Friday, December 22, 2017

Wait! Your Paws are Muddy!

This fall has been a bit extended, and with the constant freezing and thawing, there's been a lot of mud. Never fear, your furry pal can be taught to help you out by wiping his or her feet at the door before coming in!

This can often be taught quickly with some well-placed treats and a clicker (or marker word like “good” or “yes”). Steps:
  1. Get out your towel or mat and have your dog sit-stay while he watches you place a few treats under the mat. 
  2. Release your dog to go get the treats.  Many dogs will quickly start pawing at the mat to get at the treats. 
  3. As soon as your dog starts pawing, mark (click or say your marker word) and reward with another treat on top of the mat. 
  4. After a few trials, stop putting treats under the mat and see if your dog will still try to paw at the mat. 
  5. Start adding a verbal cue like “wipe” before your dog starts pawing.
 Practice, practice, practice for many repetitions! Pretty soon you can ask your dog to wipe when coming in from outside! Not only do you get to let your dog do all the work, but it’s also a cool trick to show off to friends and family.

If your dog just won't paw at the mat or you don't have time to train this skill (it will take a lot of repetition so in the meantime you might need a way to clean his or her feet more thoroughly), consider helping your pup associate positive thoughts with getting their feet wiped if your dog doesn't particularly enjoy this event. After coming inside, wipe one paw at a time and feed a small treat before and after wiping your dog's foot. Soon your dog will learn to love to have his or her paws cleaned! 

 Happy Training!

Fear Free Veterinary Care

I worked for several years as a veterinary technician, and sometimes I would take my dogs to work with me. They were always very excited to go along and would race inside when we arrived, quite likely because they got lots of treats from my coworkers and sometimes the clinic cats hadn’t finished their food - the dogs were very eager to help with that. But occasionally I brought them along because they needed medical attention. Finley was very wise to this game – the lobby was fun, the kennel area was okay, but if I asked her to come into the treatment area, that meant something bad was about to happen, and she would flatten her ears, tuck her tail and try to go back to the kennel.
Many dogs are fearful at the vet’s office and often those fears are confirmed because we do something painful or uncomfortable like draw blood, trim nails or express anal glands (a major concern for Finley). At times, it can seem best to just get things done as fast as possible. Multiple people may restrain the struggling dog to complete the necessary task, leaving the dog even more wary the next time. Luckily there are more and more resources available for veterinary staff to take a more fear free approach. Actually, there is a whole Fear Free Certification program that covers canine and feline body language, restraint techniques, desensitization and counter-conditioning (teaching pets to accept and even enjoy handling), and medications for fearful patients. Recently the Fear Free folks launched a new initiative – Fear Free Happy Homes. You can join for free and get access to helpful information and products to make your pet’s vet visit as stress free as possible.
As our pets grow older we tend to make more frequent vet visits, and possibly need to provide extra care for certain ailments. For example, Finley recently developed some laryngeal paralysis, making her more susceptible to over-heating. I got her a cooling collar to help with this, and while she doesn’t mind it at all, some dogs may find having this put over their head aversive. A little bit of training can go a long way to making your older pet enjoy a new care routine – check out Finley learning to put her collar on herself, and having fun doing it!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Head Games

Training tricks is a great way to provide mental exercise and enrichment for our dogs.  In the rainy spring season, it can be hard to get outside as much as we (and our dogs) would like, so doing short training sessions on a new trick can be an outlet for some of your dog’s excess energy.  But maybe you’ve already hit the classics – shake, roll over, speak – and need something new to work your dog’s brain.  

Capturing different head movements can be the source of several new tricks.  For your dog, turning his head left or right, moving it up or down or lowering it to the floor can all be put on different cues.  It’s also an interesting challenge for you as the trainer.  If you want to improve your timing of marking your dog (Yes! Good dog! Click!), watching for the initial tiny movements of your dog’s head can help.  And of course, improving your timing and observation skills will help with any other training you’re doing with your dog - plus you can get some adorable tricks on cue to impress your friends!  Check out Australian Shepherd Payton and Husky Mix Finley working on some head tricks!

