Thursday, September 28, 2023

Training Tools

As a Canine Coach I get asked what tools I use to train dogs.
People are often shocked by my answer. Simply put, I want a nice fitting harness with both front & back clips and the longest leash that is safe for the environment we are in.
Azul is wearing a Y-front that has padded front and back pieces as well as front and back clips.

The Pet safe 3-in-1 is my preferred harness for adolescents who always struggle with impulse control. However they are pricey so not always best for rapidly growing puppies. A solid Y-front harness with a back clip that sits behind the shoulders is almost always acceptable. More crowded places require shorter leashes and less crowded places allow for nice longlines for safety.

Any tool designed to cause pain, restrict body movement or remove breathing is a HARD NO in my book.

Why I walked a dog on a slip lead a few nights ago.
Clients come into their first session with dogs wearing all sorts of unsafe gear. It's NOT their fault for believing advertising on the package or following the advice of same trainer they saw on TV or somewhere online. There are so many available options that it's nearly impossible to navigate the choices without help.

The dog a few nights ago came in a slip collar, which was designed to cut off a dog's oxygen if they pulled in an attempt to force a dog to walk with their human. I always try to switch unsafe gear out for safe gear at the beginning of the session. This dog was gear shy and already afraid of the harness previously used on the dog with previous owners. We help most of the session off leash as most first sessions are anyway. But the dog needed to go potty. So the choice became take the dog out on the gear they were used to or ignore his attempts at telling us he needed to go. We chose to take the dog out to potty in nearby grass.

Here is the dilemma!
My clients know I don't use these tools so seeing me use them can create controversy. Especially if this is discussed on social media sites that are often quick to condeem or point fingers.

In a perfect world, I would never in a million years choose to use any tool on a dog that was designed to cause pain. No dog deserves to be trained that way. 

We don't live in a perfect world! Sometimes we need to choose between two bad choices because a 3rd more acceptable choice isn't an option.

Had I told this client that their dog couldn't go out to potty because of a bad tool, that client may have felt like I was unfairly judging them and/or their dog. That client may have left that first session and never came back feeling too ashamed. Instead I shared kindness, awareness, knowledge, and empathy (CAKE) with the client. We created a plan to help desensitize the dog to a different style harness as well as a plan to work on the issues the client came in to address.
Compassion: letting the client know I'm there to support both human and dog family members.
Awareness: letting the client know that their concerns are valid and important to me.
Knowledge: info about what science tells us about the situation the human and dog are in. In this case, information about gear.
Empathy: letting the client know that I've experienced challenges in the past as well and I will help them as much as possible.

Everyone deserves CAKE!

Thanks Andrew Hale for teaching this dog trainers, behavior consultants and dog owners around the world through Dog Centered Care!
Dog Centered Care on YouTube 



Azul will be having his neuter surgery on Oct 5th so I've disabled my automatic scheduling system for 10 days.

He may heal quickly or heal slowly so I'll be making all appointments in person instead of automatically.

I will still be holding classes and group activities such as the Monday Night FAD Family Pets Class &  the Wednesday Morning Group Walk that week as scheduled as long as there are not unexpected complications.

Any private sessions that are already scheduled such as my weekly and bi-weekly clients will still keep their regular appointment times. Anyone who is not already scheduled should reach out to me via text to schedule so that I can base it on how quickly Azul is healing and how busy that day is already.

At this time I'm not taking on any more new clients that have not already scheduled and/or attended their Behavior Evaluation until the last week of October.

This does impact the Paws & Play Members only to the point of the automatic scheduler is turned off, so place email or text to schedule your session and we will make sure you have access as needed.

Please feel free to reach out to me via email at or text at 906-399-0548 to discuss any problems you are having and to schedule your session.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Distracted Dog Days

Announcing the Distracted Dog Days Sessions

Great news! This package was so great in August that we are offering it again in October!
This is a special package designed to give you and your dog all the support you need to become a successful team.

The highlight of this package, starts with one 4 hour session that allows us to evaluate needs, train needed skills and create individualized training exercises to practice skills in a safe environment then transfer those skills to a real life environment. 

New clients will attend with their dog for all sessions.

Returning clients can choose to drop their dog off for most of the session and come back at the end to see what we learned and how to do the training at home.

That sounds like A LOT and it might be overwhelming, doesn't it? But don't worry! This is achieved by moving back and forth between calm restful periods and higher energy periods specifically geared towards your easily distractible dog. 

One of the key struggles with easily distracted dogs is their inability to self regulate their arousal level. Once they get excited or amped up, they simply can't come back down to a calm level on their own. Your dog is not alone in this struggle!  The good news is that we can help them learn how to settle back down!

After your half day session (4hrs), we will do 2 follow up sessions (up to 2 hours each) spread out over the next month. That's up to 8 hours of Day Session Training for your dog!

You'll also receive up to 4 Hrs of pre-recorded webinar that you can view on your own time OR access to 1 online class. During your 30 Dog Days Package, you'll basically have a Trainer in your back pocket with unlimited text/message support to get rapid answers to your questions.

You won't find a more complete package out there! Message us for more details and to schedule your 4 Hr Dog Day Session!

Reinforcement Workshop

The Understanding Reinforcement Lunch & Learn Workshop has been changed from Sept 27th to October 18th at 1pm Central!

Food is considered a primary reinforcer because all animals need to eat to survive. Delivering food as reinforcement is often the easiest way for an owner to develop strong mechanics and fast delivery speeds to help the dog learn. 

What do you do if your dog doesn't like food or has to follow a specific diet? 

What your dog will take food inside in low distraction environments but not outside in high distraction environments?

There are many reasons to train with and without food! Without food as a motivator, how can you teach the dog new skills?

