Practice Patience and Consistency

Today it’s really cold outside.

I am supposed to be working on my IAABC application, but instead I am doing some displacement sniffing. (Comment if you know what displacement sniffing is!)

Practice Patience and Consistency!

I have been recording my training sessions with Cargo since she was a tiny baby. Most of our training up to this point has been online or by myself. We have taken a handful of classes, she has a few barn hunt titles and done some private sessions. But a majority of training is at home and alone.

The perk of this is that I have hundreds of hours of video on my computer that I can go back and look at when I need to. The downside is that none of these videos are labeled, categorized or have any distinguishing features besides the tiny thumbnail they give me.

Enter displacement sniffing. I am going through all the videos to identify which of my dogs are actually in the video and what in the heck we are working on! I have a solid year of video to go through. Lord help me!

(Again, I should be working on an application)

My plan is to go through the videos and find all the places where I have been practicing with Cargo and show you the progression of some of our exercises.

I may just have to talk about them instead. (hundreds of hours of video y’all)

I will say my favorite part of recording my training sessions is that when I think I am not progressing I can (occasionally) go back a few videos and see where we came from and what the behavior looks like at this point.  Last week it was our “back ups.” Took a look at last weeks video and well that doesn’t look so bad. We carry on.

That’s the point I am trying to make here. WE carry on! We keep working toward that final goal.

What is your final goal for your dog?

What are you doing to get there? Are you on the right track?

Does it look better than it did last month? Last week?

Keep practicing and keep pushing along. With dogs, it’s the journey, not necessarily the destination.

Here it is: The one answer to all your dog training questions!

I had a lovely client, with a lovely dog tell me that they had a question for me while they were out walking with their lovely dog. Unfortunately, they could not remember their question. (This happens to me all the time! I have lists and notes for everything!)
Knowing this lovely dog, I said the answer to your question was probably going to be “give her cookies”.

Years ago, I probably could have come up with some scenario where cookies were not appropriate. Now that I have been doing this for a while, I cannot think of a single place where cookies are not a good idea.

There might be those situations where your dog can’t eat those cookies, but that still gives you information and those cookies were still a good idea.

Let’s explore some options that may have been presented to the lovely clients in this story!

A dog showed up! If your pup has some feelings about this dog that showed up then using cookies to keep them under threshold by luring away or tossing some cookies in the grass to allow some sniffing and decompressing are both great options.

The bag of leaves in the street suddenly required some boofing and caution!Well that’s okay, those leaves are not going to cause you any harm, can you take this cookie from me while we move away?” “Feeling brave and want to investigate, well that’s awesome, can you take this one cookie from the ground as you move closer? Oh you moved all the way to the bag? Oh look how brave, here is a shower of cookies to show how proud of you I am!“ Remember, you can’t reinforce fear! (Fear is an emotion not an action!)


Overzealous Neighbor! This is especially important if you have a shy or fearful dog. As you eye roll on neighbors high pitched squeaky approach of you and your dog, start dropping cookies near you. This will keep your dog occupied while the chaos ensues. If your dog is acting fearful or you know has a history of being fearful in these situations, then do not give the neighbor the cookies! You continue to drop those cookies until your dog is confident enough to approach the neighbor on his own. If your dog is not approaching or in full body wiggles approaching the neighbor, do not let the neighbor pet your dog. He’s not ready, and all the cookies in the world from her is going to make that situation okay for your dog! Instead, have neighbor ignore your dog while he investigates on his own, without any pressure. You continue to give cookies for any good response. (any response is a good response for a shy and fearful dog)

Dog’s brain has melted! Increase your rate of reinforcement to keep your dog engaged and focused until you can get their brain between their ears. Keep those high value treats in front of them until they have moved far enough away from the thing that they can focus on you again. Or end your session. This is especially true for adolescent pups. (6 to 18 months) They have puppy brain and sometimes things are just hard when you are an adolescent. Work with what they give you and I promise it gets better. (Cargo is 13 months at this point and some days are better than others. Last night’s agility class, was a little rough!)

That one situation that you had no idea would ever happen but it just did! Throw a handful of cookies for your dog while you make a decision on how to keep your dog safe.

Tell me what you think! Can you come up with a time that simply giving cookies was a good idea? Share here or on Facebook!

