Teaching your dog to politely greet guests at the door

Comings and goings are exciting times for dogs. When a dog barks and runs up to the door, barges up to or jumps on our guests, smelling them and asking to be pet we usually say ‘oh, that’s just what dogs do!” In a sense that is true. I call that the standard package. Unless we teach our dog otherwise, that is how they are inclined to behave in such a moment. This behavior is so ubiquitous people are used to it, even thinking the dog is excited to see them personally and taking it as a compliment. However, guests with children, with injuries, who are scared of dogs, or are just not dog people will not look forward to coming to your home. 

Cassie waiting patiently for me to open the door from out of the entry way

Cassie waiting patiently for me to open the door from out of the entry way

By guiding our dog, showing them what we want from them in those exciting moment and ensuring that becomes the norm through repetition and correction, it’s possible for our dogs to be excited, but still be polite. This moment also provides a perfect opportunity to practice two important concepts ‘impulse inhibition’ and ‘down regulation.’ This means that my dog will be asked to exercise the muscle of self control to help himself resist engaging in undesirable behaviors as well as being asked to go from a very excited state to a calm one. 


Usually, when the doorbell rings, we are in a rush to get to the door and don’t think about using this moment as a training opportunity. While you work on your dog’s door manners, I recommend asking friends to call you when they park and putting a sign on your door that says, “please give us a moment to answer, we are training our dog.” The more consistent you are, the less time it will take to establish a new norm for greetings.

When I hear the doorbell, I call out “one moment” and put my attention on my dog. When you start out teaching good door manners, you will need to put your dog on leash. Holding your dog’s collar means holding your dog back and preventing the behavior in that moment, but doesn’t deter it in the future or show your dog what you do want. Fussing at your dog when you haven’t explained what you are looking for isn’t a fair training approach. Read over these notes so you will have a plan in place before someone comes over.


Here is your step by step guide:

-Verbally or with touches on the leash, let your dog know they are not to bark at the sound of a knock or the doorbell

-Approach the door slowly, ideally in a heel with a loose leash, keeping yourself between your dog and the door

-If your dog is pulling, turn and walk away from the door until he comes willing further back into the house, then try again

-Let your dog know to stop a few feet back from the door with a verbal cue like ‘stay’ or ‘wait’ and a little pulse on the leash

-If you don’t make it clear to your dog that you want him to stop, it is natural that he will keep following you all the way up to the door, so this is an important communication to give

-With your dog locked in place, take a step forward, putting yourself between your dog and the door

-With your wingspan fully spread, one arm open back towards your dog and the other arm open to the door knob, pulse on the leash and say ‘wait’ again since you know that hands on door knobs are exciting

-Slowly open the door, closing it again if your dog barges forward or walking backwards into the house and asking your guest to let themselves in

-It is likely your dog will be very excited, which is why we have the leash on! 

-If you stand far enough away, it is impossible for your dog to jump on your guest and if he barks or pulls, you can correct him using your voice and touches on the leash

If I wanted to open the door, I would ask these sweet pups to back up so I could address my company and keep them calm

If I wanted to open the door, I would ask these sweet pups to back up so I could address my company and keep them calm

-Ask your guest not to look at, pet, or talk to your dog until he calms down so you don’t reward the excited and frantic energy that we are trying to train out of

-Sit on the corner of the couch and ask your dog to stay to the side of the couch instead of on it, on you, between your legs, or under the coffee table

-Guiding your dog with verbal cues or leash touches, but not asking him to sit or lay down, let him settle himself down, asking that he stay at your side and not move around the room or pull towards your guest

-After your dog has calmed down and is laying peacefully, drop the leash to see what he does

-If he can still stay next to your, then this is the time you can ask your guest to put their hand down and see if your dog can calmly give them a sniff and get a scratch, staying out of their personal space and off their body

If a mistake happens along the way, that is no problem! Learning happens over time and mistakes are great opportunities for reminders and clear communication.  This is something we go over in our basic training series and practice at each session. You will find life will be so much easier when your dog can calmly greet guests and I guarantee your company will be impressed as well.

Unloading from the car

If you follow us on social media, you know that we drive a pack of dogs to the trail every day. In order to keep the dogs calm and set the right tone for the hike, we are very deliberate about the way we unload our dogs when we get to the trail. Here is a guide for you to practice at home with your dog.

Our dogs sit in the back of the car, whether that is the backseat or the very back of a hatchback. This is for safety, self regulation, as well as impulse inhibition. My dog needs to feel safe and do his job of being calm and having the self control to not jump up to me. Hooking a leash around a headrest can help me teach my dog to stay put while I am driving.

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Part of being a good leader is putting yourself first. When I arrive at my destination, it doesn’t matter how excited he is, my dog needs to wait while I get myself situated. Additionally, I don’t want to let an excited dog out of the car and reward that frantic and impatient energy with the reward of launching into a new place. While I get myself ready to go, I may say ‘eh-eh’ if my dog is excited, pacing, whining or barking in the car. My dog needs to learn that it is okay to be excited, but those are not okay ways of expressing that excitement. 

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Once my dog is calm enough, I will start to open the door. I want my dog to wait at the threshold so I can get his leash on, look around to make sure it’s a good time to exit, and be ready to ask him to sit and wait on a loose leash once he hops out. I say ‘wait’ as I open the door. If he looks like he is about to pounce or if he makes any movement towards the door, I close it just enough to make my dog hesitate. “Wow! This door is SO weird! Whenever you move forward, it closes. Do you think that is related? Jeeze, maybe try sitting still and seeing if it opens all the way…”

I don’t like to talk to my dog more than is necessary. Try to keep tabs on my dog and only say “wait” when he looks like the thought to move forward is starting to cross his mind. It’s always easier to correct a thought than an action! Also, I don’t want to hold my dog with my eye contact. If I do this then glance away, my dog will break and try to jump. Try to look between your dog and the door instead of at your dog directly. Lastly, I don’t want to block the opening. If I am simply in the way, my dog isn’t doing the work of using self control to hold himself back. If that is the case, then moment I move he will launch out. It’s important to step forward to block when my dog starts to move and try to ease away when I feel my dog is locked in place.

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When I have the car door open and I feel that my dog understands he is meant to wait, I will pick up the end of the leash or step forward to put the leash on. Again, I want my dog to be calm during this process. If my dog loses his composure, I will start by pulling my hands away or turning away. “Uh oh, dogs that aren’t holding still don’t get their leash put on! This leash is funny like that… Oh no, now I’m turning away because you are too excited. If you want me to turn back, you better settle down.” This is how we teach our dog what type of energy gets rewarded and what energy moves them further from their goals and desires.

Once the leash is on properly and in my hand, I want to step away from the car door, giving my dog room so I know he isn’t staying just because I’m in his way. This is a great moment to exercise my dog’s self control muscle and I don’t want to miss out on it. If he looks like he is about to break or has that ‘race horse in the starting gate’ energy, I sigh, cock my hip to show I’m relaxed, give a little touch on the leash, and say, “gosh, we could be standing here forever!” 

It isn’t enough to pause, see that my dog’s body is still, then let him launch out. I’m paying close attention to his energy. I want to hold the space so my dog can do something that we call ‘down-regulating’ which is learning to build the skill of calming himself down. We go from extremely excited, to excited, to alert, to somewhat calm, to fully calm. The goal is to get to the bottom landing of that excitement staircase where my dog sighs and says “gosh, we could be standing here forever!” That is a great energy and the one that I wait for before I reward my dog by exiting the car. Only calm dogs get the good stuff. Really, calming down isn’t too much of a price to pay for the wonderful experiences we regularly go out of our way to give our dogs. 

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Imagine how different your outing would be if you took a moment at each threshold to wait for your dog to be totally calm? We wait when the leash goes on, at the front door, before loading into the car, before unloading from the car, then wait again on a loose leash after unloading. This allows me to close the door and lock my car before we start our walk. This helps to set the tone for a calm walk as well as building a balanced, obedient mindset in general. The more we ask our dog to be in his thinking brain instead of his impulsive and instinctive brain, the easier it will be for my dog to get to that place in the future. Contrary to what you may think, this isn’t a waste of time that your dog could be exercising. The mental exertion it takes to engage his thinking brain and hold himself back is exhausting, just like when you have a long, hard day at work and come home tired. Unlike running wild at the park, this exercise is geared towards building the balanced dog you want.

The calmer my dog is, the more tuned in and sensitive he will be. This is where the term ‘dog whisperer’ came from! When I take the time to ask my dog to down regulate, my dog can respond to incredibly subtle cues, such as a jingle on the leash, a sound like ‘shhh-shhh,’ a stern glance, or a movement in their direction. It’s amazing!! Having a picture in my mind of how I want those thresholds to look, holding strong to my boundaries, asking my dog to follow my cues to figure out what I’m asking for in those exciting moments, and rewarding a calm mindset are all ways that I shape my dog’s mentality and create the dog I want.

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Summary

-My dog sits in the back seat

-I get ready to go before attending to him

-I ask my dog to wait in front of the open car door on a loose leash

-I ask my dog to sit and wait after we unload

Reading and greeting other dogs

On the trails with the pack, we encounter a lot of dogs. This is one of the great parts about being out in public, the chance to meet, play with, and walk away from a lot of dogs. The trails are great because they are more self selecting than a dog park and usually full of dogs that have the level of training where they can be trusted to be off leash without running away. We also love that it’s so easy to walk away if play is getting too excited or too rough.

Look at these good, calm pups! Listening and obedience off leash is on point.

Look at these good, calm pups! Listening and obedience off leash is on point.

Out in the wild, we see a lot of different dogs. Unfortunately, many dogs have poor social skills or bad dog manners due to owners not knowing what they are seeing or dogs not being taught to develop the self control necessary to hold themselves back and be polite in exciting moments such as approaching another dog - especially a pack of them!

First, we do our best to keep our dogs calm and in a heel, saying a light ‘eh eh’ or calling a dog by name who is locking on with their gaze or amping up with their energy. It’s important to us to show our dogs how to handle that exciting moment with manners and obedience. It is also overwhelming to have a big pack of dogs run up on a dog and owner at once and so we do our best to be polite on the trails.

The moment we see a dog, we take check in on our pack as well as the dog approaching. We want to avoid any issues, so when we see certain posture or behavior, we may turn and go the other way, or pull off the trail to let them pass.

What we look for:

If a dog runs up to us full speed, that isn’t a polite way to introduce themselves and shows a lack of self control. I want my dogs to know that I’m on it and managing the situation. I show this by getting out in front and saying ‘EH-EH’ or ‘Off’ to the other dog waving my arm, snapping or clapping to say ‘I need your attention’ or ‘you better back off, bud.’ The dog likely isn’t use to this kind of direction or correction during greetings, so that surprise and curiosity will help disrupt his fixation on my pups and calm things down a bit. He could be okay once he calms dow, or he could be a bit pushy, so I watch and see.

If a dog has tense body language in their ears, neck and back, a stiff gait, raised hackles on his back, or a still, slow, methodically wagging tail, that also won’t make for the best greeting. I’ll try to loosen the energy up by saying ‘easy’ in a sing song then more stern voice or snapping my fingers to break the tension. Then watch what he is going to do next, trying to keep my body loose and my energy calm so the dogs can know I’m not worried. I want to project to my pack that I’m on it and they don’t need to be concerned or step in to regulate the situation. If my dog starts to display this energy, I’ll snap, say ‘eh eh’ or their name, tap the leash if they are on one, swing my foot their way, whatever I need to do to get their attention, break the tension or disrupt the hard stare. If I do that repeatedly over time, they know that when they behave that way they get corrected, so they should stop doing that.

Pablo is asking Willa to play, but it looks like she is trying to take a breather in the shade. Either he will read her and turn away, or ignore her body language and push her to engage.

Pablo is asking Willa to play, but it looks like she is trying to take a breather in the shade. Either he will read her and turn away, or ignore her body language and push her to engage.

When a dog lays down or goes into a play bow upon seeing another dog, a lot of owners find it cute so they stand still and let it happen. I’m a trainer who believes that no matter what, it’s important to keep on moving. If my dog does that, I keep walking and I say ‘let’s go’ or ‘easy,’ or do some snapping to let my dog know that isn’t the best way to have a polite greeting. A dog who does that isn’t calm, he is expressing excitement! When we get close, they tend to launch at us, which is the same end result as the first dog I described. Think of it as a compressed coil waiting to pop. I don’t want to be preemptive, but I do get in front of the pack and am ready to correct that dog if he springs at us.

This is not the best. These siblings are way too amped for my taste. We were probably fussing at them while we snapped this photo.

This is not the best. These siblings are way too amped for my taste. We were probably fussing at them while we snapped this photo.

If a dog is jumping, barking, or lunging, that is also a no no. Imagine if you passed by or were approached by someone on the street who was yelling at you. You would not be in a good place to be receptive to initiating an interaction. As much as possible I want to keep on moving forward here. If we stop, my dog will focus on the other dog’s behavior and, understandably, start to get on his level. This is a ‘hustle by’ situation on leash or a ‘step between, snapping my fingers, and keep moving’ situation off leash.

You can also say whatever you need to say to owners to let them know you need them to be stepping in and controlling their dog. Most think these behaviors are normal or don’t know how to correct them so they usually stand by watching. In a sweet voice, you can say ‘oh, my dog isn’t always friendly’ or ‘he is a little older/coming back from an injury’ or ‘hey, would you mind calling your dog back?’ I always start sweet while asking the owner for help as I work to get my body between the dogs so I can back the other dog off a bit or distract them if we are off leash.