These are among the many things we will be discussing in this Lunch & Learn Workshop. The Understanding Reinforcement Workshop will be free to attend and the replay available for 30 days for all who register. After that, it goes into the vault and only available through the Challenging Behaviors Series which will not be free!

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Getting Help for Your Crazy Canine Adolescent!

Reasons Why You Should Get Help Training Your Adolescent Dog!
Understand how nature plays a role in the developing brain during adolescence.
If we look how human adolescents behave or think about the things we did as a teenager, it's often easier to understand why our dogs are doing the crazy things they are doing. Yet adolescence is often the time when most dogs end up in shelters or being rehomed. Dogs enter adolescence around 6-8 months and most mature somewhere between 18-24 months, while XL breeds and high drive sporting breeds tend to mature closer to 3 yrs old. People simply don't understand why their dog is doing these things either for the first time or repeating behaviors that had been worked on but are not getting better. This is the #1 reason to get help from a trainer during this time! 

Beware of the trainer that tells you they can stop a behavior quickly with tools. Seek a trainer that can help you understand why your dog is doing those behaviors and teach you how you can support your dog during this challenging stage.

Here are some common adolescent challenges and how a skilled trainer can help you work through them.

Impulse Control
As nature walks your dog through various developmental stages, their brain basically becomes scrambled. Often dogs make bad decisions here, generally leading to self reinforcing behavior such as grabbing that food off the counter while no one is looking. You may have started training them not to jump on counters as soon as they were tall enough to reach, but suddenly it's become a recurring problem. Adolescents often lack the ability to make good choices when something is tempting. That guilty look they give you when you use a scolding tone of voice or physical punishment is not really guilt, but more of an appeasement behavior a dog would give another dog if they felt threatened. Punishment works to stop behaviors but never teaches a dog what the right behaviors or good choices are. A good trainer can give you multiple games to play to help teach your dog to control their impulses and make better choices. 
Puppies are basically hardwired to stay close to their mom and littermates, per the whole safety in numbers philosophy. Yet adolescents are going through changes that encourage them to spread out, meet new friends (or make new enemies), find their own food, and explore the environment. This doesn't happen over night! Nature has laid out this plan to slowly develop as the dog learns how to survive in their growing and changing world. This process can cause a dog to go through heightened periods of fear while the brain is literally adding new neural pathways. A dog might suddenly become fearful of anything "new" in their environment. Your pup might have seemed totally confident walking around Halloween decorations but suddenly they are afraid of the Christmas decorations because they are new during a time of heightened fear. 

One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that if you reward a dog for barking at something then turning back to you, then you're teaching them to bark. Yet most commonly adolescents bark because they are afraid of something. You can't reinforce fear! But you CAN support that fear by being a person your dog feels safe coming back to when something scary happens. You CAN teach your dog to follow you away from extra scary things that surprise both of you. You CAN help your dog learn to process scary things when it is safe to do so. A good trainer can teach you how to support your dog through these stages of heightened fear responses.

Boldness or Bravery
Along with periods of increased fear, your adolescent will also have stages where they feel stronger than their are. This is similar to human teenagers who feel invincible and ready to take on the world. For dogs this can lead to increasing intensity during play which can easily escalate to a fight between friends. This bravery can also lead to extra barking, lunging, and pulling on the leash to try to reach distractions such as people, other dogs, wildlife, etc.

A good trainer can help you determine if your dog's behavior is naturally developing according to their age or if it seems to be extreme or something to worry about. Plus a good trainer will teach you the skills to better handle these situations to prevent injury to yourself, your dog, and/or other animals.
Environmental Processing
Just like human teenagers seek freedom to explore the world around them, adolescent dogs need to explore their world too. As dog owners, we control how large that world really is. A working farm with lots of land might teach a dog the farm boundaries are the edge of their world where dogs never leave the farm except maybe a trip to the vet. Owners who live in more urban settings often walk their dogs more starting with their neighborhood and branching room to other places often  including visits to other locations such as camping, friend's houses, hiking trails, etc. Service Dog owners have the largest worlds of all dog owners, needing their dog to be resilient in a wide variety of environments.

It's during adolescence when our dogs are learning how to do risk assessments for their world. What in their world causes potential danger? A farm dog might have to learn to avoid the tractor or horses. A city dog might have to learn to avoid traffic. Service Dogs are often taught to avoid specific things based on their person's needs. 

Along with learning what needs to be avoided, adolescents learn what is simply so normal that they can ignore it and what is going to bring them pleasure or enjoyment like going to visit Grandma and Grandpa who always have yummy snacks.

With all the things that dogs learn by processing the environment, this is the most common mistake dog owners make by not letting their dog have enough time to process things in the environment. A good trainer can teach you how to do this safely to help your dog learn these lessons without repeating or practicing undesired behaviors.

Preventing Undesired Behaviors 
We all know adolescents, both human and canine, lack the ability to make good choices all the time and are prone to choosing things with instant gratification instead of options with delayed reinforcement. Human parents set limits for their adolescents, perhaps adult supervised parties only. In the dog world that might be playdates with friends instead of free-for-alls at the dog park. A huge adolescent challenge I deal with regularly is pulling on the leash which can be totally prevented when we change the way we go on walks. 

The more practice our dogs have doing undesired behaviors, the harder it becomes to change their minds by encouraging acceptable behaviors. If you got away with stealing and eating your favorite food (chocolate in my case) and your parents tried to keep you from stealing by offering you vegetables, no matter how much you loved vegetables that simply wouldn't work. With a human picky eater, adults would simply stop having the junk food available hoping to encourage the teen to make better choices. This is similar to the dog who steals food off the counter. The more self reinforcement they receive from this thievery, the harder it will be to teach them to avoid that counter. As dog owners, we can keep those counters clean until we can teach the dog that more rewarding things happen on other surfaces, teach the dog impulse control, and manage their access to the kitchen counters until they are better able to make good choices.

