Courses for Dog Trainers: House Training

Never was a dog training subject so enshrined in mystery and mythology, so misunderstood, as house training. No other dog training project causes as much frustration, aggravation and disappointment as house training. And there are so few courses for dog trainers that address this topic.

The house training industry is swollen with products to attract the beast, encourage the act and contain the waste. Pheromones, posts, sprays and wipes promise to help your dog know where to go. Pads, litter boxes, sacks and bags help to capture and contain the mess. Soaks, enzymes and oxy-stuff will neutralize the odor and eliminate the stain, leaving your home as fresh as a meadow in spring. But does any of this stuff work? Is any of this at all necessary?

Let’s not forget about the dog’s part in this. Did Fluffy really poop on your bed because he’s angry you went to Dairy Queen without him? Or maybe it’s separation anxiety? Is Spot peeing on the carpet because he’s lonely, or did he just forget where to go? And is there any such thing as partially house trained?

When I was a kid, about a hundred years ago, all our dogs were house trained with little more than a baby gate and a stack of newspapers. How is it possible that this low-tech solution was so effective, but now, in this modern age, house training still sits high on the list of dog behavior problems people seek help for. And that frustrate dog owners for months (and sometimes years) before seeking help. And sometimes, sadly, the dog that doesn’t know where to go will lose his home as a result.

The fundamentals of house training will be revealed to you in a 90-minute dog training course webinar called “The Straight Sh*t About House Training” (One of the best courses for dog trainers). We’ll lay out a simple house training protocol that will work great for 95% of all dogs. We’ll have solutions for puppies and adults, and even those latchkey dogs your relatives claim you can’t train. We’ll debunk the myths and legends about house training products, which ones are worth your time and money and which ones aren’t (hint: most of them aren’t!). We’ll even have help for the more challenging cases that have stumped so many for long. Whether you’re a dog trainer helping owners, or an owner with a house training problem, or a new puppy, or just want to be prepared for your next challenge, then this webinar is for you!

Barbara Davis, CDBC has been a dog trainer and behavior consultant for over 35 years. Barbara is a founding member of IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), and has been Dog Division Chair since 2013. Committed to continuing education, she is faculty mentor for IAABC’s acclaimed Animal Behavior Consulting: Principles & Practice course, and offers many other workshops and seminars through her business in southern California. She’ll be presenting her webinar, The Straight Sh*t About House Training on May 8.

How to Become a Dog Trainer: Professionalism is More than Just Money

If someone needs a thing done but does not want or know how to do the thing, like how to train a dog to walk on a leash, they can hire someone else to do the thing. If enough people want the same thing, the thing becomes a profession. Some things require skill, some require strength. Many things are learned over decades,  for instance, how to become a dog trainer, many others only need days. From astronauts to apple pickers to accountants, there are countless professions out there and even more people doing them. If it’s a job, and you get paid for it, you’re a professional. Though perhaps overly simplistic with many exceptions, that is essentially how it works.

Along this line of thought, at first blush it might seem reasonable that one becomes more professional or perhaps a better professional the longer they do the thing or the more they get paid for doing the thing. However, I’m sure we can agree with a resounding NO that this is not at all the case. I’m also sure we can all think of certain thing-doers out there who are getting paid a ridiculous amount of money and have done the thing for a disturbingly long time, yet are not very good at doing the thing. We can all also probably name several other thing-doers who are exceptionally skilled at the thing yet are barely making ends meet. This might even be you! This disparity applies to pretty much any profession, but perhaps may be even more pronounced among professions that are not at all or not very well regulated. Perfect examples can be found within the companion animal industry. Now if we consider all of these different kinds of thing-doers out there, who are all doing the same types of things, but are doing them with different degrees of ability, and getting paid different amounts: are they all professionals? Well, if they are getting paid for it than, technically, yes. However, I believe that true professionalism is more than just money from doing something.

