Sunday, June 30, 2024

July Party Schedule

Announcing our Summer Session Special!

We are starting with an altered scheduled for July 1st -3rd

Monday, July 1st, all of our Group Walkers are invited to attend a special group walk at 7PM, starting at the Yooper Paws Training Center. This is good for Fearful & Fizzy Dogs that need to stay 20+ feet away from other dogs in order to remain calm.

Tuesday, July 2nd, we have private sessions during the day and 2 evening activities. Our young Service Dogs in Training (SDiT's) that are working on SD Foundations are invited to attend a group session at 6PM at the Training Center with the possibility of a road trip to TSC.

Then also on July 2nd at 7PM the YP Nosework Club will be hosting a Searching For Scents practice session. All members are invited to join in the fun. If you're not a member yet, reach out to Penny or Tammy to find out how you can join.

Wednesday, July 3rd, the Group Trail Walkers will be adding a picnic to our adventures. This is designed for dogs who can greet other dogs after walking together and are able to settle down at a table with other dogs nearby. We will have a few private sessions after the walk before closing our doors at 2PM. 

From July 3rd @ 2PM to July 8th at 10AM, Yooper Paws of Love will officially be closed and Emergency Pricing will be in effect. Emergency Pricing includes:
  • Phone calls for current clients of 30 minutes or less will be $50.
  • In-person sessions for current of 60 minutes or less will be $75
  • New clients in need of an emergency session during this time will be expected to pay for a package including the Behavior Evaluation and 6 Session package for $450 + $50 emergency session fee.

On July 8th we open back up for our July Summer Sessions Specials
Instead of having classes that require a 6 week commitment during summer vacation session we are going to be hosting a series of low cost private party sessions! Who doesn't love a good summer party? Each party will be a bit different allowing you and your dog to pick what's best for you. All parties will take place on the air conditioned Training Center allowing you and your puppy to be at the heat! 

The Private Session Special for these Summer Parties is $30 for a 30 min Session.

Monday Movement Puzzles
Our favorite movement puzzles will be set up for you to enjoy! These typically include a combination of basic skills that can be linked together to do more challenging behavior chains in a fun pattern that uses movement as the main reinforcement. Movement puzzles are great to build teamwork while using mental and physical energy at the same time. Plus you can do this in our air conditioned building on days where walking might be a bit challenging.

Tuesday YP Nosework Club
The YP Nosework Club will continue to meet at 7PM on Tuesdays, but you can also schedule your 30 Min Private Session to practice on your own (or with Belle & Azul). This is great for those super sniffers that are not quite ready to be indoors with the large group. Fearful & Fizzy dogs do really well with nosework! Once they learn to love the game, nosework often helps to build their confidence enough to play the games around other people and dogs. 

If you've been wanting to give Nosework a try, this is the perfect opportunity.

Wednesday Group Sessions
With the heat that typically hits in July and August, we will be suspending most of our Group Walks unless weather is fantastic. Instead we will be doing small group indoor sessions. Each group will be designed specifically for the dogs that will be attending.

The current Wednesday AM Trail Walking Group will be meeting at 10AM and will either go for a walk if weather allows or work in the classroom.

Additional Groups will be formed based on interested participants. If you know you have a few friends that have been training with Yooper Paws, this is the perfect opportunity for you to work together with the supervision of a trainer!

Thursday Playdates
This will be similar to Wednesday's small group, with the exception that the focus will be on play more than training. Of course play includes training and all our training sessions include play. You can schedule a playdate with Belle or schedule a playdate for a few friends.

The Positively Puppy Class will continue to meet for class from 1-2PM with the option of a 15 min playdate before or after for puppies.

Obstacle Course Fridays
Each Friday the Yooper Paws Training Center will be set up with a different obstacle course. You'll recieve guided direction from a Canine Coach to show you how to do work through the obstacles, then the remainder of your session to play on your own. You'll have 30 minutes on the main obstacle course, then a Get Moving Puzzle/Activity will be set up in the Paws & Relax Room for you to enjoy. 

Private Sessions
We are still scheduling Private Training Sessions this Summer! Private Sessions are 1-on-1 sessions with a Canine Coach  that last 1 hour designed to work on your training plan. These cost $75 per session or a package of 6 sessions for $300. Schedule Your Next Private Session Here!

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Speaking Like A Dog!

Are you tired of feeling like your dog is ignoring you?

