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Leerburg Dog Training Q&A Archive Q&A on Raising a Working Puppy

Q&A on Raising a Working Puppy

Q&A on Raising a Working Puppy

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working dog

I try and answer every question I receive on dog training. I may often come across as a little on the blunt side, (some may call it brash). That is because I consider myself an advocate for dogs and not dog handlers. I am an advocate for common sense dog training and not the latest fad that appears on the horizon. Good dog training is not rocket science. It's common sense.

  1. I have a 14 week old Rott that comes from very good working bloodlines. She has some issues with being aggressive in certain situations. What is your opinion of the dog?

  2. My pup has strange behavior when working with the tug. He is also very nippy and grabs at my pant legs. What should I be doing?

  3. I want my malinois to appear to be protective but not really. Any suggestions?

  4. I currently own the hardest pup I have ever owned. He has begun to growl at me when I correct him and it is only getting worse. Do you have any advice on how I should handle the situation without killing his drive?

  5. I'm worried that how my pup is behaving in the presence of other dogs will affect what I am training for. Should I be worried about this behavior or is it normal puppy behavior?

  6. We decided on having my boy get a Rally, CGC, and/or CD titles. I am ordering the Basic OB/Pack structure combo. Will these 2 be good enough for the goal I have for my rottie?

  7. My pup sits funny and I'm not sure how to make him sit the way I want him to. Do you have any suggestions?

  8. When should I start bite work with the pup?

  9. How do I split training time between obedience and prey development?

  10. I am wondering if how I have a certain way of playing set up with my pup will benefit for protection training later on and if it is even an okay way to play.

  11. My dog does great with obedience work at home, but at the Schutzhund club she has a hard time paying attention to me. What do you suggest?

  12. This morning  using a clatter stick and leather rag and my pup accidentally leaned into the clatter stick, and I hit her eye and muzzle, she didn't whimper or get hurt  but her prey drive was gone immediately and she became shy of the leather rag, what would you recommend I do with her?

  13. How should I correct my puppy on those few occasions when she doesn't come?

  14. Our puppy is a 5 month old Bouvier des Flanders. We are going to Estes Park Colorado for a family vacation for 11 days, flying out there and staying in a cabin that will allow for pets. I don't know whether to board her at the vet or take her with. What are your thoughts?

  15. I have two dogs and they get along well. The problem I am having with the Mal is if they are both in the yard and the Chihuahua starts running around, the Mal starts chasing her.  I want him to be social, but I don't want him chasing dogs.  Do you think it is because he is still a puppy?

  16. I have a 9 month old Staffordshire Bull pup, spayed F. Occasionally she gets freaked out about stupid things. Today, it was a leaf stem with cotton on it. She barked and growled at it and circled it for a couple minutes. Should I be worried about this?

  17. I bought a doberman to show but made the decision to start working him as I have ALWAYS worked the dogs before him. I quickly realized I had over "trained" for lack of a better word. If I had raised him differently would it had made a difference?

  18. My name is Kipp, I am about to get my very first Doberman Pincher puppy. I just finished the "Who Can Pet my Puppy" cast. My question to you is does this not interfere with the socializing on of the puppy. Was I misunderstanding your meaning when you said this?

  19. I have two Presa Canario pups that I want to train for protection. I need to know the basics on how to get them acclimated to increase there drive and educate myself on how to schutzhund train. What do you recommend from your video line?

  20. I purchased "How to raise a working puppy." I want to build their drive; I'm concerned that the "Drive & Focus" video won't help. What am I not doing? Or what should I be doing?

  21. What would you recommend for a 10 mo. old male border collie that is an aggressive tugger?

  22. I have a dobe pup that has just started her first heat cycle. For the past 2 or 3 weeks its like I've never taken her out of the yard. All she does is sniff the ground and look everywhere but at me. Is this normal for their first cycle or is she going through something else?

  23. I know you should not leave toys with a working dog according to "Raising a Working Puppy." Can you tell me a few items that I can leave with the puppy while he is in his crate for a few hours at a time?

  24. I recently purchased Establishing Pack Structure with The Family Pet DVD. I am a bit confused compared to what I was told by others for Schutzhund Sport Dog. I was told don't control the young dog until it is 1 year old because it will suppress the drive.

  25. I have a 2 story house, is it OK for me to let my 8 week old pup go up or down the flight of stairs (about 20 of them) on leash - will this have the potential to mess up his hips and elbows?

  26. Should I play tug with my puppy while he’s teething?

  27. I’ve been running my 16 week old GSD next to my bike, is this suitable exercise for a puppy?

  28. If I want my dog to see me as the pack leader, can I teach him to pull me skijoring? Some trainers say you always need to be in front of your dog in order to be the leader.

  29. I’m getting a new puppy and it’s my first working dog, I have a lot of questions and I’m hoping you can give me a timeline on how to work with my pup.

  30. What's the deal with having the dogs return on recall to "between the legs" facing forward? Is this a new fad or what?

  31. My pup shows aggression towards me by growling and showing avoidance. What can I do to create a bond between us?

  32. I have a question about training my working puppy to bark. What command should I use? I want to train him for protection work.

  33. How much work can a young dog do without being physically or mentally stressed?

  34. I can’t get my puppy to play tug with any type of toy, but he’ll tug on our pants. Do you have any suggestions?

  35. We are getting a new boxer puppy from strong European working lines. With it be a problem that we choose not to pursue raising a pure working dog for competition but rather a family pet with agility and obedience training. What would you suggest to help us meet our goals?

  36. I have a GSD puppy that I want to train for detection work and tracking. She won’t play with any of her toys, but only wants attention from me. How do I get her attention off of me and on her toys? Can I use food to train her?

  37. I have a 13 week old female German Shepherd. Currently we are on the engagement stages still. As far as people go, we all have people (and their animals) in our lives and I'm not sure how I should be handling her with both family friends, and family dogs. What should I be doing with those people and animals? How should I be handling it?

  38. I like the way your dog works and I think I would like a Malinois for my next dog. What do you think?

  39. I am soon, be getting a GSD pup which I intend to train and use for SAR work. I am receiving conflicting information as to how the dog should be raised on a day to day basis. Can you offer some guidance, here?

  40. I am planning on purchasing a new pup in the future. I am concerned that my current dog's skittishness, fear, and dog aggression will somehow rub off on the pup; even if they are properly introduced and get along well, through walks or observation, etc. How can I prevent this from happening?


Dear Mr. Frawley,

I am a long time member of your discussion board and have purchased items from your website. My question for you is about my 14 week old female rottweiler pup. I would like to know what you think of her nerves at this stage in her life. I have a fully protection trained male adult rott that we train with at a PSA club here in town that has such strong nerve I couldn't mess him up if I tried. We plan to protection train this pup as well.

The pup comes from strong working lines with lots of SCH III's and even a few IPO's scattered through her pedigree. I picked her up last week and the breeder didn't do a lot of socializing with her because she said she is afraid of parvo at such a young age. Ok fine, we bring her home and have taken her everywhere with us, the hardware store, the department store, the DMV to watch people come in and out, and basically everywhere with us. She is not scared of any noise EXCEPT when I started the lawn mower outside she ran and hid in the garage but came back out a few minutes later. When people greet her for the first time she walks up slowly and her tail is down and after a few seconds her tail is going like crazy and she is happy to be there but she isn't crazy about new people right at first. I have taken her to the protection club twice now to watch the agitation and she just lights up when she hears and sees the whip. She runs out to the end of the leash with her tail wagging wanting to inspect.

Everything sounds ok so far right? Well, here is what is worrying me.

When she sees someone strange she barks at them. Like the neighbor across the street, when they are getting in the car, the pup is barking at them and runs out to the edge of the grass with her tail straight up and erect. (she does have her tail by the way). Her hackles are not being raised so that is a good thing but it worries me at 14 weeks she is barking at people. What is your opinion on this and if it is a problem what can I do to solve it???

By the way, she is crate trained and spends her unsupervised time in the kennel. She has tons of prey drive and we are sacking her with a burlap piece attached to an old leather leash. Her grip is nice and deep and she is very quiet while on the sack, she just gives a nice backward tugging motion. I haven't done any obedience with her at all except showing her how to sit by putting her food bowl over her head until she sits, I tell her, "good sit" and then let her have her food. So what do you think? Do I have a nerve bag here or is this typical puppy behavior???

Thank you very much,




The female is obviously going to be VERY SHARP as an adult. If your goal is personal protection then that’s what you will get.

But with this said you are going to need to change some things you seem to be doing.

1- I would NEVER take this pup to your club until it is over 12 months of age. It’s a bad idea. Dogs like this do not need it. It will make her crazy.

2- I don’t use the whip in training the way you see a lot of people do. The whip becomes a prey item and is the most over used and poorly used piece of equipment there is. I save the use of the whip for when I really need it - and that is to sting a dog when I feel he may need waking up.

3- You should be focusing everything you can on PREY work with this pup. It needs the kind of work I show in my Building Drive, Focus and Grip Video. This is calm work with the handler - all the foundation is done at home in your yard. When it’s a year old then it goes to club. But this dog needs to learn to be calm with you.

4- I assume you allow it to have little to no time with your male. Not until it's 4 to 5 months old. It must focus on you.