In my opinion, when learning how to become a professional dog trainer, there is an enormous difference between being a professional, and being professional. Further, this difference is not based on how long you’ve been doing the thing or how much you get paid for the thing. Rather, the difference is based on much more. A few examples are as follows.

Ability. A perfect example of professionalism is being able to do the thing! Having natural abilities is always a really great thing to have, especially when working with animals. One can significantly improve that ability by doing the thing, practicing and modifying to improve efficacy, and pursuing regular and on-going education.

Reliability. A professional shows up, on time, and does what they say they will, and meet or exceed expectations. Organization, realistic awareness of ability and limitations, and many other factors contribute toward reliability. My favorite motto is to always under promise and over deliver.

Communication. How you transfer information to others about yourself, your services, and your ability are critical to being professional. How you write, speak, dress, and act are all forms of communication that occur whether you are at work or at the grocery store. Knowing how much information to give, when to give it and when stay quiet, how to encourage as well as correct, and how to maintain boundaries are all skills any professional will need.

Ethics. Ethics for pet industries are often outlined by certification or education organizations, which many professionals are obligated to adhere to in order to maintain affiliation. Beyond that, it’s up to the professional to decide what they consider right or wrong, in terms of things like refunds, talking about clients to others, talking about other professionals to others, and so on.

Ego. It’s good to be proud of your accomplishments and toot your own horn from time to time. However, bragging and arrogance tend to be signs of less than professionalism. Be willing to admit when you’re wrong, while sticking to your guns when you’re right.

These are just a few ideas to consider with regard to professionalism and how to become a dog trainer.  In my upcoming Keeping it Professional webinar on May 1 at 10am central, I will discuss this and more and go into more detail about concepts. My goal herein as well as via the webinar are to try to provide even a single helpful idea for increasing your own professionalism. I love what I do and I want to see everyone succeed at what they do.


Through her company, Jones Animal Behavior, Katenna Jones provides behavior consulting services to cat and dog owners, guidance to local rescues, and educational events to pet lovers and professionals. She is an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Certified Cat and Dog Behavior Consultant, and Certified Pet Dog Trainer.

For more information and access to over three hundred webinars are telecourses, go to Raising Canine.

Dog Behavior Training: Treat or Euthanize

When doing dog behavior training, we’ve all had at least one – that case where we just don’t know if we’ll ever be able to improve the dog’s behavior. Inevitably, it’s an extreme emotional problem – aggression, fear, or anxiety. The animal is either hurting himself or hurting someone else. We all have our own way of dealing with these situations. Personally, I don’t want to recommend euthanasia. I feel that the dog should be seen by a veterinary behaviorist, because there are many things they can do that a trainer cannot. Until this avenue has been explored, I feel it’s inappropriate for me to make that life or death call.

I have vivid memories of one particular case I had like that. It was a rescued coon hound. The background info said that he’d been a medical research dog. Of course, we never know for sure if this type of information is correct. I had some doubts because a coon hound is a pretty big dog, and most labs want smaller animals because of space issues. However, this dog was not normal by any stretch of the imagination, and that type of environment could certainly result in aberrant behavior.

The owners brought the dog to me, and the minute I saw him, I knew I was not going to approach him – he was flat out scary – this was not going to be straight forward, good old dog obedience training! He had a hard stare the entire time he was there, as well as penile crowning and piloerection. He was not affiliative to me or the owners. At this time, I was running a dog sanctuary, and he didn’t even seem particularly curious about the dogs in the environment. No sniffing around, looking out windows, etc. Just very abnormal behavior, in my opinion.

During the intake I learned that the dog had attacked the husband (the less dog-savvy of the two) three times. The last time he sent the husband to the hospital. The dog was a severe resource guarder and they lived in a very small space. They had an apartment in Manhattan, and anyone who’s lived in New York City knows that unless you’re wealthy, you’re going to live in a very small space. They also had a small one-room cabin in the Catskills. So, in either home, space was tight.

