Getting the best experience with your dog.

Sometimes analogies are helpful.

Maybe we could view dogs with this analogy; training your dog is like tuning your car stereo for a specific song. There are specific aspects you can tweak in order to get the best experience. Consider what type of music you have. It will have very individual characteristics and will sound best with certain settings. For example: rap music will not sound very good if you have the bass turned all the way down and the treble all the way up. If the volume is too low you may not be able to hear it at all. If all the sound is coming from the right side of your car it’s going to sound all wonky.

Things are similar with training dogs. When it comes to training your individual dog there will be a lot of overall beneficial concepts, but there are fine points you should consider. Not all dogs are the same. Some dogs are sensitive, some are less so, some are confident, some are insecure, some learn quickly, some take more time to learn. Almost all dogs can benefit from training, though. That’s why I teach all the dogs foundation obedience as a starting point. They also all benefit from leadership, structure, and routine.

When you listen to a song in your car you can adjust things like:

  • Bass

  • Treble

  • Balance

  • Fade

  • Volume

  • Etc.

When you approach training your specific dog you may want to adjust these aspects:

  • Affection
  • Structure
  • Rules
  • Discipline
  • Play
  • Time you spend together
  • Time you spend apart
  • Obedience
  • Walks
  • Social time with other dogs
  • Etc.
Some dogs may need more rules, while others barely need any. Some dogs can spend all day with you while others do better with more alone time. Each dog will benefit from more or less of the individual aspects. I just want you to view your dogs in a very nuanced way. Dogs are not plug and play. They are unique individuals.
If you’re struggling with your dog, try adjusting something. Is it working? Can you increase one thing and see how that is working?Are you living a better life together? Is it making things more crazy?  If you don’t like where you are change it! Dogs aren’t trees. Your life together can be better.
And don’t get so caught up in all the specifics that you don’t train at all. That would be like driving in silence all the time. It’s supposed to be fun! Listen to some music! Change what needs to be changed; over time you’ll find just the right amount of this or that to enjoy the music and enjoy your dog!

Is it relationship dynamic or lack of training?

Your relationship dynamic with your dog may be more of a problem than his lack of training. Have you been offering tons of treats for each and every thing he does right? Are you tiptoeing around because he resource guarding food, toys, or space in your home? Does he make you nervous, but you’re trying to be his friend? Is he a pushy, strong willed dog, and you’re a soft sensitive person?

The dynamic of the relationship you have with him might be what needs to change. Yes, there will be specific changes you will want to make with training and resources, but overall it will be you changing how you treat him. When he mouths your hand it may be him testing to see what you will allow. After you allow him to do that he may growl at you and not get off the furniture when you try to get him down. Maybe he stops allowing you to put leashes on him or touch his feet.

You decide how long you’re going to let all this go on and when things need to change. Something as simple as not moving out of your dog’s way when he walks past you, or making him get up and move when you’re trying to walk where he’s lying may help shift this dynamic. Giving him directions and not allowing him to make all the decisions may also be key. Stop asking if he wants to go for a walk; instead, you let him know it’s time to go. You may even want to limit the amount of attention you pay to him. If you’re talking to him and petting him each and every time you see him, maybe that needs to change too. Rather than leaving toys all around for free access, maybe you keep them up and only bring one out for interactive play with you.

These are just a few examples of scenarios where the relationship dynamic needs to change in order to help the dog change. Obedience training is only a small piece of the puzzle for some dogs. All the training in the world with the best trainer will not change how your dog feels about you in the comfort of your home when it’s just the two of you. You could also teach your own dog perfect obedience and still have a horrible relationship dynamic and struggle with major issues. The good news is that you can start to make a shift right away. If all these changes seem difficult to you, remember this is your part of the work! It will pay off.

Rehabilitation, Management, and Long-Term Realistic Expectations.

Our Personal Dogs.

Some of you already know, I got into dog training because of some major fighting issues that my dogs were having several years back.

These issues stemmed from several problems that commonly cause housemate dogs to fight:

* We brought a new, one year old dog into our home.

* It was a poor introduction.

* The new dog (Lana) had pretty severe resource guarding.

* The new dog was fearful and nervous.

* One of our other dogs was territorial and reactive.

