A Fall Confidence Booster For Dogs

Well… the sun has finally broken through our Seattle rainclouds this morning.

And unless I like raking up Maple leaves in the rain, I needed to get my trusty leave blower and get to making some piles… because sunshine doesn’t last long this time of year where I live.

But I brought something with me that not many people raking up leaves bring with them, a puppy and lots of cheese bits.

Let me explain…

You see, one of the things I’m reminded of with having a new puppy around the house is the LACK of effort people put into building their dogs confidence.

And because I want Ginger to be super confident around loud strange things, I like to expose them to her all the time.

But there’s a trick to it.

The trick to getting a dog to handle intense stimulus to to expose the dog to the loud noise while it is having fun.  That’s where the cheese comes in handy.  I toss the dog a piece of cheese 15 yards away, and as she goes to eat it, I fire up the leaf blower.  And I do this several times until she seems comfortable.

It only took a few minutes, and it wasn’t a big deal.  But I see so many dogs scared of loud things like vacuum cleaners that I want to condition my dog to like loud things early in her life.

Then I Upped The Noise… And The Reward

Do you see what I’ve done in this picture?

For starters, I’ve decided to wow all of you with how sexy I look in those Muck boots 😉

Secondly, I’ve added two children.  Now I don’t know about your dog around kids, but for mine, children are just big squeaky toys to Ginger… and squeaky toys are to be chewed on.

That’s why you see Ginger’s ‘coon toy’.

If Ginger did not have her coon toy, guess what she would be chewing on?  That’s right, my children’s pant legs.

So I’ve trained my children to always bring the Coon when they play with Ginger so that if she starts to chew on their pant legs the shake the Coon in front of her face and she’ll chew that instead.

This is called a Replacement behavior and if you aren’t familiar with this strategy I have dozens and dozens of ways to use this strategy inside my Hands Off Dog Training program.

You can use replacement behaviors for lots of things like nipping, chewing furniture, not begging for food and lots more.  If you aren’t currently using replacement behaviors as an everyday way of interacting with your dog, your dog is either already perfect, or will never be… they are a required tool for good behavior that you need in your toolkit.

Do You Notice Anything Else?

Ginger is not directly next to me as I blow the leaf blower.

I did not want to be too intense for her.  I wanted her to have fun AWAY from the leaf blower while it was going full blast before she got up close.

If I had pushed her to quickly you could create an issue where they want to get aggressive towards the leaf blower and bite at it.  I did not want that to happen, so I’m working her in slowly.

Then I added Even More Play

As I continued blowing the leaves into a big pile I noticed Ginger having a blast chasing the leaves as they flew and then diving into the pile.

At this point I had conditioned Ginger to think that this whole leaf blowing thing was wonderfully fun.

And we’d gotten a noise conditioning training session in to boot.

My kids had fun, the dog got stimulation and we built her confidence.

Many people would have just locked their puppies in the house at the first sign of them biting their kids legs, but not me, and hopefully not you anymore.

Combining this type of emotional conditioning to tolerate noises, along with replacement behavior that was MORE exciting then chewing on my children ie. chewing on her coon & leaves.  We were able to have her out in the yard with us.

So many dog owners keep their dogs from experiencing stimulating activities like this because they don’t know how to manage all of the behaviors and challenges that come up.  Hopefully now this has given you an idea on how to do add more stimulation to your dogs life.

Final Thoughts

I would aim to set up a situation for your dog every day where you expose something potentially scary to him while also wonderful at the same time.

Food and noise work wonderfully; and are a great place to start.

Lots of things make noises.  I already mentioned a leaf blower but gun shots are another great thing to condition dogs to, especially if you ever want to hunt with them.

Ginger’s breeder intentionally was dropping pans on his garage floor at 4 and 5 weeks of age while the pups ate with their mamma (one of the most secure emotions a pup could have).

And don’t forget to think bout other intense things like moving cars, bicycles and farm animals.

One mistake I made with my Late Golden retriever Bauer was never conditioning him to Horses.  I never even thought of it until he came on one one day and flipped out.

We do our dogs a disservice when we don’t condition them to accept things outside their current real of understanding.

So today work on expanding your dogs horizons, and try this method for making your dog even a little more brave.

Then come back here and leave me a comment, I’d love to hear your success stories on how this worked for you, or challenges you had implementing this idea.

And please, if you’re feeling lost, and wishing you just had a step-by-step plan to follow please consider looking into my Hands Off Dog Training program, I think it’ll take a lot of the guesswork out of training your dog for you.

Final, Final Thought

Many of my subscribers have been asking for more videos of Ginger, and I wanted to let you know that I’ve been holding off, because my film crew guys have been busy with another project and are arriving at my house to film lots of Ginger footage on the 4th of November.