If you would be interested in a class to learn to train some of these fun skills, let us know! We'd love to set something up to offer some fun ideas to help you and your pup have more fun together. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Teacher's Pet - Parkour for Dogs

Parkour for dogs? Yes, it’s a thing! 

In human parkour, athletes run, climb, jump, swing and roll, using the features of the environment to get from point A to point B quickly and efficiently. While parkour for dogs is not exactly the same, it shares the idea of looking at the things in your environment differently and having your dog interact with them in new ways.

There are several organizations that offer guidelines and titles in this new dog sport, such as the International Dog Parkour Association and All Dogs Parkour . You can find lists of different ways you can train your dog to interact with obstacles (and obstacles can be anything you can find in the space you’re working in), as well as safety guidelines. For example, dogs must be wearing a harness with leash attached when performing skills where they could potentially fall off an obstacle. There are also modifications to many exercises for senior dogs or dogs with physical challenges, so any dog can participate.

Parkour can be a great way to make walks and hikes more interesting for you and your dog, and it can also help build confidence. If your dog is nervous about certain things, teaching your dog to interact with things in the environment can help them associate possibly scary things with a chance to earn some yummy treats instead.

And even when you can’t get outside, working on parkour skills indoors with household items is a great place to start. You can work on teaching your dog fundamental skills, like put two paws up on something. Practice this inside on chairs, footstools, etc. Then when better weather hits, take it outside and ask for two paws up on a tree stump, a bench or a fire hydrant. Here are some examples of Level 1 All Dogs Parkour entries:

Pepper, showing off her skills!

Payton's turn! 

If this interests you, visit the websites of the organizations previously listed, or contact us for tips on how to train fun tricks such as these! We're always happy to hear from you. Happy training!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Teacher's Pet - Crate Training Throughout Your Dog's Life

Crate Training Throughout Your Dog’s Life
By Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA

For many puppies, crates are an excellent tool to help set your puppy up for success with housetraining, prevent inappropriate chewing, and avoid other undesirable behaviors when you cannot be supervising. Often when our dogs get a bit older, are reliable in potty habits, and not destroying all our shoes when left alone, we stop crating. If your dog is more comfortable sleeping on the couch while you’re at work, there is nothing wrong with that – but don’t throw out the crate entirely.
There may come a time in your adult dog’s life when crating is a necessity, and if they have not been crated for years, suddenly finding themselves in there again may be stressful.  Recently Payton, my nearly 11 years old Australian Shepherd, had knee surgery. He is still on restricted activity, not allowed to do stairs or jump up on furniture (although try telling that to him!). So, while he has not been crated in years, he needs to be now while his leg heals. Your adult dog could also need to be crated or kenneled at the veterinarian, if you need to fly with your dog, or if your living arrangements change.
Luckily, Payton had only minor qualms about finding himself crated again. He will hop right inside in the morning because he knows that’s where his food bowl will be, and he also gets occasional bones and other goodies in there. Making the crate the place where fantastic food happens creates a strong positive association with crate time, and working on a frozen Kong can keep your dog occupied (and quiet) in the crate. 
You can also play training games with the crate that make going into and staying in the crate very rewarding for your dog. CHECK OUTTHIS VIDEO for some examples. So, even if your dog doesn’t need to be crated routinely, it might benefit you down the road to incorporate some occasional crate games into your training, or just every now and then feed a meal or a bone in there, just in case you need it.
Happy training! 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Product Review: The Fifth Paw

Product Review: The Fifth Paw

By Emma Burton


Walks are an excellent time to work on skills with our pups. They get exercise, and you can put skills that you have previously worked on in less distracting environments to the test. This isn’t so easy, though, if you have to juggle the leash, keys, treats, and of course, the inevitable doody bag. I encountered this problem with my very active German Shorthaired Pointer. I want to be a good neighbor and pick up after him, but the rest of the walk I was either searching for a trash can, juggling a gross bag and trying to hang onto his leash, or all of the above. In an effort to find anything that might help me out, I was browsing online and came across something called “The Fifth Paw.” After owning this product and using it every day for over a year now, I can say that it is something I will never again be without.