Whatever challenge your having with your adolescent dog, a good trainer can teach you how to set up for success, avoiding chances to practice undesired behaviors while you teach the dog to do the behaviors you desire.

Moral of this post:
If you're struggling with behaviors your adolescent dog is doing, seek help from a skilled trainer as soon as possible. Don't walk! Run to you closest force free trainer for help before the problem becomes out of control, you become frustrated with your dog, and your dog fails to learn how to navigate their world the way nature intended!

Monday, September 11, 2023

September Plans

September Struggles & Strategies Plans at the Yooper Paws Training Center

This month we will looking at many common struggles faced by dog owners and people working to train their own service dogs. And with all common struggles, there are some common strategies. We posted quite a few last year during the September Theme of the Month, and we are going to continue to expand that list of common struggles. 

  • We will be adding blogposts about Self Regulation in our dogs and hopefully highlight some new ways to help our dogs learn to control their impulses a bit better. This includes one of the most common struggles for dog owners...barking!
  • We hope to put the final touches on our Challenging Behaviors Series of Webinars with a Lunch & Learn Zoom Session on Understanding Functional Reinforcement September 27th beginning at 12:00PM Central. This will be a free webinar for 30 days before we move it into the paid webinar files. Register Here!
  • We will starting new projects with our Wednesday Group Walks!
    • The Morning Group will be adding in new environments with more people distractions such as parks, neighborhoods, and public spaces. This takes distractions to another level!
    • The Evening Group will be moving from Wednesday to Tuesday and begin learning about and practicing skills involved in walking multiple dogs from the same house at the same time. This takes leash management skills to another level!
  • We have some great strategies planned for our Service Dog Teams!
  • We have our group of Super Sniffers in the Yooper Paws Nosework Club that will be focusing on searching in outdoor spaces which includes struggles with changes due to wind, surface type, competing smells, etc. Plus we will be adding some Simple Sniffers for teams that are just starting out with Nosework.
  • Back to School Classes are starting back up!
    • Positively Puppy Paws Class will be on Thursdays at 6:00 PM beginning on September 21st.
    • FAD Family Pets for previous Puppy Paws Clients will be on Mondays at 7:00 PM beginning on September 18th. I'm thinking about scheduling a FAD Family Pets Beginner Class, so please let me know if your interested!
  • Last but not least, we hope to dive into the topic of determining our dog's individual strengths and how we can alter training to make it easier for our dogs to learn while having fun.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Understanding Canine Needs

Understanding Canine Needs

I think we all know that puppy needs are different then adult dog needs, smaller breed needs are different then larger dog needs, and different breeds sometimes have different needs. I can roll off a list of dog needs a mile long but they all come down to these 3 categories; physical needs, emotional needs, and mental needs.

Physical needs include things such as food, water, shelter/safe space to rest, place to go potty, exercise needs, vet care, etc.

Emotional needs include things such as feeling safe, calm, and happy, social experiences, freedom from shame, freedom from threats, etc.

Mental needs include things such as participating in training sessions, playing games with friends, doing enrichment puzzles, sniffing the environment, etc.

Understanding your dog's needs is the first step!

Getting Help!

People seek training help to change at least one behavior, such as pulling on the leash. There really is no need to contact a trainer if your dog is perfect. Owning a dog almost always has challenges of some sorts. Even dog trainers have other dog trainers that they go to for help.

Gone are the days, at least for most of us, where we simply punish the behaviors we don't like. Thankfully dog owners don't come to Yooper Paws because they want to learn how to punish their dog more effectively! If that's their goal, owners quickly learn they are in the wrong place because that's not what I teach. I help dog owners look at the big picture of the behavior that is bothering them.

A dog who barks is trying to accomplish something. They may bark because they see something scary/exciting, or to tell a perceived intruder to get back or give them space, or alert their owners to a potential threat. They may bark simply because it makes them feel good. I'm going to help you determine what the dog is trying to accomplish with that barking behavior.

Most of the time that leads us back to a need that isn't currently being met. Perhaps the dog feels unsafe in the environment, an emotional need. Perhaps the dog is bored from being home all day, needs physical activity or mental stimulation. There are basically endless possibilities as to what your dog needs in any given situation.

When I say that there is a need that is unmet, that is not intended to blame the owner for not taking proper care of their dog! On the contrary, if an owner walks into Yooper Paws seeking my help, I know you are doing your best to provide everything your dog needs. I'm searching through your dog's needs based on breed, age, physical health, daily routine, other family members that may help provide needs, and other information so that I can find the best way to help you. When we find needs that are unmet and brainstorm solutions, we can often change challenging behavior.

Canine Needs Are Different For Every Dog!

Azul and Roz are very different dogs! Both are very confident, resilient and easy to please, but they both have very different needs. They both need food, but Azul is more likely to eat a bigger breakfast while Roz prefers a bigger supper. They both need exercise, but Roz prefers a much faster pace while Azul likes to take it slow. They both need to go potty, but Azul will go anywhere and Roz is more selective. You see, some basic needs are the same for every dog, but still need some individualization.

Azul can be found spending his morning watching the world go by; at the office on his tie out, at home in the backyard, or laying in bed looking out the window. Before or after lunch Azul wants an adventure. He prefers a sniff-a-bout where he can smell p-mail, but he also enjoys a service dog adventure too. He takes a nice afternoon nap, and enjoys some type of play before dinner. His evening is spent exploring or relaxing in the backyard. Azul is pretty laid back and easy going with lots of relaxation time in different environments with just a bit of fun and adventure thrown into his day.

