Pet Podcasts

Check Out


Get our widget for your Facebook or Blog!

Click here for exclusive discounts for Teacher's Pet listeners!

"I Love My Pets" the new single from Mark Winter available in

Click here for exclusive discounts for Teacher's Pet listeners!

Sarah Wilson
Award-winning Pet Expert
Teacher, Trainer & Author

Head Turn - NEW! Video clips!

This week learn how to create better control around distractions. See Sarah work with a 12 week old puppy, watch Melissa Fischer ( work with her sensitive Beagle, Milo, and then listen to a more advanced session with Melissa and her Australian Shepherd, Petra. This work is easy, fun, and every dog/ handler would benefit from it. After that, learn a creative way of using place to problem solve and hear Pip's second session in the Cheese Retrieve. Enjoy!

Questions or Comments? Email Sarah at: - also, Check out Sarah's Teacher's Pet Blog!

Links to the clips can be found below or at

.....Sarah works with Harrington...................................Melissa works with Milo



Sarah Wilson: Hi, welcome to Teacher’s Pet on Pet Life Radio. This is Sarah Wilson. This week we have a few things for you. You’re going to learn how to teach your dog to handle distractions better. Then you’re going to see how to use place in a new and rather inventive way. And after that, you’re going to see how Pip does on her second session in the quest to get her to retrieve a piece of string cheese. This will all get started after we hear from our sponsors, so stay tuned.

Sarah Wilson: Welcome back to Teacher’s Pet on Pet Life Radio. This is Sarah Wilson. Handling distractions is such a key part to owning a dog and having fun with your dog and being able to take your dog with you different places. If your dog lunges and pulls and jumps at every exciting thing he sees, and if he does you’re not alone, but if he does that it makes it less fun to take him places. You get yanked, you get dragged and then you get frustrated and then the dog gets frustrated, and you end up not taking him as many places as you could. I always look at problems as “What does my dog need to know to be more successful?” One of the key behaviors your dog needs to know is when they see a distraction they should check in with you. Now people say, “That’s impossible. I can’t teach my dog to do that.” Yes you can. Yes you can. And starting this week you get to see video clips of what I am talking about. To get to the links for those clips, go to Pet Life Radio, Teacher’s Pet, go to this episode, hit episode info and you’ll find the links in there. Or go to and the links will be there as well. Now this is not exactly Oscar worthy material, but it will be instructive and it will be fun. Enjoy and lets go on with the show. The first clip you’re going to see is me working with a 12 week old Black Labrador named Harrington. Now I want you to pay attention to a few things as you watch this clip. Number one, watch how I use the lead. It is loose most of the time. When I use it, I use it softly. I’m not flipping him around, he’s not being corrected. I’m using it to create the behavior I want so I can reward him. That’s a really key thing to think about when working with puppies and untrained dogs. You use the equipment to create rewardable moments. Or what I say in My Smart Puppy in short hand is “To get to good”. Get to good, get to good, I’m always trying to get to good. So I’m working Harrington. Notice that I do a very straight approach-retreat, which is one reason I did this on a painted line, so you could see I’m not circling, I’m not weaving, I go straight toward the distraction, when the puppy starts to move ahead or looks like he’s getting distracted, I back up then. My goal is not to get close to the item. That’s a really easy mistake people make. They put down a biscuit or a toy and they try to get close to it. No, no, no, no, no. My goal here is to create success for Harrington. I want Harrington to think, “Boy, when I see a treat, when I look back at my handler, great things happen. This is fabulous.” Alright, you see the difference? I’m not walking him up and then going, “No, bad”, right, and making it a bad thing. I’m walking him toward it and then helping make it a good thing. That’s a key difference, and when you really start to create success with your puppies, you’re going to have such a good time doing it. As he gets older and more experienced, I may make things more demanding for him. But not right now. He is just a baby, and my job is to create success. Also, watch for my small, clear red light, big enthusiastic green light, that’s something we talk about a lot on Teacher’s Pet. It’s something I talk a lot about in My Smart Puppy as well. Small, clear red light, in this case I back away and I jiggle the lead, that’s the red light. The green light, “Good boy. Alright, that a boy, Harrington”, and a treat and whatever else I can think of. So it’s an easy choice; a) boring, not that interesting, b) really interesting and fun, hmmm. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the choice. Even though Harrington’s really smart, he doesn’t need to be to make this choice. He gets it right. Notice that the entire session with Harrington is two minutes long. That’s it. This does not take a lot of time out of your day. You’re going out to walk your dog, you bring a distraction with you, you practice it for a minute or two, then you move on. Don’t think you have to carve out half an hour to do this, not at all. This was a really successful session, I got exactly what I wanted to get across to Harrington, Harrington had fun, tail wagging the whole time. Quit, quit while you’re ahead. You could always come back to it later. So those are things I want you to think about. So you’re going to watch Harrington, then you’re going to come back and we’re going to go directly to the session with Milo. See you in a minute.

