Put Positive Training Methods Hand-in-Hand with Heart and Mind

A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron. –Horace Mann 

Instead of teaching the dog, let’s allow him to learn. There is a subtle but important difference between this concept and that of compulsory, dominance-based obedience training. The best we can do for dogs is to present the opportunity for them to learn and to be successful instead of putting them through boot camp. Be willing to enter the realm of that which cannot be taught in a book or a classroom. Happy training combines scientific method and mindfulness, communication and common sense, ethology and ethics.
How Dogs Learn
Dogs come equipped with certain innate knowledge–instincts designed for survival, such as breeding and hunting. Beyond this preordained knowledge, dogs must learn the rest of what they need to know about life. We are their teachers of how to live life in the human world.
Dogs learn from environment and experience, as humans do. At birth, puppies begin to absorb information from their littermates, parents, other dogs, and humans. They can learn by imitating the behavior of other dogs, and they will experiment to find out what behaviors work. They learn the consequences of their behavior.
Effective training takes all of these things into consideration and channels them into learning through open lines of communication and understanding.
Positive Training General Theory and Principle
Positive: Both positive and compulsory training methods work. However, there is a difference between simply acquiring a behavior and having the dog learn. A positive approach does not damage the relationship between owner and dog as other methods can. In fact, it strengthens it. Positive methods respect the individuality and spirit of dogs.
Motivation: A dog must be motivated to do a behavior. Rewards are motivation, a paycheck in human terms. Food is a motivator for most dogs and easy to use. However, don’t overlook toys, play, exercise, praise, and affection as inspiration. Rewards are anything the dog likes.
At times, you will need to increase the motivation by increasing the value of the reward. While lower value rewards work well when distractions are low, situations that are more difficult require a higher-value prize. However, if the dog refuses rewards, he may be too distracted or stressed, and we need to adjust the environment accordingly.
Corrections: Corrections are not punishment, but feedback. They are verbal cues used to interrupt the dog from the behavior and redirect him. Time outs can also serve as corrections by giving the dog a short (30-seconds) break, so that you can both regroup.
Textbooks and scientific research discuss learning theory, methodology, and scientific principles as applied to dog training. It’s valuable information. However, experiments are done in sterile, consistent laboratories with animals (such as rats, not dogs) given limited options for their behavior and monitored by unfailingly accurate, data-spewing computers. That is just not the same as training a dog to walk nicely on leash through a park full of tantalizing, taunting squirrels.
We are inconsistent humans training dogs in an environment with many distracting elements. We need to know and understand the science of the laboratory and how to apply it intuitively to life with Fido. Remember that Fido did not read the research and analyze the data. Training with both our minds and our hearts builds a bridge between the real laboratory and real life.
Training From the Heart and Mind
Successful training comes from the heart as well as the mind and contributes to the wellbeing of both teacher and student. This was vividly illustrated in a consultation I did with a family that had adopted a five-year-old mill dog. The dog displayed fear aggression by barking and nipping, especially at the nine-year-old daughter. The family had been advised to put their hands on their hips, get “big,” and march past the dog when he displayed this “naughtiness.” They were told that doing this would prove to the dog that they were dominant and in charge.
When I explained that we would no longer be doing that (and why), the little girl let out a sigh of relief and said, “Oh, good!” She knew that what they’d been doing was not what was in her heart. Within the hour, using science-based training methods, we had the dog voluntarily approaching the girl and touching her hand. It was something everyone felt good about–a positive, touching experience of nose to hand, mind to heart, and heart to heart.

Pat Blocker, CPDT-KA, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with over 19 years experience. She offers private in-home training specializing in solving canine behavior issues. She is an instructor for dog*tec Dog Walking Academy, training and certifying professional dog walkers. http://dogtec.org/dogwalkingacademy.php

Contact Pat at Peaceful Paws • 303-364-4681 • http://www.peacefulpaws.netpat@peacefulpaws.net. Pat is the author of Taking the Lead with Jerking the Leash available on Amazon. 

Marker Words, Marking Correct Behaviors

Postive dog training
Why do we use reward markers? 
When you take a class with Bennett Canine Training you will be asked to select a reward marker during your first session with us. A reward marker is a very clear way of communicating with your dog which increases your dog’s understanding of the content we are teaching and decreases how long it takes your dog to learn new behaviors.

