[I own none of these pictures but use them to illustrate the beauty of a dog at work].
Dogs love to work, and I love to see ones who have the peaceful confidence that only comes from doing their job. People, horses, and many other animals truly psychologically benefit from having a role, whether it is to work for others all day everyday, a few days per season, or an hour a week, it is good to have a purpose. Below I have a galleries of some of my favorite breeds doing what they were born to do!
[I own none of these pictures but use them to illustrate the beauty of a dog at work].
Large game hunting:
Dogs with jobs can be as simple as a therapy dog that waits patiently while a child reads for 1 hour each Wednesday, or as burdened as a police dog that works nearly everyday in all types of stressful situations. Your dog would certainly love a job, but that doesn't mean you have to fully invest in any of the above categories, maybe your dogs job is simply to walk by your side as you go around the black a few times a day. One simple way to increase the "work" your dog does in a day is the use of a backpack - Baron loves when he sees me pull out his backpack to go for a walk or hike, and it is clear that he has more of a working mentality when he wears it - even if he is just carrying my call phone, keys, and water bottles. What jobs do your dogs do, and how do you know they benefit from having a chance to work?
Meet Baron, my new Cane Corso! I have high hopes for him as my new training helper dog and future therapy partner!
Barron just recently came into my care at just about a year old. He has spent time in a few different homes, but I sure hope he has found his forever home with me! Integrating a new dog into your lifestyle or pack is a delicate process, and there are a lot of places where it can go wrong. Understanding the temperament of your new pet is important to a successful transition, but there are some things that I do regardless of age, type, or personality that go a long way to creating a harmonious pack.
The very first thing I want to do when I bring a new dog into my house for training, dog-sitting, or fostering is to walk that dog with the others already in the home. When I brought Barron (then Bart) home I left him in the car while I quickly ran in and grabbed Pippi and her leash, walked her to the car, and as quickly as possible I got him out of the car and started off on a brisk walk. Pippi is used to such a ritual and patiently followed along, but Barron was another matter. All he wanted in the world was to sniff Pippi for the remaining hours of the day (literally... he could have sniffer her poor golden butt for hours), but it was important that we not start out that way. I continued to ask him to walk beside me in a proper manner, just as she was doing, and to simply travel with us. There are a few reasons for this: 1. face to face greetings, in the dog world, are actually quite rude. As a puppy who is much larger than Pippi (about twice her size), it was imperative that I instruct him on how to be respectful of her right off the bat. I cannot have this young puppy thinking my 14 year old is a play thing, she needs me as her advocate, and that started from the very first meeting. 2. traveling is very bonding for dogs, and quickly established who is the leader based on who walks in front (that would be me).
After we had walked for a good 2 miles, I then had both dogs in a great mindset. Both were walking at my side, not in front of me. Both were looking to me for cues on where to go. Both had fantastic, happy, and relaxed traveling mindsets. That was the perfect time to do a greeting. At this point I gave them the release from walking in a "heel" (my release word is "free" which tells them that they can use the length of their leash, run around, go potty, sniff, whatever), and let them greet. Barron quickly grew over-excited and that was exactly when I cut the greeting off and moved on. Once they were again in balanced mindsets, I repeated this, and again cut it off once his excitement was more than she was comfortable with. I rewarded gentle and polite sniffs by allowing them to carry on with their interactions, and corrected rough sniffs, high chests, pawing, or any other over-excitement by going back to the discipline of a pack walk.
By the time we got back home, both dogs were simply willing to be together, and since that point, aside from a few correction for his over-excitement from time to time, we have had a flawless transition. I repeated this exercise the next day when a little Poodle mix named Maggie came to work with me for a few days, and again about a week later when he came with me to stay with a couple Newfoundlands (Dexter & Lumen) at their house for a little while. Abating the excitement of greetings, particularly when dealing with a new member who may be very large and not know the rules, can be the key to avoiding any misunderstandings, fights, or stress on your part. Thanks to rituals like these the dogs can bond in their own way while respectfully keeping me in the leader position, which makes for a perfectly balanced pack, no matter who joins us!