As dog owners , most of us think in verbal cues. Think of "sit" for example. This is one of the first things we teach a puppy. But do we just say the verbal cue and hope our puppy responds? 

No way, not at first! We use body language to lure the puppy into a sitting position & reward. Now most of us probably say the verbal cue as the pup sits and rewards when the action is complete. Thus teaching the pup to do the action. It doesn't take long to teach a hand signal and verbal cue to this action because puppies are sponges soaking it all up quickly. 


But what varies from that point is what does your pup learn first, the verbal cue or the hand signal, AND which is more important for that particular action?

In one of my classes, students are asked to make a list of all their cues used to communicate with their dog including verbal and body language cues, then do a simple test. Holding perfectly still, hands at their sides and give the verbal cues watching to see how many their dog gets right without any body language for context. Then they do another test where they are to get their dog to do as many behaviors as possible without speaking a single word.

The results are always the same! Dogs often seem confused when we take human movement out of the equation and simply use words. Then when not using words, and only using movements we almost always see that the dog is more engaged and responding better.

There's a lot hype in the world about "animal communicators" or people who "speak dog!" I often get asked if I "speak dog!" And a way, I sort of do, but not in the way psychics claim to. 


I often know what your dog is saying or feelings because I'm trained to read canine body language and I understand canine behavior. I also have 30 yrs of learning to think about my movements and what might work to encourage a dog to do the behavior I want.

Have you ever taken your dog to a training session and see that your dog does better with the trainer than they do with you?

Why?  Clear communication! 

I work hard to understand your dog, using what I know about their individual personality, their needs, and their desires and then I use that ask them for behaviors that are easy for the dog to understand. Then the best thing about training with me, is that I teach dog owners how to do that too! We start with building clear communication using body language first, then adding in verbal cues after the behavior becomes easy for both owner & dog. It doesn't matter what behavior(s) you're struggling with, I can help you find the clear communication that will help you and your dog both be successful!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Adding More Enrichment

As dog owners, we use reinforcement to reward our dogs for the behaviors we like. Enrichment is often confused as being an extra great or jackpot style reward for dogs, but it's way more than feeding something special to your dog!

By definition, Enrichment should provide of a way to meet our dog's natural instinct needs in a way that adds value to their day to day life. Behavior Consultants from around the world have pretty much agreed that enrichment activities should into these criteria.

Enrichment should...

--be an activity that has interaction between the participants.  (Dog & Human for us)
--effect the response a dog has to a particular action.  
--lead to evidence based, behavior changes.  
--be changing constantly.
--differ from animal to animal based on their needs.
--reliant on the evolution of learning experiences of the dog and human together.

Let's break each one of those down individually.

Enrichment is an activity that brings 2 or more participants together.

This is often the most forgotten part of enrichment! We think tossing our dog a bone or toy puzzle on our way out the door is enriching, but instead that's more of a pacifier to help our dogs be calm. If you do this, please keep doing it! But realize it's not having an enriching effect on your dog unless you condition this habit in a way that includes you. I often scatter kibble in a snuffle box before I leave the dogs in my office at work. This is meant to distract my dogs while I get out the door, but it doesn't really add much value to their lives. It's more of a pacifier.

Occasionally I'll toss some kibble in a snuffle box and sit with my dog encouraging them to enjoy it. Not that they need much encouragement, but by being their with them and letting them feel my joy for watching them enjoy the treasures they are hunting can make this a group activity.

I very much see a difference in Azul when we are out on a sniff-a-bout between when I'm enjoying nature with him or getting distracted by my phone. He enjoys it more when we can enjoy it together. 

Enrichment should effect the response a dog has.

You could argue that my scatterfeeding before I leave the dogs in my office meets this criteria for Belle as it reduces barking, but it doesn't change anything for Azul. Does that mean it isn't enriching for Azul? At one time Azul struggled with being in the office away from me. Prior to opening the Training Center, Azul was almost always at my side or home with Dad if I was working with another dog team. But at the Training Center he had to learn to be behind a gate or shut in the office for safety. I used this feeding technique to help him get used to me being on the other side of a barrier. So this method already changed his behavior and now to works to keep him in an happy emotional state so I would argue that this is still enrichment.

Enrichment should always be changing.

