said “wait.”  Again, It is common for the dog to paw your hands here but don’t let them think that they can paw their way to what they want. Once the dog is done pawing and has calmed down, you can lift your hands and let them have the treat.  Once they learn to stop pawing at your hand as a first instinct, you can slowly lift your hands up a little bit off the ground and say “wait.” They will be able to see the treats but won’t be allowed to have them yet.  Let them have the treat with an “ok” and repeat the process – as the dog gets more comfortable you can lift your hand up higher above the treats.  Eventually you will be able to use the word “wait” and “ok” as the command and release while the treats aren’t covered by your hands.  For the first few months, you will have to be ready to cover up the food or treats to reinforce that “wait” means no yummies until told.  Another tip is to wait until the dog looks at you to release them – that way you know your dog is looking to you for direction instead of just focusing on the treat.  Once the dog understands the general concept, don’t let them have the treat until they check in with you and make eye contact.

Next up: when you dog has mastered waiting while the treat is in front of them, you can try putting the treat on their paws.  Be prepared to swoop in and cover the treat if they try to go for it.  Repeat the process on their nose or any other place you want to have them hold a treat.  If the treat drops on the ground, grab it before they can so they do not think that they can break the “wait.”  Eventually, you will be able to command your dog to wait no matter how close the food is to their face.  This process takes time to master so be patient.


dog sitting with a pile of cheeseburgers from inn and out

Have a release word for your dog

We use the word “ok” as the release word.  Other words we’ve heard used are “release”, “free”, “go.” To make sure your dog understands the release word and isn’t just responding to random words, you can test out words and make sure your pup only digs in when they hear the “ok.” We like to say a string of words that are similar to “ok” so that Calvin knows that the only word that releases him is “ok,” no matter how similar other words may sound.

Reward your dog during training sessions

Luckily, “wait” is easy to reward.  The reward is being released! For “leave it”, we personally do not use rewards.  We consider “leave it” to be a non-negotiable command (our other non-negotiables are loose leash walking and “stay”).  Our decision not to use treats for “leave it” is a personal choice that works best for Calvin.  Sometimes, Calvin is too clever for his own good – “leave it” for a treat is cool most of the time, but when there’s a yummy bird, or something more exciting than a treat, he prefers the distraction to the treat. When we realized this, we turned “leave it” into a non-negotiable command and used the gentle leader to pull his head away from the distraction (and towards us) when he was too fixated on something.  Over time, “leave it” came to mean, “look at me. No ifs or buts.” This took time but we have found him to be a lot more consistent in the long run than when we used treats.

Patience is a virtue,
-Your Pal Cal

Heel Training: Training Your Dog to Walk Nicely on a Leash


dog sitting in front of a letter board sign while wearing glasses

labrador dog sitting in front of a letter board sign


Walking your dog on leash at a heel does not have to be a constant battle.  In fact, with a few simple steps you can teach your dog to stop pulling on the leash and walk nicely at a heel.  Teaching your dog to heel while on the leash will help eliminate the tension of them walking ahead of you. We have found some pointers effective for teaching our dogs to walk on leash without pulling and would like to share them!

Are you walking the dog, or is the dog walking you? For many, this is the hardest nut to crack.  Luckily, there are many training tools that can help you master the walk. The process is very long, and may even take up to a year! With consistency & persistence, even the most distracted pups can learn to move with you. Please note, we are not professionals in any way and we highly recommend that you work with a professional about your particular issues.  We are sharing our experience but this may not work for everyone. 

How do you know if your dog is walking nicely on leash?

Dogs are curious creatures – they love to sniff, they love to look at birds, and they love distractions.  Each time they get sidetracked, they are signaling that you no longer have their attention.  While on walks, you ought to be seen as the your dog’s role model.  Your dog can do their business, sniff a thing or two, but they don’t need to stop and sniff every few minutes.  You (the human) have places to go! Places to be! On the ideal walk, your pup remains focused on you as much as possible.  They walk by your side (on a flat!), and look to you for guidance whenever they hear a loud noise, see a distraction ect. A great goal to work towards is to be able to achieve this all with a handsfree leash!

Choose your training tool for leash training your dog

We tried a few training tools before we found the best one for our needs.  Our tool of choice ended up being the gentle leader which has now transitioned into the martingale collar.  This allowed Calvin to know when he had walked too far without putting any strain on his neck or hurting him.  Please investigate pain free training tools available to decide which you think would be best for your needs.  It is important to note that training tools are just TOOLS, they must be used with some sort of positive reinforcement to ensure that your dog understands what behavior you want from them.  With the gentle leader, the first “correction” we used was just stopping in our tracks every time Calvin got ahead.  Sometimes, we would pull the leash just one quick time (be gentle, don’t hurt!). Now, we use the word “nu uh” to let Calvin know when he has walked too far and he corrects himself.  Be sure to praise your pup when they do the right thing – treats can work great, but for us, Calvin responds a lot better to praise and “yes” to know when he has done something great. Treats actually make him more excited and likely to pull ahead after he has popped one in his mouth.  Lucky for us that keeps the weight off since praise is enough for him.

