Little dogs

I love little dogs (they don’t have to be teeny tiny — but say under 35 lbs). Next week I will be finishing up a petite pooches class and my what a wonderful cast of characters I have:

• There’s a little Maltese who’s as smart as a whip, quite proud of himself in just about all he does and is very, very cute.
• A pug who has personality plus. She too is smarter than the average dog, making lessons look easy. Her handler’s pretty savvy too.
• Then there’s a Pomeranian. I didn’t realize they come in B&W, and with his little trim job he looks like a mini Akita. He hates to stand still and really hates being ignored! He’d do just about anything for attention — but treats are OK too. His parents are wonderful, offering lots of support an encouragement. He shows great promise of being a star companion.
• Our mixed breed looks to be a Norfolk/Jack Russell, or something similar. At 2 yrs. she’s the elder madam of the group and other than some periodic yip tirades she’s quite the lady. Her handler’s doing an excellent job of accentuating the dog’s talents.
• Rounding out our group is a Cairn. She has all the spunk, vim & vigor one would expect of a Cairn. She’s a challenge for her new mom who I think is a 1st time dog owner. The dog has managed to set some/many of the ground rules (remember one of you is always training the other — my goal in class is to have the humans do most of the training!). However, as the weeks progress I’m seeing a Canine Good Citizen in the making.

The class has been a true delight, everyone (including the dogs) gets along and they’ve made so much progress — loose leash walking, coming when called, waiting, staying, playing leave it. I will be sorry to see them graduate next week, but perhaps I will see them again if they decide to do upper level classes.

Here’s to you Petite Pooches! 🙂



Canine Freestyle

I started training in canine freestyle (dance) a couple of years ago after auditing a seminar. My dog Casey has many talents but did not thrive in most of the venues I presented to him. In spite of this he earned — his conformation championship, titles in agility, rally obedience and traditional obedience.

However, when given the chance to dance to music you could see a change come over Casey. While we “dance” primarily for fun the World Canine Freestyle Organization offers a video competition. You can actually compete world wide without having to leave the comfort of your training facility! We completed our 1st competition this last December with a qualifying dance.

My original goal was to put together a video that people who’ve known Casey through his life could see. I wanted them to have a chance to see for themselves how a dog, who was once referred to as “too far gone” (too reactive for even a pet home) by a respected breeder, could flourish and indeed thrive given the proper time, commitment, support, love and opportunities for success.

Casey has taught me many things and has been an inspiration along the way.

I hope you enjoy the video 🙂


Take cues from your dog

I help people and their dogs get ready for competition in both Obedience & Rally Obedience. As a handler & dog become more experienced the handler “expects” their dog to sit when they say (or hand signal) “sit”, right? This is where a dog is responding properly to a “cue” aka “command”.

What some people fail to do is to take a good look at their dog, and their dog’s body language. What cues is the dog providing it’s owner? As handlers get closer to competition many get nervous. You may have heard it said that nerves travel down the lead i.e. if the handler gets nervous so does the dog. I strongly suggest that you (or have a friend help you) take a good look at your dog’s demeanor while you’re training. If you start to see a change in your dog’s body language perhaps holding their head down, tail down, lip licking or other indicators of stress it’s time to change something in your routine.

If your dog usually does a fast upbeat recall with a nice sit in front and all of a sudden your dog ambles in and when he gets to you he a) doesn’t sit b) lies down c) goes directly to a finish you know something’s up. To help fix this I suggest:
• shortening the distance for the recall
• adding an additional cue (just for a short time)
• if using a verbal cue “jolly up your voice”
• don’t ask for a finish, mark the fast recall and/or the sit in front (work on your finish as a separate behavior)
• vary your reinforcers, keep your dog guessing, sometimes a jackpot (several tasty treats at one time) other times throw a toy — make the exercise fun!

Most dogs enjoy working, but any number of factors can add stressors that interfere with the dog’s ability to enjoy training time. By watching the signals your dog’s giving you can respond to the cues he’s giving you so that you can both enjoy your time together.

Have fun 🙂


Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash

When put on leash many dogs pull, right? Some people mistakenly think it has to do with dominance, that’s highly unlikely. It is far more likely due to one or more of the following factors:
• It works (doggie pulls, handler follows, dog is reinforced for pulling — he gets to go where he wanted to go in the first place!)
• Dogs walk faster than we do (even little dogs often walk faster than their handlers)
• Dog gets distracted by something and reacts (he goes toward it or away from it)