In the last incident, the husband had been in the kitchen cooking dinner and the dog started growling and stalking the husband – I assumed he was guarding the food that was cooking, but it could have been something else. The husband backed up, but the dog came after him. As we know, in most aggressive situations, the dog just wants space between you and him or the object he’s guarding. In this case, the fact that the husband was creating that space didn’t affect the dog’s behavior. He trapped the husband in the bathroom and attacked him, sending him to the hospital for several stitches – I can’t remember how many, but it was a lot. That was when they called me.

The wife was willing to euthanize the dog, but the husband wasn’t. The wife was dog savvy and didn’t have problems with the coon hound except in specific situations, and she was experienced enough to know how to deal with those situations. It was the husband’s first dog, and he was adamant that he wanted to try working with the behavior before giving up on him.

After taking the history, I decided to refer them to the vet behaviorist in Cornell. In dog behavior training, we trainers do not have to make that decision. We can, and should, refer a case like this on to a vet behaviorist. There are many things a vet can do that a trainer cannot.

The first reason I didn’t want to take on this case was because I was frightened by the dog, so that didn’t bode well for working with him. I could have given instructions and kept my distance, or we could have desensitized him to a muzzle but, all-in-all, I really didn’t want to work with this dog.

The other reason I didn’t want to take on this case was because the wife was adamant that she wanted to walk in the woods with the dog off leash. I felt this was dangerous and a liability waiting to happen. I could see the dog guarding something – a carcass, garbage, whatever – and some innocent bystander walking by and getting attacked. Unless the wife would agree to keep him on leash, I wasn’t willing to risk that. And she really wanted him to be able to roam.

They met with the vet behaviorist, and it was recommended that they euthanize the dog. They called me, very upset – they hadn’t like the vet behaviorist and felt that she had no empathy. Personally, I wasn’t at all surprised that she recommend euthanasia, and was in agreement with that recommendation. However, they did not want to work with her and really wanted me to help them. Aargh!

I wasn’t going to put myself in that position. I’d already decided I didn’t want to work with this dog, and had informed them of that decision and why I made it. However, I did give them some dog behavior training help. One of the situations where the wife had problems was when the dog was in his crate, so I gave her a protocol for approaching and opening the crate. The other situation was when he had chews, so again, I gave her a protocol.

They reported back to me a couple of times to let me know that things were going well. The wife had no problem approaching the crate, and could even take chews away from the dog. However, the situation with the husband had not improved much – at this point it was a whole lot of management.

Then, one evening I got a hysterical call from the wife. The dog had attacked the husband and he was in the hospital with some very serious injuries. At this point, the husband agreed that the dog should be euthanized. It was a difficult call for the owners; they suffered a lot of guilt over that decision. Personally, I had no problem with it. I didn’t see this dog ever being reliable enough to be considered safe.

Ultimately, this situation was a pretty easy call. It’s those other cases where you feel like there’s hope for the dogs that are difficult. And that’s why Dr. Lore Haug will be doing a webinar for us on that very topic!

If you’d like to attend this webinar, you can get more information here: 

Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, (, which provides online education for professional dog trainers and dog behavior consultants, as well as business and marketing education and consulting to help their businesses, including an intensive course for those wanting to become professional dog trainers. Sue is also the co-author of the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds.” Sue is certified through CCPDT and IAABC. She is an ex-Board member for the CCPDT, an active, professional member of CCPDT, APDT, and IAABC, and was named APDT Member of the Year in 2004.

Dog Training Courses: Dealing with Difficult Clients in Group Classes

You’re running a group dog training course. One person is talking on his cell phone. A couple others have struck up a conversation with each other and are ignoring you giving instructions to the class. One person has started working his dog while you’re still going over a demo. And another student is wrestling with his barking, adolescent Schnauzer. Sometimes, it may feel like you’re a ringmaster who’s lost control of the circus!

