Training News

Posted by on Aug 24, 2012 in Blog | No Comments

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Dog park benefits include providing a place to run and play off-leash – an outlet for your dog’s overabundant energy. Dog parks can also be places where dogs get to practice undesirable social behavior and develop bad etiquette.

In recent years, more and more dog training and behavior professionals are speaking out against dog parks – yes, those safely fenced, community-funded spaces where dogs and their humans can get together and have a good time. What’s not to like?

If you ask almost any trainer, she will likely say, “Plenty!” As dog parks have become more common (and, indeed, as dog ownership has been on the rise in the past decade) they have somehow morphed from being something that local dog owners band together and fight to build, to places where few really knowledgeable owners care to take their dogs. It seems everyone has a horror story to tell about “that day at the dog park,” featuring overstimulated dogs running amok, dogs practicing bully behaviors, dog fights, and even dog deaths.

dogs playing

This is the dog-park dream: Exuberant dogs running and playing with joyous abandon, then coming home with you tired and content. But anyone who has spent much time at a dog park can attest that it’s only sometimes like this; just as often, one can see unhappy, anxious dogs, dogs being targeted by “playground bullies,” and even dog fights.

It’s true that all of those horrible things can happen at dog parks, but a lot of good things happen in dog parks, too, especially when they are well-constructed and well-managed, and when park users are smart about bringing appropriate dogs to the park and providing adequate supervision. Dog parks are a lifesaver for the owners of many dogs who need a little extra exercise and outdoor stimulation in order to be able to relax and behave well at home.

So do you take your dog to your local dog park or not? How do you know if you should? Or shouldn’t? Just as with so many other dog training and behavior questions, it depends!

7 Things to Consider About Dog Parks

There are a number of factors that determine whether a dog park is a good choice for your canine companion:

1. How your dog prefers to play.

Does your dog love to play with other dogs? Not all dogs do. Yes, they are a social species; that doesn’t mean they all get along. We humans are also a social species, and we certainly don’t get along with all humans!

If your dog is a confident, social butterfly, she might be a good dog park candidate. If she’s fearful around other dogs, she will be much happier not going to the park. (Consider, too, that her fear will likely deepen with every bad experience.) Some dogs are perfectly content with a small circle of intimate canine friends. Other dogs prefer the company of their human companions over any other canines. Bringing a dog who doesn’t enjoy the company of other dogs into an off-leash playground isn’t fair to your dog or any others who may approach her.

2. Your dog’s play style.

You need some awareness of what sort of play best suits your dog in order to gauge whether a particular park at a particular time of day is likely to provide her with an enjoyable play session or set her up to be traumatized (or traumatize others). Consider what your dog likes to do, and plan accordingly.

For example: Is your dog a fetchaholic? If her preference is to chase balls in a huge open space without being chased or pestered by any other dogs, bringing her to a cramped or crowded park might just set her up to snap at any unwary dog who gets in her way or tries to compete for the ball.

Consider the other typical dog park visitors, too. Does your dog love to play with other rowdy, rough-and-tumble brawlers at the park? That’s great if you can meet up with folks whose dogs enjoy that, too. But if your dog overwhelms other park visitors with his level of energy and arousal, it’s not fair to inflict your dog’s inappropriate play on them. Other dogs (and their owners) will not care that your dog is “just playing” if, while minding their own business, they get bowled over and hurt; they may respond with a dramatic protest and trigger an aggressive retort from the over-aroused roughhouser.

3. How much training your dog has.

To be fair to other park users, and in order to be able to keep your own dog safe, your dog should at least have a dynamite recall so you can call her back to you when you see trouble brewing. A full range of well-trained good manners behaviors is even better!

dog park owner on phone

4. How your local dog park is constructed.

There are dog parks, and then there are dog parks. A well-constructed dog park is several acres or larger, solidly fenced, ideally with amenities that include water, equipment to play on, and varied terrain, such as open fields, creeks, and woods, so dogs have plenty to keep them environmentally engaged, rather than just pestering each other. Parks that are small, overcrowded and boring greatly increase the likelihood of inappropriate canine behavior (fights). Other important park features include separate areas for small and large dogs and double-gated entrances so dogs can’t escape as newcomers arrive.

5. How your local dog park is managed.

Every good dog park needs rules and someone to enforce them.Municipal parks, usually under the auspices of the parks and recreation department, may fall short on management. Rarely is there someone in attendance to deal with conflicts that may arise. City and county dog parks often compete with tennis courts, ball fields, playgrounds, and picnic areas for park staff attention.

Privately owned dog parks are more likely to have staff in attendance to assist in a timely manner with conflict resolution (canine and human) and enforcement of rules. Some parks require registration and issue numbered arm bands that owners must wear while in the park, for more effective reporting and investigation of problems.

dog park attentive owner

6. The way your dog park is maintained.

Dog fights aren’t the only threat to your dog’s safety at a park. Poorly maintained fences and equipment can injure and kill dogs as easily as dog-dog altercations. Grass should be regularly mowed, and needed repairs promptly and routinely made. Make sure your park is getting its fair share of the park-maintenance budget!

