Saturday, February 4, 2023

Working Paws Comment


Message Received from Group Member

The Working Paws group is open to anyone training their dog with some more advanced skills typically found in dogs who have a job; Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Hunting Dogs...anyone that goes beyond advanced training with their dog is welcome to join the group.

One of things the Working Paws group is designed to do is support the members with dog training tips, demonstrate force free training methods, and highlight training accomplishments. We follow a Kindness Code where any discussion is allowed as long as members remain kind to each other, with the main goal being ways to spread that kindness to our animals.

The Admin have adopted a Whole Dog approach, looking at all aspects of the dog to work toward creating a healthy, happy dog that has the best life possible with their person. Behavioral issues can be caused by a wide variety of things including physical issues/pain, emotional experiences, social connections, skills previously learned and most importantly through reinforcement whether intentional or unintentional. 

The Working Paws group members are commonly in the group to network with other dog owners that may be experiencing the same challenges. As in this comment, the group member was struggling with imposter syndrome. This is when a person feels as if they are not a good enough trainer to help their dog reach their goals or in the Service Dog community the term refers to someone with an invisible disability that sometimes feels as if they are not disabled enough to need a Service Dog. Both are very common and challenging to overcome.  Most people have a social need to network with others that have been through the same challenges or are going through the challenge at the same time. And that is what the Working Paws group is designed to.

At just over 100 members, the group is small enough to be a safe space where members can ask questions, vent about challenges and feel comfortable showing their mistakes so others can learn. 

To check out the other networking groups hosted by Yooper Paws of Love visit the Groups Tab.

To learn more about training a Service Dog check out this tab.

Yooper Paws of Love is happy to receive comments and feedback from those who follow us! Feedback helps us to grow and provide more resources for the types of help you need. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at

Katrina's Review

Review from the 2021-2022
Building a Better Bond Workshop

To: Penny Beeman

I am so excited to watch as Penny Beeman expands her dog training business. 

I found Penny on a FB group when I was struggling in a service dog training program with my dog-Ruger. I was about to give up after two years of hard work and dedication. Ruger was a challenge to train every step of the way. We went through three trainers-each recommending the other because Ruger needed someone ‘more experienced’. I contemplating quitting many times but I just knew in my heart Ruger and I were meant to be a team. 

I came across Penny’s class ‘Building a Better Bond’. I hesitated to enroll in the class as I hadn’t completed the program we were already  in but am so thankful I enrolled in ‘Building a Better Bond’. 

Penny’s passion brought our excitement back! Her knowledge and experience helped us work through hurdles and increased our confidence. I also appreciated her commitment to positive reinforcement/force free training. 

Penny was dedicated to helping us but I could tell her dedication runs deeper. It’s  a mission to help humans and dogs understand each other and have a mutual respect of each other. The outcome is easier training through a bonded love. 

I am happy to announce that Ruger and I successfully completed our service dog training program! 

Thank you Penny! 

We couldn’t have done it without you! I’m excited to watch your business grow as you help change the lives of dogs and their people. 

Much love to you! 
Katrina and Ruger from SC

Thursday, February 2, 2023

February Special 28

 The February Theme of the Month is Focus on Behaviors!

Every dog owner has certain behaviors that they love to see their dog do and other behaviors they hate to see their dog doing. In 2022, the Focus was understanding what drives behaviors, what reinforcement means, what enrichment means and other elements that we can use to encourage our dogs to do more of the behaviors we love. A few months later, in September, we looked at some of the common behaviors that we often find challenging or difficult to change. This month I'm going to bring all those previous posts together to help us how to move away from those behaviors we hate while increasing the recurrence of the behaviors we love.

This is a topic that begins to move away from the typical dog training world, moving more towards the behavioral modification planning that is done by skilled Behavior Consultants. (My certificate to show this credential from ILLIS ABC is available on the About Me tab.) While I won't be solving the world's dog behaviors, I will be giving you some tools to develop simple modification plans yourself as a dog owner while helping you understand why your dog is doing what they are doing.

Creating a plan to bring about change in behavior is not easy! Which is one of the reasons I've developed the February Special 28! This package includes:
  • One ZOOM session that will be roughly 28 mins long, geared toward discussing that one challenging behavior you want to work on with this plan.
  • One Behaviors Worksheet that we fill out together to help us develop the plan.
  • Access to shaping plans that can be modified to meet the needs of you and your dog.
  • 28 Days of text support following the Zoom session to help with any questions or struggles you are having in your plan process.
This Special 28 will cost the very low fee of $28 for all these great services!

During the Zoom session we will discuss the "bad" behavior. I will walk you through a workshop where we discuss these topics:
  • Describe what the behavior looks like?
  • What canine need is the behavior fulfilling?
  • What is the dog achieving by doing the behavior?
  • And what behavior would your rather them do in that situation?
These can be challenging for an owner to figure out on their own because they are often too close to the struggle to see the whole dog picture. By discussing these and other questions with a 3rd party, you can often create a simple plan to help transition the behavior you don't want repeated to the behavior you love and want your dog to do more of. This is done by creating a history of positive associations to the new behavior using teamwork. By looking at the whole dog and not just the troubling behavior, we can address the underlying cause of that behavior instead of stopping the behavior out right which typically leads to an even worse behavior starting. The training plan will be designed to teach the dog what you want them to do, which is a concept dogs learn much more quickly than a "stop that" concept!

