Motivation Concepts-Dog Training

Motivational Concepts

Dogs can only have fun with the handler.  We can do things with a dog that we couldn’t get away with a tiger.  This is because we have a relationship with our dogs.  Relationship with motivation is important.  Good motivation should build a relationship.

Nothing in Life is Free, being fair providing resources and providing fun.

Frustration, if used properly can build a dog’s motivation.

Rolling food, better running with the food.  Running with food you are more valuable because you become part of the game.

Tug o war, they can’t play tug by themselves.  That makes you more valuable.  Lots of opportunity for feedback loops.  Rules are import, raw drive is not good, but used as a reward and balance rule making with the dog’s passion for this activity.  Don’t do so many rules that you squash the dog’s passion.  Each dog will behave differently.

Movement is motivating, be part of the reward.

ENGAGMENT; my dog pays attention to me and wants something from me.  We use strictly reward based system to build engagement.   

What does your dog do AFTER he has earned his reward?  Check out and go sniff or go crazy trying to figure out how to get me to produce the next reward. 

Training can only be successful with engagement.  Just like if you were trying to teach someone math who is day dreaming about being in Aruba.

Post reinforcement pause, the drop off in focus after your dog has earned a reinforcer.  We want to get the dog the shortest possible pause by being fun and novel.  We also want to be consistently more reinforcing then the environment.

Interactive reward events, I want the dog to want to interact with me.  We will build games that become rewards.  We practice the game until the dog really likes it then we can start to use it as a reinforcer.  The more motivated the dog the easier it is to teach and the easier it is to work through insecurities. Interactive reward games build a relationship with your dog. 

How do we get our dog to listen when they are worked up?

We build a reward that becomes a tool to practice listening while they are excited.  “Yes, I know you really want to get this ball, but you still have to sit.” 


Spay and Neuter and Behavior Problems

While volunteering I got a call from someone who has a 9 month old German shepherd puppy.    She told me that her she didn’t know if we could neuter her puppy, because of his level of aggression.  The owner is in tears. 

She just doesn’t know what to do with her puppy.  I asked her to explain what’s going on and she told me that he is jumping on the counters, pulling on the leash, barking at everyone and everything.   She said he growls at her and other family members, barks and spins when people come over and that she is worried if she doesn’t do something he’ll get worse.   She said she is at her wits end and talked to her vet in depth.  She said after speaking to him, she has decided her only option is to get him neutered. 

I asked her if she has done any training with him, she said that she hadn’t, but that she had bought a easy walk harness and a prong collar, but neither was working.  I asked her to tell me about the exercise this puppy was getting.  She told me that she has an average sized dog run and takes him on 2-3 walks a week at about a half mile to a mile.  I asked her what she was feeding and how she was feeding.  She told me he eats out of a bowl like every other dog.

Here we have a case of a big, strong, adolescent dog that was bred to work all day. He isn’t having his basic needs being met and not being given any structure or guidance in how he should behavior…. and the solution… surgery!

That is asinine!

Doing a surgical procedure without really diving into the research of the effects on behavior is also common practice here in the states.  Veterinarians may advise owners like her with dogs that presents with aggressive, unruly or other behaviors problems to do spay and neuter.

What does research and studies actually say about this?

Despite the historic propensity for veterinarians to recommend altering dogs to treat problem behaviors, the effect of spay and neuter has been assessed in only a few studies.

We have heard it time and time again…. Responsible owners spay and neuter.    Rescue workers shame the person walking through the petstore buying dog food with their calm relaxed bull mastiff walking at their side, breeders make people sign contracts and legislation has been passed.  

Maybe the neighbor said it is the responsible thing to do, but do you really know what the most recent studies are saying?

In 2010 a study was conducted with 10,839 dogs, behavioral characteristics of intact male and female dogs were compared with those of four groups of neutered dogs.  The findings of this well put together study showed, that the behavior of neutered dogs was significantly different from that of intact dogs in ways that contradict the prevailing and historic view of spay and neuter being a solution to behavioral issues.

Among the findings in this study, neutered dogs were MORE aggressive, fearful, excitable, and less trainable than intact dogs.

They also tested spatial learning, memory and reversal learning tasks using a maze.  The results showed that 81% of intact females successfully completed the whole procedure.  Only 56% of spayed females where able to complete the same maze.

Could this vet’s recommendation of altering her 9 month old puppy make the behavior worse instead of better?   Is it possible that the investment of spending $20 on a prong collar, $30 on an easy walk harness and $300-$500 on spay and neuter would have been better spent on proactive training classes and now, behavior modification?