Fluency in Training: Your dog doesn’t know “sit”

Fluency in Training our dogs

Those of you who have worked with me have heard me talk about my 4 points for Behavioral Wellness. (Sarah Stremming talks about this quite a bit for those who would like to know more. Or ask me!) I find the biggest disconnect is people’s understanding of what their dog actually knows. They tell me that their dog “knows” how to sit and wait at the door to go for a walk, or when the food bowl is in your hand. Dogs are super smart, and they “get by” with very little actual information from us. If you start scooping food and your dog runs to the mat and sits, do they know a “go to mat” and “sit” or do they just know they won’t get fed until they sit on the mat? Can you ask them to sit in the living room, while watching TV and with no cookie in your hand? Do they pop into that sit or look at you blankly then sit?


Fluency is defined as: the ability to express oneself easily and articulately. When we were in school we had to learn a foreign language. Did you consider yourself fluent after one year of that language? I certainly did not. Are you expecting your dog to be fluent after just a few repetitions? In dog training, we talk about fluency as the dogs ability to accurately comprehend what we are asking them. Is your dog trying stuff or do they really know what we are saying?

Quick Story!

I have been working on Cargo’s fluency in her “down” position since she was a tiny pup. She will quickly and confidently offer it on her own and when I ask for it. Recently, I had my fence put up and needed to leash walk her while they were out working. One of the workers needed to ask me a few questions so I asked her to down while I spoke with them. She confidently dropped right down, and stayed there as long as she needed to. (I payed her, of course, for staying there) I have never asked her to “down” while I was speaking with someone, but the history is there for plenty of other circumstances. For now, I would call her fluent in the “down” cue.

I was listening to a training podcast recently, (yes, all my free time is spent training, or learning about training or reading about training… maybe I need a new hobby) and the guest was speaking to the interviewer about the joy that your dog receives when they “know” a cue. When they confidently can offer that behavior in any location without any prompts from you, many of your behavior problems will melt away!

How this helps you

When I am working with anxious or fearful dogs, having some line of communication to let your dog know that you are in control and they are going to be safe, creates a whole different outlook for your dog. We bring them into our lives to live with our rules and constraints that really do not make any sense to a dog. Training is time consuming and sometimes difficult, but you owe it to your dog to make sure they truly understand what we are asking them. This is why I spend so much time at the beginning of training making sure your dog knows the rules for living with us and what we expect, before adding in the things that are making life so difficult for you.

She knows “sit”

I recently created a Facebook group for present and past clients to learn from my dogs and take a peek into the things I find important to communicate with them. This is a safe space to ask questions, learn from my dogs, and other clients who may be having similar struggles to yours. If you would like to join this group just shoot me a message and I will happily add you.

Door Manners! A “how to” guide!

I love when my clients answer the door and ignore me! Seriously! It makes my heart sing when I have a client rewarding their dog for staying on their mat at the door, releasing them then saying hello to me!

Society says that not speaking to your guests when you open the door is rude, but so is a dog who jumps all over you.

Pick your battles people!

I promise you I will not be mad if you slam the door in my face because your puppy made a mistake! I’m pretty sure your guest will not be mad either if you tell them what is going on. (communication is key!)

Do you have a dog who jumps all over people at the door? You want a dog who keeps all 4 feet on the floor when saying hello? That seems like a pretty big endeavor, but with a little management and planning it’s not so hard!


Let’s break it down!

First, what skills can we use to communicate to our dog what we would like them to do? Down and stay are a good place to start. Mat skills make this really easy. Make sure you have taught your dog a release cue to communicate that they can get up.
Break these skills into pieces your dog can be successful with.
Can your dog stay while you walk towards the door with no one there? No?
Can they stay while you drop cookies on the floor, or roll a ball away from them? Yes? Add the door with no one there.
Can they stay while you ring the doorbell? No? Record the sound of your doorbell on your cell phone and practice staying while no one is at the door.
Once all those pieces are mastered, start opening the door while your dog is in a “stay.” Again, no one is at the door at this point. Make sure this step is really solid by running to the door, talking to the invisible person on the other side of the door, go out the door and come back inside, do a dance at the front door, you get the idea. If your dog can keep his stay through all that, then we can start adding people to the door.

