Dog training tips by Jacqueline Valencia

Dogs require a certain amount of guidance that is necessary to their overall health. Dogs need structure, routine, and socialization. Without that training, situations with other dogs and people can be very stressful and hard for both dog and owner.

After fostering for a while I’ve recently become the pet parent of a lovely chihuahua mix who I’ve named Nita. Her journey from a hoarding situation to a shelter in El Paso,Texas and to a foster home here was long. She is small and a bit neurotic, and I went from wanting to foster, to wanting to adopt her after seeing her giving a cute paw for treats.



When she arrived she was house trained. Her fosters worked very hard at this, since she was a bit scared to try anything new. Eventually she made it beyond the hallways and the elevators and outside to do her business. This is very much needed for a dog of any size. It keeps accidents at bay, a clean house, and you’ll be less likely to be upset with your pet for not going to the appropriate spot. So training right there is a must. 

On the first day of having Nita in my home, I had pre-set up her crate with a calming dog bed. First training lesson from me was for her to realize the crate was hers and a place to sleep in for the night. I placed some of my dirty clothes so she could smell that I was around her. Her crate is at the end of my bed, so she could see that I hadn’t disappeared. It worked and the next day she woke up quietly, but her tail wagging, waiting to see what was next.



My kid and I established a routine for Nita that worked around our work and school schedules. I gave her a treat to put on her new harness and a treat and praise every time she experienced something new to her. While she wasn’t too keen on treats yet, she did love praise, so we kept it as the one motivator for her to do something. Teaching her to sit started with a treat, but ended up with her preferring to be told she was a good girl after she met the command. 

Nita became attached very quickly to us, which led to a bit of separation anxiety. This is a big issue that can be a bit a headache/heartache if it isn’t dealt with properly. A howling and crying dog in an apartment is not ideal for a pet, their parents, or their neighbours. When chronic, it can also lead to destruction of property as some dogs are known to destroy furniture when they suffer separation anxiety. Nita is a crier and can howl if I’m not home right away. Therefore, I enlisted the help of a training program at the Toronto Humane Society and the advice of other dog owning pals. Since Nita was already accustomed to her crate, I would give her high value treats (things the dog desires the most), when we would train for this. I would also put on the sounds of people at a keyboard (office sounds on youtube). At first I would do this for just a few minutes. Then I would take out the treats and stop the sounds. Then I would repeat this for a few days and make the time longer. She eventually reached a whole two hours of quiet and eating treats or snoozing in her crate. This allotted me time to do groceries, go for a run by myself, and eventually if I need it, time to do chores that she can’t go to. Dogs need their independence and to know how to be alone. It gives them confidence and also a tighter bond with their owners when they know they will eventually be back.

Leash training is necessary as much as learning to teach your dog recall (to respond and come to its name). Learning to focus on commands will assure their safety in any new situation. Leash training and recall can be different for all dogs. You can use treats, a clicker (a cheap mechanism sold for dogs that clicks), or praise. When your dog learns to focus and check in on you while walking, they will be assured that every new situation can be dealt with by a simple command of its parent. Nita is afraid of truck noises and construction sounds. Every time she hears them she tucks in her tail and tries to bolt. Luckily, she is always leashed so I stop, reassure her and give her the command to heel (walk with me). She’ll look up, give eye contact and proceed to walk until we’re out of the vicinity of the noises or stressors. This is ongoing. She’s still just a year and a bit old, so the world is still really big and new to her. This provides us more time to interact and she learns she’s part of our family as she works on these commands with the members of our household.

All these things I’ve mentioned are ongoing. While some are harder than others, a life of training for new situations also puts things into perspective for human parents. Knowing you can provide a nice and safe environment for your pet is very happy making and very much so for your pet as well. I highly recommend consulting or hiring a training service from your local shelter or private ones (there are many). It is rewarding beyond measure.


  1. Photo by Cookie the Pom on Unsplash