Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dog Training vs Managment

We often need to use temporary measures while we are training to keep dogs safe and help them become better companions. 
What is the difference between management of dog behavior and dog training?
Management and training are often used in combination.

Dog Training

Dog training involves teaching your dog to do something. This can be training basic obedience cues, or something more difficult like dog sports. In dog training your dog is learning to do a behavior.
The following are a few behaviors we can train a dog to do:
  • Sit, Down, and stay
  • Go potty outdoors
  • Sit and wait at the front door
  • Let the barking dog outside while you are on the phone
  • Take treats gently
  • Tricks, like roll over, shake and sit up
  • Run an agility course
  • Sniff for contraband
There is a very long list of new things that dogs can learn. 

Dog Management

Dog management means we are controlling the dog's environment to keep the dog safe or keep them from practicing something that is annoying. For example, in order to keep a dog from jumping on people we can put them on a short leash. You're not training a dog to behave a certain way, but rather managing the dog's reaction to greeting people.
The following are a few ways people manage dog behavior:
  • Putting a dog in his crate when guests arrive
  • Using a Head Halter or Front Attach Harness to make walking a dog easier
  • Using a blind in class so your dog does not bark and other students can hear
  • Avoiding car rides for dogs who are car sick
  • Giving dogs a chew toy to distract them from chewing on computer cords
  • Fences that keep your dog in the yard
  • Putting curtains over the windows so your dog does not bark at passers by
    In management the dog is not learning anything. Management keeps the dog from practicing behaviors that are not appropriate or are annoying to the animals or people around them.

    Working Together

    While management and training are two different things, they are not mutually exclusive. Management is an important tool in preventing unwanted behaviors until your dog is trained to behave differently.

    Tuesday, April 11, 2017

    10 Reasons to do Agility with Your Dog

    1. Dogs love agility!
    Even if they aren't ready to do all of the equipment, they love to run and to spend quality, active time with you!

    2. Dog Agility is great exercise!
    For the both of you, agility is a great way to get out and get moving!

    3. Dog Agility will challenge you and your dog
    The challenge to get around the course as quickly and accurately as possible is a fun puzzle for you and your dog to solve.

    4. Dog Agility is entertaining
    Not only is it fun to do but it is fun to watch your friends. An agility class costs less than dinner and drinks at a nice restaurant and it lasts a lot longer too.

    5) Dog Agility makes your dog a better Companion
    Training for agility means training basic behaviors to be fast and reliable. It's also training your dog to value you above other distractions so you can play together. How cool is that?

    6) Dog Agility is for fun and/or for competition
    You can compete against the clock, compete against your personal best or compete against other agility teams or not at all if that suits you. Anyway you slice it, everyone wins just by playing!

    7) Any dog can play Agility
    All sizes, shapes and breeds can play agility. Jump heights are adjusted according to the height of the dogs. 

    8) Your bond will grow stronger by training your dog agility
    The quality time you spend training your dog will help your understanding and trust grow stronger! 

    9) Agility focuses on training with games
    There are many fun games to play to train agility. Rewarding your dog with movement and games is one of the best ways to make yourself more attractive to your dog. As we say in our classes, "Be the cookie!" and reward your dog with play, games and fun!

    10) Agility helps you become more important to your dog
    Training agility with reinforcing play builds your dogs value of you. If you are more important to your dog, your recalls will be more reliable and your dog will be less distracted and more focused on you.

    So we hope you will consider trying out an agility class. If you'd like to know more about setting your dog up for some fun, come pay us a visit us at

    See you on the field!

    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

    Client Question:
    My dog is great at home but gets super excited and will not look at me when we are out on a walk and he will not eat treats. What can I do to be able to train him out in the real world?

    My Reply: 
    First, this is not an unusual problem. It occurs in different degrees in quite a few dogs that we work with.

    What he practices he will get better at, including inappropriate behavior like ignoring you. Practice impulse control at EVERY opportunity, doggie zen, sit, wait, stay, etc.