5- I NEVER allow people to touch my dog. Not ever! Not for any reason! With this said, if you have a sharp dog, which you have, I will break the "No Touching" rule and have people give her pieces of food. This continues until she does not have problems with strangers. From that point on no one touches or pets her.

6- I will be releasing a video on Raising a Working Puppy - you may want to get it.

Good luck

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Hello,  I recently purchased some of your DVDs; Building Drive and Focus, Bite Training for Puppies, and The First Steps of Bite Training. I plan to follow up with the first steps of defense and training personal protection dogs. I find them very informative and very well done. I have a couple of questions that I would like your insight on. The first is I have a GSD that is 20 weeks old. He is very smart, obeys commands sit, stay, retrieve, leads well sits in the kennel while I go out first and sits until released sits and waits to be released to eat his food seems to recognize me as pack leader and has a lot of prey drive. But he is very mouthy. He takes every opportunity to bite me on the hands & arms and as I walk he bites my legs and tugs at my pants. When I grab him by the scruff of the cheeks stare into his eyes warn him and even growl at him sometimes he will start to circle me with his ears pinned back barking and snapping at me. Also a couple of times when I try to get him to release the bite tug he has growled at me. Then I put him down, place my fingers into his neck and growl at him. When I let him up he is ok. The other thing is when he counters on the bite tug and I release it he walks off and stands or lays down and starts hunching as if he is breeding a female. My next DVD will be dealing with dominant & aggressive dogs. E would appreciate any advice you can give me.



Your dog is not being dominant or aggressive, he is merely trying to get you to play with him.   At 20 weeks old your dog is a puppy, and the humping behavior you see  is common in dogs with a lot of prey drive when they are allowed to win the prey object. I would not be snatching this pup and staring in his eyes or growling at him  when he was biting at my pants, I would be working him with food and teaching him acceptable things to do to get your attention.  You will damage your relationship with the puppy if you continue doing what you are doing now.

I would recommend that you get the DVD titled “HOW TO RAISE A WORKING PUPPY.”

If you go to the link you will be able to read the description of the chapters in the DVD. We have bred over 350 litters of working puppies in the past 30 years and Cindy (my partner) has been breeding and competing in dog sports at a national level for 20 years.

There are differences in the way you raise a puppy as strictly a pet, instead of a working dog.  This DVD helps you set the foundation to train your puppy for a career, whether it be competitive obedience, protection, agility, Schutzhund or Search & Rescue.

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I have watched the video I purchased,  Basic Obedience Training,  over and over.  The introduction on how the dog thinks was very informative for me.  Even though we have had many dogs,  I have tended to train them the same as I would my horses.  Mistake. 

I own an 18 month old male Belgian Malinois.  I can see why the breeder was so careful on "placing" him with us.  They are wonderful smart dogs that could quickly rule the roost if the owner wasn't consistent.  He is very consistent with his obedience work, does tracking and find it games.

The question is, we would like him to "appear" to be protective.  We travel a lot and he goes with us.  I don't want a true "protection" dog that I would always have to be careful of in public.  I would like him to be alert to people that come to the door and make people wonder a little.  I'm not sure how to explain what I'm looking for.  I do know that the attitude or confidence that a dog projects has a real affect on strangers.  That doesn't mean, they growl, snarl, or their hair stands up.  We had a Rottie female that was very well behaved around people, but they never took their eyes off her.  She just projected herself differently. 

This dog failed as a K9 prospect because of his laid back attitude.  I think he was the bottom of the pack order.

I hope I explained myself. 



I am not sure how long you have had this dog, but at 18 months old he may just not be mature enough to show the qualities you are looking for.  Many of our Malinois and GSD males are a bit slow to develop their defensive drive.

It’s also possible that your dog may just not have the characteristics you are describing.  All dogs are different, and some dogs are just very social and self assured.  They don’t perceive normal everyday things as anything threatening or unusual. 

I own 6 Malinois and breed them, and all of my dogs are very watchful and bark like crazy when anyone comes to the door or gets too near our vehicles. It can be a real aggravation sometimes.

With all the anti dog legislation and breed banning going on, it’s not always a good idea to encourage more watchful and protective behavior.


Hi Ed- I have many of your DVD's. I am a member of your forum. I have a problem with this pup. I need some expert advice. I've owned working import bloodline Rotts and GSD my whole life. I am 60 years old and consider myself experienced with handling these type dogs. I used to be a Koehler type trainer but over the years have changed my methods to more middle of the road. I have a super hard male Dutch Shepherd pup. I've had this pup for two months. I am the center of this dogs life. I spoke to my breeder which is Heartland in Oklahoma. They are connected with Risen Star Kennel in Holland. The sire of my pup is Czech and super hard also. This 4 month old pup is growling at me when I correct him.  Yesterday he started showing teeth with a level 3 or 4 correction, so the problem is progressing. I am only correcting for two things. Trying to eat stuff off the ground and biting my 6 year old son too hard. The pup is never off leash or long line. I have a pup prong and Dogtra remote. My breeder-trainer suggest I put the remote collar on him. I don't want to kill any drive in him. Willie Pope a long term Schutzhund judge and head of our local club has temperament tested the pup and says he has what it takes to compete, so far. This is the toughest dog I've ever owned. My breeder who also breeds Mals says there is a big learning curve with these 2 breeds. I'm finding that out. Can you give me any advice.



Hi Lee,

I see that you have both the ecollar dvd and the Dominant dog dvd.  I would probably try a couple of things before I went to the ecollar.  First I would not allow your pup near your son at all right now (at least not in close enough contact to bite him) , this will set you up for more success and take away the trigger for one of your disagreements.  I don’t allow my working pups access to kids anyway, because I guarantee you a kid is much more fun to play with for a pup than me!   It’s just one more way to control the environment and set it up in your favor.   I would probably use a dominant dog collar and hold this pup up calmly, when he shows aggression to you or picks up something he is not supposed to have.  Using the prong on some dogs will cause a reaction of retaliation, and I am not a big fan of correcting puppies with a prong.

With my pups, I teach the word YUCK  and reinforce to  them that whatever they have needs to be spit out right away.  You can make this a bit easier by teaching your pup you will trade what he has for a treat.  I choose my battles these days. It’s nice to have a dog that willingly gives things up with just a verbal and I don’t see anything wrong with trading them in this situation.

If using the dominant dog collar as outlined in the dominant dog dvd doesn’t seem to get your point across, then I would use the ecollar.  I raise Mals and the young male I am working with now had the collar introduced at about 4 months.  I don’t believe you will kill his drive if you use the collar correctly.


I live in Germany and have a 7 month Italian Cane Corso,

I had to be very careful when selecting the breeder as I found out that this breed had a couple of standard controversies, causing many breeders ( for expo and other dumb reasons) to breed dogs without taking in consideration the character  and temperament of the animal. This breed ( coming from the right lines )  is excellent for guard, protection, and also in SCH. Being a mastiff it matures slowly. My dog has been responding very well to training, I introduced him to Drive and Focus and he loves it, I noticed an immediate improvement. I also started tying him up and play with the tug ( first step of bite training )  and he's being doing very well. As for defense drive the only time I noticed it is when other dogs approach the car and he is in it, he sound off with deep barks and some hair stand on the back of the neck ( this might have been defense, as you described it in your video).  My question is about the temper of the dog: when suddenly approached by a dog in a distance his hair stood up and he assumed an alert posture, he is not dog aggressive, so when he realized it's another dog he slowly went towards it. This other dog ( female older ) started showing teeth and acting defensive, my dog tucked the tail a bit and backed off, tried one more time but same happened. Normally I'd have him on the leash when other dogs go by, but I didn't see this one coming. However when he was 5 months he did get a little bit one time, when this idiot had two of his dogs off the leash. How would you describe what happened above? I know he's very young and maybe impossible to tell now, but I wouldn't want to let any early signs go unnoticed. I'm considering training him for guard and protection, and he was not cheap.  Is it avoidance and  will he always be submissive to other dogs? Could this be early signs of weak temper? Or was it normal puppy behavior? 

Thank you for your help.



What you are describing is normal puppy behavior, and it should not have anything to do with his ability as an adult to do the work you are training him for.  

Just do the best you can in avoiding any situations in which he is made to feel fearful or worried about other dogs, and be ready to protect him from other dogs as well.  He will look at you as a leader if you are always looking out for him.

If we are out for a walk and are approached by another person walking their dog we NEVER allow the other dog to come up and smell or greet our puppy. I cannot stress this enough.

We don't know how territorial or dog aggressive this other dog is. It only takes a blink of an eye for another dog to strike our puppy. Once a puppy has been attacked, it will be dog aggressive for the rest of its life. Dogs don't forget traumatic events like this.

As the pack leader our puppy EXPECTS us to protect it from non pack members. If we are out for a walk and a stray dog tries to approach our puppy we put ourselves between the pup and the off leash dog. We drive the stray away. If we walk in an area that we know there are stray dogs we will carry pepper gas or a stout walking stick and we don't hesitate to use them if the stray does not heed our verbal warnings.


We decided on having my boy get a Rally, CGC, and/or CD titles. I am ordering the Basic OB/Pack structure combo. Will these 2 be good enough for the goal I have for my rottie?

