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

FAD Class

 Focus Around Distractions - Beginner Class

Announcing the Focus Around Distractions Class
Yooper Paws Training Center
611 N. Hooper St. Kingsford, MI 49802

Beginning March 2nd at 6pm
FAD Class runs 6 weeks for $200 per dog.

Adolescent 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. This class is designed to help teach your dog the value of focusing on their person more then the environment by using games to build up the reinforcement history. At the same time, owners will be learning about various positive reinforcement training techniques to train various behaviors they want their dogs to enjoy repeating.

This is a beginner level class for young dogs from 6 months to 2 yrs old with owners who want to move away from the demanding, corrective based training used by alpha dominance trainers and move more toward developing a relationship based on love, bonding, and trust. Each week we will learn a new skill, a new game, a new form of enrichment, and how to apply reinforcement effectively.

Class will take place on Thursdays at 6pm
at the Yooper Paws Training Center 
beginning on March 2nd 
and proceeding every week.

Students should plan to arrive about 30 minutes prior to class and do a walk outside the building to help them calm down a little before entering class. Please keep your dog at a safe distance away from other dogs at this time and enter the building one at a time. Be prepared to clean up after your dog! Disposal bags will be available inside if needed.

(FAD Class Flyer)

Please sign this Waiver before the first session! You may print it and bring it with you or email it before the session. Please let me know if you'd like me to bring a printed copy.

This class will be limited to 6 students so please register ASAP and make your payment via PayPal or Venmo to reserve your spot in class.

If you prefer to pay in cash please email to make arrangements.

You will receive an email within 48 hrs of registering if you have been accepted into this class. If you do not receive this email, please reach out to for assistance.

Here is the PayPal link for payment:
Here is the Venmo link for payment:
Payments must be received by to reserve your spot in class.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Paws and Play Membership

Introducing the NEW Paws & Play Membership at the Yooper Paws Training Center!

Imagine having a gym membership for your dog!

That's the goal with the Paws & Play Membership at the Yooper Paws Training Center. Members have access to the Training Center whenever there are not classes, private sessions, or workshops taking place. We have Canine Coaches that will open the center for your Paws & Play Session mornings, afternoons, and evenings. And if you don't see a time available that meets your schedule, you can suggest additional times. We will do our best to accommodate the needs of all our members.

Members will be able to schedule time in the large Play & Train room to help get their dogs some exercise, build teamwork and engagement, practice skills taught in classes, use our parkour equipment and other supplies.

Members will also be able to access the Paws & Relax room filled with enrichment activities that allow the dog to sniff, lick, chew, and shred. This room will be set up in a calm, home like environment that dogs and owners can enjoy together. We will provide different scent articles based on your dog's needs, lickmats with a wide variety of toppings, and lots of cardboard and other materials that some dogs love to shred.

Families with multiple dogs can have one dog in the Paws & Rest Room while another is working in the Play & Train Room. This avoids leaving one dog home while the owner works with the other dog independently. This is helpful when there is an older dog that tires out more quickly then a younger pup! The rooms are separated by a pet gate that is easy to open to let dogs and humans move between the rooms as desired. Both rooms have outside access for any dog that needs to get outside for potty needs.

Paws & Play Members will also have access to our Treat Cupboard & Coffee Corner with snacks for both dogs and humans. We will have a Tips & Donations jar available to help keep these areas stocked for our Members to enjoy.

Membership will cost $20 per month or $200 if paid annually. That's a discount of 2 free months!
Clients who are enrolled in a Training Class or other Package can receive a discount for $15 per month or $150 annually.

To become a Paws & Play Member, fill out the simple form here:

Members will be required to fill out a Release Form on their first visit and once annually.
Payments can be made in person at the center or via PayPal or Venmo.


The Paws & Play Membership is a Family Membership! The month fee covers all members of the household including people and pets. While kids are always welcome, an adult must be present at all times. You can chose to bring multiple dogs in your household to play or one or two dogs to train. Basically the owner is able to arrange their session as they wish as long as they are being safe.

While members may invite friends to play at no additional costs, this will not become a Dog Park, free for all, place to play! Canine Coaches will not directly be involved in your session but they will keep on eye on safety letting you know if something you are doing is getting a bit too crazy.

Additional Questions will be answered here as we receive them!