For now we are working hard on communicating to him that the world turns best when he is in a calm and responsive mindset. We are tackling his separation anxiety head on as well as his overall impulse control when it comes to things like chasing cats, squirrels, ducks, bunnies, other dogs, my brother, cows, deer... etc (lol). I have had to teach him the power of eye contact by waiting to release him from the kennel or a stay until he looks to me, and this has brought his behavior a long way already. He is a natural follower and happy-go-lucky dude with a healthy side of enforcer, so I am excited to see his potential shine in helping dogs with serious behavior issues. I also see him being a fantastic therapy dog, so in order to make that happen we work on commands and tricks, being able to walk very slowly and respectfully with or without a leash, and being calm and relaxed in all types of scenarios. At this stage, socialization and practice are what is going to make us a perfect team.
I am super excited to see where Barron and I can go over the coming years, and am thankful to those who have previously had him and Desi Tourville at Bella Conbrio Cane Corso for thinking of me when he needed a home. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but he is already a great fit for me and a wonderful dude. I can't wait to see him follow in Pippi's footsteps as my right hand in helping other dogs! Both Pippi and I are enjoying his presence and love watching him grow. I have to send a shoutout to Pip for her incredible patience and all that she is teaching him that I never could. Dogs make the best teachers if we let them :)
DOGS EAT ALL KINDS OF BIZARRE THINGS - FROM TISSUES AND GRASS TO FECAL MATTER AND INSECTS. BUT WHY DO THEY DO IT?
I so often hear complaints of, "My dog eats poo!" or, "I don't know why they eat so much grass!?" and these behaviors are quite common in our society's dogs. A few reasons for the behaviors include boredom, excess energy, illness, or nutritional deficiency. Things to try: more EXERCISE, giving your pet a job or new challenge, talking to your VETERINARIAN, and, last but not least, try a NUTRITION approach! I am a strong advocate of the correct use of supplements, essential oils, and raw foods for dogs. Many dogs are simply food-crazed all the time, and owners have to keep track of their dogs diet to avoid weight issues, but for some dogs it might be more than that. For example, did you know that eating poo could be your dog's body's way of getting its needed nutrients? it is not uncommon for dogs to seek out nutrients like fiber and potassium from other dog's excrement. Try bananas, carrots, apples, steamed green beans and sweet potato, plain yogurt, coconut oil, and raw pumpkin to help your dog's diet along! For example, when my Oliver had a massive allergic reaction to an unknown source, we were prescribed plain yogurt and apple cider vinegar to help his immune system turn around, and the improvements were incredible! As always, please consult a veterinarian or specialist and use caution to not give your pet too much of a good thing!
Things I commonly turn to:
GINGER to ease stomach distress (i.e. carsickness)
LAVENDER for calming
BANANAS for a poo-eater
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR for skin issues, infections, ear cleaning
YOGURT for digestive health and recovery
COCONUT OIL for coat health and fighting infections &bacteria
GREEN BEANS, CARROTS, SWEET POTATO, BROCCOLI for treats and digestive health
RAW BONES (i.e. dehydrated beef knuckle bone) for teeth
LEMON JUICE to deter ticks
RAW CRANBERRY JUICE for urinary tract health
SALMON or FISH OIL for skin, fur, and joint health
APPLE for breath, treats, and extra vitamins
PEPPERMINT OIL for ear issues, tick/flea repellent, and joints
Remember to ask questions and follow recommended dosage! Feel free to email me with questions at email@example.com!
Special shout out to Dr. Jina Andrews at Animal & Exotic Wellness for being a fantastic veterinarian to my pets and teaching me so much about alternative ways to healing what ails our pets. She is above and beyond the best vet i have ever worked with and her team's loyalty to her speaks volumes. I am always interested to hear her solutions and suggestions, and know that her intentions and desire to help the animals outweigh her desire to make money. She is a one in a million! check them out at
Although many canine behaviors are intrinsic, most of your dog's behaviors don't come from thin air. Whether you know it or not, you are teaching your dog to behave the way he/she is. A good example of this is attention. Many dog owners know the feeling of just wishing their dog would pay attention to them when they give a command. Common ways that people are sabotaging their own efforts to get their dog to pay attention are as follows:
Talking too much or repeating yourself without having an impact
guilty. This is one that I struggle with. It is tempting to just get louder or to wonder if they heard you... trust me... they did.