Azul likes to nap and watch the world go by from his favorite places that are in sight of me but not really close to me.
Roz is a bit different! She likes to wake up and hit the ground running! She has a very active morning. That activity can change as long as she can move; zooming in the backyard, playing with a friend, training with me, going on a walk...physical and mental needs. After lunch she can take a good long nap, perhaps with a few interruptions but then more napping.Roz also has a huge social need; playing with friends, touching her people as much as possible, making new friends, etc. Evening is when her needs kick in, especially if her needs for movement were not met earlier in the day. She is going to need 10-15 min of backyard zoomies or wrestling with a friend to end her evening and she is going to need some help settling down to fully relax for the evening.

Roz likes to be touching me as much as possible!

If you're reading this, I know you love your dog and want to help them enjoy life! But sometimes our schedules, other commitments, the day to day stresses in life, and so much more get in the way. Let Yooper Paws help you to understand your dog's needs and create a plan to ensure you can meet their physical, mental, and emotional needs without stressing out your day even more. This may include adding some enrichment puzzles, challenges, training, play, and/or exploration time. But I can guarantee it will be fun for both you and your dog! 

I do offer a free 30 minute session to see what services I offer that can help you and your dog love life together! Email me at for more information.


Sunday, August 20, 2023

Slow is Fast, Fast is Slow in Dog Training

 Quick fixes often provide a temporary fix to any problem! But if you want real results, you'll work toward making slow steady progress based your dog's needs!

I attend a ton of dog training webinars and workshops, therefore I quite often here the quote, "Slow is Fast!" yet so few times is that quote every really explained. I've been thinking about this quite intensively lately as we are holding a chat for Service Dog Handlers next week on this very topic. That chat will focus on why it's so important for Service Dog success. But I also wanted to take a moment to let my pet parents know why we need to slow down too.

Slow in Adding Cues

In traditional training, you take a 6 week puppy class the focuses on teaching basic skills such as sit, down, heel, stay, and come on command. Those are the only objectives, to learn to teach those common cues. However in our 6 week puppy class we focus on training foundations and concepts that will help your puppy succeed in life. This includes training the human how to use food as a lure and as a reinforcement, plus the difference between the two. 

Most puppies will do just about anything if you wave food in front of their nose. I can get a pup to heel perfectly in just 2-3 minutes with the right food. But that doesn't mean the puppy learns to heel. They simply learn to follow the food. This is luring, using food to get the behavior you want. We quickly switch over to a type of shaping as we teach the pup to respond to hand targets and teach the owner how to remove the food lure and transition into using the food as a reward, aka positive reinforcement. Then we build in delayed reinforcement and longer duration behaviors. This whole time, we are working on the same basic behaviors listed above; sit, down, heel, stay, come. But instead of simply getting the behavior everyone is learning how to apply that to real life situations. 

During my puppy classes, many are surprised that I don't use any cues when we use food lures. If you need a lure, the cue is meaningless to the dog and they haven't learned what words have meaning and what doesn't. You can lure a puppy to sit with a treat above their nose, but that doesn't mean they can sit on cue without a treat to follow. When you're training with a Slow is Fast mindset, instead of rushing to teach the word, we teach the behavior first. Then we have the behavior we want and repeat it again and again, we can begin to add the cue word for the behavior.

Slow in Building Duration & Delayed Reinforcement

For many of us, we get stuck with our eyes on the prize or the end goal. We set or goals or see a list of things we want to accomplish and we jump straight there or move rapidly toward the goal. The faster we move in dog training, the greater the chances we have for struggles to set in. When we struggle is when we tend to look for ways to correct or punish the dog. Those harsher corrections based training can be totally avoided if we just slow down and move at the dog's speed.  Each dog processes things a bit differently, so one dog might learn a basic concept more easily and progress rapidly while another dog needs a bit more practice and smaller baby steps in training.

If you follow my FB page, you've seen picts and reference to the Husky Boys, which are 3 brothers that I've been working with since they were quite young. While the genetics of these pups came from the same place as littermates that live in the same household, they are all very individualized. Sammy moves at slower pace, thinking before he does anything but catches on very quickly. Eli needs a bit more time to look around and see what others are doing which means he kinda just goes with the flow wherever he can and is more easily distractable. Eli doesn't like to make mistakes, so he likes to make sure he knows what your asking for before he attempts to do it. Then there's Charlee! LOL Charlee learns new behaviors real quick, but he also forgets new behaviors real quick. He's typically first to respond, but that means he will keep throwing out random behaviors that you've asked for in the past hoping that something will eventually earn him the cookie. When it comes to navigating the environment, Charlee is the type to rush in guns a blazing or ready to handle anything. But when it comes to strangers, Charlee is more likely to sit back and see what his brothers or Roz do. Sammy the slower paced one is more eager to make friends with everyone, both human and dog.

You may be wondering what an evaluation of the Husky Brothers has to do with training cues. This is a unique situation where all 3 dogs have the same genetics and live in the same house so they get the same amount of exposure to the world, the same amount of training time and exercise, and have the same daily household routine. Yet when they are learning new skills they need a bit of a different approach. Slower paced Sammy, even though he wants to always be right in the behavior he offers, can actually learn more quickly with some delayed reinforcement. When we teach heel we start with reinforcing getting in position, then one step, then two steps, 3 steps, 5 steps, 10 steps, etc. Sammy moves through those steps more rapidly being successful at 10 steps rather quickly. Eli on the other hand needs a bit more reinforcement along the way to keep him focused meaning he spent a ton more time practicing at 5 steps then Sammy needed. Eli needed that reinforcement more rapidly or he lost focus. Charlee learned the cue much more rapidly for heel, yet he's still the one the struggles with it the most because if the rate of reinforcement is spread out too far, Charlee will start throwing out other behaviors like jumping, barking, or switching sides in an attempt to earn faster reinforcement.