Sarah Wilson: You’re back, did you enjoy that? Good. I had a great time doing it. We’re going to see Melissa and Milo in yet another parking lot. Now use your common sense folks and do this in quiet area so that you can concentrate on your dog and not worry about traffic, alright? Stay safe. The thing I want you to think about here is that we’re using the distraction to queue the dog. At one point I start to say that using a word won’t help you. Well it will help you, and I do teach “leave it” and “come” and “wait” and all the words as well, but those are separate exercises. Those are great for distractions that you see coming. This particular exercise is specifically to teach your dog to look up at you when they see a distraction, even if you don’t yet. Alright? And this is also proof positive that a Beagle can learn to work happily and with delight and not have its nose down to the ground every second. Just because you have a scent hound doesn’t mean you can’t train them for attention. Just like, just because you have a sight hound doesn’t mean you can’t teach her recall, or just because you have a sled dog doesn’t mean you can’t teach healing. All these things are possible. Breeds have tendencies, and yes you have to take those tendencies into account, but tendency is not destiny and you can train through and around it. Enjoy this segment. We have good audio for the whole thing, so you can listen to it here or you can go listen to the video clip, either one. But enjoy it and I’ll talk a little bit about it after, and then I think we have one more clip on this very thing. Enjoy.

Sarah Wilson; Milo clip: Good. Nice attention, good reward for that. Heading toward the distraction, then backs up. Very nice. The minute he glances at the rawhide she’s going to back away. We want the rawhide to start to queue the behavior, not her to remind him verbally ‘cause that won’t help you. Beautiful. Nice, nice, nice. Nice. And you see her hear getting to good over and over and over again. Instead of telling him, “No, bad, phooey”, she’s telling him “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Look at me, yes, good, yes.” If later something happens and a huge distraction comes along and she wants to add a negative, she’s going to be able to do that and he’s going to understand what she means. He’s going to say, “Oh, right, I’m supposed to look at you, right, right, right, right”, as opposed to creating fear or anxiety outside around distractions. That’s not going to help your dog calm down. He’s already sensitive. We don’t want to make him more sensitive by teaching him things are dangerous, we want to teach him the right behavior, so get to good, get to good. Beautiful. He’s doing so nicely with that. That’s just awesome. Good. Now we’re going to set him up with food, which should be even more challenging for him. Alright, so now we have three nice big treats on top of the rawhide bone. Lets see how this works. Let me get back in position. Alright, we got you on screen. So for a Beagle this, good, now see wisely Melissa is reminding him at a distance and checked with him, “Can you still pay attention?” And he said, “Yeah, no problem, I can still pay attention.” So then she felt comfortable going closer. Good, nice. He looked, the minute he looked she backed away and then rewarded him for keeping track of her. It is your dogs job to follow you. It is not your job to constantly police your dog. Beautiful. Beautiful. If your dog can’t do this yet, practice ‘til they can, because if your dog can’t do this, he’s not going to be able to handle distractions he finds surprising; the hunk of meat on the ground, the other dog, the squirrel, the cat. You always work with the controllable to gain control over the uncontrollable. Good, that was really nice ‘cause he stopped exactly when you stopped, he didn’t go ahead of you and that also is a side benefit of this. Your dog starts staying with you ‘cause there, beautiful, ‘cause there’s no point in going ahead of you because you just back away. So they start keeping track of you and the best place to keep track of you from is by your side. Really nice. Really, really nice. So this is a foundation behavior, everyone can practice this, you can practice this on your driveway, you can practice this in your kitchen, if you’re in an apartment practice it in your hall, practice it in your lobby. Practice, practice, practice until you can walk past toys and food. That was gorgeous. We’re going to end with that ‘cause you don’t do better than perfect.