So I’m holding off until then… but the good news is I will have some really good stuff to share with you, shot by a professional videographer.

Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

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Sign up below and we’ll email you your first “Training For Calm” lesson to your inbox in the next 5 minutes.


  1. Tania says:

    After taking the Hands Off Dog Training program and reading a lot about dog behaviour, dog training and so and so and so, I am a complete fan of redirecting!

    I also try to build up Pixie’s (my 7 month Golden retriever)confidence, especially when it comes to loud noises (from yelling, shutting doors the same way I was doing it on my teen years :p, poping up ballons, vacuum, you name it).

    A thing that I am really pround is about pvc rolling window blinds (if this is the good name for it…). On our daily walks, she used to bark when the neighboor would open or close it. Now, I dont have that at home, so it was hard to do the homework. But then, I decided to take the leash some yummy sauseges and go out there. Everytime we would hear the noise, sausage in her mouth! lol Now she doenst mind about anymore, unless it is completly unexpected and too close to us, then she gets scared and barks until she realizes it was just the window and we continue.

    Not so good yet is when there is a carnival close by! She panics with the live sounds of music or people talking. But I think it is more the vibrations than the loud sounds since I had the music in the car as loud as possible (my hears were complaning) and she was fine with it.

    Another thing… aren’t you afraid that Giger will associate the leave to play time? I have a hard time I keeping Pixie in a “leave it” mood when there are leafs around! Now our walks consist as me kicking leafs more and more vigoroulsy to have her leaving them! Otherwise she goes wild!!!! And it is also dangerous, because if there are some leafs in the middle of the road she will make the run for it!

    I am glad you opened your home to Ginger! I am pretty sure Bower’s paw is in it.

    Keep up the good work 😉


  2. Tania Veiga says:

    First let me say “welcome” to Ginger and congratulate you and your family on getting a new fury family member. I am sure that Bauer is happy to see that little one filling up his paw steps.

    I followed the Hands Off Dog Training program, read all book and have ssen all videaos I could get my hands on about dog behaviour and training. All I can say it that I am a big fan of redirecting and condicioning.

    Pixie (my 7 month Golden Retriever) deals really well with noises (We went through a phase of slamming doors, yelling, loud music, poping ballons, etc). The one that took us a bit more to over come was the sound of pvc rolling window blinds (if that is the techinal name!!!). I dont have them where I live, so it was dificult to do the home work. So I grabed her leash, really yummy treats and off we went into the real world. Every time that a neighboor would roll the blinds up/down (which made her bark like there is no tomorrow) I gave her a piece of sausage. In no time she started to give just a small growl and evetually not even caring about it! 🙂 She still reacts sometimes if we are too close to the window and we didnt see it coming, but I think that is more because of the scare, because when she realises it is the window blind making the noise she is ok with it.

    Another issue that we are still dealing with is live music or peopole talking on mikes (like when the carnival is in town or so). But then I think she doesnt like the vibration the sound makes, and not the loud souds. She does panic… This one is a tricky one for us…

    Now I am also using conditioning to have her “leave it” when there are leafs flying all around because of the wind (this could be dangerous as if there are leafs in the midle of the road, she could mke a run for it!). So now on our walks I am starting to kick leafs in the air.. guess I also have fun in our traning sessions 🙂

    Keep up the good work


  3. Nelle Chilton says:

    I have a 9 month old Boarder collie, and horses. I have been using distraction and no to shape or at least control her chasing behavior. This works well as long as I am close or the horses are sort of quiet. Any help on how to handle the situation once things are out of hand. I have avoided using the “leave It”command as there may be a time when I want to develop her herding behavior and Of course I will take her on trail rides. I have gotten a lot of help from your program. Thank you.


  4. Early conditioning to loud noises is a must. Playing tapes or CD’s of various loud noises especially thunder storms definitely helps with this conditioning process.. Once a dog has developed “Thunder Shyness” it becomes most difficult to cure, if at all. The “squeeze jacket” worn prior to and during a thunder storm gives a degree of relief or security, but unfortunately does not cure. Most vets and some dog and pet supply stores such as Pets Mart carry them. Anyone knowing a cure for thunder shyness would be appreciated by those whose dog has this fear.


    Kerry Taylor Reply:

    I conditioned my lab to gunshots by 1st having her in a distance retrieve then shot the other way . I kept bringing her closer until she was beside me and i shot as soon as she was released and finally I shot and and released her beside me. She was good except she was terrified of thunder and fireworks.


