Friday, June 3, 2022

The NOSE knows How to Relax!

 The NOSE Knows How to Relax

As a working dog, Azul has some very busy days and needs time to relax.  This picture was taken on a particularly busy day.  Often we spend time sniffing this green space while we wait for my son, but on this day Azul sniffed and added to the p-mail on a few trees and promptly chose a shady spot to relax.  While this was a pretty busy day, nothing we did was exercise or anything that would tire Azul out physically.  Mental activity and extra focus on his Service Dog duties is where most of his energy was spent.

Now you may be thinking that Azul is not sniffing in this picture so what does it have to do with sniffing?

While Azul's body is resting, his nose is still going like crazy most likely sniffing where the bunnies gathered earlier that day.  He's also watching several birds fly from tree to tree nearby and occasionally picks his head up to sniff the air when a person exits a nearby door.  On a typical sniff-a-bout day Azul would be rushing to check out the birds, greet the people and so forth.  Often on busy days we stay in the car while we wait.  But this day, Azul asked to go out in the grass where he could relax and still sniff the environment and the things moving around him.  You see Azul has learned very well how sniffing helps him to relax while taking in environmental changes.  

Azul has taken at least one meandering type sniff-a-bout every day of his life since he came into our family as a young puppy.  A sniff-a-bout is walk where we basically wander together going wherever Azul's nose takes us at the speed he takes.  Some days I have to ask him to slow down so I can keep up but I rarely have to speed him up.  Depending on the activity and stressors of the day, we might travel up to 1/2 a mile during the sniff-a-bout or as little as 30-40 feet.

If I had to give the single most important activity I do with my dogs, that would be the sniff-a-bout!  This activity allows me to determine what my dogs need most in that moment.  Maybe they simply need to go potty.  Perhaps some wildlife walked through our property in the wee hours of the morning and the boys have been waiting all day to go get a closer sniff.  Sometimes hunting squirrels or moles is the most important activity of the day.  Sometimes these activities are driven by something exciting in the environment.  But more often these activities are driven by the actual needs of the dog in that moment.  

Cam, my older dog with anxiety tends to need to Go, Go, Go, far and fast when he's had a stressful day.  Since he is off leash trained and sticks to our property Cam tends more to Zoom circles around Azul and I because staying in one place too long does not help him get rid of the extra anxiety he's been storing up.

Azul on the hand is my explorer who likes to sniff every single blade of grass, the full circle of every tree trunk, along the base of every barn on our property, and so forth.  He only picks up speed when he's on the hunt of something really good or he thinks Cam has something wonderful to sniff.  However if I take Azul on an exercise based walk on a local trail or play a game that involves speed, he is ready to GO!  The days where we have less activity Azul likes to draw out the sniff-abouts as long as he possibly can.  The days where something exciting or stressful has happened, he will ask to go on another sniff-a-bout by hanging out by the back door.  (We leave by the front door when we are going to work or run errands, but use the backdoor for sniff-a-bouts.)

Yesterday was another really busy day starting at 6am and not ending until close to 11pm.  We started with a sniff at the empty dog park at 6am which is one of Azul's favorite activities.  This was followed by a 1 mile trail hike.  Once back home Azul went to sleep for about an hour until I left home without him.  During these times Azul tends to beg Dad for everything which included 2nd breakfast, Find It Games, another sniff-a-bout and lots of belly rubs.  When I returned home I had several Zoom appointments where Azul laid at my feet sleeping in his typical fashion.  Then it was a few quick errands and picking up my son.  And last but not least we had some parkour fun where Azul met a new fur friend and worked on the mini-obstacle course followed by another 1 mile trail hike.  By the time we got home, Azul and dinner and headed to bed.  Unfortunately I had still had more Zoom meetings, but this time Azul did not lay by my feet like normal as he never left his bed.

