Archive for Miscellaneous

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.


    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

    Enrichment & Exercise: Helping Your Clients Find Reasonable Alternatives


    Your clients need not train their dogs to Jerry the Daschund’s level of self-sufficiency, but this is a great example of an owner’s creativity in attempting to keep his pup mentally stimulated and exercised. You may find some clients are reluctant to provide sufficient exercise and mental stimulation for their dogs. Here are a few challenges and tips:

    1.         No time for exercise. Many clients perceive their exercise options as a dog park visit, a long walk, a jog or run. That’s not necessarily true. While those can be great ways to exercise some dogs for some clients, they’re not a great fit for everyone. Recommend some alternatives that clients can do at home or that require less time. A short walk, if that’s all there is time for. Tug and fetch can be done in short bursts, right before work or after. Scenting games can be done anywhere, with little preparation, and are not time consuming.

    2.         Don’t enjoy walks, what else is there? Increasing mental stimulation can be an exercise replacement for some dogs. So incorporating interactive toys, short training sessions, and games can be helpful. There are also a number of sports now available to dogs and their owners. Review some of the options with your clients and see if one or more sparks interest.

    3.         Don’t see the need. This one can be a little trickier without some case specific facts. You’ll need to point out very specific ways in which greater exercise and mental stimulation will benefit your clients dog. Look at the reasons your client is asking for professional dog training help. Relate your clients specific challenges to improvements that enrichment, exercise or mental stimulation, might make.

    Determine what your client’s challenges are, brainstorm some reasonable options that fit their interests and schedule, and give them a plan for getting started. Need help convincing your clients to incorporate more mental stimulation and exercise? Read our blog “Enrichment & Exercise: Why Your Clients Need to Make the Time.”

    Talking Dogs, How Technology Can Make It Happen

    Every professional dog trainer’s dream? Dogs talking to humans. In the article “Meet The Researcher Who Wants To Get Dogs Talking To Humans In Five Years,” new technology is discussed that will facilitate clearer communication between dogs and their people. Specifically, service and search dogs are both mentioned in the article as targeted audiences for the technology. Researchers are training dogs to utilize a specialized harness to indicate specific hazards, in the case of service dogs, or a specialized dummy attached to the collar to trigger a GPS location signal, in the case of search dogs.

    But as a certified professional dog trainer, it’s important to remember that dogs speak to humans all the time. Dogs are social creatures, and every interaction is an attempt to convey something – I’m happy; I’m hungry; don’t take my bone; I have to pee. It requires training and practice to understand some of the more complex or subtle forms of communication, but they certainly are talking. For an in depth discussion of interpreting dog body language, register for Raising Canine’s “Canine Body Language.” Interpreting body language is an essential skill if you’re interested in becoming a professional dog trainer.

    Can technology help us to improve our relationships with our dogs? Absolutely. In the instance described above, the service and search dogs are being trained to communicate in specific, human-friendly ways that a lay person can easily understand. The technology is an interface between the dog and the human that the human handler can easily interpret. So while technology can help, there is still a need for training and an understanding of body language for communication between humans who specialize in dog training and dogs to exist and improve.

    Victoria Stillwell Book Review: Train Your Dog Positively

    Linda Michaels reviews Victoria Stillwell’s new book “Train Your Dog Positively” (TYDP) and has the following to say:

    “If you’re a positive reinforcement trainer looking for succinct supporting arguments to enhance your practice, it’s all here– challenging and dispelling the myth of dominance and pack theory.” For additional information and tactics for dispelling dominance misconceptions, see the Raising Canine telecourse by Jean Donaldson “Dominance: Anatomy of a Mind Virus.”

    Michaels also points out some additional applications of the book. “TYDP contains practical applications in each major area of problem-solving, from frustrating, persistent nuisance issues such as housetraining to frightening multi-dog household aggression.”

    Michaels is an expert in force-free, science based methods for addressing dog behavior problems in the San Diego area and a FAR licensed trainer. Find her full review at:  

    Greetings: Meeting the Friendly Stranger

    In a continuation of our greetings series, the following are positive dog training tips for greeting friendly strangers. For more greeting tips check out “Greetings: Mom! You’re Home!

    There are a number of training methods you can employ with your clients, but the following are a few helpful guidelines to keep in mind.

    1. Ensure your stranger is in fact friendly. Do they like dogs and want to engage with your dog? If not, don’t approach.

    2. Ensure that your dog is interested in meeting friendly strangers. Dogs that are reserved and slowly warm up to new people aren’t the best candidates for meeting friendly strangers in public.

    3. If you use food, decide whether you or your stranger will deliver your food. Again, reserved dogs shouldn’t be encouraged to take food from strangers’ hands. This can create some conflict (I want the food! But – I’m worried about the person!) that can be stressful for the dog

    4. Whether you or the stranger is delivering the lure/reward food, be sure there is a clear criteria for when and how the food is delivered. Check back for specific methods to use in teaching greetings, if you need a few new ideas.