What is a reward marker? 
A reward marker or a bridge word is used to tell your dog the exact minute they performed the correct Behavior.   A great example of this is if you were teaching your dog to make eye contact with you. If you asked your dog to look in your eyes and then simply fed him a treat you would be treating him while he was looking at the treating your hand not your eyes.   The moment you move your hands your dog WILL instinctively look at your hands. Whereas if you were able to use a word to say “that’s correct, now your food is coming” you can Mark while your dog’s eyes are still on your eyes before they look to the treat. Another important example would be if your dog was at a park off leash and you ask your dog to leave something, you want to be able to pinpoint the exact minute they left the object, even if it’ll take five to 10 seconds for your dog to make it across the field to you. Timing on your rewards is critical.

Why don’t we just use good boy? 
Technically you can use good talk good or good boy, but often times this word is used very frequently by strangers meeting your dog or by family and friends when they’re interacting with your dog. We want our marker word to be a special word that is used only when we will produce a reward after it.  This word is only between Handler and dog. If we choose to use good boy and our dog jumps up on somebody and they say good boy then they’re reinforcing that incorrect Behavior.

When to use a marker word? 
Imagine that your marker word is a camera and you want to take a picture of the exact moment your dog does the correct Behavior. If I was working on teaching sit, I would use my marker word the second my dogs butt hit the floor or if I was working on down I would use my marker word the second my dog’s elbows hit the ground.

What word should I select for my marker word? 
It doesn’t really matter as long as you consistently use it before giving your dog the food reward. Timing is more important.  It should go, marker word pause food reward with only one to two seconds in between.   Marker words that I typically recommend for my students are yes, nice, super, yup or sweet.

Good luck in training and have fun!

pit bull postive training

Sparky turns his head after hearing his marker word

Responsibility For Children With Dogs

Each year plenty of families bring a new dog into the home. It is very important to include all family members in the care of a dog and it’s a great opportunity to teach children how to responsibly care for a pet.

Very often parents are unsure of how to include their children in their dog’s raising.  Hopefully this blog gives you a great start.

These are responsibilities that would be excellent to encourage your children to do each and every single day. You may need to modify them depending on your child’s age.

Age 4-7

  • Pet your dog everyday- teach your child to gently Pat the dog and make sure they do this every day.
  • Give your dog a treat every morning– if your child is younger it may include placing the tree on the floor. If your child is older they may ask them to sit before placing the treat on the floor
  • Help brush the dog- have your kiddo help you brush the dog as he gets older this can become his responsibility.

Age 7-15

  1. Feed your dog– at age 7 your have children start to feed the dog every morning and evening.
  2. Brush the dog– at age 7 it can become your child’s responsibility to brush the dog each day or every other day depending on your breed of dog. This is a great bonding opportunity.
  3. Practice training– at age 7 I have your children start helping you practice sit, down, skake and stay with your dog. As your child gets older this can become their daily responsibility.
  4. Walks– start to go for a family walk for at least 20 minutes everyday. As your child becomes older this also can become their responsibility to do with the dog.  If you have a small breed or a particularly well trained dog if your child ask to go outside and play ask them to take the dog along with them.

Age 15 or older
By now your teenager should already be in the habit of feeding his dog, walking, brushing and training their dog.  They are also almost at the age where they’re going to be interested in getting their first car and responsibility should be taking a step up. This is a great opportunity for them to start learning adult projects like scheduling vet appointments.

  1. Vet appointments- go over with your kiddo how often your dog needs to go to the veterinarian and teach them to call and make their own appointments for their dog.
  2. Puppy class– if you just got a new dog or puppy it’s a great time to have your teenager take responsibility attend puppy classes with their new dog. If you have an older dog this could be a great opportunity for a refresher course.
  3. Bath time and brushing– can be your child’s full responsibility at this age.
  4. Walking daily or running- if your child is in to sports it could be a great opportunity for your child to stay fit with your pet.

For fun games for kids and dogs to play together: click here

What Type of Collar Should I Use

Training collar

Martingale collar

Selecting the right collar for your dog may be a very personal choice so I am happy to see you are doing some research on the topic.

