Category Archives: Training

Dog Etiquette: Turning Your Dog Into A Gracious Guest

By Karen B. London, PhD

Is your dog ready for the holidays?

Turning your dog into a gracious house guest.Shortly after we were married, my husband and I spent the holidays with my in-laws, and we brought our young dog, Bugsy. He was social; had an excellent stay; came when called; had no history of food thievery; and would not lift his leg indoors, even on a tree, so my confidence in his visiting skills was high.

On arrival, as he occupied himself with a stuffed Kong so we could unpack the car, a possible problem occurred to me. Bugsy often tossed his Kong into the air and ate any treats that flew out of it. In our poor students’ apartment, it was endearing, entertaining behavior. But my in-laws’ decor included crystal, collectible figurines and an array of china teacups. Racing into the house in a panic, I caught the Kong in midair as it flew toward a set of porcelain miniatures. As I breathed a sigh of relief, it occurred to me that perhaps I had been a bit smug in thinking the trip would be stress-free.

This time of year generates tales of woe associated with bringing dogs to visit friends and relatives, and I get a lot of questions about this issue. Whether or not people fully anticipate the trouble that awaits them, taking a dog into someone else’s home for the holidays can cause stress. The best approach for assuaging this seasonal angst is two-pronged: Prepare your dog as much as you can ahead of time with the skills he’ll need to succeed during the visit, and make every effort to avoid other situations for which he hasn’t been prepared.

The preliminary step, of course, is to request permission to bring him along. Not everyone wants a visiting dog. Even dog lovers appreciate the advance warning that allows them to, for example, put away the Ming vase on display at the precise height of the perpetually swinging tail of your cheerful Great Dane. If your dog is not welcome, don’t bring him, or find somewhere else to stay. The strain of a visit with an unwelcome dog can permanently damage relationships. Plus, it’s hard on the dog to be Undesirable Number One in an otherwise festive home.

Training is a critical aspect of preparation. The better trained your dog is, the more welcome you will both be as guests. The key skills are to be able to sit, stay, come, leave it, greet politely, and stop barking on cue. It sounds like a long list, but these are also the basics of polite canine citizenship. I also recommend that you teach your dog at least one “show-off” behavior. This can be waiting at the door until told to proceed (easy to teach but impressive to most people) or a trick such as “roll over” or “high five.” Anything that makes your dog more charming will help ease tensions in case of a social gaffe. For example, I had a client whose dog jumped up on her father-in-law, but was forgiven immediately when she gave the cue “You goofed,” and the dog responded by lying down and covering his face with his paws, as though in embarrassment.

Dog gives High Five

Common host complaints include barking, jumping up on visitors and stealing food. Of course, if he is prone to more serious transgressions such as biting, unmanageable destructive chewing or house-soiling, it is unfair to expect your dog and your hosts to co-exist peacefully, and it may be best not to go a-visiting with him in tow.

Teach your dog the skills he’ll need to be a gracious guest. If he’s a barker, teach him to stop on cue. Say “enough” the instant he starts to bark, and then put treats right by his nose. Do not let him have the treats until he stops barking. Many dogs quickly learn that quieting down when you say “enough” is a way to get treats. If he jumps up on people, teach him that if he does this, the people will leave, but if he sits, he will get treats and attention. Since the majority of jumpers do so out of an urge to be social, they quickly learn that jumping up makes people go away. They choose to sit instead, which results in the opportunity to socialize and get treats as well.

Even if you prepare ahead of time, there’s plenty to do during your visit to make sure that the holiday is remembered as a fun one rather than as the last family holiday to which you were allowed to bring your dog. Exercise, chews, toys and puzzles can minimize behavioral issues such as destructive chewing and counter-surfing, which tend to worsen when dogs are bored or full of pent-up energy. Bring a crate if your dog likes it and your hosts have enough space. Help clean up, especially if the mess involves dog hair or sloppy drinking at the water bowl. Seize the opportunity to put leftovers out of your dog’s reach, and volunteer to take out the trash.

As soon as possible after you arrive, practice the skills your dog already knows so that he can learn to do them in new places, too. One of the things that separates professional trainers from novices is that professionals know that training doesn’t automatically transfer to new locations. For example, just because your dog has a rock-solid stay in your living room doesn’t mean he knows how to respond in the same way in your yard, at the park or at Grandma’s house. Even a couple of five-minute training sessions can significantly improve your dog’s performance and manners.

Obedience skills aren’t the only ones that may drop off away from home. Many dogs who are completely trustworthy when left at home alone are stressed, scared or mischievous when left alone in a new place, all of which can result in house-soiling or the aforementioned destructive chewing or counter-surfing. The change in routine, a new place and additional people may also make dogs more likely to exhibit these unwanted behaviors. Adjust your plans—and expectations—accordingly.