7. Your local dog park culture.

This is the human side of things. If most owners are chatting with each other or on cell phones, rather than supervising their dogs’ activities, there are bound to be problems. If owners are oblivious to their dogs’ inappropriate behavior and allow mounting, bullying, and aggression to go uninterrupted, it’s not a healthy place for you and your dog to hang out.

Consider visiting the park on different days and at different times of the day; there may be knowledgeable and more engaged owners gathering at a different time.

dog park overwhelmed



Is your dog ready for guests during the Fall and Winter events?

It takes work to train a polite greeting for your dog.

Using a marker or clicker we can shape a calm and polite greeting for all occasions.

Whole Dog Daily

Help, We’re Being Invaded! How to Train Polite Greetings

Holiday fun?

The last quarter of the year is a rough one for dogs.

In October, monsters, faeries, movie stars, and cartoon characters appear in the streets, claiming the sidewalks and even approaching the house. Mom and Dad can usually buy them off with candy, successfully deflecting their intrusion, but it does rattle a dog so.

dog waiting at window

Then in November, a swarm of hungry relatives packs into the cramped kitchen. They dine splendidly before settling in with the television, as children pursue the dog around the house.

By December, St. Nicholas has to use the chimney, because anyone appearing at the front door is subject to a flurry of frantic barking and jumping!

From a dog’s perspective, this rash of home invasions is simultaneously exciting, alarming, and irritating. Unfortunately, once a dog has slipped into a frenzy, it’s difficult or impossible to get calm, thoughtful behavioragain. The job of trainers and responsible owners is to prepare dogs beforehand so that holiday challenges are, well, less challenging.

What’s the problem?

What is reasonable and acceptable holiday behavior for dogs?

Humans become accustomed to certain situations, finding it hard to see problems with, let alone alternatives to, those situations. Sometimes it’s only when everyday situations are magnified by holiday stresses that a situation comes into focus as a problem. Greeting visitors at the door is one such situation. Substitute a human child, or even an adult, for the dog to assess the subject’s behavior.

  • Would you allow your toddler to ram repeatedly into your guests’ legs? Leap at them and pull their clothes?
  • Would you look kindly on a friend who, sighting you at a distance, charged at you and launched at your chest, knocking you backward?
  • Would you consult with a businessman who, upon introduction, ignored your outstretched hand and instead began hugging and kissing you?
  • Would you think it acceptable to isolate your child in a back room when guests came because he couldn’t say hello properly?

It’s easy to see that these behaviors are inappropriate, even ridiculously so. Yet we accept them from our dogs, because we don’t know they are capable of better behavior—or we don’t know how to teach them otherwise.

It is to your advantage to teach your dog to greet others calmly, rather than charging ahead in excitement. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a mid-sized dog could easily injure an elderly relative, but risk isn’t limited to large dogs and frail humans. I’ve had clients who were knocked down stairs, who broke a wrist stumbling over dogs underfoot, or who were forbidden to visit their grandchildren when accompanied by their dogs.

Teaching appropriate greeting behavior is important for the dogs’ safety as well. That frantic, excited greeting is often mistaken for aggression—or simply recognized as inappropriate social behavior that needn’t be tolerated—by other dogs that then react defensively. I see more dog scuffles caused by rude greeting behavior than by anything else.

Define the goal

I love it when a client tells me he wants his dog to stop jumping on guests. Clicker trainers know it’s far more efficient to teach the dog a desirable behavior than to try to teach him to stop an undesirable one.

Clicker trainers know it’s far more efficient to teach the dog a desirable behavior than to try to teach him to stop an undesirable one.

“You want him to stop jumping? What do you want him to do?”

“I don’t care—just no jumping!”

I produce my patented wicked smile.

“Hmm. Not jumping could include barking insanely, running about the room, chewing on my pant leg, peeing on my foot… Are all those behaviors okay with you?”

Usually the answer is no.

“What if we teach him to sit to meet people?”

When the focus is on the problem, it’s difficult to define the desired behavior. I ask clients to describe what the dog should be doing instead. I tell them that if at that moment they can’t give a clear picture of the correct behavior, then they should walk away, because they don’t have anything to train yet. Responding to a “bad” behavior without teaching a replacement “good” behavior will only create conflict.

Of course, there is a variety of acceptable greeting behaviors; choose one that suits both your dog and your situation. An anxious dog may benefit from a mat or crate that has been conditioned as a reassuring “security blanket.” This station can be placed near to or far from the door as needed. The mat is a good option for most dogs, but it’s great for worried dogs!

A low-threshold dog may need an acceptable outlet for his excitement if it won’t be suppressed easily. I find many of these dogs benefit from having a toy to hold, something that lets them channel some energy orally. Even at age five, my hair-trigger Laev picks up a toy to greet new arrivals so that she can keep her paws on the floor or sit to greet. Without a toy, there’s a chance she’ll jump on the guest. It’s like steam in a kettle; the pressure has to go somewhere!

dog waiting at window

It’s much, much easier to train a specific behavior than a vague one. Choose the type of greeting you’d like your dogs to present to guests. Sit in front of them? Lie down near the door and wait to be approached? Decide on one correct response and train for that, rather than permitting different behaviors at different times. It’s harder for the dog to know what’s expected if he is variously rewarded for sitting, standing, lying down, and trotting around the room quietly (even if you would be satisfied with any of these behaviors).