Practice, practice, practice

There’s no trick – new behaviors take a LONG time to learn especially if your dog has been wired to behave a certain way.  It’ll take a lot of practice to rewire them to walk the way you’d like.  This means endless hours, maybe some tears, and potentially a lot of frustration.  If you are aiming for the ideal walk, you may be looking into almost a year of practice.  Even though Calvin now knows what we expect of him during walks, there are times where we need to remind him that he has gone “too far.” We expect this process to continue for at least a year before he is near-perfect in all situations.

Don’t allow failure

This is the hardest part because it can take FOREVER to get places.  When we committed to fixing Calvin’s walking on leash we began with very short walks to ensure that he didn’t fail.  It once took us a whole hour to walk a few blocks.  Every time that you allow your dog to step in front of you, you are reinforcing that they are allowed to do so.

Don’t let your dog pull on the leash: Walking is non-negotiable

We followed the non-negotiable mentality on the walk.  It was all or nothing and Calvin could not make the decisions on his walks.  To go on a walk, he was expected to walk by our side and check in with us.  After TWO MONTHS of our non-negotiable attitude towards walk and support from our trainers, we have a dog that walks on our side on a flat collar and self corrects if he walks too far ahead.

Start transitioning away from the training tool

Once your dog understands how to walk using the training tool, start transitioning to a martingale collar.  This collar will tighten itself as the dog gets ahead letting him know he has gone too far.  If your dog is having a bad day, stick to the gentle leader so they can have a successful walk.

Pre-empt exciting situations and set your dog up for success

We have transitioned 85% of the time to the martingale/flat collar and the other 15% we use the gentle leader.  The gentle leader is kept for exciting situations such as the beach, waterfront walks, the airport, or if Calvin is having an off day.  As a rule, he has stopped pulling but will sometimes forget if he is in a very stimulating environment.  To not undo any training, if we pre-empt an exciting walk, we use the gentle leader.  Even though we will start with the gentle leader, if he is being calm in the exciting situation, we finish the walk on the flat collar.

Persistence & Patience,
Your Pal Cal

calvin the dog sitting in front of a felt letter board sign

How to Pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test

How do you prepare your dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test?

Passing the Canine Good Citizen Test – Preparing Your Dog

Preparing your dog to pass the CGC Canine Good Citizen Test doesn’t have to break the bank or run your patience.  Review all the Canine Good Citizen test items to be best prepared. The unique challenge of the CGC test is that it is taken on a flat collar with absolutely no treats. It consists of ten steps and successful completion of each one is required. Completion of the test is considered the gold standard of pet ownership. Successful completion indicates that your pet is under your control and recognizes you are the authority figure of your pack. Luckily, with a little bit of practice you can get your pet ready to pass. Training for this test can be frustrating and may be a long process depending on how much your pup needs to learn – you can do it! Don’t worry if your dog is having a bad day – you can retake the test as many times as you want! Note: you do not have to be AKC registered to be an AKC Canine Good Citizen – any dog of any breed can succeed and get CGC certified.

What are the requirements for the Canine Good Citizen test? CGC Test Items:

Why test basic obedience with the CGC test?

The AKC considers this test an indicator of a well behaved dog (see their page here). Everyone thinks they have the best dog, and they are right – all dogs are great but that does not mean they are able to adapt to new situations & consistently follow directions. This test is a very honest and objective evaluation of your dog’s behavior and is a great indication of what skills you can continue to work on. CGC certification is required for therapy dog programs but we strongly believe that it should be a requirement for all service and ESA work as well – does an ill behaved dog really provide a service to help its handler? (some may disagree but that is our take on the matter).

Can you retake the Canine Good Citizen Test?

Absolutely – in fact many dogs don’t pass the first time. Try not to be nervous since your dog can sense that and may not perform if it does.

How much does it cost to take the Canine Good Citizen Test?

This will depend on where you live.  Our K9 Good Citizen Test cost $20 to take at the local SPCA.

How old does a dog have to be to take the CGC test?

A dog can be any age to get their CGC title.

How do you prepare your dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test?

We can’t take credit for most of the preparation. We called in professionals to help us get Calvin on the right track and he learned how to “dog” over months of work with certified trainers. Additionally, we completed a CGC prep class to familiarize ourselves with the process. Good citizen training can be done with trainers or at home. Look up “Canine Good Citizen Class” or “Canine Good Citizen Tests Near Me” or “CGC Dog Training” to find more information in your area. These resources are also great for therapy dog training.

What are the requirements for the Canine Good Citizen test? (CGC Test Items):

1. Accepting a friendly stranger
You will be approached by a stranger – the dog is expected to stay at your heel and not lunge towards them as you exchange pleasantries. This can be especially challenging for those extra friendly puppers.

