Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

Common Sense Dog Training

Monday, March 21st, 2011

I was just thinking about how many times, we, as dog owners, unwittingly send the wrong message to our dogs. For example – we all want dogs that walk nicely on a leash and yet how many of us regularly have our arm pulled out of the socket from our dog dragging us down the street? Why is that?

Owners will complain that their dog pulls them all the time and they don’t understand what to do about it. But think about the scenario: dog sees something he wants – dog pulls owner to the object – owner follows along behind with arm outstretched – dog gets to the object he wants – SCORE – REWARD - JACKPOT !!!!! The dog was just rewarded for pulling. Really, if you just think about it – common sense would tell you not to let him do it, right?

“Dogs do what works”. I’ve heard that saying for years. PULLING WORKS!! The dog gets what he wants by pulling.


Now - what do you think would happen if EVERY SINGLE TIME your dog started to pull you, you put his leash on the ground and stood on it – became an immovable object. How long do you think he would continue to pull? If pulling NEVER paid off – would he continue to do it? Probably not. If it NEVER got him what he wanted, he would give it up.

Additionally - what if we started this not allowing him to pull, the very first time you put a leash on him at 7 or 8 weeks? WOW!!! That could be huge.

Then you could add in a little clicker action, so that every time he turned back to you to say “what the heck is the deal?” and thereby put some slack in the leash, you could click to say, “YES that’s it!!! “
WOW – you could have a dog that would walk nicely on a regular basis by the time he was 10 weeks old! How cool would that be?

If your dog is already several years old and is used to pulling, don’t despair. It’s not too late. The key is consistency. If you decide to train him to walk nicely, you just have to make sure that you stop it EVERY SINGLE TIME he tries to pull. Are you up to the challenge? “-)

Just a little food for thought folks.

Happy training!

‘Teacher’s Pet’ program changes destiny of kids, dogs

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

I LOVE this story!! It was posted from USA Today on July 21, 2009. Enjoy!



By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

When teens are troubled, when they tread more often than not on the wrong side of doing the right thing, when they can’t seem to dredge up any interest in school or parental advice, or preparing to be contributing members of society, it’s easy to conclude that nothing can reach them.

They’re heart-of-stone kids, we figure, with mile-high barriers erected to protect whatever small measure of softness, empathy or willingness to connect might exist deep within them.

And that settles that. End of story.

Except Amy Johnson was certain that simply isn’t the case.

She knows something about reaching kids, since she has a teaching background. And then there’s that little something else about her background — a few years working with the Michigan Humane Society as well as training as a dog trainer — that convinced her that combining her two specialties could make a difference.

A student trainer works with Jewell in the Teacher's Pet: Dogs and Kids Learning Together program, which links destined-for-euthanasia dogs with emotionally impaired students. Both trainers and dogs learn and benefit. Photo by Amy Johnson

A student trainer works with Jewell in the Teacher's Pet: Dogs and Kids Learning Together program, which links destined-for-euthanasia dogs with emotionally impaired students. Both trainers and dogs learn and benefit. Photo by Amy Johnson

She did some research. Got her thoughts together. Approached some Michigan school superintendents, proposing a program in which some of the kids who were floundering badly and were at high risk of dropping out would train dogs for a few weeks. Maybe helping a dog that needed it could turn those kids around, she thought. Maybe that would give kids the kind of success they needed to feel better about themselves and everything else.

The superintendent in Waterford bit.

In the three years since then, her non-profit Teacher’s Pet: Dogs and Kids Learning Together program has linked 42 destined-for-euthanasia dogs with 42 students from Kingsley Montgomery School, a day treatment center/alternative school for junior high and high school youth with emotional and/or cognitive issues.

And it turns out her suspicions were correct. The program seems to have helped kids and canines in almost equal measure. All of the rescued dogs plucked from shelters and trained through the program have been adopted into new homes; most of the emotionally impaired kids who have rehabilitated them have new attitudes, new leases on life.

“The dogs come with behavior problems, and these kids can instantly relate to them,” says Johnson, who has a full-time job as marketing coordinator at Oakland University and does this Teacher’s Pet program as a part-time sideline without pay.

