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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Keep Pets Safe During Scary Holidays - 2015

Pets are safer indoors during fireworks and other scary events

It's Okay To Comfort a Scared Dog

Comforting a scared pet will not increase his/her fears. Of course comfort is in the eye of the beholder. Some dogs do not want petting. They just want to hide. We should honor that. Some dogs want to be close to us. We should honor that.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Counter Surfing Part 1 - Management; Positive Reinforcement

Dogs are natural scavengers. It's quite normal for them to find food and eat it. Dogs are also opportunistic. If they know food is usually at a certain place, they will return to that place in search of more food.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Recall Tips and Tricks

1. Proofing
Start super easy and work your way up in teeny tiny increments. 
i.e. ask for come while in a quiet bathroom and the dog is one foot away.
ask for come in a quiet bedroom when dog is two feet away
ask for come in a quiet living room
ask for come in the living room with the TV on
ask for come in the living room with people walking around
ask for come indoors while next to the back door (if you have one)
ask for come right outside the backdoor (if you have a secure back yard)
and so on
Be aware of distance and distractions. When increasing one, decrease the other.

2. Foundation
Actually, before you even ask your dog to come, make sure your dog knows how to pay attention to you
Reward your dog for looking at you
Reward your dog for approaching you when you haven't called

3. Set the dog up for success
A. Don't call if you don't think he will come.  Every time you call and the dog doesn't come, your recall cue looses a little bit of it's meaning.   Learned irrelevance:

B. Always keep pup on leash when in unsecured areas. Every time he takes off to chase something, she will self reward and set back your training

C. Always reward the dog for coming when called

D. Never ever call a dog then scold or do something unpleasant (baths, nail trims, vet, etc..)

4. Tips/Tricks
A. Reward Check ins:

B. Be aware of body pressure:

C. Be aware of treat placement:

5. Games:
A. Drop a treat and run like heck:

B. Hide and Seek: make the game easy at first. Then increase the difficulty. Hide behind a tree, in a closet, etc.. Call your dog. Have a big treat party when she finds you. Of course don't do this if it distresses your dog (might not work well for a dog who has separation anxiety)

6. Target training
A. Target to hand

B. Target to mat:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reading/Resource List

A list of books, DVDs, youtube channels, supplies that we recommend.  Note, we don't agree with every single thing provided in these resources but we still think that they provide a lot of great information

Before and After Getting Your New Puppy – Ian Dunbar
Behavior Problems in Dogs – William Campbell
Bones Would Rain From the Sky – Susan Clothier
Click to Calm – Emma Parsons
Complete Idiots Guide to Dog Training Online Course  – Pamela Dennison
Control Unleashed  Book – Leslie McDevitt
Control Unleashed DVD –  – Foundation Seminar – Leslie McDevitt
Dogs are From Neptune – Jean Donaldson
Don’t Shoot the Dog – Karen Pryor
Dog In Sight – Pamela Reid
Excel-Erated Learning – Pamela Reid

Feeling Outnumbered? Karen B London and Patricia McConnell
Feisty Fido – Patricia McConnell
Fight! – Jean Donaldson
How Many Dogs?! – Debby McMullen
How to be the Leader of the Pack and Have Your Dog Love You For It – Patricia McConnell
I’ll Be Home Soon – Patricia McConnel
Love Has No Age Limit – Patricia McConnell
Manual of Clinical Behavior by Dr Karen Overall
Mine! – Jean Donaldson

On Talking Terms With Dogs – Turid Rugaas
Pattern Games DVD –   – Leslie McDevitt
Plenty In Life Is Free – Kathy Sdao
Reaching the Animal Mind – Karen Pryor
Scardey Dog! Ali Brown
The Cautious Canine – Patricia McConnell

The Other End of the Leash – Patricia McConnell
The Power of Positive Dog Training – Pat Miller
The Puppy Primer – Patricia McConnell
Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs, by  Malena DeMartini-Price, CTC

Youtube Channels
Domesticated Manners
Pamela Marxsen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

If Your Dog Isn't Learning

"My dog is stubborn"
"My dog won't listen"
"My dog won’t pay attention"
"My dog can’t learn"
"Positive training isn't working"
If any of these sound like your pet, try the below

1. Thorough vet assessment – check for hearing issues, neurological issues, gastric issues. Do a pain assessment. Check liver, kidney, thyroid function, etc.. etc..
It’s hard to listen when your tummy is upset. Your dog might not be hearing the clicker because she has hearing issues. It’s hard to sit or stay in a sit when your hips hurt. Your dog might be ignoring your hand signals because her vision is impaired.
Your dog might be eliminating indoors because of a bladder infection.

1a. While you are at the vet, discuss a plan to use lots and lots of treats. Get input from the vet on a way to do this without your dog gaining weight and without messing up your dog’s nutrition requirements.

2. Give up on training. Yep. I said give up. Not forever, but just for now. Don’t ask the dog to do anything at all. Just take a break so the both of you can relax. No expectations.

3. Set the dog up for success. Keep shoes off the floor. Put trash outside. Keep counters clean. Block furniture (if dog is not allowed on furniture.) Dog must always be on a leash when not in a secure location. Reduce the size of yard (if you have one) so it’s easier to bring her indoors when you need her to come inside (don’t call if she will not come). Keep a good distance from things that bother your dog (other dogs, kids, etc..)

3a. If you make a mistake and your dog gets into something that is not dangerous, just leave him be. i.e. If he grabs a sock but doesn’t try to eat the sock, just ignore. And remind yourself to put the socks away next time. If he grabs a piece of unseasoned meat off the counter (that doesn’t contain cooked bones), just let him have it and remind yourself to either clean the counter or block access to the counter. If he grabs something that might be a tiny bit dangerous but it’s not an emergency, offer a trade (food, toy, etc..) before taking it away. If it’s very dangerous then do you what you need to do of course.
If she gets on the bed, leave her there. She will get off eventually. When she does, close the bedroom door.

