force-free dog training

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.

Should you bring your dog... just because you can?

Should you bring your dog... just because you can?

There are many reasons why people are bringing their dogs to more “human” events – it can be really fun to have your dog with you, for one! However, it’s important to learn how to read your dog’s subtle signs so that you aren’t unknowingly putting them in a situation that stresses them out.

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.

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.

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.

Leash jerks do no favors.

Leash jerks do no favors.

Ever consider the anatomy of a dog’s neck? You have a thyroid, trachea, esophagus, lymph nodes, artery, vein, and cervical vertebra. Damage any of those and you could be looking not only a hefty vet bill, but you will likely have a dog in pain. Pain = not so great behavior = makes the behavior you were jerking the leash for worse

Contrary to the belief of some, leash jerks are not a viable option for training. Leash jerks are not conducive to training appropriate behavior, your timing had better be supernatural, behavior often gets worse, and you can cause extreme physical and psychological damage to the dog. For some dogs, being jerked on leash escalates the behavior you were trying to correct OR suppresses the behavior until Fido has had enough and perhaps enacts his frustration up the leash towards you or the other dog with you.

Play to Train

Play to Train

If you only implement training during your typical sessions or out on walks, you are missing out on a major opportunity to improve reliability and impulse control.

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.

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).

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.

Training a Senior Dog

Training should be a part of your dog’s life, no matter its age. It is important to be mindful of your dog’s cognitive and physical abilities throughout its life, especially when you are training your dog.

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.

Questions to ask yourself when training your dog

I would say, the first and foremost question to ask yourself when training a dog is “what do I want the dog to do?”. You need to narrow down what it is that you are wanting to teach the dog to do. Not everyone is going to want the same thing out of their dog, so it is important to ask this as both a trainer and as an owner.