A bonus to this Special 28 package is that it gives you the chance to try out Virtual Consults with a dog trainer without breaking the bank and finding out that this format doesn't really work for you. 

Let me tell you about one client of mine, who will remain nameless. They thought virtual training would not work for them with a strong feeling of needing hands on help in order to help their dog. I searched my trainer network and referred them to a few people that shared my training ethics. They tried going to those trainers and multiple others they found on their own including some "not" force free trainers. What the client found was a trainer that said the dog was dangerous because the dog barked at the trainer the first time trainer showed up at the house. Client found another trainer that was way out of their price range. Client found another trainer that swore the dog needed e-collar training and client paid for a very expensive board & train only to realize that the e-collar made dog more reactive and fearful. Needless to say, client came back to me with virtual sessions and together we made more progress in just a few short sessions than with all the other trainers combined. Client now knows how to do the "Whole Dog" approach to looking at a problem and still reports progress to me almost weekly as they continue to grow their teamwork skills and move closer to their goal of becoming a Service Dog team. And this is not a rare client that switched to virtual training vs in person training. 

When covid hit, most dog trainers did not know how they were going to survive as a business because very few had ever done virtual training. Yet the world wide shut downs forced canine professionals to try new things. And now many canine professions say they will never go back to face-to-face training sessions and holding in-person classes because they can reach a much bigger audience and help people more rapidly using virtual training.  And here is why:
  • Virtual training offers stress free training. No longer is your dog being triggered by the trainer, the environment the session is taking place, the distractions that interrupt a session, etc. No longer is the dog owner trying to manage the dog and listen to the trainer at the same time. Trainer and owner have a quiet conversation discussing the "Whole Dog" and then the trainer gives the client some things to do before they meet again.
  • Virtual training offers a more flexible schedule. Many dog owners work therefore needing classes in the evenings or on weekends. By skipping the drive time to the appointment, trainers can spread out sessions more easily seeing one client at time that works for them and another several hours later without the need to book them one after the other to save drive time. This is especially true for people like me where the average client lives 10-20 miles away from my house and spread out in a rural community in all directions. This also means that often the trainer is not rushed to get to the next client so if you need an extra 5-10 minutes in your session that can be accommodated. Some sessions are shorter, some are longer giving both client and trainer the time they need to discuss the topic without pressure to fill the whole slot.
  • Digital resources including links to more information and worksheets that can be filled in digitally or printed off for notebooks can be sent during or immediately following the session. I have a free blog on my website that has tons of great resources for dog owners. But this format can be overwhelming for many. I can send a link directly to the blogpost on the topic we are discussing either in the session or between sessions to remind you what we discussed. I also don't like to waste paper, but often worksheets are not able to be filled in virtually. All my worksheets and plans are in Google Drive using a spreadsheet or word processing format that makes it easy for both trainer and client to fill in and expand as the training progresses. This saves us all time and saves trees as well!
  • Ongoing support is not something that all trainers offer, but I do! Most of my clients buy a package instead of a single session. Packages are laid out based on the difficulty level of what is being trained. I offer packages that have a 3 month plan & 6 month plan most often, with the occasional monthly special like this one that has 28 days of extended support. This support begins immediately following the first zoom session in that package and typically involves text based support through messenger, directly to your cell phone or through the group that relates best to your training package. For example the Medical Alert classes I teach are a 3 month class and work within a Google Classroom which offers private & group messaging within the classroom, plus we a Service Dog task group where questions can be posted, plus I'm available to private messages during that time. No that doesn't mean you get an immediate response the moment you send a message. But since I have a great team of support staff, you generally get a response within a few hours and for sure within 24 hrs. This includes weekends with a rare few holidays that are announced as unavailable dates.
  • Virtual training allows for individualized needs of both the handler and the dog. This is probably one the biggest perks to virtual training. Years ago, the common force free way to handle stopping a dog from jumping was to have them sit when a visitor came and wait for permission to greet. While this is good in theory, many dogs struggle to be calm enough to actually sit and owners need help finding a behavior that meets the dog's need to move and release some excitement yet still saves the visitor from an over enthusiastic greeting from the dog. Once an alternate behavior has been found that meets everyone's needs, training is some much easier. Dog training is not a one size fits all situation as each dog owner, each dog, and each trainer has unique life experiences that all add to the relationship sometimes referred to as the Training Triangle; owner, dog, trainer with each individual impacting both of the others. Individualized training helps training to happen more naturally which in turn makes everyone happier with the end results.
Have I convinced you yet to give virtual training a try? 
Perhaps you've tried it and finished up your package but have a few lingering questions. 
Perhaps you've been training for years and now something has changed and your simply struggling with this one problem and not seeming to make any progress on your own. 

If any of these sound familiar to you, then this is what the Special 28 package is designed to do! 

If you're ready to take the leap and schedule your Special 28 Zoom session, you can do so using my virtual scheduling system here:

If you have additional questions about the Special 28 package or other packages I offer, please feel free to reach out to me via email at or send me text at 906-399-0548. You can also send me a friend request if you prefer the FB messenger format.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Planning the Training Location

One of the biggest components to Planning for Success is choosing the environment that you will use for your training session. There are lots of things you may need to consider when choosing a location including your dog's previous experiences, how the environment will impact your dog's emotions, and what are your goals for the session.

