Monday, December 11, 2023

Canine Christmas List

December Theme of the Month
Things to Do With Your Dog in December

We all tend to get busy during the holidays and sometimes that means we leave our dogs out. I want to encourage all our Yooper Paws friends to think about ways to include their dog in the holiday season.  Here is a list of ideas to get you started!

  1. Review Holiday Things that Safe/Harmful for Dogs
  2. Letter to Santa Paws
  3. Tree Lighting Ceremony
  4. Create a Homemade Gift for your Dog
  5. Puppy Playdate with a Friend (Azul played with Maverick 2 days last week!) 
  6. String Dog Bone Treats for a Christmas Countdown (I guess I missed this one.)
  7. Make a Puppy Christmas Card
  8. Sing Christmas Carols to Your Dog (We do this every day in the car together!)
  9. Make Holiday Dog Treats
  10. Christmas Lights Drive/Sniff-a-bout
  11. Start a New Holiday Tradition
  12. Make a Puppy Ornament
  13. Share a Treat By the Fire
  14. Donate a Dog Toy
  15. Walk with a Friend 
  16. Watch a Holiday Movie - Belle and I do this every day together! 
  17. Hang a Paw Print Decoration on Your Door
  18. Hang a Stocking for your Dog Stockings are hung both at work and at home!
  19. Pause and Reflect About the Past Year With Your Dog
  20. Dance with Your Dog
  21. Read a Book to Your Dog
  22. Play in the Snow
  23. Dress Up Together
  24. Have a Gift Exchange with Another Dog Owner
  25. Donate Dog Food
  26. Wrap a Present For Your Dog 
  27. Make Cookies for Santa Paws
  28. Take Photo in Front of the Christmas Tree (Azul in front of a blue tree at Menards.)
  29. Make a Training List/Plan 
  30. Prepare Treat Bags for Puppy Friends 

Throughout the month, there were will be additional posts on as many of these items as we can get to with directions on how to do these things with your dog. BOLD means we've done it and pictures will be posted if we were able to take some.

Please be smart and do all the things you and your dog can have fun doing together as a team!
It's important that you consider your dog's individual needs when you look at this list! If your dog doesn't like to dress up, skip list items that suggest that or keep it really simple like a new holiday collar. If your dog doesn't like crowds, you wouldn't take them to a Christmas tree lighting or parade.

If you want to share pictures of your activities with your dogs, email them to or send them to via messenger and I will post them on the Yooper Paws Facebook page and possibly even include them in a blog on that list item.

Have fun & Merry Christmas!

Announcing Adora Belle

Meet Little Miss Adora "Belle" Chaos!

Belle joined our family last week at 8 wks old. She is a German Shepherd/Lab mix. So far she is super sweet with just a little bit of sassy and she's learning very quickly! At first I thought she was going to struggle with potty training because she was so cold outside and scared. But she's learned to go fast and run back to the door to get inside. 

Adora Belle will be useful as a Demo Dog at the Yooper Paws Training Center. She is working on puppy socialization experiences and basic skills now. Soon she will be working on Therapy Dog skills and volunteering at the library with Azul when she is ready. Then if she continues to show that she is well suited, Belle will be trained in some of Azul's Service Dog tasks, alternating who is "on duty" so that both dogs get plenty of time off to do doggy behaviors. If Belle decides she doesn't like going out and about, then she can still have the best of lives as a family dog.
Azul and Belle are learning how to share my time and be near each other right now. Belle is so small that I think Azul is worried about hurting her. And previous puppies he has played with have been obnoxious land sharks which Azul won't put up with. I'm sure it won't take long for them to find their way to becoming good puppy friends. Right now I'm just happy that they can be in the same room together.

Things Belle has learned in her first week.
Paws up on my legs is how she tells me to pick her up. This used to be her cue that she was done going potty and wanted to warm up. But now she's learned to run to the door when she's done. We have 2 small steps in the front door which she can now navigate. Then she sits by the door waiting for me to take shoes off and unclip her leash. (She waits about 15 seconds or less!) Then she races up 3 more stairs and into the living room to see what she's missing and wait for me to catch up.

Belle learned to sit right away! I lured the behavior about 3 times and she started offering it a lot. Now she sits as I refill her food & water, while I unlock her crate door, and while I unclip her leash. Each time she earns reinforcement so she keeps doing it. Sit has become a default behavior that she offers whenever she doesn't know what to do!

She can jump/climb out of the crate (2 inch bar), the playpen (4 inch bar), the steps coming in (again about 4 inches), the step station at the office, and her small cot/bed at home. I'm trying to keep this at under 6 inch objects but a few times with a running start she's made on the couch!

She knows the hand signal for down and is starting to learn the verbal cue. Although we are only doing this behavior in training sessions. I haven't applied it to any specific reasons for the behavior yet. Although I did start teaching Belle to go under my legs for a tuck position.

She's really good at squatting the moment I say the potty cue! In the small car crate she barks when she needs to go and is able to hold it until I pull over and take her out. In the office she runs to her potty station when she needs to go. I'm ok with this for now because if I'm with a client, I may not be able to stop immediately and take her out. Plus it's more windy there so some days she simply won't stay outside long enough to go. The artificial turf potty station is good practice in case she has to go at an airport relief station as a service dog. Many dogs find the artificial grass too odd and refuse to go, then need to go too bad to hold it for a whole flight. At home she's had 2 accidents that were not on a puppy pad in her crate while I slept. She likes the puppy pad the first few nights, but now that she's learned how to wake me up to go out, she's not using the pads anymore. That's a big win for me because I hate puppy pads!

Belle has also learned to do hand targets with and without a  food lure which is nice for getting her to move where I want her to be. She's tried to bop me nose to nose a few times, which I turned away and didn't reinforce and she hasn't tried it again the last few days. 

Belle is all about the reinforcement! Food, belly rubs, ear rubs...any kind of physical touch and happy voice. She's getting used to 3 different crates, 2 playpens (attached to crates) and a backpack. So far she's been in ACE hardware to get keys made and to the groomers to help with Maverick's bath. And yes, she's met and played with Azul's best friend Maverick. Plus she watched Blue, Cowboy, and Oy from a safe distance. Belle has also stayed with 3 puppy sitters this week!