    Be patient. Work progressively in baby steps with all of your training. Reinforce each step. Don't ask for too much all at once (we call that being "greedy")
    • When he can master attention at one level, at least four out of five times, then you can move up one step. 
    • If he fails at one of these steps 2 out of five times, keep the level the same. 
    • If he fails at these steps 3 out of five times take it down one step.
    Adrenalin increases arousal as one of its functions. When a dog is aroused, all of the blood flows into the extremities away from the internal organs readying the body for fight or flight. When there is no circulation near the stomach, and the dog has bigger fish to fry (fight or flight) their brain is, in the words of one of my clients, "hijacked". You can train dogs to control this whole cycle of excitement, arousal, etc., with impulse control (self-control) by practicing it for each and everything they want. It is not unlike teaching a human impulse control.

    If you give him reinforcement and he doesn't take the food it tells you he is over his threshold and it is not a learning moment for him. The goal is to teach him how to be under his threshold. If food does not work find or train another reinforcer and continue to work on taking food without taking it and spitting it out. If he is over his threshold at any time, go back to the last point where he is under his threshold or end the training session. 

    Work in short three to five-minute sessions, then take a break for five to ten minutes. If he regresses, go back to this training plan. They don't stay trained without practicing good habits every day.
    You will need to be fairly disciplined to follow through. You may need to modify your routine for awhile to reach your long term goal. This may take a week, it may take 2 months depending on how well you stick to the level of the criteria and how often you practice. It's actually very easy, but a little time consuming.

    Can he be calm and pay attention when:

    You pick up his leash?

    You give him any cues of your ultimate departure like picking up keys, putting on shoes, getting your coat, etc. Split this down and work on each one separately to get a 4 out of 5 success.

    You'll start training near the door with the door closed?

    Put your hand on the door knob without opening it or turning it?

    Put your hand on the door knob and turn it/rattle it a little?

    Put your hand on the door knob turn it and open it a crack?

    Put your hand on the door knob turn it and open it an inch?

    Put your hand on the door knob turn it and open it two inches?

    Etc., until the door is wide open.

    When you walk to the threshold of the door?

    When you go just over the threshold?

    When you walk one step from the threshold?

    Etc, with each step until you can take a walk around your house, in the woods, etc.

    Your assignment is to come up with the rest of the steps for your area.

    I did this recently with a foster dog who went off the charts whenever we tried to go for a walk. My requirement was that he give me his eye contact and attention. He would get really aroused going outside on walks, bark, pull, go off the charts with excitement. My goal was to walk around the block without barking and pulling and lots of eye contact check-ins. I practiced 2 to 3 days a week and it took me about a week to get out the door. When he barked or pulled we went directly and quickly home and he got some alone time without attention. In about two months we had great walking skills, were able to go around the block without barking at cats, squirrels, runners, skateboards or normal urban things.

    If he is unable to control himself after this, email me then and we will set up a private lesson.

    Monday, February 9, 2015

    Personal Space for Dogs

    “Every living thing has a visible physical boundary—its skin—separating it from its external environment.  This visible boundary is surrounded by a series of invisible boundaries that are more difficult to define but are just as real.  These other boundaries begin with the individual’s personal space and terminate with her or his ‘territory’”.* This concept of physical boundary and territory can be defined as personal space.  Space is something that varies greatly from culture to culture and species to species and breed to breed.

    Perhaps you've noticed that your adult dog reacts to familiar people and dogs differently than unfamiliar stimuli. Where a dog might curl up with you, their family, on the couch, they may not want to be touched so readily by an unfamiliar person. 

    Understanding the differences between the breeds is like understanding the difference between cultures. In the US conversational space between two people is between 24 and 36", the more intimate you are the closer you accept people. Different breeds need more space than others too. Working and herding breeds tend to need more personal space. Individuals within a breed can vary outside the breeds norm too. If you see a dog barking anywhere give them as much space as you can, regardless of breed.

    Imagine you and your dog are out for a walk and someone asks to pat her. When the stranger approaches, he gives direct eye contact to your dog, reaches over the top of her head to pat her. The stranger's hand is in the blind spot over your dog's head and invading her personal space bubble. The direct approach of unfamiliar people can be intimidating, even if the person intends to be friendly. Who is being rude in this scenario? 