Taking a look at previous experiences can really impact your session. Winter months making outdoor walking challenging in my climate and one of the few places we can walk safely is a 1 mile loop around a lake. Most of the trail is awesome, but there is a section that is nearly impossible to move off the trail if another dog comes from the opposite direction. Azul has been caught in the section multiple times and had dogs barking, lunging, and generally being obnoxious to him in this tight section of the trail. It's happened so frequently that Azul became hyper alert in this area, expecting to find another dog. 

Since I didn't want Azul to be in that hyper alert state as an adolescent we had to change our walk. We could start in the parking lot and walk either direction around the lake and as soon as Azul began to enter that hyper alert state we simply turned around and walked back to the car the same way we came, thus avoiding the confined space section. As winter faded, I started parking in a back lot that took us through the confined area right away when Azul was in high sniff mode which reduced his pulling and prevented Azul from scanning none stop for another dog. Once we were past the trouble spot, we could both enjoy the rest of the walk. And as spring set in, we were again able to move off the trail a bit if another dog came out way.

This same story also allows us to consider Azul's emotional state. He wasn't really fearful in this environment, but right on the edge of becoming over-excited at the very sight of another dog in this location. And since Azul was still in adolescence, he had very little self control. Over-reacting was not a behavior I wanted him to practice so avoiding that area was best.
And lastly, what was my goal for those sessions. In the winter, my goal was simple; outdoor exercise and sniffs. We accomplished that goal by walking half way and turning around heading back the way we came. But in the spring, the goal changed to slowly adding that area back into our normal walk. With that goal change, came changing the starting location, finding slow times of day to walk and adding in some parking lot focus training before we started out on the walk. Sometimes avoiding a situation is the best action you can take right now! Developing a plan for the future, when circumstances improve as a great way to set up for success.

There are 6 questions I like to ask myself before picking a training environment.

What is my overall goal for this session? Are we working on maintaining well known behaviors? Are we trying to generalize a new behavior in multiple environments? Are we trying to train around a specific distraction? The overall goal should be used to help you determine how busy of an environment you can realistically achieve success in.

What are the expected distractions in the environment? If we are working toward a behavior modification plan are trying to desensitizate our dog to a specific distraction, we want a calm environment where we can control those distractions. This typically means working with a second person who can direct the movement of the distraction. However if we are working on generalizing a cue such as paws up on various surfaces, we need an environment with lots of surfaces and outside distractions do not impact the session as much. Something's might be controlled by the environment, for example a train might be a distraction but it's working on a fixed track so we can predict where it is coming from and where it is heading, then adjust our session as needed.

What are the unexpected and uncontrollable distractions in the environment? For my area, this is generally wildlife; deer, bunnies, squirrels, etc. But this can also be kids, playing at the park or the unexpected skateboarder. We can't ask any of these distractions to give us more space or wait for us to move away. These types of distractions are very important to consider anytime we are training something new or mentally challenging.

What are the environmental reinforcers? Sometimes we can use things in the environment as a reinforcement for behaviors; a loose leash means you can sniff the p-mail. Yet other times the environment is self reinforcing to our dogs so we can't motivate them to do the work we want in that session. Sniffing is something that we can use to our favor, yet other times gets in our way when a dog can't stop sniffing long enough to hear what we are asking.

What is the visual range where we can safely watch the distraction at a distance when we can successfully train? If we are working on training around a high distraction such as other dogs, we want to be able to watch and observe from far away such as a baseball or football field. But if we are working on parkour skills or being able to make rapid turns as a team, then we need an environment that's going to have a much smaller field of vision.

What amount of freedom does my dog need to be successful in this session? If we are working with a distraction that triggers fear, we want our dog to have a longline so they have more control over how close they are getting to the distraction. If we are working on focus, check-ins, or hand targets so our dog will remain pretty close to us, then we can use a hands-free leash or short leash and take up less space in the environment.

We can't talk about setting the environment up for success without mentioning environmental processing! It's important that we let our dogs sniff and become acclimated to the environment before we begin training. We have multiple posts on environmental processing in this blog and hope to have a video soon to help you learn how to engage in the environment with your dog!

Stay tuned for the February Focus on Behaviors Theme coming soon!

Monday, January 30, 2023

FAD2 Workshop

Adolescent & young adult dogs often struggle most with distractions that are beyond our control. This can be other people and/or dogs we meet while out on a walk, wild animals or pets that pop up unexpectedly, or any of a million other things that our dogs might react to. However this is NOT the place we want to start with training sessions.
If you want to help your dog succeed around distractions, you first have to teach them the skills to succeed in a no or low distraction environment. All training should start at home! There are a ton of games you can play to help teach your dog the skills they need to succeed while increasing your skills as a team. We are going to be going over lots of these games in the FAD2 Mini-workshop! 

The FAD2 Workshop will take place March 22nd - 25th!
An email will go out every morning at 8am for those subscribed to the email list AND a FB Event post will be added to the event every day at the same time for those who prefer the FB Format. 
The info will be the same in both places so you only need to follow one of them.

Discussion on the Topic of the Day can be done on the FAD Discussion Group and we will be hosting a live Q&A each evening. Check out the FB Group to see the time for the Q&A Live each day.

The FAD2 Workshop will build on to last year's workshop, so be sure to go back and watch that before March 22nd to catch up.  Here are links to last year's workshop on the Yooper Paws website.