This individualized difference is why we don't add cues until the dog is doing well with the behavior. Otherwise we run the risk of giving the cue and the dog not being able to do the behavior because they are distracted, bored, frustrated, or simply don't know what that cue means yet. There is another common saying, "Name it when you love it!" which basically means, don't add the cue until the behavior is exactly what you want your dog to be doing. This might only take 1-3 training sessions for some dogs while it takes 4-6 for others. Our puppy class is designed to help the owner and puppy make as much progress as possible without rushing them to hit a deadline or achieve a hard and fast standard by the end of the 6 sessions. The beauty of that is, most puppies that complete the class can easily exceed the national standards that are widely accepted for those basic behaviors plus the owners then know how to continue to increase those skills in a wide variety of environments and around distractions.

Slow in Adding New Distractions & New Environments

Let's fast forward past puppy class, into working with an adolescent dog. In adolescence, the dog's brain is changing from what is there to help keep a puppy alive to what an adult dog needs. Puppies need to stay close to their family, safety in numbers and rely on mom for direction. Adults need to seek food, water, shelter, or whatever their assigned family job is which means means they need strength, confidence, and skills to do the assigned job. The needs of a puppy are vastly different than the needs of an adult, which sticks us dog owners in the middle trying to help our adolescent learn the skills they need to fit into their role in the family and world around them. With the brain basically doing change after change as our adolescent dogs grow up, they tend to forget or struggle with doing things they did really well just last week. This means we need often need to slow down our training during adolescence.

Dog owners tend to forget how challenging this time is. The dog, especially for large breeds, is becoming quite big and strong therefore we tend to put higher expectations on their skills then we should. Azul was almost 70 lbs by his first birthday and as a husky, he's built to pull. While I started teaching Azul to heel at about 4 months old, at 12 months old this was near impossible outside because everything smelled so wonderful to Azul. He quickly would become over stimulated and unable to focus on anything. Those reading this with 1 year old large breed dogs, know exactly what I mean! This is when frustration sets in for dog owners as we feel like our problems are getting worse rather than better. 

As owners pull their hair out in frustration, this is when we really need to slow down are training and take a look at the distractions that are in the environment. Often it's the distractions that make our young teenagers forget what they were supposed to be doing. This means it's up to us, the human to chose environments that have a reduced chance of distractions. Perhaps instead of walking on the most popular dog walking trail in town, we choose to walk in areas that are not so popular. Less foot traffic means less things we are going to see on our walk and less smells that are going to be left behind from other dogs, people, and wildlife.

Adolescence is where we really need to think about, "Is my dog ready for X environment!" Perhaps your dog has had great leash manners at the park, he greets strangers nicely and loves everything in life so you start thinking maybe he'd like to go with to watch a parade. His first parade, how exciting! But a busy parade is filled with distractions so if you make the leap from a quiet park to a loud crazy parade, bad things often happen; the dog starts pulling on the leash, jumping on people, perhaps barking, etc. We need to build up to exciting environments, perhaps moving from the quiet park to a bigger or more active park, perhaps watching a school playground from a safe distance, perhaps sitting in the car with your dog in a busy parking lot and watching people walk passed, etc. 

The goal should be look around your area and slowly build up. A farmer's market in my area may only have 50 people including vendors and shoppers so that might be a great environment for some manners around strangers. But in some towns a farmers market might have over a 1,000 people therefore it might not be the next step up from a quiet playground. This is where having a network of Canine Coaches or other dog owners who have dogs at this same age can help you figure out what might be next for your and your dog.  Check out the Crazy Canine Adolescents FB Group if you want to connect with others struggling through this craziness too!

We will have additional Slow is Fast resources coming in the near future!

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Did you Do Your Homework?

 How many times have you put off doing your homework?

Whether you are looking at homework for school, house cleaning, yard work, even writing blogs for your dog training page...humans tend to get bogged down with a never ending list of things we need to accomplish. Many look at dog training as a never-ending job that requires work. I'm hoping with this blog to challenge how we as people look at the job of training our dogs!

I commonly get asked by clients for a list of homework to do between sessions. And I often get asked by fellow dog trainers about the types of homework I give to my clients. My answer is typically the same thing to both. I DON'T GIVE HOMEWORK!

