I train you to train your dog!

blogging with kate

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Put a leash on!

I think the number on piece of advice I can give to any dog owner who is having any kind of problem with their dog is, clip on that leash! With a leash on, you have direct access to your dog. If your dog gets rowdy when people come in the door, you can grab their leash before opening the door and instantly begin working with them on how to not jump on that person or run out the door. If your dog likes to run and hide under something when they get an object in their mouth that they shouldn't have, with a leash on, you can take that leash and immediately being directing them out of that hiding spot and initiate a Drop command. If your dog has a hard time settling down when you are eating a meal, you can help them understand how to hang out by your side by putting their leash under your foot and giving them just enough room to sit and eventually lie down comfortably.

Think of the leash as a USB cord. You are the keyboard and your dog is the computer. Whatever you say, travels through the leash, and your dog receives that message and acts accordingly. When there is a communication disconnect between you and your dog, then the simplest most effective thing you can do is reboot and reconnect using the leash. In the dog world, the quicker they understand how not to do something, and the more meaningful your follow through, the quicker they act to do what it is you want them to do. Having a leash readily available allows you to act quickly and set limits. The more limits a dogs has, the less options they have available to them. The less options, the less they are capable of escalating in behavior. If they are not able to escalate, then they only have one other option, to calm down and look to you for the next directive. It really is that simple! Putting that leash back on your dog is the first proactive step you can make in improving your relationship with your dog. When your dog fully understands your expectations of them, they are more than happy to fully comply!

 

 

direction before affection

June 9, 2017

Parents, CEO's, Teachers--they all have something in common. These different kinds of leaders all do one thing to make them effective in their individual positions: they give direction BEFORE they give a reward. As a parent, the reward may be getting a special kind of dessert after dinner. As a CEO, maybe it's giving a promotion to the best worker in the company. As a teacher, the reward is being able to give your student an A on a project because they followed all your notes and directions correctly. Getting something positive has always been the reward for doing what you are supposed to do, in the human world.

Why is it, then, when it comes to our dogs, that we put this concept in reverse? I am constantly seeing my clients reward their pups with physical affection at the wrong moments. And when I dig a little deeper for the 'why', they tell me they feel bad making the dog do something that doesn't make him happy.

Well, here's the kicker: when your dog jumps on people, barks incessantly, chews your furniture, bites your family member, or is misbehaving in any other way--they are NOT happy! They are confused, frustrated, agitated, and are SEEKING reliable guidance from YOU! Being given that direction is EXACTLY what they are looking for, and getting a reward for finally doing the right thing brings them pure joy. The action of misbehaving is a symptom of an overall problem of not knowing what to do. Step up as their human. Step up as their leader. Direct your dog down the right path, and then reward them for a job well done! A truly happy dog is a dog is a dog that knows their purpose in life and understands their place in your world.

 

Double Dog Trouble

September 9, 2016

It’s a classic tale. You get a dog. You get to know each other. And then after a few months, maybe a year, you decide that your dog needs a friend. While I totally support enriching ones life with as many dogs as one can afford and have the ability to take care of, I encourage anyone who is thinking along these lines to really take into consideration this one major point:

  • How are your current dog’s obedience skills? If you are having any behavioral issues such as separation anxiety, food possession, toy possession, stranger danger, lack of basic obedience knowledge, or the inability to walk loosely on a leash–address any and all problems first BEFORE getting a second dog. Do not think that getting a second dog will alleviate the issues you are currently experiencing with your first dog.

Now, you may be asking ‘why?’ Why can’t the presence of a second dog help fix issues you are currently experiencing with your first dog? Why can’t you address any and all issues after you bring a friend home for your pup? Won’t the presence of a second dog dog help teach the first dog what is and what is not proper behavior?

And here is your answer. Plain and simple. Are you listening? Ok, here goes: the fact that the dog you have is exhibiting behavioral issues is indicative of the fact that there is a lack of structure and leadership somewhere in the relationship. If you do not address this, and you bring in a second dog as a friend or to theoretically fix the problem for you, then you are putting yourself, but moreso your dogs at a disservice. You must acknowledge the fact that you are having trouble communicating with your dog before adding another one to the mix. Otherwise, you will have a doubly confused household and the additional issues that could arise are limitless. Why create double the trouble? Dogs do not just create their own issues. They are a symptom of a much bigger problem. And that problem usually almost always stems from a lack of understanding of what is expected of them. And the one person who creates those rules and expectations, is you. And if you are seeing problems happen, then you need to take it upon yourself to address how you are the cause and your dog is suffering from the lack of leadership that you are providing. You may not know you are the cause; but I am telling you that you are. And getting another dog will only make things more difficult for you, and your dog–and now this second dog that you’ve roped into this unbalanced relationship.

Dogs require a solid leader. Once you understand how you can be the best leader you can be, and your house is happy and balanced, then by all means, find that friend! But until then, do the leg work required to get to that point. Trust me, you, your dog, and your future four legged friend will thank you!

 

Law of dog.

 

September 2, 2016

I would like to pose a question to you: if you saw a cute kid on the street, would you go up to that child, completely bypassing the parent, reach out your hand, touch them and say HELLO in a really cute voice? It doesn’t take a rocket science to answer this one–of course you wouldn’t! Because, let’s face it, you would be arrested–basically. Now, keep this rather dramatic yet honest scenario in mind as I proceed.