4. Start rewarding *everything* that is not undesirable. i.e. catch the dog sitting, reward. Catch the dog laying down, reward. Catch the dog taking a deep breath with her mouth closed, reward. Dog just happens to look at you, reward. Dog’s ear flicks in your direction, reward. Do this calmly. Don’t follow you dog around looking for stuff. Just calmly catch the dog doing something good. You can use a clicker or verbal marker if you want. But it's not necessary. The reward can be food or a toy or whatever the dog likes.

4a. Keep treats and/or toys stashed everywhere. In dressers (that your dog can’t reach), in the fridge, in a dog training or safari vest.
Before walkies, head out on the trail alone and hide some food in trees. Surprise your dog with something tasty when the leash is loose.

5. After a few weeks, your dog should be offering you behaviors, trying to figure out ways to make treats appear, trying to figure out ways to operate you. If she isn’t doing that, it might be time to go back to the vet or call in a skilled force free trainer or maybe even a board certified vet behaviorist.
Also analyze any stress or frustration that might be in the dog’s life and take steps to eliminate/reduce/mitigate

6. If your dog is paying more attention to you, then start training. But keep sessions super super short. No more than one minute at first. End while the dog is still engaged. And only ask for what your dog can do. Absolutely no physical manipulation/molding to get a behavior. (i.e. don't push on the butt to teach "sit"). Use shaping, luring, or capturing. Be aware that luring can be too much pressure for some dogs. And shaping can be frustrating for some dogs. Especially dogs who have had harsh training in the past. They will be scared to try new things.


1. No punishment. No scolding for anything. Just set your dog up for success so scolding will not be necessary. Of course if there is an emergency (like your dog is about to pounce on a 2 pound chunk of dark chocolate), it’s okay to do whatever it takes to make things safe.

2. Even try to cut out negative punishment (withholding good things). Negative punishment is normally humane, but for some dogs, it can be frustrating. So try to set things up so you won’t need to take food away, practice timeouts, etc.. Just ask for what your dog can give.

2a. Even popular force free programs like NLIF or Learn to Earn, or Sit to Say Please might be too frustrating for your dog.

3. Once the dog learns a few things, proof heavily in teeny tiny increments.

Turid Rugaas’s Calming Signals - to learn how to look for stress signals

Kathy Sdao’s “Plenty in Life is Free” - short book, easy read. Gives great instructions on how to use rewards to get desired behaviors

Suzanne Clothier’s “Bones Would Rain From the Sky” – if you can get past the wordiness, it’s a great read for those wanting to improve their relationships with their dogs.

Pat Miller’s “The Power of Positive Dog Training” – a great getting started book on positive reinforcement.

Jane Killion’s “When Pigs Fly” – a step by step program to motivate a dog to want to work

Part II:

Also see

Stress Reduction:


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Time Outs

In the force free training community, Time Outs are considered an acceptable form of punishment.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Old And Little. Part III. Transporting

We have already talked about accommodating old and little dogs indoors. Today's post is about transporting dogs who might have some trouble getting to a vehicle on their own.

Prevention is Better Than Reacting

I was just in the back yard with my 3 dogs. Two of them started air sniffing. Then a few seconds later, all 3 were running at top speed towards the other end of the yard. Obviously they smelled some kind of animal.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Don't Support or Create a Hierarchy

We became a multi dog household back in 2006.  I was still learning about dogs (well, I’m always learning).  And the information I had at the time was to “support the hierarchy” – feed the first or most assertive or most "dominate" dog first; pet her first, let her out the door first, etc...  Seemed to make sense at the time.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advanced Counter Conditioning and Desensitization

Well, it's not really advanced. But this video series just goes into more detail about the process - something to read if you have been trying desensitization and counter conditioning and it doesn't seem to be working - and you've ruled out medical issues of course

Gauze: A Handy Tool For Your Positive Training Tool Box

Ideal for sensitive dogs because it's lightweight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dog Harness Review - Makuti

In my last post on harnesses, I mentioned how I like the harnesses that have the double clasp because I dont have to lift my dog's legs to put it on.  Puddin (my Dachshund mix) has big floppy ears. So even thought I don't have to lift her leg, she probably doesn't appreciate me pulling most harnesses over her head.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dog Harness Reviews - Premium TuffLock

In our last post on harnesses, I mentioned that I like figure H harnesses but I don't like lifting my dog's leg to put it on.  There are now several H style harnesses that have a double clasp in the back. Which means that we don't have to manipulate the dog at all.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dog Harness Reviews - Figure H Harness

Over the years, the dogs have had several different type of harnesses.  We prefer harnesses over collars (but we do use collars for ID). And we prefer Figure H style harnesses over all over harnesses. But there are so many different types of figure H harnesses.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pitfalls of Physical Manipulation in Dog Training

When we use luring, capturing, or shaping ( all hands off), followed by a treat to teach a behavior like sit, we are using positive reinforcement - much more pleasurable for the dog than using something aversive.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Jumping Up. Part VII - Separation Anxiety

Of course not every dog who displays frantic greeting behavior is suffering from separation anxiety. But pet parents should be aware that it could be one of the symptoms. And one of the many reasons why it is so imporant that we don't punish jumping up behavior. Punishing a stressed dog will just make the dog more stressed. Imagine a dog who is panicking while alone.  Who is overjoyed to see us when we finally get home. And we step on her feet, or spritz her or yell at him.

Excerpts from Malena DeMartini-Price's book "Treating Separation Anxiety In Dogs"
Mild-case separation anxiety dogs may leap about and even vocalize a bit when their owners return, but the key thing to notice is how quickly the dog is able to settle back down once the owner is present. 
You’ll also see an increase in severity of some of the symptoms discussed in the mild category, such as the excessive greeting behavior. Moderate case dogs may have considerable difficulty calming down after the owners return and may display quite wildly when the owner walks through the door. This is not just the usual “happy to see you” routine, but screaming, body hurling and other shenanigans beyond the norm, possibly lasting for ten minutes or more without reprieve.