Why I don't give homework to my clients:
  1. Training your dog should be fun and enjoyable!  Very few people I've known have actually enjoyed doing homework, while most people hate doing homework. 
  2. Training your dog should fit easily in your day! People commonly struggle with the act of getting started doing a job, saving it until they get the whole job done at once without interruption. Yet training in mini-sessions throughout the normal course of your day is much better for you and your dog.
  3. Training your dog should be ever changing! There may be some things that we do in our day with our dog that is best on a routine such as meals, potty outings, etc. But when it comes to training new things we need to flexible based on other activities in our day. If you've had a bad day, you should do something more relaxing or something you love with your dog instead of focusing on a training plan. However if you've had an amazing day, you may be able to do more with your dog on that day. Some people work during the week and have weekends off, thus training would look different during the week than it does the weekend. As a Canine Coach, I'm not there with you every day to tell you what you should be focusing on for that day! However, I often give my clients some great activities to do on the rainy days or days you simply can't do training for some reason. 
  4. Training your dog should be like telling the story. There isn't a specific start/stop to the action that takes place, but more like new chapters that build on what has happened previously and continue to progress into new adventures and activities. You don't simply teach your dog to hold a stay in one training session, or even one training session a day for a month. You start with a simple 1-2 second stay in a low distraction environment and gradually build up the distance, duration, and distractions involving that skill. Especially if you start training with a puppy! The expectation for a 6 month old puppy is that you can back of 5 steps and return to your puppy to deliver reinforcement. Around 12 months that expectation would then increase to 10 steps away with a pause before returning. And the expectation for an adult is that you can back away 20 steps. Yet we all know dogs that can hold a stay much longer than that, right! That's because the more practice you have doing a skill, the better you get and the same is true for our dogs. The skill of holding a stay is built up over time as the dog and owner develop teamwork together. No matter how old a dog gets, you can still reinforce and build the skill of stay because the story never ends.
  5. Training your dog should happen in a wide variety of environments. It's true that when training a very new skill, you need to start at home or a low distraction environment. But training can't end there. As the story progresses, we need to slowly build in more and more environments. Let's look at loose leash walking for a moment. You start with training at home, walking through the house, then move out into your driveway, perhaps the backyard, perhaps up and down the sidewalk in front of your house all before trying to walk around the block. Then your walking world slowly expands to more and more environments based on where you live. With a puppy we kind of naturally do this in an attempt to keep the puppy safe. So many people struggle with leash walking with older dogs simply because the environment is too distracting and the work hasn't happened yet to build up to these super fun environments. (I'm really guilty of this too!) Since training in new environments needs to build up slowly, we may not always be able to get to the next environment as quickly as we'd like. Winters are harsh in my area making outdoor walking more challenging which means training any sorts of outdoor leash manners need to go on hold for a few months. Service Dog in Training Rosalind is working on practicing skills in new environments, but because of the busy Training Center schedule, having time to get her into the new environments is challenging. 
I probably could make this list even longer, but like all good dog training let's keep it simple and now put it all together. As a Canine Coach, I don't know what your day to day struggles are or all your other responsibilities in your time between sessions. The last thing I'm going to do is judge you or belittle you for not doing your homework! I don't know what kind of week or month you just had unless you tell me. 

What I do know is if you and your dog are communicating with each other effectively, if either of you are feeling stressed, frustrated, or confused in what we are working on at the Training Center. From this I can often tell if you spent any time practicing skills at home or not. But more importantly I can see what the next steps for you should be. 
  • Do we need to slow down the training or can we perhaps speed up? 
  • Do we need to change the games we are playing to make it easier for the dog to learn or make it more challenging to keep the dog engaged?
  • Do we need to hold of on training for awhile to let your dog recover from an injury or grow up a bit? Or perhaps we need to meet more often or check in with each other between sessions?
I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Actions speak louder than words!" This holds true to doing your homework too. Most of my clients come to me because they want to enjoy their dog more. Often they may be struggling with a certain behavior or challenges that is making it hard to enjoy their dog. My job is then to help those clients enjoy working with their dog to improve their teamwork, build better skills, and reduce those challenges. Homework often adds stress, but my key goal is to add enjoyment for both you and your dog.

Just look at how much fun Jackson is having during this session!

When do I give out homework?

The number one reason I hand out homework is when I have a client that I see is very list or schedule oriented. Some people do better with a checklist of items to do every day so I will help them develop that checklist. Some people desire to be held accountable, so I may set up a weekly chat based check-in with full sessions 1-2 times a month. Some people need clear goals often with check points along the way so we may set up a long-term & short-term training plan.

Another reason for homework might be that we simply don't have time to review every thing in our session so we might look at some virtual resources as well. I might send clients a webinar that they can watch for greater details between sessions. Virtual resources can be a great help to clients who want more advanced knowledge. I may even recommend that you take one of my online classes as well as joining me for in-person or zoom based training sessions. People learn in a wide variety of ways which means sometimes they need to hear it, read it, and/or see it in action before they really process the information. This Yooper Paws Blog is a wealth of free information so I might send clients one or more blogs to read before our next session. This homework is something that is often a bonus to clients not a requirement and not something specific that you HAVE to do with your dog. People sometimes need/want homework for themselves, but this shouldn't take away from the fun they should be having with their dog!

Another reason I may assign homework is when clients don't know what they want to work on or have a trouble that they simply can't pinpoint. I may send home a planning worksheet and/or tracking form for the client to fill out before our next session. These tools are available in a wide variety of formats but digitally and print versions so they can be easily accessed by all my clients. I'm continually developing new worksheets all the time based on class or client needs. So if I don't have a worksheet or tracking form designed already, I'll set one up based on each client's needs. And I'll work with that client to fill out the planning sheet if they want. I never want these forms to be considered a requirement such as when you show up for a doctors appointment and are handed a clipboard of forms to fill out. No one enjoys that! Instead I want worksheets and tracking forms to be something clients can use if they find them helpful. 

Often with clients at the Training Center, I'll pull out my dry erase board as we do some planning together to create a rough outline of what we will be working on. Then at the end of the session we can simply take a picture of the board. This helps us both remember what we want to be working on and allows us to change this outline if the needs change over the course of our sessions. This type of planning serves as homework for both the client and myself! I refer back to this planning board before our next scheduled session to determine what type of activities to set up to start the session. If a client contacts me with a problem between sessions, I'll refer back to this planning board to see if this problem is related to one of the things we wanted to work on. Sometimes something we are working on might lead to new a problem or sometimes there was an unpredicted experience that might derail the plans or need us to create a new plan. Either way, it's important to remember what the overall goals and key points of focus are during our sessions so that we can continue to see an increase in skills and teamwork for both dog and owner.

Simple plan to help an energetic puppy calm down for nap time.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Obstacle Course Games

 Games Based Training involves coaching and concepts instead of dominance based obedience.

This is Post 3 in the Games Series!
If you haven't read Post 1: Train Smarter, Not Harder with Games or Post 2: Helping Distracted & Fearful Dogs with Games be sure to go back and visit them!