This afternoon I was sitting in a rest stop parking lot with my baby in my lap and my dog next to me in a down. We were enjoying watching people and dogs pass us by–taking in the sites and sounds of the otherwise mundane Delaware Information Center and rest area. At one point, a woman comes out of her car with her dog, and I clearly hear her ask her dog in the squeakiest of voices ‘oh Fluffy do you want to say Hi to the doggie (aka my dog)?’ So let’s first address the fact that she is asking the dog–got that? Ok. So now, with a 6 week old baby in my lap and my dog minding his own manners in a down next to me, I have a squeaky woman and her dog approaching me to say Hi. Let me pause to tell you how setting the tone for an interaction means everything to a dog; when you talk to your dog in a hyper tone, you get them excited–this in turn is the energy that they bring with them to an interaction–excitement–instead of calm and balanced. Now, you are approaching  strangers; but you don’t see me, you just see ‘another doggie!’ A dog who is nice and calm. See where I’m going with this? Now, the best way to create a good situation from a poorly managed one, is to step forward, speak up, and advocate. While what you are about to do is pissing me off, I have to remain calm for my dog–and newborn on my lap. So I say with a smile as they approach ‘No, not on leash–he gets tense on leash.'(on leash greetings can also set the wrong tone for a howdy-do, coupled with excitable energy coming from the other end of the leash–you are asking for trouble). Well, what does this ‘dog lover’ do? She says, in response to my polite version of ‘please go away’– ‘Oh it’s ok.’ And proceeds to have her dog invade my calm dogs space so he can say…hi. Now, this didn’t end horribly because in the end, my guy let this dog know he was uncomfortable and the other dog was like ok no problem dude. But, let’s go back to my original analogy. You completely disregard the ‘parent’ to give yourself and your doggie the instant gratification of a hello! In human world, this would result in a severe consequence. In dog world, without proper handling, it can result in a different yet equally severe consequence. Both situations involve disrespect and a complete invasion of space coupled with touching something that isn’t yours to touch (or your dogs). We are able to wrap our head around this concept in the human world more or less. But when it comes to the dog world, not so much. Not only are you putting my dog at a disadvantage, but your own dog as well. And you call yourself a dog lover? You understand the law of human–now take a moment to learn about the law of dog. Learn how your actions effect yours, and other dogs. And ask before interacting–and listen to what the person, and the dog are telling you! Do all that and yes, you are indeed a dog lover!

How did you do that??

August 29, 2016

I get asked that a lot. Just the other day, I taught a 6 month old puppy how to stay in a matter of minutes when her owners had failed to do so after a few months of trying. The owner exclaimed ‘how did you do that?!’ Followed by, ‘does she actually understand what you’re saying?’

I assure you it’s not magic–and if you wanted me to I could teach the same command (or any for that matter) without words. It’s all about believe-ability. When you instruct your dog to do something, are you telling them or are you asking? How do you present yourself? If roles were reversed, would you believe you? Most importantly, do you understand what you are teaching them and the importance behind said command?

If we do not understand what we are trying to teach our dog, or if we come across as hesitant or negotiable, our dog will not follow through with the directive. Mainly due to the fact that they have no clue what you are trying to teach them, and they do not take you seriously! But really, what they are sensing is your uncertainty. A dog simply will not follow someone who is unsure. In their mind, they’re better off calling the shots on their own than following someone who has no confidence in themselves–and it is this very element of the dog/human relationship that oftentimes gets everyone into some sort of trouble!

Now, there is no need to shout or get overly dramatic or get angry in order for your dog to take you seriously. On the contrary, these actions will get even further away from your goal! When you are trying to teach your dog something, I want you to envision the most confident dog in a dog run. This is the dog that stands tall, has his chest out, and no one messes with. He’s not the fighter, or the jumper, or the barker. His very presence embodies the essence of calm, cool, and controlled. After you have this picture in your head, go about projecting your desire to your dog. Be it sit, down, stay, or give me space. Stand up straight, hold your head high, and use your command tone-and deliver your command. Once you have begun this conversation, do not back down. Make sure the command is received and the dog follows through. If he does not initially, stay calm, and follow through until there is commitment on his end. This is how you present yourself as a solid leader, one whose dog wants to listen to and obey. Why? Because it is easier to follow than it is to lead–and your dog prefers to follow than lead and day of the week–they just have to know that you are someone worth following!

Balancing a baby, and a dog (your first ‘baby’)

August 22, 2016

For as long as you can remember, it was just you and your dog. You had a solid routine down. You could anticipate each others needs. In both your minds, it seemed that life was complete. What more could you want? And then–you had a baby. Now what?

As a new mother, and a dog trainer, I never thought I would get hit with the ‘dog mom now real mom’ inner guilt trip. But with exhaustion combined with raging hormones and a stickler for solid routines, when my son came into the picture, all the change completely threw me off balance. I panicked as to how I would combine both worlds peacefully. How would both my dogs and my baby know that I loved them equally?

And then literally, I had to say to myself ‘Kate, chill out! Take a step back, pause, deep breath, and focus.’ My self-made anxiety and inner panic attacks were only doing my dog and child a disservice. My energy was completely off and it was effecting the balance of my household. Panicking fixes nothing.

I realized that the more I invited my dog to join activities that involved the baby, the better we both felt. I put a dog bed in the baby’s room so he would have a place to go to. Every time I go to change the baby or feed the baby, I invite my dog along. When we are on the couch together,  I invite my dog to lay at my feet. When the baby is on his swing, I invite the dog to come join us on the floor. And when I walk the dog, the baby always joins us. By doing everything together, we are all learning how to live this new life together. My dog gets to know my baby by just existing with him and I am never without the steady companionship of my dog. Life isn’t always about making sure something is happy through constant affection and stimulation. A lot of the time, it’s about just being together, and loving each other through the pure enjoyment of each other’s company!

For the love of PUPPY!

June 29, 2016

Puppies: no matter the breed, no matter the size–we are drawn to them. Their awkwardness, their innocence, their curiosity–perhaps they bring us back to simpler times when we were young, and weird looking, and the world had not hardened us; and in that moment of crossing paths with one of life’s cutest creatures, we feel the need to stop whatever we are doing, to make contact–to say hi–in that moment, we are able to escape our reality and be transported back to our own age of innocence.

During the first 18mo. of life, a puppy is experiencing many mental and physical growth changes. The first 8-12wks alone are pivotal in creating long lasting positive experiences for puppy. Yes, this is the time where we are teaching the rules of housebreaking, crate training, and learning what to chew vs. what not to chew. But, this is also a great time to positively introduce your puppy to all the sights and sounds of the world around her. The more she experiences during this relatively short window of time, the more you are helping her grow into a well socialized dog. Although all of her shots will not be completed upon her arrival to your new home, she does have a first round of immunizations working for her as well as a pretty solid immune system given to her by her mother at birth. What does this mean? Expose her to the great outdoors as soon as possible! Take this opportunity to introduce her to a leash, and encourage her to explore the world around her. Whether you live in the country or big city, the world outside of her whelping box is intricate and intense–the more opportunities she has to create a relationship with it at an early age, the more you are helping her succeed. If you have a family or friend’s dog you would like to introduce her to, be sure they are healthy and up to date on their vaccinations–are balanced and do not mind the shenanigans of a young pup–keep the introduction short and sweet–but yes, socialize, socialize, socialize!