I also tune into the owner as soon as I see a dog. Do they tense up? Are they calling their dog back in a nervous or frantic way? Working to get him on leash? Trying to pull over into the woods or loop away to avoid us. If that is the case, I try to be polite as well. Maybe he is in training or the owner can’t quite manage him yet. Maybe he isn’t always friendly. Who knows. If someone looks like they are nervous about the greeting, I keep my pack in a heel. A dog behaving oddly attracts the attention of other dogs and sparks their curiosity. ‘What is going on with that guy? Let me investigate….’ If I don’t feel I have solid control I say ‘Let’s go’ or ‘Come Come’ and I start running forward, glancing back to be sure my pup is coming and verbally correcting them with a ‘Hey’ or ‘Eh Eh’ or ‘Let’s go’ if they aren’t coming, get distracted, or attempt to go check the other dog out. Running is usually effective because a) it is exciting and b) they think ‘uh oh, that chick is my ride!’ It’s my responsibility to help other owners be comfortable as well.

I don’t want to teach my dog they should be afraid of other dogs, so I keep walking, try to keep my energy calm, and look forward while keeping tabs on my dog as well as the other dog to know if any action on my part or change of course is required.

When I’m training my pup to have good dog manners, the first step is that I need to be able to walk by other dogs without an excitement exploding, reactive barking or lunging to greet every dog they see. I use verbal, energetic, and leash touches or corrections to show them ‘hey, I know other dogs are exciting, but you need to keep it together. When I say walk we are walking. You don’t get to say hi to every dog you see!’ I don’t want to reward a very excited energy with a greeting. Only calm dogs get to say hi. I think a lot about what is normal for us. If I ran up to someone and got all up in their business, they would likely be defensive and not excited about meeting me. My rule is you can look as long as you keep your energy calm, keep walking with me, and are willing to pass by even though you really, really want to go say hello.

That being said, I also don’t want to get tense, jerk my dog away, cross the street or send signals to the other owner that I’m worried or that my dog is uncool. Try to stay calm, give corrections, make a plan in your mind as you approach, and keep your eyes fixed ahead of you while stealing glances at your pup and the other dog.

Pawblo is looking a bit pumped here, we will probably do a lap and chill out before we try to engage with another dog to set the dogs up for the calmest greeting we can have.

Pawblo is looking a bit pumped here, we will probably do a lap and chill out before we try to engage with another dog to set the dogs up for the calmest greeting we can have.

After we can reliably pass other dogs, I loop back and call to the owner, ‘hey, is your dog friendly?’ If the dog is, say, ‘I’m doing some training, would you mind standing still so we can walk by you a few times? Or, if you are pretty sure your dog can keep it together on the approach, say ‘would you mind if we let them say hi?” Usually the answer is yes. Luckily for me, I’m shameless about asking other owners for help. What a great opportunity to meet your neighbors and interact with other dog owners! Channel your inner Allegra and just ask. The worst that will happen is they say no. It’s not personal.

On the approach, I really need my dog to stay calm and collected. If he is getting too excited, barking, pulling, lunging, holding a dead stare, or scrambling to get to the other dog, NOPE. We turn and move in the other direction. ‘Gosh, when ever you act like that, we move away from the thing you wanted. Do you think there is a connection there?’ I want to do what I have to do to get my dog’s attention back on me and let them know that they are on the clock, and that what they just did isn’t going to lead to them being allowed to greet a dog.

Once we are calm and I am giving those leash touches to remind them to stay cool, we will try the approach again. You can talk to the owner here. ‘Sorry, just a moment, we are trying to work on some manners.’ Because most people simply don’t know, this can be a cool learning moment for them, too! You are helping to make the world a better place for dogs. Just like I do, try not to offer any unsolicited advice about their handling or their dog. If the other dog is looking super excited, then that isn’t the right pup to try this with. If you didn’t catch it early or the excitement builds say ‘oh well! I guess my dog just isn’t ready. Thanks anyway! Have a great day!’ You can also throw in a ‘cute pup!’ People love that.

Once you get that calm, thoughtful, controlled approach, I switch from my working leash position that I use to keep my dog in a heel to my greeting grip pinching the tip of the handle of my leash. My dog needs room to display the body language dogs use to communicate with each other. If my dog does a ‘no no’ like putting his paws on another dog, jumping, barking, doing a hard sniff, or getting into a play bow, I do a verbal ‘eh eh’ and briefly take up contact on the leash. If I need to, I take up my working grip again and take a step or two backwards to get my dog out of there. ‘Weird! If you start acting that way, the greeting is paused or over. Do you think those are related?’ My dog learns over time the way to get to say hi is to be calm.

Hard sniff there, Willa! Cora isn’t thrilled.

Hard sniff there, Willa! Cora isn’t thrilled.

A good rule of thumb is that I need to keep reminding my dog that even though we are having some pup time, you are still on the clock. Don’t pull on me or drag me. Don’t make the other dog uncomfortable. Don’t get too amped up. Most dogs don’t know a really really important rule of talking to there dogs. It is polite in dog culture to ‘disengage’ every few seconds. Looking down or away or pausing and giving the other dog a little room gives the dog a chance to exit the interaction if they aren’t into it. Every three seconds, take up a light contact in the leash, increasing the pressure slowly until you achieve your goal of getting them to give the dog a little space, or, ideally, turn away for a second to see what the dog does. Do they want to keep interacting or not?

If the other dog is the one going hard, I ‘pulse pulse’ on the leash and guide my dog away and out of the reach of the other dog. If we are off leash, I step in between, snapping and saying ‘easy’ or ‘eh eh’ in a sing songy voice to get their attention off my dog so she can get away. This happens a LOT with sweet little Harley. Other dogs think she is a toy or sniff her intensely and to their hearts content. If I see Harley standing frozen and looking uncomfortable, I’m stepping in to back the other dog off and give her a chance to escape. The reason she needs my help there is that if she were to move while the other dog is fixated on her, they would chase her and the situation would escalate.

Porter the GSP doesn’t seem into it, huh?

Porter the GSP doesn’t seem into it, huh?

If I am sweet, light, calm and sing songy, other owners usually don’t mind. If I were to get frantic and yell, they would get surprised and defensive. I haven’t found this necessary unless the other dog bats at, mounts, humps or pins my dog. Even then, I stay calm and try to use my voice or body to break them up. If I am really worried, I will grab the other dog’s collar and pull him off as gently as I can. Usually if a big ‘no no’ is happening, the other owner gets why I would do that.

Because there are so many accidentally naughty dogs out there, it’s important that I do what I have to do to encourage my dog to have manners and as well as keep my dog safe. If my dog has a bad experience or gives another dog a bad experience that makes them fearful or defensive in their future interactions, we are part of the problem and not the salutation. Other owners may think you are wacky for having all these rules. Just like we need to teach kids what is socially acceptable and how to control their impulses, it is important we teach our dogs this as well. Keep doing your thing, do it as gently as possible but as firmly as necessary and your dog will become a refined citizen of the dog world.

Tips on adopting the right rescue dog

Rescuing a dog is a wonderful thing. There are many dogs that are in shelters because the owner moved, had a baby, didn’t have time or money to train the dog, the dog made one mistake or had one scary moment with a human or animal. Most of these dogs are very trainable and it is wonderful to give them a good home. When people ask what my favorite breed of dog is, I always say “a good dog,” but my real favorite dog is a good old fashioned mutt. With bad breeding abounding, my experience is that mutts are generally healthier and it’s fun to see the unique looks that come from accidental breedings.

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Rescue organizations are not all as wonderful as they seem. Before I got Harley, I tried to adopt several dogs from different rescues and I was turned down over and over again. I was between jobs so I had the time, I was living with a dog trainer and studying dog training and I had carefully researched every breed so I knew exactly what I wanted and what kind of dog would be the best fit for me and my lifestyle. I got turned down because I had never owned a dog before, because I wasn’t working so I couldn’t afford one, because I was renting a room in a house and there was no assurance I wouldn’t move and return my dog if my new accommodation wasn’t dog friendly. Eventually I got on Craigslist and bought the most wonderful Miniature Dapple Dachshund from a backyard breeder in a trailer park outside of Phoenix, AZ.

My tips for beginning the adoption process:

-Don’t take the first dog you look at and like. I have experienced love at first sight, as I’m sure you have, and how often did that last? Finding the right dog is a process where you have to be smart and use discernment. When emotions lead, we may bite off more than we can chew, then both the owner and dog suffer. Tell the rescue you will be back later and sleep on it or loop back at the end of your search day. I have had clients and friends find incredible dogs through Facebook, Craigslist, Next-door and other community websites or message boards or their personal social network. Tell your friends what you want and ask them to keep and eye out for you. This article focuses on shelters, but many of the same tips apply wherever your dog may come from.

-Drive out of the city you live in. As far as you can. On my hunt for the right rescue I looked up all the shelters in the surrounding 50 miles, created a route to hit all of them in order, and spent a day looking at dogs. There are amazing dogs at shelters in the country! Urban rescues can be picked over and more expensive. Dogs are often misrepresented in their description, claiming to be friendly with kids, cats, other dogs, when they are not. These overfull rescues can care more about moving dogs out than about finding the right fit. Country shelters likely won’t have the resources to create these desciptions, forcing you to do these evaluations for yourself. My experience is that these shelters have amazing dogs who were dumped or just wandered out of an unfenced farm and no one came for them. This is the dog you want! A dog whose’s only fault was escaping a yard or slipping out of a property.

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-When you arrive, remember that shelters are a really intense and stressful environment. A dog who is comfortable in that environment isn't the dog you want. It's easy to be seduced by the one dog who is happy and playful, wagging their tail and willing to fetch. Try to find balance between a dog that is calm and curious, but also not totally at ease in that environment.

-Think about what you want in terms of care throughout the dog’s life. Long hair needs brushing and requires you to pay a groomer at regular intervals. Young puppies require starting from scratch with housebreaking, crate training, and will need more exercise for the first few years of their life. Working dogs and very intelligent breeds should only be adopted by experienced owners and need more activity and training. Did you know cattle dogs, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, among others, really should get out 4-6 hours a day! That’s why they are perfect for ranch or farm work. Do you have time for that? Even I don’t! Be realistic about your lifestyle and what you can do day in and day out.

-If you already have a pup, it can be a good idea to come back for another visit with your dog to see if they get along. Dog’s don’t have to be best friends right away, but their temperaments should be moderately compatible. A puppy and an older dog can be a mismatch, just as having your aging grandmother watch your toddler every day wouldn’t be very pleasant. Two dogs that are status seeking or anxious won’t make life easier. A good rule of thumb for getting a second dog is to pick a dog with equal or lesser energy than the first dog. Set yourself up for success in the first greeting by walking them together in the same direction on leash for a few minutes before letting them greet or sniff each other. This will help them acclimate a bit and create a calmer greeting than setting them loose in a pen.

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-It's okay to like a certain look in a dog! I knew I wanted a Hound dog with short hair and floppy ears. I happened to find the right one at the right age and size. Remember, I went to about 10 shelters and fostered two dogs before I found her. Take your time, look around, don't go home with the first dog you see.

-Get a dog that is just smart enough. Everyone wants a very, very smart dog, but I can assure you it isn't fun having a partner that questions your every decision or works to intentionally manipulate or circumvent you. My favorite dog is juuuust smart enough to learn the rules, but doesn't have a strong desire to break them. Find a dog that is eager to please versus one that is more aloof and independent.

-It can be smart to do a foster to adopt so you get a sense of how the dog will be in your home. When I did that, I was able to determine that a very shy dog who was scared of men that I loved the look of wouldn't have a happy life with me, who wanted a dog I could take anywhere. There is a perfect home for every dog, and for that one, mine wasn't it. Know that it takes a few weeks or months for a dog to settle in and get comfortable enough to show their true colors, so what you see the first day isn't always what you get.

-I recommend most people adopt a slightly older dog. 2-3 is a great age! It's a wonderful thing to adopt an adult dog (5+). These dogs sit longer in the shelter and can still share many good years with you. Don't worry about an older dog having baggage, many dogs are in the shelter through no fault of their own and adjust very quickly in a new situation with the right guidance.

-Speaking of guidance, hire a dog trainer! I LOVE clients who call me in the week they get a dog so they can get out on the right foot. It's easier to prevent mistakes than to fix them. For instance, when you first bring your dog home, don't shower them with attention and stay home with them 24/7. Get a crate the day your dog comes home and leave for at least a few minutes, if not longer, the very first day. That is what life will be like, with you coming and going, so best to start out showing your dog what is normal and letting them acclimate to that. I like to let a dog do his own thing the first few days in my home and not put too much attention on him while he explores and gets comfortable. A good rule is that I want my dog to look to me more than I look to him, even though I am keeping tabs on him pretty much all the time with my peripheral vision. I don’t force a dog to interact or immediately be my best friend. In fact, too much attention or letting my dog on the furniture right away can set the wrong tone. This is explained more thoroughly in my training sessions!

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-Much of dog training is counter-intuitive. Dog culture is different from our human culture and what is polite or impolite in each cultures can be the reverse, leading to miscommunications and, sometimes, larger and more serious issues.

-Be sure to take your time once your dog comes home. Many new owners are in a rush to get their dog out of the crate, take their dog to a patio or dog park, teach him to go off leash. All of this should wait a few weeks, months, or even years! You will have many, many great years together. I have never gone wrong going too slow with a dog, but I have definitely made mistakes going too fast.

-If the dog you brought home ends up not being a fit and is making your life unmanageable or causing you stress, you should not feel about about bringing him back or working to rehome him. Calling a trainer can help, but sometimes it truly isn’t the right fit. Let this dog find his right owner versus having both your and his quality of life diminished. People feel very very bad about this and end up living in what I see as a truly awful situation for both dog and owner. This stigma makes me sad. There are a lot of ridiculous reasons to give away a pet, but there are some really good ones. Some of the dogs in our pack had been re-homed and their personality, as well as their lives, changed for the better.

Good luck in your adoption journey! With so many dogs needing homes, it is a really wonderful thing.