Make a plan that starts with the basics

There’s still time to train your dog before Halloween! But you can’t expect to overturn a lifetime habit in a few haphazard minutes; you’ll need a systematic approach. Break down the training plan to achieve the goal you have in mind. Let’s use the goal of asking a dog to sit to meet a guest as an example.

Start with the basics. Many frustrated owners complain that their dogs don’t sit to meet guests when they are excited. But, upon testing we find that the dogs don’t know the cue “sit” reliably, even without distractions.

It’s pretty simple to capture or, if necessary, lure a sit. Keep in mind that you will need to generalize this behavior—a dog that has learned to sit facing you in the kitchen may not realize that you mean the same thing when he’s facing away from you (toward a stranger) in the front hall! You’ll need to practice this in a variety of places.

A different kind of stimulus package

For many dogs, the first challenge is being in the room with the door! You may think of “someone at the door” as a simple event, but there are components here that may be individual triggers for your dog’s excitement:

  • The proximity to the front door
  • Owner reaching for door handle
  • “Click” of door latch
  • Squeak of hinges
  • “Pop” of air seal when door opens

And that’s not even mentioning the obvious triggers: a car in the driveway, knocking, or the doorbell.

When I train, I start these distractions at the smallest possible increments. (Someone generously called me the Queen of Splitting the other day, and I could think of no greater clicker compliment!) For many dogs, these exercises start at a completely neutral door with no history of visitors—how about a pantry or closet door?

  • Cue “sit,” knock once on the pantry door, click/treat.

Letting the dog watch you make the sound, and taking the training completely out of the front door context, focuses on the single criteria of holding the sit during the trigger noise, and does not several potential triggers together.

  • Cue sit, knock twice on the pantry door, click/treat.
  • Build up to vigorous knocking on the pantry door. By this point, the dog should be entirely relaxed and happily expectant when you knock.
  • Cue sit, grasp the pantry doorknob, click/treat.
  • Cue sit, turn the knob, click/treat.
  • Cue sit, pop the pantry door latch, click/treat.
  • Cue sit, open the pantry door an inch, click/treat.
  • Cue sit, open the pantry door as if for access, click/treat.

All of these steps can be broken down into even smaller steps if necessary. Remember to click only the solid, reliable sit you want to keep; if the dog is shuffling or excited, drop to a lower level of distraction and review. Kathy Sdao describes suction cups on the dogs’ paws as a metaphoric goal—”tap-dancing” in place is a sure sign of arousal and impending failure.

Remember to take frequent breaks (5-10 reps at a time is usually plenty) and be sure that your treats or other reinforcer are valuable to the dog. The “paycheck” should make self-control worthwhile in the face of exciting visitors.

When the dog’s behavior is solid with an unimportant door, that’s a good start toward desensitizing. It’s also teaching that knocking or the doorbell provides an opportunity for the dog to earn reinforcement, and is not a cue for a whirlwind of arousal. Next up is to extend the training to the entry door. Remember to review previous criteria as you introduce this new criterion, the front door.

  • Cue sit in the front hall, click/treat.
  • Cue sit in the front hall, reach toward the door, click/treat.
  • Cue sit in the front hall, touch the doorknob with one finger, click/treat.
  • Cue sit in the front hall, grasp the doorknob, click/treat.
  • Add knocking, the doorbell, a family member outside, a neutral stranger outside, a cheery stranger outside, etc. Add each element one tiny step at a time.

Occasionally someone protests these training increments, “But he’s totally fine in the kitchen—why do we have to take all these steps? It’s not until someone’s coming in that he starts misbehaving!”

Training starts well before the mistake becomes apparent. The early steps let the dog figure out exactly what you want. While you may think “calm down at the door!” is perfectly obvious, an enthusiastic welcome may seem more natural to a dog. More importantly, the multiple steps establish a reinforcement history.

Defining a contract, asking the dog only for something he’s capable of doing and that will be worth his while, is an invaluable training foundation.

Many dogs have never had a successful experience at the front door. They don’t even try to figure out what an owner is asking there, because they don’t believe it’s possible to find a “right answer.” Defining a contract, asking the dog only for something he’s capable of doing and that will be worth his while, is an invaluable training foundation.

Even with the many baby steps, clients report so much more progress in a single hour’s lesson than in months or years of trying to fix the problem behavior more directly. Splitting may feel longer at first, but splitting works much faster!