Needless to say, it's been a busy week for Little Miss Adora Belle Chaos. If you're following any of our social media accounts you've probably seen lots of video and pictures already! If you're not following us, here is a video of Belle doing puppy push ups about mid-week:

Stay tuned for the amazing adventures of Azul: My Little Boy Blue & Little Miss Adora Belle Chaos.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Noticing Household Needs

When we bring a new dog into our house, this is by our choice not that of the dog!

It's easy to put all our focus on the new dog, but we must also look at the whole household and what every member needs!

For my final blog in Noticing Needs November 2023, I'm going to be taking a look at what we as dog owners need for our house.

As a Canine Coach & Behavior Consultant I try to take a step back and look at the whole picture of what is happening when an owner/caregiver comes to me for help. Of course this means looking at the dog's needs but it also means taking a look at what the human coming with the dog needs, what other household humans need, and what other household pets need.

When we open our doors to welcome a new dog in, we often have a mental picture of what family life is going to look like with our dogs. We have big dreams of a perfect world or perfect life, perhaps we've picked out the "perfect" dog for our family. But more often than not, things are far from perfect! It doesn't matter if you welcome a new puppy or an older dog into your house or even a new human, there is always a period of adjustment and learning about each other. Everyone that already resided in the house has to learn about the newcomer, just one new change. While the newcomer, has to learn about everyone else, typically multiple residents and where they fit in with everyone.

Those that have been following SDiT Rosalind already know that she was placed with a new handler, returned to me, and has now been placed with yet another new handler. We spent 4 days working with the new handler getting human and Roz to know each other, making sure the other dog in the house and Roz could be friends. And we all thought it was going to be a good match. Yet over the 2 months there, the new handler realized that caring for 2 dogs instead of 1 was really exhausting & costly! Roz at barely 2 yrs old has way more energy and stamina then the others in the house, illness happened with 2 of the 3 residents, planned vacation, and basically a whirlwind of activity in those 2 months. Unfortunately, things just were not working and continuing to try was having a negative impact on everyone involved. The decision to return Roz to me was not made easily, but was best for all involved.

Roz has now been transferred to a new home with a family she already knows and loves, that also loves & NEEDS her. This family has worked to understand the needs of everyone involved and is confident that Roz is exactly what they need.  They know Roz's energy level and needs for social, mental, and emotional stimulation every day. I'm confident this placement will work out and I'm excited what this means for Roz's new handler, Eddie! 

Young SDiT Rosalind, aka Roz, Rozzie, and Rozzie Bear, is a great example of a dog that needs to be with her people and have a job. Her goal in life is simply to be loved and please everyone around her!

Considering the Needs of the Handler

Some might say that this is more important for Service Dog Handlers that might have very specific needs. I believe this might be harder to understand or pinpoint the needs of Service Dog Handlers, but it's also true for every dog owner.

Generally the main person who will care for, train, and enjoy the dog the most is the one who brings the dog home. (Unless the dog is given for a gift, but that's a BAD IDEA!) This is also the person who typically reaches out to me for help when something is not going as planned. Occasionally a family member that didn't plan to get a dog and ended up "stuck" with the dog reaches out to me.

Often the person reaching out feels stuck, embarrassed, annoyed or a whole slew of other emotions due to the problems they are having. It's my job as a Canine Coach to simply listen to their struggle, observe the dog, and look for the missing puzzle pieces that are causing the struggles. Thankfully, listening has always been one of my strong suits!

We also need to consider the handler/caregiver's needs as far as other commitments, energy level, physical ability to manage the dog (especially true in large/giant dogs), and their end goal dreams. Most caregivers have other jobs in or out of the house; going to work, raising the kids, taking care of the house, etc. Available time to work with the dog is a huge part of creating a solution to the struggles. Energy levels vary from person to person. Often a caretaker gets the dog because they want to walk a dog, but the dog they get either doesn't like walks because the world is too scary or the dog wants/needs to walk much faster and/or further then the human anticipated. Too much exercise can be a bad thing too! Just like children some dogs simply don't realize how much a dog needs sleep. I need to understand the caretaker's available time, energy, physical strength, mental strength, etc.

Another huge caregiver need is learning style. Some individuals need hands on demonstrations with their dog, while other's can copy a well made video or watching another team in action. Some people prefer audio learning and enjoy listening to a podcast or webinar. Others need to read text to really process what they are learning.  And some caregivers need all 3 forms of learning; watching, listening, reading! Some people learn more quickly than others, while some need lots of practice. As a Canine Coach I really try to take all of this in consideration when creating a training plan.

Considering the Needs of other Humans in the House

I always say it's best to make sure everyone is on board before bringing a dog into the home. Sometimes that easier said then done and none of us lives in a perfect world. Often for me, my spouse is the hardest sell when I'm trying to bring in a new dog. He totally loves dogs, but only if he doesn't have to do the work and simply do the fun stuff like daily belly rubs. My husband does do the occasional walk with one of my dogs, but I need to have realistic expectations that he won't do this unless he really needs to. Often when a dog is struggling with behaviors the caregiver or spouse doesn't like, that can cause stress in the relationship. Not only does the dog feel that stress, but that can also make the behavior worse becoming a vicious cycle.

If there are children in the home, their needs must be considered. Are they old enough to help with the dog? Do they know how to be safe around dogs? Do they even like dogs? My grandson has never really liked dogs even though he's only slightly older than Azul he really only tolerates Azul. Forrest also hates most other dogs and new people too. For some reason, Forrest really clicked with Roz and he broke our hearts when he wanted to buy Roz from the day I was scheduled to take her back to Michigan. Roz is a sweetheart for sure and for a time we considered her staying at my daughter's house, but that doesn't fit everyone else's needs and Roz would be under utilized. She was born to be a Service Dog! 

If the caregiver is also a caregiver to young children, a senior adult with a disability, or other caregiving responsibilities, that will impact how much time the caregiver has to work with the dog from day to day. 

Sometimes we even need to consider the needs of our neighbors. No one wants to be at constant war with the family next door. Nor do we want our dogs to be barking at the neighbors dog every time we let them out. Depending on how many neighbors you have, that may be something that needs to be considered too. Some dogs do well in busy urban environments and some do not. While Roz has spent most of her life in urban environments, the rural environments definitely make it easier to meet her needs for exercise and sniffing time. At my house Roz gets 10 min of off leash zooming in the morning and evening with a 30-45 min walk. In an urban environment where she must be on leash all the time, a 60 min walk each day is not enough. Some of this is age related for our dogs, but the environment and neighborhood that the family lives in has to be a part of the training plan too!