    How can I see if your dog is uncomfortable in new situations?
    Your dog naturally puts her ears back when someone reaches over them. She may also tuck her tail, lick her lips, duck away or back up. These are a few of the early warning signals. As things get more intense your dog may try to hide behind you, shut down, eat grass, jump up, nip or mouth, seem distracted or become crazily active with the zoomies.

    If, in this scenario, your dog were to escalate and show the whites of her eyes, pucker her lip, show teeth, growl, bark or snap, she would be sending a bigger warning signals that are intended to stop unwelcome attention. Since we tend to find the dog's behavior unacceptable and embarrassing, we may punish the warning signs. Then the dog may stop giving warning signs and may go directly to protecting themselves with a bite. Warnings happen quickly, people often miss them and trainers and behaviorists will hear "There was no warning!". Learning to read your dog takes a little education and your focus. 

    The "Doughnut" diagram below shows three comfort zones:
    Green - Safety zone, comfort zone
    Yellow - Slow down, uncomfortable
    Red - Stop! Very uncomfortable

    In the green zone, dogs will be relaxed and happy. In the yellow zone, the doughnut shape, they will show early warning signs of being uncomfortable and in the red zone they will show bigger displays of aggression. The zones are dynamic and vary from moment to moment, day to day. 

    The green zone is the training zone. In the yellow and red zone your dog wants the scary thing to go away and they have more important things to do than obedience.

    How can you make your dog feel more comfortable in close quarters with other dogs and people? Training in groups can help decrease the need for space. A dog who has a lot of training around predictable dogs and people learns how to relax in close proximity.
    Be proactive to avoid problem behavior
    • Think about how comfortable your dog is around new, unfamiliar people, dogs and situations
    • Learn to read the language of dogs, the micro-signals of early warnings
    • If you have a shy, fearful or even a grouchy dog, keep more space around them proactively.
    • Keep them in group training classes
    • Keep them out walking in public daily
    • Take a Reactive Rover class or private one-on-one lessons if your dog is reactive

    • Living with Dogs will schedule a presentation on canine body language for our students upon request. We also provide group training classes from puppyhood to advanced dog sports and we have specialized Reactive Rover classes for dogs who aggress while on leash. If you would like to know more visit our website to enroll or contact us.

    *Hall, Edward T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Anchor Books. ISBN 0-385-08476-5.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2014

    Say It Once!

    We often hear students repeating "sit-sit-Sit-Sit-SIT!" or "stayyyyy-stayyyyy-stayyyy" or "Lucky! Lucky! Lucky! Lucky!" etc. 

    Often the cues become louder and are repeated very slowly as if we were talking to someone in a foreign language and volume could help make them understand.

    It is as if we do not believe that our dogs (who have rather good hearing) can hear what they are saying.

    Humans are built for the languages of words. Our brains are wired for incredibly complex networked communication using verbal and written language. 

    From the Dog's Perspective

    Dogs just don't perceive language the way we do and If someone does not understand your language, repeating a word more times will not help them learn it.

    For example, if I say the word Tango to you one hundred times would that help you learn to dance the tango? How about if I said calculus a few thousand times would you be a math genius? If I came over to your house and said "Clean your house!" a few dozen times would you stop everything and clean your house or would you think I was very annoying?

    Say it Once

    A person who is repeating cues all of the time, will end up with a dog who will learn to wait until you are finished speaking to do the task. In essence you would be training your dog to ignore the first cues and wait for the last cue. 

    What Can We Do?

    What can we do about all the repeated cues? First we need to recognize that we are repeating things over and over. Being aware will help you take the first steps. We can now focus on becoming more patient with our training. Then we can grab our treat bags and start working with our dogs and make sure we have their attention first. Start with fewer distractions if we do not have attention. Say the cue once and wait patiently to see if they will respond. We might be waiting 30 seconds or more at first. When they do sit or whatever we have asked, then mark it with a verbal marker like "Yes!" and then move our hand to deliver a treat.


    We often blame the dogs for being stubborn or not listening. I generally think that the dog is just not motivated. Dogs are opportunists, just like we are. Whatever rocks their boat is a motivator not just food but toys, play, praise, touch, movement, freedom, sniffing, swimming or whatever works for them.

    Over time, we can start saving our words for cues and sincere praise. Realizing that constant chatter obscures really important communication. By all means use your voice but use it to cue and praise at the right time.