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Correctly putting on the Mendota slip lead

The Mendota 4’ x 3/8” slip lead is the only leash we use with our dogs and our clients. This leash is soft but strong, comfortable to hold, and, most importantly, can be positioned on a part of my dog’s neck that she will be most responsive to.

Most of us have tried a leash clipped to a collar, but dogs are comfortable pulling from the base of their neck and it can be harder to communicate with them through the leash. On the trails, we don’t like fumbling around looking for the clip and hoping we don’t accidentally clip the leash to the ID tag ring.

We also don’t like using a harness because those aren’t really designed for walking dogs. Think of the animals that wear harnesses - they all do the same job. Carriage horses, plow oxen, and sled dogs all pull! Then we put a harness around our dog’s body and can’t understand why they pull on us. Well, we just made it comfortable for them to! A harness also offers very little control over my dog. If something were to go wrong, my only move is to back up as quickly as I can because everything in front of my dog’s shoulders are in front of my realm of influence.

How about ‘no pull’ chest or face contraptions? They can help because they make it uncomfortable for my dog to pull. If I tied your shoelaces together, you would have a hard time walking. Once we put them back, you would go back to walking as you used to. Same with these devices. They may help in the moment, but instead of teaching a dog not to pull they simply temporarily disable them.

The Mendota Slip Lead

Enter Mendota! We are not sponsored (I wish we were!), we just really love this leash. The 4’ leash is the perfect length - I don’t really want my dog more than 4’ from me in situations that require a leash and the 3/8” width is comfortable in my hand and allows me to talk to my dog because of the limited surface area. This leash is a game changer when it comes to teaching your dog the skill of loose leash walking or dealing with reactivity. We used to encourage our training clients to buy one, now we give them out at the first session! On the trails, I have the security of knowing that there is no way for my dog to slip out of it the way they can with some collars and harnesses. The best part is supporting a great company. If you leash needs repairs, you can send it back to Mendota and they will repair and return it at no cost.

Correct Placement

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To begin, I make sure my dog is calm before I leash them. It takes a moment to get the leash positioned while you are still learning to put it on. I make sure the loop is large enough to fit comfortably over my dog’s head and hold the ring and leather stopper in one hand to be sure it doesn’t slip down and change shape as I am putting it on my dog.

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I slip the loop over my dog’s head and keep it above the ID collar at the top of their neck. Some dog’s don’t like the motion of a hand going into their blindspot, so you may want to hold their collar with your other hand, helping to keep them still. If you dog doesn’t love having the loop put on. Hold the loop in front of them and give them a treat as you move it towards them. One or two sessions of that and they will love the leash!

When I put the leash on, I make sure it is at the very top of their neck. Right behind the ears…

When I put the leash on, I make sure it is at the very top of their neck. Right behind the ears…

And right behind the jaw. The top of the neck is the most sensitive and I want to be able to touch lightly and get a response.

And right behind the jaw. The top of the neck is the most sensitive and I want to be able to touch lightly and get a response.

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Keeping the leash in place, I slide the leather stopper down. The stopper is supposed to be tight so it stays in place. You will get the hang of sliding it up and down. Tighten the loop almost all the way, then circle your finger around your dog’s neck, making sure that all their hair is flush and any extra neck skin has been pulled down below the leash.

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Now you can tighten the leash. After nudging it back up into position, slide the stopper so it is snug. I want to be able to fit only one finger in the loop. If my dog is uncomfortable, I may have made the leash too tight. Pull the stopper back a fraction of an inch. Think of this leash like a belt, if it’s too loose it won’t do it’s job. You may have to stop along the walk to readjust, but putting it on properly is the best way to start.

When you are ready to take your leash off, pinch the leash on the far side of the ring. I don’t want to pull against my dog’s neck while I slide the stopper back.

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Position your finger about 1” down from the ring to give yourself a little room to get your other hand between the ring and stopper. Sometimes it can help to fold the leash backwards on itself, exposing a bit of space to pinch.

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Once you have your finger between the ring and leather stopper, drag your fingers backwards, towards the handle of the leash. The stopper is tight, so pinching on the other side will keep you dog comfortable. I like to put my fingers in front of the stopper, but you can also put them on the stopper or drag it with your fingernails.

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You can order your Mendota leash and check out a few of our other favorite products here. In our training series we cover the cues we give to teach loose leash walking. Ideally, we can walk our dog with slack in the leash, keeping our dog’s attention and having them do the job of staying in a heel. Dogs that are fun to walk get walked more! It’s worth taking the time to teach this important skill.

Dog's Bill of Rights

In my training sessions, I teach owners the difference between privileges and rights. Dogs today are impulsive and entitled because we treat privileges as if they are rights - getting on the furniture, getting treats, jumping on anyone they want to greet or over sniffing dogs they encounter. Some of these things are just bad manners, others are a dog thinking that he should get exactly what he wants when he wants it because we are so desperate to give our dogs the best life, that is how they are conditioned.

My dog’s Bill of Rights

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  • Food

  • Water

  • Shelter

  • Exercise

  • Socialization

  • Mental stimulation

That is it! Those six things will give your dog the best life possible. I didn’t include leadership, boundaries and a job to do, but these are also an important part of creating a calm, mentally balanced and happy dog.

This is a little counter intuitive! Why would more rules make for a happier dog? Imagine if your friend had a meltdown every time they had to wait at a red light. Or if someone you knew wouldn’t take no for an answer when trying to flirt with someone. Or if your partner demanded that they go where they wanted to go exactly when they wanted to go there? We wouldn't tolerate that kind of behavior from another person. Ultimately that person would be stressed and unhappy because they never learned the sad fact of life that we can’t always have what we want exactly when we want it. Learning patience, compromise, acceptance and how to deal with disappointment is an important part of raising children and it should be a part of dog ownership.

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The best way to love your dog is to feed her the best possible food and change her water daily, put down a few comfy dog beds or blankets or set up a crate to give her her own space, get plenty of exercise every day, creating a balance of interaction and focus, and give her the job of being polite and responsive , rewarding her good behavior.

Most of this is activity and relationship based! You notice we don’t mention treats. Did you know that our dog’s are not designed to graze? Most adult dogs, especially those that are raw fed, do best when they are fed just once a day. Treats can be used as a reward when teaching something new, ideally close to a meal time, but they are bad for dogs stomachs when fed intermittently and are not an expression of love. Dogs are opportunistic eaters and will always take a treat, but just because I want to have ice cream or french fries every day doesn’t mean I should.

We are so passionate about our hiking program because it meets so many of our dog’s needs. There is no better way to satisfy a dog’s natural drive for activity, novelty and adventure. The sights and smells on the trails stimulate your dog’s senses. Climbing, swimming and running on uneven terrain exercises your dog’s brain as well as all their muscle groups. Our pack and the dogs we meet along the trail provide socialization without the closed in feeling that can make dog parks wild. Being asked to remain responsive in a stimulating natural environment reinforces the calm, obedient mentality we want our dogs to maintain at home. We also love the natural challenges that arise on the trail! It’s incredible to watch a dog’s confidence grow as they learn to navigate the great outdoors and face their fears with our guidance.

Love your dog by getting them out of your neighborhood and to a park or hiking trail so they can enjoy nature and live their best life! If you want to learn more about training your dog to be safe off leash, check out our group classes. The next one will run in the Fall and you can join the waitlist today!

Summer is  the perfect time to go for a swim!

Here are some great spots we love:

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  • My favorite place to swim is Commons Ford. The ramp into the water, while slippery, makes it easy to lead hesitant pups in and I love that I can stand while my dog paddles around me, allowing me to help support their torso if needed. They also know where the ramp to exit is if they get tired or nervous.

  • Sometimes I like to wade in the water at Red Bud and have the pups swim out to me. There is a good woodsy spot downhill to the left from the big flat play area if you are facing the tip of the isle.

  • For a place with easier parking and less people, there are a few parks out on the lake, although some are rocky or have a small fee. Worth exploring when you are feeling adventurous. 

  • Secret Beach, which you can now find on Google Maps, is a great place to wade if you time it right with the dam opening. Sometimes the current can be so strong it will sweep a dog away, other times it's so low you can only sit in it. Either way, still a wonderful spot.

  • While the creeks are running, we like the damn at Bull Creekjust north of the Lakewood or Laurelwood Dr entrances. The Greenbelt, while not legally off-leash can also be a fun place to swim, Lost Creekbeing my favorite spot.

Extra tips:

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  • Do your best to beware of glass or food that has been thrown on the trail, especially any bones. 

  • For good karma, bring a plastic bag to pick up trash or forgotten poo bags.

  • On busy times like the weekend, be careful! Unfortunately there are a ton of bad dogs out in the wild whose owners don't know better. Keep your dog in your sight so he doesn't bother anyone, steal food or get into a bad spot with other pups. Be ready to jump up and step in, shooing other dogs away who are showing tense body language, chasing too intensely or barking.

  • If needed, take a break by going back on leash for a bit. If it's a bad scene or too crowded, move on down the creek to a quieter spot.

My dog doesn't want to meet your dog

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My dog is 10 year old, she weighs 11lbs and her back is longer than she is tall. If you have a rambunctious puppy, larger dog or dog with poor greeting skills (you may not know! Most dogs these days do), my tiny dog doesn’t want to meet them. Just as I can’t speak to everyone I want to, just as I am not always in the mood to have everyone who wants to speak to me, dogs have the right to not be into it. I have talked about how our have a culture of instant gratification - we love them, they are naturally impulsive, and more often than not they get what they want. When read Harley’s body language and can see she isn’t into it, I ask people to move along with their large dog. Some dogs can’t handle it! They pull back, lunge at her, bark or balk. Yowza! What a stressful life to have a meltdown when your every whim isn’t met.

How to know if my dog isn’t into it:

-She moves away from the dog or tries to stand behind me

-She cowers or shows stiff body language

-She anticipates rude behavior so she looks poised to defend herself if needed

-She rolls over, but isn’t wagging her tail and looks like she is being held hostage

-She pins her ears and leaps at the other dog because they have already done something rude or disrespectful and she wants to get in front of a potentially dangerous situation

How to know if my dog is the one being rude:

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-He barges up to another dog, pulling on the leash and not pausing a foot away to display polite body language and determine if the other dog wants to have the interaction

-He puts his body over another dog, usually the neck somewhere above the other dog’s body or a paw on the dog’s back

-He has stiff body language, a body, perked ears, an intense and his tail is raised and wagging like a metronome, also stiffly

-He sniffs the dog to his heart’s content, beyond when the other dog looks uncomfortable (3 seconds of sniffing before I ask my dog to disengage is a good rule of thumb)

-He doesn’t disengage - an important part of any greeting is to pull back, look away, or in some way see if the other dog wants to continue the interaction or move away

-He barks at another dog out of excitement or frustration - not a great introduction!

-He goes to put his head or neck over another dog’s body or looks like he is going to try to hump

When dog’s greet, I glance at the human, but I mostly have my eyes on our dogs to read the vibe and their body language. I’m ready to step in or pull my dog away at the slightest sign of anything going awry. Granted, being an expert in reading dogs, that is more intuitive for me than most people. By watching dogs and seeing what behavior or postures lead to what outcomes you will start to know when it’s better to pull our or pass on an interaction.

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If you get a bad feeling or you are unsure, don’t be afraid to be rude! My dog’s comfort and safety come first to me. I don’t mind, as nicely as possible, telling someone that my dog is older, unpredictable around other dogs, doesn’t like puppies, is tired, or not in the mood to greet another dog. If someone doesn’t understand that, that is on them. It’s a reasonable ask! You may hear “oh, he just wants to say hi” or even, worst case scenario “why do you have him out, then?” I go to coffee shops to work and don’t want strangers distracting me - if they were to ask why I’m in public then, that would be uncool! The truth is most owners just don’t know any better and bad behavior is most of what I witness out in the wild. With lack of knowledge and rose tinted glasses, it’s hard for anyone to believe that their beloved dog is anything short of perfect. That’s okay! But I’m still outta there.

So you are getting a puppy...

This is your first dog as an adult. What the heck do you need? The ethos of The Naked Dog is that you don’t need much. Dog stores will try to sell you the world. When I was a new dog owner I went wild buying things. It’s fun! Who doesn’t like shopping. Enjoy the bounty of offerings. OR save your money for hiring a good trainer and get only the essentials. After I got a call from a soon to be puppy owner, I wrote up a list.

Your Definitive Puppy Shopping List

Essentials

-crate with a divider, ideally to fit the average size of an adult dog of that breed so you don't need to buy another

- cheap sheet to cover crate

- cheap towel to lay in crate during house breaking

- dog beds - one for living room and one for your bedroom, get two different styles to determine preference, blankets also work

- collar with id tags and a leash

- food and water bowl

Care

- brush for long hair

- nail clippers

- tooth brush

Training

- training treats - try Charlee Bear liver crackers in a yellow bag

- chews for teething- try rubber teething toys, bully sticks or ropes,  no white/pressed raw hides

- a few toys - stuffed, balls, etc

That’s it! Start minimal. Training is a far better investment and one that will last the lifetime of your pup.

That tiny nose though. I die. BRB getting another Dachshund puppy….

That tiny nose though. I die. BRB getting another Dachshund puppy….

Choosing the right breeder

When choosing a breed, it’s important to do your research. Some breeds have a lot of energy and exercising them can be a full time job, especially in the puppy years. A very intelligent dog is appealing in theory, but can be very challenging to own and train versus a dog who is smart enough to learn and obey commands, but doesn’t need a job to be happy or require mental stimulation on a daily basis in addition to exercise. Even my most active clients have enlisted our hiking service because their working dog has more energy than it’s possible for them to drain with a full-time job - even my ultra marathoner couldn’t run her Pointer enough to keep him happy and sane. A breed that becomes very popular quickly is easily capitalized on and attracts irreputable breeders who are looking to make money and not to produce healthy or mentally sound dogs because of their lack of experience or simply not caring. Often, you get what you pay for. The cheapest dog available may be prone to health problems. If your goal is to have a pet or companion, a working breed, however attractive, may not be the best fit. Picking the right breed will ensure you both have the happiest life possible. If you chose to buy from a breeder, which is the right choice for some people, we have some tips on how to pick the right one.