I would say so, while this is a topic that doesn’t have enough study and has plenty of debate I have to say, there is enough research to show that in terms of aggression and excitability altering your pet will not make a difference and may even hurt aggressive behavior.

We know that the number one reason animals are surrendered to shelters and rescues are behavior.  We know the number one cause of euthanasia on dogs under 3 in the United States is BEHAVIOR and NOT infectious disease.

When she neuters this dog and his behavior doesn’t change will he end up another shelter statistic? 

Maybe the responsible thing to do isn’t debatable surgeries but meeting your dog’s basic needs and providing early socialization and consistent training.

Check out some studies referenced in this article;

Maybe the responsible thing to do is train, research and respect the choices of others.

Give Your Dog a Job

Almost all breeds of dogs were developed and bred to have a job.  Even breeds like French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs and Chihuahuas that are often considered lazy or difficult to train can excel if given the right job.  We have seen French Bulldogs employed for detection work, therapy work, and fly ball and Chihuahuas racing their legs off at barn hunts and agility courses.  Your dog doesn’t have to be an amazing obedience dog to try their paw at dog sports.

Oftentimes, dogs that are labeled as problem dogs, like dogs that end up in shelters have not been given enough mental and physical challenges.  Once these dogs are given a chance to use their instincts in an appropriate way they can truly relax when they are at home with you.

Don’t be intimidated it really isn’t that hard to get started.  Normally, you get started by finding a club or drop in session to get started with.   Try just by googling it or looking on Facebook. 

You don’t have to turn your pet into a show dog, there are variations that you can do with your own dog!  You can find DVD’s online, you tube videos, and plenty of how to’s.

Nose work

Fascinating fact: Dogs have a sense of smell that’s between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than ours! The sport of Scent Work celebrates the joy of sniffing, and asks a dog to sniff to their heart’s content; turning your dog’s favorite activity into a rewarding game. It is a terrific sport for all kinds of dogs, and is a wonderful way to build confidence in a shy dog.  It is a terrific way to teach your dog that he can communicate things he wants to tell you, by how he acts.  This can be very empowering to shy dogs, help calm anxious dogs and give high energy dogs a job.

-You can do this in your own house really easily.  All you need is either their favorite toy, 3-4 card board boxes, a q-tip and any sent… that’s right you can even use hair gel, essential oils, or perfume.

Barn hunt

Barn Hunt is a fun sport for all dogs of any breed or mix that like to hunt with their noses. Dogs search for one or more rats (safely housed in aerated tubes) on a course made of straw bales. The dog has to find the correct number of hidden rats within a set time limit.

-This one is a little harder to do in your house, but there are about 6 places in the City of Denver that offer these for $15 a class several nights a week.


Agility is a sport where you direct your dog through a pre-set obstacle course within a certain time limit. Courses typically have between 14-20 obstacles, which can include tunnels, weave poles, tire jumps, seesaws, and pause tables where the dog must stop for a set amount of time.  This can be great for adolescent dogs with low-self control to learn how to focus on a handler during excitement and go from speed to calmness.  It also teaches handlers to give clear cues and teaches dogs to focus on subtle cues while running full speed. 

-Do it at home by using chairs, laundry baskets, broomstick handles and large boulders in your yard.  Give your kids cardboard boxes that they can make tunnels out of.

You could also try the next one as an in-home sport.

Canine Parkour

Dog parkour, sometimes known as urban agility, is an activity based on the same principles. It is a challenging, but fun, physical activity in which the dogs learn to interact with their environment.   Parkour is a physical discipline in which dogs move through their environment and conquer obstacles in their path. It includes climbing, balancing, jumping, running, vaulting, creativity and working past fear.  Teaches dogs to listen to their handler and trains them body awareness.

-It’s made to do around the home and neighborhood.

Dock diving

Dock jumping also known as dock diving is a dog sport in which dogs compete in jumping for distance or height from a dock into a body of water.  This is great for dogs that may have injuries or dogs that love toys and water!

-Do it around the house by finding a lake, river or canine swim center.  This is excellent exercise to  tire them out.

Freestyle dance

Musical canine freestyle, also known as musical freestyle, freestyle dance, and canine freestyle, is a modern dog sport that is a mixture of obedience training, tricks, and dance that allows for creative interaction between dogs and their owners. The sport has developed into competition forms in several countries around the world.