Common ways you see this manifested is if you tell your dog to "stay" and they keep right on walking. You say it again, "No, STAY" the dog looks at you, judging your face. Hmm, the human seems serious, I guess I'll slow down and see what happens. You repeat yourself a few more times "stay", "Stay", "STAY!". At this point you have just used the command five times, and only the final time was the word actually associated with the behavior. The most common example of this I see is at the dog park, where the dog will be called; "Miko Come!" a number of times and the dog may not ever respond to it, being far too busy playing with his new buddies. If giving the command is not capturing your dog's attention stop using it for now. Find another way, or create a scenario where they will listen because otherwise the outcome is just you desensitizing the dog to your words. not so helpful.
Over-using the dog's name
Another very common one. Remember that the dog's name should be a pleasant stimulus that they associate with giving their attention to you. I see dogs blatantly ignoring their name being called for one big reason... it does not sound more fun or interesting than what they are doing, it is simply not worth it. If you frequently find yourself associating your dogs name with a harsh tone or the word "no" then there is a pretty good chance your dog is not a big fan of hearing their name come out of your mouth. Keep that association positive so that when you need them to pay attention to you (i.e. before running into the street) you are not calling their name to no avail. Practice associating their name with belly rubs, dinner time, walks, play time, and other good things.
Not following through
It takes time and effort, but it is very important to your dog's understanding of you that you follow through. If you asked him/her to sit, then the exercise is not complete until, one way or another, the dog has sat. This will keep your dog from being unsure as to whether you actually want him/her to sit when you say so.
Being unsure of yourself
As the dog's leader, it is imperative that you be sure of what you are asking. Watch yourself for things like, "Want to go for a walk?" or "Can you sit?" because these are times when you may be giving the leadership to the dog, in their minds, and they may read your tone as you being unsure. Instead, try for "Lets go on a walk" in a calm and assertive manner, or "Sit, please" with authority. Remember too that the words you use are for you - the dogs don't need them, so if you can communicate these things without words, all the better! In the end, the important thing is that you mean what you say and remain calm and confident.
Not being patient
Sometimes it takes a minute for the dog to snap out of what they are doing and give you what you have asked. Wait for that positive result and make sure that they receive some sort of reward for it, even if that is a simple "yes!" from you. Take the time to wait until they do it right and then make it worth the effort they put into it!!If you ask your dog to "go lie down" and he doesn't respond right away but you ignore him when he does finally do it, you have just communicated to him that you don't care much about it and it is totally acceptable for him to do it on his own schedule. Another great way to practice this is to set down a treat or food bowl and then simply wait... until the exact second your dog looks at you, then give the reward. This shows the dog that they way they get good things is by giving you their attention, how neat is that! It is a great exercise to do this in all scenarios with all types of things they want, examples include before you set down their food bowl at dinner or before entering the dog park for a playtime... just practice your patience and wait until you get their attention.
Attention is a key way that we help our dogs exist in our society, if they do not give us their attention we will struggle to tell them when situations are unsafe for them (such as approaching the wrong person, picking up the wrong "toy" or "treat", etc.). We want to make sure that we regularly communicate to them that their attention is appreciated and worth their time. Remember to be aware for those times of desensitization to the concept of responding to your words!
The words "calm, submissive" have become common a common phrase in the dog world (coined, I believe, by Cesar Milan) to describe a dog that is balanced and happy to be obedient to its calm, assertive, and kind handler. So, why do I preach leadership over our dogs when there are so many trainers out there who avoid anything related to a hierarchy?
#1 - Because we know more about navigating our world than the dogs we like to bring into it. When I go into a new dog pack, I look to my dog for information on what is going on and how I should behave, because she is the fluent one there. When I bring my dog into a group of humans, I expect her to look to me for information on how she should behave. It is that simple. This is a human society with human inventions and human behaviors, my dog does not know important safety information that I do, and her life depends on her ability to pay attention to me.