    Proactive vs. Reactive

    We can also start using words to proactively tell our dogs what to do instead of reactively scolding, correcting, and telling them what not to do. 

    For example, If you asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner and I said "not hamburger" that would not be helpful. You wouldn't know what groceries to buy or which recipe to follow to make "not hamburger". However if I said I'd like to have Annie's macaroni and cheese, you'd know exactly what to buy and how to cook it.

    To help your dog, teach them what to do. Have them practice sit until they can do it with distractions and then when a person is approaching you can say "sit!" instead of "no jumping!".

    Training is a process. During the journey we are learning almost as much as the dog in how to better communicate so we can have happier lives together. I hope this helps you
    have a richer relationship with your dog.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    Be the Cookie!

    or Ten Ways to Make Yourself More Valuable to Your Dog

    Watching TV shows like Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin as a kid, I was amazed at the rapt attention the dogs gave to their owners. Skip forward a few years when I got a Golden Retriever.  I assumed she would be loyal and give me all of her attention. She was easily distracted and I began to realize that you have to train TV dog attention. It does not just come with the dog.

    Here are a few things you can do to increase the chances that your dog will think of you as their sun, moon and stars:

    1. Play with your dog. Play games they love. Tug, Find It, Chase (your dog chases you, not the other way around), Treasure Hunt, Hide and Seek, and Fetch are all wonderful games to play. Smiling, laughing and using your voice create an atmosphere of fun will help the dog think of you as the source of good times
    2. Install a Learn to Earn program. Feed your dog less from a bowl and more from your hand for doing tricks, showing impulse control and doing some obedience behaviors like sit at the door, sit for your bowl, sit for a leash, wait when I open the car or front door, etc.. Make yourself the gateway to many of the good things in life. 
    3. Train with a hungry dog (not starving, just hungry) and use high value, nutritious food for treats. Kibble and flour based treats are minimum wage. Don't be stingy, if your dog is easily distracted, then you might need to use executive wages to get and keep their attention. Even if you have a retriever (read "hungry all the time" and "will eat anything") then you may need to up the ante to develop the attention you need for training. You can use kibble in low distraction environments and something better like hot dogs, chicken or cheese in high distraction environments.
    4. Variety is the spice of life! Change to new treats regularly. Dogs get bored of eating the same treat all the time, even if it is high value.  Bring two or three types of treats to a training session and switch to higher value treats when there are bigger distractions.
    5. If they love it, use it. Use the things your dog loves to reward them. Just because it costs more or is a pretty color of red (dogs see blue and purple best of all the colors) doesn't mean your dog loves it. Use their enthusiasm as a gauge. Dogs do what works for them, learn how you can make good behavior work for them.
    6. Keep your reinforcement rate high. This means keeping the exercises simple enough that your dog can be successful and not taking the difficulty up too quickly. Splitting an exercise down into simple and achievable bits takes practice, and if lots of time (say ten seconds) goes by without having any success or if you find yourself putting your dog back in the stay several times, it means you have bitten off more than they can chew. Decrease the difficulty by decreasing distractions, distance, or duration. Among ourselves trainers call this being "greedy" and we often need to adjust our training plans too. One of our gurus, Bob Bailey, says "Be a splitter, not a lumper".
    7. Practice, practice, practice. Play, play, play. Or better yet, practice then play, repeat.
    8. Keep your practice sessions short enough that you do not loose your dog's attention. For most dogs, lots of short sessions with play breaks will get you to your goal much faster than long sessions. Lots of short sessions are often better to build desired behavior.
    9. Motivate your dog to behave well. All training is about motivation and manipulating consequences. Force free trainers use positive consequences to motivate their dogs. Keep your leash loose. If your dog is pulling however they are putting the pressure on the leash. It is your job to figure out how to motivate them to walk on a loose leash or at your side. 
    10. Minimize the use of corrections - either verbal or physical. My guideline is to use them only when life or limb are in danger. Using corrections, including collar corrections, can demotivate your dog, physically harm your dog's neck and throat, hurt your relationship with your dog and cause them to pay less attention to you. What kind of relationship do you want with your dog?

