Thursday, December 19, 2013

You're Hired!

I write this post because a few things have come up in some online groups I'm on regarding dog training and online advice/help.  As many of you follow this blog you notice I give out tips and advice.  If you follow my Facebook business page you'll see I post many articles, tips, advice and even a "Free Advice Friday" piece where I offer up free advice on certain Fridays at a certain hour for those with questions.  However, I want to clear up a few things. ...

First and foremost, if you are having challenges with your dog regarding training and/or behavior you should never try to solve it all on your own via advice online or even a book.  Nothing is more helpful and invaluable than hiring a qualified, educated and trained professional to come help you*.  This especially holds true if you have any behavior challenges with your dog -- regardless of age, puppies and dogs can be trained at any age!

In today's world everything is online. Everything. I'm sure that the medical community is one of the worst for things like this.  People don't want to go see a doctor unless they have to.  So, hey why not just Google your symptoms and see what that brings up?!  Well, that can be dangerous, if not sometimes deadly.  Sadly, the same can hold true for dog training.  Sure, you may just have a dog that barks out the window at passers-by, so you think -- but we just have a barking problem, we can find info on how to solve that online or from a book or ...  However, what you don't realize is that often small things that seem like "just a (fill in the blank) problem" are symptoms of a much larger problem that needs to be addressed by a professional.  

Also, don't assume that because your friendly neighbor has successfully trained his dog, or maybe multiple dogs, that he's a qualified trainer or behavior expert.  The truth is that anyone can train a dog but it doesn't immediately make them knowledgeable about behavior, training and problem solving.  If your neighbor is a qualified and educated dog trainer and/or behavior consultant then great! But if not, be sure you have asked the right questions before taking his advice.  

Back to online advice ...  this may seem like a bit of a hypocritical post from me since I do give out online advice. However, I can tell from the info given when a person needs a professional to step in.  I often and frequently tell people -- You really need to get someone to come into your home and help you out*.  I know when this needs to happen.  Yes, I'll give advice on potty training, some barking issues but when more info is given and I realize that there is probably a bigger issue I will always, always tell them they need a professional to help them.  And if the person is near me I'll offer to come in, if not I'll try to help them find a qualified professional to help them.  Click here for an excellent post on the who-what-when of hiring a dog trainer or behavior consultant.

Sadly I've had many times where someone, at least to me, obviously needs me to come in and yet I never get that call back.  I know that hiring a trainer may be hard. It may be a financial issue or a scheduling issue or just a "I can do this myself" type issue.  However, hiring someone to help you and sticking to the advice and homework given will be less stress in all those areas in the long run.  It's worth the expense, scheduling and stress when you do it and hire the right person to help you with your dog.

Take home message: Don't try to train  your dog without the help of a professional.  Often this can lead to more problems, and it is so worth it to hire someone that is qualified and well-educated in dog behavior.  There are a wealth of dog trainers to choose from; if you need help finding one let me know where you live and I can help you.  If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Texas area let me know and I'll gladly help!

*Click here for an excellent post on the who-what-when of hiring a dog trainer or behavior consultant.
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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ouch! That's my finger!

"Why do some dogs grab treats so hard, and how can I teach him to be gentle?" This is a very common question that many people ask and it's a great question.
First, all dogs should be taught how to gently take food/treats from hands/fingers.  Some dogs are naturally soft and take food gently.  Dogs like this need no prior training for this.  But others take it very much in a manner that can be downright painful!  

After a dog is taught how to take food gently if there is a situation where he takes it not-so-gently you need to consider why this would be happening.  With dogs, I always say, everything happens for a reason we just have to find the reason!

Here are a few reasons why a dog would take food in a less than gentle manner:

1) Competition.  If you are serving food (or treats) with other dogs around, especially in close proximity, some dogs will snatch the food quickly acting in a normal competitive doggie fashion.  Dogs aren't wired to be natural sharing creatures.  With resources around dogs will often start to grab things quickly when other dogs are  around so that they can get what is "theirs" quickly before the other dog does -- this would be the thought process of the dog snatching the food.

2) Stress.  Many dogs will grab food out of your hand very harshly and/or quickly when in a stressful situation.  Remember what is stressful for your dog will be different for the next dog.  A common place that I see "grabby" dogs is in group classes.  Classes can be stressful. Other dogs all around, all dogs are asked to perform one thing or another.  It can be stressful and therefore some dogs will become pretty grabby with the food.