Don't forget to consider the other animals in the house! That's a whole different blog!

I hope this has given you some food for thought before you welcome your next dog into your home. I hope it also helps you to realize what YOU need for a good at trainer. As caregiver, or the one seeking help with your dog, you need a trainer or coach that can understand your needs, the needs of your dog and help you bridge the gaps between where your needs don't quite meet up. 

If you can't connect with your dog trainer in a way that makes you feel good about your sessions, you likely need to look for a new trainer. Please search for one that uses force free, games based dog training that can make learning fun for everyone!

Monday, November 27, 2023

Creating Calm Canines

 Creating a Calm Christmas Special

Christmas time can be crazy for us humans and our pets! 
  • We fill our homes with decorations that might seem unsettling to our dogs, especially the Christmas tree.
  • Our schedule or routine often changes with some extra time off work/school plus extra time home with family.
  • We are more likely to travel to see family we haven't been able to see since last Christmas.
  • We often have people come to stay with us.
  • There is extra time spent in stores which adds stress to us all! Christmas shopping, longer than normal lines, bigger crowds, etc. Often our dogs feel this stress in us when we get home!
Fearful, sensitive, and overly-excited and real young dogs tend to struggle with the changes that happen at Christmas more then confident, social dogs that are used to changing routines. Often I take emergency calls from people that have been going to Grandma's (insert any name here) house every year, but now they have a new puppy and either A- Owners don't know where to find a good puppy sitter OR B- Owners think taking their puppy with them will be real easy, then get a rude awakening when it's hard. 

Personally this year, I'm expecting a new puppy to come home very soon and I had the opportunity to bring Adora Belle home just before Thanksgiving or waiting until just after. I decided the chaos of the family travels and time together would be too much for a puppy that was only with me 3 days before the trip.  Then I found I would be re-claiming Roz during the holiday travels as she had too much energy to be successful in her previous SD placement. I spent Thanksgiving in a house with 10 humans and 3 large dogs, and the 2 boy dogs need to be kept separated at this time. This would have been way too much for a new puppy to handle. I'm glad I planned ahead!

Sneak Peak at Adora Belle Chaos!

We will have 4 Christmas promotions this year! The first 3 are totally FREE!

Here in Patreon will be the "12 Top Tips for Creating Calm!" 

On Facebook: "The 12 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge!"

And on my website is "December List of Holidays Activities!" This is a list of 30+ activities to do with dog during the holidays. The list gets posted Dec 1st, then it gets updated with links to photos, videos, or blogs as I work through the list with my dogs. You're encouraged to copy the list and do as many activities as you can!

The last one is super low cost virtual session to help your pup have a peaceful holiday despite all the chaos we often add to our daily routines. I'll be offering 30 minutes for $30 and 60 minutes for $50 available for Zoom sessions and video calls only.

The 12 Top Tips to Creating a Calm Christmas

You can sign up for a free account and get access to this. As a member, you'll get notified each day Dec 1 - 12th when I add the post for that day. I'll be using a mix of training videos, live zooms, and written content to share my tips. 

I'm still working on putting this together but will be including some things that you can train or practice before the big activities happen, some things you can do right be for to set up for success and some things you can do in the moment to help your dog be as calm as possible. Lastly I plan to add in a few extra posts after the 12th to help reduce your dog's stress after the big activities!

One of the problems with lists of this nature is that they often cater to the most common needs that dog trainers experience with their clients. You may find that all 12 tips can easily be implemented into your holiday routine or you might find that only 2 really apply to your dog. Each dog if a unique individual, just like each family is different, each holiday gathering is different. So if you like the Top 12 Tips, but feel like you need a bit more, check out the next discount on Virtual Planning!

Creating a Calm Christmas Virtual Planning Sessions

From December 1st to 15th, I'll be offering a discounted rate on individual sessions based on reviewing the changes that your dog will face during the holidays and creating a plan for success. This might include some training you can do before the craziness happens, some enrichment you can add or other ways to help meet your dog's needs, and tips for making sure all the pets in the house and visiting pets can share space successfully. You can schedule your 30 min Virtual Session for just $30 or your 60 min Virtual Session for $50. (My normal rate with be $75 for any session up to 60 min long.) 
This is one-on-one time to look at your holiday plans and your dog's individual needs and brainstorm ways to meet your dog's needs in an attempt to prevent or reduce the challenging behaviors that happen when your dog becomes stressed.

I look forward to hearing about you and your dog plan to spend the holidays with as much peaceful feelings as possible and reducing stress as much as we can for everyone!

Friday, November 24, 2023

Whispers, Screams, & Singing

Do dogs whisper, scream, & sing?

And if so, what does that look like?

Most dog owners would say that their dog has different barks or levels of bark to mean different things. They may use in "inside voice" or whisper on cue to get a treat, their alarm bark for an intruder that can be heard miles away, and sometimes a singing voice that often comes out when they are playing with good friends. Just like the audible voice dogs have, their behavior also reveals body signals that can be divided into these 3 categories. The emotions a dog is feeling in any given moment plus the level of arousal the dog is experiencing work together to create the behaviors we see. Humans then can observe these behaviors to take an educated guess at what our dogs might be feeling.


The loudest, most energetic, obnoxious, extreme behaviors are signs that our dog is extremely aroused and over-threshold or rapidly going off the deep end. This might be that audible alarm bark, lunging at a perceived threat, running away, or any one of the behaviors that we recognize as fight, flight, freeze, fawn, or fool around behaviors. New dog owners might struggle to recognize this body language, but most seasoned dog owners recognize when their dog is over-the-top reacting to a change in the environment.


These are more like the subtle body language cues we can observe in our dog that suggest something has gotten their attention and their arousal level is starting to increase. Unlike screams, the whispers are very easy to miss! Whispers vary greatly from individual to individual, sometimes impacting the common places we watch for body language (eyes, ears, mouth, tail, etc) but creating such a minor change that it's easily missed. Often dog trainers will refer to these smaller actions as micro signals, meaning small or almost barely noticeable actions.