What are some non frustrating ways that you use to keep your dog from jumping on people? Tell us about it in the comments section below

See all posts on jumping up here

Tell us about your jumpy dog in the comments section below.

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Replies might be shared on this blog but names will be changed or left out.

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Jumping Up. Part VIII. The Problem With Turning Your Back

Many people advise that when a dog jumps you, you should turn your back.  This might work for some dogs.

Loose Leash Walking. Part 9. Pulling Begets Pulling. Or Letting Your Dog Know When You Are Changing Direction

In Part 8, we talked about letting the dog decide where to go. Of course this isn't always feasible.

Loose Leash Walking. Part 7. Maintain a High Rate of Reinforcement

In today's blog post, I'm featuring some videos that are not my own.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

From the Mail Bag - My Dog Pulls On Leash

Hi, my two dogs pull on the lead on a walk. I stop still until the lead is loose before I carry on walking or I change direction to indicate I am the leader. Following off the lead exercise, they walk much better with a loose lead on the way home. Am I doing the right thing?

From The Mail Bag - My Dogs Get Too Excited About Car Travel

From the mail bag: Hi, my two dogs become over excited about going in the car and cry/ pace all the way whilst in boot. I try to get them to a calm state which can take 20mins before getting in the car. I stop the car each time they start crying. The 1 year old dedicated with excitement unless she is strapped in to a seatbelt on the back seat. It's a horrible experience. On the way home, we don't hear a peep from them and they sleep in the boot all the way back

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

From the Mail Bag: My Dog Is Afraid Of Dogs and Cars

From the mail bag: Hello I need help with my 5 1/2 month female GSD. She is very fearful of cars and some dogs. We attended puppy parties at the vet office and basic obedience classes. She has good ball drive but is slow to follow commands; she takes her sweet time to perform them (maybe out of boredom). I'd like to show her that the cars are not going to hurt her specially because we live close to a busy avenue and to get to our car to go for our walks she can see the cars from a distance. Lately she has been barking at approaching dogs.

From the Mail Bag: Is My Dog Lonely

Question: My dog is going to be 7 or 8 years old. The only dog she got along with died and she does not even like the two neighbors' dogs. What if none of this works and it is lonely all its life.

Will dogs who don't get along with other dogs get along with puppies easier than adult dogs?

My Dog Will Only Work When He/She Knows I Have Treats

If our dogs seem to only want to work or perform behaviors when we have food, some possible issues to address are bribing, salient cues, and/or luring.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Some Dogs Don't Know How To Leave

A couple of years ago, my Murphy and I were at an enclosed dog park alone. About 50 feet away, outside the park, an off leash, lone beagle trots by. The Beagle and my Murphy lock eyes and the Beagle freezes. Murphy continues staring and the Beagle starts looking more and more worried. The Beagle looks afraid but he just stays in that one spot. He is not in any danger from my dog. Murphy is 50 feet away and behind a chain link fence.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Loose Leash Walking. Part 6. Avoiding Distractions

Distractions (cars, cats, other dogs, squirrels, humans, etc..) can derail loose leash walking training.

Monday, September 1, 2014


My dogs like to sun bathe when the sun is high in the sky.  Even though they have a doggie door available to them when I'm home, they prefer that I go with them when they go outside.  But I get nauseous in the hot sun.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Loose Leash Walking. Part 5. Leash? What Leash?

We have already talked about teaching a dog how to stay with us without any equipment. Once we start using equipment, our loose leash walking training can go much more smoothly if we try to make the leash as inconsequential as possible.  Once we start pulling on the leash, our dogs will to.   So try to think of the leash as just being there for backup.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Classical Conditioning. Part IV. Order, Intensity, Value

If pet parents have been working on a program of desensitization and
counter conditioning and their pet doesn't seem to be getting any better,
it might be time to review order, intensity, value

Friday, August 8, 2014

Loose Leash Walking. Part 4. Proofing

In our last post on Loose Leash Walking, we talked about starting indoors with no equipment.  In other words, we set our dogs up for success by proofing the behavior we want.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rewards in Dog Training. Food Alternatives

Food is normally a great motivator and often useful when teaching new behaviors - because we need to perform multiple repetitions.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Saving Money On Dog Treats

Caution: Check with our vet before trying anything listed below

Dog Treats are just like anything else. Homemade is cheaper.  

Rewards in Dog Training. Food

In our last post, we talked about primary reinforcers - those things that our dogs intrinsically like.  Just about every creature likes food a lot. And we can use that too our advantage in dog training

Food is often used when training new behaviors:
1. We can give tiny amounts often. Which means we can ask for multiple repetitions. Which really works well when shaping a new behavior
2. Most dogs are willing to work for food.
(note, we don't need to make the dog extra hungry to motivate him/her to work for food)

But some people worry about using too much food, about their dogs eating junk, or about the expense of dog treats.

Consult with your vet before trying any of these ideas

Concerned about your dog's weight?
- Pet parents can provide tiny slivvers of treats during training sessions
- We can puree meat in water or even use meat flavored water.  Some dogs are happy to eat low calories vegetable.  See more details on saving calories here:

Concerned about expense
- We don't have to buy the fancy prepacked stuff at pet stores that is mainly marketed to humans.  We can save tons of money by giving our pets safe human food. More details here:

Concerned about health
- Dogs are not like a lot of us humans. They actually like things that are good for them. See some ideas here:

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Loose Leash Walking Summary

Loose Leash Walking encompasses many different skills. We are planning several more posts on the subject. As we post, I hope to bring them all together on this one page.

Loose Leash Walking. Part 3. No Equipment

In our last post, we talked about equipment. But we aren't ready to use it just yet.  Ideally we want the leash to be a safety item, not a steering item.  So we start indoors and reward our dogs for walking next to us or following us around.