Dogs seem to get bored if they do the same puzzle over and over every day. Once they've solved it, the fun goes away and it becomes a chore to get the food out. But if we can change what we do to slowly increase the difficulty level or add new things to the puzzle, our dogs continue to enjoy the activity. That's why I'm a huge fun of low budget do it yourself puzzles that you make at home. I have a "kitchen puzzle box" that cost me less than $3 to make at the store and the first time Roz ate dinner that way it took her 12+ minutes to eat instead of the 5 seconds it would in a bowl. 

You can see that video here:

Find It Games are another great way to start simple and continue to make it harder! 

The store bought puzzles can be fun if you don't use them every day and pull them out once in awhile on that rainy day or something when you need just a bit of extra enrichment. We also offer a puzzle exchange box at the Training Center where you can bring in a puzzle your dogs are bored with and exchange it for one that is here.

Enrichment is going to differ from dog to dog!
While Azul and Belle both love chewing on sticks and digging in their dig spots, they also have very different needs. Azul loves to explore any area that has wildlife scents making a slow sniff-a-bout one of his favorite enrichment activities. Belle on the other hand likes to go fast on walks sniffing as she runs. Some of this is due to age, but it shows their current needs. Azul has explored most of the environments around our area and recognizes where there and what is there, so he would rather keep his nose to the ground sniffing everything. Belle is mostly walking in new environments and doesn't have any of the memorized except perhaps the road by our house and the field we train in near the Training Center. Belle spends her walk looking and listening to everything in the environment. Her brain is trying to process so much that sniffing the ground isn't even on her radar unless she sees Azul sniffing a specific spot for a longer time. She loves to push her nose under his nose, but I'm not sure she is really thinking much about what she is smelling yet. At 8 months old, Belle is really in tune to all sounds and sounds hold more value, therefore the faster she goes and the farther she goes, the more she gets to hear! 

Watch your dog and find out what they love to do the most and do what you can to add more of that in their day to day life! Sometimes this might be breed specific and go towards behaviors your dog's breed was designed for such as swimming, hunting, guarding livestock, etc. Sometimes dogs don't really care for those breed specific activities and they like something else. Let them tell you what they enjoy.

Enrichment should include elements of previous learning experiences and engagement with their human.
This is the enrichment rule that doesn't always get followed as owners tend to get stuck in a pattern of always doing the same thing.  It's easy to drop a stuffed kong or a ball in our dog's safe space and walk away to do something else while they enjoy the food toy. This idea is often promoted by sellers of such toys. And if that's all you can do to add some enrichment to your dog's day, then please KEEP doing it! But there are also simple ways that don't take up much more time! 

If I'm preparing a food toy that I'm going to give my dogs, I'll try to build in some engagement while I prepare it.  I could ask my dogs to stay on a mat and keep them out of my way while I prepare it. Instead I like to engage my dogs in the act of preparing the treat. Since they are trained to retrieve, we can go together the box that food toys are stored in and I can ask each of my dogs to pick an empty toy and hand it to me.  Building some choice into the activity helps to build that engagement while also relying on their previous experience. Some dogs will just grab the toy on top because it's easy, while other dogs will dig to find a specific one. This is based on previous learning history and what they have enjoyed most in the past. If I have multiple dogs and I want them all to have the same type of toy, I might not give them a choice of toys and offer a choice of treats to add instead. Adding choice to fun activities helps dogs by increasing their feeling of agency. 

By building in choices and other forms of interaction as we prepare enrichment activities or during activities, we make the activity far more enriching for our dogs. My husband sets up a puzzle challenge every night for Belle and each night it gets harder and hard. Sometimes it involves something that is slightly impossible such as the treat might be inside a locked container that Belle can't open. However Belle knows that when she finds any part of the challenge too hard she can ask for help by taking the object to a human in the room or going to get a human and leading them to the challenge. This might frustrate some dogs, but Belle loves to interact with humans so it's a great thing for her. Azul on the other hand, prefers to eat his treats and treasures in private and he prefers to bury them and same the for later, even if later is a minute later. His evening enrichment happens in the bedroom where he has to search his bed, Belle's bed and our bed to see where the goodies are tonight. He typically determines this in the first 2 seconds in the room! Then his treat might be hidden under a blanket or wrapped in a towel, or scattered in multiple places in the room. He always rushes in the room and comes trotting out all proud when he is done.

How do you add all this enrichment into you day?
This is easier that it sounds. Watch your dog and see what they love! 

If it's sniffing, find lots of good places or items to sniff. In the fall when there are leaves all over the ground, I'll pick up a small back full and when I'm making new snuffle boxes, occasionally I through some leaves in. This brings some outside smells inside on the days that I use a nature snuffle box.

