Monday, March 20, 2023

Conversations with Your Dog 3


Simple Connection Based Conversations With Your Dog

This is #3 in the series, "Conversations with Your Dog!" and where we take a moment to look at conversations we might have with our dogs during training sessions and in day to day activities with our dogs.

Take a look at Azul in this picture. What might he be saying in this moment? 

To me, he's saying, "What's Next?" or "What would you like me to do now?" Let me set the scene a bit for you. Azul and I are in the Paws & Relax Room at the Yooper Paws Training Center and he's been playing some Find It games with treats scattered in places around the room. The last treat he found was on the couch. Now over the last month we've been doing down/stays on this bed while other dogs were working in the training room and Azul and I were practicing our hold and release cues. So while I didn't ask Azul to stay on the bed, he is pausing to wait to for a release cue or prompt to do what's next. In this particular instance, I choose to ask him to continue the hold so I could get a picture then I released him to continue on his search for hidden treasures.
So what does this have to do with conversations? To me it demonstrates that conversations need to be 2 way communication between all involved. The more people and/or dogs we add to the conversation, the more challenging it can be to stay focused or on topic. The more rapidly the topics change, the harder it is for anyone to follow, especially those who might be new to the group and do not have a previous background history with the conversation in hand. Putting this in a Canine Coach perspective, I might be able to have one conversation about training methods to my fellow dog training nerds, but often need to slow the conversation down for dog owners who haven't heard or read all the previous nerdy science talk that has been going on over the last few years. Similar to a mother might have one conversation with a teenager, then break it down in smaller chunks with easier to understand words for a younger child. It seems to come naturally to us humans to break things down for younger people, yet we often forget to do that with our dogs.

Communication that goes both ways.

Humans tend to communicate with their mouth and sometimes their hands that might be moving about wildly. Dogs tend to communicate with body language and the emotional connections we've previously discussed. This can lead to gaps in understanding the conversation unless we are both speaking very clearly in an attempt to help the other person understand. 

I've been told multiple times in life that I'm good at figuring out a way to help people relate to or understand whatever the topic might be. I suppose that is part of the reason I'm good at what I do to help build up human/dog teams. Some of us might find this type of communication easy or natural to do, while others might really struggle with 2 way communication.

The goal in training sessions and day-to-day life with our dogs is to keep the communication lines open and flowing in ways that are working for all individuals involved. That means verbally, with body movements, and emotionally so that everyone in the room can keep up. That also means listening with our ears, watching with our eyes, and being emotionally available to feel the input that is being given. 

As humans we like to talk to our dogs verbally, but we often do not like it when our dogs talk back! So if we don't like them to communicate verbally, how will we then know what they are trying to tell us? Simple answer; body language and behaviors. Without giving the dog a chance to participate in the conversation, we can't know if what we are saying is making sense. That is one of the major differences between "old school" dog training where a dog was expected to listen no matter what the human was saying even if it was something the dog did not want to do. Thankfully we are now using much more kind and gentle ways of asking dogs to consent to the things we need them to do and reinforcing the behaviors we want them to repeat so we see those behaviors more often. Sure there might be times that I need my dog to do something because it's going to be mutually beneficial to the big picture, but I never want to force my dog to do something they are not comfortable doing. This means that I need to listen to my dog and sometimes adjust what I'm asking them to do or how I'm communicating my desires more clearly or the reinforcement I'm willing to offer for the behavior I'm asking for in the moment I'm asking.

Going back up to the picture of Azul on the bed, he's asking "What's next?" because I haven't given clear communication on what I want him to do next. I was able to reply with the cue to Find It so he could continue his treasure hunt. But how did I know that he needed more clarity? He put his paws on the edge of the bed which is the communication I've taught him to show me when he needs something. Most generally the paw on furniture or my leg means he either wants to go outside or he wants to go lay in bed for some belly rubs but it always means he has a need and if I follow him, Azul will show me what that need is. In this moment his need was simply to know if he should stay or he should go. This would not have made sense to me if I had not been a part of our previous conversations.

If you'd like help with determining what your dog's behavior is telling you,
I offer a virtual Behaviors Package that includes 3 zoom sessions to discuss behavior 
and create a plan to modify the behavior in necessary.

