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5 Must Do’s During Your Dog’s First Year

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Sammy loves Starbucks

1 Introduce your puppy to lots of humans
I’m not sure that it’s possible for your puppy to meet too many people in the first few months. Invite friends, family, coworkers and neighbors to your home to play with your new puppy. Introducing treats during the interaction will help your puppy associate humans with wonderful things.

A quick trip to a place like Starbucks is a great method to introduce your pup to a more diverse range of humans. Bring a friend and some treats with you. While your friend is securing your beverage order, you can socialize your puppy. I mean who can resist a puppy? If anyone even makes the slightest cute comment about your pup, ask them if they would like to give your puppy a treat. Your pup is likely to love strangers after a few of these events.

2 Arrange for play dates for your puppy
Safely introducing your puppy to other dogs and puppies is crucial to keep the from becoming dog reactive or dog aggressive later in life. If your puppy has not completed all of his puppy vaccinations, be very careful to go on play dates with dogs and puppies of good health. In addition, a young puppy should never be exposed to dogs of questionable temperament. Allow your dog to play with well mannered, “good” dogs.

3 Take a group class
Group classes are perfect for learning communication skills, making friends, and having some fun in a controlled environment. Your dog will learn to give you focus even in some very distracting conditions. You may need a private lesson or two if you are having trouble with translating what you learned in class to your behavior management issues at home.

4 Send your puppy to sleepovers with trusted friends or family
I know its tough for every pet parent to let go, but a sleepover at a friend’s home teaches puppy that “I’m going to be ok without mommy.” A dog that loves you is wonderful, a dog that is co-dependent is… not so wonderful. Even in a dog friendly world there will be times that you can’t take your dog on vacation or on business trips. Give your puppy the life skill of being ok without you. And of course… allow your friends to spoil the baby with walks, play and games to make good associations with being away from home.

5 Take overnight trips with your puppy
Whether its a dog friendly hotel, staying overnight at a friend’s, or for the really brave… a camping trip, will acclimate your puppy to changes in environment. Many of our Broward County Parks have camping facilities. Make it fun and keep it short.


The Harsh Truth About Your Dog’s Abilities

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Service dog performing a task

I could keep up with Dara Torres in a pool if I trained hard enough.  I could solve math problems like the one in the movie “Good Will Hunting” and probably even attend MIT if I studied more.  I’ve golfed a few times, and I’d like to take some lessons so I can compete in the Masters someday.

For many of you that don’t know me, those seem like pretty ridiculous and unrealistic statements.  For those of you that know me and may even love me, you may think I’m wonderful, or special (hopefully in a good way), but for the most part, I’m just a pretty average human.  Admittedly, with practice, hard work, discipline, and dedication, I could certainly vastly improve my skills in areas like swimming, golf, or math.  However, no matter hard I may try, I will always be limited by my abilities, talent (or lack of), aptitude, strength, and many other factors that mother nature dealt me.

So how does my harsh reality relate to your dog?  Media and the internet have given all of us access to learn about so many subjects.  We see police dogs taking down perpetrators under extreme conditions, service animals performing tasks that are amazing, and dogs participating in sports and activities that are so complex and advanced it’s fascinating.  The bottom line is that your pet dog probably will never have the abilities, talent, and aptitude to perform like dogs on television.  Many owners have profoundly unrealistic expectations about their dog’s abilities as well as the dedication it takes to work a dog in different disciplines.

Here are a few harsh truths that I have shared with clients that I would like to share with my readers:

* Your pet dog probably does not meet the criteria required to work with law enforcement.  Many police dog trainers use dogs selectively bred to be able to take harsh treatment from a perpetrator and have the aptitude to do police work.  So NO, the coercive and aversive methods and tools (like shock collars and prong collars) used by law enforcement are completely inappropriate for your pet dog.  And YES, these methods are likely to cause your dog to be fearful or aggressive or both.

* Your pet dog does not meet the criteria required to work with law enforcement and lives with your family.  Your pet dog is not a good candidate to be a protection dog.  Enlisting your dog in protection and bite work without a true commitment to controlling the dog and ensuring the dog is successful, is likely to result in a bite to a family member or guest.  So don’t do it.

* Your pet dog does not meet the criteria for complex service work.  Your pet dog that can’t even pass basic obedience and has lunged and snapped at strangers is not a good candidate to help your family member with tasks in public.

* Your pet dog is fearful and snappy with anyone that is not a member of your immediate family.  Your pet dog will not allow a stranger to touch his paws without biting them.  You can work with a professional dog trainer to modify these behaviors by getting the dog to trust strangers and manage the environment so your dog feels safe.  However, your dog will probably NEVER be predictable enough to be a therapy dog.

* Your pet dog is incredibly distracted in public and may never really be a great trick dog.  But if you and your dog enjoy practicing and being out with other dogs and people showing off your stuff, THEN DO IT.  Enjoy the fun of just being what you and your dog can be.  Don’t worry about what someone else can do with their dog.

Information about criteria and testing for service and other activities:

Therapy dog test items from TDI
CARAT Assessment to predict success in service work

Mind Your Manners

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ImageTeaching manners to puppies is pretty easy to do, yet many pup parents overlook this important step in puppy rearing.  The fact is that puppies are adorable no matter what they are doing.  However, many behaviors that may be cute now, are not so cute when a puppy grows to be a 75 pound monster. The way to keep your puppy from becoming that monster is to develop manners by teaching some impulse control.

