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Home 9 Breeder Education Home 9 Teaching Tail & Ears Up

Teaching Tail & Ears Up

Michelle Santana
Foxfire Dobermans


The best trick I have found for this is “tail up, good, tail up!” repeated over and over. With real clampers it takes time and patience to gain their trust and re-represent tail massaging as pleasurable. I then take this further to whenever (at the park, on a walk) the opportunity presents itself, like when the dog or pup comes up to be petted. (You know how dogs come up alongside of you and leans for loving or attention) I start the full massage to relax them working down to the tail saying ‘tail up’ all the while as I stroke it with my finger tips. Eventually you will be able to do just the tail. I have been able to get the most stubborn tail clampers to relax with this process.

Another technique is while stacking, after you have placed the feet, give the dog something to nibble on. (Something soft that is easily nibbled on, like rollover, hotdogs, cheese.) You may have to teach the ‘nibble’ so the dog/pup doesn’t bite your fingers/hand off !  You don’t want to use something where the dog has to start a tug-of-war habit to break off nibble-size pieces. As the dog is nibbling you start the tail up massage and tickling routine. Usually they will be so focused on nibbling that they forget to be uptight and will relax and let you get the tail up. This is a process like the first technique above, don´t expect dramatic results immediately. It takes time to teach the dog/pup to relax and enjoy the experience of tail up.


Well, first of all, as with all behaviors, you need to match the desired ‘response’ to a ‘command/word’. So use WHATEVER works to get your dog’s ears up…you will need to find a special word or noise to make WHILE she has her ears UP.

Secondly, you need to reward your girl with food during this “word/association” mentioned.  First you need to use the food quickly, while her ears are up and stop the rewards when they are down.

Repeat this word or noise throughout the duration that her ears are up; make a Big Deal about it too. At first she will not realize you are giving her a treat just for the ears but they do catch on pretty quick.

So, ideally she learns when your noise or word occurs and she puts her ears up that she gets a treat! This means you ALWAYS have to have treats readily available!

‘Good Girl’  as a command/reward (for example) probably won’t do as you probably say good girl to her for a variety of reasons Therefore she won’t know whether you are saying good girl for standing in the kitchen, for being In your way in the kitchen or for holding her tail up/down in the kitchen. The command/noise  HAS TO BE SPECIFIC for/to the ACTION you DESIRE.  You have to be SPECIFIC, so devise a word/noise you will only use when you want her ears up.

For instance (you can start this now), I start training my pups very young to ‘watch’ on a loose lead. This means I want them to watch the ground in front of us, with their ears up, as I throw a piece of bait on the ground in front of us.

At first I have to start out saying watch and then point the treat/reward out to them as it lies in front of them on the ground. Pretty soon I say watch and they immediately look at the ground because they know that is where the ‘reward’ is waiting for them.

I progress to disguising the reward as coming from an ‘undisclosed’ location by obscuring my hand motion as I toss it to the ground or by projecting a small piece of bait from my mouth. This discourages them from watching my hand and ending up /wrapping their head around my leg while watching for the reward to hit the ground. I say ‘watch it’ and the bait magically appears in front of them on the ground from my undisclosed projectile location.

Usually because of the inquisitive nature of the Doberman and partly because of gravity when looking at the ground, they put their ears up. Because the bait is already on the ground or appears there shortly after the word association, they put their ears up and dive for the treat which is
okay! Dogs almost ALWAYS will put their ears up to look at the ground.

Don’t hold the  collar/leash tight as that can inhibit them putting their ears up and take away from the ‘game’ aspect. This is supposed to be a ‘loose/fun’ game…

After they are readily putting there ears up and looking at the ground you can then change the dynamics of this game to Looking at YOU for this special treat to appear.

For this I  progress to an ‘attention game’. First I start with the dynamic ‘watch’ (the ground for a treat to appear). AFTER the above is Understood,  I  say ‘watch’ and wait for the expected response. However, I add a new dynamic into the game as soon as that response occurs. I Quickly grab the bait from the ground (this requires a fast and fun response from you,) saying ‘attention’ as I  scoop the treat up from the ground and repeat ‘attention, watch it’ as they see it in my hand. I then put my hand up towards my face to my eye level so that they have to give me eye contact. To recap – as you scoop up the bait immediately say ‘attention/watch it’.

As the dog turns to look at you say ‘good watch it/ good attention’.  Hand the dog the bait QUICKLY. As with all new training, you may not see an immediate response. IT TAKES TIME AND PATIENCE. Jump around and act happy after each exercise even if the dog only did it half-assedly. Remember, they are learning this new game/exercise too. Pretty soon you can say ‘attention” for eye contact, ears up, looking at you as in the Free bait. And ‘watch it’ for them looking at the ground ‘watching it’ as you move with the dog.

The only other thing you can do is watch your dog to see what they ‘key into’ and put their ears up for. (Kittys ? Squirrels? Keys? What in the kitchen? Anything you can put a noise or word to and reward for immediately will do).