Almost immediately the kids chosen for the program have developed tight bonds with the animals. “Something warm and fuzzy reached these kids who no one else could get to.”

Buddy gives as much love and attention as he gets, and his trainer supplies plenty of it. Photo by Amy Johnson

Buddy gives as much love and attention as he gets, and his trainer supplies plenty of it. Photo by Amy Johnson

In each of the 10-week cycles of teens training dogs that have been conducted at the school so far, “the teachers and social workers noticed a change in the kids almost immediately,” Johnson says. “One of the kids last fall would tell everybody, ‘This program changed my life.’ He graduated. He believes now that he really does have things he can contribute.”

The kids and dogs work together two times a week, two hours per session. Johnson does Dog 101 instruction, then advances to talking about how dogs deal with stress, how people can read dogs’ body language, and how dealing with the animal in a positive rather than a negative way builds its confidence, removes its defensiveness and nurtures a willingness to learn and bloom.

“I never say, ‘All this is to make you a better person,’ but they figure it out,” Johnson says. “They know they’ve messed up. One girl actually said, ‘I get that we’re like the dogs.’ ”

This being real life, not all of the kids in the program have experienced a storybook ending. They have a few hours a week with the dogs “and then some go home to their questionable environments,” Johnson says. “But most have done well. They’ve improved relationships, learned patience. Many have transitioned back to their home school.”

There’s enough belief in the little program that’s changing lives that Planet Dog and Banfield Charitable Trust have sent some much-needed funding to support it, and three lock-up facilities for teens have had Johnson launch her program there (40 kids and about 30 rescued dogs have participated so far).

She also is running a summer camp, called Kamp K9 for Kids, for nearly 40 sixth to ninth-graders so they can learn many of the same dog-handling-related facts of life.

Johnson, of course, has dreams … dreams of “more people to help more kids and dogs.”

Her goals, she acknowledges, are “lofty,” and the means of achieving them, at this point, are “somewhat vague.” But then again, four years ago there was no program, no non-profit, no board and limited interest in what she was proposing.

Things have moved forward, she believes, for a simple reason:

“If you learn to communicate with a dog, you’re well on the way to being able to communicate with everyone.”

Sharon L. Peters is an award-winning pet journalist who lives in Colorado. You can e-mail her at pets@usatoday.com.

Gun Shy

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

How many of us have had some kind of behavior problem with our dogs, only to withdraw into oblivion and pretend that it doesn’t exist? Many. I know. I’ve had clients do it. And I’ve been tempted to do it myself, once or twice.

Several years ago I had a pit bull in one of my group classes, that was very reactive to other dogs. He would bark and lunge and pretty much go nuts whenever he saw another dog. So I had his owner work on walking him around, (a good distance away from the rest of the class), and reward him for not reacting to the others. The rest of the class worked on a variety of things that night, but Judy just worked on getting her dog to be able to look at another dog without going ballistic. By the end of the class, she had made a TON of progress. He could come within about 12 feet of another dog without barking and lunging. The work that she did with her dog that night was the most important thing she could have done. It was VITALLY important. The dog had the potential to do a lot of damage, and this was the first step in helping him to divert that behavior.

When I spoke to her the following week, she informed me that she would not be coming back to class. When I asked her why, she said that her husband was totally mortified by the way the dog acted, and they would NOT be returning. I explained that I thought what happened that night at class was a really GOOD thing, and that she HAD made a huge amount of progress, and how important that work was, etc. It was no use, his mind was made up, and she wasn’t about to change it. So instead of continuing to work through the problem, I would imagine that the dog will now just be locked in the house, not able to interact with any other dogs ever, which will just exacerbate the problem. They will have to “manage” his behavior for the rest of his life.

I have always felt really bad about that incident, and have often wondered what happened to that dog, and his owners. But on some level, lots of us do the same thing. If our dog does something that we consider “not good” how many of us just try to avoid the situation in the future, instead of working through it? Susan Garrett, one of the most brilliant dog trainers I know, says that whenever we see a shortcoming in our dog, we should look at it as a “training opportunity”. Instead of running the other way, or making excuses for why he does that, we need to work on the problem, and train for it.

