force-free training

Your Attitude Matters!

Your Attitude Matters!

If you’re having an off day, the likelihood of you being on point with training is not good. You’re at risk of getting frustrated and angry – two emotions that have no place in animal training and certainly don’t set the scene for patience.

The walk is for the dog

The walk is for the dog

The walk is for the dog, not for you. Yes, you read that correctly. I will likely ruffle some feathers with this one, but that’s fine with me.

Does your dog think you're boring?

Does your dog think you're boring?

A boring handler will not get the same results as a handler that is more animated and makes it a point to engage the dog during the training process. Read on for a few tips on how to be a bit more appealing to your canine companion.

Have a K9 jumping bean?

Have a K9 jumping bean?

Dogs do what works for them and what gets reinforced, so look at how you are interacting with your dog and what you may be unconsciously encouraging and reinforcing.

Simple, Effective Training Tips

Simple, Effective Training Tips

Humans and dogs are generally happier when there is clear communication about what is expected in terms of behavior.

Training for Success

Training for Success

“Success builds confidence, confidence builds success.” A fellow trainer and dear friend, Mel Wilson of Canine Point of View in Jacksonville, shared that golden nugget of wisdom with me some time ago.

Failure is often the result of expecting too much, too soon from the dog. 

Modern Puppy Training: who and what to avoid like the plague

Modern Puppy Training: who and what to avoid like the plague

Want a puppy that is able to function in our society and mature into a well-adjusted adult dog? If the answer is yes, steer clear of the tools and techniques listed below, as well as any trainer, that tells you to use them on your puppy.

Training in a multi-dog home

Training in a multi-dog home

If you have more than one dog, you may benefit from a few simple training tips. When I had two dogs, working with both of them at the same time was always quite fun… and it helped build my own patience while teaching them to work with me even when their buddy was around.

Love & Lessons from Bea

Love & Lessons from Bea

When I went to pick a puppy that February morning in 2006, there were A LOT of puppies running about going absolutely nuts. It was a large litter. Bea was the only black puppy and was sitting off to the side, sizing things up calmly. I knew immediately that he was the puppy for me. 

It has been an adjustment to life without my Bea, but I know he is off to his next assignment and it is not a goodbye. Rather, I think of it more so as “until we meet again”.

Management is Key

Let’s say you have a dog that has exhibits undesirable behavior such as jumping, counter surfing, eating shoes, getting into the trash, and things along those lines. Management may be the answer to your prayers.

What is management, you ask? Management in this scenario means managing the dog’s environment. I am a big fan of management when it comes to dog training. Rather than leave a dog to its own devices and expecting it not to succumb to temptation, YOU need to take control by managing the environment.

Example: Fluffy is a trash fiend and every day you return to a home littered with garbage. You huff, you puff and storm around the house picking up the mess – all the while thinking Fluffy “knows better”. Well, it is highly likely that Fluffy does not know better. Have you actively trained Fluffy to abstain from trash digging while you aren’t present? I think not.

In this scenario, punishment is totally out of the question. You have to catch a dog in the act - or within 3 seconds - for the animal to make a correlation with why it is being punished. I AM NOT ADVOCATING PUNISHMENT, in fact, I am making an argument against it. Continue reading to understand what I am saying.

So, Fluffy gets into the trash daily for months and you two have a routine. Fluffy meets you at the door, you see the trash and get a scowl. Fluffy then makes herself smaller and/or tries to slink away. It is NOT because she “knows better”. It is because your facial expression is different from the happy face you usually greet her with, there is also likely a change in your breathing.

The body language Fluffy is exhibiting can be better understood as appeasement or calming signals – not guilt. I honestly don’t think dogs waste time with the emotion we humans know as guilt.

Dogs are masters at sensing/reading the slightest changes in our disposition/emotional state. Because of this, we humans think that dogs “know better” when they have, in our eyes, misbehaved. This is almost always not the case.

Dogs are animals, we must not forget this. They are prone to foraging, one of the many things mother nature saw fit to program them to do. If I were a dog and with access to a trash bin with ham in it, you’d better believe I am going to get to that ham.