If your dog loves digging, you can prepare a specific dig spot area in your yard. I have a natural spot for my dogs since we live in the country, but I know several others who have created a dig spot using a kiddy pool, sand or dirt, and buried some fun things inside. My dogs love when I drop something in their holes and lightly cover it up with dirt.  Sometimes it's food, toys, a stick, pine cones...pretty much anything in the yard works for my pups.

You get the idea! Give your dog what they love in a way that impacts their behavior, either reducing behaviors you want to go away or increasing the behaviors your love. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Hard Realistic Expectations

 Last year I wrote on blog on how to set you and your dog up for success creating a plan that had realistic expectations.  Jump over here to read it, before reading this post! This post will continue on from there.

Having Realistic Expectations is HARD

If you read the post linked above, you'll know just how important it is to set realistic expectations based on what your starting point is now. You'll also know that there is no exact timeline that works for every dog so it's impossible to say that a 6 month old dog should be able to do XYZ behaviors in all environments with unlimited distractions. 

If you've followed any of my posts either in this blog or on social media, you know I always talk about Crazy Canine Adolescents and how unpredictable this age is for the dog and their owners. That 6 month old dog, is just entering adolescence and about to start developing rapidly physically, emotionally, and socially. Plus that adolescent dog is going to go through several periods where impulse control and self regulation seem to fly out the window.

This is where it becomes really challenging to have realistic expectations! 

Belle is currently 7 months old when I write this. In many ways she is excelling in my plans for training, often seeming to be way ahead of the game and smashing goal, after goal, after goal. In most ways she is doing so well that when she begins to struggle it throws me for a loop!

Last week was a particularly barky week. I'm not sure if there was something going on brain development wise, or my work schedule didn't fit her needs schedule, or I was simply expecting too much of her in certain situations. Needless to say she barked often and for long periods at some points and I was increasingly frustrated. Barking is one of those behaviors that triggers me emotionally. I'm fine with the bark when it happens due to a distraction entering the environment. 

Belle likes to bark as soon as she sees a person outside, then I she rushes to my side and watch calmly together. That's a 1-2 bark and done situation and I can handle that. But if that distraction is a friend of hers, or a dog she wants to make into a friend that barking doesn't stop. This is more of a high arousal barking that is begging for play time. This barking drives me insane!

Belle sometimes helps with clients in the training room and sometimes she hangs out in the office. And if she's in the office she was getting really good at barking a moment when a client first came in the door, then quieting down and relaxing in the office. But last week she couldn't do that! Every time a client came in she barked non-stop. It didn't matter if I let her out to see the client or kept her in the office, Belle just kept barking. I couldn't talk or even hear myself think. One time another client that lives nearby and has a dog that Belle loves stopped by while I was with a client and I begged him to take Belle to his house for a bit just to stop the barking. Thankfully he did!

So at some point I need to determine is the barking due to me having unrealistic expectations or is there something we need to add to our training plan to modify the behavior or do I need to do a better job of making sure Belle's needs are met before a client appointment.

This is where realistic expectations become hard!

Depending on the trainer you talk to and their ethical philosophy, some trainers will say that most dogs grow out of "IT" (name the crazy adolescent behavior) while many others will state that dogs will not grow out of IT! That is the kind of black and white thinking that I try really hard to avoid. No one can say for sure if a challenging behavior is going to be a lifelong issue or something that is temporary due to the ever changing adolescent brain.

I know that barking is Belle's default behavior. She does this behavior whenever she doesn't know what else to do. It doesn't matter if she's nervous, excited, frustrated, in high arousal, etc.  Whenever she escalates emotionally, barking happens. I'm pretty sure that's not something she is going to grow out of. 

That is where it's important to set up of for success with training plans that help Belle learn about her ever changing world through environmental processing and help her learn to control her arousal with self regulation. And that is exactly where it is important for me as Belle's human to set up training to support her, management to prevent rehearsal of the behavior I want to go away, avoid putting her in situations she can't yet handle, and making sure her needs are met before we do any type of separation activity as that is where the barking is happening most frequently.

Taking a look at what has changed recently that could be causing the more frequent behavior.

Sometimes we forget that there might be underlining causes related to the challenging behavior we are struggling with. Often there is more to the behavior that just what is happening in that moment. A few weeks ago Belle could easily stay in the office while I ran an errand or worked with a client with some but not alot of barking. And now she can't!  So what has happened during that time?

