shelter dog adopted food

Busy life and a bored dog

flirt pole pitbull

Flirt Poles are a great way to exercise a dog

How do exercise your dog without wasting precious time?

You live a busy lifestyle between the kids and work the idea of taking your dog for a long evening jog just doesn’t sound appealing to most families.
 Unfortunately, unless you own a senior Basset Hound hanging out in the backyard all day simply isn’t enough.   Even with a large backyard dogs do not exercise themselves enough to meet their basic mental and physical needs at least not without picking up some bad habits like barking, digging and chewing on your shrubs. 
A yard alone doesn’t exercise your dog!  Nope! No excuses it just flat out doesn’t.
Realistically a very high percentage of family dogs do not have their basic exercise needs met which is a huge problem because your dog is forced to practice behaviors like digging, escaping, barking and fence fighting.  These behavior problems may eventually lead to rehoming, frustrated dogs and frustrated neighbors.
Try these tips to provide your dog with the exercise it desperately needs without adding a ton of work to your plate.
  • Only feed out of Kong Wobblers or feeding puzzles. Spending 30 minutes chasing their food around twice a day is a lot better than spending 30 minutes twice a day barking at squirrels.
  • Stuff a kong with peanut butter and freeze it.  This’ll give your dog another 30 minutes of mental exercise time when they are not getting into trouble.
  • Do you already take your dogs for a walk?  If so then just pop a weighted backpack to your dog! This give them double the workout without any additional work from you! ( not ideal for dogs prone to joint and back issues)
  • Buy a flirt Pole!  It’s like CrossFit for dogs.  Plus the kids will have fun with it too. Keep in mind that this should be used as a training device not a wild free-for-all Chase session.
  • Turn on a bubble machine for 30 minutes of fun time to chase bubbles.

Stop! Don’t run out and get another dog!

If you’re not meeting the mental and physical needs of one dog then you definitely can’t meet the physical and mental needs of a second dog!   It simply doesn’t work like this more often then not they will teach each other bad habits not the good ones.  Training must come from you you can’t expect another dog to teach your dog to stop digging, barking or chewing…. it just doubles the trouble!

Canine Good Citizen

I love the Canine Good Citizen test and I know my students that have earned the title love it too. We have a lot of fun in these classes and it is the first title that most people earn with their dogs.    Any dog regardless of if they are AKC registered can earn the Canine Good Citizen certificate.

This is a title that handlers of all ages can participate in.  Our youngest for handler I’m the last testing event was just nine!

This is a great title if your goal is to have a well-behaved family dog or if you’re interested in moving on to Dog Sports like Rally  or IPO.  

Week 1 in our Canine Good Citizen package starts off with a mock test allowing us to evaluate where each dog is in their training.  We work with each dog and handler then the week before our test day we actually go out and enjoy a patio lunch with our dogs after class.  This allows dogs practice holding a down stay while their pet parents enjoy a lunch.  It’s a great opportunity for dogs to practice their training in a real life scenario, plus it allows students to show off the skills with their dogs learned.

There are other benefits to earning a Canine Good Citizen as well such as free City Licensing, discounts on renters insurance and discounts on hotels when you travel with your dog.

Here’s a little about the test!

1: Accepting a friendly stranger
2: Sitting politely for petting
3: Appearance and grooming

4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
5: Walking through a crowd
6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
7: Coming when called
8: Reaction to another dog
9: Reaction to distraction
10: Supervised separation

This intermediate obedience class is designed for dog’s who have already completed formal beginner obedience and formal intermediate obedience classes, or have a very solid training foundation at home.

 Not sure if your dog is ready for this advanced obedience class? Just ask us, we are happy to help! 

For more detailed information about what each test involves, please visit

We offer a 6 week CGC Training Package for $130 and if you only want to test it’s just $15.00

Surrendering for Behavior

Training Obligation Pit

When I started training professionally I was working at a non-profit shelter in Colorado.  I got to assist in completing many families by helping to add a new pet to the home, but 2-3 times a day a owner would walk through the front door with tears in their eyes knowing they would be leaving without their beloved family pet.  Surrendering a dog to a shelter is sometimes the only option for a family that has fallen on hard times.  When it comes to behavior issues I was finding that most of the dogs can stay in the home.  If the owner has the resources to change the behavior.