The Fifth Paw is a simple leash attachment with three hooks that rotate freely around the center piece which slides over the leash. After knotting a doody bag, you slide it through one of the hooks. The knot keeps the bag from falling through the clip, so you don’t have to worry about the bag again until your walk is over! The fact that the clips rotate on a ring means that the bag doesn’t get tangled in the leash, and you can clip more than one bag on it, which is useful if you have more than one pup or are going on an extra-long adventure. I have found that this product helps me keep more of my attention on training—sometimes, I even forget the bag is there!

This product shows very few signs of wear after over a year of use, and is also made in the USA. Though it is a little expensive for something that carries bags of dog doo, I find it invaluable. As someone who lives in downtown Madison where traffic is dense, having full control over the leash is my number one priority, and The Fifth Paw lends such a big hand. If you have noticed it’s difficult to juggle all you need on a walk, or simply are tired of carrying bags in your hand for an entire walk, this product is here to help. As you can see, Copper did a lot of market research before buying, and gives it two paws up!


*This is an unsolicited and honest review. I have no association with The Fifth Paw and was not compensated in any way to write this review.*

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Teacher's Pet: Product Review of Lupine

by Anetsa Blesener

Are you familiar with the collars produced by Lupine? These collars and leashes are labeled as, “Guaranteed for Life – Even if Chewed!” Perhaps you have wondered if that could really be the case, thinking that “well, my dog would NEVER chew” or “it must be really hard to get a replacement.” Based on my experience, I can confidently say that this guarantee is solid.

But, let me back up. As a disclaimer, while I am a lead trainer for Teacher’s Pet, I have NO affiliation with Lupine, nor do I work for a business that sells their products. I must admit, I am a bit of an “impulse buyer.” When I first saw them, I was really attracted to the many patterns available! There are several other reasons I decided to grab a Lupine collar and leash for my bigger doggie, Naboo:

·         Padded handle – It fit comfortably in my hand.

·         Leash clip – Different than a “regular” leash. Easy for me to snap on & off, but difficult for him to get out.

·         Material – Sturdy, & the products come in several width options.

·         Other – There is a spot between the leash & the leash handle where a bag-dispenser fits!
Since Naboo tended to pull, especially if excited, I knew the the padded handle would not dig into my hand. While the aforementioned leash & collar survived many years, it was when I adopted Shelby that the guarantee came into play. When the pups & I were riding in the car one day, my innocent Shelby began chewing on Naboo’s leash, & by time we arrived at our destination, our wonderfully padded handle was detached from the leash. On the bright side, though, I finally got to try out Lupine’s guarantee!
Guaranteed Even if Chewed?

When you arrive at the Lupine website, there are a couple ways to fulfill the guarantee. Personally, I utilized their mail-in option, as they did not have the new EZ-Return option. For mail-in, I simply mailed the leash, along with my contact info, & they would send a replacement a business day after receiving it.  Unfortunately, I included an old address (I had recently moved), & the package was returned to Lupine. I learned of this because a VERY nice representative called me to verify my address. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!? I couldn’t imagine that they would call me to ensure that I received my replacement. They could’ve dismissed it as my mistake, but no, we got it all squared away & I received my replacement shortly after. There was only one other time that I utilized the guarantee. This time, my rambunctious pups damaged a collar. I included my correct address, & it was even easier to receive a replacement!

I can’t say enough about this company, & you can obtain a replacement no matter what has happened to the collar &/or leash. As long as they can verify that it really is one of their products, they will replace it! Because of my great experience with Lupine, I recommend their products to all my friends & students!  
If you are interested in more info on Lupine, their website is