-This is so easy to do in the house, hit youtube for some inspiration and turn on your favorite tunes.


There are three test levels – started, intermediate, advanced. This is not limited to herding breeds as long as the dog has proper instincts I have a good friend who does this with an Akita.  If you are looking to compete there is a little more you need to know, The initial test is called Instinct Test and it is a test for herding breeds, Rottweilers, Samoyeds, Standard and Giant Schnauzers, Pyrenean Shepherds, Swedish Vallhunds, Norwegian Buhunds and Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. The dog needs no training before entering this class and may be handled by the judge, owner or a designated handler. The judge is looking for the dogs ability to move and control livestock by fetching or driving.

-Live in the middle of the city?  No sheep in sight, but your border collie is going bananas?  Check out this next sport called Treibball!


Sometimes called urban herding.If your dog has a nose or a shoulder, he can play Treibball! The game is simple to play and train, and only requires a few fitness balls, some treats and a love of working with your dog. Your dog learns to target the balls, and then goes out into a playing field and pushes balls to you, with direction and control.

Other working dog jobs

Service dogs:

These dogs are owned by someone with a disability and trained to mitigate that disability.  These dogs may be trained to retrieve a cell phone, medication, or pull a wheel chair.  They may guide the blind or detect an owner’s drop in blood sugar as well as respond to that situation appropriately.  They should be 100 percent focused on their handler as they are a medical device and if they are unfocused, they may miss a cue from an owner or may miss a medical issue like on-coming seizure.   That is why owners of these dogs strongly discourage other people from petting their working dogs. These dogs should have good manners and should not harass strangers or other dogs.  These dogs have public access rights.  No certification or registration is required.  Those sold online are a scam.  You do not need to have any markings on your dog, but your dog must behave in public.

Emotional Support dogs:

These dogs do not have public access rights, however they have fair housing act rights.  Your dog doesn’t need any special training, but can have this title revoked if your dog behaves in a dangerous manner around the neighborhood.

Therapy dogs:

These dogs go to schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other places to provide comfort to humans.  These dogs are specially trained to be safe, polite and comfortable in the settings they provide comfort and are insured as therapy animals.

Helpful dogs:

These dogs are pets that you provide training for around your house to give them a “job”.  You can teach them to pick up dropped keys, bring you a hand towel, put the laundry in the bin and bring you your slippers.  While it may sound silly giving these dogs these simple and important tasks are sooo important! ff

How to Pick a Shelter or Rescue Dog

No matter whether you are looking for an adult dog or a puppy it’s so important to consider your lifestyle before you do anything else.

Ask your self the following four questions:

  1. How active do you want to be during the work week?  Do you already go to the gym afterwork and would you be willing to switch that out for an evening jog around the neighborhood with your new dog.  Do most nights after work you come home, prepare dinner get the kids to finish their homework and then finally sit down for 30 minutes of TV before you head to bed?  It is best to consider your busy nights instead of just weekends.  When considering your new dog’s energy always round down, so if you think you’re a super active five than get a four energy level dog.  This will make sure that your dog always has his needs met and will save your pillows from being chewed up if you take on a few extra hours at work. DON’T RELY ON YOUR YARD AND DON’T INCLUDE THAT IN YOUR ACTIVITY SCORE UNLESS YOU HAVE MORE THAN 2 ACRES.
  2. How often do you travel?  Would you want to take your dog with you?  Some breeds and individual dogs do better with new people who might come over to dog sit and some dogs would be easier to fly with simply because of their size.
  3. Will you be moving in the next five years?   Why is this important?  Well, if your in your early twenties and still doing some apartment hoping it’s important to know that most apartments have breed and weight restrictions which could end up restricting where you live if you want to keep your dog.  In addition to this some HOAs and even some cities and countries have breed restrictions which doesn’t allow you to own a specific breed or mix of that breed.
  4. Why do you want a dog? Dreaming of cuddling on the couch with doggy pal watching your favorite chick flick, going hiking and to the park or hoping for a pal to keep your other canine company?  These would all require a different dog.  Not all dogs like to cuddle, not all dogs like to run and some might not like other dogs.  Keep this in mind while you search.
  5. Life changes?  Hoping to start a family in the next six months? Making sure the adult dog likes kids and more importantly babies is a MUST.   Making sure you introduce your puppy in a positive way to both babies and toddlers will be a must be prepared to jump in full training mode to make sure your dog is ready for baby. Already pregnant?  Choose an adult dog waking up to take puppy out, giving adequate attention to socialization and manners will have to be a priority and being a new mom will make this nearly impossible.  If you must choose a puppy remember you have no time to slack get that puppy into as many training classes as possible before the baby comes.

