1. Alfresco Dining and Your Dog

    August 13, 2017 by Susan Marett


    Summer is in full swing… a great time to grab a meal or drink with family and friends. Add our sunny weather and your dog and it’s just about perfect! What can make it less than perfect? Your dog acting rowdy or rude on the restaurant patio. So what does your dog need to be a great mealtime companion?

    – A terrific sit stay A great “sit stay” is a cure-all for many problems. Would you prefer your dog to sit instead of jumping on the waiter or waitress, hang out patiently before you’re seated at a table, or wait calmly for you to find your phone and car keys? Train a sit stay and these problems (and more) are solved. Sit stay is the command to accomplish all of those goals, and a great way to calmly transition your dog from one activity to another.

    – An understanding of the “place” cue “Place” is a terrific command for settling your dog in one spot. Bringing along a bed or mat, and laying it out at your feet or near your table, clearly defines where you’d like your pup to chill out — and helps you to relax as well! Video here.

    – The ability to “leave it” Ohhh yes… Eyeing that nacho as it moves from plate to mouth, snuffling under your table for the french fry that dropped? “Leave it” cues your dog to back off, to cease and desist, and just generally to forget about cleaning off your plate.

    – Friendliness and steadiness Basic friendliness and a calm demeanor is super important for dining out. Your dog may want to be with you, but may not want lots of activity, loud music, children running by your table, or car traffic in close proximity. Be realistic, and if your dog is already steady in that type of environment — make that reservation! If not, work towards your goal by starting with quieter cafes and restaurants at their slowest times. Read more here.

    – A comfortable spot Your dog needs shade, water, and enough space to lie down comfortably. When you sit down to chow down, make sure that your dog will be comfortable and cool for the entire meal. If your dog is a puppy or a young adult, consider a walk before hitting the restaurant — taking the ‘edge’ off will help him to settle faster. Bringing a stuffed Kong or chew bone along can help too… just like a coloring book for a child.

    Thanks for reading and bon appetit!

  2. Teach Your Dog to Heel

    June 15, 2017 by Susan Marett

    This week we’re offering up tips to teach formal heeling. What is heeling exactly?

    Heeling is the most formal and precise way to walk a dog, and requires the most attention from our dogs. It’s incredibly useful when walking your dog through crowds or down busy streets, or when you’d like your dog to focus on you rather than on a potential four-legged friend. We can define heeling as the dog walking parallel to the handler, no more than six inches between dog and handler, and the dog’s ear (or shoulder) lined up with the handler’s leg.

    Left Side or Right Side? We often think of heeling as our dog walking on our left side. Why the left side? Well… we’re living in a mostly right-handed world, and most dog handlers are right-handed. Dog training has its roots in hunting, military, and herding traditions — so keeping a right hand free for guns or equipment has tremendous value. When a handler with a firearm has his or her dog on the left, this can also protect the dogs from ejected shells and cartridge cases. Last, having a dog heel on the left can keep him on the curb or at least further away from the flow of traffic. Bottom line… go with your preference and stick with that side consistently.

    Teach Heel Position You may have heard the term “finish” when attending a training class. Teaching a finish, or flip finish, can be accomplished by following the steps here. Like to see it in action? Watch the steps in this video. Really, really want to nail down heel position? Okay, we warned you… check this video out!



    Make Heeling Fun As Ian Dunbar has written, “For many dogs, unfortunately, on-leash heeling is the most unpleasant command (having the highest correction/command ratio of any other obedience instruction), so much so, that heeling around the block becomes a drag in both senses of the word. The dog must think there is a jerk at both ends of the leash.” Yikes! It really is possible for your dog to enjoy learning how to heel — just keep in mind that it isn’t necessarily natural for your dog AND that it takes a lot of practice for a dog to heel well. And on that note…

    Use Treats or Toys so that your dog is motivated to pay attention and to move with you. There are many variations on how to train heeling, and here’s a few: teach heel by training your dog to follow you off-leash first, teach heel by having your dog follow a lure, or teach attention then heeling by using a clicker. Have a small dog under 25 pounds? Check out these tips for working with your pint-sized pup!

    By Susan Marett

  3. Get Your Gear for Great Walks

    May 15, 2017 by Susan Marett

    Dog walks are not always as peaceful as the sweet image above! Training collars and harnesses are just that — training equipment not forever equipment — but they can give us a break from intense pulling and lunging. Training equipment can also give us some behavioral traction with dogs who are intensely excited about meeting other dogs and people — as well as confidence when handling dogs who behave in a frustrated or aggressive manner.