Sarah Wilson: Now before we move on, I want you to watch that clip again and really pay attention to how much Milo’s tail is wagging. He’s having a great time. Also notice that Melissa is getting exactly what she wants. There is no conflict between getting exactly what you want and having a really happy dog. Often people feel there is or they get confused. And when they start to praise and have fun, they lower their expectations, or when they raise their expectations, they get a little bit more serious. But really you can sell both. You can sell this as fun and you can sell this as extremely good training and building of self control in your dog. So that is a segment well worth looking at again and watching. Now we’re going to listen in on a session with Melissa and Petra. In this session we have a more advanced dog who’s ready for more advanced work. What you can’t see as you listen is that when Petra starts to get distracted and Melissa gets her back, Melissa does a good show and stow. Show and stow is you show the treat to the dog, put it right to their nose, then you put it away. You don’t get it. You do not get the cookie for less than excellent work. That’s her way of raising the bar and boy does it have the desired affect. Once she shows and stows once or twice with Petra, she cannot get Petra to lose focus again. So that is a big tool. At first you reward a lot as I did with Harrington. Then you reward when the dog makes their best efforts or when they go past a distraction as you saw with Milo. And then with a more advanced dog, they have to do their best to get the best. They get plenty of praise, but if they want that cookie they have got to give everything they’ve got. So lets listen in.

Sarah Wilson; Petra clip: Melissa’s working Petra and, Petra just noticed the treats sitting on top of the rawhide, so she gets to work that a little bit. You love it when you find those spots ‘cause you realize, “Alright, here’s something else I can work on.” And food is a part of life, there is food all over floors in pet supplies stores, there’s food all over floors at shows. I remember showing once with two young kids sitting just outside the ring ropes eating hot dogs. Because this happened, you really need to proof food, and the way to proof it is to teach them to look to you to get it, not to correct them harshly for looking at food. I don’t want them to have anxiety about distractions, I want them to have attentiveness. Alright. Very nice. Very nice. And people often ask us “What kind of treats do we use?” Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. Do not get attached to the type of leash or the type of collar or the type of cookie, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you are doing with your dog and the timing of it, and also that your dog likes what you’re offering them. So if you’re using carrots or apples or cheese or, you know, Schnoodle bars, I don’t care, as long as it’s something that’s safe for the dogs and your dog loves. There’s nothing magic about the stuff. Everyone tends to think it’s about the stuff. The right equipment does make it easier, and the right equipment for dogs is different. It might be a head halter, it might be a flat collar, might be a Martingale, might be a plastic prong collar, it doesn’t matter. Don’t get attached to equipment. Get attached to what works for your dog. Very nice. She’s playing, “Rawhide, next to me? I don’t think so. It’s much more fun to look at Melissa.” Good. So notice again that she is not allowing Petra to take it from the ground, she’s allowing it from her hand so that Petra knows that all good things come through Melissa, and that’s what we want your dog to think, “All good things come through me. You want something…”, nice. That was a great down. Kind of surprised her that her, that the rawhide was there. That’s why she popped back up, she goes, “Ooh, wait, rawhide. How’d that happen?” She is so good. She’s really good. And you can see that both the dog and the person’s having a great time and that’s the point. Training, I don’t want it to be about dominance. It’s about leadership, it’s about connection, it’s about having fun. Of course leadership is a part of it, but it’s not dominance to dominate. Training is not something you do to your dog, you do with your dog.