Azul's nose is his first thing to change when he notices a change in the environment. His biggest distractions are other dogs, deer, farm animals, and burrowing animals. When Azul smells things of interest, his nostrils flare a bit faster which is really hard to see since his nose is generally facing away from me or buried in the ground. Often the first thing I see is his nose point up towards the sky or down to the ground followed by the rest of the body freezing in place. How long that freeze position lasts will depend on how high Azul's arousal level is in that moment; the more excited he is the longer he freezes. Azul generally carries his tail high, often curled to the point of touching his back. However as his arousal starts to climb, his tail goes straight out like a pointer. If his tail drops below his back level, then whatever he is smelling is a bit scary going even lower for extreme scares. If Azul's tail points out then curls back up quickly, it's likely he's spotted something that he wants to chase. 

Sometimes whispers or micro-signals happen so fast that owners miss them entirely not recognizing a pattern for their dog. This is especially true for owners who ask their dogs to stay in heel most of the walk. If your dog is walking by our sides, yet our gaze tends to be out in front of us along the path, we simply can't see many of those signs. This is one the great advantages of getting comfortable with walking using a longline of 10-15ft as this places your dog out in front or off to the side far enough for you to easily watch their whole body as you walk.


You may have guessed that this is when you and your dog have spent countless hours walking, training, engaging with each other and now you seem to have hit your stride where you are just in tune with each other. This would be my comparison to an opera singer or someone with great talent. But there are also dog/owner moments where perhaps you're both singing the same song, but perhaps in different rhythms or at different volumes. This would be the case if you've been able to get to a routine walk that both you and your dog enjoy together, but perhaps there is still a hiccup or an unpredicted tempo change every now and them.

I've always considered this to be like dancing with your dog with some give & take, changing out who is leading for a nice back and forth silent conversation as go through your daily activities. Another trainer refers to this as tracking, or paying attention to movements and motions of another being. It doesn't really matter what you call this form of communication between you and your dog, but it should be every dog owner's goal; to spend more time in a singing or dancing mood state and as little time in the screaming state as possible. Recognizing the whispers helps us to sing in better harmony.

My job as a Canine Coach is to help you reach a point where you and your dog can meet each other's needs, communicate clearly, and enjoy moments in time together. I love helping dog owners turn the screams into whispers. And if we can spend enough time together, I love seeing you hit that magic point where you and your dog are singing together!

If you're not thrilled with your dog's behaviors, let me help you! 
  1. The blogs in this website are easily searchable from a web browser, which leads to a whole bunch of free information.
  2. Several specialty FB Groups are available to help you depending on what you need. You can always message me to see what group(s) might be best for you.
  3. Virtual classes & workshops can help with learning to understand your dog, communicate better as a team, build confidence, increase focus around distractions and work on advanced training.
  4. Monthly memberships are one of the cheapest ways to get help with your specific issue, mixing webinars, workshops, printed text, video demonstrations, and live group sessions.
  5. Private session packages are a great way to save a bit a money when we need to build up skills as your puppy grows up or to work on a challenging behavior. I have several package formats available right now including in-person and virtual sessions, 1 hr sessions, 2 hr sessions, & 4 hour sessions.
Most of these allow you to mix & match a few services to get the most bang for your buck!

And be sure to check out the Yooper Paws Patreon Page where you can select memberships, including a free option that is going to have a Creating a Calm Christmas Collection available beginning Dec 1st!

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Black Friday Specials!

 Announcing the Yooper Paws Black Friday Sales!

This year I have 3 big promotions, the first of which comes with a big announcement!

The NEW Yooper Paws Membership on Patreon will released at a discounted price until January 1st for anyone who wants to try it out. There is a FREE Patreon Membership that has some info on Focus Around Distractions to show you want the Membership Service is all about.

There are 3 Membership Tiers (options) available!

The Helping Fearful Dogs Feel Safe Membership includes the 2 hr Workshop that teaching you about the need for safety, how fear impacts our dog's behaviors, and provides training resources to help you support your dog in becoming more resilient. This membership package is just $3 per month. Every month I will be adding a new case study, video review, or other bonus material to support owners with fearful or sensitive dogs.
The Challenging Behaviors Tier includes all the great resources available in the Helping Fearful Dogs Feel Safe Tier plus all the great workshops Yooper Paws has hosted in 2023 in prep for helping dog owners learn how force free training can teach our dogs to do more of the behaviors we love and less of the behaviors that drive us crazy. In addition to the pre-recorded workshops that you can watch at leisure, this tier will have 1 new monthly workshop designed to address some of the most challenging behaviors in greater detail. There will also be plenty of information on games you can play with your dog to teach the behaviors you love including impulse control, keeping their feet on the floor, using their inside voice, and other great skills. The Challenging Behaviors Tier will cost $6 per month.

Then for those who already love Yooper Paws, the nerdy dog stuff and getting all the best resources, we will have the Premium Planning Package which includes everything in the previous 2 tiers plus loads of fillable or printable worksheets, support in creating your plans, and monthly Q&A sessions for $8 per month.

Instead of saving to pay larger sums of money at once to purchase a package that has everything you need, the membership allows you to stretch those expenses out throughout the year in small monthly payments that are directly debited from your account so you can continue to enjoy the training support without stressing about additional costs. Members will get a discount on all Yooper Paws of Love and Crazy2Calm Classes if you do need additional training. The best part is, you can cancel any time! So you can try it for a month or two and cancel the membership if it isn't working out. But don't wait to try it because the prices are going up on January 1st!

The Challenging Behaviors Support Package

The Challenging Behaviors Support Package is a mix of our most popular packages! This starts with a 6 Session Package that can be in-person or virtual sessions for $300. Then as long as you schedule your 1st session by November 28th (that's scheduled, not attend before that date) you will automatically receive a free Challenging Behaviors Plan a free virtual classroom or webinar depending on what you need most! For example, if you have a crazy canine adolescent that you want to do some training with, you get your 6 Session Package, lifetime access to the Crazy Canine Adolescent Classroom, and a Challenging Behaviors Plan with additional resources based on the top 3 behaviors that are driving you the craziest. That's $525 Value for the one time fee of $300.