#2 - We know we are doing the right thing if they are CALM submissive. All unethical behaviors that a human might do towards a dog are behaviors that might create submission but wont create calm. All anxiety, unease, fear, anger, or other unpleasant emotion that we might experience will create a negative change in them. I see submission without calm often in situations where I feel the training methods are overly strict or even abusive, and this is no fun either. A cringing, shaking, or cowering dog is not calm submissive, its anxious or fearful submissive. I want a happy dog. A happy dog is calm and balanced, and is not listening to me out of fear of retribution but out of trust and simple enjoyment of my company. Leadership does not beat submission into its followers, it creates an environment where following is comfortable.
#3 - It works. I have yet to meet a dog that was "calm submissive" and also destroyed its owners home, barked all the time, bit people, or otherwise brought chaos and destruction.
#4 - I believe in God. of what relevance is this? It is relevant because I believe that, in comparison to my limited view of the world, He knows and sees a thousand fold more than what I can. My dog, in comparison to me in our society, sees and knows a limited portion of what I do. I strive to keep calm because I demonstrate faith in my God's ability to plan and keep me where I am supposed to be if I stay calm. If I panic, I believe that I am doubting God's control of the situation or the preparation that he has given me to handle the moment. I also strive to be submissive to him, because I am aware that I know nothing in comparison to his omniscience. Do I behave perfectly? certainly not. I do, however, know that being calm and submissive to my God is the best way for me to have peace. This is why I want my dogs to be calm and submissive. Because if they are calm I know I have earned their trust, and if they are submissive I know that they have peace in my ability to meet their needs and keep them safe. Interesting to contemplate, no?
Anthropomorphism: the tendency to attribute human characteristics to animals.
The most common way that we humans do this to our dogs, is that we assume our methods of creating emotional change in each other apply to them. Allow me to explain: as a young child you likely had moments when you were highly afraid of something. In these moments, it is likely that an adult scooped you up, held you close, and told you that it was going to be ok. This approach works on us humans, even, or perhaps particularly, at a very young age. Years later, when we look at a scared dog, it is instinctual for us to do the same thing. We want to scoop them up, hold them close, and pet away their fears. Why is this a problem? Because dogs don't have the same emotional healing process and reaction that we do in that situation. Our house pets see praise as petting and hugging and treats for doing something right, for being right. When we give them affection when they are afraid, we are telling them that they are doing the right thing when they are not. Watch a pack of dogs sometime: when a nervous member of the pack is behaving in an unbalanced manner the other dogs will ignore it, or sometimes even correct it with a bite or a growl! This would be scaring to us as humans, if we were afraid of something and then were corrected further! However, dogs are not humans and their emotional experience does not always mirror ours. Next time your pooch is afraid, try simply ignoring it, and carry on by simply telling them how to be better. Show them calm energy and allow them to process the situation and overcome their fear. Remember not to give affection to an unstable, fearful, anxious, or aggressive mind, because you will only be rewarding an unhappy mind, and happy is the goal!
A time to pet -> when your animal is calm, balanced, or attentive to you. Give attention to a mind that is happy, relaxed, and well-behaved. Encourage a positive mindset! You want your pet to be happy, so when it is happy and balanced, reward that mindset.
A time to refrain from petting -> when your animal is anxious, angry, mournful, or upset. I know you want to make them feel better, but they may not interpret it this way. Remember that they don't understand your intentions; they interpret only positive reinforcement for a negative mindset. So when your little chihuahua is shaking and quivering at the dog park and you scoop it up and cuddle it close you are in no way giving it a better mindset, you are telling it "yes, that is scary isn't it, here its safer here" and each time they are nervous in the future what will they want to do? be safe and protected in your arms. This does not make for a happier pet, unfortunately.
Having trouble identifying when to give reinforcement and when to withhold? Watch the dogs around you interact with each other. Watch an older, balanced dog at the dog park... what dogs does it give attention to and what ones does it ignore? You might be surprised how infrequently you see an unbalanced animal getting any positive attention from the other dogs.