For more information contact us at

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Announcement: Training Center Opens

Yooper Paws Training Center

611 N. Hooper St.
Kingsford, MI  49802

We are pleased to announce to our clients that we will soon have our very own Yooper Paws Training Center!

Friends & Family of Yooper Paws is quickly working together to bring this amazing opportunity to the Kingsford/Iron Mountain and surrounding areas.  Here is a line up of some of the things we have planned.

Positively Puppy Class

This class is geared for puppies under 6 months old. We practice setting up new experiences for our puppies with socialization to all the senses; smelling, hearing, seeing, tasting, & touching. We also work on the foundation skills that will lead to pups having the skills for the STAR Puppy & AKC Canine Good Citizen Test. Yooper Paws of Love does not give these AKC tests, but we train to the same goals by using positive reinforcement based training methods. We are currently finishing up a class and will have the dates for the next class ready very shortly. You can get on the wait list for the next class here!

Focus Around Distractions (1-3)

This class is geared for adolescents 6-24 months old. We spend a lot of time working on leash manners and recall and then build up those skills around various distractions including other dogs, traffic or crossing roads, navigating pet friendly events and locations. This class was designed by Yooper Paws of Love Canine Coach, Penny Beeman. The goal is for dog owners to learn how to read their dog's body language and learn to set up the environment for success as the dog learns how to control themselves in various real life situations. This is a games based training class where we learn about using games to teach the foundation skills that you want your dog to have as an adult. You can get on the waitlist for the next class here!

The Canine Care Club

This class is designed for dogs of all skill sets, but will focus mainly on dogs who might be a bit high energy, have some anxiety issues, or struggle when seeing other dogs. The training will take place in your car at various locations around town. For more information check out this link.

**NEW Paws & Play Membership!

This is something we are really excited about because we couldn't offer this without our own Training Center. The Paws & Play Membership will allow members to access the Yooper Paws Training Center for 1 hour private play sessions and calm enrichment sessions with their dog.  With the extremes in weather that we sometimes have, playing outside is not always possible. Some dogs are too overstimulated outdoors to work on training and can use this time to work on training in an environment that is set up for success. Members can sign up for as many sessions per month as they'd like. Sessions will be booked 3 days in advance and a Yooper Paws facilitator will be there to show you around and make sure you have access to all the great toys Yooper Paws has.

Register to become a Paws & Play Member. (Link coming soon!)
Paws & Play Members can schedule their session here:

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.

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.

Yooper Paws of Love staff are trained in reading Canine Body Language and developing safe habits for dog and owner to participate in training together. All dogs over 6 months of age must be evaluated before being allowed to participate in group classes. This is to unsure the safety of everyone in the building. Dog owners can book a free 30 minute session to have their dog evaluated and find out which class best suits their needs.

In addition to scheduled activities above, Yooper Paws of Love will be scheduling some new Events over the upcoming events. Here are a few ideas we are discussing:

  • Treat Baking Workshop - make and take home simple recipes with healthy ingredients to make your dog the happiest of pups.
  • Enrichment Feeder Prep Workshop - learn how to cook healthy options for lickmats, stuffed toys & bones, snuffle mats and other meals that add enrichment to your dog's life.
  • Paracord Leash Making Class - learn how to make custom paracord leashes of any length for your dog.
  • Toy Making Workshop - DIY toys that are sure to please even your picky dogs.
  • Cooperative Care Workshop - learn how to make trips to the groomer/vet less stressful and techniques to help you do simple grooming at home.
  • Canine Body Language Workshops - learn how to understand body language and what to look for meeting unknown dogs on the trail. Who's a Threat and Who's Not!
  • Canine Emotional States Workshop - learn how to understand your dog's emotions and how this applies to dog training.
Have another workshop idea or what to express interest in any of these ideas, 
reach out to us at

Last but not least! The Yooper Paws Coffee Hour on Wednesday, Feb 15th will no longer be held at Burger King but will now meet at the Yooper Paws Training Center! Stop out and see the new facility and have coffee on us.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Conversations with Your Dog

 Are you having emotional conversations with your dog?

When emotions enter a conversation, they can be 1-sided with each individual in that conversation only listening to their emotions to drive what they communicate or 2-sided with each individual in that conversation sharing their emotions and listening to the other emotions that are being shared. This is true in conversations between 2 or more humans and it's also true in conversations with our dogs. 