Most of the time the behavior issues we were seeing dogs being surrendered for could easily be corrected within just a few training sessions. In attempt to keep the dogs in their home, I would start a conversation with the owner, by asking them why they were surrendering their dog. Then they would describe a behavior issue that they could no longer bring themselves to deal with. To this I would follow up with, “Have you considered training or behavior modification?”

Inevitably, I would be given one of three answers,

“yes, we’ve been training him ourselves. I’ve owned dogs all my life.” “Yes, we did puppy classes when he was little.”  or “Yes, we spent, insert a ridiculous amount of money here, and we didn’t see any changes in the behavior. I don’t think this dog is fixable.”

Hearing this broke my heart. 

“Yes, I trained him myself I’ve owned dogs all my life.”
Sometimes we are blessed with a dog that is well-adjusted, socialized from an early age and doesn’t have any hiccups along the way. 

Talk to any professional dog trainer from box store beginner to world champion level and I guarantee you that they have used another trainer for their own dog. It isn’t because they haven’t owned dogs before or they are not experienced enough.  It is for the same reason that football players have coaches. Two heads are always better than one and having a coach can provide you with a new perspective to your dog’s behavior and bring new solutions to the table.   If you have experience training dogs in the past that’s great news! That means your trainer will be able to help you solve your dog’s behavior problems even faster than somebody who has no experience at all.   Don’t let your ego be the reason your dog walks into a shelter.

Another challenge I often see with D.I.Y. dog training is behavior problems being misdiagnosed.   I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve gotten to assist a owner with a “aggressive” or “protective” dog and evaluate the dog only to find a fearful dog that had learned to successfully ask for space by barking and lunging at strangers.  If the dog’s owners preceded in D.I.Y. training they could have very easily made the problem much worse. Instead, with a accurate diagnosis of the dog’s behavioral problem we were able to address the root causes of the behavior and with the fearful emotion addressed the dog no longer felt the need to ask for space in such a way. 

Dog training is a evolving profession.  You wouldn’t want your doctor for a life threatening illness, to be a friend who got his medical education from watching DR. OZ, why would you allow a neighbor who got his dog training education from watching The Dog Whisper on TV to treat your dog?  If you are considering surrendering for a behavior issue this is a life threating illness for your dog.

“Yes, we did puppy classes when he was little.”

First let me congratulate you for being a proactive pet parent. Not enough people go to puppy classes when they’re puppies are young. That being said puppy classes are not meant for behavior modification. These classes are meant to teach your puppy to focus on you in a structured environment, build confidence, socialize and to start a foundation for obedience.  In all honesty the great majority of the most popular box stores fall short at even this.

While I can’t stress how important these puppy classes are, they’re not a lifetime fix for your dog. Many dogs depending on breed will go through major behavioral changes throughout their lifetime.  Adolescent dogs will need guidance during each one of these phases in order to prevent behavior issues from developing.  These types of puppy classes, no matter how good the instructor is, won’t prevent behavior issues as they become teen dogs.  That comes through continued practice, training and structure.  Even a perfectly raised puppy may develop behavior issues.

If training and structured socialization stops after a 6-week puppy class on a four month old Neapolitan Mastiff puppy there’s bound to be big trouble when it hits two and a half years old.

Think about it like this, imagine that a child goes to a school where they learn how to share, how to talk about their feelings, and how to be a good person. While the lessons they learned when they were young were undoubtedly, valuable they may need additional assistance reinforcing these lessons in the home.  Additionally, if the parents started to notice abnormal behaviors it wouldn’t be acceptable for the parents to say “well, they already went to kindergarten, so they should just grow out of it.”

“Yes, we spent, insert a ridiculous amount of money here, and we didn’t see any changes in the behavior. I don’t think this dog is fixable.”

Unfortunately, there is no regulations in the dog training field. There are certifications. Some of certifications mean that the trainer was tested and assessed other certifications are simply obtained through a membership fee. Just because you spent big dollars on professional dog training doesn’t mean they have big skill.

I wish it was that simple. 

I have seen board and train facilities that cost $3,000 to send your dog to for month and yield absolutely no results.

This is a buyer beware industry whether you’re looking to purchase a puppy or looking to get that puppy into training classes.