My two go to collar types are a well fit and safe harness or a martingale training collar.  Both can be used to prevent pulling, give a smaller handler more control of a larger dog, have multiple uses plus since neither promise the magical fix pulling in a instant they don’t cost a arm and a leg.

A martingale collar is sometimes referred to a limited slip collar.  These typically retail between $8.00- 12.50 so they can be very cost effective.  This is the type of collar I use for my personal dogs. 

What do I love about a martingale collar?

*They can be easily converted into a no-pull harness for extra hard pullers that haven’t been successful with regular no-pull harnesses.

*They require no time to put on

*They can be used as a flat collar when you are working on obedience training and used as a no-pull harness when you are in a hurry and “Don’t have time to train” or if you only want to train for half your walk

*Your dog CANT slip out of it.  If your dog is the type to pull backwards and slip his/her collar they can’t slip a correctly fit martingale.

Watch this video on how use/ fit a martingale collar:click here

Why might I not choose a martingale collar?

*I might opt for a well fit classic harness if my dog has kennel cough or pulls so hard that he is frequently coughing. 

*If you don’t feel comfortable having anything around your pet’s neck a harness maybe a better option.

*If your dog bounces around the car opt for a harness I’ll explain why a little farther down.

*5 months or under…. go with a harness

Harness come in all different shapes and all different types.  It is important to select a harness that is a safe fit for your dog as there are several types of harnesses made for trained dogs that untrained dogs that like to pullback may slip right out of.  Most classic style harness retail between $11.00 and $22.00 depending on brand and style.

What do I love about a classic harness?

*It is probably one of the most versatile training tools on the market.

* They are normally very, very adjustable which means that they can grow with your puppy for sometime and your can get the prefect fit.

* You can clip to the front o-ring and use them as a no-pull harness when you are in a hurry and “Don’t have time to train” or if you only want to train for half your walk

* Use a carabineer and they make great seat belts

*Clip them to the back clip for when you are working on loose leash walking or training.

*Dogs won’t slip a correctly fit harness  

Why I might not choose a harness?

*If your dog isn’t very comfortable being handled around the paws/ body standing for having a harness put on may cause extra stress

*If the dog is very shy of leash and being walked it is much more difficult to create a positive association while using a harness

*They can take a while to put on and take off

*Harnesses may cause your dog to chaff.

Here are few examples of classic harnesses.


Classic Harness


Bennett Canine Training

Classic Harness

Classic Harness

Classic Harness


Not all harness are created equal some harnesses are downright dangerous.  Harnesses that clip and snap over the shoulders like the two in the following photos should only be used on well trained dogs that have good leash walking skills and a strong recall.  They easily slip off over the head even when properly fit.

Here are some examples of harnesses that are clipped over the back so they could slip off easily.


Easy off Harness



Other harnesses use the same concept of using the front o-ring, but are far less adjustable and much more difficult to get a correct sizing on. 


Additional note if you have tried one of these tools paired with DIY training and have not seen results so your now wondering about tools like gentle leaders, remote collars, choke chains or prong collars please contact a local professional trainer for specific recommendations for your pet.  We do NOT recommend these tools without professional guidance.  

Check out our blog on the best tools for pulling!!


Best Dog Books by Category

great dog books

I will occasionally have a student that is so excited to help their dog be better behaved that they want to do some reading at home.  With the cold weather rolling in there couldn’t be a better time to snuggle up with your dog and read a good book.

I have compiled a list of a few of my favorite recommendations for dog training books. I ended up having so many favorites that I felt I needed to split them into categories so you could find them easier.

Free Audio Books:

Okay if you don’t already know about HOOPLA the free online audio book ap you should check it out. If you’re busy like me you might not have time to sit down and read a good book, but this is a great alternative.  Link to Hoopla  Here are my three favorites; some of the other ones were a little dry.

Before and After Getting Your Puppy by Ian Dunbar:  This book had loads of great content and Ian Dunbar keeps the read entertaining this is perfect for a new puppy parent

Dog Training Revolution by Zac George: I like Zak George’s training style and I have been following him on youtube for years. This book is great for any dog owner.