2. Sitting politely for petting
Although it is preferred for the dog to remain seated for this, it is ok for the dog to stand up for petting as long as it doesn’t jump on the person or get into their personal space.

Practice: We practiced 1 & 2 together. If strangers on the street wanted to pet Calvin, we asked them to walk away from us and approach us. We explained that he was in training which led to chatting about what we were training him for. Then, I would tell the stranger that they could pet him. If he tried to get into their personal space, we walked away and tried again. Strangers were very willing to help us with this!

3. Appearance and Grooming
You will bring your own grooming tools and the evaluator will brush your dog. They will also look into his ears and lift up its paws. The goal of this section is to ensure that your dog does not have any sensitivities on this body that make it reactive or uncomfortable.

Practice: You are likely already brushing your dog a few times per week so they should be familiar with the brush. If not, introduce the brush with treats. For paws, it’s a good idea to teach your dog to shake so that the evaluator can easily touch their paws with a shake.

4. Out for a Walk Loose Leash
You will be evaluated as you walk with your dog on a flat collar and loose leash. Tension is ok at times but it must be clear that your dog is focusing on you and listening to commands. You will be asked to stop, speed up, slow down, u turn, turn left, and turn right. Your dog will be expected to stay focused on you.  The evaluator will give you the directions as you are out for a walk and you must be quick to react to them.

5. Walking through a crowd
You’ll walk your dog through a “crowd” of 2 people while on a loose leash.

We practiced 4 & 5 together. Since your dog will be on a flat collar, this part is potentially difficult if you haven’t been working on walking this way. It took many weeks for Calvin to become 95% reliable on a loose leash. If your dog has difficulty on a flat collar, it will take time to re teach them out to walk on leash. Some helpful commands: heel – to keep your dog on your heel, here – if your dog falls behind you can call it back to catch up, touch – you can redirect your dog’s attention to your hand if they start getting distracted.

6. Sit, down, stay (20ft)
You’ll put your down in a sit, then down, and command him to stay. You’ll walk away with your back to him for 20ft, turn around, then release him.

Practice: If your dog has had basic obedience training it is likely already capable of these commands. The challenge is that there are no treats to get him to listen – the best way to practice is to go through these motions in multiple different scenarios – at the Park, in your hallway, on the street ect so that he is used to listening to these commands in different situations. Practice out of sight stays, and walking away with your back to him while in a stay.

7. Recall
You will put your dog on a long lead, get him into a sit-stay or down-stay and then walk 10 feet away and call him to you.

Practice: Our recall word is “here” but “come” works too. We started recall training with a long lead so that there was no chance we would fail while practicing. Always praise your dog when they come to you.

8. Reaction to distractions
The exact type of distraction will differ based on your evaluator but expect about 2 types of distractions – this could be an object falling, a loud noise, medical equipment or items with wheels. The dog can look at the object but should not panic or dart ahead. Their ability to recover is most important.

Practice: Calvin used to be skiddish around loud noises so we spent a lot of time desensitizing him. We got him used to skateboards, bikes, strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, dollies ect. The process took multiple weeks. We desensitized him by exposing him to the objects while on leash and ignoring him (dogs can tell if you are worried for them and if you comfort them you will confirm their fears). We would walk by the objects without looking down at Calvin to teach him that there is nothing to worry about. Over time, he looked to us for guidance instead of focusing on the scary object.

Our Distraction: This was the hardest part of the test for us.  In our testing room, 3 people came in and started throwing folding chairs around.  The chairs slammed onto the ground in our path and we were expected to keep our cool.  Additionally, they called for Calvin, made hooting and kissing noises at him, and put their hands out to him.  We were quite honestly shocked at his focus and successful completion of this step.  The distraction section will be different for everyone, but that was ours!

9. Approaching other dogs
You will approach a dog and handler head on and are expected to stop when you reach them, exchange pleasantries, shake hands, and then keep going. The dogs can look at each other and show mild interest but cannot greet each other or pull to say hi. This is very difficult for those extra friendly doggos, but can also be tough for those with leash reactivity.

Practice: a reliable “leave it” command is required for this section. However, if your dog is used to greeting everyone in its path, you will have trouble here. We do not let Calvin greet dogs on the street (some are claimed to be “friendly” but aren’t actually, he gets very excited, he used to jump on them, ect). We say “leave it” as we approach dogs on the street and he walks right past them. This also helps us get to where we want to be without stopping to say hi to every dog along the way.

10. Supervised separation
You will leave your dog with the evaluator for 3 minutes and walk away, out of sight. Your dog is expected to remain calm and not show signs of nervousness or panic.

Practice: We never practiced this so unfortunately do not have any tips. It definitely helped that we frequently leave Calvin with friends, with his dog walkers, and at daycare so he is used to trusting others with his care. It’s a good idea to practice leaving your dog with people outside your household so that he has a better time adjusting to new situations without you.

Next Steps: You can take the CGC Urban Test and get evaluated to become a Community Canine (CGCA)!

You can do it!
-Your Pal Cal

CGC Test Items