    The Sensations Harness is my tool of choice. You can view the Sensations Harness and look at the company’s fit and size guide here. Why do I like it? Easy to fit, easy to use, and little to no acclimation time for the dog. There are lots of similar, front-attached harnesses out there but this one has my vote! One caveat… if you’re running with your dog, allowing him to romp off-leash, or exercising him energetically in any other way — leave his front clip harness off during that time.

    The Thunderleash is a newer player on the scene and — you guessed it — was developed by the company who produce the Thundershirt. The Thunderleash uses pressure on the dog’s chest to discourage pulling. It has a very simple design and is also easy to use — converting quickly back and forth between a regular leash and a no-pull leash.

    Body Harnesses can be terrific for dogs who are escape artists and easily back out of their collars, but they aren’t the best for dogs who pull on leash. Think about the Iditarod… dogs wear body harnesses with leads attached to their backs. This gives them the greatest capacity to pull the sled forward! One thing we don’t want to do is give our dogs more capacity to pull us… So if your dog pulls on leash, go with the Sensations Harness or perhaps the Freedom Harness for back and chest points of attachment.

    Another important benefit of harnesses… the physical well-being of our dogs. When we discuss pulling and lunging, we generally focus on our frustration but not necessarily on the potential for injury. This article sums it up well: neck injuries (bruising, headaches, whiplash, and injuries to trachea and larynx), eye issues (pressure from pulling can worsen corneal issues, glaucoma, and other eye injuries), and thyroid gland (inflammation). Pain from collars or inappropriate equipment also how the potential to increase behavioral issues.

    Head Collars or Halters include Gentle Leaders, Comfort Trainers, Halti Head Halters, and Snoot Loops. Not all dogs are candidates for head halters, but they can sometimes be valuable when working through behavioral issues such as aggression and reactivity — and for dogs who like to launch love attacks at other pedestrians and pups! There is some potential of injury to the neck if a dog hits the end of a leash hard, or if he is given harsh corrections. Here’s one trainer’s view on using them “Are Dog Head Collars Humane? I Changed My Mind.”

    Martingale Collars are not great tools for preventing pulling, but like regular body harnesses, can prevent flight risk dogs from slipping their collars and completing a few victory laps! Dogs can slip their collars not only because they really do want to run free, but also because they startle easily and try to get away. If you have a dog who is environmentally sensitive (scared by cars, bikers, joggers) or is nervous getting out of the car at new places — a martingale collar could be a good choice. Also called greyhound or limited-slip collars, martingale collars are great for dogs with narrow heads (like greyhounds!).

    Flat Collars simply provide a place to attach id tags and a leash. Need to acclimate your puppy to a collar and leash? Start with a basic flat collar or simple harness and when he’s completely comfortable wearing it, also teach your puppy that collar grabs are a great thing! Last, flat collars are the perfect piece of equipment for a dog who understands loose leash walking and/or formal heeling — no restraint or extra control required!

    What is your preferred equipment when out for a walk with your dog? Let me know what makes your walks more peaceful!

    Written by Susan Marett

  4. From Pulling to Polite

    by Susan Marett

    We’re not living in a one size fits all world, and dogs and dog training are no exception. To that end, I’ve listed several methods below as well as a few training tips and pointers:

    Right From the Start One of the best ways to make your life easier and impact the quality of the walk is to train a sit or stand to get ‘dressed.’ Getting dressed may mean putting on a collar or harness and/or clipping on the leash. Either way, getting equipment on a squiggly jumping dog can be frustrating and time-consuming. When you pick up your dog’s equipment, ask for a sit once. If your dog gets up without a verbal release, put the equipment down. Pause for a second or two, then try again. Allow your dog to work through his frustration (and take a lot of deep breaths yourself!). A few minutes of this work can literally translate to years of polite behavior. *Tip* Teaching a small dog to sit or stand on a chair to be leashed up is perfectly acceptable. It can save you from bending over and can limit some of his movement as well.

    Exit Like a Gentleman or Lady You’ve had your dog sit or stand on cue to get his swag on, but now he’s racing out the door like a runaway train. Hold up! As we mentioned above, training polite behavior takes patience but oh! is it sooo worth it. Here are videos one and two that describe simple training for nixing door dashing. Although both videos mention clicker training, you can substitute well-timed praise in the place of a click.

    Exercise First Some pulling on leash happens because our dogs have excess energy and they’re simply in need of exercise. If at all possible during the training phase, try playing fetch in your yard or home, tug of war, or have a quick play session in a dog park before hitting the trail.