Lucky Dog Lessons Train Your Dog in 7 Days by Brandon McMillan: This is absolutely perfect for a owner who just adopted a dog.

Puppy Books:

Before and After Getting Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar: As I mentioned before I LOVE this book. This book has great content without being dry or boring.

Puppy Training For Kids: If you want your puppy to grow up to be a dog that listens to the kids in the home the kids have to practice with the puppy too. This is a great book to get them involved.  If you are looking for more ideas for your kids to get involved with puppy, click here

Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Sophia Yin: This is a top favorite read of mine. The way it’s written is done so that it is not only easy to follow, but contains good content.

Adopted dog books:

Juvenile Delinquent Dog by Sue Brown: I bought this book directly from Sue Brown and it is wonderful! It is easy to follow and written in a way that you can flip right to the problem that you are having with your dog or like I did read it cover to cover.

Dog Training In 10 Minutes A Day: 10-Minute Games To Teach Your Dog New Tricks by Kyra Sundance: This book is a great book to motivate you to help your new dog learn how to be the best companion he can be. It offers short exercises you can follow so you wild new adoptee’s training can feel a little less overwhelming.

Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor: I loved it It’s not as explanatory as Donaldson’s “The Culture Clash,” but it’s a great how-to novel. After reading this book you’ll be clicker training your dog, horse and betta fish like a pro!

Behavior Problem Books:

Click to Calm Healing the Aggressive Dog by Emma Parsons: This book is great, even if you don’t have a aggressive dog this is so full of helpful tips and trick and goes a long way in helping understand the mind of a dog that is struggling with behavior problems.

Fired up, Freaked Out and Frantic by Laura VanArendonk Baugh: This book is excellent! Her way of writing, the images in her language, and the diagrams make this book really stand out; there’s no way to misunderstand the concepts she’s presenting.

Do you have a favorite dog training book?  If you do we would love to hear about it from you!









trick training

Our First AKC tricks title event

When at Bennett Canine Training first saw the news that the AKC was offering the Tricks Titles we couldn’t wait to start telling students about it. We thought it was great that our dogs could participate regardless of breed or physical ability there is tricks that work for everyone. When we told our students about it they were excited too! They didn’t feel overwhelmed since they could use rewards and they were too excited to be nervous. When decided to hold a testing event. 

 We offered the AKC Canine Good Citizen and right after we offered the AKC Tricks Titles Testing. It worked our perfectly and boy-o-boy did we have a turnout. We tested a total of 9 dogs. Our youngest handler being just 10 years old passed her CGC and her Novice tricks on “Aggie” whom she trained all by herself! This wasn’t just a test for beginners though we had handlers of all levels join.
We knew that this was going to be a fun event and it didn’t disappoint! As evaluators we were so excited to see the creativity of dogs and owners working together. The personalities of the dog/hander teams really came out in a way we’ve never seen in the obedience ring! All the participants were supportive of each other and clapped with joy after each trick. The dogs had just as much fun as the handlers!

Surely owners will be talking about this event for weeks to come. We know for sure that our Novice Title dogs will be going home to start on their journeys to their next AKC Trick Titles.

We offer drop in tricks classes to get started with tricks once a month and our next tricks title event will be on Feb 24, 2017 on Saturday at 1:30.

Training Tools & Pulling 

As a professional dog trainer and as a trainer who has crossed over from old school training methods I can tell you that it makes even trainers who use adverse methods skin crawl when they hear people say “it’s a great tool if you use it correctly.”

Why? You ask….. 

90% of people who use these tools do not know how to properly fit them or even properly put them on. This is the most basic step in using any training tool.

 Now, I want them to convince me that they’re using a prong collar correctly when it isn’t even on your dog correctly?

It is really hard to permanently scar a dog mentally, create major behavior problems, or create anxious behavior with positive training methods.

I would say 85-90 percent of collars I see while out in public are improperly fit. How do they know how to properly use it if they can’t fit it on their dog? Correct timing that can often takes years to master and tools like prong collars, gentle leaders, and e-collars must be used correctly to be effective.