* There was chaos, tons of freedom, lack of rules, plenty of toys, and lots of affection.

* There was a huge gap in leadership on the part of us humans.

All of those things combined were a recipe for disaster. Two of our three dogs at the time were power breeds, and fights happened and escalated in intensity over time.

The rehabilitation process consisted of:

* teaching all the dogs on and off leash obedience. This helped to eliminate chaos. Chaos can and will send fearful dogs into defensiveness if left unchecked.

* Teaching the new dog not to resource guard food by teaching a solid “out” command. This can also be used for moving her away from any situation where I see she is or may become uncomfortable. Toys and food were no longer left out.

* Teaching the new dog to be more comfortable when food is shared with other dogs. (there is a very specific protocol for this- don’t try this without help from a trainer)

* Stopping my other dogs from being reactive towards dogs. This included: on walks, no fence fighting with neighbor dogs, and no reacting when another dog enters our home. No territorial behavior allowed.

* Teaching all dogs to wait at thresholds. They are called to go through the door one at a time by name. (This eliminated fights over space and competition at the door)

* Consequences for bad behaviors and for breaking commands.

* us learning to be better leaders to the dogs.

* setting the dogs up to fail initially while muzzled, so they could be corrected for starting fights.

*correcting any dirty looks they gave each other.

* initially not allowing any free roaming in the house, no dogs on furniture, and no unearned affection.

*Fulfilling their needs for exercise and play in healthy, controlled, yet fun ways.

* I’m sure I’m forgetting some things we did to balance our dogs; but the bottom line was, structure, structure, structure, and consequences.

Dogs are opportunistic and will do whatever they are allowed to do. If you set down firm rules and teach them exactly what they should be doing, they are far less likely to make bad choices.

As an owner, you need to really get to know your dog. Learn who they are in general. Are they fearful overall and being pressured? Are they pushy and are they being allowed too many freedoms? Is it a combination of both?

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows!

Once a dog starts acting aggressively they will most likely need some degree of management forever. Any good dog trainer will tell you this upfront. Yes, we can help dogs and owners make huge changes to their lives and relationships, but we can’t work miracles. Some dogs will make a complete turn around, and some will need very close supervision, structure, and leadership for the rest of their lives. If you put in the work, you will absolutely make great strides and your dog may not display any aggression in the future. You can help them to build confidence and overcome most things, but it’s not like owning a happy go lucky puppy from day one. To some degree you will always have to be vigilant. You may need to use muzzles in certain situations, there may be situations you avoid altogether. While you should continue to ask a lot of your dog and have high expectations specific to their individual capability, you need to keep dogs and people safe. This is honoring the dog for who they are and helping them reach their full potential.

Do’s and Don’ts of Crating Your Dog

Many of us see the need for and benefits of crating our dogs. There are some important points you will want to keep in mind when it comes to making the experience successful and enjoyable for everyone in the home.

Here’s a basic list of some do’s and don’ts.

The things you should do:

  • Do- crate when you can’t supervise your dogs. This may mean at night, when you leave the house, and when you are very busy doing other things.
  • Do- crate new dogs and dogs who could use help in the behavior department, but the crate can be a beneficial tool for all dogs.
  • Do- teach your dog not to charge into or out of the crate. Teach them to wait for permission before entering and exiting.
  • Do- make sure you take them out for adequate potty breaks. Young puppies need to go out quite often, older dogs can usually wait several hours between trips outside.
  • Do- reward your dog for good behavior in the crate from time to time. If you notice they are calm, quiet, and relaxed in the kennel you can drop in a kibble or small treat to reward the good behavior.
  • Do- ignore the dog when they’re in there. Don’t make a fuss when you arrive home from work or when you are about to leave. Wait until the excitement has died down before you approach the kennel.
  • Do- correct for barking in the kennel. You can use a burst of compressed air from a pet convincer, throw a bonker (rolled up towel) at the kennel, shake a can of pennies, use a Doggie Don’t (noise aversive), or correct with e collar or bark collar.
  • Do- feed your dog in the kennel. This makes it a rewarding and desirable spot.
  • Do- keep fresh water in the crate. There are buckets, clip on bowls, and water bottles available.