Progress at your dog’s pace

The single most common problem I see training successful greeting behavior is that the humans skip ahead to the final steps, assuming that’s appropriate since the dog is doing well. One owner told me that mat training didn’t work after all. I’d seen her dog going quite readily to settle on the mat after their initial training, so I asked what she meant. She explained that her dog had indeed been doing fine, so she’d sent the dog to the mat when her Thanksgiving guests arrived—all 17 of them! Of course the dog had bailed off the mat. There are quite a few steps between learning to settle in an empty room and staying there while 17 food-bearing people enter! Be sure to continue the training in small increments. If the dog makes a mistake, simply back up and review, or consider whether you can break a step down even further.

Remember, too, that this is hard work, especially for enthusiastic dogs. Reinforce generously and often.

This Halloween

If your house receives many trick-or-treaters, Halloween is a great opportunity to practice greeting behavior, but only if you’ve already done your foundation work. It’s often best to have two handlers, one to click and treat the dog and one to wrangle and treat the sugar-crazed kids. If your dog starts to tire and make mistakes—this behavior is difficult after all—quit early and put him away in a safe place for the rest of the night.

If your dog is startled by a costume, let him flee to a safe place. Pressuring him to stay will only create distrust in your foundation work, making future training more difficult. It’s better to move away and start over. Never force your dog to remain near something that frightens him, especially if a child is involved.

After consistent reinforcement for the behavior you want, your dog will find it’s not worth his time to bark or jump—he can get attention and more for offering polite behavior instead!

After consistent reinforcement for the behavior you want, your dog will find it’s not worth his time to bark or jump—he can get attention and more for offering polite behavior instead! Your dog has learned to recognize old triggers as new opportunities. Because you trained for the behavior you want, broken into small steps, the dog believes he can be successful.

Add some tempting savory smells to your criteria, and you’ll be ready for Thanksgiving. By Christmas, your dog will be greeting your guests with a stocking in his mouth!

Editor’s note: Laura VanArendonk Baugh is a professional trainer and KPA faculty member. She lives in a tall house at the end of a long gravel lane where she never receives any trick-or-treaters at all.

About the author

User picture

Laura VanArendonk Baugh, CPDT, KPACTP, started playing with animals at an early age and never grew out of it. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, where she lives with her tolerant husband and her dobermans. Laura is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.




Not all dogs play the same!



Information about Kennel Cough

Any time one of our puppies comes down with an upper respiratory infection the goal is to minimize the spread to the other puppies.

It is important to know that the infection can be spread out side of class to your puppy from a friends dog your puppy has met that goes to Daycare or the dog park.

Then that puppy who has been exposed comes to class or play time and can infect the other puppies.

We state on our website and the forms you sign not to take your puppy to these types of places but some may not consider the other means of exposure.

Here is some information about “Kennel Cough” which is one of those URI.






Why On-Leash Greetings with other dogs can be one of the single biggest mistake you make with your dog.

On leash greetings with people and dogs are the number one cause of behavioral issues on the walk.  They cause reactivity, condition excitement, and put dogs in immensely uncomfortable situations.  Lets break this down..

First and foremost the number one reason why we discourage on-leash greetings is due to the unnecessary social pressure that it creates for the dog.  In ideal social situations between dogs and dogs or dogs and people the dog is free to roam.  If they get stressed out due to another dog or person they can get up and walk away giving them space and reducing the social pressure.

Being on a leash is very restricting to most dogs.  They are stuck within a 4-6 foot radius of you at all times and are very aware of it.  This puts them in an innate position to tap into their fight or flight responses.  Since they do not have the ability to flee, we see them find alternative ways to deal with the stress.  You will see this in two major forms.  The first, and most common, is in leash reactivity.  Your dog will quickly begin to realize that barking, growling, or lunging makes other dogs or people go away before they have a chance to approach.  The other major sign that we see is your dog aggressing on the dog/person trying to make them go away.

Next, lets take the example of a dog that is not nervous or fearful, but overly playful and social as can be.  There are a few major reasons why we still discourage on-leash greetings, even with these dogs.

The big thing we want to avoid with a social dog by eliminating on-leash greetings is conditioned excitement.  Classical conditioning is a beautiful thing.. except when we are accidentally creating responses to things that we don’t want our dog responding to.  By allowing your dog to say hi to every dog or person that they see on the walk we are essentially telling them “Get excited every time you see a dog”.  This shows itself in pulling, barking, and other unwanted behaviors making it difficult for you to keep your dog under control.  Keep in mind that these issues can go from 0-60 very quickly and turn from playful energy to aggressive and dangerous behavior through continuous rehearsal.

The last reason is more of a precaution that we take than anything.  We don’t know the other dog!!  You could have the most social dog in the world but if your social dog says hi to another dog that doesn’t like it or isn’t quite as social as the owner may say, you could wind up with your dog being attacked.  And that in itself will cause a whole OTHER slew of unwanted side effects.  You may not be concerned about this for a number of reasons but the reality is that I see dogs every single day who have been attacked by another dog on the walk.  It just isn’t worth taking the chance.

From David the Dog Trainer



Don’t Punish Your Dog’s Growl – Do This Instead

It’s very common for dog owners to punish their dogs for growling. Unfortunately, this often suppresses the growl – eliminating his ability to warn us that he’s about to snap, literally and figuratively. On other occasions, punishing a growling, uncomfortable dog can induce him to escalate into full-on aggression.