Murphy and I were at the dog park a while back. We saw a lady enter with two dogs. Before letting them off the leash, the lady told her dogs to sit. The dogs just stood there waiting patiently to be let off leash. She asked them again in a harsher tone. The dogs just stood there. She started yelling at the dogs and the dogs just stood there. Then she started yanking the dogs and they continued to just stand there. Then she kicked the dogs several times. They still stood there. Then she yanked, yelled, and kicked at the same time, and the dogs finally sat. Then she let them off leash to play.

Loose Leash Walking. Part 2. Equipment

Since we are teaching our dogs how to pay attention to us and walk along with us, we do not need to use any type of equipment that will cause or pain, discomfort, or injury - so no choke chains nor prong collars are necessary.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Loose Leash Walking. Part I. Foundation. Attention and Basics

Loose leash walking is one of the harder dog training skills to master (for human and dog). It's about so much more than simply keeping the leash loose. Our pups need to learn how to tune in to us, and not get too worked up about distractions.

When Your Dog Gets Bushy

Well bushy is what I call it. Most folks probably refer to it as a dog who has her/his hackles up.  A more technical term is "piloerction" (like goose bumps in humans).

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nail Trims. Part 15. Don't Be Stingy

Not only do I give treats after each toenail grind,  but I also sometimes give a treat after each pass on a single toenail - i.e. grind/treat, grind/treat. Which means one toe might yield 3 treats. Which means by the time we are done, my dogs have eaten anywhere from 18 to 50 treats.

Nail Trims. Part 14. Nail Trim Position

The girls and I have been experimenting with positioning.  I liked it when they were comfortable on their beds, but lately it seems that having the girls in a higher position than me has been beneficial.  I'm not a fan of  grooming tables. I ask the girls to sit in a chair while I sit on the floor. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Just Because A Leash Is On, Doesn't Mean You Have To Go Far

So your dog needs to get out of the residence and sniff or needs to stretch his or legs but:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Jumping Up. Part VI. From The Mail Bag

From The Mail Bag
I have a male Pom, 1 1/2 yrs. old. When I get home from work, it's non-stop barking and jumping for at least 15 minutes. I've tried ignoring him, doesn't work, tried telling him no, tried to distract him with treats, nothing works. I have scratches on my arms and it's difficult to get down on all fours in my good clothes. Even acts the same way when I feed the horses, he can see me through the gate and knows this is a daily routine. He isn't neutered yet, but will be soon. The other 2 dogs I have don't acts this way, one is 4 and one is 3. Is this something he will outgrow or am I doing something wrong?! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nail Trims. Part 13. Pet Grooming Sling

With the help of a professional, the grooming sling might be a safer alternative to a slip lead and grooming table.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Loose Leash Walking - Pulling Begets Pulling

Many of us keep our dogs on leash - because it's the law, because it's safer, as a courtesy to others, etc..
But just because the leash is on, it doesn't mean we should use it like a steering wheel.

Opposition Reflex

Grisha Stewart’s Behavior Adjustment Training
Dogs have a natural reflex to go the opposite direction of pulling.
Jean Donaldson’s Culture Clash
The other reason that has been put forward for pulling in dogs even to the point of gasping for breath in obvious discomfort is what’s called an opposition reflex. As soon as they feel pressure against their necks or chests, they reflexively lean into it… So given what you are up against, it is prudent to begin anti-pull training from day one, rather than waiting till the dog has an entrenched pulling addiction.
Jolanta Benal’s The Dog Trainer’s Complete Guide to a Happy Well Behaved Pet
..dogs have an opposition reflex meaning that their normal response to being pulled in a given direction is to pull in the opposite direction, so their default when the leash is tight is to pull it even tighter
Nicole Wilde’s Help For Your Fearful Dog
Dog’s have an opposition reflex meaning that if they are pulled in one direction, their instinct is to pull in the opposite direction. If pushed they will push against the force. This instinct helps to maintain equilibrium. This reflex is why when an owner attempts to put a leash on a young pup and pull him along, the pup digs in and puts on the brakes. A leash is not meant to pull a dog. In fact, when a dog is walking correctly, the leash should be slack, resembling the letter ‘J’
Karen Pryor’s Reaching the Animal Mind
As they push and pull, they feel the stiffness in the dogs’ muscles, as an automatic opposition reflex causes the dogs to push back against the pressure. They can also see on the dog’s faces, increasing confusion and fear. In fact, the trainers can no longer not see the stress they are causing.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dog Parks - How Do We Prepare For Our First Visit?

From the mailbag:
I would like to know how to introduce my 5 month old Collie puppy to a dog park. I have never taken a dog to a dog park before and our town has a new one. Any help would be appreciated.

There are several reasons I would not go into a public dog park. Below are a few initial considerations:

Nail Trims. Part 12. Finding the Quick.

One of the reasons that many dogs find nail trims so scary is because they have been "quicked" before.  The vet staff or groomer might have cut into the fleshy part of the nail.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

When You Don't Feel Like Walking

Note: Be sure to consult a vet before starting any new exercise programs.

A lot of us love taking our dogs walking every day.  But sometimes we just can't.  We might be tired of dealing with loose dogs, the weather might not be cooperative, etc..

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Primary and Secondary Reinforcers

A primary reinforcer is something that dogs, cats, humans, bugs etc.. don't have to learn to like: food, play, attention, etc..

