Dog Training – Why is it so important?

Training is one of the most important activities you can do with your dog. From socialization to obedience to agility to nose work. Dog are intelligent creatures that need to be challenged and encouraged. Through training, your dog can learn to do something as simple as sit or to sniff out all kinds of goodies. Training doesn’t have to be intense but it must be fun. The important thing to remember is it’s all about the relationship that you build with them. That relationship should be built on trust, respect, and understanding.


Getting a Dog: Part 2

Selecting a Dog (or Puppy)
Adoption vs. Breeder

Adoption can save two lives. The first is the one that goes home. The second is the one that takes its place. Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats. Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats). There are dozens (if not hundreds) of shelters and rescues across the city and state that would love to save as many of those lives as possible. Some are foster based, some are breed specific, some are open intake, and some are not. Meet with multiple dogs, multiple times. Have them meet the whole family. Take your time in selecting a pet from a shelter or rescue. Consider different ages, breeds, and ask a lot of questions. Most of the time, the volunteers, fosters, and/or kennel staff can give great insight into the dog’s personality. Did you know? The percentage of purebred dogs in shelters is anywhere between 25-35%.

As for breeders, do your due diligence. The goal is to find a responsible breeder and prevent contributing to the awful world of backyard breeders (puppy mills). When looking for a breeder you should be able to see where the dog lives and meet the mother. Most puppy mill owners will try to meet you at a location other than where (s)he lives. Ask a lot of questions. They should be responsive to those questions. Most breeders are very knowledgeable about the breed, temperament, and traits. If they are not, that is a red flag. Do they care about the pups? Will they require you to sign a contract? Concerned about their health? Are they friendly? A responsible breeder understands the importance of socialization and should require to wait until the puppy is 8-12weeks old. Most are willing to take the puppy back for any reason including a life time guarantee for disease or temperament problems.

Must Haves
The required must haves before bringing home a dog include a well-fitted collar, harness, a 6ft leash, and identification tag. Other items that should be purchased include an ample amount of toys, 1-2 Kongs®, an appropriately sized crate, and dog bed.

Transitioning to the Home
Your new pet won’t know the house rules immediately. You can expect a few accidents, maybe a knocked over trashcan and counter-surfing, jumping, sniffing, mouthing and some chewing. Be patient during this time. Keep in mind, dogs are impressionable in a new environment. It will take some time for your new dog to learn the house rules and expectations. Invest some time during this transition to socialize, teach, and get acquainted with your pet. Depending on their personality, dogs may act differently within that initial transition period vs. once (s)he’s comfortable. Go at their pace and try not to push them.

Importance of Obedience Training
Training is one of the most important activities you can do with your dog. The important thing to remember is it’s all about the relationship that you build with them. That relationship should be built on trust, respect, and understanding. Training from the beginning will help with those undesirable behaviors that may arise. It will happen. Through simple modification or redirecting his actions, you will give him the proper tools to not only respect you, but to learn how to be a member of the family.

Remember, everyone is a trainer. We can teach good behavior or bad behavior and great dogs don’t just happen. There is a lot of work that is involved. According to the ASPCA’s National Rehoming Survey 2015, pet problems are the most common reason that owners rehome their pet, accounting for 47% of rehomed dogs and 42% of rehomed cats. Pet problems were defined as problematic behaviors, aggressive behaviors, grew larger than expected, or health problems owner couldn’t handle. Being prepared, will allow you to work on any issues and stay committed to your pet.

Proper Identification
Ensure your pet has proper identification including ID tags, a current license, and microchip. Most cities require a current license for their resident’s pets. It is highly recommended to microchip your pet. For microchipping questions, speak with your veterinarian. If not available, there are plenty of low-cost microchipping services available. Reach out to your local animal services or mobile vet clinics. Microchipped dogs have a much higher chance of being returned to their owner than those without. Microchips should have the most up-to-date information including current address and phone numbers. Update your contact information immediately, should you move.

Getting a Dog: What You Need to Know

With the holidays around the corner, adding a new family member is often considered. Adding a dog to your family is a decision that should never be taken lightly. By being prepared and educating yourself on what to expect, it will help set the tone for your relationship for you and your pet. Congratulations for taking the first steps in making this exciting decision!

Bringing home a pet is a 10-15+ year commitment (depending on the dog’s breed and health). There are daily, monthly, and yearly costs and responsibilities that come with pet ownership. Daily responsibilities include proper care inside and outside of the home. Inside of the home, the dog must have adequate shelter, appropriate food, and access to fresh water. Depending on the dog’s breed and possible health concerns, specialized food may be required for optimum health. Responsibilities outside of the home include waste disposal, noise control, and prevention of becoming a stray/feral. As a responsible pet owner, these are basic courtesies that will help not only your dog but the community around you. As for monthly and yearly responsibilities, veterinary care include vaccinations, preventatives (flea and heartworm), and yearly exams.