Our guest expert, Annie Angello, knows dogs. She has rescued in the past, but competes in several disciplines and has worked with many breeders to find the right dogs for her. I asked her to share her process to give you the best chance of picking a reputable breeder so your dog has the health and temperament they need to be a great pet for you for years to come.

Initially, there are three things to consider.

  • Bloodlines. Is your chosen breed one where there's a distinct divide between show and working line? What are your goals with this dog? What do you consider important or desirable? What are your dealbreakers?

  • Distance. If you want a dog from a particular type of bloodline, there may not be anyone local. Are you willing to travel to pick up or work with the breeder to ship the puppy?

  • Health testing: Every breed will, through the CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) program will have a battery of health tests which run through the known issues in the breed. Examples include PRA in the Collie breeds, Wobbler's in Dobermans, and congenital heart defects in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

From there, begin the interview phase. For me this is basically emailing/facebook messaging/otherwise contacting a series of breeders, requesting information based around: 

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  • If they feel their dogs would be a good fit for what I'm trying to accomplish

  • What health testing they perform on their breeding stock

  • Do they trial or show their dogs and if so in what venues

  • What the goals are of their upcoming litter/what are they intending to produce (for example, working line GSDs come in a pretty wide array of levels of drive - a dog that is suitable for a pet home would probably not be the best dog for high-level IPO competition), 

  • What do they like to see in the people who are considering one of their puppies

Asking for referrals and speaking to owners who have bought dogs from that breeder before is a good idea to be sure you know what other owner’s experiences have been. Does the breeder have a policy on returning a puppy/dog if he has health problems for some reason you cannot keep it? What's the long-term relationship like? Many good breeders stay in touch with clients for years to come if not the lifetime of the dog.

Make sure your breeder hits all of these bullets:

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  • Health test their breeding stock

  • Acquisition of dogs that meet their criteria and breeding to complementary bloodlines

  • Showing in whatever venues they choose

  • Prenatal care...... this isn't cheap and neither are the puppies

Other questions you may want to ask:  

  • Do they have any particular puppy raising protocol (like Puppy Culture) they follow? 

  • What can I expect my puppy to have been exposed to or learned by the time they come home.

A breeder who hits all these points would be a perfect scenarios. The right breeder for a given person might not meet ALL those criteria. It's important to decide what's most important to you as a puppy person and then do the research to find someone who lines up with your needs and values.

A good resource for locating reputable breeders are the parent club for the breed, sporting clubs for whatever you're interested in, and rankings. For instance if you wanted to get a Border Collie to do agility with, you might take a look at the USDAA or AKC agility rankings to see if there was any one breeder who has had dogs show up in the rankings there over the years. Know that it's different for every breed and sport. Show-line dogs tend to have lower drive and more likely to be ideal for pet-centric owners vs those looking to show. Also be aware that the AKC focuses on look more than temperament, so that shouldn’t be an endorsement for your pet as breeding for appearance can lead to health problems.

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What kind of dog are you creating?

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."


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Time and time again, I think of how this story applies to dogs and the training philosophy I teach. In horse training they say, in every moment you are either training or un-training your horse. Just like dogs, from the moment you approach a horse, every action matters. I want to approach in a way that is respectful, calm and confident, an approach that is likely to be successful in my mission of catching him from the pasture or putting a halter on in the stall. This involves reading his body, adjusting my pace and body language, and moving in a way that indicates I will achieve my goal, sometimes blocking or leaning to show I’m able to anticipate his intentions if he is going to try to evade me.

From the moment I walk into a client’s home, every action matters. I know some clients are taken aback when I ask them to leash their pup to prevent her from barking or jumping on me. I don’t great the dog while she is excited a new person has entered. I don’t let the dog approach me or put their nose on me to have a sniff. When we sit, I ask that the dog sits nicely next to, but not on top of the owner. In fact, I pretty much ignore the dog unless I’m giving them a command to indicate where I want them, a correction when they engage in an undesirable behavior, or a reward for relaxing into the behavior I want. 

All these small moments matter because I need to get out on the right foot with a dog. I need to create a dog that will listen to me, respect me and trust me. I need to encourage the dog to be calm, aware, and respectful of boundaries. When I ask for all this, the dog settles down, tunes into me and looks to me for cues on what to do. All while I’m seemingly ignoring him and only guiding or correcting her. 

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In each moment, in each small interaction, I’m creating the dog I want. While we are dealing with a problem behavior, it is essential to be crystal clear about the hierarchy in the pack (who gets their way, who listens to who), the expectations and boundaries I have, and my dedication to achieving or enforcing them. There is still rewards, but it is more subtle than most people are used to. Just like the friend who rarely gives you compliments, my rewards carry more weight because they need to be earned and aren’t given freely. 

If I reward a dog that jumps with attention, if I reward a dog that pushes to the door with opening it, if I reward a dog that barks with attention or affection, I’m creating more of just that, a dog that is excited, a dog that is pushy, and a dog that is demanding. It feels good to provide and receive instant gratification, but just like eating rich, fatty food, that instant gratification isn’t good in the long term. Don’t you appreciate that chocolate cake or those french fries more if you mostly abstain?

When new clients embark on their training journey, I describe what we do as a behavioral elimination diet. There is something in our dog’s lives that is making them think it’s okay to do that undesirable behavior, that they don’t need to listen to us or that they don’t need to exercise self control required to resist temptations and not react to certain stimuli. When we shift our perspective, adjust our behavior, and have clear expectations, our dogs respond. The same way a dog is immediately responsive to me because of the way I enter the home, your dog can be more responsive to you if I can teach you to act like me. 

Once we get back to basics, get on that bland diet that will allow our dog’s behavior to stabilize, then we can start playing with the different elements of our lives together, relaxing some rules and boundaries, adding in privileges, but all one by one so we can tell what it is that tips the scales for our pup. When I did this with my dog, pulling back allowed her true personality to come out. I discovered she didn’t like being pet as often or in the way I was petting her. By abstaining, she was able to show me when she wanted attention, and because her attitude was cooperative and respectful, I could choose when I wanted to meet her desire for affection and when I wasn’t able without her becoming pushy or demanding. I found that talking to my dog as much as I was was confusing and stressful for her. She never knew when I was going to disturb her with my voice and attention, and when I did, it wasn’t clear if I wanted anything or was just, essentially, bothering her. 

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When I started pulling back, my dog settled, became more confident and more responsive. She developed a sense of self and safety after a lifetime of separation anxiety. Her interactions with other dogs changed. She relaxed, listened to me better, and trusted me more. All by shifting my behavior and the manner in which we had our interactions! The changes in her astounded me and improved her life exponentially. That is why I’m so excited to share this method and knowledge with my clients, because it works. It is practiced in small moments instead of taking out 20 minutes a day to rehearse a routine of tricks. And in every interaction I can ask myself which dog I am feeding: a calm, responsive dog or an excited and impulsive one. 

A very thorough guide to housebreaking

Taking the time to properly housebreak your puppy is one of the most important things you can do! Whether from a breeder or from a shelter, it’s likely your dog has only had the experience of going potty inside or on manmade surfaces. Transitioning to a new home is the perfect opportunity to change where your dog understands he is meant to use the bathroom. As is always my feeling with dogs, it’s easier to get out on the right foot than to make mistakes and spend time undoing them. 

In the style of potty breaking I teach, if my dog has an accident I think if it as my fault. My puppy has no idea where he is supposed to eliminate. All he knows is that when he has to go, he empties his bladder or his bowels and he feels great! Mission accomplished. He walks away happy, leaving the mess behind where it doesn’t affect his life. Because housebreaking is something we need our dog to learn, it’s up to us to take the time and give our dogs the guidance he needs to get with the potty program. 

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How We Do It

My program involves three different stages: Free time, Restricted time and Lock Down. After my dog potties, he gets some free time in the house. When enough time has passed and I’m no longer positive that he is safe from potentially accidents, I put him on restricted time. Restricted time can look like:

-Being in a puppy pen

-Tethering a leash to a heavy piece of furniture

-Looping a leash around your foot or wrist or clipping to a belt loop - known as an umbilical leash

-Being in a room with you if you can watch him - really watch him, not just sort of watch him while you focus on something else

-Or, going in his crate

Depending on where you are in building your dog’s bladder control, he can go out after free time or after a little while of restricted time. We are trying to build their bladder control, but not allow it to go past capacity. Having your dog in your sight while on restricted time will allow you to noticed the signals of having to go and get your pup outside right away. If you are unable to watch your pup, go straight from free time to lock down in a crate until the next potty break! Two hours tends to be a good guide for most puppies, but adjust the timeline in accordance with their feeding schedule, water intake, vigorous play or waking up from a heavy nap. 

How Do You Know If Your Pup Needs To Go?

A puppy won’t be able to cue you the way an adult dog may, so don’t expect a formal invitation from your dog to go outside. With puppies, I start to go on alert when my dog:

-wakes up from a nap

-stops play

-starts to sniff or move towards carpet

-circles

-goes into a squat

-wanders into another room or around a corner

I do my best to preempt an accident by bringing my dog outside before anything can go wrong. Usually, if my dog does have to go and I bring him outside and cue the potty, he will go within a few minutes.


How Long To Stay Outside

It can be temping to stay outside until your dog goes, but this can be trouble in the long term. I want my dog to know that he only has a short window to use the bathroom instead of holding their bladder as leverage to stay outside longer. This can really get you in trouble when you are in a hurry to leave the house and need your pup to go so you can go. I limit each potty break to 5 minutes and keep potty walks under 15 minutes. If my dog doesn’t go, he can hang out in his crate and we will try again in 10 to 30 minutes. By keeping each break short, my dog learns that he needs to take this chance to go or else he will be stuck with a full bladder. 

Getting With The Program

Potty training begins first thing in the morning. When you wake up, immediately take your dog outside. This will be known as zero hour. First thing in the morning, get your dog outside as quickly as possible. If possible, try to have your pup walk instead of being carried. This can be tricky in apartment complexes or anywhere that he will have a chance to squat and potty along the way. Leashing from the crate to the yard is a good idea to help your dog hustle outside without squatting in the house. I always use the leash in pulses, giving my dog opportunities to follow along of their own volition instead of dragging them with steady pressure. This will help your dog figure out that when he trots along with you, the pressure goes away and encourage more of that behavior in the future.

Cue The Potty

Go outside with your dog and use your cue word to indicate this is the time to eliminate. I like ‘go potty’ because it has a unique cadence and can be said in a sing-song voice. I like to have my dog on leash, even in a fenced yard, because I can touch the leash to encourage my pup to stay focused on the task and keep sniffing around to find a spot instead of looking around or sniffing the air or playing with a leaf or chasing a butterfly - you get it, puppies are cute. When we are on a potty mission, I pinch the very tip of the leash handle and follow along with my dog, keeping the leash slack. As long as my dog doesn’t drag me or dive bomb into a smell, I want them to have the space to explore and find that perfect potty spot. 


How Much Is Enough

Your dog will likely pee first. Over time you will get used to how much your dog pees so you can tell if it’s a mark, a partial pee or a full bladder empty. Ideally, first thing in the morning, you get the full bladder. After the pee, reward your pup, but do it in a way that will allow them to stay focused on doing a full system empty and get a poo in, too. Not every dog wants to poo first thing in the morning. I will give my dog 5-10 minutes of walking and sniffing around to have a chance to go.

When I go inside, I’m pretty sure my dog is empty and won’t eliminate while we are feeding breakfast. If you suspect that your dog isn’t empty, keep them on restricted time when you come back in. This could mean being on the leash, in a crate or in a sectioned off part of the house, ideally without carpet.  If you feel confident your dog is empty, he can have free time! We want your dog to start associating going potty outside, with being free to have fun inside.

A Sample Schedule

7:00am Wake up

7:00-7:10 Outside, ideally pee and poo

7:10 Feed breakfast at this time

7:15 Take a trip outside right away

7:30-7:40 Another potty break if your pup didn’t go

7:40-8:40 Free time if empty or restricted time if he didn’t 

8:40 Potty break - record when he goes and what in your potty journal!

8:45-9:30 Free time

9:30-10:30 Restricted time

10:30-10:40 Potty break

10:40 - If he goes, free time, if not ask him to kennel up

10:55-11:00 Potty break, no potty

11:00-11:15 Kennel with water

11:15-11:20 Potty break, potty!

11:20-12:30 Free time!

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to do. After a potty, your dog gets free time. When he is not 100% safe, he goes on restricted time or go outside. If he potties, great! Back to free time. If not, he should go in the kennel. We want your pup to associate not going potty when taken outside with being put in the kennel and going potty with getting to be free to have fun in the house!

Learning Your Pup’s Timeline

It takes time to learn your dogs body language, cues, schedule and preferences. Don’t worry that it takes some time to get to know him. That is totally normal! The potty schedule will help you stay on track so you are giving your pup plenty of chances to go and keeping him contained when you are worried he needs to go and hasn’t yet. Keeping a potty journal will help you see how often your pup is going so you can adjust your schedule to his current bladder capacity. Luckily, as your dog grows, so will his bladder and the space between potty breaks gets longer and longer. For my adult dog, I get her out every 4-6 hours, after a nap, or after getting home if she exercised and drank while we were out.