Monday, July 14, 2014

Deprivation in Dog Training

Trainers often remind us that our dogs should be hungry before we start training.  No doubt a hungry dog might be more willing to work for food. But we need to be careful to make sure that hunger isn't our only motivator. Training should be fun and motivating all on it's own.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Human Shaming

This picture makes more sense if you have seen the dog shaming pictures

Monday, June 30, 2014

Keep Pets Safe During Noisy Holidays

In the United States, July 4th is the number one day for lost pets.  Please keep pets indoors during scary fireworks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

From the Mail Bag - Dog Barks When Left Alone

From the Mail Bag:  Hi, we have a 1yr old Bologco male who is an absolute sweet heart and very well behaved. The problem starts when we leave for work. He is roughly left for two to three hours maximum. He is put in the kitchen with food, water, stuffed Kong and his bed. But he barks and barks on and off and is driving the neighbours mad, which I totally understand. He has no access to a Window so is not being disturbed or scared by anything. There is no drool, scratching or any signs of distress when we get home, he is quiet on our arrival so I know he has ceased barking at some point. He is happy to be alone in the house when we are maybe upstairs. He sleeps all night long in the kitchen without as much as a peep. Any strategies you could suggest would be very well received. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Classical Conditioning. Part III. Thresholds

In our last post on classical conditioning, I talked about desensitization and starting the process at a point where our dogs are not afraid.  Another term we use is "threshold". We want to start with our dogs below threshold and we want to stay below threshold during the entire process.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Classical Conditioning. Part II. Desensitization

In our first post on classical conditioning, we talked about associations and how we can change a dog's feelings about something they don't like. An example was giving a dog a treat every time the mail delivery person appears.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hands Off Dog Training Or Why We Should Not Use Physical Manipulation

When we use luring, capturing, or shaping ( all hands off), followed by a treat to teach behaviors, we are using positive reinforcement - much more pleasurable for the dog - and scientifically it's a better method.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Dog Chews Her Tether

From the mailbag: When I take my dog on outings, and I tether her to something, she chews through her leash.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Baths. Part V. Counter Conditioning and Desensitization

In our last post on baths, we talked about how we might make the process a bit less daunting for our pets.  If after applying those remedies, your dog still hates baths, you might need to work on desensitization and counter conditioning.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Dog Afraid of Children

From the mail bag: My dog is afraid of kids. She will stick extremely close to me and recently, while my niece was playing in the house (jumping and thumping on the floor) my dog went up and barked at her. It was a single bark. But before that incident she seemed fine. Let my niece pet her, licked her, her tail was wagging, ears alert but content. I don't know what made her bark at my niece but I worry it could cause huge problems later. May I have some advice and tips to help stop bad behavior around kids before it gets to be a problem?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Loose Leash Walking. Part 8. What if a Loose Leash Were the Human's Responsibility

What if it were up to us to maintain a loose leash instead of the dog? What if we strived to use the leash as a backup/safety device instead of a steering wheel.  What if loose leash walking were all about what the dog wanted and not what we wanted? What would it look like?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Silence Does Not Equal Agreement

 Years ago, when I was still young and adventurous, I went on a ride at a state park called Free Fall <>. The concept is as it sounds. Riders are placed in a bucket and hoisted high in the air. Then the bucket is dropped and riders plunge straight down.  It was a pretty scary ride.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Baths. Part IV. Dogs Who Hate Baths

So far we have discussed not bathing our dogs, alternatives to pet shampoos, and what might cause our pets to be stinky.
Today begins our discussion on dogs who hate baths. Before we start talking about counter conditioning (in a later post), lets look some aspects of the bathing process that might be scary or uncomfortable for our pets.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Treats. Part II. Special Diets.

If you read my last post on treats, you might surmise that I'm a fan of just plain meat (no enhancements - like broth).  I know lots of folks like to make recipes, but seems to me just plain meat is easy and most dogs like it a lot.
Pet parents can set aside a portion of the human family's meals (before adding spices) for the dogs.

But what if you have a dog on a special diet or what if you want to use just your dog's food but your dog isn't very motivated by it?  Consult with your vet and consider the following:

Treats. Part III. My Dog is Not Motivated By Treats

So far we have talked about ways to save calories and ways to make tasty treats for those dogs on special diets. But what about dogs who have trouble taking treats? Dog who don't seem to be motivated by treats?

Baths - Shampoo Alternatives

Dog shampoos can strip natural oils from our pets' coats. Some shampoos are heavy with unnecessary perfumes and chemicals. If you like to use pet shampoos, ask your vet to help you pick out a brand that has as few harmful ingredients as possible.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Stinky Dogs

Does your dog stink even though he or she gets bathed often?  Consider some of these causes of stinky dogs

It's Been a Year Since My Dogs Have Had a Bath

It's not because of neglect.  I have made a conscious decision to not bathe them. (maybe not never but definitely less often).  It wasn't a decision that I came up with all at once. I just sort of evolved into it:

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Pet parents who want to train using positive reinforcement should be ready to reward their dogs with tasty treats.  Pet parents who want to use counter conditioning to help their dogs feel better about scary things (nail trims, other dogs, loud noises, etc..) should be ready to give a lot of tasty treats.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Safer Dog Chews

From the mailbag: What do you give a puppy to chew on. I was giving him bones, but he's not very interested, and after reading this blog, they are out. I also gave him duck's feet...Are chicken necks bad?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dog Doesn' t Like New Puppy

From the Mail Bag
My dog doesn't like the new puppy nor any puppies she sees, and I don't know what to do?

Friday, April 4, 2014

What Does Pain Look Like?

In yesterday's post, I speculated that what might appear to be anger in a pet might actually be pain.  I starting thinking about other quotes I've read on various lists and forums - where people described behavior that I thought could have been pain related:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dangers of Choke Chains

From Bill Campbell's
Behavior Problems in Dogs
Page 247. According to a Swedish Study by Anders Halgren of 400 dogs of owners who agreed to have their dogs' spines X rayed - 63% had spinal injuries. Of the injured dogs with neck (cervical) injuries, 91% had experienced harsh jerks on the leash or were serious leash strainers. Among aggressive or overactive dogs, 78% had spinal injuries.

When Someone Says It Doesn't Hurt, It Probably Does

I have never heard a trainer say, "The clicker doesn't hurt." nor "Praise and treats don't hurt."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Does Your Pet's Topical Flea/Tick Medication Hurt?