Faux pas may occur, but focusing on prevention will help your dog succeed. Don’t set up your highly food-motivated dog to fail by leaving him alone, even for a minute, while the turkey is on the table. If you know your dog has a tendency to find food or shoes, don’t put temptation in his way. Make some areas of the house off limits, or use a crate so that your dog never gets the opportunity to display anything but his best behavior.

No matter how things go, send a thank-you note to your hosts, perhaps accompanied by flowers, to express your gratitude that you and your dog were welcomed into their home (and, if necessary, to apologize).

Ideally, holidays are fun, not stressful. With thoughtful preparation and prevention, you can insulate yourself, your dog and your hosts from the dark side of this festive season. You will then be free to focus on the joy of togetherness for everyone, whether they sing “Fa la la la la” or “Bow wow wow wow wow.”

Who’s That Knocking On My Door?

Halloween is coming soon and Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. All of these holidays mean that you’ll have droves of guests coming to your house getting Fido all worked up. Teaching a dog to properly greet visitors at the door is one of the most common issues that people have with their dogs. We’ve provided an article, originally written by Sue McCabe but edited and modified by Misty Pines, listing different reasons that your dog may want to be over exuberant with their greeting and a few ideas on how to anticipate problems and head them off at the pass. Enjoy the article and have a happy, safe, and stress free holiday season!

In terms of dog/owner frustration and concern, coming a close third place behind recall and dog/dog reactivity issues is greeting guests. Unlike recall or reactivity, training appropriate greetings should not cause as much stress as it seems to. The fact that the challenge is occurring in an owner’s home, means people have complete control of the environment in which they are training. As such, it should be easy to manage their dog’s behavior and retrain a greeting acceptable to all concerned. So why is it such a common challenge then?

Dogs that greet visitors at the door inappropriately typically fall into one of three categories: excited, protective, or fearful. You can utilize techniques learned at Misty Pines to help your dog overcome these challenging situations! Here are some examples for you to determine what type of greeter your dog may be:


The level of excitement and enthusiasm to greet the guest rises to levels beyond the dog or the owner’s control. This quickly results in a lunatic fur ball, abound (literally) with glee, paws akimbo, ready to greet the unfortunate guest, who has no idea they possess such cause for excitement. In turn, the owner, at pains to control their hyperactive dog, joins in the fun, saying the dog’s name over again in an excited voice which winds Fido up more. They often attempt to grab or restrain the dog which only makes things worse.

Your dog will be desperate to say “hi” so watch for signs that he’s given up trying, wait a few minutes more and only then proceed to train him. If he is a jumper, the dog gate becomes a buffer. Guests should walk away and approach the gate again once the dog is calm. Teach him that guests throw food over his shoulder, so wasting time/energy approaching the guest is pointless, as food comes to him, not the other way around. Guests should begin to train calm sit greetings after several ‘free’ treat sessions.

Other helpful hints for friendly dogs:

Utilize a dog gate, tether or “place” command to give your dog a designated place to be when visitors arrive. 
Put a leash and appropriate training collar on (like a scruffy guider!) for extra control.
If you decide to put your dog in a crate, give them something to chew on to keep busy.
Allow physical touch and affection only when your dog is in a calm state- usually after the guests have arrived and settled in.
Prepare a prolonged release interactive food dispensing device, such as a bob-a-lot to keep your dog busy during this exciting time.


These types of dogs believe that their home is their sanctuary. The front door is the portal which divides safety and the big bad work. Such dogs are worried for the safety of their property or themselves. The former feels the need to guard their home or owner. The suspecting visitor has no idea they have been classed as evil as they are met with a dog ready to protect (lunging, jumping barking, growling, and/or biting). Owners of such dogs, in a vain attempt to take control, often shout commands and use physical restraint, finally resorting to locking the dog away from visitors to keep everyone safe.

You really don’t want dogs that guard their property or their owners to approach strangers at your home. Close proximity to guests means such dogs may try to control visitors through their actions (Stalking/lunging/growling/biting). Make decisions for them to demonstrate clearly that guests are non- threatening and are also in control. When such a dog has relaxed, request that visitors calmly approach the dog gate and toss mouth wateringly tasty food over the dogs shoulder. They should retreat, then repeat the approach until the dog is showing relaxed body language rather than reactive signs, when visitors move towards the gate. Guests can begin to request a sit and repeat the treat/retreat training thus controlling the greeting and reward.