Putting Clarity in Conversations

While we might be more familiar with using verbal cues, our dogs are generally better at learning physical cues. This doesn't necessarily mean we need to switch all training to hand signals. However if confusion is slipping into the conversation, we want to look at how we can be a bit more clear and often that involves body language. That is one of the many reasons that I teach all my clients how to do use simple hand targets with their dog! Once our dog learns the desired outcome is their nose touching our hand and/or their eyes following our hand, we open the world to an almost endless supply of ways we can communicate with each other. Hand targets, although easy to learn, are not natural to both dog or human which often means that we can develop them to mean anything we want them to mean. Sometimes we develop body language and hand signals based on what we've observed others doing. Let's face it we all learn what the middle finger means at a pretty young age! But since hand targets are fairly new in dog training for most owners, they find it easy to find specific ways that work best for them without looking at what everyone else in the world is doing.

Humans who find verbal communication to be easy, often will build in confusion by using too many words, saying those words too often, or thinking the dog understands the word before the behavior and therefore uses the word too early in the training. Yes, I speak in sentences to my dog! But I also understand that he is only understanding the key words in that sentence that I've previously taught him. Still, I use sentences because that can help convey the emotions and/or intensity that I want to add in that moment. Having long conversations with your dog should be more about that emotional connection and less about the words you use. When you're trying to give your dog a verbal cue to a behavior that you would like them to do, then short and clear communication based on prior training is best.

The most challenging part of using clear communication is teaching the cue words in association to the behavior we are after, then not using that cue excessively. You may have heard the "name it when you love it" saying in training sessions. This basically means that instead of starting to train with a verbal cue and then luring the desired behavior, we should get the behavior first then use the cue. If you are teaching sit, you shouldn't use the cue "sit" until you can get your dog to sit 3 or more times with either luring or hand signals. And then you only start sliding the cue word in here and there after the behavior is already done. When you are seeing signs that your dog is easily doing the behavior and perhaps understanding the cue, you start backing up your timing so instead of saying the cue after the behavior you are slowly working toward being able to say the cue before the behavior to get results. You'll notice that first class or session with your dog, I barely say anything other than your dog's name and yet I manage to get all kinds of behaviors. That's because I've had thousands of hours of practice fine tuning my body language to convey my message to your dog! I've learned to communicate in their natural ways. Then I will teach you how to communicate better with your dog and teach your dog how to communicate better with you. WIN-WIN!

Check out this video of Maverick and Azul playing with stations. The only words I used in this whole session were simple words like paws up, stay/wait, and come. I've previously taught both dogs the simple words I used and then I used body language to convey the words I didn't want to use.

This video is a great example of Shaping Games which is a training technique that involves very little communication with your dog, simply observing and waiting for them to do even the smallest bit of behavior that you want to capture with reinforcement. In the video I'm inviting Mav to touch the step because I'm holding the reinforcement he wants in a way that he needs to step on the step in order to reach the treat. So yes, I'm combining luring with shaping in a way to make it super simple for Maverick to understand. Then we are taking baby steps in trying to get not just one but all four feet on the box, then turn on the box, hold position, and step from box to box. Shaping involves baby steps and can be used to teach almost any behavior you want your dog to learn.

For more on shaping, check out these posts:
Check out my Shaping Plan Template for some simple shaping exercises you can do including teaching hand targets.

More in the series "Conversations With Your Dog!" will be coming soon! Next up: Building a Conversation History.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Conversations with Your Dog 2

Having conversations that are enjoyed by everyone!

Conversations with our dogs can be verbal, physical, and/or emotional depending on everything else that is going on in life. As humans, we tend to focus more on verbal communication which is generally easy to understand unless there is a language barrier or a hearing issue. Dogs tend to focus more on emotional conversations or connections with those they love. And then we both tend to meet in the middle with more physical conversations. 