To correctly use this type of training tool one must haves perfect timing, a strong understanding of training methods comma and a wonderful ability to read a dog once they have learned all this seldom do they need these types of Correction devices.

I often find that when somebody is looking at buying these types of tools and you ask them why they need it their answer is often well, my dog pulls really bad on walks and I was hoping it would help, or my dog lunges at other dogs and I was hoping it would help.

Here is the truth. When I ask these people who want their dogs to walk well on leash, “if you say heel in the house holding something her really wants, does your dog come to your left side and sit?” they often answer, “no”.

If you answered “no”, my question for you is why would you punish a dog for not preforming a behavior you haven’t taught him? If he cannot perform a heel in the house without distraction why would you punish him for not being able to do it outside on a walk with the presence of distraction like squirrels and other dogs? This doesn’t sound very fair to me.

No tool should ever replace good dog training, especially not one that can have adverse side effects.

Here is a list of my favorite pulling tools and how to use them click here

Positive dog training

Focused Heel Flat Collar

Separation Anxiety 

Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed and mistreated behavior issues. Many veterinarians, pet store workers, and even trainers misdiagnose dogs and provide owners with bad advice that will be counterproductive to True separation anxiety. Separation anxiety or any other anxiety is never fixed overnight. 

Is it truly anxiety?

1. Is your dog anxious and other areas? Does your dog easily become stressed in a new environment?  It is pretty rare for a dog to only be anxious in one area such as during separation. Most of the time dogs that have true anxiety will display anxiety and other situations as well

2. Is your dog chewing and digging at the doors and windows? Or is your dog chewing up everything? Most dogs with separation anxiety will fixate at points of exit such as the front door or window.

3. Does your dog start to get anxious when you’re getting ready for work in the morning? A dog that is simply chewing or getting into trouble while you’re away due to boredom will not become worried when you start preparing for work however a dog with anxiety will.

I like to break down treatment of separation anxiety into three separate categories. Management, training (behavior modification), and medical.

Here are some MANAGEMENT (not treatment) rules for separation anxiety. 

1.     Leave a radio or T.V. on.

2.    Give a high value bone as you are walking out the door.  As soon as you come home pick up the bone.  You want him to think “oh man, mom’s home.”  These bones also act as a pacifier. Pick up raw natural meat bones at specialty pet stores such as chuck and dawn, heroes pets, or wag and wash. Be sure to switch them out daily, so your dog doesnt get bored. 

3. Never get excited when you come home.  Stay calm for the first ten minutes and ignore the dog.
4. Your dog needs to be exercised hard enough that they are out of breath.  Not a little out of breath, exhausted.  This will release the same feel good chemicals in the brain as it does in humans.  
5. Practice Calm behaviors before leaving the house such as relax on a mat.

6. Record yourself reading a chapter or two out of a book. Play it looped when you leave the house and another room.

7. Dog walker, dog daycare or dog sitter. Some dogs me still experience anxiety when their owners are out of site, but a stranger is present. Most dogs have a much easier time to adjusting if they are being checked on through the day or even better staying with somebody through the day.

Separation anxiety is never treated through just one method. It frequently takes layering treatments such as medication and behavior modification for separation anxiety to be treated.  
I strongly recommend that you get with a veterinarian who has additional education in Behavior. We call these Veterinary behaviorists. They can address all three elements needed to truly treat separation anxiety.

 For more information on separation anxiety please visit the videos.

What is Anxiety in Dogs
Treating Anxiety in Dogs

Teaching Dogs to Participate in Procedures


What do you do when your groomer say’s she can’t groom your dog anymore because of behavior?  Does your dog get uncomfortable when it’s time to put a harness on?  Does your vet ask you to muzzle your dog before you bring him in? 

Your not alone.

 I was talking to a student, Nicole who had been putting off surgery for he dog for sometime, because her dog; Muffin, a 180 pound mastiff mix would growl when she tried to put the cone on the dog. 

Nicole believed that Muffin was being dominate and that the restraint was causing Muffin to “act out.”   

I asked if she could bring Muffin’s cone to the next class so I could see. 

When she pulled the cone out of bag Muffin shut her mouth and backed away she was very scared. 