As your puppy will most likely be growing up with a predominantly human pack, it is therefore critically important to ensure proper socialization with people. What does this mean? It means that we are teaching our dog, AND our people, how to act around one another. You may have a go-get’em puppy who wants nothing more that to meet every person she crosses paths with. You may have a puppy who is a bit on the shy side, who needs a minute before acknowledging someone or being acknowledged. This is why it’s so important for you, the passerby or visitor to a home with a new puppy, to ask before interacting. And this is why it is so important for you, the owner, to understand the needs of your pup. It is always important to understand when it is appropriate to acknowledge a puppy, and when to give them a minute to relax–this way we are helping them understand what will get them attention, and what won’t. But above all, we are helping them make positive associations with people which they will continue to carry with them past this critical socialization period. If we constantly acknowledge the jumping and yipping of an excitable pup, we are encouraging that behavior to continue–we are signifying ourselves as excitable sources of energy which will bite us in the butt down the road if left unacknowledged. If we dive in and scoop up a puppy who is clearly showing signs of slight distress and insecurity in that moment, then we are signifying ourselves as a source of unbalanced, intense energy–which could literally bite us in the butt in the future if we do not learn how to read our dog and help her through situations that cause her anxiety. All of these principles apply to any dog of any age, but if you are fortunate enough to get a brand new puppy with a blank canvas, these are the principles that you can instantly begin applying right now–and the results will last you a lifetime. This is why, if you are at all unsure of how to get this process started, contact a professional who can kick start you in the right direction of properly socializing your new friend. This will make any future training you decide to do with your pup that much better and more enjoyable!

Finding True Potential

May 13, 2016

Don’t get me wrong–I love all dogs and their individual personalities. Each dog I cross paths with teaches me something, just as much as I teach them. My work is indeed very rewarding.

But, I must confess–I do have a particular favorite kind of dog that I thoroughly enjoy working with. This kind of dog is most often the type of dog that many people overlook when visiting a shelter, or picking a puppy from a litter. The personality type that I am referring to is: the dog with no self-esteem! The dog that is totally unaware of their true potential because they are stuck in fear. And it is that very reason that makes these guys so rewarding to work with. The moment you show them how much they can experience in life by helping them conquer their fears, the sky’s the limit! And they are forever grateful to you–the connection is palpable–it’s a bond that you took the time to create, and afterwards can never be broken.

It takes time to grow self-esteem in a dog. It’s a step by step process where even the smallest of victories have to be acknowledged and praised. You have to be patient and you cannot push for fast results.

The hardest part for many owners who own a low-self esteem dog, is challenging them through their fear. Sometimes we think that by a dog remaining hidden when company comes over, or running to hide the moment a loud noise happens, that this is better than a dog who barks loudly or goes into immediate defense mode. Both reactions are extremes that need to be corrected or redirected. When a dog runs away, it’s not a corrective moment–it’s a moment where we need to show them an alternative way to cope. It’s a moment for us to step up as firm leaders and help them through the insecurity.

If a dog likes to hide when company comes over, then an alternative can be for them to lie in their bed in an open part of the living room. We are giving them their space, but on our terms not theirs. From here, the dog can begin to view this experience from a better perspective–from a follower role, and not a leadership role. By being given a directive to follow, it gives them something else to focus on–this is what helps the fear to begin to melt away. We might meet some resistance to this new way of thinking. But it’s the resistance that we need to have the perseverance to follow through with. In this moment of changing the way a dog thinks, we have to hold off any urge to want to potentially administer affection. It can be hard! Seeing our dog struggle through something makes all kinds of emotions erupt within us. But, it’s the journey through the struggle that we are helping them see past, that is paving the way to a happier, calmer dog. Showing a dog that they can do this one simple thing opens the door for endless possibilities! You have just shown them their true potential!

My favorite dog–the one who believes life is all about ears back, tucked tail, and that life is an endless loop of fear and turmoil. Why? Because it’s the exact opposite! And when a dog works with you and trusts you to help them figure this out, the joy in their face and the love they give you is something that cannot be replicated.

Can I Pet Your Dog?

May 2, 2016

A very important question–but one that is so rarely asked. You’re out walking your dog, and BAM–a person bypasses you and makes a beeline for your dog. They oohhh and ahh and just want to pet them all over! They have full on conversations with your dog, but barely even pay you, the owner, an iota’s worth of attention. What do you do? How do you handle this invasion of space? Even better question, how are you advocating for your dog when this type of interaction occurs?

It is very important to keep in mind, that dog’s value their space. Creating space is important in developing boundaries and establishing order. When a dog’s space is suddenly invaded, this can create an unstable response. From manic jumping, to growling and backing up, to lunging and barking! Does this mean that your dog can never be pet while on leash? Not necessarily. But, it does mean that some protocols need to be established so that your dog is able to handle being approached on leash. If we do nothing in helping to recondition how they view this type of situation, then this behavior will become a conditioned response. From a dog’s point of view, if no direction is established, then they will establish how a situation should be dealt with. This means that we need to learn to speak up for our dog!

How do you speak up for your dog? It’s so simple, and yet can be viewed as so complicated. If an individual takes you by surprise and goes straight for the pet without acknowledging your existence, take a step forward, put your hand out, and say No. Now, some people may give you a dirty look. Some people may give you a nasty retort. And yet, there are some that will stop and ask why? These are the people you can have a learning/teaching experience with. And your dog will see you as a leader who stepped forward and established direction!

If your dog is prone to excitement when being approached by people, you want to make sure that your dog knows a solid sit command. When given the OK, instruct individuals to have the dog sniff their hand first, and then instruct them to scratch under the chin, not on top of the head. Not only does this petting maneuver assist the dog in maintaining their sit, but it is a much less invasive/dramatic way to pet and therefore helps to keep energy levels low. If your dog begins to get excited and breaks their sit, kindly ask the individual to stop petting while you instruct your pup back in their sit. Then the affection can resume. I would not suggest allowing a petting session to take place right at the beginning of a walk as your pup’s energy level is naturally higher at the start of an adventure. Time these interactions for when your dog will better be able to physically handle an intimate interaction. Practice with friends and family members first, as this will help you develop the confidence in being able to properly handle these interaction with strangers!