Also, I got the crate and its set up in the living room right by the back door. I'm being told to have the pup wander around and freely explore the crate on his own. What I gather from your Puppy DVD is to have him enter and close the door and let him learn that he has to be quiet before exiting. Am I correct? Should I be setting up the crate outside since he's an outside dog? I'm having a hard time finding info on "part time crate training." Kenneling him during the day and crating by night... Here's a brief run down on what I plan to do:

4:30am - let him out to potty, exercise on a lead
4:45am - feeding time in the kennel
5:00am - bring him out of the kennel to potty in the dirt yard
5:05am - whether he goes potty or not, put him into the kennel with a frozen Kong stuffed with canned food
5:15am - I leave for work and return home about 4:00pm.

4:00pm - let him out of kennel while I clean yard, poop, and shoot down the kennel
4:15pm - I feed him a half portion of his usual feeding in the kennel
4:30pm - bring him to dirt to potty
4:35pm - if he didn't potty by now I kennel him
5:15pm - bring him out for exercise and play and walk
6:00pm - crate him in living room
7:00pm - his last feeding ??in crate or in kennel?? Not sure yet
7:15pm - potty break in the dirt
7:20pm - crate him with periodically letting him out depending on if he's quiet. I'm in bed by 8:00pm.

Is there anything I can add or remove from this list? Sorry so long but I want to give my pup the best training I can with the time schedule I have.



I would recommend that you get the DVD titled “HOW TO RAISE A WORKING PUPPY

If you go to the link you will be able to read the description of the chapters in the DVD.

There are differences in the way you raise a puppy as strictly a pet, instead of a working dog. This DVD helps you set the foundation to train your puppy for a career, whether it be competitive obedience, protection, agility, Schutzhund or Search & Rescue.

As for the crating and kenneling, I would use the kennel run during the day while you are at work so he is not left in the crate without a break for so long. There is more information on the crate on the Pack Structure DVD also.

I use a crate periodically through the day with my pups, but many times leave them in a kennel run or yard during the day and only crate them at night.

You may want to think about the Building Drive and Focus DVD too, if you plan on doing any kind of obedience competitions. It's great for teaching focus and self control, and really fun for you and your dog too.


Hi, my name is Jose and am very active in all the training products and information on the forum.

I have a problem that I cannot seem to get the answer for. I have a four month GS and have been introducing the sit. My problem is that my puppy seems to sit away from me. I try not to reach out to feed him and have tried putting his rear up against a wall as well, but he begins to role his hip when up against the wall. I have also tried a short leash in an upward position to try to get him to sit closer. I have also tried to position him with food by raising it above his head.

The problem is that he begins to move back just before sitting. I do not want to correct at such a young age by pulling the leash closer. I have trained other dogs and have never seen this before.

The pup is great socially, he loves to come into my arms for hugs so he is not afraid to come close, only when sitting.

I have no idea what to do, I have been reading a lot about the sit and have tried a variety of methods. I own some of the training videos and books. My main concern is that I do not want to leave a bad imprint in his sitting technique. His sitting training is very new to him, 6 day's. I want to fix this problem before it gets's worse.

Any advice will be appreciated.

Thank so much for you time  Jose.


There are 2 ways that dogs naturally sit.  Some rock back into it (like your puppy) and some tuck their hindquarters under.  It seems like your puppy thinks ‘sit’ means to rock back.  He’s obviously been rewarded for sitting in this manner so the only solution I can see is to retrain the actual act of sitting and using a new word.  You will have to ignore and not reward the style of sitting you do not like and get ready to mark and reward the correct behavior.

I would use Training With Markers. We use markers to introduce our dogs to the LEARNING PHASE of training.

Try using a really tasty treat, something he Never gets and goes wild for.  I would use it as a lure and get him to tuck his hindquarters under.  You might also try putting him on a box or upside down laundry basket so he is less likely to move backwards.

I would probably use a clicker for this to mark the EXACT instant he moves into the position.  Just be patient and be ready to catch him being right, I wouldn’t even use a leash for this right now, just use the food to help him.


Interesting that the AKC has developed a working dog title.  Didn’t they previously have a policy that they would not permit any dog sport that “allowed a dog to bite a human being”?  I’m paraphrasing of course.

I’m all for working dog titles and as soon as my breeder in Canada can produce a good working Black Russian Terrier male, I will be starting my dog down the Schutzhund trail.  I might even take a look at AKC working title.   Just finished your video on pups 8 weeks to 8 months and now looking at the Raising a working puppy video.  Trying to get some knowledge under my belt.

Looking forward to investing years into developing a good working dog.  When should I start bite work with the pup?  I remember in one of your videos you mentioned a period while they are losing their teeth that bite work should stop.



You can start bite work yourself with a pup at 8 weeks old.  we do recommend you take a break from bite work training during teething, which is typically from 4 to 6 months of age.

Here are some DVDs I would recommend to you.

Bite Training for Puppies
The First Steps of Bite Training
Building Drive & Focus with Bernard Flinks
Preparing Your Dog for the Helper with Bernhard Flinks

Best of luck with your new pup!


How can I divide obedience training in a puppy of 8 weeks and prey drive development using your DVD bite training puppies. What I am really asking is how can I do both things at the same time? Can you give me certain times in a day I can do obedience training and prey drive development?


You can do short sessions of prey drive building and short obedience sessions throughout the day, there is no set schedule for these things.  The key is to always quit while the puppy wants more.  Don’t wait until the pup loses drive or interest.  This will change from day to day and as the pup becomes more mature.

This probably means 2-3 minutes at the most. 

I am raising a Malinois puppy right now and I do 3 or 4 sessions of obedience during the day, right before meals because that’s when he’s most interested in working for food.  I use his meals as the reward, feeding tiny pieces during training. 

The prey work I do less of right now, because he has plenty of drive and doesn’t really need this.  If he was less driven then I would focus more time on it, but he loves to bite more than he loves food so I do more with food right now.



I recently found your site and it is a wealth of great information.

We are the proud owners of an eight-week old Bull-Boxer and I have been scouring the net for information on the best way to train her.  I am certainly not a dog trainer, outside of training my dogs to hunt birds.  It does not take a rocket scientist to train a Lab to pheasant hunt.  In fact, I gave him most of the credit for training me how to pheasant hunt.

My wife wanted a dog that could offer more protection than our current dogs seem suited for.  That is how and why we settled on the Bull-Boxer.  Now, I am faced with the challenge to turning the puppy into an obedient and protective member of the family.  I purchased a "clicker training" course and plan to use that for the basic sit/stay/come stuff and I am leering a great deal about the complexities of protection training.  I understand that I cannot begin any kind of formal training until the dog has matured, but I was struck with an idea after reading your site.  I guess it is really never too early to start training as long as the training fits the mentality of the puppy. 

We started bite training this week by constructing a simple "play station."  The puppy has a stuffed duck toy that she likes to attack.  I took a rubber stretch band from one of my wife's unused exercise kits and tied it to one of the overhead pipes in our basement.  I then attached a short piece of cord to the big rubber band and then to the duck.  The puppy LOVES it!  She attacks that thing with vigor and no matter how hard she pulls it always pulls back.  When it splits out of her grip she leaps on it like there is no tomorrow.  The whole deal is very simple and it kind of works like a combo spring pole/whip.  It really seems to activate her prey drive and puts her into puppy-attack mode.

We have also been working on the "release" command and then letting her get right back into "get it."

My question is:  Do you think this will be of any benefit later when we begin formal training?  Is there anything wrong with letting the puppy "play" in this manner?

Thanks again for a great site.

Mobridge, SD 


I don’t know that it will help in future training, but it may help build  her desire to grip and tug (which is good for a protection dog) But with that said,  I personally want my dogs to interact with ME, not just with a toy whenever they feel like it.  

If your end goal is training her for protection, I would recommend a couple of videos

Raising a Working Puppy

Your puppy 8 weeks to 8 months

Pack Structure for the Family Pet


Hello, I have a 13 month old female GSD and I belong to a local Schutzhund club, recently they started obedience class with the younger dogs. I have your video on Basic Obedience and Building Drive and Focus and many more, my problem is she is distracted in the obedience class by other dogs, at home and alone her drive and focus is great. In your video Basic Obedience you say you don't care for these classes because they are crank and pull, should I discontinue these classes and work more on her drive and focus and any suggestions how she can overcome this problem.

Thank You.


I think you are rushing the distractions too much. If she is great at home, then move to an area outside of your normal training area and work there, then move to different areas with low level distraction. A class full of dogs is a very high level distraction and many young dogs would not be able to focus in that environment at first. Once she can give you excellent focus with mid level distractions, maybe train in an area where there is one other dog at a distance and gradually move closer.

Make sure your dog is really wanting to engage with you with no distraction all the time before you add more.

I want my young dogs to play with me ANYWHERE, ANYTIME and with ANY THING (ball, tug, towel, plastic bottle, pine cone, etc...)

When my dog can do this I am ready to add more difficulty.