I'm a member of several dog training and dog health lists. A couple of months ago,  on one of my lists, someone had posted that she had never seen animals have any trouble with flea and tick medications except for a cat who would get mad after an application.  She said the cat would walk around sulking for an hour.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dangers of Antlers and Bones

Note: Discuss food choices/precautions with your vet

Puddin just got the all-clear from her vet after loosing a major tooth.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Puppy Biting Part II. Attention Biting. Stress Biting

In our last post on biting, we mentioned the puppy biting is normal.  But sometimes puppies (and adult dogs) can bite because they learned that it's a way to get our attention.  There are a couple of ways that we can combat attention biting.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Elizabethan Collar Alternatives

In my last post, you might have noticed that Lupe's soft E-collar didn't look like the standard plastic lamp shade shaped protective device.
Her collar is soft and flexible - just one of the many alternatives to the plastic cone collar.

The Cone of Sadness

I haven't seen the movie "Up" yet. But I have heard of the "Cone of Shame" reference. (didn't know if I could use that term in my blog title).

 When my Lupe had to wear a cone, she looked just as sad as the dog in the movie.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Catching a Scared Dog

Good Samaritans should exercise caution when approaching any dog – especially scared, shy or skittish dogs.  Scared dogs can bite out of self preservation.  Also if the dog is stray we don’t know his or her vaccination history.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Don't Like a Behavior? Reward Your Dog For It.

If we don't like our dogs jumping, barking or pawing, we can teach our dogs to do those behaviors only when we ask for them. Professionals call this putting a behavior under stimulus control.

Jumping Up. Part V. Setting Your Dog Up For Failure

We have already discussed several methods to help with a dog's jumping behavior. In our last post on this subject, I mentioned how much I liked the first half of a video where the trainer encourages four feet on the floor using treats.

Jumping Up. Part IV - Reward Four on the Floor

I recently saw the below video and we really like the technique demonstrated during the first three minutes of the video.

Default Behaviors

Jumping Up. Part III. Communication and Impulse Control

In my last post, I talked about how dogs might jump up to get our attention. If we teach our dogs some default behaviors, they can learn more desirable behaviors to get our attention

Impulse Control

Dogs who have impulse control are not only easier to live with, but they also tend to be happier and less stressed. How do we help a dog have impulse control? 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Hiring a Trainer - Vocabulary

When interviewing a private trainer or behaviorist, take note of the words he/she uses during your conversation. Also take note of what is on the trainer's website.

Homemade, Hypoallergenic Dog Beds

I saw these nifty Do-It-Yourself floor cushions on a website. It reminded me of the fluffy pillow beds that I make for my dogs.  Mine require no sewing at all. But they might cost a bit more.  See the video below.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Other Dog Has Feelings Too

I'm a bad pet guardian
I left my reactive Akita alone in the back yard again
He barks at everything he sees
So you think this is a good time to train your Schipperke
You walk back and forth, back and forth until my dog is in a tizzy
It's not the Akita's fault that his Mom busy
Your dog is quiet. Well, good for you. But the yard dog has feelings too

You've taught a wonderful recall to your cute little Beagle
So you let him off leash in places where it isn't legal
When I see your dog loose from fifty feet away,
I don't know if he's dangerous or just wants play
So to be safe, we leave before your dog ruins our day
My dog missed out because you won't follow the rules
Your dog is well trained, well whoopty-do. But my dog has feelings too

I got some bad training advice
I was told that when we walk by dogs, I should yank my dog once or twice
You see me yanking my dog but instead of moving away,
You come closer to show how your dog is well behaved
You could have crossed the street
But instead you set me up to yank my dog off his feet
Your dog can loose leash walk; everyone admires you
But the other dog has feeling too.

So you are trying to counter condition
And you want to use my dog without my permission
So you stalk us and follow us closely from behind
Forcing me to drag my curious dog away isn't very kind
So you understand behavioral science.  I'm happy for you
But my dog has feelings too

Or maybe you happen to be a bad pet parent in some situations
You think the dog park is a great place for rehabilitation
You think what you are doing is alright
But your dog just traumatized that puppy for life
You are not at a dog training school
The dogs at the park have feelings too

Sometimes we need other dogs to help our dogs achieve
But there is a kind way to do this, I do believe
Find a skilled trainer to work with you
He or she can provide *volunteer* dogs who are bullet proof

If you want your dog to run off leash, that's okay
But make sure it's a legal and secured area where your dog plays

You want your dog to be well behaved, to follow your cues
That's understandable, but the other dogs have feelings too 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Doggie Zen

The zen game rewards a dog for looking away from something interesting.  I.e. hold a treat in your hand, the dog looks at you instead of the treat, the dog gets rewarded with a treat. Its great for helping dogs with impulse control.

From "Quick Clicks" by Cheryl Smith and Mandy Book
"Put a bunch of treats in one hand and your clicker in your other hand. Hold the hand with the treats out to the side, perpendicular to your body. Your dog will probably stare at your treat hand, waiting for a CT (or maybe just waiting for the treat!). .. Watch for the dog’s eyes to leave your hand. Even if he looks at your knee or your foot or your elbow or the floor, CT the instant he looks away from your hand holding the treats"
From Leslie McDevitt's "Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program
"I teach..Zen as the introduction to leave-it... This game entails holding up a treat (or a toy) and waiting for the puppy to "break" from it and turn back towards you.. If he is having trouble breaking from the treat or toy, put it behind your back and reward eye contact.  Then, just let him see a little bit of the treat or toy from behind your back, so that he isn't seeing the whole enchilada..."

Watch how quickly this puppy catches on the game

Sudden Environmental Change

From Grisha Stewart's "Behavior Adjustment Training":
Sudden Environmental Change or Sudden Environmental Contrast or "SEC is a change in surroundings that happens quickly, like a child suddenly coming around a corner, a dog suddenly appearing out of a car, or a guest standing up to leave the house. For some dogs the appearance of a trash bin in a different place than yesterday's walk can stress [dogs} out."
To help dogs feel better about SEC, pet parents can use  Control Unleashed  or simple counter conditioning and desensitization or the Relaxation Protocol.  The most important thing is to stay below threshold and increase the intensity of the trigger in teeny tiny increments so the dog doesn't get upset.