After that busy day, we spent today resting!  Azul slept all night and most of the morning when I finally begged him to go outside to sniff about noon.  Azul watched some squirrels play while Cam chased a few balls, then we started our sniff-about.  Today's sniff-a-bout took us about 100 feet away from our back door to a tree that is falling over from a windstorm.  This tree is nothing new, Azul has seen it a million times.  But today I swear, Azul sniffed each and every leaf and probably multiple times.  He never acted as if he smelled something amazing that locked him in and he couldn't leave.  Azul simply wandered back and forth from trunk to tree top.  

You can see in this video what Azul's sniff-about looks like.  While the video is only a little more then a minute, Azul did this exact same thing for roughly 15 minutes.  So what does that tell me about Azul's mood for the day?  Well, he was still tired since we didn't venture too far from the backdoor.  He wanted to take advantage of the free time so he kept moving even if it was back and forth which is rare for him.  His nose never stopped moving for more then 1-2 seconds which tells me the smells were not amazing, but good enough for him to be content.  

You may here traffic noise in the video, which is why Azul is wearing his harness and longline. (Our safety gear for all sniff-a-bouts!)  While my goal is to remain as quiet as possible on sniff-a-bouts, I still give the occasional direction such as go around or fix it if the longline gets tangled.  If he moves toward a boundary line, I'll cue him to stop and move back towards me.  When Azul is hunting something, he often does not hear these directional cues, but when he is sniffing to process the environment or relax in the environment he follows the guidance really well.  

By silent observations on sniff-a-bouts I can tell what is going on with my dogs both physically and emotionally.  I then can better provide the things they need to balance out their day.  My dogs work hard taking care of me.  The least I can do is spend 15-30 minutes a day helping them to take care of their needs.  Here is another part of our 15 min sniff-a-bout around and under this tree.

Directions on how to learn to do a relaxed sniff-about will be coming soon in another blog.  I wanted to help you understand why I urge all of my clients to go on sniff-a-bouts as often as possible.  It's such a little act of kindness that we share the fluffy pups we share our lives with.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Listen up! Sometimes more training isn't what's needed

 This hit my inbox after a masterclass that I took with another Trainer.  But it was so good, that I reached out to Stephie to get permission to share her story!  This involves something that has been on my mind alot lately.  As Cam turns 9 yrs old in a few days, his body is starting to slow down and I'm watching him for signs of pain every day.  Most days, Cam is great but some days after a bit more activity then normal or after twisting the wrong way I can see subtle signs of pain.  Which is why I took this masterclass to begin with.  Thankfully the author of this email agreed to allow me to share her here it is!

You remember the bit in the masterclass where I talk about hidden pain? 

Two year old spaniel mix Henry and his guardian had been working with a behaviourist to try to resolve Henry's unpredictable reactivity to other dogs.

The techniques that his guardian had learnt were all kind and thoughtful, totally beautiful and exactly what we're looking for in modern dog training...but they'd got stuck.

They weren't making progress.

After seeing my different approach to working with dogs, his guardian sent me a message reaching out for help, and one sentence jumped out at me.

"Henry can walk by dogs have a quick sniff and move on but he always seems ready to react, very alert, stiff. On our particular walk this morning he greeted a few and we moved on but then approached a springer spaniel and he reacted."

Henry's guardian and I exchanged a few messages and she sent me some video of the interaction.

I could instantly see that Henry was behaving like this because he anticipated pain.

  • When other dogs stayed away from his rear end, he was able to meet, greet, and move on.
  • But the moment any dog went to sniff his butt - a very normal and polite way for a dog to meet and greet - Henry anticipated pain and tensed up - and that hurt.

We jumped on the phone and had a chat, and it became more and more obvious to me that Henry was struggling with undiagnosed chronic pain that he'd been hiding from everyone for a long time.

Following our discussions, his guardian felt able to take Henry to her vet and push for further investigations.