How to pick a good trainer
Well, the proof is in the pudding.
Don’t only  talk to one trainer. Interview several dog trainers before deciding where to enroll your dog.  If you’re considering surrendering your dog because of behavior issues, we will go ahead and consider the behaviors serious. If the trainer doesn’t yield results, then the result of the trainer’s short coming is the dog being rehomed. Take your time finding a good trainer. Ask to see dogs that they have trained.  Are you really impressed?

Look for a trainer who has the best results in several dogs not just one.

Ask if you can come and watch a class. I don’t know any trainer who wouldn’t let someone come and watch a session without a dog.  Choose the trainer you are seeing the best results with I can’t stress that enough. 

Furthermore, talk to the trainer about their training philosophies. Make sure that it’s a training philosophy that you’re comfortable with. If you don’t believe in the philosophy or you’re not comfortable utilizing it, it’s not going to work. You have to be able to implement the training at home for the training to stick.  If you’re considering rehoming the training must stick.

Ask for referrals.  Talk to the rescue, breeder or shelter that you purchased your dog from. Talk to your friends who have well-behaved dogs and if you see a well-behaved dog the park ask them where they got training.

Good luck, I hope that you are a little bit more willing to consider training before rehoming. I have no doubt that you love your dog.  You raised it as a puppy and you and your entire family are emotionally attached to your dog.

Before you surrender ask yourself, “if I’m not willing to take on these behavior issues can I truly expect a complete stranger with no emotional attachment to this dog to take on the behavior issues?”  Often times the real answer is “No”.

Teach pitbull

trick training

​I want to buy/adopt a puppy, so I can raise it how I want to

This is one of the most common and to be honest annoying phrases shelter workers hear, not because we don’t have at least a dozen puppies that need homes but because it shows a major lack of understanding. Normally, we don’t have the 30 minutes it would take to educate people. It is also doubtful that if we took this time to educate that we would be “heard” since the adopter is most likely a self-appointed expert who has owned dogs before.

Anymore most shelters have extensive training programs. Many of the dogs that shelters adopt out have a solid foundation of obedience, some of ours could even pass their canine good citizen. Most are already through their house training stages, have learned sit, down, stay, place, focus ect. When you adopt an adult dog who already has a foundation of obedience than the time you spend on training can be on the “fun stuff” jumping right into freestyle heeling, agility or nose work.  
You can’t teach an older dog how to adjust into your family…
Actually by picking an adult you can ensure a match that already fits your family. Many of our shelter dogs came to us because families with really good intentions adopted a puppy that they wanted to raise “how they wanted.” Why wouldn’t that be perfect? They could raise their puppy and it could grow up with their kids? They already had dogs in the past they know how to properly raise a puppy. So why did they find themselves standing in the lobby of the shelter surrendering their black lab a few years later? The answer is always a little different, but for the most part the same.
They kept putting off training him. They didn’t take him to puppy classes because “they had dogs before”, and they didn’t have time to work with him because they were too busy taking Mary to soccer practice and Joey to his playdates with both parents having full time jobs they were too busy and to tired at the end of the day. 
The truth is that you can train a dog of any age. Yes, you heard me. It is true that there are critical stages of development for puppies but there is a reason many major organizations are looking to adult shelter dogs for their rescue prospects. From service dogs to national disaster search dogs many organizations are now turning away from time consuming puppy raisers and expensive pedigreed puppies and searching local shelters to find their next adult prospect. Ask Freedom Service Dogs if they would rather have a playful, socialized, healthy adult lab mix or a lab puppy where they have to do all the work.

Shelters have come a long way in the last 5 years. Now almost all shelters test for everything. They know if a dog is confident, if they have strong toy drive and if they will tolerate children.  
It is NOT all about how you raise them! Think about it, if you raise a border collie and a great Pyrenees in the exact same pen with the same environmental stimulus (sheep) the border collies will herd and the Pyrenees will protect. Genetics play a role in behavior. It’s why labs fetch and mastiffs watch the ball being thrown and roll on their backs only to continue their naps. There is also a great deal of temperament variation within a litter, particularly in cross breed litters. When you are adopting a young puppy there is NO guarantee about the adult dog’s temperament. Both genetics and the way they are raised play a major role, but by evaluating an adult dog you can know exactly how the dog will interact with other dogs, cats, kids, if they will play fetch, if they will be confident and if they will have enough drive to participate in dog sports.