3) It's been trained. Usually this doesn't happen on purpose but it happens. The dog has learned to do this and gets the treat anyway, therefore he continues to do this. If you pull your hand away quickly when the dog goes to grab you'll likely teach the dog to grab faster and hold on once he gets it too!

If your dog fits any of the three reasons above, and now you're asking --  now what?  Here is what.  
Train your dog to take food gently from your hand from day one. This means if you have gotten a new puppy start the puppy with this training. If you have a newly acquired adult dog do the same.  It's never too early or too late to train any dog!

This skill should first be taught starting in a low-key, non-distracting environment without other dogs around. You may increase criteria, distractions, etc. as the dog progresses successfully. Here is an excellent video on teaching a dog some impulse control and how to take food gently without just snatching it out of the hand. And another video here.

If your dog does this out of competition due to a multiple dog household, teach each dog individually this skill and then you may teach each dog to wait its turn before getting something. Basically teaching a dog impulse control around other dogs.  This will prove useful for many other things too.  Here is a great read on how to work with multiple dogs and train them to do things one at a time.  Here is yet another on multiple dogs and their training.

If your dog does this when stressed you need to decrease the stress. Find out what is stressing the dog, work through that -- whether that's a whole other training protocol or whatever it is -- then move forward.  If your dog does become stressed and grabby, I'd end that training session. Most dogs at this stage are not learning or are only taking bits and pieces.  Go back, reduce/get rid of the stress, then start over.

What you should not do when a dog gets grabby:

- Move your hand away, especially quickly.  Stay still. Don't move.  And go to step one. Train this behavior.
- Don't correct the dog. If the dog is stressed getting angry will only increase stress and make things worse.
- Repeat something like, "easy, easy, easy", or some other verbal cue. You want the dog to know not to grab the food, not have to do it when you tell it to.

Now go get goin' ... I know you have something you learned here that can apply to your household! ...

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Silly Pants.

"Silly Pants" was what I so goofily and lovingly called my foster Pitbull, "Pinky".  She was a real silly girl, opening her crate she was like a bull in a china closet.  She was stout, short, sturdy and strong.  She was also sweet, tolerant, and whip-smart.  She let me use an electric dremel tool for her toenails without fuss at all. She asked for sweet belly rubs every morning before her first potty break.  And she would give you loads of ear kisses when you wanted her to, or when you didn't. ...I loved that damn dog.  She was a pain in my ass but I loved her.  

It's taken me quite a while to write this because she drifts in and out of my head a lot. I won't lie, I wanted to keep that dog. I wanted to make her the Pitbull that everyone could look at and say, "Pitbulls are GREAT dogs, I don't get the hype!"   

I fostered Pinky for 9 months -- from January 2012 until late September. I didn't stop fostering her because she was lucky to find a home. I stopped because I couldn't do it any longer after discovering I was pregnant with my twins and not being able to do a whole lot physically for anyone let alone her little busy self!  And I felt like I really failed her.  Like me fostering her was all for nothing.  

I always remember this quote from Dr. Suess when I think of her, because tears will stream down my face when I think of losing her; how I feel like I failed her.  I know that she was probably another statistic and I'm certain she didn't make it into anyone's life. However, I think of what she did in fact do for me and what I in turn did for her, even if for only a moment.  That little tank of a Pitbull taught me a lot about life, love, dog training and stereotypes.

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it  happened." -- Dr. Suess

So the story goes ... I had lost my sweet Lab, Jake, on January 1st and I was filled with sadness and grief.  I didn't want another dog but at the same time I did, then I thought -- Good gosh I've been in the dog world  for over a decade and I've never once fostered a dog!  So I decided I'd do something good.  And very coincidentally I found a picture of this darling Pitbull named "Pinky" on Facebook that was in desperate need of a foster as she had been living in  boarding in a vet clinic but they could no longer keep her there. She was also mentally going a little wild without proper exercise and training simply due to lack of resources. The vet staff there were very wonderful to her and they loved her like their own but she just had no where to go to be more enriched both physically and mentally.  So I stepped in when they put up a post on Facebook about a desperate need for a foster for her.