    Have fun with your dog and keep training throughout your dog's life. As a very wise 5 year old child told me once "They don't stay trained, you know!"

    Happy training!


    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Rainy Day Games

    If you and your dog have cabin fever, here are some suggestions to take the edge off.

    1) Work on your sit or wait at the door. Have your dog look at you before crossing the threshold. Invite friends over to help proof your sit at the door. If you want more help on this attend our Calm Departures & Arrivals class.

    2) Teach your dog to offer their front paws so you can wipe them off when they are muddy. Tickle the back of your dog's lower leg until they lift it off the ground, as they lift it up, say "yes!" and reward with a cookie. Repeat five or more times, then put a small towel over your hand and repeat the exercise five or more times. Then start to rub their paws after they offer them to you and reward as you rub them. Take it slowly and reward each step generously. 

    3) Teach tug with rules. Play tug, give, sit, tug, give, sit, etc. for exercise, impulse control and to teach the immediate release of a high value object. For more information attend our Tug, Fetch & Release class. 

    4) Play fetch or catch with a sit before each throw to improve impulse control. Make sure your dog is not skidding on slippery floors to play fetch. Slipping may cause muscle strain or injury. For more information attend our Tug, Fetch & Release class.

    5) Have a treasure hunt, hide treats or toys around the house or go outdoors between rain showers and have your dog find them.  This helps to mentally tire them and teaches them to use their sense of smell. Our Nose Work classes are so much fun and a great way to capitalize on your dog's amazing nose.

    6) Play hide and seek. When your dog is in the other room hide behind the sofa, a door, in the shower or behind the bed. Say "Find me!" and wait for them to come and find you. The fewer clues you give the more challenging for the dog. Start with lots of clues like making a noise then fade the clues out so the dog has the responsibility to find you. We teach Recall Games classes that use hide and seek to motivate your dog to look for you. 

    7) Give your dog a nice chewy to work on while you are gone or busy. Chewing should be supervised and small bits should be taken away from the dog. If your dog is resource guarding their chewies, do not give them a high value item to practice guarding. Call us for private lessons to end poor behavior.

    8) Give your dog a Kong or another intelligent challenge toy with dog food in it. The Nina Ottosson dog puzzles are a wonderful way to spend quality time with your dog.

    9) Do Doga (doggy yoga) with your dog. Downward Facing Dog, Cobra,  Breathing Awareness and Upward Paw Pose. Be gentle, overstretching can cause soreness and injury.

    10) Work on your sit stay add duration first, when that is reliable at least 80% of the time add distance and last add distractions like household members talking, tv going, doorbells ringing. Try not to get greedy and do too much all at once, remember to set your dog up for success. Always go back to your dog to reward them for the stay instead of calling them to you. Only call them to you when you have worked on stay for several repetitions prior. Attend a Family Dog 1 Stay, Wait & Settle class for more detail on how to train a stay.

    11) Play Crate Games (visit for a marvelous the “Crate Games” by Susan Garrett). Crate Games or Mat Games are a great way to teach a sit or down stay, a motivated release, impulse control and how to love your crate or mat. 

    12) Teach your dog a fun or a useful new trick. Tricks are a great way to bond and spend quality time together. People usually laugh and have fun when they are training tricks. The dogs have fun when you have fun. Train your dog to shake, sit up, spin in a circle, roll over, play dead, or to pick up their toys. You can train them to know each toy by name and put them in a basket or toy box.

    13) Play the Muffin Tin Game. Click here for a video to see how to play.

    14) Play 101 Things to Do with a Box a game invented by Karen Pryor who started out as a dolphin trainer and now is world famous for her books.

    15) Play Push the Box (with a toy in it). Click here to view a video. 

    16) Put your rain gear on and take your dog for a nice long walk. Take a look at this fancy dogbrella available from Hammacher Schlemmer for a hoot. Our Loose Leash Walking class will help you work with your dog to have more fun on walks. 

    Dogs are individuals. Every dog has different needs and rewards. Know what your dog likes and use those things or activities to motivate and reward him or her for good behavior. Be safe and have fun.

    We hope you will use the ideas that are best suited for your dog. For more information about training your dog to do more visit our website for a variety of classes and dog sports.