This is what they found:

"Hi Stephie, Henry’s ct scan report came back and I thought you’d like to know the result. He has two lesions in his spine, one at t11/12 and one at t13/l1. They are suspicious of disc extrusion and the recommendation has been to cage rest Henry for a month alongside anti-inflammatories. I’m still trying to get my head around this as his symptoms have been present for so long and try to understand how and why it happened. Waiting to hear back from his physio and set up a plan. Thanks "

If his guardian hadn't reached out, Henry would still be struggling with behaviour that was driven by the anticipation of pain. They would still be stuck.


If any of this resonates with you, if you're stuck with your training and aren't making progress, if your vet has said they can't find anything wrong...

  • keep an open mind
  • hop over to my calendar today and
  • grab the next available hidden pain assessment chat


❤️  Stephie

The Shouty-Barky Dog Lady™ 

June Theme of the Month


The NOSE Knows!

Dogs naturally know how to use their nose for things that come natural to dogs.  They figure out pretty quickly which scents are appealing to them, which scents mean danger, and definitely which scents come from desirable mates.  But with a bit of training we can teach them which scents are important to us and which scents they should ignore.  

Dogs easily learn that most people foods smell delicious without much training.  And if we completely ignored that, our dogs would gladly enjoy any people food they can reach.  Through training we can teach them that greater rewards are available when they control themselves and ignore people food.  My dogs don't raid the trash can because with reinforcement I've taught that the treats I give them from my hand is much greater then any treat they find on their own.

Dogs that work in scent related fields need to learn to ignore many people scents.  Service Dogs learn to ignore other people, focusing on their person.  Police dogs learn to ignore environmental smells like people, other pets, and various other common household scents and search for chemicals or scents such as drugs, bombs, even gun powder.  Dogs are being trained to detect new smells all the time!

The June Theme of the Month is going to be all about helping your dog develop their sense of smell in a way that is more rewarding for them and fits well within the people world we ask our dog to live in.  Posts will include these topics:
  • The nerdy side of how the dog's nose works.
  • The enrichment effects of nose work games.
  • The stress relieving side effects of sniffing.
  • Training the Service Dog nose.
I hope to bring a guest speaker or two in to talk about the NOSE via recorded Zoom Chats and I will be sharing some of my best The NOSE Knows Moments with the Yooper Paws Pack.  Be sure to subscribe to this blog (right hand column in the web version) to get the latest posts delivered to your email box.

MAYbe It's Time to Seek Help!

 MAYbe it's time to get help from a Dog Trainer or seek the advice from a Behavior Consultant?

But how do you know?  And how do you find one that can actually help you out?  

This is going to be the last of my MAYbe posts for this monthly series.  Like usual, I didn't get to all the blogs I wanted to write but I've tried to hit on the most important ones.  If you have a MAYbe type question feel free to reach out to me at for help.

How do you know that it's time to seek the help of a Dog Trainer or Behavior Consultant?

Here are a few common issues that frequently indicate that you might need some help from a dog professional:

  • Your dog has a habit that drives you crazy!  (This could be jumping, barking, nipping...anything really, but it's driving you crazy!)
  • Your dog has had a sudden personality change such as becoming fearful, more hyper, more tired, or not wanting to do previously loved activities.
  • Your dog seems to be needing something and you can't figure out what it is.  (This can often drive you crazy as they may seem to need more...exercise, food, etc.)
  • Your dog is hurting you or other people or themselves!  (Safety is always a huge concern.)
  • You wonder if your dog can learn to do a specific behavior but you don't know where to start.
There are many more reasons why you may want help from a dog professional, but if you as the dog owner or handler are getting frustrated, feeling overwhelmed or confused, or struggling to "find time" to train your dog, you probably need some help.

Do you need a Dog Trainer or Behavior Consult?

This is challenging because many times in the dog professional world, these to skills overlap.  So I thought I'd tell you a bit about the differences between the 2 professions.  

A Dog Trainer (DT) is going to help you learn training techniques, management skills, and general life skills that will improve your teamwork and family skills.  While a DT may rely on lots of basic training tips that work for most dogs, they should also be able to think out of the box to help you brain storm a training plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be.  This often makes a DT the first line of support when you start to see problems in your communication skills between you and your dog.