Rewarding Potties

It’s a great idea to use treats, physical affection, and verbal praise to make going potty outside as fun and exciting as possible. This is a place where I say to throw your dog a parade! Make going outside the BEST thing. It can be hard to grab a treat on the way outside, especially if you are in a hurry, so I like to keep a sealed and hard-sided container of treats by the door. Ideally, you are putting a treat in your dog’s mouth within 3 seconds of when he finishes going. If you don’t have a treat, praise, pet, and play with your voice, touch and energy. Getting low, making high pitched sounds, and running around while he joins in are all happy and exciting. 

Punishing Accidents?

Dogs do not understand punishment, but dogs do understand an in-the-moment consequence. If I find an accident, I won’t rub my dog’s nose in it or bring them over and spank them. He won’t be able to put together that the bad part was before when he created that mess. This is where your schedule with free time and restricted time comes in! It’s on you if he sneaks off and got an accident in.

The best thing is to prevent any accidents and teach your dog right away going potty happens outside. The next best thing is if I can catch my dog in the act. If I see my dog going potty inside, I want to make it unpleasant and a little scary. The association with going potty inside should be a bad one. I want to run up on my dog quickly and loudly yelling “NOOOOOO” then scoop him up or lead him outside by the collar as fast as I can. If I was fast enough, he should still have some pee left and finish going outside, for which I will then reward them. 

Preventing Accidents

A dog waking up, stopping playing or walking out of sight are all things that set my alarm off to go watch them, call them back, or get them outside. It takes time to develop that sensitivity and sixth sense. Having a collar with a bell or a thin leash on in the house will help get your attention when your pup is on the move. I also don’t leave my dog alone out of the crate. Pick up all rugs that can come up for at least a month or until your pup is pretty solid on being able to hold his bladder and knowing where the bathroom is. Rugs are great to go on because they absorb the urine, where as hard floors splatter and spread onto your pup’s toes. 

Cleaning Accidents

The same way we know where the bathroom is because it’s the tiled room with porcelain furniture, dog know the bathroom by scent. This is why it’s important to clean pee stains by fully sopping up as much urine as you can with paper towels then soaking the area with an enzyme dissolving cleanser like Nature’s Miracle. It is very important to erase the potty smell so your dog doesn’t start to associate that spot with bathroom activities. Even poo stains need a scrub with Nature’s Miracle. Antibacterial spray is good, but it won’t dissolve all those enzymes and our dogs have much more sensitive noses than we do.

Using the Crate

Most crates come with a puppy divider to gradually increase the size of your crate as your dog grows. This is so your puppy doesn’t have mansion of a crate where one corner can be the bathroom and he can walk to the other side to get away from his mess. Most dogs won’t want to mess where they sleep, so being in just enough space to spread out and lay flat is a good way to dissuade them from going in their crate. Again, if you find an accident after the fact, it’s too late to correct them for it. Just take them outside and wash the bedding. Dog bedding is a privilege, not a necessity. It can be a good idea to start with a cheap towel instead of jumping in with a luxury sheepskin crate pad right away. If you dog messes in the crate a few times, leave them in there with no bedding so there is nothing to absorb the pee. Just like how your dog happily naps on the floor, he won’t find a plain crate as offensive as we do. Bedding is a privilege he can earn by holding his bladder in the crate. 

Limiting Water

It’s a good idea to monitor your dog’s water intake. For new puppies, limiting water in the evening to help them sleep through the night is very helpful. I advise doing a 3-meal schedule where dinner is fed around 5/6pm. Dogs need water to hydrate their kibble, so be sure that your puppy eats he has full access to water for about an hour to an hour and half. After that, pick up the water, giving him three chances to drink before bed. Only let him have a few sips, the way you drink when you go on road trip. While my puppy is house breaking and crate training, I have to do what I can to help him gain bladder control. If my dog doesn’t know he will be contained for 6-8 hours while I sleep, he will drink to his hearts content then need to go in the middle of the night. Limiting water will help him have a manageable amount in his bladder so he can start to sleep through the night. If you are worried, lifting the skin on the back of their neck is a good hydration test. If the skin quickly slips back into place, he is well hydrated. If it stays peaked and is slow to slide down, he needs more water. Water restricting at night should not be dehydrating. Be sure you are finding the balance between enough water and too much water.

Visiting Friends

When going over to someone else’s house, it’s a good practice to ask your pup to go potty before going inside. An empty dog is a safe dog. It’s easy for a pup to sneak off in a new space. When I go somewhere new, I like to close all the doors and keep my dog on-leash for a while. My dog will learn that the way to get inside a new place is to go potty outside- then we go right in. This is a great association to make! We just don’t go inside till you squeeze out a little potty. Be careful of rugs, blind corners or hallways, and, as always, food, cat food, and litter boxes. If you pup doesn’t potty outside before going in, keep him on leash in the house so he can’t wander off then go back out after 10-15 minutes. Just like with the crate at home, the way you earn your freedom is to go potty in the right place.

Bringing your pup over to a friend’s house with a healthy and polite dog who enjoys or tolerates puppies can be a great double hitter for socialization and potty breaking. Dogs will instinctively want to pee on another dog’s pee, so if the dogs play then go for a potty together, your puppy will likely copy the older, housebroken dog and go outside. Just like exercise, play gets the pipes moving, so be sure to take your pup out more often, especially if they are drinking more than usual.

Dog Doors

Dog doors are convenient, but often create a dog that isn’t fully house broken. Just like a baby in diapers, a dog with a dog door never learns to hold his bladder because he can go potty whenever he wants. If you move, if you board your dog, or if the dog door is closed, your dog likely won’t be able to hold his bladder. Dog doors also prevent you from knowing if and when your dog has gone. When I’m first potty breaking, I recommend not using dog doors so you can go out with your pup every time and make note of what he does and when. There is always time to add on extras like dog doors later on, but for the initial potty training process, it’s important to avoid them.

Pee Pads

Pee pads are tough! Unless you live in an apartment and plan on using pee pads throughout your dog’s life, it’s better to not use them at all. When I bring my dog home, it’s important to create a distinction from the breeder or kennel he came from and this new life, where we only potty outside. While potty pads can be an easy option at first, they are a hindrance for long-term house breaking as it will be another hurdle weaning your dog off them when you eventually pick them up. They are unsightly, smelly, and, unless your dog has perfect aim, are prone to having pee spill off the edges. Pee pads are too similar to rugs, which we don’t want our dogs to potty on and create too much nuance between going ‘here’ inside, but not ‘there.’ 

Free Feeding

The way that dogs stomachs are designed, grazing is particularly bad for them. Instead of leaving food down all the time, I like to offer my puppy 3 meals a day. I put the food bowl down for 15 minutes, saying “are you hungry?” then pick it up until the next meal. This will teach your dog to eat when food is down or else he will go hungry. Feeding on a schedule will also help you estimate when your pup is likely to poo. If your puppy can free feed, it’s hard to know when he will need to go out since I don’t know how much he ate when.

Health Risks

It’s hard to balance the advice of your veterinarian and trainer. A vet will say that the risks of exposing your not fully vaccinated dog to the diseases that can be passed through the environment or contact with other dogs is not worth the risk. A trainer will say that the socialization and potty training dogs get in those first four to eight weeks at home is invaluable. Having a yard is a huge help in keeping your dog safe from environmental diseases. If you don’t have a yard, try to pick a quieter out of the way area where you can take your dog to potty

Picking the best food for your dog

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Try on this perspective on today’s dog food industry. Imagine if you woke up 50 years from now and your child was feeding your grandchild something called 'kid food,’ essentially cereal. Like today, there are many brands of cereal with different flavors and recipes and claims to nutrition and quality. So your child asks you what is the best 'kid food' to feed your grandchild, because the Kashi of kid food is the healthiest, but his child prefers the Frosted Flakes of kid food, which claims to have daily vitamins, but is full of sugar. You would think, “what the heck! Don't feed your kids that and only that. That isn't all kids are supposed to be eating!” This is the current state of dog food. Dog’s are not designed to eat a diet of only cooked food and all kibble is cooked. It also is augmented with filler ingredients other than animal protein that are not healthy for dogs to have a daily basis. While some people argue that they can digest it, therefore it’s an appropriate diet, to that I reply that just because I CAN digest McDonald’s, doesn’t mean I should, and certainly not on a daily basis.

Zoe switched to raw right after Haley joined the team and she never looked back

Zoe switched to raw right after Haley joined the team and she never looked back


The modern concept of dog food began after World War II, before which dogs ate a combination of table scraps and scraps from the butcher. During this period, many pet dogs were put out during the day and allowed to wander, therefore, kill small prey or scavenge to supplement their diet. During WWII, tin was rationed, which put a stop to dog food canning. In an effort to keep factories productive after the war, dog food made from meat byproduct and cheap fillers that could be dried and bagged was the perfect answer to meet this commercial and industrial need. This type of feeding was easier and more palatable for pet owners, who traditionally don’t enjoy handling the raw meat and organs that dogs need. The smell of kibble has actually been scientifically balanced to find the perfect balance between a rancid enough to entice dogs and a palatable enough for humans to stomach and to keep in their homes.

The design of dog food has evolved to meet the desires of dog owners, which is now gravitating towards people’s limited knowledge of the benefit of raw food. Unfortunately, this lures owners with limited education into a false sense of doing what is best for their dogs. Unlike what the salesman at even the best pet store will tell you, raw food and kibble utilize very different digestive processes and should never be mixed. Not in the same day, not in the same diet, not ever. A proper diet must be only raw or only kibble, with canned food only being fed when prescribed by the vet for short term treatment of digestive issues or not at all.

How to tell if your food is good
Just like humans, a dog should be regularly having healthy, solid bowl movements. A dog’s stool is the best indicator of the quality of their food and how well it is agreeing with them. You don’t want your dog’s poo to be too large for the size of your dog, fluffy or soft (like frozen yogurt), uniformly shaped (like a sausage), stinky, acidic, frequent or too light or dark in color. The more fillers a dog food has, the more metabolically expensive it can be for your dog - the energy that it takes to digest and process their low quality food can negate it’s limited nutritional benefits. When nutrition is limited, a dog’s body will stop nourishing the less essential organs, such as eyes, ears, skin, and coat. When your dog has abundant nutrition, you will notice that their coat becomes incredibly soft and shiny, their ears cleaner.

Rules of thumb for buying kibble
Start at a pet store. If you can buy dog food at the grocery store, price will be cheap and the quality will be poor. Pet food should only be purchased at a pet store, ideally one that will take back a partially full bag as you try to find a food that is the right fit for your dog. Don’t be seduced into buying treats or raw toppers, those don’t align with my understanding of the canine digestive process. I don’t feed my dog any food outside of a full meal. Dogs are not designed to snack and one bite of food produces a meals worth of acid. Instead, dogs are designed to fast, eating only when they are able to kill or scavenge instead of on a regular feeding schedule. At all costs avoid any food with food coloring. Science Diet is the lowest possible quality and not only should you not purchase it, but you should avoid doing business with any vet who sells it as they value brand funding over your animal’s health. It is important to know that vets, just like pet store employees, do not receive a comprehensive education in nutrition. They will often caution against feeding raw because of the potential liability. To that I would counter that dog foods have had many recalls over the years, but how many recalls have there been for human grade chicken or other meats? While humans are protected from parasites and bacteria in meat by cooking our food, our dogs have stomach acid that is 10 times stronger than ours. The same way they can eat carrion that is beginning to decay and not get sick, they can eat raw meat in a way that isn’t safe for a human to do.

When feeding dry food, it is important not to free feed, leaving a bowl down all day and giving your dog a choice about when and how much to eat. Our dog’s stomachs are not designed to snack, but rather eat and fast. Because kibble isn’t an ideal food source, it make’s your dog’s stomach too acidic, requiring them to eat twice a day to keep their stomach bile at bay. We have all had a dog puke up foul smelling yellow foam if a meal is late. When you free feed, you create a stomach environment that is consistently far too acidic. There is nothing wrong with a dog skipping a meal and waiting until the next one! It’s natural for dogs to self fast and can be very healthy, the same way I skip meals or eat light some days. Free feeding has even been linked to a shorter life span. This is why I recommend leaving food down for 15 minutes then picking it up until the next meal, regardless of how much my dog eats. If your dog is chronically disinterested in their food, they don’t like it or it doesn’t make them feel good and you need to find a different one. Imagine if you had to eat a brand of cereal you hated for every meal and couldn’t communicate with your owner how much you didn’t like it? Best to err on the side of caution and transition to something different.

Switching foods
When you try a new dry food, it is important to switch foods slowly. Some dogs with iron stomachs can tolerate a quick switch, but it is safest to switch slowly. Feeding each for two days: 1/8th, 1/4th, 1/2th, 3/4th of the new food until your dog is fully switched over. Your dog’s poo may be less that ideal during the transition if they are very sensitive, but ideally should balance out within a week to solid, contoured, and healthy looking.

When selecting a brand, do research online, but know that there is an evolution in quality within brands over time. Orijin and Merrick were two of my favorite foods until their popularity led to one of them being purchased by Purina, who promptly raised prices and lowered quality to the point where I stopped recommending them. How could I tell? The poo of the dog’s who were on those foods degraded to a level where I could tell their stomach were unhappy and the food was being padded with fillers. Fillers are nutritionally costly to a dog and can use more metabolic energy to push through the digestive process than is offset by the limited nutrition contained in the food.

Feeding Raw
Frozen pre-packaged raw food has become a popular option for owners who understand the benefits of going raw. These foods are expensive, easy and not quite completely sound from a raw perspective. These prepackaged bags can be a part of raw food, but are not a complete diet as they lack the bone that is an important source of fiber, jaw exercise and teeth cleaning that dog’s need. Raw bone, unlike cooked, is incredibly healthy for dogs and an essential part of the raw diet. Cooked bones, as most of us know, are dangerous for dogs as they are apt to splinter when being chewed and can even puncture their intestines. Raw bones, on the other hand, are healthy, safe and they provide natural exercise for a dog’s jaw and even help to keep teeth clean!