As a professional dog trainer who runs group dog training courses, you face some unique challenges that you generally don’t have to worry about with private lessons. In private lessons, you customize the lesson for one client. In a group class, you typically have a curriculum that you teach to a group of people. Everyone in the class comes with a different skill set, ability to follow directions, individual goals and personalities. Your group class topic may be the same for everyone in the class, but that doesn’t mean everyone is going to learn it the same way. And if you have a particularly difficult client or clients in that group class, it can make your job as the instructor that much more challenging.

In the upcoming Raising Canine webinar, Dealing with Difficult Clients in Group Classes, you’ll learn that challenging clients don’t have to be thorns in your side. Most people aren’t trying to be difficult. If you’re going to be completely honest with yourself, aren’t there certain personality types that just seem to rub you the wrong way? That isn’t their fault. As a teacher, it’s your job to help all your students reach their potential.

Understanding how adults learn can go a long way toward better reaching them and help them with their dog obedience training. The webinar will also cover common barriers to success and how to overcome them. For example, what about the Chatty Cathy who keeps interrupting you? Is she just rude … or does she need something else from you? Maybe she’s actually nervous because she feels her dog is out of control and is embarrassing her in the class in front of the other students. Maybe she is an auditory learner – she learns more by listening, rather than watching your dog training courses and dog training video demo. Do you have more patience for that barking Schnauzer than the Chatty Cathy? Then this webinar is definitely for you! After all, if you don’t help the people, you’ll never help their dogs with your dog training courses.

With the Raising Canine webinar Dealing with Difficult Clients in Group Classes, you’ll learn effective, polite ways to deal with common issues that often come up with clients so you can stick to your schedule and still get results. Don’t write off difficult clients! With patience and positive techniques, they may turn into your best customers.

Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, has been a professional dog trainer for more than 24 years. She is the author of The Dog Problem Behavior Solver, Ultimate Guide to Dog Training, Dog Training 101, and more. Teoti is also a popular international speaker and educates pet parents and fellow trainers on canine behavior. (Do you want a link? If so, you can also include: For more information, visit her at

For more information on this course, go to Dealing with Difficult Clients in Group Classes. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:

Train Your Business like your Dog Training Program: 5 steps to put your business on auto-pilot

Guest Blog by: Britt Alwerud

Owning a dog training, or pet sitting business, is a dream career for most people – especially when you first start out. The thought of spending hours with dogs and devising a customized dog training program, sounds like heaven, but unfortunately there’s a high degree of burnout in this industry. And it’s definitely not because of the dogs. You might have set out to be a dog trainer, but then quickly realize that you’re a business owner too and with that comes a lot of responsibility and admin work. As a small business owner, you have to wear many hats and doing it all can weigh you down really quickly. Instead of working a typical 9 to 5 job, you may find yourself working on your dog training program for 8 hours, but then having to do another 3 hours of work having to deal with client scheduling requests, cancellations, invoicing, collecting payments, new client intake and keeping track of all of your client’s information. It can all add up and lead to major burnout. But imagine if you loved your business as much as you love working with dogs and you could save more than ten hours per week running your business? You can do this by applying your dog training techniques to your business.

You have to train yourself to be a successful business owner by doing these five necessary steps for putting your business on auto-pilot:

1. Shape your business model
It’s important to visualize and write down exactly what you want your business and your personal life to look like. Just like in your dog training program, you can use the concept of shaping when thinking about your business. Shaping refers to the reinforcement of behaviors that approximate or come close to the desired new behavior. The steps involved are often called successive approximations because they successively approximate or get closer and closer to the desired behavior.1

Do you love working one-on-one with clients, do you enjoy group classes, do you prefer having a dog training program online using videos and Skype calls with clients, or would you like to supplement your training income by selling E-books? How much time will each of these service types take and how much do you value your time? Once you zero in on what’s important to you, write down a goal for how much you want to make per year. Then work backwards. If you’ve decided to focus on private dog training clients, how many dog training sessions do you need to sell in order to reach that number? Can you offer packages that get you to that number faster or can you offer a premium service like a Board and Train program or a Puppy Potty Training program that you can charge top dollar for. How many of these programs do you have to sell per month to hit your yearly goal? Focus in on your service offerings and make sure they align with your core values and that you are valuing yourself and your time. You are worth it and owe this to yourself. Taking these steps will shape your business to be in alignment with your goals and lifestyle.