Sarah Wilson: Now you’ve seen three dogs at three different levels be successful. Notice how the handling is done so the dogs can succeed. It’s not about getting close to the distraction. It’s about setting your dog up to get it right and then rewarding them for doing that. This is such a positive, positive exercise that sets you up to be able to handle distractions. I want everybody to be doing this. Ponder this while we go off and hear from our sponsors. Then when we come back we’re going to see a creative use of the place command, and we’ll see where Pip is on her journey to retrieve cheese. Stay tuned.

Sarah Wilson; Melissa and Petra clip: Welcome back. This is Sarah Wilson on Teacher’s Pet on Pet Life Radio. Now we’re going to go and see a creative use of the place command. What could that be? We think this might be another application for place. Melissa’s got a thought about her dog Petra and tell us about it.

Melissa: Well, Petra’s very anxious in the car. Whenever we’re in the car she sits and pants the whole time and we’ll do that for as much as 13 hours.

Sarah Wilson: Has she ever had a bad experience that you know of in the car?

Melissa: No, no. She’s just, tends to be anxious about anything that’s out of the ordinary for her

Sarah Wilson: Yeah, she’s a herding dog, an Aussie and she wants to control everything, and when it’s all going by so fast how should she possibly keep things organized? So, what’s your thought?

Melissa: Well she, I did place with her after I listened to Sarah’s podcast on place a few weeks ago, and I noticed that the next day she loved the bed that I had worked on. I worked on it for ten minutes with her and for the following week she was lying in the bed whenever she was in that room. And it occurred to me that perhaps we could…

Sarah Wilson: She, she thinks that’s a friend. Yeah, talk to her.

Melissa: Good girl, very good.

Sarah Wilson: Clearly she knew you in a past life. Okay. So, great.

Melissa: So I thought that maybe I could change her mind about the car since doing place with her for a few minutes seems to have changed her mind about the bed and made her think it’s a very special place.

Sarah Wilson: Good, and also I believe you’ve noticed that after days that you’ve worked her quite a bit, she also is calmer in the car.

Melissa: Yes, she’ll actually stop panting and occasionally lie down for a minute or two, which is a real change for her. So I’m thinking that something can change her, her attitude about the car.

Sarah Wilson: Right and it won’t change unless we try things, so we’re going to try this, great. I’m going to get out of the way and watch you. She’s got the door open, she’s got her other dogs either in front or in back so the seat is clear. So she uses car, she’s going to praise, and cookie, cookie, cookie, and Petra goes, “Huh, that’s interesting.” Now, when she takes Petra out of the car she’s going to be boring, no cookies there. She’s only going to get cookies and praise when she’s in the car. Hop up, that was a much nicer hop. Already. Lots of praise. Lots of cookies. Patting on the chest. Out she comes. Why don’t you walk for a minute and be boring. And maybe she needs to pee, yeah. We’re having a brief snow bank break because Petra, there she goes. Don’t eat yellow snow. Alright. So boring when you’re out here and then….

Melissa: This time when I tell her to go in I think I’m going to wait until she lies down, I’ll order her down before I give her the treat.

Sarah Wilson: Okay, perfect.

Melissa: Petra car. Good girl.

Sarah Wilson: Which makes it even more like place. And she’s, wait, she’s praising, good. She praised, but she didn’t give the treat. She has the treat behind her back and Petra knows the game so she drops into the down.

Melissa: Very good. Now she’s holding her down…

Sarah Wilson: Yup.

Melissa: and looking for a treat, so she’s looking very happy and relaxed. Good girl. Her attention actually starts as soon as I get the harness out to put on her in the house, so…

Sarah Wilson: You can do that at home too, put the harness on for treats, then take it off.

Melissa: Very nice.

Sarah Wilson: Good, out she comes.

Melissa: Okay.

Sarah Wilson: Now I want you to bring her over and tell her to wait.

Melissa: Wait.

Sarah Wilson: ‘Cause often telling a dog to wait on something like this builds drive forward.

Melissa: Car.

Sarah Wilson: Alright.

Melissa: Good girl.

Sarah Wilson: Okay, that’s an impossible position. What happened is Melissa in an effort to talk to me was standing against the door and there really wasn’t a lot of room for Petra to shoot past.

Melissa: Good girl.

Sarah Wilson: Good, very good.