Physical conversations have a wide range of possibilities from gentle & kind force free touches all the way to down right abusive, violent & unethical touching. This seems to be where most trainers like to hang out because it is the easiest form of communication to teach to other humans. Old school trainers often teach their students how be more assertive, using hands on techniques that often involve pain to force the dog to stop doing behaviors that the owner doesn't like. Balanced trainers often use a mix of rewards to teach the behaviors they want to see repeated but also use physical actions such as leash corrections or using body pressure to tell a dog what not to do. Force Free trainers, like myself, use a different type of physical conversation that tells the dog what we want them to do in a specific moment such as hand signals, hand targets, and practiced body positioning.

Since this started in February, the month dealing with Emotions and Behaviors, let's look more at the Emotional Conversations with our dogs.

Understanding Emotional Conversations

Whether it's been with another human or other animal, most of us have had that moment of emotional connection where a simple glance possibly accompanied by a facial expression lets someone know how we are feeling. Perhaps we are sitting in a work meeting and the person talking is going on & on & on. Yet we know our stomach is growling and we are losing focus so we glance at one our friends in the room and almost instantly they return the glance in way that says, "Let's get lunch as soon as they shut up!" Perhaps the conversation was with an animal that approached us and climbed into our lap on a day we didn't feel so great and not long after the animal was sleeping peacefully and we were beginning to feel better. Those are emotional conversations that might also have included verbal or physical communication, but the emotional part was much stronger than any words or actions can convey.

Most dogs understand emotional conversations more easily then verbal or physical conversations. Some might argue with me on that in saying that dogs are often excellent at reading body language. But I would counter with is the physical body positioning or the emotions that are driving the physical body positioning. Honestly both might be part of the training conversation equation. However humans often understand the physical connections much better without needing me to explain them, yet struggle with the emotional connection so I try to be more helpful in explaining the emotions.

How Emotional Conversations Impact Training

One of the first things I like to start every training session with is the Emotional Conversation about "Feeling Safe, Calm, & Happy!" This is critical need to having a successful training session because dogs (and people) simply can't learn as easily if they do not feel safe, calm & happy. How long this conversation is depends on prior experiences between the parties involved. 

Dr. Holly Tett, owner of Paws of Dog Training uses a Training Triangle which is basically a way to envision the relationship between the dog trainer or Canine Coach (my preferred title for what I do), the dog owner, and the dog. When successful this becomes a place where lines of communication are open from trainer to both owner and dog, from owner to both trainer and dog, & from dog to both owner and trainer. Each part of the triangle can communicate individually with the other parts, yet also together with all the parts at once.

As a Canine Coach, my goal is never start a training session until everyone in that session feels safe, calm, and happy. To some dog owners, this might seem like a pipe dream as they say their dog is never calm or their dog never feels safe away from home, or other issue. As a Canine Coach, it's my job to set up the environment and training session in a way that helps both owner and dog feel safe, calm, and happy and give them enough time to settle into the environment and at least begin to relax.

Most commonly this is a struggle with dogs that have large emotions that have been ignored repeatedly simply because the owner and dog were speaking 2 different languages and therefore struggling to communicate effectively. Sometimes these dogs get label as "reactive" or "aggressive" which are 2 separate categories to dog professionals but often lumped together for most dog owners. These dogs Do Not feel SAFE and until we get them to a point that do feel safe, we can't begin to adjust their behavior. If this sounds familiar, check out my upcoming workshop on "Helping the Fearful Dog Feel Safe!"

And the second most common struggle with dog owners is that the dog simply can't calm down. Many owners are surprised to learn that this often stems from the inability to feel safe. There are also "super athlete" dogs out there that tend to need more exercise then the average dog, thus struggle to settle down after exercise or excitement. You can read more about the Super Athlete here. Dogs often have varying levels of anxiety that lead to the inability to calm down and those are often the cases where owners seek the help of a Canine Coach.

Once we have the Training Triangle all feeling Safe, Calm & Happy we can continue on to the actual conversation which should be educational to all points of the triangle. 

Conversations in Training

As a Canine Coach in a training session I'm searching for bits of the conversation that show me how the other points (owner & dog) like to receive communication from me. 

Humans communicate verbally and so the conversation often begins before the training session in email, text or a phone call. Humans also communicate emotionally so if I see the dog owner is struggling with a bad day, getting confused by what I'm trying to communicate, or simply feeling overwhelmed, it's my job to change not my message but how I communicate that message.  