When it comes to pulling on the leash, a war wages in the product market. Harnesses exist for the face, front legs, back legs, and core of the dog, not to mention the myriad of collars for sale, proclaiming their ability to stop pulling. My biggest issue with most of these products is that they are band-aids. What do I mean by band-aid? I mean a quick cover up. I mean that they don't solve the underlying issue, and they only serve to limit the damaging tension between the body of the dog and the arm of the human.
We all see examples of dogs that are pulling with all their might while of the walk. Many owners put up with the behavior, but why? The dog is straining against you, why would you want your walk to be a competition of strength? The walk should be a harmonious partnership, not an exercise in conflict. Neither you nor your dog should feel frustrated or sore because of a short walk around the neighborhood.
So what should be done? If harnesses and other go-to's are just band-aids, and pulling on the leash shouldn't be encouraged, what are dog owners supposed to do? When a dog is poorly behaved on leash, they need leadership. Proper leadership creates a far better leash walking experience than a harness ever will.
It all starts at the front door. Does your walk begin with an excited animal jumping around and creating chaos? Then wait... wait until your animal is not barking, not jumping, not whining, or doing any other demanding behavior to channel their excitement. As you wait your dog is cataloging your new behavior and trying to figure out what you want, so if you time it correctly you will be communicating to your pup that you are happy to take them on a walk, so long as they can do it calmly. Often, I will wait until the dog has voluntarily sat down, has stopped wagging its tail, and is watching me. This takes time, all new lessons do. Don't forget to be patient, and don't worry about giving commands.
The next step is to leave the house, this too should be a calm practice on your terms. Who goes out the door first? This may seem like a minor detail to you, but in the mind of your dog it is significant, if they begin the walk ahead of you they are leading you, which creates a cycle of you being the one who needs to be told where to go and what to do.
So you've waited an inordinate amount of time for your dog to be calm before clipping on the leash, waited some more for post- leashclick excitement, and then carefully maneuvered out the door/gate; its a good, albeit foreign, start. Beyond this point the same principles remain, you give what your dog wants when your dog is calm and paying attention to you. Do not reward excitement by caving to it. If your pup begins to pull, stop. if your dog rushes toward a certain spot, turn around and go the other way. These may feel like games of willpower for now, but before long you will have a much more pleasant balance with your pup.
Don't settle for a stressful walk. You don't need to. Both you and your dog will have a better time if it is an activity you do together with teamwork and relaxation.
When it comes to harnesses and collars, all trainers have their own product they choose as the best. Personally, i prefer a nice lightweight leash, and that's it. Gentle leaders have worked well for me as a communication tool in the past, so if I had to pick that is where I would probably put my support. The idea is to have to use less pressure to communicate, and gentle leaders do this by targeting a weaker area of the dog.
Harnesses make very little sense to me... harnesses are what we put on animals to distribute impact and encourage pulling (i.e. carriage horses, sled dogs, etc.). They put the straps around the most muscular part of the dog. Same with very thick collars, in the end it all means that the tension is spread over a larger area of the animal. Anything that goes over the low part of the neck or the chest is pitting your arms against the strongest part of the dogs body. This simply does not seem near as effective to me as a normal leash placed higher up on the neck.
"Training a puppy is like raising a child. Every single interaction is a training opportunity." -Ian Dunbar
“... you must take the time and patience to reinforce the rules until your puppy internalizes them.” -Cesar Milan
Raising a puppy can be an incredibly fulfilling and happy time, as everyone knows there is nothing cuter than a puppy. However, many puppy owners find themselves at a loss after just a short time because their puppy is already demonstrating problem behaviors. Here are a few tricks I have learned about dealing with puppies:
#1 - Teach them that they get what they want when you get what you want, and what you want is a calm and happy dog. What this means is that when your puppy wants your attention, it doesn't gain it through biting, crying, jumping, or any other excited behavior, but it gets your attention through being calm and attentive to what you want. Puppies have a lot of needs and it is important for us to give them what they need, but it is also important that we teach them to communicate their needs in a calm and effective manner.