2. Capture your systems: Dog Training Programs
Now that you’ve zeroed in on your business model. It’s time to put the systems in place to deliver your high quality service. You may be the best dog trainer in the world, but are you providing the best customer service as a business owner? Just like in clicker training, you need to identify your successful systems and mark them so that the desired outcome happens more frequently – i.e your clients keep booking you and referring you. Identify what is working and what needs improvement. For your clients, you might put together instructions that help your clients form habits that change their dogs’ behavior. Consider putting together your own instructions for how your business should be run on a daily basis. That way you can create consistency for yourself and thereby create consistency for how you interact with your clients as well. An employee handbook is a great way to achieve this and it unlocks the information of how to run your business from your head, so that someone else can step in and help you run the business. This is the first step in automating your business.

3. Chain your processes using modern mobile business software
Dogs thrive off of consistency and so do humans. If you do everything the same way every time, it takes out the guesswork and creates happier customers, staff and business owners. Technology is a perfect way to automate systems so that everyone is on the same page. By using a scheduling, payments, and rating system like Handlr to run your business, your daily operations will be automated. You’ll have peace of mind that all of your appointments were handled and automatically charged to your client’s card, and that your client was satisfied with the service. You will never have to invoice again, shift through tons of physical paperwork, worry that you didn’t get a service agreement signed, or accidentally miss an appointment. It will all be handled in one easy to use business dashboard and your clients will be able to book you directly from their customer app. As you bring on more staff, they can easily be added to your business dashboard so that your clients can conveniently book with them. You can GPS track them, see what time they checked in and checked out of the service, and check your client’s ratings and feedback about your team member. Along with Handlr there are countless other business apps that can help you more easily run your business. Hurdlr is a mileage tracker that can help you keep track of miles for your expenses. Hireology is a great platform for hiring and managing your HR. Gusto is a great platform for payroll and employee onboarding and Google for Work is a must have for running a small business. All of these tools can help you automate your daily tasks so that you can focus on your clients and not on the tedious business admin work.

4. Positively reinforce yourself
Once you’ve set up your business to run on auto-pilot, you’ll feel more confident about bringing on more clients and more staff. This way, you will be able to take a vacation, take a break if you need to, not worry so much about getting injured, start another business, or just work less hours but make more revenue.

5. Reward your customers and staff
Showing your appreciation to your clients and staff not only strengthens the bond and relationship that you have with them, but will also improve your retention rates. Clients will also be encouraged to share your business with their friends and neighbors, and your staff will tell other good people to come work for you. Small gifts during the holidays, handwritten thank you cards, quarterly staff get-togethers, client appreciation picnics at the park or random acts of kindness make an impact in a big way.

One of the keys to  a successful dog training program is consistency and setting aside the time to break down the steps and follow through with repetition, reinforcement and rewards. Applying these techniques to your business will result in a balanced, successful business that you’re proud of.

Britt Alwerud has owned and operated one of San Diego’s largest dog walking companies, DogZenergy, since 2006 and is the Founder of Handlr. To learn more about Handlr and how it can help you automate your client intake, scheduling, payments, team dispatching and tracking – request a demo here or visit

For more information on this course, go to Training Your Business: How to put your business on auto-pilot so that you can focus on training your clients . While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:

Online Dog Trainer Course: Getting Centered on Zen

“Zen” suggests many things. A Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism that emphasizes the value of meditation. A state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than conscious effort. A slangier definition might be a feeling of peace and relaxation, as in “having a zen moment”. Being “zen” might mean having awareness in the present moment, which will help release you from anxiety, frustration, stress and anger. A popular and useful dog training technique, which will be discussed in detail in my upcoming online dog trainer course.