Wary dogs are terrified for their own safety. Such dogs run to hide, attempt to go deeper into the sanctuary, shy away, or beg to be left alone. Owners often attempt placation, reassurance and cajoling. They drag their dogs to greet guests, asking visitors to feed, stroke or cuddle them. All the time such dogs believe they are being asked to make friends with someone they perceive to be threatening.

These dogs don’t want to approach guests. They just want to be left alone. Respect this by providing a space to hide in (like a covered crate) while guests visit. Should you chose to change their mind about visitors, do so using treat training, but allow the dog to decide if he wants to take further steps to greet. Ask guests to allow such dogs to approach the dog gate, not the other way around. Have them toss food to the dog, but never force him to be pet. If allowing this cautious greeter to join your gathering, remind guests that most of these dogs want to sniff visitors to reassure themselves that the visitor is not a threat. It is not necessarily an request to be stroked and petted.

Other helpful hints for protective or fearful dogs:

NEVER force a greeting; allow your dog to acclimate on their own time.
Stay calm, and try not to shout. Yelling will often escalate a dog’s stress level!
Ask guests to completely ignore your dog. Lead by example- ignore your dog at this point also.
Make tea, allow your dog to see and hear the guests through the gate. Wait for this new arrival to lose its novelty.
Utilize distance with a secure “place” command or crate to allow your dog to become more comfortable. Separate them from the visitors where they can see, smell, and hear the guests without acclimate slowly.

Occasionally toss food to your dog to help them build a positive association with your new guests.

While I know there will be rare folk whose dogs don’t fall into the three categories listed above, for the average pet dog owner, it’s far more common for one of these behaviors to prevail. For this reason, allowing your dog to greet at the front door is a bad idea for all concerned. Dogs become proficient at behaviors they practice, so if you want your dog to learn calm, controlled greetings, practice this. Manage your dogs behavior and that of your guests carefully.

A simple step which can encourage more appropriate behavior in our dogs, is often one which owners seem most reluctant to take. People are so desperate for guests to like their dog and vice versa, that they continue to put their pets into fail/fail situations- everyone gets frustrated or upset! Take control of greetings so your dog doesn’t have to. Developing a game plan will help you and your dog successfully get through the night.

The Importance of a Solid Stay

Misty Pines is known by many to produce some of the most reliable stays on the east coast. We have a Stay Club. To become a member of this club dogs must perform a Stay for their owners during a busy class for one hour while their owner is one mile away. The dogs cannot move until their owner comes back to Misty Pines to tell the dog they have finished the Stay. Amazing!

The stay command is a win-win, as it teaches dogs self-control and makes them more attentive while teaching other behaviors such as Heel or Come. Sit or down stay is a perfect alternative to those frustrating nuisance behaviors such as jumping on visitors or charging through open doors. Dogs who understand stay are clear about what their job is: don’t move until you tell them they may get up and move.

Once your dog is taught what stay means, it is important to challenge their understanding of it by systematically increasing the variables of training; distraction, distance and duration at various locations. If you only practice in your kitchen, your dog will only be good in your kitchen. We encourage all of our students to challenge their dogs at new locations, keep in mind that and a sit stay in your kitchen may be much less challenging than a sit stay outside of Starbucks while you get a cup of coffee!

If you need help teaching your dog to stay, or would like to build on what they already know, we would love to help you teach your dog a Stay that you can be proud of.

As a way to challenge your dog and yourself, we invite you to join in our Stay demonstration and competition during Customer Appreciation Day. This demonstration and competition begins at 12:15pm and is $10 per participant. There will be 2 events; one for dogs under a year old and one for dogs over a year old. This event is a 50/50 type of event with the winner taking half of the pot and the other half going to the Ambridge Police Dog fund. Second place winner receives a Misty Pines gift basket.



Vacation Preparation

Pre-boarding your dog before their first visit help ease concerns about boarding your dog, particularly if the dog is “elderly.” These concerns are valid and at Misty Pines we take them seriously.

It is worth noting, before moving on, that bringing a puppy to the kennel at an early age will help to familiarize the pup with the sights, sounds, smells and staff of the facility and will help to ease anxiety about boarding later in life. Socialization is the most important aspect of raising a puppy. This means more than taking your dog to the park to socialize with other dogs and humans. The meaning of socialization stretches to encompass as many experiences as possible that the dog may have to deal with during it’s adulthood.

First-Time Boarders

Pre-Boarding for dogs

A 5 year old dog who has never boarded and typically spends all day at home could become very stressed when boarding while your family goes on vacation . He’s never been here before and probably never heard a pressure washer before. He may have never used a dog door. Has he used an automatic watering bowl that fills itself back up? Does he have people walk past him multiple times a day while he’s in his crate at home? Has he ever been in a crate? These are all  things the he will need to get used to in order to have a good boarding experience.