If your dog is on the shyer side, you will really want to spend time on confidence boosting techniques in order to help them create positive relationships with people and strangers. A shy dog is more prone to exhibiting semi-intense/intense distance increasing signals (ie: barking, growling, lunging) when their space is suddenly invaded by very high energy. To help them not feel the need to reach that point, we really need to set the stage for them to be able to experience positive interactions. The same rules apply as when working with an excitable dog, with the main difference being that no petting may occur on leash–and that’s OK! The goal is to establish leadership on leash where your dog in seated comfortably by your side. Then, instruct the individual to allow the dog to sniff their hand. If the dog does not want to sniff, then you move on. Interaction is over. The dog is telling you that they have handled as much as they can in that moment. If they do show interest with a sniff, then while remaining seated, instruct the person to give a piece of food to the dog. If the dog accepts this peace offering, great! But do not push him further into then being made to potentially accepting physical affection. Small, baby steps is the key in building relationships and boosting confidence–but it is time well spent.

Never allow someone, unless that someone is a true professional, to dictate how either of these interactions should go. You are your dog’s leader and advocate. Telling someone No, they cannot pet your dog does not make you a mean, heartless person. If someone wants to assume that, well then that’s on them! You know you are doing the right thing in that moment in not allowing an interaction to take place. And it does not mean that you are saying your dog is aggressive, and if in that moment they are prone to aggressive responses, then all the more reason to be practicing boundary exercises as that will only help in alleviating the behavioral issue!

So, whether or not someone asks if they can pet your dog–you have the final say. Give direction. Your dog needs it and thrives off of it. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters and counts the most?!

You Get What You Pet!

April 6, 2016

I have been finding myself saying this a lot lately–you get what you pet. So, I thought I would take a moment to elaborate on this straight to the point, creative little saying (if I do say so myself!) with a few scenario’s.

Scenario 1:

You and your dog are going for a walk. You are aware that your dog is fearful of other dogs on leash as well as bikes and skateboards. The trifecta hits you: a dog, a bike, and a skateboard all coming in your direction at once. You and your dog stop walking. Your dog is clearly tense(or maybe you don’t realize he’s tense). You automatically start petting your dog (or picking them up) repeating over and over in soft, calm tones that it’s OK. As the trigger’s get closer, with the petting still in progress and the leash held tight in your hand, your dog snarls and lunges. End scene.

Scenario 2:

Your dog is fearful of people in the home. If they are small, you may already have them in your arms when answering the door to let a guest in. Your guest enters the home, and your dog is hovering around you. You sit on the couch, and your dog either sits on your lap automatically or, sits/lies on your feet. As you and your guest chat, you are petting your dog (consciously or subconsciously).  Your guest comes over to sit next to you–your dog snarls and/or bites your guest. End scene.

Scenario 3:

Your dog listens to commands beautifully. They walk better on leash than any other dog in your neighborhood. They wait until they are given the OK to eat their meal.They can be left alone for hours at a time without a fuss. Your toddler aged nephew comes over for the day. His high energy and general lack of impulse control are making your dog nervous. Your dog makes the decision to lie in their bed and ‘wait out the storm’. The toddler follows unrelenting. Your dog is trying really hard to hold it together, and you think nothing of the situation because ‘he’s just so good.’  With your dog still frozen in its bed, you decide to go over and show your nephew how to pet the dog. You get on the floor with him and take his hand to the top of the dog’s retreating head with ears pinned back and eyes wide as saucers, and BOOM! — the dog bites you both. End scene.

In all of these real life scenario’s–literally,these are all based on real life situations I’ve worked in the past–the common denominator is giving physical affection at an inappropriate time. Each of these scenario’s require a slightly different protocol approach in order to help the dog get through the situation successfully. However, none of them include petting as part of the protocol initially. I cannot stress enough how important it is to learn to read a dog’s body language. They will always be honest on how they are feeling in any given moment–including when they are feeling nervous and/or threatened. Since petting is an exercise meaning affection that one gives as part of a reward for doing well, to pet a dog that is in a negative state of mind creates a sense of mixed messages. Basically, you are praising them when they are feeling like shit–instead of directing them through the problem successfully–and then petting and praising them for succeeding! Each negative outcome of these scenario’s was the direct result of improper direction, and inappropriately timed physical affection OR attempting to give physical affection when the dog is clearly indicating that they do not want to be bothered.

So, you get what you pet! Learn how to combine physical affection and praise in the right moments, and you will have a dog that is confident and trusts your leadership. Continue down the road of giving your dog physical affection during moments of anxiety and insecurity, and they will continue to exhibit a plethora of issues. You don’t know what’s going on with your dog or what you may be doing wrong?–get help from a professional that can get you back on track in communicating with your dog successfully!

Pregnant and Dog Training

March 20, 2016

Many times, I have been called to a client’s home to help alleviate issues stemming from the stress that had arisen because–a baby was on the way OR had already arrived! As human’s, we mean well, but we tend to be under the grave misconception that the stress we feel does not translate to our dog. And having a baby is one of the most wonderfully stressful times that we will experience in our lives. Whether we are prepping for their arrival or, they are already here–let’s face it–we are in a constant state of stress at one level or another. Yes, as time progresses and we get into a routine, the bulk of this stress tends to subside. But while we were in the process of ‘figuring it all out’, were we giving attention where attention was due to that other member of our family? You know, the one with four legs and the facial expressions that are to die for? Did we atany point consider including them in the preparation process? Or, are we now just in a constant state of stress AND feeling guilty on top of it because now we suddenly don’t know what to do with this four legged love of our life who is now ‘suddenly’ acting out?

Stress and guilt– your dog senses these two emotions more than you may realize. The lack of balance that these two emotions bring to the table almost always results in issues. Your dog thrives on balance and leadership. So the best way to help our dogs transition into change–aka the arrival of Junior–is to be as proactive with them as we are with ourselves throughout the preparation process. What does this mean? Take this time to evaluate areas in your dogs behavior that may benefit from a little improvement. By building on your dog’s obedience and structure, you are not only improving your relationship with him, but you are creating a calmer dog who’s listening skills will be solid and up to par when that huge lovable distraction becomes an ever present reality. When your dog knows what to do, and is included in the process with you in a balanced way, they transition into change better. This means, you will be less likely to experience any sort of major issues–which makes bringing a baby into your home that much more of an enjoyable experience.

Why do I bring this up now? Because I am four months away from bringing a baby home myself! I am in the process of acknowledging what areas in my dog’s life could use some improvement. Yes–dog trainers dogs are not perfect! As I brush up on certain skills with my dog, I am reminded that this work is what will help me maintain a state of calm and balance when the baby comes and my attention will be elsewhere. I know that my dog will be better off too, which I know will help alleviate any guilt or stress factors.