When transitioning, I fast my dog for a full 24 hours and make the switch completely, not feeling kibble again unless I am fully switching back. Begin by feeding one meat source only. I like to start with a chicken drumstick, thigh or back as chicken is easily digested and the bones are soft and easy to chew. After a day of fasting, most dogs are happy to be presented with raw meat for the first time in their life. They will start by licking it to begin breaking down the muscle, then chewing it, intuitively knowing how to consume whole meat. Some owners are concerned about giving their dog such a primal food source, but watching a dog eat their first piece of chicken is amazing and exciting. In a life that is mostly civilized, it is a rare opportunity to see your dog’s animal nature in action.

Porter never had a normal poo in his life till he got on raw food. Now he is healthy and can run all day to his hearts content!

Porter never had a normal poo in his life till he got on raw food. Now he is healthy and can run all day to his hearts content!

How much to feed
Picking the amount of food per day is trial and error. Shoot to feed 2-3% of your dog’s ideal body weight. My 12lb Dachshund eats a drumstick or one puck consisting of a bone, red muscle meat, organ combination that I get from the farmers market with enzymes and probiotic sprinkled on top. A 50lb dog who is getting substantial exercise will eat two chicken quarters a day, fed at once or split into two meals a day. I alternate between the bone in meat and pucks, feeding more when my dog looks skinny and less when she starts to lose her hourglass dip near her hips.

For raw, each meal should ideally be 65% muscle meat, 20% bone, 10% heart, 5% liver. Their general diet also contains 65% boned meat, such as chicken legs, backs and lamb necks for example. Suggested meat progressions when starting out on raw are chicken backs, chicken drumsticks or quarters, turkey necks, pork, fish canned in water such as salmon or mackerel or raw fish, lamb and beef. After a month, add in some organ meat like organic hearts, livers and kidneys. It’s important to get livers organic as they process what the conventionally raised animals are fed, which are not chemicals we want in our pets. It is also a good idea to introduce egg including the shell, garlic, apple cider vinegar, yogurt and leftovers from the fridge that you would eat yourself, not scraps of overly fatty meat, as well as some cooked or raw vegetables.

Raw poo
After an initial adjustment in their digestive process, your dog’s poo should be smaller, denser and break down into a white powder, unlike the poo of conventionally fed dogs, which do not break down over time, another red flag on their quality that even the flies don’t want to eat it. If your dog’s poo is too loose, add more bone. If it’s too dry or your dog is straining to get it out, add more muscle meat. Too much bone can cause constipation and the surplus of calcium can block the absorption of other nutrients. When my dog was on kibble I needed to pay to have her anal glands expressed and they now express naturally in the process of moving her firm, raw bowels.

Types of bones
Raw meaty bones (RMBs) that are large, inedible and have a small amount of meat, marrow and cartilage on them are a great form of recreation for your dog. I always have a bag in my freezer that I rinse under water and throw outside for my dog to enjoy. These bones are best purchased from a butcher, ethnic market or raw feeding cooperative as they will be much cheaper from those sources than from the pet store. These bones can be marrow, soup or knuckle. RMBs are gnawed on, not consumed and have little meat. Bones that can be fed and consumed include chicken necks, backs, and leg quarters; turkey necks; lamb breast and necks; pork breast (riblets) and necks; and canned fish with bones, such as jack mackerel, pink salmon, and sardines (packed in water rather than oil).

The bones that can be consumed should make up 30 to 50 percent (one third to one half) of the total diet, or possibly a little more if the parts you feed have a great deal more meat than bone (e.g., whole chickens or rabbits). The natural diet of the wolf in the wild contains 15 percent bone or less, based on the amount of edible bone in the large prey they feed upon. While a reasonable amount more won’t harm an adult dog, it’s not needed and reduces the amount of other valuable foods that can be fed.

Transitioning
This philosophy of feeding is referred to as the Whole Prey Model and is designed to mimic the experience of eating a whole animal that was caught and killed. While it may seem intimidating at first, feeding raw is quite easy and intuitive for both owner and dog. While your dog may have an initial ‘healing crisis’ that involves a dip of health now that they have a stable and nutritious diet and can address some chronic by minor health issues. After three months, your dog will show signs of abundant nutrition in their coat, eyes and ears. When strangers remark on how soft their coat is you will know you are there!

Big dogs eat raw too! It’s worth every penny to see your dog vitally healthy.

Big dogs eat raw too! It’s worth every penny to see your dog vitally healthy.

There are very few dogs who do not do well on a raw diet, or even more rare, don’t like it. It is important to approach it exactly the way I describe and not be seduced into going back to kibble as your dog adjusts their palate. For the first three days, offer a drumstick or bowl of meat mix twice a day, trying to find their preferred protein and favorite time to dine. If they don’t eat, simply pick it up and wait till the next meal. No dog will let themselves starve and the more stubborn pups need a bit more incentivizing to try something new. If after 3 days of fasting your dog still refuses to eat, try a different food source or go back to the best quality kibble you can find.

After a few months you should have a good sense of how much your dog eats, what types of proteins agree with them and what cuts of meat they prefer. This will help guide you in what and how much to purchase, but does take time to figure out. Utilizing the freezer helps ensure that nothing goes bad, although dogs can safely eat meat that is slightly beyond consumable for a human.

Feeding raw in Austin
I like to start out with a package of drumsticks or chicken quarters from the grocery store. I put 3-4 in a baggie, leaving one bag out in the fridge and freezing the rest. If you would like to buy in bulk, place an order with East Side Poultry. I let the box of meat defrost then separate and freeze it in baggies. Then I don’t have to worry about it for another month or two. For dogs, defrosting and refreezing meat is no problem as they will not turn their nose up at the texture.

For the pucks, I order from Jake and Blue, which now has home delivery as well as a stall at a Saturday farmers market. I love the quality and these pucks seem to keep my dog more full than the grocery store brands, although some clients are happy on brands like Northeast Naturals available at Bark and Purr or Tomlinsons.

There is another delivery service called Texas Tripe that drives through Austin once a month so owners can collect bulk amounts of meat. I used to buy their tripe and meat mix tubes, bulk boxes of chicken parts and bones.

There is a local raw feeding collective, ARF, but they require a monthly volunteer shift in order to have access to their collectively purchased meat sources so be ready to jump in with both feet!

Lucy loving raw life

Lucy loving raw life

I’m excited for you to start your dog food journey! Remember to move slowly when changing and supplementing your dog’s diet and follow my recommendations as closely as possible. This isn’t an area where there is much room for creativity. Imformation available from vets, pet stores and online articles will be confusing and contradictory, but after a decade of feeding my dog raw and helping owners transition to the raw diet, this post is a comprehensive guide for what I know to be true and effective. Just ask Harley! She is going strong after a decade and gets compliments on her soft coat and vitality all the time.

Like a dog with a marrow bone

Like a dog with a marrow bone

How to make your dog’s crate a great place

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That is a fabulous idea! When determining if a dog was eligible to board with us, we would always ask if the dog was crate trained. Trainers do it. Vets do it. Groomers do it. Airplanes do it. Boarding facilities do it. At some point, your dog’s life will include being crated, so you should do it, too.

 I am a trainer who loves crates. Dogs love being in them when the crate is comfortable, covered with a sheet, and feels like a den. I love them because I know that my dog and my home are both safe when I’m out. As long as my dog is getting enough exercise every day, she doesn’t need to be free in the house while I’m out. She isn’t going to be running around the coffee table tiring herself out, that’s for sure. Instead, being free in the house can sometimes be stressful for a dog. Especially when our dogs are home alone, having free run of the house can feel like we are asking them to protect the house. This can be taxing and exacerbate stress barking or separation anxiety. It can also lead to scratched doors, chewed furniture and potty accidents.

It’s a good idea to introduce your dog to the crate as a puppy. The good news is that no dog is too old. It’s better to create a positive experience than to try to fix a bad one, so I like to take my time. I usually start by making my crate a nice cozy space in the common area. I may even pick up my other dog beds so the crate is the comfiest place in the room. I like to get a cute vintage sheet from a second hand store to drape over my crate so it isn’t an eyesore and feels more contained to my pup. Think of it like their bedroom or a little dog cave. For the bedding, start simple with a bed or towel. There is a chance that it may get chewed in the learning stages, so don’t start out by putting your finest dog bedding in there. Lots of owners wash blankets before it goes in the crate. I can assure you that your dog does not appreciate the fresh scent of Tide. The best bedding is something you have slept with, sat on or otherwise gotten your scent on. Shoving new blankets in the dirty clothes bin (after an initial wash for chemical residue) is heavenly for a dog. Don’t judge ‘em! Show your love by giving the pup the stinky bedding they want.

After you have made the crate as cozy as possible, start making it happy by building positive associations. First get some really high quality treats. For this I like freeze dried treats, bully sticks, pigs ears, frozen marrow bones or whatever else makes your dog happy. From now on, at least for a while, this will be a crate only delicacy - gotta be in the crate if you want to enjoy it! I lead my dog to the crate, toss the treat in the back, then help guide my dog in with encouraging words, happy energy, sticking my arm inside to pat the bedding and wave the treat. If this doesn’t work, I may add a few little leading tugs on the collar or pulsing pushes on my dog’s booty. Once they pop in, I’ll give pets, scratches and verbal praise, then, once they are able to stand in their for a few seconds without me holding or blocking them, slowly let them out. We don’t want a starting gate break, just a casual saunter. If you are feeding a long chewing treat like a bully stick or marrow bone, toss it back into the crate if they try to bring it out to enjoy. You can sit by the open crate or close it and stay within the view of the opening that isn’t covered by the sheet.

If the treat isn’t enough to keep your dog occupied, take time sitting with him by the open crate and petting him while he is inside. Whatever motivates your dog, reserve it and try to associate it with the crate. once your pup is comfortable with the space, start feeding all meals in the crate. For most dogs, you haven’t shut the door yet as we are just acclimating. Food should be placed against the back wall. If my dog chooses to miss a meal avoiding the crate, that is okay! sometimes I skip meals too and I’m alright. They will likely eat the next one. Good things come to those who get in their crate.

When your dog has a meal or two in the crate, go ahead and try shutting the door while they eat, first staying in the room. Shut the door. Open the door. Shut the door for the whole meal and let your dog out after he is done but before he whines or fusses. If your dog does start to whine, it’s very important that you don’t let him out till he has settled for at least 5-10 seconds, otherwise you teach him the way out is to whine and you will very much regret creating that association! Door is shut momentarily at first so your dog knows he won’t be in there forever. You can do this many times a day, leaving the door shut for seconds, then minutes, growing longer each time.

An important factor in crate training success is how tired your dog is. Trying to get an energetic dog to settle and be happy in a crate is an uphill journey. If I have a lot of energy, I don’t want to be forced to sit still! If I’m exhausted, however, bring on a comfy place to rest where I don’t have to worry about being bothered. Try to work your crate training schedule to follow some good vigorous exercise, some water drinking, then potty time. Your dog should be happy to kennel up at that point!

The first time you leave your house, it’s only going to be for a second. Literally a second. I want you to crate your dog, walk around the house for a few minutes doing chores or something other than your getting ready to leave routine. Then without saying anything to your dog, walk out your door, shut it, take one breath, then walk back in, again not saying anything to your dog. If your dog is alert, but not whining, you can let him out, being sure to ignore any excited behavior. If he is whining, wait for him to settle. If he is pretty content, maybe try leaving him in and going outside for another round. You want to briefly crate your dog then go in and out of your door as many time as possible this week, making it longer and longer till you can sit outside for 15 minutes playing on your phone or doing those push ups you have been putting off. After that, try to go run a quick errand.

In our training sessions we talk about impulse inhibition, your dog’s ability to regulate himself and his emotions. Coming out of the crate is a great opportunity to practice the ‘wait’ command. I wait until my dog has calmed himself before I even approach the crate. If my dog’s excitement level rises as I approach I’ll stop, turn away, sometimes take a few steps back or even leave the room so my dog can calm down. I want to teach my dog that a only calm pup gets let out, so calming down is the toll you have to pay at the crate door. When I lean down to unlatch the door I say “waaaait” in a calm, low voice. If my dog is overly excited I won’t do very well here, so the excitement level has to be at a moderately contained stage before we begin.

As I start to open the door, I said “wait” again, and slowly increase the size of the gap, staring at the base of the crate and watching my dog from my peripheral vision. If my dog makes a move for the opening. I quickly close it. Even if my dog has squeezed part way through, I will grab him and put him back in. It is really important that we don’t dart out of crates. Actually, we don’t dart out of any doors. I gotta be honest, not a lot of darting going on period. Frantically rushing out the opening can make my dog feel more anxious about being in and let out of your crate. Once the door is fully open, I slowly stand up, still watching my dog out of the corner of my eye. I need to be ready to shut that door if my dog makes a run for it. After I get all the way up, I’ll take a breath and wiggle my shoulders to be sure my tension isn’t what is holding my dog in place. Then, with calm energy I’ll say “okay” or “let’s go” and slowly start to walk away, ready to correct any jumping, whining or over excitement.

Many a crate training has been disrupted by whining. When people hear a dog whine, they associate it with crying and assume their dog is distressed. Most of the time it’s more of a temper tantrum. Your dog is frustrated because, likely, he almost always gets what he wants and right now he wants to be with you instead of in his crate. When we let our dog out in response to whining we teach them that they can have their way and that whining is the way to get there. You will surely earn yourself more whining by responding favorably to it. Still, whining is unpleasant for us and I need to teach my dog, just like a toddler, that go to bed means go to bed and it isn't a negotiation. First I will ignore a whine. I’ll go about my business. This is called waiting for the behavior to go extinct by not rewarding it. Sometimes it works, so I always like to try it, but often this alone won’t do the job.