    Tom Fitch Reply:

    I hope Chet will weigh in on this. But one thing I’ve had success with is to give treats immediately prior to or as the thunder is going on. Not after the thunder has occurred and your dog is cowering under the bed, but you have to give the reward before their response to cower. I try to give the treat after the lightening flash but before the thunder. It seems to help and Annie isn’t as frightful as she once was. The idea (in my mind) is to make thunder a fairly enjoyable experience and not something to be feared. FYI…I am NOT a professional trainer!


    Chet Reply:

    Absolute spot on.

    This actually isn’t a postivie reinforcement technique, it’s an emotional conditioning technique, and you’ve described the difference perfectly… it’s all in the timing of the treat.

    I think I’ll elaborate on this more in an upcoming email newsletter… thanks for the inspiration.


  5. Jean says:

    I have a 15 month old Australian Shepherd who has “memorized” which commercials have dogs/cats in them and runs from other rooms to bark at the TV at the very first second of a familiar commercial. Using replacement behavior has helped tremendously. I originally taught her to go get her “hoopie” (a latex ring) and bring it to me for a game of fetch when these “disturbing” things occur. Now she is also using that replacement behavior whenever she feels the need to bark at something outside the front of the house. One bark and “get the hoopie” and no more barking. Her behavior is also having a positive effect on the 2 year old Aussie I foster.

    Now if I could just convince them playing fetch with the hoopie is better than barking at squirrels, life will be grand. 🙂


  6. Lynn Geiter says:

    I have a 6 mos old Australian Cattle Dog and she is TERRIFIED of loud noises. Her instinct is not to get agressive but to RUN as fast as she can away from it. If by my home she tries to run back to the front door as fast as she can. The fear actually overrides her desire for food and play. The regular house noises aren’t so bad but loud trucks, especially garbage trucks sirens and loud cars scare the you-know-what out of her. How can I help her with this if I can’t get her distracted with food or a toy? She really is a wonderful dog but my fear is she’ll get away from ne and get hit by a car. Please help!!


  7. marion veira says:

    Hi,my 13 month old male cocker spaniel is a real Jekyll And Hyde! He can be as gentle as a lamb but then has moments of gnashing,usually when I try to take something away from him such as my glasses or a pen etc!
    To save the risk of his teeth getting too close,I give him a small treat for releasing the object as he definitely won’t let go without this incentive.
    Also,he barks at every recent firework going off and I don’t have a clue how to prevent this!
    he also sadly has separation anxiety and hates being left on his own.When I am home,he literally follows me everywhere and if I am out or at work,he pulls up the kitchen floor covering,and barks,cries and howls,according to the neighbours.
    I do love him to bits but would be very grateful for any advice you may have to offer! Thanks,Marion.


  8. Kay Schreier says:


    I had a puppy who loved to ride in the car with me until I made a terrible mistake by taking him in the car with me through the car wash.
    He totally freaked out and as a result he trembles and will not stay in the passenger seat as he used to do. How can I correct this feeling/situation? I feel as though it is the noise more than the movement.


  9. Sandra says:

    We know that a dog’s hearing is far more extensive than ours. There may be soundsd in any given mechanical tool or appliancee that we can’t hear but our dog can amd they may be sounds that hurt his ears besides. I’m wondering how far we should go with the sound tolerance training especially if you notice that intolerance in your dog.


  10. jj says:

    Hi – I enjoyed the noise training, and was glad to see the children wearing ear protection, too. Good job! I too am a dog trainer – (used to train dolphins)and giving dogs confidence in various situations is very important, as you pointed out. When my pup first reacted to the vacumn, I started feeding her on it when it was unplugged. She got part of her meals on the vacumn! Gradually, over a few days, I turned the vac on and fed her near it, closer and closer until now the vac is a total nonissue (This is the basic progression – there were steps inbetween). Each time I have noticed her even slightly flinch at anything if I can repeat the situation with treats, I address it right then and there. For example, the first time she flinched when I shut the trunk of the car loudly, out came the treats and repeated trunk closing, until she could sit calmly next to the car as the truck was closed. When a dog sees that I am relaxed, she is relaxed. I see a lot of fearful dogs who would not be so if only their owners had a relaxed attitude toward trying situations. When a dog is afraid, this is Not the time to cuddle! This is the time to be calm, matter-of-fact and relaxed. If we owners and handlers are confident and expect our dogs to be so, they sense it and will be braver. Training is never done, I believe, and continuees thru-out the dog’s life. My Aussie shep-ACD mix was rescued at about age 2. She had been badly abused, so it took about a year to help her become confident. She was a wonderful dog, and lived a long happy life to age 18, passing Dec. of 2008.Keep up the good postings! Thanks, jj


  11. Lorna Enns says:

    We have just had Halloween and with all the fireworks our 5 year old Pit Bull flips out.We had been hearing the fireworks for days already and each time the dog looked anxiously at us and we’ed say “it’s o.k. Rocky” and try and show that there is no problem. But Halloween evening we went out for dinner and when we came home the living room was topsy turvey. We always tie him to the cage with the leash because we can not trust him being loose. But we left the TV on and his bed was close so he could lie down, had the blinds down. But when the fireworks started he decided he was heading downstairs So he stated off, dragging the cage behind him. He managed to tip my husband’s chair upside down, the cage tipped over spilling the water in his dish all over the carpet. The whole works tangled up with the piano and he almost made it to the stairs when we came home.We had a big mess to clean up. I read what you said about noise and wondered if it would help to bang pots and pans from time to time.