A question to ask yourself is, “does having a dog, fit with my lifestyle?” Along with that question, consider if that breed, temperament, and/or age fit into your lifestyle and living space. Although dogs have breed standards, they are individuals with distinct personalities. That being said, these factors have a large impact on the required attention needed for the dog. Higher energy breeds like working, hunting, and herding dogs need a lot of exercise. Most healthy adolescent Labrador Retrievers, for example, benefit from at least an hour of exercise a day. As for puppies, they require a lot of consistency for potty training and require proper socialization during the first 8-16 weeks of their life. These are realistic expectations for any pet parent to consider.

Spay and Neuter
Spay and Neuter can be a controversial topic, depending on the audience. That being said, we’ll focus on the health benefits. For females, spaying should be considered because it eliminates heat cycles, lowers risk of developing uterine infections, lessens the risk of breast cancer, and on rare occasions can help with some behavioral issues. For males, neutering lessens the likelihood of roaming, lessens the risk of developing enlarged prostate glands, lowers risk of testicular cancer, and on rare occasions can help with some behavioral issues. There are multiple options to get the dog spayed or neutered including a traditional veterinarian or low/no cost options. Check with your humane society, municipal shelter, or a simple search online can give you more options. Note: If you decide to adopt a pet from a rescue or shelter, most will require the pet to be spayed or neutered to prevent adding to the current overpopulation of animals in the shelters and on the streets.

House Preparation
Just like having a toddler in the house, pet parents need to dog-proof. Be on the lookout for home décor that can be chewed and swallowed. Plastics, strings, and other household items can cause intestinal blockages or puncture your dog’s intestine if eaten. Some house plants can be toxic to pets if ingested. The safest option is simply to keep your pets away from all plants and decor. They should be placed high and out of reach. Peek around the hidden places for power cords, game console wires, telephone wires as they are a shocking hazard for pets. Be sure to secure all cords and wires to prevent electrocution if accidental scratching or biting of the cord.

Not Ready for Commitment
If you are not ready to make a 10-15+ year commitment, that’s okay. There are some charitable options to honor your passion for animals. A great idea is sponsoring a pet at a local shelter or rescue. Offer to pay their adoption fee or donate much needed supplies. If you can, sign up to volunteer. Shelters and rescues always need dog walkers, puppy and kitty cuddlers, and crazy cat ladies/gentleman. Also, start a donation drive at your church, school, or work. Anything helps.

Arousal Biting

Did you know that it is a Texas law that if a dog bites or even scratches (breaks skin), the dog must be quarantined for 10 days? Depending on how many times it occurs, a more permanent option may be considered.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website and the American Veterinary Medical Association, “an estimated 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with an estimated 800,000 requiring medical attention. Children account for approximately half of all dog bite victims with the elderly being the second most common group of victims…Almost half of all dog bites are provoked, regardless of whether the victim is a child or an adult. What constitutes provocation for a dog can be very different from what a human would consider provocation.”

Bites, even nips can occur for many reasons but let’s focus on arousal (overexcited) biting in particular. Arousal biting stems from a few possible sources:
1) Undersocialization. Generally, undersocialized dogs will be one of the two following personality types when interacting in new environments or with new people/animals: (1) be overexcited, can’t focus, and/or too intense or (2) be fearful, aggressive, or overwhelmed. Focusing on arousal biting, result (1) is considered. If the dog is overexcited, give space. Allow the dog to calm down and slowly introduce the person or environment. Controlling their level of excitement and encouraging calm behavior is vital to ensure the dog doesn’t get over threshold and begins to bite.
2) Puppies that fail to learn bite inhibition. Puppies taken too early from their litter or was the only puppy in the litter. Having siblings to help tell you that you’re biting too hard really helps with learning to control the level of pressure.
3) Learned inappropriate play with humans. Avoid wrestling, pushing, teasing, or “sic ’em” games as it encourages bad behaviors. Consider using games like Tug-O-War with basic obedience elements like Sit, Down, Take, Drop-It, etc. These behaviors can help teach your dog self-control during play. Also, it helps prevent them from escalating because the dog can take break to ensure s(he) is still under threshold.
4) Lack of adequate exercise. Consider vigorous off-leash aerobic activities to help with behavioral issues and is a great complement to any behavior modification program. How much exercise your dog needs depends on his breed, size, age, and physical condition.
5) Lack of adequate mental stimulation. Boredom and excess energy are two of the most common reasons for behavioral problems with dogs. It will make your dog’s life more interesting. There are products and games that take memory, skill, and manipulation, all of which help your dog find healthier, less-destructive ways to release pent-up energy. Some toys are designed to be filled with kibble, small treats, even frozen foods that encourage dogs to work to get to the meal/treat. Another great product that everyone should have is a KONG®. The KONG® is non-toxic, dishwasher-safe, durable rubber toy that can be stuffed, boiled, and helps express natural behaviors, like chewing, scavenging and working for food. Be creative!