Why tempt fate and put dogs in unnecessary situations that only result in our frustration? There really is no reason for this. With all the tools we have within our reach, things like trash digging should not be an issue.

What is the solution? For the scenario of trash digging there are multiple solutions ranging from getting a high-quality trash can that the dog cannot open, putting the trash can in a cupboard or pantry, restricting the dog’s ability to roam the house while left unattended with baby gates or a crate, and the list goes on.

The fact of the matter is, management not only makes life with a dog easier – it makes it more enjoyable. It’s more enjoyable because you’re not walking into a trash party after a long day at work.

By managing a dog’s environment, you take away some of the likelihood that the dog will get into “trouble”.

Better Walks Using a Series of Cues

Better Walks Using a Series of Cues

Why it’s important: By using cues in your dog has learned in a series, you can communicate with your dog while out in the world and reinforce good behavior in a fun way. This gives you the opportunity to teach the dog what is appropriate and also serves as an excellent way to redirect unwanted behaviors.

New Year Dog

New Year Dog

Oftentimes when dogs are “behaving badly” in our eyes, it’s because they’ve not been taught an appropriate behavior and/or the behavior is rewarding for them. You must train behaviors in different contexts for it to transfer—she knows how to sit at home but not while out for a walk.

Secret Weapon(s) of +R Trainers

Secret Weapon(s) of +R Trainers

Recognizing what motivates a dog is mission critical for effective and successful training – oftentimes you have a secret weapon(s) at your disposal you aren’t even aware of. Every dog is an individual – with their own style of learning and motivation. The following refers to things that motivate a dog in a positive and pleasant way.

Choices for Dogs

Choices for Dogs

We control so many aspects of our dog’s lives from when they relieve themselves to when they eat. I suggest we make it a priority to give our dogs more choices in their daily lives when it is safe to do so. The results of giving a dog virtually no choices can range from frustration, loss of trust, boredom, shutdown, aggression or other behaviors that are not healthy or desirable.

Poisoned Cue

Poisoned Cue

What is a “poisoned” cue? A poisoned cue is a cue that the dog has made a negative association with a cue. This is likely to happen when you decide to use punishment in your training. Your cue is no longer just a means of communicating to the dog what you’d it to do – it has become a sort of threat. This is just one more reason why punishment and aversive techniques are not a wise decision when it comes to training your dog. A poisoned cue cuts down on reliability and can sour your relationship with your dog.

Set Your Dog Up for Success

Set Your Dog Up for Success

Adult dogs have emotional and cognitive developments that are similar to human toddlers, that’s according to Patricia McConnell, Ph.D.,a renown Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB). Given this line of thought, I want you to really think about what the appropriate way would be to train a dog.

Do's and Don'ts of Recall Training

Do's and Don'ts of Recall Training

A solid recall with your dog does not happen by accident – it takes time, patience, and a strategy to teach the dog that coming to you when called = AMAZING things. Oftentimes, people poison their recall (aka spoiling the cue) by inadvertently teaching the dog that coming when called results in bad things).

Dog Training Tips

Dog Training Tips

You get more of what you expect and reinforce, not necessarily what you want when it comes to dog training. You may very well be reinforcing your dog for the very behaviors that you don’t want. It is important to be aware of what your dog is doing but also what you are doing - you are sending all sorts of signals to your furry friend!

Teaching an end of training session cue

Although I do not always cue the beginning of a training session, I always cue the end of a training session. Why do I always cue the end of a training session? By marking the end of a training session with a cue word, I let the dog know that work is over (although no dog that trains with me likely thinks of it as “work”!). Marking the end of a training session lets the dog know that training time is over and that he is no longer on the clock, so to speak.

Walking Your Dog

Fresh air, innumerable scents, encounters with new things, and the chance for adventure! For a dog, the walk is extremely special and important – it does not matter if it is the first walk of the day or the fifth – it is the highlight of their day and a cause for celebration. We humans need to have a better understanding and appreciation of this special time. It is a chance to get away from it all and bond with our canine counterparts. Yet, so many people find walking their dog cumbersome and unenjoyable.