Hi Cindy,

Sorry to bug you, I need a little advice. I was doing some imprint work with my 4 month presa canario  this morning  using a clatter stick and leather rag, and  as I was doing exaggerated movements with the clatter stick my pup accidentally leaned into the clatter stick, and I hit her eye and muzzle, she didn't whimper or get hurt  but her prey drive was gone immediately and she became shy of the leather rag, I'm not sure how detrimental this could be, what would you recommend I do with her, so that I haven't lost any of my work with her (such as stopping training, or to continue) I study yours and Ed's videos daily but I couldn't find anything in the bite training DVD that covered this.
Your help and advice is greatly appreciated
Thank you,


HI Brent,

I would recommend backing up your training and go back to drive work WITHOUT the clatter stick for now.  Once her drive level is back up to where it was before, then see if you can have someone else make a bit of noise from a distance away with the stick. Don’t get too close and if she doesn’t seem to be bothered by it the next time move it closer, etc…..  I wouldn’t use it around her body or head until you are absolutely sure she is neutral to it.  We do not want the dogs to be worried about the stick OR the prey item.  If necessary, use a different prey item (soft towel or ball on a rope)  Be aware that your puppy should begin teething at any time now, so you don’t want to be doing a lot of tugging at this time especially if this is a sensitive dog.

I hope this helps.


Love your website and products. I recently bought and watched your "Puppy 8 Weeks to 8 Months" DVD and am awaiting arrival of "How to Raise a Working Puppy."

I have a 12 week old Presa Canario (bitch). She has been with me for 1 week. She is rather bright and has excellent prey and food drives.

In the week she's been here, I have taught her to sit, and sit and wait at the door before following me out/in. She is learning "out" but still needs more work.

My question concerns the "come" command. She has learned it quite well.
She comes when called about 85-90% of the time. It seems she doesn't come when she is tired. In your "8 weeks" DVD you warn against using corrections on young pups, except for the "out" and "come." How should I correct my puppy on those few occasions when she won't come? She is quite resilient but I don't want to harm her confidence (as you tell in your DVD). I am going to train her in Schutzhund and Personal Protection. Whenever she is in the house or outside, I have her on a flat collar and a 6' leash. I have been giving her a light "pop" and she usually responds by coming. On rare occasion, she will just flop down. I have been picking her up, placing her on all fours and then doing the "pop"--this gets her to come.

Your help on this matter will be greatly appreciated.



If you plan on training your puppy in Schutzhund then I would not be using any corrections for recalls right now. I would actually not ever call my puppy unless I knew the puppy was going to come and I would use food and play to encourage the puppy to come. If your puppy is flopping to the ground she is either overly tired, bored on doesn’t have enough drive. I would NOT use any command that I had to resort to corrections with on a 12 week old dog.

Work on building the drive to be with you, with food and toys and don’t worry so much about commands. Make yourself more interesting so she ALWAYS wants to come to you and if she seems a bit flat or tired then put her in her crate.

Read the article titled Training With Markers There are three phases of training, the learning phase, the distraction phase and the correction phase. We use markers to introduce our dogs to the LEARNING PHASE of training.



Dear Cindy,

I know how busy you must be, but I need some help deciding. I have bought the DVD's on raising a working puppy and basic obedience training and I love them!

Our puppy is a 5 month old Bouvier des Flanders. We are going to Estes Park Colorado for a family vacation for 11 days, flying out there and staying in a cabin that will allow for pets. I am highly concerned on whether or not to take our pup with us. I am afraid if I don't, it may effect her the rest of her life. My only option in leaving her is boarding her in a kennel at the vet. Any advice would be extremely helpful. I have spent a long time on the Leerburg website looking for answers this also.

Thank you and with gratitude- Susan


This is a personal decision and if this were my pup, I would do my best to find a dog sitter or friend that I trust to care for the dog in a home environment.  I don’t know how much I would want to fly a puppy for a vacation unless it was small enough to take in the cabin with me (which your dog is obviously not).

I most definitely would not board at a vet’s office.  I would not want my puppy to be in an environment that has sick animals included.  I think if that was my ONLY option I would take my dog with me on vacation. 

Can you do a search online for your area, to see if there are pet sitters or people who care for dogs in their home?  Years ago when I was a groomer there were certain clients of mine who left their dogs with me at my home when they went on vacation.  It worked out well for the dogs because they already knew me and I followed the specific walking and feeding instructions the owners left.


Susan's Response:

Dear Cindy-

I found a good kennel today where the caretaker met Payton, and gave me a tour of the 5 acre facility. Everything looked and smelled very clean. I cannot seem to find an individual sitter (that was my first choice), but this looks to be a very nice place. They also had play areas, runs and individual attention. I cannot begin to thank you enough for taking your time with a response to my e-mail.

God Bless-



First off, I have purchased many of your videos, and I have learned so much from them.  I watch them over and over to be sure that my mind has absorbed every inch of what you are teaching.

I'm writing to you because I have an issue that I would so appreciate your expert advice on.  I have a 6-month-old male Malinois and a 3-year-old female Chihuahua.  I have had the Malinois since he was 8 weeks old and introduced the Malinois to the Chihuahua, and they get along well.  They like to play, and the Malinois is very social.  The problem I am having with the Malinois is if they are both in the yard and the Chihuahua starts running around, the Malinois starts chasing her.  He's not chasing her to hurt her, but still chases her and when she stops, the Malinois hovers over her waiting to run again.  I am suspecting this is his prey drive kicking in.  I have friends who have Malinois, and when there are other dogs around they don't want to go chase but yet still are social dogs.  I want to know if you can give me advice on how to address this problem.  I want him to be social, but I don't want him chasing dogs.  I am also concerned because he is going to be a French Ring competition dog, and I don't want to lose my bond with him in regards to competition.  Do you think it is because he is still a puppy?

I look forward to your response, and thank you so very much for your time.



I would NOT allow your puppy to interact with your other dog in this way.  This is most likely prey drive, but due to the size difference and the drive of most Malinois I think it’s an accident waiting to happen. I also have Malinois pup and am training for ring sport and I don’t think by preventing this behavior you will be affecting your training relationship or his ability to socialize with other dogs.

I personally don’t allow my dogs to play together until they will willing leave the other dog any time I say their name. By allowing the behavior your puppy is doing, you are basically letting him have fun with another dog instead of having fun with you.

Once my dogs are past that puppy stage I take them on walks together but I don’t allow too much playing or roughhousing. I want to be the center of my puppy’s universe and while I like him to be social and safe around other dogs, I don’t like to let him rehearse getting all his fun and excitement around other dogs.

You can simply prevent this behavior by not allowing the playing or you can introduce the pup to the ecollar and teach him a recall with low level stim. Your pup is old enough to begin becoming conditioned to the collar and I have found it very useful in everyday life with a high drive puppy. I don’t use it as punishment, but use low level nick to “interrupt” whatever behavior I see my pup getting into.

If you want to read more about electric collars and training you can check this link.

I hope this helps.



I have a 9 month old Staffordshire Bull pup, spayed F.

She has taken puppy class, 3 competition obedience classes, rally lessons, and foundation agility classes. She got her CGC at 5 months. I got her as a 14 week pup from a shelter already spayed. She is highly social with people and dogs and has been everywhere.

Problem: Occasionally she gets freaked out about stupid things. Today, it was a leaf stem with cotton on it. She barked and growled at it and circled it for a couple minutes. When I showed it to her, she was fine. But this happens a couple times a week. It might be a shoe or a light fixture or a bug. These outbursts last a couple minutes, but it's intense for her.

Should I be worried about this? She re-directs nicely after a minute or two. Should I interrupt this behavior, let her work it out? This dog is almost ring-ready for novice obedience and is showing rally and running agility strings. She comes to work with me and loves all humans, dogs, and cats. She is a retrieving junkie with lots of drive. A really nice dog.

This weird fear stuff makes me crazy.

Thank you!



I wouldn't worry about it. Most young dogs go through weird "phases" like this, although I don't think all owners notice. :)

I have found from raising lots of puppies that the best thing to do when your dog acts like this is either ignore it and just carry on with whatever you were doing or redirect your dog's attention to something else like a food or a toy.

We discussed this puppy and young dog behavior this summer at a seminar.
Young dogs, especially very alert and active dogs (like Malinois, my breed) will suddenly notice something in the environment like a stump or mailbox or piece of paper blowing and be startled or hackle up and bark. The worst thing you can do is correct a dog for this.

I usually just carry on with my walk or whatever I am doing as if I don't even notice the behavior. I also don't soothe the dog or try to get them to approach the problem object. This just brings more reinforcement to a type of behavior I do not want my dog to receive reinforcement for. I ignore it or redirect the dog and have found after raising dozens of puppies to adulthood that they do outgrow this eventually.

I hope this helps.



Hi Cindy or Ed,

First I want to thank you for all the great info and products avail.
via your website and secondly thank you for taking the time to answer the numerous emails I am sure you get.

I am pretty sure I have answered my own? but want to run it by you before moving on. I have raised quite a few young dogs, conformation, herding, and more recently a great group of sight hounds. I have only had one dog that I had wished to pursue sch. work with but I had made the decision about a yr into his development, a male doberman from some old working lines and a mix of show lines. I bought him to show but made the decision to start working him as I have ALWAYS worked the dogs before him. I quickly realized I had over "trained" for lack of a better word, maybe manarized him? I had a hard time building drive, as he was very polite. Yes I realize that a lot of it could have been genetic, but I always wondered had I raised him differently would it had made a difference??

I am expecting a male dobe from working sch line the first part of Dec.. From what I have read and watched (your site/videos) I gather that with this puppy I need to really encourage play /prey drive and ignore/redirect some of the "pushy" behavior that I normally would not allow jumping, mouthing etc.? I plan on pursuing sch titles with this puppy and just don't want to make my job harder than necessary. I have your video Raising a Working Puppy and I am ordering Building Drive and Focus. Yes I crate my dogs etc. I get it :) But want to make sure I'am on the right track with the idea of manners (for a working dog).