It was noted that she was not known to be good with some other dogs and so she lived with me, completely isolated from my own dogs and any dogs that came into my house at the time.  I had no problem with that.  She had her own time out in my house with us, and my dogs would either be outside or crated while she got "Pinky time".  I would train her, play with her and let her just be crazy. She was full of energy, tons of it. She was great with toys and played well with them.  After I taught her how to "drop" on cue she would play very well with me too.  Before that she'd just play alone.  She had zero guarding issues, i.e., if you came near  her when she had something or was eating she could care less.  She was great with my daughter, who was 3 years old at the time.

I did learn that she was afraid of people when they approached her first and didn't allow her to greet on her own time.  And if you used a high-pitched voice she became very agitated and scared and would become defensive.  She would nip when someone tried to walk away after a greeting that she didn't feel comfortable with.  I learned this the hard way the first time as she did this in my house when my dad came to visit.  He wanted to meet her. I was stupid and let him just let her out [of her crate] in my bedroom and he started kind of sweet talking her. She started barking at him, afraid, as she was backing up while barking. He was sitting down on my bed.  However then he got up to leave and she nipped him on the back of his leg.  Yeah, way to go dog-trainer-expert-now-foster-mom!

She had met my sister, my 4 year old nephew, my mother and my step-dad without issue at all.  In fact after several minutes she was initiating attention and licking all over them.  The only thing I finally put together was that they never interacted with her first, they allowed her to come to them. When they first met her they did nothing, they ignored her.  So I knew that I could easily work on that with her. ... Then time passed, and things got where I wasn't able to work on that specifically with her.

But take note. She was not aggressive. She was scared and acted as any scared animal would -- defensively when she felt like she was most vulnerable.  Aggressive did not describe this dog.  She was not that at all. She was misunderstood and needed to learn a different response to have when people approached.  That's all. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to do that training with her and strangers.

I did work on several things with her in regards to training. She was amazing at going to the mat. She would default to it I worked on it so much. She found her mat to be quite rewarding and comforting.  She learned to wait there on her mat until I released her.  She had her very own bright pink bath mat that I got just for her.

I worked on her leash skills, her drop, sit, down, stay and recall (come when called).  She was a quick study and loved to learn.  She also loved to toss her toys around and play by herself. She was goofy and funny.  She was all or nothing. She would bolt out of the room, toy in mouth, run circles then come back and you had to brace yourself!  She was all Pitbull, 100%.  Loyal to me, and my family.  And cautious around other dogs, sometimes  aggressive in nature.  She was a typical bully breed.  She wasn't going to be the dog for just anyone!

What did Pinky teach me? Well ...

  • She taught me that stereotypes are dangerous at best and deadly at worst.  
  • She taught me that looks are everything, especially for dogs.  
  • She taught me that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  
  • She taught me that you can't save them all. 
  • She taught me that yes, sometimes life does get in the way.  
  • She taught me about forgiveness.
  • She taught me that Pitbulls may be tough but they are sensitive, loyal and highly trainable. 
  • She taught me that Pitbulls are just dogs and not monsters in a dog suit.
  • But most of all she taught me that loving something can be so rewarding that you can hold on to that love forever, regardless of the outcome. 
And so I come back to the Dr. Suess saying -- "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it  happened."

Here is a video I never did publish. I just uploaded it for the first time to YouTube.  It's me and Pinksters at the Shade Whitesel working dog seminar in Missouri last summer (2012).  This video is cool because it shows you how to do a few things -- put  a behavior on cue and with spacial recognition (the dog performs the cue reliably no matter where you are when asking for the cue).  It also shows you how happy and smart this little toot was!  (If you are receiving this via your email inbox go to this link:, otherwise it's embedded on the blog post via the blog page below.)

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means...

I've been professionally training dogs for almost 14 years.  Over those years I've done a number of things  in order to train dogs and help dog owners. This includes various tools, methods and advice to be dispensed.  However, just in the past 3 years I've changed a lot of my training dramatically and I feel that now I'm really grasping the reality of dogs and their behavior.  -- What do you mean? -- You ask ... Let me go a little further ...

First of all, no one will ever completely understand dog behavior as it is so complex.  Just like all animal behavior we are always learning.  The same goes for humans as well, I suppose. However, with our canine friends we cannot ask them how they feel or what they are thinking so it's a little more difficult than working with humans.