So, if you’re not supposed to punish your dog for growling, what are you supposed to do? The next time your dog growls at you, try this:

1.) Stop. Whatever you’re doing, stop. If your dog’s growl threshold is near his bite threshold – that is, if there’s not much time between his growl and his bite, get safe. If his growl doesn’t mean a bite is imminent, stop what you’re doing but stay where you are. Wait until he relaxes, then move away, so you’re rewarding the relaxed behavior rather than the growl.

2.) Analyze the situation. What elicited the growl? Were you touching or grooming him? Restraining him? Making direct eye contact? Taking something away from him? Making him do something?

3.) Figure out a different way to accomplish your goal without eliciting a growl. Lure him rather than physically pushing or pulling him. Have someone else feed him treats while you touch, groom, or restrain him. If you don’t have to do whatever it was that elicited the growl, don’t – until you can convince him that it’s a good thing rather than a bad thing.

4.) Evaluate the stressors in your dog’s world and reduce or eliminate as many of them as possible. For example, if your dog is unaccustomed to strangers, then having your sister and her husband and three kids as houseguests for the past week would undoubtedly stress your dog. Noise-phobic dogs might be under a strain if city crews have been digging up a nearby street with heavy equipment or there was a thunderstorm last night. The vacuum cleaner is a common stressor for dogs. A loud argument between you and your spouse could stress your dog as well as you, and your stress is stressful to your dog. Harsh verbal or physical punishment, an outburst of aroused barking at the mail carrier, fence fighting with another dog. The list could go on and on.

5.) Institute a behavior modification program to change his opinion about the thing that made him growl. One way to do this is to use counter-conditioning and desensitization to convince him the bad thing is a good thing.

Whole Dog Journal


Meet PupPod

A New Genre Of Smart Dog Toys

Dogs are smart. Really smart! And research shows that regularly exercising the brain is necessary for dogs to stay happy, healthy and out of trouble. That’s where PupPod comes in! This fun, interactive, high-tech puzzle game gives your dog the mental stimulation he craves and automatically keeps challenging him as he learns.

Playing PupPod

PupPod uses a combination of sensors, lights and sounds to encourage your dog to use his brain to solve a puzzle and get a reward. Puzzles are simple at first, and then automatically get harder as your dog gets smarter. Stats are recorded after each session, and achievements can be shared on social media and in the PupPod community.





4 Puppy Biting Survival Strategies

Nipping, mouthing, teething – whatever you call it, here’s how to get past this puppy developmental phase in one piece.

Puppies! Who doesn’t love ’em? They’re cute, cuddly, and silly. They look like little angels when they sleep, which is often. When they’re awake, they spend all their time exploring and learning about the world around them. We marvel at their curiosity and playfulness – until we experience The Teeth.

Puppies explore with their mouths, which nature has equipped with rows of teeny-tiny hole-punchers. It’s no fun being at the receiving end of a bitey pup. It hurts! It’s no wonder that the leading complaint from puppy owners is “How do I stop him from biting?”

The short answer is: You don’t! As Pat Miller explains in, “Teaching Your Puppy Bite Inhibition,” (May 2017), smart owners do everything they can to help their puppies develop “bite inhibition” over time.

However, this doesn’t mean you allow your puppy to puncture and hurt you! There are a number of things you can do to manage a nippy puppy until your puppy outgrows this important developmental stage.

The following is a list of things you can do to keep your skin, clothes, and other belongings intact while your puppy works through the biting phase:

1. Get lots of chew toys. Seriously, lots of them. Don’t skimp on the number or variety of chew toys your puppy has access to. Owners are often advised to keep only one or two toys out at a time (and to rotate them) so that their dogs don’t become bored, but this does not apply to puppies!

Instead, make sure that there is an ample supply of appropriate things your puppy can pick up with his mouth as he explores his home. (Remember that to a puppy, literally everything in his path is a chew toy, so it’s up to you to ensure your things – shoes, plants, remote controls, etc. – are safely stored.)

Further, when your puppy does pick up a toy, take advantage of the moment to reinforce this good behavior by showering him with attention. Think about it – if you ignore him when he picks up the correct item, but shout and jump around when he grabs your toes (or shoes), he’ll quickly learn that biting toes (or shoes!) is a sure way to get your attention. Showing him that picking up a toy, instead, is indeed the best way to get your attention will pay off in the long run.

Get the complete story on a dog’s need to chew things in, “Take Control of Puppy Chewing,” (March 2016).

2. Introduce your pup to “latch ropes.” This doesn’t have to be anything special; the term describes any long item that can be dragged behind you as you move through your home.

Moving objects are an open invitation for puppies to latch on with their teeth. Feet, pant legs, bath robe hems – they’re all fair game! I suggest to clients that they make several of their own “latch ropes” and keep them handy, all over the house. That way, when they walk from the living room to the kitchen, they can grab the closest latch rope and drag it behind them as they move. Puppy is more likely to latch onto that than to moving human feet. This is especially useful for kids who may feel terrorized by their new friend each time they walk or run through the house.