Virtual Learning Package

If you don't live in the Yooper Paws local area and need virtual training support, you can try out Yooper Paws with this low cost package. The Virtual Learning Package starts with one online class from our Classroom List, plus you receive additional 1-on-1 support from a Canine Coach which includes a 60 minute planning session to cover anything in the classroom you need help with along with two 30 minute follow up sessions to help you carry out the plan that was created.

You can choose from canine age/stage appropriate classes such as the Positively Puppy Paws or Crazy Canine Adolescents Classrooms. If you need help with an older dog, chances are the Confident Canines Classroom is a good fit.

Or you can choose from our Service Dog Classrooms including the SD Foundations Class, SD Public Access Class, the Scent-Based Medical Alerts Class, or the Sight Based Medical Alerts Class.

The only catch is you must register for the Classroom you want to attend by Nov 28th! 

Most classes cost $100, $125 or $150. With this package you pay for the price of the class you register for and the additional planning sessions are free. That will save you $150 no matter which class you select!

If you're not sure which classroom is right for you, simply email us at and Canine Coach will help you figure it out.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Noticing Needs November

We all have needs! But do we know what WE need or what Our DOGS need?

All animals, including humans, have some basic needs; food, water, shelter, or other needs to survive physically. These basic needs get met or animals die, plain & simple. I'd like to focus on the needs that help us thrive or excel in life instead of merely surviving. These needs become more complicated because they are very individualized from animal to animal. We all need exercise, but the level of exercise I need is going to be different than a younger, healthier human. 

We all need places and connections with other animals where we feel safe. In a perfect world we can hope we would all feel safe at home, work, school or any place we need to be regularly. Yet we all know the world is not perfect and many humans and other animals lack the ability to feel safe in the environment they are in. Absolute safety simply isn't possible in a world where hazards are everywhere. That is where connection with other animals fits in. Hopefully we all have made at least a few connections with other people or animals that help us feel safe. I try really hard to make the Yooper Paws Training Center be a place of safety for everyone while they are there and this branches out to all the social media groups we run as well.
Getting back to the needs...some of us humans find other humans safe, while some of us might feel more safe with our dogs. Some might need lots of safe connections, while others might prefer a just a few safe connections. The need very quickly becomes individualized.

There are many other needs that animals have including a need to learn or better ourselves, whether that's increasing our health, feeling of safety, confidence of survival, etc.

Expressing needs
Switching gears a bit let's look at how we express our needs. Pretty much everyone here recognizes the basic behaviors that happen when we or other animals feel fear; fight, flight, fear, etc. We also probably recognize when another animal is feeling joy or happiness. It can be easier to recognize the needs of other humans because we have words to communicate most needs. But dogs don't have words, they only have behaviors. 

If you haven't noticed yet, all needs stem from a physical survival need or an emotional thriving need. The extreme emotional reactions are easily noticed, but also very hard to change, for both humans & dogs. We often recognize a base line in the middle where the animal spends most of their time, physically and emotionally. Yet we often fail to notice the behavior that happens as our dogs start to have elevated stress hormones caused by stronger emotional reactions.
If you want more to know more on Emotional States, check out this previous blog: Emotional States of Dogs and watch for the next blog that's going to be highlighting micro signals and how we can notice emotional changes in our dogs before they become extreme enough to encounter outbursts.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Understanding Canine Choice Workshop

 The concept of teaching our dogs to make choices or even encouraging our dogs make choices is uncommon for many dog owners. 

Like many of my clients, my experience with dogs was with the philosophy that you had to teach the dog who was in control. With this strong human history of punishing dogs into submission, it's understandable while we are not quite used to letting or dogs make choices much less encouraging our dogs to make choices. Unfortunately it is the human dominance model that as prevented many dogs from learning how to cope with environmental changes to learning how to make choices that may or may not impact their life. Most of the fearful, aggressive, and overly excitable dogs struggle with confidence which includes the ability to make choices.

Image from the Confident Canines Class

If you missed it be sure to check out my recent blog on Choices, Agency, and Boundaries! But here I shared the definition of Choice as the freedom to do different behaviors in the environment.

One of the common debates about Canine Choice is the arguments that if we give dogs choices, they will do things that are unsafe! My big mission is to help people create a foundation of rules that help them decide what choices the dog can/should make and when might a human have to step in with directions. 

Some people believe that once you give a dog options and choices, they will become the boss and rule the house. I don't know about you, but I've never seen a dog actually run for president or been elected the ruler of any country let along a household. Now you might think Azul rules our house, and often his needs dictate what I do and when but that's my choice to do the best I can to give him what he wants, when he wants it. But the choices I give him are still defined by my boundaries that I've set for my dogs. There is another webinar available in this series that was recorded a few months ago about Setting Boundaries.  If you missed it, it's now in my list of paid webinars and can be viewed for a one time fee of $20. Email me if you'd like to review this workshop at

In the Confidence Canines Class we discuss the Confidence of One's Self or the Ability to Make Choices Successfully. In this class we look at how building in simple choices with games like the Pick One Game that is easy for our dog to make the "right" choice. The right choice being one that earns them a yummy food treat. One of the other key concepts taught in this class is to avoid offering choices that have an unacceptable solution. Don't ask your dog to choose between kibble and cheeseburger if the choice of taking the cheeseburger is unacceptable and you're not really going to let them have it.

The choices each dog owner is comfortable giving their dog ties really close to the boundaries or rules for their household which makes this topic very much an individualized process. This makes it a complicated topic and why we decided to host this as one of Challenging Behaviors Series Lunch & Learn Webinars. 

Understanding Canine Choice & Agency Workshop
November 16th at 12PM Central Time

Register here to get the Zoom link delivered to your email box before the workshop and/or to get the replay link sent to you as soon as it becomes available. (Within 48 hrs of the workshop)

It's not the exact choices that we give our dogs that impact their behavior. Agency, or the perception of how much freedom you have to make choices, is the key to choices effecting confidence and thus impact behavior. In this webinar we will be taking a look at the whole dog including! 

  • How the dog's choices change the environment or the distractions in the environment.
  • How the dog's choices impact their feeling of agency or perception of control over the environment.
  • How the dog's choices impact their confidence to try to new things and their resiliency or ability to recover from triggers or other perceived threats in the environment.
  • How the dog's choices can impact their health physically as much as emotionally.
  • How the dog's choices can lead to the dog choosing to do the behaviors we love vs the behaviors that drive us crazy!
If you want to learn more, be sure to register for this webinar live or for the replay. As always, it will be available for 30 days for FREE, then it will be going into the vault not to be released again until the Challenging Behaviors Series is released. 