A dog training technique?

“Dog Zen”, “Doggie Zen” and “Puppy Zen” are common names for this class of training techniques that have been hanging around for about 50 years now.  The basic concept involves identifying and isolating a tiny bit of your dog’s impulsive behavior, and then manipulating the environment over and over again until that impulse comes under cognitive control.


Now for just a little bit of “dog psychology.” Impulses and emotions are produced in the mid-brain, the baby brain, the puppy brain. In order for any individual, human or canine, to attain impulse control, otherwise known as self-control, the part of the brain that thinks and makes decisions (the cortex) has to learn to exert control over the small, but very influential mid-brain. Once the cortex, the center of cognitive processing, gains control over the impulses, the individual is relieved of the stress and frustration that may be associated with the almost reflexive responses that occur when random stuff in the world triggers mostly unwanted behaviors.

Impulsivity is responsible for such problems as counter-surfing, dumpster-diving, jumping up for greetings, hyper-excitability, and door-dashing, among others. Now, we’re not claiming that Zen will cure all these problems, but it will give your dog the foundation and life skills on which specific training will certainly be more successful.

Zen works for all dogs, all breeds, all ages. The techniques are simple to teach and practice, and some form of Zen can be incorporated into many different types of interactions with your dog, including feeding, leash walking, and play. You can get Zen just by making a few small changes in the way you manage and interact with your dog. Zen is simple enough for even a small child to learn.

Ready to get started? In just 90 minutes, you can become a Dog Zen master, and attain the skills and knowledge you need to incorporate these important strategies into your life with your dog! Visit and sign up for my online dog trainer course, Getting Centered on Zen.

Barbara Davis, CDBC has been a dog trainer and behavior consultant for over 35 years. Barbara is a founding member of IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), and has been Dog Division Chair since 2013. Committed to continuing education, she is faculty mentor for IAABC’s acclaimed Animal Behavior Consulting: Principles & Practice course, and in to her online dog trainer course, she offers many other workshops and seminars through her business in southern California.

What Tools Do I Need for Breaking Up Fights During Dog Socialization in My Dog Daycare

One of the most often asked questions The Dog Gurus get is “What tools should a pet care center have at its disposal to break up a fight?” It seems there is an ever growing list of things you can use to stop a dogfight and safely protect yourself from getting bitten. So naturally, concerned pet care facility owners want to do proper dog socialization to keep the dogs and staff safe.

But I’ll be upfront about one thing…the more you are worried about the proper tools you need to break up a fight, the more I get worried that you are focused on the wrong issue. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely think it’s vital to keep the staff and dogs safe in the event of a fight, and when working with dog socialization fights are always a real possibility. But fights should be so rare that just a handful of tools should suffice to keep folks safe.

The biggest two tools you should have in your toolbox to prevent dog fights during dog socialization in your pet care center are a formal dog evaluation process and an excellent staff training program. If you have those two things in place then you have the best tools available for minimizing and preventing fights. So start there.

Now, if you really want some other tools, here are the other ones I would include to help break up a fight:

  • Kennel lead– Each staff member should be trained to carry a kennel lead with them at all times. It should be a part of their uniform. That way, if they need to leash a dog quickly, they aren’t wasting valuable time looking for a leash.
  • Radio/Whistle– When a fight breaks out, it’s important to let others know so that they can assist in breaking up the fight. If you have a small center, the noise of the fight may be the only communication you need. However, if you have an outdoor area, or a very soundproof building, then you’re going to need some way of quickly communicating the fact that a fight is going on.
  • Object to startle and distract dog(s)– One of the main goals in stopping a fight is to startle the dogs so that they release their hold on one another. You can use this by making a loud noise (hitting metal bowls together or making a loud sound with a marine air horn), by dumping water on the dogs (if you have an accessible water hose or large bucket of water), or by disorienting the dog (by tossing a blanket or bedding over the dog). Decide the best way to distract them and have those tools handy.
  • Object to move between dogs– If you haven’t startled them, then it might be necessary to try to separate them by pushing something in between the dogs.
  • Good tools for this include a small piece of playground equipment that you can push toward the dog, or even a chair that you can push in between the dogs.
  • Spray Shield– If nothing else has worked, then try using this citronella based deterrent to get the dogs to separate.