FAD Day 1 - "What is Focus?"

FAD Day 2 - "Understanding Emotions Better"

FAD Day 3 - "Setting Up the Environment!"

FAD Day 4 -  "Focus Exercises & Games!"

Here is the lineup for FAD2

FAD2 Day 1 - Environmental Processing
FAD2 Day 2 - The Science Around High Arousal
FAD2 Day 3 - Helping Your Dog Feel Safe, Calm, & Happy
FAD2 Day 4 - All About Reinforcement

Please fill out this registration form to be added to the email list for the FAD2 Workshop!

Thank You For Registering for the FAD2 Workshop! You will receive an email confirmation the week before the workshop begins with additional information.


Friday, January 27, 2023

Saying NO to your Dog!

It’s OK to say NO to your dog

(This post written by Stephie Guy: The Shouty-Barky Dog Lady)

There’s a lot of confusion in the dog training world about the word NO.

I hear it all the time on my walks, most often from people leaning over their lunging barking dogs yelling NO in a stern voice, or from pet parents pulling their dog away from a tasty snack on the pavement whilst shouting NO.

Chatting to members of my shouty-barky dog group this week, I learned that it’s used a lot in the home too. NO to barking out of the window, NO to barking at visitors, NO to picking up a forbidden treasure, NO to chasing the cat.

The problem with using the word NO in all of these situations is that it often isn’t specific enough. I have to say, it’s a heck of a confusing concept for a human to understand, never mind for a dog.

Picture this. I’m sat on the sofa watching TV and totally absorbed in a conversation I’m having on social media. I’m absently eating chocolates and I have a cup of coffee in my hand.

My husband walks in, looks at me and says “NO”. I don’t hear him. He thinks I’m ignoring him so repeats it. I’m so engrossed in conversation that I still don’t hear him. I haven’t seen him either so I don’t know that he’s looking sternly at me. He then says “STEPHIE NO”.  This gets through to my brain. 

I look up and around, confused. No? No what? No don’t have that conversation? No don’t watch TV? No don’t eat those chocolates, don’t sit there, don’t put your cup down, don’t drink that coffee?

I have the advantage over dogs in this situation. I have a wrinkly brain that can think quickly, I can process many things at once, and crucially, I can ask “What? What’s wrong?”

Wouldn’t it have been simpler in that situation if he’d said “Stephie give me the coffee! It’s gone mouldy, I’ve got you a new one”.

Back to dogs. When you say NO is your dog able work out which bit of what they're doing needs changing? Probably not.

Let’s dig deeper…

  • Is your dog ignoring you or are they concentrating so hard that they simply haven’t heard?
  • Are they carrying on with whatever they’re doing because they don’t understand what you want?
  • Does your NO leave your dog guessing about what they should do instead?
  • Is the thing that they’re doing more fun or rewarding than your alternative?

The trouble we humans have is that saying NO can be instinctive. If we’ve been brought up in an environment where NO has been used a lot, it’s likely to be the first word we reach for. It may be that we’ve tried using STOP or DROP and it simply hasn’t stuck because we’re hardwired to use NO

And that’s OK.

We just need to teach our dogs what to do when we say it.

Great idea Stephie. But how?

Try this:

  • Every time you catch yourself saying no to your dog this week, write down what your dog was doing
  • Think about what you’d like your dog to do instead. Would a recall fix the problem? Would you like your dog to look at you and wait for the next instruction? Pick something that your dog already knows how to do.
  • Play around with pairing the word NO with the thing that you want them to do instead. And I do mean play around with it.
  • Literally, play with your dog, say NO then say what you want them to do and reward handsomely with treats or more play or whatever it is that motivates your dog.
  • And let me know how it goes!

Do you say NO to your dog? It’s OK if you do, we just need to teach your dog what it means.

Stephie is a dog trainer and behaviour consultant specialising in sensitive, anxious and shouty-barky dogs.

Join her on facebook here: The Shouty-Barky Dog Group // Mum’s Away, Pup’s OK

Or browse the website here:

Realistic Expectations in Goal Setting

Having Realistic Expectations When Setting Your Goals

This can be really challenging for us as dog owners and also for dog trainers! Plan too much for too short of a time and it becomes impossible giving us an excuse to give up. Plan too little and seems like we are not making any headway. Sometimes life gets in the way with unexpected events that slow us down. Sometimes we misjudged our dogs abilities to learn certain things, especially when our dog is an adolescent. Then if you look at every trainer, every owner, & every dog is different we have to accept that a training plan simply can not be a one-size-fits-all plan. Here are a few questions I like to ask myself when creating a plan for my dogs.
  1. Is the goal achievable in this 3 month plan or is this something that is a long term goal that has a smaller goal of making progress. Let's look at leash manners for example. At 6 months old Azul could heel really well in indoor environments however I never want him to heel the whole way on a trail or exercise walk. This was my outside environment goal for Azul from 6-9 months: Maintain leash manners fitting the environment with consistent training as needed throughout the adolescent phase. Now this is not very specific but was part of an ongoing long term goal. Here are the training guidelines for 6-9 months: 1.1 Continue all basic cues (sit, down, left/right, wait, etc.) that have been taught in previous training plans using the correct leash/tool for each environment. (Management tools of a dual clip harness & leash) 1.2 Continue developing the heel or loose heel position by rewarding when it happens naturally, with games to build value (proximity game), and short training sessions around mild distractions.1.3 Be sure to provide 15-20 minutes of general sniff-a-bouts every day. Allow your dog to process all that is in the environment at their pace. None of these were expected to be perfect by the end of the 3 month period and that is why they didn't include any type of measurement. This is because during adolescence dogs make progress, move backward, with skills varying from day to day and environment to environment. To set measurable goals during this time, would be unrealistic. Instead my goal was to make progress over the 3 month plan moving towards my end goals.
  2. How challenging is the environment in which we will be training this goal & how many different environments will we be training in?  If we are training a totally new skill such as mat/place training and we focusing on mainly teaching this at home, we might achieve the success we are looking at in 3 months. However if we are planning on taking this training into multiple environments as you would do if you were training a Service Dog, you might have an section in the plan that states how many environments or what type of environments. Azul's 6-9 month plan included games that would take place at home to develop cues and build a reinforcement history. Then we would begin to expand into new environments.
  3. How will I use reinforcement during this stage of the training plan?  Often it is easier to use food when training new skills and adding cues to those skills. But once those are learned we want to move toward self reinforcing behaviors or games that provide reinforcement. For Azul's 6-9 month plan under the Mat/Place training goal was a plan to play Hide-n-Seek & Find It games by setting up Azul on his mat, then going to hide me or the object to find, and finally release him to race to his finds. The search behavior is often highly reinforcing and with these games we built a reinforcement history while we were having fun and thus eliminating the need for treats during mat training.
  4. Is my dog physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared for this goal?  We know adolescence is challenging but there also could be other things to consider. I start parkour fun pretty early when a puppy's joints may not be fully developed that means I have to have very low objects for them to practice Paws Up and All The Way Up to prevent injury. Puppies love to climb so its mentally OK and often actually helps puppies to destress because of the fun and teamwork involved. These parkour sessions generally take place at home and might begin to start in other environments but I avoid practicing in environments that might be filled with emotionally distracting stimuli. I made this mistake once when Azul! He had done parkour in and around benches at a local park for a very long time. Then once I wanted to practice on bench in a downtown district that we had not done much training in. In my mind, Azul should have been able to do the skills that he knew very well in that environment however he was much too distracted by the traffic and all the smells in the nearby bushes. He was not mentally or emotionally prepared to have a training session in that moment, nor was my reinforcement a high enough value to grab his attention. We really need to consider physical, mental & emotional needs when training Service Dog tasks as well...Mobility tasks require physical maturity. Medical Alert tasks require mental maturity. And PTSD tasks and those for emotional disabilities absolutely need to wait until the dog is emotionally mature and sound.

Individualized Training Plans

It becomes easy for us to look at videos of that 4 month old puppy walking in a perfect heel for 60 seconds and get upset that our 18 month old dog can't heel for longer than 5 minutes. However there are a few things wrong with that picture. 

First that's just a short period of time without showing what was happening the rest of the time. 

Second, a 4 month old puppy is still naturally hardwired to follow mom and stay close to mom, whereas your adolescent is hardwired to explore further and further away from the safety of family. That young puppy has a limited sight range, sounds don't hold much value, and smells are only beginning to make sense. Your adolescent has amazingly strong senses of smell (400 times greater then humans), hearing (up to 8 miles away), and sight (prone to catching movement at a large distance) which makes the environmental distractions so much more distracting! 

Then of course you need to look at what else has happened to that dog on that day, during that week, during their lifetime? Do they have an emotional experience that leads them down the road of optimism or fear? Do they have a health issue going on? Are they dealing with being trigger stacked or coming down from a moment of extreme excitement? What does the teamwork between dog and owner look like? Is the owner perhaps dealing with a medical issue that they don't even know about yet?

We have to take into account that each human is different and so each dog! We are all unique individuals with experiences, expectations, and habits. That young puppy has less of a history to draw from making it easier for them to learn rapidly, respond quickly and find reinforcement more reinforcing.  When building your training plan, you must consider your needs as a human handler and your dog's needs as the individual they are, in order to set your team up for success.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

NEW Canine Car Club

Announcing the NEW Canine Car Club!

This is a totally new class using a new format! For years I've done car desensitization with my own dogs and over the last few years I've helped many other dog owners learn how to go through this process. But now I'm pulling it all together in a group for both local in-person clients and virtual clients.

I will be using the Zoom format mainly for audio purposes only. Participants will be required to sign into zoom to listen to my directions. I will be using headphones and not looking at my phone at all so there is no need for participants to turn on video unless they want me to observe their dog's body language.

Lessons will be designed to teach you how to develop calm manners in and around your car, desensitize to seeing other cars moving, people moving, and dogs in the parking lot, and developing a safe way to transport your dog. Here are a few key points that will help you determine if these sessions are right for you.
  • Multi-dog households can bring multiple dogs with one registration. 
  • Locally, I will be using my demo dogs as a distraction inside and outside the car. 
  • Virtually you will be choosing parking lots based on the distractions you want to work with.
  • If your dog is feeling safe, calm and comfortable in the moment you may have the opportunity to practice short periods outside for potty, sniffs, and mini-breaks. But you will want to make sure your dog has taken care of this need before coming to the session.
  • You will want to provide fresh water and high value reinforcement for your dog during the session.
  • Each session will last roughly 30 min of actual work time and another 30 min of review, Q&A, or individualized help.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Online Training Special

In celebration of launching the all new Online Positively Puppy Paws Classroom 1 yr ago today, I've decided to run a discount for the rest of January!