Well, to start, Azul hasn't been feeling well so I've been working a bit harder to meet his needs by taking solo walks, ATV rides, and other fun outings. Belle has stayed in the office a more than normal, stayed home with Dad (a whole different challenge) a bit more than normal. And we've been working to get Belle comfortable staying with my friend and his dogs so that she can stay with them during an upcoming medical appt for Azul. Before this she would stay in the office fine, but adding in staying home with Daddy and staying at my friend's house with and without me has increased the amount of time she is away from me.

Also during this time, Belle has been learning to pay attention to the medical needs that I often ignore. She is doing both morning and evening medicine reminders now and has even done 3 migraine alerts despite the fact that I haven't started training that scent yet. This increased attention to my medical needs is likely impacting her desire to be with me more and dislike separation more. This is something that many Service Dogs and Service Dogs in Training Struggle with as they often spend so much time with their person and so little time away from their person. This is something that I help other people train around, but it's not something in Belle's current training plan because I didn't expect it to be a probably. We worked on as a puppy, but I didn't expect it to come back. That's a huge oversight on my part!

Figuring out what is causing the change in behavior or the increase in the frequency of the behavior is the first step in coming up with successful solutions to the problem. Often the process of figuring out the cause helps us to become more understanding of the emotional struggles of our dog. And that often leads to our understanding of what is a realistic expectation for our dog in this point in life.

Penelope V. Yorke — 'Knowledge is the key to understanding, understanding is the key to achieving, and achieving is the key to becoming.'

This quote also applies to challenging behaviors that we are struggling with. When we know the cause of the behavior, we understand the dog's needs that are being missed, and when we focus on taking care of that need we can see the behavior changing more rapidly.

BUT! When is the behavior setting in and becoming a challenge that is going to be an ongoing struggle?

At some point if the behavior is ignored too long, the management is not being used, the dog is able to rehearse the behavior often, and the training that leads to change is not being done...the behavior becomes a habit or a way of getting something accomplished.

Dogs don't do any behavior simply because they know we like it or hate it. Dogs do what works! Every behavior has a purpose behind the behavior. In animal science terms behaviors are described in an ABC pattern. Antecedent is the thing that happens before the behavior. Behavior is what the animal does. And Consequence is what happens after the animal does the behavior. 

Many force free trainers are unhappy with the wording of "consequence" because to many people that implies something negative. But in this situation, it could be negative or positive.

For example, a scared dog barks at the human or dog approaching them. That human or dog then backs off, not wanting to experience conflict with the dog. The scared dog then learns that barking and acting like a jerk keeps threats away so they repeat it whenever that scared emotion hits them. Barking in this situation becomes a learned survival mechanism.

Belle's barking is communication begging me to come be closer to her. Often she barks and I go to her...she learns that persistent barking gets my attention.

Is that what I want her to learn? NO But at the same time, I don't want her to be practicing the behavior of barking and I don't want her to live in that heighten state of emotional chaos for long either. So what is the solution?

Look at my management and how I can set up Belle for success to prevent her from feeling the need to be near me non-stop. Responding to Belle sooner vs later at least prevents the rehearsal of repetitive barking, which also lowers her emotional state much faster as well. I'm not going to let her just cry it out and learn that I won't respond to her needs. So I'm going to keep going to her or reassuring her through the door if and when the barking is occurring. But I'm also going to do my best to prevent that barking in the first place with better management.

Step 1: Make sure Belle's physical, emotional, and social needs are met before she needs to stay alone in the office or with another person.

Step 2: Make sure I have enrichment she loves set up in the area she will need to stay without me. And make sure I have a calming sound playing during this time as that seems to help her as well. She loves listening to Andy Hale videos on YouTube while I'm with a client! I think it sounds much like a Zoom meeting that I often do and she lays calmly at my side. And Andy Hale has the calmest of voices while talking!

Step 3: Schedule more playdates with friends right before I have clients or visits to friends houses during my client sessions so that Belle spends less time in the office during this challenging time in her life.

And most importantly! I need to remind myself to have realistic expectations for a 7 month old Crazy Canine Adolescent who is doing their very best to be successful in the world that I place them in.

July Party Schedule

Announcing our Summer Session Special! We are starting with an altered scheduled for July 1st -3rd Monday, July 1st, all of our Group Walker...