With proper evaluations and staff training, these dog socialization tools should provide you with the back up you need to intervene in the rare instance that you do have a fight. To learn more check out Fights and Bites in Daycare webinar on February 6, 2019.

Robin Bennett is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, author, speaker, and expert on dogs. She founded one of the largest dog training companies in Virginia and has been using her expertise in “reading dogs” to teach families how to train their pets as well as helping others in the pet care industry keep dogs safe for over 20 years. Robin’s first book, All About Dog Daycare is the number one reference on opening a dog daycare. She is also Co-author of Off-Leash Dog Play… A Complete Guide to Safety and Fun, and an extensive staff training program called, Knowing Dogs, which are the leading staff training resources for dog daycare and boarding facilities. Robin is currently co-founder of The Dog Gurus, the nation’s premier resource for dog care professionals. Through The Dog Gurus she is now helping pet care professionals get their lives back by showing them how to create sustainable businesses with teams that truly know dogs.

For more information on this course, go to Fights & Bites in Dog Daycare. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:

Instinct & Drive

As I take my foster dog Lumen out the door for an afternoon walk, we suddenly come upon a rabbit nibbling clover on the lawn. I look down at this little 25 pound dog and it is as if something has taken her over. Her muscles are coordinating in a ballet as old as canids. Her legs are bent, her body tensed, her head lowered and ears forward, as she soundlessly stalks the unsuspecting prey.

Most people, including many professional dog trainers, when seeing this behavior think of how wild and wolf-like it is. They tend to think of untrained behaviors, especially those reminiscent of wild ancestors’ as innate, triggered by an instinctual drive inherited directly from the wolf. But when I see these behaviors I notice how different they are from the wolf. Yes Lumen, a little grey frazzled dog from the streets of Texas is displaying pieces of the ancestral hunting behavior, and there’s no need for training a rescue dog to display these behaviors! But beyond that her behavior is quite different. We call these pieces of behaviors motor patterns, they are snapshots of a behavior. The wolf hunting behavior is made of “orient,” when the wolf focuses its eyes, ears, and nose on its potential prey with its head up above its shoulder, ears forward and attention rapt. Next are “eye” and “stalk,” two motor patterns that happen at the same time. “Eye” refers to the position of the head, which is now at or below the level of the shoulders. The ears are either forward or out to the side and eyes and nose are still trained on the potential prey. “Stalk” refers to the position of the body which is tense, but the legs are bent and the wolf is either frozen still or creeping forward slowing. Next is “chase,” which is exactly what it sounds like, then “grab-bite,” which is the initial bite to the prey. For wolves hunting large prey, this is a bite to whatever is handy – often the flanks. And finally “kill-bite,” which in the wolf is a bleeding bite often to the jugular. In wolves hunting large prey, this behavior is also performed with other members of their family, all coordinating together to hunt the same prey.

While dog behaviors are all made up of motor patterns that exist in the wolf repertoire, they are shown in different sequences, different contexts and at different thresholds, resulting in entirely different behaviors. Furthermore, while the motor patterns themselves appear perfectly the first time they are displayed, the behaviors that they make up like Lumen’s stalking of the rabbit, have to be developed. And while genes are important in producing behaviors, there are no genes for behavior, instead there are complex interactions between genes and environment. During my upcoming “Instinct & Drive” webinar, I will be breaking down what we know about behaviors that are often thought of as intrinsic and explaining the current knowledge of how genes and environment play into their development.

Kathryn Lord received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, where she studied the evolution and development of dog and wolf behavior, with Dr. Raymond Coppinger.

Leashes, Collars, and More – Oh My! Tips for professional dog trainers and owners alike.