The things you don’t want to do:

  • Don’t- reward your dog by letting them out when they bark.
  • Don’t -use the crate as a punishment. The crate should be kind of like a den. If your dog has done something wrong and you are getting frustrated it is ok to kennel them up. Just make sure you are calm and not angry when you put them in it.
  • Don’t- wait for your dog to start barking to go out in the morning. A responsible dog owner will make sure they get up before their dog and take them out.
  • Don’t- bribe your dog by constantly throwing treats inside the kennel in order to get them to go inside. At first you can use food to lure them in, but then you will want to wait until they have entered before producing the treat. Next you will want to only give the treat on a variable schedule. Finally you won’t need any treats.
  • Don’t- make your dog dependent on chews and toys for entertainment in the crate. The majority of the time spent in the kennel should be sleeping and relaxing, no toys needed.

3 key skills for training your dog

Do you ever feel lost when you’re trying to train your dog? Here are a few tips that will help you get things started on the right foot!

Sometimes interacting with dogs doesn’t come naturally for dog owners. You might feel like you’re not speaking the same language. Well, interacting with another species isn’t always easy. If you work on these three simple skills you will see lots of improvement.

You won’t need tons of words to get your point across. You don’t even need fancy tools. Dogs actually respond to very simple instruction.

1. Get Your Timing on Point. 

Whether you are rewarding or correcting your dog, you want your timing to be as precise as possible. Using a marker word like,”yes” at the exact moment when you see your pup doing a behavior you like is helpful. Then you can follow through with giving a tasty treat or a pat on head for a job well done. If your dog is getting into trouble or breaking a command, a quick, “no” followed by a correction with a collar might be a good option.

Where have you gone wrong in the past? Maybe it was coming home to a trash can that’s been dumped over and trying to punish your furry friend long after the incident. Maybe it was giving him a treat for a job well done hours after he completed the command.

Even if your timing isn’t lightning fast giving the treat, if you say your marker word the instant your dog follows your command, he will get the message. The better you get with your timing the more clearly your dog will understand what you want from him. So, practice tuning up that skill and you start to see better results.

2. Patience, Patience, Patience! 

There is nothing that will confuse your dog more than losing your cool. If you get frustrated when you interact with your pup he will not want to follow your lead. Dogs follow very balanced and stable leaders. So, you want to put your best, most patient foot forward at all times.

We all know training isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, we are only human and we do get frustrated. So, What can we do? If you feel yourself getting frustrated, the best thing to do is crate your dog. Take some time to do something non dog related and come back to training later on. You should also try to be as calm and collected as possible in everyday life as well. Your dog is always watching your behavior and deciding if you’re someone capable of leadership. Are you worth following?


3. Consistency is key!

If you do nothing else, be consistent. Make sure you enforce rules clearly. If you have a house rule of not allowing dogs on the furniture, don’t allow it at all. Do you allow it when you just don’t want to be bothered with correcting him for doing it? Maybe you’re tired after a long day and you let things slide. This sends you pooch mixed messages.

You can maintain your consistency by having a routine and a set of rules. Some common things I teach dogs are: Kennel up and remain quiet in the crate, place command (go to your bed and stay), waiting at thresholds (don’t go through the front door until released), waiting calmly for food, always come when called. By enforcing these types of things, you provide your dog with clear expectations. Being clear about expectations and consequences makes life easier for dogs to navigate.

I think the most important time to be consistent is with recall. When you call your dog, it is essential that you never let him blow off your command. If this is an area where you are struggling, I recommend keeping a long line on the dog. If he ignores  your command to come, you can use the leash as backup to always make sure he recalls to you.


If you need more help contact a trainer in your area.

If you’re interested in more than just the basics and would like to improve all your skills when working with your dog, check out our board and train packages here.


The type of bond some dogs can’t handle


Do you know a dog who suffers from separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety can develope very quickly in our dogs if we’re not careful. What most owners don’t realize is that they are often contributing to their dog’s struggle. Unknowingly humans try to comfort their dogs when they show any signs of being uncomfortable. When we do this we are in essence reinforcing the behavior we are trying to prevent or stop. If your dog is howling in the crate and you feel sorry for him and open the door, the act of opening the door is giving him a reward, just like if you gave him a treat. Soon he would get the message that when he’s crated the only thing he needs to do in order to get the door open is make a bunch of noise. Most of the time, like clockwork the people will open the door just to stop the howling. Your dog now has you trained! This can progress to the point where you have to always have someone at the house with the dog. They can never be left alone even for a few minutes because all hell will break loose.