Your time is greatly appreciated and I hope this email finds you and yours well.

Thanks again in advance,
Bishop, CA


Hi Dusty,

Thanks for the nice email.

You are right on track with your thinking about raising a working puppy.
I don’t allow my puppies to be total heathens, but I don’t correct them for things like jumping up and making body contact and I always make sure I have something appropriate handy for them to bite if they get wound up and want to bite me.

It is also very important to have a safe place (kennel or crate) to put the pup when they become too much to deal with and you don’t want to correct them.

Please visit our Discussion Forum and spend some time using the search function (located in the upper left hand corner of the web site) you will find many useful articles and posts that address your questions.

I hope this helps.




My name is Kipp, I am about to get my very first Doberman Pincher puppy. I have had 2 puppies in my life both being min pin, this will be my first large dog which I have wanted since I was young. I have spent the last 2 years or so doing research on the breed and finding a good breeder and resources. I myself am a police officer who is currently in between departments and I have the hopes of hopefully being a K9 officer with a Doberman (even though I know this is rare). With this said the majority of my time in the last 2 years has been researching training DVDs and books. I was given your website by a member of When I started going through your site I was amazed by the extensive amount of knowledge on your site. It is very easy to learn from and well laid out. I cant tell you the excitement and joy I felt when I found you did Podcasts!!! Now I've only listened to 2 so far, but I just finished the "Who Can Pet my Puppy" cast. My question to you is does this not interfere with the socializing on of the puppy. I have heard NOTHING more in the last two years then get your puppy around as many people and other puppies and adult dogs as you can. Was I misunderstanding your meaning when you said this? Also when you mentioned family, are you advising when I visit my parents or other family that its not OK for the dog to sit with them or have any interaction such as playing fetch, or was this just in the young stages of his life? Also you said you do not allow your dogs to show aggression towards other people unless you tell him to. Is that taught through special training or just simple body language because although I want a well mannered dog, in this line of work I want my doberman to protect me if I need it (as I'm sure you can appreciate). I hope you can clear this up for me as I am spending 90 percent of my day now getting ready for my puppy by reading and rereading training info, I know the bad rep that the Doberman has and my one and only goal is to make my puppy into a respectable member of the community. I also am buying a Dogtra E-Collar, which would you recommend for a doberman the 280 or the 2300? Additionally after just 2 of your amazing Podcasts I have decided I am going to buy all my future training material from you! If your DVDs are 1/4th as help full as your Podcasts I will never have to search the web ever again for anything related to dogs! I look forward to more pod-cast and getting my DVDs from you. Thank you for all your time in responding to my question, I will definitely pass along how great your site is through the dobermantalk forums!!!



Hi Kipp,

There is a difference between exposing your puppy to many people and allowing people to touch your dog.  I take my puppies EVERYWHERE with me.  This includes places like the bank, post office, car dealer, shopping center, etc…. I don’t want my puppy looking for attention from others, but merely want him to feel comfortable and confident in different areas and around different people.

You may want to start your DVD purchases with Raising a Working Puppy.  You can read the description of this video on the website.




I have to Presa Canario pups ( 5.5 month - female, 6.5 month - male) that I want to train for protection. My female is more timid than the male. I need to know the basics on how to get them acclimated to increase there drive and educate myself on how to schutzhund train. I have done it with other dogs but I'm a novice and need formal training.
What do you recommend from your video line?



Here are the videos we offer on Schutzhund:

* How to Raise a Working Puppy
* Training the Motivational Retrieve with Bernhard Flinks
* Building Drive & Focus with Bernhard Flinks
* Preparing Your Dog for the Helper with Bernhard Flinks
* Schutzhund the Dog Sport
* Handler Training for the Companion Dog "B"
* Handler Training for the Schutzhund One
* Training the New Helper
* Training the Trial Helper
* Training a Competition Tracking Dog


Another Question:

I purchased "How to raise a working puppy." I want to build their drive; I'm concerned that the "Drive & Focus" video won't help. The pups are ~6mos. I've started to separate them over the past few weeks (especially in the yard), they do a lot of whining. What am I not doing? Or what should I be doing? One is food motivated the other isn't. I take them to the local bus/subway station and playground to expose them I even have them watch schutzhund bite work. Can you help?

Thank you,


Why do you think Drive and Focus won't help? It's the video of choice to build prey drive.

If your pups are 6 months old and you are just now separating them it's very likely they have become way too bonded to each other. You can read about raising 2 puppies here. the whining is anxiety, because they are not used to being away from each other. This is not the ideal situation to have when wanting to train a working dog. We would have separated them at 8 weeks old and worked with them individually from that point on.

BUT, with all that said since you already have them then you need to use what works for each individual pup. If one likes food, then use food.
If they like toys, use toys. You can build drive for what they like and make it stronger.

I would read this article on Markers too. I use marker training for all my young dogs (and my adults too). We just completed a DVD on The Power of Training Dogs with Markers, it will be ready for shipment next week.

I am not a fan of letting young dogs watch bite work, I just don't think it accomplishes much. Back in the 80's and early 90's we did this but I have found that if the dog has the temperament and drive to do the work it's just not necessary and can actually scare a puppy, especially one that's not completely confident. I also don't want my young dog to watch a dog that's not a real strong individual because if something negative happens in training it may also set my puppy back in the confidence department.



What would you recommend for a 10 mo. old male border collie that is an aggressive tugger?  I have 2 tugs right now ---one is the synthetic (indoor fire hose) material that he loves.  It is 1 inch x 12 inches with a handle.  Works well for him and me.  I also have a regular (outdoor firehouse-yellow) material that doesn't work as well.  He will tug with it, but it seems too wide and he slips off of it.  It is a little big for my hand also.  It does have a handle, but sometimes I just hold the stick portion.  It is 2 inches wide and 12 inches long.  Length is right.  I do agility and need to have a toy I can stick in  a back or side pocket while I'm running and training to reward with.  I'm looking for an additional toy that is different to motivate with if he gets tired of the synthetic one---just to change things up.  thanks for your help. 



I use several different tugs for my agility dog as well as a couple of different balls on a rope.

Mini Tug -  I like the leather one.

My dogs go crazy for this fleece tug.

Braided tug is another favorite of my dogs.

The Orbee ball with the rope works well for tugging. Here’s a video from a couple of years ago with one of my dogs tugging with this ball at an agility lesson. I still use that same ball.  It holds up really well (I only let my dogs have their toys during training, they don’t have free access to them).

Roni Ball - this ball is a little bit harder rubber

Wing-a-Ball -  my 12 month old Malinois new favorite ball, it’s really easy to tug with



Hi Cindy,

I have a dobe pup 8 months old that has just started her first heat cycle. For the last 2 weeks or so her behavior has completely changed. I have been working on attention and the beginning phases of heeling and she was doing great. Now and for the past 2 or 3 weeks its like I've never taken her out of the yard. All she does is sniff the ground and look everywhere but at me. Is this normal for their first cycle or is she going through something else. I have cut her feedings way back but that doesn't help either.

Thanks for any advice,


Sometimes they act like that while they are in season, sometimes they don’t. I have found that the behavior can vary from one heat cycle to the next. I had one female that didn’t act any different during her heats, but it’s really an individual thing. My female Malinois house dog is normally the most attentive and obedient dog you could want, and when she’s in season she is like a completely different dog. She tunes me out and does as you describe, just sniffs the ground and acts like I don’t exist. If I take her to our training club and do agility, she acts normal while working the equipment but in between runs she goes back to tuning me out which is HIGHLY unusual for her.

If I see that my females are acting like you are describing, I just take a break during this time.  I don’t feel anything productive can happen in the learning phases of training when they are so hormonal. Depending on your goals for her, at some point she will need to learn to work through it but since she’s just a pup in the learning phases I would just take a break until she goes back to normal.



Hello Cindy,
I will be bringing my working puppy home next weekend. I know you should not leave toys with a working dog according to the "Raising a Working Puppy" video. Can you tell me a few items that I can leave with the puppy while he is in his crate or kennel for a few hours at a time? I believe Ed mentioned giving a Knuckle Bone. Thanks.


A knuckle bone is good, and is typically yummy enough that it keeps a pup’s attention.

These toys are also good “puppy pacifiers”

Everlasting Fire Plug
Everlasting Beanie Ball
Everlasting Treat Ball
Jolly Critters  you can stuff treats or peanut butter, cream cheese, yogurt in here.  I put it in the freezer and then give it to the dog, so it takes a long time to get the filling out.



I recently purchased your Establishing Pack Structure with The Family Pet DVD. I am a bit confused compared to what I was told by others for Schutzhund Sport Dog. I was told don't control the young dog until it is 1 year old because it will suppress the drive.

When a young dog comes out from the crate, should I play with the dog to imprint the bite work so that when the dog reaches maturity and it is ready for the formal protection training, the performance will be better? However, in your DVD, you mention that you don't play tug until you establish pack leadership.

I also have your other 2 DVDs on Raising a Working Pup and Bite Training for Puppies. Does it mean that the pack leadership has been established for pup at that age?

I would like to hear your opinion on this. Please advise.