What are Canine Coaches

You may have heard me use the term Canine Coach before or if you've done any online training with me you've heard about the Crazy2Calm Canine Coaches. While many people still refer to us as the Dog Trainer (which is totally OK) this games based approach to training makes us more like a Coach. A good trainer should be able to teach each owner how to be successful as a dog/owner team. 

As a Canine Coach, it's my job to guide the owner and dog towards things that will be make life easier and more fun for both them. This might involve teaching the owner and dog how to walk nicely down the trail instead of have the dog dragging the owner down the trail. Owners come to me with all kinds of issues; biting, jumping, counter surfing, pulling on lead, barking at people...this list could go on and on. As a Coach, I will observe the human/dog interactions and make small adjustments to the way they are doing things, giving them a change to improve bit by bit over time. Just like humans, dogs can't change their habits over night and big changes take more time to learn. Small changes that feel good and often natural can make the world of difference for my clients.

One of the ways we help the dog and owner make small changes into new habits is to set up obstacle courses designed to help them practice the new skills they are learning together.

Building Obstacle Courses

Check out this video of Canine Coach, Faith playing with her dog Echo on an Obstacle Course

Obstacle course make learning fun! We all learn better when we are having fun!
Obstacle courses improve teamwork as communication becomes more clear!
Obstacle courses build good habits that often reduce the chances of bad behaviors happening!

Gone are the days where most owners desire to dominate over their dog with an iron fist. Today people have dogs because they love having them around and simply want to co-exist successfully together. While dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years, that doesn't mean they are born knowing how to navigate or survive in this human based world. This is why puppies bite, jump, steal food and many other bad habits that drive owners crazy. 

Dogs with bad habits are not bad dogs! They simply haven't learned the behaviors their owners love. Instead of a team that works together, dog and owner sometimes work against each other without realizing it. 

Often this is due to a communication gap or language barrier. A good Canine Coach will help you bridge that gap and develop teamwork that leads to better communication, increased skills, and become a stronger team. 

Obstacle courses can be set up to teach just about any skill or concept you want to teach your dog. Start with defining the overall goal for the obstacle course.

"I want to help my dog earn reinforcement for walking in the heel position while having fun!"

I created a game with buckets, similar to horse barrel racing, where teams can practice heel and turning around corners/objects in a predictable or unpredictable pattern. Some dogs do better when they can predict what the owner will do, while other dogs focus better if they don't know what's happening next. The bucket heel zone obstacle allows us to figure out what the human can do to make heeling easier for the dog to succeed. You can also build some speed variation into the bucket game for dogs that like speed or humans that want to make it more challenging.

Once you have your first set of obstacles to practice your main goal, I'll also set up a few other obstacles that my dog has already practiced and does well it. Then you can spend 1-3 minutes doing the bucket game, move on to perhaps a parkour station, then maybe some mat training or basic obedience stations, then circle back and repeat. This can help keep your dog engaged and having fun longer with a mix if mini-sessions, under 3 minutes each, then rolled together in a longer session or 10-15 minutes.

Obstacle Course to Teach Cues

Any good trainer to tell you to avoid using a verbal cue until your dog is good at the behavior. Using a cue for heel before your dog knows the position can add confusion to your training. Playing games such as doing obstacle courses that rely on your dog staying in heel can build the excitement and reinforcement history for that skill, then slowly you add in the verbal cue while the dog is doing the skill correctly.

My SDiT Rosalind struggles with getting her leash tangled on everything, including herself! I've always taught my dogs directional cues by capturing the direction changes on walks with a verbal cue. As an adolescent Roz is way too distracted on walks right now to learn these cues. To make it easier, I set up an obstacle course at the Training Center to teach her the concept of going the same way around things as I do. This helps me to teach the left, right & follow cues that will help us navigate public spaces together as a team instead of every man/dog for themselves.

Canine Coaches are happy to help!

Canine Coaches have lots of great games to teach all the skills you and your dog need. We want you to succeed and therefore we are committed to modifying our games based on all the individuals (human and canine) involved. 

Games grow Concepts
Concepts grow Skills
Skills grow Confidence
Confidence grows Optimism
And Optimism grows Resilience.

If you're ready to start playing the games to help your team grow, reach out to our Canine Coaches so we can help you create the teamwork you've always wanted between you and your dog. Reach out to us at and we will find a package that will work for you!

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Games Help Distracted & Fearful Dogs

Games Help Distracted Dogs

These 3 dogs (Azul, Roz, & Maverick) are all Service Dogs which means they need to be able to focus on the job no matter what is happening around them. Many dogs are easily distracted in the presence of other dogs. Games such in this picture can help dogs learn to focus around distractions. This is a calming game to help the dogs relax after a play session. Their job is to stay on their station and listen for their name to be called to release them. It may sound simple, but it's not easy for dogs that were just racing around.

Games can be set up differently depending on your overall goal. You can set up something with lots of movement if you want to get your dog responding to cues more rapidly or your can set up something with very little movement if you want your dog to calm down. For dogs that struggle with rebounding after something really exciting or fearful, you can design games that start fast and slowly switch tracks to calmer, slower activities.

Often people get stuck on thinking a dog will rest when they get tired, then give dogs more exercise when bad behaviors start to happen. Sometimes a puppy chewing on your shoes needs a walk or play time, but sometimes that puppy chewing on your shoes really needs a nap but does know yet how to settle. Just like children, dog's do not come pre-installed with an off switch. Thankfully games can be used to help teach a dog calming behaviors that they can do without destroying the house. You wouldn't go on a roller coaster or something really exciting that gets your adrenaline up, then simply lay down for a nap. It's not really fair to expect our dogs to do that on their own either.