I like to say that separation anxiety happens because of too intense of a bond with certain dogs. The reason I say this is because not all dogs get so easily attached even if we spend a ton of time with them and shower them with affection. Having healthy boundries is one way to prevent separation anxiety from happening.

I like to think of farm dogs, they spend day in and day out right with the farmer. They have a very close bond but at the end of the day the majority of them do not struggle when the farmer has to go to the  supermarket or the doctor’s office. Why? Maybe it’s because they spend the day together, but the farmer doesn’t allow his best friend in the bed. Maybe it’s because the dog has a healthy outlet for his energy, working around the farm. Maybe it’s just because some dogs are capable of intense bonding but also accept distance and being left behind more easily.

What exactly is separation anxiety? Many times separation anxiety looks like a lot of whining, barking, drooling, and panting, whenever the owner leaves the room or the house. In extreme cases dogs will destroy property or break out of even the most heavy crates in an effort to get to their person. Some dogs will even chew through doors or break windows to find their owners.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic you can watch a recent facebook live that I did. Denise of and I discussed the topic in detail.

If you are in need of hands on help with your dog please check out our extended board and train packages

We don’t expect humans to learn without consequences

We don’t expect humans to learn new things without consequences once they have learned them. Why then are there lots of people who think dogs should be trained using only positive reinforcement? They believe in rewards only and no accountability. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read where authors instruct readers to seek out a positive reinforcement trainer if you need more help. Sadly most of the time if people are really struggling with their dogs they need more help than this type of limited training can provide. If your human child needed tutoring, would you seek a teacher who wouldn’t tell them when they made a mistake? Someone who would simply give them a reward for each question they got correct? Probably not; in fact you would be hard pressed to find such a person. I have no problem with dog trainers who choose to use only positive methods to train, but I can’t see the logic behind trying to make a balanced approach obsolete and all punishment illegal.

Of course it’s important to use positive reinforcement. It’s a great way to get more of a particular behavior you want the dog to perform. But, positive reinforcement is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to training. Animals learn through operant conditioning which has four quadrants. I won’t go into detail here, but do some research about these four quadrants to learn more about the two types of reinforcement and the two forms of punishment. If a trainer has the ability to use all four quadrants they can more effectively teach new behaviors and also stop problematic and dangerous behaviors as well.

It truly blows my mind that society would even consider a positive only mentality to teach dogs when we as humans utilize punishment and reinforcement daily in all aspects of our own lives. Don’t be fooled, many of the trainers who claim to only use positive reinforcement actually train their own dogs using a balanced approach behind closed doors. They do tell their dogs no, they just hide it from public knowledge. They also suggest euthanasia quite often when dogs could be helped by balanced trainers.

Again, I use a ton of positive reinforcement when training dogs, but trying to train positive only is like trying to build something intricate with one hand tied behind your back. Why would you do that? It’s going to be much more difficult, some things won’t be possible, it will take three times as long, and the end result will have more flaws. Why would society want to try to push the dog industry in that direction? It makes no sense. Maybe it’s our own human hang ups about the words negative and punishment . Punishment and abuse are not one in the same. We must be careful not to confuse them. When we let society lump punishment and abuse together in all contexts and scenarios we ultimately end up throwing the baby out with the bath water!

Chaos and the fearful dog.