Pregnancy brings a host ofemotions and actions with it. We don’t look the way we want. Our clothes don’t fit. We are happy and sad at the same time. We don’t move as fast as we used to. We think a million thoughts at once, and forget them just as quickly. We put the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the pantry. We leave our keys in the door. The formation of basic sentences becomes an arduous task on a day to day basis. The struggle is real! These are things that we just can’t control. But, what we do have control over is that cutie patootie who stands by us through all the craziness. Who does not judge us, but loves us just as much as they ever did.  And, who feels our stress just as much as we do. So, let’s help each other. Let’s work on our stress by achieving some balance–and when the next chapter in our lives happens–we will be ready for whatever comes!

‘Tis the season!

December 1, 2015

The holiday season is upon us! Are you prepared? I’m not referring to the shopping that needs to get done or the presents that are yet to be bought. I’m referring to the gameplan that you should have prepared for your pup! Whether you will be traveling with your four legged friend or having guests over for a fun filled party, you should prepare your dog for this event just as you prepare yourself. Here are some helpful tips to help you and your pup fully enjoy this wonderful season:

-If you plan on traveling with your pup, be sure that you follow the proper guidelines for the mode of travel that you choose. Planes and most trains require a dog to be in a carrier during transport. If your dog has not been exposed to their carrier yet, practice loading and unloading them into the carrier prior to the trip using tasty treats, and putting something comforting in the carrier like an old t-shirt with your scent! 

  • If your dog is too big for a carrier or if you plan on driving to your destination, make sure your pup is comfortable and feels safe in the car prior to the journey. Car sickness can happen if the dog is not used to being driven. Practice driving short distances to boost your dogs confidence. Whether they are secured by a safety harness or a backseat dog hammock, a great way to keep them still and focused is to have them perform a downstay in the back seat. 

-A great exercise to practice whether you find yourself traveling this holiday season or having guests over to your home, is Place. From hyper to nervous, this exercise gives them the focus necessary to prevent them from feeling the need to act out with nuisance anxious behavior, which could lead to an unfortunate outcome. If you are not familiar with this exercise, I encourage you to learn and start practicing it now so that you are prepared for when the distractions come!

-If your dog is crate trained and finds comfort within the confines of the crate, I encourage you to incorporate it within your holiday celebrations. The hustle and bustle can be stressful for a dog, and being able to decompress in their crate while the festivities continue to go on around them will do wonders in preserving a healthy state of mind.

-As always, advocate advocate advocate! If your dog is going to be exposed to a toddler or young kid, do not let the child think he can pet the dog or be all over him whenever he wants to. And do not leave it up to your dog to let you know when enough is enough. Advocate for your dogs space and state of mind by using helpful protocols such as Placing and crating exercises.

-Help your dog to understand that an open door does not mean a spontaneous adventure! This can be acheived  by practicing a simple sit stay at the threshold of your door, and really any door at every walk, and allowing the dog to enter or exit only on your say so. A simple exercise that can literally save a life! 

I hope you and your pup have a happy and healthy Christmas and Holiday season! ‘Tis the season to be thankful for the four legged friends in our lives!

Allergies

October 14, 2015

We all experience them. Some are seasonal. Some are year round. Some are animal specific. The “invisible” irritant that makes our eyes water, our nose runny, our skin itchy, and our lives in that moment, utterly unbearable.

Our dogs experience allergies as well. Sometimes a behavior that we deem as cute or quirky could indeed be indicative of your dog actually feeling uncomfortable due to an allergen that has been introduced to his environment. So pay attention. Is your dog all of a sudden eating their paw? Are they itching their arm pits uncontrollably? Do they suddenly find pure joy in dragging their tummies, frog leg style, across the carpet? Are their eyes watering? Is their skin unusually pink?

There are a few things to take into consideration before a direct diagnosis can be made. Did you just change their food? Did you recently move to a different area (It doesn’t have to be a far move…allergens can vary in a relatively small radius)? Are you using a new cleaning product? Did you start using a different flea/tick medication? These are just a few examples of a wide array of probable causes to behavior indicative of an allergic reaction.

From personal experience, the course of action you take depends on the severity of the reaction. If your dog is having breathing or mobility issues, or if their is swelling involved, get help immediately. Do not google, do not youtube, do not poll the audience to see if this has happened to their pet. Go straight to your vet or the nearest animal hospital.

If your dog is experiencing any of the less severe reactions previously mentioned, you can take the course of action that I did with my dog Bo Diddly: a few months after I adopted Bo Diddly who came to me from Louisiana, I noticed that he began to itch more than usual and bite his paw pad. I could snap him out of his itching a nibbling fits, but the behavior concerned me. I knew that the demographic change could have something to do with it. He was otherwise in good health..eating and drinking normally and peeing and pooping on schedule. So after a brief call to my vet, I began to administer 1 Benadryl a day. This seemed to help alleviate the discomfort. I also bathe him once a month with Burt’s Bees Oatmeal Shampoo for dogs. However, after moving from the city to the suburbs where we are surrounded by grass and trees, I noticed that his skin began to get irritated again. I also noticed that the brand of flee/tick medication I was giving him seemed to irritate him even more. He began to itch himself raw in certain places and that’s when I knew that I needed to have another discussion with my vet. The Benadryl and once a month baths were not cutting it anymore and he appeared to be very uncomfortable. The skin on the underside of his belly was very pink and discolored from excessive biting. Now, I will note that Bo is also a nervous guy. Nervous dogs do tend to bite their paws similar to how humans bite their nails. But the degree in which he was biting and scratching let me know that this was something more than behavioral. My vet prescribed him a different form of monthly heartworm and flee/tick medication: he was given a 6mo heartworm preventative injection, and a montly flee/tick preventative chew treat: nothing topical due to the sensitivity of his skin. I was also given a new trial allergy medicine, instead of the Benadryl, to test out to see if this is what will give him 100% relief.

So, do you see what I did here? I took everything into consideration. I monitored my dogs behavior in order to determine the best course of action I should take. Not only does this help me be a better dog mom, but I know it’s helpful information for the vet when I can go there and confidently say I have done this, this, and this. Now they can give me the best advice possible in regards to the best course of action we can take to help resolve the issue. Dog’s cannot verbally tell us when something is not right. That’s why I advocate that all dogs be on a schedule so that, when they are not going to the bathroom at their usual time or eating at their usual time, it tells you that something might be wrong. That way you are not taken by surprise with a god awful diagnosis that could have been prevented if we just paid closer attention! I’m not saying be a helicopter dog parent. I’m saying, give your dog the same consideration you would give yourself if you started to itch uncontrollably one day out of no where. It may look cute when your dog constantly trench crawls across the carpet or gnaws on their foot for hours on end. But it’s not. He is telling you something. Something doesn’t feel right. A simple allergy could snowball into a horrible bacterial infection. But, if you stop it before it really has a chance to start, well, your dog will love you even more!

