Dear Lisa: I seem to have misplaced the handbook on training “Li'l Taco” how to go through the little doggie door. I've been pushing him through, opening it enough for him to finally jump through, and letting him watch my other Chihuahua go through it with ease. He is quite stubborn. Any suggestions? – Taco’s Doorman

Dear Doorman: It sounds like Li’l Taco needs some direction from you for him to understand what this potentially scary door is all about. Most likely the puppy doesn’t understand what is expected of him that he is supposed to push the door open to go out. Currently you are forcing him to do something that is confusing, not fun and with no reward.

Let’s break down his training into a few small steps and turn it into a fun and rewarding game. First, find a family member or friend to help. Then remove the doggie door flap or tape it into the open position if it isn’t detachable. Have your helper sit with Li’l Taco inside the house while you sit right outside the open doggie door. Bring lots of meaty treats with you, small bits of ham or hot dog work wonders.

Call your dog’s name from the outside and see how he responds. Because he can see you, he might run right through the door and into your lap. If so, praise lavishly with several treats. Reverse the process with your friend. Try this a few times and then don’t do any more training that day. Leave the door open and see if the puppy will follow the other dog out on his own, if he does, great.

Repeat as Necessary
On day two, repeat the exercise first with the flap open and then try the same exercise with the flap down. Have your friend on the inside to assist by poking the flap with his finger enough to show the puppy that he can see outside (and you) if he pushes it. Call your dog, if he doesn’t come immediately have the friend push the flap open until the puppy can see you. Then when the puppy is going through the door, slowly let the flap come down over his back while he goes through. The idea here is two-fold, getting the puppy used to the feel and sound of the flap and to teach him he needs to open the door to get outside. Some people report success by replacing the flap with light materials such as cloth or cardboard in order to get the dog used to the heavy flap. It shouldn’t take your dog long before he figures it out. Also, do this exercise right before it is time for his usual potty break. That way he will also start to associate going through the doggie dog to do his business outside.

Dear Lisa: I wanted to know how to buy a show prospect puppy even though I am a novice. I want to breed and show Maltese but most of the breeders I come in contact with want to sell their puppies to other breeders first. I want advice on how to buy a show prospect Maltese. – Novice Needing Mentor

Dear Novice: It sounds like you are very enthusiastic about joining the sport of purebred dogs and getting yourself a Maltese. Luckily, the American Kennel Club has a new networking opportunity for your to help you get started in dog showing as well as meeting up with breeders to help you find your first dog. The new Exhibitor Mentor Program was developed to help people just like you who are interested in showing and breeding dogs but need an experienced person to show you the ropes.

When you sign up, you may select from the following areas of interest: conformation (traditional dog shows), obedience, agility, rally, or junior showmanship. Then AKC matches you with a mentor in your geographic area.

Parent Club Resource
In the meantime, you can also contact the American Maltese Association to search for show breeders in your area. When you speak with a breeder referral contact let them know that you are looking for a mentor to teach you about showing and breeding. Some people in your area may be looking to expand their breeding programs and would welcome the opportunity to have someone to “join-up” in their endeavor. Before you begin breeding it is important to learn how to show, handle and care for your Maltese. This is where the New Exhibitor Mentor Program will really help you out. Once you go through this learning process, taking the next step into breeding your first litter will come easier and with a lot of support from fellow fanciers.


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.

© 2008 The American Kennel Club, Inc.