This virtual classroom is great for anyone who has a puppy under 6 months old or is planning to get a puppy in 2023.

This classroom is a steal at $125 for lifetime access to the materials. Now through Jan 31st you can purchase this program for just $65.

The online program allows you to work at your own pace and review sections as often as needed. This is not the same as an in-person puppy class! Instead you learn about the nature inside your puppy; how their brain is developing and how you can shape that development to guide the pup in becoming the dog you've always dreamed of. You will also learn how to use positive training methods that involve a dog centered care approach to build up the desire in your puppy to do the behaviors you'd love your puppy to do again, and again, and again. This games based approach teaches you and the puppy to develop teamwork based on a concepts approach rather then a specific list of tasks you hope to accomplish.

Whether your training your family pet or training your dog for a working career such as a service dog or therapy dog, you will enjoy doing the games in this classroom. 

Find out more on our virtual training site at

Purchase now through Jan 31, 2023 for only $65.

Class includes:
--lifetime access to materials
--facdbook group for interactions with other puppy owners.
--free support via text/messenger until your pup is 6 months old.

Don't miss out on these "New Puppy Fever" savings!

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Planning Your Goals


Before creating your training plan you need to think about the goals or dreams you hope to achieve with your dog. It's easy for us to think about what we want this very moment but if we are trying to train in the moment we typically end up frustrated. Planning for success involves thinking about your long term goals, then working backwards to what do you want in the next 6 months, how about 3 months, how about this week, and then what is your expectation for today. Working backwards like this in planning helps us to set more realistic goals for the moment. 

That doesn't mean the future goals can't change as your relationship with your dog grows! Your goals along your life journey with your dog can change because life throws lots of twists and turns we didn't expect. Being flexible with our long term goals is another key aspect of planning for success.

What are long term goals?

We can have 1-3 long term goals that may not totally fit the SMART Goals in the previous blog.
  • I want to use this puppy for Service Dog work and therefore great manners are a must.
This goal is not a SMART Goal because it's not specific, measurable or timely. Yet it fits the "dream" part of a long term goal and it can be developed further into a series of SMART Goals that can help you achieve the long term goal. This long term goal allows you to remain flexible, allowing for growth and developmental changes the puppy will go through before becoming an adult who can do the work you are hoping for.
  • I want my to dog to stop reacting and dragging me to or from every person they see.
Again this isn't a SMART Goal because it describes what you want to stop, not what you want to happen. Plus it is not necessarily achievable the way it is written because we have no idea what success would look like because it is too vague. This is the type of goal we make in the moment because our dog just caused a scene or hurt us trying to drag us or some other negative experience. However we can tweak this long term goal just slightly to make it more achievable in a way that will help us back up to the short term goals.
  • I want to be able to have happy walking experiences with my dog in the environment/neighborhood without fear of large reactions to triggers.
This way the long term goal helps us to think about a few key elements of this goal. 
    What does a happy walking experience look like?
    What does our environment look like?
    What are the triggers that are most troublesome?
From there we can back it down in a way that can help us achieve success together as a team, working to make things slowly better over the next few weeks, months, and year(s).

Long term goals should be flexible to be done in 1-2 yrs or be a plan that will require ongoing maintenance. For example: We can teach our dogs leash manners when they are younger, however if we go for a long period of time without rewarding a release of leash pressure those manners are going to slowly grow worse over time. If we go back to the Service Dog Goal above, once our dog is fulling working as Service Dog, they must find the work reinforcing or we must continue to reinforce that work or it slowly stops to have over time. Often we want to teach our dogs to love the activities we want them to do, so we develop a self reinforcing behavior for the dog that helps us to reduce the reinforcement we need provide in the future.

One of Azul's goals as an adolescent was simply to continue to work on leash manners in multiple environments as his brain developed by avoiding situations where he would repeat undesirable behaviors and provide frequent opportunities to do activities he loved that allowed us to repeat desirable behaviors. That's a very long worded long term goal that outlined a bit more than I would typically put in a long term goal however I was trying to remind myself of the key points I needed to consider for the environments we chose to go in.

What are Short Term Goals?

The first thing we need to consider with short term goals is what are the physical and emotional needs of the human and the dog involved. We have to meet these needs before we can set up a learning environment. This covers many needs beyond the normal food, water, shelter, exercise. We also need to look at enrichment needs such as sniffing the environment, chewing on approved items, licking if that is stress relieving for our dog, etc. 

In the Service Dog world we also need to look at the human's physical ability to provide for the dog's exercise needs, which is often challenging. This is especially true for mobility dogs because the human side of the leash has physical limitations or they wouldn't need a mobility dog & mobility service dogs tend to be large, strong dogs that can extreme energy especially during adolescence. It's a fine line between meeting our dog's exercise needs and building up our dog to need more and more exercise in their day. If we love to jog with our dogs and can do it most days, then building up our dog's ability to jog further and further is great. But if can only jog with our dog once a month and not go very far, we probably don't want to build up that need for a daily jog. Tennis ball chasing is often criticized as being bad exercise for dogs. It's not the tennis ball itself, but more how we as the human side use the tennis ball for training, how exciting we make it, and how long we do it. There is no right or wrong amount of time you can play ball with your dog, which makes it super challenging to figure out what works best for your household.