You don’t need to buy a bunch of these toys; they are easy and inexpensive to make. You can cut an old beach towel or large bath towel in half (lengthways) to make two separate toys. Tie a knot in the center, then two smaller knots on each end. Or, ask your friends and family members to donate their old pairs of jeans. Cut the pant legs off, and then cut each pant leg into several long strips of fabric that you can then braid to make a denim rope. All of these homemade toys can easily be tossed into the washer when needed.

3. Redirect your pup to a “legal” object to bite. Simply petting your puppy can sometimes prove difficult. He may view your hands on him as an invitation to play – and that means using his teeth! Scrambling to save your fingers from a chomping puppy mouth can look like the legendary Buster Keaton “sticky fingers” comedy routine – as soon as you free one hand, the puppy has latched on to the other! Try holding a chew toy for your puppy to gnaw on while your other hand gently strokes him. When done correctly, this is an excellent bonding experience.

4. Toss his treats on the floor. Delivering a treat to a bitey puppy during training requires some skill. Avoid pinching the treat between your thumb and index finger, or your puppy’s teeth may clamp down on your fingers. Instead, offer the treat in the palm of your open hand, or, better yet, toss it to the floor.

There’s an extra advantage to tossing treats directly on the floor: Your puppy will learn to anticipate that good stuff is delivered on the ground, and not necessarily from the hand. This will help curb his interest in human hands, and will result in less jumping up to bite them. It is especially helpful in keeping children’s tiny hands safe.

Avoid Saying “No!”

Shouting once or twice might work by startling your puppy at first, but soon he’ll learn to ignore it. Sometimes, shouting or shrieking can actually cause the puppy to become more excited. It’s perfectly normal for us to involuntarily respond to a sharp puppy bite by letting out a few choice words, but it is certainly not an effective training plan. Instead, quickly refer to one of the suggestions above.

Be Prepared for Puppy Teeth

By far the best plan of action for dealing with puppy biting involves being well-prepared. Manage your puppy’s environment by storing anything you don’t want him to chew, including plants, wires, and anything else within his reach. Have lots and lots of appropriate objects available for your puppy to wrap his teeth around, and remember to praise him every time he puts the right item in his mouth. Be patient; this shall pass!

From an article in the Whole Dog Journal

Nancy Tucker, CPDT-KA, is a full-time trainer, behavior consultant, and seminar presenter in Quebec, Canada.

Using a “U-Turn” to Leave Trouble Behind

Excerpted from Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen London, Ph.D

A “U-Turn” is a great tool to have in your training repertoire. A U-Turn is exactly what it sounds like: You and your dog are walking forward, and on your cue, you both instantly turn 180 degrees and move in the opposite direction. Your dog turns because he knows your cue means: “Quick! We’re going to play the turn-around-really-fast-and-go-the-other-way game!” Your dog doesn’t turn because he hits the end of the leash. That would increase the tension and could elicit the very behavior you’re trying to avoid. He turns because he knows the game, hears the cue and almost without thinking, wheels away from trouble.

Like Watch, the action itself is simple, but it needs to be mastered to be truly useful. And like Watch, a U-Turn is another behavior that is incompatible with your dog barking, lunging or stiffening. A U-Turn differs from a Watch cue in that you use it when you know your dog will be too aroused to perform a Watch or has already barked or lunged at another dog. The goal of a U-Turn is to get you out of sticky situations, and if you and your dog master both the Watch and the U-Turn, you’ll be able to handle most of the situations that life can throw at you.

This is one of the foundation behaviors we teach in the Growly Dog Class. Gives the handler something to do when surprised or to avoid a reactive episode with their dog.


“Excuse me, this is MY territory!”

There are many different types of guarding behavior. Dogs may guard food and/or food bowl, coveted toys or objects, their owners, or choice sleeping locations. Dogs often present with more than one kind of guarding and may also have body-handling problems. Of course, resource guarders may happen to also have any of a number of other behavior problems, but the most common constellation will involve guarding more than one kind of resource and being uncomfortable about certain kinds of body handling.

Location Guarding

The most common location guarding scenarios are:

• A dog who won’t let the owner or a spouse into the bed or bedroom once the dog is lying on the bed
• A who is grumpy and aggressive when jostled on
• A dog who threatens passersby and/or dogs when he is in his crate or car

An interesting feature of all resource guarding is that its severity may not only be tied to the value of the resource, but also to who is approaching. Location guarding, such as a dog who seems to let the wife but not the husband in the bed, is a prime example.

From Whole Dog Journal

This is something that can improved with Behavior Modification techniques and positive conditioning and desensitization.

Consult with a experienced  behavior consultant to get help.

“Mine” by Jean Donaldson is a great resource.



Information about the Canine Flu.

Canine Flu



“The 5 myths of Dominance”

In class it is common for people to refer to something their dog is doing as dominant. The term is misunderstood and confused with lack of training issues with your dog.
As a member of The Behavior Education Network they have made this course avaiable to all dog owners.