My dogs happily laying in a sunbeam. It would be great for this to be the way everyone answers the door!

In the meantime, put your dog in his kennel or outside when you have people come in the door. Practice makes perfect and you don’t want them practicing behaviors you are trying to get rid of. (don’t make things harder on yourself!)

Tell the people coming by that you are working with your dog and you might have to get them to stand on the porch just a little longer than normal. (I think spring is finally sticking around so you are not leaving them in the cold)
If they are just dropping of a package (or children) then put your pup away so you can deal with the quick drop and move on with your day. Don’t frustrate your dog by making them practice until they “get it right.” Obviously the first time you add a person to the door they are not going to be successful. If pup is keeping it together and making good choices, then reward that by letting them say hello to your guest. If they can’t keep it together after 3 tries then they go in their kennel and do not get to say hello. (Yes! Only 3 tries!!)
Keep working at this! It works! If you need some guidance, let me know I am happy to troubleshoot with you!

So you have a puppy!

Puppies at playgroup

Puppies are really cute but a bit overwhelming!

Whew! So you found your perfect puppy and now you have a date to go pick them up! You are totally ready for bringing a brand new moldable baby into your life. You have a plan ready to go to make this pup a perfect dog by the time they are 6 months old!


haha okay well now what?


Planning on puppy coming home.

I will admit, the baby puppy isle in your local pet supply store is overwhelming! What do you actually need to be successful?

Introductions to resident dogs go better with barriers to keep everyone happy

Crate, Baby gates and x-pens. Obviously you are not going to give your baby puppy free run of your house on day one. Using an x-pen helps create a “puppy zone” that puppy can hang out in while you are not actively watching him or when you need to go out. Cargo hated her crate when we brought her home so we let her sleep and hang out in our living room in an x-pen when we weren’t outside or playing with her. This let her feel like she was part of the action and still allow me to get things done. (although you don’t really get anything done with a puppy in the house) It also limited her potty accidents to one area when I wasn’t watching her.
To Pee Pad or not to Pee Pad
That’s a loaded question! We decided not to use pee pads because Malinois puppy would bite them, shred them and make a giant mess. If you have a small breed or will be gone for many hours, then giving your puppy a place to relieve themselves might be a good option. Some people do not mind the pads for the lifetime of the dog, and that is totally a personal preference. If you are not keen on pee pads into the adult stages, make sure you start to take them away as soon as possible. I recommend only putting them down when you are gone so puppy learns to ask to go out.
We had plenty of accidents so a good enzymatic cleaner like Natures Miracle is a must. Puppy can’t really control their bladder until they are about 12 to 15 weeks. (If you can house train a puppy before that, consider yourself lucky) You will have accidents too so it’s important not to scold your puppy when you find a puddle. If you flip out on puppy, they will learn that peeing in front of you is a bad thing, and will instead go hide when they need to pee. You want to be a part of the potty party, so make sure you are making a big deal about relieving themselves outside.
golden retriever puppyAll the toys!
The toy isle is just as overwhelming as the baby puppy isle. Get things that your puppy can not destroy. The little fluffy stuffies might be appropriate for your maltipoo, but your German Shepard is going to unstuff that thing in 12 seconds. Go for toys that are different textures and shapes too. Once your puppy starts teething at 15 weeks, they are going to be looking for things that will sooth the pain in their mouth. Giving them different options will keep them from eating your furniture.
Food Water and snacks!
Training starts the day you bring puppy home. Getting them used to a schedule and boundaries is a must for a chaos free puppyhood. My dogs eat in their crates for every meal, unless they are playing with a puzzle toy like boxes or the wobbler. Cargo quickly put together that the food dish goes down in her crate and does a really cute jump spin all the way there. Find a good quality diet for your pup. Read your ingredient list, and make sure you can actually pronounce most of the ingredients. Avoid foods with corn, soy, and by-products in the first 5 ingredients. If you have a giant breed dog, then make sure you get a food formulated for a giant breed. We feed Annamaet petfoods in my house. More info on that here: 

I’m going to stop because I don’t want to overwhelm you like the puppy isle did. We will visit a puppy training plan and the mostly ambiguous word “socialization” in our next post!