By Katenna Jones

There was once a time not so long ago when the average home with a dog had one collar and one leash. A quick trip to most pet supply stores will quickly make it clear that this is no longer the case. Simply choosing color can be overwhelming, much less which style. This is especially pronounced when looking for a tool to address a particular training need. You may have tried this collar only to find that it doesn’t work. A neighbor recommends another harness, so you tried that only to find that doesn’t work. Perhaps you read about yet another option, got one and found that it worked at first only to stop shortly thereafter. As a result, many pet lovers and professional dog trainers end up with a basket full of equipment, losing faith in all of them. So what are you to do?

As so often is the case in dog training, it depends! It depends on what you want to get done, your dog, your training skill, and many other factors. Those involved in professional dog training understand that, as with any profession, the right tools can make all the difference.

Tip #1: Choose the right tool
Think of choosing dog equipment like choosing shoes. If you’re going on a hike, ballet slippers are probably not a great choice. They may be the best out there, but they are not going to get the job done. The same holds true for dog equipment – different pieces are designed for various reasons. Some tools are best for dogs with larger lips, some are better for larger dogs, others for smaller dogs. Research and ask around. Talk to people with experience with issues like yours and dogs like yours. Don’t ask the owner of a confident Labrador what they use, when you have a fearful chihuahua. If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.

Tip #2: Choose the right size and fit.
If you are a size 8 shoe and you go on a hike in size 6 or size 12 boots, you will be in for a world of hurt either way. Size matters with dog gear too. Too tight can restrict breathing or movement, put pressure on sensitive areas, cause chafing, and discomfort. Too large can result in accidentally coming off and your dog escaping, instability in movement, sliding around, or hitting sensitive points. There are lots of online videos and resources to tell you how to choose the right size for your dog. They usually give a range of dimensions so, if you don’t already know, there are resources that demonstrate how to properly measure your pet.

Now let’s assume you got the right size boot, but you didn’t tie the laces. It’s not the boot’s fault if your foot falls out during the hike. Likewise, properly fitting the tool is critical to its function. Most tools that are not obviously easy to fit come with instructions – read them! If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.

Tip #3: Introduce it slowly and carefully
For some, throwing on your first pair of 5” heels for the day is no biggie. For others, some time is needed to adjust. Dogs are no exception. Some equipment you can just put on a dog without issue. Typically, that is because the style is somewhat familiar or the dog is confident. However, in many cases, dogs aren’t so confident with new things or a particular style of equipment is so novel it’s terrifying. A great example is a head collar. Go slowly, and don’t force it. Allow the pet to get used to the idea, then slowly introduce the equipment. Start out with a loose fit, patiently teach the pet that moving around in this is a great thing that results in hot dogs! Gradually adjust the fit, encourage the pet to move more. Never force or scold, and always proceed slowly at the dog’s pace. If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.

Tip #4: If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.
If you’re a runner and you’re having pain, you might try different recommended brands. You might research to ensure you’ve fitted the shoe properly. You might even wear your shoes around the house to get used to them a bit more. But there comes a point when you’ve tried several things and the pain just isn’t going away. That’s when it’s time to talk to a running professional or a medical professional. Alternatively, if you’re not sure right off the bat, save yourself the time and hassle and go to skilled professional immediately. Of course, as I write this, I am restricted to the couch after ankle surgery resulting from bad advice from a doctor. Advice is only as good as the one giving it, so make sure your professional is skilled and qualified.

For additional information, check out my upcoming webinar through Raising Canine: Gearing Up: Selecting, Fitting, and Using Dog Equipment.

Online Dog Trainer Course: Bonding with Your Client

New webinar on Raising Canine: “How to Bond With Your Client”. Wendy (the presenter) is a great people person – unlike a lot of us dog trainers. Don’t miss this dog trainer course, online, if you’re looking for more rapport, longer relationships, and more client referrals, click below:

Bonding with your clients: Improving Client Relations for Better Outcomes