When I get a 4 or five month old puppy in my group class, one of the first skills that I need to teach is a gentle mouth.  Some pups are completely unaware of the sensitive human fingers when gobbling down treats.  I’ll close my treat hand with the treats inside and let the puppy get frustrated.  He’ll bite, paw and try to bully me into releasing my hand.  The pup eventually gives up and backs away. That’s when I say yes and release my hand.

There are so many areas that impulse control can be taught at an early age: greeting guests, walking on a leash, getting out of the door, getting leashed up, coming out of the crate, waiting for the food bowl and many more.  Nobody wants to be knocked down by an exuberant dog during any of these activities.  That’s why it’s important to teach impulse control BEFORE the dog gets big enough to knock you down.

Take a look at the video at the link below of Sammy coming out of his crate.  Through several blocking techniques using the door or my arm, I prevented Sammy from barreling out of his crate. Instead, I taught him to sit and wait to be leashed.  I had already introduced a stay cue with Sammy, so the exercise was pretty simple and he caught on fast.


Of course it’s still possible to teach manners to an unruly 75 pound dog.  I do it all the time.  It sometimes takes tools to give a small owner more leverage and alot of patience to undo a behavior that is ingrained.  It’s oh so much easier to teach a puppy some manners from day one.

Nosework is Amazing!

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Duke taking a break

I began offering K9 Fun Nosework classes in 2011.  I have seen amazing positive changes in some of my students that I would not have believed were possible one year ago.  K9 Fun Nosework is a class and sport that is increasing in popularity because it appeals to a wider range of dogs and owners than many other dog training classes and sports.  Nosework focuses on encouraging and developing your dog’s natural scenting abilities by using their desire to hunt and their love of toys, food and exercise.  Originally, my thought was to offer this class to provide dog owners that were unable to participate in more traditional obedience sports and classes, another option to enjoy working with their dogs in a safe and social environment.  What I learned is that participating in Nosework has had profoundly positive effects on many of my students.  I’d like to share some of our success stories.



Lexie – I first met Lexie in a private session.  She was apprehensive with me and uncomfortable with my presence in her house.  Sharee, her owner, indicated that she was fearful around children, men, strollers and stressed by certain situations.  After suggesting some behavior modification exercises, I also suggested she try my Nosework class to work on Lexie’s confidence.  During searches, Lexie really excelled.  She was even able to find treats that I had overlooked from previous searches.  Lexie’s confidence improved tremendously from the search exercises and the behavior modification she and Sharee practiced during class when Lexie was not searching.  Lexie’s body language during most of class was that of a relaxed and happy dog.  Sharee and Lexie are working on extending Lexie’s confidence to other situations in her daily life.



Harley – Debbie came to Nosework to address her dog Harley’s  reactive behavior around other dogs.  While working our first class, I realized that we would need to work on his confidence as well.  I inadvertently caused Harley some stress while rushing to him to reward a find.  Harley also excelled at searches and was able to search for birch scent without being paired with meat. To make it fun we had him search for keys with birch scent.  Harley became much more relaxed around people.  Although he had some reactions to other dogs, his threshold improved and his demeanor around the dogs in class was much more relaxed.  Debbie continues doing Nosework searches with Harley at her truck maintenance facility where Harley searches for birch scented truck keys.  You can read more about their fun on our Testimonials Page.

Duke (pictured above) – I have been working with Duke in private training sessions with his owner, Jamie.  We are lucky to have her big yard with lots of hiding places where we can work off leash.  Jamie’s goal with Duke was to have a constructive outlet for his energy.  His history includes some other behavior issues that the family has been managing successfully. Duke is not really enthusiastic about fetching or going on walks, but he sure is excited about Nosework!  We started indoors hiding meat in boxes and under other objects. We worked our way through pairing meat with birch scent and now, birch scent only.  Jamie will wait with Duke inside while I hide a business card scented with birch oil out in the landscaping.  I’m careful not to encourage digging or any undesirable behaviors.  Typically, Duke takes less than 5 minutes to find the scented card.  He works hard, and is very excited about his search job.  An interesting side note: while searching outside, the next door neighbor’s yard crew was working close to the fence line.  Jamie indicated that normally, Duke would display reactive behavior barking at the activity next door.  While searching, Duke was not at all distracted by the yard crew.



Maddie – We recently took Maddie on vacation to Key West.  She takes a while to warm up to new places and has been known to whine incessantly or nip at any strangers that comes close during the adjustment period.  So, to take Maddie’s focus off of the adjustment, we did some Nosework upon arrival at our B&B.  Before Maddie entered our room, I set up some boxes and treats for her to do a little search exercise.  She began to focus on the search rather than our unpacking activities and the stress of a new environment.
Since Nosework is so new to everyone, it seems that we are all discovering new applications and amazing successes from participating in this fun sport.  The class has no prerequisites and is suitable for a wide range of dogs.

For details on K9 Fun Nosework, visit our website.  Nosework will be offered in Fall 2012 on Saturday mornings.  Stay tuned for dates!  Check out our videos below!