A Behavior Consultant has typically spent a great deal of time learning about WHY dogs do certain behaviors.  While a BC generally has the skills to help you figure out the best training technique to use to teach your dog specific behaviors, they are going to look at the bigger picture.  WHY is your dog digging holes in the yard?  WHY is your dog barking at every moving thing?  WHY is your dog chewing the furniture?  When it's important to look past that behavior that might be driving you crazy to find a way to help you and your dog be more of a team, you may want a BC.  

Your dog might seem to be struggling with fearfulness, obsessive behaviors, resource guarding, separation anxiety, or other common problems that a DT & BC can help with.  The DT would focus on how you can train your dog to do better or more appropriate behaviors in place of lashing out or problematic behaviors.  And the BC would focus on why your dog is struggling to help you find solutions that can help you both understand each other more effectively.  Both the DT and the BC often work together to help the dog handler address the issue.  Sometimes the BC is also a DT and you can get the help you are after with the support of one person.  However sometimes it takes a team of dog professionals to help with specific needs.

I happen to be a force free DT as well as a certified BC so I look at the big picture of how my clients communicate their desires with their dog by supporting their dog's individual needs and coaching the handler and dog down the path to becoming the team they both desire to be.  I work with dog professionals from all around the world so if there happens to be a problem that is above my level of training, I have other professionals that I can reach out to for additional support.  Once we understand how our dogs are communicating with us naturally, we can begin to develop the two way conversation between handler and dog to develop a relationship based on trust and support.

You know you need help, but how do you get it?

There are tons of great resources for how to chose a dog trainer, so I'm going to touch on a few things that are most important to me.

  1. Look for a DT/BC who shares your ethics and beliefs when it comes to animal care.  There is a big divide among trainers of those who train with a dominance based, "My dog should do what their told!" & those who train with an animal centered approach, "My dog and I are a team, but we need to learn more together!"  Then there are some professionals that are somewhere in the middle between those 2 approaches.  Deciding what is important to you or where you are on this scale is the first step in finding help.  Then look for a trainer that has the same ethics and beliefs that you have.
  2. Look for someone that teaches in a way that is easy for you to understand.  Especially with the issues revolving around Covid, DT's have been forced into seeking alternative training outlets and now most will offer in-person & virtual services.  All people have a learning preference or style of learning that they are more comfortable with.  Some people would rather read books and print materials, while others want to see the skills in action.  Some people learn better in a group setting where they can share ideas with others who are working on the same skills, yet others prefer to work independently.  With all these options, dog owners can really play to their own strengths by finding a DT who teaches with the best learning style for the dog owner.
  3. Look for someone that you can talk to easily and develop a connection with.  A good DT/BC doesn't just want to push you through classes, but actually wants to help you and your dog be successful.  The best way to ensure success with clients is to connect with them on a personal level.  This makes #3 one the most important things to do when searching for a dog professional.  You should be totally comfortable discussing anything and everything dog related with your DT.  And if you are a Service Dog Handler, you may also need to be comfortable discussing your medical issues with your DT so they can better assist you.  If you can't be open and honest with your DT, it's going to impact your ability to make progress as a team.  Like all relationships, this doesn't happen overnight but you should never be afraid to ask your DT questions about what you are supposed to be doing or why you should be doing it.
While I'm an awesome DT/BC, if I do say so myself, I know that my training style is not perfect for all clients.  I work closely with other dog professionals around the world so if I can't help you with your struggles I can likely point you to someone who can.  

Here is a list of Services I provide.  If you'd like to schedule a free phone/zoom consult you can email me at or text me at 906-399-0548.  The first thing I will likely want to schedule is a Meet & Greet either in-person or virtually where I will evaluate your teamwork skills, your dog's behavior, and look for areas that are most important to address first.  This first session typically costs $30 for puppies under 6 months of age and $50 for dogs over 6 months and will come with a written training plan.  At this point we can decide if your team would best be served with the online classrooms, 1-on-1 sessions, or mini-group sessions. 

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...