If ignoring the whining doesn’t make it stop, I don’t like to suffer in silence. I try to find a way to express to my dog that nothing bad is happening and he needs to accept that the crate, like a dentist appointment, is just part of life. I start with a verbal correction that I deliver without coming into the room or, ideally, stopping what I’m doing. I’ll call out a firm, but gentle “eh’eh” or say “dog no” or “quit” and I’ll wait a beat to see what happens. If my dog stops, great! If not, I’ll increase the pressure. I may call again with more intensity from another room. If my dog is really fussing, I’ll go right into the room where the crate is and repeat my verbal correction. It’s important to remember that your dog wants you to come into the room to let them out, so you need to be sure that your dog knows the moment you cross the threshold that the desired result has not been achieved. In fact, this isn’t a version of you he recognizes at all. You have booty kicking energy and should not be messed with. I will say “QUIT” in a loud, sharp voice then stomp out of the room, closing the door. If this doesn’t work, it’s trainer time! Give us a call to get a hand dealing with the tough to train pup who seems resistant to my ‘best of crate training’ suggestions. sometimes there are relational cues that we give our dog in other areas that can undermine our training results.

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Every dog poops - What makes a good one?

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A lot of clients have poo related questions, so I decided to go ahead and write a blog post so I could share what I know. This post contains a series of pictures and explanations to help you identify a healthy dog poop. Checking the quality of your dog’s poo is the best way make sure your dog's food is agreeing with him or her. Dogs are mammals, so a healthy dog poo shouldn't look all that different from a healthy human poo. The main factors I evaluate are size, density, color, smell and frequency. For each of these factors, I'm looking for moderation - the poo shouldn't be too big or small, too firm or soft, too light or dark, too stinky or acidic smelling or too frequent. While dry dog food is the most convenient and common way to feed a dog, it is a fairly recent invention for dog diets, popularized after World War II as an easy and affordable way of feeding our dogs. While dogs have adapted to the diet, not all of them do well on kibble and, given their evolutionary history, that is no surprise. Before dry food became popular, dogs were fed a combinaiton of scraps from the table and the butcher. Today, those who don't feed dry food either cook for their dog or feed a raw diet (ideally the whole pray model). Some of the dogs in my pack today are fed a raw diet, including my own. If anyone is interested in learning more, please contact me! I am a huge proponent of this diet and have seen dogs with troubled digestive systems have the first healthy poo of their lives after eating raw. That being said, and as you will see in the photos, there are also dogs that do well on dry food. Your dog’s poo is the best testimony to your food! If you are so inclined, keep reading to take a look at the photos of today's dog poo and my evaluations of each. For purposes of privacy, the dogs will be kept anonymous. I am not a veterinarian, but I am around a lot of dog poo! Taking out 5- 8 dogs a day, I am guaranteed to see (and pick up) more that most owners see every day. Over the course of a year, that adds up! From dealing with dogs of different sizes, history, breeds and ages and talking to owners about different foods, I have learned a few things I would like to share.

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Not so good

This poo is light in color and very soft and shapeless by the end, the consistency of frozen yogurt. You can see the solid first nugget at the bottom of the photo, then this poo quickly deteriorates. This is still pretty early in the hike, so the poo shouldn't be of such poor quality. I would definitely change this dog’s food.

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A sneaky raw poo

If you can spot it through this grass, this raw poo is an A+ on color (nice and dark but still brown, not black), size, density and don't smell. These poos break down into white dust in a few days. Raw-fed dogs are easy to distinguish by their poo.

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The pinnacle of health

This is a raw fed dog's third poo and it happened towards the end of the hike. As you can see, it's still a good color, density and shape. Don't get tricked into thinking that exercise is a good excuse for the complete deterioration of the quality of dog poo. It is possible for the poo to look good no matter how active the dog is - as long as their diet is agreeing with them.

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This one is okay

Here we have another kibble fed dog who has struggled to find the right food. This poo is appropriate for her size, good color, but a touch on the light/orange side if I am being picky. It came out in two chunks with good density and didn't smell. This owner had to try a lot of foods to find one that worked and should stick with it!

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This poo looks great

This is an older dog who loves her kibble. The size is appropriate for her weight. The density is good. It has shape and contours. It feels firm and solid through the bag. The color is good, not too light or dark. This was her only poo on this hike, so frequency is great and it didn't smell. Perfect poo!

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Yucky puppy poo

This poo has some shape and density at the start, but becomes fat and fluffy, breaking down to the consistency of frozen yogurt or peanut butter. The color is too light, more tan than brown. She is a big girl, but the size is still on the big side. Ideally the poo is nice and firm so it can naturally express your dog's anal glands. This poor pup even had to do the squat walk to squeeze it out.

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Poor pup!

Within 10 minutes after the first poo, the puppy squeezed out the rest. This poo is more like melted frozen yogurt, as you can see from the bubbles on top and lack of shape or density. If this happens occassionally, especially after a dog has eaten something outside of their normal diet, that is ok, but if you are getting poos like this on a regular basis, you should be as concerned as if your own poo was looking this way and implement a change in diet. Again, we are early in the hike here so this is diet, and not exercise, related.

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Another raw poo

This is a bit bigger than the first and has a range of color (dark at the start on the right, very light in the middle and getting a bit darker at the end on the left). The density also ranges - the start and end look great and are firm with nice contours while the middle is a bit soft and shapeless. This is the middle of the hike so this dog has been exercising. Still, I would still say this poo looks pretty good!

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Not a dog poo

I took a photo of some scat on the trail My research tells me this belongs to a racoon. You can see the whole berries in it and how the density and shape more closely resemble the raw fed dog poo, but s o much darker it makes it easy to tell that some dog owner wasn't negligent in cleaning up the trail).

The basics of teaching fetch

Our own Haley Benardino stepped off the trails and behind her computer to write today’s blog on fetch

Our own Haley Benardino stepped off the trails and behind her computer to write today’s blog on fetch

Fetch is a great way to exercise, play and bond with your dog. We love fetch because it can help your dog train his energy while using his mind in a constructive way. Some dogs are born understanding how to chase and retrieve. Others might have a bewildered look on their face when you toss a toy. Fetch should always be fun for your dog! Keep your energy happy and playful and offer fun rewards for his participation. This means you have to figure out what motivates your dog. It could be verbal or physical affection, treats, or play.

Choosing The Right Toy

Finding that perfect toy for your dog is one of the most important steps. Some dogs prefer a ball or frisbee, others a plush toy. It may take a few tries to figure out what type of toy gets and keeps your dog’s attention. Be sure to pick a toy that is not small enough to be accidentally swallowed. Also beware of toys that can be broken into pieces or are too hard or sharp on the edges. Frisbees that are not designed for dogs can chip dogs’ teeth. The frisbees that are made for dogs have soft rubber edges that are much easier and safer to catch mid air.

  • Chuckit brand soft side flyer, Flying Squirrel, and Tail Spin Flyer

  • Chuckit ball thrower (helpful for those slobbery pups or the ones that enjoy running a longer distance)

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  • Squeaky balls (that squeak when squeezed), whistle balls (whistles when thrown), or any kind of noise making ball are a favorite for lots of dogs! Squeezing the ball to get your dog’s attention or regain their focus can be handy and get their full attention on the toy.

  • Nubby balls or plush toys are a favorite for dogs who are more mouthy and enjoy the gum stimulation or have a softer, more sensitive mouth.

  • Rope toys are great for dogs who enjoy a little tug game when they bring the toy back to you before you ask them to “drop it”. This kind of toy comes in many varieties.

Once I have established what toy is my dog's favorite, I like to reserve that toy for fetch practice only. Keep it out of your dog’s reach and only bring it out when it's time to play fetch. Doing this ensures that your dog won’t get bored with the toy. It will also keep your fetch toy from being destroyed.

Retrieving

Start small with teaching fetch. Begin a session by playing with your dog with the toy, wriggling it around his face or in his mouth, playing a tug game and keeping it fun. once your dog has the toy in his mouth, reward him! This will show your dog that going for this toy is what you want. After a few minutes of good, happy play, ask your dog to drop the toy and reward it by saying “good drop.”


Toss the toy only a few feet away from you and saying “go get it.” Run with your dog to the toy, indicating with your body and voice that you want him to grab it. It’s best to start with short distances while you get the basic concept down. Once he has the toy in his mouth, reward again with a “good boy” and encourage him to bring it to you with a happy “come” or “bring it here” command.  When your dog comes to you, give a very happy reward like petting and saying “good come” or feeding a treat. Repeat this process multiple times over the course of a few days or weeks, slowly adding a little more distance when you toss the toy away.

Remember that learning new skills has to be a series of wins for your dog. They need to feel they are getting it right, so be sure you are asking your dog to do more repetitions in their skill zone than out of it and slowly expand the distance of the throws or time you play. Try not to get to the point where your dog becomes bored and stops chasing the toy or bringing it back. On the other hand, if your dog really gets into the fetch and stops playing because they overexert themselves, take a break to let them catch their breath, have a drink of water, or lay in the shade with their toy until they are ready to play again. This is especially important in the hotter temperatures of summer.




Common issues

Your dog isn’t into toys

Before you get started it is important to understand your dog and whether they like toys or not. Some dogs don't like putting toys in their mouth. If this is the case with your dog, you can try soaking a tennis ball in chicken stock or putting treats in an old sock and tying the end in a knot, also Kong chewers with some peanut butter stuffed inside is a great enticing toy. Making the toys a little tastier can help to show your dog that toys are great for chewing, playing, and mouthing. Most dogs love toys and it doesn't take much to entice them to play.

Your dog plays keep away

Some dogs would rather play keep away and have you chase him for the toy. Others bring the toy back to you but not all the way, stopping a few feet away from you and making you close the gap. Other dogs will bring the toy back, but don’t want to drop it so you can throw it again.

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A great way to tackle these issues is to attach a long line to your dog. We like a homemade 20’ or 30’ rope with a clip or a long lead that you can order. Important note: don't throw the toy farther than the length of rope you have.

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After your dog gets the toy, ask him to come. If he doesn’t, call again then wait a beat and see what he does. When you see the moment of hesitation cross his mind or when he makes the decision not to come, give a tug on your rope and see what he does. At this point you would use the rope to encourage your dog to come back to you with little tugs or wiggles while saying in a nice tone “bring it here” or “come here.” Make sure you are still rewarding for coming back with the toy, especially in the beginning while he is still trying to learn what it is that you are asking for. A dog can’t be naughty if he doesn’t know the rules.

Another good trick for getting your dog to come back and drop the toy is a good old fashioned bait and switch. Have a second toy or squeaker ball ready so when your dog gets the first toy in his mouth and doesn’t come, you wave or squeak the second toy to encourage your dog to come back fully for the second toy. Usually they will drop the first toy to chase the second toy and then you can go grab the first toy again and repeat.

Your dog won’t drop the toy

You can use a treat to teach your dog to drop the toy. Place the treat above your dog’s nose and say “drop it.” Then wait for your dog to fully drop the toy. Pick it up and say “good drop” in a nice tone and then give the treat. Let your dog chew and swallow the treat then get their attention before throwing the toy again. Keep the treats small and only use when needed. It’s important to ween off of treats once your dog understands the basic concept because treats can easily  be turned into a bribe instead of used as a reward.

Most training issues you encounter should be resolved after the first few weeks of consistent work. Feel free to reach out for a training session if you need some additional pointers.

In Conclusion

Fetch should always be a fun experience, especially when you are first teaching it. You want your dog to love playing fetch with you. If you graduate to playing outside of a fenced area, your dog should be safe off leash and respond reliably to basic commands (sit, stay, come). Dogs of any age can learn to fetch. It is helpful to start them at a young age, but it can be a fun game for any energetic dog.

Laying the foundation for a solid 'come'

The ‘come’ command is one of the most important things we can teach our dogs. Having a solid ‘come’ can help you keep your dog safe as well as open the door to a world of fun activities. A solid ‘come’ takes work and is one of the commands we use treats for - really good treats.

Since ‘come’ is so important, it warrants the use of hot dogs! Hot dogs, the top of the dog treat pyramid, the best thing you can give a dog. For this extra important command, we are sending you to the grocery store. Buy a package of hot dogs and a box of sandwich bags. At home, slice each hot dog lengthwise, then chop them into tiny bits no bigger than the tip of your pinky finger. We want your dog to enjoy the taste, but be able to get it down with just two chomps. Put about 5-10 pieces in each sandwich bag and put them in the freezer. You want to take one bag out a day for your practice sessions. In order to preserve the sanctity of the hot dog, don’t use these treats for anything else. These are ‘come’ treats only.

Add a stop at Home Depot to your shopping trip because you also need a light 30’ rope and a clip. You can clip or tie the rope directly on to the collar or on to the handle of your Mendota Slip Lead because this process begins with a nice calm exit from your house and a few minutes of focused loose leash walking. You want to get to a nice quiet grassy area near where you live. Your yard is a good place to start practicing, but it’s a good idea to take the show on the road after a few sessions and go somewhere with new smells and more distractions. Don’t worry! You have the rope to keep your dog safe and the hot dog to keep their attention.

Once my pup figures out that hot dog is not being dished out for free he will make the most of the moment and start sniffing around. When my dog gets slightly distracted and into a groove (not too distracted mind you, we are looking for wins, especially at first) I will say ”Dog! Come come!!” in the happiest, highest voice I can muster. I also squat down and tap my knees, opening my hands to my dog as he runs towards me.