What I've learned in the past few years with my evolving training and education regarding dog behavior is that to truly modify behavior and train a dog -- be it to work with a chewing puppy or an aggressive or fearful rescue dog -- we must really understand why the dog is doing what he is doing.  I'm not saying that I didn't try to do this during my entire training career, I'm saying I've learned that before I only thought that was what I was doing.  What I was actually doing before was just trying to get the dog I wanted and to get rid of certain behaviors. In the past I wasn't really "listening" to the dog.  

I really sit back and take a lot in now.  It all makes so much sense if you really look at it with a new perspective.  We don't respect dogs enough, we just put expectations on them.  I find that more humans just want a dog and want the dog to do (fill in the blank), however they don't take into consideration the reality of some of their expectations.  Humans think animals are so trainable that sometimes we treat them like electronics that can be programmed to do specific things and not to do specific things ... but often at an unrealistic level.

Of course we can train dogs to do many things for us, specific tasks and things.  However, the calls I get are often really interesting as they have a heavy "I need my dog to do this or not do this, or else" connotation.  Here are some examples of actual things  dog owners have said to me over the years ...

"I have a 10 week old Pomeranian puppy and she has to go potty like twice a night. I need my sleep, can you help me train her to stop waking up in the night?"
You may be thinking -- Ok, what's wrong with that request?  Well nothing. At some point yes, a dog can and should sleep through the night.  However, a 10 week old puppy is like asking a newborn infant to not require feedings every 3 hours and wake up during the night.  It's unrealistic at best and abusive at worst if you ignore that behavior from a young puppy.  Anyone that is a parent knows this all too well.  Did you not get up in the night the first several months with your babies to feed them (multiple times!) and often lose tons of sleep?!  Why should a baby dog be different, because it's a dog?!  

"My dog barks when he's in his crate. Can we train him to stop barking so my neighbors won't complain? My friend told me to squirt him in the face with a water bottle when he barks but it doesn't really help much."
Absolutely we can.  But we first need to find out why he's barking.  Trying to tell the dog he's "bad" for doing this isn't very respectful. What if he's afraid? Anxious? Needs to pee? We need to address the reason for the vocalization first then we can help the dog learn to be comfortable and have his needs met.

"My dog pulls on the leash. I keep my leash short and tight so he's right next to me but he still tries to pull."  ....  "My dog chokes when he's  pulling on the leash but it doesn't stop him from pulling."  .... "I use this collar and give a slight tug on it when we are walking and he'll walk nicely next to me, unless there is a cat, then he'll try to pull again and I have to give him another reminder." 
Leash pulling questions are very, very common for dog trainers  in all circles to hear.  The problem, again, is that we need to address the dog's main problem -- he doesn't know that he's supposed to walk on a loose leash.  Let me say that again, because the common thought now is this -- yes he does, I tell him "no" or I jerk on the leash or give him some sort of correction when he does pull ... That's the problem. You are only telling the dog what he is not supposed to do. So what do you want him to do? Walk on a loose leash, right? Ok. Then we have to teach the dog that you want that behavior.  Telling the dog what you don't want only addresses that -- what you don't want. It doesn't help the dog understand what in fact he is supposed to do and how to accomplish that!  

And the biggest and most common one of all  --- "My dog growled at me. I will not tolerate that. If he starts to snap he's gone!" (...or some version of that, there are many!)
A dog growls as a way to communicate a feeling of being uneasy.  Stop there. I know you are thinking -- but I didn't do anything, he just growled. Or, I'm his owner, he knows he can trust me ...  or something to that effect, right?!  Well, the truth is that if a dog is growling he doesn't feel comfortable. This is very often around children, not always but very often.  If your dog is growling you need to figure out why.  Do not correct this behavior.  You must address the reason for the dog growling.  Is he guarding something? Is he uncomfortable? Are you allowing a child to be near the dog when  possibly they should not be?  Is the dog in pain?  The list goes on for this.