Are you looking for an adult or a puppy?  Well, the answer should depend on primarily time.  In a study that looked at dog owners contacting trainers for reports of aggressive behavior where a bite breaking skin occurred they found that 78 percent of dogs that had bitten another dog or person where purchased between the ages of 8 weeks and 12 weeks.    What does that study tell us?  Well, no one adopts a new puppy in hopes it’s going to turn into a problem dog, but it happens way more often than we think.  The problem is WAY too many people get puppies hoping to raise them how they want them but don’t actually have the time or experience to do it correctly.  If you have lots of time to take your puppy out in the world to do training sessions than your good either way.  That being said if you are already balancing the kids soccer games, work, helping with school work and volunteering for carpool maybe an adult dog with already good manners is the way to go.  Remember we are talking after a busy day of work… not just weekends.

Choosing where to look for your new dog

If you live in a small town you may only have the choice of one shelter or one rescue, but if you live in a busy area like Denver you may have an overwhelming amount of options. You might not know, but not all shelters are created equal and not all rescues are either. Rescues range greatly from little old ladies who have 12 dogs and a 501c3 and major ones with 1000’s of volunteers and dozens of staff. How do you pick? Don’t start looking for a dog before you know where to look. While most shelters and rescues push for full disclosure some feel full disclosure may scare people away.

Start by asking these questions:

  1. How do you get your dogs? Some transfer in from other shelters and rescues, some (not many) sit at auction houses and purchase dogs and others take them only as owner surrenders or stays. It doesn’t matter which you choose, but this question can give you insight as to if this is an organization that you want to support.
  2. How do you get to know your dogs? Some shelters provide playgroups, training classes and three times a day walks to their dogs so that is a great way to get to know them. Many rescues are foster based and actually living in the home with the foster parent. Other places may only get to know a dog by throwing a bowl of food and cleaning the kennel. It doesn’t matter which you choose, but this question can give you insight as to if this is an organization that you want to support.
  3. For very young puppies you want to ask if they were born in the shelter or in foster. You also want to know what type of socialization they get while in foster.

The process of shopping for your new dog.

You walk into the shelter pass an old lab, a barking border collie then you spot him.  It’s love at first sight!  Your head over heels for him, just the dog you have always dreamed of…… wait a minute, slow down this isn’t speed dating.  I’m always shocked at how people seem to be able to pick their new dog quicker than they do a couch.  This dog will be with you for the next 12 years,  maybe you should get to know who he is first.

Start by reading the card on the outside of the kennel.  Then ask the shelter staff if they can tell you about his history and how he got there.  Was he a stray?  Maybe he can’t be left alone in the backyard.  Did his owner surrender him, if so why?  This can give you very important information.  Also, ask if they know how he is with kids, dogs, cats and people.  Next ask them what type of energy he has (REMEMBER DON’T BUDGE ON YOUR EXERSIES NEEDS ACTIVE DOGS IN LAZY HOMES DEVELOP LOTS OF BEHAVIOR ISSUES)  Finally, ask the staff to meet the dog.

Meeting the dog

  1. Sometimes when you meet a dog at the shelter they put you in a room and sometime they let you take them for a walk.  Ask if you can do both, many dogs act differently outside then they do inside.  You want to get the full picture of who this dog is by letting them show you.  Here are somethings you’ll want to do with your dog before saying “yes”
  2. Have everyone who lives in the home meet the dog, if you have a cat ask them to re-cat test even if they have already said he is good with cats.  If you have kids, a roommate or a dog they should have a say too.
  3. See what the dog does when you run, drop something, rub his belly, touch his toes or act silly.  If Your kids came have your kids run around.  Hug and pickup your kids to see if there are any issues there.  If your dog came with you pet just your dog, then just your new dog.  Toss the ball for the two of them. 
  4. Try giving the dog some treats and seeing if you can teach him something like down or stay to see how he focuses and how quickly he learns.  See if he will play fetch.  Try to have someone else come in the room to see how he responds.
  5. Spend at least 30 minutes with the dog and even if your in love meet at least three dogs to be sure.