Humans might communicate their emotions verbally, with body language and with behavior; yelling, laughing, tears, stiff/loud movements, running away to hide. Our dogs communicate much the same way leading with behaviors first. Our dog might be extremely happy with wiggly butts and squirrelly behavior when we return to them, then turn around and bark or lunge when a stranger comes. During both of these situations the dog's body language supports the behaviors they do in the moment. And only when those behaviors do not achieve the end goal, do those behaviors amp up to add a verbal or bark, growl, whine behavior.

This post is going to be about helping us to improve our emotional conversations with our dogs. But first you need to understand your dog's emotions and how they impact the conversation. Check out these posts from February 2022.

Post 2:  Understanding K-9 emotions and how emotions can effect your dog's behaviors.
This post explains how our dog's emotions and excitement level effect the behaviors they give us.

This post explains Core Effect Space in simple terms that any dog owner can use to better understand their dog.

This is a fun video conversation between myself and fellow Dog Trainer, Cindy Campbell about how we can better connect with our dogs to show them how much we love them.

Moonbow waiting for her handler to start the conversation.

Conversation Starters

Unless you have a really strong relationship with a human, we generally start with a conversation starter. This might be, "Hi, How was your day?" or if we are in a group or at a party it might be an ice breaker type question, "Hey does anyone else hate anchovies?" A conversation starter, among humans, generally has 1of 2 purposes; figuring out the emotional state of the other human OR trying to establish a connection with another human that we perhaps do not have a connection with yet.

But are you offering conversation starters to your dog?
What would a conversation starter with your dog even look like?

First let's look at conversation starters that reach out to a dog that we have a relationship with already. This starter is probably a bit easiest for both human and dog because they generally start when we are in the happy, more relaxed realm. Arriving home might start a conversation simply because we've spent time apart and are now together again, but this can be filled with elevated emotions. Instead I want to focus on developing conversation starters when both you and your dog are feeling safe, calm, and happy. Here are a few conversation starters you might already be doing.

  • Your dog starts the conversation by waking you up in the morning. We know that is their way to say it's time to outside.
  • You might start a new conversation a bit later asking them if they want to come inside for breakfast. This might lead to begging them to come in for breakfast if you have a husky that loves to stay out.
  • While relaxing in the day, your dog might role up on their back, belly up and wag their tail begging you to come rub their belly.
  • Your dog might bring you a toy indicating they want to play.
Our dog's are pretty natural at starting conversations with us. Their behavior and body language is their best tools to convey what they need in that moment. Are we listening?

None of the examples above involved really strong emotions coming from our dogs. Strong emotions are typically full blown conversations where as conversation starters are generally a slower, calmer invitation of sorts to have a longer conversation. If we can learn to apply this invitation style conversation starter to our training sessions and outings with our dogs we can improve the conversation that takes place in those moments. 

Let's look at conversation starters designed to improve our training sessions.

Generally when starting a training session we want our dog to willingly join in the session. Therefore the conversation starter might be as simple as grabbing your treat bag and leash, then your dog shows up ready for action. We often create these simple starters without even realizing it. Sometimes we might be training something that is brand new and therefore we don't have a history of previous conversation starters to draw on. This would be the ice breaker of the party. And this would also be where we want to set the emotional tone that we hope to achieve during the training session by creating questions that elicit the desired emotion or the transition from the current emotional state to the more desired emotional state before we begin training.

As a Canine Coach, when I show up for a session with a client I've worked with a few times before the dogs are generally over-excited and happy to see me. In this situation I want to give conversations starters that help bring that excitement down as quickly as possible. I might get down to their level so I can give the petting they are seeking in slow, more controlled movements from me. I might also pay more attention to verbally have a conversation with their human as a way of communicating to the dog that we are not going to start having fun until they are in control of themselves. Pretty much any time our dogs are running on high energy emotions we want to be using calm conversation starters.

There are other times when our dogs are more calm, but what we are training needs some higher energy and we might need some conversation starters that help the dog get amped up a bit. A good example of this would be a handler playing tug with their dog right before entering an agility practice course. The dog might have been holding a down on a mat or chilling in the crate and the handler wants to build up energy for a faster run on the course. Tug becomes that conversation starter. Going from calm to excited can be done pretty easily with game based conversation starters.