But understand this.  This is a fact, contrary to what you want to believe ... if you correct your dog in any fashion for growling you may take away the dog's ability to give this very subtle warning.  A growl is nice.  The next move is a snap or a full bite.  If you continually tell a dog he is a "bad dog" for growling this will be your dog's thoughts -- "ok, so growling isn't working to get this human to back away, guess I'll just use my teeth to get my point across."  And next time you will gasp and think -- how could he?!  He did that because you were disrespectful. You didn't take the time to ask why he did it and then use training to teach him he doesn't need to feel the need to growl.  Yes, you find out why and train the dog to feel comfortable in the situation(s) that normally cause him to growl.  And yes, if he growls you do nothing.  Nothing. Back away and go to brainstorm as this means training is in order!

All of the above examples are a few of many things I run into, I could list a zillion more.  What they all have in common is that we all too often disrespect our canines.  We only hold high expectations for them.  We don't take into account that maybe we should take a step back and learn to understand our dogs and teach them what we do in fact expect of them.  Please understand what this post is saying in its entirety. I am not saying you need to allow dogs to display aggression or "naughty" behaviors. I am not saying that at all. I'm not saying you cannot have expectations of your dogs. I'm saying that we have to respect the reasons why dogs are doing what they are doing.

A 10 week old puppy is waking in the night because he's a baby and cannot physically hold it all night long.  A dog pulls on leash because he has not been trained how to maintain a loose leash and what it means to walk nicely with the person holding the leash.  A dog growls when chewing a bone because often dogs guard resources and must be taught that there is no reason to feel threatened by approaching humans (or dogs).  A dog barks in a crate for many reasons and squirting it in the face with water isn't going to take the dog's crate anxiety away but will probably increase it (or worse).

You have to understand why your dog does what he does. Usually it is as simple as "he doesn't know anything else", and dogs do what works for them. If your dog jumps on guests grabbing his paws or kneeing him in the chest (some old school techniques to "get  rid of" these behaviors) is not teaching your dog that a nice polite sit for greetings is more acceptable and he can also be petted  at the same time -- win/win!  

So instead of saying, "Stop it! No!" or grabbing for a squirt bottle or kneeing a jumping dog or yelling at your dog, ask yourself this -- if this were a human child would I approach them the same way?  If your infant is waking in the middle of the night you are definitely not getting angry with the baby (but I do understand first hand how very tiresome this is!). If your child is crying in the other room across the house you don't yell "Shut up!!!" first, do you? Most likely you go into the room and ask, "What's the matter?!"  Once you get the answer you try to address the issue.  

We cannot ask our dogs questions as to why they do what they do; they cannot give us an answer.  So we must show them what is expected and how they can properly carry out these behaviors. We must understand and respect their emotional state in the moment, especially in regards to fear, aggression and anxiety.  Then and only then can we change behavior appropriately, correctly and with lasting results ... and without the use of aversives.  It is this kind of true and genuine understanding of the canine species that will lead us to lasting and wonderful results with our training because we are addressing the dog as a whole and not just suppressing those "unwanted" behaviors. We are actually addressing the "why" of those unwanted behaviors and helping the dog understand how to overcome those as well as change those unwanted behaviors into acceptable behaviors.  This is where a dog's relationship with his owner becomes so strong that training is simple and true to form ...

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"So how do I properly discipline my dog? . . . " (Version II)

I had written a blog post about this subject back in January of 2010. I have noticed that this specific blog post has received over 1300 views.   I hadn't read the post in years and so I went back and re-read it.   Oddly enough I was a little bothered by some of what I wrote!  I have grown as a trainer and behavior therapist due to continued education in the field, and I'm glad I have!  So, with that said I feel that I need to  update this post due to it's popularity and  let dog owners know how I feel about this subject in regards to my current training philosophies and methods.

I'll start by saying that the most important thing about discipline is that it should be a learning moment for both you and your dog.   However,  as a professional dog trainer I have discovered that most dog owners asking "how do I discipline my dog" are actually asking "how do I get him to stop _____?"  or "how do I get him to understand what 'No!' means?" If these are one of the reasons you have Googled how to discipline your dog then you should take some things into consideration first.

There are several reasons a dog would do something you would disapprove of:
1) He's a dog.  He's doing something dogs do.
2) He doesn't know anything else.
3) Lack of training. He hasn't been taught what you prefer he do instead of XYZ behavior.
4) He's missing something in his life. He is bored, over/under-stimulated and/or over/under-exercised.
5) He's gotta pee. He may need to relieve himself (for puppies, especially).
6) Medical reasons. He may have anxiety for one reason or another.