    5. Be sure there is a clear decision as to who will do what if there is a failure of politeness – jumping, barking, lunging, or pawing, for example. One possibility is that the owner leaves with the dog, thereby removing the dog from the excitement (and reward) of the interaction with the friendly stranger. You might also have the stranger walk away.

    6. If you are using food or a toy, keep the delivery low if jumping is a concern. For more on delivering the reward, read our blog post “Practical Skills: Improve Your Reward Delivery.”

    Problem Solving: Loading Dogs in Cars

    Adding to your problem solving tool box is an ongoing priority for certified dog trainers. A very commonly asked question by clients is why their dogs won’t load up in the car and how they can train the behavior.

    Read “Dogs and Car Rides: Loading Up” for some quick tips on encouraging dogs to load more readily in cars. It’s also very important to know when your clients need a referral to a canine behavior specialist. Know how to recognize the difference between reluctance and anxiety.     

    Snake Avoidance: To Shock or Not to Shock

    Venomous snakes are a serious problem for pet owners in many geographic areas in the United States. The most readily available method for snake avoidance training has been with a remote electronic collar. Is this training safe, effective, and of a type that you as a certified professional dog trainer can ethically recommend?

    Trainers certified through the CCPDT agree to abide by certain ethical standards embodied in their Human Hierarchy document. The least aversive method possible is utilized to achieve desired training results, and the health and safety of the dog is of primary concern. Is utilizing shock the least aversive method possible? Read Linda Michaels comments on this topic, and read about some alternatives to shock in Michaels’ blog post “UT Pet School: Snake Avoidance.” Michaels is an expert in force-free, science based methods for addressing dog behavior problems in the San Diego area

    Health Tips from the Professional Dog Trainer

    Certified dog trainers are in a unique situation with respect to canine health. Here are some facts that make your position as a professional dog trainer uncomfortable on occasion.

    1. Reputable dog trainers verify that participants in their group classes meet minimum legal vaccination requirements, if not a higher vaccination standard.

    2. It is imperative for the health and safety of puppies attending group puppy class, that dog trainers follow certain cleanliness standards regarding the space in which these classes are offered.

    3. Your clients will likely see you more frequently than they see their vet.

    4. Clients, especially puppy clients, frequently ask simple health questions, the answers to which certified dog trainers are familiar and happy to share with clients. For example, at what age do puppies lose their puppy teeth?

    5. Trainers certified through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers are required to abide by a code of ethics that includes adherence to the Humane Hierarchy. The first tier in the hierarchy includes health, nutritional, and physical factors. Specifically that the trainer identify health concerns that should be addressed by a licensed veterinary.  

    Combine all of the above, and it is undeniable that certified professional dog trainers: 1) are making some simple health determinations (Are your dog’s vaccinations current? Does your dog display physical signs of illness?), 2) that the trainer is placed in a position of authority regarding some health issues (minimum vaccination standards to join group classes and cleanliness standards for puppy class), and 3) that the trainer may have more contact with her client than does the client’s vet. 

    The Problem

    Unfortunately, clients frequently come to the conclusion that their trainer is a health expert. Not only are dog trainers not experts in canine health, but there are strict state laws regulating all aspects of veterinary practice, and non-vets may not practice veterinary medicine.

    What to do?

    • Do not disseminate advice to your clients that exceeds simple, practical solutions. For example, I frequently recommend to clients with teething puppies that they use a wetted then frozen rope toy or knotted washcloth to ease some of the everyday pain of teething.
    • Never shy away from recommending a veterinary visit. This is especially true for any sudden change in the dog’s behavior or appearance, including rapid weight gain or loss, hair loss, increased or decreased appetite, changes in elimination habits, and so on. It may not always be clear to your clients that there has been a sudden change in behavior or appearance until they begin discussing training challenges with you. Help your clients pinpoint them and direct them to their vet.
    • Stay abreast of interesting veterinary developments that directly impact dog training and dog behavior. This blog post by Patricia McConnell is an example of one such topic and includes her thoughts: “The Plot Thickens: Spay Neuter Effects & the Health of Our Dogs.” 

    What not to do?

    • Never recommend the administration of drugs, over the counter or prescription, unless you are directly consulting with a veterinary. Even then, the veterinary should be making the recommendation to the client, not the trainer.
    • Refrain from diagnosing health issues. Diagnosing falls within the veterinarians’ pervue, and should not be done by trainers. You may call the vet and discuss your concerns with them, but you should not discuss those concerns with the client – that’s the vet’s job.
    • Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you should share it. While you may have a personal relationship with some clients outside of training, while interacting in a professional capacity with your clients be careful to limit your health comments.

    As a certified professional dog trainer you are a dog training resource, which may at times include some very simple statements regarding canine health. This makes you by default a dog health resource for your clients. But you are not a dog health expert. Be aware of your limitations and encourage a strong relationship with open communication between your client and his/her veterinary.