Who owns whom?

July 13, 2015

I am constantly fascinated by the lengths people will go to to ensure that their dogs needs are met before their own. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about ensuring that the quality of life of my dogs are met. I make sure that I respect their bathroom and feeding schedules, their need for outdoor time, and their need for attention and affection. However, this does not mean that I stop EVERYTHING the moment my dog whines or gives the ‘look’ or drops a ball at my feet. I have needs too. Humans and dogs are meant to coexist together peacefully. Which means both sets of needs are to be met equally.

I know this may sound harsh, but hear me out. The other day I was at the beach. Dogs are allowed at this beach, but they must be leashed at all times. A couple came down to the beach with their child and their Dachsund. The Dachsund was clearly more attached to one parent as opposed to the other and every time that parent went down to the water to play with her daughter, the dog whined and barked. The other parent did nothing to alleviate this behavioral problem (a story for another day), and the end result was the parents having to switch rolls. One was tied to her beach chair with the dog, and the other parent was on parent duty with the actual child. The parent further enabled the behavioral problem by wrapping the dog up in a blanket and cradling the dog in her arms. Meanwhile, the actual child in this story is without the joy of hanging with both of her parents on a glorious beach day, because the dog could not simply coexist quietly with his other parent.

I took a moment to acknowledge the fact that not only do I have a dog that I can travel anywhere with, but who has been given the opportunity to enjoy and trust the company of anyone who is watching him. This is what makes owning him a joy and a pleasure. These owners have never given this dog the opportunity to learn how to be OK on his own. The end result is a poor, confused soul, who annoys the crap out of anyone around him! But it’s not his fault. I am sure his owner’s mean well, and it is not the first time I have seen people use a dog to mask their own insecurities. But it is something to keep in mind every time you heed to the ‘needs’ of your dog before your own. Think of what you may be creating. A dog will happily learn how to calmly lay on their bed while you go about doing your household chores, they just need to be taught that they can do this. If you do not take the time to teach your dog this basic skill, and you become blind to the fact that they follow you around everywhere, or ‘that face is just too cute that you just have to throw that toy for them every time they drop it at your feet’, then you are creating the essence of that Dachsund on the beach: a dog that owns you. And trust me, it’s not a job that they want.

He may hear you, but is he really listening?

May 15, 2015

Look. Touch. Name calling. There are many ways to redirect your dogs attention from stimuli back to you. But are you just distracting them? Or are they really learning to work through that moment and just focus on you? When you talk to your dog, are you using ‘words’ that they understand?

Oftentimes I’ll come across a client who has done all of the above, and then some, to try and correct and redirect their dogs behavior in a tight situation. And most of the time, the success is not long lasting. Why? Because in that moment, the dog did not truly understand what you meant behind the Leave it, or the No, or the Hey. Humans are verbal creatures who are prone to having conversations to try and work out an issue. Dogs are not conversationalists….in that way. The beauty behind a dog is that you don’t have to say much! They thrive off of great energy and a calm but firm touch. Dogs converse with each other all the time through their energy and touch. Things only get vocal when something is really spinning out of control. The power behind a leash means that, used appropriately, you too can communicate in a similar fashion with your dog. Instead of negotiating the terms of the situation, show them what you mean. Have them feel what you mean when you say No or Let’s Go. Because this is a lingo that makes sense to them, they will not be confused! Instead they will be so happy that you both are finally on the same page  that they will repeat that same behavior over and over again. And won’t that be great!

So do me a favor, for the rest of the day don’t talk to your dog. Instead, just exist with them. Use your energy and your presence to convey your message. It’s some of the best therapy out there, all for the price of a nice belly rub at the end of the day:)

Moving Mayhem

February 17, 2015

My husband and I are in the process of moving from our apartment in Queens, to the suburbs of Westchester County. As we pack up box after box of personal items, I am reminded of all the times I have been called to help clients who’s dog was exhibiting behavioral problems since they had moved from one home to another. In the hustle and bustle of a move, we sometimes forget that our dogs feel the stress too. We may think that they won’t know the difference between living in an apartment to having the space of a house and yard to explore and enjoy. But on the contrary, dogs are very sensitive to change. And out of respect to them, it is our job to prep our pup for this change as best as we can in order to make the transition as smooth as possible.

As you prepare for your departure from location A to location B, make sure your dog is kept in a calm and focused state of mind. Have him join you in the packing adventures by putting him in Place wherever you are and have him observe the goings on calmly. This will not only prevent him from getting under foot, but lots of commotion in ones home can create a level of stress that was never originally present. By giving your dog a job to do, you are preventing his stress level from escalating and thus he has an opportunity to experience this move from a healthier perspective. You are creating the energy you are going to want when you finally bring him to his new home.

First impressions are everything. When it is time to move in, don’t immediately take your dog from the car to the new home. Walk him first. Expose him to his new environment by taking him on a structured walk through the new neighborhood. After he has had the opportunity to explore and get some energy out, then it is time to introduce him to his new digs. As with any threshold, he is not allowed to go in anywhere first. The threshold of your new home is no exception. Invite him in, and then on leash, take him through the new home, allowing him to explore each new room. And then, when this exercise is complete, bring in his bed or crate, and have him safely positioned inside the crate or in Place as you begin the grueling task of unpacking. What you have just said to your dog is, welcome to your new home. Now come in and relax. By going about this process step by step, you are taking a proactive step in helping your dog make a healthy transition into a new home thereby avoiding a lot of the nonsense issues that tend to arise when a dog is not given this opportunity. By advocating for your dog’s state of mind, you are avoiding behavioral problems.

I know Bo Diddly will thoroughly enjoy living in a quieter neighborhood with the freedom of a backyard to have fun in and explore. But, I know he will enjoy it even more if I prep him properly for this new experience!

Act like a dog.

February 2, 2015

Oftentimes I will tell clients that when they improve their energy towards their dog, they are also improving themselves in the process. With great training, it all comes down to great energy: patient, calm, focused, determined energy. If you allow yourself to become a part of the training experience, you begin to find that you yourself have become a calmer person. What may have caused you to lose it in the past, you now see from a different perspective. And as a result, you are handling whatever life throws at you with a better state of mind.