 I asked Nicole if I could have the cone and Muffins leash.  I threw the cone in the opposite direction of Muffin and as she very slowly crept up to the scary cone I clicked her and gave her a treat. 

Dogs are forced to participate in things medical and grooming procedures that frighten them.  The more scared the dog the more force that is required.  This has to stop.  There is a better less stressful way.   This causes vets, techs and groomers extra work, extra risk and causes your dog extra stress.  Procedures like putting a cone on, getting a bath, getting eye drops or even nail trims can be trained and put on cue.  Teaching your dog to choose to participate in these activities makes it so your vet and groomer have a easier time handling your dog this allows them to do a better job more safely.  It also make the situation so much less stressful to your dog. 

 You can teach any dog to be comfortable in these situations if you use counter conditioning.  

What is Counter Conditioning? 

Well in technical speak Counterconditioning is the conditioning of an unwanted behavior or response to a stimulus into a wanted behavior or response by the association of positive actions with the stimulus. 

In other words your dog see’s a cone and growls; because he has negative emotions towards the cone if you change the emotion the behavior growling will resolve it’s self. 


How should I work on my dog’s fear? 

  1. Teach your dog to associate the object with something good so for example when Muffin was afraid of the cone I moved it away from her and when she checked it out I marked it with a reward marker and gave her a treat.   I repeated this until she figured out every time she looked at it she got a treat.  This could also work for a brush or nail clippers. 
  1. Reward interactions with touching the object.  When I was teaching Muffin to put her head in the cone I raised my criteria when she started to get excited when she saw the cone.  Now, muffin had to touch the cone with her nose to get marked for the correct behavior and treated. 
  1. The final product. Now Muffin no longer had a fear response to the cone which means that I was able to stick my hand through the cone and lure her head all the way through.  When her head was in the hole I marked and reward. I continued this until she offered to put her head in the cone without a treat being on the other side. 
  1. Naming the behavior.  Now that Muffin was choosing to put the cone on all by her self I decided to name this behavior cone.  I held the cone open and said “Cone” since she was already offering the behavior on her own, she put her head in the cone. 


Now that Muffin understands that it isn’t scary to put her head in the cone Nicole can stand with the cone in her hand and say “cone”.  Muffin comes running and puts her own head in the cone.  This is less stressful for Nicole as 180 pound Muffin looks a little scary when she growls, but it is less stressful for Muffin too. 

Are you still wondering how this can work for bath time and nail trims?   

Click below for step by step how to:

Train The Love Of Nail Trims

Love Bath Time

big saint bernard


Barking Dogs

I received a barking ticket or warning, what do I do now?
 Alright so you got a ticket in the mail that notifies you that your dog’s barking has been reported to your local city Animal Control.  Surely you’re feeling a little frustrated and or a little embarrassed.
The real question is how should you move forward.
When many people receive a barking warning their first step is to call their local animal control agency to let them know that their dog doesn’t or to let them know what steps they’re going to take to prevent barking in the future. Honestly, this is wasted time and effort. Animal control does not care what steps you’re doing to keep your dog from barking the only thing they care about is if they receive another complaint about your dogs barking.
What we typically recommend doing once you receive a barking warning is to talk with your neighbors and let them know what steps you will be taken to decrease the barking.
 Don’t think of this as an opportunity to blame it on the squirrels or your neighbor’s kids the more you take ownership of your dogs barking the less your neighbors will feel that they have to go to animal control to handle future barking. 
Here are some tips:
  1. Limit the amount of time your dog spends outside alone:  You cannot manage your dog when you are not there. Don’t expect your dog not to bark when unattended especially once you have received a warning
  2. Increase enrichment:  dogs that are solely fed out of enrichment feeders like kong Wobblers bark 70 percent less.
  3. Increase exercise: Increase your dogs exercise by at least 20 minutes a day and your guaranteed to see a decrease in barking.
  4. Brush up on training:  Brush up on cues like come that way you can call your dog inside the minute he starts barking. Oftentimes you will hear owners tell their dog to be quiet followed by several seconds of silence and then continued barking. Leave it is another cue that can help with barking if your dog is triggered by something specific.   Finally teach your dog how to be quiet on cue. Follow this video for step by step instructions.  teach your dog to be quiet

a tired dog