‘Come’ should be THE BEST. Happy voice, happy energy, happy hot dogs. Coming to me should be the best feeling in the world. When my dog comes, he gets a good boy, good boy, who is such a good boy, a hot dog chuck, and a scratch. After that, I stand up and we walk a few steps together or he starts to sniff again. I don’t want my dog bombing away from me at warp speed, which can happen if I make my reward too exciting and they get drunk on reward energy.

It’s important that when my dog comes to me, I reach down to touch him around the head or neck. I do this 9/10 times so that my dog starts to learn that the post ‘come’ touch is a temporary scratch and not me reaching to grab him and take his freedom away. This way when I do need to grab my dog, he doesn’t slip away from my hand. This slip can be a truly dangerous move - if it happens at all, even rarely, that means it could happen at the absolute wrong time. It also speaks to what I call an attitude problem - my dog has determined that I’m trying to grab him and, because he doesn’t want to be grabbed, he evades my hand. Hopefully if you are at the stage of training where you are doing off-leash prep, you have already addressed your dog’s flawed thinking that such a move would be permissible.

Our baggie only has 5-10 chucks of hot dog because we only want to practice this a few times each session. At first, I set up some wins while my dog learns what come is and how fun it can be. I want my dog to get far enough away to where he can run back to me, but not so far and so distracted that the come fails and I need to use the rope to reel him in. As we build on the reliability of the command, practicing it at longer intervals and with more distractions, we will also start to wean off the treats. My dog may get a treat for every other come, then three out of five, then one out of ten. If your dog misses a ‘come,’ take a break and do some loose leash walking. If they miss two, maybe it’s time to quit for the day and try again tomorrow - after all, only dogs who come when called get to stay at the park.

Now, what do you do if something goes wrong? Let’s say I belt out my most charming “come, come!” and my dog doesn’t even perk an ear. I would keep calling his name and the ‘come’ command at different pitches and volumes. I would clap my hands and leap around trying to make myself interesting enough to warrant a response. As I say come I like to back up, almost jogging backwards as I call my dog to make it more fun for my dog to run to me. If all that fails and my dog is completely unconcerned with my movements or hollering, I will reel him in using the rope. First I do a tiny touch on the rope, winding it up and taking out the slack. I wait a beat to see if that was enough to get my dog’s attention, then give a heavier tug. Again, I watch my dog. Are they engaged yet, or do they ignore me? After that I would apply pulsing pressure through the rope as I call my dog and start moving away while still calling my dog. The moment my dog makes the decision to stop being dragged and start moving towards me, I want to reward with a verbal ‘yes!’ and ‘good!” but I won’t use a treat for this round. Hot dogs are only for dogs who come of their own volition.

Overall, ‘come’ should be a romping good time while still being calm and mentally engaged. I want ‘come’ to be the happiest moment of my dog’s day. You can practice twice a day or once every other day, but try to be consistent. Any treat-based training is all about repetition. You gotta put the hours in to get an ingrained response. Practicing good rules and boundaries at home will support your work in the field - don’t forget that everything is connected!

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A few of our favorite things

The Naked Dog, as the name implies, is likes to keep our life with dogs down to the bare minimum. We like to use our body and relationship as our main training tools. We do, however, have a few products we really love.

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Our favorite tool

The Mendota Slip Lead in 3/8”x 4’

We love the Mendota slip lead so much, we started giving it to every client who signs up for our training series. This leash slips over your dog’s head and can be positioned just where a leash needs to be- at the tippy top of the neck behind your dog’s ears and jaw. For us, the leash isn’t a way of controlling your dog. It’s a communication tool. When the leash is positioned on the sensitive part of the neck, it reminds your dog when they walk they are ‘on the job’ and allows you to ‘talk’ to them with a subtle movement. Our goal is to have no pressure on the leash from you or from your dog, so you walk together in a way that reinforces the calm, mental engagement we want from our dogs. This leash is easy to get off and on as you are reinforcing good behavior or reacting to changes in environment. It’s great for use in the house if you have a dog who gets nervous around company or is an overzealous greeter. It’s the perfect length to wear over your neck or slung across your shoulder while you hike. I never leave home without one! Many of our clients have called this leash a game changer when it come to leash reactivity or teaching a dog the skill of loose leash walking - something every dog should learn to make walks more enjoyable for everyone! Throw away your harness and grab yourself a slip lead today so you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

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Made for pets

The best electronic collar on the market

Electronic collars get a bad rap. To be honest, before I had a client insist on buying one, I didn’t want to use them. The truth is that electronic collars allow me to speak to my dog in a language they intuitively understand. If I was a bigger, stronger, faster dog, I would ‘nip’ my dog on the neck when they were getting too excited or ignoring me. Since I’m not fast or agile enough to catch my dog in a full play gallop, the Mini Educator allows me to touch my dog without catching them. We don’t use collars on every dog and it isn’t the first place we go when beginning training, but it gives me a sense of security when teaching a dog to be safe off-leash. We spend a few days acclimating each dog to the collar and teaching him or her to associate the stimulation with our voice. When the dog learns that I am home base and the right answer is to come back to me if they get ‘tagged,’ he or she is ready to start learning to be safe off leash and respect the boundaries I set, which are in place for safety as well as convenience. We love this brand because it is designed for pets, not hunting dogs and the range allows for it to work for every dog, from the most sensitive to the thickest skinned.

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For the working dog

Who wants to carry his own weight

The Outward Hound pack occasionally makes an appearance in our hiking group for dogs who need a little extra. This pack is great for giving a strong, active dog additional exercise so they get more bang for the buck on each mile of the hike. We fill it with water bottles on hot days or soup cans when it’s all about weight. You better believe we are tough on these packs - they go swimming, run through the bushes, get rolled on in nature and survive plenty of full body shakes. The straps can be adjusted to a variety of dogs, which we love in case we switch it out mid-hike. If you want to try a pack for your high energy pup, we recommend starting very light and building up weight slowly. Working dogs love the responsibility and we love the added oomph it offers on the way to tiring out some of our super active hikers.

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Stinky Collar?

Dublin Dog to the rescue!

If your dog loves hiking and the swimming, rolling and playing that go along with it, you know the pain of a stinky collar. We are sticklers for safety, so we ask all our pups to wear collars with id tags. Washing collars seems to be one of those chores that is almost impossible to get to, but if you have to grab your dog’s collar, you will quickly regret putting it off. We love the Dublin Dog because they come in fun colors, they don’t get wet and hold moisture against your dog’s neck after a swim, and, mostly, because they never stink! A necessary accessory for any adventurous dog.

dog….Dog…DOG!


In sessions I see a lot of owners saying their dog’s name in the place of giving a command. Heck, I even do it sometimes. I always compare this to trying to ask your friend or partner or client to do something by only saying their name. If I was trying to give a client coaching on loose leash walking and said, let’s say, “jane” in a soft, friendly sing-songy voice, I may get a glance from her, but it would probably be accompanied by a raised eyebrow as she thought to herself ‘what is going on? Do you want my attention?’ Saying a name with no other words usually serves just that purpose, to get someone’s attention. 

Now let’s say she glanced at me, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I was trying to get her to slow her pace or to give her dog a cue with the leash or stopping staring at her dog as she walked. I didn’t get what I wanted, so I say louder, “Jane!” And she responds with a more frustrated glance that says “what?” Clearly she is doing something I don’t want her to do, or not doing something I do want her to do, but she has now way of knowing what. I’m only saying her name. 

By now she must be annoyed. She knows something is going wrong, but doesn’t know what it is or how to fix it. I’m frustrated too, because I’m not getting the desire result, so I bark out “JANE!” and storm towards her, throwing my hands in the air because I don’t understand why things are going so badly. 

Well, in this situation I would clearly be a poor communicator. If Jane had been working with me a long time and I had told her 100 times, “hey, stop staring at your dog as you walk” then I warned her that I couldn’t keep telling her the same thing over and over, when I said her name, she would probably know that I had caught her doing the thing she knew that she wasn’t supposed to be doing, she may think to herself, “crap, I was staring at my dog again!” and correct the error without my having to explain what my admonition was in reference to. I knew that she would know because we had already established that in many previous conversations.

Sometimes, with the dogs in our hiking pack who have been with us a while, we will say the dog’s name as a correction. Especially with a pack of dogs, the work “no” or an ‘eh-eh’ sound could apply to anyone. We use our gaze, our attention and our body language to indicate which dog our voice is being directed at. 

If a dog consistently plays too rough, lags behind, wanders off the trail or gets too far ahead, when caught in the act we will sharply and loudly say “Fido!” or whatever his name is, and, realizing the jig is up, he will usually snap back into formation. He knew the behavior we wanted and when called out, he immediately complied. 

If we say a dog’s name and they don’t connect the dots on what is going wrong, we will say the name again and add the command, whether it is ‘back on the trail’ or ‘heel up’ or ‘leave it.’  If that still doesn’t work, I know that either my dog is having a moment where he got so excited he temporarily lost his mind - or at least the part of it that is inclined being obedient, and we will approach the dog to guide him, correct him, or otherwise achieve the behavior we were looking for.

What is important to note in this example is that these are dogs who are trained. I know that they know what I want. We took our time, we laid the groundwork, we showed them right from wrong multiple times and reinforced the behaviors we wanted while preventing, correcting or disincentivizing those we didn’t want. While we are teaching a dog what behavior or mentality we are looking for, it’s important that we interrupt the behavior we don’t want, sometimes by calling the dog’s name. That interruption must be quickly followed with showing the dog what we DO want. 

If my dog is playing too rough, I’ll say ‘easy’ and if he doesn’t take it down a few notches, I will call him back to me or step in and interrupt his play to ask him sit and collect himself or take a break on leash for a while.  If my dog is lagging behind, I will say his name to get his attention and if he doesn’t automatically respond by catching up to me, I’ll ask him to ‘come come’ or keep moving with the group saying ‘let’s go’ or tell him to get off the smell with a ‘leave it.’ If those don’t work I will start walking back towards him, repeating the command or making sounds (Shhh Shhh, Hey, or a clap) to get his attention and let him know I’m a comin’ for him. Usually once we start making our way towards the dog he knows the best option is to leave the smell and come along.

In summary, using your dog’s name is a good way to get his attention and can sometimes take the place of a command, but if my dog doesn’t seem to understand what I want from him, it’s my job to tune into that and change my approach after the second time I use his name and don’t get the response I was wanting. If you do get the response you were looking for, be sure to relax your manner and reward your dog with cooing sounds and a pet.

Vocabulary lessons for dogs

I knew my English degree would come in handy someday! While much of my relationship with dogs involves learning to ‘speak dog’ by reading their body language and knowing how to interpret their behavior, part of living in a human world means that our dogs need to learn some human language, too.

In our training sessions we talk about how to give commands and recommend that owners pick a vocabulary for their dogs and stick with it. Our dogs are smart, and it is incredible that they can learn so many words, but it is too much to ask them to learn English. Expecting our dogs to understand secondary meanings for words is confusing and unnecessary. Each word should have only one meaning and we should use the same word for the same concept or behavior every time. This bit of deliberate effort on my part can make a huge difference in my dog’s life, making it easier for her to comprehend what I’m asking for and, therefore, to comply. For instance when I want my dog to lay down I say ‘down’ and when I want her to get down off the furniture, my guests legs, or the rock I asked her to jump on for a photo I say “off.”

You don’t need to use my exact list. The most important thing is that you pick a language that works for you so it is one you can use consistently. It is also helpful to associate as many of these commands as possible with a clear hand signal. Some dogs respond better to words while others prefer the visual cue (provided your dog is looking at you, of course!)

LIST OF COMMON COMMANDS

Sit -  get your booty on the ground  

Down - lay all the way down on your belly, ideally with hips flopped

Off - get your paws (or body) off furniture, people, dogs, or whatever they are on 

Up up - jump or put your feet up on that

Kisses - lick the hand, useful for puppies who are mouthy  

Paw/shake - raise your paw  

Beg/sit pretty - balance on hind legs 

Roll over - from laying down, roll to the other side  

Crawl - wiggle/army crawl to me keeping your belly on the ground

Leave it/Take it - don’t go for it (usually the treat)/ take the treat 

Touch - touch your nose to my hand 


Good (command)! - marks a positive behavior or correct response to command 

Hey! - breaks a distraction to get their attention back, also used as a correction if they have ignored a command 

No! - stop doing what you are doing  

Bad! - I don't want you to do that behavior. Don't do it now or again in the future.  

Easy - (sing-songy) pay attention and slow down and bring your energy down 

Settle - especially for a puppy, calm yourself  

Out - get out of here or don't be where you are or stop doing what you are doing 

Back - back up or get out of my space 

Move - move your body out of my path

Leave it - drop what you are chewing or leave that object, dog, or person alone 

Drop - drop what is in your mouth, usually so I can throw it 

Wait - pause and wait for a release or further instructions, pay attention to me (eg doorways)

Stay - you stay stationary while I walk away (not the same as wait) 

Okay/free - release, you can change positions or do what you want again   

Let's go - we walk off together  

Come! - I am stationary, you come to me 

All the way - come all the way back to me and touch me 

This way - you are going the wrong way, change course & pay attention to me 

Heel up - walk to my side 

On the trail - get back on the trail 

Leash - hold still so the leash can be put on 

Fix your leash - hop one foot so the leash comes out from between your legs 

Pick up - for puppies or small dogs, hold still and brace yourself so I can pick you up 

Outside - let's go to the door, usually to potty 

Wanna go potty? - Do you need to pee? 

Potty, potty? - I strongly suggest you pee if possible 

When we ask the dogs to pose for pictures, we use many commands including come, sit, up, wait, down, this way, stay, off and leave it. This photos not only look great, but are a great excuse to practice obedience, patience and focus.

When we ask the dogs to pose for pictures, we use many commands including come, sit, up, wait, down, this way, stay, off and leave it. This photos not only look great, but are a great excuse to practice obedience, patience and focus.