As many of you know, I’ve entered Micah in a couple of agility trials only to be pretty much humiliated. To have him either run around like a crazy man, or run out of the ring is certainly less than ideal. So of course my instinct was to never show him again – not seriously – but at least not for a long time. True, I don’t want him to be rehearsing that behavior, but how is he going to get better without more experience? So while we have continued to work on our agility, we have also decided to start doing some fun matches. Fun matches are somewhat like an agility trial, but they don’t count, and there isn’t an actual judge. It’s for the dogs to “practice”, and get more experience, often in a new location.

So on Saturday, we went off to somewhere we’ve never been before, for our 1st fun match in a very long time. Micah did surprisingly well. We opted for 2 jumpers runs and 2 standard runs. They weren’t perfect by any means, but they weren’t entirely bad either. He had a couple of “woo-hoo” moments, and being a crazy little guy, but they didn’t last. By the 4th run, it was getting downright hot, and he was not at his best, but he still seemed to be trying. I was really glad we went, and will definitely enter more fun matches in the future!!

I guess the bottom line is: if your dog has a problem – whatever it is – don’t run and hide in a corner. Dogs learn from training and experience, not isolation. People aren’t paying nearly as much attention to you as you give them credit for. Work on the problem and figure out a way to fix it, or at least improve it! Your dog will be SO much the better for it – and you will too!!

Happy training!!!


Work With Your Dog!

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

I frequently try to explain to clients, how critical it is to “build the relationship” with their dogs. I often get the impression that they don’t really understand what I mean. They will say “oh, I have a great relationship with my dog”, but while they are saying that, the dog is off sniffing an ant instead of paying attention to them.

If done correctly, work = play and play = work. Dogs LOVE to learn and do things with you, and it helps them thrive mentally. Yesterday was a perfect example of how that works, and how to help that bond blossom.

Micah and I had pretty much fallen off the wagon with our 2×2 weave pole training (update on that at the end of this post). I had really wanted to videotape the entire process, but my camcorder was acting up, so we had pretty much stopped the training. I finally realized how stupid that was, so we resumed training a couple of days ago, sans camera. I took my own best training advice and made our sessions REALLY SHORT! So consequently, we did several short sessions throughout the day. Last night I could barely pry the little guy off me. If he had one of those cartoon bubbles over his head showing what he was thinking it would have said, “Are we going to do some more mom? Huh? Huh? Are we mom? Are we? PLEEEEEEEEEEASE Mom!!!”

This is the kind of stuff that great relationships are made of. If you want a dog that is responsive, pays attention, and wants to work with you, try devoting just a few minutes a day to working / playing with him. Teach him a new trick, or play 101 Things To Do With a Box. You will be AMAZED at how your relationship will flourish, and how attentive he will be. And isn’t that what we all really want?

Update on Micah’s 2×2 Training
I will probably have some video of our progress within a couple of days, but for now here are just a few pics of our recent progress. Just a few days ago we were still on our 1st set of 2 poles. We finally made the plunge and added the 2nd set.
Note: In case you’re not familiar with weave poles, they are a set of poles that are used in dog agility. The poles are in a line straight in front of the dog and they must enter from right to left and weave through the poles as quickly as possible, without missing any.

Susan Garrett, who is an absolutely brilliant dog trainer, has come up with a method of training weave poles called the 2×2 method. You use sets of 2 poles to train, and initially you concentrate on entry (to the poles) and then progress on, adding additional sets of 2, as the dog is ready. You start with the poles set up in front of you at the 9 o’clock and 6 o’clock position. The dog simply goes straight through them. Gradually you move the poles to the 8 o’clock and 2 o’clock position. It’s a whole process of gradually moving the poles to the 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock positions while adding more sets of 2.

Looking back, I think we spent WAY to much time on the 1st set of poles. But oh well. We added set #2 and I’m actually pretty happy with his progress. Many times he actually adjusts himself to hit his entry correctly. But not always. You’ll get a better idea when I get the video together.

This 1st pic is of Micah hitting the correct entry on the poles. Notice how far apart the bases of the 2 sets of poles are at this point.