There’s nothing wrong with establishing rules for a puppy or young dog.  If you do this properly through controlling the environment and using a leash and crate or redirecting the puppy for behavior you don’t want it’s not a problem. 

If your puppy has drive, then asking for rules isn’t going to diminish that.  I raise extremely high drive dogs in the house and raise them for biting sports.  With that said, I don’t allow them to be heathens and do as they wish.  It’s an old school idea that you allow puppies to do whatever they want or you’ll kill their drive.  I don’t agree with it.

If you watch some videos of my young dog (now 18 months) you’ll see a puppy with oodles of drive but a pup that has respect for the rules of engagement.  I control just about everything concerning my puppies to set our relationship up for success.

We are in the process of editing a series of videos with Michael Ellis, showing how to use food and use play in bringing along a young dog.  when they are finished I believe they will help a lot of people raise really nice working dogs.

I hope this helps.



Hello Cindy! I just got almost $500 worth of your good DVDs. I have seen 2 of them and they are the best. My question for you Cindy is: I have a 2 story house and is it OK for me to let my 8 week old pup go up or down the flight of stairs (about 20 of them) on leash - will this have the potential to mess up his hips and elbows? Or should I just carry him up or down until he is a little older? If this is the case, how old should he be until I let him up or down by himself? Also, is it OK to let my 8 week old pup jump up into or down from my SUV? Will this be OK also for his hips and elbows? I just want to be VERY careful not to do any harm to his elbows and hips. I hope these going up or down my stairs and my SUV is OK because I don't want to baby my pup and I want to have him start getting used to these things ASAP. Thanks a million again Cindy! I will be buying equipment for protection training my pup soon!!!



Hi Mark,

I teach my pups to do stairs right away, but I don’t let them race up and down multiple times a day.  I’d teach him to do the stairs, and keep him on a leash so you can control his descent. I think going down has more potential to do damage. I would NOT let a puppy jump in an out of an SUV, too much trauma on the elbows when they jump down and too many opportunities for injury. You won’t be babying him, merely protecting his skeletal system.

I can’t say how old he should be before you let him do this, a lot depends on his size and coordination. A larger heavier boned dog has more potential to damage himself than a lighter built less bulky dog.




This is in the comment section of my order I placed earlier today but I was not sure if it would reach you, so am cc'ing it to you both as well.  I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your extremely informative site, I have been reading articles and watching the streaming videos obsessively ever since I stumbled across it! 

I am purchasing the Bernhard Fink dvd's to help me begin training with my new Doberman puppy towards Schutzhund. 

The pup is 4 months old.  My question is concerning teething.  I know he should be coming into teething soon and have read NOT to do bite work during teething, could you elaborate for me please... does this include ANY and all tug play?  Should I wait altogether until he is 6 months/past teething age to start any of this work? 

I haven't seen any signs of teething yet, how should I know when I need to stop any bite/tug/prey drive work with him, is there any that is OK(I am also purchasing your rubber puppy tug toy and plan to make a fleece tug & leather rag for him at home). 

I don't want to miss this optimum time for learning with him but of course don't want to harm his teeth or discourage him should he be in any pain.  Please let me know where the line is drawn! 

Thank you!


It’s always best to avoid ANY tugging with puppies during the teething period (approximately 4-6 months of age) You’ll see that the teeth are starting to fall out around 16 weeks of age.

The benefits are not worth the risk of accidentally causing the pup some discomfort or pain and creating a negative association with biting and tugging.

I don’t play any tug games with my pups at all during this period. I wait until the new molars and canines are completely grown in.



Forgive me if this question has been answered on your web site - I couldn't find it.

I have a 16 week old German Shepherd from German working lines. I have trained her to ride beside my bike (at a pretty slow pace). She seems to enjoy the experience, but now I have heard conflicting advice on whether it is hard on her hips and according to some I could cripple her by putting stress on her growing joints. Her vet didn't have an opinion. We only ride for about 20 minutes (at a time) twice a day and it doesn't seem to wear her out. In fact when we get back home she want to play fetch and run around the yard. We both enjoy the ride and she looks forward to this part of her day, even to the point of getting her leash and bringing it to me and then doing the doggy happy dance. She is not lacking attention as I am with her all day everyday. Her only quiet time is when I put her in her crate when I need a nap. 

She doesn't pull at the leash and we typically run in alleys, which in our neighborhood are grass and not concrete. The bike also enables me to "walk" her at a a brisker pace than I am able to maintain otherwise.

I am sending you a picture of my little troublemaker. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my concerns.



I would not run a puppy this young next to a bike, no matter how much they seem to enjoy it. Just because a puppy can do something and likes doing something doesn’t mean it’s in the best interest of the puppy.  Too much exercise of this kind at a young age can cause skeletal issues. I wouldn’t do it. The growth plates don’t close for many months and damage can be done that will cause problems for the remainder of the dog’s life. It’s just not worth the risk, in my opinion.

I would direct you to the search function in the upper left corner of the web site for any additional questions you may have. If you type in your key words it will guide you to articles, Q & A’s and posts on our forum. Type in “puppy exercise” and you’ll come back with a lot of information.



I have an alaskan husky who is 17 months old. He is a sled dog from racing lines- leaders bred to leaders. I am training him to skijor, and one of the most important things a skijor dog must do is be willing to lead, pull steadily, avoid distractions. I know many trainers say you should always walk in front of your dog to show you are the pack leader.

What's your take on this, when I've been training my dog to pull in front, but still respond to my commands from puppy hood? Do you agree that a pack leader must physically lead? Thought I'd ask since I saw your malinois skijoring on you website photos. Incidentally, I've always thought Malinois might make excellent skijor/companion dogs due to their athletic build and drive. Beautiful dogs!


Training a dog to pull is a completely different issue than general pack issues.

When NOT working in harness, I'd expect my dogs to defer to me as the leader. Harness on means pull, harness off means to remember your pack manners.

My current dog does protection work, and he wears a harness for that...same concept. He can't very well run ahead of me to bite the bad guy if he's always walking behind me. :)


We are getting a puppy next month and plan to eventually do protection work with him--this will be our first time.  We have watched the following DVDs: Your Puppy 8 Weeks to 8 months, Basic Dog Obedience, Pack Structure for the family pet, Raising a working puppy, Building Drive & Focus, and the First Steps of Bite Training.  I have spent a lot of time on the website reading and trying to put it all together but I am still so confused!  For example, in one of the Q&As it says bite work can begin at 8 weeks, but in another Q&A you say to do the first steps of bite training when the puppy is a year.  I'm trying to kind of establish a general timeline or at least order of things in relation to the following (keeping in mind it all depends on the individual puppy) of when to begin the following things and how they might affect the others from 8 weeks to a year or so:

-Bite work
-Basic obedience work
- Corrections
-E-collar use
- Prong collar use

Also, if you start bite work at 8 weeks and do not actually start to do any defense work until the dog is much older, isn't there a good chance the dog will become "locked in prey" from working in prey for so long?

While I have found information on individual specific things on the website, as I mentioned before I have read different things at times and am still not sure how it all fits together in the bigger picture.  I really appreciate your time and I'm sorry to keep bugging you!  I just want to do it right the first time and have a complete understanding so I don't have to go back and correct mistakes later.

Charlotte, NC


Doing “bite work” with a puppy is only to teach the mechanical skills your dog will later need with a helper  You don’t want your dog working in anything other than prey with you, because that’s not beneficial to the relationship you want to have with your dog.  I wouldn’t worry about ‘being locked in prey’.  If the protection work foundation is done right AND you later work with the right decoy/helper AND your dog has the correct genetics and temperament this won’t be a problem.

Since you don’t even have your puppy yet, I might suggest you work on the relationship and a communication system FIRST.  This is best done using markers.

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers

We teach all the basic behaviors with food, and then switch to a tug when the pup is done teething.

The Power of Training Dogs with Food

The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog

This is how I have raised my current dog, Rush.  Rush is now 2 years old and I’m very happy with how his training is coming along.   You can see him working in a lot of our streaming video.

A lot of dog training is taking bits and pieces of what you learn, evaluating how things are going with your dog and not being afraid to try what works for you and your dog.  There really is NO generic recipe for how to train every puppy and to worry too much about it before you even have the dog is not constructive.  It’s a journey that’s supposed to be fun for you and your dog.  You WILL make mistakes, we all do.  If you do correct work with your puppy those mistakes will be overcome quickly and will be part of the learning process.  I think once you get your puppy things will fall into place nicely.

I hope this helps.




What's the deal with having the dogs return on recall to "between the legs" facing forward? Is this a new fad or what? I realize in protection you don't want the dog to "front" and take it's attention off the decoy, but why not to heel position?



I don't want to compromise my dog's correctness in heel position, so I teach an alternate behavior for recalls in protection.

This is perfectly acceptable for competition in the sport we are training in currently. (Mondioring)


Hi Cindy & Ed,

I purchased a german rottweiler pup to raise for personal protection. She is just over 7 weeks and I've had her for 6 days. I studied the video your puppy 8 weeks to 8 months before I got her home and been doing much of the training shown in the video with moderate success. I have established a value for yes, and the pup is consistent with the touch command. I am an amateur handler under the supervision of my husband who has a great deal of training experience. My concern is that my pup shows aggression towards me by growling and showing avoidance after I use food reward for the touch command. She will come to my hand take the treat and as I praise her and rub her back she will growl and try to leave. This pup also shows avoidance by not showing much interest in me, I will sit on the floor in front of her to try to encourage her to come to me or play with toys and she usually stops a few feet away and just sits there looking disengaged. She seems very independent and aloof. I know I am supposed to be her source of fun, what can I do to create a bond between us?