Dogs communicate more emotionally, through a connection, which leads to the behaviors they are offering and/or able to do in that moment. Where humans tend live in the past and/or future, dogs really stay in the moment much more easily. If they are struggling in the moment, it's my job as Canine Coach to communicate in clear way that helps the dog understand what I'd like them to do in that moment. If they are still struggling then it is up to me to change something in the environment, often reducing distractions or moving further away from distractions. And on the rare occasion that I can't achieve an emotional connection to hold a conversation with the dog, it's time to reschedule the session to set up another day with changes that will make success even easier for the dog. 

So many times, I hear..."My dog does it for for you (the dog trainer) but won't do it for me at home!" This is often due to the way I control distractions around the training sessions but it often can happen when either the owner or the dog struggled with communication during the session. I generally don't see the dogs between sessions, but I can communicate verbally with dog owners between sessions which I prefer do via text in most situations or will ask an owner for a Zoom meeting or phone call if it needs to be a longer conversation. Free text support is included in all my 6 session packages, online classes, and Service Dog Mentoring packages and a provide a discount on additional zoom or phone calls between sessions to make it affordable to dog owners to get the help they need. 

In addition to this support, I often encourage dog owners to join one of my FB groups that matches what we are working on. This opens up the lines of communication with other Canine Coaches and other dog owners who are working on the same goals. These groups become a place where each individual gets out of the group what they give. If you never post in the group or interact with the group, you won't find it beneficial. But if you post questions, frustrations, and even positive achievement posts, you will gain a feeling of support and connection with other dog owners. As people we need social acceptance, especially if we are struggling with something that we love. 

My clients all love their dogs! We may not always love the behaviors we see from our dogs, but we never stop loving the dog! This is why I love my job as Canine Coach, by helping owners understand their dog, provide for the emotional needs of their dog, and adjust the behaviors the owner doesn't love, I get to see dogs and owners grow as a team and become the best they can be together. There is a sign at the Training Center that says "This is my HAPPY Place!" which is how I feel each and every time I see owner and dog grow as a team.

And continuing on with the Training Triangle, it's important that both owner and dog love their trainer or Canine Coach! The owner must feel safe to communicate their needs which are often extremely personal and sometimes takes personal strength on the owner's part to admit they don't know something or don't understand something. Often it's said that the dog loves the training session because they love all the treats! For me, it's important that dogs love more then just the treats and are gaining other reinforcers besides simply filling their belly. Dogs should walk out of a training session feeling like they are "King of the World!", they did a good job, and they had fun. If the human or the dog are not loving their training sessions then it's time to either have a very personal conversation with the trainer to see if there are ways to make it better or it's time to find a new trainer that aligns more with what you want for your team as dog owner & dog.

Next up on "Conversations with Your Dog!" is going to be 1-on-1 conversations that all owners can have with their dogs no matter what your end training goals are.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Helping Distracted & Fearful Dogs

March Weekend Workshop Replays!

As part of our March Madness: Focus Around Distractions Theme Yooper Paws of Love hosted 2 Workshops to help local and virtual clients by providing the tools to help dog owners better support their dogs. You can register for those workshops on this post. Once you register you will receive payment info and a link to view the Workshop you have registered for.

Helping the Distracted Dog!

This one hour workshop is designed to help dog owners learn skills to help their dog become successful in distracted environments. 

Cost $10 per person!
FREE for current Yooper Paws Clients!

Topics include: 
  • Using distance away from the distraction successfully.
  • How to start training with distractions that can be controlled.
  • How to support your dog around unexpected distractions.
  • Determining when to train around a distraction vs use your exit strategy.
This workshop is designed to give you the skills to start your training journey around distractions with the aid of a skilled Canine Coach. 

Dogs who are overly reactive are experiencing HUGE emotions! In this workshop you will learn about helping your dog feel safe, calm & happy using connection based methods. When we develop connection based training with our dogs, we move away from corrective based techniques that were taught decades ago to new science based methods that show a dog what we want them to do.  This is the first step in helping your dog learn to be successful around distractions.