Adopting a new dog is a lifetime commitment.  Staff that works at animal shelters and rescues do their very best to give you accurate information about the dog.  Sometime you may see things they didn’t if they give you information about the dog’s history it is important to take that into consideration even if YOU don’t see it right then and there.  Shelters are scary places for dogs and dogs show their fear in different ways like shutting down or over excitement.  They may show behaviors at home that they didn’t show in the shelter.  Staff can give you this sort of important insight.

Photos of some HSSPV Shelter Dogs

Raising Two Puppies

I got a call at 7 in the morning from a new dog owner, she got a pair of littermates from a labradoodle breeder at 8 ½ weeks old and she is in tears.  They are only 8 months old, but she is at her wits end.  Her puppies have already begun to show the severe symptoms of littermate syndrome.  They have started fighting to the point she has to take one of them to a 24 hour vet to get stitched up, but if she tries to keep them separated they panic, scream and are heart breakingly desperate to get back with one another.

It’s not very often that you find something that trainers, vets, shelter workers and reputable breeders all agree on, but the canine industry is becoming progressively more aware of the dangers of taking two puppies.  So much so this has even been given it’s own name… Littermate Syndrome.  I think littermate syndrome can be a somewhat misleading term, because it can lead people to believe that only puppies from the same litter will suffer from this syndrome.

What are the symptoms of littermate syndrome?

It is difficult for them to form a bond with a human and the human is often the odd man out in the relationship.  What’s wrong with that you ask?  Well one of the things that makes dogs so lovable is that they are socially motivated to hang out with their people.  It prevents them from being motivated to please you.

Dogs often suffer from severe separation anxiety from their littermate.  Even if separated from a short time 2-3 minutes the dogs may scream and even self harm to get to the other dog.   They have such a strong bond with their littermate that nothing else matters. They often are unable to recover the other dog passes early in life.

There have been studies that show a hindered social development with people and dogs in littermate pairs raised together.  It is guessed that this is probably due to their dependency on one another and their inability to bond with things outside of their littermate.  They are unable to truly be socialized and each dog only becomes ½ way socialized.

Littermates raised together are often unable to learn basic skills like manners or obedience.  Think of all the nuisance behaviors like barking at other dogs, pulling on leash, door bolting, basic skills that most puppies master before 7 months old.  Now pair that with not being able to teach sit, down or stay; because your dog is fixated on it’s littermate.

-Littermates often have a love hate relationship, while they are super bonded they often escalate with one another due to their hindered social development.  While some littermates never display this, more often than not this is the norm.  Oftentimes this results in dangerous and aggressive behaviors between the littermates in the home.

-Dogs with littermate syndrome have been shown to focus on training and their handler as poorly as a dog who has been completely isolated during their first 6 months of life.  You would isolate your puppy, so don’t hinder their development with another puppy.

Can it be prevented?

Theoretically yes, but in practice it’s nearly impossible.  In my 15 years of training animals I have only seen this effectively avoided in one situation.  In this case she knew of littermate syndrome before purchasing the two puppies from an overfilled rescue and she tried to only adopt one, but the rescue insisted it would be easier to take two and wouldn’t do the adoption any other way.

So, how did she prevent it?  She signed them up for two totally separate training classes on different nights of the week, kenneled them in separate rooms, took them on separate walks, did 20 minutes of training apart for each dog daily, and only gave them 1 -1 ½ hours of playtime together daily.  Can you imagine?  Adding triple the work of puppy raising to your daily schedule with the kids, job and other responsibilities you already have?

In recent months I have seen two pairs of littermates adopted… lab mixes and goldendoodles.  I was sad to see this, but the shelter workers spent hours explaining the proper way to raise them, risks of littermate syndrome, and the work that would be involved.  The adopters where absolutely convinced they were ready.  One couldn’t bear to break up the puppies the other had two kids and wanted a puppy for each explaining that they would have their needs met.  At 6 months the doodle family already has two puppies with irreputable behavioral problems and has rehomed one.  The Labrador mixes owners also ran into similar issues around 8 months they are currently deciding if they can handle keeping both.  However, even with rehoming both dogs will never fully recover, even if they are able to make progress.

TAKING TWO IS A HUGE GAMBLE and ultimately the puppies may pay the price.

Opps…  I had no idea and I already got littermates what do I do?

Here are five rules to implement before they are six months to help them lead successful lives.