I prefer to teach a dog what I want him to do as opposed to what I do not want him to do.  It's really so much easier to do this, not to mention your dog expands his vocabulary and knowledge base to a degree that "misbehavior" is normally a thing of the past or at least something that rarely occurs.

So instead of me telling you what to do to correct a misbehavior or a way to teach your dog "No!" I will tell you this -- train your dog to  understand what you want from him.  Here are some examples of common complaints on things dogs do and what to do when these things  happen.

Complaint: Dog jumps on guests.
What dog owner says: How do I teach him to stop jumping on guests?
What you should do:  First, what do you want your dog to do? Sit? Lie down? Go lie on a mat?
Teach your dog to do something when guests come in your home or greet your dog.  Then your dog will do that and they won't find a need to jump.

Complaint: Dog chews socks.
What dog owner says: How do I get him to stop chewing my socks (and other things)?
What you should do: First, don't allow objects your puppy chews to be accessible.  Now teach your puppy what he should chew on.  Let puppy know that chewing on his bone is rewarding and acceptable behavior.

You get the idea.  Most dogs do things we dislike due to lack of training, not because they are obstinate or mad or whatever you would like to believe.  Plain and simple, the dog has most likely not been taught something better!

Once you have trained your dog many appropriate behaviors and your dog is also well exercised and stimulated, you shouldn't have a problem.  However, a dog is a dog. Every now and again something will happen that you'll disapprove of.  It is at this time if you need to say, "Hey! Fido, don't do that!" that your dog will most likely listen and stop.  You've trained him well and you have a very good understanding of one another, therefore, punishment and yelling is really just not necessary at all.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

FREE Dog Training Advice ...

YIPPEE!! Could it be any clearer -- free dog training advice?  Yup. That's right!  The catch is that you have to be a Facebooker.  So, travel on over to my group to read the description and know what you are getting into!  Here is the group on Facebook I created that is available for people to ask questions and get dog training help/advice!  Ask to join today!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Stork Arrived Early!

I know some of you follow this blog and don't follow my Facebook page so I just realized you may not know that I had my twins on Friday, February 15th ... just 2 days after my last blog post!  They were 6 weeks early and had to spend 10 days in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).  They are doing great, however, and have now been home for about 10 days.  

We are all doing well, no sleeping much, but doing well. I'm not exactly sure when I'll be back to work so I'll keep everyone updated on that when things fall into place for me around here and we figure out what we'll do.  Thank you again to all of you great doggie people who have been so supportive, generous and caring. It really means a lot to me!  ... Oh and we did a DNA test to confirm if they were identical or fraternal twins -- they are identical! 

Take care of your pups and let me know if there is anything at all that I can do for you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Muchas Gracias ...

I just wanted to write to my many followers, clients -- past and present -- and many dedicated dog owners that read my blog and/or follow my business page on Facebook ... and those that do other things outside of anything business to make it very easy for me to love my job even more!

It is you dog owners that keep me going, that keep me wanting to help dog owners when they need it.  There are so many great dog owners out there, so many great dog clients I've had the joy of getting to know and work with.  I just wanted to send a huge thank you to all of you!

For an update on myself -- I'm still pregnant! Seems like forever, at least to me!  I'm 34 weeks and due with my twin girls (we have named Stella and Sadie) on March 24th  I'm definitely ready and at this point walking into the kitchen to get water is a chore.  The bathroom is a common place for me to be and sitting or lying down is the only thing that feels somewhat comfortable at this stage.  However, the babies are doing great and we are moving along nicely according to the doctors.  So, again, thank you for all you have done and I will post updates as much/often as possible.

Remember that I post lots on my Facebook business page and hope to keep this blog busy with dog stuff too!  You can sign up for updates sent directly to your inbox by putting your email address in the bar where it says "Get Emailed When I Post New Stuff" on the right column of the main blog page here:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

No more doggies jumping on the bed ...

I get this question a lot: Should I allow my dog on the bed (or other furniture)?  Usually this is based on the very old-school of thought that having dogs in your bed or on your furniture gives your dog a sense of "dominance" and being "higher up".  Easily put, that is hog wash.