Sometimes we don't want that high excitement, but instead our goal is a high level of focus. This might be for a rally course or even a public access outing for Service Dog in Training. In that situation, grabbing a tug toy or a tennis ball might not be the right conversation starter because we want the dog to buy in to the session but we don't want that high energy. This is where I developed my Positions Game as a conversation starter before puppy Azul and I walked into any public area. The game is designed to build focus slowly to prepare for the actual conversation that will take place soon.

Lastly let's look at the conversation starters that happen when we drive to a park or walking trail with the intent to go on an adventure together. I think this is one of those areas we often have 1 sided conversations without listening to the other side of the conversation. Naturally the dog is over-excited in the car and we ignore their behavior because we know the walk will help get some of that energy out. We as humans are commonly focusing on the end of the walk before the walk even gets started. Our dogs are focused on everything they smell, hear and see right now! 

When this conversation starts off 1-sided like this, with both parties ignoring the other, the main conversation tends to not go so well. We as the humans, can change the conversation starter to help improve the conversation that takes place on the walk. Here are a few simple conversation starters to help: 
  • Over-excitement often starts in the car therefore we need to start the conversation in the car! We might prefer some fast music on the drive, but tuning the radio to a slower station or even a podcast can help bring that energy level down. We can even pull over and park somewhere to help our dogs calm down a bit if needed. The Canine Car Club would be great for anyone who really struggles with excitement in the car! Azul as learned that we simply won't get out of the car until his energy calms down a bit and he is in an emotional state where he can hear my cues.
  • Another place where excitement rapidly increases is when we step out of the car and the dog's nose hits the ground running. Since we are looking forward to the end of the walk, we want to take off right away but that again sets the tone for a bad conversation. Instead we do some work near the car until we see our dog's energy and emotions hit a much better state. With the dog's nose driving this need to go sniff, this is often a time to use our smelliest reinforcement to start the conversation. I might let Azul reach that very first sniff spot, moving us out of the parking lot and into some green space but then we are going to stay there long after he is done sniffing that space and returns his focus on me. In this moment, he still wants to race to the next smell and his focus on me begs me to GO. This is where we can use our smelly treats in a scatter feed in the grass or doing a hand target game or playing any games that build value for our dogs sniffing with us instead of by themselves.
  • Once we start on our walk, inevitably a distraction almost always pops up and it's time for another conversation starter. You could look at the entire walk as one long conversation, yet we don't typically stay engaged with our dogs the whole walk. The conversation might start out with tons of back and forth communication, but then 1 party gets mildly distracted leading to both parties doing their own thing for a bit until someone starts the conversation again a bit later. When a distraction pops up in the environment, we need to start that conversation back up ASAP and make it an engaging conversation that brings our dogs back to us. We all know boring conversations end quickly because we simply stop participating. We may not want to jump to a high energy starter because we don't want to raise our dog's energy level any higher than we need to. But we do have to match or slightly one up the energy level coming from the distraction to help our dogs choose us.
Those are all real life activities where we use conversation starters. But we also can build starters into our training sessions. Again this needs to match the energy level we want for that training session. Conversation starters in training sessions can be thought of as a warm up before an exercise workout or before the big game. Often with puppies, we will run through some of the simple cues the pup has already learned to warm up their brains for what we want to teach in that session. With Service Dogs we may warm up hand targets or the foundation skills that will lead into the main task we are going to train. If I'm building a stronger retrieve, I might drop an item at my feet to put my dog in the retrieve mindset before I work on long distance retrieves or going to find a specific item. Building on previously taught behaviors can add momentum to our training session. Shaping plans are another way to start the conversation that relies on beginning a few steps back from where you left off in the last session to build up momentum for making progress.

This is going to be blog 1 in a 3 blog series. Next up is Having Emotional Conversations with Your Dog. The final blog will be Ending the Conversation Positively.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Kindness is Essential!

Do you get a bit stuck sometimes with your dog?

Maybe you start the month with all these good intentions and a long list of training goals and then suddenly you’re three weeks in and you haven’t quite got around to it yet.

There are lots of very legitimate reasons that this happens, and you are most definitely not alone.

Sometimes, the energy boost you get from a live event can be just the motivation boost that you need (especially this time of year!). That’s why I’m excited to tell you that my friend Dr Holly Tett (substitute for colleague if you prefer) is sharing her annual 14-day event “Kindness Is Essential, Not Optional”: The Dog Behaviour Conference.