An exercise to practice: Hold your young puppy in your arms. When the puppy inevitably begins to wiggle to get down to explore, play, or find something to eat, squeeze just a tiny bit more firmly. If your puppy relaxes, immediately relax your arms, wait a few seconds and set your puppy down. If your puppy continues to wiggle, wait it out. Hold the puppy firmly and securely until it begins to calm down and immediately begin to correspondingly relax your arms. again wait a few seconds and set the puppy down. If your puppy settles down and relaxes, but then starts up again before you are done waiting, you must repeat the exercise. This is a low stress exercise that will help you create harmony with your pup, right off the bat.
**** This exercise is highly recommend for the very first time that you hold your new pup. This immediately sets the standards for your puppies interactions with you and allows you to have cooperation, rather than competition, as your very first interaction.
#2 - Show them that paying attention to you is how they get rewards. Earning your dog's attention is probably the best way you can keep your pet safe in this chaotic world. Being able to tell your dog to "stay" in the face of a car speeding by, or "leave -it" when they encounter a porcupine, is an important safety tool that is nonexistent if they do not pay attention to you.
An exercise to practice: Place your puppy's food on the ground and use body language to let it know that it can not eat just yet. This can be done by standing over the food, blocking the puppy with your hand, or giving corrections with your hand or a leash (remember to stay gentle but firm and very consistent in your communication). At this point your puppy will likely need a lot of communication so remember to be clear and to be ok with repeating yourself, we need repetition in learning, and they don't even have the pleasure of being taught in their own language! Continue the exercise and be patient until your puppy looks at you. When your puppy makes eye contact, give affirmation and immediately allow it to eat its food. your affirmation can be a nod, a smile, a pat, a hand signal, or a simple "yes!", whatever you choose to be the signal to your pup that he or she has done the right thing and can not get exactly what is wanted.
#3 - Stay positive! There is no reason for tension or frustration when training a puppy, and it certainly won't help you be the leader. If you want your puppy to choose to be with you, you need to be a source of fun. Puppies are known for their playful nature, and that is a great training tool for us. Make sure every exercise ends on a good note, and remember that there is no benefit in getting frustrated, just be in the moment with your pup and you will both be able to learn from each other!
You can learn a lot about a dog's tail! the below pictures detail the different cues you can take from a dogs tail:
Recently, in my work at a doggy daycare, I had an interesting experience with a little terrier who was about 5 years old and a bit of a mess. This pampered house pet looked like a dog you would find roaming the streets. She was covered in thick, matted fur, smelled like an old couch, and clearly had no grooming at home. When I inquired about the state of her fur, being that I knew her owners loved her very much, I was told that she would attack her owners if they tried to brush or trim her coat.
Not surprisingly, this wasn't her only issue. Each day when coming into and leaving daycare she would screech at the top of her little lungs and attack her leash. By all accounts she was a hot mess. This dog's bad behavior had gotten to a point that her skin and coat health were completely deteriorated and she could not be walked on a leash by her owners.
My issue with this scenario was this: I saw none of those behaviors while I had her in my group. I could leash her, walk her, brush her, and clean her tear stains without any issue while she was in the daycare room. The reason for this was not that daycare transformed her behavior, but that I did not expect the bad behaviors nor did I ask her permission. If I wanted to brush her, I simply picked up a brush and got to work. If she began to get tense or wiggly I would stop, ask her to relax and give a brief massage before continuing. Her problems were actually so mild that I could easily instruct my coworkers on how I approached her and they would have the same results: a relaxed and willing dog. In the months that I worked with this dog I saw results whenever she was in my care, and in the care of a few of my coworkers, but without the unified work of the entire staff and the owners, her problems continue whenever her handler is not exhibiting balanced leadership.
This story is important because it highlights the importance of a calm manner when dealing with dogs, and how unhealthy it becomes for the dog when the owner is not the one in control. As soon as this little dog was handled by a leader she was balanced and could be helped, but in the hands of a weak leader she can be both neurotic and dangerous. Anyone can be a strong leader, but not everyone comes by it naturally. In general, its good to practice being very confidence, because confidence is neither frantic nor insecure. Dogs become unsure if you are unsure, so if you want your dog to trust, just relax and be sure of your actions.