I had one such experience yesterday. With my flight canceled and my bag held captive with the other checked-in luggage, I began to panic. And then worse, according to the airline, I would not have been able to get a flight out of Charlotte until Wednesday. With no bag, no immediate way home, and traveling alone, I was beginning to lose it. But, I realized that I wasn’t going to do myself any good by panicking, so I told myself to calm down. I then realized that there was a fellow New Yorker in the customer service line with me who was talking out loud and saying how she was just going to drive home! So, I used my gut and best judgment skills and introduced myself. I told her that I was in the same predicament and that if she wanted to rent a car, I would split the cost with her. It was in Charlotte that our adventure began.

Our travels took us first on a flight to Rochester, NY. Still bag-less, I had resolved to fill out a baggage claim form so I could just get home. Once in Rochester, a car was rented and off we went. For 9hrs, we drove in horrible conditions. The snow was blowing left and right, the roads were not plowed, and therefore you didn’t know if you were in the left, middle, or right lane. All the while I’m thinking, here I am in a car with a perfect stranger. We are different ages, ethnicities, and we come from different backgrounds. The only thing we have in common is our will to get home. At one point I took the wheel. I rarely drive on the interstate and never in a blizzard. As I was driving, I began to realize just how tense I was. And that tension was affecting my driving. So I told myself to relax. As I began to relax, the driving became a bit easier. This is a similar tip that I give my clients. If you are tense, your dog will feel the tension, and you will get no where. When you are calm, you see much better results. We left Rochester at 9pm…we reached Manhattan at 7am….in one piece.

Now, did this by chance encounter turn into a lifelong friendship? Absolutely not. It was an encounter based on instinct and necessity. We parted ways, after which I realized that this person had some wackadoo behavior under her belt that she thankfully kept hidden until after I was cooped up in a car with her. Given the situation, I could have responded in several ways, but I opted to ‘act like a dog.’ Dogs have the uncanny ability to forgive and forget. As I was in the process of writing this entry, I came across a post on Facebook written by Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue: “Resilience, forgiveness, and acceptance–all virtues our dogs have learned to exercise far better than we.” We should all learn to act more like a dog!

 

The Great American Dog

January 29, 2015

I often attribute why I became a dog trainer to the first dog I ever owned. I was 15yrs old when our family piled in the mini-van and headed down to a breeder, Gleneden Labradoodles, in Virginia to pick up our very own Labradoodle puppy. Yes, my very first dog was from a breeder. Why? We discovered that the Labradoodle breed is hypoallergenic with a wonderful temperament. It was the first breed my mother met where she did not immediately have an asthma attack. And this breeder is professional with a wonderfully maintained facility. Every dog needs a home. And this was the first time my family had found a dog that we could actually take home!

His name was Seamus. He was handsome, intelligent, with one of the nicest temperaments I have ever come across. We collectively trained him as a family, with guidance from The Monks of New Skete books and VHS series on dog training. We invested in this dog as a family, we trained him as a family, we loved him as a family, and as a result, he became a part of the family.

Seamus was not an incredibly cuddly dog, but he loved to be where you were. However, he had a knack for making people like him that otherwise would have preferred to ignore him. An example that comes to mind is when I brought my best friend home from college for the first time. She is originally from Zimbabwe, and from a cultural standpoint she was not crazy about the fact that we kept our dog in doors. However, she was a good sport and resolved to just ignore the dog the entire time. This did not last long. Because my friend’s energy was one of calm indifference, Seamus wanted nothing more than to get to know her BETTER. He was immediately drawn to her energy and wherever she went, he followed. When she still wouldn’t acknowledge him, he went to his go-to Seamus behavior which was ‘put something in my mouth that I shouldn’t have and walk around with it until someone notices.’ What did he choose? My friend’s slippers! Seamus got his response! My friend went over to him, shaking her finger, saying no, but couldn’t help but smile at this goof who just wanted her to say hi to him. By the end of the visit, Seamus was cuddling with my friend on the couch…something he rarely did with any of us. Seamus had a new friend, and I was fascinated. That visit made me realize with 100% certainty on what I wanted to do with my life: work with dogs.

We raised Seamus with love and a level of expectations. None of us knew anything about dogs. He was our guinea pig when it came to training, but we all knew that if we taught him the behavior we wanted from him, and showed him how to do it, and then expected that follow through every time, that he would comply. And he did. As a result, he was a happy dog that we could take anywhere. Some of my favorite memories are riding the train with him into Manhattan. People were amazed that such a big dog rode the train so nicely. The looks we got strolling through Grand Central Terminal and walking the streets of New York were awesome. And when people asked me how he did it, the easiest way for me to explain myself at the time was, this is what I expect from him and he’s happy because I’m happy!

We spent 8 1/2yrs loving and learning from this beautiful dog. His ability to retain vast amounts of information and befriend anyone he met never ceased to amaze us. He even befriended the mailman and almost every afternoon would take his ball to the fence, push it underneath, and wait for the mailman to throw it for him. Yes we built a good foundation for him, but the personality that developed from it was all his own. He was the first dog to show me that they can be our teachers as much as we are theirs. We just both have to take the time and patience to learn from one another.

Liver cancer took our boy away from us quickly and unexpectedly. On his last morning with us, I took him out to his yard where we could sit and be peaceful together. It was a mild January morning, and you could tell he was grateful to be laying on the cool grass and taking in the breeze. As I watched him from a distance,  I quietly thanked him for being the truest friend a girl could ask for. At that moment, he turned and looked at me. It was a deep, soulfullook that only a well loved dog can give you. One who was as grateful for you as you were for them. It was his way of telling me that it was OK…that it would all be OK. Seamus has physically left this world, but the pawprint he left on my heart will always be there. The ones we love never really leave us, and Seamus is no exception. The lessons he taught me have made me a better person, a better dog owner, and a better dog trainer. He truly was, in our opinion, The Great American Dog

There is no such thing as a “bad dog.”

January 27, 2015

BAD DOG! We’ve all said it at some point in our lives, whether it was towards our own dog or someone else’s. They ate your shoe, drank out of the toilet, jumped on a guest, ate out of the garbage can, chased down the mailman, opened the fridge and gobbled up the chocolate cake; or in more serious instances, have bitten our hand during a grooming exercise, guarded a toy, growled at a child…….the list is endless. But who’s fault is it really that our dog committed these infractions? Is it there’s? Or, is it ours?