  1. Training time in the house separated and on adventures separated.  Take them both on separate field trips at least once a week where you spend time showing them the world just you and them, without the littermate influence.  Same thing do at least 20 minutes of training daily with the littermates in separate rooms, so they learn how to communicate with humans.
  2. Bonding time you and them 1 hour a day should be spent with the dogs one on one without the sibling present.  This should include playtime with activities like fetch, tug, tag or hide and seek.
  3. Daily walks at least 1 mile OR 30 minutes separate.  This allows them to learn walking rules, and learn how to cope with the world on their own.  Also good for bonding.
  4. Never allow them to share a kennel together, keep them separate at night and while you are away.  This prevents the separation anxiety and the dog-dog aggression.
  5. Don’t get discouraged, if you need to hire a walker to give them individual walks or send them to daycare on different days to give yourself a break.

Two puppies is 100 % triple the work, but we know that your already in love with your littermates and that you CAN rise to the occasion of raising them.

Off-Leash Dogs

It’s important that if you have your dog of-leash in a public area such as a park or an apartment complex you are able to recall your dog consistently from people, other dogs and wildlife.

An owner of another dog or puppy should never have to justify why they don’t want your off-leash dog approaching them.

A puppy could be under vaccinated, sick or going through specialized training.

An adult dog may have reactivity issues and your dog approaching could set the dog back even if they are not being outwardly reactive.

Not to mention, this is a safety issue for your own dog as well. While some dogs may not be reactive they may be aggressive. The off-leash dog is always at fault in cities with leash laws, because had your dog not approached there would be no Incident.

If you are the handler of an off-leash dog don’t get to make the decision for the other dog owner if your dog meets their pets, child or them.

Some people simply don’t want to meet your dog. Some people simply don’t want your dog to meet their dog.

One of the biggest responsibilities of pet owners is to keep all dogs safe. We do this through reliable recalls -the first call everytime and leashes.

Socializing Older Puppies and Adult Dogs



Adult dogs and older puppies



One of the main reasons for your dog’s bad habits or unwanted behavior is his/her lack of early socialization or lack of properly done socialization techniques. Once your dog has reached the age of 15 weeks, early socialization methods are less effective because the dog is becoming more fearful. At this point, the best way to introduce your dog to new things and to modify his reactions is thru desensitization and counter conditioning.

Don’t start the first day you have your new dog. Follow the “Learn to Earn” handout for the first two weeks.  This allows you to build a relationship and bond with your dog before exposing your dog to new and scary things.


Learning the lingo and the methods,

Desensitizing: This is a training technique used to introduce your dog to new or frightening things while still maintaining his level of comfort. If your dog is calm ( also known as “under threshold” ) then it is much easier for him to learn new ways of dealing with his environment. If you can slowly and gradually introduce the dog to things he finds frightening then the lines of learning remain open and his reactions are more likely to be successfully modified. This approach is safer and provides more reliable results than FLOODING.  (see below )

Counter conditioning: Counter conditioning replaces the fear response entirely.  It is not just about changing the way that the dog behaves.  It is about changing the way that the dog feels.

Successful counter conditioning will enable the dog to be happy and relaxed in the presence of the previously fearful stimulus

Counter conditioning,  also referred to as stimulus substitution, simply means the training of a pet to respond to a certain stimulus in a different way than it currently does. A stimulus can refer to any number of things such as people, events, substances (like water), animals, machinery, noises (car alarms, thunder), and much more. Should your pet display responses of fear, aggression, and anxiety to certain stimuli, counter conditioning is an effective method of adjusting his or her behavior.


Flooding: Flooding is a full immersion training technique applied in both human and animal psychology. It consists of forcefully exposing the dog to the stimuli that triggers its fear and provoked the original trauma. This method of behavior therapy may bring fast results, but most often will be traumatic and comes with certain risks. While flooding may help in some mild cases, when it does not, the dog may turn into an emotional wreck and be prone to sensitization, which causes an increase in fear. There are, therefore, far better approaches granting higher rates of success

Threshhold: In order to determine threshold, you need to be able to “read” your dog well. In other words, you need to be able to constantly scan those subtle signs of relaxation, alertness and stress so you can intervene accordingly. Different trainers have different “interpretations” of over or under threshold. For some, a dog is under threshold when it is calm, almost sleepy, for others a dog is under threshold when the dog is stressed, but not stressed enough to react by barking, lunging etc. In my opinion, you definitely do not want a dog so on edge that is too stressed to learn and cognitively function, but you may want a dog that acknowledges the stimulus but without growing overly concerned about it.


Starting the training;

You have been following the Learn to Earn method for the last two weeks, so your dog is prepped for great learning.