You can almost see the concentration on Micah’s face as he goes through this set. Notice that the bases of the 2 sets are getting closer together, and the line of poles is starting to get straighter.


This is how the poles were set when we quit for the day. As you can see, he’s making some good progress. The line of poles is getting straighter and straighter. We’ll keep on practicing, and hope to have those poles mastered sometime in the near future. ;-)


By the way, I think I deserve HUGE kudos for not glutting up the blog with “useless video crap only interesting to the momma”. Ha!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

I hope you all had a great turkey day, filled with friends and family, and dogs, and lots and lots of stuffing!


Kids & Dogs

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

What is it about kids and dogs? They just seem to go together: like peaches and cream, or peanut butter and jelly.


Maybe it’s because they are both so innocent.

Dogs and kids pretty much live in the moment. They don’t worry too much about what happened yesterday, or what’s going to happen tomorrow. They just care about the here and the now. You know, where’s my ice cream?


And where’s my bone?


Nothing tickles me more than to see a young kid playing “tag” with his dog, or a small child that can barely reach around her big dogs neck, trying to give him a hug. (Even though I’m pretty sure most dogs HATE that, most kids LOVE it!)


A kid growing up without a dog, is just not right. That wagging tail when you come home from school - that slurpy tongue on your face in the morning - the endless games of chase, and tug, and fetch the stick.


Kids are good at loving their dogs, and the dogs are good at loving them back. Yup. Dogs and kids just go together like ham and cheese.


If you weren’t fortunate enough to have a dog when you were growing up, it’s not too late. You can still know the unconditional love of a four-legged furry friend. There are more than enough to go around: trust me - I’ve seen the local shelters.

I can’t IMAGINE my life without dogs. How about you?

Dog Friends Are the Best Friends

Friday, September 5th, 2008

I’m a dog person. Have I mentioned that?


The other day I met a friend for lunch at Cozymel’s Restaurant. She is a recently acquired friend, and fellow dog trainer. We had a great time yammering on about everything under the sun - that is everything DOG related.


When I think about it, we talked about many different things, but nothing that didn’t have SOMETHING to do with dogs. It’s so wonderful to network with folks that have the same passion that I do. We shared stories of recent experiences, and bounced ideas off each other. We went on for about 3 hours with scarcely a breath in between. I’m sure we could have gone longer, but you know, places to go, people to see.

She is my newest “dog friend”, but actually most of my friends are dog friends. In fact, my BEST friends are dog friends.


I’m guessing that we will remain friends until we are old and gray(er) and can’t do much but sit in our chair and mumble! (about our dogs).


Most of my activities in life have something to do with dogs, either mine or someone else’s. I remember many years ago watching an Oprah show about people who were obsessed with their pets. I actually thought they all sounded pretty normal. What in the world was all the fuss about?

I do have friends who don’t share my affection for the canine species. But not many. And honestly, I have to say that I sometimes wonder about them. Anyone who doesn’t absolutely melt at the sight of a puppy just has to be missing something in life. At least in my humble opinion.

How did I get to this point where my life pretty much revolves around these four-legged fuzzy creatures? I really can’t say, but I’m ok with it.


I guess it doesn’t matter what your passion in life is - as long as you have one.

Did I mention? I’m a dog person.

The Rescue Wagon Train - Part II

Friday, August 15th, 2008


Three of my four dogs came to me “in-need”. I’ve never really considered myself to be much of a sucker when it comes to a hard luck story, but then I’m not made of stone either.

Turbo is my sweet, if somewhat vacant, Doberman. At the time of his rescue he was four and a half months old, and living in a pile of leaves, in the backyard with a bunch of other dogs. The owner said that’s what the dogs liked. Yeah.

He should have long been gone from his mother, and no doubt was trying to do something repugnant when she attacked him. I’m just guessing. He was probably just being a normal adolescent pup, doing the normal obnoxious things that adolescent dogs do. At any rate, he incurred her wrath, and she nailed him in the throat. She ripped him open badly enough that his owners brought him in to euthanize.