Owner Education


To Tug or Not!

When I discuss and demonstrate playing tug puppy owners are sometimes concerned and say that have read that tug is not a good idea for dogs. One of the most valuable benefits of playing tug is to teach your dog to do a drop/give (trade one thing for another). This is invaluable when your puppy or dog picks up something of yours they should not have or something dangerous. I tell my students when played with rules of the game it can be a great interaction for you and your dog.

Excerpted from Jean Donaldson’s book The Culture Clash

Dog owners have been admonished for decades by trainers, breeders and veterinarians to never play tug of war with their dogs because it risks increasing aggression and/or dominance in the dog. I think they’ve muddled predatory behavior, which tug actually is, with agnostic (conflict resolution) behavior, which tug is not. Played with rules, tug of war is a tremendous predatory energy burner and good exercise for both dog and owner. Like structured roughhousing, it serves as a good barometer of the kind of control you have over the dog, most importantly over his jaws. The game doesn’t make the dog a predator; he already is one. The game is an outlet.

Tug, or any vigorous activity for that matter, played without rules or functioning human brain cells is potentially dangerous. But the baby has been thrown out with the bath water in this case: why deprive dogs and owners of one of the best energy burners and outlets there is? It’s good because it is intense, increases dog focus and confidence, and plugs into something very deep inside dogs. The owner becomes the source of a potent reinforcing activity, and there is a payoff in terms of lowered incidence of behavior problems due to understimulation. It’s also extremely efficient for the owner in terms of space and time requirements, and it can be used as a convenient reinforcement option in obedience.

The “tug might make him more dominant” argument is extremely lame. The implication is that dogs or wolves ascertain rank by grabbing the ends of an object and tugging to see who “wins”. If anything, the best description of tug is that it is cooperative behavior. It’s not you vs. the dog, it’s you and the dog vs. the tug of war toy. When you’re playing tug of war with a dog and he “wins,” i.e. you let it go, a tug addicted dog will try to get you to re-engage in the game rather than leaving and hoarding. You have control of the supreme, ultimate reinforcer here: the ability to make the toy appear to resist, to feel like living prey. The dog learns this.

From Jean Donaldson’s thought-provoking book, The Culture Clash, dog owners will learn and get a better understanding of the relationship between dogs and humans, including rules of tug. Purchase The Culture Clash from The Whole Dog Journal today.




Our dogs are trying to communicate with us all the time. Start listening! This is a video that shows some of the things they are saying.


Did you know that there is a city ordinance for noise regarding dog barking? A dog barking all day long can be distracting, annoying and a concern about your dog’s well being. If your dog is barking there are many reasons.
They are understimulated physically and or mentally. Your dog may have Separation Anxiety or Noise Phobias. A dog left outdoors all day can lead to problem barking. If you are having issues with your dog barking try to document when it is happening and how long it contiunes. There can be many options to help your dog.  Contact a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and behavior consultant.

Citizens living within the City of Seattle should expect to live with some level of noise.  Traffic, lawn mowers, construction, barking dogs or other animal noises are just a few examples. As a resident of any community we endure most of these noises. However, pet noises that are unreasonable can be reported.  First you should:

  1. Communicate with the pet owner 
    Often, neighborly discussions can be very helpful. Let the pet owners know that you are disturbed by the noise. Sometimes pet owners are not aware of the problem or the impacts on other residents. Try to work out a mutually agreeable and reasonable solution in a neighborly manner.Strategies that may help include manners training, changing the animals’ routines, maintaining the animals inside, creating visual barriers from passers-by or providing the animals with more exercise.  Allow a reasonable amount of time for a remedy by the pet owner.
  2. Submit a complaint
    Call the Seattle Animal Shelter at (206) 386-7387 or file a complaint online. On a first complaint, a letter will be sent to the pet owner notifying them that a noise complaint has been filed and that they must take appropriate steps to abate the noise created by their animal(s).
  3. If the violation continues
    If the violation occurs again, please call the Shelter and speak to a representative.  A declaration form will be sent to you for you to fill out.  At the same time, an Officer will be sent to the residence to investigate.  No further enforcement action will be taken without a completed declaration.  It is important that you document the nature and the extent of the problem in the declaration. Be thorough and honest in your documentation as you are signing this document under penalty of perjury.If there is a six month period between complaints regarding noise issues, the process will return to step two and start over again.

September 10, 2012

Had a great weekend with the dogs! Starting on Friday we went for our first real hike to Talapus and Olallie Lakes on exit 45 on I 90. The whole hike was in the shade, so even though is was a hot day it wasn’t too hot for me or the dogs. Frannie (6 months) did so well on the hike (six miles). She was able to keep up and at times lead on the leash in front of me. We brought plenty of water for hydration and snacks. Elosie (3 yrs) was given the chance to be off leash. She stayed close, with an occasional stray off the trail, and with the few people we saw she came to my side to let them pass. I was so proud.

Saturday was all about was a work day. Puppy class had a fun group of puppies with exceptional play group sessions.