Then we need to consider the human and dog emotions in a situation. I'm actually a fan of considering the emotional side of things first, but most owners consider exercise and enrichment needs first. If our dog has had previous bad experiences with over reacting to triggers, we tend be triggered by seeing those same things. It's not that our emotions cause their emotions, but our actions to our emotions can travel down the leash to cause their over reactions to their emotions. If that emotion that is causing the over reaction is fear based that makes it even harder because we know dogs in fear states are not able to learn. That means we have to have a plan that involves working at a safe distance and keeping our dog feeling safe before we can make progress.

One of the things we tend to leave out with planning is reinforcement!
Often we think of reinforcement as the food/treats we feed our dog to reward the behaviors we want them to continue doing. Food is great for training new behaviors, but eventually I don't want to reward every single behavior with food all day long or I'm going to have a fat dog and a dog that can only do the work when food is present. We know that lots of undesirable behaviors are self reinforcing; the dog who counter surfs is finding his own food rewards. But many times we don't consider making desirable behaviors self reinforcing. We also need to look at environmental reinforcement and delayed reinforcement. For more on reinforcement check out this previous post: Understanding Reinforcement & Self Reinforcement.

We also need to look at management during training sessions and down time. If we look at that counter surfing dog, we need to prevent the self reinforcing behavior as much as possible with clean counters free of rewards and using gates and other tools to block access to the counters. If we are looking at a dog who reacts to other dogs, we have to be prepared and able to control our dog if an unexpected dog enters our environment. We can do our best to set up the environment for success and choose a time when unexpected dogs are not common but if it happens we need an exit plan and way to make that work. A dual clip harness with a front and back clip is a great adolescent tool to help an over excited dog move backwards when they really want to rush forward to greet the newcomer. Our sort term plans need to include what we will do to manage the environment while we are in the training process.

And the last thing we need to consider in short term goals is how we communicate with our dogs and how they communicate with us. Our short term plans need to have a clear vision of how we will communicate our wants to our dog in a way that they will understand. Often humans prefer verbal cues and dogs learn quicker with visual cues so we need to look at ways to blend the two different methods in a way that allows us to communicate. This will help us develop clear communication that we need to practice in multiple environments before the behavior is fully learned. Check out this post on Generalizing Cues for more info about creating clear cues that work work in multiple environments.

Then finally we take these aspects of what we want our short term plan to look like and write them up in SMART Goal format so that we will know exactly what we doing for the next 3/6 months. This is what my January Special is all about! I have some free resources on this site. I have some free resources available for those who feel confident in doing their own planning here: 
But if you are not confident in setting up your own training plan or feeling overwhelmed with the idea, I can help by walking through it with you using my January Planning for Success Package. Reach out to me at for help determining if this package is right for your.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Positively Puppy Class


AT THE MAXX Entertainment Center 
Mondays at 6:00 PM
Beginning January 24th

The Positively Puppy Class has been created using force free training methods and creating a games based approach to teaching concepts based on teamwork.
Topics Include:
Developmental Stages
Safe Socialization
Enrichment Activities
Creating Leash Skills
Establishing Routines
& Good Behaviors

This class is now in Wait-list Status so please fill out the form if you are interested in class and you will be notified on January 19th if there are any spots available. 

You will receive an email within 48 hours of completing this form.
Payment will be do by January 21st via cash or PayPal.
Contact Penny at for assistance.

View a PDF version of the Dog Training Waiver.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Smart Plans

 Smart Plans start with SMART Goals

First, what is a S.M.A.R.T Goal

This means that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Goals that meet this criteria will keep you on track to success while stretching your skills as a trainer and your dog's skills to thrive in your world.

  • Specific: Simply states the end goal behavior that you want your dog to be able to do.
  • Measurable: Should be something that you can clearly see happening.
  • Achievable: Should be within your dog's natural abilities without asking them to do the impossible.
  • Relevant: Something that will effect your ability to function in your everyday life more effectively as a team.
  • Time bound: Realistic amount of time you expect to need to achieve your goal.

Specific Goals

It can be hard to figure out what is "specific" and what is more "open-ended" when it comes to goals in dog training because this might vary depending on the skill you are working on. For example, much of last year was working on Azul's leash manners in various environments which is can be OK if you are looking at a long term goal that you know is going to take a year or longer to achieve. But if you want to break it down into a 3 or 6 month training plan, that is too broad or open-ended to help you achieve your goals. If the longer term plan is improved leash skills, the shorter term plan might include goals that started like this:
  1. Reinforce heel position in off leash games...
  2. Reduce pulling on the leash by...
  3. Encourage more frequent check-ins by...
The first part of any goal in training plan needs to state the exact behavior you want repeated or want to disappear. This can include the behaviors that we will reinforce to teach our dog to repeat them such as walking nicely near our side, laying comfortably at our feet, sitting before crossing the road, etc. We can also include behaviors that we would like to stop in this part of the goal as long as we state how we are going to work on that in the goal. For example, we might have a goal that states, " Reduce countersurfing by using good management while we work through the attached shaping plan..." Starting the goal out with a specific behavior that you or your dog will be practicing is the best way to determine what comes next in the goal.

