Two’s Company – Three can be a Crowd

Dogs are so much like people, and like people, two dogs play together well, but when there’s a third, there has to be a connection to make it work. Typically, when I watch three people out together, if it’s going well, one is making sure everyone is included in the conversations. I think something similar happens with dogs. Two dogs will start playing then a third will join in; often this causes a challenge – do the dogs engage with the third? and if so, does the dog who is now left out, take it well? Even in large yards dogs typically play in small groups. A common strategy most dogs employ is to begin barking, escalating the excitement. This is often where stuff goes bad. But one of the best things that can happen is that the third dogs finds something to engage with. In this picture, Lunchbox (darker […]

dog training

Get off my feet!

I’m teaching a service dog, Gordie, to stay off my feet. It’s been a long process. He’s been with me since early June and I’m still having to remind him to get off my feet. For a service dog, it’s actually not the worse problem to have. If anything, he wants to be close, uber close – but still not acceptable. If I had to remember one of the things my mom nagged me as a kid for more than any others it was to hold my shoulders back. At first it was all the time, every morning and night, anytime we went anywhere, “hold your shoulders back.” After what seemed like years, she stopped verbally reminding me and instead would touch my shoulder or point or just stare. Ugh! It drove me crazy. Of course, it wasn’t far into my 20’s that I began appreciating my mom’s nagging and […]

Can your dog be a Service Dog Part II

In this multi-part piece, I tackle using your dog as a service dog, from different perspectives. In Part I we discussed whether or not your dog can ignore everything going on in the environment (smells, dogs, activity, everything!) and focus on you and your needs. And how the best service dogs are acutely aware of what’s going on but only reacting to those things that may affect you. So how about those dogs who are nervous, scared, shy, reserved or completely focused on you? You know the one’s that jump or lean on you with every step or don’t let anyone pet them without a growl or snarl. It seems that we’re seeing more scared dogs, more unbalanced dogs, and more post traumatized dogs out in public than ever before. When I began private dog training I was shocked to discover how many people were living with an unbalanced or […]

Should your dog be a service dog

Cats only

Cat’s Only

Still a work in progress, but it looks like Gunny is taking to the new cats-only thoroughfare to their own yard

Can your Dog be a Service Dog?

In this multi-part piece, I tackle using your dog as a service dog….from different perspectives. There are a number of obvious and not-so-obvious things dogs need to do and be in order to be successful as a service dog – and therefore be allowed to stay by your side virtually 100% of the time. I believe one of the biggest defining factors is not their breed, their age, their size or even sometimes their disposition….instead, it’s whether or not they can focus on you and not the environment around them. This is a HUGE factor and often one that fails dogs out of training programs. I would also argue it’s probably the number one reason so many ‘emotional support’ dogs have problems when they’re out and about. In a typical walk down Main St recently, I tried to take note of the same thing the dogs I was walking were […]

Service Dog in Training

pepper and gunny

Cat Reactivity

Pepper is cat reactive. If she’s behind a baby gate or in the yard she lays, watches and whines while they do their thing. If she’s in the house with them, they are her entire focus; she tracks them constantly. Not something the cats enjoy….as you can imagine. Pepper is a foster dog, I’m training to be a a psychiatric service dog. Unfortunately, reactivity of any kind cannot be a part of a service dogs life, so if I cannot break her of this, she may have to go back to the shelter. Today we had a good cat morning! Gunny (orange maincoon) was laying in front of the baby gate when I let Pepper out, she circled him softly. He got up and walked to another area and that’s when I was able to take this picture. After this he jumped onto a table and she didn’t move a […]

Learn from my mistakes…

Ahhh, the awareness in hindsight! Last Thursday I was explaining to a new social hour employee to never put her hands between two dogs. It’s such a natural thing for us to do, reach in, separate, grab or otherwise manage a situation. But of course when you’re dealing with dogs, it’s not safe. Flashforward to Saturday afternoon…. A beautiful Durango day, the humane society and thrift store were a buzz with people adopting, looking and shopping and of course walking their own and humane society dogs. I too was working with a shelter dog and now with 24 hours to contemplate the experience these are the things I did wrong: I had a known dog-reactive dog in a congested area on a busy day and I got caught up in a conversation Once he had seen one dog and successfully walked away from her, I should have immediately ended on […]

martingale collar

Confident JoJo

Building Confidence in Dogs

Amy Cuddy, a TED speaker, talks about how our body language shapes who we are. She says that if we spend just 2 minutes each day in a high-power pose: think wonder woman (hands on hips, shoulders back, chin up) or hands behind head, elbows out, body expanded – we can alter how we act and feel throughout the day. By taking on these power poses we actually increase testosterone (what we need to do to feel powerful and assertive) and lower our cortisol level’s (which improves our reactions to stress, making us more relaxed).* We also know that if we hold a nervous or shy dog’s tail up in the air we can alter their emotions. I believe it’s TellingtonTouch which showed that if we wrapped a dogs tail up and over their back, we could help instill confidence. So I wonder if we can combine the two together? […]