Example. Your nervous pet is okay with the man of the house sitting still, but gets upset when said man stands up.  Here is one way to work on that.
-Man moves a pinky, Mom gives the dog a treat.
Note that treats should always come from the person who does not scare the dog. See more treats here.
- Man moves two fingers, Mom gives the dog a treat
- Man moves one hand, Mom gives dog a treat
- Man moves forearm, Mom gives dog a treat
- Man moves entire arm, Mom gives dog a treat
- Man pushes with both hands like he is getting up but doesn't get up, treat
- Man moves up about 1 inch, treat
- Man moves up 1 foot, treat
- Man stands up slowly, treat
- Man sits back down - enough for one day.
And so on.

Let's say a dog is afraid of strangers suddenly appearing.  We can start by working with a non scary friend or family member.
Have friend slowly appear from behind a building while dog is 50 feet away, treat.
Have friend move a little faster while dog is 80 feet away, treat
Once pup is fine with friend moving about, then work with a well coached stranger who is much further away - and so on.

Note that pet parents shouldn't always continuously make the exercises more difficult. Sometimes guardians should decrease the stimulation.  For example - work 50 feet away, then 40 feet, then 80 feet, then 50 feet, then 30 feet, then 95 feet and so on.
The main thing is to keep the dog comfortable. Look for calming signals.

Helping dogs with simple SEC exercises can prepare them for more difficult challenges - like squirrel chasing.

Email questions or comments to
Replies might be shared on this blog but names will be changed or left out.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety (SA) is basically when dogs panic when left alone.

How is this manifested?
Pet parents might come home to destruction, elimination, and/or escape attempts. These actions may or may not constitute SA.  Dogs with SA can also hyper salivate (drool a lot).
In her book, I’ll be Home Soon, Author Patricia McConnell says a good sign of SA is that the dog won’t eat when left alone.  In her book, Oh Behave, Jean Donaldson lists some things that are more exclusive to SA dogs:
Pre-departure anxiety. Dogs learn cues to your leaving (i.e. putting on lipstick, grabbing cell phone, etc..) and start getting anxious long before you leave the house.  Dogs might pant, hide, refuse to eat, tremble, etc..
Self-Injury (usually from escape attempts) i.e. broken teeth, bleeding paws or muzzles

What type of dogs get SA?
Some dogs are more susceptible than others in getting SA.  According to  Donaldson, “It’s currently impossible to identify susceptible animals in advance.”  Some dogs sail through SA triggering experiences with no problems. Other dogs can develop SA when there is a temporary disruption in owner access.  Boarding, death of a family member, rehoming are some events that can kick off separation anxiety."
Donaldson says that SA dogs typically present without other behavior problems.  SA dogs are often model dogs except when left alone.
For a dog who has true SA or just boredom or frustration issues, it’s always best to bring in a professional.  Below are some things that a professional might advise for dogs who present with SA, for dogs who are bored or frustrated and/or as a program for prevention of SA.

Never Punish
There are many reasons to never punish destruction or elimination when the pet parent arrives.  The main reason is that the dog will not know what the punishment is for hours after the act happened.  Additionally, dogs who expect to get punished when the pet parents comes home can get even more anxious, thereby making SA much worse.

Leaving and coming should never be a big deal
No long sorrowful good byes, no excited giddy hellos.

Reward calm behaviors
Do not encourage excited, hyper behaviors.  Punishing excited behavior is also counterproductive.

Physical Exercise
Take your dog on a long walk before you leave for extended time periods. What is a long walk? If you live with a young, healthy Aussie, Border Collie or Jack Russell, that might be 2 or more hours. If you live with a less active breed, your dog might be happy with a 30 minute walk around the block. Discuss your dog's physical needs with your vet.  Hard aerobic exercise might be okay for some dogs (not others - it could make them more frantic), but be sure the dog is relaxed when you leave. Don’t take the dog on a file mile jog, drop him off at home while he is still jazzed up and rush off to work.

Exercise the mind
Aerobic exercise is healthy and necessary but if you don’t exercise the mind, you might just have an athletic dog with a bunch of energy.  Mind games can really tire a dog.  Enroll in positive only obedience classes (no leash yanking, physical manipulations, spray bottles, can of pennies, etc..). Work on obedience training at home.  Give your dog food puzzles, play hide and seek, etc.. Jean Donaldson lists some great activities for dogs in her book, Culture Clash

Experts have some put together specific protocols to follow to help dogs who have separation anxiety.

I recommend pet parents start by reading Dr Patricia McConnell's "I'll Be Home Soon". It's a quick easy read.
But the book is a bit dated. I'd follow up by reading the Separation Anxiety Section in Dr Karen Overall's Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats (the 2013 version). She has some precautions about some of the protocols in Dr McConnell's book,
Then I would read Malena Demartini-Price's Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs.  The book is written for professionals. But there are some step by step protocols that pet parents can follow. (with the help of a professional)

De Martini-Price writes about different levels of separation anxiety. Read about it here.

Another book to consider is Oh Behave! By Jean Donaldson - this is a book that contains answers to a lot of behavior issues. It has one Chapter on SA

If a pet parent has a dog with serious issues, a consult should be made with a board certified vet behaviorist as soon as possible.  Or even if the issues are not serious, consult with a professional should be considered.

Other things to consider:

Medication.  Some dogs' issues might be serious enough that psychotropic medication might be needed.  It's best to work with a vet behaviorist. Or a general practice vet who can consult a vet behaviorist.  Be sure to thoroughly research any drug prescribed.  Be aware that some vets might prescribe acepromazine.  But many experts warn against using this drug on anxious dogs.

For those want to try non psychotropic drugs, a vet might be able to suggest alternatives like the ones listed here:

Day Boarding
- Make sure the business is well-established and has a great reputation. You don't want to leave your dog with inexperienced people who could make your dog worse. Make sure someone is with your dog the entire time.
You can try leaving your dog for a few minutes or an hour then see how he does. Then increase the time.

Professional dog sitters or dog walkers - once again make sure they are well-established and reputable.

Friends or family who can check in on the dog.