I’m one of the top guest experts and the other speakers will be sharing all manner of training gems and behaviour know-how to get you motivated and making progress with your dog.

And I’ve got a FREE front row seat with your name on it,  Join the “KIENO” conference free right here:

We start Monday 20th February and it’s free, but you have to save your seat to get access. 

I can’t wait to see you all there!

Penny Beeman,

Yooper Paws of Love

P.S. The speaker list for this event is incredible as always, so make sure you go and check out the registration page to see for yourself!

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Off Leash Training

Those who know me, know that I despise seeing people do dropped leash and off leash activities in public places. Often people do this in parking lots, on sidewalks, walking through the mall, etc. Big crowds, lots of traffic, and lots of hazards. Some say Service Dogs need to be able to handle a down/stay in a crowded space. 

However it's not the possibility of the dog ignoring the cues handler is giving, it's more the possibility of other people doing something to injure my dog. Both Azul & the Great Dane were accidentally hit by a moving cart with humans stating they didn't see the dog. Hello! Azul is mostly black and was outside standing on white snow. Willow is the size of a horse! Tons of people see and talk to these dogs on every outing, showing they are highly visible wherever we go. The risk of injury to a Service Dog is huge and greatly impacts the life of the handler when that dog is unable to work.

So my question is WHY take the risk? Azul is connected to me 99.9% of the time in public spaces. 

When & Where is it appropriate to work on off leash training? 
Every dog handler (service dog or not) has to evaluate the risk to their dog in every environment.

Here is what I look for in off leash environments:

--Secured area with fence around perimeter or indoor space with closed exits.
--Space where other dogs are not going to suddenly appear. Azul and Willow have worked by each other since they were puppies. They can play or be in work mode together. Therefore I trust their interactions with each other. But I don't want other dogs (even friends)to show up spontaneously.
--Space where no people are going to be walking between me and my dog. (Unless it's someone I know and we are doing it for training purposes.

Bottom line: I want the environment to be easily predictable, where I know what's happening around us and can adjust my training to match.

In this location we had an empty store other than staff, a barrier of boats on 3 sides of the dogs with me and the other human on the 4th side which was the only direction people would possibly walk our way. My line of sight around the store was large. The biggest risk would be dogs breaking the stay cue and playing together. That was an acceptable risk that would not have resulted in harm to human or dog.
Today we practiced off leash skills with Miss Willow and her person! I even bumped it up a notch to see what Azul would do. He knows if I pass out or fall to the ground, that his job is to rush to my side and nudge me. But I've never sat down 20 feet away while he was in a stay, until today. First time he rushed to my side. After resetting, I gave him my hand signal for stay as I sat down and Azul successfully stayed. As a Service Dog he needs to be able to know what criteria require him to break my cues to do a more important job. He's still learning some of that criteria, but he catches on quick!

Azul also gets off leash time in fenced in environments.
Our backyard is fenced in around our fire pit, through the tree line that is the property boundary, and to our woodshed. This gives Azul plenty of time to get his daily Zoomies out, chase his flirt pole, hunt for squirrel, and be a dog. He also enjoys sniffing the dog park if we happen to find it empty. (We don't play with dogs I don't know for safety purposes.) And we've found a few other fenced in areas that we enjoy with friends.

Azul does most of his sniffing on a leash or longline.
In this picture we were in one of Azul's favorite places where we almost always see wildlife. He was extra hyper at that moment so his 30ft line became a 15 ft dual clip line so he could still sniff but not pull me off my feet while he was excited. He would love to run off leash here. But it's simply not worth the risk of him chasing something.

Azul does wear a GPS on his collar in case of emergencies. But that still does not make it safe for him to run off leash off our property. He doesn't run off leash on our property either because we live on US-2 with lots of traffic. At my daughter's house, I trust Azul off leash from the house to the fenced backyard. This is only because everything he wants is in that area, especially the chicken coop. He wears a leash to go from the yard back to the house because he's never ready to go back inside. 

I doubt I'll ever fully trust Azul off leash in outdoor environments. But the goal of this post is to demonstrate that each dog owner has to evaluate the risk of potential injury to their dog if they choose to let their dog be off leash. Again, it's not the dog's training that is most important but the uncontrollable distractions in the environment that can damage a dog that is following your directions.

Please be safe with your dogs!
Don't take unnecessary risks with their safety!


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

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...