  12. Dominique says:

    I have a service dog, named Rosie, which came to me from the Humane Society. She was about 3 when I got her. She can handle anything: I’ve taken her to Aerosmith concert, the Symphony, the Lion King in the theater with the animals coming in right in front of us, super busy concerts where people are standing up (I won’t do that again!), and she’s is so laid back, she is perfect. BUT, if I only carry something over her head, she immediately cowers. When something falls I have told her “Its OK, it’s just ‘whatever’,” (per your instructions) and I’m still working with her. She’s now 7 and my best friend. I love your stories, and getting to see Ginger growing into a wonderful happy dog. Thanks for your efforts at giving some awesomely good info.


  13. Karen says:

    I have a 2 year old Australian Shepherd named Baxter. He is very bad with distractions when walking. He especially goes a bit crazy (barking and leaping) when loud vehicles go by us like a town truck, car pulling a trailer, etc. I did not want to use treats (I use them as rewards) as a distraction by I tried it on several occasions. He is only interested in the vehicle. How can I get his attention and/or have him realize that he doesn’t have to go crazy at this vehicles? Thank you for any bit of help.


  14. daniel alfieri says:

    Yes, this deal works great, my dog is very good with the mower as i let her join me outside when i cut the lawn when she was young. Same basic method, not too close to her once in a while play with her without moving the mower too aggressively towards her. She is now not afraid of it and loves joining me to do outside chores. Funny thing is she does not like the vacuum and gets nervous around hair dryers because she was teased with them when young, 🙁 and they are not as loud (i did not tease her). Of course i wonder if you know a way of deflecting an early fear she gained of plastic bags and things on her head? they would cover her head and then call her so she would bang into things. Now if something is on her head, even a cute hoody that does not cover her eyes, head and shoulders will slowly lower to the ground and sometimes her back end will rise into the air!? It looks so cute in a way but makes me sad too, she won’t move at all. I stopped them doing anything like this at all once i found out but the fear is there. Any tips would be appreciated muchly.


    Minette Reply:

    Work on one thing at a time, to many things that cause fear only make it worse.

    With vacuums I leave them in the living room and leave great treats on them like cheese and hot dogs, just while they are sitting there.

    Next I give them a peanut butter filled bone and shut them in another room while I vacuum the house. Then I take the bone away. The bone should = vacuuming so it becomes a positive.

    With bags, as odd as it sounds (this is normal for soooo many dogs) I keep one in my pocket and rub them all over myself all the time, while I toss my dogs treats.

    It helps them hear the sound, but not be accosted by the offensive item (and they think you are silly)

    Once this is no big deal, you can do the same to her.

    She may NEVER like an outfit put on her… so you will have to figure out whether she can get over that or not. Most dogs dong like things on their heads, it impedes their ability to hear and turn their heads and see things so even a normal dog doesn’t like this feeling.


  15. Bob says:

    I picked the best breeder. She vacuumed everyday from the day the litter was born. When he came home he was already conditioned. When my black lab hears a vacuum he keeps on doing whatever he was doing. Because we hunt, work Field Trials, & Hunt Test my dogs must be steady to loud noises. This very early beginning by my breeder was just what was needed. I have never had a problem with loud noises including thunder.

    Also from day one I banged two bans together at feeding time. At first lightly, then very loud. One sees your dogs reaction. Your dog will look up move away then back to eating. Tap the pans again. Within a very short time your dog will not react at all.

    Try it out even with your older dogs.


  16. J.D. John says:

    How do you recommend dealing with a dog that has gotten very scared of noise as she ages. She is 11 yrs old now & was totally unaffected as a young dog but over the last 5 yrs has become extremely scared of loud noises i.e. lawn mowers, generators, loud cars, storms, etc. She bolts & runs, hides, trembles, jumps on the bed or wherever I am. Even when I anticipate the noise, nothing I do seems to help her.


    Minette Reply:

    Dogs senses can become overwhelming and sometimes painful as they age.

    First take her to the vet and make sure she doesn’t have an infection in her ears or some other reason it is causing her significant pain.

    All the training in the world won’t help if she is painful.

    Read this article, it will help!!!


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