Melissa: Very nice, and I put the treat on the bed of the car…

Sarah Wilson: So she makes the place good, not her hand good. So lets try that again. Walk to the car, tell her to wait and then send her in. She hops out nice and relaxed.

Melissa: Wait.

Sarah Wilson: Good, alright.

Melissa: Car.

Sarah Wilson: Good.

Melissa: Good girl.

Sarah Wilson: As anticipated, the wait makes her a nice launch forward.

Melissa: Good, nice, very good, Petra.

Sarah Wilson: And she hopped in and immediately lay down.

Melissa: You’re being a sweet girl.

Sarah Wilson: And if we weren’t in the middle of a parking lot, we could do this off leash, which would be interesting, but we can’t do it now ‘cause we’ve got carts and people and snow removal gear. It’s a beautiful day here, it’s in the 40’s which is, as you know, New Hampshire, suntan weather. Beautiful.

Melissa: Car.

Sarah Wilson: Good.

Melissa: Good girl. Still not there. Now she’s lying down, but she’s still not hopping in and lying down instantly.

Sarah Wilson: Right, well yeah. Of course, yes.

Melissa: Good girl.

Sarah Wilson: It’s only the 5th time. So this time try it without the wait. And in general if you were going to wait her, I’d wait her a little farther out.

Melissa: Alrighty. Good girl.

Sarah Wilson: There, she got it.

Melissa: Excellent.

Sarah Wilson: I suspected that the wait close to the car was, was creating direct forward, but it was also creating a little bit of a hesitancy, so this time she hopped right up nice and even flow and lay right down. Beautiful.

Melissa: Good. That was excellent, Petra.

Sarah Wilson: Now…

Melissa: Okay, so wait a little farther away?

Sarah Wilson: Can try, but that just worked beautifully, so I’d just go ahead and do it. Whoops. She got a little distracted.

Melissa: Petra car. Good girl. Oh, excellent. You’re doing wonderfully.

Sarah Wilson: Good, she hopped right in and lay right down. So this time what I’d like you to do is see about clicking into a little opposition reflex by giving her slight forward pressure while telling her to wait in the car to see if we can tell her, get her thinking, “No, no, no, I want to stay in the car.”

Melissa: Alright, and now?

Sarah Wilson: Light pressure but tell her to wait.

Melissa: Wait.

Sarah Wilson: Okay, that’s, yeah. So she’s never had that happen.

Melissa: Right.

Sarah Wilson: But we’re not going to worry about that right now. She’s very, very sensitive to the slightest leash pressure, and so that’s good, that’s great, and Melissa’s worked really hard to get it, so we’re not going to worry about, she hasn’t got an oppositional reflex at the moment. And we ain’t going to put it back in.

Melissa: And she’s saying, “This is a good place to be right now.”

Sarah Wilson: And Roan also. Now we have a little white nose coming from the back of the car going, “Excuse me. Excuse me very much, what does a good dog have to do to get a little cookie around here?”

Melissa: But what I like about what I see about Petra is a very relaxed face now…

Sarah Wilson: Yeah.

Melissa: which I haven’t seen with her in the car and she’s open mouth but, and not panting hard, but panting happily and ears are up and cheerful.

Sarah Wilson: Yeah, absolutely. Soft eyes, she’s having a really nice time.

Melissa: She’s in no hurry to hop out now, which is really a change for her.

Sarah Wilson: That’s great, and also you’re making down the position you want, so hopefully that will translate. Lets do it one or two more times and then see. Yeah she even had a nice relaxed, she wasn’t shooting out of it like out of a cannon. Ohhhh, okay, we’re laughing because Petra stopped, looked at Melissa and downed on the slush, going, “This is what you want right now, right?” Oh, don’t reward her out there. I know it’s good, it’s cute, but we’re working on only getting it in the car.

Melissa: Petra car.

Sarah Wilson: Good, she wants that, yeah.

Melissa: Good girl.

Sarah Wilson: Home base.

Melissa: Good.