Proper Equipment
If your dog bites at the leash, consider using choke chain, metal leash, or PVC. Connect the choke chain metal extension of the leash. You can connect the leash to the chain and connect a double-ended snap to the collar. When the dog bites at the leash, he’ll discover it isn’t so fun anymore. The metal leash works the same way. As for the PVC, you can place the leash through the PVC pipe and it gives you a little space but similar to a pole catcher.

Another option is use two leashes. When the dog goes for one, grab the other, drop the first one, and continue this process. It can be tiresome but some dogs think it is a game to tug on the leash. By dropping the leash, you aren’t reinforcing the game. When they bite for it, it drops (negative punishment).

Head halters and muzzles are helpful for arousal biters. Head halters give better control of the dog’s head but ensure that it is properly associated first. It can be aversive if just slapped on and the dog is expected to like it. This applies for muzzles too. Muzzles keep a good dog, good. Basket muzzles are ideal for most dogs because the dog has the ability to take treats, drink, and breathe comfortably.

Safety Reminders
– Should a dog begin to arousal bite, do not scream. Screaming can intensify the dog’s arousal and cause their prey-drive to skyrocket. Remain calm and speak firmly.
– Since children account for half of the victims of dog bites, always supervise children around any dog. It doesn’t matter how well known, friendly, or small that dog is.

For more information on American Veterinary Medical Association’s Dog Bite Prevention:…/Pre…/Pages/Story-Ideas-Dog-bites.aspx

Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Bites from the Texas Department of State Health Services:

For Texas’ Health and Safety Code on Dog Attacks:

For Texas’ Health and Safety Code on Rabies (Rabies Control Act of 1981):


Dogs Playing for Life

This program is near and dear to my heart. For a year or so, at the shelter I volunteer at, we implemented playgroups based on the DPFL model. Overall, it was a success. Moral and participation was up. We got to work with different dogs from different backgrounds and enrich their lives. Dogs are happier and more relaxed. It was a win for all.

Thankfully, earlier this year, I had an opportunity to partake in their training at San Antonio ACS. It was truly a pleasure watching this team at work. Not only did it improve our playgroups but helped me grow as a dog trainer. I felt stronger as a handler and more knowledgeable on dog-to-dog interactions.

I wanted to share their wonderful program and highly recommend considering adding playgroups to more local shelters and rescues.

It’s Hip to Microchip

Just a friendly reminder about proper identification!

Ensure your pet has proper identification including identification tags, a current license, and microchip. Most cities require a current license for their resident’s pets. This license may help ID your pet if no other form is available.

Other options include having a recent photo of your pet or consider embroidering your phone number on your pet’s collar, in case the ID tag should fall off. This is another option for those that prefer a quieter collar.

Most importantly, consider microchipping you pet. For microchipping question, speak with your veterinarian. If not available, there are plenty of low-cost microchipping services available. Reach out to your local animal services or mobile vet clinics. Microchipped dogs have a much higher chance of being returned to their owner than those without. Microchips should have the most up-to-date information including current address and phone numbers. Update your contact information immediately, should you move.

Eager-to-Please or Just Trainable?

Ever heard the phrase “eager-to-please”? When I think of that phrase, the first thing that comes to mind is motivation, trainability, and intelligence. In science-based training (positive reinforcement/force-free), principles of psychology are used to help understand, modify, and predict behavior in animals. Let’s look at each of these topics using psychology to see if Rover is really…eager-to-please.

One principle that helps us understand dog behavior is the Pleasure Principle by Sigmund Freud. According to Freud’s Pleasure Principle, behavior is driven by the desire to seek out and repeat pleasurable experiences and avoid painful ones. Since dogs are specifically seeking out pleasurable experiences, using positive reinforcement is a fantastic tool for you to use during training your fur-baby. Since living creatures (including dogs) are behavior driven, reinforcement must be given immediately after a behavior for it to increase the likelihood of it occurring again. Not only does it increase the frequency of the behavior but you’ll see the dog’s willingness to perform new behaviors increases too! This is called operant conditioning. The dog learns that they change the outcome of their environment. Do the behavior and get a treat, don’t to the behavior, don’t get the treat.