Here is a sneak peak for those who have read this far! The Challenging Behaviors Series Announcement will be coming on Black Friday with a special Holiday Weekend price for a very short period of time!

Monday, October 30, 2023

Canine Choice


Choice, Agency, & Boundaries all rolled into one!

What is Choice, Agency and Boundaries & How Does it Apply to Dog Training?

Basic Definitions

Choice: The freedom to do different behaviors in the environment the animal is in. 

Agency: The perception of how much freedom you (or an animal) has to make choices.

Boundaries: The rules, guidelines, or laws we all (humans, dogs, and all living beings) must live by.

Let's work backwards starting with boundaries!

As humans we understand that laws exist to keep humans (and animals) safe and that breaking those laws can result in a punishment. Animals on the other hand, don't have LAWS that are enforced on them by governing bodies. Instead, animals that live in people homes will have rules to abide by, but they primarily think in terms of what behaviors will earn them reinforcement of something they want. Animals can learn through punishment to avoid behaviors, but that can have harsh consequences to the emotional well being of the animal. 

Imagine, you drive without your seatbelt every day and don't get caught. So you continue to drive without using that safety device. Eventually something is going to happen to give you a negative consequence for that action. Hopefully it's something minor like a ticket from law enforcement, but occasionally the punishment is more severe such as injury (or worse) from an accident. Those seatbelt laws are designed to keep us safe!

Switching back to dogs, every dog owner has to decide what it's going to take to keep their dog safe. We love our dogs and most of us have a basic desire to keep them safe. 

If you have a little dog, you might worry that people will step on them, therefore you might not allow them to run around in a crowded place. This means you might take away their freedom to move around an environment by picking them up and carrying them. 

Most responsible owners use a leash to help keep their dogs safe by preventing them from running in the road, approaching an unknown dog, etc. Some owners may choose to train their dog to a level of obedience where they feel their dog is relatively safe without a leash. While other owners, especially husky owners, will never fully trust their dog off leash in uncontrolled environments because they know their dog loves to run too much.

That's the thing with boundaries when it comes to family pets. Each family has to set their own rules or boundaries based on their situation and the pet they own. My boundaries are pretty simple:
  • I don't want my dogs to get injured in the road so we use longlines for sniffing in any area that is not fenced in or otherwise secured. Rule: My dogs do not run free!
  • I don't want my dogs to hurt any humans! This means I have rules in place for mouthing/biting, jumping, or any other behavior that is going to lead to potentially hurting a human.
That's pretty much it!  Those are my rules!

There is a popular rule that comes from other dog trainers and that is one of forced obedience. If human says "sit" that dog better sit! While I do teach my dogs to sit, I never want to force them to sit because it might be uncomfortable them due to an injury, fear, or other distraction in the environment that I have not noticed yet. The only time I ever want to force a behavior on my dogs is if it's absolutely necessary to protect the other humans and animals in that environment. This could be as simple as placing a leash back on your dog when you see another dog coming or using distance away from a friendly stranger to prevent your dog from jumping on them.

My rules are not your rules and as a dog owner, you must decide what boundaries you need to set for your family including the pets you own.

Agency and Choice go together: We can't have agency if we are never given choices and we can't give choices without giving agency.

Remember, agency is the perception of how much freedom you have to make choices!

If your dog always eats their meals in a bowl, it's always the same kibble, at the same time, etc. There is no choices offered to them when it comes to meal time therefore they have no control over what they eat unless they are sneaky at stealing things they find. The need to eat is a basic need which makes it a great place to build in some choices.

The Pick One Game is a great way to build in choice of food!
(This is also a game we do in the Building a Better Bond Workshop!)

Some dogs may have very little choice in their day to day lives. Humans tell them what to eat, where to sleep, when they go potty, etc. These dogs would have very little agency! While other dogs are given choices on a daily basis. They might be trained to give a cue such as ring bells to go outside to potty which allows them the freedom to control the environment in a way to take care of this basic need. This can help a dog have more agency, or belief that their behaviors can impact their day to day life. 

Then there are some dogs like Azul who are given choices all day long and it can seem like these dogs take over the house! I go outside when Azul asks to go outside! I get his food when he asks! I give belly rubs on demand! 

Is he spoiled? Perhaps! But at least I'm sure that he realizes his behaviors can have an impact on his day to day life. Azul has lots of agency. But he still has rules and boundaries such as we use longlines a lot because he is a husky that's prone to wandering away.

Finding a middle ground between offering choices and being controlled by our dogs!

(Side note: This sub-heading is meant to be a joke of sorts! In no way are our dogs trying to take over the world and rule over us or try to be alpha over us humans!)

The key to helping your dog have agency without giving up your household safety rules is simple!

Always give choices where both answers are acceptable options. In the Pick One game above, I might offer one type of treat in my right hand and a different type of treat in my left. Both would be acceptable so Azul is free to choose which one he wants more in that moment. Azul would always choose to be off leash running as his normal speed is way faster than my normal speed. However that isn't safe. So I can provide Azul a choice of go inside the backyard fenced area and run free or wear his harness and longline and sniff in other areas of our property. Now some days, my health doesn't allow me to wander the property and Azul doesn't get a choice, but other days both are possible options. 

There are lots of different ways you can give your dog choices in life without compromising your boundaries! I'm happy to write another blog on this topic if you'd like more information about building choices into your dog's life. 

You can also sign up for the Building a Better Bond Workshop or the Confident Canines Class where you can learn more about the topic of Canine Choice!

Friday, October 13, 2023

Changing Needs

 Finding Balance with Changing Needs

With Fall weather changes and winter rapidly approaching, it's a perfect time to look at our dog's needs and our abilities to meet those needs as best we can. In a perfect world, our dogs would be totally content to simply be with us and do what we were doing when we wanted to do that. Yet everyone knows we do not live in a perfect world. 