Taking the time to do a few Pre-Board sessions before a long boarding for your dog will be monumental in helping him deal with the stress of boarding. Bring your dog in for at least 4 hours ($20/dog) and he’ll be put in one of our indoor/outdoor runs to acclimate to the facility as well as the new sights and sounds. Your dog could be given short activities that will give us insight into your dog’s reaction to kennel life as well as to other dogs. It is best to let us know what your typical routine is at home so that we can choose appropriate activities. When you pick your dog up from a Pre-Board, we will let you know how your dog did and if he needs to attend a couple of these sessions.

Your dog may need extra help acclimating to Misty Pines, especially if you plan to board your dog with us for an extended period of time.  If that is the case we recommend scheduling your dog for an over-night boarding stay .

The 10+ Crowd

Pre-Boarding for elderly dogs

Unless very well socialized, elderly dogs are more prone to stress in a new environment than younger dogs. Furthermore, stress can be more physically damaging to an older dog and may lead to serious health problems.

Any dog over 10 years of age that has not boarded at Misty Pines before, or maybe not since they were very young, is required to do a Pre-Board of at least 4 hours. If there are health issues already present, we may require an over-night to ensure that the problem does not worsen when separated from the owner/family.

As stated above for the younger dogs, Pre-Boarding sessions are a great help to those dogs who are already a little tentative and generally help the dog have a pleasant boarding experience with us.

Summer Fun at Misty Pines

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   Summer is finally here!

There is truly no substitute for fresh air and time spent together exercising and enjoying the great outdoors. There are many relaxing and physical benefits at Misty Pines’ dog park for you and your dog.

How about giving your dog a full run outside off leash? This is beneficial for maintaining a strong body and a strong mind.

At Misty Pines we have many outdoor activities and amenities to keep you and your dog happy all summer long!

Once a month we travel to walk and train at the North Park’s Pie Traynor Loop. The dates are: Saturday, July 8th at 11:15 am, Tuesday, August 11th at 6:30 pm and Tuesday, September 12th at 6:30 pm. We work towards building good manners and behavior throughout any distraction that we may come across. To solidify these behaviors we work through four variables of dog training; Distance, Distraction, Duration, and Location. Location is perhaps one of the most important variables of training a dog.

Have lunch under our picnic pavilion.

Sit on the dock, dangle your feet over the edge, and relax by the dog pond.

Enjoy the beautifully shaded fenced in dog playground.

Looking for something very instructional and fun for your kids? Kids Camp is the perfect way for your child to enjoy their pet and learn proper handling skills and dog safety. Help your child have a great relationship with their canine best friend. The kids enjoy games, dog obedience, agility obstacles, trail hikes, and swimming at the pond! Kids Camp is available for kids ages 7-13 years of age. There’s nothing better than seeing kids enjoy forging a bond with their dogs and learning about the rewards of training, consistency and determination while having an absolute blast. There are two camps available: Camp #1: July 10th, 11th, & 12th, 2017 and Camp #2: July 24th, 25th & 26th, 2017 both are from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.

Does your dog need a swimming lesson? Is your dog a good swimmer but wants to have friends to swim with? We offer a Summer Swimming Class! This helpful class will be sure to get your dog in the water at our dog pond and help them learn to swim well and enjoy their time in the water. Be sure to bring a water toy, enticing dog treats, a long leash, your bathing suit or old clothes and water shoes. You Will Get Wet! Come swim on July 15 at 11:15 am – 12:00 pm and September 9th at 11:15 am – 12:00 pm .

Join us on Saturday, July 29th at 11:15 am for an extended nature trail hike at Misty Pines. We will walk our dogs throughout the entire trail system focusing on walking/hiking on and off leash at a reasonable pace. This is a great follow up for those that took the Walking Politely on a Leash class, which we have scheduled again on Saturday, August 26th at 11:15 am – 12:00 pm. If you’ve never walked our trails, this will be a great opportunity to become acquainted with our trail system.

We hope to see you and your dog enjoy our beautiful park this summer!


Upcoming Specialty Classes

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Sat 23

Agility Class

December 23 @ 8:00 am - 9:00 am
Sat 23

Kids and Family Class

December 23 @ 11:15 am - 12:00 pm
Sat 30

Nuisance Behaviors

December 30 @ 8:00 am - 9:00 am
Sat 30

Microchip Clinic

December 30 @ 11:15 am - 12:00 pm