Desensitizing: take your dog to a place where he can observe his triggers, like other dogs or people, but won’t have to interact with them. Practice getting your dog to focus on you during this time.  Don’t allow triggers to approach your dog, so if your dog is afraid of dogs then don’t allow dogs to approach.  This will set your dog’s progress back if you do it too soon.  They should be able to totally ignore the trigger before working closer.  Gradually work closer each day until your dog can stay focused on you.


Counter conditioning: After the dog is comfortable ignoring the triggers (scary things) than then start counter conditioning. When your dog even looks at a scary thing, say “yes” or use a clicker then give a treat.  You want to put the treat into your dog’s mouth within 3-5 seconds of seeing the scary thing.

If your dog doesn’t accept the treats, make it easier by moving farther away from the trigger. (REMEMBER YOUR THRESHOLDS) Continue this training until your dog is happy to see the trigger, then move a little closer.

Repeat this step until your dog seems happy about the trigger, if your dog is regressing instead of improving you need to go back a step and /or contact a professional trainer.


Setting Boundaries Creates Better Behavior

Training Your Dog to Say “Please!”

Dogs that are in a home with boundaries, under a training plan and following this program are set up for success.  Owners experience less challenging behaviors, like counter surfing a door bolting and dogs settle in faster because they know and understand what is expected of them.


Learn to Earn

  • Begin by teaching your dog “Sit!”
    • Once your dog knows sit, ask them to sit before they get anything that rewards them.
  • Use everything your dog wants as rewards for training purposes.  Have them sit before any of the following things are given to them.
    • Food, treats, play time, door being opened, leash being put on, meeting new friends, toys and  love from you!
  • Your dog will learn to earn everything they want by politely and automatically saying “Please!” by sitting. This teaches good manners.
    • If you want your leash on, you sit.
    • If you want a door to open, you sit.
    • If you want to be pet, you sit.
  • For the fastest training, dogs should earn their meal throughout the day when you are home.  Reward appropriate behaviors throughout the day.  Click here to learn about the Benefits of Hand Feeding
    • Carry food around with you in your pockets, a bait bag, or have it available in easily accessible containers throughout the house.
    • Hand feeding part or all of their meal is a great way to get the dog learning to listen to all members of the household.  This is a great job for the children in the home.


Umbilical Cord Training

  • Keep your dog attached to you in the house, using a leash for the first two weeks.  This prevents your dog from sneaking off and practicing bad habits.  Use a kennel when you can’t watch your dog.


Nothing in Life is Free

  • This training technique is very similar to the learn to earn. The difference is that we will extend the idea to many commands.
    • After you dog has learned a few basic commands, these become behaviors that earn anything important.
  • This becomes a gentle reminder to your dog that we do things on your terms.
    • We may be playing and having fun, but each time you will offer an appropriate behavior to continue that play.
  • Define the rules for your dog and be consistent! Make sure the whole family is on the same page or your dog might become confused.
    • For example, does your dog sit before walking through every door way?
    • Does “down” mean lay down or don’t jump?  If your family isn’t on the same page your dog will surely be confused.
  • To busy to hand feed?  Use a Kong Wobbler instead of a food bowl.  This can be picked up from any pet supply store and it should be noted this is different than a regular rubber kong.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Spend time teaching and training your dog to dog basic skills like “Watch” (eye contact on cue), “leave it” and stay during this time.  Click here to learn how to teach leave it

Here is how we teach watch:

  • Give your dog a week before introducing your dog to dogs outside of the home.  Before going to the dog park do playdates with your friend’s dogs.
  • Don’t force a scared dog into a kennel, instead use food or toys to convince them it’s fun and safe.
  • Before Behavior Modification Starts: Prepping your dog to learn




Adopted Dog Guide to the First Week

Tips for Preventing Problem Behaviors:

In the first days your dog is home she should be supervised at all
times. If you are not able to supervise, use a crate, training pen, or dog
safe room to confine your dog until you can. When she is not within
sight of you, she needs to be in the type of situation where she cannot
practice unwanted behaviors. Barking, pacing, and other behaviors
that reinforce poor impulse control can be self rewarding to your new
dog. Instead, you want to reinforce good behaviors as they occur
when your dog is near to set your new dog up for success. Otherwise,
you tend to forget and miss training opportunities, which makes
training take weeks or months longer.