Sunday  we started our Sunday play group for puppies after the summer, and had a demo agility class and K9 conditioning session. Classes will resume next weekend. My private consultaion with a cute little cockapoo went well. We  met at the studio – on a neutral location. He has some leash reactivity to other dogs and some fear with new people. I had some yummy beef ready and took some time at first to make friends. It took about 15 minutes before he was taking treats out of my hand. I made sure that I did not make direct eye contact and let him gradually come to me by throwing treats on the floor. We discussed the importance of recognizing body language and stress signals. We did some work outside with a stuffed decoy dog. The idea is to approach slowly and make sure he didn’t bark or lunge. We were able to approach the decoy and do a quick sniff and retreat. Then we brought Eloise out and did a few more repetitions. He barked on the first approach, so we had to back up and try a few more. this didn’t go as well so we finished the session. There is much more work to be done, but I think the clients left having a better understanding of what their little guy was needing and what he was trying to communicate to them!







Fisher at Wally Pets


The K-9 Conditioning demonstation at Wally Pets was fun last night! We had some neighbor hood friends stop by.







Adolescent Fear Period.

Frannie, (my six month old cavapoo tomorrow) has had a spooky reaction to many things since I broght her home at 11 weeks. Noises, children, strollers, big dogs. She started puppy classes at 11 weeks when she first came home and did fine with people and other puppies. I have been working on it consistently with desensitizing and classical conditioning. SCARY THING + YUMMY TREAT.  I also always try to let her investigate if possible. I ask people to say hello, walk her up to the stroller, I will also check it out to show her it is ok. I alost never let her greet a dog I don’t know because I have had bad experiences with that in the past. I don’t trust that people know their dog’s reaction to a puppy on leash and greeting on leash is not such a good idea generally. The leash gets tangled and a dog can get spooked because there is no easy escape. Frannie’s behavior escalated this past month to the point where every walk she was barking at something. I was starting to get concered about her general temperament because her brother has the same behavior. Even though I talk about adolecent fear in classes when it is your dog it still is difficult to accept the explanation!

Developmentally, it is common for dogs to have a fear period during adolescence (6-18 mos). Some of  them will resolve on their own, but they can also start to generalize to other things.Your dog needs your help to overcome their fears. What we do as handlers can affect our dogs behavior in a more serious way. Any punishment, leash corrections, verbal corrections can make things worse.. It is always best to rule out anything physical first (like a thyroid condition or pain) that can be contributing to the fear reaction.

Behavior modification, using desensitiztion and  classical conditoning can help dramatically. Also trying Tellington Touch which can help your dog be calmer and more confident. If you suspect your dog/puppy is going thorough a fear period don’t ignore it. Be sensitive to what your dog is experiencing. If they are afraid,  they need your help.




Crate training

Just got off the phone with a client I had a private session with last week. One of her issues was her 5 month old puppy was peeing in the crate every night. This had been happening since she brought her home.

We discussed the standard solutions-start getting up at night to take her outside, starting out 3-4 hours after bed time. If there was no pee in the crate, we know that she is holding it. By slowly extending the time we can start to have her hold it longer and longer. This what we recommend with any new puppy you bring home. Puppies can hold their urine longer at night time because they are less active and not eating and drinking.

Well the client decided she would try having her puppy sleep with her at night and guess what. Problem solved! Now the puppy is sleeping longer and not had an incident since.

I am not suggesting that this is a solution for everyone, but for them it worked. Who am I to judge.

Upcoming Events

K9 Conditioning Demonstration:

Wally Pets – 4411 Wallingord Ave N.

August 30 |  5 – 7 pm

Wallingford Center

September 22 |  10:30 am – 2:00 pm


Crate training

Crates are meant to be used for short term confinement and management. Used properly they can be a poweful tool.

Here are some recommendations for using a crate:
  1. They are used to manage when you can not visually supervise your puppy or dog. Some of the other options are gates, closed doors, x-pens and tethering.
  2. The suggested time limit is 4-5 hours total for the day. Not including night time.  There are exceptions to this based on individual circumstances.The time limit for for young puppies is 1 hour for each 4 weeks of age between elimination. Adult dogs can go longer.
  3. When possible, acclimate gradulally. First while at home for short periods at a time, then increase. When leaving the house the same rule applies.
  4. When making the transition to no crating and unsupervised time, just reverse the strategy, start with short times and then increase.
  5. Crates are not appropriate for long term use. If you have to be gone more than 3 hours provide a potty area for your puppy. Make the potty area a different texture. You can use an x-pen or a gated room.
  6. Crate size should be large enough for the puppy or dog to stand up turn around and stretch out on their sides comfortably.
If your puppy is soiling their crate something is wrong. They have been crated too long, they are afraid, they did not get to relieve themselves before crated. Making the crate smaller is not the answer.
It is important to provide adequate exercise, mental stimulation and socialization for your puppy or dog when using a crate. You must have the time and energy to give to your puppy. If they are spending most of the day alone it’s time to consider other options like daycares, walks during the day, or going to work with you. If your dog is being crated because they are misbehaving then some postive training can be the solution.