Thanks for your help!



First of all, you may be expecting a lot for a puppy that isn’t even 8 weeks old yet.  Have you read our article about puppy groundwork?  

The best way to make training fun for the puppy and to establish a tight bond is to follow the marker system. This goes into much more detail than the puppy video.

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers

The Power of Training Dogs with Food

Once your puppy is done teething, I’d recommend

The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog

Those 3 videos will give you a great foundation for further training, no matter what direction you choose to take her.  




My husband and I are working with our GSD who is still just a young puppy on things like beginning bite work, basic obedience etc. We intend to work with a professional in the future on protection work. However, right now I have one question as I am not new to training but new to protection work.  We are using English words for come, down, sit, and stay. We plan to use german commands for bite, watch/guard, etc.

My question then is that I am not sure if the speak command is later incorporated into when the dogs bark at a helper/suspect or if "barking" and "watching" are two totally different things.  Basically I want to start getting him to bark now and need to know if we will later use that same command to "shape" the behavior of barking at another person. If this is so than I guess we should be using a german word for that as well. I hope I am writing this so that you understand my concern. I just don't want to teach him with the word speak and later when we get help/direction on where to go next... I don't want to be told that we have to either use the word speak now when getting him to guard OR have to change the word on the dog who is ready to learn the right way now.

If this is confusing give me a call.  I am just laying the foundational work now and doing what I know and can do for this puppy. I feel we are doing a great job as novice's but need some advice. Thank you for your time. You website and products are wonderful. 



You can use whatever word you like to teach your puppy to “speak” because barking/guarding in protection work is completely different than learning to bark as an obedience command. 

Sometimes in the early stages of bite training, if the dog is really focused on the prey he won’t want to bark in which case the handler can “help” the dog by saying speak or bark or whatever the dog’s word is. This may help the dog connect the dots faster but getting the dog to bark in protection work is usually left to the helper/decoy and is brought out through defense much later in the dog’s training. 

Even if you want to use another bark command later it’s no big deal to add another word to your dog’s vocabulary.

I hope this helps.



Hi Cindy,

First I want thank you the hard work you, Ed and the rest of your team all the long hours you must put in to make this world a better place for dogs and their handlers. I was lost trying to do training with the new fad of  trainers using halties and other training methods that were not working. I had a young mal and she was a handful. I stumbled on your site and was saved from daily frustration. Between you and Michael Ellis, I now have a wonderful SAR wilderness dog. My question is about how much work a young dog should do when training for searching in the wilderness and be physical stressed or mentally for that matter. I've seen  few people try to finish their pups at just barely one year of age. The test is a 3-4 hour 100 to 120 acres over rugged terrain. I would appreciate your guidelines of this. My thoughts are it's a little to much training for young developing pups.


Since I’ve never trained a dog for SAR, I’m not sure I can answer accurately but I wouldn’t work any 1 year old dog for the length of time you describe. I don’t see the reason for it. I see the same thing in many dog sports, people push the youngsters because they are impatient or because the dog shows a lot of ability and as humans we sometimes put our goals in front of our principles. I personally would rather take an extra 6-12 months to accomplish something and not burn my dog out mentally or physically.


Hello Cindy,

I was wondering if I could get some help and advice. I have a German shepherd puppy who is a few months old. Still a baby of course but we have started marker/clicker training as  I do with all my dogs. The shepherds I have had in the past all matured slowly but they at least showed some form of prey drive as babies.

This puppy comes from good working lines and is high energy. However, I cannot get him to chase ANYTHING. We have put various tugs on a string, including buffalo hide which my border collies and other shepherds love. We have tried orbee balls, tennis balls, rags, etc. Anything and everything. He will not chase the toys at all and instead tries to climb all over us or check out completely. He has no problem grabbing and tugging with our pant legs and we have tried to keep that drive when he does grab them and direct it onto a rag near our leg. It has not worked.  I have a feeling he was not interacted with very much from the breeder and that all he was allowed to do was tug on their pants when they went in and out of the barn. He is not a nervous puppy really, will chase us, jump up on us, and works well for free shaping. I just have never had a puppy who would not at least chase a toy, even if they do not pick it up.

I am about to move on to food toys but wanted to do that as a last resort. We are keeping sessions very short and when he checks out completely and will not check back in, we calmly put him back in the crate and get out another dog to play with in front of him.

I have no problem that he has a short attention span, or that he is not tugging like a fiend at 3 months old. But I needs some help on how I can get him to at least chase the toy...

Thank you so much for your time.


Have you tried using an old pair of jeans as a tug?  I recently saw a puppy that was like yours, wouldn’t chase a rag or toy but would tug on peoples’ jeans. I suggested the owner use an old pair of jeans, cut a strip off the leg and use that as a tug and it worked well. The pup eventually transferred over to other toys. 

You may also want to make sure you aren’t moving your legs when you try to get the pup to chase a rag or toys. Put the rag/jeans/toy on the end of a horse buggy whip and keep your legs completely still. Maybe even block your legs completely (stand in a box, behind a barrier or fence).

At 3 months old I wouldn’t be too concerned. The fact that he bites and tugs on your pants means he DOES have prey drive, he just needs to learn what to channel it into. *Remember that puppies start teething around 4 months, so if you get him tugging take a break from it during the teething period. You can still play chase games with things; just don’t pull on his mouth.

I’d also recommend these 2 videos.

The Power of Training Dogs with Food
The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog



I spoke with Dona today concerning what direction to take in the training of a boxer puppy. My wife and I have no children, live in a house in TN, and both work full time. This will be our third boxer with Kasha passing at 13 in Oct of 2009 and Magnus is 9 and has excellent health. We own several retail furniture stores and Magnus is a regular ‘employee’ at the stores. I personally trained both dogs using a book that advocated the same techniques Ed uses for obedience and predictably the results were great. I plan to use the same basic plan however our new puppy will come from a strong working line of European boxers and want to take advantage of this drive. Having said that, we choose not to pursue raising a pure working dog for competition but rather a family pet with agility and obedience training. Do you see problems with this? Do we need to go family or working? Ed seems to have an either or mentality on this.

What videos do you recommend to achieve our goals? Magnus will not cross a threshold off leash (thru a door or sidewalk to street without “ok”) and his ‘manners’ have made him very enjoyable as a family member. I would like to take the training of our new puppy to the next level but do not know what direction to go.

Thanks in advance,


I don’t see any problem with your plan. There is not an either or mentality on this, but most people who raise pets WANT to take the drive out of the dog. This means it can be more challenging to raise a family dog while maintaining the drive levels you need for agility and really nice obedience.

Here is what I would recommend:

Raising a Working Puppy
The Power of Training Dogs with Markers
The Power of Training Dogs with Food
The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog

Here is a great article on marker training.

The DVDs I recommended  will give you an excellent foundation for any direction you choose with your pup. It’s exactly how I raise all of my working dogs, who also happen to be house dogs that live with the family.

I hope this helps. Cindy



We bought a 3.5 month old GSD pup for the purpose of training for narcotics detection/tracking work. When we chose her out of her litter we checked temperament and drives. She is a very bold, strong headed, intelligent girl. She had somewhat a short attention span but was very enthusiastic over treats, toys and handler praise. She loved to hoard her toys, chase them and tug a little. We tested with and without her littermates and breeder around.

I have been working on her toy drive since we brought her home 2 weeks ago to no avail. She is so interested in getting attention from her handler (myself) that she does not even bother paying any attention to toys. We have kept a "working dog" relationship with her- keeping her in her kennel when we are not working with her and have been very careful not to coddle or over-praise her during training. I "work" her before meals or feed meals during training. During our training we are concentrating on toy drive rather than obedience. I have tried toys on strings so that I am not distracting her by moving so much, but she will squeeze between my legs so that I am "rubbing" her and if I reach down to pick up her toy she clobbers me for affection. At first I kept toys out of her kennel but seeing the lack of interest in toys, I have put several different types of toys (tennis ball, rag, rope, chewy dumbbell, chewy ball, food toys, etc.) in her kennel so that she might entertain herself with them and find a new love for them. When in her kennel she does like to destroy the ropes and tennis balls and get the food from the food toys but other than that she hasn't been showing much interest in the toys.

So my question is, is there something I can do to get her attention off me and onto her toys or possibly start training for detection using food? Or do you think her toy drive might return after she grows up a little more? I have contemplated bringing her into the house so that maybe her "need" for peoples attention might diminish enough that she will start to pay attention to her toys again. What do you think? Any advice on this odd situation?

Thank you,


I wouldn’t want to get her attention off of you, but I would want to teach her to start focusing her attention in a way that facilitates interaction with you. I’m going to recommend the following:

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers
The Power of Training Dogs with Food

Do the work in these videos now. When she’s done teething, then go to this one (usually around 6 months).