This is a moment for true self-reflection. If your dog is exhibiting behavior that is unwanted, what are you doing to correct the behavior? Dog’s are honest, transparent creatures. They mirror us in every way. So if they are lacking in rules, boundaries, and limits, then what you see as a result is complete and total honesty on their part. If you have never taught your dog how to be alone, and when you are around they follow you everywhere, then of course when you leave, problems are going to occur! From opening up the fridge, to literally jumping out windows, I’ve seen it all. If your dog is shy with low self esteem, and you never took the time to teach people how to approach him or pet him, you wonder why his go to response at the end of the day is to bite anyone that comes near him. Or, if your dog has absconded away with your favorite shoe and you catch him in the act of demolishing such a tasty leather treat, is your go to response to scream NO! and then laugh and pet him a few minutes later? What message are YOU sending your dog? How are you advocating for him during moments that stress him out? Do you know the appropriate steps to take to ensure that your dog stays in a calm and focused state of mind?

Be the change you wish to see in your dog. Dogs live in the moment, and if we show them a different, better way to handle a situation, then they will gladly follow. They will follow because they enjoy when you play a leadership roll. Now, they don’t have to make poor life choices, because you are there guiding them every step of the way. Take time to really learn about your dog. They may need to be crated when you are gone. If so, take the time to teach them how to become conditioned to a crate. They may need time and space to get used to new situations and people. If so, take the time to learn how to help them cope and to counter-condition the negative actions into positive ones. They may require more exercise than you are giving them. If so, master the structured walk and if you are able, invest in a treadmill! Bottom line, do not be afraid to work on YOU! We all make mistakes. Mistakes are there for us to learn from them. Your dog can be your greatest teacher. Just take the time to listen to what they are telling you:)

Recommended Read: Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

Blizzard Bedlam

January 26, 2015

We all know how difficult it can be to walk a dog in the snow in New York City. And depending on the size of your dog, it may be a near impossible feat! It’s not just the blustery weather conditions we have to consider before stepping out the door. We have to make sure that our pup will physically be able to stand the cold and blowing snow. Do they need booties? Do they need a jacket? So many things to consider before your walk together can even begin!

If you are unsure whether or not your dog needs a jacket to protect them against the weather, do some research. Dogs like Labrador retrievers and Siberian Huskies, for example, typically do not need jackets for warmth. Their coats were built to handle very cold conditions. One of my go-to research books is Canine Lexicon by Andrew De Prisco. Even if you have a mixed breed dog, this book breaks down each individual breed and their characteristics so well, that it can help you build the best profile for your individual dog or mutt-a-gree!  A dog’s individual body temperature runs between 99-103 degrees F. At the end of the day, what does your dog tell you? If a 10min walk out in the snow is leaving them shivering and stiff, then a light sweater may not be a bad idea:)

In regard to paw protection, I like to use ‘Musher’s Secret Paw Wax (http://musherssecret.net/’). You rub the wax on the paw pad right before the walk. The wax protects your pups paw pad from cracking and prevents salt from causing stinging irritation. When you come back home, just wipe the paws clean with warm water or a baby wipe! If you would like to go the bootie route, clients of mine have had great success with ‘Pawz natural rubber water-proof Dog Boot'(http://pawzdogboots.com/). Paw protection in severe weather conditions is a must, so make sure you use a tool that you are comfortable with. Take your time introducing your dog to the tool. Have them smell the booties or wax and at the same time, massage their feet gently with your hand. Associating positive touch with a new tool does wonders in creating a good relationship with the tool. If your dog does not like you touching their feet, then this is good practice to get you on your way to better handling with your pup.

Now go out and enjoy the snow!!

Commuter Chaos

January 26, 2015

I live in New York City and frequently ride the subway with my dog Bo Diddly. At 33lbs., he just comfortably fits into his awesome canvas dog bag made by the company Love Thy Beast. Traveling with a dog can be a hectic experience, especially if you never took the steps to introduce your dog to the idea in the first place. Bo not only comes from the rural south, but he is a dog with low self-esteem. It’s taken a lot of time and energy to build up his level of confidence so that he can calmly handle whatever challenge may lay ahead. That and up until a couple years ago, he most likely had never experienced traveling in a dog bag let alone riding on crowded subways! Be that as it may, he has proven himself to be an awesome traveling companion!

 

Today was a true testament to that fact. We waited on an unbelievably crowded subway platform, in the cold, for 25min for a train that just didn’t seem to be coming. Bo didn’t care, as he enjoys people watching from the comfort of his bag. When he is in this position, I do not let people pet him as I want to keep him in that calm, working zone. With a quick change of plans, I hailed a taxi. As we drove towards Grand Central station, the driver couldn’t help but notice how relaxed my dog was. I thanked him for the complement, paid my fare, and off to the train we went! I decided to stop for a quick cup of coffee at Starbucks. Taking that calm energy with us, we waited in line to be served. We had people bump into us and Bo almost got stepped on, but he maintained his composure and helped me to do the same! We then walked through the crowd towards our track only to find out last minute that there was a track change! So, Bo and I hurried along to our respected track, not missing a beat, and made our train just in the nick of time. Through all the chaos and last minute changes, my dog stayed by my side and followed my every lead. This is the beauty of a well trained dog. The connection made through great communication is so strong, that this four legged companion truly does become your best friend.

Is my dog bored?

January 26, 2015

Many times when I go visit a client in their home, I immediately notice the massive amount of toys strewn all over the house. After the client and I get to talking, I ask them about the over the top toy situation. Nine times out of ten, the response is something akin to ‘I just don’t want my dog to get bored!’

Lavishing our pups with plushy goodness is not a bad thing. However, there should be an objective behind giving a toy. Allowing a dog to have all its toys at their disposal is directly connected to pushy, oftentimes possessive behavior. In addition, it does not give the right tone that your home should have. The overall tone of your home should be one of peace and structure. If you want to initiate toy playtime with your dog, that’s fine. Have them earn that toy. Make sure that they release it every time you command an out. And then when play time is over, the toy goes away. By allowing our dogs to be inundated in a 24/7 world of squeaky chaos, how does that make us look? It is our job to create the proper environment for our pups. By keeping an orderly home where there is a time and place for everything, you are helping your dog remain in a calm and focused state of mind. Concerned about boredom? Then make sure every part of your day involves an inclusion exercise based on structure. Whether its a structured walk, a Place exercise, or a down stay on the porch while you go and get the paper in the morning, by inviting your dog to participate properly in every possible part of your day, they will never be bored. In fact, they will love you even more because you are projecting yourself as a good and trustworthy leader and companion.