If you are a current Yooper Paws Client or working with a Crazy2Calm Canine Coach, you can receive this workshop for free by placing the name of the group you are with in the registration form!

Helping Fearful Dogs Feel Safe!

Cost $20 per person!
Only $15 for current Yooper Paws Clients!

As dog owners, we often are surprised or caught off balance if/when our dogs start over reacting to changes in the environment. Perhaps it's a car pulling in the driveway, seeing people or other dogs, or hearing sounds such as gun shots but most dogs are fearful of something. When that fear is based on something easily controlled, such as Azul's fear of balloon animals, we can manage the situation quite easily by avoiding the triggering object. But when those fears are based on uncontrollable objects such as other people walking their dogs down the trail or thunder booming in the sky, we need to take a different approach to helping our dogs feel safe. The bottom line is fearful dogs are more prone to barking, lunging, and even biting others. The best way to improve their manners is to help them feel safe. Once they feel safe we can begin training to help them fit better in the family. If you want to learn how to help your fearful dog, this is a great starting place!

Yooper Paws Clients that are currently in a 6 session package or the Service Dog Mentor Program can receive this Workshop at a 25% discount making it only $15 for nearly 2 hours of info!

Register for either of these Weekend Workshops here:

You will receive an email with the links to the Workshops you've selected withing 24 hrs of submitting this form.

If you need assistance with paying this fee please contact us via email at

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Private Sessions

I've been fielding lots of questions about what I offer in Private or 1-on-1 Sessions. So I thought I'd write just a bit about what I do with a client. First a bit about me.

Private Sessions with a Trainer

Canine Coach Penny Beeman is a Certified Behavior Consultant that can work with you and your dog to tackle most behavior issues. Penny has extensive history dealing with over-reactive dogs and can help you understand the emotions behind your dog's behavior, learn about the reinforcement the dog is gaining from the behavior, and work on creating a starting plan to help desensitize your dog to the trigger that makes them over-react. 

Penny is also a Service Dog Handler and mentors other Service Dog Teams. The Training Center is set up to be handicapped accessible and provides a place where you can learn to navigate many of life's challenges with your Service Dog in Training. We will work to understand your disability and your needs to help you develop the skills you need to gain independence with the help of your Service Dog. Yooper Paws of Love does not "Certify" Service Dogs. Please refer to our SD Tips page for more assistance on Service Dog specific assistance.

Owners and Dogs who might want a private session plan vs a class plan.

There are several reasons an owner might want private sessions. Perhaps either the owner or dog doesn't do well around other people or dogs. Perhaps the owner has something special they want to work on. Perhaps the dog has extreme emotional reactions to seeing other dogs. The reasons for an owner thinking private sessions are unlimited, so it would be impossible to list them all. But most generally, private sessions offer a safe place to work on the special needs of the owner and/or the dog.
  • I commonly work with over reactive dogs that have demonstrated fear or fight responses to other dogs.
  • I commonly work with Working Dogs that have special skills or needs for working as a Therapy Dog or Service Dog.
  • I commonly work with dogs that have experienced some type of trauma in life and need just a bit of help recovering from that issue.
All dogs are unique individuals and therefore some excel and thrive in group classes while others don't. If a class of 4-8 other dog teams is too much for you or your dog consider scheduling an appointment for your Full Behavior Evaluation.

What happens at the Behavior Evaluation Session

Mainly I talk with the owner(s) and ask them to do a variety of things with their dog depending on what they are asking me to help with. Some things I might witness as the dog arrives to the Training Center or as I arrive to the dog's home. Things like over excitement, barking, lunging and fear reactions tend to happen naturally in these moments. If these are concerns to the owner, I might ask them to start with having their dog in another room when I arrive or leaving them in the car while we chat a few minutes.

Once both owner and I are ready for the dog to meet, a greeting will take place based on that dog's needs. If the dog is over -excited and friendly, I might instruct the owner to just let them out so the dog can do what it naturally does. If the dog is fearful, I might ask the owner to bring the dog out on a leash and stop and chill awhile on the other side of the room while we get to know each other a bit more.

Since most owners that contact me will list leash manners as one of the things they want to work on and going for a walk is often settling for a dog, we might take a short walk. Some dogs prefer to meet in a backyard while they are playing so I might play with the dog. 