Sarah Wilson: Great, perfect. So we’re going to end with Petra now going ahead of Melissa trying to get to the car quickly. I think this was an excellent idea of Melissa’s, and it’s going to do exactly what she hoped it would do. And this time on loose lead she simply walked near the car and Petra leapt in and lay down because it’s now a rewardable spot. Lovely job, great idea, great application and terrific result. Perfect. Yay.

Melissa: Good. Very good. She says, “This was a fun, fun way to practice with her, and I’m a happy dog now.”

Sarah Wilson: And this brings us to our last trip on our journey this week, and it is the cheese retrieve. We left off on our first session where I was having Pip give me a dowel about the same size and shape as a piece of string cheese in exchange for something really terrific, and what we’re going to do this week is expand on that. I’m going to rub the dowel down with a bit of string cheese so it begins to smell and taste a bit like the cheese, but still is not edible. That’s the plan. A few of you have asked how you teach your dog to give you things. There are many methods. You can Google “clicker training retrieve”, you can Google “Inductive retrieve”, “Play, retrieve”. There are many ways to do it. The way I generally do it is with attention and praise. I got that from John Rogerson many years ago, and whenever the dog has something in their mouth, lots of praise, lots of attention, and when the item is spit out, you go very calm, very quiet, everything stops and then you get them interested in the item again. Start again. Now Pip has hysterically run over and jumped into place hoping that that will, oop, now we’re onto the basketball. Hi sweety. I’m sorry to keep you waiting, and she does not wait well. Well when I pick up a piece of pork I have her full attention. There’s the wood, I have the food. Give. Good, nice. She’s a little confused by the pork smell because she would rather have that. You got to give, you can’t just pick it up and throw it, you have to actually give it, thank you. Give it to me. My little Piperooni. She gets so overstimmed. Give. Life is overstimming. So that when well. She’s excited, but that went well. So now I’m going to open up a piece of string cheese, that in of itself is going to take a minute ‘cause I’ve got dog slobber on me and string cheese is not easy to open up on the best of moments, and I can’t help myself with my mouth because I have dog slobber all over me. Alright, so there’s a little bit of cheese, taking a bit of that, rubbing it into the wood. And if this works, or should I say optimistically when this works, I am then going to do lots and lots of mileage. Many, many things once you start getting the basic behavior need repetition. It’s not romantic, but they need lots of repetition. It’s called mileage, and this will be a behavior that requires quite a bit of mileage before I go to the next step. So lets see. We now have a piece of wood that stinks of cheese and she’s sniffing it and she’s licking it. Lets see how we do. Give. She’s licking my hands. Good, nice, very good. Nice big chunk of pork. Give. Beautiful, good. So this has not slowed her down at all. Even though, I said slowed her down and she downed. What a good dog you are. Give. Nice. She’s doing a little extra chewing of the stick, I’m not sure if that is a little bit of anxiety and excitement, or if this is due to the string cheese taste. Give. Good, very good. Alright. So I got what I wanted, which is she will now give me a piece of wood that smells of cheese. For the next few sessions I will be doing just that. I will be adding more cheese, but I’ll be doing lots and lots and lots of repetition of this behavior. So I create a habit. “If something smells like cheese, shove it at Sarah, I’ll get a piece of pork”. That’s the deal. And we’ll see how it goes. I’ll tell you guys how many times I do it and for how long I do it each time. I think the actual wood exchange here was maybe two minutes maximum, probably less. These things don’t take long. What you need is successful practice. You don’t need long practice. I’d rather quit now and have her doing what she’s doing, which is standing here bright eyed staring at me going, “What are we doing next?” That’s where I always want to leave her. That gets me a dog that when I say, “Do you want to do something?”, she jumps out of her skin to do it, “Yes, yes, I want to do it”, because I never push her to the point of boredom. I always leave her engaged, curious, interactive. So we’ve done a lot this week. We’ve done head turns back with puppies and Beagles and Australian Shepard’s. We tried a new place, which worked really well, what a great idea. And we did our next step her of the string cheese retrieve to show you guys how I think about building a behavior and how I go about it. And until next week remember, any dog can be a teacher’s pet. This is Sarah Wilson signing off of Teacher’s Pet on Pet Life Radio. Come and see me at Have a good week.


  • All rights reserved.