The Old Trainer: Electric fences even work over water

June 14, 2013 

Dear Old Trainer: Excellent column on the invisible fence ("Invisible fences work — with training," June 1). We have a pond that is half on our land. Our dogs all like to swim, and I don't want them swimming out on the other side and straying off. Does the fence work in water?

— Fran, Edmond, Okla.

Answer: Yes. String it across the water at the point where your property line crosses the pond and it gives the same signal to the dogs it does on land. The level of electricity is so low it is not dangerous to your dogs in water.

Dear Old Trainer: Your column about teaching the figure-eight was a revelation. I now realize all my four dogs don't have the same interest in learning tricks. Suzy, my English bulldog, loves to learn them. The rest don't. She learned the figure- eight in just three days and loves to do it. Got another trick I can teach her?

— Lloyd, Monterey

A: You're lucky Suzy loves tricks, Lloyd, so work with her every day. Here's a good one because the basic move is the starting point for a dozen different tricks, including closing a door on command.

Choose a bench, porch railing or any surface where it's comfortable for Suzie to place her front paws while she stands on her back legs. Pat the surface with your hand and say "Paws up, Suzy."

When she rears up and puts her paws on the surface, praise her and pet her. Do it several times, then give her a rest, but come back and repeat throughout the day.

Always use the same hand signal to tell her where to place her paws. As she learns, shorten the command to "paws," and alternate between giving the verbal command and using only the hand signal.

Every dog should learn this basic move because it is useful in so many ways. You eliminate all bending over by teaching her to come up to your level while you put her leash on, or love on her, or just let her show off.

Once she has it down, leave a door open a few inches, touch it with your hand at the point where it is comfortable for her to place her front paws, and say "Close the door, Suzy." As soon as she touches the door, it will close. Pet her and praise her and tell her what a smart girl she is.

Work on it every day, but make sure she touches the door in the right spot while she is learning. You don't want her to get a paw caught. The trick works on any door, including a car door. When you arrive at the dog park, leave your door open. After she takes a few steps say, "Suzie, you forgot to close the door." She'll race back and close it. Your friends will love it and so will Suzy.

It looks hard, but is easy to teach once you figure out how to let Suzy know what you want. The secret, as always, is loving on her when she does it right.

Note the new email address for all questions.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to

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