Start a dog sitting co-op in your neighborhood
Folks who work days can watch dogs who have night shift parents, etc..

A lot of dogs who have SA seem to be fine with any human. But some dogs will be upset if they have to be apart from one specific human. For those dogs, pet sitters might not be much help.  And day boarding might even make things worse

The Relaxation Protocol can be helpful for some SA dogs:

For very mild cases of separation distress, see the following ideas:

Many dogs who have true SA will panic inside a crate. Video your dog when you are gone. See how he/she does outside of a crate and inside of a crate. If the dog is worse in a crate, then consider not using one - as long as you can make your house safe. Of course if your dog is chewing through walls, this might not work.  A safe room (no garbage, electrical wires, etc..) might work. If you do use a crate, be sure to acclimate your dog to the crate. If you have a small dog, consider an exercise pen instead.

Dealing with SA can be expensive , behaviorists, pet sitters, etc..  Consider that the money you spend helping your dog might be less than the money you spend cleaning up elimination, fixing door frames, etc.. Also consider some things that are less important than your dog when trying to figure out some ways to come up with the money needed.

Caution: Do NOT leave SA dogs outside in the yard when you are gone. The chance of escape is too great.

Tell us about your separation anxiety dogs in the comments section below
Email general questions to
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For the past few weeks, we've talked a lot about nail trims. The same principles apply to grooming in general.  Introduce fur brushing, teeth brushing, ear cleaning, etc.. in tiny increments and include a lot of rewards.  See more in the video below

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Natural Medicine Pockets for Carnivorous Pets

The leading "chicken flavored" commercial product for giving medicine to pets costs about 4 to 6 dollars for a half pound. My local grocer sells chicken hearts for about a dollar a pound.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Can of Music Instead of a Can of Pennies

Instead of scaring our pets, we can help them relax

I have written extensively about why we shouldn't startle our pets with cans of pennies, water bottles and the like. We have also talked about how noise affects our pets and how things like Through a Dog's Ear can help our pets.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Old and Little. Part II

In my first post on old and little dogs, I wrote about how my house is set up to keep my dogs on the floor. The problem for me is that I'm not a spring chicken myself. And sitting on the floor with my dogs can get uncomfortable.

I started looking for ways that I could make a light weight sofa that would accommodate both my dogs and myself.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jumping Up. Part I. Whole Dog

When my highly arousable herder mix dog, Matt-Matt came to live with me, he jumped on me often. 

Puppy Biting. Part I

For young puppies, biting is quiet normal.  But it's uncomfortable for humans. There are a number of things we can do to teach our pups to choose an alternate behavior.  But first, we need to choose some management

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Would you have your dog put to sleep if a trainer told you to?

In my last post, I wrote about incompetent trainers who either don't know their limitations or who won't admit their limitations.

Trainers who don't know their limitations

Years ago when I was active duty Air Force, I volunteered to serve as a tax preparer for my unit. One of my unit members came in with a particularly difficult tax issue. I had to suspend  tax preparation and take a day to research her issue further. 
I was very concerned that this person would loose faith in me as her tax preparer because I didn't know the answer to her issue right on the spot.   


If we live with a dog who  might bite, a basket muzzle can be a safe way to take our dogs out and about (or to the vet)

To Keep Our Dogs Safe, We Should Work on Our Reflexes and Practice Avoidance.

Last year, I was walking my nervous dog and a couple hundred feet ahead, I heard a ruckus. By the time I figured out what it was, 4 dogs had burst out of a screen door. 
My heart sank and I froze for about 2 seconds.  Even if these dogs were "friendly," if they had run towards us, they would have traumatized my little 30 pound, 13-year-old.

Growling Is Good

Well, growling isn't really good, but it is a warning that something is wrong, that something needs to be addressed. Author Jean Donaldson says that a dog growl is the same as humans who yell when they are angry, who file a complaint or lawsuit when they are upset.

My Dog Bit Someone. Do I Have to Euthanize Him?

Is your dog a danger to society?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Nail Trims. Part XI. A Little Dab'll Do Ya

We've discussed using the Dremel with soft or fine attachments. Now we can try a  more course attachment. But continue to use a low setting and only do tiny bits at a time as your dog acclimates to the tool.
See more in the video below

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Nail Trims. Part X. Desensitizing to the Dremel

We have already covered treating the dog for looking at the dremel and treating the dog when we touch him/her with the dremel.  Now it's time to use the dremel but not actually do the nails. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nail Trims. Part VIII. Using "Jealousy"

After reading about Leslie McDevitt’s Give Me A Brake Game and watching this video by Susan Garret on nail trimming, I decided to apply reverse psychology to nail grinding.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014

While You Are Watching The Game, Give Your Pup Something To Work On

Food puzzles are a great way to keep our dogs occupied. See the video below for ideas

Nail Trims. Part VI. Alternatives to Clippers and Grinders

If you have a dog who is afraid of clippers and grinders, a manual file might work.  See the below video on manual filing plus other ideas

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Nail Trims. Part IV. Grinding Tool Comparisons

In my last post, I wrote about how I liked the Dremel Stylus.  Before I discovered that tool, I had to test several other grinding options.  Please see the video below for details

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Nail Trims. Part III. Our favorite Grinding Tool

In my nail trim saga, I wrote about my search for an instrument that would work well for my dogs and me.
The video below demonstrates the grinder that I have found to be easiest to use. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Nail Trims. Part II - Our Nail Trim Saga

It took several years and a lot of trial and error, but I can finally do all of my dogs' nails without help. See the video below. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Washing Bait Bags

Because I like to capture and reward my dogs' desirable behaviors, I use treat bags often. I prefer the type that have a spring loaded closure.  But when I wash these in my washing machine, I sometimes loose the spring action.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Before You Give Up a Pet Because Of Allergies

Allergic to your pet?
Before giving the pet up, here are some things to consider

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Take it easy for the next couple of days

If your pets were frightened by fireworks, give them some time for their stress hormones to dissipate.