Without getting too  much into the whole dominance theory, as re-visited by scientists today, I will just say that here are common myths about canine dominance in the pet home that are just that: myths.
  • If you allow your dog to sleep with you he'll think he's ranked higher and may feel more dominant.
  • If you allow your dog to walk through a door way before you then you are allowing your dog to be dominant, and be ahead.
  • If you play tug and let him win, your dog may become dominant, or aggressive.
  • If your dog growls or snaps at you  he's showing dominance.
  • If your dog is a bully to other dogs or aggressive towards them it's because he thinks he's dominant.
While the above listed items are all completely false and all have other meanings and root from other things, we won't address those in this post.  I just want to address dogs on furniture or sleeping with you in the bed. 

The truth is that dogs can sleep wherever you wish, with some rules and training under their belt.   I feel that dogs can be allowed on any furniture where I sit or lie (minus kitchen chairs/stools and tables!) with the following reliable things in place:
  • When I ask them to move and/or "get off" they do so without coercion or bribery. 
  • They do not mind moving when I get into their space on the furniture.
  • They never show any aggression or refuse to get off the furniture.
  • In multiple dog homes all dogs should be able to safely share space without a tussle, snap, snarl or argument. (This may require more training depending on the dogs!)
The above should be trained before being requested by you.  If your dog cannot or does not respond to the above then you need to train him to respond to your requests and move out of space when you move into it.  You should train your dog to do this without force.  These are easy things to train, just practice and train them before asking your dog to do them, as with anything you ask of your dog.  If you need to work on this with a multiple dog home there may be a few extra steps and a bit more training involved, but it can be done! Remember it's not fair to ask your dog to something you've never actually trained him to do. 

Here is a video of my dogs showing some examples we discussed above.  (Direct link to video:

Choosing to have pets on the furniture is a personal choice. If you simply do not want dogs on the furniture that is totally fine. However if you don't allow it because you were led to believe it was "bad" or would lead to "behavior problems" then fret no more! Just teach your dog the rules and boundaries of your bed and furniture! Happy sleeping!
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Remarkable French Trainer.

Several of you have met Ines, my young and intelligent intern that has followed me around for the past year (or there about).  She met me technically via Facebook, and coincidentally lives just minutes from me in Arlington (Texas).  She came to a seminar I did on dog training back in November of 2011 and since then became more interested in going a "different" direction with dog training.

See, Ines used to be a huge follower/fan of a famous dog trainer shown on TV; a "trainer" whom I wholeheartedly disagree with and do not follow or suggest any of his methods of training.  I was very excited when she said to me, "well if there is a better way of training I'm open to listening and learning ..."  And since that day she never did do another leash jerk or put a metal collar on her dog for training. She actually purchased a treat bag, more appropriate dog collar/leash and started to learn clicker training too!  

Ines adopted a Husky/Shepherd mix of some kind from the shelter, "Loker", and he was a bit challenging for her with lots of energy and what seemed to her, stubbornness when it came to training.  He also was becoming more and more reactive to other dogs when out on the leash.  The methods she was using were not working to help her or Loker. The only issue was that she didn't have the right know-how or methods to employ with this dog and so they were kind of working against one another instead of for one another.

Almost immediately upon employing the methods she learned from me and other more positive and science-based trainers (those who use current science-based methods not outdated ones!) she saw her dog, Loker, make a dramatic change.  Their bond grew immensely and he actually found working and learning fun.  He also was quite good at it and was nothing close to stubborn! He has also come a loooong way with his leash reactivity and is very good on leash these days!

Since she started to crossover and use more positive methods Ines has bought numerous highly recommended and acclaimed books, attended seminars and even started her own blog titled, "The Crossover Trainer" which she posts some great tips, videos and other great stuff.  

January is National Train Your Dog Month, started by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and they are having a contest this year for people to enter and win.  It's based on positive training and Ines was so excited to be able to say she qualified Loker for that!  She has entered and made it to the finals!  I'm so proud of  her and all of her accomplishments over the past year.  She's going to end up as a great trainer for others to follow.  If you'd like to help her you may go and vote on her video with Loker she's entered into the contest.  You may do that by clicking here.

Another round of applause for Ines, her willingness to change and open her mind to great training methods and more  appropriate and accurate training!  And to top it off, she's French!  She could speak the language of love to your dog ... if you so desire!