Remember, reinforcement is not what you find motivating, it has to be what the dog finds motivating. Start by ranking them. It will help during training to know what reinforcer to use in specific settings and situations. Consider what they enjoy: food (primary reinforcer), toys, affection, deer poo (#truth), life rewards such as getting out of the crate, putting on a leash, chasing a squirrel, etc. Now that we have identified reinforcers, when do we give it to them? Immediately after the behavior. Dogs need instant gratification. Timing is everything.

What is Trainability?
Every proud pet-parent says, “My dog is so smart.” They say this while beaming when they scroll through pictures and completely revel in their fur-baby’s awesomeness. When we look at intelligence, we have to look at trainability too because they usually go hand-in-hand. According to, trainability is capability of being trained. As for intelligence, the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Dogs, like humans, learn at their own pace and have strengths and weaknesses. That being said, there are specific breeds that were specifically bred to work with humans. Working, sporting, herding, etc. which helps with trainability. The dogs have been bred to work with humans to do various tasks. You’ll see in the list below, some familiar breeds. Remember, the dog’s breed along with individual personality, instinctive drive, and genetics affect trainability. All dogs are individuals and may not fit breed standards.

According to Stanley Coren, in his book “The Intelligence of Dogs”, he “contacted all of the dog obedience judges registered with the AKC and the Canadian Kennel Club, and provided them with a long questionnaire that allowed them to rank the various breeds in their working and obedience abilities.” After narrowing down based on multiple factors, a told of 133 breeds were ranked. These are the top 10 dogs for working and obedience intelligence:

1 – Border Collie
2 – Poodle
3 – German Shepherd Dog
4 – Golden Retriever
5 – Doberman Pinscher
6 – Shetland Sheepdog
7 – Labrador Retriever
8 – Papillon
9 – Rottweiler
10- Australian Cattle Dog

Do you agree with this list? My doxies didn’t make the cut.

For those that don’t have a Lassie on their hands, dogs can be intelligent in other ways. According to Stanley Coren, dogs can have instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, or work and obedience intelligence. Instinctive refers to what the dog was bred for such as herding, retrieving, tracking, guarding, etc. Adaptive intelligence is refers to what a dog can learn to do for himself. Working and obedience intelligence are those highly trained animals that appropriately respond to their guardians cues. Working and obedience intelligence is the most important because it was the spark that helped the domestication of dogs.

If you are interested in seeing if your dog is an “Einstein” or a “Socialite” or an “Expert”, there is a Dognition Assessment that can help you determine which profile your dog fits into. There are 9 according to this program. It was created by scientists, trainers, and behavioral specialists. The Co-Founder, Dr. Brian Hare, is the Director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center and author of “The Genius of Dogs.” (Very good book.) The best part, you get to find out your dog’s profile while playing games!

That being said, dogs are eager-to-please, well…themselves, not us. Dogs are self-satisfying but beautiful creatures that at times just-so-happen to be something (we) humans want. Hopefully in the future, we can replace “eager-to-please” with a better description of your dog’s attributes. What are your thoughts? What motivates your dog? Is your dog trainable? What category of intelligence does your dog fall into?

Hierarchy of Dog Needs

Note: This information is useful for everyone (clients, dog trainers, veterinarians, shelters, rescues, and volunteers).

If you haven’t seen this already, check this out. This Hierarchy of Dog Needs is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you have ever taken a psychology course, I’m sure you’ve seen this a time or two. For more information, click here:

According to the Hierarchy of Dog Needs outlined by the Linda Micheals, from bottom (and biggest portion) is Biological Needs, Emotional Needs, Social Needs, Force-Free Training, and then Cognitive Needs (smallest portion). As a trainer, I am approached by individuals of all walks of life and about dogs with different needs. Some need simple advice, basic obedience, teething puppy, etc. But once in a while there is case that truly needs specific help that goes beyond merely obedience, it’s focused on behavior modification.

When working with an undersocialized, fearful, or aggressive dog, certain needs must be met before any obedience learning can take place. This pyramid accurately displays that. Sometimes pet guardians think the dog is being disobedient or ignores them and obedience is the answer to correct that. Unfortunately, when a dog doesn’t feel safe or trust you, they won’t work for you. If a dog is in a new environment and is over-threshold, they can’t focus on a task. Once I worked with a dog and his family for months and he was so fearful that he wouldn’t let me go near him. He wasn’t the fearful, “shut down” dog. He was the fearful, “I’ll bite you if you ever come near me” dog. Both based in fear but on opposite sides of the spectrum.