Measurable Goals

When we think of measurable in dog training, we commonly think of the "3 D's" of Distance, Duration & Distraction which are all excellent ways to measure goals. If we are working on a down/stay, we might start with a goal of being able to back away a certain distance which is measurable in feet. Then we might tweak the goal to build up the time in seconds, then minutes. And lastly we begin to build up distractions with minor distractions that slowly build in intensity. We can use any form of measurement in this part of the goal. Distance might include steps, inches/feet, car length, cones spaced at desired distance, etc. Duration might include time spent doing the behavior, but it could also include time spent interacting with us doing multiple behaviors, such as playing my favorite Positions Game. Environmental distractions are generally thought of things in the environment that impact the dog's senses; something the dog smells, hears, sees, feels, or tastes. Using the goals started above, we may add measurement to them like this:

  1. Reinforce heel position in off leash games by playing the Positions Game 5 minutes a day...
  2. Reduce pulling on the leash by using the U-Turn pattern on daily walks every day...(this goal would be more for the owner to form good habits but also works on pattern memory for dogs too.)
  3. Encourage more frequent check-ins by playing The Name Game in minor distraction environments...
We can use any form of measurement that makes sense to us when determining this goal. The idea behind using a measurement is so that we have a clear idea of when we accomplish the goal. If we simply state, "improve the dog's ability to heel in distracting environments," we have no starting or ending point to this goal and therefore we can't be sure when we accomplish the goal. We all know that as humans we struggle to remember what we did 5 min ago, yesterday or last week. So we can't expect ourselves to remember that our dog could only hold a 10 sec stay a few months ago and now they can hold a 3 min stay. Unfortunately we are more likely to remember that they held a 5 min stay last week, but now they are struggling with 2 min. If we include the measurement in the goal, we can easily check the box off that we accomplished this goal and decide whether to increase the measurement for the next training plan or hold at the measure we are currently achieving to build up more history for that behavior.

Achievable Goals

Goals need to be something that is realistic for your dog and for your timeline. While all dogs have a pretty good sniffer, you wouldn't want to build a goal around teaching your dog to do medical alerts in a short period of time if you haven't been doing any type of scent games to help them get used to controlling their nose. You also wouldn't want to build a goal around teaching your dog to recall to you around distractions if you haven't yet built up the value of proximity. Advanced behaviors take time to develop into reality, sometimes months or years. There are some dogs that simply can't do some skills! You wouldn't train an Aussie to pull a sled like a Husky unless you planned to keep it very lightweight, doing it more for fun than function. When building your goals, it's important to consider your dog's physical abilities, emotional needs, the environment that skill will be used in, and other bigger picture needs. If you are unsure if the goal you have in mind is realistic and achievable for your team, contact a Canine Coach for help!

Relevant Goals

This is probably the #1 problem I see with dog owners who love training simply to train. I loving refer to many of my Canine Coach partners as Dog Nerds or people who love dog training in general. But you don't have to be a professional to enjoy the activity of dog training. We know that training can lead to an increase in the human-animal bond and cause both parties to feel joy. And all training should increase your bond with your dog! However, we need to be careful that we are not setting goals for our team that are not relevant to our team bigger picture. For example, I love Dog Agility as a sport and enjoy watching competitions. As an inexperienced owner playing with training, I'd set up mini agility courses in my backyard. But realistically, my dogs and I will never step into an agility ring so doing K9 Parkour is a much better fit for us. We can still practice the parts of agility that are relevant to our day to day lives exploring the woods and having adventures in nature; climbing on objects, jumping over items, learning foot placement and cues that help us work together better, etc. 

It's important to consider the overall goals of your life with your dog so that you set goals that will actually benefit your lifestyle. Avoid goals that will not impact your day-to-day so you don't allow frustration to set into your team trying to train things that are not relevant to your lifestyle.

Time bound 

Having goals that can be achieved within a certain timeline is the last step of setting your SMART Goals. While this somewhat has to do with being realistic and not setting goals that are not achievable within your training planning, the bigger picture is setting goals in small enough pieces that you can achieve the goal in the 3/6 month training plan you are building. Looking back at our 3 original goals, they may end like this:

  1. Reinforce heel position in off leash games by playing the Positions Game 5 minutes a day, building toward being able to heel together for 10 feet in medium distraction environments over the next 3 months.
  2. Reduce pulling on the leash by using the U-Turn pattern on daily walks every day, beginning in very low distraction environments to make this pattern become habit for both handler and dog before we begin the next training plan.
  3. Encourage more frequent check-ins by playing The Name Game in minor distraction environments by setting up a distance where we can be successful building toward being able to get automatic check-ins during the course of day-to-day activities by the end of this training plan.
Stay tuned for "What Happens if You Meet Your Goal Early!" "What Happens if you Don't Meet Your Goal!" and knowing when you need a "Short Term Goal vs Long Term Goal!"

The NEW Rockstar Azul Fan Club!


Announcing the Rockstar Azul Fan Club!

This will be an email list based blog for our friends and fellow dog training nerds that want to be involved in the inner circle of activities. This will be a private club for our friends and family who want to join the email list. I plan to write 1-3 emails or posts a month on a wide variety of topics.

If you'd like to join the Rockstar Azul Fan Club, please fill out this form.

Thank you for always supporting Team Azul, Yooper Paws and all our adventures!

Working Paws Comment

  Message Received from Group Member The Working Paws group is open to anyone training their dog with some more advanced skills typically fo...