As in the picture above, the dogs became really aroused or excited by playing with each other. They played roughly 20 minutes in the Go-Go-Go mindset. When they'd had enough, they came to me for human interaction. All 3 dogs followed me around the Training Center while I gathered the stations. This took them from a running state of adrenaline rush down to a slower but still moving state of mind. Once the stations were set up, they all chose their own station. I started with simply asking them all to come to me for a treat, then get on a station for a treat, having them all move back forth. Then we slowly transitioned to everyone holding their position until their name was called to come get a treat and return to their station. All of this was taught with previous games starting with 1 dog at a time.

This brings me to another point in why we need to use games for training, No matter what game you set up, there is always a way to make it slightly harder, slightly more entertaining, slightly more reinforcing for the dog. Games always start simple and build up! Watch this cone game with Azul to see how we start with a simple Go Around.

In this Movement Puzzle the frisbees represent a start and stop place where reinforcement will be delivered. The cones start out really close together so Azul can learn the basics of going around. Then the cones start to move out further apart to work on the concept of working at greater distances. Azul struggles when I change things to quickly, so I have to change my game set up to make it easier. This meant I had to get another cone to fill the empty space so he didn't take a short cut. Azul already knows the cue to go around but he's never played this game before so he's moving slowly. At the end Azul tells me he is done with this game by going in between my legs. This tells me he wants to play his favorite game of moving together as a team with Azul standing between my legs. We are a bit out of camera range for this game, but I think you can tell what we are doing.

Games Help Fearful Dogs

When Lana first came into the Yooper Paws Training Center she was extremely scared, timid and barky! Like many owners, Lana's person didn't quite know what she was getting into when she agreed to give Lana a home. While Lana's person knew a great deal about training Aussies, she needed help figuring out how to deal with the fearfulness. We spent 6 sessions building up Lana's confidence around other people and dogs, teaching Lana how to process the threats in the environment better and how to communicate her needs to her person. Lana's person learned to read Lana's micro movements to better predict when Lana would feel the need to lash out in a barking frenzy. Helping Lana feel safe, calm, and happy in the environment was our goal.

Lana and her person now join in on the Wednesday morning walks almost every week. She used to bark at the sight of one dog, and now she walks with 3-5 other dogs successfully. On our Distracted & Fearful Dog Walks, we stop to play games throughout the walk. We use games that help dogs learn to walk passed other dogs on the trail, learn about being the leader of the walk and following other dogs, explore the environment, and focus on their person when requested. Lana and her person display awesome teamwork on these walks as they support each other along the trail.

We also introduced Lana to nosework! This one thing of learning how to use her nose to find an object of interest or a specific scent has helped Lana tremendously. Lana went from barking and asking to leave the Training Center to now wanting to run into the training center for some fun. I try to always have some good things for Lana to sniff, lick, and chew when she arrives so that she can have some safe exploration time. Then we set up for our nosework session. Check out this video that shows a simple set up where Lana is trying to find the scent in a box.

Lana sure makes finding the scent look easy! Many times she goes right to the box with the scent without even questioning the other box. Since Lana is still working on confidence building we provide lots of searches where she can easily be successful. The video above is just a short clip of the session, if you want to watch the full video it is over 20 minutes long and available on the Yooper Paws YouTube Channel.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Train Smarter With Games

Training Smarter, Not Harder with Games & Puzzles

When people come to their first session at the Yooper Paws Training Center, they are often surprised by our training style. I hear things like, "This is so much fun!" "This is so easy!" "All we do is play games!?!?" As positive reinforcement based trainers, we want to teach dogs what TO Do vs what NOT to Do. Playing games based on teaching skills and concepts allows us to heavily reinforce the behaviors we want. If we use reinforcement the dog wants, getting behaviors becomes much easier. Teaching in a way that both owner and dog have fun, makes learning so much easier. For those who are not familiar with Games & Concepts Based Training let me break it down a bit.

Watch this Movement Puzzle with Azul

Movement Puzzles are designed to reinforce skills we want our dogs to be good at while teaching concepts that can be applied to life skills.

In this puzzle all Azul has to do is put his front paws on the trampoline and return for a treat. I start by standing really close to the trampoline and using hand targets to guide Azul back and forth. Once Azul has the idea, I slowly back away from the trampoline. This is to teach the concept of sending the dog out to do a job and returning to their handler once the job is done, creating long distance work.

This is Azul's first time doing this puzzle so he's moving pretty slow, but with a few sessions he will start to build up some speed.

For dogs that find speed and movement reinforcing, the game becomes so fun that they don't even realize they are learning.

Here is Roz doing the same puzzle.

Roz has done 4-5 sessions already so I can build distance and speed much faster with her. I can also slow down my rate of reinforcement faster with her because she already knows and loves the game.

Games based dog training allows us to repeat behaviors without acting like a drill sergeant or forcing a dog to do something they don't want to do. We can play the game using body language to guide the dog to the behavior we are after without giving any cues. Then once the behavior is well known we can associate a verbal cue to request the behavior. By training this way, we avoid punishment when our dog struggles doing a behavior they are still learning. We can reinforce a behavior that's almost correct and slowly shape that behavior to the skill level we want.

Since learning this way is fun for both owner and dog, they are more likely to practice by playing the games between sessions. And your dog trainer can always tell if you've practiced or not!

Let Yooper Paws of Love or the Crazy2Calm Canine Coaches help you learn how to set up puzzles to train the skills you want your dog to have! Email us at

Continue to Post 2 in the Games Series to learn about helping distracted & fearful dogs with games.

Training Tools

As a Canine Coach I get asked what tools I use to train dogs. People are often shocked by my answer. Simply put, I want a nice fitting harne...