Do you really have the time to raise the puppy the way you want? Socialization shouldn’t stop at 1 year old it should continue for a minimum of the first three years. A well socialized dog isn’t one who just went to puppy classes, it is one who has been interacting with new environments, sounds, people and animals on a daily basis all the way through their adolescents.  
Training is more than your dog sitting at home in the kitchen when there are no distractions, it is being able to take your dog in public and have them display good manners and be able to focus on their handler with distraction. Do you really want a puppy that you have to run 7 miles or take them to daycare to prevent them from eating your kid’s toys or would you rather have an adult dog that is passed their chewing stages and is content with a lovely walk around the block.

Picking a dog that fits YOUR life is important, but picking a dog whose needs you can meet is even more important. Don’t let picking a dog who will be in your life for the next 10-12 years be a speed dating session.


Waiting for a home

The Hard Breed Myth

I hear the myth all the time that corsos, neos , rotties, american bull dogs and pitbulls are hard dogs on a lifelong quest to establish their role of dominance and they can only be tamed with methods that use bulling and assertiveness. Okay, maybe that is a little exaggerated, but I commonly see new students bringing in bullys and acting like real bullies. Their dogs are seldom thinking about dominance, but are seeking out some fun or self-rewarding behavior. Even though their intention is to provide them with good structure and teach them to be good dogs there are far more effective ways of doing this.  
I often wonder how these highly motivated, drivey, and highly trainable dogs ended up with such a label. I can’t say for sure where these ideas came from. Maybe it came from the fact that these are working breeds not content to lay on the couch all day, maybe because they need more socialization with people and dogs than the average golden, but I think it may have a lot to do with where training has come from.
20 years ago most competitive dog trainers and many pet dog trainers relied on escape avoidance training.  Most people who went to puppy classes or dog classes 20 years ago where handed a choke chain OR told to go buy one. The basic go to training methods taught dogs to turn off pressure. Pressure based dog training required the dogs to be uncomfortable enough that they would actually work to turn off the pressure.

 Many of our breeds that are considered to be “hard” have a high enough drive that adrenaline may make them appear to be more pain tolerant in heightened situations. Which means that in order for escape avoidance training to have worked they had to issue harder corrections than to the lower drive breeds or softer breeds. Which meant in order to successfully get compliance an owner had to be really get comfortable giving a high-level correction.
In recent years even the highly competitive obedience, IPO, agility and ring sport trainers have started switching the way they look at teaching dogs. Even at this year’s police canine training seminar there was a huge focus on making the switch to motivational methods.

 Many haven’t made the switch because they are “bunny huggers” or truly believe a jerk on the collar is going to break the spirit of a 120 lb presa, but because motivational methods create a better product. A stronger heel, a better recall, and a dog who truly wants to dog those things. 

These training methods are built off of harnessing and utilizing the dog’s drive and creating win-win situations that teach the dog to want to work for the things that were once thought of as a distraction.
 I encourage you to go to a trial near you and see what dogs are placing the highest now. It’s the dogs who love what they do and want to work. We are also seeing a switch in what breeds professional trainers are wanting to work. They no longer think of a pitbulls as a difficult breed, but a dog that has so much potential and willingness to work. Maybe that is why this breed has earned more UKC Superdog titles than any other breed combined.
People often see my dog heeling beautifully with joy, animation and engagement. Guess what, that’s what judges want to see too. I think that many people who aren’t familiar with my breed think he is a little bit of a marshmallow when they see how hard he tries to work to get his prized toy. I can assure you he is no marshmallow, just a dog who REALLY REALLY enjoys working for me. He doesn’t enjoy working for me because I shout heel and jerk him when he grabs the leash to play tug, but because he knows if he heels he will be rewarded with a heart pumping, growly, a rough game of tug.
Dogs with harder temperaments are most easily trained through motivational, engagement methods that use the distractions around them as motivators.  

Keep in mind that the definition of dominance is not bulling, aggressiveness or assertiveness. It is simply controlling the resources. You don’t have to be a bully to train your bully.