So what’s an owner to do? Apply a few basic guidelines to leash walking:
• Make sure your dog is well exercised BEFORE you ask for loose leash walking (LLW) — a highly energized puppy doesn’t have a hope or prayer of walking calmly on leash.
• Start training the behavior with a food lure. Often called the “magnet method” place a few tasty treats in the hand on the same side as your dog (leash is in your opposite hand). Hold the tasty treat at your dog’s nose (not above — or your dog will jump) and say something like “let’s go”. Take a few steps, if your dog’s sniffing the treat & walking with you mark the behavior with your “Yes”, stop & feed. Repeat every few steps. Practice in a low distraction area for the first week. If your dog starts to pull, just STOP all forward movement until he turns back to you. (If he doesn’t turn back after 10 seconds or so you can say his name, to help prompt the turn.) When he turns toward you mark the behavior, lure him back to your side, feed and say “let’s go” and try again.
• Set realistic goals. If (after the 1st week) you’re out on a walk don’t assume your dog can do LLW for the whole distance of the walk, that will be too much. Instead make sure he’s had a little exercise before you even go out the door and then set up a “goal” i.e. we’re going to LLW 100 feet to the tree over there. You can feel free to use a food lure if it will help (gradually working away from using the lure over time). If your dog starts to pull — you’ll just stop & wait him out. If he doesn’t pull you can mark “Yes” release him “OK” when you get to the tree where he can either sniff (a life reward) and/or get a treat.

See my earlier post for more tips:

Therapy Dogs International Testing Part 4

Enjoy your walks 🙂

Shameless promotion

Hi everyone,

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Photo is of a pair of KritterKuffs 🙂

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Introducing 2 strange dogs

Introducing two dogs may sound simple, however, if you don’t do it properly you may end up with a problem that could take some time to overcome.

Remember, there’s nothing like a first impression! Even if you have a very friendly dog (perhaps they wiggle & jump around a lot during their greetings) don’t assume all other dogs will find that appealing. There are two methods that I think are helpful for introducing strange dogs.

The first method, preferred if you have the opportunity to do it this way, is to take the 2 dogs out for a walk (each with their own handler). You don’t let the dogs actually meet at first, instead you parallel walk them. This allows each of the dogs to scope out the other without any fear of having to deal with over excitement, aggression or other less than desirable interactions from the other dog. It also gives you the opportunity to exercise the dogs a bit before they “meet”. Remember the old adage “a tired dog is a good dog.” If the walk goes smoothly then you can let them greet. The greeting goes like this — walk your dogs to within a few feet of each other, get your dog’s attention (the other handler should get their dog’s attention also), then simultaneously say “Okay, go say hi”. Each dog, on leash is allowed to move over to greet the other dog. Here are the rules: the leashes must be kept LOOSE, the leashes should not get tangled, the dogs should only greet for 3 seconds. At the end of 3 seconds back your dog away and assess how it went. Were both dogs relaxed? What were their body positions? Relaxed, anxious, fearful? Based on how the 1st greeting went you can decide to let them have a second 3 second greeting, or NOT.

All dogs do NOT have to like all other dogs! They have personalities too and some just rub each other the wrong way.

The second method is if you don’t have a chance for a walk. Here you would have each dog on leash, lure the dogs (each handler having food at their dog’s nose) to within a few feet of each other. Are the dogs still calm and able to give the handler attention? If so, they are OK to greet. If either is too excited you may have to make a few more approaches or try it later after the “excited” dog has had some exercise and is able to be more calm. Once you decide it’s OK for them to meet you will repeat as above (simultaneously say “Okay, go say hi”. Each dog, on leash is allowed to move over to greet the other dog. Here are the rules: the leashes must be kept LOOSE, the leashes should not get tangled, the dogs should only greet for 3 seconds. At the end of 3 seconds back your dog away and assess how it went. Were both dogs relaxed? What were their body positions? Relaxed, anxious, fearful? Based on how the 1st greeting went you can decide to let them have a second 3 second greeting, or NOT.) Only if both dogs look like they are enjoying the interaction should you continue.

Good luck 🙂


Yes, it was noisy!

Petite Pooch class last night was noisy, as expected. It started with a few over excited pups waiting in the lobby for our training room to open up (there was a class finishing up in there). There was alarm barking at every movement! My immediate suggestion was for each owner to provide their dog with some tasty treats, to distract them. Additionally I suggested that they try to turn their dog away from the doorway so that they wouldn’t see EVERY dog coming & going. The lobby area is always a challenge as we turn over classes.

Once all the little ones were in the training room they were still yappy. I think mostly because their adrenalin was so high from both being in the lobby and the new environment of the training facility — they just couldn’t help themselves. I continued to ask the handlers to feed their dogs, to help quiet them.

At the beginning of class I also ask that folks not hold their dogs on their laps (unless a dog is especially terrorized) because that doesn’t allow the dog to gain confidence on its own. I try to make sure that there’s ample distance between the dogs so that a neighbor can’t unexpectedly get into a dog’s immediate space — so they can feel safe.

With all the barking it gets to be a little difficult to hear/talk over the din, however, as soon as people start working on skills with their dogs i.e. the first behavior I train is developing their marker word “yes”, it’s amazing how quiet the room becomes! I am convinced that at least 95% of all dogs want to work. There’s no need to bark if you’re busy, and happy about it!

The class ended up wonderfully quiet with lots of wagging tails 🙂