In his home environment with the people he loves, they met all of his needs, bottom to top. They adored this dog. When I went for the consultation, he barked viciously through the kennel door. Just hearing my voice would set him off in the beginning. I’m not going to lie, I was quite nervous. During our process, the pre-teen handler (life-saver) would hold him while he would bark and lunge at me. We worked on counter-conditioning and desensitization for months. We tried different locations within the home, at the park, different placements (sitting, standing, and walking) and over time he let me slowly come closer.

We had a breakthrough after a very successful and dreaded vet visit. He did so well and had no issue walking back with the vet tech. I couldn’t be more excited for him. At out next session, with a welding glove on and a fight kit on me, we dropped the leash, removed the muzzle, and I cautiously give him a treat. See, when new people would arrive to the house or when he was out on a walk, his emotional needs weren’t being met. He didn’t feel safe. He was extremely undersocialized. There were many factors but you can’t focus on the past. We address it but focus on the here and now.

Over time, we slowly worked up the pyramid. We were able to get to Social Needs. He actually looked forward to seeing me. I would leave my shirt with my smell to get him comfortable with it. We got a little Force-Free Training Needs with a Watch-Me and Sit. Nothing too structured but I’m okay with that. We even hit a little Cognitive through snuffle mats and Find It games! He took a while to get there and some dogs need that patience. Last I heard, they continued training using friends and family members and he has also visited the vet. In his situation, there is no amount of obedience that will help him feel safe. He was fluent in a few behaviors already but when emotions take over, logic goes out the window. Always address your dog’s needs. It will help you and your dog to have stronger relationship and happier life.


Introducing our Harness Trade-In-Program

Introducing our Harness Trade-In-Program

For current clients with puppies or adolescents that are growing: Trade in your current Freedom Harness* size and I’ll deeply discount your next size.

For new clients: Trade in your current front or back-clip harness* and I’ll offer you 15% off.

These gently-used harnesses will be donated to a local shelter.

*Must be in usable and working condition.

Rescues and Shelters Resources

***Attention Local Rescues and Shelters***

Due to our Training Philosophy, it only makes sense to focus on shelters and rescues in our service area.

First and foremost, we offers 10% off current or recent* rescues. This applies to recently adopted, fosters, or any assistance for current shelter residents. Also, we offer other services that benefit the local shelters and rescues like staff or volunteer development, educational (editable) handouts on various topics, public presentations, and public class fundraisers that benefit the hosting shelter/rescue.

*Within the last 3 months

Dog Walkers and Dog Sitters

As a pet-parent myself, I can relate to this meme more than you know!

For me personally, there is nothing more nerve-racking than agreeing to take care of or being responsible for another person’s prized pooch. Mind you, I am a certified professional dog trainer but it is a responsility that I take very seriously. My question to you is, is that a good thing? I would say so.

When I leave my dogs with someone, I trust that they follow the specific instructions I lay out for safety. The wrong kennel rotate and there is chaos. One dog gets through the second gate and my cat is in danger. Being cautious keeps you alert. Being complacent, causes laziness and can create unsafe handling.

When looking for a reputable dog walker or dogsitter, do your due diligence. When in doubt, feel free to check with people in your area for recommendations. Not every service is the same and not every person is knowledgeable in handling different breeds, temperaments, body language, and/or socialization level. There are plenty of apps available for clients to hire these services at the touch of a button. Each of these companies have their own screening process but do you really know who is coming into your home? I cannot stress this enough, do your due diligence.

Consider looking at local businesses that specialize in dog walking and have specific training to fit your dog’s needs. Feel free to interview your potential dog walker. According to the Whole Dog Journal, some important questions to ask include:
– What training tools do you use for walking? Leashes, etc?
– How do reward good behavior?
– How do you respond to any inappropriate behavior from the dog?
– Are you bonded and insured?
– Do you perform background checks on all your dog walkers?
– Do you have a plan for emergencies?
– Where will you walk my dog?
– How many dogs do you walk at once?
– How do you assess/introduce the dogs?
– What if a dog is unfriendly with other dogs or people?
– Will my dog be on or off-leash?
– Do you offer trial walks?
– Will anyone else walk my dog except the originally assigned walker?

Don’t get me wrong, these services and apps are beneficial for many reasons. It has brought a whole new awareness that these business exist. It’s convenient. The ease of ordering up a service is quick and easy. You can socialize your dog while away. Fido gets exercise. The list can go on and on.

In the end, it is up to you as a pet-parent. Trust your instincts.