The bottom line is during this first Eval Session I'm going to be watching the dog and the owner as to how they interact with each and how the dog interacts with me, the newcomer. From there the owner and I will work together to create a plan for training. We may use one of the training templates I have already prepared or I may create an individualized plan for that family. Most generally it's a mix of both an individual training plan with the support of worksheets and shaping plans that have already been developed to help. Once the plan is figured out, we will decide how often to meet for the Private Training Sessions.

What happens during a Private Training Session

Generally we play...owner with their dog and me either with their dog or using Azul to demo what I want them to do. While we might play a bit of tug or fetch to help your dog calm down, we will mostly be playing games specially designed to teach the dog the concepts they need or repeat the behaviors the owner wants the dog to do.  Here is an example of the proximity game that I teach most dogs that I work with.

In this video we are teaching my 7 yr granddaughter how to play with Finnegan, a 5 month old puppy that can easily get over-excited. I always welcome the kids in the family to get involved in the dog training as long as the parent is there to supervise. This game is designed to teach the dog the early concept of recall without using any cues, but heavily reinforcing the concept of coming back to the person they are playing with. To dogs, life is a game and we can teach them things much quicker if we turn it into a game.

Most dog owners who contact me have a list of things they want to work on. So we generally start with the owner playing a game that previously taught so I can see how they are doing with that game. I might offer some helpful suggestions to make the game slightly better or make it slightly harder for the dog so we can bump training up to the next level. We then might do that same training around some real life situations such as when there is another dog on the other side of the street or working in the Training Center. 

If your dog needs to practice around other dogs, we will first get them used to focusing on their owner when Azul is around. We will do this using distance, whether that means we need to be a football field away or in different rooms in the Training Center. Once the dog is comfortable around Azul we will start asking other clients to join in a few sessions. This might be clients who are working on the same goals or clients that have safe, confident dogs that are eager to help. When more than one client is working on the same issues, we will typically transition from private, 1-on-1 sessions into mini-group sessions.

I offer private sessions for $50 per session or in a bundle of 6 sessions for $200. Bundles are generally meant to be used with a session every 2 weeks, but you do not have to use them within a certain time frame. Some clients are happy by the 4th session with the progress they've made and work on their own for a bit before finishing up the last 2 sessions. Or sometimes those final few sessions are transferred to a mini-group plan. Mini-groups of 2 or more clients are $25 per session. Mini-groups are only available to clients who have recently completed a class or are currently in some type of training package.

What are some of our Specialties

Canine Coach and Behavior Consultant, Penny Beeman, specializes in helping owners understand the behaviors the dog is doing and the emotions, needs and reinforcement that is impacting that behavior. When we understand what is driving the behavior, what is need is being met by that behavior, and what is reinforcing the behavior we can then make a plan to modify that behavior to meet everyone's needs. 

Penny also specializes in setting up ACE (Animal Centered Education) Freework environments to watch the dog explore a safe space to help owners learn more about their dog. This can be used to help dogs who are over-excited learn to calm down. ACE Freework also allows us to see health related things that might be missed otherwise such as the dog struggles lowering their head to the floor or raising 1 paw as high as they can raise the other. Enrichment items to lick, sniff, chew, and shred can be made available in our Rest and Relax Room which can be a great start or end to your private session.

Canine Coach, Faith Weber, specializes in helping dogs learn to share space safely. The Training Facility is set up to support allowing dogs to greet safely for the first time using distance and management to provide safety. Faith is skilled in reading Canine Body Language for various breeds and can help you learn to read your dog better.

All of our Canine Coaches are trained to read canine body language and look for the finer details that might be missed in what your dog is trying to communicate to you.

We plan to offer some assistance with Cooperative Care in the near future to help your dog get used to routine care they might receive at the Vet's or Groomers. This can help your dog have Fear Free visits to these often traumatizing locations.

Please reach out the Yooper Paws of Love if you have any questions about the things we can address during a Private Session. Contact us at

Conversations with Your Dog 3

  Simple Connection Based Conversations With Your Dog This is #3 in the series, "Conversations with Your Dog!" and where we take a...