Perhaps we have to work at a job where our dog can't go with us and must stay home...
Perhaps we have a dog that is fearful and doesn't enjoy going out to new places or around strangers...
Perhaps we have a medical issue that is preventing us for doing our regular exercise routine with our dogs...
Perhaps we live in an area that really harsh winters making walking or other outdoor activities harder...

When we do not live in a perfect world and perhaps can't do the things we want to do with our dogs, we need to look at what do our dogs really need vs what can we really provide them to find a balance that helps everyone to stay as happy and healthy as possible.

What does your dog need?

I think we can all agree that dogs have physical, social, mental, and emotional needs. Dogs are unique individuals and their needs are just as individualized. I discussed this in another blog specifically on Understanding Your Dog's Needs. And you can learn about the Hierarchy of Canine Needs if you want to know more! For this post I want to focus on how needs may change with age, health, weather, environment, and other factors then take a look at how we can change our plan to better meet the needs of our individual dog.

Age, Health, & Physical Needs

As many of you know, Azul recently went through his neuter surgery at 3.5 yrs old. Generally Azul is a pretty laid back, calmer dog who is happy if he gets 30-60 minutes of sniff-a-bout time and 4-10 minutes of zoomies or play time in a day. Post surgery requirements called for 10 days of slow leash walks up to 20 minute walks. As with many dog owners, this was tough because Azul did not want to take things this slow and let his body heel! Plus we had a few additional hurdles of Azul's a Service Dog, used to going with me when I leave the house and we had to avoid stairs and jumps such as getting in/out of the car.

Finding Balance is all about meeting the dog where they are and adjusting the plan based on their individual needs. This means that I basically cleared my schedule so that I could stay home and sit on the couch with Azul as long as he needed that down time. Sure I could leave him home with dad, but Azul would have wanted to move a whole lot more without me home, so I made the commitment to stay home as long as Azul needed. (Thankfully I can do that since I work for myself!) 

Day 1 Azul was still impacted by anesthesia and struggled to walk up right. This means if he stood up, so did I and I pretty much followed him to get a drink, to go outside, etc. We spent most of the time resting on his bed near the couch, but he also wanted to spend time outside so I put a bed on the porch for him too where we could sit and soak in fresh air. The walk down into the backyard was exhausting so once he went potty, he laid down to take a nap in the backyard which had me sitting in the grass beside him while he snoozed, then we went back inside when Azul was ready.

After Day 1 was when it really started to get tough to meet Azul's needs. Day 2 he wanted to live in the backyard although he still wasn't moving real fast. However, with his stitches, I really didn't want him laying on the ground, which means we had to find ways to meet Azul's needs indoors. Thankful his appetite was returning so we fed all his means in fun enrichment ways; his topples, find it games, lickmats, etc. By Day 3, Azul wanted to run and a certain chipmunk enemy was trying to hangout in the backyard. Instead we took multiple longline walks up around the barn, in the front yard, around the apple orchard, all places on our property or neighboring properties where Azul likes to go slow and sniff every blade of grass. We did 20 min sniff-a-bouts and rest for about 2-3 hrs on repeat all day. 

On Day 4 I let Azul have about 10 min to run in the backyard to check for his chippy enemy along with some short sniff-a-bouts. At this point Azul was pulling more on the leash and so I had to weigh the risk of what would potentially hurt his stitches more, a leash walk with pulling or a few minutes of free run in his quiet backyard. Sure Azul has great leash manners most of the time, but if his other needs are not being met or if his environment is too distracting, those manners struggle a bit. I knew by Azul's pulling that he needed a bit more movement in his day.

Don't get me wrong! I'm not telling you to go against your Veterinarian's advice when it comes to health related issues! I'm saying you have to find a balance between the general advice given to all dogs based on a health issue with your dog's specific needs based on their breed, age, and speed of recovery. Different ailments might require you to stick to the bed rest, leash walks only plan and also require additional Veterinary monitoring. But in Azul's case I was able to slowly increase his exercise needs based on the improvement he was showing me, the environment we had to work with, and my ability to add in distractions slowly. By day 7 Azul was back to his normal routines for exercise with just some mile adjustments to prevent jumping, pulling, and over-excitement.

Depending on where you live, climate often plays a role in being able to meet your dog's physical needs. For my clients in the south, they really struggle in the summer with intense heat so often find it most challenging to meet their dog's physical needs in the summer without risk of heatstroke. For those in north, like Azul and I, winter becomes much more challenging. Snow sometimes prevents us from getting in/out of the driveway, icy sidewalks and parking lots can reduce our ability to go on walks and many of our sniff-a-bout spots are inaccessible in the winter. This can make it really challenging to meet Azul's physical needs. To help, we change up where we walk! Sometimes it's easier to walk in town where we can walk down the center of slower roads. We also have access to snowmobile trails and frozen lakes that can make for nice sniff-a-bouts. With walks being more challenging and dangerous for people with balance issues, like me, we search out lots of fenced in areas for off leash time. Our backyard is great for off leash time, but it tends to get boring for Azul because the scents simply don't change enough therefore we try to find a few extra fenced in areas that can be off leash sniff zones.

Emotional & Social Needs

This is something that varies so much based your individual dog!  Some dogs need to play with friends or desire to make new friends more often, while some dogs would prefer to avoid making new friends or being in areas with unknown dogs. Most dogs need some social time with their owners and some emotional support from their owners every day. If your changing environments for your physical exercise based on weather related challenges, your dog might need a bit more emotional support to adapt. If your exercise abilities are decreasing due to weather, your dog might have an increase in social needs during this time.

Azul has pretty low emotional and social needs for a dog. I believe this is due to his husky traits of independence and contentment with watching the world go by.  Azul's emotional needs are met with lots of praise, belly rubs, and silly games. And Azul's social needs are met mostly by changing scenery; some time spent at home, some time at the office, with occasional trips to a store or other business. Azul doesn't need to directly interact with lots of people or dogs, but he needs to observe them from a distance or enough that he can "watch the world go by!" We throw in an occasional playdate with one of his doggie friends and Azul is a pretty happy boy. However, if I'm extra busy with other dogs or spending extra time with one dog, Azul has a bit of a low emotionally and may need some extra cuddle time to make up for absence. Thankfully, with the Training Center, Azul can hang out in the office while I work with other dogs and I can sneak in and cuddle him a bit throughout the day so his social needs can be more regulated without going super low. 