Fearful dogs struggle in chaos. Heck, most dogs struggle if they live in chaos. Well, really the same is true for people too. When a fearful, nervous, or anxious dog is brought into a home with too much freedom and lots of chaos, they often become even more insecure and sometimes try to control the living environment. Dogs do this if they think something needs to be done to get things in order. Sometimes it comes in the form of resource guarding, sometimes they will fight with other dogs, sometimes they will stop cooperating with anything the human asks of them, or they might become territorial and try to protect the home. Even too much freedom and chaos on the walk can lead to dogs becoming reactive, barking and lunging on leash.
So what’s needed to help these guys? A strict teacher/leader/coach who will see beyond their fear and hold them accountable. Someone who will not feel sorry for them in their moments of weakness, but will see their true potential. Someone who respects their fear and moves at a pace they can handle, while always striving for just a little better. Someone willing to implement a strict routine for all the dogs in the house. Someone willing to advocate and keep strangers and strange dogs away. Someone willing to keep the children in the home under control and gentle with the dog. Someone willing to muzzle the dog if necessary but still provide enriching life experiences. Somebody willing to correct them just like they would any other dog for bad behavior. Someone willing to get help from a trainer if things aren’t working. A person willing to refrain from giving affection when the dog is fearful. Someone who won’t give up on them. Someone with a ton of patience or who’s willing to become more patient.
Once these dogs have a safe, secure, predictable, environment they are much more likely to thrive! Implement a routine and get started today, your dog will thank you for it!

E Collar Explained in 3 Simple Phases!

To get a dog off leash reliable with e collar training, we teach it in 3 phases.
I’d like to take some of the mystery out of this stuff and break down the three phases for you. Here’s a very basic overview.
Even before we get into e collar work we make sure the dog knows all the commands on a basic level with prong collar pressure. We use leash pressure and release to show the dog what pressure means and how to turn it off. Gentle pressure is applied and we guide them into the position then the pressure is released at exactly the right moment. Once the dog understands the language of pressure we can more easily transfer things to e collar.
Learning Phase:
in the learning phase we use low level e collar stimulation on continuous. We say the command, apply continuous stimulation pressure with e collar on the lowest level the dog can feel. We also use light prong collar leash pressure to guide them into position, when they are in position we remove the leash pressure and come off the e collar button as well.
Prompting Phase:
When the dog starts to get better at the commands we move to prompts. We start to back off on the leash pressure and will only use leash for guidance if needed. In the prompting phase we say the command and simultaneously give a quick tap on the e collar still mainly at the lowest level the dog can feel.
Correction Phase:
Once the dog absolutely knows the commands 100% they must be held accountable for non compliance. At this point there have been hundreds and hundreds of repetitions during the other phases and we’re watching for signs that the dog absolutely knows the command inside and out. If the dog knows what to do and chooses to blow us off anyway we will give a quick tap on e collar at slightly higher levels, repeat the command, tap and sometimes dial up to a level that the dog cares about until they complete the command. So from here on out the e collar is only used for non compliance.
We teach all the commands this way, recall, place, sit, heel, and down. The amount of time that it takes each dog to be off leash reliable varies. There are lots of factors involved and it also depends on the amount of time spent doing repetitions. If you are teaching your own dog these phases at home each phase may take a week or more, it just depends on how much time you invest. If it’s a board and train dog we generally can achieve the beginnings of fully off leash reliable in less than two weeks. At that point the owner just has to maintain and keep practicing all that the dog has learned.
I hope that all makes sense. There is no magic about this training it’s just hard work, repetitions, consistency, and accountability. With lots of commitment to the training your dog can go anywhere with you, will recall under any distraction, hold place for hours when asked, and stay in a down while you eat at an outdoor cafe. This stuff is totally achievable whether you decide to pay a trainer to teach your dog or learn from videos and teach him yourself.
*I only recommend collars from E Collar Technologies or Dogtra; other collars tend to be less reliable in consistency, have fewer levels, and often have sharper non blunt stimulation. If you are unsure of what collar is best for your dog please contact a knowledgable trainer who specializes in off leash e collar training before you buy anything.

Thresholds: Practical Uses

Ever wonder why dog trainers make their dog stop and wait to be released before going through doorways? They’re not trying to be fancy; threshold training actually has real world practical uses. Want your dog to stop running away? Want him to be calm in the car?
When you teach a dog to be more respectful and simply stop and check in with you until he’s released to exit/enter a doorway, you’re teaching him tons of impulse control and helping to prevent him from running away. Teaching thresholds is a major part of relationship building with your dog. Once you can open a door and know that he will not rush through you can be sure he’s tuning in with you. He’ll have a much more calm state of mind after he’s allowed to go through the doorway. You can open your front door and welcome people inside without fear of him bolting, you can open the gate to your backyard and push the lawn mower through without him leaving. Car doors and the gate to the pool area are thresholds too. Practice thresholds every opportunity you can, be consistent, and the results will pay off!