When You Bring Your New Dog Home:

1. Family Meeting- On the way home, or on your first night together, agree to what rules
you will have for your new dog. Rules such as sittingfb_img_15564931454843196474217352259138.jpg
before doorways, not jumping up, and what cues you
will use in training. For example, will “Down” mean lay
down, get off the furniture, or no jumping? It can only
mean one thing to your new dog. The more consistent
your family is, the easier life will be for you new pup.
2. Kennel- Kennel training gives your dog a safe place
to hide and helps house training come much more
quickly. It also prevents your dog from being able to
chew when you are not home.
3. Enrichment Feeders- Instead of standard food bowls, allow your dog to chase and play
for their daily kibble. Have lots of FROZEN stuffed rubber Kongs (feel free to mix up
what they are stuffed with to keep it exciting) ready and in the freezer for bored dogs.
4. Leash- When you get home, use a leash inside the house to keep your dog close, so he
can’t sneak off to practice bad behaviors like chewing or peeing indoors.
5. Routine– A routine is very reassuring and calming to your new dog. Try to pick a routine
and stick with it from day one. This should include potty breaks, playtime, walks, rest,
and feeding times.
6. Training– Group classes provide a level of distraction that DIY training normally doesn’t.
Group classes provide an excellent source of socialization that can not be achieved by
the unpredictability of a dog park setting.
7. Decompression- Use your best judgment, and based on the temperament of your new
dog, allow your new family member to relax after their big transition into home life during
your first few weeks together. Try to avoid having large gatherings or taking your dog to
heavily trafficked events until they’ve had time to adjust to their new life.

Learn to Earn

In this Learn to Earn program, the idea is to use everything your20181208_1356265372948299044802583.jpg
dog wants as rewards for training. Your dog will learn to earn
everything they want by politely and automatically saying
“Please” by sitting. If you want want your leash on, you sit. If
you want a door to open, you sit. If you want to be pet, you sit.
Sitting to say “please” teaches good manners.
For the fastest training, dogs should earn their meal throughout
the day when you are home. That means no food in the food
bowl. Instead, you’ll carry food around with you in your pockets,
in a bait bag, or have it available in easily accessible containers
throughout the house. This way, when you are home, you can
reward appropriate behaviors throughout the day.

The idea is to use everything your dogs wants to your advantage for training purposes. The dog
will learn to earn everything they enjoy through polite, appropriate behaviors. At the same time,
the dog will learn that performing undesirable behaviors such as jumping on you causes those
rewards to go away.

If you have a behavior problem, contact us right away!
We can help you address these and teach your dog
to be the dog you’ve always dreamed of.

Questionnaire for behavior


Email behavior assessment



How old is your dog:

Does your dog have any medical issues:

When was the last time you took your dog to the vet:

What does your dog eat:

How do you feed your dog:

Any thing else worth noting:




Where did you get the dog be specific which rescue or breeder:

Do you know if littermates or parents had similar issues:

Did you contact the place you got your dog from and what did they say:

How long ago did you get your dog:

What do you know about your dog’s history (type of socialization, foster, breeder ect):


Additional Questions:

What is your dog’s daily routine look like?

What causes your dog to react make a list of everything you can think of?

Has your dog ever bitten a person or dog before?

Does your dog growl if you take him off of furniture?

What cues does your dog know?

Is your dog kennel trained?




What do you want to work on with your dog:

List at least three goals:







If your dog has any of the following issues please fill out additional questions: ANXIETY, DOG-DOG ISSUES, DOG-HUMAN ISSUES



When did you first notice the problem:

Does your dog poop/pee when alone:

Does your dog cause self harm when alone:

Does your dog seem unable to relax:

Does your dog cause destruction?  If so where in the house be specific

Does your dog whine and pace?


Dog-dog aggression or reactivity:

When did you first notice the problem?

What does your dog do when he sees a dog on-leash?

What does your dog do when he meets a dog off-leash?

Has your dog ever bitten another dog?

If so….. How bad was each incident? (How many puncture wounds, did the dog have to be pulled off, was professional care required to treat)

How many times has your dog bitten another dog?

Any additional known dog- dog history known?



When did you first notice the problem?

What does your dog do when he sees a person when he is on-leash?

What does your dog do when he meets a person and is off-leash?

Has your dog ever bitten a person?

If so….. How bad was each incident? (How many puncture wounds, did the dog have to be pulled off, was professional care required to treat)

How many times has your dog bitten a person (clothing, or skin)?

How many of those broke skin?

Is your dog muzzle trained?