The Power of Playing Tug with your Dog

The behavior your puppy is showing is not all that unusual. I wouldn’t confuse her tearing up toys with drive to play. I wouldn’t allow her to have any items that you will want to use as rewards later on, because you want her satisfaction to come from interacting with you and the item, not from tearing up the item in her kennel. Give her chew toys but not drive items (like balls, ropes, etc). You don’t want her to learn to entertain herself with these toys, the toys should only have value in relation to playing with you. 

I would recommend learning to use our SEARCH function, which is located in the top left corner of every page of the website. If you type in your key words or question it will find you articles, Q&As, free streaming video and links to threads on our discussion forum.



Hi Cindy,

I have a 13 week old female German Shepherd. I have the Michael Ellis DVDs, and overall she is doing great with them. Currently we are on the engagement stages still, and she is doing better and better, but still has some focus issues. She stays focused most of the time, but I have to watch her closely or sometimes she will check out and it takes direct interaction to get her back (Eg, food passing nose, small pop on leash, etc). Note that this is in familiar environments, and new but relatively empty and uninteresting environments such as a soccer field at 6 am.

With that said, bigger environmental distractions such as people and animals become an issue. I understand it takes more work on engagement training to have her properly ignoring those random people, along with work in progressively more distracting environments, but my worry is simply of the people and animals I know. As far as people go, we all have people (and their animals) in our lives and I'm not sure how I should be handling her with both family friends, and family dogs. I am worried that having her play with other dogs (only a few, but still) will harm her focus and engagement training in the long run. Already it will take her a lot of work to simply ignore other random dogs, let alone the one or two she will be around often at family homes, etc. Same goes for family and their kids. Especially with a cute little puppy, people you know will want to pet, excite, and play with the dog.

What should I be doing with those people and animals? How should I be handling it? I don't have a problem with controlling her interaction with other family people and dogs, but training her to ignore family feels a bit like I'm robbing her. I'm expecting to be her world, but she is not the only one in my world. So I just need to figure out how to handle that.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!



You can read this to get our definition of socializing.

I don’t let my puppies play with my other dogs until they will RELIABLY come when they are called with one command every time I call them while highly distracted. This is almost never until over 6-8 months old with my pups, but can be much later.

You have to decide how much you want your pup to interact with people and dogs, I choose to limit the contact depending on the puppy and the level of confidence, focus and interest the pup has in others. If she’s worried about them or unsure, then you allow more contact and interaction, etc… I’d have the other people in the family ignore the pup, so she’s not getting reinforcement for tuning you out.

Please check out our streaming video section. Michael talks about this in his videos as well.

Cindy Rhodes



I have had a German Shepherd  for 8 years and thoroughly enjoyed him, and have loved training him. I have been able to put a toy or food over to the side and he will focus on me and work like crazy, knowing that he will eventually get it. Showing that he can engage and refocus even when there is something he wants, and he knows its just 10 feet away, in clear view. He has been un-demanding in the house, waiting until I can go out, play or train. I guess you would say he is not a demanding dog. I'm older, so this is good.

I'm thinking about getting another dog now, and wondering if a SMALL, female Belgian Malinois, might be the kind for me? I know people with Belgian Tervuren and they say their dogs never sit down, and pace! I don't think I would like a hyper or a dog with so much drive he's moving all the time. I would feel pressured. My Shepherd has all the drive anyone would want but when you don't ask for it, he chills. I like this, because he is easy to be in the house with. Lets say, he works around my schedule, I don't work around his!

I would like a smaller dog, and like the way your dog works so I decided to ask you about the breed. How is a Malinois different than a Terv?? Tell me how a Malinois acts in the house and his exercise needs. Thanks ever so much.

PS My dog is not dog or people aggressive! He is protective of our house and yard but when I let people in, he knows they are ok and is usually friendly, maybe aloof if he thinks they don't like him or if he's not sure of them but never aggressive. I like this!


Living with a Malinois has been discussed a LOT on our website and forum. There is much more to it than I can cover in an email. I would say that I talk most people out of getting a Malinois. They see my dogs work and think they want one, but they don’t see the road it takes to get there! It can be challenging, to say the least.

I’d recommend using the search function to find more info..

Malinois are more reactive and energetic than most German Shepherds. They have a higher exercise requirement (as a general rule)  my dogs are wonderful in the house but they are a full time job… I typically don’t recommend them to people who want a dog that works around their schedule. They can be a dream but if not handled correctly they can be your worst nightmare. Based on our correspondence over the last year or so I would probably NOT recommend a Malinois for you. Malinois have MUCH more drive than the typical Terv (I’ve owned both breeds).

Maybe a smaller female GSD would suit you?

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes



I am soon, be getting a GSD pup which I intend to train and use for SAR work. I am receiving conflicting information as to how the dog should be raised on a day to day basis.

People who have a large number of dogs, ie. (far too many to keep them all in the house) say that after the initial socialization process, I should kennel my dog, taking him out 3-4 times a day to train and play, followed my an hour or so in the house, to learn indoor manners. I'm told that this makes makes the dog all fired up and ready to work, as he knows that his time with you is limited. I'm also told that the relationship between a dog raised as a true working dog and not as the family pet is a far better relationship and these people insist that this is how they would/ and I should raise the dog, even if they had only one dog.

The flip side of this coin, I'm told, is that the dog should always be at my side 24/7 if possible, to develop the handler/dog bond, learn how to read each other and be an inseparable team, etc...

I have a 3 year old GSD raised as a household pet, and regardless of how much time I spend outdoors training and playing with her she would rather be inside, watching television and is just plain LAZY!

I would like, very much, to not end up with a pair of bookends.

Can you offer some guidance, here?

C. M.


I think the key to this is balance. You don't want the dog to be uncomfortable being left alone for periods of time and you don't want the dog to be dependent on your presence 24/7. If you are like me, you want the dog as a companion as well as a working dog.

I'd recommend Raising a Working Puppy. This isn't so much a training video, but shows how we set up new puppies to be ready for a working career later. I don't believe you need to isolate the dog to get them to work, but I do believe that all dogs should be comfortable in a crate, in a kennel, in a house and in a vehicle.

I'm glad to see you ordered the marker video, I'd also recommend the following:

The Power of Training Dogs with Food
The Power of Playing Tug with your Dog
Focused Heeling with Michael Ellis
Training the Retrieve with Michael Ellis

Michael's system is the best and if you follow the techniques outlined in the DVDs, it will take you along the path to set your dog up for whatever endeavors you choose.

You might want to spend some time on our streaming video section, watch Michael's video series of his philosophy.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes


Dear Mr. Frawley,

I have combed through and searched information on my specific question over your website, and I have not found one that deals with this question, I even looked up some that may go over a similar scenario and answer this, but I haven't found it. I apologize if you have encountered this before.

I have a year old german shepherd that i purchased naively from a so-called "breeder." I was new to the GSD world, and it is as much my fault for not being more informed as her fault, she does the "american Showline" (gag) and mixes them with non-working east german lines. I know now that mixing german show lines and working lines, especially american show lines (which are not german shepherds in my book) and working lines is an abomination! However, I have my dog where anything that could go wrong with a GSD has (except his hips, but he's young yet); however, he loves our family, he's loyal. He is skittish (not to be confused with standoffish) around people, expecting me to protect him; and he's dog aggressive to most dogs, for whatever reason, there are a couple dogs he's encountered (neighbors') that he gets along with quite well.  Once there was a staff terrier of some sort and my fiance had sampson by the collar with his front feet off the ground and all you could hear was his teeth snapping together in effort to bite the dog; but as I said he's not like this to ALL dogs, but it matters not if the dog is friendly or aggressive. Now that you have the background on Sampson, in a year or so, I am expecting to get a real GSD, of working lines. I have done my research and found a good breeder, and there's approx a year wait. I am wanting to try Schutzhund training (for the first time) with the puppy, at the very least, have a confident and non dog aggressive GSD. I am concerned that my current dog's skittishness, fear, and dog aggression will somehow rub off on the pup; even if they are properly introduced and get along well, through walks or observation, etc. How can I prevent this from happening? Is there anyway (after the dog is old enough to have a good recall) that they would be able to ever be out together? I must admit, my current dog has a horrible recall, mainly outside. If we're playing ball, he's going to run around (not off, he stays within range of me, he's not that brave, lol) and sniff the area, and ignore me when I call him, even when I use a more aggressive tone.

Thank you,


I don’t let puppies socialize or interact with unstable adult dogs.  Puppies mirror behavior and attitudes, I would not allow your puppy to be in contact or even in a situation to observe the older dog.  I sold a very nice puppy to a friend who had a very nervy GSD and cautioned her to keep them apart until the puppy was mature and had a good outlook on life.  She didn’t listen and she ended up with two nervy dogs.  The new pup became over reactive to all the same things as the adult dog.  it may have been coincidence but I doubt it.

I only let my puppies and young dogs interact and run with adults that are obedient and stable.  If I can’t get my adult dog to come to me when I call, how can I expect to control the adult dog and an untrained puppy?

I’d spend the next year training your adult dog, and then I would keep a new puppy separated from him unless you had direct supervision (and you have the obedience issues ironed out with the adult).

If you are interested in a working career for the new puppy, I’d direct you to our Michael Ellis series of DVDs.  We haven’t found a better system for training dogs from start to finish.

Please check out our streaming video section and go to the Michael Ellis lecture. It’s a free series of video clips that outlines Michael’s system and philosophy.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes

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