Dogs that spend a lot of time home alone, would more likely have greater social needs in the evening or when family is home because they've spent so much time alone. I was lucky enough to have Oy, one of my GSD clients for a whole day and since he is typically used to being alone while his parents work and then being the star of the show when his parents are home, he struggles a bit when full attention is not him. This is when you see behaviors such as counter surfing, raiding the trash, dumping the water bowl, and other challenging behaviors begin. When dog's social needs are not being met, they will take negative attention vs no attention in an attempt to get the interaction they so greatly desire. This is where we need to find a balance of giving the dog as much positive attention when we can and teaching the dog to calmly settle when we can't be giving them attention.

Mental Needs

To me this is one of the most important, yet often last to consider needs for dogs! When we think about our dog's mental needs, we have to remember that dogs are basically hardwired to explore, learn about things in their environment, learn how to get the things they want and need. This can include a need to explore new scents, scavenge for food, build on skills, and perhaps even become better at their job.

There is a new philosophy going around in the dog trainer communities about "not training" your dog. The basic premise is teaching your dog how to exist in their world, learning the rules of social etiquette for your family, but not teaching them to follow human cues/commands or do silly tricks. While I'm all about teaching the dog how to exist in their world and the rules of co-existence with human families, I also think spending time in training sessions is imperative to meeting the dog's needs. I don't really care what cues a human wants to teach their dog, but the act of developing the skills of teamwork that happen with training using positive reinforcement methods is a top priority for me. 

Perhaps clients want to focus on competitive sports such as agility, scentwork, flyball, barn hunts. 
Perhaps clients want to focus on having fun with confidence building skills like canine parkour, performing silly parlor tricks, or doing some freestyle movements together. 
Perhaps clients that want to train for a specific job such as service dog or therapy dog training. 

Of course some dogs find certain activities more enjoyable than others making it important to look at the individual dog's desire to participate in training. But my philosophy is any training based on teamwork that encourages the dog and owner to work together to accomplish a goal should be a priority in meeting that dog's mental needs.

Here is a fun training session I had with Oy!

Then there are other ways to meet additional mental needs. For dogs that really struggle with needing attention all the time when owners are present, adding in some mental challenges or doggie puzzles can really help meet their mental needs of that day while giving owners a few minutes to focus on something else while their dog is enjoying the challenge. It's my experience though, that I tend to sit back and watch my dog enjoying the puzzle I've game them because that is filling my emotional and social needs to see my dog be happy. I do have a ton of information in this blog about enrichment and puzzles if you want to learn how to build some puzzles at home.

Fall Special!

Since many owners are facing a change in routine due to weather I'm holding a Fall Special based on helping owners Find Balance in Meeting Your Dog's Needs. This special package includes one 60 minute planning session where we will look at your individual needs and your dog's individual needs to create a plan to help you restore balance in home where everyone's needs are being met. Then 2-4 weeks after your planning session we will do 30 min follow up session to look for areas where your plan may need to be adjusted. 

This package is open to both my in-person and virtual clients! Sessions can take place at the Training Center or via Zoom.

This special package will be available through Dec. 31st at a cost of $75 which covers both sessions. Additional review sessions can be purchased for $30 if needed. 

If you are not sure whether virtual dog training will work for you or not, check out this blog post from last October that covers some of the benefits of virtual training via zoom and online classes.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Service Dog Picnic

Service Dog Picnic!
October 17th from 11am to 1pm

You must RSVP to get the location.

All teams are welcome no matter if you're just starting your Service Dog journey or if your a full working SD Team. 

We will start out with a short walk and/or training exercise. Then stop for calm, settles at picnic tables while we eat. Everyone brings their own lunch or snacks. And don't forget the dog treats for your puppers!

One of the biggest challenges we face is running into undertrained dogs in public places. When Azul was younger, we didn't have other teams to practice with. Now there are multiple teams in this area! So let's get together and help each other out!

There is a suggested $5 donation to attend to cover the costs of training supplies and such. 

Please RSVP via text at 906-399-0548 or email to

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Bark & Treat

 Join us for some fall fun at the Yooper Paws Training Center!

Bark & Treat

611 N Hooper St, Kingsford, MI  49802
October 25th from 5-7:30 PM

$10 To Enter the Trunk Design Contest!

Businesses, Families, & Groups are encouraged to decorate their vehicle trunk in Halloween flare, then pass out treats to owners and their dogs.

Set up begins at 5PM 
Judging at 5:45PM 
(Prizes will be awarded immediately following judging.)

Any fall flare decorations are allowed with bonus points earned for displays that are dog themed. Please do not include anything that is designed to pop out causing a startle response. Lights and scents encouraged!

Bark & Treat Owners

Owners are encouraged to bring out their dogs for the fun Bark & Treat Activities.
Social dogs are encouraged to attend from 6-7PM.
Dogs that may need a bit more space from other dogs are encouraged to attend from 7-7:30PM.

Please do not bring any dogs that are fearful of people in general for everyone's safety! 
At Yooper Paws of Love we have a soft spot in our hearts for dogs that are fearfully reactive and do our best to include them in all activities. But safety for everyone including your fearful dog is our first priority! If your dog is on the fearful side, please contact Yooper Paws to schedule a time to pick up a treat bag and play the games privately. 

In addition to the Bark & Treat Fun we will have additional games and activities set up inside and around the Yooper Paws Training Center. 

Photo Contest will be held indoors with a winner announced the following day via Social Media and an email to the winners. You must register and have your photo taken by the Yooper Paws representative to enter the photo contest. All entries may be shared on any Yooper Paws social media sites and/or contest sponsor sites.

Games will include a Pumpkin Eating Contest, Search the Scarecrow, Bobbin for Balls, and this list will keep growing based on participation and sponsors.

We are requesting a small donation of $2 per dog to participate in activities that will be used to help some of our local Service Dog in Training Teams.

Contact Yooper Paws of Love to reserve your Bark & Treat spot and enter the Trunk Decorating Contest.

Text us or leave us a voicemail at 906-399-0548 with the Name and phone number you would like to register under and let us know if you are interested in sponsoring one of our games or contests.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Having Cake with Clients

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 

Adding More Enrichment

As dog owners, we use reinforcement to reward our dogs for the behaviors we like. Enrichment is often confused as being an extra great or j...