    Practice Without Distractions Loose leash walking can be one of the most challenging skills that we teach our dogs. While we tend to introduce and practice other skills initially without distractions, we often start leash walking around tons of distractions. Ruh roh! People, dogs, traffic, squirrels, birds, and etc are all par for the course on a typical walk. Consider the tips in this video, starting inside the house or in an area with very low distractions.

    Penalty Yards So you’ve gotten out of the house and onto the sidewalk in a civilized manner — but your dog has suddenly launched ahead. Time to issue penalty yards! Without jerking your dog, begin backing up, praising and rewarding your dog as soon as he’s following you. If you have his attention, begin moving forward again. Repeat as needed.

    The Canine Cha-Cha as coined by Grisha Stewart is related to playing penalty yards but with [literally] a twist. It’s a bit more proactive rather than just a consequence for pulling. “Teach your dog that any pressure on the leash means that he should return to you. On your walk, even if he is not pulling, suddenly walk backwards. You are walking backwards and he turns around to face you, so he’s walking forwards, but the opposite direction of before. When he turns to look where his feet are taking him, give him a treat. Repeat – over and over and over. If he pulls ahead, back up as well.”

    Reward Right Position Whenever your dog is walking at your left or right side (pick the side you prefer and stick with it), praise and reward. Your praise and treat should be given quickly as you continue moving forward. Very small and soft treats as well as a great treat bag help! *Tip* Young puppies don’t multi-task well so they may need to stop and eat, rather than eat and walk.

    Keep me posted on your progress and thanks for reading!

    By Susan Marett

  5. The Long List of Ways to Use a Long Line

    January 20, 2017 by Susan Marett

    In this week’s 5 Paw Friday, we’re chatting about the many uses and benefits of using a long training lead or long line especially for working on the cue “come.” I often use my long line with dogs a few times a day, and frequently hear “Wow! That’s a really long leash!” from passerbys.

    So why on earth would you want to use a long line for dog training. Lemme explain a little…

    Long lines allow for…

    • Training sessions with your dog that can mimic your dog working off-leash.
    • Safety in open spaces without fencing
    • Adherence to leash laws *although* some areas (including our local beaches) will limit the number of feet that a leash or line can be.
    • Assessment of recalls with distractions
    • Ability to increase the difficulty of distractions while still setting up your dog for success
    • Practice of other skills such as sit and down stay, leave it, and wait at a distance
    • Greater exercise and exploration… Exploration is great for building a shy and fearful’s dog’s confidence and encourages more independence and curiosity.

    The Downsides of Long Lines are…

    • The handler must be relatively strong and balanced/steady to handle a dog on a long line.
    • Dogs must have a good foundation for “come” before being worked on a long line.
    • Use of a long line requires attention! It’s easy to get wrapped up in a long line and pulled down.
    • If you grab a long line while your dog is moving fast, you risk rope burns on your hands. Some handlers use gloves for protection!

    Here are a few tips on using a long line…

    • Don’t jerk a dog for not coming to you; instead, gently prompt your dog to come with just a small amount of movement with the line i.e. “Hey! Remember me? I’m right back here.” When working around distractions, or when your dog is deeply involved in sniffing an area and the brain has moved completely down to his nose, a light reminder is often all that’s needed to get his attention. It should have a ‘polite’ quality just like when your friend taps you on the shoulder.
    • Dogs can take off very quickly, and before you blink, have traveled 30 + feet away. Don’t jerk a dog when he’s running at high speed, or attempt to stop him abruptly if at all possible. Even when you are paying close attention to your dog, it’s certainly possible that he’ll see something and sprint off quickly. For this reason, it’s a great idea to use a body harness with the ring over the back, not centered on your dog’s chest. It’s also extremely important to avoid using Gentle Leaders or any other brand of head halters.
    • Stick to the basics: Say your dog’s name and then pause to make sure that you have his attention. All systems go? Call him once not twice. It’s action time now! Either your action or the dog’s action. If he doesn’t immediately begin to turn towards you and begin moving in, you’ll need to get to him quickly so that you can engage his attention. Be nice, be fun, but make “come” mandatory not optional.
    • Keep “come” fun while training: don’t call the dog away from fun, or to you for punishment or reprimand.
    • Ever feel like a fast food drive-thru? Recall training isn’t about ordering fries with a Big Mac, it’s about getting to you and staying with you. Be ready to focus your dog when he reaches you, and don’t allow drive bys’. Reward for at least three seconds while your dog is attentive and right in front of you. It’s not necessarily about coming in and sitting, but it IS about coming and making a stop!

    Thanks for reading! For more tips, view Grisha Stewart’s video below.

    By Susan Marett