Long story short, he was rescued and the docs fixed him up. At least they fixed him physically. With stitches, and drain tubes, etc, he recovered with very little drama.


It hadn’t clicked with me yet, that the first 16 weeks of his life were CRITICAL to his emotional development, and he was living in the “pile of leaves” at that crucial time. The bonding and socializing and mental stimulation that should have taken place, was completely absent.

It took many weeks of living with us before I could even get eye contact from him. It wasn’t that he was afraid; he just didn’t have any clue what relating to people was all about. He still struggles with that today, along with several other emotional/mental glitches.

He IS a sweet boy, and we love him despite his shortcomings, but the point is that he could have been SO MUCH MORE if he had been given half a chance - been given even a minimal amount of nurturing as a pup. It makes me sad for HIM.

Early socialization and bonding with people is SO important for young dogs. I can’t emphasize that enough. Between birth and 16 weeks they are truly little sponges, willing and eager to soak up anything and everything we can give them. That’s when it’s most important to make sure that all their experiences are great ones.

Perhaps not all of his problems are due to his negligent upbringing. Perhaps some dogs could live the way he did for their first 4 months, and come away with less social damage. I don’t know for SURE that he would have been a different dog if I had him from babyhood, but I certainly would like to think so.

It’s the Little Things

Friday, August 8th, 2008

There are a few things I really enjoy seeing in Texas that I never saw in Minnesota. One is the endless number of hawks circling the skies at any given time. I could watch them for hours. I saw lots of ducks and geese in MN but hardly ever a hawk - at least not in the city.


I also really like the little geckos that grace our front entry porch. Most nights you can find a couple of adults and two or three babies hanging out on the bricks, but they’ll quickly scurry into the eaves if they see you looking at them for too long. We also have at least a couple that hang around the back patio in the evening.

Yesterday morning as I was walking through the family room, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. Couldn’t figure out what it was - something on the wall, near the ceiling. We have a lot of hornets around our yard, and I thought perhaps that’s what it was.


I actually had to get my camera out and zoom in on it to find out that it was a teeny baby gecko. Poor thing! He was on the wall above the patio door, so he must have wandered in during one of the thousand times a day I let the dogs in and out.


I decided to leave him alone and wait for him to come down. Then I could worry about trying to get him outside. No point in scaring him before it was necessary. Throughout the day I would check on him. He barely moved an inch from his original position. I figured he must have been pretty terrified.

I don’t know how old he was, but if size was any indication, he must have been very, very young. He probably didn’t have a clue what to do about his predicament, so decided to just stay put. I’m sure coming in the house was just a freak accident, cause as you know, I have FOUR DOGS!

I was gone for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and when I came home, you guessed it, he was in the same spot. My husband said that he would die up there if we didn’t get him down. So after everyone went to bed, I found a fluffy thing on a pole used for dusting ceiling fans and decided to try to coax him out the door. It was actually amazingly simple. I just opened the door, nudged him in the right direction, and out he went. Wah-Lah! Gecko Gone! Yea!!!!! Good luck, little guy!!

It’s surprising how much I worried about that tiny lizard. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make all the difference!!

Don’t Be Afraid

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

My husband put a fair amount of work into cleaning off our pitifully dusty kayaks so we could spend the morning on Lewisville Lake with some friends. We got there early so there was hardly anyone else there. The heat of the day hadn’t hit yet, and the lake was cool and calm. It had been 4 or 5 years since we had been out on the yaks.

Two of my friends brought their 4-leggers (dogs) with them, and they had a blast romping on the shoreline, and fetching toys from the water. At some point, they decided to let the dogs get in the kayaks with them. It’s something I never would have thought of. That would have been out of my comfort zone. They stayed in close to shore just to be safe, but the dogs did great and actually seemed to enjoy it (after the initial “what the heck?” phase). Just chillin on the water, suspended in time, enjoying the peace and quiet. It IS really peaceful when you’re there without the crowds and the roar of the speedboats and sea-doo’s.

Now I’m anxious to get my little guy out there to try it. He’s never even been to the lake, much less on a kayak. Sometimes you just have to expand your horizons, and dare to try something new!!